Remember that time you were talking with your friends at work about the Boston Tea Party? You know that time, your one friend was saying how much she sympathized with the Occupy Wall Street protesters. Your other friend said she admired their ideals, but felt the Tea Partiers had a better grasp on practical ideas that could help our country. And then you said, “Yeah and speaking of the Tea Party, I didn’t get the importance of the Boston Tea Party in High School, but gosh, it seems so relevant now….”

You don’t remember saying that? Oh, you don’t actually know anything about the Boston Tea Party? How is that possible; American History is required in school?! Oh wait… yeah, no. I don’t remember either. I had to Google it just now to see what year it took place and my guess wasn’t even in the right century.
 
Well probably we were sick that day. Let’s talk instead about how Oliver Cromwell overthrew the monarchy. How this “hero of liberty” turned into a despised despot.  How is that champions of “hope and change” can become so reviled for their attempts to bring reform?

That doesn’t ring a bell either? Missed that day too? What’s my point? I am not trying to make anyone feel bad. I am trying to make people feel mad. I didn’t know who Oliver Cromwell was either until some vague reference made me Google him the other day. Dude was so hated, he was dug up after he was buried and strung-up for all to see because he wasn’t executed properly the first time.

I used to be embarrassed by what I didn’t know. I guess I still am. But at least I can feel better by comparing myself to modern kids. They don’t just suck at history, most American 18 year olds today can’t find Japan, France, or the UK on a map! A third can’t even find the Pacific Ocean!! I am sure you all know by know that we barely rank in the middle and sometimes even at the bottom in international surveys, but here’s the government report just in case you want to see it in writing.

Why is this bad? We are an ignorant people and only getting more so. We can’t engage in meaningful discussions. We certainly can’t engage in a rational debate that doesn’t deteriorate into name-calling and mud-slinging. What’s the saying? If we forget our history then we are doomed to repeat it? We can’t keep taking away liberties and spending out of control and expect it won’t lead to our downfall.

If 90% of children can’t find Iran on a map, how are they going to form an opinion on whether or not Iran is a threat to Israel? Okay maybe you think it’s about time we got out of the middle of that conflict anyway. Fine. If we don’t care if the middle east blows itself off the map (solving a part of that whole geography ignorance problem BTW), then should we care that Iran and Venezuela are building a joint base that will allow Tehran to deal with “Iran’s enemies“? Care to guess who Iran considers its enemies?

So do I think my homeschooled kids going to retain historical facts because they are reading about them at the kitchen table instead of at a school desk? No, actually, I don’t. My point is that none of us remembers those things because we didn’t care. Nobody bothered talking to us about these concepts. They made us read dry textbooks then lectured at us.

My sons and I talk about these issues. We don’t use textbooks. I don’t lecture. Why waste time on textbooks and lectures when we know kids won’t retain the information or learn to do anything with it beyond test day? We aren’t even testing well!! 

I don’t mean to harp, so here’s my suggestion. Lets just sit the kids down into small groups, give them a short lesson to read on Oliver Cromwell, the Boston Tea Party, or whatever, and have them discuss how the events relate to what’s going on today. Whatever they get from that will stick with them much longer than those notes copied off the overheads.

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My Son’s First Rejection

February 19, 2012

Socialization.

I don’t know why I keep coming back to this issue. Maybe because when I was deciding to homeschool, that was the biggest objection that came up. I now know that I was mistaken in my belief that the main purpose of school is to educate. I mostly dismissed the “socialization” caveat as misplaced priorities. But I think if it’s going to be a priority for parents and educators, then we should at least make an attempt to do it right.

Last Thursday I attended a music recital at our local Elementary School. Our district allows homeschooled children to take part in extra-curricular activities and “special” classes like Art, Computers, & Gym. Nathan takes Art & Music with the other 1st graders 3 times a week.

During this event, my middle son, Brandon, was rejected by a group of boys who were all bent over a brand new Kindle Fire. At first they mostly ignored his inquiries and friendly gestures. But as he persisted in talking to them, they started to say mean things to him. I watched his attempts to befriend these boys and their rejection of him warily. I was curious to see how Brandon would react. Brandon doesn’t see new children as outsiders, he sees them as potential playmates. But he also gets that electronic “toys” are way cool and other kids don’t usually give them up or share them readily. I don’t think Brandon was traumatized, but it made me sad to see him pushed aside.

As I told this story later, most people dismissed my concern. “Boys will be boys” or “They didn’t know him, so why would they accept him?” But I want to question those assumptions. We actually are not used to this behavior at all. Parents of toddlers and pre-K children will often sit at the park and marvel over how their kids will just buddy up and play together without ever having been introduced. We assume they grow out of this, but I think they are schooled out of this.

I am part of a rather large homeschooling group and those kids don’t seem to lose this ability. Because of these classes at the school, we can only fit in homeschool Meetups about once a month. Every time we go, I feel like we are the new people. I have yet to notice my boys playing with the same kids twice. What I have not noticed is any of my boys ever being rejected. Nathan loves to play with older boys. I have seen 11, 12, and 13 yr old boys assimilate him into their woodland adventures without a second thought. Brandon will play with anybody and tends to bounce from group to group. It wasn’t until he tried to play with a group of boys from the public school that he faced his first rejection.

For some reason I haven’t been able to shake the unpleasant “taste” this experience has left with me. Naturally, whenever something lingers in the subconscious, the topic seems to pop up everywhere thereafter. My mentor posted an article on his blog today that discourages liberals from homeschooling because it doesn’t embody good, liberal “social values” (social on a societal scale, not necessarily childhood friendships). The comments led me to some interesting links, and I came across the following research:

I hope to elaborate more on these articles in future posts, but the bottom line is that I just don’t think schools are doing this “socialization” thing right. We don’t have to tolerate bratty kids, pre-teen angst, and teenage rebellion. We are teaching these things to our children. We can do better.

Amish Farms Under Fire

February 13, 2012

I find this sort of thing demoralizing:

How in the world are we supposed to turn back the clock on our horrible dietary patterns if the government wages war against us? I don’t even drink raw milk (yet) but I am sick at the idea that people who want to are being controlled like this. 

So You Can OD on McNuggets

January 30, 2012

Have you seen this article yet?

It’s about a girl in the U.K. who collapsed and was rushed to the hospital because she has eaten almost nothing except chicken nuggets since the age of two. My goal here is not to vilify McD’s (she would also eat frozen nuggets made at home), but to introduce an idea that is at the core of my problem with processed foods.

Processed foods are junk food. Junk food is addictive.

Let me just tell you, I have been working on this post all day and it just keeps getting longer and longer. I spent less time on certain papers in college. So I am going to have to break it down. Here’s what we are going to discuss over the next few weeks and then tie it all back to the article above:

  1. Some current research concerning addictive properties of junk food
  2. Why processed foods should be classified as junk food, or “edible non-foods” *
  3. What about the children?
  4. Time to stop blaming the victim
  5. How can we get this stuff out of our lives?

*Erika to the rescue! Her blog posts this week (parts III, III, & IV) explain the problems with processed foods! Yay! Go read them. I am not going to try and repeat all that here.