Sunday, January 14, 2007

VanDamme Academy Remote History Program

My daughter is taking the Remote History Course for lower elementary students offered by The VanDamme Academy. I was so excited about this course that I choose it over satellite or cable TV (I couldn't afford both TV and history). The Remote History Program lectures are very in-depth with a lot of detail. My daughter has found history fascinating ever since her Montessori school started with The Story of the World Volume 1.

The history lectures are run by teleconference and we call a California number Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (I'm very happy with Vonage by the way--the only way I could afford the phone call) to talk to the history teacher and the two other students who participate in the lecture live. There are a number of students who listen to the lectures as a supplement to whatever other schooling they're receiving during the day. I check my e-mail before class to see if there are any pictures to have ready for the lecture. After class the teacher will post notes for the students to copy covering what was discussed during the class. This same teacher also has a history course for upper elementary level students.

This school currently has a physics course for sale (middle-school aged children) and a free e-mail newsletter. Articles published by Lisa VanDamme (director of the school) can be found in The Objective Standard or purchased in lecture format from The Ayn Rand Bookstore.

The Story of the World--The Short-Comings

The Story of the World is a very well known history series consisting of Volume 1--Ancient Times: Nomads to the Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 2--The Middle Ages, Volume 3--Early Modern Times, and Volume 4--The Modern Age: From Victoria's Empire to the Fall of the USSR. The series was written by Susan Wise Bauer who also wrote The Well-Trained Mind, a classical education text that is nicely put together for homeschoolers trying to follow a classical curriculum.

I often like to read the same books as my daughter. I like to talk with her about them and also like to know if there are any messages I want to clarify. The Story of the World Volume 1 was such a case. The book was entertainingly written. She would read it as her free choice reading in first grade, read it again at home, and if I was reading to her in the evening, would select this book. After I started reading it, I realized something that bothered me greatly. The author did not seperate historical fact from illustrative stories from biblical tales. I am not religious, so this was particularly bothersome for me. I am also sure that there are religious people who do not interpret the bible literally as a historical document. Perhaps you're not Christian. Perhaps you're religious but want your child to understand history on the same footing as other children who are educated in a more secular way. In any of the these cases, if you choose to use these books, help your child to understand which are stories of a typical day, which are historical facts, and which are stories from the bible. Of course, one has to have a fairly good understanding of the bible to catch all of them.

The rest of the volumes (Volume 1--Ancient Times: Nomads to the Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 2--The Middle Ages, Volume 3--Early Modern Times, and Volume 4--The Modern Age: From Victoria's Empire to the Fall of the USSR) are less likely to suffer from the bible-being-presented-as-fact criticism but can certainly be understood to be very worldly. By worldly, I mean that the history of the entire world is presented (what else would you expect from the title) AT THE SAME TIME. This means studying many other cultures along with Europe chronologically. I do not have a problem with studying the rise of Islam, but I don't like jumping around quite so much. I find it can interrupt the flow of the story of one area and take a while to get back into the mental frame of what was going on.

What Happened with Montessori

Prior to homeschooling, my daughters were both enrolled in a Montessori private school. I loved my daughters' primary classroom. Primary in Montessori goes through Kindergarten. Once my eldest transitioned into first grade, things started to go downhill. My husband has summarized our experience here and here.

Websites My Kids Enjoy

Sometimes my two kids like to play on the computer. It's not often and always in the evening.
  • Star Doll Paper Doll Heaven This site allows kids to pick a celebrity to dress and provides a posed color drawing on the screen. On the other side of the screen are the wardrobe options that can be clicked and dragged onto the picture. There are fancy clothes, casual clothes, accessories and even different hair colors.
  • Everything Girl Home to, and any number of other girlie sites. Both girls like this, but the five-year-old is pre-reading and needs help navigating the pages.
  • Sesame Street Sesame street has some great games for non-readers. Elmo's limbo (requires some mousing skill), keyboard-o-rama (a lapware game good for even babies--just hit almost any key on the keyboard for something to happen--also involves phonics), and Zoe's Peek-A-Boo (another lapware game where Zoe, Elmo, or Bib Bird come out of hiding and play peek-a-boo when a key is pressed). My younger can now use this site almost independently if I get her started. She understand to press next game to move onto something different.
  • Super Kids Logic-Based Games The Super Kids site has some nice games for my second grader. There is a heavily advertisement laden pop up window for the games, so a nice lesson prior to leaving your kid on their own is 'NEVER click on an ad'. This is a good practice to instill now. My 13 year-old step-daughter has seen how the computer can become unusable due to the number of pop-up ads installed. We had to reinstall the operating system twice!
  • Up To 10 Up to 10 has a really cute site. We have adapted some of their songs for our routines. There are flash animations to music that are interesting for even the youngest with their parents navigation help.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Parenting Advice

Since leaving my job three months ago, I've come to learn something about myself and my daughter. Being home all of the time is like relearning parenting. I haven't been home with my children during any of their infant/toddler/preschool years. I had often commented that working allowed me to love my children more.

Our schedule was typical for a standard-industry working mom. Kids dropped off at school by 7:30 AM, picked up at 4:45 PM, home at 5:30. Dinner at 6 PM and getting ready for bed beginning at 7:30 PM. Aaron took the kids to school and so I had them for two hours and 45 minutes in the evening, half of which was spent driving and cooking. Not much time to have disagreements, talk about their day, play with each other, etc. I often made the hourly comparison of the amount of time I spent with my kids versus the daycare provider. The only way to come out on top was for my time to include driving time and subtract naps from theirs.

Spending 7:30 AM until 7:30 PM with my daughter now is a whole new world. We had a wonderful honeymoon period that lasted a little over a month. Right now all of the warts are coming out. It isn't as though all of the time is horrid. By no means! 98% of the time is good or normal disagreements. But those 2% times are like a bomb going off in the house! I've been listening to Linda Crawford's parenting lecture about Power Struggles. I am into the first lecture now and already have some ideas for changes.

Update on Atlas Shrugged Movie

I don't know how a 2-hour script could possibly do justice to Atlas Shrugged. Follow the link in the title for an update.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Comment at Kitchen Table Math the Sequel

I commented about my disagreement with the line-drawing technique.

Paperback Book Swap

I've heard of this web site previously. I've decided to try it out. I have a lot of books I've picked up over the years. I've listed a few home decorating books, a lot of gardening books, some craft books. I've already had requests for seven of the 22 books I've listed and may be able to trade five more. Given the type of books I've listed (magazine-photo-shoot types), they're all big and cost a significant amount of money to mail. I think I'll end up spending about $18 to mail them all. I guess $2.50 isn't too bad if I actually get books I want in return. So far none of the parenting communication books are listed, but I'll put them on my wish list and hope they come in eventually. In the meanwhile, perhaps I'll actually read some of the many books I got for Christmas.

High School Diploma Rematch

Do you deserve your high school diploma?

You paid attention during 100% of high school!

85-100% You must be an autodidact, because American high schools don't get scores that high! Good show, old chap!

Do you deserve your high school diploma?
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Homeschool Metamorphoses

I have another blog. Like I need another place where I am not posting! I am hoping to keep my homeschooling thoughts there and more general thoughts here. I will cross-link posts when I remember! Here's my first post.