Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Homeschooling and Capitals

It occurred to me today that one of the reasons to homeschool is to be able to answer the "Why do we have to learn this?" question with, "You're absolutely right, we don't."

Take state capitals. Is there anyone who loves memorizing them? Does it actually have a purpose other than proving you know them? I genuinely think there is no reason to know state capitals other than the state you live in, or if you're traveling to another state with the specific purpose of visiting its capital as a stop on the visit. Seriously. The purpose of this memorization is to have something concrete to test. If I ask you, "What's the most important/influential city in California?" .... most people would answer Los Angeles. But arguments could be made for San Francisco, or even San Diego. But Sacramento is an easy right or wrong answer. Which one is more useful for understanding the history of California? Do I want to teach facts or understanding? Do I get a better understanding of Florida by learning about Talahassee or Miami? My own state, the only claim to fame that Olympia actually has is the government and a history of watery beer.

I promise, there are indeed things that will get resistance from the student, and overruled. But the only use for capitals is tests in school, and looking smart on Jeopardy.

Monday, February 13, 2012

You must really love me!

What a great talk today.

Shannon and I spent about 20 minutes talking about spoiled kids, good/bad parenting, and the sense of entitlement. Did you see the video that went viral last week of the Southern dad (didn't say what state, maybe Texas?) who went on a rant because of his daughter's post on Facebook about how awful her life was? So much so that he eventually shot her laptop? I showed it to Shannon, and we talked about it. First, I had to pause the video after he read his daughter's letter. I asked her what she thought of the girl, was it fair that her parents asked her to do so much around the house? Then I continued it and we talked more at the end. We also (today) worked in examples from books she reads and, sadly, real life friends she has.

She actually asked me to make sure she never became a spoiled kid. She said she was pretty sure she wasn't one, that she didn't feel like it, but wanted to make sure. I laughed, and said that in a way, she sort of was a spoiled kid, I don't say 'no' to her very often, but that she almost never asks for unreasonable things, so there's not a lot of reason to say 'no.' I love having a daughter who doesn't have an acquisitive bone in her body.  I did warn  her, though, that it was funny to hear her beg me to make sure she didn't end up spoiled: that the only way to do that was to wait for her to ask for something and then deny it, and she probably wouldn't like that much. She laughed.

We also talked about how many kids only seem to feel their parents love them when they get expensive toys/gadgets, etc. Seven year olds with iPods. The friend who scorns my Kindle Touch because it's not a Fire like hers is. I shared with her the website of last Christmas's Twitter feed of all the teens whose lives were ruined, RUINED I TELL YOU, because they didn't get an iPhone. Or the wrong iPhone. Shannon's comment? "Parents have rights, too, and that stuff is really expensive. No wonder they didn't get it."

How did I end up with such a level-headed kiddo? Is there hope that 13-16 might not actually be a nightmare?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Math and applied imagination

Shannon had an odd assignment yesterday. She's reading The BFG, by Roald Dahl, and in it, a 24-foot giant is the main character. (he's a puny wimp compared to the 50-foot giants he lives with, but that's beside the point) Her worksheet yesterday involved having her step into one of the scenes from the book and pretend that she's hosting the giant for a visit. The giant is four times as large as a normal 6-foot man, so most of the things he'll need will also need to be multiplied by four.... how long should his bed be? What would you give him for a pillow, and how big will it be? She was supposed to take most things that she'd need, multiply them by four, and give the answer. She had no problems doing that for straight measuring stuff. But then it went on to talk about how much the giant would eat, and assumed the child would do the same thing. How many slices of pizza? How big a glass of milk? I had told her to use her imagination and pretend she was really hosting the giant for a few days. Luckily, she talked through her answers as she filled out the worksheet.

You see, just because a giant is four times as tall, does not mean he's going to eat four times as much. He'll probably eat a lot more than that. We had JUST covered doubling area and perimeters in math in the previous few days. She quickly caught on as a given that in order to double a rectangle's area, you only double one dimension, NOT both. So she instinctively took that knowledge to this literature assignment. It was quite obvious to her that 4 slices of toast would not be enough, even if 1 slice of toast would be OK for her. She felt the giant would drink 5 gallons of milk even if she can't drink a gallon. The square-cube law is totally instinctive for her, and you know what? She's right. She also used the logic that the giant had been eating snozzcumbers most of his life, and would probably love real food so much that he'd pig out and eat even MORE than he would "normally." And you know what? She's probably right there, too. She even went so far as to answer the last question the following way: "How much popcorn would the giant need?" "This is getting way too spendy, he doesn't need any."  I loved it.

So, because she answered (almost) all her questions in complete sentences and walked me through the logic she used, I decided not to "correct" her work and scold her for not simply deciding a "normal" amount and multiplying by four. Sometimes, the joy of homeschooling is combining topics and showing children that math doesn't just live in a mathbook. But sometimes, it's also OK to live in the moment and not require everything to be just so.