Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Well, shoot.  I had this local speaking engagement last night…but then Southeast Snowmaggedon 2 happened at just about the same scheduled time, so we cancelled…at since it was part of a series of speakers, I don’t know if and when it will be rescheduled.

So I have books!

"Amy Welborn"Here’s the link to the bookstore.  As I say on the page, all prices include Media Mail shipping.  If you would like them more quickly, let me know, and we can arrange it.  I really would prefer to ship only to the United States, but if you are outside the US, and have a burning desire for a book, again, email me and we can figure it out.

The only books I don’t presently have on hand are the three children’s picture books, but I’ll get some more of them presently.

So yes…books for your RCIA candidates, your confirmation candidates, your graduating seniors, your moms, dads, First Communicants…..etc.  



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— 1 —

"amy welborn"

At the Moss Rock Festival.  Death by Mallet.  Death, as in Dyeing, that is.

Still doesn’t beat the Best Ever Arts Festival Activity for Kids.  It was in the Tampa Bay area ages ago, when a couple of artists had a booth for children to do the traditional Japanese art of using a whole fish for printing.   Super popular, really different….and something I’ve never seen again at one of these things.


— 2 —

I’m so glad Pope Francis’ dramatic gestures are (seemingly) getting the attention of non-believers, but (you knew that was coming) – honestly.   Right now, there are countless Christians around the globe embracing the outcasts and protecting them against the Machine that would like to see them dead and out of sight.   Since Jesus, this is what Jesus-followers do.  I hope that Pope Francis’s actions work to call us (aka me)  to do more and to be more, but also that it jostles the conscience of the nonbeliever to look around, look through history and see the truth about what Jesus-followers do and have always done.  Right now, those works of mercy are being lived in pretty dramatic, sacrificial ways.

— 3 —

As I noted earlier, we took a slight detour on the way up to Huntsville earlier this week.   We turned off 65 around Cullman and drove west about 25 miles, turned a couple more times up country roads and ended up at the Jesse Owens Memorial Park.  

Owens was born in Alabama, and the family moved to Ohio when he was 9 as part of the Great Migration.  It was there he went to high school, then college, breaking records and heading to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

This park is just that – a large park (I believe high school track and field events are held here occasionally) with a tiny museum at the top of the overlooking rise.

It’s a nicely done little space, with warm and friendly volunteers – you need to stop at the vistors’ center at the gate, as it were, to tell them that you’re here so they open up on these slow weekdays.  There’s not a lot to it – most of the items inside are replicas, and since we’d prepared so thoroughly before coming, none of the information presented was really new.

There was, however, a broad jump pit (see photo in previous post) in which you could test your, um, skills, against Owens’, and a replica of the three-room sharecropper’s shack he and his 8 siblings and parents lived in down the road.

— 4 —

Before going, we read a couple of books and watched this American Experience profile of Owens, which was very good.  This kind of schooling works for us because in learning about Owens, they also learned more about Nazi Germany, the Olympics and segregation in the United States.

— 5 —

Speaking of which, it’s worth noting that when Owens was a student at Ohio State in the 1930′s, he was not permitted to live on campus nor patronize many restaurants around campus.

In the South, segregation was enshrined in law, but it’s useful to remember that de facto segregation was a fact of life in a lot of places, not only in the South.

— 6 —

A half mile down the road from the Owens park are some Native American mounds – these.   (A larger area is not far from Tuscaloosa – we will go there eventually)  Not a whole lot to it, but the educational building/museum had probably thousands of arrowheads and other tools on display, and is clearly set up to receive school groups – there were lots of animal skins, work tools and musical instruments to touch and use.

Both the Owens museum and the Oakville mounds were free admission, so there you have it:  just a little ways from home, a morning of history, and all it cost was time.


— 7 —

Reading:  I’m about finished with this, and we are reading Oliver Twist aloud.  I usually don’t like to edit, but I admit that this time, that’s exactly what I’m doing.  There are big chunks that are of little interest to the boys.  Example – chapter 23. I summarized most of it (Mr. Bumble visits the matron and courts her after a fashion) and read the last two pages (the dying old woman reveals something about Oliver’s mother).  Oh, and I also admit that I’m not going to say “the Jew” every five seconds – which is how Dickens refers to Fagin about 89% of the time.  So I substitute “the old man” or “Fagin.”

(As for expanding the context of Oliver Twist, we’ve read a couple of biographies of Dickens for younger children, are going to watch this BBC program - The Children who Built Victorian Britain , and of course, this)

(Don’t forget – order your copies of Bambinelli Sunday!)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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Prayer Corner

We are all about rocks here – well one of us is all about rocks here – so we spent some time this evening reading about – and more importantly – looking at photographs of – the astonishing Cave of Crystals in Mexico.  

I thought this one was good for this space.

"amy welborn"


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We are currently at the beach, but since school started for most of our friends back home, and since we are going to be travelling through much of the fall anyway, we might as well get used to this roadschooling thing, eh, what?

"amy welborn"

Drawing and labeling a crab.

I’m going to talk about our crazy home/road/not-really-un/schooling-at-all-let’s-face-it  journey here and there not because I’m super proud of what we’re doing, because I’ve no idea what we’re doing, but more for the sake of hearing what you’re doing and benefitting from your experience.


  • Since we are still in a bit of a transition, we’ve started with easy stuff – for all of us.  That is, we’re not getting hardcore on our  history/culture/art/science/language – all the focus of the fall – for a couple more weeks.  Too much going on, too many in-and-outs, here-and-theres.
  • So, “easy” means getting rolling with math and some language arts, first.
  • After much dithering and input from lots of good people, I decided to just settle in regard to math and stick with their school’s curriculum, which is the EnVision program.  Sort of controversial in some circles, with a unique pedagogy.  I wasn’t crazy about it last year (the first year it was used), but it’s slowly growing on me, and I actually find working with the material one-on-one with them sort of interesting.  Yes, I considered Singapore Math and feel like a slacker for not going with it – my boys are both good in math and enjoy it, so no excuses there.   But given the built in challenges and priorities of the fall, it eventually hit me that it would be fairly insane to plunge them into a completely different and more challenging math program at this point.   Especially since (as I keep repeating) they might be returning to school in January.  So for now -Envision.
  • Over the past two days, we’ve used what we’ve seen and experienced to talk about (and hopefully learn about): crabs & other crustaceans (read about them on the internet, and they drew and labelled a diagram), dolphins and other cetaceans (same kind of study before we went dolphin cruising today); sand dollars (Michael found  a live one yesterday, and we looked it up to see the difference between and live and a dead one, and to learn how they eat and such. Have you ever held a live sand dollar? You can actually feel the little fuzzy..things..move about); the differences between oceans, seas & bays (explaining Mobile Bay); the Gulf Stream; Fort Morgan – especially the famous Civil War battle that occurred there – we visited the Fort today.  (Tip: If you go in the summer — maybe don’t go in the summer. ); some constellations (standing on the beach in the dark last night with my Google Sky app on the phone); the Assumption of Mary; regular geography check-ups (“which way is north?” “what state is directly west of where we are?” ); estimating time by the position of the sun; what a “dauphin” is and subsequent to that, rehashing our understanding of the French presence in the area  - since there was much confusion today over the fact that as we stood at Fort Morgan, we could see Dauphin Island, and later we were going dolphin watching.  I suppose that whole episode also counts as enunciation lessons for everyone, as well.
  • And they’re reading, of course.  J: an Artemis Fowl  book and M an abridged version of Journey to the Center of the Earth, which he assures  me is nothing like the movie.
  • Oh, and J also has this book on the physics of football, which he’s read through twice since yesterday and continues to glance over.  I have a couple of football/math books at home which I’ll pull out when we get back.  I had thought about letting him do a fantasy football team (it’s actually done in some schools as a part of math programs), but honestly, that would then necessitate him spending far more time on the internet than he does now – which is basically none, except occasional supervised forays onto Lego.com.  So not yet.
  • I’m getting this for myself, and have become an instant fangirl of Quinn Cummings. 

So my smallish question for today:

Who uses (or makes their own) Book of Centuries? 

I’m thinking about this.  It seems to fit our style. Tell me about it, or anything similar that you do.

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Yes, we are still doing the home/road/unschooling thing.

School starts up here next week – their Catholic school friends will be back in the classroom on Monday, their public school buddies  a week later.  This past spring, the Alabama legislature passed a law mandating that public schools start back no sooner than 2 weeks before Labor Day. The change would give the opportunity, it was argued, for more tourism dollars to be spent. Fine, except passing the law after school districts had already set their 2012-2013 calendars was….let’s say..typical.. Catholic schools may or may not conform to that law – ours aren’t.

Doesn’t matter though, because we’re just still hanging out.  Not worried about uniforms or meetings or schedules.  Ees very nice.

As I’ve said before, I am not sure where we’re going to fall on this homeschool spectrum.   I am philosophically almost 100% on board with unschooling, with two caveats:  First, there are subjects I believe should be directed and planned – math, grammar, other languages. (So, I guess that probably takes the “almost 100%” claim down to about 82.5.)  Secondly, you can’t just take children and a mother who have been involved in institutional schools forever and step right into unschooling.  None of us would have any idea of what to do.  So, a period of “deschooling” is probably required.

The other factor keeping us in suspended animation is the question of how long this will last.  We have never done this before, we will be doing it under rather unusual circumstances over the next few months, and it very well might be that one, or perhaps both of them will vote for returning to school in January.  Or maybe I will vote for it. Who the heck knows.  For that reason, at this point, I think it’s wise to keep them on track with their school curricula. Not slavishly, but just generally – at this point.  So I’ll be meeting with the principal tomorrow to get a sense of scope and sequence and so on – and then we can proceed full force with our weird mix of “what Mom thinks is important –  today” “What we want to learn about” “What the moment is teaching us and inspiring us to learn more about” and “What we need to know so we’re not too far behind if we go back to school.”

So, we’ve been doing a little bit of this and that by way of math skills reviews, and this:

"amy welborn"

Last week (was it just last week? Yes…sheesh)..on our quick trip to DC, we went (of course) to the Air & Space Museum.  They have a really fine Wright Brothers exhibit, so inspired by that, as well as by the also good children’s-science-museumy hall of “How Things Fly”, we returned this week to build on all of that, being all respectful of varied learning styles and all.   Just a little bit every day – their independent reading, drawing, studying those four forces of flight, and doing some simple experiments.

a.  One of the library books on flight we checked out. I thought this was the best. 

b. They each had their own Wright Brothers book (again, just checked out from the library) appropriate to their reading level.  For Michael (age 7) - a DK Reader. 

c.  For Joseph (age 11) this one.   I had seen a copy of this in the Museum Shop, and was impressed by the depth of the text – just right, not overwhelming as well as by the attractiveness of the layout.  It seems to be a good series of biographies – Sterling is the publisher. 

d. There is no dearth of online resources on flight (or anything) but I finally settled on this site from the FAA to reinforce the concepts.  It’s simple and clear and makes so much sense, even I now understand that flying is not magic.

e.  Again, no lack of “how to draw aircraft” books – but many are rather complex.  This was simple enough for both boys to use. 

f.   Kid-made quick sketch, demonstrating the four forces.

g.  Better drawings.

h.  Not than anyone around here needs an excuse to make a paper airplane.   But this one was made with the back reinforced by layers of tape so it would be strong enough to launch with a slingshot (fashioned from a forked stick and rubber bands) to give it more (class???) thrust.

Not pictured above.  Umbrella and crumpled papers used to understand drag.

"amy welborn"

We’ll probably hit this place in the next couple of weeks, too – it’s five minutes from my house, and we’ve never been there.  Shame on us!

So that’s it for the um-that’s-really-not-UNschooling part of our program.  Right now, they really are unschooling as they try to figure out what the baby lizard they captured will eat.

"amy welborn"

They have settled on roly-polies and observed that the lizard seems to eat out the innards and leave the exoskeleton.  Good for them.  They can unschool in that fashion all they want.  I’ll be in here.

"amy welborn"

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It all started here:

"amy welborn"

Well, not really. It started decades ago, of course, because everything does. Start long before you know it does.

But that afternoon, that Sunday afternoon at the Magic City Art Connection, thoughts, feelings, intuitions and convictions came together, and I understood some truth.  I’d sort of made the decision a couple of months before, but at that moment, I really saw why.

So yes, we – the boys and I – are embarking on a homeschool/roamschool/unschooling experiment.  I don’t know how long it will last.  I’ve told their school we might be back in January, but we might not.  We will definitely have to see how it goes, but even now, the older one is saying, “I think when we get back, I’ll want to keep homeschooling.”  I always tell him: You might want to wait on that.  We both all be racing towards the school at that point. 

I’m going to talk about this during the week and try to avoid a big mega-post, as I am always tempted to do.

So I’ll start with some very Convenient Bullet Points:

  • This is not about a deep dissatisfaction with their particular (Catholic) school.  For the most part, I’m happy with their school, and so are they. I’m grateful for it and the people involved.  It’s a solid Catholic school in a good parish, and both of them had good years (1st and 5th grades).
  • This is fundamentally about a dissatisfaction with school.  
  • Montessori has always been on my radar, but never a possibility, mostly because I really believe that the education of grammar school children should be grounded in the everyday practice of the Faith.  A Catholic Montessori might be ideal – and they do exist – but just never where I’ve happened to live.
  • I have resisted this for a long time, in my own spirit.  My arguments against it are not all selfish, either.  We are not a big family in a busy neighborhood bursting with children. It is me and the boys, and I am anything but cavalier about that.  I have always - always  – welcomed the presence of helpful, loving, authoritative, truth-telling teachers in my children’s lives, and they have each had their share of inspiring ones.  They need to know this is not just me speaking.  Even with other activities, which, as long as we are in town they will do – they do Scouts, they do sports, and as long as we are in one place we’ll hook up with other homeschoolers – yet, even with that, I’m acutely aware of the possible wear and tear on our family dynamic – on all sides.
  • That said, the dissatisfaction with school won’t go away.  On many levels, which I’ll go into tomorrow, perhaps.
  • There is a spiritual dimension to this.  I have been feeling nudges from a million directions, but have resisted the sacrifice.  But I am sensing that at least for now, I am supposed to say yes to it.  I have the time, the resources, and the freedom.  I see gaps, I see the potential for flourishing, and – with sacrifice and grace – the gaps can be filled and deeper flourishing can be encouraged at home.
  • They’re good with it.  They’re not unwilling or fighting it at all.
  • I am leaning towards a roamschool(because we will be traveling) model.  Like Julia, I have certain areas which I a stickler for, which I think are building blocks, and which will be constants – a few of which I think are being neglected in the present situation, grammar being an important one.   We will do curricula in math, spelling, grammar and probably Latin.  So it’s probably stretching to call it unschooling. Yeah. I think I just want that as a cover for my disorganization.  Oh, we’re unschooling, you know…
  • I told Dorian and Jen that I am trying mightily to avoid reading homeschooling blogs – it is just too overwhelming and, like reading mommyblogs in general, deeply demoralizing.  But in trying to figure out resources and materials, it’s hard to avoid them.

So that picture?

We went this downtown art festival last month.  And waaaay in the back, behind all the booths, was this area set up for kids.  As you can see, it was a mess – stocked with all kinds of big tubes and what seemed like insulation and ties and chicken wire.

I watched the children – not just mine, but all the children who drifted that way.  They would spy this glorious mess, and they would run to it, and then they started building.   Sometimes forming teams without even discussing it, sometimes working alone.  There was no hesitation – every child who saw this array – this possibility  - ran to it, plunged into it, and started figuring things out. It was play, but it was quite purposeful and as you watched them, you could actually see them all, in their groups and on their own, thinking things through. 

What happens to that? 

A couple of weeks ago I was telling this story and describing my thought processes to someone who I didn’t expect to oppose me, but nor did I expect him to be sympathetic.  He surprised me.  He was completely sympathetic and revealed that he and his wife are seriously considering homeschooling as well, simply because they are frustrated by and weary of the inefficiencies of the schooling their children are enduring, as well as the extreme orientation to standardized testing.

To be continued….

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So, you know, tell me about it.

Just askin’.


Thanks for the responses so far.  We’re rolling here.  I’m interested in what everyone has to say.  I’ll have more to say about why I’m asking later. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow.   I’m usually pretty reticent about stuff like this until it actually happens, but I’m feeling the need for input, and it’s just not fair to make Dorian Speed do all the work.

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