Friday, November 30, 2012


I read a few things this week about stories and if I were a person with extra time or a really good blogger I'd find them and link to them, but I'm not so I won't. One of them was about how most schools in the country are working toward a common core curriculum. Apparently finding out that things like the FCAT and Sunshine State Standards and other state's versions aren't having the desired results, the push is toward everyone not just being taught to the test but being taught to the same test. Anyway this is not a criticism on schools, my young son is very likely going to public school next year {how do you like how I just slipped that in there?}. The gist of this particular article was that in these so called common core standards, fiction will play a very small role. This is truly sad, I love stories, and think that you can learn a lot from them. Ironically the other thing that I read this week was a quote from a pro-homeschooling guy Andrew P-something who sells a well known homeschool writing curriculum. In essence it said the opposite about fiction, specifically 'listened to fiction' (as in read aloud or audiobook) is one of the best things you can do for your kids (or yourself)... actually I'm copying and pasting because these people said it better than I can...It's especially critical, Pudewa says, to read aloud after children are reading fluently to themselves. He differentiates between what happens when a child is reading to himself, and what happens when an adult reads aloud to him. They are both important, but too often we value independent reading over listening to oral reading, and that, he says, is a huge mistake. Kids who read copiously do not just evolve naturally into good writers. Good writers have a storehouse of sophisticated language patterns, and those have to come through the ear. We've got to read aloud to our children in massive, massive quantity. This is music to my ears and I know it to be true. We are huge story people around here, and let me tell you there are lessons to be learned from even the most mundane of stories. We have homeschooled exclusively with the exception of Jake going to preschool, Madi currently taking one high school class, and Jake's plans for next year {there it is again!}, and prior to 'high school' my kids did not do a Language Arts curriculum. Not only that, because of his eye issues, Jonathan really avoids what I call reading with his own eyes (or I guess I should say eye, since he only uses one at a time), but we read aloud and listen to audiobooks ALL THE TIME!!! My first point is, in her public school English honors class, Madi is getting a 99% and in his virtual school English class for the third year in a row Jonathan is also getting an extrememly high A. This is because we listen to and talk about stories ALL. THE! TIME!! Madi just finished Romeo and Juliet and Jonathan is in the middle of Uncle Tom's Cabin, but I'm not only talking about classics here. I'm even talking about TV show "stories" like The Brady Bunch, Seinfeld, and The Big Bang Theory. We talk frequently in our family about themes in TV shows and books. We just finished listening to the third Richard Paul Evans book in The Walk series. This is a book written for adults, but Jake enjoyed it as much as the rest of us (I had already read them with my own eyes, so it was my second time through the story). The other day I was asking Jake some questions about Star Wars because all of my life I've managed to get by not watching or understanding much of it. He was watching one ot the newer ones where Annikan is the cute little boy and I was asking Jake to explain to me how he turned into meanie Darth Vader (Vadar?). He said to me, "You know how in the Walk books Alan is walking because his wife died, well that's sort of how Annikan ended up as Darth Vadar (er?)". Themes like picking on somebody to avoid being the one picked on come up all the time, I specifically bring up The 100 Dresses and Blubber and sometimes even Pontius Pilate when these themes show up. Today we saw a great play in Orlando about Christmas spirit and how you have to believe, that is certainly a popular theme. A point that I'm trying to make here in my jumbled roundabout way is that my 17 year old can appreciate the merrits of a play written for 4th graders (especially if they have good lighting) and my 4th grader can understand some really deep themes in literature as well. The best part is we can and do enjoy these things together and discussing them afterwards contributes immensely to understanding. This understanding leads to greater empathy for others. Whether my kids schooling is happening online, on the couch, or in a brick and mortar building, much of their education will continue to take place in the car, in a theatre or even in front of the TV immersing themselves in a good story and then discussing it with people they love.


Melissa said...

Well said! The Mr. P. you refer to is none other that Mr. IEW - Institute for Excellence in Writing. Love him!

bfarmmom said...

Jake! School! I don't believe it!! Explain please!
I read that same article. So sad what is happening in our schools.

ann marie said...

I read an article ( and linked to it on facebook)about how reading requirements will be changing soon. It sounds like it may be the same article you read. That's exciting about Jake going to school! Yes, you are pretty sneaky slipping it in like that. Maggie is going to first grade next year at a "real" school. I think I may have already told you that anyway. She thinks she is going into kindergarten though. She's kind of mad at me :)I half thought about enrolling her after winter break. May still do it. I'm so organized, aren't I?

Cindy said...

Love this!!

What?! Jake-school?! yes you are sneaky slipping that in there like that!