Friday, September 28, 2012

Teach Your Children Well by Madeline Levine, PhD

Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic SuccessTeach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success by Madeline Levine
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked this book up at the library after hearing the author speak on an NPR talk show.

As I read the introduction I thought, "Hmm, maybe I should buy this book, it seems like something I'll want to read more than once." But I waited to see how it went before making a commitment to it.

The premise of the book is that there is more to success than high grades and "fat envelopes" which I assume to mean acceptance packages from elite universities. I didn't need any convincing on that, but I wanted to read a book with that perspective, since it seems sometimes that I am surrounded by people will high-achieving children bound for academic (and financial) greatness. Ive been bothered by parents' insistence on rigorous STEM education, for example, for their kids regardless of the child's interest in and aptitude for it.

After the introduction, there is a discussion of the developmental stages in kids' lives: elementary, middle, and high school ages. I skipped the elementary school section since I am out of that. I found the middle school section to be pretty accurate.

But then I got to high school. The author's attitude toward teen sexuality stunned me. As in, sex seems to be nothing more than a pastime to be enjoyed (responsibly, of course) by teens ages 16 and above. There was no mention of love or committed relationships; I think the word the author used was "affection" in describing teen sexual relationships.

I nearly stopped reading the book at that point; I didn't want to go on when I have an area of strong disagreement. But I carried on anyway.

After the age/grade sections, the author goes on to discuss skills and attributes kids need to be given/taught to be successful. These are qualities such as resilience, creativity, work ethic... nothing to argue with there. Each section has a do/don't list for parents to guide them in helping their kids.

Mostly the advice is good though there's nothing I've not read or otherwise come across before. I do have two other disagreements about the book, though. One is the near-absolute absence of God, religion, spirituality in the book. I think "religious practices" gets a nod as something that might be important to some families, and "religion" appears in a list of life priorities for the parents to rank. I get it that this is a secular book, not written from a religious perspective. But it seems odd to leave the religious/spiritual aspect out completely.

And, I was surprised that the book contained no reference to homeschooling at all. Again, I get it that homeschoolers are not the target audience, and that we are a minority in the US. But when talking about school problems, school reforms, etc., it seems odd not to mention (at least) an educational segment that is growing each year.

Three stars is a bit higher than I'd like to rank the book. I'm not going to buy it and I'm not likely to need to read it again. Two stars seemed too low because much of the advice is sound. 2.5 stars would have been more accurate.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Homeschool Moment: New carpet and Playmobil

The giant bin of Playmobil figures has been in the dungeon for a while.  No one's played with it for a few years now, but of course Playmobil is a legacy toy, not to be donated or given away, but saved for the as-yet-hypothetical grandchildren.

But yesterday, after the new carpet was installed in the boy's room, he stood in the vast expanse of emptiness, with wonderful softness underfoot and asked:

Can we get the Playmobil out?

So we did.  And after reading history, doing some math and Latin, after piano practice and Python programming online class... my teens played with their Playmobil.  It was so fun to hear them exclaiming over old favorite figures.  And renaming some:  the old Roman Centurion was rechristened Rory*.  

The only downside?  We may never get the furniture out of the living room and back into the bedroom.  

*Doctor. Who reference.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Homeschool Moments: Atlatls and Watercolors

This new blogging endeavor is not going so well.  We do have at least one homeschool moment a day, but sometimes I forget to look for it... or forget to write about it.

Today was a good one to remember.

The Scout is involved in a project for an upcoming district-wide (council-wide?  I never know) campout and is in charge of teaching/demonstrating the use of the atlatl.  This is an ancient hunting device consisting of a throwing arm and a 5- 7-foot-long dart.  (I keep mistakenly calling it a spear. It looks like a spear to me!) He and his dad have been kicking around ideas, doing some research, and taking frequent trips to Lowe's for lumber.   Today he spent refining his throwing arm and preparing two different types of darts for his Scout meeting tonight.  He also worked up his (simple) budget proposal.  

I might have to have a big atlatl post at some point.  But that was today's highlight. 

While the boy was working on darts, my girl was out on the porch working with watercolors.  She's been focusing (haha) on photography lately but suddenly got the urge for watercolors.  We had an A C Moore (craft shop) coupon and got something a little better than the kiddie set she'd last used.  So yesterday and today she's been outside, in the cool fall air, working on watercolors.

We've also managed to do things like math and Latin, too! 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Homeschol Moments: Tower and Trebuchet

We had two good ones today.  Maybe I should cheat and save one for another day.  Or go backward in time and date one yesterday.

We're doing medieval history this year, which is always a treat.  We've been watching a documentary series on the Tower of London, appropriately called The Tower, together.  Though the tower was built in the middle ages, this dvd doesn't just cover those days.  It's been such fun to watch and relive our own visit to the Tower back in 2005.  My kids were pretty little then, but they have some memories.  Of course the boy remembers the armory best.

Then tonight after my girl left for her church youth group meeting, my boy and I sat down to watch Castles of War, a DVD I picked up from the library.  It's a bit cheesy for a documentary, put on by the Travel Channel.  It was a fun 45 minutes, though, particularly for the running commentary by my local weaponry expert.

Lots o' forts and weapons today...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Homeschool Moment: Porch School

It's not really a porch, and more than a moment.  This is the golden time in Pennsylvania - the humidity is (relatively) low, the temperature is perfect, and there is sunshine on the back deck.  (Deck school seemed to imply school on a boat.)   So why not haul the math, grammar, and some reading - oh, and I see the camera made its way out there too - for a little porch school after lunch?

Thursday, September 06, 2012

September 6 Homeschool Moment

Talking about the effects of the Norman Conquest on Western Civilization with my 15-year-old as we drove to a doctor appointment.  On the way home, having the same kid explain how an Icee is a great model of how oil sands work.  I just have to trust him on that.

He's been reading 1066: The Year of the Conquest, which I read in anticipation of this year's history studies.  I thought I had written something about it here, but it turns out I did that on goodreads.  Looking for it reminded me that I need to update my monthly reading.  Anyway, I handed it off to him and he's been enjoying it too. It's a fun popular history, not academic at all, and gives a good overview of the time period.

It is so fun to share "adult" books with my kids now.  It's fun to hear him speculate on what his world would have been like if Harold had defeated William.  Maybe someday he'll write an alternate history novel about it.  Could happen!

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

September 5: Homeschool Moment

Wondering if I can count the time my daughter spent doing her nails - ombre fall colors and glitter - as art for the day.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

September 4: Homeschool Moment

Sitting at the table with my daughter, looking with dismay at her math book for the first time in who knows how long.  She is supposed to do some averaging. 

"It's hard."

"OK, well, which part is hard?"

"It's all hard. The division is hard."

"Really, this dividing is hard? How about you just try this first one."

"Huh.  Why did I think that was so hard?  OK, I'll just finish up the rest of these now... you can go away now."