Children Teaching Themselves to Read: Psychology Today Post Goes Up

26 02 2010

Remember the Psychology Today “Freedom to Learn” call for unschooling stories? Peter Gray’s first post reporting some of what was sent in about the first question he posed — “learning to read” — showed up this week, good stuff getting a lot of eyeballs around the ‘Net.

I just added a story under it:

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Learning to read, then learning from reading

Submitted by JJ Ross on February 26, 2010 – 6:36am.

Learning to read isn’t necessarily a mechanical or academic process, any more than learning to sing, dance and play.

Our now 14-year-old was completely unschooled from birth. He loved stories and books and took his first reading steps very early and seamlessly along with his first actual steps, toddling into both with joy in his own idiosyncratic style. He became a computer kid and read all the colorful PC game manuals (Spiderman, the Incredibles, Lego Star Wars) taking them to bed at night to read ahead but after he knew them by heart, still wanting them open in his lap as he played the game. They got dog-eared, then raggedy and pages start falling out but he still loves and keeps these books as part of the play.

Over the years he found some boys’ series in paperback that he enjoyed but thinking all the way back to Thomas the Tank Engine, his favorites had playful color graphics, either illustrations or right in the text like Chet Gekko, and real-life tie-ins rounding them out, like action figures, cartoons, movies, fan sites online. He’s always preferred audio books to reading text and grew up listening to his favorites over and over, falling asleep to them in bed (Jim Dale’s Grammy-winning performance of the Harry Potter books e.g. and unabridged Tolkien.)

Then last summer, he performed the title role in a Shakespeare camp reading/acting Richard the Third. His interest in reading ambitious (particularly anglophile) texts with sound and action (from the video game conditioning?) just exploded. He read several Shakespeare plays and read about the history behind the plays, and then he discovered the 10th anniversary music video of Les Miserables. Great period costumes and war action, strong male characters plus it’s a “sung-through” show which means few spoken lines; the whole story is in the singing. Out of the blue he decided he wanted to read the original Victor Hugo novel, to compare it to the musical. Off to the library we went. He took it to his room and reads it late at night or sometimes on a quiet afternoon. (We’ve renewed it several times.) He gives me occasional offhand commentary about how he’s experiencing this tome I’ve never attempted. It’s 1400 pages and he is now on about page 950.

Yesterday afternoon as I was driving him somewhere, he mentioned that the reading was slow at this point because the author incorporated a 70-page narrative within the story where he’s talking directly to the reader in defense of “argot.” Argot, I wondered — never heard of it. Maybe he misunderstood something and the text is just too difficult?

Nope. He proceeded to give me quite a lively education and when I got home, I found this. Apparently learning to read (and learning through reading) is a lifelong process and this student has become my master! 😀





Blackwater, Google and Whales, Oh My

25 02 2010

JJ’s News Riddle of the Day:
What do all corporate giants from health insurance and banking, shape-shifting black-hat Blackwater to white-hat feel-good Googly-YouTube internationals just yearning to be freeee, have in common with killer whales?

Punchline:
Superhuman powers, no human morals.

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — SeaWorld has suspended killer whale shows at all of its parks following the death of a trainer in Orlando, Florida. A horrified audience looked on as a killer whale named Tilikum snatched the trainer from a poolside platform and thrashed her under water. She drowned. It’s the third time the animal has been involved in a human death.

So because of what they have in common (with each other, *not* with us) they hurt us over and over and over, incapable of stopping themselves, of caring or even comprehending why we do. Because they are NOT HUMAN!

Schakowsky also discussed her plan to ban private military contractors . . .like Blackwater [that] are “putting our own troops in danger, ruining the reputation of our country, murdering people and still getting tax payer dollars.”

She explained that she is trying to garner public support for the Stop Outsourcing Our Security Act, which would phase out “repeat offenders” like Blackwater who have “imperiled our mission on numerous occasions.”

And we keep letting them! Not funny. So maybe just call it the punch, instead of punchline.

For example, you might feel outraged — does Sarah Palin? Haven’t heard her jump on this like she did the r-word, hmmm — thinking that a real human with Down Syndrome was the victim in Italy’s obscene video for fun and profit, but that’s such a soft-hearted typical human weakness, you should think like a corporation! Here’s the REAL victim, poor old internet giants like Google and YouTube, plagued by our Lilliputian pinprick concerns like the need for a living wage and family privacy and our natural drive to protect each other Read the rest of this entry »





How to Help Struggling Homeowners Is Nothing New

24 02 2010

FDR’s Superb Fix for Our Housing Crisis.

And I like the kicker — some political peace would make me feel a lot better about my fellow Americans along about now!

Most important of all, by enabling thousands of Americans to save their homes, it strengthened their stake both in the existing order and in the New Deal. Probably no single measure consolidated so much middle-class support for the Administration.

Read to the end to get the gist of what’s really going on and why it isn’t working for those real Americans so rightly wronged yet so wrong about how to make it right:

“Every government foreclosure mitigation effort so far, including HAMP, has depended exclusively on carrots for the industry, usually designed by the industry itself. The industry’s lobbying efforts have successfully denied any stick to go with the carrots, notably the judicial modification of mortgages in bankruptcy (“cramdown”). The acquisition of mortgages by eminent domain will provide foreclosure mitigation efforts with a badly-needed stick.

In normal times, HAMP would better suit our preferences for limited government than HOLC. But the HAMP experiment has failed—and the foreclosure crisis is more dangerous now than it was a year ago. Fortunately, we have a proven method for solving it. We should use it.”





Tea Partying is to Homeschooling?

18 02 2010

Read this Time Magazine power of story about disaffected tea partiers wanting to bring their own dollars and choices and leaders “home” from big government, struggling to make a movement with rival leaders, exploitation of their intended message by entrenched and often shadowy interests, etc and let’s think about how it’s analogous to our grassroots out-of-school learning party these past 30 years or so.

Naming the Tea Party movement, however, is easier than defining it. Tea Partyism covers a lot of ground and a world of contradictions. It contains Nashville lawyer Judson Phillips, who recently organized the first Tea Party convention at the posh Gaylord Opryland Hotel, charging $549 per ticket and pocketing an undisclosed profit. But the movement also embraces the volunteers who denounced Phillips and his convention as a money-grubbing mistake. . .

“The Tea Party movement is in danger of getting a bad reputation” by courting conspiracists, Erickson wrote.

Does it sound to you like how Thinking and Evolved Homeschoolers get mixed into an indistinguishable mob to the public view, with World Net Daily and HSLDA and Generation Joshua and the baby-whipping Pearl ministry, the Duggars with too many children, the John Galt believers, and garden-variety conspiracy theorists calling their homeschooling the only real patriotism (as they reject American law and treaties regarding school, taxes, separation of church and state, the Geneva Convention, the UN and even the US President himself) all powered by the same established homeschool business interests behind the NHEN-targeting “We Stand for Homeschooling” — the disaffected and anti-intellectual rabble fighting to speak for home education then, just as disaffected and anti-intellectual rabble now demand to speak for the Constitution and “real Americans” as tea partiers?

“This is not about policy. It’s about incitement to violence.”

Or never mind where it comes from, and just ask yourself if it makes SENSE. Do their scripted war-whoops hang together as Read the rest of this entry »





Write “What’s in a Name?” on Hand and Wall

14 02 2010

Then maybe we’ll remember to keep asking it out loud until we get some real answers.

Frank Rich in the Sunday NYT exhorts:

This G.O.P. populism is all bunk, of course. Republicans in office now, as well as Palin during her furtive public service in Alaska, have feasted on federal pork, catered to special interests, and pursued policies indifferent to recession-battered Americans. And yet they’re getting away with their populist masquerade — not just with a considerable swath of voters but even with certain elements in the “liberal media.”

Or we could turn to Mark Twain’s “last refuge” of scoundrels and sophist beauty queens like Palin and Prejean: religion. (Wait, or was that “patriotism” back in his day? Oh well, doesn’t matter once they’ve given over our government to god and made State power their religion . . .go team, go god, we must rule on earth the better to bring on the apocalypse and rule eternity, amen.)

As a congressman [Republican Mark Sanford] had slept on a futon in his office and voted against a breast cancer postage stamp as wasteful “feel-good legislation.” As governor, he refused to take stimulus money despite the fact that South Carolina had the nation’s fastest-growing unemployment rate. When an unemployed man from Charleston caring for a seriously ill mother and sister called in to C-Span last February begging Sanford for help, he didn’t budge. But he did volunteer to pray for the caller and his family.

So it went with Palin last weekend. Her only concrete program for dealing with America’s pressing problems came in the question-and-answer session. “It would be wise of us to start seeking some divine intervention again in this country,” she said, “so that we can be safe and secure and prosperous again.”

That pretty much sums up her party’s economic program, at least: divine intervention will achieve what government intervention cannot. That the G.O.P. may actually be winning this argument is less an indictment of Palin than of Washington Democrats too busy reading the writing on her hand to see or respond to the ominous political writing on the wall.





Eliminate Filibuster Right Now and Change the World

12 02 2010

The case made:

So, why not recognize the inevitable?
Eliminate the filibuster right now.

Then, the Republicans’ pompous posturing will dissipate after a couple of months now, not near the election, and the Democrats will have a chance to do a “First Hundred Days” of year 2, to pass a robust agenda that will indeed have brought about change . . .

Today, the world is disintegrating. Republicans fear the president’s success, both at home and abroad. So does al-Qaeda and Ahmadinejad. They are all reveling in his troubles, because his capacity to force change abroad is limited by his inability to do it at home.

A majority of “real Americans” including swelling ranks of southern Republican voters, seem to get the sense of this, according to new polling:

Four out of five voters thought Congress was more interested in serving special interests than voters.

“I think Congress and the Senate need to be completely revamped,” said Michael Wish, 30, a Democrat from Medina, Ohio. He added, “The old way of doing things is no longer working.”

Americans appear hungry for an end to partisan infighting in Washington, so much so that half of respondents said the Senate should change the filibuster rules that Republicans have [ab]used to block Mr. Obama’s agenda. Almost 60 percent said both Mr. Obama and Congressional Republicans should compromise in the interest of consensus . . . 62 percent said Mr. Obama was trying to work with Congressional Republicans, while the same percentage said that Republicans were not trying to work with Mr. Obama.

Harry Reid of course says it can’t be done — like everything else in the Senate, it won’t work. (Trivia stumper for a trivial politician: what was the last thing this majority leader DID do successfully, anyone, anyone, Bueller? Was it before Obama? Does this unprecedented Senate majority even manage to pay its own staff anymore, get the offices and chamber cleaned, keep the lights on?)

. . .it would so tear away at the framework of the Senate for the last 150 years. . . Reid fiercely defended the minority’s right to filibuster and argued that the Senate was bound by its past rules until the supermajority acted to change them.

But this rationale about conserving and revering America’s institutional traditions isn’t stopping a supposedly conservative and reverential Senate-confirmed chief justice from leading his Supremes into uncharted, earthshaking “nuclear” repudiation of a century’s worth of Constitutional rules protecting the majority of Americans from corporate bullying, not just some school playground code Reid desperately clings to hoping it might protect him from even worse bullying than the pummeling underway (could it be worse?)

We could just eliminate all the current members of Congress and a supermajority of Americans, 92 per cent in fact, see the sense of that!

But the evidence is overwhelming now: that won’t fix what’s broken, only who we’re maddest at next . . .





Favorite Daughter’s Upcoming Musical

11 02 2010

She just got another new wig to play a saucy Italian mistress and sing/speak in matching accent.

Because this red (on the right) simply wouldn’t do! 😉

Rehearsal photo by Ray Colletti

I’m thinking this will be particularly poignant for her after unschooling Europe including Italy last summer.

From the Tallahassee Democrat’s regional Chronicle:

After a 2008-2009 season that included a trip to Tacoma, Wash., for the national community theater festival following first-place wins at state and regional levels, Theatre A La Carte is spending the 2009-2010 season celebrating its 20th anniversary.

Although Theatre A La Carte is an all-volunteer organization that has never owned a building and primarily depends on ticket sales and private donations to cover production costs, the group has been successfully producing top-quality musical theatre Read the rest of this entry »





TED Tackling Complexity and Cynicism

10 02 2010

And that’s what we might call Drop TED Gorgeous:

Every TED conference opens with “The Elephant March” from Verdi’s Aida and it never fails to have the same effect on me: an overwhelming
feeling of new possibilities.

In his opening remarks, TED curator Chris Anderson met the zeitgeist head on, talking about his rage at the fact that every idea about how to deal with our big problems is crushed on a wall of cynicism and complexity . . .





Students Solve Problems Better When They Think Critically

9 02 2010

February 7, 2010
Chronicle of Higher Education
How Students Can Improve by Studying Themselves
Researchers at CUNY’s Graduate Center push ‘self-regulated learning’

. . . College students of all types, not just obviously struggling students who are assigned to remedial classes, will learn better if they think critically about their own studying.

“Errors are part of the process of learning, and not a sign of personal imperfection,” Mr. Zimmerman says. “We’re trying to help instructors and students see errors not as an endpoint, but as a beginning point for understanding what they know and what they don’t know, and how they can approach problems in a more effective way.”





Tim Tebow: The Boy Who Lived

6 02 2010

. . .destined to grow up as an example to us all. Of — um —

Are you ready for some football?
(Olympic Excess coming up next!)

We homeschooling families like learning at home in our living rooms, especially for free. You could even say we celebrate it! But you’re a Thinking Parent as well, so think about this — is “Celebrate Family, Celebrate Life” a sports message best taught on tv as multi-million dollar ad wars? Or is it paid political speech we’ve learned from real-world experience celebrates division and shooting to kill, the kind of combative warfare all learned people know that neither Christ nor America was ever about, despite false advertising through the ages?

What lessons are being taught in our living rooms, not by individual homeschooling parents or great literary characters like the Boy Who Lived but by corporate-controlled televised sports as entertainment, and is it sacred business, serious business, or funny business (if business has any business teaching any of us any of it?)

Our best entertainers and artists in any era help us conjure our own Patronus against the universally human fear of the dark.

Who in this story capitalizes, controls, one might even say conjures, this unarguably public education for which corporate America is unelected and unaccountable?

What if Tim Tebow had been born gay instead of gridiron-gifted? Would his mom still have been chosen for her choice to teach SuperBowl fans everywhere her ethics and how to define “family and life” worth celebrating? What if her unaborted son once grown to be a sports star, openly credited magic rather than miracles? Would he still have been chosen by CBS to dramatically break the network’s policy against advocacy ads mixed with hero worship? Is ignoring your doctor’s advice as Pam Tebow (and Sarah Palin) chose for themselves and apparently preach as mom gospel to everyone including the Supreme Court, a lesson CBS will be held accountable for as both profit-seeking and public broadcast system?

Here’s something your children will NOT learn about celebrating family and life watching the CBS SuperBowl:

“Women take decisions about their health very seriously. They consider their doctors’ advice, they talk with their loved ones and people they trust, including religious leaders, and they carefully weigh all considerations before making the best decision for themselves and their families.”

“My daughter will always be my little girl,” [the sports star] says. “But I am proud everyday as I watch her grow up to be her own person, a smart, confident young woman. I trust her to take care of herself. We celebrate families by supporting our mothers, by supporting our daughters. By trusting women.”

Upon which [the evil schoolmarm as minister of education] retorted tartly that students couldn’t be trusted to know what was good for them and they were a bunch of negative whiners . . .

Ethical? Educational? Christ-like? Good enough for your child at any age or stage?

Preparing for SuperBowl Sunday as a secular Gator up on cultural controversy, I’m reflecting on my own education through many years of bleeding orange and blue and watching UF sports, especially Tim Tebow as our most famous student-athlete ever. Yes, the most famous ever.

The Boy Who Lived has clearly surpassed even Steve Spurrier’s renown although the reasons seem murky and not merely statistical — perhaps because not even the most fanatical fan nor the SEC, the Heisman Committee or The Old Ball Coach himself, ever confused Steve Spurrier with Christ-like beatitude? 😉

I think my best self-learning on this subject was laid out in biblical allegory style, in What Should We Call Christ as a Kick in the Head? Tim has had his last on-field performance as a Gator for God but his first as a bought-and-paid-for shill airs tomorrow. I’ll let you know if it teaches me anything new . . .

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What Should We Call Christ as a Kick in the Head?

Just drove Young Son to Irish dance and musical theatre. Their performing arts studio is in a neighborhood shopping center with a sandwich shop and pizza place, a chinese food restaurant, a small computer shop — and a huge, very busy martial arts place with big glass walls across the front so you can watch from the sidewalk or your car, called Karate for Christ Ministries.

I’ve waited for the kids and wondered about this incongruous pairing of east and west before. School football players in the South seem very well-educated if Christianity is the standard and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes is the measure. My favorite quarterback Gator Tim Tebow is always blessing the tv announcers and thanking his lord Jesus Christ for his touchdowns. His whole family goes on mission trips and he even convinced his coach to join him on one last summer. But school football and school religion are compatibly American — at least so I was taught — especially in the Bible Belt.

Karate though? For Christ?

So today as Spunky started a new conversation about what it means for a child to be “well-educated” I noticed it afresh and thought I’d mention some of what it makes me wonder, about what’s being taught and learned and why to our kids out of school, not in.

The phone number is painted on the glass, too: want your child well-educated in mind, body and spirit all at the same time? Who needs School OR Church? Just call 8-WE-KICK.

I called up wikipedia instead: Read the rest of this entry »





Politics as Usual? You Betcha . . .

2 02 2010

Dr. Frank Luntz Pens GOP Talking Points Memo: The Language of Financial Reform