Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Check out this cool game...

...that Dad made for the kids!!!!! Continuing their studies of the Neolithic period, they have been discussing the agricultural revolution. Dad couldn't find a great activity about domesticating animals, so he invented one! It's awesome--they played all afternoon and they learned a lot about why certain animals were domesticated while others weren't. Cool, huh? Kudos to my smart, creative man!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I loved this game when I was a kid! Just got one for the kids and they tried it out tonight. It would have been more fun if they weren't waiting for dinner and getting crabby...

Monday, September 28, 2009

If I Had a Million Dollars

If Super and Dude had a million dollars, they would buy a couple elephants, a giraffe, a Dell (what--where did that come from?), a mansion for their rat, every type of video game system out there, games for all those systems, and a whole bunch of other useless stuff. No one offered to buy their poor old mother a new car!

More School?

Check out this link, if you haven't seen it already.

I predict higher dropout rates. We don't need more school hours or days--we need more effective school hours and days. We need more teachers, so each class has a manageable number of students (no one can give 24 kids individualized attention, not even SuperTeacher!) We need lessons that reach kids with all learning styles. And we need to stop preparing kids to take tests and start preparing them to have full, rich lives and a lifelong love of learning.

Supersim and Dudeman ask us each morning, "So, what are we talking about today?" It makes me so happy to hear the excitement in their voices. They don't dread going to school anymore. (Well, OK, they don't exactly jump for joy when we work on mulitplication tables, but they do focus and get through them because they know the next hour will be really fun and interesting.)

I'm so blessed to be able to have this time with my kids. I understand that longer school days would benefit parents with long work days, who need a safe place for their kids in the afternoon. I can't fix society today (it's on my list for next week!) but I can do what I think is best for my family. If I had to send them to school for 8 hours a day, they would go crazy and so would I!

Friday, September 25, 2009

This Week at the Super Awesome School

We started the week with a bang--the Big Bang, that is! Talked about the different theories about the origins of the universe and solar system. Dad read from several sources, and gave the kids a quote from Carl Sagan to think about: We are all made of star stuff. Why did we discuss this? Because the kids wanted to!

Read some concrete poetry by John Grandits, then wrote some of our own. We're keeping poetry journals and hope to add to them weekly.

Practiced math facts. There's really no way to make it exciting, but at least we're doing it in 15-minute increments so it doesn't get too tedious. Did addition and subtraction, too, so we don't get rusty.

Read Lionel and the Book of Beasts by E. Nesbit and Michael Hague. MADE PREDICTIONS, which is a big deal in elementary reading, I'm told.

Supersim is lobbying for some kind of small pet (because we don't have enough animals around here) so she spent quite a bit of time researching various reptiles and amphibians. She also went to drama club, while Dudeman practiced piano.

We practiced handwriting--the kiddos' least favorite (and most needed) subject.

We are beginning Classical History, so we read all about the Stone Age. We have a lot of history books lying around here, since Dad is so nutty about history, so I don't even know how many sources the kids read. We also made some Dolne Vestonice-style "clay animals" and some Lascaux-style "cave paintings." Dudeman exclaimed: "This is the kind of stuff we'd NEVER get to do in school!"

A side note: Supersim finds it unfair that Neanderthals "don't count as humans" because "they did so many smart things!" Her favorite prehistoric animal: giant ground sloth. Dude likes the Boisei best, but admires how tough the Neanderthals were. Favorite prehistoric animal: auroch.

Let's see, what else? Number bingo, a bit of spelling practice, The Fisherman and the Genie, and organizing our new classroom, of course! Not a bad week, considering some of us are recovering from the flu. The weekend brings soccer games, riding lessons, and possibly Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs. And lots of planning for next week!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Super Awesome School of Super Awesomeness...

...and Super Achievement is open again! Hooray! And we're doing things OUR way! We work at our own pace instead of waiting for others to catch up. We don't waste time standing in lines or gathering our stuff to head to the next classroom. We read real books instead of textbooks, and we study and discuss topics, instead of "receiving instruction." When we're interested in something, we work as long as we want and as late as we want--no bells! And nobody yells at us while we eat lunch. (Unless we happen to be a dog who got a bit too bold.)

I'm so happy to have my kids HOME HOME HOME!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Update on Dudeman

Temperature at 9:00 pm: 99. The Tylenol is working.
Temperature at 11:00 pm: 101.7. Time for another dose.
Temperature at 3:15 am: 100.1. More Tylenol.
Temperature at 7:30 am: 99.9. I'll give him Tylenol after he eats a little something. You can tell he feels a little better because he's having conversations with us and doesn't seem so listless and spaced out.

Just go read the flu symptoms on and that's how he feels. Yesterday was rough, but he's feeling better this morning, other than his cough, which is more frequent and starting to drive him nuts. Popsicles help.

I need to cancel the riding lesson and call the soccer coach. Better stock up on groceries and get the laundry done, because I'm guessing we'll all take a turn with this. Goody.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Happy things:

Pug snorts.

Fall light.

Hot vegetable soup with crackers.

An Amazon order in my mailbox!

No plans for the weekend! (See above.)

Two Conversations with Supersim, plus a highly opinionated commentary


Me: Sweetie, don't you have a spelling test tomorrow?

Super: (Heavy sigh.) Yes.

Me: Don't you need to study the words?

Super: No.

Me: Why not? Are you already prepared?

Super: I guess.

Me: You must have studied really well for the last one--you made an A on it.

Super: I didn't study for it. The words were just easy.

Me: Oh. Are they easy this week, too?

Super: I don't know.

Me: You don't know?

Super: I never looked at them. They're probably easy.

Me: Well, what if they're not easy? Don't you want to look them over and see if you need to--

Super: No, it doesn't matter. I'll probably make an A or a B on it.

Me: So...if you don't make any effort, you're pretty sure you'll make at least a B.

Super: Yeah.

Me: But with a little effort, you could make an A?

Super: If I get a B, that's fine, Mom. I really don't care! It's just a stupid spelling test!

Today, on the way to a morning dentist appointment:

Me: What are you missing this morning, Sweetie?

Super: I don't know.

Me: Well, what do you normally do first thing in the morning?

Super: Just stupid stuff.

Me: Sweetie, can you give me a real answer, please? You must know what you normally do when you get to school.

Super: We watch the news.

Me: You do? You watch a news show? Which one?

Super: No, not real news, school news. Two kids come on TV and they tell us the weather for the day and the lunch choices. It's boring.

Me: Boring? It sounds kind of cool. I didn't know the kids made their own news show. Do the younger kids get to do it, or just the older ones?

Super: It's the same two kids.

Me: What do you mean?

Super: It's always Levi and some other kid I don't know.

Me: You don't take turns?

Super: No.

Me: Well, why do those two get to do it every day?

Super: I don't know. I don't really care, Mom. I don't want a turn--it's dumb. Mom, after this is over, do I have to go back to school?

And Now...A Highly Opinionated Commentary:

When Supersim was in Montessori preschool, her teacher told me she was a gifted child and one of the most enthusiastic learners she had ever taught. She called Supersim a "collector of knowledge." In first grade, Supersim's teacher called her a "delight" and she even said that it was a real treat to listen to Super read out loud because she read with such wonderful expression and enthusiasm. She loved reading, but math was her favorite subject. She would eagerly show me the math "trick" she had learned in class that day.

In second grade, Supersim's teacher stood at the white board and lectured for most of the day. There were very few hands-on activities because they were drilling for the standardized test. Supersim began to struggle in math, but when she asked questions, the teacher responded: "Weren't you listening?" By the end of the school year, the teacher was advising me to get Supersim some medication to help her concentrate because, "she just doesn't get it."

At the beginning of the third grade year, I talked with the teacher and told her my concerns about Super: that she had enjoyed school until the previous year, that until recently she had been such an enthusiastic learner, and that she was intimidated by math. We resolved to work together to boost her confidence and get Supersim excited about learning again. The work that came home was all marked "Great!" and "Nice work!" It was great work at first, but as the year passed, Supersim got sloppy and started putting forth the bare minimum effort. Still, her grades were good, and I just couldn't put my finger on what was bothering me...

Until now. I've been reading a fascinating book by Robert L. Fried called The Game of School. Here's some food for thought from this excellent book:

Let's consider a frightening possibility: far too much of the time our children spend in school is wasted. It's not that nothing happens there or that kids spend their time just fooling around or that teachers don't try their best to present lessons they think are in our children's best interests. It's just that unless our children--of all ages--are truly engaged in their learning, most of what they experience during school hours passes over them like the shadow of a cloud, or through them like an undigested seed. They may be present in the classroom, but they are not really there. Their pencils may be chugging away on the worksheets or the writing prompts or math problems laid out for them, but their intelligence is running on two cylinders at best. They pay some attention to what their teacher happens to be telling them, but their imagination has moved elsewhere.

Yes, I thought. What did you do in school today, kids? Nothing. I know they did something but whatever it was, it was obviously not interesting enough to talk about later. Every day I ask my kids what they did in school, and every day they tell me about something that happened in the cafeteria or on the playground. If I want to know what they learned, I have to play twenty questions, and eventually they get annoyed with me. Mom, we're done with today, and we don't want to think about it any more..

Then, I read this part:

Why shouldn't our kids be eager to head off to school each day, anticipating their next investigation, project, or performance? It can be agonizing for parents to see their imaginative, articulate, eagerly seeking young learner become, over the years, someone bored, passive, complaining, or compliant--focused on not making mistakes rather than taking on new challenges. Most kids in school listen and do what they're told, most of the time. They pick up stray facts and acquire some skills they wouldn't necessarily learn elsewhere. They learn about following rules in the lunchroom and about leaving one-inch margins on their papers. They even learn the Pythagorean theorem and how to write a five-paragraph essay with three supporting arguments and a conclusion.

But unless they view such activities as important, as having meaning to them or their lives right now, they aren't truly learning, in the sense of developing their minds and hearts as young people eager to embrace the world.

A light came on in my head and I thought, "THAT"S IT! That's exactly what I was feeling, but couldn't quite articulate. My gifted girl, my "Collector of Knowledge," has become bored, passive, complaining and compliant! She can't find meaning in the work she's doing in school. Why? For starters, she's not investigating anything. She's listening to a lecture, filling out a worksheet, answering the questions at the end of the chapter. She's just going through the motions because that's what is expected of her. Textbooks don't ask students to make discoveries--they ask students to regurgitate the facts that were just spoon-fed to them. As for taking on new challenges, could you get excited about a list of spelling words? When she says, "It's just a stupid spelling test, Mom," what she's really telling me is, "I don't see any point to this. I'll take 30 0r more of them this year, and they don't have any relevance in my life, so why not coast?"

I'm not suggesting that textbooks should be trashed or that kids shouldn't learn how to spell. Students need to learn to glean knowledge from many sources, and they also need all sorts of communication skills, including learning how to spell words correctly. But if my daughter can go from "gifted collector of knowledge" to "I don't really care, Mom," in four years, then something has gone terribly wrong. And if her teachers can't reignite that spark, and I feel that I can, isn't it my responsibility as a parent to take over her education?

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Something about fall...

Yesterday we had one of those perfect early-fall days: that golden, slanted sunlight and just a bit of coolness in the air. I had to go out early in the morning, and I enjoyed seeing the pinkish sky and having the road almost to myself for a while. I was grateful to be enjoying the morning, and my thoughts turned to those who were no longer with us on such a lovely day.

Even before 9/11 happened, fall has always made me feel a bit melancholy and nostalgic. I miss my father, who died in November of 1998. For months after he died, I would think about calling him to chat or ask for advice--and then I would suddenly realize that I could never do that again.

It's so easy to get caught up in the details of everyday life and forget to notice the truly important things, like a beautiful day, the changing of the seasons, or how wonderful your kids are at this age (whatever age they are, they're wonderful!) Something about fall always reminds me to stop and notice the moment and appreciate how blessed we are.