Sentence Structure?

I don’t think anyone invented language. I pretty sure that it naturally evolved. No one had an “ah-ha” moment about putting the noun before the predicate. “Mr. Norton walks.” So why do we torture children with diagramming sentences and picking out verbs, nouns, and adjectives? Someone at sometime (probably a word-nerd, someone fascinated with semantics or linguistics) heard all these words and sentences we naturally use, noticed a pattern of some kind, that most people used them in certain way, and decided to write down all these “rules”. Anyone that hears people speak regularly can pick this kind of stuff up naturally without ever knowing what a interjection is. But now we feel we need to sit young children down and explain these rules whether they are interested or not, as if they wouldn’t know how to speak or write if they didn’t know them in an academic form.

If you are fascinated by the rules of language, by all means study them! But you really don’t need to harass people of any age about it. If your children hear people speak in the dialect and form you desire, they will learn that language naturally. You can hear language in multiple ways. You can listen to conversation, watch TV or movies, play online role playing games, or read books. Just like learning to walk, your children learned to talk. They don’t speak like Native Americans in a old Western movie, do they? So why would they write that way?

Here are a couple links to get the juices flowing in your mind!

Sandra Dodd’s page about “Language Arts”

Unschool Rules!

 

John Locke had Thoughts on Education?

Last year I made a contract with myself to read through the Harvard Classic reading list for young people. I find it disturbing that it was written for “young people ages 12 to 17” and it’s a bit difficult for me at times. I don’t read everything, but I do “taste it” each morning. Some books I just don’t find interesting at all and don’t finish the selection of the day. Some I find fascinating and end up reading a lot more. That’s what real self-education is!

My reading today was from John Locke’s “Some Thoughts Concerning Education”. I didn’t read the whole book, just the excerpt that the reading list suggests, but I’m definitely putting this on my “to-read” list!

The part I did read was about teaching children to read. I’m always amazed when I find bits of the ideas behind “unschooing” or “life learning” in old books. Here are a few quotes.

“When he can talk, ’tis time he should begin to learn to read. But as to this, give me leave here to inculcate again, what is very apt to be forgotten, viz. That great care is to be taken, that it be never made as a business to him, nor he look on it as a task.”

He goes on to talk of games to be be played, setting an example of how important and fun reading is, and how good it is for mothers to read to their children. All things we’ve done as our children have grown. There were never “lessons” or coercion. Some of his ideas are a bit contrived but I think it’s because there wasn’t as much print in his day as there is now. There are so many natural instances to point out letters and sounds today that you really can’t avoid learning to read.

“Children are much less apt to be idle than men;” Now there is something you don’t see much outside the radical unschooler message boards. They really are. You always hear about kids and their abounding energy. They really want to be busy doing a million things. Keep finding things for them to interest their minds and bodies about!

“’Tis better it be a year later before he can read, than that he should this way get an aversion to learning. If you have any contest with him, let it be in matters of moment, of truth, and good nature; but lay no task on him about ABC.” That’s something I’ve been telling people as long as I’ve had kids. It’s something people can’t get their brains around. I always hear, “But he’ll be behind!” We’re homeschooling. Who will he be behind? No one is behind. You are exactly where you need to be. Harassing a child to learn something faster than he is willing or able to learn, only creates tension and aversion to learning anything.

“And if those about him will talk to him often about the stories he has read, and hear him tell them, it will, besides other advantages, add encouragement and delight to his reading, when he finds there is some use and pleasure in it.” We learn so much from conversation. Young people love to talk and so few adults will take the time to listen to what they have to say. You may not really be interested in the book, movie, or game they love, but take the time to really listen. Ask questions about it. Find out what it is that they love about it. It’s so important to their education, more than any lesson.

And one more. Seriously, I could just quote the whole book! “the right way of teaching that language (French), which is by talking it into children in constant conversation, and not by grammatical rules.” Isn’t that the way we learn our own language? We don’t need grammatical rules for our own language, yet we speak fluently and correctly. Why would we not to that in a classroom? Can you imagine a class that you went to for an hour or so a day, where everyone spoke the language you were learning? Instead of meeting in a classroom you met at the park, the grocery store, the post office, and the museum each day and just walked and talked, over lunch or tea. Wow. I want that!

I love finding treasures like this! I can’t wait to read more.

Commitment

There was something I read in an Uncle Eric book years ago about two laws for a peaceful world, “Do all you say you are going to do.” and “Do not encroach on another person’s person or property.” As I move through the home education world, I find that the first one is something we all have a very hard time with.

I’m not pointing out people. I’m guilty of it myself. We all are. But for some reason, when it comes to homeschool field trips and events, there is a disproportionate number of people who violate that rule a lot.

As a group, home educators are a pretty independent lot. We tend to do things in our own time, on our own schedule. We love the flexibility that home education gives our family. A hike at a local park or a visit to a museum on the calendar doesn’t mean that we can’t just thrust that off to the side when we feel the call of the amusement park or a great movie debut. It is pretty glorious.

Many times we don’t have a central place or business that coordinating field trips or a get-together. It’s usually another parent that has decided they would like to take advantage of a group discount or that they’d like to organize a group of families to go with them to the museum so that they can get a tour or add in the element of socializing with peers while their kids experience modern art. They donate their time and energy to plan, organize, invite, and wrangle other families. They aren’t paid or compensated other than seeing other families benefit from their efforts. And we all benefit from it. The more people that jump in and do this, the more experiences we all have, the more rounded our children’s education is.

And now the down side. There is nothing more disappointing and embarrassing to an organizing parent than to show up at a venue with a reservation for twenty and having five show up. Most of these events are free, so people have no problem forfeiting their spot. But it does cost the museum to have the docent there ready to give the tour. And it sure makes us all look bad that we can’t commit to showing up when we said we would, on time. The next group that tries to make a reservation or group ticket is given a hard time because of the last experience. And we are given fewer and fewer opportunities to show our kids the wider world.

Sometimes the field trip that parent organized is the first one that venue has ever done. It may be the docents first experience with home educated kids. Don’t you think we should be a light to others who may be considering homeschooling as well. Wouldn’t it be awesome if that young docent at the art museum was so impressed with homeschoolers in general that it made it normal for her and she decided to go that route as well? I realize that’s a bit idealistic and if we all went around feeling like we were on display for others instead of just living our lives, it could have negative effects. But couldn’t we at least put our best foot forward when we’re out in public? I’m not talking about having beautifully behaved children at all times. I’m talking about showing up, on time, and following the rules of the venue without disturbing others around us too much.

I’d like to also add that we think about how we treat the organizer. They are just another parent trying their best to home educate. They aren’t professionals. They’re doing this out of the kindness of their heart. It may be the first thing they’ve ever organized. They may not be very good at it. And they are doing the very best they can. They probably have their own children there waiting for the event. Try to be helpful and extra courteous. They are learning too.

Next time you see a free or low cost event published online for homeschoolers, check your schedule before committing to it. And if you do make that reservation, write it down and make a point to be there, maybe even a little early if need be. If something comes up and you can’t make it, be sure to tell the organizer as early as you can. We all need to be a little more responsible for ourselves and think about those around us. It’s not just about you showing up. It’s the organizer’s time and effort. It’s the venue’s time and budget. It’s the homeschooling community’s reputation.

Calendars!

Calendars are awesome! As a private school, you need to mark attendance each day (I know!) and a printable calendar is great for that. I have one from Donna Young that has the whole year on two sheets of paper. I print it at the beginning of our school year and it sits in a bright pink folder on my desk next to my computer along with my course of study. Each morning as I check my email and Facebook excitement, I put an X on the day if it’s a weekday. Legal requirement = complete. Some people print a page like this and write “Absences Marked With an X” at the top. Since our kids are not absent from our houses at any time there are no X’s, but attendance is taken none the less. Both ways are sufficient to be in compliance with the legal requirements.

I also have a student planner from Walmart sitting on my desk. I like it because there is plenty of room to write down the plan both for the month and the week. I don’t plan a lot in advance, but all our appointments, field trips, and events are on the monthly part. As we go through the week, the daily part has notes and checklists about what we did that day. Things like “boy was working on his website most the day”, “dad read to us from his book after dinner”, and “boy started reading ‘Lord of the Rings'” cover those pages. If you have a more set schedule, you can write it out there and check things off as you do them. Planners are great to look back on when you’re trying to remember what went on last week. As unschoolers, the days seem to run together at times and having the written planner really helps me get a handle on who’s been doing what and when. I’m certain someone, some day, will come across my planners and journals and be amazed…I just know it!

Did you know there are cool learning calendars out there as well? These ones are great for inspiring ideas and finding things you didn’t even know existed in a fun and spontaneous way. It’s also a great way for YOU to continue your own life long learning journey and share it with your kids. There are history, science, literature, and art calendars. There’s even one for preschool ideas! You don’t need to buy them every year either. You won’t get to everything every day, so keep them around for inspiration year after year, just ignore the day of the week!

Here’s a list of some of my favorites.

Universal Preschool’s “Preschool Learning Calendar”

Thomas Jefferson Education’s “This Week In History”

Today in Science History

Theorem of the Day

“The Mathematics Calendar” by Theoni Pappas

And a whole wall of calendars you can find at this site, from Word of the Day and Word Origins to Pets and Flowers!
http://www.calendars.com/Literature/cat00136/

World Idle Game

My sons play this game all the time. I thought they were reading an article, not playing a game, but when my youngest explained it to me I was fascinated and (I’ll admit) a little bit bored. I’m not one for text games. I’m older, yes, and those games were popular among the nerd elite when I was a kid, but I never played them. I’d rather have read a book or gone roller skating! But my sons both seem to really enjoy this game, so I thought I’d pass it along to share their joy. I hope you like it!

http://www.kongregate.com/games/Baldurans/world-idle?haref=HP_HNG_world-idle

“Build buildings to produce resources. After you have enough people you can gather an army and send your people to war to create even bigger empire.”