Monday, January 24, 2011


It is the coldest day in about 6 years here in New England (therefore the coldest day in W's life so far). Our original plans to play in the snow were dashed as a result because I don't want anyone to get frostbite. W is working on a writing book and I am trying to remind him to write some thank you notes. His writing is slowly improving but he prefers to write in all capitals. I can see a big difference from the fall when the letters were all different sizes, now they are more uniform so he is getting there. He is chugging along with Math-U-See, and is now almost done with chapter 19 of the Primer. I should probably begin researching the next steps for this program so that we will have something to continue with this spring and summer.

Appropriately this week we will be reading Reuben and the Blizzard by Merle Good and P. Buckley Moss as a faux five in a row. It is a book we bought when we took a trip to Pennsylvania's Amish country in 2009. Our book club was rescheduled to this Friday due to last Friday's snowstorm. We only have a couple more chapters of Farmer Boy as our read aloud as well so he should be done by Friday and we will watch the Almanzo Wilder documentary with our homeschool book group. It is available through the childhood home of Almanzo in Malone (Burke, NY).

Over the weekend the boys got to visit with their cousin & uncle and go to a bookstore which was a nice treat for all of us. On Sunday we were signed up to bring the food for coffee hour at church and that went off well (kind of glad to have the stress of that done with) and we enjoyed bible study in the evening as they provide a babysitter and we got to hear the band rehearse too. :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

New Year

It is back to homeschool reality after the holidays. It was fun having Jacob around the house, and our Christmas season stretched into the New Year and we all enjoyed it. W was eager to jump back into his usual routines. The snow which the boys enjoyed so much is now melted away and hardened into icy patches. The snow people have gone away for now, but are sure to be reincarnated after the next big snowfall. Last week we "rowed" Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton, not the perfect week for it but it was still seasonal. W was already familiar with the story and it has nice illustrations that the readers can spend a long time looking at and discussing (especially the Geoppolis map page). It gets kids thinking about directions.

This year I couldn't bring myself to make resolutions, although one thing I am striving for is finding a way for myself and the boys to keep active inside even though it is freezing outside. Some solutions which I have found extremely helpful include: indoor basketball, dancing to CDs (especially Imagination Movers and Taylor Swift), the Fisher-Price SmartCycle (Toy Story, Thomas the Tank Engine & Bob the Builder games), and yoga for kids DVDs that we can do together. So far I have resisted the rather strong urge to invest in a "real" video gaming system now that there are some neat interactive games on the market now although I would refuse to buy anything violent. I was never much for video games (in fact my Mom used to be much better at me on the original Nintendo Mario, she was the original gamer Mom!)

Today we are "rowing" a non- Five in a Row book but one that could easily be one: The Year at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen. It covers each month and shows the changes that each season brings to the animals of the farm. We are also reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder as a family read-aloud, and have a book club meeting coming up next week so we are working on quilt blocks as a long term project. January is actually a great month for reading both of these books, which begin in January and each span a year.


Thursday, January 6, 2011

Optimism for the End of Government Schools

Gary North writes a lot about trends that are due to the decentralized web of communication that is the Internet.  One of these is the death of traditional newspapers.  Today he discusses schooling in Public Education Is Going Down.

One theme in North's article is that the web provides a wealth of tutors for the home-educated child; tutors who are free and who "make house calls".  The model of transporting students to tax-supported institutions is now out-dated, and home-schooling is a trend on the rise.  North writes: 
When you can buy from anywhere, local monopolies die. That happened to medieval urban guilds. It is happening to education. The local tax-funded school cannot deliver the goods. Today, it offers babysitting. It offers sports. It offers a central market where drugs are available. It offers opportunities for teenagers to hook up, which does not mean what it did in my day. It offers economies of scale in those features of education that are either peripheral or objectionable.

We should cheer the process of schools dying, even if it produces a period of painful adjustment for those attached to the system.  I am optimistic along with North, but there is also a lot of intertia in the school system, and bureaucrats who wield political power will not graciously let it go. 

Many parents also do not have the confidence in themselves to pull their children out of the government schools.  They remember all of the classes and grade levels, the sheer volume of material to master (or more correctly, temporarily remember), and the enormous cumulative preparation which all of that must entail. 

But it is not necessary for parents to recapitulate all of the work that culminates in an elementary school lecture.  First, I think we ought to question the traditional curriculum model that was, as John Taylor Gatto has written about, historically developed for the shaping of obedient factory workers.  But even if we think the school's model roughly "gets it right", there is no need to source this work out to a school.  The materials are available for anyone, and their costs are decreasing.