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John Taylor Gatto, Skateboard Math, Getting Back on Track

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, February 22, 2008

The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 9 No 15 February 22, 2008
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2008 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!
If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!




Notes from Heather
-- John Taylor Gatto / Personal Note
Helpful Tips
-- Live Nature Online
Winning Website
-- Skateboard Math and Science
Reader Question
-- Getting Back on Track
Additional Notes
-- Searchable Archive
-- Our Email Group
-- Sponsorship Information
-- Reprint Information
-- Subscriber Information

Notes from Heather

The Underground History of American Education


Calling all John Taylor Gatto fans! John's latest book is now
available to read *complete and unabridged* online! This is a
great opportunity to absorb a few chapters each day without the
necessity of buying the book or waiting for the library to get it.

Here is the complete title:

"The Underground History of American Education - A Schoolteacher's
Intimate Investigation Into The Problem Of Modern Schooling"

John Taylor Gatto is a big fan of homeschooling -- after being
awarded New York State and also New York City "Teacher of the Year"
honors, he shocked the system by leaving it and beginning to speak
out, writing books that would become the most eye-opening of the
20th century on American education.

According to Terri Camp -- www.IgniteTheFire.com -- he also has a
villa in Spain with an open invitation for any homeschool families
that want to come visit! :-)

Take some time for your own 'continuing education' and read the
book. You'll come away with valuable insight and a strengthened
resolve about what you are really doing for your children by keep-
ing them out of the public school institution.


Personal Note:

We are home and doing well. The birth of Hallel Selah Idoni on
Sunday, February 17th, was miraculous and grace-filled. She was
6 lbs 8 oz and 19 inches long -- our smallest baby so far! We
are laying her to rest today (Friday) with our family there to
support us. The support of friends, both far and near, has been
a refreshment to our spirits. I just want to hug you all and thank
you for your prayers, tears, words of encouragement, and also those
who sent a financial gift. (((((((((((hugs)))))))))) to you all!!
Your love was greatly felt and deeply appreciated.

-- Heather


Do you have comments to share? Please do!
Send your emails to: heather@familyclassroom.net



Helpful Tip

"Okay, it's not quite a nature walk, but our kids are loving this
- a mini-cam observing nesting eagles and their two hatchlings.
This pair is in south Florida. Yesterday we came home just in time
to catch them feeding the hatchlings (about 5:30). Enjoy!"


from Sheryl on our Homeschooling Gifted email group


Do you have an idea, experience, or tip to share? Please write!
Send to: HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

Winning Website

The Futures Channel | Hands-On Math
Designing Stronger Skateboards

"Take a few minutes and show your students a professional who
combines his passion for skateboarding with his knowledge of
science, technology, design, engineering and math to make
extremely durable skateboards.

Watch the movie:

-- Interested in math? Every step of the design, manufacturing
and testing of a skateboard involves mathematics.

-- Looking for real-world examples of science? Check out the
section on recording kinetic energy and graphing waveforms to
investigate the differences between a good board and a bad one."

Last Issue's Reader Question

"I feel so behind for my school year. My husband, children and
I are caregivers for my parents who live in our home. Last week,
my dear father passed away in the wee morning hours. I am so
bogged down with every aspect of life. Can I get suggestions
from readers on how to make the most of this year and not lose
all summer to schooling. While we have not done much math or
science, my dear little ones have learned some amazing things
about life. They have learned to care for, feed and other neces-
sities for people who can do nothing in return. How can I get
back on track? Thank you." -- Jacqueline in Alabama

Our Readers' Responses

"Dear Jacqueline -- First, thank you for setting a wonderful
example for your children in taking the responsibility of caring
for your parents... they need to see that! I'm a mother of three
young children, and have only homeschooled for 4 years, so I feel
a bit inadequate to respond. However, as my oldest was trudging
through Kindergarten, I was having our third child and we too had
to stop. I realized that sometimes the greatest lessons we can
learn are those which pertain directly to our own lives. I often
stop and try to remember back to my own years of childhood to
compare how 'on track' we are. I don't necessarily remember
exactly when I conquered my times tables or when I could break
down a sentence; I didn't take typing, I still struggle with dates
from History, and don't have the list of presidents memorized;
and I made it okay. I graduated from both high school and college
with good grades, I have a wonderful life with my husband and kids,
and I even consider myself a decent teacher. Isn't that the point?

Now, the nitty-gritty of it. First start with your state laws and
requirements for the school year. See how you can apply any of
the reading with grandparents, counting, serving, helping, cooking,
etc. as reading, math, or science. Also, go by mastery of the
subject, not how many hours/worksheets they have to do.

Second, go through the scope and sequence of particularly math and
see where you are -- and what you absolutely have to do. Remember,
if your kids are fairly young, they will repeat it at the beginning
of next year for the first 6 weeks. Break down what you absolutely
can't do without, and put it on a calendar. BUT DON'T BE AFRAID
TO SKIP! Push through what you can, and then make a 'Rainy Day'
or an 'It's Too Hot to Play' or a 'Road Trip' folder that you put
the extras in -- and use them appropriately for catch-up in the
summer -- not everyday.

You could also join a library contest in the summer for reading.
Let your reading time do double duty. Read about history and
science in a leisurely way. My daughter enjoys the American Girl
books -- a good source of leisure history.

Third, if your kids are young, as mine are, reading and math are
really the only two things that I deem necessary core subjects.
Count ANY thing your child reads. One mom, I believe from this
newsletter, said once her kids could read, she let them handle
it. I have taken that advice. If they like what they are read-
ing, they will read. If your children aren't reading yet, don't
push too hard.

History and Science comes out in our everyday lives. Use what
is around you: Presidential election, Olympics, seasons, planting
time, rainy season/cycle of water, etc. Take some of the phonics
rules or even math facts and write them on index cards. Punch a
hole in them and put them on a ring; then they are portable. You
would be surprised how much you 'teach' all day long! Simply
write it down and count it.

Don't get discouraged; it's a brand new day, sister! Don't quit
yet!" -- Heidi in Chicago


"Jacqueline, I think you already have a handle on this. What
your children are learning from caring for your parents is a
more important lesson than anything else you could teach them.
Sometimes we choose our curriculum; sometimes God chooses for
us. While He normally chooses learning experiences that we would
not choose for ourselves, the day will come when we will look
back and see that what He chose for us was so much more valuable.
A textbook publisher has no way of knowing what your children
really need to learn. They offer a helpful resource, but they
aren't the supreme authority.

For you to say you are behind makes it sound as if you might be
comparing yourselves to something else -- perhaps the public
school, or perhaps your plans for the year. You are not behind
-- you are right where you belong, even though you might not be
making progress in the direction you had expected. You ARE mak-
ing progress; but along a different path.

We cared for my parents when their health began to fail; now that
they are gone, we continue to help other elderly and handicapped
people. It takes a tremendous amount of time, and sometimes I
find myself desperately trying to squeeze another minute out of
the day. But when I see what all this is doing for my children's
character, academics are placed in their proper perspective.
Academics are important, but they aren't the most important thing.
They are only a tool.

I might also share with you that our family schools year-round.
We set up a tentative schedule of eight weeks on, two weeks off.
In the summer we plan four-day weeks. This provides us with a
very flexible schedule, and we can easily make up any days which
we miss when God sends us on a detour." -- Mary Beth


"Jacqueline -- I can understand that feeling, as we went through
a similar situation last year, although perhaps not as intense
as yours. Your children have learned so much, and so much that
is more important than the 'standard curriculum'. I think I
would focus on getting math done, if nothing else. In other
words, since that's what I feel I need to follow and keep my
kids on track, try to get a lesson done each day. If possible
(I don't know what you're doing or their ages), combine two
lessons. Then I would use their life experiences for this year
to learn in other areas. For instance, they could make a scrap-
book of their grandfather's life. This could be a very healing
process, and help you all through the mourning process. They
could write letters to him or write about him and how special
he was. They could write about how giving care to their grand-
father taught them life lessons. You could perhaps tie in some
science/health with a first aid course or volunteer situation.
These would all depend on your circumstances and ages of your
children. I wouldn't worry so much about science, unless you
can find an obvious tie-in. This may be your year to concen-
trate on social studies. Perhaps next year can be more science
oriented. Also, if you really feel like you need to do 'summer
school', perhaps it could be more 'fun' school, like field trips,
science museums, day camps, etc. Life lessons are so important,
especially when we look at the whole picture as God sees it.
He'll fill in the gaps when the time is right. Hang in there.
God will never give you more than you can handle. Cling to Him."
-- Lori in PA


"Jacqueline -- Don't worry! Last year I only managed to teach my
4 children 3 days all year!!  When you say it, it sounds awful!
But God had called me to get a ministry up and running and I
faithfully trusted in Him.  This year when we got back to school,
they weren't even behind!!
You have been called to take care of your folks.  If GOD has
called you to homeschool (and take care of your folks) you cannot
fail!  He won't let you.  You keep praying and do what He would
have you do - your kids will learn in spite of any lack of time,
education (on your part) or ability.  This last year has been
spent teaching them volumes about life and loving that they could
never have learned otherwise. 


"Dear Jacqueline, I am sorry to hear about your father but I am
sure that your children learned one of the most important lessons
in their lives.  What I can recommend to you is first of all make
a calendar.  It will take you some time, but will help you a lot.
Write down the things that you have to do for each day and after
that select which of them are urgent and which are important.
Besides that, give them an order in which you are going to perform
them.  If you have errands to do too, try to organize them in
categories, as well.  For example -- the ones that are urgent, the
ones that are important, the one that you can do on another day,
the ones that are near one another (so you don't have to make many
trips), or the ones you can make while taking a break from other
chores, etc.  I hope this can help you and I wish you the best."
-- Veronica


"I too, like you, have often had 'life' interrupt what I was cal-
ling 'classroom time'.  During my son's 1st and 2nd grade years,
my dad was helping us remodel a home we bought and it took 2 years
before we could move in.  I was his gopher girl and 'fetcher' for
many of the projects.  Needless to say, with 7 year old son and 4
year old daughter in tow, we did what was needed.  It took a few
years for my son to get 'caught up' academically, but oh what a
relationship he grew with my dad -- and oh what information he
gained from him.  The year we moved in, I started taking care of
my grandma with Alzheimers 2 days a week and took my kids with me.
Sometimes they got their studies done; sometimes they helped me
with her.  Shall we say they had Geriatrics 101 for those 3 years
I kept her.  One year, I was just burned out from all my part-time
jobs, being a preachers wife, and homeschooling.  (Shhhhhh -- We
did about 1/2 of what I had planned to do that year, but the kids
were right on the mark when we tested at the end of the year!)
My son is now 17, a junior, surviving advanced Algebra and taking
extra classes for a Fire Science degree -- and my daughter (14) is
in 8th grade, doing well in all subjects and very self motivated.
God works these situations out for our good and for theirs as well.
My children are very handy with tools and are very attentive to
the elderly as a result of our interruptions over the years -- or
should we say 'Divine Intermissions'?" -- Kim


"Since you referred to your children as 'little ones', I'm assuming
they're of grade school age.  If this is so, my advice to you is
not to worry about it!  Every year in math and English I am surprised
at how much of the year is spent reviewing work they did the previous
year.  There is so much repetition that your children will NOT be
behind!  They will NOT struggle if you simply skip to next grade.
As far as the other subjects go, I wouldn't worry about that, either.
What they might miss this year will eventually be covered in later
years.  As you said, what your children have learned about caring
for others is invaluable!" -- Teal


"I'm so sorry for your loss.  I'm sure you are all deeply affected,
since your father was living in your home.  I would suggest you just
relax, do what you feel is most important, and do NOT concentrate
on the things you are not accomplishing.  All of your circumstances
this year, all of the difficulties, the losses and adjustments - God
is not surprised by these things!  In fact, He knew the timing and
outcome of it all long before this year happened.  The Lord wants us
to praise Him for our circumstances, whether 'good or bad', knowing
He is is fully in control.  He wants us to lean on Him, pray, and to
seek His guidance. 

Your children will be fine, and they will be watching how you respond
to all these situations.  How they react to hard times in the future
will be affected by how you deal with them now.  Isn't that a wonder-
ful learning experience? 

I think just being together is the most important:  pray, talk, play
games, and read together.  Read aloud for history and science or good
meaningful read-alouds stories.  Get in math and grammar when and as
often as you can, so that they are getting some of that, but not to
a level that stresses you or them.  You will be amazed at the growth
of your children despite what you call a 'wash' year.  The only thing
I would suggest is to not replace their time with tv or video games.
Turn off everything that plugs in and let them learn on their own.
It's truly amazing to watch your children's creativity when they are
given the time and freedom to fill their time on their own." -- Jane T.


"Jacqueline -- I'm sorry for your loss.  You can be so thankful
that your family had the opportunity to minister to your father
in his last days.  That is of eternal significance, and the most
important thing your family could have focused on during that time. 
As for your children's education, all is not lost!  What your chil-
dren have experienced this year will prepare them for real life.
In addition to teaching 'school' subjects we are also responsible
for teaching life skills.  Some of what they have learned may be
categorized as Home Economics, Health, or even Science.  You
would best be able to judge that because you know what they
have been involved in this year.  Just think creatively.
As for the academics you think you have missed, don't give up.
When you are able to do so just pick up where you left off.  You
could put more of the learning responsibility in the hands of your
children if they are old enough.  You could scan ahead and choose
what you think is most important to teach in subjects such as
history.  If you summarize, then they can read more in a textbook
or library book on the subject if they are interested or have
questions.  Then allow them to report to you (either orally or
written) what they have learned.  If they are old enough you can
do short teaching sessions and give them assignments to complete
on their own.  During this time you can focus on things that need
to be taken care of, and they will still be getting some schoolwork
A little each day will profit more than you realize.  Also, don't
feel as if you have to complete the book.  Most school teachers
don't complete their textbooks in a school year.  I believe in the
end you will find that your children will have learned a great deal
at the end of the official school year.
May you be blessed as you persevere!" -- Missy


"I have home schooled for 20 years now, and have gone through
many 'obstacles' of life in the midst of home schooling.  You are just
in the 'throws of life' right now and it is easy to get overwhelmed
and a bit unsure how it is all going to pull together.  The amazing
thing is, IT DOES!  I don't like giving up my summer either, but
last year I had to.  We survived, it was the first summer I had to
home school through most of it.  I still managed to take time to
enjoy the beautiful days with walks, trips to the parks, swimming,
etc.  Don't worry if you don't get all the 'books' done.  Each year
repeats everything anyway.  This year I had to step back and go at
the boys' pace.  I thought we would get so behind!  I've discovered
that when I didn't push to get the pages done by certain dates, but
relaxed and did what they could handle, they were learning more! If
you are going to do school just to get those last pages done that you
didn't do, then relax.  I don't know the ages of your children, but
if they are younger, for science you could find fun books to read
to them over the summer and do fun projects once in awhile.  Don't
make it seem like 'school'.  I took the books we were reading one
summer to the park with a picnic and read to them.  Then we walked
amongst the roses and it was fun!  Find outdoor projects -- we have
a nature park, Audubon park, etc. with trails and learning centers
and we always go there during the summer to hike and explore.  If
your children are older, set certain days a week to do some make-up
work but have them do fun, outdoor projects as well.  Most of all,
take time to grieve for father and grandfather, and heal -- without
worrying about the schooling.  The grades repeat themselves and you
will find that they will be just fine!  My boys struggled through
Bob Jones 3 Math and didn't even do much division at all last year.
This year we couldn't even start Saxon 54 until after Christmas,
and now they are just breezing through.  All of a sudden it is easy.
So far it is a repeat of what they learned in Bob Jones 3 last year!
If they don't finish 54 this year, we will finish it next year before
we go into 56.  God bless you and God bless home schooling.  We
can go through bumps in life and pick up where we left off.  Public
school is not so forgiving; count your blessings!"


"I have walked this road with two little ones.  Eight years ago
I moved an hour away, with my children, to care for my in-laws.
My husband was able to visit only on weekends.  This lasted six
months while we built an apartment onto our home.  Then they
moved in with us.  My sweet mother-in-law, who had been
completely bed-ridden for three years, went home to be with the
Lord a year later, while my father-in-law still lives with us.  I want
to encourage you... you are NOT behind!  Your children are being
taught right now by the school of life!  You don't say how old
they are, but it sounds like they are younger.  Here is my sugges-
tion:  take those curriculum books and a cup of tea and a notepad
to a comfy spot and peruse them while your children are happily
engaged in one of their favorite activities.  Now compare the
science books to each other, the math books to each other, etc.
On the notepad, write down the key concepts that they share.
You will probably find that there are the same units listed for
science, just the level of information is different.  For math
you will find various levels of addition, subtraction, multipli-
cation, and division, with a little measurement and geometry
thrown in.  Now, the plan will be to cover the basics and teach
the children together.  If they are reading, they can read text-
books independently as if they were library books.  Better yet,
get 'living' books from the library on each subject and read
together and discuss.  Math can be taught the same way - don't
worry about doing every problem on every page, just cover the
basics.  There are plenty of free websites that allow you to
customize math worksheets, but my children like the websites
where they can practice the concept online as part of a game.
(Check www.clickschooling.com)  Almost every curriculum is
structured to be 'spiraling'.  That means that the information
will be presented again in a year or two.  Math books repeat key
concepts as review in the next year's textbook.  If your children
don't get to everything this year, it will come back around next
year, or the year after.  As far as getting on track with general
aspects of life like laundry and putting your house back together
and getting into a workable routine, www.flylady.net was a life-
saver for me.  It is totally free!  Be blessed and know that you
are doing a great job preparing your children for life."


"Do not despair when life's lessons push book learning aside.
Reading may be the easiest 'subject' to accomplish, so just do
that.  Maybe read a kid-friendly biography of some scientists,
inventors or mathematicians.  The children may be more ready
to do some schoolwork and you may be physically and emotionally
too drained to 'teach'.  I would encourage you to pull out some
worksheets of math concepts they are already familiar with and
let them do a bit of practice work - math facts, fill in a times
table sheet, money equivalents or whatever level they are doing.
If they seem more ready to 'do school', perhaps a friend could
take them for a couple hours once in awhile and work with them
on other topics.  Or -- this may be great time for them to do
some self-directed study if they are more independent.  Let
them do some art - creating an Easter resurrection mural might
be beneficial and you could have them letter a few verses on
the Resurrection.  If you usually take summers off then do so.
You will be better refreshed by next fall if you don't try to
accomplish all you intended this school year.  Entrust your
school to God and do not be discouraged by this or defeated.
We pray for you and yours." -- Sue


"Jacqueline -- In one of my 'schooling' years, my father became
terminally ill with cancer and died six months later.  In this
same year we moved our family of 6 to another state, and my
widowed mother was hospitalized for about 6 weeks.  I had a nursing
baby, a kindergarten child, and two elementary children.  With a
commitment to care for our parents, I spent a lot of time on the
road with my four children.  My husband spent 12 hours on the road
two days/month making sure I was able to care for my parents in
those critical days of illness, death and grief.  I was always
fatigued and stressed and I catalogued it as our worst school year
ever.  The whole year was only a vapor of 'suspension', yet our
sons saw us as a family unit, caring for our parents who needed us.
They had mostly 'life skills science' that year as they watched
body systems fail to function and observed many health care settings.
They watched me learn to puree food for my father to eat.  They
observed me take my mother's blood pressure repeatedly, monitor her
INR blood level, and wrap and elevate her legs to prevent blood
clots.  They assisted in washing clothes and bed linens, taking
temperatures, and preparing food.  They learned great family his-
tory while my siblings and I gathered around the bed of our dying
father and critically ill mother and shared stories of our years
growing up together.  They heard scripture and prayers repeated
daily and heard the recounting of my father's 'visit' to heaven
only weeks before he died.  They used 1960's World Book Encyclo-
pedias to look up pictures of the human body, birds, insects, and
animals.  After my father's death, they were able to observe conver-
sations and actions on how to make my mother's house 'secure' for
her, since my parents had never even had locks installed on the
doors in the house.  The pages of all the books in the world could
never have presented them with the education they gleaned that year.
It seems I wasn't very 'available' to them that year, but they
learned immensely, for values are 'caught' not 'taught'.  The
following year, our 'book' work flowed more smoothly, but I never
looked at it the same.  We've graduated one son with a full, four
year academic scholarship so far -- and two sons have surrendered
to the call to full-time ministry, with a third teen weighing the
same decisions now.  I'm not sure how the rest of our 'academic'
instruction will weigh-in on the final scales, but I know that my
sons have hearts that have been tenderized by God's divine instruc-
tion and each moment of instruction came at the hand of the Master
Teacher.  My sons' steps have been ordained by God -- and I'm glad
He didn't let me mess it up by having more time to 'teach'!"
-- Crystal in SC 

Answer our NEW Question

"I wanted to get more information about homeschooling for the state
of MA. I live in Waltham. I am a single parent and am in school
full-time. I can be able to teach him in the evenings and weekends.
He is 8 years old. I really need help as far as a network and a
curriculum to type to the school district. Thank you." -- Monique


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Please send your answer to: HN-answers@familyclassroom.net

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