adventures in living in a home/school

Most people have a general idea of what home schooling is. What they don’t realize that there are infinite variations of how to go about teaching your kids at home.

My 12 year old grandson is home schooled and has always been. I live with him and his family, and so I am usually right in the middle of it all. My daughter is the facilitator — and that’s what she is, more than a traditional “teacher,” (although sometimes she does play that role). She has chosen not to work at an outside job, so home schooling has become her passion, and she is involved in the regional home schooling community.

Learning here is part of living, and most of the time my grandson learns all of the basic skills, as well as research, communication, ethics, history, civic responsibility etc. etc. as part of some interdisciplinary project in which he becomes involved because he has expressed an interest in it.

The computer is right next to the dining table, and when some question comes up in conversation at a meal, he can turn around and research the answer. He has become very proficient at using the computer to further his learning, either by using actual programs that my daughter has downloaded or by researching and creating his own base of information.

Television also plays a big part in his learning. From Mythbusters to Pawn Stars to documentaries on the History and National Geographic channels, he absorbs information like a sponge.

As an involved observer, there is so much I can write about the processes and the products of home schooling. But what prompts me today is his latest project: pygmy goats and can we have them here as pets.

This interdisciplinary project has just begun and will last until spring, when we will make a decision whether or not we can and will actually get a goat or two. Or three.

In the meanwhile, he has been emailing back and forth with the local zoning office and reading online abut the care and use of goats and how they might be used as a source of income (weeding vacant lots in place of having them mowed). He has ordered a book about the care and feeding of pygmy goats. Over the next several months, there will be visits to places that sell pygmy goats and conversations with the folks who raise them. There will be exercises in figuring out how much land they would need and how to provide for their shelter. These exercises will include a lot of math for measuring as well as for finances.

My role as “grandmother-in-residence” is to listen, encourage, ask questions, and share in the excitement of discovery and adventure. Not at all a bad way to spend part of my retirement time and energy. And, actually, pygmy goats, as their popularity on youtube has proven, are fun to have around. I wouldn’t mind that at all.

Hobbes makes him happy.

Today is his tenth birthday, and he’s a big Calvin and Hobbes fan. A few days ago, we found a pattern for making a Hobbes, and so I ran out to Joann’s, bought the fabric and stuffing, and launched myself into a marathon sewing project.

He would check on me periodically to see how it was coming — if it would be ready for his birthday.

Now, here is a kid obsessed with law enforcement officials, fire fighters, SWAT teams, and military and construction vehicles. (It’s a “boy thing,” he tells me.)

But he put that all aside, insisting that he help sew on Hobbes’ stripes. And so, for two hours, my grandson and I sat and sewed together. At first I threaded the needle and made the knot at the end of the thread for him. By the time he finished sewing the stripes onto the tail, he had figured out how to do those things himself.

Hobbes was finished in time and was a major guest at the birthday party’s “Sundae-Inator” station that he and his mom had built to reflect the “Phineas and Ferb” party theme.

I’m not sure what I thought that my life would be like at this point. I doubt if I ever saw myself having a great time sitting with my grandson while we collaborated on sewing a stuffed tiger.

“attention must be paid to such a person”

This title is a quote from Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” and it’s sticking in my mind after finishing a book I just couldn’t wait to finish and wish I could have memorized — Jennifer Stuller’s Inkstained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology.

Since I discovered Wonder Woman at about age 7 (1947) I have devoured all kinds of media that featured kick-ass females, and Stuller’s book brought me up to date on some of the ones who showed up over the past 20 years (when I slipped up a little on following my scholarly avocation.) Well, I didn’t slip up completely because I do know about many of those females to which she refers, from Aeon Flux to Zoe Washburn.

So here’s the challenge I would love to put out there to current fantasy/sci fi writers: create a female superhero who is older than 60 and still has powers she can and does use. (But don’t make her into a Granny Weatherwax.) Attention should be paid to such a person. IMHO. And no LOL.

Speaking of people who should be paid attention to, how come someone as social-media savvy, widely-well-read, prolifically articulate, comfortably creative, and energetically willing as The One True Bix can’t find a job??!!

HELLO, JOSS WHEDON, MUTANT ENEMY PRODUCTIONS, FANDOM INDUSTRIES, CAN YOU HEAR ME!

Attention should be paid to such a person. Certainly, a living wage should be paid to such a person.

And I’m not just saying that because I’m his mother. Really.

_______________________________________________________

P.S. Someone should create an older female “superhero” — maybe one whose power is like that of the old “The Shadow” (“cloud men’s minds” to be able to outwit villains) and make a movie with Nichelle Nicholls as the star. She could be the mother of an existing younger female superhero. Great role model for mother-mentoring-daughter. And great counterpoint to current overly sexy female superheroes created by male fantasies. (Maybe her name could be Chhaya, which is the Hindu word for “shadow.”) Just sayin’.

an appeal to the financial backers of Chump Trump

Donald Trump is an embarrassment to your support of his television program. I am boycotting any program and product tied in any way to that egomaniacal racist. Do us all a favor and DUMP TRUMP. He is a national disgrace and we will make him a financial liability.

I have sent the above note to the following who provide support to Donal Trump:
Jeremy.Gaines@nbcuni.com, Rebecca.Marks@nbcuni.com, Lauren.Kapp@nbcuni.com, Kathy.Kelly-Brown@nbcuni.com, ataylor@erac.com

And I went to the sites listed below and filled out their forms with the same message.

http://www.drpeppersnapplegroup.com/contact/

http://www.campingworld.com/contactUsForm.cfm?&contactValue=General%20Questions

http://www.farouk.com/contactus.aspx

Please feel free to do the same.

The Real Wonder Woman
vs David E. Kelley

If you’re not a member of the fandom community, you probably don’t know about the growing criticism of NBC for choosing David E. Kelley to write the script for a new series about Wonder Woman. (Just Google “Wonder Woman David E. Kelley” and you’ll find out more than you really want to know).

As a more than half-century fan of Wonder Woman, and as a shorter term fan of Kelley’s previous tv scripts, there’s something I want to say.

It’s a matter of “awe.”

Kelley’s female characters, such as Allie McBeal, have been criticized for being anti-feminist. I maintain that those characters are not meant to be “archetypes” or “heroes.” Neither inspiration nor role models, rather they emerge from some small portion of female idiosyncrasies with which many of us identify and also recognize as not necessarily the best of what we are. Actually, his male characters develop the same way, portrayed as flawed and human in ways that make us smile with poignant understanding.

But that’s not what Wonder Woman was ever meant to be. Wonder Woman was never meant to be fully human. As I blogged once before and quoted from here:

From her inception, Wonder Woman was not out to just stop criminals, but to reform them. On a small island off Paradise Island was Transformation Island, a rehabilitation complex created by the Amazons to house and reform criminals.

Armed with her bulletproof bracelets, magic lasso, and her amazonian training, Princess Diana was the archetype of the perfect woman from the mind of her creator, William Moulton Marston. She was beautiful, intelligent, strong, but still possessed a soft side. At that time, her powers came from ‘Amazon Concentration,’ not as a gift from the gods.

Wonder Woman’s magic lasso was supposedly forged from the Magic Girdle of Aphrodite, which Queen Hippolyta (Wonder Woman’s) mother was bequeathed by the Goddess. Hephastateus borrowed the belt, removed links from it, and that is where the magic lasso came from. It was unbreakable, infinitely stretchable, and could make all who are encircled in it tell the truth.

That was the Wonder Woman who inspired me as a 7-year old who felt that she never did fit into her family of origin, the pre-teener and teenager who yearned for a role as an adult that didn’t fit into the 50s mentality.

While Allie McBeal made us smile because we see part of ourselves in her antics, Wonder Woman makes us dream about what we might still become. Male or female, we need awesome and inspiring mythologies to propel us out of the ordinary and problematic parts of ourselves that characters like Allie so touchingly reflect.

Kelley’s “Harry’s Law” starring Kathy Bates is my new favorite show (even though the part was originally written for a male.) But Harriet is not an archetype either. She’s a very specific kind of individual with very human personality traits. We might find her inspiring, but not really “awesome.”

We females need Wonder Woman as the awesome myth she originally was intended to be — connected to other mythic females on Paradise Island more than she is to the mundane human world in which she has to find a place. Her struggle is to fulfill her destiny while still finding a way to make and enjoy her place in the everyday world.

Because isn’t that what so many of us still feel is our psychological destiny — to feel the power of our mythic history and to use that power to make the world a better place for others and for ourselves?

Maybe David E. Kelley can write Wonder Woman the way she deserves to be written. Maybe. But I can’t help feeling that Joss Whedon (who understood why we were awed by his Buffy) would have been a much better choice.

Please, Mr. Kelley, don’t dilute the awesomeness of Wonder Woman. She doesn’t deserve it. And neither do we.

learning vs achievement
and the happiness factor

Achievement
1. The act of accomplishing or finishing.
2. Something accomplished successfully, especially by means of exertion, skill, practice, or perseverance

Learning
1. The act, process, or experience of gaining knowledge or skill.
2. Knowledge or skill gained through schooling or study.

Learning and achievement are not at all the same thing, although one can lead to the other. In focusing on the goal of achievement and not the process of learning, education reformers are putting the cart before the horse. You can’t have high achievement without engaged learning. Yet, I see little attention being paid to changing and improving the way that learning (and, therefore, teaching) is put into process in schools.

A focus on the goals of competition and achievement, while great for trying to encourage success and ensure statistical accountability, is stressful and not very enjoyable for the learners themselves, as the people of China are discovering.

One obstacle to happiness in China, Peng said, is the intense culture of competition: “When you have that many people all fighting to achieve the same narrowly defined goals, it becomes a zero-sum game,” he said. “That’s why we need to change the paradigm of what success means and come together for the greater good of Chinese society,” Peng added. “That’s why we need to talk about the science of happiness.”

People seem to be happiest when they are involved in the process doing something that they enjoy doing.

Happiness:

a : a state of well-being and contentment : joy b : a pleasurable or satisfying experience

Most Americans interested in educational reform, including President Obama in his State of the Union address (who looks to China as an example of successful education), focus on raising achievement levels — not a bad ultimate goal. But what no one is grappling with is how to make the process of learning (which is the process one needs to go through before one can demonstrate a high level of achievement) something that students will enjoy (and, therefore, happily and willingly engage in).

If there were a way to replicate, in a classroom, how my homeschooled grandson is learning, more kids would find themselves happy to be engaged in learning, in discovering, in experimenting, in questioning, in hypothesizing — in learning how to enjoy the process of learning and how to apply that learning in meaningful ways.

He is eight-and-a-half years old, and he is not expected to sit doing a task for more than 15 minutes at a time. He rarely does worksheets and learns math and science through a variety of games and projects that involve both. (The internet is overflowing with resources.)

As an example of making learning enjoyable, I quote here from his mom’s recent blogpost about their latest learning adventure. You can read the whole post, with photos, here.

We’ve begun the Age of Exploration! Daring adventures, wrong directions, pirates, new lands! Originally I intended to launch more in depth into the Middle Ages this year. But as we completed the Revolutionary War and pulled out the books/stories/maps for the Middle Ages, it felt — wrong. Our Revolutionary War unit had so much to do and make, and suddenly, what I had next began with reading — not that we didn’t have that before as well, but all of a sudden, the work was different. It felt like — work. So I returned to what I did at the beginning of our year. I looked to the student and dared to ask, “Is this interesting to you? Do you WANT to learn about the middle ages right now?” His tepid reaction pretty much said it all. So I jumped online to look at something that had caught my eye before. The Time Travelers History Studies. The New World Explorers activity pack. Chock full of coloring, cutting, cooking, science, creating — making journals, mapping, lapbooking all while learning about explorers, myths and legends, early navigation, and more.

ship

As a home/school, our home is one big classroom, with world maps hung up in the living room (along with the usual kinds of wall decor). A separate small room holds floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with resource books, science experiments, a variety of learning tools — and, of course a desk. The family computer is in an alcove off the dining room, and he goes there to access Kizui as well as spelling and math learning programs. Every activity offers some kind of engaged and interdisciplinary learning — from a trip to the grocery store or a museum, to a walk in the woods. There’s also plenty of time for creative play as well as just plain running around outside.

It’s not as though no one concerned with education is trying to figure out how to revolutionize the learning process so that kids are happy to go to school. Unfortunately, though, it’s not the people who have the power to enable and make the changes. School administrators and teachers seem to be more concerned with everything about the educational system BUT exploring ways to make learning a more happy and engaging process for students.

But,over at Mind/Shift: How we all learn, for example, there’s a recent piece: Learning Happens Everywhere in the Future School Day that pretty much explains how

Students will be able to choose to engage in their learning through physical interactions with each other and their guides (teachers) while the VL [Virtual Learning] system is always available to experience learning in ways not possible, not affordable, or that are unsafe in the physical world.

The article ends with this (emphases mine):

Over the past decade (since 2010) there has been much debate about online learning and whether physical schools will exist in the future. Most thought leaders have concluded that physical school remains vital to a successful education but their design and layout has changed significantly to support a grade-less organization with experts – teachers as guides, coaches, and mentors – along with their students. As well, the best of home- and un-schooling are fully incorporated. The school campus is a support system and home base for learners and their guides (teachers, parents, community members). But, students are not required to physically be in school on a rigid schedule. They learn at home, on family vacation, and at their physical school. Virtual Learning is seamlessly available to connect students to each other, to their learning guides, to experiential learning, to content, and to other mentors and learners around the world.

“Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man”. Thus goes the Jesuit saying, but of course it is true of all education. What we sow in childhood, we reap in adulthood.

If we want adults who can think, analyze, deduce — who can imagine, create, implement — who seek the truth and use it well — then we need schools, pre-K through high school, that give students of all ages chances to practice learning-as-fun.

How we ensure that all of these students are given access to the actual historical and scientific facts from which they can build their learning experiences has become another worrisome major challenge.

I am a New York State certified teacher, but, these days, I sure am glad that my grandson is being homeschooled.

Dear Brian Williams and NBC

I sent this email to NBC the other day. Since I haven’t heard anything back, I figured that I’d try it here:

I am writing on behalf of six women, ages 50 to 70 – friends for decades who often spend our time together discussing politics and what would we do if we had the power to initiate change. We often – only half in jest – insist that we have the broad knowledge and experience among the six of us to run the country better than the men currently in charge.

Yesterday, we brainstormed, way into the evening, about what might be done to counteract the vitriol and misinformation generated by the extreme Right. Other than giving Rachel Maddow a prime time spot on NBC (which, we pragmatically recognize isn’t going to happen), we came up with this strategy for your consideration.

Brian Williams is just about the most respected newscaster out there, and his audience crosses the spectrum of political views.

At the end of each NBC Nightly News Broadcast, Williams should spend the last five minutes doing a version of Maddow’s “Debunktion Junction,” in which he presents hard facts that dispel myths being presented as fact by both the Right and the Left.

Brian Williams has the deserved reputation of presenting the news without bias, and, unlike Maddow (whom we love, by the way), his news programs reach citizens with a broad spectrum of political viewpoints.

We need a “political mythbusters,” a 2011 “Sgt. Joe Friday” to drag into the net of misinformation “just the facts.”

I bow to Betty

betty

The image above was created by Vicki Howell of “I Love To Create” as part of her tribute to Betty White, who co-hosts Saturday Night Live tonight.

At 88, Betty White has achieved a resurgence in popularity and a whole new persona, and the reasons for her current icon status are aptly explained here.

That’s why I was surprised when, linking around from my son’s tweets several weeks ago, I wound up at an article (which I can no longer locate) by a young-ish female criticizing White for the very charms that attract the rest of us. I guess, for that young writer, older women should be sweet, non-intrusive, and very well-mannered. I guess she never read Jenny Joseph’s famous poem “Warning,” which begins When I am old I shall wear purple…

Betty White is a perfect role model for those of us elders who still value sass and surprises.

I bow to Betty.

Betty rules the age; Dixie dies too soon.

At 88 years of age, Betty White still rocks and rules, and she demonstrated on Craig Ferguson’s Late Late Show the other night. I hope I can be a sharp as she is in another 18 years.

At exactly my age, Dixie Carter succumbed to cancer earlier this week. I never missed a performance of her Julia Sugarbaker on Designing Women.

Dixie Carter and Julia Sugarbaker. Gone but not forgotten.