Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Teaching to mastery: How we naturally learn

My 9-year-old learns art techniques & origami
by practicing them over and over and over.

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When I was new to the world of homeschooling, and pedagogy in general, I heard about the term "teaching to mastery," and it perplexed me. The idea is that you teach something until the student understands and retains it. You test as you go along, but if the student doesn't score highly on any given test, you adjust your teaching style and go over it again. What perplexed me was that there were teachers not using this technique.

It makes sense in a homeschool situation. Or, in other words, the reverse makes no sense. There's no reason I would, say, teach my child fractions, have them be confused and doing them all wrong, and then say, "Welp, that was all the time we have for fractions! On to geometry. You get a fail on fractions." I wouldn't hold my child back a grade in homeschool in some punitive sense, and, conversely, there's no time pressure to move up at a certain pace. We can speed ahead of things they've got down pat, and slow down for the more frustrating bits.

But then I remember my experiences in school, where teaching to mastery was not the norm. You kept up — or you flunked out. I was strong academically, so my two personal examples were in art and physical education. Fortunately, both were graded more on effort than skill, but I remember being criticized in art class more than learning how to complete assignments. In P.E., I remember being ignored most of the time. I wasn't worth bringing up to scratch, I suppose.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Why is sleeping a punishment?

Why is sleep a punishment - picture of child under quilt with eyes open

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Have you seen the pandemic-schooling schedule floating around? 

(To give proper credit, it's from Jessica McHale, and I'm not posting this to call her out because I know what I'm talking about here is a common parenting mindset.)

There are joke versions crafted on this template that replace every slot with screen time or Frozen 2 or fighting over toys. That's all good and fun.

But I'll direct you to the last two slots marked Bedtime: Any kids who follow the daily schedule and don't fight are entitled to an extra hour before bed.

When I showed this to Alrik, he had the same reaction I did: "Why would you punish your kids by making them sleep? Isn't sleep something we all need?"

Earth Mama - Lady Face™ Mineral Sunscreen Face Stick SPF 40

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Moments of motherhood


Rotating with no axis,
unfurled tether
keeping you in place.

The atmosphere around you
so air comes to you.

Extraterrestrial glow
the dimness

As you spin and twirl,
no upside down
or right side up,

your hand before
your face

Waving to Earth.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

How to survive (and enjoy!) living without toilet paper

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If you've been staring at bare paper-products aisles in distress, I have some suggestions to brighten your day. You can cut down or cut out your use of toilet paper while maintaining your comfort and convenience.

I recommend a mix of family cloth, a bidet attachment, and, optionally, a much smaller quantity of toilet paper or wet wipes as needed, such as for guests -- in the future, when guests are a thing again. You might remember I first tried family cloth, or reusable cloth toilet paper, several years ago after a lot of debate and skepticism. I'm glad to report I've kept using it, but I admit I didn't get my family fully on board until this coronavirus epidemic! Necessity is the mother of getting your kids to use less toilet paper, apparently. Happily, this transition is going very well. I think we can stick with it, so I'll share my updated thoughts on managing family cloth for a whole family.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Homeschooling in a time of crisis

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Well. We're in a global pandemic. All over social media are posts encouraging you to make the most of this time your children are off of school. There are many tips on how best to continue schooling while you're isolated at home as well as memes to let off steam about how much teachers should earn, how cooped up everyone's feeling, and how no one's taught to carry the one anymore. (Is this true? I'm too old to have realized this.)

As a parent who's been homeschooling for my children's full schooling years so far, I want to offer my take on how best to homeschool right now for those of you thrown into schooling at home. Don't worry, I'll be gentle. Seriously. Because:

  1. This is not homeschooling. If your kids are usually in school full time, what you're doing right now is not any form of regular homeschooling, which is intentional and planned and much less panicky on the whole. What you're doing is crisis schooling. It's stress schooling. It's not vacation, and it's not not vacation. It's weird, and you're distracted and anxious, and your kids might be, too. This isn't normal even for homeschooling families because all our classes, co-ops, excursions, and social interactions are canceled. All children are missing their friends and routines and stimulation, whether they're already used to homeschooling or not. You're missing yours. Maybe you're still working full time in an essential (read: stressful) job. Maybe you're trying to figure out working from home. Maybe you're out of work and worrying about how to pay the next bills to come due. Maybe you or loved ones are sick or recovering. Maybe you or your kids have disabilities or other special needs that make it hard to miss out on the services that make your days more manageable.

    I feel you. But only figuratively and from a socially mandated distance.

    Whatever you do right now with school, it's fine. It's really, really fine. You don't even have to Make Every Moment Special™, which is its own form of unnecessary pressure. Kids can be bored. Kids can use screens. Kids can play the day away. Kids can fall behind in schoolwork. If your school has gone virtual and is laying on the pressure, you have the right to ask for dispensation and excused absences right now. Because:

Friday, January 31, 2020

Very important presentations

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Alrik has discovered the joys of Google Slides (PowerPoint-like presentations).

It all started when he made me watch multiple inane YouTube videos that were quizzes purporting to help you discern things like what color you should dye your hair, but then all the questions would be things like, "What kind of flowers would you grow in a garden?" and "If you could be any type of animal, which would you be? Now choose from these three options."

To celebrate the nonsense, I made my own quiz that I forced my family to complete:

Feel free to total up your numbers, and do let me know which animal you are!