Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Unschooling : How Good Morning America Got It All Wrong according to Lee Stranahan

I found a link to an interesting article on Alasandra's Homeschool Blog. Since my reply to the article and post turned out to be so lengthy I decided to do it on my on blog. Alasandra, with her amazing skill at finding interesting articles, posts and other information did it again. Thank You!

While the article was certainly well written and witty at times I noticed the fact that Mr. Stranahan noted how his son enrolled and successfully caught up with his 7th grade peers in public school. What shocked and dismayed me that the youth was unfamiliar with basic math concepts such as long division etc. Fortunately he was able to catch up. I wonder though, would Mr.Stranahan have taken him out of public school again if his son had struggled with the lessons and not been able to catch up? Would he have realized at that time that while the youth had in many regards undoubtedly a well rounded education he was lacking some important mathematical concepts he would have to be able to use in real life later on? Would he have abandoned some of the unschooling method he employed to fill those glaring gaps in education ? Kudos to the child for being able to do so and a fair amount of luck too.

I went to a German Waldorf school from 3rd grade through 8th grade until we switched countries in '84. I had to learn English and eventually enrolled in a very good private school. I was lucky to be admitted for 8th grade in '86 in February. I did awfully in the finals which were only a few months later. When they promoted me to 9th grade due to my age I refused. I insisted that if I were to have any chance at all I would need to repeat 8th grade as I had seen that a lot of key highschool academia was taught then and I had missed it all. Waldorf, while a cozy, feel good, kumbaya sort of a school failed to provide me with a strong basic science and math background. I had a great art background. Music, art, history... I loved and aced it all. But I lacked a thorough basic science education. That basic science background was taught at the other school 6th grade onwards. I struggled on and eventually did alright in Math, fabulously in Biology (which I loved) and abysmally in Chemistry which to this day I don't really get. My first day of school saw me getting into trouble with Mrs. Singhdeo, the geography teacher, when she asked me what the atmosphere was made up of. I innocently answered 'AIR'. She though I was being a smartass because the whole class errupted in giggles. I was in 8th grade and had never learned what the atmosphere surrounding our planet really consisted of. But man, I knew how to make beautiful candles. I knew how to grow wheat, grind it and make bread. I knew how to make lovely dolls, I could play Bach, Mozart and other composers works on various instruments. Watercolor painting, knitting and sewing, carpentry, woodworking, pottery, it was all right up my alley. But a simple question about Earth Science left me floundering and pissing off annoying a teacher on day one.  And Mrs. Singhdeo was not a woman to be triffled with. What I am driving at here is the fact that Mr. S. was goshdarned lucky that his son was able to catch up. Actually his son was luckiest of all. It turns out that I love biology and medicine. I read college level biology and some medical books while still in highschool. Just for the fun of it. Had it not been for the fact that I thought Chemistry was magic and never to be comprehended by my puny mind I would, undoubtedly, have gone into medicine.

While I condemn GMA for their hack-job journalism in the case at hand I must state a clear reservation when it comes to pure unschooling. I imagine that almost all homeschooling parents indulge in a bit of unschooling. We did this morning. The children went (unplanned) outside with their sketch books and sketched some plants in our backyard. Then they came in, learned about them and wrote about them. Now, while this is all very nice and they had a blast, how many unschooled kids will ask to learn necessary skills such as long division, algebra and fractions? I learned from my example that my children must be taught a variety of subjects, even the ones that don't always appear to be the most fun. To do otherwise would limit their future.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Product Review and No ! I am not getting paid for it.

My daughter has a severly defective skin barrier. Her skin was always dry to the point of me vaccuuming her bed in the morning because of the 'snow'.  We used to go through about a 1 lb container of Vanicream every 3 weeks in addition to other lotions, potions, oils, creams, medications etc. And then about 2 months ago we found Aveeno Intense Relief Repair Cream. Since it cost as much as the Vanicream and we had a basket full of all kinds of creams etc we decided to try it. Her skin since then improved by about 90%. It is fragrance free and unscented which is a must for us due to allergies to that as well.  This stuff is UNBELIEVABLE.  I have to write them about it because we are absolutely terrified they'll stop manufacturing it. That stuff has truly helped to change the quality of her life. The skin remains well moisturized even hours after application. It doesn't burn her sensitive skin and absorbs cleanly.  I told the nurse at the Pediatric Pulmonary and Allergy Clinic of Iowa University Hospital about it too. My washing machine is happy as well. Before starting this cream I had to clean the crud off the top of the bucket every few weeks because of the scum that adhered to it. No more! For us this cream is nothing short of a miracle. Since we've started using it we've been able to stop her topical medications since she doesn't need them. The topical stuff included Protopic which has  been endowed with a black box warning and tons of topical steroids. One note of caution... this cream does contain Shae butter so avoid using on tree nut allergic individuals.