Jump to content

What's with the ads?


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Posts posted by OneThoughtMayHideAnother

  1. I was able to pre-order some TP online from Amazon to be delivered on Apr 9-10. Not sure yet if it will actually get delivered, as I've heard of orders being canceled, but, anyway, I found out about the availability from this site:


    They have trackers for other housold items as well.

    P.S. You can pre-order one brand as of right now. But availability changes very quickly.

  2. Love this thread: thank you for starting it. I'm always on the lookout for more reading material for my little bookworm. Some titles I haven't seen mentioned yet that my son has really liked: the Wild Robot (2 volumes, perfect level for someone who has just finished the Magic Tree House), Andrew Lost (18 books or so), George's Secret Key to the Universe and the sequels, the 3 Grace Lin novels (not exactly boy books, but my son adores them), Time Warp trio books by Jon Scieszka. 

    Roald Dahl was already mentioned, but so good at this level that I would like to second the recommendation here.

    My son also loves all the Illustrated Stories collections from Usborne:Illustrated Stories from India, China, Around the World, Norse Myths, etc. 

    • Like 1

  3. Please hang in there. Constant nausea is so tough!

    I did Zofran with my first and Unisom + B6 with my second. Zofran stopped the vomitting but not the nausea, and it had unpleasant side effects. Unisom+B6  helped a lot: it didn't completely stop the vomiting for me, but reduced it to only a few times a day, and - other than the sleepiness - didn't seem to have any side effects. I actually preferred it out of the two options. Hope it helps you, too!

    The only food that made any difference for me was ginger. I actually hate the flavor of ginger but chewing on candied ginger did seem to make me feel a little better.


    • Like 1

  4. 5 hours ago, Corraleno said:

    But that's such a "meaningless comparative!"

    From Rush Limbaugh today (3/11/20):

    "The flu has a mortality rate of about 0.1%, so Fauci places the new coronavirus lethality rate at somewhere around 1%. That’s the story. It isn’t that it’s 10 times more lethal than the flu, and this is how this crap gets politicized!

    Pardon my yelling, but this stuff is what ticks me off, and my instincts tell me this. I know this kind of trickery and monkeying around with stuff is going on in these things because I know the media, I know the left, I know the Democrat Party, and I know how they’re trying to scare everybody and now they’re using Fauci here. “This is Trump’s guy! Trump’s guy is saying it’s 10 times more lethal than the flu,” which means nothing.

    Ten times more lethal? Lethal than what? What does lethal mean? Does lethal kill you? Does lethal infect you? Does lethal give you a temperature of 102 versus 100? What does it do to you? It’s a meaningless comparative. Ten times more lethal? The only thing worth knowing in this story is that Anthony Fauci says the fatality rate to coronavirus is much less than what they believed."


    [edited to move the author of the piece to the top so no one thinks these are my words! 😂]



    I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh, but after reading this quotation, I had to look it up. The way I understood it from the excerpt above was that Rush Limbaugh thought the mortality rate of 1% somehow wasn't 10 times more than the mortality rate of 0.1%. But after I read it the whole thing in context, it is clear to me that is not what he was saying at all: He was making a point about how the headlines choose to portray the story. In his opinion, the important thing about what Fauci had said was that the mortality rate of COVID was 1%, which is significantly lower than previous estimates of 3-4%. If that's true, obviously, then that's good news. But does it get portrayed as such? Not at all. The headline writers choose to hide the good news and write the most negative headline they could think of: "COVID19 10x more lethal than the flu!" His further rant about "lethal" is more of the same. Basically, if the real news here is "hey, this might not be as terrible as we initially thought (still terrible, but much less terrible)" why does the headline not say that?

    I'm personally not a COVID19 optimist. I take it very seriously and have been in prepping mode for months now. Like many here, I've had my fair share of debates with the "just the flu" crowd. My family has been following Taiwanese news on this disease from the beginning, back before the Wuhan lockdown. There was fear the fatality rate of this was going to be close to that of SARS (close to 10%). I remember the sense of dread we felt when Wuhan lockdown was announced, back before we knew anything about the fatality rate. So I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with Limbaugh's outlook on COVID19. (I don't really know what his outlook even is.) But it seems like the quote above was deliberately chosen to make it seem like a) Limbaugh doesn't know basic math, b) Limbaugh doesn't understand what "lethal" means. Basically, more of the exact politicization that Limbaugh is complaining about.


    • Like 7
    • Thanks 3

  5. 1 minute ago, Pen said:


    Another thought — maybe use outer shirt type clothes that button or zip, cardigan style front opening tops, not pull-overs— so that virus doesn’t go  up near face in process of taking the shirt off. 

    Not sure of this has been mentioned, but running clothes through the dryer on high for 20-30 mins will kill most viruses. I have been doing it with my family's coats, jacket, etc any time we go somewhere with a lot of people (like the supermarket or after a visit to the doctor.) Some clothes will not do well in high temperatures, but we have had no issues with ours so far.

    • Like 3
    • Thanks 2

  6. 2 hours ago, Corraleno said:

    So the person writing this was never tested, but claims one person who was sick tested positive so she knows what she had was Covid-19? It seems really strange for this person to categorically claim that the medical experts are all wrong about Covid-19 symptoms, and the symptoms are really just like flu, with almost no "chest tightness or respiratory symptoms," when the respiratory symptoms (that none of them had) are precisely what distinguishes Covid-19 from general cold/flu. Unless she and her friends actually tested positive, then it seems far more likely that they actually had some kind of cold or flu bug, not covid.

    Yeah, I am skeptical, too given it is flu season. On the other hand, the cruises provide us with a look at some mild cases, which we would have likely never identified otherwise. Here is a case report of a 35 y.o. woman who had a slight cough, no fever, some runny nose. Essentially, light cold symptoms. There is another, similarly mild, case described here, too:


    • Like 1

  7. 8 hours ago, square_25 said:

    I’m still not sure what happened in our language discussion yesterday. Let me try to wrap my head around it.

    Is anyone actually asserting that on average, given a fully immersive experience, an adult will attain the same fluency with the idiom and grammar of another language as a younger child would? And that there is not a relationship between age of immersion and eventual comfort with grammar and idiom (ignoring issues of accent)?

    I’m asking because I was merely trying to use language as an uncontroversial analogy. So I’m trying to figure out if we have any common ground here which can help us to try to explore the ideas.

    This is a slightly different claim from the original, which was “If you want to have a child become fluent in another language, you should start them as early as possible.” I think much of the pushback you got was against that first statement. Now, let me first say that I’m teaching my 6 y.o. two foreign languages, and that – when it comes to most things – I am in the same “better early than late” camp as you.

    So some of the disagreement, I think, comes from a different understanding of what “fluency” means. Interesting subject, and I won’t get into it now, but suffice it so say that some people place more value on being able to “pass for a native speaker” than others, who focus mostly on the ability to communicate efficiently and/or eloquently. The two are linked of course, but they are not the same thing. A foreigner can be perfectly comfortable with grammar and idiom but still use interesting constructions in their speech that stem from their background in another language. This doesn’t mean they don’t use or understand American or British idioms as well, and it doesn’t mean they are not fluent.

    Now, as to the beautiful linear relationship that you’re seeing in immigrants arriving in English-speaking countries at different times in their lives, isn’t the actual environment an obvious confounder? Most of the folks who come to America as adults, and who are already proficient enough in English for their purposes, don’t continue actively studying the language. The idea of deliberate practice is relevant here. Kids, on the other hand, go to school where they are highly incentivized to learn both for social and for academic reasons. Most of my friends are immigrants, but I only know a single guy who continued any sort of deliberate practice in an effort to improve his English well into his late 20s. He took accent reduction classes, and can now pass for a native speaker in many situations.

    Another interesting point is that the relationship you’re seeing is sometimes cited as evidence against the idea that immersion by itself is the best way to learn a foreign language. Now, the word “immersion” means different things to different people, so we would first have to define it before we can have a meaningful discussion. I’m not going to get into it here, but if you’re interested in that point of view, look into the idea of, say, comprehensible input and how it compares to immersion.

    So let me go back to the original claim for a second (that children learn languages more easily than adults.) Imagine you want to learn a new language and that you are placed in a fully immersive environment for 5 years. Not only that, but you’re also assigned one or two adult tutors who follow you around for hours every day, pointing to things, repeating everything as many times as you need them to, take you to the library to help you choose books you can read and understand, etc. You have no job, and few chores to do. Your main responsibility is to learn. This is the environment your child is probably growing up in. (I know that there are cultural differences, but I will ignore them for now.) Now imagine that at the end of that 5 year period you can only speak the language with the fluency of an average 5 y.o. native speaker. Your grammar is atrocious; your expressive vocabulary is only about 2000-3000 words. Of course you can do better than that as an adult! (This thought experiment is not my idea, but I don’t remember where I first encountered it, so apologies for not being able to credit the author.)

    Perhaps comparing an adult to a baby is not fair. But if you and your children moved to, say, Korea, for a couple of years, and you were all put in school full time to learn Korean as well as to study other subjects in Korean, don’t you think you’d end up speaking the language more proficiently at the end of your stay? But that’s of course not what happens to real immigrant families. In the immigrant families only the children get to go to school full time and to devote most of their time to learning. Only the children are required to perform in the foreign language on an everyday basis and are graded based on their performance. The parents, on the other hand, have to work, cook, clean, and usually don’t have the energy or motivation required to study. Plainly interacting in the language at work or in stores is not deliberate effort aimed at improvement. Such practice makes permanent, but not perfect.

    None of this is to say that children have no advantages whatsoever when it comes to learning languages. If the final goal is to be able to pass for a native speaker, then I definitely agree with you a child is more likely to reach that goal. I think the child will learn (much) more slowly, but in the conditions you assume (immigration/full immersion) a child will be more likely to end up speaking the target language like a native. (BTW, if you haven’t read Diana Deutsch’s work on perfect pitch and tonal languages, I think you’ll enjoy it: I think there are also some brain activation studies showing the differences between natively and non-natively acquired languages. That being said, if we are dealing with a motivated adult who continues to learn in a deliberate way, the adult will come close to the child’s ability, and – in the majority of cases – will also speak the heritage language much better than the kid.

    Speaking of heritage languages, one of my hobbies these days is learning Mandarin with my 6 y.o. This means I spend quite a bit of time on fora for Mandarin-speaking parents attempting to pass their language down to their children growing up in English-speaking countries. Turns out it’s a difficult task. Even if one or both parents speak Mandarin exclusively at home, the children usually grow up speaking Chinese with an American accent and – unless the parents put a lot of effort into ensuring their children’s literacy, the kids will often not be able to read or even understand the news. (There will be exceptions of course. I know someone who immigrated to the USA from Taiwan at the age of 7, and who became fully literate in Mandarin by learning the characters from subtitles on TV. ) But on average, without conscious effort from the parents, the children – who after all hear Mandarin at home daily for 18 years – don’t even reach C-level proficiency. And don’t even get the parents on these fora started on immersion schools: these are – with few exceptions – considered by themselves completely inadequate if the goal is for the child to speak Mandarin fluently by the time they go to college.

    Anyway, as I read your posts on here, I’m in the same camp 95% of the time, so the last thing I’d like you to feel here is that I’m piling on! 🙂

    • Like 8

  8. A couple of suggestions.

    Use spaced repetition (Anki and/or Leitner box). Review is important, and the act of recalling cements memories.

    Check if there are any Comprehensible Input readers in French. If not, see if you can get a reading app that offers easy articles for beginners (maybe look into LingQ, they should have a free trial.)

    Check out Schaum's Outline of French Grammar, currently under $13 on Amazon. I used Schaum for Italian, Spanish and German, not French, but I imagine they are consistent. Or maybe you already have a good grammar book. Go through the relevant exercises, then pick a couple of sentences that illustrate the concept and memorize the whole sentences.  Input the sentences into your spaced repetition system. You can use Google translate or similar to record an acceptable pronunciation, if needed.

    Work on French everyday, preferably at least 30 mins to an hour.

    Also, Fluenz is expensive but it is a very solid intro course. It does a great job really solidifying the basics. (Maybe you can borrow it from the library?)

    Good luck and have fun 🙂

  9. 1 minute ago, arctic_bunny said:

    How long and how much RS did you have to add to notice a difference?

    I could notice something happening right away. The first day I took the super strength probiotic and, later during the day, about half a tbsp of potato starch mixed in with yogurt, I could tell my gut was reacting. I think it's common. It took about a week for my IBS to improve significantly, and then there was slow improvement for another 2 weeks or so. I stopped the probiotic after 3 weeks. I don't remember exactly when I tried a gluten-containing food, but I was able to tolerate gluten from that point on. It was unbelievable. I didn't supplement with RS for a very long time, but simply re-introduced some regular RS-containing foods into my diet (cooked and cooled potatoes/rice, etc). I think in my case it was mostly the probiotic that made the difference, but the RS is important in maintenance.

    • Thanks 2

  10. Oh gosh, I am so sorry you have to deal with all this. 

    I will make some perhaps a little out there suggestions for further research, on the slim chance they might help, but please feel free to ignore them, as I am no expert, and I would never presume it's my place to give out dietary advice. 

    I used to be on low carb paleo and then keto diets for IBS and gluten sensitivity, but I no longer think they are optimal for me, and can now eat a more standard diet. My thinking changed when I started reading about gut bacteria and the role of resistant starch (RS). I took a very high dose probiotic (Elixa) and went on a higher RS diet. After about a month, my gluten sensitivity and most of my IBS symptoms were gone. This was life-changing. Now, I also know that, anecdotally, people have used high RS diets (or simply supplemented with potato starch) to tame type II diabetes. Studies are limited, but here is a meta-analysis:
    I think it might be something worth looking into. RS is severely lacking in many low carb diets, but it is essential for maintaining healthy gut flora. Now, RS itself might not be enough to repopulate the good bacteria, so it might be worth it to consider a powerful probiotic or other interventions.

    Additionally, there is this pretty interesting model of appetite regulation proposed by Seth Roberts in his book "The Shangrila Diet". It is based mostly on mouse studies and self-experimentation, and I don't really think you need it, as you are already able to keep your food intake low, but if appetite regulation is an issue, I think SR's model/method is something to consider. Plus, it's intellectually fascinating.

    Anyway, again, please feel free to ignore the above and best wishes!

    • Thanks 1

  11. Coming back to this thread, because doing a survey of science is something that's always on the back of my mind. Not in the immediate plans for us, but probably at some point a little bit further down the road. So, anyway, since my last post I came across a resource that I'd thought I should put out there. I consider it too expensive for what it is, but if you have access to it via your library, I think it's worth checking out. And definitely don't buy the Physical Science set at full price, as it would be much cheaper to buy the books individually on Amazon, especially if you go for the paperbacks.

    Anyway, here are the links. Building  Blocks of Physical Science by Joseph Midthun: I got some of them used on eBay, and I like them. Will probably try to get the rest of the books from this set at some point. My son was immediately drawn to them, and they are a pretty good introduction to a variety of topics. Not quite as low-level and thorough as I'd like, but definitely solid. We read Magnetism and Sound so far. Maybe PM me if you'd like to see what they look like inside and have trouble finding samples online.

    The same author has also written a bunch of Building Blocks of Life Science books: and, but we haven't tried those yet. 

    Another thing that I've started doing is re-writing some of Feynman's "Easy Pieces". They are indeed easy conceptually, but my son finds the language a bit too hard at this point. Might work for a slightly older or more advanced child, though. Not quite the survey you'd like, but just so wonderful, and surprisingly accessible. Also, not sure if your son has read George's Secret Key to the Universe series, but we just discovered them, and my son has devoured them. A beautiful intro to many astronomy concepts. 

  12. 3 minutes ago, lewelma said:

    The other way I think we can support learning is through improving attitude.  But that is way trickier to describe on paper, but it is something that I do very effectively, and is where I really shine as a teacher. 


    This is something I know I need to do better. I realize you mention it's hard to describe, but if you had a moment at some point to elaborate on what you do in order to plant those seeds for a positive attitude, and, in general, what you think are some of the best methods of encouraging the development of intrinsic motivation, I would be very grateful. And I think many other homeschooling parents reading this thread might benefit from your insight, too. 

    • Like 2

  13. 5 hours ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

    I personally am not a fan of retentions through rote learning. Or what is often called “drill and kill”. (I don’t know you so don’t know if that is exactly what you are proposing. ). One of the main tenants of TWTM is not just exposure but providing hooks for recall of information. The more connections you build, the better. People also tend to remember things that appeal to them or engage them in some way. This is where the idea of living ideas and books come from in Charlotte Masons’s philosophy. 

    This doesn’t mean that I never drilled math facts or other things. But it wasn’t my focus. Ideas were the focus with the memorization of facts just allowing  for quicker more efficient ways to interact with those ideas. 

    If rote learning by definition eschews comprehension then I don't think we do much of it at all. Sure, there are math facts, but even those we drilled only after my son has learned multiple ways of calculating things quickly in his head and acquiring a great number sense. (Also, our drill involves his favorite game in the world so he actually asks to do it himself everyday.) So, for example, I don't really care if he memorizes 8+6=14 or if he immediately sees this in his head as 8+2+4=10+4=14. In fact, I almost prefer him to use the second option because his ability to do these things quickly means he has a better feel for quantities. Similarly, I don't care if he has memorized 7x5=35 or if he just quickly sees it as half of 7x10 because he's previously internalized that there are 2 5s in a 10.

    As to foreign language, we acquire vocabulary through reading and listening. It's always in meaningful context. I am quite influenced by the comprehensible input method of language acquisition. I find memorizing arbitrary word lists ineffective. Then, only when we have heard and seen a word enough times in context to have a good idea of what it really means at least some of the time (and this usually goes beyond a simple translation) we input it into some sort of a review system. And even that is transitional. The end goal is to do most of the spaced repetition through copious reading, but at this point there just isn't enough interesting material that only uses the limited vocabulary my son has, and he is simply not able to do enough reading volume for it to be sufficient review in itself. So we rely heavily on flashcards as a crutch. Once we get to a point where he can read children's literature for fun, we won't need them because encountering a word in context while reading is the best review possible.

    Even memorizing Chinese characters specifically is best done with emphasis on building connections and noticing phonetic and semantic patterns.

    I realize that there is this idea out there that focusing on retention means one doesn't focus on ideas. But, in line with what you say, successful long term retention of complex subjects requires engaging with ideas at a deep level. I do think learning some facts at some point enhances overall knowledge acquisition, and that's where art of memory comes in, to make the memorization part playful, quick and painless. But all of this should be done in addition to high level work involving thorough comprehension of material and analysis and synthesis of information, not instead of it. 

    How would one rote-learn high school level physics anyway? How could one rote learn math? Not possible. Comprehension comes first. Problem solving comes first. Playing with the material comes first. But many people do all that and still don't remember much of what they learned a year later. And that's where building a retention system comes in. That doesn't mean drilling and killing at all, but - instead - engaging with the same ideas again and again before they are forgotten.

    • Like 1


    5 hours ago, Plum said:

    I just finished reading this thread. Man I wish I had started it earlier. There's so much good stuff here.

    Yes, this one is amazing. Not sure how good this forum must have been in the past for people to think it's not that great these days. Threads like this are already providing me with a feeling of community that's hard to find locally.

    On 12/31/2019 at 5:35 PM, lewelma said:

    But while walking around the volcano, my older boy told me that he has come to believe that the majority of people have wasted their high school years on content that they will never remember and never use.  This is why he is kicking around the purpose of education as studying true classical virtue, rather than the pursuit of knowledge.  He took a class on ethics this past term, and said that it was Rousseau (I think) that argued that the enlightenment has caused education to change to the study how the world works through science, social science, etc. Rousseau thought that an education  based on understanding the world was a poor substitute for the education Ester Maria argued for in the classics, philosophy, great books, and virtue.  DS is at a Tech school, and yet was strongly influenced by Rousseau into believing that our focus on knowledge is mis-guided.  It was a very eye opening discussion. 

    My oldest child is only 6, so take everything I say with a grain of salt, but I never took the fact that most people don't remember anything from high school to mean there's something wrong with spending all that time and effort on learning, say, biology, chemistry, physics or a foreign language. A while back I had a conversation with a fellow homeschooling mom about her educational philosophy. She bemoaned how much time she had wasted in high school (wow, so had I!) because she had done all this hard work and retained almost nothing. (Yes! That's one of the reasons I'm homeschooling, too! Who wants their children to waste all this time?) But then she went on to say this meant she wouldn't have her children go through all of these subjects. Now, wait a second! Why??? Completely didn't see that one coming, because isn't that quite a leap? I don't know about everyone else, but one of the primary reasons I didn't learn (or retain) much from school was that school placed zero emphasis on long-term retention. What if we designed our courses of study in a way that actually stresses remembering things? Instead of ditching the content, why not bring back the art of memory and rely more on various forms of spaced repetition?

    Whenever I think about what my son should be learning, retention is one of the primary concerns I have. If he spends all this time studying X, how do I make sure he doesn't forget it all? I keep going back to this question and I spend a considerable amount of effort building memory and retention systems. (It goes without saying that deep understanding is another primary concern, but I will say it anyway, because - for whatever reason - remembering and understanding are often treated as if they were mutually exclusive.) 

    This doesn't mean I don't find some value in doing things for exposure only. We are reading through Story of the World for fun, and it's been a fantastic experience, but I'm not treating it as studying history yet. This one is for pure enjoyment and, yeah, exposure. We will go back and do grammar stage history properly at some point, though, and when that time comes, I will do my best to ensure retention.

    Take the way we study Mandarin. To a large extent it's based on spaced repetition, and it's hard work. My goal is for my son to be reading (and comprehending) the language on grade level so that further down the road, perhaps a year or two from now, we can switch to consumption of age-appropriate books and other media as our primary way of review. But review will always be necessary. When I consider how many languages I'd like for my children to learn, the review aspect is of primary importance. In order to maintain, they will need to be immersed in each one of their languages for half and hour to an hour a day through reading or other media. There will also have to be a regular way of interaction with speakers of the language, even if only through Skype. 

    And I see no reason we shouldn't have some sort of a spaced repetition system in place for most of what we study. You can even review the application of concepts through spaced repetition by randomizing the particulars of the questions. And, anyway, as is the case with foreign languages, hopefully, much of it will be covered by what Jean in Newcastle describes here:

    On 12/31/2019 at 11:52 PM, Jean in Newcastle said:

    So many subjects have content that builds on simple concepts and skills so you don’t necessarily need to keep refreshing the simpler concepts because they will be used in more complex applications though not in isolation like when they were first learned. 


    On 12/31/2019 at 6:59 PM, lewelma said:

    There is no way that I can do a standard program of the modern era while concurrently completing a classical education Ester Maria style. But what my ds and I were considering was that high school content is forgotten by almost all and that a better program would be either classical education Ester Maria style OR a integrated Project Based Learning approach, both of which focus on skills over content and both of which lead to long term retention. He felt there are opportunity costs to focusing on content that is forgotten. What else could you have spent your time on? 

    And perhaps working on a lot of projects would help solve much of the retention puzzle, too. I just don't see it as something one needs to do instead of focusing on content. But then again, there's a reason I'm in favor of accelerating kids as much as possible. I am aware that achieving all that I would like us to achieve will take a lot of time and effort. There are so many beautiful things I want to make sure they learn, and I will only have my children at home till they are 18!

    On 12/31/2019 at 2:42 PM, square_25 said:

    Actually, my own similar experience with lots of high school subjects is exactly why I started homeschooling. And I agree with you. I don't think "learning" physics without really fully engaging with it or absorbing the ideas is worthwhile. And I absolutely reject the idea that "exposure to the ideas" is a good way to learn any field. If you want exposure to the ideas, you can buy a fun popular science book, and ultimately you will probably get just as much or more out of it as grinding through the formulas, remembering them for tests, and then immediately forgetting them. 

    I do think it's true that one isn't going to remember everything one studies, but the problem is that the way lots of classes are currently designed, we don't pay any attention to what it is the kids are going to wind up remembering. I spent a lot of time thinking about this when I was rewriting the AoPS precalculus scripts, specifically the linear algebra. What I concluded was that I didn't want them to remember a smattering of disconnected ideas, although I was certainly not going to get them to remember everything in the class. However, I thought there were 5 or 6 ideas in the class that were absolutely crucial to an understanding of linear algebra (what a vector is both visually and numerically, how to add and subtract vectors in both ways, what dot product is and how it interacts with trigonometry, an intuitive and a numerical understanding of what a matrix is, what linear combinations are, etc.) So when I was rewriting the scripts, I was both introducing new material, and thinking about to create a "concept spiral": a way to create reinforcement for the crucial ideas while still moving forward. Whereas the way lots of classes are written, what kids wind up retaining is something truly odd.

    Love this. 

    • Like 3

  15. I didn't mean to come off as flippant, so now that it's not 3 AM my time anymore, I thought I'd elaborate a bit on why I don't see that much of a contradiction in both approaches that folks have been arguing for.

    3 hours ago, Farrar said:


    And if you let kids decide in a vacuum... then you're reinforcing those biases. Because we all grow up with them. Education should make you look beyond those things. And not just in a historical, multicultural kind of way but also just in a personal way. Like, you think you don't like chemistry as a 12 year old? Tweens don't know what chemistry is. Or what history is. Or what literature is yet. And yeah, good teachers can make a difference here - can guide and introduce things. At the heart of things, that's the solution more than a laundry list of content, in my mind. Force the teachers to have a better grasp of content so they can guide and convey it more effectively. And that's a whole other educational rabbit hole. But if the OP's question is what do we require... I'm still left thinking that we have to require some things. We have to require content in some fashion. And it has to have a highish degree of overlap with each other - at least before high school and possibly after high school as well. 

    This is a (more eloquent version of a) rant I often subject my poor husband to. I'm definitely in the camp of instilling content, and a lot of it, in my kids. And I also see Farrar's perspective as deeply rooted in the education debate, educational approach and their far-reaching consequences in the US. Now, I also don't think that the particular people who focus on skills in this thread would disagree that there should be a shared basic content for all, particularly in the realm of science, but also including a broad understanding of history (everyone needs to know what WW2 or the Roman Empire were), or a solid grounding in political geography.

    The way I read it, I see @lewelma or @square_25 focusing on skills in their homeschools because they take the transmission of the basics of content to their children for granted. (Please correct me if I'm wrong, though!) They have and will allow their children's interest to decide what the deep dives are going to be, but if Farrar came up with a set of the most important content requirements for the US schools (a very difficult, but, I agree, also a very important task) I am certain that lewelma's and square_25's kids will have covered and exceeded those (even though lewelma is not even based in the US.) Then, in addition to, and not instead of, those content guidelines, they would have facilitated deep dives in many areas. To an extent, I think the varying perspectives that might feel like disagreement here come from some folks interpreting OP's question as what are the musts for them and their children, whereas Farrar placed more focus on policy and what the musts should be for all kids. 

    A slightly different point when it comes to, say, math is this. I work with my particular child, and I will teach them as much math as they can master before they turn 18. The limiting factors will be time and innate ability. I think it's difficult to decide on national scale whether we should have everyone take calculus in high school. But it's not as difficult in a homeschool. I think I should teach my children as much math as they can absorb, reasonably. So, I'm not advocating for doing hours and hours a day for everyone, but I think it should be several hours a week, for years, till the children leave home. This will lead to some children mastering calculus, analysis, discrete math, and more, while other children will barely get a grasp of algebra. Everyone works within their own limitations, though. Same goes for science. I think everyone here will agree their children should spend many hours over many years studying biology, chemistry and physics. Everyone will want the basics covered and everyone will want to go as deep as time and ability allow. Emphasis will be different, but we will all do as much as we can given our unique constraints. This approach, a natural one, I think, for academically ambitious homeschoolers, which you all are, will lead to all of your children having covered a lot of content. (It is of no help in answering policy questions, though.)

    • Like 6

  16. On 1/1/2020 at 10:39 PM, square_25 said:


    I suppose I can imagine taking Arts and Programming off the list, if a student really hated them, but they are definitely something I'd like if possible :-). You're right, thought, that I think of the others as more essential.


    Programming is on my list as well. I suppose I am biased, as in my pre-homeschooling life I was a programmer by profession, but it's just one of those skills that have made my life easier over and over again. It feels almost like a superpower. It allows you to bend things to your will. It's useful in so many disciplines, so many careers, in any sort of quantitative research. I don't currently work but I still program regularly. Making flashcards for my child taking too much time? Automated much of it it with a quick script. A series of documents in a weird format that's difficult to print? Wrote a program to convert them to make them look the way I wanted. Chinese PDFs available only in simplified characters? Wrote a program to convert them to traditional. Wishing there was a game that would help my kids practice X? Well, I can write one. And so on, and so on.

    Another top educational goal that I have for my kids, and that I haven't seen mentioned much in this thread, is fluency and literacy (including cultural literacy) in at least four languages. We are going for four, which is a lot, because of my family's background. Still, in my mind, learning even one foreign language well, and becoming familiar with another country's literature and history is one of the most eye-opening, intellectually stimulating and enriching educational endeavors out there. And that's not only because of the depth of understanding of foreign literary works, which one could never gain through translated texts, but also because of the whole Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, and the perspective one gains on knowledge acquisition, and knowledge in general. 

    Then, there's physical fitness. Strength, endurance, athletic ability. Understanding of diet. Not sure if basic cooking goes in here as well. But, anyway, having a strong and healthy body that is capable of doing things like a pull-up or a sprint, or whatever else is a good goal given everyone's natural limitations, makes everything else in life so much easier. Being in shape clears mental space to focus on other things. Ideally, I'd also like my kids to master a martial art and to highly enjoy another sport or two.

    Anyway, these are the ones I haven't seen mentioned much. The rest of my list is probably pretty standard and similar to everyone else's. 🙂

    • Like 3


    On 12/28/2019 at 12:00 PM, LauraClark said:

    We're on break from school for a couple weeks, which always makes me reevaluate what I'm doing/work on doing things better.  Plus I'm enjoying reading the in-depth discussions on the general forum about the old-school ways of home educating.  Which leads me to math.  I LOVED math in school.  My 8 yo son hates it.  He thinks it's boring and it's the subject that takes up the most time (partly because he drags his feet, but partly just because it's the longest subject).  I'm using R&S curriculum right now and we're going through it pretty quickly (I don't assign every problem and sometimes we skip lessons).  Right now R&S has us learning the multiplication and division facts.  He definitely understands the concept, but just needs to work on memorizing (which I think is important).  So a couple of questions: how do you help your child enjoy math?  It never occurred to me that my children wouldn't like math since I loved it so much.  I'm not sure if it's just that it's not challenging enough (he says he doesn't want anything challenging, though...but I'm not sure he even knows what he wants).  Does anyone do math without a curriculum or loosely based on a curriculum?  R&S is pretty dry, but I feel like I would miss teaching him things if I went totally without a curriculum (like he'd be in highschool and I'd suddenly realize I never taught him how to read a clock - ha!).  Things I'm not interested in: spending a lot of money.  I don't want to switch curriculums or buy lots of flashy hands-on things. Square_25 : I feel like you would have suggestions!  Thanks!


    What is your policy on screen time? My son is currently working on 4th grade math and he has just gotten to a place where I consider his math facts solid, all thanks to two RPG games I found for him online. (Math Quest and Math Quest 2.) The games were written by a 3rd grade math teacher, and are completely free and utterly wonderful. My son loves them so much he'd play them for hours everyday if I let him. And since he's only allowed to play them after he's done his school work for the day, it also motivates him to get all of his other work done early.

    I have tried so many other approaches to practicing math facts, and nothing else has come close for us in terms of either effectiveness or enjoyment.  We really sampled it all before: Reflex Math, XtraMath, flashcard games, wrap-ups, TimezAttack, Times Tales, you name it. 

    So, anyway, I'd highly recommend taking a look at the games. And while your son plays them and learns that math can be fun (OK, I guess it's not real math, just math facts), you could, as others have suggested, re-evaluate your curriculum. My son and I are working through Math Mammoth which is conceptually solid and ridiculously easy to implement for the parent. It's also inexpensive. I am in love with it and highly recommend it. Perhaps you could get some sample chapters online to see if your son would tolerate it better?

    On 12/28/2019 at 6:03 PM, square_25 said:

    In my whole homeschool class, no one but my daughter knew what an equals sign means. "It means you put down an answer, right?" Most programs expose kids only to the operational and not the relational meaning of the equals signs until, like, pre-algebra. We assume students know it, but they really don't. (There are whole Math Ed papers about this! I looked the issue up after I noticed it.) 

    This is why I advocate first thinking through what concepts are important, and then thinking about how to design the program. You clearly already knew that the concept was important, so you focused on it. Someone who's just going through a program may not. 

    I saw this subject discussed in another thread and I just couldn't wrap my mind around kids not knowing what the equals sign means. Fascinating stuff. I have no experience teaching little kids other than my own, so I find it very interesting to hear from people with more teaching experience. Anyway, happy to report Math Mammoth teaches the meaning of the equals sign very thoroughly, in case OP might consider it.

    • Like 1

  18. Yes, these big beautiful overview books have been so useless for us so far, to my disappointment. I have some DKs for ancient history, and they never get looked at. My son prefers books that he can read linearly, I think.

    Anyway, these Usborne science ones might just strike the right balance, especially if it's the parent reading them out loud and deciding when to include the stuff on the margins, etc. Definitely check out the samples, though. Here is the Biology one, for example:

    • Like 1

  19. I know a homeschooling dad who used Usborne's "What Is Biology All About", "What Is Chemistry All About", and "What Is Physics All About" as a survey-style intro to science for his little kids. He would just read these books out loud to the kids on a semi-regular schedule, and answer questions as they came up. I believe the book "What Is Science All About" has all three of these in one volume.

    I know it's not really a curriculum, but it's relatively low cost ( and simple to implement, so might be worth checking out as something to start with.

    • Like 2

  20. You, guys, write some of my favorite threads on this forum.

    On 12/19/2019 at 11:19 PM, square_25 said:


    My daughter broke things down like that for a long time. I did eventually need to drill somewhat to get her faster, but I think it helped her to work through things in her own way for a while. I think it also pays off in algebra to do this kind of manipulation: you really get a sense for how numbers work and how operations interact. 

    Yeah, I've been thinking about how to find mathy friends for my daughter. She's in my 8-10 year old homeschooling center math class... and she was getting the hardest worksheet of all the kids, which wasn't exactly what I was going for. She did meet other kids who were natural at math, but she's considerably ahead, despite being one of the youngest kids. I've thought about either starting a math club or registering her for some of the accelerated after school classes.... 


    You need to start recruiting the parents. 🙂 Your daughter is way more advanced than most of the kids around her, but that gap will only grow unless you convince some of the parents of the naturally mathy kids you mention to start educating the way you do. Not everyone will have the natural ability that your daughter has, of course, but the most frustrating thing is that even the kids who could be as advanced as she is likely aren't because their parents are unschooling or afraid that teaching young kids rigorous academics stifles their creativity, or some other such... philosophy.

    My son's best friend is very much like him: also multilingual, plays the piano better than my son, but perhaps doesn't read material that is as advanced, does math at a similar level. They recommend and lend books to each other. It's adorable. They both have just turned 6, and they still play like most 6 year olds do, but their similar academic backgrounds make it so much easier and natural for them to communicate. 

    Now, one of this girl's parents leans quite unschooly, but I think I've been able to help the other parent remain excited about early academics by my constant blabbering during our play dates about all of the cool stuff I've been doing with my son. And there's another friend I'm working on converting to our way of doing things, too. I wish I could build a larger group, of course. That whole community building thing is definitely the one area of homeschooling I will need to focus on improving for us. Where is the 'sighs in introvert' emoticon when I need it. 🙂


    On 12/20/2019 at 12:50 AM, lewelma said:

    My ds was doing AoPS Algebra completely independently (as in *reading* the textbook and solutions guide at 9, and doing ALL the challengers) while concurrently memorizing his subtraction facts.  He knew he needed to do it, but he found the memory component very difficult back then. I have always said that if he had been in school, he would have been considered bad at math.  If it was too easy, then he just couldn't concentrate and would get everything wrong. 


    I am so grateful you wrote this because that's exactly what I've been thinking that is going on with my son, but wasn't sure it could actually be the case. He seems to grasp new ideas so quickly. We do a lesson, he immediately gets it, then we do some exercises and by about the 10th one, he's out. Whenever it gets boring or too easy, it's like he's unable to focus and simply can't do it. He's recently been playing this great adventure game to practice his math facts, and he does so well answering all sorts of questions when the slaying of the Numerator boss is at stake, but when I want to do a review with him, he's out by about the 7th question.

    • Like 3

  21. Love these threads. Love reading what others are up to and learning from those more experienced than us. It's also a great opportunity to reflect a little on where we are headed.

    So let me start with plans for my older boy, who just turned 6, and who's really, officially "doing school" with me on most days now.
    • Start reading early elementary level chapter books (like Magic Treehouse) in Mandarin by the end of the year. I am incredibly excited about how far we've come in the 20 months or so of studying the language, even though I realize we still have so much further to go.
    • Maybe have him start reading in Polish. Not in a hurry there. But a definite goal for me: read Polish books to him on most days of the week.
    • Learn spelling and increase fluency in handwriting enough to be able to write down his own "stories", letters, and anything else he might want to write down. I can already see how much this will empower him - just like the ability to read, which gave him so much freedom and independence.
    • Let him continue reading and enjoying books in English. No curriculum there. Just one goal for me: keep supplying him with interesting stuff to read that is both somewhat challenging and age appropriate. Perhaps try to introduce some more non-fiction into the mix. Continue reading history.
    • Keep working on fun math competition problems. Finish 5th and perhaps part of 6th grade of Math Mammoth. Successfully take part in Math Kangaroo (as in, be able to sit through the whole test, focus on solving problems for at least half of its duration, correctly fill in and hand in the answer sheet.) Work towards having him scribe his own math for at least half of the MM problems that we do.
    • Keep doing some biking, hiking, tennis and soccer for fun, when the weather allows. Aim for 3 hours outside on most days.
    • Continue enjoying music, singing and learning to play the piano at home, and maybe look into taking singing lessons.

    And then there's the little boy, who just turned 3, and who is still a mystery to me in terms of what he'll be like when it comes to learning. What will he enjoy? How much "school" will he ask for? He does like listening to books, so I definitely want to give him the gift of early reading, which has worked out so beautifully and gave so much independence and confidence to his older brother. But with this one, I somehow just don't know. He's very, very quick, and very, very stubborn. So the goals are tentative, very tentative:
    • Go from reading the simplest phonics readers in English to reading Magic Treehouse-type books.
    • Maybe do some Mandarin.
    • Keep doing soccer, scooting, walking, going outside for 3 hours on most days. Transition from balance bike to pedals when he's tall enough.

    • Like 1

  22. I was in a very similar situation with my son, who is turning 6 in a couple of months. He has been reading independently for over a year now, but I delayed his handwriting instruction because he's a lefty, and also because bad handwriting runs in my family. So I was nervous and kept overthinking. I did teach him basic letter formation when he was 4.5 using two iPad apps: the Letter School (you get to choose the font, and I believe both ZB and HWT might be among the options) and Wet Dry Try by HWT. I also ended up getting him a small slate on eBay and had him use it to practice writing letters in chalk, the way Wet Dry Try teaches them. It was fun. The HWT app has a toggle for lefties to adjust the direction of some of the strokes. If you are not ready to commit to a curriculum, perhaps you could try these two apps + slate and chalk first. 

    So, anyway, we finally started proper handwriting instruction in September. I decided to go with GD Italic, and we both love it. I really don't know what I was worried about. My son's handwriting is completely legible now, and actually quite pretty as for the handwriting of someone who's only been practicing for two months. GD has some recommendations for lefties in terms of positioning the paper, etc, and I let my son use some of the lefty modifications he learned from the HWT app. I watch him like a hawk when he practices because I want to make sure he forms good habits. I often step in and have him practice a letter that I think he's not doing very well with. I always try to explain why a particular letter looks good or bad. But we keep our handwiring sessions very short for now: one page in the GD workbook plus one sentence he gets to come up with by himself.

    I like the look of GD Italic, although I prefer the loopy cursive styles if they are done well. Still, my goal was for my son to have legible, comfortable and pretty handwriting, and I thought GD Italic would get him there with the least effort and the least risk of having him end up with an illegible or unattractive style. Additionally, we can later do Italic calligraphy (which I think looks stunning) if we want to kick it up a notch.

    Anyway, I know Italic is not on your list, but I thought I would throw it out there since your situation sounds similar to mine, and the curriculum has been working so well for my leftie. Good luck!

    P.S. My son finds the Paper Mate triangular #2 lead mechanical pencils very comfortable to write with. I have a bunch of those things that you put on pencils to make the grip more comfortable, but we haven't really been using them.

  23. My son and I have recently discovered an amazingly fun adventure (story-based) game aimed at practicing math facts: Math Quest. The game is built around a very involved world (just have a look at this map.) You go on quests, dig for treasure, collect interesting items, visit shops, towns, caverns, deserts and mountains. You can even find a cave-dwelling sage that rewards you with gold if you answer a math puzzle correctly. It's so much fun I'm almost hesitant to share it because I'm afraid that once it becomes popular, the website might struggle with the traffic, given that it's completely free. From what I understand, that website (which has a ton of other well-made games, including Math Quest 2, which works on touch screens) was built by just one teacher. I'm in complete awe of the amazing work that person has done.

    Back to Math Quest. The way the game makes you practice math facts is by having random creatures (an angry bee, a woodland viper, a desert troll, etc) attack you. You defend yourself by answering math fact questions. (You can also use some magic, once you've learned enough of it.) The attacks happen very often, so you end up answering A TON of questions in a short time. It starts off gently, with easy addition, and slowly builds up to include subtraction, multiplication and division. You need to answer quickly, otherwise the creature will defeat you. Defeat is not the end of the world, though: you simply get transported back to your base to recuperate. Make sure to save your progress as you go. 

    My son is about to finish 3rd grade Math Mammoth. He's OK at math, and knows most of his math facts, but he is still a bit too slow with them, so I want him to keep doing regular practice. He adores this game and asks for it daily. I've previously had him go through Reflex Math for addition and subtraction, and we did some games for multiplication (Timez Attack, etc) but this is by far his favorite. 

    If anyone ends up checking it out, please let me know what you think!

    Edit: So, apparently, the Math Quest 2 on the same site is supposed to be even better and easier for younger children to work with.

    • Thanks 1

  24. Congratulations to everyone!

    My DS only did the first 30 Qs, and he got gold! On the one hand, very proud of him because he's technically still in pre-K (old for pre-K, though: born a month after the cut-off.) On the other hand, not surprised since at some point he was so enamored with Greek myths, he spent half a year reading and listening to stories from D'Aulaires over and over. When I asked him to maybe listen to them as a refresher before he took the test, he said he wouldn't because "mom, the questions are multiple choice." Well, alright. Anyway, we'll have to do the special theme section next year, too! As many on the forums suggested, we'll probably just keep adding one section a year until he's able to do well on the whole test. Excited. Haven't told him yet because I know he will get impatient to get the medal. (Yeah, he's not in it for the sense of academic accomplishment, he just cares about getting an actual medal he can play with, lol.)


    • Like 3
  • Create New...