1/21/2012

Top 10 Reasons to Homeschool

How can I be a public school teacher and yet also a fan of homeschooling? As I see it, there's no conflict. Our public/private schools provide an absolutely essential social safety net, ensuring that all children - no matter how constrained their family circumstances - receive an education sufficient to allow them to function as adults and citizens in this increasingly complex world. But for those families that have the option and the passion to homeschool, there are so many potential benefits.  Here are some of them (in no particular order):
  1. Learn at Your Own Pace.  Public schools are constrained by their mission to deliver content that is aligned with a child's physical age. However, that's not how humans develop. Kids mature, both physically and cognitively, at different rates. Homeschooling allows you to accelerate, decelerate, or otherwise modify your curriculum to suit your child's cognitive readiness, free from the pressures inevitably exerted by standardized tests, teachers, and peers.
  2. Choose Your Own Instructional Strategy. There are so many pedigogical methods (styles of instruction - for example, Socratic, classical, Montesorri, etc.), each offering different and potentially exciting way to engage your child in learning. Homeschooling allows you to choose the pedigogical method that best suits your child ... or, better yet, to "mix and match" the best of several methods, creating a pedigogical approach customized to your child's learning style and intelligences.
  3. Values.  This often means "Christian values" when it comes to the current homeschooling community, but I use the term in a much larger context. Every family has values - whether it's a belief in hard work, healthy/sustainable living, living for the moment, or caring for your family, your church, your community, or your world. Homeschooling is an opportunity to infuse those values not just into your child's life, but also into their curriculum. (And if one of your values happens to be spending quality time together as a family, homeschooling is definitely a step in the right direction!)
  4. Scheduling/Quality of Life.  School is more than an intellectual constraint on your child; it's also a physical constraint on the family. Does your child have a vocation or passion that requires extra classes, lessons, or practices? Would you like to be able to expose your child to museums, natural wonders, historical sites - attractions that are typically open during school hours? Do you want to be able to travel as a family whenever you want - not just during the summer or spring break? Homeschooling allows you to wake up, eat, learn, take field trips, and vacation when you want - not when a school schedule dictates.
  5. Efficiency. Guess what? Homeschooling is efficient! Without lines and locker time, buses and set schedules, students are able to spend just as much time as they need on their academics - leaving all that time left over for other things.
  6. Authentic, Experiential Learning. Why do we teach our children to use textbooks, only to prepare them for careers and responsibilities that don't come with textbooks? Homeschooling allows students to learn from authentic materials, firsthand observation, and personal experience ... in short, the ways in which we, as adults, continue to learn throughout our lives.
  7. Functional Skills.  Schools may do a decent job of teaching kids to be scholars, but they do a less consistent job of teaching kids to be mature and responsible adults. Homeschooling allows you to infuse critical functional skills - such as cooking, paying bills, working, and maintaining a household - into your child's curriculum.
  8. Social Skills. I know - this is more typically offered as an argument against homeschooling! But what's natural about learning your social skills in a building inhabited by 900 people who are exactly your same age and maturity level? The world is a much more complex place, and the sooner children learn to interact with the real world in real contexts, the better.
  9. Electives. Life is too short to limit a child's interests to only 2 electives per semester! Homeschooling allows you to expose your child to multiple non-academic interests at one time.
  10. Make Your Child Responsible for their Own Learning.  Do your child a favor; make them responsible for their own learning as children, and they'll continue to learn for the rest of their lives.  With apologies in advance for butchering a timeless (and timely) quote: Give a child a fish and they'll eat for a day; teach a child to fish and they'll eat for the rest of their lives. In a world that is becoming exponentially more complex every decade, is there any more important gift you can give your child than the gift of lifelong learning?

1/14/2012

60+ Reasons Why Men Have it Better Than Women


Standing in yet another long line to access the ladies room at a public venue, some of the ladies and I began discussing the advantages of being a man in this society -  one of the foremost being that because they have an "express lane" option, men almost never have to loiter in long bathroom lines making conversation with a bunch of women waiting desperately to pee.

Below is a list of some of the insights that we came up with that night, combined with other suggestions I've picked up from friends and the web. My conclusion, with which James Brown would agree: "It's a man's world".
  1. Express line in public bathrooms
  2. No one expects you to wrap presents
  3. You don't have to plan the wedding
  4. No one notices if your wallets don't match your shoes
  5. Car salesmen don't condescend to you
  6. Haircuts take 5 minutes
  7. You can wear a white teeshirt to a waterpark
  8. You can enjoy a drink at a bar without getting hit on
  9. Grey hair and wrinkles make you look more distinguished
  10. 3 pairs of shoes are plenty
  11. When it comes to best friends, dogs are cheaper than diamonds
  12. No matter how long the trip, all you need is one suitcase
  13. You can hang out at bars without getting hit on
  14. People look at your face, not your chest, when they talk to you
  15. On hot days you can go topless
  16. What do I wear tonight? Suit, suit, or suit?
  17. You still get toys for Christmas
  18. Your shoes fit
  19. No pantyhose
  20. The world is your urinal
  21. Whole summer blockbuster movie season is for your benefit
  22. You gets sports channels; we get cooking channels
  23. People don't look surprised when you're good at math
  24. You never have to figure out how to use a tampon
  25. A friend is anyone who roots for the same team you do
  26. You can pee standing up
  27. No one expects you to write thank you letters
  28. No pink toys
  29. Movies don't need to be intelligent to be entertaining
  30. One swimsuit is plenty
  31. Career choices include cowboy, explorer, and pirate
  32. You don't have to lose weight before class reunions and weddings
  33. Bachelor parties are way more fun than bachelorette parties
  34. You can sit down in a chair without crossing your legs
  35. You can walk outside alone after dark
  36. Las Vegas
  37. No makeup
  38. Your tux doesn't make you look fat
  39. Dressing up for a party takes 10 minutes
  40. You can open your own jars
  41. No one expects you to order the salad
  42. When you sleep with more than one person, you're a player, not a slut
  43. Everyone knows how to spell your first name
  44. No morning sickness
  45. No bras
  46. You only have to shave one thing
  47. You don't have to be twice as smart as everyone else to get promoted
  48. No one expects you to look good in the morning
  49. You can wear hats without having to worry about hat-head
  50. You can change a tire without having to worry about breaking a nail
  51. Girls don't beg you to make out with your best friend
  52. No tan lines
  53. No hot wax
  54. Whether you choose boxes or briefs, they're both a heck of a lot more comfortable than a g-string
  55. Colleges want you (to balance out all the women)
  56. You make more money for doing the same work
  57. No line at fitting rooms
  58. No piercing required
  59. Friends only call when they have a reason
  60. You can travel overseas unescorted
  61. No one suspects you of having slept your way to the top
  62. Your sports teams are taken seriously
  63. Hallmark commercials don't make you cry
  64. You get Ginger or MaryAnne; we get Gilligan, the Skipper, or Mr. Howell

1/10/2012

Book Look - Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton



This book reminded me forcefully of the Greek tragedies one reads in college. From the very first pages you can see the calamity coming, but there's nothing anyone can do - not Ethan Frome, the tragic hero of this tale; not the tale's author, Edith Wharton; and certainly not the reader - to prevent it from unfolding.


Like a short story, the novel limits itself to just a few characters, a single plot, and a single theme - one even older than Greek tragedy: Ethan Frome, a simple Massachusetts farmer, finds himself married to one woman but in love with another.

You see the tragedy coming because such tales never come to a good end in real life either.

Frome's tragic flaw (Aristotle requires a fatal flaw, after all) is one that most of us probably share - believing that we have some sort of right to happiness. Alas, as this tale reminds us, fate doesn't always work that way.

Edith Wharton delivers the tale starkly, handing the narrative over to her characters and then stepping back to let them tell the tale in their own way. This has the effect of intensifying the feeling of mounting dread, because it eliminates, early on, any hope or expectation of intervention by an empathetic narrator. And since this isn't actually a Greek drama, there isn't much hope of divine intervention either.

If catharsis is as good for your soul as the Greeks posited, then you're bound to feel thoroughly cleansed after this well-crafted but bleak tale.