Stephen King on High School

Don’t worry, folks — I’m not reading Stephen King stories to my six-year old at night.  or am I recommending that anyone put “Cujo” on their nine year old’s reading list.  However, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the insight offered in Stephen King’s nonfictional book, On Writing — part memoir part field guide for creative writers.

There’s lots of practical advice that could prove truly inspiring for up-and-coming writers.  If you have any teens with an interest in writing fiction — and you don’t mind you 16 year old hearing about King’s turbulent life — it’s worth investigating.

However, here’s what I wanted to share from King’s book.  Here’s what the master horror says about high school:

“It was bad, but what in high school is not?  At the time we’re stuck in it, like hostages locked in a Turkish bath, high school seems the most serious business in the world to just about all of us.  It’s not until the second or third class reunion that we start realizing how absurd the whole thing was.”

See, even Stephen King is disturbed by the public school system!

Want Homeschool Ideas? Visit Your Local Children’s Museum

When my wife and I originally decided to homeschool our two children, we would stay up late during the evenings, brainstorming the different ways we wanted to teach our children.

I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to connect with my children.  What would be the best way to teach them?  As a college professor, I am used to lecturing to a class of thrity students.  That’s easy.  But try lecturing to a six year old.  She isn’t going to be too thrilled.  Powerpoint presentations just don’t work — now matter how many cool pieces of clip art you use!

That’s why I was thrilled when I discovered the Portland Children’s Museum.  This wonderful facility showed me something most of us parents already know (but we sometimes need reminding).  Children want hands-on experience.  They want to build things.  they want to be moving and talking and playing.  They want the freedom to make mistakes.  They want to get messy.  The Portalnd Children’s Museum offers their guests all of these opportunities.  They have a dress-up and performance room.  they have hands-on science gagets.  They have tons of art and building projects.  And they have a beautiful little spot to read to your kids.

I loved the way they used their SPACE so much that when my family and returned home from our trip, I looked at our house in a very different way.  I noticed so many little areas around the house that could become different “learning stations.”  For example, there’s a spot in the middle of our flight of stairs that’s perfect for sitting, writing, and drawing pictures.  We do a lot of our history lessons in the spot.

There’s a corner in our backyard where we collect plastic tubes, pieces of wood, and other building material.  This is sort of our “Builder’s Corner.”  When the girls are feeling very constructive, this is the place we flock to.

And we’re fortunate enough to have a spare bedroom (at least for now), which changes all of the time.  One month, it was our “music station.”  During the winter months, it was where we sat reading, writing and sharing poetry, while we looked out the window.  Right now, it’s our computer room, where are children go to practice typing, web page design, or play around with some of their math games.

In short, the children’s museum not only showed me fun ways to play and learn, it showed me how important a child’s environment is.  So, I highly suggest visiting your local children’s museum.  And if there isn’t one nearby, well then — turn your house INTO a children’s museum!

“The Well Trained Mind” by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise

Here’s the first thing you read on the inside jacket of this fascinating book about “classical education”:

Is your child getting lost in the system, becoming bored, losing his or her natural eagerness to learn?  If so, it may be time to take charge of your child’s education – by doing it yourself.

And so begins this+700 page book by a very inspiring mother-daughter team.  Many homeschool families are familiar with Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World, an innovative approach to world history, not found in most public schools.  The Well Trained Mind explores the same philosophy: the classical world — the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, the great thinkers and artists of the
Renaissance, the scientists and politicians of the Enlightenment — should be studied at a young age.

Now, does this mean instead of reading Curious George at bedtime you should read The Federalist Papers to your four-year old? Certainly not.  (Although I do recommend reading it to your unborn children — they’ll be a captive audience while in the womb!)  However, the Wise family suggests that parents expose children to classic stories and historical figures with engaging, easy-to-understand adaptations.  In fact, most of the Well trained Mind is a list of reading recommendations.

Overall, I give the book a thumbs up, with one caveat. This particular guide to a “Classical Education at Home” has very high standards for young students to achieve.  Any child who is a reluctant reader will find Susan Wise Bauer’s curriculum overwhelming.  My family and I use her book as a high benchmark for what we would love to achieve — however, we believe that learning must be fun, that children work best when they are inspired to learn or when they motivate themselves to explore and discover. Fortunately so far, when we select readings from The Well Trained Mind our girls have been very receptive.

What about you?  What is your definition of a “Classical Education”?  Do you believe it is a worth while approach?  Or, in this high-tech age, are the so-called classic becoming obsolete?

Fun with Sibling Rivalry

Right now, my 9 year old child is sitting at her desk, struggling with her two last math problems.  She has been staring at those numbers for the past half hour.

However, my six-year-old is standing right beside me, reading these words as I type them.  I’m sure she’s anxious to play a game or do something fun with me.  About twenty minutes ago, she finished her math homework.   You can imagine how frustrating that can be for the older child.  The younger one is all finished and relaxing while the older child toils away.

This really irks the 9 year old!

Have you experienced this situation?  Is there ever jealousy involved when one child finishes their work early?  How do you handle it?

In our household, we normally have two parents hanging around.  For instance, right now my wife is doing paperwork next to the 9 year-old.  Whenever the poor little mathematician gets frustrated, Mom can swoop in for a refreshing explanation or just a pep-talk.  Meanwhile, I’m hanging out with the younger one.  Right now she’s rifling through my office drawers preparing a classic paperclip necklace.  Anyway, when I’m not typing on the computer, the little one and I are either reading are building things with legos.    It might seem unfair at first–

But tomorrow the sitution will change.  The 6 year-old will “get stuck” on something.  Her older sister will be done sooner and will experience the joys of spare time.  We try to tell our kids that in the long run, it pretty much evens out.

Fortunately, most of the time they work at the same pace!  (Thank goodness!)

Overcoming My Fear of Math

I teach literature classes.

Ask me about the meaning of a poem and I can eloquently analyze each verse.

Ask me the square root of 12 and I will run away from you. Fast.

It seems the more I learn about creative writing, grammar, and Shakespeare, the more my  math-related brain cells die! When I was a kid, I didn’t understand math, and I didn’t want to. Now that I am an adult, math is an intriguing mystery to me, like a shaded pathway through a forest I never traveled upon. (See the Frost influence?)

Now that I’m a homeschool parent, it’s my responsibility to not only revisit but embrace arithmetic. Fortunately, it’s been a lot of fun so far. My kids are studying 5th and 2nd grade math. They haven’t passed me yet! (But if I don’t watch out they’ll surpass my limited math ability– very soon.)

Even more fortunately, my wife is a superb math-a-magician. She uses lots of real world examples when she works with the kids. She incorporates lots of manipulable tools, such as geometric shapes, rulers, globes, marbles, you name it. Since both my kids are really interested in money (they are budding young capitalists apparently) my wife creates stories problems that are about young people making lots of cold, hard cash.

But eventually, after all the talking and discussing, we do have them sit down and complete a worksheet. (We average about four worksheets per week– nothing very tedious but enough to solidify the concepts). This is when I come into play. During the last several months, when they sit down to work on their math, I hang out in the same room, and I calculate some of the same math problems. The kids know that it isn’t my strongest subject, but when they see me working hard at it — even enjoying it — it crates a sense of teamwork, and an understanding that learning is a continual process that one never outgrows.

Something very cool happened yesterday. Normally, their math assignments are very easy for me. I mean, I’m scared of math, but I know how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. I know the basics quite well. But yesterday’s exercise called for me to figure out the area of an obtuse triangle.

“How the heck can anyone possibly do that?!” I complained.

My nine year old walked over and explained it to me.

“Oh,” I said. “Thanks.” And then I got back to work.

“Carschooling” by Diane Flynn Keith

Did you take a road trip this summer?   Even with the current gas prices, my family and I enjoy traveling across America’s highways at least once a year.  Last week, we drove all the way from Seattle to Los Angeles.  Whew!

Like a lot of parents today, we were tempted to just plug in a DVD player and have the kids watch movies the entire car trip.  But how mind-numbing is that?  (Actually it doesn’t need to be a mind-numbing experience — just buy DVDs of outstanding documentaries! I recommend the Planet Earth series.)

Fortunately, we have a book called Carschooling by Diane Flynn Keith.  Within her 340 pages she has created hundreds of entertaining and educational activities.  Best of all, she’s divided them up into themes.  Here’s a few tidbits:

Science: Why do our ears pop when we drive to high elevations?  How can you identify different types of bugs that SPLAT against the windshield?

Math: License Plat Math — Take turns Adding or Multiplying the numbers on License Plate Numbers. Skip counting songs — a much better alternative to “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”

Language Arts: Audiobook resources, story-telling games, Car Themed Spelling Bees.

Social Sciences: Cultural History behind the Cars — Toyota, Ford, Mercedes.  History Quizzes based upon the location your journey and destination.

Carschooling even offers tips for Physical Education in the car!

My wife first met Ms. Keith at a Homeschool Conference.  She’s an excellent public speaker and advocate for homeschooling.  Although her book is for anyone, homeschooling families who want to learn 24/7 will love the ideas and games presented in Keith’s handy book.  I give it a big thumbs up! (Although I should probably keep both hands on the wheel!)

Olympic Fever? Get a Map!

My family and I do not pay too much attention to Sports on television.  The kids run track and play soccer.  My wife coaches.   I just learned how to be a referee (and I’m really nervous about being trampled by 6 year olds).  We all love swimming.  But watching Sports on TV… It’s just not our thing.

Until — TADA! — the Olympics come around, and then we are hooked!  We love watching the more unusual events, like Saber Fencing, Badminton, and Race Walking.   We also enjoy learning about the struggles and triumphs of the individual athletes.  There are thousands of stories to be told.  Hundreds of cultures to learn about.

As we’ve been watching the Olympics we’ve been talking about the different countries.  There’s a map of the world on our wall, and sometimes when the children our curious about where an athletes from, we search the map and see what we can find.  Then we talk about the bordering nations.  The kids are very interested when neighboring countries compete — like the U.S. vs Canada Softball game.  They wonder if the competition builds friendship, rivalries, or both.

Lots of great questions and geography tidbits can come out of the Olympics.  (And since we use our DVR we can skip all those pesky commercials!)

My Turning Point…

As I stated in my last blog entry, most of my college students believe that homeschooling is negative for several reasons: not enough socialization, not enough real-world experience, and too much time with Mom and Dad. One student said plainly, “The kids will turn out weird.”

After my students are done discussing (or writing about) the topic, this is what I tell them:

“My wife and I homeschool our children. It was something that I never considering doing until I became a college professor. Once I began teaching classes, I noticed that each semester there would be one or two students who were extraordinary.

They were excellent writers. They were creative. They were critical thinkers. When they earned a C or a B on a paper, they respectfully approached me after class and talked about what they could do to improve their writing.

Whenever I would interact with this type of student, I would ask about their educational background. And, yes, you guessed it, 90% of the time these thoughtful, self-motivated students who loved every minute of learning came from Homeschool families.”

So, strangely enough, even though the majority of my college students debate against homeschooling, it was a brilliant handful of college pupils that provided a remarkable turning point for me and my family.

Views on Homeschooling — Conversations with my College Students


My name is Wade.  I am the lucky father of two terrific children.  I am the husband of the world’s most wonderful wife.  And I am the new guy here at ContentQuake’s Homeschool page.

My wife and I have been homeschooling our kids since 2002.  Like many homeschool families, we dealt with worried grandparents and neighbors who sometimes looked at us and stracthed their heads out of curiosity.

Sometimes our friends wonder why on Earth we would want to have our children around us all day long instead of letting them go to public school for six to eight hours a day.

Well, you probably already know the reason.  And I guess there’s more than just one reason, but for us it comes down to this profound, loving feeling that has told us that Homeschooling is the right thing to do.  It’s the right choice for us.

When we decided to homeschool, I expected resistance from my peers and older family members.  However, I must say the grandparents and other relatives have happily embraced our choice.  But you know what’s weird?  There’s a group of people that are “freaked” out by homeschooling, and I didn’t expect them to be.

Who is this group?  College students.  I teach at a local community college, so every semester I meet new batches of students fresh from the trenches of High School.  I teach Freshman Composition, so we spend a lot of time brainstorming and discussing argument issues.  One of my favorite topics to bring up is (no surprise) EDUCATION.

When we talk about America’s education system, the students invariably discuss the agony of getting up early in the morning, the obnoxious teachers, the dullness of some of their classes, the busy work, the bullies, the ex-boyfriends, the list goes on.  It’s not all bad stuff… but it’s mostly negative.

Then, when I bring up the topic of homeschooling (always without revealing my bias), about 90% of the college students shake their heads lamentably.  Most of the students claim that kids need to go to a public high school so that “they will turn out normal.”  When I hint at the many positive statistics and accomplishments related to homeschooling, most of the students still don’t see any benefits.  “Homeschool students are too sheltered,” they will say.  “They don’t know how to relate to normal kids.  They don’t know how to live in the real world.”

Then, after I listen to their ideas, there is a little speech that I give them, a little story I tell them that hopefully broadens their minds a bit more.  I’ll share the speech in another blog entry.  But for now, I was hoping you can answer this question:

What would you tell those college students?


Creative Commons License photo credit: ants of the sky

There are so many things that I am thankful for in my homeschooling life.  Sometimes it is hard to see the really beautiful sprouts amongst the weeds that seem to tenaciously dig in to my life.

So here they are.  Things that I am thankful for.

  • My family
  • The salad we are harvesting daily from the garden
  • The goats that give pure, organic, raw milk for our health
  • The chickens that are laying eggs like crazy
  • The snakes that eat the eggs but also eat the mice in the barn area
  • The fact that God has blessed my blogging hobby so completely
  • My online friends as well as my IRL friends

There.  Those are the things I am thankful for today.

Creative Commons License photo credit: WellstoneWellstone

I am also thankful for posts like Sebatian’s at Percival Blakeney Academy. She asks:

What if your family were offered a job transfer to a far away country. It might be Germany or Kenya or Ukraine. You ask about school. You are assured that you don’t need to worry. The company has educational allowances that generally cover the cost of a private school. But what about our homeschooling. That’s ok too. You can homeschool instead, and even receive an allowance for that. In fact we’ll give you over $5000 for each elementary school aged kid and over $7000 for each high school aged kid that you are homeschooling.

First of all, with 6 kids still at home I am now a wealthy, wealthy woman. On children alone I have now 34,000 dollars.  WHOOOHOOO.

I am not sure what I would do differently. I would certainly get microscopes,a nd telescopes and owl pellets…but I think that that amount would just about keep me in drawing paper and printer ink at the rate my kids go through it. :/  I would use it to get a country property because alot of our learning is hands on.  We would, I think, do field trips to Rome, and Paris, and the Great Wall of China.

Head over to her site to read the whole post and do some dreaming.

What would you do?