Category Archives: Learning Styles

Consistency, Hobgoblins, Flashcards, Steak

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Our family was vegetarian for many years, from shortly before the time Eggmaster and I got married. Our wedding reception was vegetarian. I was vegetarian throughout my first pregnancy, and Violet was a vegetarian child for about 6 years.

As Victoria is proud to tell anyone in earshot, she was one primary cause of us dropping the label and picking up the chicken leg. And eventually the burger and the bacon. (Though we’ve dropped the burgers again, unless we grind the beef at home.)

Violet barely remembers being vegetarian, but she has decided to be a vegetarian for Lent. I won’t comment on her success so far, but I find myself thinking and saying all the things I used to think were so ridiculous: “What will you eat instead?” “Where will you get your protein?” I give myself a pass because she is (almost) 12, and she needs calories, protein, and fat on a consistent basis to keep growing healthily — not just growing surlier and more tired. Six years, and it is as if I had never been a vegetarian myself.

Victoria loves meat with wild abandon, and she wears her “vegetarianism killer” status with a great deal of pride. Steak is her very favorite thing — in fact, I believe I have convinced her to forgo a big birthday party this spring in order to have a steak dinner with a couple of chosen friends instead. That is the power of steak.

I never expected to be serving my kids steak even five years ago. Five years ago, almost to the day, I was still getting used to the idea that we were about to embark on a homeschooling adventure — yet another possibility I had never considered. Still, “Relaxed” homeschooling fit my personality perfectly. A little reading today, a little math tomorrow, a lot of days at the park — it’s all good. Textbooks, rote memorization, gold stars? Ha! No way. We were free and easy. School stuff was losers who couldn’t relax unless they reproduced school at home — suckers!

Sigh . . .

I am learning what all parents should learn, which is that feeling confident is a sure sign of blissful ignorance. My little Victoria has “memory issues” and simply cannot call up small facts. She can tell you everything that has ever happened in our family, so long as it can be a rambling narrative, she remembers everything she reads in great detail, and if you are looking for something she is the person to ask, but note names and math facts disappear out of her head with (genuinely) alarming speed. Before we address this professionally, we are trying a more traditional approach.

The Dreaded Flashcards.

They worked so well for note reading that I had to give them a try for math. We have a chart. We set goals. We give prizes for the goals. This gives me tiny fits every day. This is not who I am.

But of course it is. I’m whoever shows up that day, and hopefully that person is reasonably useful. I provide cottage cheese for the preteen vegetarian (with a side of bacon) and make steak after the unschooly 7yo hits her math goals three times. I cannot make all that cohere any better than the lentil-walnut patties I used to make ten years ago. It’s tempting to read that as hypocritical and weak-willed, but I’m going to try to stick with flexible and creative.

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This Week’s Links: Hats, Fonts, Art, and More

A couple of years ago Andrew Castle, a 9yo homeschooler, began a charity raising money for Heifer International by selling handknitted hats. Now he sells both handknitted hats (donations accepted) and baseball caps, and his charity, Hats for Hunger, donates all the proceeds. Each year he’s increased his donation; in 2010 he donated $5000! And that’s not all — Hats for Hunger has also donated hats to homeless shelters, including shelters serving pregnant women and newborns.

Andrew’s goal for this year is a $10,000 donation. Click on his website to find out how to donate a hat, donate money, or buy a very cool hat made by a volunteer knitter. You can also follow Hats for Hunger on Facebook.

Violet is ever more interested in art, which thrills me, because I cannot draw a recognizable stick person. Just in time for it to end, I learned about a series of columns on drawing in the New York Times and thought it was worth adding to the resource list. Line by Line, a 12-column series, is written by James Mc Mullan, an illustrator. It is great reading for someone like me, too, who probably cannot draw because I cannot see the way my daughter and other artist-types do. I don’t care if I ever learn to draw, but I love learning to see (and hear and feel) with greater sensitivity. Keeps me from pulling up roots and moving completely into the studio apartment of my mind.

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We have wondered about both girls whether they might have ADHD. Perhaps they do. Hearing from adults whose lives were transformed by ADHD medication makes it impossible for me to consider ADHD as merely a “school environment” problem. But sometimes it is — Peter Gray has solicited and collected a variety of stories of kids labeled ADHD who did not have the same problems when they began to homeschool.

I have always thought Comic Sans a bourgeois, anti-intellectual font, but until now I’d never have confessed it. I’ve always considered that very thought shamefully pretentious, even more so when I found it exposed and mocked online. And on McSweeney’s no less.

I’d like to quote from it, but Comic Sans swears. A lot. But in a good way.

Which reminds me, I spent Christmas with my extended family/dad’s side for the first time in several years. I’m the one standing next to the tall bald guy, in the back.

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Look how normal we all turned out!

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Gotta Trust

Being a trusting parent can be hard. In general I go along with the old-school style of parenting: be tough, you can do it, chin up, no whining! In general, I’m in favor of getting a thicker skin and enduring a little discomfort for the sake of growth or even just for the sake of the family unit. (“There are 4 people in this family, and all of our needs are equally important . . . “)

But sometimes I forget that my kids are sometimes right about their limits (sometimes). Especially Victoria, who seems to have the self-awareness of an ancient Tibetan guru.

We were at the American Girl store yesterday, and she kept sitting down, not wanting to walk around with her friend. I was frustrated — we had invited this friend to a tea and then each girl had an amount of money to spend on a small item or service. Victoria chose a hairstyle that cost her entire holdings, and the friend chose to get her doll’s ears pierced (!), which left her a little money left to buy something else. Victoria would not shop with her, though, and instead sat quietly as I prodded her to get up and go with her friend (which was, to some extent, necessary for safety reasons — I couldn’t set either one of them loose in the mall store).

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Finally she confessed to me that she didn’t want to walk around because she knew she would see something else she wanted and then she would feel bad. Me, I found that absurd and thought for sure that she could manage those feelings because she’d be enjoying looking around.

Well sure enough, after I forced her to keep going she soon became completely unreasonable about a dress she wanted. Soon she was crying on a bench, so jealous of her friend for having a little money left over to buy a goofy little bag, so sure that buying the dress would make her the happiest girl in the world and that no one else could want the dress as much as she. Had the friend not been there, I might have lost it and dragged her out of there fuming, but as it was I had to stay calm. The friend seemed to take it in stride — young children get that other young children cry for no apparent reason.

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Well, she did recover eventually and made a point of telling me that she felt a lot better. I was still not happy with her behavior, but was glad that she had managed to pull herself out of her drama tailspin largely on her own.

Later I recalled what she had said when she didn’t want to shop — she knew she would feel bad. And she was right. And she had a plan for how to deal with it. And I told her, “pish tosh, what do you know?” A nice lesson for the fall, when we bring our more formal learning activities back.

In any case, she was so dang cute it was easy to forgive her, and myself. 🙂

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A Different Kind of Learner

Today at dinner Victoria and I discussed the delicious fresh, organic lemonade I got at a great price today, 2 for $5.

After I mentioned that we had a second jug waiting for us in the fridge, Victoria said, “So we have a gallon all together.”

I was impressed — I don’t recall discussing volume measures with her, and half-gallon wasn’t printed on the container, so I asked her, “How did you figure that out?”

Victoria: “I used math.” (Duh!)

Me: “Oh, so how big is one container?”

Victoria: “I don’t know. A skinny jug is a pint, but this isn’t a pint. So maybe . . .” (trails off)

Me: “Well how did you know that two make a gallon?”

Victoria: “I read something in a book.”

And that’s all I know. Did she visually combine the two jugs to approximate a milk gallon jug? Did she read the 2 quarts (or 64 oz.) and add that up to a gallon but assume that I could not be asking her such an elementary question?

She’ll never tell.

What does she know? How does she know it? She holds these things close to her, secret agent-like.

We’re going to do some educational assessments this year with Victoria, which may or may not tell us something useful about our child. What I know already is that she is our little engineer, and the tiny guru, and the 7 year old going on 27 — not just to us, but to Sunday School teachers, cashiers, hairdressers, and friends. I know that if she tells me where to find something, 99.8% of the time she is dead on. And when she tells me what she likes about her different friends, she has a depth of understanding that blows my mind.

I don’t think any of that will be on the Woodcock Johnson or the WIAT-II, and I don’t think they take answers that start, “Well, maybe . . . ” Is she smart, or gifted? Probably. But what stands out more strongly is that she really is a different kind of learner, and she’s not giving up the keys to her mind to me or anyone else.

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I Love College

Many homeschoolers, understandably, are sharing this link about autodidacts vs. the formally educated.

I’m not unsympathetic to the ideas and questions in the article, most of which need to be asked. But I don’t really buy the stark contrast between the two groups, and the characterization of colleges and universities strikes right at the heart of a higher ed-lover like me.

Universities are a “sacred tomb” for knowledge? They are “arrogant and inflexible”? They are

A system that rewards those who submit to authority, and who comply with a system that is convenient for educators. . . with stuffy lectures, archaic standard tests, dusty lesson plans with blinking eyes staring back waiting for the ordeal to be finished.

On behalf of my college teaching friends and family – hell, no! My years as an instructor (in the pre-digital age) were peppered with conversations with TAs to department chairs who wanted nothing more than to excite and empower students to think and act creatively. From the young me who couldn’t wait to get to college and talk to people who built a life around scholarly pursuits – what on earth are you talking about?

And so, some random thoughts about two reasons to love formal higher education.

University libraries.

Public libraries are great, but they serve a different purpose and maintain an entirely different catalog. In any field, by the time it gets to books for the lay reader it is no longer new and may be obsolete.

I am a big fan of digitizing, as this makes my work much much easier. But so far digital searching means you find what you are looking for. You don’t find what you didn’t know you were looking for. You don’t make surprising connections beyond what some algorithm might make for you.

This is fine for people trying to learn a particular body of knowledge. It is not as good for people trying to add to the body of knowledge. Discoveries take place when a book you weren’t looking for catches your eye, or you keep going to the next article in the journal.

Diverse population.

This is a point anti-homeschoolers love to raise. “Oh, but in public schools my kids mix with such a diverse group of students.” Poppycock. By and large public school students mix with kids who live in their area, and the school is no more – and is quite possibly less – diverse than the area in which the child is already living and socializing. Our new parish is more ethnically diverse than the public schools my daughter attended.

However.

I go to a couple of our local universities and colleges on a regular basis (libraries, remember?) This is diversity. There are people of all ages, all religions, many different countries, let alone different areas of the United States. This is where different worldviews rub right up against each other, and hard questions have to be asked. (Not to mention the place where autodidacts of modest means rub up against multi-million dollar lab equipment not dedicated to a particular corporation’s bottom line.)

Is it good for an individual to be in this setting? Probably. Is it essential for a society to have these centers of diversity and questioning and large-scale experimentation? Absolutely.

The Specious Argument
But, you may say, this is not what my college was like. My college was full of drones who partied all the time and scraped by with a piece of paper they needed for a job, leaning as little as possible in the process.

For that, I am very sorry. I am very sorry that the U.S. educational landscape is dotted with universities whose sole purpose seems to be churning out pencil pushers and middle managers whose sole purpose, in turn, seems to be making sure everyone keeps thinking inside the box.

I am even more sorry that the B.A. has become a credential required for nearly every above-minimum-wage job that doesn’t require heavy manual labor. That’s stupid and wrong, and bad for everyone.

Nonetheless, thinkers and scholars and scientists and experimentalists matter. Philosophers matter. Artists matter. And so we need some centers where they can find each other and debate together and get drunk together and make accidental discoveries because of each other – because they were exposed to things they didn’t know they needed or wanted to be exposed to and therefore saw something in a way that nobody so far had thought to consider.

Of course there are solitary geniuses. But there are also places where all of a sudden there is a blossoming of creativity – in science, in art, in our understanding of history or economics or anthropology – that happened because of the lovely alchemy of people thinking and working together.

Please, my friends who love digital education, don’t dismiss the need for these places. Fellow homeschoolers, right now in universities across the country are professors who can’t wait to be supportive mentors and enablers to your creative autodidacts.

Is college necessary for everyone? No. But is it wonderful? Oh, yes.

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Roller Coaster Days

Ah, just as we are settling into our home and getting used to some new routines — BOOM! — the holidays hit and those tender shoots draw back until sometime after the first of the year.

Still, learning happens, and it’s interesting to observe what sticks even when I don’t seem to have the energy or mental focus to keep the full schedule going.

Chinese Pod remains a winner. One of these days I will need to get Violet into a real Chinese class, but for the last year this has sustained her interest in Chinese and allowed her to practice a bit. The new writing feature is especially cool.

Life of Fred is going pretty well. I have let that be mainly unsupervised, which means that my child who prefers to live in one of the several storylines surging along in her mind sometimes skips 3 or 4 lessons, and then backtracks, and then jumps ahead, because she’s not sure where she’s supposed to be. On the upside, as I tried to figure out which of the skipped things she should go back and finish, she drew me a diagram to prove the distributive property, and explained the reflexive property, or law, or something like that. So Fred stays.

Our love of John McWhorter and linguistics continues via our Teaching Company DVDs. Violet came to me today and asked that we watch the next lecture sooner than usual, because it sounded really interesting. And it was. Thank you God for giving me a child who hears the phrase “modal particle” and wants to know more. I don’t have that many people in my life who can summon more than 10 minutes of interest for the weird things I find interesting. (And in this case, Violet is the one getting me interested in the subject.)

Victoria sat next to us today as we watched, feeling very impatient to watch Word Girl when we finished. As the video started she said, “I smell the scent of grammar. Or is that just your coffee?” That was a keeper.

Victoria is really liking EPGY. It is not perfect for me, but she really gets something out of feeling like she get some online “school” just like Violet. And I think it helps to involve a neutral 3rd party. 😉

We are still reading Child’s History of the World, somewhat on the Sonlight schedule, but I have been adding here and there. We have been in Greece — which fit well with our current reading of Linnets and Valerians, thanks to Melissa Wiley — and will do a little Eastern detour before getting to Rome. With any luck I will prime them for learning Latin! My hope is that Victoria will want to learn, and I will be able to sneak a little into Violet. You would think that with her love of grammar I could hook her that way!

In any case, our history reading is spotty and slow, but always enjoyable. I wish so much that I could show the “Babylon News” video the girls made, with Violet as Nebuchadnezzer acting like a bull in the backyard and Victoria dressed up in cloth napkins, pretending to cry and saying “What is wrong with our king?” But I am not allowed to post it. Such are the mood changes of preteens.

And I have gushed so much about Online G3 I feel I hardly need say what that has added to our days. I swear my personal affection for Headmistress Guinevere is not the reason I say this! Can’t wait to add mythology and music next semester — I think Victoria will watch these with us as well.

With all that going on, German has fallen by the wayside temporarily, handwriting doesn’t happen, and we rely entirely on our co-op for things related to science. Magic Lens/Word Within the Word is still enjoyable, just a week or 10 days may go by before we remember to pick it up. As we are between parishes, please do not ask about faith formation. Right now the main thing we need to learn is how to get to Mass–any Mass–on time.

I have high hopes for the return of all those things — plus karate and dance! — but not until after Christmas. There are cookies to make, friends to cook for, family to see, ballets to attend, and — what you can’t see through your computer screen — lots and lots of boxes still to unpack.

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Why Just Summer?

Have you seen this story in the NYT yet? Here’s a slice:

In 7 weeks he’ll go back to school, to a 5th grade class we can only hope will be more suited to his nature than the previous grade. His new teacher is supposed to be strong in math and science, to which he’s looking forward. I’ve promised him no after-school test prep this year, no tutor. It’s the 4th grade tests that matter for middle school, and he soldiered on for several endless months of prep last year: from the writing tutor to the school’s after-school test prep program to classroom test preparation that consumed all other subject matter. Last year’s teacher assigned hours of mindless homework. At some point, she decided our son was bright (her term) and thus eligible for enrichment — but she was in no way capable of providing it, in a class of 29 children with extremely mixed abilities. Our son isn’t the only child in the class who survived 4th grade with a perfect report card and his self-concept deeply shaken.

The thrust of the piece is that children need summer as a time to recover and just hang out. In other words, children need time to just be. So true.

It was hard not to read it as an endorsement of homeschooling: school has “hours of mindless homework,” kids trying to stay in top schools are on a “treadmill of achievement,” summer is a respite from the “endless, numbing school year.” We aren’t living that life, and I am so glad.

But it was hard not to read the piece as a lament for gifted children: her son was told to stop reading the Iliad and start reading Deltora Quest, he does most of his real learning at home. The author is pushing her son to get into the good NYC schools, but as far as I can tell it’s not because she is competitive and achievement-obsessed. It’s because she hopes that if he gets in, he’ll get something better and the treadmill feeling will go away, and she fears for him if it doesn’t.

I think in the comments someone points out something parents of HG-EG-PG kids– and creative kids — know well: the tests don’t go high enough to distinguish exceptionally smart kids, and they may penalize the creative or sophisticated thinking of kids who are several years beyond grade level. Who could blame a mother for being afraid?

I just felt moved by the kid’s story — a kid the same age as mine, a kid who could excel at all things school and still be miserable there in every way. I know this mother is doing just what we are doing — taking a hard path, making sacrifices to try to offer her son something better. Maybe homeschooling really isn’t for her, for reasons known only to herself. But shouldn’t she, and he, have some other option?

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What Makes a Good Student

Have I told you this story?

If I know you in real life, I probably have:

When Violet had just turned 6, she took golf lessons. She was really interested in golf, and was excited about the class. I so vividly remember driving home one day, asking her about the class, how she liked her teacher, what they did during class (I was walking Victoria around in the stroller, myself).

Then I asked her, “So does your teacher ever give you tips or suggestions on how to hit the ball a certain way, or swing the club.”

“Yes,” she said, with some distaste. “And it is getting Really Annoying.”

I tell this story a lot because I think it expresses something Very Violet. And I told her this story today, after she repeatedly argued with me about following her teacher’s directions for practicing a particular piano piece.

She loved the punch line, laughed in surprise, and then laughed in recognition. When I said, “So I think you have always kind of disliked taking instruction,” she kept on smiling and laughing and said, “Yeah, I guess so!”

That gave us a good opening to talk about her resistance to taking input from people with more experience, without a lot of yelling (on my part). We noted that her education was largely structured to allow her a lot of freedom and independent learning, but that she could also think more about being flexible in the way that she learns.

This was just today, so I did not have a brilliant 5-point strategy for how to implement any of that. What I hope we did accomplish was getting both of us to recognize that disliking being told how to do something is a pretty firmly ingrained part of her character — it doesn’t have to be a character flaw, or willful disobedience, just part of who she is and how she is likely to stay, to some extent.

I hope our next steps can include talking about what she doesn’t like about taking instructions, whether there are times when direction hasn’t bothered her, and what our options could be for making taking instructions more bearable. I hope we can both be more flexible — that I can find more times to let her do things her way, and that she can separate her preference for going solo from acting out when she doesn’t get her way.

I can’t tell — is this child tailor-made for unschooling, or does stubborn, willful indifference to the knowledge and experience of others disqualify her? 😉

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What Makes a Good Teacher, Ctd.

I had hoped to do a little series on good teachers, but my memory is not helping me much. I will give 50% of the blame to a limited number of memorable (memorably good) teachers, and 50% to my brain fog.

I was thinking of this topic again today while listening to the senate confirmation hearing of Sonia Sotomayor, an activity I cannot recommend highly, but I have a hard time making it through the day without my public radio fix.

Sotomayor and Sen. Jeff Sessions were having a bizarre conversation in which Sotomayor would explain something, and then Sessions would completely misunderstand it and ask again. What it came down to was Sotomayor saying that she had been up front in talking about how a person’s background shapes the way they think. Though she backed away from this a bit during the hearing, she had argued in the past that a person really can’t escape the background in which he or she was formed — it may be judicially desirable, but not possible. Acknowledging this, Sotomayor argued, is a necessary step in trying to achieve any kind of objectivity.

Sessions kept saying, “I understand that but,” and then launching into another quotation from her which he took to mean “a person ought to judge according to his or her background.” It got to a farcical point, and I had to turn the radio off.

Their conversation reminded me of something I have talked about a few times before: this idea that there is an essential person underneath and distinct from the cultural, gendered, ethnic trappings. I don’t believe people are built that way, mentally or physically. Place, class, race, gender — they aren’t like plastic parts you stick on a potato head doll.

But that idea is hard for some people to wrap their heads around, in my experience.

Likewise, I found it difficult to get some of my students to engage with the possibility that language is not transparent. Like a person, an idea or concept isn’t constructed with discrete blocks of stable meaning neatly symbolized by a particular arrangement of letters or sounds. Even a merely formal analysis of language — putting aside reader response, author intent, choice of media — demonstrates that while you can highlight a word, phrase, or sound, it comes firmly enmeshed in the whole. This is not a great analogy but I think of the line from Marvin’s Room: “My feelings for you are like a big bowl of fishhooks. I can’t just pick up one at a time — I pick one up and they all come.”

To get around to answering Cher Mere’s question in the comments, one thing that sometimes worked to get students’ minds going in the right direction was discussing advertising. Very prosaic, I know, but for some it seemed to work. Talking about advertising opened students’ minds to the possibility that language works, language can be used strategically, language can be powerful in ways that the speaker never intended.

I did have students who clung very strongly to the idea of transparent communication: advertisements were just “information.” They had no effect on the viewer or reader beyond name recognition — they had no power to arouse desire without the viewer’s consent or knowledge. But money talks, and only the most stubborn holdouts could explain why companies would spend so much money on advertising, when they could leaflet every man, woman, and child in the US for much less money, if their purpose were merely to share information.

Recognizing that advertisements were a form of language that worked in non-transparent ways opened the door. Film worked as a means of introducing the concept too — for whatever reason many students felt more comfortable analyzing visual rather than verbal communication. I remember grading papers for a class on film noir, as a TA, and watching some students suddenly grasp the concept of analyzing a scene. True, many would go overboard, looking for earth-shattering significance in every detail, but the important thing was that their minds were now open to this way of thinking — and they liked it!

For homeschooling, I have simply filed this info away. I am not pushing analysis very hard. Considering that some very bright 16yos have to struggle with it for a time (*wink wink*), I don’t think it is fair to expect it from a 10yo. That said, I notice that some things seem to hold true: advertising is a ready (if not subtle or profound) way into discussing how language works. Kids seem to love to feel in on the secret: “A-ha! Look at that close-up, the use of slow motion, to make it look more appealing.” And visual communication can be a leveler: you (the adult) may know a lot more words and use them more effectively, but that doesn’t matter so much when looking at images.

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Tidbits

A smattering of recent events and thoughts

1. Victoria (still age 5, 6 in May) tried her first sleepover last night. Full young for that, I know, but she was directly across the street with a family she has known and loved for a while now, so we thought we’d give it a try. (Sister Violet was also at a sleepover with a friend.) We were reading in bed (I was finishing Coraline) when the phone rang. Eggmaster answered it, but I could hear clearly that little V was ready to come home. The worst of it: “We were watching the Secret Garden, and the mom DIED.” And many sobs. She tried to stick it out, but in the end she was just too sad, and by 11:30 dad went to get her and he fell asleep with her in her own bed. Poor thing. I stayed home from church this morning so I’d be here when she woke up and we could have some extra time together. Dead moms are indeed a scary thought.

2. The day before, little V had the same friend over here to play. The friend goes to a year-round school, so she gets breaks at odd times, like 3 weeks in February. After waiting anxiously all day, Victoria greeted her friend by sitting in a chair reading, then reading her friend the jokes in a joke book. Finally the friend was so antsy I sent them upstairs to play in the girls’ room. They came downstairs again later, and Victoria curled up in a chair to draw. The friend asked to play a game, but Victoria told her, “maybe you could get some pen and paper and draw too,” and went back to work.

3. On a related note, I continue to read The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child. 😉

4. Victoria is pretty much asking for a more organized learning program. She says, “I want more lessons, like [Violet] has.” OK, then. Later, I told her we would be reading Charlotte’s Web together as our first book in our more formal schedule. “Well how am I supposed to learn anything from that?” she asks. Hmmm, I feel long, painful learning curve for mom coming on. Meanwhile she is really enjoying Spanish and is addicted to Magic School Bus, which seems to fit her idea of “educational.” The girl wants *facts.*

5. The grownups here have started watching Martin Chuzzlewit, with Paul Scofield. We are loving it. Having read a fair amount of Dickens, especially his more sprawling works, I really appreciate the televised versions, where the details of setting do not have to take up 12 pages, and you get some visuals to sort out all the characters. The production is pretty funny, but the story itself is just flat out nuts. Eggmaster and I often look at each other in amazement before we burst out laughing at something totally outrageous. Two thumbs up — Netflix it.

6. Violet took the EXPLORE test yesterday for NUMATS, and then I took her out for lunch to celebrate. (Please see links about the test and NUMATS — it is not interesting enough to type out!) We went to a place I used to go to in college, famous for its malts. It was kind of like that deli scene in When Harry Met Sally — the girl was raving mad about her food, thrilled with everything — loudly. Quote: “If a grilled cheese sandwich could take you to heaven, I’d be sitting on a cloud with a harp.” The test was 3 hours long, so I was glad to give her a treat. It is probably going to stand in as our required yearly test for homeschooling. We could also do Woodcock-Johnson, but since she would probably participate in NUMATS anyway, I’d rather just do one test per year.

7. Teaching Textbooks have been a success so far. The “lecture” part isn’t scintillating, but it holds Violet’s interest about as long as it needs to. I have talked to a few families who have used TT Pre-Algebra with younger kids doing advanced math. We all have been skipping some of the early chapters and generally whizzing through the first half, but otherwise like it. (The second half of the book is algebra, negative numbers, roots and exponents, etc.) Despite the need to “telescope,” I am glad we didn’t go straight to the Algebra book. I’m satisfied with our decision to take a year to explore — or just skip math for a few weeks here and there. Violet is returning to regular math more mature and more confident. I also think Teaching Textbooks allows her to do more advanced math in a reasonable amount of time each day. Art of Problem Solving just seemed a little too intense — though we may look at it again in a few years.
One more TT note, for the curious — the problem sets for each lesson build in review. At least half of the questions review earlier topics. This has made it really easy to combine lessons (we do two a day, but I combine the problem sets so she is doing one lesson’s worth of problems). On the positive side, generally there are only one or two review questions per topic, so the review isn’t totally onerous. I think it’s great for a younger student in particular, who can benefit from doing a small amount of computation and putting the decimal in the right place and converting from fraction to percent without actually doing 20 problems on those topics. My student, at least, is not as conscientious as an older student might be, and TT seems to give her the right amount of gentle nudging to get the small things right as well as the big things.

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