Glories of the West: Colonial Williamsburg Homeschool Days

Source: Colonial Williamsburg Homeschool Days | Colonial Williamsburg’s Facebook Page

So much goodness in this picture! The Governor’s Mansion at Colonial Williamsburg, once the capital of 18th-century Virginia, with adorable little girls in proper Colonial attire carrying a basket of naturally-dyed wool from (perhaps) some of the Leicester Longwool heritage sheep raised there. A recreation of early America at its finest! Anyone who claims that “America was never that great” should look at this picture, and be ashamed. Yes, we were still colonies of Great Britain at that point in history. But the groundwork was already being laid…

And then we have the excellent phenomenon of homeschooling, in which parents can opt their children out of the politically-correct agendas of so much of public (and even private) schooling! So glad that Colonial Williamsburg – historically one of the flagship sites for living history, and a major influence on me, in childhood and beyond – is providing programs in support. Children need to learn about our history and heritage, and there is no better way than through experiential learning.

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has come under fire (not without justification, it must be said) in recent years, for apparent financial mismanagement, and also for some of its programming decisions: replacing costumed interpreters with docents in modern attire, canceling popular events, discouraging reenactor participation, and cashiering the popular tavern Balladeers, for example. But this, at least, deserves commendation.

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Old-fashioned toys, not video games, best for kids, pediatricians say | WRCBtv.com – Chattanooga

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Don’t be fooled by all those “educational” electronics in stores. What’s best for your kids, pediatricians say, are old-fashioned toys that require you to actually interact with them.

Source: Old-fashioned toys, not video games, best for kids, pediatrician – WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

“Play is important for child development, but children learn best from adults. They get language skills, learn about how the world works, and get feedback that can reinforce learning and positive behavior, the American Academy of Pediatrics says in new guidelines for people buying toys for kids.”

The most amazing part of this is that, apparently, it comes as a surprise to some people!

The AAP cautions that

“a little common sense goes a long way, the AAP says in its reminders. Kids need to use their imaginations, they need to move both their hands and their bodies and they need to express creativity. Simple toys such as blocks, crayons and card games can fill these needs better than the flashiest video game”

And goes on to add,

“The truth is most tablets, computer games, and apps advertised as ‘educational’ aren’t. Most ‘educational’ apps target memory skills, such as ABCs and shapes,” the guidelines read.

“These skills are only one part of school readiness. The skills young children really need to learn for success in school (and life) include impulse control, managing emotions, and creative, flexible thinking. These are best learned through unstructured and social play with family and friends.”

So-called educational games and apps on digital media may, in fact, delay social development [emphasis added], especially for young children, because [such technology] interferes with their learning about real-life facial expressions and gestures.”

When it comes to screen time, less is more:

“Parents also need to remember to limit kids’ use of video and computer games, the AAP says. ‘Total screen time, including television and computer use, should be less than one hour per day for children 2 years or older and avoided for those younger than 2 years of age,’ the guidelines point out.”

That was the rule in my growing-up years, when “screens” meant television. I may have chafed at it, at the time, but (with the perspective and, hopefully, maturity that age brings) I recognize the wisdom of the restriction, now.

Caveat emptor! “Some products may be marketed in a way that makes parents feel their kids are missing out if they don’t get them. Don’t fall for it, the AAP says.” Oh, really? Do ya think? Gee, I didn’t know that corporations ever marketed their products in ways that over-state their benefits and minimize their risks… *wry smile*

In any case:

Read the whole article – there’s a lot more information, and it’s all interesting, especially to those who care about the social and physical, as well as intellectual and psycho-emotional, development of children.

Greek to Me, by Mary Norris | The New Yorker

Mary Norris, also known as the Comma Queen, on the pleasures of a different alphabet.

Source: Greek to Me, by Mary Norris | The New Yorker

While I must confess that I really do not have an urge to study Greek, either ancient or modern (if I were going to take up the study of ancient languages again, they would be Latin and Old English) I thought this was an interesting piece.

Combining a first-person memoir with a defense of the study of classical languages in our current era, it is fair apologia which deserves to be considered by, as author Mary Norris puts it, “anyone who doubts the value of studying a dead language.”

It’s also worth a share in light of my earlier post on Greece’s Nea Dexia party, as it points out one of the ways in which the Greek “hill” (the Acropolis, in Failos Kranidiotis’ engaging metaphor) has influenced, and continues to influence, Western culture.

(Nota Bene: It should be noted that The New Yorker can still publish worthwhile articles – so long as one stays away from its left-leaning political ones.)

This 1897 Text Gives 3 Clues Why Today’s Students Can’t Write | Intellectual Takeout

This 1897 Text Gives 3 Clues Why Today’s Students Can’t Write

Would we see American writing ability increase if these three elements were restored to the classroom?

Source: This 1897 Text Gives 3 Clues Why Today’s Students Can’t Write | Intellectual Takeout

Contemporary American society is suffering from a number of maladies, but one of the root issues is lack of literacy. I mean “literacy” in the full sense: not that people can’t read texts, “tweets,” memes, and maybe even blog posts, but that far too many do not seem to be able to in-depth, quality works of prose (and poetry), comprehending and interpreting the meaning (of which there may be several levels) and significance of them. And of course, that makes them much less capable writers, too: the other piece of the literacy puzzle. It’s one thing to understand; its another to share that understanding with others.

This is not just my perception, either; as this essay points out,

“[In late 2015] the Nation’s Report Card announced that no more than 40% of America’s 4th and 8th graders are proficient in reading and math. Those are scary numbers, but the numbers for writing are even more frightening: only 27% of American 8th and 12th graders attained proficiency.”

Now, I admit to a personal bias, here; but I would argue that it is perfectly possible to be a good, informed, and productive citizen without being particularly proficient in math (so long as one is not in a technical or scientific field which requires it).

But I would also argue that it is much more difficult, to the point of impossibility, to be a good, informed, and productive citizen – at least, of a representative, Constitutional, democratic republic such as we have – without having a pretty good grasp of literacy: that is, of reading and writing.

My late grandfather used to say, “if you can read, you can learn anything.” He was quite correct; but the corollary to that is that if you cannot read, you cannot learn much of anything – unless it’s something that can be taught entirely by video, and there are technological and practical limitations to that which do not exist with books.

And of course, if you cannot read well, you cannot write well, either; for the second flows directly from the first. And if you cannot write well, your ability to express yourself in nearly any topic – even in our technological age – will be severely curtailed. It is remarkable how text-heavy we still are, from “tweets” to blog posts like this one! It is also remarkable how poor-quality much of this writing actually is.

But perhaps there are steps we can take to improve the situation. As the essay notes, American schools, students, and even adults regularly violate three principles which Dr. Edwin Lewis deemed (1897) essential to the writing process. So what are these three principles?

1) They don’t read high-quality literature – and they don’t read it aloud. Here’s Dr. Lewis on the subject:

“One of the quickest ways of learning to know good English, is oral reading… If the student reads aloud from writers whose work was natural, unforced, original, he will gradually come to see his own ideas more clearly, feel his own feelings more keenly.”

2) They skim. “Speed-reading” was all the rage when I was in school, back in the 1970s and ’80s, but reading more is not necessarily reading better – or even, reading well at all. As Dr. Lewis pointed out,

“To get at the thoughts and really to retain the valuable expressions, the student must scrutinize and ponder as he reads. Each word must be thoroughly understood; its exact value in the given sentence must be grasped.”

3) They don’t memorize. Rote memorization has been in bad odor for decades; it certainly was in my school days. But allowing quality writing to sink into the memory is absolutely essential to giving a person the functional database that they can use to express their own thoughts in a creative, cogent, and intelligent manner. Dr. Lewis again:

“To the habit of memorizing, many a person is indebted not merely for high thoughts that cheer hours of solitude and that stimulate his own thinking, but for command of words.”

Both reading and writing may seem a touch passé in the present era; it is fashionable to push “STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education, these days. And in the technological world in which we live, I do not doubt the utility of these fields.

But I think we would be better off as a society if we emphasized a complete, well-rounded education that laid particular stress on the ability to explore and understand a wide range of concepts – scientific and technological, yes, but also historical, cultural, political, and philosophical – through the tools of reading and writing about them.

To put the matter in a slightly tongue-in-cheek fashion,

Image result for science vs humanities meme dinosaurs

Q.E.D.!

Bill Gates Tacitly Admits His Common Core Experiment Was A Failure

“It looks like this is as close to an apology or admission of failure as we’re going to get, folks. Sorry about that $4 trillion and mangled years of education for American K-12 kids and teachers…”

Source: Bill Gates Tacitly Admits His Common Core Experiment Was A Failure

“Since 2009, the Gates Foundation’s primary U.S. activity has focused on establishing and implementing Common Core, a set of centrally mandated curriculum rules and tests for what children are to learn in each K-12 grade, with the results linked to school and teacher ratings and punitive measures for low performers. The Gates Foundation has spent more than $400 million itself and influenced $4 trillion in U.S. taxpayer funds towards this goal. Eight years later, however, Bill Gates is admitting failure on that project, and a ‘pivot’ to another that is not likely to go any better…”

Realizing that “Common Core” was, is, and ever shall be FUBAR is progress. But as this essay points out, it is questionable whether Bill Gates and his (and wife Linda’s) Foundation have really learned their lesson. Read on, for more! Continue reading “Bill Gates Tacitly Admits His Common Core Experiment Was A Failure”

QOTD: “Non scholae, sed vitae”

Image result for classical education

Full form:

Non scholæ sed vitæ discendum est.

“We must learn not for school, but for life.”

— Latin proverb (paraphrase of Seneca)

 

“10 Social Manners for Children”

This recently came across my newsfeed:

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10 Social Manners for Children

1. Say “please” when asking.

2. Say “thank you” when receiving.

3. Say “excuse me” when bumping into someone, or interrupting.

4. Put down your electronics when someone comes into the room.

5. Look people in the eye when speaking to them.

6. Let others finish speaking before you speak.

7. Shake hands firmly.

8. Say “yes, ma’am” and “yes, sir” when talking to grownups.

9. Greet people with “hi” or “hello” and “how are you?”

10. Open doors for others.

If just these ten concepts – which seem to be among the most basic and classic forms of politeness, with the modern addition of number 4 – were inculcated into children on a consistent basis, across the board, the world would be a much more pleasant place!

(It’s not on the list, but I would also add, if you’re seated and an older person or a pregnant woman has no place to sit, get up and offer them your seat; and I would append to number 6, if you must interrupt, say “excuse me, please,” and wait for them to acknowledge you. I did add “or interrupting” to number 3 – basically any time you bother or inconvenience someone – and “or hello,” which is a little more formal, to number 9.)

These rules instill basic courtesy and politeness, and they apply to adults no less than to children. But how can we expect adults to be courteous and polite, if they were not taught so when they were young? “Train up a child in the way in which he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” as the good Book says!