Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three. Confucius

12 September 2011

Book Review - The Value Tales Series

Hi Everyone,

I want to share with you a delightful series of books we have discovered recently. The series is called The Value Tales , written by Spencer Johnson M.D.

These books present a range of historical figures who display particular gifts. Some volumes are: The Value of Determination - Helen Keller, The Value of Believing in Yourself - Louis Pasteur, The Value of Understanding - Margaret Mead, and so on.

Besides the obvious effect of teaching history (Society and Environment), these books have opened up a valuable opportunity for discussions on topics such as gender equality (Fairness - Nellie Bly), honesty, protective behaviours (Truth and Trust - Conchise) in a relaxed, child friendly format.

Personally I believe in the necessity of deliberately discussing values with children. Not in forcing our own ideas and opinions down their throats, but in the gentle illumination of how our actions and assumptions may affect others within our immediate circle and in a wider, global sense.

Tolerance for others and an ability to see beyond our own situation can be very empowering and can be a lesson learned hard if not nurtured carefully in childhood.

The series is inexpensive to buy online as it was written in the 1970's. I find the retro illustrations charming, and is hardcover A4 size. The language is simple and engaging, and each volume has an imaginary character who conveys extra information to the reader without lecturing..very cleverly done.

If you would like to buy the series, click on the link above, or visit Australian Used Homeschool Books for your copy (last time I checked they had some available).

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

07 September 2011

Book Review - And the Skylark Sings with Me

Hi Everyone,

Today I'm reviewing And the skylark sings with me: Adventures in Homeschooling and Community-Based Eduction, written by veteran homeschooler David H.Albert

Albert and his partner have raised seven homeschooled children between them, and have a strong belief in the value of community involvement for a whole homeschooling experience. With a foreword by Joseph Chilton Pearce of The Magical Child, and reviews by John Taylor Gatto (Dumbing Us Down) and Patrick Farenga (Growing Without Schooling, Learning Without Schooling and Teach Your Own: Revised Edition), this is an unschooling classic.

Albert's passion for providing a rich, individualised experience for his children's education is apparent. He generously shares his family's experience as Ali and Meera embark on their journey through learning. He freely admits the financial restrictions they experienced as homeschoolers and how he and his partner worked in partnership with the children to afford resources such as musical instruments, lessons, concerts, a telescope etc.I found this realism comforting and felt inspired by the tenacity and inventiveness displayed by these children who have a strong desire to learn and a willingness to work toward solutions to make this happen.

Surely this is what education is about: instilling a passion in the learner, leading to a lifelong habit of self-directed learning and fulfillment of goals. To me, this is surely more useful than an ability to memorise and recite facts that others deem important yet have little meaning to the learner on a personal level.

The ability of the author to see the appealing and not so appealing habits of intelligent, confident learners caused me to smile in recognition on several occasions. One example he cites on page 60 of the book follows:

Ali developed the somewhat annoying habit of correcting scientific or other misinformation offered by others within her earshot, whether these corrections were solicited or no, and it took some doing on our part to at least tone down if not cure her of the habit.

This experience is all too familiar in our home, and I find his down-to-earth account of living with children who are passionate learners charming in it's refusal to romanticise the unschooling journey.

In my opinion, And the Skylark Sings with Me is one of the most useful, accessible books on natural learning around. It is intelligent, thoughtful, without pretense, and I will revisit many times over the years when I need inspiration.

Talk Soon, Cynthia x

03 September 2011

Egyptian Celebration

Hi Everyone,

Well, a lot has been happening at our house....we're planning a Party to celebrate completing the section on Ancient Egypt in our Story of the World studies. We are in the process of making a stencil of hieroglyphics to print onto a roll of paper to decorate the house for the party.

We are also working on ideas for party activities such as creating pyramids from sugar cubes, weet bix, and whatever cubes or oblong shapes we can find..someone suggested lamingtons but that really is a bit of an ask...to sacrifice a yummy Australian icon for the sake of a game...I think not!

In addition we are looking at Egyptian recipes and have come up with various filled wraps (felafel, meat with lots of spices, tabouli, hommous etc), rice dishes such as basic Egyptian Rice (Ruz Mefalfel) and Rice with Beef and Nuts (Ruz bel khalta). For dessert we will feast on an Egyptian Sweet Couscous Dessert and a Spicy Egyptian Chocolate Cake.

The Mummification Process of our apples and chicken experiments are going along nicely.... the control apple is decimated and the preserved apples are in varying states of hydration. The chicken specimen is well preserved and our next step is to smother it in fragrant oils and wrap it in a bandage like an Ancient Egyptian Pharoah would have been. It's all very exciting.....

We've also had another Ed Department Review. Alexandra wrote her own review and I was impressed at the amount of self-directed tasks she has managed to achieve throughout the year. I take this as another reminer to trust our children to learn what they need, when they need to. As long as Alexandra continues to motivate herself and extend her learning in the direction of her passions, I am totally comfortable with whatever she chooses to do next. Alexandra has mentioned that she would like to attend a Secondary College next year, so perhaps that was her final review ever and we have almost completed the homeschooling journey of our first child ....an interesting thought!

For Jay's review, because of his age (6 yo) and learning style, I included photos with relatively concise explanations rather than loads of writing in our documentation. This still allowed me to expand on the reasons behind various activities and answer any pertinent questions the reviewer asked.

Another change is that Jay has started going to Scouts. This has provided him with such a variety of activities that over the past month he has covered society and environment (disabilty awareness week activities), health and physical education (camping), science (studies of marine life)...I could go on, just in that 1 & 1/2 hr window once a week.

I also appreciate that this is a larger group environment with volunteer leaders who run the show. This situation will allow him in short snatches to get along as part of a group, sit and listen when required, wear a uniform (which he adores), and to generally do the sitting down and concentrating thing. I think that in their place, these are valuable life and social lessons, and can add to a young child's image of who they can be in different environments. It's also quite outdoorsy and community minded which I think is beneficial. Anyway, that's the Scouts promo finished with :)

Cynthia x