Obi-Wan Kenobi: “If you spent as much time practicing your saber technique as you do on your wit, you would rival Master Yoda as a swordsman.”
Anakin Skywalker: “I thought I already did.”
Obi-Wan: “Only in your mind, my very young apprentice.”
Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
So… Padawan Learner got in a fight with a tree Thursday night. This may surprise, you but the tree won. $1900 dollars and a week later and the old car should be back in fighting shape again. Let’s hope this little event reminds him to slow down and drive more carefully on snow-covered roads from now on. And people wonder why I hear Rainman’s voice in my head every time he tells someone, “I’m an excellent driver. “
Anakin Skywalker: “She programmed Artoo to warn us if there’s an intruder.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi: “There are many other ways to kill a Senator.”
Anakin Skywalker: “I know, but we also want to catch this assassin. Don’t we, Master?”
Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
If you haven’t been yet, secular homeschoolers might want to go check out the Secular Homeschool website run by Topsy-Techie (sigh, how I do miss her blog). The forums are friendly and lively, but without the ever increasing flaming I got tired of seeing on another (very large) homeschooling website tied to a famous homeschooling method of the same name. Yeah, that one. An added bonus is a lack of “the argument for creationism” and “evolution is just a theory” threads that made me want to toss my computer across the room.
One that had me thinking today was about textbooks – and how they have gotten a real stink attached to their very being. Being lazy, but still thinking it was worth sharing, here’s my 2c on the topic – as copied from here.
There is no One Right Way
I wonder why there is often such strong feelings about textbooks versus non-textbooks.
They’re just books; some we find useful and some we find useless. Some books engage our imagination, some are strictly “just the facts, ma’am.” Some are luscious, some are dry. I don’t read the news – online or in print – because I’m looking to experience something. I read for a bit of information. When I want a more rounded, interesting look at something I read National Geographic or Smithsonian. If I want to immerse myself in the topic completely, I head to the library and immerse myself in minutia. I’m reading two books by John McWhorter right now – burying myself in the details of English grammar and the evolution of written language. I’ll probably recommend them to Padawan Learner, despite the fact that I know it’s not a real interest of his, because I find them so interesting. He just wants to know where to put a semicolon so he doesn’t have to rewrite any sentences in his online writing class. Furthermore, he’ll continue to recommend coding websites, because he finds them interesting, when all I want to know is how to keep my sidebars from going wonky.
Sometimes I get the impression that people don’t consider my son a real unschooler/self-directed learner/free-range learner (Topsy’s son’s term – and my personal favorite) because he uses textbooks as the base for the science and maths that he’s currently learning. Why? Isn’t the goal to learn the things that we both need and/or want to know? Of course it is. If learning about mummies, the goal really probably shouldn’t be to mummify a chicken. The goal should be to learn about mummification. Mummified chickens are cool or nasty or just plain weird – depending on who you ask. No right way to learn about mummies.
A friend doesn’t consider herself “a very good Charlotte Mason” homeschooler (despite her best efforts) because her kids want to cut to the chase and just grab an American History textbook instead of having so many different activities/books/tie-ins involved. Deep down, she admits, a few of her kids don’t really think history of any kindis all that interesting – no matter what she does – but she can’t bring herself to “give up” on her educational beliefs and buy a textbook to meet what she feels is a basic educational requirement for her American homeschoolers. Now, the goal is to know American History – and her kids ARE learning about it – but would their learning be any less if they learned it from the pages of a textbook? Does rendering lard make for better citizens or just better cornbread? No one right way to learn American History.
Textbooks are often accused of being dull, of crushing interest, of being needlessly rigid. And they can be, if you don’t like the textbook or the author’s methods of explaining things or are prejudiced against textbooks in general. But keep this little picture in your mind: my best friends’ husband (a bright and wonderful man) has kept all his college math textbooks because he likes to re-read them…for fun. She says that he once started chuckling to himself in bed one night while reading a geometry text and she (the math-hater) asked him why. His response was, “I just can’t believe the author went about making his proof this way. *chuckle, chuckle, chuckle* It would be much easier to do X, Y & Z instead.” Whatever floats your boat, I guess. No one right way to be entertained either.
Melissa in Oz, commented that CM isn’t the same as unit studies. Which is closer to what I described above, so I thought I should include my response, as well. Just to be accurate.
You’re right, Melissa. They’re not the same, and I’m sorry I didn’t make myself clearer.
I thought about that later – she calls what she does CM, but ties a lot of unit studies in as well (especially for her youngest ones). I thought of her though because she’s always talking about books like I remember CM writing about them. No twaddle, boring textbooks, only living books (a term, I admit, that I find condescending). She does focuses on spending time in nature, working on nature journals, and using “real books” in place of academic – aka, boring – books. I should have noted that she’s more eclectic in reality than she self-identifies.
I would like to note that I have a high regard for the multitudes of approaches to teaching children – I swear, I’ve probably tried them all over the years – and the various ways adults go about helping their children learn. I believe we do ourselves, our children, and the larger world of learning a disservice when we write off any sub-category of books as unnecessary or – worse, detrimental – to learning or achievement. My son learned to read, on his own and largely without my assistance, because of Calvin & Hobbes at the age of 4. He’s not a wunderkind, just a boy that wanted – desperately – to know what that spiky-haired boy and tiger were saying to each other. A series of cartoons, the horror. Complete and total twaddle, but it was the key to opening the doors to reading for my son and many other highly visual kids.
I learned the basics of physchology in highschool because I saw a used textbook at a book sale and thought, 25 cents? You bet. It’s wasn’t an involved read, but it was thorough discussion of the topic and gave me a desire to know more, fueling my decision to take a few courses in it during my undergrad years. Not a career in it, not a passion for it, but a definite interest.
Princess Leia: “Han!”
Han Solo: “Yes, Your Highnessness?”
Princess Leia: “I thought you decided to stay.”
Han Solo: “Well, the bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mantell changed my mind.”
Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
With apologies to the people who have already seen this on Facebook…
I did it. I signed Padawan Learner up for classes at a local high school last week.
Despite the fact that he had – for years – said that he never wanted to set foot inside a school again, PL decided that classes on environmental sustainability and Italian sounded too good not to attend. Despite the fact that he’s a confirmed night owl, he chose to take a class that starts at 7:55 am. Choice makes all the difference in the end, doesn’t it?
On days that he has school, his day will end at 2:15 pm - those will be every other school day – with a 2 hr study/lunch period in between the two classes. He also wanted to take an intro art class, but it had a waiting list of 40 students so he couldn’t add it this time – maybe next year. So I guess we’re about to join the ranks of tied-to-the-school-year families now. (We’ve even bought a few school supplies to get him through his first few days: a 1″ binder for each class, an insulated lunch box, a water bottle, and mechanical pencils. We already have a ton of paper and pens.)
About two hours after I signed him up, I had to point out the inconsistency of taking a class in environmental sustainability and leaving the deck slider door open when it is about a billion degrees outside and the AC is running.
“I have something here for you. Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn’t allow it. He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damn fool idealistic crusade like your father did.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars IV: A New Hope
So, to avoid any confusion about the real purpose of an education, Chancellor Michelle Rhee, the Mayor of D.C. and (no surprise here) an economist from show.me.the.money Harvard… The schools of Washington, D.C. have replaced the idea of education being its own reward with a paycheck. “Here, kid, here’s a dollar. Now shut up and learn.”
A little background music before you call me elitist: I grew up poor. Sometimes quite seriously poor. Didn’t always know if we were going to be eating tonight poor. So, no, I didn’t grow up financially “privileged”. I did, however, grow up knowing what real education was – inquisitive, ever present, alive, essential. It was shown daily in my equally poor school district from grades K-9 and from my mom. (Grades 10-12 were at a different school district and were absolutely dismal.) So, yes, I was privileged in that sense. I had the chance to learn early on that learning is what gives the world color, meaning and joy. Money, of which few of us had any, was considered nice, even admitted to be essential for the basics, but limiting. Yes, limiting. Trapping. Confining. Unless put under your own firm control, so as not to begin controlling you and your own desires.
I went on to a good state university and earned (and simultaneously earned the money to pay for) two advanced degrees. After a decade or so in the rehabilitation world, I currently earn $0 an hour. I teach for no paycheck, but the fringe benefits are fabulous. I still, decades later, absolutely love to learn: about everything, all the time. I live for the moments that I see Padawan Learner really digging into something, lapping up details and waking up talking about books he wants to get from the library. Mythbusters, the History Channel, and Wallace and Grommit have all been springboards into new worlds. Timelines, geometry and even diagraming sentences have all spilled over into new understanding and growth. These are not things he learns because of the dollar value attached to them. The three of us are considered middle class. Dad Windu has a profession and makes a fair wage, but money is still considered a tool, not a goal, to me.
Education is, ultimately, never about our earning potential, but about OUR learning potential.
HT to Chris at Odonnell Web for putting this up today.