Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"The Life You Can Save"

I read the book "The Life You Can Save" by Peter Singer. Once I got past the first part ("The Argument") it was a pretty quick read. There's so much in such a little book! I think it would be a wonderful book for a book group, or for a church discussion circle.

He makes a strong case that if you feel a moral obligation to save a child drowning in front of you, you should feel that same obligation to a child you know is dying but isn't in your sight. If you are willing to risk your own life to save the life of a child in front of you, shouldn't you be willing to give of your money up to the point it would risk your own well being?

Then he talks about why people don't give; how giving locally doesn't have an impact on international poverty, why we should care, how/why governmental giving isn't affective, and lots more.

He addresses the concern about where to give, what is affective, and how to evaluate NGOs. One site he mentions to help with that evaluation is Give Well. Another point he makes is that micro-lending, or Grameen lending, has shown itself to be very affective as well as self sustaining.

Using this information he then gets realistic about giving to charity and makes a much more modest suggestion than his first (give 'till it hurts) for charitable giving that if done even by a small fraction of the U.S. population would have a huge impact. His suggestion is in the form of The Pledge, which he suggests be a public document since knowing that others give charitably seems to increase giving.

Following links, the way I do when I should be doing something useful (you know, like fold the 5 baskets of laundry on my couch) I found some more interesting links. Check out Bolder Giving, Art Rising, and More than Money.

All in all lots of food for thought. I'll leave you with one that has stuck with me "The next time you drink bottled water, when you could be drinking tap water for pennies, know that you are living a lifestyle that could easily support charitable giving."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Gifted Dyslexic or Right Brained? Hmmm....

I just read a PDF that got me hot and bothered. It was attached to an email. I don't have a link. It was along the lines of this, and by the same authors. I often appreciate what they have to say, but I get weary of the dx approach.

Again, it's the "these kids are underachieving and need remediation". It's "here's what's wrong with them, and here's how to change it." Sheesh! Enough already!

Both of these bloggers say it better than I can.

I still have a fundamental disagreement with the premise of the article. They view these right brained characteristics as a problem, yet I don't think they are. I would argue that school is simply an institution that has been built around left brained traits rather than having room for right brained learners. Yes, in the institution of school RBers look like they have disabilities. In school RBers might need accommodations. In a place designed by RBer's LBer's would look pretty disabled too. It would be like making someone who is excellent at arithmetic, but awful at creative writing, keep pounding away at a novel that they have no interest in writing. It's like trying to make an nonathletic 5' tall 40 something female (me) into a professional basket ball player. It just doesn't make sense.

No one diagnosed me with dyslexia until I was 2 years into my engineering degree. So how much of a disability do I really have? My brain works differently then a lot of folks, but I think that the thing that makes spelling difficult is interlinked with what makes me - me. The music, the stories, the ability to see the way things connect and then bring that to others - I wouldn't trade all that to be a better speller. I tried to fit in. I worked as a payroll accountant. I was a secretary. I earned a living in LB jobs, but I wasn't very good at them and I hated it. How many excellent secretaries and accountants can design a bridge, write creatively, or play multiple instruments? If they can't, or don't want to, it doesn't make them disabled, does it?

The flaw is in the system, not the children. In school these right brained bright and motivated kids are told that there is something wrong with them. They are labeled, diagnosed, singled out, sometimes drugged. Is it a surprised if they become full of shame and self loathing? Why should we wonder that they start to have behavior problems in school? If this is a pattern that is repeated enough that SO many people notice that academic papers and books and diagnosis's are written, why is it we keep blaming the kids? Many of the problems described come AFTER the child has been taught that there is something wrong with him. It's pretty hard to behave well, to trust the system, when someone is asking the impossible of you. It's pretty hard to have good self esteem when you've been told continuously that there's something fundamentally wrong with you. What would it be like to be held to a standard you couldn't possibly meet? Either the child believes in himself and bucks the system, or believes the system, and turn on himself.

It's nearly impossible to make the institution of school work for RBers. It's so easy to shift the perspective and see that when allowed to play to their strengths, rather than continually try to fix weaknesses that are inherent to their strengths, they take off and FLY!

It's a fundamental paradigm shift. Focus on an individual's strengths, not their weaknesses. I mean really! Do we make professional engineers take remedial creative writing? Do professional wrestlers need calculus? In the real world, the adult world, we focus on what we're good at. If we really need to work on something we do. If that doesn't help, we figure out a work around and move on.

I get very nervous when we define a narrow place as "normal" and then work to get everyone there. "Normal" people don't write science fiction, design micro-processors, compose opera, paint masterpieces.... Yes, sometimes these traits can be disabling, but it's important to make sure it's a true disability, and not just a mismatch with an unnecessary system.

There's a reason there are so many different kind of people in the world. We need ALL of them. We need all of us.

Monday, May 4, 2009

April's Books

Language Arts Curriculum- Not!

On one of my groups someone recently posted questions asking "What language arts curriculum do you use? What do you like/not like about it?"

So, with a little editing, here is my response.

Reading /"launguage arts" is one thing I've never doubted with unschooling.  We've never used a curriculum and never felt the need for one.  Early on I did buy "Phonics Pathways" and my oldest liked the word pyramids and my middle thought it was stupid.  (Youngest is still working on the alphabet, so we'll leave him out for a bit)

What we do is READ READ READ. Everything you need is at the library. I've read whatever they wanted when they couldn't read for themselves - even the dreaded Capt. Underpants and the yet worse Sonic the Hedgehog (shudder). When they were able to read on their own I drew the line and said no to the stuff that I really don't enjoy but still read stuff I love or at least can tolerate. (Really, I'm tired of dinos and Eyewitness anything (yes, I know they're great books, I've just read them all so MUCH) but I still read them because the kids love them.) We also listen to lots of books on tapes (my voice gives out reading aloud too much! Plus I'm lazy.) By hearing the written word they've gained vocabulary, a very real sense of sentence structure, the elements of plot, setting, characterization, etc... It's all there just from exposure. I could go on and on, but it's covered better than I can do in other
places. Here's some, I'm sure there's lots more:

She went on to write "My kids think grammar is boring"

Um, ya.  I get that.   :-D 

I haven't bothered much with grammar. I suppose I'm biased because we're more of a techie family, but honestly I don't quite see the point. I learned more grammar learning German than I ever needed in English. (And I actually did better in language than math and science, even if I got my degree in engineering, so it's not sour grapes.)

A friend gave me this link. Maybe playing the audio while driving would be fun?

You might also check out books from the library like "Nearly, Dearly, Insincerely, What is an Adverb?" (there's a whole comical series on parts of speech) or the kid version of "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" about punctuation.

OK, if anybody has actually used diagramming a sentence in real life, now is the time to tell me! Seriously, I'm clueless as to why I'd want to do this.

About spelling:

Just reading a lot will help him "see" if a word is spelled correctly or not.  From there he can decide if it's a word used often enough to memorize, or if he's ok using spell check or a dictionary to figure it out.  My oldest keeps a list of words he wants to know how to spell but doesn't yet.  When he need to know that word he goes there first, and if he doesn't find it, adds it.  Eventually he doesn't need to look up the
word anymore.

Struggles with writing:

So he loathes the physical act of writing?  Plenty of kids (especially techies and artsy ones) don't like this.  I like to draw, but not to "write" long hand.  Learning to type really helped me with that.  Now I just need to use handwriting for lists or short notes, but can use a computer for anything of length.

Or is it the process of coming up with a story or report? I would say that most kids like telling stories, and describing what they know to an appreciative audience. If you can type it out for him as he speaks, he can probably learn a lot just from editing his own work. If he's just not ready to let you know what's on his mind, .... hmmm... I've never experienced that. What's it like?

I was lucky that this friend was able to take my response in the way I intended. Not as an attack for not doing it my way, but as a description and explanation of what we do. As I wrote to her:
I completely respect and support a parent's choice of approach.  I know unschooling
just isn't a comfortable fit for a lot of people, just like a curriculum would be like an itchy sweater to me. I have my own loud opinions, but I don't want others will feel judged when I speak out. :-)