Wednesday, September 30, 2009

On the road

We're off to California tomorrow morning, bright and early.

As much as it pains me to say it, no math is coming with us.

We started homeschooling a month before regular school started with the excuse that we were going to take this two week trip in October. I would like to homeschool year round, taking time off for trips as they come up rather than taking the whole summer off. Really, all our vacations are educational since we all love to learn. This summer Mi'ita went to fossil camp for a week, chemistry camp for a week, and theater camp for two weeks. She loved them all. This trip is no less educational, even if it is unofficial. We will be seeing friends and relatives to be sure, but we are also going to the King Tut exhibit in Golden Gate Park, the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, and camping in the redwoods. I hope to squeeze in a Shakespeare play in Ashland, a trip through Chinatown and Alcatraz in SF, and maybe the Steinbeck house in Salinas. My friends are going to show us around old Hollywood, too.

In the spring I want to visit my brother in Nebraska. He lives right across the river from the start of the Oregon Trail. On the way back home, I'd like to travel the Oregon Trail, walking some of it even. Mi'ita's teacher tried to foist a geography book on us the last time we went to school. Mi'ita said, "no, thanks." Mrs. M. voiced her concern that we needed to cover the Oregon Trail as it is 4th grade stuff. I think we'll be fine, thanks.

We'll see how this trip goes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Homeschooling in bed

There are parts of homeschooling that are infinitely easier than teaching in a public school.

This morning we snuggled in my bed, in our pajamas, and I finished reading the Ancient Greece book I started last night snuggling in her bed. We discussed Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates (disabusing her of the idea that it is pronounced sew-crats.) We linked Alexander the Great's expansion to the Greek Pharaohs, all named Ptolemy, that ruled Egypt for the last 8 generations before they fell to Rome.

No tests. No homework. No memorization of dates. No creating song and dance lesson plans. No grading. No "authentic assessment." No GLAD units. Just reading a book together and discussing it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Homeschool cooking

Let me first just say that I don't like cooking. It's just so daily. And involved. You have to plan a menu, go shopping, cook, and clean it all up. Every day.

That said, I do it, because my family needs to eat. If it were just me, I'd probably have a bowl of popcorn for dinner every night.

As we are studying, though, part of my subtle schooling is cooking. We are studying ancient Greece now. So I've been cooking Greek food. Not much. We had meatballs and stuffed tomatoes and some kind of vegetable bean soup and Greek salad. Today I'm cooking scrambled eggs with fried tomatoes. Sometimes Mi'ita helps me, sometimes not. I try to get her to, but I pick my battles.

With the food, though, comes other lessons. This scrambled egg dish is cooked commonly during their Lent days, so we'll be discussing the evolution of Greek religion from the Greek gods to Christianity and what Lent is. The bean soup was a dish that they cooked back in ancient Greece, and was simple and cheap enough that the common folk probably ate a bunch of it. Olive oil and olives are a big part of their diet, and with that comes some knowledge of the climate in Greece and what grows well there. Sometimes I can remember the Greek names of these dishes and tease a little Greek out of it.

These are things that they couldn't do in school--cooking and talking religion.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Fabulous Rocketry!

The Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum had a homeschool rocketry workshop last Thursday. Mi'ita had a truly fabulous time.

There were over a hundred homeschoolers with their families there and the potato shaped man coordinating the show was overwhelmed. He pulled it together, though, and got the ball rolling. They broke into two groups--Kindergarten through 4th and 5th graders on up. Mi'ita found a friend right away, another 4th grade girl.

The teacher for the K-4 crowd was a dynamic speaker who really engaged the kids, periodically getting them to HOOO-RAH in unison. They learned about lift, drag, thrust and gravity in a short lecture. The rest of the time was spent with hands on activities. They built a tower with tape and straws, I think to team build. Then they spent a good amount of time building a rocket out of a plastic liter bottle, duct tape, a three inch solid foam block, a plastic bag, and a soft foam square. They had an egg, the "eggstronaut", that they had to protect when they launched the rocket.

Parents had to stay with their kids. It wasn't a drop-off-and-pick-up-later event. In Mi'ita's group, there were three students and three adults. There would have been four, but I sat in the corner and read my book instead. How many adults do you need, really? And if the kids are going to learn anything, the adults need to take a back seat, I thought. Plus my book was getting good.

The part I liked best about this workshop and about homeschool groups in general is the many ages of the participants. There were babies crawling around, and 2 year olds, and high schoolers. Wow! A place where babies are welcome to be a part of life! Why can't the rest of our society do that?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Teaching a language you don't know

I don't know Latin. I took German when I was in high school and my first year in college, over 20 years ago. I haven't used it since. I have taken 3 years of college level Spanish more recently. I'm not fluent by any measure, but I could teach the beginning levels of it, if only my daughter wanted to learn Spanish. She doesn't.

Since Mi'ita didn't want to learn Spanish and the classical method encouraged Latin, I figured we would learn Latin together. Latin, they say, is the easiest language to learn because it's dead. You learn to read and write it and no one is going to laugh at your accent. The vocabulary is the useful bit. Well over half of the English language is Latin based, so if you know the Latin roots, you can figure out lots of English words. Clamari is Latin for shout. Clamor and claim both come from clamari. Mi'ita is learning lots of high level English vocabulary. Our favorite by far is defenestrate, which means to throw something out the window. How cool is that?

So how do I teach Latin since I don't know Latin? Latin is the easy one, like I said, because it's dead. Pronunciation is not critical, and no one will be looking at us sidewise if we make a mistake in grammar. We are both using the Latin for Children curriculum, which comes with a CD, a DVD, and a book. Each chapter has a nerdy guy explaining the grammar on DVD. His beautiful 16 year old daughter leads a bunch of little kids in the chants, which are catchy and stick with you all day. We do the workbook orally, since my daughter seems to be allergic to the feel of a pencil. I made up a bunch of Latin flashcards with the vocabulary, conjugations, and declensions to memorize. She loves it.

German has been trickier even though that was her language choice. We're still trying to find a good curriculum. We tried German for Kids, which was a DVD and workbook program led by a boy her age and his talking dog, but that bombed spectacularly. "It's for little kids." So we bought Instant Immersion German, which is a computer program with CD and DVD, too. It hasn't come in yet, but it was well reviewed. Rosetta Stone has been marketed to death, but was third or fourth down on my review, so I didn't buy it. Also, Instant Immersion German was $50 and Rosetta Stone is well over $200. I am cautiously hopeful. Instant Immersion German isn't for kids at all, so we'll see.

So how do you teach a language you don't know? I don't think you can, fully, but you can get a good start with the programs out there today. At some point we'd need to have a fluent German speaker to take over Mi'ita instruction, but at this point it isn't necessary. I wish that she wanted to take Spanish. We are surrounded by native Spanish speakers here, with a lovely Mexican family living across the street that has a daughter her age and everything. I have hope that at some point she will see the usefulness of Spanish and take it, but at this point there is no reason to force the issue.

Learning a language is tremendously useful, even if you are just looking at vocabulary and grammar and never become a speaker of that language. I don't need to teach English grammar at all. I never really understood English grammar myself until I took German. Then the difference between a subject and a direct object became clear.

Learning languages is fun, and I'm glad Mi'ita agrees with me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lovely Morning

We had the most wonderful morning.

After we did some math, we decided to go the beach with the dog. It was such a beautiful day, and that is not common out here. On the way we studied our Latin flashcards. She is better than I am! When we got there we saw a part of a squid, which Mi'ita was able to identify because of her squid dissection last week. I thought it was an octopus. Then, we built a sand castle.

It was lovely. My baby asked me to lecture her, because she likes to hear me drone on about my favorite subject, history. We built a fortified wall and around a small rock outcrop and talked about how castles were built on hills. And why. We talked about the difference between castles and forts and mansions. We talked about the ancient walled cities. We wondered together why Egyptians didn't fortify their palaces, but didn't know.

On the way home she wanted a lecture about Halloween. I was happy to oblige, of course starting from the ancient Celts on the mainland of Europe, how they were conquered by the Romans even though their commander, Vercingetorix, was able to unite the Celts to defend themselves. Long before then, the Celts in Spain were able to gain boat making skills from the Phoenicians, who were the sea kings of the day, to break off and settle Ireland. The Romans never made it that far, so when the Roman Empire collapsed, the Irish were not devastated. When all of Europe were awash in the Dark Ages, Ireland was flourishing with their Druids, their Christian Monks, and their universities. That all was background, of course, to Samhain, the Celtic Halloween, and other festivals honoring the dead such as the Mayan El Dia de los Muertos and the Japanese Bon.

I told you I could drone on, and she rather likes to listen. She wouldn't let me stop, even when we got home and started lunch.

Then we went to school to study dinosaurs with Mrs. M. I got to tell kids to pay attention, stop messing around, move over there so that you can concentrate on your work.

It was so nice to have no off-topic interruptions while I taught.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Lizard Math

Ah, math.

Math started off heinous. Mi'ita argued, moaned, complained, and fought doing her math.

Then I thrusted it upon my husband. He laid down the rules. I was going to make him do all the math, but he doesn't come home until the evening, and none of us are our best in the evenings.

I started giving Mi'ita her math assignments first thing in the morning and telling her that if she were nice to me, I'd help. If she argues, moans, complains, or fights, I leave. If she wants to negotiate, I tell her to call the Daddy. If she is nice to me and cooperates, I'll sit down and help her.

Mostly we've been sitting down and doing math in the morning over breakfast and a cup of tea, or while I unload the dishwasher. Once in a while I've had to walk away halfway through. Usually I make her do the last couple of problems completely on her own, just so that I know that she can do it without help.

Brujito, the lizard of 1000 names, needs his breakfast in the morning, too. I chop up his lizard salad and give Mi'ita her lizard and the salad to hand feed. Then we do lizard math.

I write. The lizard dictates.

"How many 7's go into 36?" I ask. The lizard answers, "One paw."

"How much is 7 times 5?" I ask. "Three tails and one paw," he answers.

"What is 36 minus 35?" I ask. "One tail," he answers.

"What do I do next?" I ask. The lizard swishes his tail and tells me to bring down the next number.

"What is the remainder?" I ask. "Wings," he replies. How many wings do lizards have?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Marine science day

Today was our first homeschool workshop--marine science day at the local science center. Mi'ita went off to dissect squid, do fish prints on T-shirts, dig fossils, and such. I went to the parent workshop on how to teach science.

That was interesting. A big part of the workshop was how to build equipment to do field studies. I wish they had talked more about what to do with that equipment, but "there are a lot of materials online that address that." Mi'ita is not a field study type of girl. If she could do it with a group of her best friends, sure, she'd be all over it. If not, she rather sit and read about it. She's not a particularly active child.

Homeschooling is a natural for active children, though, especially ADHD boys. Very active children sit in classrooms and inwardly scream while trying to sit still all day. Outwardly they disrupt the class constantly, drive their teachers insane, and keep anyone from learning much. Take those same active kids outside, give them butterfly nets and turn them loose to capture and catalog bugs or some such and they are in their element, learning a ton, and teaching everyone within earshot what they learned.

(On a side note, while helping monitor recess at the school I watched one of the teachers chase all the boys out of a weedy patch in their field where they were trying to catch bugs. Why? They were well within the boundaries, doing nothing dangerous, and learning about bugs. Granted they were probably not particularly gentle with said bugs, but crickets and grasshoppers are hardly an endangered species.)

I'm digressing.

One project Mi'ita would enjoy that I learned today is using modeling clay to build undersea features then make a contour map of it.

Build a seamount, rift, bank, and/or a canyon with modeling clay in a clear, flat-bottomed dish. Tape a ruler to the inside and a sheet of acetate over the top. (Cut a small hole in the acetate first.) Poor water into the dish through the hole in the acetate, half a centimeter at a time. Looking directly over the the dish, draw the waterline on the acetate (permanent markers work better then overhead markers because they don't wash off when it gets wet.) Repeat until everything is underwater. What you've made is contour map of a seabed.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Socialized to death today

For those who think that homeschoolers sit in their house in the middle of the woods and never meet another soul except those in their family, listen to this.

Homeschool Group from 9:30 to 12:30. Mi'ita played with at least 30 children today, infants to high schoolers, 5 of whom were girls her age. (Parents were planning unit studies and kids just played today. Usually they will be learning.)

School Recess 1:15-1:30. Tuesdays and Thursdays we will be joining her regular school for recess.

Class 1:30-3. After recess on Tuesdays and Thursdays, we join her regular class and do regular school work.

Play date 3-4:30. A school chum comes home with us and plays. She goes with us to ballet.

Ballet 4:30-5:30.

Dinner Party 6:00-? Husband's coworker is having a pizza party at their house.

Tomorrow she will spend all day studying marine biology at the local science center with other homeschoolers.

AND, she did indeed do her math before we went to homeschool group, did dinosaur research with her class, and we'll do Latin flashcards on the walk to ballet. On the walk to the homeschool group through our woods and along a creek we saw a garter snake and beetles. We also analyzed the erosion damage done by a pipe leak.

I'm beat. I don't think I like days this scheduled. It reminds me of school. I wish she didn't want to go to school, but she does.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Big Bugaboo: Socialization

Every homeschooler gets questions about how their children are getting socialized. Most homeschoolers poo poo this question. Their kids are socializing in their family. They are meeting people from all walks of life. They are involved in clubs like the scouts, church groups, and sports. They are getting plenty of socialization and studies do show that homeschooled kids have better social skills then their schooled peers.

I think it's because they have better role models and better accountability. Their moms sure aren't acting like idiots on the playground or tolerating it if they do.

But when you are homeschooling an only child, I think it's a fair question. I've actually been thinking about her socialization since I knew Mi'ita was going to be an only child. There are so many negative stereotypes about only children being selfish and self centered. I'm sure you've heard them. And because of them, I've made sure that my daughter has always had lots of interaction with other kids in play groups, clubs, and play dates, even before school age.

I've read articles, too, saying that it's the children of large families that can't wait their turn or who are pushy--they're worried that if they wait they won't get any, because it's happened. Only children always have gotten their share so they don't have a problem waiting.

Mi'ita has ballet twice per week, we have a homeschool group that meets biweekly for half a day, she is signed up to go to homeschool activities like squid dissection on Friday, we go to the high school football games, she has play dates at least a couple times a week, she is planning a Halloween party and several more throughout the year.

Other then that, it's her and me at home. She likes it for the most part. She is used to being by herself. Play dates longer then 2 or 3 hours wear on her. She looks very much forward to visiting with her friends, but she doesn't wilt from being alone.

School started a few days ago and Mi'ita has been watching kids file past our house on the way to and from school. Her friends have been going back to school, too. I knew that once school had started, there would be pressure for her to join in. And since we live right down the street from her school, I looked into attending recess during their usual breaks. When I was at the school, asking that exact questions, the teacher Mi'ita wanted to have this year walked in. She invited Mi'ita to join her class for the last hour of each day.

Oh boy. I don't want to inch back to school. Mi'ita was very interested in this idea, though. So, today, we trotted up to the school for afternoon recess and the last hour and a half of the day.

Stepping out of the school system has opened my eyes. The teacher is great; I would have requested her if we had stayed. She has great behavioral management skills, engaging projects, and peaceful manner about her.

It took SOOOO LOOOOONG to get anything done. We were researching dinosaurs. In an hour and half, we reviewed a list of ten facts the children already knew about dinosaurs, did a brainstorm of different aspects of dinosaurs, and spent 10 minutes actually researching dinosaur facts. Most kids got maybe one note card done with one fact about dinosaurs.

Mrs. M. did not waste time. The logistics of dealing with all those kids at all those different levels took that time. If she had gone faster, she would have lost half the kids and that half would have distracted the other half so nobody would have gotten anything done.

I am convinced that homeschooling is a better education.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Whew, we're not in school.

Ah, those school days. Up at 7, cranky and uncooperative. Breakfast, dressed, off to school by 8. Pick up at 2:48. Seriously. Who thought of 2:48? Home, snack, off to ballet, dinner, homework, bed.

Homework at the crankiest, most tired time of the day. Usually ends in tears or arguments or both.

Today? Awake by 7, reading in bed until 8. Breakfast and math. Long division takes a while, so we're at it until 9:30 or so. Latin flashcards in the car on the way to get my hair cut.

Why is there never time to get a haircut on the weekend?

Home for lunch. Walk to the library. Practice multiplication facts on the way. Spent a couple of hours at the library. Ice cream on the way home because she met her weekly goal last week. Dinner. Built a mammoth bone hut afterwards out of cardboard and cloth (pictured here, with her in her caveman dress that she sewed the other day.) Discussed why ancient people built their shelters on the east Asian steppes out of bones and hides. Bedtime stories about venomous animals. Read for an hour or more.

I didn't have to be anywhere at 2:48.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Homeschooling Models

Every homeschooler that I have met in this little town I live in (3 so far) is using the textbook model to teach their children! I'm shocked.

The different models, simplified:

  • Relaxed model: let your kid do whatever they want and push nothing.
  • Unschooling: let your kid lead their own education, supporting everything they are interested in with books, field trips, mentors, textbooks, or whatever is required for them to learn what they want to learn, as long as they want to learn it. Push nothing and trust that they will be interested in things that will require them to learn how to do math, writing, and reading, eventually.
  • Textbook model: buy a program, either online or with texts, and follow a "canned" curriculum in all the traditional subjects.
  • Eclectic model: do a little of this model and that model, whatever you think will work best for your kid.
  • Unit model: study one big subject, usually in science or history, for an extended length of time (from 6 weeks on up, as long as the kids stay interested) such as The Oregon Trail, Marine Biology, or Ancient Egypt. Incorporate all traditional subjects into the unit, or as many that fit.
  • Freeschooling: I've only heard this term from my friend. It involves making your child do a minimum of regular schoolwork to get the basics in math, reading, and writing. Unschool the rest.
  • Classical model: an intensive and rigorous study of the basics with emphasis on languages, history, and writing.
I'm probably missing a couple, but I think I've got most of the major ones.

I wanted to do the classical model but Mi'ita ixnayed that one. I've ended up freeschooling, which fits her personality and mine well enough. She's rather unschool, but I can't let go enough for that. With freeschooling I get my requirements for a decent education done--math, writing, and language (Latin) with daily exercise. I don't worry about reading. She gets to direct the rest of her education. Right now she is fixated on ancient Egypt. There's quite a bit of science involved in studying ancient history, and she loves science so I'm not concerned.

Anyway, I figured that the reason people homeschool is because they think that their child would get a better education at home. I figured that the benefits of tailoring your child's education would be the big draw.

I'm flat flabbergasted that homeschoolers would be doing basically the same thing they do at school, just at home. Granted, two of the homeschoolers I talked to are brand new this year, and perhaps they don't know the other options. The other one has been homeschooling for 5 years and her curriculum, A Beka, works fine for her two daughters.

I guess I have just been involved in schools for too long. I have used textbooks myself and have seen so many drawbacks to them that they hold no appeal for me.

That said, I did buy a canned curriculum for math and I am following it.

Feeding the puppy

My daughter is ruled by her stomach. Dogs are, too. You train a dog with treats. I do the same with Mi'ita.

We have our nifty little point system to appeal to her greed.

We have our weekly goal and ice cream outing to appeal to her stomach.

The best ice cream parlor in town is a block away from the library. If Mi'ita meets her weekly goal, we get ice cream on the way back from our Monday library trip.

Weekly goal:
  • 4 math exercises
  • 4 Latin exercises
  • All library books read completely if a picture book, or a chapter out of a longer book (she checks out, her own choice, one biography, one history book, one science book, one art book, one poetry book, one folktale/myth/legend, one novel, one nonfiction DVD, and one music CD)
  • Guitar practiced every day (as soon as our lessons start)
  • 1 completed writing with art posted on her blog
  • 1 science project completed, experiment performed, or book read
  • 1 history project completed or book read

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Flanked by Christians

First of all, let me say that my family is not Christian.

I am quite happily an agnostic secular Christian.

My daughter was a Christian when we went to a church she liked. She turned Muslim when we went to a Mosque a few times for a college assignment I had. She turned rabidly atheistic when we moved and we couldn't find a church she liked. She turned into a pantheist when she saw a play with Greek gods in it. God bless her.

And my husband? Agnostic, maybe, with atheist leanings and an affinity to Buddhist theology but no inclination to become a Buddhist.

And now we are trying to find a homeschool group to join. We live in a small town. There is one homeschool group here and it's Christian. There is a secular group in a town 45 minutes south and I'm sure there would be one in the larger town an hour east of us. I would be willing to travel that far a couple times a month that a group would meet, but think of it. The point of a group is to make friends, go on field trips together, share ideas, and have support. A group an hour away would mean friends an hour away. It kind of defeats the purpose.

So, we went to our local homeschool group this morning. I gave Mi'ita the lecture on respecting other people's religions, steering clear of the subject, what to say if it came up. I told her that we were just looking into this group and if it wasn't for us, we wouldn't have to join.

They started with a prayer and ended with a prayer. Their introductory paper stated their religious theology. I talked a bit with the leader and she said that there have been non-Christians in their group, but they had to fit in.

After that, we talked a lot about curriculum. We decided that we would do three units this year: one on the history of our state and the Oregon Trail, one on marine biology, and one on forestry. They talked about how they were going to skip their usual Christmas pageant this year because they wanted to focus on these units. There was another brand new homeschool mom there whose daughter is only 12 days older than mine and we have a play date set up for tomorrow.

I asked Mia if she wanted to keep going. She said yes. Of course she complained about the group--she seems incapable of not complaining about something. She complained about the how they played dodgeball, though, and not the prayers, and she is excited about her new friend.

Success? I am hopeful. We officially joined and I forked over my membership dues.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Are you kidding?

I went to the doctor the other day. She asked me what I did for a living and I told her that I homeschooled. Then she told me that I must have so much patience. She didn't have the patience to do it.

Is she nuts?

My patience died two years ago. I remember the moment. Here I was teaching at a 7th-12th grade high school, ESOL. The principal had told the staff that we didn't have to worry about tardies. He would personally escort tardy students to our classrooms and that would be the end of that. It was 20 minutes after class started and I only had 3 students there. The rest were wandering the halls, taking their sweet time, with no interest in coming to class. I have no idea where the principal was.

I stood there and thought, "Why am I doing this?"

It took me another year and a half to give up. I tried this and that. New training, new tardy policies, new teaching methods, new grade level, new school, new staff. And then I just decided that I don't have the patience anymore. If the kids can't meet me halfway, I just can't cheerlead them into it.

Thirteen years ago, when I first started, I could do it. I had the patience. Eleven years ago, I could still do it. The last two years have squeezed all the patience out of me. The raisin in the sun. That's me.

And now I'm trying to teach my own child. With classes in her school over 35 students, I just felt like I had no choice.

I lose my temper a lot. I do things that I don't approve of, say things, use words that I know are hurtful. I've been that way increasingly as my patience oozed out. All the homeschooling books and magazines and articles that I've read keep saying that the personal attention, nurturing, and loving atmosphere is the key to the success of homeschooling.

Loving atmosphere?

Educational objectives are on the back burner right now. Loving atmosphere, joy of learning, calm environment, mom who doesn't lose her temper, that's the goal. Math if we can squeeze it in.

Okay, I can't give up the math, the Latin, or the writing, but seriously they are on the back burner to a mother who doesn't lose her temper.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


We've slowed WAY down.

Today we got a little history and math done in the morning. We did PE at 11, and walked the dog to the skate park and then to the beach and built a sand volcano. We picked up a friend on the way home and got in at 1. Then we did art for a couple of hours, and tried to write something afterward. She had writer's block, so we didn't get more than a paragraph done. That's it. Two hours of PE, two hours of art, half and hour of math, 20 minutes of history and writing.

This week has been a walk in the other direction. We started with the classical education model, which bombed spectacularly after one day but took a week to die. I've been reading about the other homeschool models, letting her have more say in what we study, and trying to loosen up some.

The reason I wanted to home school is that Mi'ita is so bright. I really felt that school was not challenging her. I've heard of many homeschooling families whose children learn at very high levels and I want that for her. I thought the classical model could deliver it. I learned different. We could fight for a year and have her hate learning, or we could pick a different model.

I decided that there are two subjects I will teach, come hell or high water: math and writing. The 3 R's, minus reading because her reading is high school level already.

I bought a book of Math Mysteries and for the first time I heard her ask to do math. She also has started her own blog of her own writing and is very excited about it. Check it out:

Science and history she loves and as long as I don't force feed it, she is game for anything. I read her history books as bedtime stories. I find science experiments that are interesting, I suggest them and she wants to do them, no fight involved. I also have signed up her up for every science camp we come across--fossils, astronomy, chemistry, marine survival, squid dissection. We live on the coast with an aquarium and research center that have programs for children. I figure as long as I sign her up for everything and teach a bit on the side, she's good in science. She just plain loves history, as do I, so we're good there, too. The classical model suggested that we start at the beginning, ancient history, and work forward. We've started at the VERY beginning and there's so much science involved--Neanderthals, early hominids, ice ages, radiocarbon dating. Really, science and history are the same right now.

I'm okay with this. It's certainly not what I expected, but the surprises are sometimes delightful. She loves to learn, really, and all I need to do is get the right things in her hands and help her along the way and we're good.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Nifty Little Point System

Would you go to work every day if you didn't get paid?

Some people would, of course, because they love their job, but I think even those people would modify a few things. They'd quit doing the obnoxious parts, shift their schedule, work fewer hours. And a lot of us wouldn't darken the doorway again.

We tell children that school is their job, but they don't get paid.

Now we get into the muddy water of instrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. If children are paid for learning with money or points or good grades, they stop loving to learn and they work for the money, points, or grades. Lots of studies show that extrinsic motivation is detrimental to learning. Lots of other studies show that it is effective at behavior modification.

Even though I know the limitations of extrinsic motivation, I'm doing it. I give Mi'ita points for doing her schoolwork. The behavior part of it is much more important to me than the work part. I give her double points for doing things with a good attitude. To try to reduce the complaints, I give her an extra point every time she says, "Okay, Mom."

I'm not looking for complete compliance; I want cheerful learning.

Mi'ita gets a dime for each point. She has earned as little as 7 points in a day and as much as 25. At the end of the week we tally it all and I pay up.

She doesn't get to keep it all, though. She pays $1 to the local pet shop for crickets for her lizard. The rest is divided three ways. A third is cash she gets to blow. A third is put into savings that she gets to spend once she has earned $20. The last third goes into her college fund.

It's money management. It teaches her to save up for something that she wants. It teaches her that pets are expensive and that she needs to think before she adopts. There's some real life math involved. It helps me focus on one behavior that I want to change at a time.

It works.