Monday, June 30, 2008

Tasha Tudor, Former Homeschool Mom

A 92-year-old former homeschool mom passed away last week.

You may have heard of her. Tasha Tudor was an award-winning illustrator of books who was known for her love of the past. For most of her lifetime, she lived as though it were the 1830s instead of the 20th and 21st centuries, shunning modern inventions for a lifestyle very similar to that of the Amish.

Long before it was fashionable, Tasha Tudor homeschooled her four children. She often sketched them as they played and used the illustrations in her work. One of her sons would eventually build her a house, by hand.

I have a lovely book of hers called Take Joy! The Tasha Tudor Christmas Book that is just wonderful. It’s full of Christmas stories, poems, music and recipes, but what makes it so special are the illustrations. They make the book so warm and homey.

Tasha Tudor’s lifestyle did not go unnoticed by members of the homeschooling community, some of whom admire and emulate a similar lifestyle of simplicity and the shunning of modern culture. A while back, Practical Homeschooling Magazine published an article about Tasha Tudor, written by a homeschool mom who once worked with her on a book.

You would probably recognize Tasha Tudor’s work in certain editions of old books that your children might have, including The Secret Garden (HarperClassics) and A Little Princess. You can learn more about her work at the site run by her family, Tasha Tudor and Family.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Homeschooler Gets Full Ride to University of Chicago

Ok, so I'm always reminding (nay, nagging) people to check out each week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling. There's a reason for that: you'll find awesome posts there!

Take this week's edition, for example. Lots of good stuff, but one post in particular stands out for me. A new blogger shares her family's homeschooling journey, which includes the news that her son (a bright guy who scored 35 on his ACT and 2300 on his SAT) has been awarded a full scholarship to the University of Chicago.

In case you don't know, that's not some lame Mickey Mouse college. It's an excellent school with a fantastic reputation. This is a great story that should encourage current and prospective homeschoolers everywhere.

No, I'm not linking to it. Go to the carnival and search for it yourself. Bet you'll find lots of good stuff while you're there. :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Used Homeschool Books blog

Just a reminder that I continue to post a book for sale each day at my other blog, Used Homeschool Books, as I go through the many boxes of books that moved here with us and force myself to part with most of them (we've downsized).

If you especially like vintage textbooks, scroll through the posts...there are still a few left. (Books that have been sold have a notation in red at the end of the post, where the price had been.)

There are also some more recent books. Tomorrow's book is a pretty popular one, so don't miss that post! You can subscribe to the blog by email if you want to be among the first to see each book as it's posted. You can also look up books by topic using the labels on the right side of the blog.

The Perils of Using the Internet for Research, and the Solution

In Scotland, a parent-teacher organization is blaming the Internet and specifically Wikipedia for the falling test scores of Scottish children.

Let's set aside the discussion of test scores; that's a huge issue in itself, and one I don't want to go into right now. It's the rise of the Internet and the way kids have figured out how to use it to their perceived advantage that interests me.

When I was in college, one of the so-called advantages of the Greek (fraternity/sorority) system was that its members had access to the completed tests and essays of past members. Thus they could memorize test answers instead of learning what was presented in class, and re-type the essays of others inside of writing their own. This saved those students all sorts of work; we who were not "Greek" felt it was an unfair advantage. But the bottom line was that these students didn't learn anything because they didn't have to read the assigned books, nor did they learn via the process of assembling information and giving it back to their professors in the form of essays.

I imagine that frat house filing cabinets are collecting dust now that kids have the Internet. There are sites where they can go to find prewritten, high-graded essays that they can pass off as their own, thanks to the cut-and-paste function.

And for the times when they actually have to do their own research and writing, there are sites like Wikipedia. Savvy teachers probably check Wikipedia's take on the assigned topic before they correct the essays so that they can tell who's been playing cut-and-paste there. But this doesn't solve the problem, which is that kids are wasting their time and not learning anything, at least not much that's accurate.

One solution to this would be to require kids to write their essays while in the school library or classroom, using the books and materials available there, with no Internet access. With a tool like the Neo (which I own and highly recommend), students could type their essays and never get near a computer.

For homeschoolers, this is much simpler. We can supervise our kids more easily than a teacher can keep tabs on thirty kids. By requiring our kids to use printed matter only for research, they will learn the material and develop writing skills in the process, because we've removed the temptation of the Internet.

But printed matter can be dated, and we've become accustomed to the immediacy of the Internet. Isn't there some way to take advantage of that immediacy?

The good news is that there is. By requiring our kids to use primary sources and reputable secondary sources, we can avoid the problems that are going on where kids are allowed to use Wikipedia and other sites that have proven to be inaccurate.

On the Internet, primary sources are sites where the information is first generated. For example, for the activities of our president, kids can visit Further government info can be found at For government statistics on employment and information on the labor market, go to

Secondary sources are trusted entities that access primary sources. A large city newspaper like The New York Times or the Chicago Tribune is considered a secondary source. Newspapers are not as trusted as they once were; recent cases of lying reporters have tarnished their image, and budget cuts have forced them to reduce the number of editors who check on the sources used by reporters. Still, quoting a large newspaper should be considered fairly accurate, and certainly much better than Wikipedia.

This is not to say that Wikipedia is not useful. I've allowed my teen daughter to use it as a jumping-off point, as it gives her a quick briefing on a topic. But she is then required to back up what she finds with research from trustworthy sources.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sympathy for the Teachers

I know, you think I've lost my mind. I'm the one usually posting articles about abusive, crazy or pedophile teachers. And yet today I'm offering sympathy to teachers.

There certainly are bad teachers out there. I suffered through many of them during my years of incarceration, er, public school. But I'm aware that there are some good teachers who struggle to help kids within the framework of a flawed system.

A couple of them are friends of mine, and the one consistent thing I hear from them is that parents can often be harder to deal with than students or administration. One friend has actually gotten into shouting matches with angry parents who want her to raise their children's grades even though the children have not put forth the effort required for higher grades.

But even if some American parents cross the line when it comes to being obnoxious to their children's teachers, apparently Japanese parents are even worse. Read this article and see if you don't feel even a little sorry for teachers in Japan.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wanted: Common Sense

Are we raising children with common sense?

The ability to think for yourself based on what you see going on around you is not as common as its name would suggest. And when it's purposely snuffed out, as adjunct college professor AWR Hawkins suggests in this essay in American Thinker, the result is this:

Our society as a whole seems to have accepted the mental framework which holds as a maxim the idea that we are not allowed to know what we know; rather, we are only allowed to know what we are told. As a result of this, although common, decent, everyday people see their beloved culture eroding and intuitively sense that something is not right, they dare not declare that this downward cultural slide is wrong. Instead, they just keep their mouths shut, without realizing they are keeping their minds shut as well. In the end, others speak for us, and this explains everything from our over-reliance on the judicial system to our dependence upon experts for many everyday decisions.

If Hawkins is on target, then raising kids with common sense is simply a matter of what you don't do: you don't snuff out individual thought, but instead encourage it. You don't insist on going to experts but instead urge your children to educate themselves. And you can't insist that B is true when all the child has to do is open his eyes and look around to see that, in fact, A is the real truth. By doing so, they won't end up like Hawkins' students:

My students, and with few exceptions the students of my colleagues, are the fruits of a garden planted with the intention of producing only identical fruit. As a guarantee to that end, the plants in this garden have been pruned of their trust in innate knowledge, i.e., common sense.

Common sense used to be common. I'm hoping that homeschoolers will help make it the norm again.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

This Week's Carnival of Homeschooling: Let's Go to the Movies!

This week's carnival has a great theme: "Let's Go to the Movies!" I love how she has mixed the movie quotes with the posts. Speaking of the posts, there's quite a variety this week. So be sure to make time to visit the Carnival of Homeschooling over at Apollos Academy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Skydiver with Down syndrome

This is the coolest story about a young man with Down syndrome who loves to go skydiving. (Gulp!) The video, in particular, is just so good. The joy in Casey's face is just wonderful to see.

For those of us who have kids with disabilities, hearing about adults like this encourages us, even if we'd rather not see any of our kids, disabled or not, go skydiving.

(Hat tip to Ann M.)

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Newsletter is Up

I sent out the June newsletter right before I took the week off, so I didn't get a chance to post the link to it here until now. If you're a subscriber who doesn't check your email very often, be aware that this was your last issue if you haven't already renewed.

To renew your subscription, just fill out the form you'll find here. If you're new to the newsletter and want to subscribe, you can use the same form. All renewing and new subscribers will receive our latest special report, "Ten Tips for Coping with Temperamental Teens," once they confirm their subscription.

The next issue won't be out until mid-to-late July because I'm working on a new book and need to dedicate some time to it. I don't usually do monthly newsletters in the summer because most people are so busy with things besides homeschooling anyway.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Bit of Gatto Before I Go

Children learn what they live.
Put kids in a class and they will live out their lives in an invisible cage, isolated from their chance at community;
interrupt kids with bells and horns all the time and they will learn that nothing is important;
force them to plead for the natural right to the toilet and they will become liars and toadies;
ridicule them and they will retreat from human association;
shame them and they will find a hundred ways to get even.
The habits taught in large-scale organizations are deadly.

That's by John Taylor Gatto, and he cuts right to the chase, doesn't he? Here's a quote from a review of one of his books over at Amazon:

I wish I'd read this while I was in school; I'd have seen then that there was something wrong with the system, not me.

That's heartbreaking. How many adults were wounded by school when they were children? Gatto knows. He taught in the public schools for thirty years. When he was given the New York State Teacher of the Year award, his acceptance speech (pdf) was not exactly what they were expecting! It was a criticism of the institution of school.

I'm thinking about Gatto today because I mention him in a new article just posted to my Web site. I also have plans to re-read a lot of Gatto this summer.

Summer for me officially begins on Saturday, because tomorrow is our last day of school until after Labor Day. I plan on starting off my summer with a week off of work (that means this keyboard), so I won't be posting here for about ten days....if I can stay away. ;)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Don't Miss the Carnival!

Tami's got a great collection of posts over at this week's Carnival of Homeschooling. Whether you're looking for homeschooling information, encouragement or both, you won't want to miss this!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

There's More to Education Than Smarts

Homeschoolers have developed quite a reputation for being smart. After all, they're winning spelling and geography bees, and colleges are actively recruiting them.

But it's not enough to be smart. I think a look around our society these days shows there is a great lack of good moral character. Think of the people who make the news with their bad behavior: celebrities having affairs and using drugs, corporate CEOs making off with millions while leaving employees and shareholders to suffer, and politicians spending their spare time misbehaving in public restrooms.

Once in a while, the fact that these are immoral behaviors is pointed out. Take an excerpt from this article, for example, describing what happens when a GM stockholder attends the company's lavish annual meeting:

According to an Associated Press calculation, GM chairman and chief executive officer Rick Wagoner received compensation valued at $15.7 million for 2007, up 64 percent from the previous year.

"I came to scold you for your greed," Mary Ann Wiley of Seattle told Wagoner.

Wiley, 77, said she has owned General Motors Corp. stock for 70 years, but that Tuesday marked her first annual meeting. Wiley said afterward that GM has moved far too slowly in developing new and better products and embracing next-generation fuels, and that management should not receive higher salaries and bonuses when the company is struggling.

"If the company does not do well, management should take an equal hit, and I don't think they've taken an equal hit," she said, adding that GM has grown so big that it has lost its humility and its "sense of democracy," not caring about shareholder concerns.

"This was a charade," said Wiley, looking out over the ornate Gold Ballroom of the Hotel DuPont, where GM has held its annual meetings for more than a decade.

"I would suggest they have a stockholder meeting at a factory," she said. "They don't need to rent the DuPont hotel."

Mind you, this is a company that sustained a $38.7 billion loss last year, and just today laid off thousands of people in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and yet its CEO had no qualms about accepting a 64% raise. Bravo for people like Mary Ann Wiley, who is not afraid to confront this man and this company.

We need leaders in business and politics who do not put themselves first, but instead try to make things better for everyone. If we can educate our kids to be ethical and moral as well as great spellers, we will have done right by them, and also by our country.