Monday, June 30, 2008

Counting down and some Haleyisms...

Haley is a kid who loves to count down. She counts down to her birthday, to Christmas, to vacation (hey, I wonder where she got that from?). Anyway, she will start her countdowns some 100+ days out and never forget to ask or tell me some time during the day "How many days?" It has become a running joke in the family over whether or not the day you are currently in or the day of the actual event should be counted. I tend to not count get a lower number and seems like less waiting.

Now we are 2 days out from our Western adventure/vacation (1 if you ask me). Hooray!! Everything is packed and waiting to go into the car.

Here are a few recent Haleyisms. I used to keep track of these in my journal because when she was little we had so many...

"shuckle"- getting the husk off an ear of corn.
"perbert"- a man who marries a woman half his age (we were watching a movie and she noticed this phenomenon.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Another wonderful article...

I love this article since it focuses on those things the tests can't tell you about abilities and intelligence!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Article on giftedness...

This article came on a couple lists I frequent and I thought it was interesting though I didn't agree with it, per se....

I had a few problems with this article...I think there are some differences between prodigious abilities in sports and those in music or academics. Great adult athletes were not always the greatest child athletes. Their bodies may not have matured as quickly as others, they may not have had a drive as child athletes, and many child athletes burn out due to adult pressures and expectations (okay maybe there are some similarities there). Some music abilities such as identification of pitch need to be obtained with early training. An adult beginning music study may or may not ever develop perfect pitch.

I, personally, don't think that accomodating gifted students/kids is about creating prodigies or Nobel prize winners or the next Mozart. When my kids read at 3-4 yo, I didn't automatically think that I was going to create the next Nobel prize winner and when Haley began to show advanced musical ability, my goal was not to create the next Mozart. My main goal has always been to give my kids what they need and teach them where they are so that they can develop to be their best, love learning, and become happy, fulfilled adults.

I also think there is a much broader definition of success than those in this article would accept. They considered the people with over 150 IQ as not having obtained success because they didn't become Noble prizewinners or make huge contributions to some field of study. Many of them did get advanced degrees and go on to work in the field of their chosing. By the standards considered in the article, I am a failure. I "only" work part-time and chose to put my efforts into homeschooling and mothering my kids. I am happy with my life and am raising 3 great kids. To me, that is success.

I agree that a precocious child may not grow into a successful adult. There are so many other factors such as internal motivation, hard work, and a bit of luck that often factor in more than innate ability. I do think that those who absorb information faster and understand more complex concepts at a younger age need a faster pace in academics. I think the problem comes when adult expectations put pressure on those young minds. My kids may never be Nobel prize winners or world class athletes or play at Carnegie Hall but they will have spent their young years learning at the pace that suited their individual needs, be equipped with all the tools they need to pursue whatever goals become their dreams, and will have parents behind them who will support them no matter what they determine to be their "success."

The author of the article compares gifted issues to sports issues. I think his comparison is wrong. I know of no school district who cuts back on their football budget and team try-outs for fear that some kids will be disappointed and not make it to a pro career. Unfortunately, when it comes to giftedness in academics or music, many schools around the country are cutting budgets (or have no funding to cut) and neglecting gifted kids.

So, how do I think we protect our kids from pressure, disappointment, or burnout...

We allow each child to work with and expand whatever gifts they have whether they be academic, musical, athletic, leadership, etc... We teach them at the pace they work best no matter what they are learning. We, as parents, need to be careful not to mistake our goals for our child for their goals/needs putting unnecessary pressures on them and we should also be careful in how we phrase our comments to our we tell them they performed well because they worked hard or do we tell them they did well because they are more gifted than the next child. Kids have no control over their inborn ability level but they can control the amount of effort they put into their activities which may help them to deal with disappointments in a more resilient way.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Homeschooling Survey Questions...

A member of one of the lists I frequent is trying to do a survey on homeschooling families so I thought I would participate by answering her questions...

Why do you homeschool? I homeschool for a variety of reasons now. Initially, I began homeschooling for lack of a better option for my bright, then 4yo. He was too young to go into public school K but was already reading novels intended for much older children. The preschool he had attended (which went to 8th grade) offered to take him early to K but the cost was exorbitant and they hadn't done anything to allow him to work to his potential in preschool so I couldn't see spending a ton of money, giving them his best learning times (mornings), and still have to afterschool him for any new learning to occur. Now, I homeschool because it works for my kids, it fits our lifestyle, and I love doing it. I want them to be excited and love learning rather than being forced to fit their learning into someone else's ideas of what they should know and when.

What technique or curriculum do you use? I loosely follow the Well Trained Mind as far as history and science rotations and including the same subjects. My boys are older and are classically educated more than my youngest who I do with a more child-led approach. We use Saxon for math, Rosetta Stone for Spanish, Lightning Literature (oldest), World History:The Human Odyssey plus History Portfolio, and frequently use Teaching Company DVDs. I use a variety of other resources but I'm not going to list them all (may have listed them here and there in my blog).

Do your kids work above or below grade level (or both!)? All 3 kids work above grade level anywhere from 2-5 years accelerated depending on subject.

What is your educational level? I have a master's degree in physical therapy

Do you feel this has an effect on your teaching (both limits and abilities)? I think my job (working with under 3yo children) affects my teaching in that I am good at being flexible, making changes, teaching each child where they are without having preconceived notions of what they should learn and how quickly. Someone once told me that you get the kids you were supposed to have...which gives us the intelligence to research, read about, and understand issues we aren't familiar with. Do I think that someone with less intelligence or less education can do a good job homeschooling their own children? The answer is yes.

What does your daily schedule look like? We don't have a daily schedule, per se because every day is different. The boys generally finish all schoolwork by noon-1pm with afternoons left for music practice or lessons, reading, and free time. My dd does schoolwork for an hour or two in the mornings. Mondays are her music days with fiddle then violin lessons so she does school in the car. Everyone does school 4 days a week from Sept-June and 3 days a week June-August with a decreased workload. Fridays are cleaning, catch up on unfinished schoolwork, or follow your own interests day.

Are your kids always polite and ready to learn? (*snicker*) My kids are polite in public but not always in the safety of their own home. LOL Are they always ready to learn? No.

Do the kids (or you!) get frustrated? Yes, there are those days when things don't go as planned for whatever reason. There are days when I can't be everywhere at once and everyone needs help making them frustrated with me and me with them. Luckily there are less of these days than the good days.

How has this affected your parenting? Homeschooling has made me a very involved parent. I know my kids. I know what they know. I know what they have difficulty with. I know their friends. I also know them well enough to know when I don't have to be involved in their lives... when they are able to handle a certain experience on their own (when I can be more hands-off). We are a close family. I love spending time with my kids.

How much free time do they have? They have most afternoons free and generally weekends with practices intermingled and during wrestling season less free weekend time because of the tournament schedule.

What do they do during their free time? They play outside: ride bikes, play on the swingset, fish or canoe on the pond. Pursue their hobbies (next question). Play video games or go on computer.

What hobbies do they have? Oldest: wrestling, fishing, drums, tying flies, judo Middle: judo, guitar, tying flies, woodworking Youngest: violin, fiddle, soccer

What difficulties and challenges do you have with homeschooling? Funds often limit the resources I am able to obtain. There are so many great things out there I would like...lab equipment, DVD lectures, etc... Finding them friends to play with is sometimes a problem...we haven't really found a homeschooling group that we fit in with in our area.

What makes homeschooling enjoyable? Spending time with my kids and seeing them learn and grow knowing that I played a large part in it. Also, knowing that I am doing everything I can do to help them grow into happy, mature adults.

How do you get involved in the community? We do a neighborhood clean-up on our pond (just our family but benefits the community). They play together (their own Celtic band) at a couple small locations. Dd plays violin monthly for residents at a retirement home.

When do you have opportunities to interact with public or privately schooled children? The kids interact with other kids at sports practices and games, in the neighborhood while playing with friends, and at Sunday school. My dd played a private concert at a small public school for K through 6th graders and answered questions from them about her playing and music. She also has a Suzuki group every week and plays with a Celtic group monthly.

Would you like more of these opportunties? I would like more opportunities maybe them being allowed to take a class or two in the public school as they get older or be involved in school based extra curricular activities.

How can they be created? I know some school districts allow homeschoolers to participate in school activities...mine does not though I have asked. Maybe state-wide laws could make it an available option since we pay school taxes like everyone else even though we chose to not avail ourselves of the service.

What is your least favorite homeschool stereotype? :-) I dislike most stereotypes. The differences in homeschooling families and homeschoolers are as numerous as the number of families doing it. I guess my least favorite is that homeschoolers are unsocialized (lacking in social skills). My own kids are proof that this is false. They are all outgoing and can hold up their end of a conversation with anyone no matter what age. They tend to take leadership roles in play and sports. My brother and his wife are considering homeschooling their future children (first one due in November) as a result of spending time with mine and seeing how well it is working for us.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Homemade Guitar...

Dylan and Daddy worked all day yesterday making a home-made electric guitar in a depression era style. They used a cigar box, some wood, a $5 pick-up, some strings, and knobs to adjust/tune them. In total the cost was about $25.
Now, Dylan is my child who never enjoys reading or doing school but yesterday he had to plan, measure, budget, read instructions, and read the history of this type of guitar. Because it was interesting to him, he remembered everything he read and taught it to his siblings and I.
They got the idea off youtube. He spent the evening looking at video of people playing theirs and making up his own music, even asking Haley to join in with her violin doing some improv. It sounds really neat in a blues sort of way. He plays it with a thumb pick to strum and a small piece of pipe on the finger that is hitting the non-existent frets. It's really cool and provided a great day of unschool-like learning for my most reluctant learner.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

What a week!!!

This has been an amazing week for my musicians. On Wednesday, Newt had a double drum lesson so I had a half hour to kill with Haley and Dylan before Dyl's guitar lesson. We walked a few storefronts down and found a small deli which also has a stage and has live music in the evenings.
We went in and I bought them some ice cream cones. Haley licked hers and the entire top flopped onto the floor! As I was cleaning it up, Dylan proceeded to walk to the back where two men were sitting talking and began discussing the sound equipment and asking about their music nights, etc...
It turns out they were the owners of the place. They asked what he was carrying (Haley's violin because it was too hot to leave it in the car) then wanted to hear her play. She played them a couple tunes and they gave her a new icecream cone and asked the kids to come back and play on Thursday night during "Open Mic Night."
Thursday, Haley gave a concert at a small elementary school (55 students in K through 6th grade). She played a few classical pieces, they asked her questions for awhile, then she played a number of fiddle tunes. She was so mature announcing her songs and answering the questions. She must have been a little nervous because she forgot how to start a couple songs. The amazing thing was that it didn't slow her for more than a second. She quickly recovered and played a different piece in it's place. The kids really enjoyed the event..many walked out telling their teachers they were going to ask their parents for violin lessons. Haley was so charged up by it all. She loved every minute of it!!! On the way home, she said she can't wait to do another event like that. They gave her a card one of the students had made to thank her and also a gift card to Toys R Us. She will also be in a local paper which she is so excited about.
Thursday evening we took the kids over to the deli/coffeehouse for "Open Mic Night." They were the first act after the MC played a few pieces on guitar. Everyone watching was astounded at how at ease they were in front of the crowd and how easy Haley made fiddling look.
When they had finished and packed up, we stayed to watch a few of the other acts. As the next act finished, the owner of the place walked in with his parents. He had invited them to come specifically to see Haley and the boys play. He asked them to play again. This time there was a bigger crowd. They did such a great job. After they finished he told me they are welcome to come any time. He would even give them their own night where only they would play, bring in press if we wanted, or even host an event to benefit a charity of their choice if we want.