Tuesday, June 28, 2011

So - Wax Repels Water

So, what do you get if you cross Connect the Dots, with Art?
Why you get our latest lesson in Maths and Science of course!
It wasn't an intentional lesson, but it was a fun one to stumble upon, so let me show you what we did!

First I printed some Connect the Dots off for Bear, choosing a theme I know he likes "airplanes".
Please also note the shotgun he built out of his wooden workbench (the one he was so desperate for here)...which is also helpful as a pointing device!
I will add I had no hand in creating the said shotgun, but admired it greatly when he brought it to show me :)

Then we spent some time connecting the dots, following the numbers, counting as we went.

Hello Maths!

I'm hoping doing more of these dot to dots will help with number recognitions, but if not that's ok too!
We just happened to use wax crayons, they were the closest thing to hand at the time!

Once we were finished with our pictures Bear enthusiastically suggested painting them, so I pulled out his new watercolour set from the other day, and away he went!

Hello Art!

Suddenly we noticed that the wax crayon reappears through the water colour paint.
It just pushes the water away, how cool is that!!!

Hello Science!

And while we were busy Evie took advantage of her occupied brother to rummage around in the duplo box and build.
He usually comandeers any pieces she tries to use and incorporates them into his creations, which she is not allowed to touch...so this was a treat indeed for my poor girl.
She sat building for ages!

Hello Contentment!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

So - Just Do the Math

So how many people do you know that "can't do math", or just aren't good at it?
Chances are you may just think you're one of them, especially if you're reading from my beloved homeland of South Africa, where sadly our students repeatedly score in the lowest ranks of all the countries in the world in our maths & science understanding, according to the WEF (World Economic Forum)

Our schools seem to be doing a dismal job at teaching math and an even worse one at fostering a love of it.

The vast majority of people I know proclaim to hate the subject, which is kind of odd cause their daily lives and their favourite activities are littered with it...think about it, sports, baking, or even decorating your home.
So perhaps we can all do it, even if our schools & teachers told us we couldn't?

I personally am starting to think that you can't fail to learn math just by living your life.
OK so perhaps it's not hight level stuff but you learn the math you need to get by when you need it.

Recently I read an interesting article on learning maths.

Basically the article talks about a child directed learning centre whose students typically learn the entire math curriculum, from Grade K to Grade 12 in 8 weeks!

It seems incredible at first but these aren't wunderkinds and the article goes on to explain there's no magic involved, it's all just maths.

When the teacher achieving these results contacted a math specialist friend regarding his finding the response was

“Not surprising,” mused his friend.

“Why not,” asked Greenberg, having had the wind at least temporarily removed from his sails.

“Because everyone knows,” he replied, verbally stomping on Greenberg's ego, “that the subject matter itself isn't all that hard. What's hard, virtually impossible, is beating it into the heads of youngsters who hate every step. The only we way we have a ghost of a chance is to hammer away at the stuff bit by bit everyday for years. Even then it does not work.”

But why don't you head on over and read the article for yourself here

And as an aside - once again I've found myself led back to the concept of unschooling
Because these children from the article learnt their maths when they decided it was time, and when they were ready!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

So - Father's Day

We did in fact do a father's day craft last week and I was planning to blog about it on/or as close to Father's Day as possible (just not before because the Dad reads the blog)...but then The Dad got his second gift of his special day - a nice projectile vomit - and that was the beginning of an affliction visited upon most of the family. Bleh!
I'd like to say it's been fun...but it really hasn't

Anyway, we appear to be on the mend and here's our father's day craft - which was a follow on from the waxy paper mobile we did a while back.

A Stained Glass Window Frame!

So - what do we need?
Firstly, don't panic, the list looks long but it's not too complicated!
- Newspaper - lots
- An iron
- Some old teatowels
- Wax paper
- Wax crayons
- Sharpener or vegetable peeler (to make wax shavings)
- Scissors
- Pictures & letters
- Glitter
- Lollipop sticks
- Glue
- String

So - How did we use them?

Part1: The Stained Glass

First generously layer newspaper EVERYWHERE!
The take a piece of wax paper & decorate it with your pictures & letters etc. We printed some photos onto normal paper and then cut them out, and I had some alphabet stickers lying around that we used too.
Add wax crayon shavings (this time we actually used a veggie peeler to shave our crayons, it worked quite nicely)

Then apply liberal amounts of glitter (this is the best part according to Bear, who applied glitter to the whole universe...so if you've been wondering why everything is extra sparkly lately now you know).

When you're happy with your picture put another layer of wax paper over the top.
The next step is for adults - the ironing.
Heat your iron.
Put down a towel, then a nice thick wad of newspaper, then your waxpaper (move very carefully so as not to ruin the carefully arranged picture).
Cover again with newspaper and lay a tea towel or something over the top.
And you're ready to iron!
Iron until you're happy your wax paper is stuck together.

Part 2 - The Window!

Use wood glue to stick your lollipop sticks together to create a frame.
Then decorate however you want!
We used glue and glitter - and why wouldn't we - they're the most fun 2 things ever!

Then trim your stained glass/wax paper to fit the frame and glue it to the back.

I was just going to put on a price of string when I remembered we had a couple of these sucker hook things lying around, so I took the hooks out and used them to make it easier for us to hang the frames up in a window!

Just cut your string & tie around the top 2 ends.

Then hang on a sunny window and step back to admire the finished effect!

So - What did we learn?
I'm going to keep it short and simple this time and just do a list, but if you have any questions just leave me a comment and I'll happily elaborate when I have a moment!
  • Art
  • Fine Motor Skills
  • Science
  • Family History
  • Literacy
*disclaimer - this may or may not cover everything we learnt, it's just the stuff The Mom remembers*

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

So - I joined a Blog Carnival!!!

Taryn from over at Hayes Happenings has kindly started a SA Home Schooling Blog Carnival.
I think it's a great idea and am so excited to join in and link up with other home schoolers!
So pop on over and have a look.
Or even better join in!!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

So - The Army Museum

The other day we went on an outing to The Military Museum
Bear was immediately in 7th heaven, there were planes, tanks, canons, guns...war, war, war...what more could a boy ask for?

Evie bubbled along merrily too, watching in amazement as her big brother scaled all manner of huge war machines!

The museum really is beautifully up-kept and there's plenty of things to look at and learn about. Bear was quivering with excitement though and I couldn't get his attention for more than a second at a time so we just let him go wild!

There were big guns
And planes with other budding pilots to make friends with
And more guns
And all manner of airplanes
Some little
Some crashed
And 1 quite large!

And yes, more guns
And flitting faeries
And tanks
And The Aunt came along and helped Bear up and down all the huge tanks, trucks & canons
It took huge bribing for Bear to stop for the 5 seconds the photo below took...and you'll notice his legs are still moving on the way to the next tank!
All in all, more fun than any jungle gym!
And we also learnt that barriers are there for a reason, and we have to stay one side of them!

We will definitely be back, next time with a picnic in tow I think!

A bit on the down side though, as much as I knew he would love it (we went mainly for the planes), it was the guns that made the biggest impact and he is now adamant he wants a...

...wait for it

... SHOTGUN!!!

I don't even know how he knows the word to be honest, I almost fainted from the horror!
Sadly for him, while I reluctantly allow gun play with sticks, guns built out of duplo, guns built from the wood tool bench, guns made from pvc piping & toilet rolls...and even a *gasp* plastic water pistol...
I can categorically say that I WILL NOT be letting him buy a shotgun...or at least not one that looks like a shotgun..and have advised him of such.
He is however undeterred and after scoring a handful of change from The Uncle, is ferreting away small change for a trip to the toy store as we speak.

So - let me ask you a few questions!
Do you let your children play with guns?
And if so are they allowed to shoot at people etc?
Also with regards to the money - do you let your children buy whatever they want with their own money?


This post features on the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers where South African home schoolers share experiences, ideas, philosophies and much more. You can join the carnival too by heading to the South African Carnival of Homeschool Bloggers sign up page. In the meantime, head to SACH Carnival #2 - Outings for this week's carnival. We hope you enjoy the carnival as much as we have!

Monday, June 13, 2011

So - John Taylor Gatto's 7 - Lesson School Teacher

So - in one of my first posts I mention John Taylor Gatto and his article "The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher".

This article was one of the very first things I read when actively looking into homeschooling, in fact the first of his I read was an acceptance speech he made for a Teacher of the Year award (you can read it here) and it made enough of an impression on me to make me look for more of his writings, and so I came across the 7-lessons.

So - why am I writing this post when the link to the article is above?

Mainly because I've thought about them a lot of the last several years, and find it interesting that they're written by someone who is considered a very good teacher.
But I also know that many people don't always have the time to read through what can be lengthy and wordy articles, so I thought I'd take a shot at summarising the 7 - lessons he talks about in my own words and give a short quote from his article on each of them.

Before I start though there are a few things worth mentioning:
  • John Taylor Gatto has nearly 30 years experience as a teacher
  • He was named New York City Teacher of the Year in 1989, 1990, and 1991, and New York State Teacher of the Year in 1991
  • He's written various books on education and schooling

So - What are the 7 Lessons?

Lesson 1 - Confusion

Lesson 2 - Class Position
Lesson 3 - Indifference
Lesson 4 - Emotional Dependency

Lesson 5 - Intellectual Dependency
Lesson 6 - Provisional Self-Esteem

Lesson 7 - You Can't Hide!

Looking at them listed like that they are certainly shocking, and if it's the first time you're reading them, you probably don't want to believe them, but Mr. Gatto makes compelling arguments for each one.

So before just completely dismissing them, consider what he has to say for a moment.

Lesson 1 - Confusion
Gatto talks about how quality education is considered learning about something in depth, and about how most "normal" people seek meaning in their lives.
Suprisingly though our schools teach just the opposite by a variety of means:
- They teach out of context, jumping from one subject to the next, each disconnected, there is none of the continuity or flow we find in the real world.
- They teach too many subjects & rituals, few of which bear any relation to the outside world.
- They teach lots of facts, learnt almost parrot fashion and without any deeper understanding or meaning.

I teach the un-relating of everything,
an infinite fragmentation the opposite of cohesion;
what I do is more related to television programming than to making a scheme of order.

Lesson 2 - Class Position
Schools assign our children numbers and classes, and teaches them to "know their place".
They are taught to be envious of the better classes and have contempt for the dumb ones.
While for the most part children are expected to stay in their class, the teachers still publicly exhort them to achieve higher test success, with a transfer from the lower class as a reward, and will insinuate that future employment is dependent on these scores & tests even though in most experiences employers aren't concerned with final scores.

The lesson of numbered classes is that everyone
has a
proper place in the pyramid
and that there is no way out of your class
except by number magic.
Until that happens you must stay where you are

Lesson 3 - Indifference
So we all know the sound of the good old school bell, signalling the end of one lesson and the beginning of another.
Ever considered the effect it has on the learning experience though?
The bells teach that nothing is ever worth finishing, the bell insists you abandon whatever you were working on, no matter how interesting it may have been, and continue on to the next lesson regardless.
I teach children not to care about anything too much,
even though they want to make it appear that they do.
How I do this is very subtle.
I do it by demanding that they become totally involved in my lessons, jumping up and down in their seats with anticipation,
competing vigorously with
each other for my favor.
It's heartwarming when they do that,
impresses everyone, even me.
When I'm at my best I plan lessons very
carefully in order to produce this show of enthusiasm.
But when the bell rings I insist that they stop whatever it is that we've been working on
and proceed quickly to the next work station.
They must turn
on and off like a light switch.
Nothing important is ever finished in
my class, nor in any other class I know of.
Students never have a
complete experience except on the installment plan.

Lesson 4 - Emotional Dependency

This one is pretty easy to summarise, teachers can give and withhold rights and favours. Personal decision making is almost unheard of, even the basics like going to the toilet require permission beforehand and can be denied on a whim.

By stars and red checks,
smiles and frowns,
prizes, honors and disgraces

I teach you to surrender your will
to the predestined chain of command.
Rights may be granted or withheld by any authority,
without appeal because rights
do not exist inside a school,

not even the right of free speech,
theSupreme Court has so ruled,
unless school authorities say they do.

Lesson 5 - Intellectual Dependency

Well as Gatto says "good people wait for experts to tell them what to do"
In schools the rewarded behaviour is of those who wait upon the teacher and then carry out the command.
In this manner our children learn to think what others want them to, rather than thinking for themselves.

This power to control what children will think lets me separate
successful students from failures very easily.
Successful children do the thinking I appoint them
with a minimum of resistance and decent show of enthusiasm.
Of the millions of things of value to study, I decide
what few we have time for,
or it is decided by my faceless employer.
The choices are his, why should I argue?
Curiosity has no important place in my work,
only conformity.

Lesson 6 - Provisional Self-Esteem
School going children are continually evaluated, judged and marked, and their reports are sent home to show everyone just how good or bad they are down to a point!
Gatto talks about how little time and thought actually goes into these reports but yet they are often an important part of what makes our children arrive at certain decisions & judgements of themselves.

Self-evaluation,the staple of every major philosophical system that ever appeared on the planet,
is never a factor in these things.

The lesson of report cards, grades,
and tests is that children should

not trust themselves or their parents,
but need to rely on the
evaluation of certified officials.
People need to be told what they are

Lesson 7 - You Can't Hide!
Our children have no privacy in schools, no private spaces, no private time.
Tattle telling is encouraged, on other students and even one's own family.
Homework takes care of the free time they might have had at home
Surveillance is an
ancient urgency among certain influential thinkers, a central
prescription set down Republic, in City of God, in Institutes of the
Christian Religion, in New Atlantis, in Leviathan and many other places.

All these childless men who wrote these books discovered the same thing:
children must be closely watched if you want to keep a society under

tight central control. Children will follow a private drummer if you
can't get them into a uniformed marching band.

After all that typing, I've realised Gatto is far more eloquent than I am!
There is a lot more to this specific article and I hope that maybe the above has whet your appetite enough to go read the whole thing, especially as I only covered the very basics.
So head on over to his articles if you agree, disagree or just want to find out more.

If not there is however a quote which impacted me and I want to share:

Fortunately there are
procedures to break the will of those who resist; it is more difficult,
naturally, if the kid has respectable parents who come to his aid, but
that happens less and less in spite of the bad reputation of schools.

Nobody in the middle class I ever met actually believes that their kid's
school is one of the bad ones. Not a single parent in 26 years of
teaching. That's amazing and probably the best testimony to what
happens to families when mother and father have been well-schooled
themselves, learning the seven lessons.

Just one final quote to finish it off...it's the last one I promise ;)
School is like starting life
with a 12-year jail sentence
in which bad habits are the
only curriculum truly learned.
I teach school and win awards doing it.

I should know.

- John Taylor Gatto

Monday, June 6, 2011

So - Egg Carton Insects

So - we save bits and bobs to recycle in our crafts and I decided it was time to make a dent in our egg carton stash and make some creepy crawlies with them!

So - what do we need?
  • Egg cartons
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Pipe Cleaners
  • Googly Eyes
  • Something to poke holes in your egg carton (you can use your scissors for this, or something like a knitting needle or even a skewer from the kitchen)

So - How did we use them?

I'd cut out some of the egg cartons a few days earlier and already painted them nice bright colours. I decided to do this prior to this craft because we have problems with waiting...this especially encompasses waiting for paint to dry - but of course you can let your child paint the egg cartons themselves, or decorate them with markers, stickers, glitter, etc...the sky is the limit here.
I cut various sizes, some single ones for smaller instects and some longer ones for other insects and creatures.

Then it was time to get Bear involved, he enthusiastically helped me cut our pipe cleaners in half for legs & feelers.
He added glue to the egg cartons & his fingers and stuck on lots of googly eyes...to the egg cartons and his fingers, much to his dismay...lol
He helped poke holes into our cartons where we wanted legs or feelers or wings.
And then he threaded the pipe cleaners through the holes and bent them into shape - with a little help from me.

And then it was time to build spider webs out of the rest of the pipe cleaners and have spiders catching flies while caterpillars and ants crept past and grasshoppers watched on! I think our bugs turned out pretty cool!

So - What did we learn?

  • Motor Skills - Lots of fine motor skills happening in this craft, scissor work, glueing small things in place, threading through small holes.
  • Biology - learning about the different insects we made, namely an ant, a fly, spiders & caterpillars. Information like spiders have 8 legs but insects have 6 and caterpillars have lots of legs and worms have none. Some insects have feelers but others don't etc. Bear also explained to me how flies get stuck in webs the spiders build and then the spider wraps them up with more web and bites them with their fangs - so he's definitely absorbing info :)
  • Numbers - we counted how many eyes & legs we needed for each insects, we also had to count how many holes we needed.
  • Literature - Bear picked up that some of our insects were similar to the ones in Roald Dahl's James & the Giant Peach, which he enjoys listening to (we have a collection of Roald Dahl audio books which are a big hit in our home) and also The Very Hungry Catepillar by Eric Carle