The Valentine’s Box

This year for Valentine’s day, the Guam homeschoolers had a Valentine’s Party. Each child was supposed to bring a decorated box to hold their valentines. Below are the pics of Cassie as she created her box. She chose all the papers and colors herself and came up with the concept of putting fancy paper behind cut out hearts on each side of the box. I offered her a variety of alphabet sets to choose from for stamping her name, and she picked out the one featured on the box.

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Friday, February 26

OK, so what kind of edumacational things did we do yesterday? (Fri, Feb 26, 2010)
Every day Stephanie writes about 1,000 to 2,000 words. Sometimes stories, usually RPG participation, in which a bunch of girls from all over the world write a story and each real girl writes the part of several fictional characters. I don't insist on reading her work to give her a grade; if she writes that much, she will be a good writer. Period.

She and her friends are doing an informal NaNoMo, a program in which participants write a 60k word novel in 30 days. No editing, just pump out the rough draft. Steph and I (Dad) talk about it every year in November, but so far we haven't done it.

All this is to say that yesterday, Steph stayed at the office all day, acting as manager, and then spent the evening at a special youth group function. She did not write that day.
But she did draw. She has a graphics pad and she spent the whole day working on a drawing she was collaborating with another girl on. I love to let her focus on something for as long as she wants. It encourages attention span and sends the opposite message as the ever-present ringing bells we find in schools. The bells say,"Put it away. Hurry to the next thing now. What you were doing was important during that half-hour, but not important enough to finish it. What is more important is rushing into the next activity that will not be important enough to finish when the next bell rings."

Our policy says,"Do it for as long as you want to. Finish it if you have a passion (or a deadline) for your project. I find it humorous that we hear about how schooling gets kids ready for the real world as if in a job you are never allowed to finish a task--never adjust your schedule to finish a project. As if nothing you start is worth finishing, on to the next fruitless activity when a bell rings. John Holt says this programs kids to know they never have to finish anything, they just wait to be saved by the bell. Well, this is not supposed to be a rant, but a defense of my decision to let Stephanie work for more than 7 hours on a drawing of a princess.

Eric and Cassie spent the day quietly working on flipnotes. Colleen will write a blog entry on flipnotes and how educational and creative it is.

One more thing: so many people say kids need to go to school to get an education so they can get a job. That's OK if that's what you want for your offspring, but not for mine. I have actually had people say that my kids won't be ready to enter the workforce because of our style of educating them. Well that's not our reality. My kids are creative and coercive schooling would crush that creative spirit. We have encountered teachers and experts who state their intentions to pound that round peg into that square hole, beating out all unwanted and inconvenient creativity and personal style in the process.

We teach business--more on that later--and our kids will have built-in opportunities and our support if they choose creative career choices. Don't worry about my kids! Those kids who go to school so they can get a job can work for my family businesses. They can work for Stephanie, Eric and Cassie.

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More on Accountability

As homeschool parents, we believe we are responsible and accountable for the education we provide our children. We want our kids to grow up to be critical and active citizens. We want them to be productive; an asset to the community rather than a drain. The question is, "To whom are we accountable?"

To the Guam Public School System? They don't need the extra work of policing homeschoolers. They have enough to do, and many of us feel they could be doing a better job of it. They have thousands of at-risk kids to look after; they do not need to worry about a few dozen homeschoolers.

We personally feel like we should answer to our neighbors (by that I mean our community at large). Also to God, as He entrusts us with these children and expects us to practice good stewardship. And to our country. We are very glad to live in the USA, where we daily practice freedoms that millions of others can only dream about. And we do not want to take advantage of it by raising illiterate hillbillies. Why would we want to? And who, if given the opportunity to raise uneducated bumpkins, would want to do so?

I just wish my neighbors (in the figurative sense), and the school system and the politicians would take all of this as seriously as we do; that they would ponder the possibility that they should consider themselves to be accountable to me just as I consider myself accountable to them. Why should this accountability only go in one direction? While the majority of our neighbors send their kids to school for free lunches and expect the teachers to educate their kids without any support from the home front, while the politicians argue and squabble like children in a sandbox (except they control millions of dollars instead of sand), and the school officials try to convince us they are indispensable by using big words and experimenting with educational methods as if they haven't had over 100 years to collectively get it right...our kids are just learning and learning (like all kids like to do if nobody manages to destroy their love of learning by coercive methodology), and we ask nothing but to be left alone.

Wanna talk to the homeschool community about accountability? Make sure your own house in order first.

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Fire and Red Dirt Sliding (Feb 25 afternoon)

Yesterday I took the little kids home and Stephanie stayed with her mom to go to her youth group. We usually have intense discussions in the car as the kids know that's when to ask questions. They were asking me if dogs see in color and what other animals see. I don't know the answers, so these questions are still out there and they will be looking for answers.

We stopped at the curvy road in Inarajan to look at a grass fire. Eric was nervous and Cassie wanted to go see, so Cassie and I went for a hike. The afternoon sun was going down, so the pics didn't turn out so good, but I got some shots.

Cassie wanted Eric to see, so we went back to the truck to get him. He wanted to know why the sparks and ashes went up and then back down. Then he explained that he knew it was the heat, but didn't quite know why heat makes things rise. He also knew that they fall as they cool, but why? So I was able to explain (again), that increased thermal energy makes the molecules excited and that increases the space between molecules, and that means the earth's gravity does not pull so hard on it. I told him it's called density. Expanded hot air is less dense than cool air, so it rises.

They watched and tried to anticipate when and where the next flare up would be, based on the wind and the availability of fuel on the ground. They also took into account the dryness of the fuel. I used to fight forest fires, so they are pretty well-versed in the fire triangle and basic fire-fighting theories. They know you need heat, fuel and oxygen to keep a fire going. So this increased their knowledge of how the world works, just by watching and talking about a grass fire.

Then, we had to play on dirt hills. This little valley, which is pictured, is a place we have hiked before. It was very dry, so we had fun sliding down the dirt hills. You can see the strata of different colors of dirt, so we talked a little about how erosion works and how wind and water take the softest materials first and leave the harder substances. Cassie enjoyed her sliding very much and thanked God for it. She said God must want us to have fun because he made these hills.

"Actually," she corrected herself,"God told the wind and rain to make these hills so I can slide!"

There is your proof that kids retain information they are given when the timing is right and the knowledge is self-directed. You can see a strange formation where the topsoil is still intact in a little cap on top of eroded clay. This was the point of some discussion between the little kids, but I did not hear their theories.

I was wondering if other families do this kind of thing, but don't consider it educational, or if it's common but I am the only one writing about it, or if most parents would brush off the questions and tell them to ask their teacher, or if maybe most kids would play but not ask the scientific questions, or if maybe we were unusual in that we stopped to look at a fire...But you can see that this is where they get most of their education--in opportunities that are all over the place and I just spent more time writing about it than we spent doing it...

Stephanie has been learning about entropy and thermodynamics. She is starting to see this huge force at work and learning to recognize the second law and its parallel applications everywhere. If you want to go to Saipan, you have 360 compass points, but only one will get you there, so you have 359 wrong possibilities, and only one correct answer. This is why information and energy tend to become less available to do work even though the amount of mass and energy remain
the same.

This is another ongoing discussion that gives her a sound understanding of the world around her. She is contemplating if it makes sense to assume that copying errors in DNA are supposed to result in useful mutations, when the universe demonstrates that randomness is almost guaranteed to be between useless and harmful to existing information and systems. I think it's funny to imagine someone telling her that she is an uninformed religious nut for believing that DNA represents intelligence and purely physical forces will not produce organized information or systems in the face of all the entropy in the universe.

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Stephanie's Schooling

Stephanie (age 15 1/2) is interested in art. She gathers information and knowledge as a by-product of her interest in art. For example, she loves writing and drawing and voice acting. As she auditions for parts in on-line audio productions, she learns about the characters and their ethnic and historical backgrounds.

She reads stories and RP games to her younger siblings. They are currently involved in Hetalia, a story about characters that represent different countries and their involvement in historical events. Each country has a distinct personality including character flaws. The kids discuss the idea of stereotypes and generalizations. How valid are they, how much of it is based on actual behavior. Eric wants to know if stereotypes can be applied to animals. This led to a big discussion of animal behavior and their relationship with humans.

This all ties in with our ongoing talks about eating and nutrition. Steph is helping me make the move toward vegetarian diet for us.

Stephanie picks up on current events. She helps the little kids with context as they listen to radio news and adult discussions of events. She is on the ACB team, and although she does not dominate the game, in fact she is the quietest team member, she contributes to the team effort and specializes in popular culture. My guess is that's because, unlike most homeschoolers we know, we let her watch the Simpsons!

Much of Stephanie's education is in the form of lectures and discussions. She asks a question and is prepared to endure an hour-long discussion. These lectures are very effective as the child actually wants to learn the subject matter. After all, she asked! And even if she learns more than she bargained for, she knows that's OK, at least partly because she knows she's got it pretty easy. Her education is pretty enjoyable and stress-free.

On Sunday night, we sat at the kitchen table and looked at Eric's student Atlas of the World. We looked at some maps and flags. Eric learned about the map legends and also studied some charts. After a while, he got tired of it and played Flipnotes. But Cassie and Stephanie stayed and looked at some world maps about literacy rates and average caloric intake per capita. Then, when we got to talking about life expectancy (on another map), Eric came back to the discussion and we had a big talk about life expectancy and some of the reasons certain areas have terrible stats and others have better stats. They were very interested in this. We talked about warlords and how governments use the resources they have, either to provide education and public health, or to buy guns to carry out their tribal wars. This went on for about 20 minutes and this morning, Eric brought it up again. Each one of these subjects brings more, deeper discussion.


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A Typical Day for Eric

Eric has been playing Phoenix Wright, a game about an attorney. He learns a lot about law and our American judicial system. He asked me if all judges are old and if so, why. We discussed the adversarial nature of our judicial system and talked about requirements for becoming a judge.

He also instigated a conversation about photosynthesis and learned that life on Earth is based on the ability of plants to make food from sunlight. This was over 1 hour of learning for Eric and Cassie. They both asked questions and learned about undersea creatures that live where no sunlight ever reaches. This was reinforced by looking at a picture book and then I told them about these worms that live off the heat and minerals that come from volcanic vents miles below the surface.

This has been an ongoing lesson about plants and their ability to sustain life on earth. Food as fuel for animals and people come from the ability of plants to create substance out of sunlight and minerals from the soil. Dead, non-living things become food for living things and from there, living things feed on each other. This is the food chain, which I learned in school, but I just memorized it and did not realize it was based on the miracle of photosynthesis.

We have been looking at factory farming methods and are studying food labels and nutritional information. Collectively, we have decided to refuse to support factory farms as much as possible. So another ongoing project is to identify and counter ways large corporations get us to pay them money to poison us with food. We have discussions each day about different aspects of this broad subject.

Along with the RP game about lawyers and law, all three kids are learning about the judicial branch of government and how it interacts with other government branches and contrast with foreign judicial systems.

Eric and his dad talk in the car. Eric plays his favorite music and we discuss music, styles, and what makes people enjoy or not enjoy different kinds of music. Colleen and I really like to hear our kids' music; it creates a bond, a bridge between generations. We are connecting on a very deep level when we enjoy the music our kids enjoy.

Eric likes to play Scribblenauts, a very creative game on his DSi. The music is cute and peppy without being too irritating for me to handle. The little kids really love it that I let them listen to their music in my truck and I am willing to discuss, analyze and enjoy it with them.


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Tuesday February 23rd

Science: Took Cassie to the Dept. of Agriculture to buy plants for the garden. Discussed and viewed different tomato plants and learned what grows best in our garden. Bought tomato plants, eggplant and pepper seedlings. Took home and planted in the garden. Discussed soil, water, and sunlight and their necessity for plants to grow. - 1.5 hrs.

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Monday February 22

Stephanie read to Eric and Cassie from the Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney game, an RPG game that involves solving a crime. The children are learning about the judicial system - prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, juries, and the way the court system works. At the same time, Stephanie is practicing her dramatic story telling skills, using different voices for the different characters. She holds the younger children's attention with her story telling skills.

Dad explained the judicial system to Eric; explaining about the qualifications for being a judge and how the judge is responsible for making the ultimate decision for the final outcome of a case. Explanation of prosecutors and defense attorneys and the differences between them. What makes a person a good judge, etc. Total lecture time: 1.5hrs.

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Sunday Feburary 21st

Phonics: Practiced reading with Cassie - Read, Write, Draw book - Level 2 - .25 hrs
Sight word practice from workbook .25 hrs

Geography: Map skills - Junior Atlas discussion with Eric and Cassie - learned about reading maps, legends, population density, etc. - 1 hr.

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We have decided to start this journal to keep track of our children's life lessons learned in our homeschool journey. We believe that as parents we are accountable for our own children's education. It is up to us to make sure we prepare them to be active and responsible citizens, not a drain on society. So this blog will be a place where we can share our daily lessons and activities that we incorporate into our homeschool.

About Me

Mother to 9 children, 5 on earth and 4 in heaven.
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Christian Unschoolers
Unschooling is learning as you live life. All of life involves learning. This is what we "teach" our children.


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