Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Minimus Worksheet Templates, Chapter 3 Part 2

These are for use with Minimus Latin.

New Verbs: you read, you cook

New Conjunction: because

New Adgective: strong

New Adverb: always

New Exclamation: No!

Noun Bank: mother, father, daughter, son, small child, cat, mouse, sister, soul, birthday, gift, house, garden, dress, soldier, cloak, wasp, whale, dolphin, horse, rabbit, pig, dinner, fish sauce, elephant, swan, peacock, parrot, fish, bull, dog, cow, hen, fox, cat, frog, badger, bird, cheese, bedroom, sir, slave girl

Adjective Bank: famous, beautiful, dirty, messy, tired, excellent, fat, big, small, very big, very small, friendly, naughty, good, very good, clever, very clever, beautiful, lazy, energetic, new, strong

Verb Bank: I am, we are, you are (singular), you are (plural), is, are, will be, I have, sit (plural), come (singular), sit down (singular), get up, silent (plural), smiles (singular) you are doing, I am writing, you are writing, he/she is writing, they are writing, I am watching, he/she is watching, they are watching, I am cleaning, he/she is cleaning, I am reading, he/she is reading, I am sweeping, he/she is entering, they are working, they are smiling, you read, you cook

Verb Endings: I - o, you - s, he/she - t, they - nt

Adverb Bank: now, once upon a time, of course, especially, suddenly, always

Pronoun Bank: I, we, everyone, my

Conjunction Bank: and, but, because

Greetings Bank: Hello, Hello (plural), Goodbye, Dear (female), Dear (male), Dearest (female)

Exclamation Bank: yeah!, oh dear, No!

Negative Bank: not, don't, No!

New sentance structures:

(Noun) (Verb) because (Noun) (Nerb).
(Noun) is (Noun/Adjective) becasue (Noun) is (Noun/Adjective).

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Check-in time. My husband is finally through with school for the year. He and I were dragging badly by the end or the term, barely able to put one foot in front of the other. Now he's home for summer and concentrating on our home business.

We've also had a long-running virus that left us tired and thirsty, but otherwise fine. Luckily the girls don't seem to have caught it. I've had trouble finding time to write coherent posts though.

My husband made his first two stamped leather belts. The first belt was a black practice piece that came out streaky. It turns out that if you want to dye something a flat black you first have to dye it hot pink, then overdye it. So next time you see someone looking tough in black leather, just picture all that hide in the hot pink color it used to be. Hee!

The second belt was my Mother's Day gift. It's dark blue with a stars, moons, suns, dragons and pegusi stamped on it with silver accents. I like it a lot. I haven't had a belt I liked in years. Of course I've also got out of the habit of wearing belts, so I don't have anything to wear it with. Now I've got to sew up some pants or something with actual belt loops.

He's really getting into the leather and fur. The other day I mentioned making a new bedspread, and he wanted to buy a full-size buffalo hide to use instead. He thought it would be fun to watch the dogs bark at it. My brain shorted out. I'm just not ready for that yet.

Eventually I want to hit him up for a Sheridan-style tooled leather corset. Wouldn't that be something to see? But I'd have to sew it myself, and I don't know if my sewing skills are up to corsets yet.

I'm almost through with the girls' summer wear. There's just two dresses to finish, then a third dress and two bottle carriers to sew. Then my husband is getting a kimono in a grey print with black dragons on it and black-and-grey Japanese trim. Then I finally get to sew for me. Yay!

The girls went on their first joint sleepover Friday night, and did very well. It was the first time we had an evening to ourselves in six years. Unfortunately we were so tired and so sick about all we could do was watch a couple of episodes of Firefly. We tried to eat lunch out at a restaurant Saturday, but we were so sleepy and ran so late all we had time for was a Cola and some deli chicken at the grocery.

Eh, I've moaned and groaned enough. Time to do something about my problems, like go to bed.

The Da Vinci Code

Last week I saw this headline on a supermarket tabloid, "The Da Vinci Code Diet!" Talk about the ultimate transformation of the sacred into the profane, at least in terms of contemporary American materialism.

I haven't read The Da Vinci Code. I haven't read Holy Blood, Holy Grail either, but many of my friends read it years ago, and then asked my husband and I to verify what we could of it's claims. This means that while everyone else is running around talking about "new" revelations, I'm scratching my head and going, "But we did this ten years ago."

So, here's what I remember from those sessions:

Yes, the Opus Dei is the new(er) name of the Inquisition. No, they've never had monks. It's a branch of the Vatican government, not an order.

Yes, early Christianity was 100 times more diverse than Catholic tradition records. Women played a large role as missionaries and church leaders. Many early churches were originally the property of Roman women, who by law could not will their land to their choice of heir but who could leave it to a religious organization.

Yes, the Gnostics had very different ideas about life and Christianity than the proto-Catholics did, however they appear to have been even more hung up over sex for the most part. Some poor soul even tried to start a branch of Christianity that included an Eluesian-style mystery rite, but this failed. According to the witnesses, the initiates were laughing so hard when they emerged they could hardly stand up.

At that time it was fashionable for all royal families to claim divine descent from their patron God/dess, even though these claims were not taken literally in cosmopolitan areas. When the Romans wrote up their own attempts to make the emperor semi-Divine, you could tell they were having trouble keeping a straight face. The Frankish Mero Vinca family originally billed itself as "the children of the sea Goddess Mer." Later, when the patron God/dess of the region switched, the family switched its lineage as well. No one ever said they weren't pragmatic.

They did say the Merovingians were stupid and cruel. They became kings by killing off their own relatives -- think Dynasty meets the Godfather and ramp it a hundredfold. In the end, most of the work was done by their major-domo, Pippin the Younger aka Pepin the Short. Pippin wrote the Pope asking what to do. The Pope wrote back that "the one who does the work should wear the crown", thus sanctioning Pepin to take out the Merovingians. Pippin saw to it that all the Merovingians were either put to death or died without issue. If the Merovingians were supposed to be the "bloodline of Christ" it's highly unlikely the Pope would have sanctioned their extermination. And don't doubt that in those days "removing" a family from office amounted to exterminating the bloodline. Even the in-laws of distant cousins were in danger of being killed. These people believed in "long-lost heirs to the throne", and they were deadly serious about preventing any.

Mary Magdalene. In the Bible it says that Jesus "cast seven devils" out of her. It says that she didn't go in the kitchen with the other women to help clean up after meals, but stayed to talk with the men. When the women rebuked her, Jesus rebuked them. It says that she stayed by the tomb and was the first to speak to Jesus after the Resurrection, calling him "Teacher."

That's little to base a portrait on, but to me it seems simplest to think of Mary M. as a sharp-tongued, opinionated woman who loved learning and chafed from not having anyone to converse with. When she finally found someone worth talking to she stopped taking out her frustration on her neighbors, and began spending all her time with him and his friends.

Did she love him? Under those circumstances it's not unlikely.

Was she married to him? Insufficient data.

Was Jesus married to anybody? The Bible doesn't say, but the Bible was edited by men who had a bone to pick with women. It's possible Jesus' marital status was edited out.

It's true that Jesus' mother was obsessing about the food and wine at the wedding as if she were the hostess and mother of the groom, but we don't have sufficient information to say if she was the mother of the groom, if she was assisting the mother of the groom, and/or if she was just an obsessive busybody. The Bible does say that Jesus had brothers and sisters, and many of the extra-Biblical sources from his lifetime that mention Jesus spend more time talking about his brother James. It seems more likely to me that she was nagging the brother(s) and/or cousin(s) of the groom to make a wine run.

Tradition says that after witnessing the Resurrection Mary M. moved to Europe with a group of other Christian women. While there she worked as a high-level missionary and church leader, even witnessing to the Roman emperor before moving to what is now southern France.

Among her party was a little girl named Sara. Various accounts call Sara the daughter of Mary M., the daughter of another of the women, or a foundling, or slave child owned by the women. Sara inherited the women's property and job, becoming an early Christian saint, but it appears that she never married and died without issue. Another tradition names Sara as a Pagan princess unrelated to any of the women. The Catholic church eventually un-Sainted her as a myth, but there is insufficient data available to the public to say.

Did Jesus have a child? More bluntly, did he have sex? Even when I was a Christian, I never understood the people to whom this mattered. Surely what Jesus did the 16 hours each day he was out of bed were more important than what he did the 8 hours he was in bed, provided whatever it was was consensual.

Was Jesus the Son of God? Of course he was. So are we all the sons and daughters of God and Goddess.

But if everybody is the Child of God then he isn't special! I have trouble imagining how anyone could be "not special", especially someone as extraordinary as Jesus.

But what about Sin and Redemption? Most of the sin-and-redemption schtick was added to the Christian interpretation of the Bible 300 years after Christ died, by Augustine of Hippo. He also introduced many other not-so-lovely innovations to Christianity, like burning people at the stake who disagreed with him. His sinful interpretation of the Bible was so far from the contemporary interpretations that his early treatise was greeted with outright laughter by other Christian leaders. His followers spent 100 years lobbying, defaming the supporters of the traditional view of Jesus and burning their writings, and in one case outright bribing the emperor with war horses, before they finally got it accepted at the Council of Nicea. The Nicene Creed would not have won the vote without nearly century of dirty politics behind it. And that story would make a far more interesting movie than The Da Vinci Code.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Bobbsey Twins Meet Brighteyes and Sunshine

Saturday the girls got a box from my Mom with the first three Bobbsey Twins books in it. The original version, not the 60s rehash I read. Brighteyes started on the first one at 9 in the morning. She finished it at 3 that afternoon while her Daddy was giving a soldering demonstration at the Rock and Gem club, which was very impressed at how quiet and well-behaved the girls acted. She had read the third book by bedtime Sunday night. I think we have a hit on our hands.

Sunday night I started reading the first book at bedtime for Sunshine's benefit. The first chapter included the assertion by a child that girls could only grow up to do certain jobs. Brighteyes frowned.

"Mommy, why did they say girls can't be soldiers? You showed us those pictures of girls soldiers in the Civil War."

"Well honey, they probably didn't know about those girl soldiers in the Civil War. Not a lot of people talked about them at the time.

People have never been completely effective at keeping all girls and women from doing any job they wanted to do; but they sometimes made it very hard for girls to do any job they wanted. They would do all sorts of things to keep girls from working certain jobs, like being a soldier. A girl could always be a soldier, but sometimes she had to pretend she was a man to get the job.

This book was written a hundred years ago. At that time there was a lot of effort put into keeping women out of a lot of jobs. But between then and now an awful lot of women -- and some men! -- worked very, very hard to make sure that girls could do any job they wanted without having to pretend to be a man."

Monday at lunch the conversation continued:

"Mommy, why did they try to keep girls from certain jobs?"

"Do you remember the Ages of History you learned?"


"What were they?"

"Um, Old Stone Age, New Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Industrial Age, Computer Age."

"Very good. Remember I said each new age came about because people invented some new way of making tools? I said that whenever that happened, a lot of people who had made their living with the old tools ended up out of work."

"That's bad."

"Yes. While in general most people were better off, a lot of people were left without jobs.

A hundred years ago was in the middle of the Industrial Age. A lot of people were thrown out of work. Somebody decided that the way to handle all those people who didn't have jobs was to take jobs away from women and not let them work. That way men could work those jobs."

"That's silly!"

"I didn't say it was a good idea. It wasn't."

"It's stupid!"

It'll be interesting to see where the Bobbsey Twins leads us next.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Oh Where, Oh Where Has Your Editor Gone?

Oh where, oh where can she be?
Your clauses are dangling,
Your research is flawed,
A total rewrite you need!

But if you want to show a child what poorly researched, badly written drek disguised as historical research looks like, click on this link.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Vintage Palm Pilot + Project Gutenberg = Happy Kid?

I know next to nothing about portable computers devices. I don't even own a cordless phone. But it seems to me that I could buy one of the older PDAs that doesn't do anything except hold about a book's worth of text, download a classic children's chapter book from Project Gutenberg, and keep a young book-lover happy for a day or so. I've been told one of the early Palm Pilots would be perfect for this job (and is fairly cheap off ebay), but I don't know what sort make/model/qualities to look for. Could you folks give me some advice?

Friday, May 19, 2006

Brighteyes and Sunshine Explain It All

This is a section of links to stories about my children. I'll put a link to it in the right column next time I poke at the template.

Hard Day

Mississippi Mud

"I"m too old for coloring pages."

The Grey Kitten

First Classroom

My Children -- an introduction.

The Explorers



The Paleontology of Oz

Cave Painting

Lady Ghosts

The Fossil Hunt

The Forsaken Merman

Time Flies

Review: The Miracle of Life

Another Reminder Why We Don't Unschool

A "Scheduled" Day

Breakfast Q&A

Happy Birthday Son

Caught With My Mouth Open.


Baking Day


My daughter is an Unitarian

Brighteyes and the Golden Rule

How Not to Cast a Magic Spell where Sunshine learns that all words are magic words.

My Poor Little Sheltered Darlings encounter competition and bullying. Poor bully!

My Poor Little Sheltered Darlings

One of the complaints about homeschooling is that we "shelter" our children from the real world by not giving them a chance to learn about competition or about schoolyard bullies. Week before last we were at the playground with a lot of public-schooled children. There was a game of "Pirates" going on. Six year-old Brighteyes and a much bigger girl both wanted to be the Pirate Captain. The bigger girl looked at Brighteyes in her pink flowered sundress and flip-flops, and proposed a race to the top of the ship's "prow" for the title. By the time she got both feet off the ground Brighteyes was sitting on the prow.

Then a boy half a head taller than Brighteyes tried to steal her flip-flop. She told him no, go away. He tried again. She kicked him in the chest. He swung at her. She kicked him in the jaw. He ran away crying. I told Brighteyes that head shots were out of bounds and made her apologize for the last blow. His parents told him he asked for it.

Yep, it really looks as if our homeschooled kids don't know anything about competition or playground bullies all right.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Some pesky illness has been sneaking up on me. Between headaches, fatigue, a sore throat, and a huge thirst, the symptoms are more annoying than debilitating. I've haven't been able to do lessons for the past two days though. When I woke up today I felt better, but very tired. Then came this morning:

6:30 - Get husband off

7:30 - Girls are awake and raring to go. Feed them breakfast.

8:00 - Get girls cleaned up. Explain that Mommy has to go back to bed. Lay down. Pass out without even taking any medicine.

8:15 - 11:00 - Sleep, interrupted by huge thirst, girls jumping on bed and talking to me, and girls knocking over piles of school books. Keep going back to sleep and dreaming of children I don't have to feed.

11:00 - Awake to Brighteye's terrier barking madly from the corner of my bed. Go up front to see if it's the mail. Nobody there. Can't figure the dog's problem out. Try to get back to sleep. Dog keeps on barking.

11:30 - Figure out the dog's problem. I've been cleaning up the bedroom. Now he can stand on the corner of the bed, see his reflection in the mirror, and bark at it. Decide cleanliness is overrated.

11:35 - Drink a cola so I can find the energy to open a can of soup. Check the mail. Find Liping Ma's Knowing and Teaching Elementary Mathematics: Teachers' Understanding of Fundamental Mathematics in China and the United States -- a slim but very dense 150 pages. Also find Benjamin Bloom's Developing Talent in Young People -- all 572 pages of it, and it's a paperback. I don't know if it has any good quotes, but as heavy as it is I could always use it as a club. Decide I'm not up to any light reading this afternoon.

I'm happy to say the girls did a very impressive job of helping Mommy wash dishes and letting Mommy rest for a 5 year old and a 6 year old. I'm very pleased with how they are starting to do things without me standing over their shoulders.

Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow.

WTM first-Grade Zoology Review

We just finished 22 weeks on animals. WTM has no specific recommendations on how to organize it; so I pulled out our history "spine", the huge Usborne Internet-Linked Encyclopedia Of World History, and used it to introduce the animals in the order that they first evolved. We would read about the first appearance, discuss how they differed from earlier life forms, then go over to The Kingfisher First Animal Encyclopedia to read about modern versions of them. When there was more than one choice, or when I felt the area needed more attention, she could pick out specific examples to study. Here's the order I used:

  1. Microscopic Animals
  2. Jellyfish
  3. Worms
  4. Shellfish
  5. Jointed Shellfish of her choice
  6. Fish
  7. Fish of her choice
  8. Insects
  9. Spiders
  10. Amphibians
  11. Amphibian of her choice
  12. Reptiles
  13. Reptile of her choice
  14. Birds
  15. Bird of her choice
  16. Mammals
  17. Platypus
  18. Marsupial of her choice
  19. Placental of her choice
  20. Placental of her choice
  21. Placental of her choice
  22. Chimpanzees

They learned a lot about animals and got a basic understanding of evolution. Not bad.

The only supplementary material WTM recommended was some animal coloring books. These looked good, but weren't that useful. These days you can pull a growing number of quality coloring pages of animals off the internet, and we ended up using those more often.

Next up is 10-12 weeks of Human Biology. After spending weeks trying to figure out what to teach and in what order, I had a flash of truly inspired genius and dumped it all on my husband. He's got multiple degrees in Biology and both college and public school teaching experience, he can handle that part.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hanging Out at PHC

I've been talking to a some students at Patrick Henry College over here. I'm impressed with some of them.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Gum Tree Festival

Saturday morning we went on a field trip with the Northeast Mississippi Rock and Gem Society to a limestone quarry on a fossilized sea bed. My husband discussed his upcoming soldering demo. The girls had fun running up and down collecting oyster shell fossils. I got a chance to speak to another adult while a third adult kept the girls busy several yards away. In short, a fun time was had by all.

That afternoon we went to the Gum Tree Festival. Previously this Festival has been dominated by the buy-and-resale crowd, but this year they gave those folks a separate show on the other side of town the week before. Only artists and crafters were showing their wares, in addition to a children's dance recital and a songwriting contest. There was a Children's Activity section as well, not as good as the one in the Delta had been but nothing to sneeze at. We sampled King's Barbecue, a local eatery -- good chicken, tough cole slaw. By then the girls were too tired even to go on the Moon Walk (excuse me, the "Wacky Castle"), so it was time to go home.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mind-Rotting Trivia

The world's leading exporter of horse gear is India. I guess sacred cows make the best saddles.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Minimus Worksheet Template, Chapter 3, Part 1

Now we get to verb endings.

New Nouns: slave girl

New Verbs: you are doing, I am writing, you are writing, he/she is writing, they are writing, I am watching, he/she is watching, they are watching, I am cleaning, he/she is cleaning, I am reading, he/she is reading, I am sweeping, he/she is entering, they are working, they are smiling

New Verb Endings: I - o, you - s, he/she - t, they - nt

New Adjective: new

New Adverbs: suddenly

Noun Bank: mother, father, daughter, son, small child, cat, mouse, sister, soul, birthday, gift, house, garden, dress, soldier, cloak, wasp, whale, dolphin, horse, rabbit, pig, dinner, fish sauce, elephant, swan, peacock, parrot, fish, bull, dog, cow, hen, fox, cat, frog, badger, bird, cheese, bedroom, sir, slave girl

Adjective Bank: famous, beautiful, dirty, messy, tired, excellent, fat, big, small, very big, very small, friendly, naughty, good, very good, clever, very clever, beautiful, lazy, energetic, new

Verb Bank: I am, we are, you are (singular), you are (plural), is, are, will be, I have, sit (plural), come (singular), sit down (singular), get up, silent (plural), smiles (singular) you are doing, I am writing, you are writing, he/she is writing, they are writing, I am watching, he/she is watching, they are watching, I am cleaning, he/she is cleaning, I am reading, he/she is reading, I am sweeping, he/she is entering, they are working, they are smiling

Verb Endings: I - o, you - s, he/she - t, they - nt

Adverb Bank: now, once upon a time, of course, especially, suddenly

Pronoun Bank: I, we, everyone, my

Conjunction Bank: and, but

Interrogatives: who, what, how

Greetings Bank: Hello, Hello (plural), Goodbye, Dear (female), Dear (male), Dearest (female)

Exclamation Bank: yeah!, oh dear

Negative Bank: not, don't

(Noun) (verb).
(Plural noun) (plural verb).
(Adverb) (noun) (verb).

Sunday, May 07, 2006


Our town had a tiny men's gym that was about to go under for lack of business. Not many people used it, many rural Southerners grew up "working out" with hand tools.

Last winter a group of teenage jocks thought about joining it. They wanted to build their muscles so they could do good at the state athletic competitions and attract scholarship money, and the little time they had in the high school gym wasn't cutting it. But working out in the private gym before supper would mean giving up their afternoon TV watching, and they weren't sure they wanted to make that sacrifice. What to do?

Some of the boys are in my husband's science class. One of them said, "Doc doesn't watch TV. If he can live without it, I can live without it." The other boys agreed. They all bought memberships and started going.

The extra memberships pulled the owner back from the verge of bankruptcy and enabled him to refurbish the building. Business is better than ever. The full story eventually made its way back to us.

Everything we do makes ripples. Sometimes those ripples end up in the most astonishing places.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Runway Hysteria

There's nothing like a runway fashion show to remind one of just how foolish people can be when given the chance. In the name of "market research," my husband got me to sit down and watch the fall show of a major European designer. I was doing good for a while. I made it through the gargantuan hats with the tiny peephole in the brim so you could see out. I made it through the oversized fur hats that went halfway down the back. But the long-haired fur miniskirt was my undoing. I lost it completely at that point and never regained it.

Long-haired fur miniskirt!

Long-haired fur miniskirt!

ROFL! Long-haired fur miniskirt!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Golden Quote

Cross-posted at The Homeschool Cafe.

The Flickering Mind: The False Promise of Technology in the Classroom and How Learning Can Be Saved details how hi-tech classroom learning gadgets have left our young people less educated than any previous generation. In the process it makes a lot of statements that indirectly support homeschooling. I'll post a full review later (at 500 pages it's liable to be very full), but buried on page 399 I found one of the dreams of a homeschooling parent: a Golden Quote that proves just how much more effective homeschooling is than mass schooling. Homeschoolers use a one-on-one teaching method that is known in the trade as tutoring.

"In study after study, whenever tutoring is matched against some competing pedagogy, including technology, tutoring wins handily. In his own research (Benjamin) Bloom found that tutored students outdistance 98 percent of those taught in conventional groups settings.(7)"

98 percent!??!!!! No wonder we're so damn good!

The citation is: "The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search For Methods of Instruction as Effective as One-on-one Tutoring," by Benjamin S. Bloom, Educational Researcher, Vol. 13 (6), pp. 4-16, 1984. Apparently this study has become the gold standard on the power of tutoring.

I went digging. I couldn't find the original article online; Educational Researcher's
online archives don't go back that far. I did find some synopses of the original article. The first synopsis explains why it's called "The 2 Sigma problem:

If one looks at a "conventional classroom" that uses the traditional lecture approach (Bloom chose classes of about 30 students for his study), the outcomes of both learning and cognitive development of higher mental processes produced by such classes can be expressed as scaled in at the 50th percentile equivalent. By contrast, the outcomes of tutoring scale at close to 100% or about two standard deviations (2s) beyond the level of achievement in conventional classrooms! This achievement has further striking implications: students who learn through tutoring don't flunk out, stress out, or drop out. This means that many students who have been consigned to the categories of "low achiever", "not bright enough", or even "unteachable" are students who can, in fact, succeed.
This article is very well written, apparently for helping entering college students find tutors. A second synopsis shows Bloom's actual table. A third article states Bloom's challenge to the educational community: "Under the practical considerations of a class of 30 or so students, how can one approach 2 sigma achievementeivement gains of professional tutoring?"

But wait! Is homeschooling really the same as one-on-one tutoring? Ask a homeschooling parent if this
definition sounds familiar:

The concept of tutoring is an old one, perhaps one of the oldest of all human teaching and development tools. As Jenkins and Jenkins described the origins of tutoring in their paper Educational Leadership (1987), "Tutorial instruction: it was parents teaching their offspring how to make a fire and to hunt and adolescents instructing younger siblings about edible berries and roots, it was probably the first pedagogy (teaching) among primitive societies." Tutoring is one of the fundamental foundations of physical, emotional, social and academic growth. It is considered one of the most successful of all teaching methodologies. Quality tutoring reaches beyond singular academic subjects by adapting to the needs of the learner and doing so in a fashion the learner can understand. It works best when it utilizes and takes into account the concept of learning as a whole mind and body experience; it involves all the senses, the environment, the community, family and specific requirements of the learner.(emphasis mine.)

Tutoring is defined as the act, art, or process of imparting knowledge and skills. In the last one hundred years the term tutor, especially in western countries, has closely been identified as an individual who works with a single child or small group of children as opposed to a teacher who tends to manage with larger numbers of students. Tutoring has further been distinguished from early stage education and development. It is now viewed as a separate vocation focused almost entirely on academics. Most academic-oriented tutors work with children K through 12 and beyond while parents or nannies and caregiver services tend to focus on development of infants and young children. Individuals from both groups may still act as tutors and manage developmental activities during a child's early years.

Academic tutoring takes on a variety of different classifications: peer tutoring, age tutoring, certified tutors and tutoring by certified teachers. Many tutors wone with-on-one with students while others work with three, five or ten students at a time. The ability of the tutor to impart knowledge, as later discussed, may have less to do with the age or experience level of the tutor and more to do with individual attention and the ability to create learning strategies in a student. Good tutors follow the student, not the curriculum. (emphasis mine.)
There are thousands of homeschooling stories inonlinet and onlne, and all the ones I've read sound just like that definition. A fourth article lists specific groups that tutoring can help.

Unfortunately I couldn't find an interview with Bloom. I did find some of his
quotes. I also found the book he published the year after "The 2 Sigma Problem", Developing Talent in Young People, which looks at the tremendous results which highly gifted young athletes and musicians achieved through a combination of supportive parenting, and a progression of learning from solid basics to more complex skills which Bloom calls "mastery learning" but which sounds suspiciously like the trivium so near and dear to many homeschoolers. Interestingly, this program only outdistances 85% of regular students in a classroom setting, whereas one-on-one tutoring itself outdistances 98% of those students. Gee, what sort of performance boost would happen if you combine supportive parenting, one-on-one tutoring, and the trivium -- er, mastery learning? (Can you tell I'm smirking?)

Ironically, not much seems to have been done with Bloom's research. A number of attempts have been made to produce a computerized tutor-equivalent. Their failures are outlined in the book I got the quote from. No machine can possibly be anywhere near as flexible as a human being.

The only homeschooling article I could find that references Bloom is from a
Dutch study. Bloom's research is woefully underutilized in defense of homeschooling.

The inevitable comeback is that such results are only obtainable with specially trained tutors. That argument is not supported by the data. A good tutor is one who pays attention to the student and adapts their learning approach to meet the individual student's needs. Anyone who has reasonably good communication skills can do that. There are also many materials available to help both tutor and student look up what they need to know.

A key area is teaching students how to learn; this skill is best taught one-on-one. A student who has learned how to learn knows when, where and how to find what they need. That student and his or her tutor are then in an excellent position to evaluate when or if they need outside expertise in specific subjects.

But hey! Tutored students outdistance 98% of group-schooled students. That means that even if homeschooling parents don't make absolutely perfect tutors, they still stand head and shoulders above the school system.

TO RECAP: An average student who is individually tutored will outdistance 98% of the students in a classroom setting, or do two standard deviations (2 sigmas) better. No classroom teaching method yet devised comes anywhere near that figure. This study means that a learning disabled student who is individually tutored will do as well as an average student in a classroom setting. An average student who is individually tutored will do as well as a gifted student in a classroom setting. A gifted student who is individually tutored will go off the scale. Since two standard deviations is an awful lot of wiggle room, this study also means that an average parent who makes a reasonable effort at tutoring his or her children will do a better job than the best classrooms in the country.

Monday, May 01, 2006

How Not to Cast a Magic Spell

Beltane 2006 - Five year-old Sunshine had done her lessons and was bored. Mommy was supposed to finish the sundresses she was making for Sunshine and her sister, but she wasn't working on them. She was wasting her time reading e-mail instead. Sunshine needed a way to get Mommy off the computer and on the sewing machine! Just telling Mommy to do that didn't always work. Hmmm, maybe there was some magical way to indicate to Mommy what she was supposed to be doing. Maybe if she imitated Mommy sewing, Mommy would get the idea. Sunshine looked around Mommy's sewing table. There were Mommy's scissors and the fabric bias tapes Mommy had spent hours making yesterday. Perfect! Sunshine picked up the scissors and got to work.

By the time Mommy noticed the snipping sound and turned around, all the bias tapes she'd so carefully made were in half-inch pieces.

Mommy had a coniption.

Sunshine learned several valuable things. Among her lessons were:

Don't touch scissors without getting permission first.
Don't touch anything of Mommy's or Daddy's without getting permission first.
Don't cut anything without getting permission first.
If you want a scrap to cut, ask for one. Mommy has several, but you must ask to find out which one it's okay to cut.
All words are magic. Use them to tell others what you are going to do.
Mommy doesn't like surprises.

Starting Back

After taking April off, we got back to a slow start today. No major problems, although the girls did have to remember not to throw fusses.

If it were up to Brighteyes and especially Sunshine, we would have been back at lessons after the first week. But I fell into a major depression at the start of spring. I've had chronic depression and PTSD since childhood. These days I can usually take care of myself, but this year I was too exhausted to do the maintenance. I fell off the deep end, and I'm only now starting to climb back.

I usually don't talk much about my mental health problems. My mother hated it whenever I brought it up as a child. She would berate me for mentioning it; or for "giving up", being "soft", being "lazy", and so on. Of course, she was the main reason I came down with depression and PTSD. No wonder she hated seeing the signs of her handiwork.

But I'm almost 40. That's far too old to blame my problems on my childhood. I knew the signs. I knew I had to devote some time out of the day to taking care of myself, and I knew what would happen if I didn't. I screwed up because I can't stand having a chronic condition that I have to monitor and work on all the time. It feels undignified, to have to constantly attend to my own Inner Baby. I know I shouldn't feel that way, but it's not an easy thing to change.

So we're back with lessons. Unschooling is even more exhausting for me than lessons, because these girls go at super-sonic speeds. At least with lessons we don't tear off down quite so many rabbit runs.