Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Lindsey Sterling Music Video Remake


Check out the video we made for my boys favorite violinist Lindsey Stirling. Please watch and share. She will be coming to Cleveland and we are really doing our best to get her attention. Also visit her site at Her music is fun, upbeat and gives the violin a new hip existence.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Computers in Libraries...WHY!!!

Can I express my great distaste for computers in libraries. I have decided that the library is no longer a place I feel compelled to take my children at this time. All libraries seem to have computers in the kids area and what do my kids want to do. They bee line it to the computers. We limit their screen time at home for a reason. I have wanted to go to the library and just pick out some books to sit with my kids and read. Unfortunately  the harsh glow of the wonderful touch screen computer beckons them relentlessly.

Even if I do get them to sit down for a book then they are constantly asking how much longer till they can use the computers. It frustrates me because I know they are capable of sitting down for hours to listen to books. Why do libraries need then? OK, better yet why do they have to be in the kids section right when you walk in. I understand that adults use them for essay writing and so on. My kids just sit there and touch things that fill their brains with mindless dribble. I want my children to grow a love for books, not games. I want real information.

Also, why do libraries have video game systems and movie nights? It sickens me. IT IS A LIBRARY! I just want a library with books. So for now I will just use my books from home, continue building my personal library and go tot the library on my own if I really need to.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Two New Field Trips

Check out the Field Trip page on my site and see what we did in Columbus and an art museum.

Revolutionary War books for Kids and Adults

Here are some great Revolution books I found listed on the Washington Crossing Historical Park web site. We are always looking for new books with a war theme for our boys. They are always so interested in wars but we feel they are still a little to young for every detail.

Books for Students

  • The Teaching and Learning Company History-Hands On!Series has a workbook entitled, Washington Crossing the Delaware written by Mary Tucker.
  • First Avenue Editions publishes a series of "travel guides" for middle school children including, Your Travel Guide to Colonial America written by Nancy Day. There are several other activity-based books available which include the American Revolution and Washington Crossing Historic Park, including Wiley Press' Revolutionary War Days : Discover the Past with Exciting Projects, Games, Activities, and Recipes (American Kids in History Series) by David C. King (Author), Cheryl Kirk Noll and The American Revolution for Kids: A History with 21 Activities by Janis Herbert by Chicago Review Press
  • Many students enjoy the fiction book entitled, George Washington's Socks by Elvira Woodruff. It is geared toward the 5th grade level of comprehension and is a fantasy story about modern children who find themselves back in time during the crossing of the Delaware River in 1776.
  • Crossing the Delaware: A History in Many Voices by Louise Peacock is designed for Pre K — 3rd grade. It is a good resource for the crossing history, and really can be used with older students as well. (What is currently printed is all that is available. It is out of print.)
  • The Magic Tree House Series (Book #22) includes Revolutionary War on Wednesday by Mary Pope Osborne. This fiction book features modern children who are present at the time Washington crosses the Delaware River. This is suitable for 4th and 5th grade students.
  • Crossing the Delaware by Arlan Dean and The Battle of Trenton by Wendy Vicrow are resources for 2nd — 4th graders regarding the crossing story. They are published by the Rosen Publishing Group.
  • The Glorious Hour of James Monroe by Richard Hasner is a bit dated, but a classic story written for young adults and enjoyable for older adults as well.
  • Row, Row, Row the Boats: A Fun Song About George Washington Crossing the Delaware (Fun Songs) by Michael DahlSandra D'Antonio by Picture Window Books
  • When Washington Crossed the Delaware by Lynne Cheney with illustrations by Peter Fiore is a beautiful rendition of the crossing story for young children.

Books for Adults

  • Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fisher, Oxford University Press, first class writing, and a national book nominee as well, brings the crossing history to life in this recent a 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner for history
  • The Day is Ours! by William Dwyer, Rutgers University Press, excellent use of first person sources and diary accounts to tell the story
  • The Long Retreat by Arthur Lefkowitz, Rutgers University Press, an interesting work recounting the 1776 events which led up to the Crossing of the Delaware River
  • The Winter Soldiers by Richard Ketchum, Owl Books, a clear, basic, overview of the events of 1776 and early 1777.
  • A classic read is The Battles of Trenton and Princeton by William Stryker, recently reprinted by the Old Barracks Museum.

Other Books

  • Washington Crossing Historic Park: Pennsylvania Trail of History Guide (Pennsylvania Innovative Techn Guides)by John BradleyCraig A. BennerPennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Stackpole Books, this booklet features site photos and basic right up regarding the Park
  • Taylor — A Friendly Heritage Along the Delaware: The Taylors of Washington Crossing and Some Allied Families in Bucks County by Arthur E. Bye, Higginson Books
  • Delaware Diaries by Frank Dale, Rutgers University Press, a self-proclaimed history of the life of a river, a local classic
  • Early History of Upper Makefield Township, Bucks County, PA, Upper Makefield Historical Society
  • Pennsylvania's Delaware Division Canal: 60 miles of Euphoria and Frustration by Albright Zimmerman, Canal History and Technology Press
  • Beyond Philadelphia: The American Revolution in the Pennsylvania Hinterlands, Edited by John Frantz and William Pencak, Penn State Press

No Teachers, No Class, No Homework; Would You Send Your Kids Here?

I found this very interesting and this is how I found out about the Sudbury Schools that dont have teachers.

Artical taken from


In Massachusetts farm country, not far from Boston, a group of about 200 students of all ages are part of a radical experiment. These students don't take any classes they don't specifically ask to have taught. They can spend their time doing whatever they want, as long as it's not destructive or criminal -- reading, playing video games, cooking, making art. There are 11 adults, called "staff members"; no one technically holds the title of "teacher." The kids establish rules and mete out punishments by a democratic process whereby each member of the community has one vote -- which means the adults are "outnumbered" by the kids almost 20 to one. Unlike at most private schools, students are admitted without regard to their academic records. 
Sudbury Valley School will this spring find itself one focus of a book by the psychologist and Boston College professor Peter Gray, whose own son attended Sudbury Valley in the 1980s. At the time, Gray was a professor and neurobiology researcher whose work focused on the basic drives of mammals. At his lab, he worked with rats and mice. The experience of his young son, who was struggling in school, convinced him to entirely shift the focus of his career.
"He clearly was unhappy in school, and very rebellious," Gray said of his son in a phone interview. In fourth grade, the son convinced his parents to send him to Sudbury. It was obvious early on that he was "thriving" there, but his father "had questions whether someone could graduate from such a radical school and go on to higher education."
Gray wound up becoming a developmental and learning psychologist in order to do a study of Sudbury outcomes. The results impressed him. Gray described his son as "precocious and articulate"; his problem was not with mastering the material, but with the "waste of time" that normal schooling, with its average pace and rigid structures, entailed.
But not all of Sudbury's students and alumni were precocious learners: "Some had been diagnosed with learning disorders." And while some came from privileged backgrounds with supportive parents who had deliberately sought out alternative education, other parents had been desperate. (Gray notes that most students when he did his study came from public school, not from another private school.) But most seemed to do well at the school, and alumni reported high satisfaction later in life. How was it that students who followed such an out-there program appeared to become relatively well adjusted adults? Gray began to inquire into why.
Nothing enrages parents like the idea that their kids might be educated to do or say or think things they don't agree with, by people they don't trust. Yet as different as parents might be, most could nonetheless probably agree on some things. Many would agree that schools should teach values and behaviors -- like sharing, thinking critically, or empathizing with others -- and not just specific skills. Most would approve a program that teaches personal responsibility. A pretty large number would probably also say it's important to foster creativity and allow the student to discover his or her own interests.
There are schools that purport to directly teach those values. They're called democratic schools, and most parents would never consider sending their kids to one. That's because they're run, in great part, by the kids themselves.
While democratic schools vary greatly, the basic concept is the same. When it comes to governing the school -- whether it's deciding what lessons will be taught or setting curfew -- the decision-making rule is "one person, one vote." A teacher's vote counts the same a student's, whether that student is six or 16. And since, at most schools, the body of faculty is smaller than the body of students, the kids ultimately do have it when it comes to making decisions.
Of the democratic schools that exist today, the oldest is Summerhill, a co-ed boarding school founded in 1921 by the British educator A.S. Neill. It opened at a time when a lot of experiments in bohemian education methods were sprouting -- and failing -- in England. But Summerhill still thrives, with a student body of about 100 and a large international population. The school went through a rough patch in 1999 and 2000 when it was nearly shuttered due to a conflict with Ofsted, Britain's national school accreditation body, over what inspectors described as the rude and unruly behavior of students. After a long legal battle, the school was saved, and by 2007, it had beenaccredited for the first time in its history. Inspectors gave it a stand-out review, praising the students as "well-rounded, confident and mature."
Sudbury Valley is to some extent America's Summerhill, although it is less well known here than its British counterpart is in the UK. The "free school" movement in the U.S. was at its peak in the late 1960s and the 1970s. To a great extent, its ideals meshed with the aims of the anti-war movement, black power, and other ideologies of the era. So did the schools' countercultural, vaguely anarchic vibe. It was in this context, in 1968, that a professor of the history of science at Columbia decided to leave his university teaching post and found a free school in rural Massachusetts. For the past four-plus decades, it has quietly and effectively graduated generations of students. The school is little-known outside education circles, but it has spawned about 20 schools around the world that are run on Sudbury (that is, democratic) principles.
When Gray began studying Sudbury, the school had been around for just long enough to have graduated its first students. Yet the the findings from his Sudbury study, limited though they were, inspired Gray to shift his research focus to the study of learning, play, and education. He has been a firm backer of both the unschooling movement and the Sudbury schools, both of which are prominently featured in his forthcoming book Free to Learn. In particular, he stresses the value of the Sudbury schools' age-mixed communities -- where children as young as four and as old as 18 regularly interact. "Young kids learn from older kids. They learn to read by playing games that involve reading with older kids who can read. They play complicated card games with older kids that they could never play by themselves." Older students benefit too: "They learn how to care, to nurture. They get a sense of their own maturity." 
For the younger kids, age mixing replaces the teacher-student dynamic. Both traditional education and Sudbury work to some extent because they take advantage of the "zone of proximal development": the category of things that a child can do with help but not without it. Children learn, according to some theories, when they work with a more skilled person to master activities in their zone of proximal development.
Theoretically, a school doesn't have to be democratic to allow age mixing, and some Montessori schools (for instance) allow a limited amount of it. But as Gray notes, the rigid, age-tracked curricula that are used in most schools make meaningful age mixing almost impossible. Conversely, a Sudbury school where all the kids were the same age "simply wouldn't work."
In some ways, it's the democratic meeting that allows the school to run: It takes a potentially lawless and chaotic setup and gives it structure. It's a mechanism for dealing with bullying (which is almost nonexistent at Sudbury) and with disruptive behavior when just a warning from another student won't do. It's also a way of evolving sophisticated laws for the community. "The school," says Gray, "has a very thick rulebook."
He gives an example. "A number of years ago, there was a new teenage student who was coming to school in a black leather jacket with a swastika on it. And so, because it was offensive, it led to a desire to make a rule in the school meeting saying that you could not display a swastika on your clothing in the school." The proposed rule provoked a discussion over the limits of free speech that was, in Gray's view, "worthy of the Supreme Court."
Students quickly hit on the fact that there was a tension between limiting speech and the democratic values of the school. "There were all sorts of people taking part, mostly teenagers and staff, but every once in a while a young kid would say something too. And those who weren't talking were listening, rapt, learning about history, about Nazism, about why wearing a swastika might be exceptional, why it might be different, say, than wearing a hammer and sickle." The meeting ultimately decided to pass the rule, and it led in time to a larger rule prohibiting hate speech at the school, and distinguishing between hate speech and regular speech. 
Most of the major democratic schools that exist today have good track records. Sudbury's founders have been eager to tout their students' success at meeting the demands of the "real world." Gray tells me his research indicated that about 75 percent of Sudbury graduates went on to college, and that those who didn't reported fulfilled lives.
The measure of success partly depends on what you consider a good life outcome. When Summerhill -- the famous UK free school -- celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2011, the Guardian ran reflections from a handful of its alumni. (The British, who have a tradition of strictly hierarchical boarding schools, have been fascinated by Summerhill practically since its founding.) Among the group were several artists, a dentist, and a writer, and many commented that their education had made them "like being themselves." 
As Gray admitted in our interview, it's hard to know whether other factors apart from school influence these students' success. Parents involved enough to research and send their children to such an unusual school probably already give their kids a leg up, compared to less attentive parents who expend less energy on school choice or have less time to focus on it. And with a yearly tuition of $7,800 (prorated if multiple children attend), many students who attend Sudbury are relatively privileged economically.
Writers like Jonathan Kozol have asserted that low income kids stand to benefit from alternative education methods as much as wealthy ones. The question of implementation, however, is vexed, and data on the efficacy of democratic schools are heavily anecdotal and therefore subjective. Since democratic schooling has never been tried at scale with kids from low-income or troubled backgrounds, it's difficult to know exactly how it would work for them.
As with all schooling, whether democratic school appeals to you may depend on what you value more. Would you rather your child be prepared to advance economically and socially, or would you rather he be an idiosyncratic thinker? Would you rather teach your child to operate successfully in the bureaucratic structures of the real world, or would you prefer that she learn to participate in a near-perfect democracy? It isn't an either-or choice, but democratic schools heavily stress the latter values. Even some parents and teachers who consider themselves progressive think the schools lack balance. The Sudbury model could be criticized for not teaching kids the basics they need to learn to function as adults, though proponents say most kids wind up teaching themselves the skills they need to function anyway. You could also argue that, on a more abstract level, a certain shared basic knowledge helps makes us human (or American), and that Sudbury students lose that. (This is the ethos behind core curricula at universities, for instance -- and one totally opposed to the Sudbury philosophy.)
Sudbury survived, but most of the democratic schools founded in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s failed. In an article Gray co-authored in 1986, he and Sudbury staff member David Chanoff asked themselves why:
It is true that numerous so-called free schools were started in the 1960s and the 1970s and that most of them failed as institutions. ... People do not want to take chances with their children. When parents and teachers see that children, genuinely given a choice, do not choose to engage in the kinds of activities that everyone thinks of as "school activities," they understandably become nervous. "What if my child falls behind and can't catch up? Maybe he is being spoiled in this school, developing lazy habits, lack of discipline. Perhaps he will be unable to get into college, get a job, keep a job. His life may be ruined." In many ways, conventional schooling may not be appealing, but at least it is known, and the known is less frightening than the unknown. The fact is that in the United States today we have virtually no models of people who have "made it" without conventional schooling. Consequently, we have a nagging feeling that such schooling, whatever its defects, must be one of the essential ingredients of success. ...
And so when an alternative school begins to look not at all like school, that is, when it becomes a real "alternative," it is seen by the adults (and many children too) as failing and is either closed or modified.
Many agree that the generation of Americans now in their teens and 20s had some of the most over-supervised and over-structured childhoods in U.S. history. It will be interesting to see whether these trends will continue, or whether these next-generation parents react to their own disciplined upbringings by becoming more hands-off. If they grow to resent the way they were raised, democratic schools may come to look like a pretty appealing option for their own children.

A school with no teachers. Really?

So, I think that unschooling gets a bad wrap. That's right...I don't see it to be so bad a thing. Kids hate going to school and suicide rates are going up all of the time. By the time kids reach high school they are so stressed out that children begin to change and the child you once new is showing great signs of distress. But what could it be? Granted family life has a great impact on a child's life. But add a stressed family life to the demands of school you could find yourself with a child who is finding it hard to manage their life. So could your child learn if they had no teacher? Will according to those who unschool this is very possible. Last night I ran across the Sudbury Valley Schools. Here is living proof that you don't need "teacher". Kids left alone to be kids and allowed to follow their heart and interests. Just keep in mind...Why are you home schooling. Do you want your children to be happy and love learning. Do you want them to have a little more time to be kids? well visit this site and check out the video.

Now I am not saying that  you need to have your kids sent to a special school. You can give your child the same experience at home. I just found it nice to see many schools in the US educating in this way showing that children can learn on their own.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Do you think testing works?

So I ran across this the other day and I had to share. Why cant more teachers forget the standardized test scare and let the kids enjoy learning.
As the semester draws to a close, I look back at my grade book and I see all of the assignments, essays and projects I have given and a smile appears on my face. I have not given a test the entire first semester. Not a single quiz or unit exam shows up in a column. My students smile just as wide when they look at their grades as well. It’s been an amazing year so far, why ruin it with an ugly bubble test?
A few years ago, I wanted to see what it would be like if I spent one marking period not giving my traditional multiple choice exams at the end of units and see what would happen if I gave my students options to demonstrate their knowledge. At the end of those ten weeks I saw higher engagement and a much stronger demonstration of skill and knowledge than any multiple choice exam had ever shown me. I think there are a couple of reasons for that that I want to share.
I am pretty sure that my tests were terrible. I think most multiple choice tests are not well-written. I think the primary reason for that is that most teachers do not have the training or experience to write a really good multiple choice test. There are so many things to consider when writing these types of exams, and I know I was not thinking about all of them. I was focused on creating questions that were possible to answer that would show me whether or not they knew the information. It was basically a reading check. When I moved to a project-based system, I needed to evaluate what was important to me. Remembering the character’s hometown was nice, but demonstrating the importance the hometown played in the story is far more important. A multiple choice test cannot do that, at least not the tests that I was capable of writing.
Students are yearning to show their teachers their talent and knowledge. They are bursting at the seams to show the world what they can do. The traditional classroom of lecture and test does not allow them to do that though. The minute I started to let my students choose their projects and express their knowledge in different ways, engagement and the overall energy of the students went through the room. They felt part of the process and that investment is critical for engagement and learning. They no longer felt like just another body in a seat being told what was important, they were active participants in their learning. High-school students are eager to participate. They are looking for chances to show off their talents. By moving to a project-based system in my classroom, students have chances every unit to show off what they have learned to me and the rest of the class.
I have been watching my students prepare for a mock trial of Mark Twain this past week. They have been furiously searching the Internet for primary sources to see if there is any evidence that Mark Twain was for or against slavery and if he wrote a racist book in Huck Finn. This delicate topic and very difficult book to read for sophomores has been firmly embraced and has generated amazing discussions that are not possible with the standard multiple choice test or traditional class lecture format.
Watching students explore and learn on their own is an amazing thing. Somewhere along the way, education lost its way and started to focus heavily on memorization of facts and not the actual act of learning. To me, MC tests, fill in the blank exams, etc. as the only means of assessment are a symptom of that larger problem. I was part of that problem but chose to take a leap of faith and trust that my students could show me more. Three years later I can look back at my decision and feel like I have done a great job in reaching more of my students. I can say that I’ve got 99 problems, but a test ain’t one.
Nicholas Provenzano is a high-school English teacher and a technology-curriculum specialist for the Grosse Pointe Public School System in Michigan. He has a master’s degree in educational technology from Central Michigan University and is a regular presenter for the Michigan Association for Computer Users in Learning and ISTE. When he is not writing on his blog or tweeting @TheNerdyTeacher, he is working on an educational e-zine and a free “unconference,” Edcamp Detroit. He also blogs for Edutopia on the value of technology in education.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Robin Hood Finished

We finally finished Howard Pyles The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. It has taken us some time to get through his book but every time we would pick it up and continue it the boys loved it. The old style of talking alluded us all at first but as I was reading today through the last adventure I would stop and ask Milo what was happening and he was able to recall what I had just read. It goes to show that our children can comprehend more that people think. They just need to be exposed to more than sesame street and Disney.

My children have been introduced to a whole new world of vocabulary. It makes me smile when I hear them using words that they have learned. Now I will admit that we did not look up every word we did not understand. When the children questioned the meaning of a word and I also did not understand it we would search for its meaning.

Howard Pyle 1853-1911
Our version of the story was not full of pictures. Just a few choice color pictures at the center of the book. The children would color or do a quiet activity as we read. Once they even tried acting out the story as we read. I encourage you to try a book with an older English  It might feel impossible at first but you will get the hang of it. I found this easier to read than Huck Finn.

One word of warning. Read the Epilogue before sharing it with your children and decide if it is something you want to share with him. You could read it ahead of time and give them the main idea of how he dies. I felt it was to graphic for my 4 and 8 year old.