Legos and Play Young-at-Heart, Young-at-Smart

5 08 2011

If you haven’t seen this yet and don’t realize what it is, go do your homework! And let your kids both little and big, help.

And when that gets you in the mood to think more about Legos and how we love them, you can go do reading for extra credit here and here.

Oh, and here and here too, geez, JJ is long-winded on the most esoteric topic! 😀

p.s. Young Son says this will confuse alien life about our nature . . .

Unschooling Lion in Winter: Deb Lewis Is Classic

14 01 2011

Chilly cock of the snook to one of the two unschooling yahoolists I still actively enjoy, where I was reminded of Sandra Dodd dot com having EVERYTHING. It’s been so cold even in Florida this winter, that I thought it was a good time to highlight this.

(I don’t know how old the list, is but if I were updating it now I personally would add something new to us this winter, something fun for which I’m thanking the FSM while the light is thin and it’s stuck at freezing outside: Netflix!)

Deb Lewis’s List of Things to Do in the Winter:

I have found so many interesting things to do around our little town just by talking with people and asking questions. . .

The man who runs the local green house lets us help transplant seedlings. He grows worms too, and lets Dylan dig around in the worm beds.

The guy who works at the newspaper speaks Chinese and draws cartoons. He’s given Dylan lots of pointers about where to get good paper and story boards, etc.

The old guy at the antique shop was a college professor and is a huge Montana History buff; whenever Read the rest of this entry »

2010 TED Talk Video: The Child-Driven Education

10 09 2010

Just posted tonight: The Child-Driven Education featuring Sugata Mitra

What Adults Can Learn From Kids: TED Talk

24 04 2010

Child prodigy Adora Svitak says the world needs “childish” thinking: bold ideas, wild creativity and especially optimism. Kids’ big dreams deserve high expectations, she says, starting with grownups’ willingness to learn from children as much as to teach.

“Psychology Today” Wants Unschooled Learning Stories

7 01 2010

for Peter Gray’s Freedom to Learn blog. Talk about power of story! 🙂

Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology at Boston College who has conducted and published research in comparative, evolutionary, developmental, and educational psychology. He has published articles on innovative teaching methods and alternative approaches to education. He is currently working on a book about the lifelong nature and functions of human play, tentatively titled Born to Play.

He wants whatever you’re sharing within the next two or three weeks and notes that overcoming problems as well as “success” stories are welcome. Just reading through the kinds of learning he finds most interesting made all sorts of stories pop into my head. For young parents and teachers whose stories haven’t been written yet, his thumbnail categories make a good case for unschooling I think, for learning at any age based on relationships and trust rather than carrots, sticks and other imposed controls (remind me to connect this with Dan Pink’s new book as we discuss):

Here are some topics that particularly interest me, about which I especially invite you to write:

Learning to read without schooling. I am interested in how children learn to read in situations where they have no or little formal instruction in reading. I know that this occurs within a wide range of ages for children at Sudbury schools and in unschooling environments. . .

Learning math without schooling. Some young self-educators learn math because they love it. Others learn it because they want to go to college and have to take the math SAT, or because they need to know it to pursue some other interest that intrigues them. . .

From play to careers: How interests developed in play become career paths. Many lucky people find that their play, done at first purely for fun, evolves into a joyful way of making a living. I’m especially interested in cases where children or adolescents developed passionate interests through their play and then, as they grew older, found ways to make a living by pursuing those interests.

Becoming an expert through one’s own initiative. This topic overlaps with the previous one, but includes cases where the area of expertise is not necessarily a career path. How do people on their own initiative become extraordinarily skilled at some endeavor or extraordinarily knowledgeable about some subject? What seems to motivate them and how do they learn? Read the rest of this entry »

How Our Unschooling is Like Charlotte Mason Homeschool Method

12 10 2009

A new home-educating mom (okay, it’s Beta, hi Beta!) has been doing lots of reading and thinking about education methods, as our older-in-educating-herself-on education friend, the New Unschooler (hi Colleen!) did last year.

I just added this comment to Beta’s mix:

I was reading a little about Charlotte Mason homeschooling and I see much that reflects our unschooled education methods (real books, no lectures, etc) but I was never a big Nature Girl — more inside the library or kitchen or theatre type — so it hadn’t appealed to me years ago for that reason and I’d forgotten about it.

Then here in the US, Ken Burns’ new documentary series for PBS started airing, called National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

Young Son (age 14) and I got absorbed in it, recording and watching in the afternoons before his own natural most active time (evening) and about halfway through the series, he got his dad watching with him for a couple of weekend afternoons. We all know a lot more about Nature now than we did! It’s historically riveting but also gorgeous and serene and it moves at a naturalist’s graceful, outdoor-majestic pace — just wonderful Power of Story all around.

Without having to actually go outside. 😉

So it reminded me that we too are eclectic in many good ways. The biggest difference between what we do and the CM method is that what we do is no method, with (what personally is found to be) nasty bits included like it or not . . .

Obviously we unschoolers despite eschewing curriculum and training of children’s habits, nevertheless NATURALLY integrate the philosophical cornerstones of “education as life” and “education as the science of relation” while one bit from wikipedia on Charlotte Mason’s teaching philosophy even sounds Obama-inspired, hmmm, and didn’t his mother teach him at home in the early mornings, wonder if she was a secret CM disciple and he its able pupil . . . Read the rest of this entry »

Universal Truth as Home Education Power of Story

17 08 2009

As the Christian versus secular curriculum comparison discussion goes on (see recent posts for more) I dredged up from drafts today this May 2006 “BS” (Before Snook!) essay, which seems right on point for our current competing power of story and its many tangents:

Teaching My Own “Faith” to My Kids

Religion is Story and so is everything else the human mind can conceive or believe. Amen.

We’re not much for church or school, but we live for Story (doesn’t everybody somehow or another?) Musical theatre, libraries, bookshops and movies are our personal venues of worship, the wellsprings of story through which my family lives and learns and engages ideas and cultures.

The more perspective that comes with age and experience, the more I understand that for me at least, schooling was all-day entertainment and power of story, which is why I loved it so.

And I don’t mean just story time, English lit, newspaper staff and the occasional A/V film projector rolled into the back of the room — to me history was indeed hi-story, math was clever symbolism used to tell the most complex and compelling stories, science was real-world commandments as miraculous story, and later came college law, economics, communications, management and social sciences, even what was being called “cybernetics” — all very human power of story to me.

(That required cybernetics course and its tedious punch card practice in the basement of Weil Hall put me deliciously in mind of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy in Desk Set!)

I still remember the wonder when I first learned about color, and probability theory, and geometric proofs. Magic! Miracle! Revelation! I’m no scientist or mathematician but I was forever transformed just by the power of the struggle to understand. I was seduced not by Read the rest of this entry »

Is “UnCultured” Desirable or Even Possible, for Our Girls?

20 07 2009

What’s the opposite of uncultured, I’m wondering today.
Cultured? Which antonym means natural, pure, authentic — cultured, or uncultured? So is cultured a good thing or not? Do we (collectively, as a culture) have consensus either way, have we thought to ask? Is it even a meaningful question, or is it nonsense?

Based on Wired Magazine power of story, Dana asks today just what we are teaching our girls. I saw this at the same time, which suggests that as Dana herself says, it’s not the current state of technology so much as timeless human psychology (mostly of their parents!) that shapes the culture kids will then see reflected back to them, in the most successful public messages.

Maybe youth culture is like driver’s ed as a subset of the general culture, as tweens and teens learn to operate their own psychology according to current road conditions, and affect those conditions for us all at the same time.

Favorite Daughter unschooled, unchurched, and therefore uncliqued, nevertheless identified with the Disney princesses as she danced almost daily through her tween-teen years with a small class of girls self-selected from public and private Christian school cultures. She has a lot to say about Girl Culture for Thinking Parents to consider, especially if it still looms ahead of their children. So here goes (maybe get a cuppa something, it’s long.)

Girls who stay with dance tend to be beautiful, slender, graceful girls blessed with great bone structure, aspiring ballerinas seduced to Dance as little girls by princess-pink tutus and tiaras, by handsome princes, bouquets of flowers and bows to the adoring crowd. Beautiful culture, nothing to fear?

But the world of dance is also unrealistically same-sex segregated. It’s also a culture of heavy stage make-up beyond one’s years, sensual and provocative if not downright sexy moves and costumes, investment in and obsession with appearance to the point of eating disorders, competing against peers to impress teachers and judges and earn external validation, petty dressing room gossip and elaborate in-bred social rivalries because there’s no time for any life outside that world —

At age 16 Favorite Daughter blogged:

Growing up female at the tail end of the 20th century, I hear a lot about the way the media unfairly influences my vision of myself. I can’t help but hear the news reports and studies and talk shows about yet another girl who got lost in a glossy magazine, yet another young woman whose blind ambition to be beautiful ruined a life not yet begun. . . yet I’ve survived spending almost every day with people who challenge my physical self-esteem.

Allow me to explain: I dance.

Nance then offered her a little cultural affirmation: Read the rest of this entry »

Computer Program to Take on Jeopardy

27 04 2009

If we don’t really know how to teach kids like humans, maybe we can at least teach computers like humans? 😉

Computer Program to Take On Jeopardy:

I.B.M. plans to announce Monday that it is in the final stages of completing a computer program to compete against human “Jeopardy!” contestants. If the program beats the humans, the field of artificial intelligence will have made a leap forward.

I.B.M. scientists previously devised a chess-playing program to run on a supercomputer called Deep Blue. That program beat the world champion Garry Kasparov in a controversial 1997 match (Mr. Kasparov called the match unfair and secured a draw in a later one against another version of the program).

But chess is a game of limits, with pieces that have clearly defined powers. “Jeopardy!” requires a program with the suppleness to weigh an almost infinite range of relationships and to make subtle comparisons and interpretations. . .

“The big goal is to get computers to be able to converse in human terms,” said the team leader, David A. Ferrucci, an I.B.M. artificial intelligence researcher. “And we’re not there yet.”

What’s Young and Stupid? What’s Old Enough to Know Better?

18 02 2009

We thinking parents have discussed before, how the frontal lobe is the last part of the brain to mature and how in males it can continue to develop through the late 20s.

(I remember observing that when he was in the news secretly taped pushing his political views on kids in the classroom, that teacher Jay Bennish was 28, and I wondered whether despite his own education and experience, his frontal lobe was fully mature.)

We’ve talked about the right age for kids to handle driving, in the hugely more complicated and congested traffic patterns of today and tomorrow. About common and/or compulsory attendance age for schools versus red-shirting kindergarten kids for later school entry, especially boys.

About girls forced by religion, culture and economy to marry and/or mother too young, and girls forced to abstain from sexual competence and refrain from their own healthy adult decision-making too late. About children and young adults denied certain books and movies, foods, friends, video games, vaccines and even life-saving treatments because they are still “minors” dependent on luck-of-the-draw parenting, no matter how capable, responsible and well-prepared the minors by age might be, even if it’s more than their own ignorant and/or abusive or neglectful — yet legally mature and in control — parents.

And military recruiters selling their way of life in schools, and about the justice system trying kids as young as the early teens as adults, for Read the rest of this entry »

“Teaching Without Teaching” Even When It’s Math

12 02 2009

New Puzzle Challenges Math Skills:

Mr. Miyamoto said he believes in “the art of teaching without teaching.”

It’s also described as his “philosophy of not instructing” so that students can puzzle through problems by trial-and-error, itself a crucial thinking skill and not just in math.

He provides the tools for students to learn at their own pace using their own trial-and-error methods. If these tools are engaging enough, he said, students are more motivated and learn better than they would through formal instruction.

Engaging, playing at their own pace, reinforcing rather than killing motivation to persist, cool.

And isn’t this what video games are designed to do, too often accomplishing that goal so well that traditional parents and teachers tend to fear their power? I learned something new myself this week, that Spunky and some commenters ban video games in their Christian homeschooling as eroding virtue and work ethic, therefore scripturally sinful.

But I see a new comment this morning, describing a mom’s trial-and-error video game epiphany and repentance:

“. . . to be honest a major component was we couldn’t afford it. (We should all be honest about our reasoning.)

I am now in the camp of thinking I was too extreme in my former banning of all video games. No regrets, no guilt, but to be honest I didn’t know a lot about the games to have formerly hated them so much.”

I’ve been happily puzzling through a series of brilliantly designed video chess mini-games on the computer, having a WONDERFUL time! Judging by Read the rest of this entry »

So I Loaded This New Chess Program for Kids. . .

29 01 2009

and Young Son is doing other things but *I* can’t stop playing, just can’t leave it alone, taking back and trying different moves to see what happens next and how it changes the game. Endlessly, without exhausting my ever-patient computer opponent. Autodidact Delight! (and why my posting here is suddenly light.)

This is probably addictive behavior. . .