Ancora Imparo - I am still learning

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Crazy Week

This has been such a crazy week. I'm now up to six children in the childcare. Plus all of Taliesin's and Nathanael's activities. Taliesin had a karate graduation on Saturday. It was a lot of fun for him. He's now an orange belt. We went to a carnival twice this past weekend. Will be posting pictures from all of our recent activities just as soon as I finish a research paper that is due on Friday. I also just began a new college class - one for math teachers. (Math is not my favorite subject!). Just trying to keep up with everything is a challenge! So, again, I'm sorry for the delay on the blog postings. I really am trying. :^)


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bible School and educational philosophy

I have been teaching Bible school this week at church. Actually, I have been the game leader - an enjoyable experience! Taliesin and Nathanael had a blast this week! They made some awesome artwork, sang fun songs, learned meaningful stories, and participated in some exciting games. I really loved the curriculum that they used - the space program through Answers in Genesis. Now I am really looking forward to next year!

I also made some interesting educational observations during VBS this week.

I have honestly noticed that the children that I know for a fact are under a more traditional school system (attend the local private school here) were so much more competitive in the games. For them, it was all about winning. The ones who were not under such a traditional system were much more gentle, willing to help out their fellow team members (and even those on the other team) who were not as athletically-inclined as they are. It was like those who were from the traditional school saw everything in black and white. There was a definite right way and a definite wrong way to play the games - even for those who were physically not able to keep up. If they could not keep up and were upset because they couldn't play, that's too bad. There were absolutes fixed in their minds. Those who were not under this system day in and day out saw that there are gray areas. Yes, it is important to play the games fairly; but there are those who are not as good in games like this as they are. They were willing to bend the rules a little to help out someone else - even someone else on the other team. I, personally, would much rather see children who are willing to help someone else out rather than see them so strict in rules that they cannot see the other feelings of others. This week just proved to me over and over why I favor more progressive, constructivist, pragmatic systems of education.


Friday, June 19, 2009


I love Playdough. I never played with Playdough as a kid. Not sure why. Not sure if it was because my mom didn't allow Playdough in the house or if it was because I just didn't care for it. But I love it now. We went to get some new art supplies for Taliesin and Nathanael and for the daycare kids for next week. Even though we got the ingredients for making Playdough, Taliesin wanted to buy some, too. And they've been having fun with it! (Yes, it was their idea to sit in their school desks. They get in that mood sometimes - LOL).


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Discipline and Child-Directed Learning

This week's college discussion board was over how our educational philsophy affects our disciplinary procedures. Very interesting.

Discipline is an area of huge concern to teachers and school administrators. Discuss your personal educational philosophy and how it would influence discipline in the school. Choose an educational philosophy different from your own and discuss how that philosophy would approach discipline differently.

I am a huge advocate of child-directed learning. My educational philosphy most certainly does affect discipline - in a positive way! Child-directed learning encourages students to take ownership of and responsibility for their behavior. They not only learn what is and is not appropriate behavior but also why it is or is not appropriate. They learn empathy for others. They learn to treat others as they like to be treated. In my childcare (which is run a lot like a progressive school), we begin our time together by setting rules that we should abide by. The students set the rules, and I also think of a few. We write them down to remember them. I also believe it is so important that children be able to apply what they have learned. In the same respect, it is also important that children be able to know why right is right and wrong is wrong. If my four-year old son hits another child, I have the choice of hitting him back (spanking him), which is really defeating the purpose and teaching him it's really okay to hit others; or I have the choice of asking him how he would like to be hit. I can say I have never had a child say (s)he likes to be hit. I then ask my son, "Why would you want to hit someone else, then? How do you think (s)he felt?" This approach makes the child think about why it is wrong to hurt someone else and results in an apology. Another effective method is having the child that has been hurt explain to the child who caused the hurt how (s)he felt.

If, for some reason, the behavior continues, I give the child a warning that if it does not stop, there will be a consequence for his/her action. We have already discussed why the behavior is inappropriate. If the inappropriate behavior involves another object such as a toy, the toy will be given a "time out." If the child is just displaying aggressive or argumentative behavior, I will bring the child to sit down with me for a few minutes to "cool off." As a last resort, I do use a time out given to the child. It usually does not get to the time-out stage.

I do not feel that a student in a school should be given a "zero" or have recess taken away. These methods simply make children feel as though they are not important. The methods listed above do work even with older children. The Love and Logic books explain in detail how giving children some control at younger ages results in individuals that are ready to be responsible when they have more control as young adults.

Many are critical of child-directed methods. I can only hope that time will prove these methods. I also was skeptical for many, many years of progressive methods. Then I discovered with my own sons how well they work. I also use child-directed, progressive methods of education and discipline with the children in my childcare. These children range in age from two to eight. I believe the reason more educators and parents do not use child-directed methods is they are not a quick fix. A child who is learning from rote memorization is going to show "progress" more quickly than a child who is allowed to learn and explore and discover. I must ask, though, is rote memorization truly progress? The idea that if children progress at their own pace, in their own way, that their learning cannot be measured is prevalent. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Measuring success simply requires more ingenuity on the part of the educator. Instead of simply being able to give a letter grade, measuring one student against another; the educator must truly evaluate the student's progress - and here's the key - based upon that individual. Not everyone learns at the same pace. Using child-directed methods, the students are not in competition against one another. They are allowed to learn in ways that work best for them, at their own pace. They are only in competition with themselves - or in competition with no one, depending upon each student's personality. Learning is a natural process.

The same is true with child-directed, low-control to mid-control methods of disicipline. Every child is different in learning styles and in temperament. This is why teaching empathy is so important. Again, it is not a quick fix. Spanking a child is going to get much quicker results than gentle discipline. But which is the most effective in the long run - a child who is scared to misbehave because of the consequences or a child who does not want to misbehave and hurt another? I believe the latter is the most effective, which is exactly why the greatest commands of all are to love God and love others (Matthew 22:37-39).

Lastly, something that I plan to begin encorporating into my son's homeschooling days and the childcare lessons is the use of critical thinking questions. I recently received a catalog from The Critical Thinking Company and have found some of their methods to be intriguing. One that I definitely want to order and use would be appropropriate for a circle time. The students are given questions such as "What do you think would be the most appropriate response to a neighbor kid who is mean to you?" Would you act the same way, ignore the problem, or treat that neighbor kid in a kind way? What do you think would happen (depends upon the response)? (no author given, 2009, pg. 22). I also believe that incorporating specific Biblical teaching is important with excercises such as this. This type of exercise teaches much more than rote memorization of specific Verses could.

A philosophy that is opposite of mine is traditional, essential/perennial education. Traditional education depends upon rote memorization of facts and dates and upon drilling the students. I was in a traditional setting from second grade (when I began attending a private, Christian school) through my highschool graduation (from homeschoooling). I know first-hand what traditional education is like. And it worked for me. I am a traditional learner. Not all children are. Traditional education appears to the student to be based upon following rules for the sake of making new rules. Little emphasis is placed upon why the rules are important. Rules are made by those in authority with little to no student input. Enforcement of rules is also not child-friendly. I remember several of the students that I went to school with in the Christian school I attended for three years being disciplined by a teacher with a metal yardstick. One was a little girl was was legally deaf and partially blind. Another was a boy who ended up being expelled from the school for beating up a classmate at recess. Another was girl who would have been in special education had she been in the public school system. Instead the teachers at the private school put her in a box made of partitions where she spent the majority of her days.

What is meant by the term "power distance dimension" in Chapter 15 of Foundations of Christian Education (Braley et al.)? Have you seen it demonstrated in a classroom?

The "power distance demension" refers to the acceptance that power is distributed unequally. In small power distance cultures, respect for all is valued. In large power distance cultures, respect is based upon status and age (Braley, Layman, White, 2003, pgs. 260-261). I definitely have seen a large power distance dimension displayed in the classroom (and in the workplace). I believe this is what postmodern educational philosophers refer to as the hidden curriculum. In some classrooms, those students who get good grades, whose parents are friends with school administrators and/or teachers, who are athletes, who have more money, the list could go on - are more respected than those who do not fall into those categories. This is certainly not appropriate. Educators should respect all students equally, as human beings in their classrooms.


Braley, J., Layman, J., and White, R. (2003). Foundations of Christian School Education. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Purposeful Design Publications.

No Author Given (2009). Critical Thinking in Core Subject Areas 2009 Parent Catalog Grades PreK-12+.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Legos, Slugs, and Oatmeal

What do Legos, slugs, and oatmeal have in common? They are all some of the activities that have bee keeping us busy for the past few weeks. Happy Summer!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Guess I'm Not the Only One

I thought I was the only one who really dislikes hearing "they need more structure." I cringe everytime I hear someone say this. Ironically, this evening I was reading John Holt's Learning All the Time when Nathanael (my four-year old son) came up to me with computer paper and a a ball-point pen. He had been drawing pictures to the music on his McDonald's KidzBop CD. He drew a picture for Taliesin. Then he drew a picture for Mommy. He then decided to draw a picture for Riley and Princess, our dogs. He asked me, "Mommy, how do I write 'Princess'?" I quickly, using all my teaching knowledge, dotted a "P." He traced it. I then dotted an "R." Then an "I." He decided he wanted me to hold his hand and write the rest without dotting. He then asked me "How do I write 'Riley'?" I asked him if he wanted me to dot it. He replied that he wanted to write it. So I told him to start at the top and draw a line going down. He did this. I told him to draw a circle at the top of the line. He did this. ThenI told him to make a tail going down. He did. And he was so proud. We next went to "I." I explained to him step-by-step how to write the letter "I." By this time, he was so excited over writing that he forgot all about writing the name "Riley" and made a "Y" and an "X." Maybe it was Holt's influence, but it dawned on my that when I dotted the letters, it made him feel as though he could not do it. I had to do it for him. But when I allowed him to write, he was so excited to see what he could do! Ironically, after my writing lesson - I say mine, because I learned a lot from Nathanael this evening - I read this in Learning All the Time, "Often when small children become bored and distracted, at home or in nursery school, adults will decide that they 'need more structure.' I tend to be wary of that term, since those who use it generally mean only one thing: some adult standing over the child telling him what to do and making sure he does it... Children need to see things done well. Cooking, and especially baking, where things change their texture and shape (and taste yummy), are skills that children might like to take part in. Typing might be another, and to either or both of these could be added bookmaking and bookbinding. These are crafts that children could take part in from beginning to end. Skilled drawing and painting or woodworking might be others. Adults must use the skills they have where children can see them" (pgs. 130-131). I read a few pages later about a letter that Mr. Holt received from the mom of a six-year old, an eleven-year old, and a thirteen-year old. The mother of these three boys wrote that she had witness real learning occuring with her sons' interest in a puzzle of the world. One son, who was facsinated with WWII, was putting Germany and Japan together. One son added the then communist countries. The youngest son was putting together South America. When the mother saw the learning that was happening naturally, she did what I did when I dotted Nathanael's letters. She began taking advantage of this "teachable moment." Soon all three sons left the puzzle and went on to new projects. Mr. Holt wrote, "This story illustrates a very important point. Thousands of parents teaching their own children have learned from experience, just as this mother did, that interfering very much in the play and learning of children often stops it altogether. Parents learnthis lesson easily. Why is it so hard to learn for people who teach in schools? The answer is simple. The reason that this mother could see right away that her meddling had, for the time being at least, spoiled the map game for everyone was that her children were free to leave the room. Suppose they hadn't been; suppose it had been a regular classroom, and the children had been compelled not only to stay, but to go on doing the assigned work with the map. What would have happened is that they would have begun to do as little as they could get away with. Instead, they might have daydreamed, or bluffed, or played the old classroom game of 'I don't get it,' or bugged the teacher by putting the map together wrongly. But to the teacher all these fake activities would have looked as if the children were still working on the map, and so the vital lesson would have been lost" (page 144). I found this next part very interesting. It just makes so much sense, "With any captive audience, there is a lack of feedback. If you're running a restaurant and put fish on the menu, you learn very quickly whether or not your customers like fish. If you're running an army mess (or school lunch cafeteria) where everyone has to take the fish whether they like it or not, you don't find out - unless like good mess cooks you pay attention to the garbage and happen to notice that there's a lot of fish in there. Observant parents can pay attention both to the left-overs and to second helpings. Even if they make mistakes at first, they have the opportunity to become effective teachers, because they get from their children the kind of feedback that tells them when their teaching is helpful and when it is not" (pge. 144). Tonight I definitely learned that my teaching with Nathanael was not helpful. When I allowed him to take the lead, amazing things happened! Lesson learned.

Holt., J. (1989). Learning All the Time. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Books.


Monday, June 8, 2009

First Official Day of Daycare

Well, today was my first official day of daycare, and it went very well. Nathanael was a little apprehensive about sharing toys and Mommy at first, but things went very well for the first day. We played musical instruments, made feather/pompom/silk flower art, played outside, read books, colored a crocodile picture, and just had fun. Everyone seemed to enjoy it! I will be posting some pictures of our daycare activities on my newest blog -


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Controversial College Assignment

This is one thing that has been keeping me busy the past week or so. This past week, I was to post a college assignment about kindergarten today versus Frobel's vision of kindergarten; of how the social and economic conditions of the 1800s and 1900s affected education of those eras; and describing if I follow more of a passive learning model (teacher-directed), active or proactive learning model (student-directed), or interactive learning model ( a little both, but with more teacher-direction than student-direction). My post has initiated nineteen responses (both others' opinions and my responses then their responses to my responses, etc.). Thought you might like seeing it.

What features of the kindergarten envisioned by Froebel exist even today and how has it changed?

I have to admit before I begin writing that I have not seen a modern-day public or even private kindergarten. The closest that I have come to seeing an actual kindergarten class was the kindergarten class at the local homeschooling co-op, which was anything but what Froebel envisioned. It followed a very traditional method of teaching that left the children - particularly many of the boys - feeling frustrated to the point of irritation.
So I spoke with a friend of mine today about her daughter's kindergarten class. She told me that the schools here in Salina, Kansas, are not play-based or child-centered whatsoever. And this is also what I have heard from several others (including teachers in the public school system) - that the children are expected to learn information to pass standardized tests. However, my friend did tell me that the small-town school that she sends her daughter to has an excellent kindergarten program. The teacher stresses the child's creativity rather than academics, which is definintely closer to what Froebel envisioned. The sad thing is, according to my friend, the other teachers at this school and even the school librarian criticize this kindergarten teacher because she does not try to force the children to learn what they are not developmentally ready for. I have read several articles recently about homework in kindergarten. I just cannot see Froebel advocating this. Kindergarten is often referred to as "the new first grade." Preschool is "the new kindergarten." It's really a vicious cycle. Based upon most of what I have heard from teachers, from friends with children in the public school system, and from articles that I have read; I would say that what preschool is today is more similar than kindergarten to what Froebel envisioned. I believe the biggest change in kindergartens came with No Child Left Behind and its emphasis on standardized testing. This changed the focus from play, exploration, and creativity to academics and teacher-centered activities.

How did the political, social, and economic conditions of the 1800's and the 1900's influence American education?

I believe the political, social, and economic conditions of the 1800s and 1900s had a huge impact on American education. I believe the primary influence of the 1800s was the Civil War. Many began to see that all of humanity is equal and began to have more compassion for others, including children. The Industrial Revolution of the 1800s also changed how people viewed education. The nation was expanding in more than just size. The middle class appeared on the scene. Child labor laws began. Environmental hazards were a concern. People saw change occuring everyday, and education had to coincide with that change (Dunn, 2005, pg.180).
Therefore, education sought to liberate people from social injustices, from poverty, from war. Educators sought to teach students how to deal with everyday life, real-life problems and issues, and felt that childhood was a time for natural learning. This philosophy continued through the first part of the 20th century (Dunn, 2005, pgs. 180-181).
However, more change occurred later in the 1900s. The 1900s saw the dawn of new technology and the space race. By the 1960's, many educational philosophers were no longer focusing on the good of the children, as they had in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Now what mattered was staying ahead of Russia. Education began to be seen, as in the past, as a way for the teacher to present new knowledge to the students. Science made a promise to change the world, and schools endeavored to create these scientists in school (Dunn, 2005, pgs. 180-181).

Which of the three learning models discussed in Chapter 10 of Foundations of Christian Education (Braley et al.) do you subscribe to and why?

I, personally, adhere to more of an active or proactive learning model. In theory, I believe the interactive model is successful; however I can see from experience and from the reading that the interactive model usually takes the form of being teacher-directed. I do believe that learning is both internal and external. However, I do believe the focus should be on the student, not on what the teacher feels the student should learn by a certain point in time. Even though the interactive model claims to be learner-centered (Braley, et. al, 2003, pg. 171), I have witnessed it being much more teacher-centered than student-centered.
I subscribe more to an active or proactive learning model, first and foremost, because I know it works. I have been criticized often - especially in Christian circles - because of my educational philosophy; but I truly believe student-directed is best for the students. God has given each child a natural curiosity and a talent. It is my firm belief that teacher-directed methods stifle that curiosity and talent by imposing what the teacher feels the child should be doing and learning.
I have to admit that all through my younger years, until the birth of my sons, I was totally opposed to the active model of learning. I had been taught that the adult needs to be "in control," that children need to learn specifics by a certain time, and that the only way for children to learn is through traditional methods. When my first son, Taliesin, was born I began devouring parenting information. As bad as this sounds, thankfully, I looked to secular parenting magazines rather than to so-called Christian or "God's Way" methods. The information that I received combined with common sense resulted in a happy baby and toddler. When Taliesin reached preschool age, we began homeschooling. Instead of following my common sense approach, I went back to the traditional methods I had learned as a teenager and young adult. To say that they did not work is an understatement. They were disasterous. This is when I discovered child-directed methods - all of the methods my early studies had warned me about. I began applying my new discoveries. Much to my surprise, my son was not only much happier but he learned so much more!
When my younger son, Nathanael, was born; he was just the opposite of Taliesin. Nathanael wanted to be held constantly. When my sons were babies, I firmly believed in feeding on demand. Nathanael really tested me on that - nursing every thirty minutes during the day and every two hours at night until around four months of age. He refused to sleep in a bassinet the second day he was home from the hospital. I always joke that Taliesin taught me about unschooling, Nathanael taught me about attachment parenting. As Nathanael grew, it only made sense to me to follow a child-directed method of learning for his homeschooling. Now at four years old, Nathanael is still very much a natural learner. He has to learn from experience. A good example of this happened just a few evenings ago - on Memorial Day. My husband and I took Taliesin and Nathanael on a picnic. We then hiked and played at a park most of the evening. The park that we chose also has a sprinkler park. It was getting cool out as evening approached, but Nathanael asked to play in the sprinkler. No matter how much we tried to explain it was too cool, he would not stop. So I told him it was okay. I told him not to get too wet, but to walk through it one time to see how it felt. He quickly removed his shoes and shirt and walked around the edge of the sprinklers. He ran back to me saying, "Mommy, I'm cold." He put his shirt and shoes back on and did not ask to play in them again the rest of our park visit.
Now, many people do offer the concern that I am simply allowing my sons to rebel. I do not agree. I am simply not expecting them to fit a certain mold that I formed for them. I cannot think of any positive example in the Bible of someone who fit inside the box, so to speak. Each of us are individuals, created by God. I allow my sons that individuality. If I did not allow them that, what kind of mother and teacher would I be?
It is exactly because of these reasons that I do adhere to a more proactive learning model.

Dunn, S. (2005). Philosophical Foundations of Education. Columbus, Ohio: Pearson, Merrill Prentice Hall.
Braley, J., Layman, J., and White, R. (2003). Foundations of Christian School Education. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Purposeful Design Publications.

A Day Out with Thomas

Donkey-zebra at the Petting Zoo

Cotton Candy and Snowcones

"Boing, Boing, Boing"

Taliesin and Sir Topham Hatt

Who Everyone Came to See (and Ride in)

A Beautiful Ending to a Fun Day

Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Poor, Neglected Blog

I need to offer everyone an apology. It has been nearly a week since I posted anything here. I do not know where the time has gone. At the risk of sounding trite, it's just been so - well - busy. Summer seems to be flying by and it's not even here yet. We've been having some fun activities - lots of outside time; playing with indoor sand (oatmeal), building with Legos, and making up picture stories when it's rainy; reading and studying our favorite things; and karate (which Taliesin has another karate graduation coming up this month. Can't wait to blog about it!). I've been loving this college class on educational philsophies. The other students and I have had some very good discussions! And now with the daycare opening up full-swing, it's just been hard to keep up with everything; and, unfortunately, this poor blog has been suffering. I will do my best to keep it up better the rest of the summer!