15 April 2009

"Party Like It's 1773" On a sign at the Tax Day Tea Party

On the way in

"What kind of party did you say it was?" my son asked after a simplified oral lesson with many references to the Schoolhouse Rock videos.

"It's a party of angry people." That must have confused him, since he spent the rest of the party playing on the jungle gym and everyone was pleasant and having a good time.

At the party

The concept of the Economic Stimulus Package is something that I can't expect my six and four-year-olds to understand. But they can understand that people who are upset at the government, who we just elected not six months ago, have every right to get together and raise a stink. This is something they can relate to. It's okay to say you're not happy, and it's your responsibility to change it with your vote.

The kids are learning a lot about responsibility these days. Responsibility for feeding the dog, picking up after themselves, the Bill of Rights being not just rights but responsibilities. We're slowly evolving from the euphemism word of job to this more complex word. "It's not my job" is something I say to them. "Why do you write? Why do you teach?" It's my job. But not really, it's my responsibility.

The kids more easily see the consequences of failing to be responsible when they hear their friend failed to lock the chicken coop and all the chickens got eaten and now there are no eggs. To parallel this to something more vast, more complex, such as the Economy, which to date has been reduced to "working, buying, and selling," is a much harder connection to make.

"So, mom, the people who gave our money to other people, did they take it from us, or did we give it to them?" asks my daughter on our walk home.

Insert discussion on taxes, and more references to Schoolhouse Rock. If I could explain so many things as phenomenally as the Schoolhouse Rock people, I think I'd be independently wealthy.

"The point is," I summarized, "we gave them money to do certain things, and they are doing other things without our permission."

"Uh-oh." Long pause. "Well, I had fun on the playground, and I made a new friend."

It was a party, after all.


The exodus

07 December 2008

"With such low expectations, it's easy to impress." Pamela Anderson

The mistake has been made, if you can call it that. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't.

For a math lesson I yanked a couple books off the shelf and flipped through the workbook, only to find it was too primary. I checked the beginning of the text book and created a plan for the lesson on the first two sections of the first chapter. Only after the lesson was over did I close the book to find a sequence of five dots on the binding. This math text is for students four grades ahead of mine.

Not that there was any problem with the lesson. She was working diligently with two sets of tens and sixteen sets of hundreds, and writing seven- and eight-digit numbers out longhand. We had even turned the expanded form of a number into a code, which she cracked easier than she had cracked arbitrary codes. Then she designed a place-value train.

People who write textbooks don't make the textbook into a teacher. The first chapter of any textbook is supposed to be review, maybe on a higher level, and possibly not at all challenging for a student. But, why give a student work that isn't challenging? My student laughs at me when I give her a lesson she can complete in less than ten minutes. If she doesn't come asking for a break, she comes out begging for more. The freedom of homeschooling is that I can put her on the edge of a her comprehension, and watch her shatter the standards for students her age with her experience.

Flirting with a six-year-old "edge" is a delicate task, and the key is to listen. The textbooks people write are not supposed to be the teachers. They are tools, kits, forums. That's what can't be done in a school, in a classroom, with classmates and a teacher who has such high expectations to meet they have to cover everyone with sweeping generalizations, like textbooks. There is no time to listen.

I am tired of people being impressed with my student's skills, her knowledge, her smarts.

Want to be a good teacher?

Learn to listen.

For more on Pamela Anderson

01 December 2008

Because There Was None

The major project to top off the end of the school year in May is to host a poetry recitation. I've chosen six poems of great fun and rhythm, and ease for a six-year-old memory but complexity for a fourth-grade reader that is my daughter. Because I have chosen them so early in relationship to event, they are also to be a basis for a few lessons over the next few months. I've managed, however, to choose at least three poems that no one on the world wide webiverse has ever put into a lesson, or at least shallow enough in my searches to reach me before my patience ran out.

It is not the first time that I have chosen to create a lesson around something that I cannot get any lesson ideas for, not, of course, that I tend to duplicate them, just that the vast accumulation of knowledge tends to trigger my own imagination.

No, this is only the first time that I have been moved to share my imaginative creations with this unfufilling web world. I do not write lesson plans, quite the contrary, I have the freedom to be spontaneous with my lessons.

Without further ado, the new blog, with lesson ideas from which the web world may draw thoughts from to create lesson plan, currently unimaginatively titled