Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Helen Keller and Charlotte Mason Education

I don't know what it is like teaching children with learning disabilities aside from what I have read here and there on the AmblesideOnline Yahoo Groups and Tammy Glaser's blog Aut-2B-Home in Carolina. I think I have even heard of a teacher who was attempting to teach a mixed CM class of multiple ages and LD/ non-LD kids applying the idea that each child will take from the class what their individual nature dictates.

Reading Chapter VII of The Story of my Life by Helen Keller with my kids tonight it was interesting to note how much of her teacher Anne Mansfield Sullivan's methods were similar to CM's.

Everything Miss Sullivan taught me she illustrated by a beautiful story or a poem.

We read and studied out of doors, preferring the sunlit woods to the house. All my early lessons have in them the breath of the woods - the fine, resinous odour of pine needles, blended with the perfume of wild grapes. Seated in the gracious shade of a wild tulip tree, I learned to think that everything has a lesson and a suggestion. 

From the first I was not interested in the science of numbers. Miss Sullivan tried to teach me to count by stringing beads in groups, and by arranging kintergarten straws I learned to add and subtract. I never had patience to arrange more than five or six groups at a time. When I had accomplished this my conscience was at rest for the day, and I went out quickly to find my playmates. In this same leisurely manner I studied zoology and bontany.

...a beautiful shell was given me, and with a child's surprise and delight I learned how a tiny mollusk had built the lustrous coil for his dwelling place, and how on still nights, when there is no breeze stirring the waves, the Nautilus sails on the blue waters of the Indian Ocean in his "ship of pearl."

"It was my teacher's genius, her quick sympathy, her loving tact which made the first years of my education so beautiful. It was because she seized the right moment to impart knowledge that made it so pleasant and acceptable to me. She realized that a child's mind is like a shallow brook which ripples and dances merrily over the stony course of its education and reflects here a flower, there a bush, yonder a fleecy cloud; and she attempted to guide my mind on its way, knowing that like a brook it should be fed by mountain streams and hidden springs, until it broadened out into a deep river, capable of reflecting in its placid surface, billowy hills, the luminous shadows of trees and the blue heavens, as well as the sweet face of a little flower.

 ...my teacher read me "The Chambered Nautilus," and showed me that the shell-building process of the mollusks is symbolical of the development of the mind. Just as the wonder-working mantle of the Nautilus changes the material it absorbs from the water and makes it a part of itself, so the bits of knowledge one gathers undergo a similar change and become pearls of thought. 

A literary way of learning * Putting the child in touch with nature * Short lessons * Putting them in touch with real things * Allowing the child to take from a reading what they find in it * A science of relations * An education that revolves around ideas...

...these are not about Charlotte Mason - she herself has said as much - rather, could it be perhaps in the direction of some universal truth about the way young children learn?

By the way, in case you are interested in educating LD children with the Charlotte Mason method, there is a private subforum in the AmblesideOnline Forum open for discussion and I believe Tammy is involved in the discussions there.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Nature Study - Snorkeling in Laguna

The kids have been telling me all summer that they have seen leopard sharks in the water and just looking in the water a few feet in I could see them swimming around myself. I thought it was a great opportunity for snorkeling so we went and got masks and snorkels.

When we went back to see them they said the visibility wasn't good, which it wouldn't be where the waves crash. So I looked around online and found that Laguna Beach is one of the top rated places for snorkeling. While there are a lot of little coves along the coast in Laguna good for snorkeling, Divers Cove seemed to be the place for beginners so we headed there today.

Driving down Pacific Coast Highway and seeing all the restaurants, curious little shops, boutiques and art galleries along the little ocean town can be both a feel good experience as well as a sobering one. 

My husband and I used to scuba dive quite a bit when we were engaged. We did dives at Shaw's Cove and took many boat rides out of San Pedro to different points along the Coast of Catalina Island.

The kids had practiced with their mask and snorkels in the pool several times before - they practiced diving under and blowing the water out when they surface - and they still had their flippers from swim team so the only thing left was to help them over their initial reservations and get them in the water.

The waves only crashed right at the beach and once they were past them there was no white water. My husband took them out the first time and they both changed their minds and came back. He went out for about 30 minutes, talking with other snorkelers and exploring the kelp beds. The kids were bummed they hadn't gone with him.

When he came back, he took them in again and this time they stayed out. When they got out, they couldn't wait to tell me how fun it was and that I just *had* to go.

And you know, there's something about being in the mindset of a mother for so long that gave me pause about this; made me wonder if this was a good idea. I just don't venture forth into danger quite like I used to now that I'm growing towards 'maturity'. I was worried about the waves tumbling me and big animals like whales and jaws that might eat me... my kids assured me I was being completely irrational. I knew better, but decided to go out with my son.

I was using my daughter's youth sized mask and snorkel that I hadn't practiced with and headed out gripping my eight year old son's hand. All the swimmers and snorkelers had gone back to shore and we were alone out there. I could see the sandy bottom, but then there was the murkiness ahead extending into the vast Pacific where who knows what exists. I started to breath heavier, but my snorkel prevented me from taking the huge breaths I needed at that level of excitement. I kept looking around every which way *as if* seeing something would prevent it from eating me.

I immediately saw a small ray and a few small fish on the sandy bottom, but I'm not sure what they were. Then I saw a small leopard shark swim by. There! I'd snorkeled.

I told my son I was done. "What!?!" he replied. And so we swam back to shore and I took deep breaths realizing I had only been about 15-20 feet in the water. 

My kids had given it a second chance, so I thought I should too. It helped my courage quite a bit seeing an 84yo woman head out snorkeling by herself! We headed out again and this time, I was much calmer, breathed much easier and had a really great time. It really is amazing how far my mind can take me from enjoying myself sometimes!

We saw the same types of fish, I think they were white sea bass and some other schools of little fish. My daughter and I saw a shovelnose guitar fish that we followed for a while. Now we can't wait to go back and explore the kelp bed, the rocks and some of the other coves up the block also known for good snorkeling. We agreed that next time we'd attempt to touch one of the fish by diving down to it (unless it's a sculpin, lol) =) 

Here is some helpful information in case you're thinking to head out snorkeling in Laguna:

High tide was 5'4" this afternoon at Diver's Cove which came just up to the bottom of the stairs and left enough beach for our mat and umbrella to stay dry. Any higher and the beach would probably be entirely submerged so try to go at low tide.
You can check the tides at a glance by month here at Protides: http://www.protides.com/california/1788/ (Newport or San Clemente are the two closest locations)

Here's a local shop whose divers posts real diving conditions including visibility which matters when you're snorkeling: http://www.beachcitiesscuba.com/lagunaseasports/ 

Here's the marine forecast for Laguna Beach: http://www.weather.com/outlook/recreation/boatandbeach/weather/tenday/92651?from=36hr_outlet_boat 

Here's a surf forecast for South OC: http://www.surfline.com/surf-spots-breaks/southern-california/south-orange-county_2950

The rocks and caves around Laguna are also amazing. We really need to learn more geology!

They literally build homes into the rocks along the shore here. We were woofing to a dog on the top floor balcony =)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Nature Study - Kelp @ San Clemente

"Ugh..." is the typical reaction we have when we see a lot of kelp in the water at the beach. It sloshes around in the waves and wraps onto your legs and sits on the shore in stinky piles attracting millions of annoying flies.

Lately I've felt differently. Which made me wonder: What is it that opens a person's eyes to *see* a thing they have missed for years? I did not see it, did not notice it - and now I do.

It started with me noticing some rows of tiny clear dots on a piece of giant kelp and showing it to the kids. They looked like eggs and I wish I'd taken pictures that day, but I was in the water and didn't think to. The kids held it up to the light and noticed two sets of black eyes!! in each tiny egg stuck to the kelp. I still don't know what they were.

Since then, we've been looking at the kelp.

Here are strands of Feather Boa Kelp on a very bright blue boogie board. Notice anything about them? 

Look closer

There are holes and shells stuck to them.

Pull one off. There's an animal inside =)

Remember Pagoo? My son and I just read it in YR2. It talked about the limpet and the 'scar'? Those are scars on the kelp - literally! There are even pictures of this very thing on page 37 and 39. They're "Discurria insessa"

Now look at these. See the white dots on the floats?

Take a closer look.

Some kind of tube snail. I still don't know what these are, but they are tiny. It's like a nursery of them all over the beach. I also saw something similar on giant kelp fronds that looked like the opening of a cowry shells, but I didn't take pictures that time.

Here's a piece of kelp. What do you think that is on it? 

Look closer.

 They're living animals! Bryozoan. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium:

Bryozoans are small invertebrates that expand from a party of one to a colony of thousands, which might encrust an entire kelp blade. The individual bryozoan—called a zooid—lives within a box-shaped compartment made of calcium carbonate and chitin, a material found in crab shells. Zooids are tiny, perhaps no taller than 1/32 of an inch.

The tiny larval bryozoan is a clamlike swimmer in a bivalve shell. Opening its shell like an umbrella, it parachutes down onto a clean kelp blade. Alert for chemical cues, the bryozoan tests the surface, then cements itself to the blade with a sticky glue. The youngster settles in place and changes to its adult form, a captive within its own shelled rectangular fort. Once established on the kelp, the lone settler begins to multiply. Budding off clones in neat rows, a colony fans out to frost the blade with a crust of the tiny animals. Bryozoan colonies are important food sources for some sea slugs and fish.

Bryozoans possess a unique feeding structure called a lophophore. The lophophore is a U-shaped or circular ring of ciliated tentacles used for filter feeding. Extending a crown of tentacles above its shell, the bryozoan flicks its tentacles through the water to catch bits of food.

What is truly fascinating to me is that while we are boogie boarding and eating our lunch and chatting away; completely unaware, thousands and thousands of these tiny little creatures are making their living waving their tentacles out of their rectangular forts on a piece of kelp right there.

Opening our eyes to nature never ceases to amaze me at how truly spectacular His creation is. 

Look at these beautiful rocks that are just scattered all over the beach.

Aren't they breathtaking?

And how about this cutie =)


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

AmblesideOnline Forum

Have you heard?

AmblesideOnline is in the process of transitioning to a new forum community! Previously, the hub of AO's curriculum support was their Yahoo group, now they have put together a full fledged forum where there is room for conversation to expand beyond curriculum support.

The forum is organized by Form (School Year) and Subject with applicable resource links in each. There are also forums for various family dynamics such as:

Only Children
Large Families
Combining Multiple Curriculum Years
Schooling With Toddlers
Single Parent / Working Parent

There is also a forum for International AOers, forums for each of the CM series, Parent's Review Articles, Exams and CM Schools. 

The AmbleRamble area has subforums for Prayer Request, Book Substitutions, Book Chat, Homemaking, Hobbies and Fun, Blogging, Chit Chat and Hot Topics.

There are also Private subforums for AOers with special circumstances.

Members of the AO Yahoo groups are being given first priority to sign up through August 20th and then the forum will be open to all other AOers.