Sunday, April 10, 2011

Where are the paragraphs?

The last several posts were edited, complete with paragraphing. In all cases, the post showed up sans paragraphing (I added it back in, for those that have paragraphs). What gives?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Asking questions

Z has now been homeschooling for almost all of one academic year. So, what's my grade? I have been really good at exposing him at new material. Which, really means, that he has been good at it. He loves to learn and readily soaks up information. He is particularly enamored with science, math, and fantasy fiction. In science, he asks questions I can't answer. The cool thing is that I work in a building full of science professors, so if I can't answer it, someone else can (if there is an answer). In math, we had a rough start, but were able to end the formal academic year where we needed to be. We made a lot of concessions along the way in how he does the work. Lots of repetition - no. Lots of problems - no. Lots of new material - yes. Practical applications - yes. But, ultimately, he enjoys problem-solving. Reading - he would read a VCR manual if he were stuck in a room with one. He reads easily and very fast. His retention is good (kind of scary sometimes when he drops little factoids he picked up here or there). Music - We aren't great shakes here, but he takes piano lessons every week and practices some. So, he is learning about music. Where I need improvement - history, geography, and art. History - I feed him history books and take him to historical places. But, the books generally don't really light him up. He soaks up the places we visit. Geography - I bought a "really fun" geography curriculum - yeah, not so much. Art - I sporadically point him in the direction of art materials (and, I've spent a boatload on stuff). But, I am not real strong in ideas about directed art. We stunk it up this year in writing. Writing is his biggest challenge. Physically putting pencil to paper is hard for him. It is also hard for him to capture his ideas quickly enough before they get garbled. So, he is generally frustrated before he begins. We are working on his keyboard skills - as I finally felt comfortable writing when I could comfortably type. We are working on small chunks. We work on my helping him organize ideas, then he makes sentences of them. But, frankly, he is behind in his writing skills. His vocabularly, spelling, and use of words is fine. His ability to express himself on paper, though, is nearly nil. I suspect that some of this will come easier if I let him grow into himself a little. Or, maybe I am just letting him slip further? It is hard to say. Overall, though, I still want to homeschool next year (he does too). Maybe I'll start to figure him out by then. That is my hope.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Choosing kids for my class.

My kids participate in martial arts training. They work out very hard. They are always expected to do their best and try harder. Sometimes they spar and sometimes they get hurt. I think that this is good, but not because I like fighting. Life is full of bumps and bruises and if you can't learn to get up and dust yourself off, you are going to have a hard time. Mostly, these lessons are a lot of vigorous exercise with a bunch of life lessons interspersed.
  • When someone is having a bad day, they are told to regain their focus and let it go during the class - just like you have to in life when your dog just died and you still need to go to work.
  • When someone is discouraged because something comes easier to other people; they are told to look straight ahead. "You are only competing against your previous best".
  • They are reminded that rocking out the stuff that comes easy to you doesn't test their mettle nearly as much as trying their best at the stuff that comes hardest to them.
  • They find that, whatever it is that you are learning, it will come easier to some people than to others. If it is harder for you - you just have to put in the extra effort.
  • They find that sometimes the right move, done perfectly, doesn't have the intended consequence. You just have to figure it out from there.
  • There is no shortcut around putting in the time and effort.
After a frustrating day of teaching a bunch of distracted kids, the instructor said that his ideal would be to have try-outs and only accept the students that met his ideal of effort and intensity training and showed promise. And, if that ever happened, his school would not be the same place it is now. Ultimately, I think that he would regret it. If he were able to do that... his school would turn out perfectly conditioned and phenomenal fighters. There is no question that his team would be amazing. But, he wouldn't be changing lives anymore.

Here are the kids that need this Sensei the most:

  • The boy that doesn't believe that he can succeed.
  • The girl that doesn't know how to carry herself in social setttings.
  • The boy that doesn't participate in sports because he isn't confident in his abilities.
  • The girl that doesn't like her body.
  • The boy that doesn't know what to do when someone picks on him.
  • The girl that doesn't believe she can succeed in something if she doesn't get it the first time.
  • The boy that doesn't connect with his friends except through videogames.
  • All of the kids that are easily distracted, unsure of themselves, don't believe in their own power to make decisions, don't value their personal achievements, measure only their failures, and find it hard to value themselves.

I have seen children like these attend this class and slowly find their way to stand up taller. They cry less when they are sparring. They sometimes (even if it isn't always) dust themselves off and fight back when sparring. They find that with time they can do things they thought impossible. They learn that leverage is more important than brute strength (and, if that isn't a metaphor for life, I don't know what is). They find that hard work sometimes does pay off, and they might learn to value themselves.

As a teacher myself, it is really easy sometimes (especially on a frustrating day) to gravitate toward wanting to teach the "A" students. They are receptive, positive, and they get it. But, they would have learned it if a monkey taught them. They might like me and be responsive - but, they don't need me. The kids that need me are the ones whose lives I might change. They can be frustrating. They can be difficult. They can make you stay awake at night - wishing that you teach only the best-of-the-best. But, when you teach the students that need you most, sometimes one of them becomes something that they didn't believe they could. My son will probably never be a top-notch black belt. (But, who knows, anything is possible with enough grit, and he is learning to find that.) What he is learning is to believe in himself. If you truly believe in teaching, you aren't in it to make more people just like you; you are in it to make more people that find the worth in themselves. Whatever that worth is.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Really? I have a blog. How'd that happen?

What a pitiful fuck up. No, really. In my mind I regularly write clever and pithy things to post. But, that's purely theoretical. I suck at applied science (and applied blogging, apparently). I partly blame my homeschooling son. He spends a large portion of his workday (and mine) staring over my shoulder at every word I type and read. So, I actually feel compelled to work when I am at work. Sucks, doesn't it? And, on the topic of homeschooling... field trip today, yippee! So, instead of being ultra-productive... I am catching up on the old blogs and, oh yeah, I had one of those too! Oh, the other person to blame. Yeah, that's me. Here, I am. Just as pathetic as ever. But, saying hello nonetheless. Another field trip tomorrow, maybe more then?