Monthly Archives: January 2010

Lakota Winter Counts

What is a Lakota Winter Count?  The website describes them as:

Winter counts are histories or calendars in which events are recorded by pictures, with one picture for each year.

The Lakota call them waniyetu wowapi.  Waniyetu is the word for year, which is measured from first snowfall to first snowfall. It is often translated as “a winter.” Wowapi means anything that is marked on a flat surface and can be read or counted, such as a book, a letter, or a drawing.

Lakota Winter Counts

Indiana Homeschool Standards in the news

Many times a researcher will convince homeschoolers  that  participating in a study of homeschooling will help the homeschooling cause. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve been approached to participate in a homeschool survey or research project, I wouldn’t be rich, but I’d have a little nest egg perhaps?

What is the need  in this country for educational  standards so strict that I doubt many a teacher teaching them would be able to keep up if the roles were reversed? In this morning’s news feed I read, Indiana needs standards for home schooling in the Fort Wayne Gazette.

Life is not an exact science, but one that calls for flexibility in our daily lives.  Children deserve no less and if we are going to look at studies and call for more standards, we ought to also look at those already in place. What are  the effects from being away from families 8 hours a day, five days a week, 9 mos. out of the year? What is the ratio of children to teacher  in a classroom? Since tests like Indiana’s ISTEP and Ohio’s proficiency and then the Ohio Graduation test have been instigated, what  effect have they had on Ohio and Indiana students?  All of them? What do they learn from these tests? I’ve been told again and again privately by teachers and students that they don’t like the tests, but to continue the funding, they must do well on them.

When we chose to home educate our children in 1990, it was because the testing machine was gearing up for full swing. It appears to me this testing machine has grown to be the measure of accountability of the schools and as a result of that, even more  accountability has been heaped on the heads , hearts and backs of children.

What the Fort Wayne Journal writer does not understand and even the best researcher cannot capture is that when children are loved and nurtured they thrive, learn and grow in a way that best suits them. It is an education that evolves around their intrinsic needs and  when nurtured,  blossoms into a gift for those around them.  If there are issues of neglecting to offer a nurturing and loving environment, then there are abuse laws in place to protect in those situations.  However, if one chooses to attempt to change the laws of how children learn naturally in  a homeschool environment, tightening the screws and narrowing the way in which their testing machine works and trying to place it  onto this population will be difficult. Yes, Ohio has stricter guidelines than Indiana, but that is irrelevant to how my children learned.  Most parents  comply with those laws, but many that I’ve known have focused on the child’s needs, interests and abilities rather than the standards set up by the state. Attempting to add their testing machine to the lives of homeschooled children would need to be done without prejudice and allow for the fact that education narrowly defined and boxed could create a very non-nurturing environment for a homeschool family.

When you mass produce a product, say pies, you need some measure to test that the pies you are producing are  good quality  because so many go by that you don’t get to see, touch and taste. When you make one pie at a time, you are much more familiar and can take the care, ensure you have the needed ingredients and taste it when you are done.

In no way do I mean to compare educating children to such  a menial task, but having raised my children, I know that they have learned what they need to because I have been with them.  Not because I force fed them facts, but because together we explored the world, learned how to research what we needed to know and learned what it takes to succeed in this life.

When you have so many children in school settings, funded by tax dollars, you need something to show that the bottom line is working,  I suppose.  Instead of fine tuning the testing machine to fit all, perhaps those concerned about the safety and education of children should look at how those children in their schools are being treated.  Are they loved, nurtured and encouraged to be the best John or Sally they can be?  Or are they too often pushed, shoved and forced to learn in a way that ensures they will fit through the one size fits all testing machine?

I’ll leave you with these quotes from John Holt in  How Children Learn.  He wrote:

“… It is hardly ever possible to separate what we think about something from how we feel about it … This notion, now very popular in leading universities, that organisms, including human beings, are nothing but machines, is for me one of the most mistaken, foolish, harmful, and dangerous of all the many bad ideas at large in the world today. If an idea can be evil, this one surely is.”

and:

“..All I am saying in this book can be summed up in two words – Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple – or more difficult. Difficult, because to trust children we must trust ourselves – and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted”