Blog Posts: October 2011
For the past several months, I've been posting links to education resources on my Facebook and Twitter pages. I'm categorizing all the links here, for easy access. I hope you find these useful. I'll plan to update and organize this list as I accumulate links. (Last updated 12/1/11)
My First Classical Music App ($4.99)
BLOG ARTICLES, OTHER PEOPLE'S
BLOG ARTICLES, THIS BLOG'S
Math for Grownups, by Laura Laing
"DC parents choosing to home-school their children" (includes names of support organizations)
It's rare for me to wholeheartedly endorse a book as being important enough that every parent should read it, but I've just finished one that's as close to that designation as I'm ever going to find. It's Guerrilla Learning: How to Give Your Kids a Real Education With Or Without School, by Grace Llewellyn and Amy Silver.
I don't even know where to start. I think I highlighted most of the book. I just tried to go back through my Kindle to figure out what parts of the book I should write about, and it seems I marked 265 passages, some of which are multiple pages long.
Basically, Llewellyn and Silver make the point that, even if your children are enrolled in school, you can go a long way toward improving their educational experience with your own positive influence and support. (Yes, I partly like their book because it reminds me so much of my own.) After laying out their thoughts on what doesn't work about the traditional school system and why you should stop stressing about "high-stakes" testing and other fabricated perils of mainstream "education," they go through each school subject area (science, math, history...) and provide suggestions for how to naturally and dynamically engage your child in that subject. Their resource lists provide an incredible collection of books that you might want to read next.
This book is applicable for anyone with children, no matter what types of school they do or don't attend.
Llewellyn is renowned for her pioneering work in the homeschooling and unschooling worlds. She's the mastermind behind the Not Back to School Camp, for unschooled teenagers, and the author of The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education and Real Lives: Eleven Teenagers Who Don't Go to School Tell Their Own Stories. Read Full Post.
After investigating the difference between homeschooling and unschooling, I was curious about the definition of radical unschooling. To get one educator's take, I read Radical Unschooling: A Revolution Has Begun, by Dayna Martin. Here's Martin's definition:
Radical unschooling, which expands unschooling philosophy to parenting, means you extend that same trust to other areas of your child's life, like foods, media, television, video games--allowing them to eat, play, or watch whatever they want when they want.
This method requires the parent to trust that a child who is allowed to pursue his or her own passions (and, in many cases, his or her own schedule) will naturally focus on activities that have educational value. The educational value of an activity may not be immediately obvious, but the idea is that children innately know what they need, so bouts of television viewing or video game playing that might trouble a non-unschooler are instead looked on as beneficial and natural.
There were some parts of Martin's book that made me hesitate--she's a proponent of the Law of Attraction--but others appealed to me. Namely, Martin's description of a good unschooler was remarkably similar to my vision of a good parent-tutor:
My job is to expose them to as much of the world as possible from as many resources as possible, so they can realize and pursue their interests.
Martin then provides a list of resources, all of which would also be used by a creative parent-tutor: "internet, television, books, video games, day trips, vacations, community resources, and apprenticeships."
Does tutoring differ from unschooling? I suppose it does in that a parent-tutor may be providing support for a school subject that a child does not particularly want to study. But both the parent-tutor and unschooling parent are striving to help their children learn how to learn. More than that, they're helping their children how to LOVE learning how to learn. Read Full Post.
Until recently, I only had a hazy understanding of the difference between homeschooling and unschooling. For clarification, I read Unschooling 101: Top 10 Questions About Learning Without School, by Sara McGrath.
Here's my current understanding:
When we talk about homeschoolers, we're talking about the broad category of students who learn outside of the full-time American school system.
Unschoolers are a particular type of homeschoolers. Similar to other homeschoolers, they may choose to follow an official curriculum, participate in group or individual lessons, and enjoy a personalized education.
What defines unschoolers as a separate group is that its students are never required to pursue topics or activities that do not interest them. A homeschooling family might tell its children that they must study multiplication because the parents feel it's important; an unschooling family would not force an area of study on a resistant student. Unschoolers learn voluntarily, as their passions direct.
(Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, homeschoolers and unschoolers, or to add any distinctions that I may have overlooked.)
Most traditional essays include a thesis statement, which is where a writer states the paper's central point. Though there are exceptions, basic thesis statements are generally one sentence long and located at the beginning or end of the paper's introductory paragraph.
A strong thesis statement...
- ...makes an argument. Ask yourself: Can I support my argument with evidence--as opposed to personal opinion? Also, could someone make a rational counterargument? If your statement is indisputable, meaning that someone could not reasonably argue against it, you probably don't have a thesis-worthy argument.
- ...is specific. "Animals deserve rights" may be an argumentative thesis statement, but it's way too broad for a reader to know where you're going with your argument. "Zoo-bound animals deserve rights" is a step in the correct direction. "Zoo-bound animals deserve the right to privacy" is even better.
- ...hints at the structure of your paper. Often, a strong thesis statement gives a reader some idea of how you'll prove your argument. Perhaps you've provided a list of factors A, B, and C, so readers suspect you'll write about those elements in order. Or you might provide a cause-and-effect relationship in the thesis statement, which would also give readers a sense of what's to come.
- ...includes a how/why element. Sure, "All bears should be given T-shirts" is an argumentative statement, but it doesn't tell me why all bears should be given T-shirts. Instead, try "All bears should be given T-shirts to provide support for the animal fashion movement." Now I know where this paper is headed.
Once you've written a thesis statement, you want to make sure that your topic sentences support it. I recommend writing your thesis statement and topic sentences before you tackle the rest of your paper. You might need to sort evidence/quotes into the paragraphs where they'll eventually go, but don't write out your entire paper until you're sure that the structure is strong and logical.
To read more about creating effective thesis statements:
Read "Creating a Strong Thesis" from the University of Texas at Austin.
Check out Virgil, an online writing tutorial from the UT Undergraduate Writing Center. They walk you through any topic, prompting you with questions to provide more accurate assistance. Here's part of the thesis segment. The UWC also has helpful handouts.
How do you know if you're having the appropriate level of involvement when helping your child with schoolwork? I recommend keeping the following points in mind:
- Don't do anything for a student that he could be doing himself.
- Your goal is to build the student's skill set. He or she should come away from your interactions with increased independence.
- Ask yourself: Is this process/activity/appointment empowering the student? (It should be.)
- Ask yourself: Is this process/activity/appointment making the student dependent on tutoring? (It shouldn't be.)
- Remember to ask questions that will guide a student toward the proper revisions rather than directing. E.g., Try to start with: "Have you already read through the paper for proper comma use?" Rather than: "Please correct your comma use in the third sentence." (Of course, this assumes that the student is already familiar with the comma rule relevant to the third sentence and could spot the error independently.)