Friday, April 26, 2013

Week #6: Report on two children's books

A couple of weeks ago, someone we knew was giving away a whole bunch of books and let us look through them to see if there were any books we wanted. I pulled out Carry on, Mr. Bowditch because it sounded familiar to me. I decided to read it for this assignment.

The book is written by Jean Lee Latham. I really enjoyed the story, and the best part of all is that it is true! After getting about halfway through the book, I realized that the accomplishments of Nathaniel Bowditch, the book's main character, were a stretch to mix fiction with history, or this guy really did some things that impacted the U.S. I googled his name, and it turns out that he really lived and did the things in the book. I love stories like that!

The story starts in the middle of the American Revolution when Nathaniel, or Nat, was six years old, and follows him through his fifth voyage and his writing of the most accurate book on navigation up to that point. I love how the author portrays history so accurately throughout the story. And throughout the book, she uses people's explanations to the child Nat, or Nat's explanations as an adult, to teach about things in early American life. I learned so much reading that book!

Nat's family falls on some real tough times during the revolution and in the years following when the economy was so bad. Because they are struggling, Nat's father pulls him out of school and has him work in his cooperage. This is pretty discouraging to Nat. Then he ends up being indentured to a ship chandler. One fellow tells him that his life is over, that's he's been becalmed. A friend tells him that he doesn't have to be becalmed. He can sail by ash breeze. Naturally, Nat want's to know what that means.

The friend tells him, "When a ship is becalmed--the wind died down--she can't move--sometimes the sailors break out their oars. They'll row a boat ahead of the ship and tow her. Or they'll carry out anchors and heave them over, and the crew will lean on the capstan bars and drag the ship up to where the anchors are heaved over. Oars are made of ash--white ash. So--when you get ahead by your own get-up-and-get--that's when you sail by ash breeze."

The story of Nat's life is one of sailing by ash breeze. He educates himself and works very hard. He ends up being a scientist, mathematician, navigator, businessman and surveyor. He never stopped working and doing his best, even when times were tough and it didn't seem like he was getting anywhere.

The book won the Newbery medal, and for good reason. It's a fantastic story!

The original reason for this assignment was so that I could read the many children's books in my bookcase that I haven't looked at yet. I wanted to make sure that they were the best books I could get for my kids. One of those books that have sitting on a shelf unread was one called Understood Betsy, by Dorothy Cansfield Fisher.

The story starts with a young girl that's been raised to be a nervous, frightened, dependent child who lives with her aunts. The setting is around the turn of the 20th century. Certain circumstances occur that end up with her being sent to some other relatives who lived on a farm and whom she hasn't ever met. They don't coddle her at all, and they let her do things on her own, teach her to do chores, help her learn to laugh and to be independent. It's a great story!

There are two things that really made me enjoy reading the book. One was the sarcasm that the writer puts in. She has a fun way of telling the story from the viewpoint of a narrator and inserting fun comments. The other thing that I really loved was her imagery and specific details. They were so down-home and real. I grew up on a farm, and her descriptions, while short and to the point, were rich. It brought so many memories of my own childhood.

So, I highly recommend both books. They're fantastic!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Week #4: Interview a homeschool mom

I had a fantastic interview with my sister-in-law, Beth Wright! Originally I was going to post the recording of the interview because I had thought I had done that before. But looking back at some of my old blogs, I realized that all I had posted was video, and I couldn't figure out how to post something that was just audio. Between that and computer trouble, I am a few days late posting this.

So, instead, I'll have to give you some brief highlights. It's too bad you can't hear her tell it for herself because it would be much better that way.

Beth does a terrific job of teaching history. She has broken it up into four segments: ancient, medieval, early modern and modern. She teaches a segment for a year before moving onto the next one. By the time a child graduates from high school, they've gone through all four segments three times, a little more in depth each time. Beth uses Susan Wise Bauer's The Story of the World books for the first four grades, as well as children's encyclopedias and other reference books.

Even cooler, Beth has her kids read literature and study humanities lessons that compliment what their learning in history. She also incorporates the study of world religions, and uses the Bible and Book of Mormon as part of their ancient history unit. I love it!

Something else that I thought was absolutely awesome is their opening exercises every day. They sing, read some literature together, and do some hands-on projects, like painting or playing with clay. She says it gets the kids warmed up and excited for school.

Finally, I was really impressed that her favorite teaching resource was her own curiosity. She loves to continue to learn and research. As I've been learning, that's the best trait in a homeschool mom. She uses the internet and the local library a lot.

She had some great organizational ideas, but if I start writing down every cool thing she said, I might as well just transcribe the whole interview (which would take way too long). So I guess I have to stop.

Thanks for sharing your great ideas, Beth!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Heads up on schedule change

Just to meet my needs better I changed the schedule on the "About me" page. There aren't a ton of changes, but it is different now.

I look forward to sharing what I learn from another homeschool mom at the end of this week! :)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Week #3: Book report

So I finally finished reading Teaching Students to Read Through Their Individual Learning Styles. It was a very interesting book! I learned a lot about why public schools do or don't do certain things, why some kids are successful in public school and why some aren't. I recognized many of the learning style patterns in myself and family members.

The authors divided learning style elements into five categories: environmental, emotional, sociological, physical and psychological. The elements are sound, light, temperature, design (formal or informal); motivation, persistence, responsibility and structure; learning with peers, alone, in pairs, in groups or with an authority figure; perceptual, intake, time and mobility; analytic/global, cerebral preference and reflective/impulsive.

The book identified several reading methods and explained how they complimented what learning style. The authors believe that perceptual strengths and global/analytic ways of thinking are the most important things to consider when selecting reading methods. It mentioned that most kids are global rather than analytic, and that at the age when kids usually learn to read their perceptual strengths are mostly tactile and kinesthetic. Good visual and auditory skills usually develop later.

The authors say that phonics are not a good match for most youngsters because it analytic and for auditory learners. I can see that, as in a public school setting where everyone must learn at the same rate, how that could be a problem. But I honestly believe that phonics and decoding types of reading methods are very important because of the skills you learn.

I am very strongly a visual learner, and I learned to read with phonics. Although I learned to read mostly by memorizing the things my mom taught me, I remembered the principles I was taught and later, it really made a difference for me. I have three siblings that are very tactile and kinesthetic. Two of them learned to read at seven years old, and one learned to read at nine. They all learned with phonics. They're all good readers. One brother recently graduated with his associates in the top 5% of his class from a prestigious school.

In a public school setting, that couldn't happen. Everyone has to learn the same things at the same rate, or they're "behind." That sounds negative. But it shouldn't be. In our society where tolerance is so important, why don't we let people learn how and when they need to?

I loved some of the ideas that the book described to teach reading. I really liked the learning circles, task cards and pic-a-holes. The electroboards are cool, but I wouldn't use them all the time. The book also described how to make programmed learning sequences (which, with current technology, I would make with PowerPoint instead of 3x5 cards), contract activity packages and multisensory instructional packages. The CAPs are really cool because they match most learning styles, can be done independently and encourage motivation, persistence and responsibility.

Overall, I learned a ton about people and learning from reading this book. And it's inspired me to to make a CAP for my personal application project in a few weeks.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Week #3: Book report

Hey, so I started reading this book called Teaching Students to Read Through Their Individual Learning Styles, and it's been taking me longer than I thought it would. I am about a third of the way through it. It is fascinating, but it reads like a scientific journal and is rather technical. I thought about just writing about what I have read so far, but since I'm in charge of my own learning, I decided to give myself another week. So look for the full book report next week!