Connie Schenkelberg, my friend and colleague, stepped from this life to the next on Sunday morning (12/1/13), and I will miss her. I first met Connie at an HEAV homeschool conference in the 1990s. Her table was tucked into a corner, and she was selling only one book, Writing a Step Above. I’m a sucker for books about writing, so when she invited me to stop and hear about the book, I did.
The book turned out to be a short, easy-to-use intensive grammar course, and I used it with all four boys, and loved it. I saw Connie at a few conferences after that, but then she disappeared. It wasn’t until I was speaking and traveling to other homeschool conferences that I started looking for her book so I could recommend it to others (you wouldn’t believe how often people asked about a good grammar resource).
Around 2005 or 2006, I finally tracked her down and cold-called her to ask if Everyday Education could republish her excellent book. Much to my surprise, she was very receptive, and we ended up forging an informal partnership and republishing Writing a Step Above as Grammar Made Easy: Writing a Step Above. When she wrote Spelling Made Easy: The Homonym Way to Better Spelling, we were able to publish that as well.
When she was able, Connie loved to join me at conferences to talk with people about her books. If you were at a Virginia conference between 2006 and 20112, you may have had the delight of being hailed by the kindly lady with the robust laugh. She’d ask about your family with genuine interest, tell you about her books, and share tips about teaching, cooking, and good things to read, too.
Connie shared my love of middle grade fiction, and my favorite of her book recommendations was Richard Peck’s A Long Way from Chicago. She also introduced me to “Three Questions,” a memorable short story by Leo Tolstoy, which in her honor, formed the foundation for this month’s writing lesson at Schoolhouse Teachers.
In recent years, Connie’s health has not been good, and she’s had to stay closer to home. I haven’t seen her for over a year, but we communicated by phone or e-mail. I’m going to miss knowing she’s there. I’ll miss making room in the booth for her scooter and bowl of candy. I’ll miss watching the crowds of kids who stopped by for candy but stayed to talk to the lady with the compelling voice. I’ll miss hearing hearing about her trips to visit the stately buffalo she loved. Connie was a dear friend, and I’m glad I knew her.
Connie’s life was characterized by a focus on faith, family, and friends. She leaves her husband, Loren, and grown children, Andrea and Andrew, along with their spouses and one granddaughter. You will find details about her memorial service on her Facebook page.
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
As news spreads about the Common Core Standards (CCS), there is increasing anger and distress, both inside and outside the homeschool community, over what is happening to the education system of the United States. As a long-time student of education history and an advocate for genuine education that leads to wisdom and virtue, I know that the sky isn’t falling.
It fell well over a century ago when classical education began to be displaced by vocational training; when the liberal arts were pushed aside in favor of the servile arts; when the quest for wisdom and virtue was replaced by pragmatism.
Despite the fact that the disarray in America’s institutional education system is nothing new, the Common Core Standards are a cause for concern. The CCS promise to nationalize mediocrity and increase control over every aspect of K-12 education, and ultimately over every citizen. I believe this is something homeschool families need to inform themselves about, so I’m going to point you to some helpful resources I’ve found on the subject.
If you find other helpful resources, please feel free to reference them in the comment section below. I may add information to the body of the post as I learn more, but I don’t plan to post endlessly on the subject–there are many watchmen on the wall who are already doing that. My focus will continue to be on casting a vision for what education is and can be. Next week’s post will discuss issues with literature and the Common Core, and after that, I’ll return to considering true education and a lifestyle of learning with the ultimate goal of developing wisdom and virtue.
To learn about the CCS, I recommend that you begin with the “Stop the Common Core” video series below. It will clearly answer basic questions and help you understand some of the fundamental issues such as:
- What are the Common Core Standards?
- Who planned and financed the Common Core Standards and testing?
- Fundamental problems with national education standards
- Who is affected by the Common Core Standards?
Introduction to the Common Core Standards
Financial implications of the Common Core Standards
More information about the Common Core Standards
Here are many links providing useful information on the CCS. Although some of the sources have a more sensationalist tone than I am personally comfortable with, I am providing the links for informational purposes. You may decide which, if any, you care to read.
California and 47 other states are considering adopting common-core state standards for K-12 in math and English language arts. Ze’ev Wurman, who helped develop California’s standards in the 1990s, explains his opposition to Common Core in an April 2010 interview with The Educated Guess’s John Fensterwald.
Michelle Malkin‘s four-part series on the Common Core, plus a post with reader feedback, including comments from many teachers.
- Rotten to the Core, Part 1: Obama’s War on Academic Standards
- Rotten to the Core, Part 2: Readin’, writin’ and deconstructionism
- Rotten to the Core, Part 3: Lessons from Texas and the Growing Grassroots Revolt
- Rotten to the Core, Part 4: The Feds’ Invasive Student Tracking Database
- Rotten to the Core: Reader Feedback from the Frontlines
Evers, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, discusses “Closing the Door on Innovation – Why One National Curriculum is Bad for America,” with TOP-Ed.org’s John Fensterwald.
Cato Institute Articles: This is a page of links to articles the Cato Institute has published on the Common Core Standards.
Article: It’s Official: The Feds Control Common Core - No surprise here– ”Washington will soon be directly regulating what America’s schoolchildren learn and on what they are tested.”
The Educational Freedom Coalition on Facebook
This group has created lists of curriculum providers that are aligned, not aligned, and coincidentally aligned with the Common Core Standards. These lists can be useful, but please use discernment if you use them to help you choose curriculum.
If you have been happy with a curriculum or publisher that is now listed as “coincidentally aligned,” find out what that means before abandoning the curriculum. In some cases, it means that the publisher has not changed anything, but simply provided a list of ways in which the curriculum meets or exceeds the CCS. Publishers who are able to list alignment without changing anything are providing the same quality of materials as before, and are remaining a viable option for home schools and private schools in states that require aligned curriculum.
In other cases,”coincidentally aligned” indicates a large company that provides curriculum or grade-level packages with books from many sources may offer one or more pieces that align. If you like the company and method, you don’t have to throw out the baby with the bath water. Use what you like, and choose alternatives for the rest.
Keep Education Local offers a one-page summary of the issues, as well as a video and other information.
Stop Common Core: Reclaiming Local Control in Education has a well-organized collection of information.
Pioneer Public Policy Research Institute offers a number of thoughtful articles on the Common Core.
Daniel Pink on Control vs. Motivation: This 6 minute video offers a quick look at motivation–it’s something to think about in light of all the testing students are subject to. Consider also the perspective of educators who must function in this way.
State Groups Opposing the Common Core
There are many state-specific groups opposing the Common Core Standards. I am including a list of those I’ve run across, with the caveat that I have not read everything on these sites, and thus cannot specifically endorse them. I am providing the list for information only–I hope you’ll find them helpful.
- Alabama: http://www.auee.org/
- Arizona: http://arizonansagainstcommoncore.com/
- California: http://cuacc.org/
- Florida: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Florida/516780045031362
- Georgia: https://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreInGeorgia
- Idaho: http://idahoansforlocaleducation.com/
- Illinois: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Illinois/388021897963618 and http://nocommoncore.blogspot.com/
- Indiana: http://hoosiersagainstcommoncore.com/
- Iowa: https://www.facebook.com/IowansforLocalControl
- Louisiana: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Louisiana/349424158491119
- Michigan: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Michigan/303312003109291
- Missouri: http://moagainstcommoncore.webs.com/
- New Hampshire: http://twitter.com/EDactivistNH
- New York: http://twitter.com/StopCommonCinNY
- Ohio: https://www.facebook.com/OhioCommonCore
- Oklahoma: http://restoreokpubliceducation.com/node/751
- Pennsylvania: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pennsylvanians-Against-Common-Core/566916409995216
- South Carolina: https://www.facebook.com/StopCommonCoreInSouthCarolina
- Tennessee: http://tnacc.weebly.com/
- Utah: http://www.utahnsagainstcommoncore.com/ and http://www.utahsrepublic.org/tag/common-core-standards/
- Wisconsin: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Stop-Common-Core-in-Wisconsin/185213384959404
I love wordy holidays. We spend time teaching our children that words matter, and how to read, write, and speak correctly (or at least I hope we do), and I think those home lessons are reinforced by national holidays that focus on these subjects. This week, we have two such holidays: National Grammar Day today, and Words Matter Week all week long. It’s a great opportunity to let your children know that you aren’t the only one who finds joy in beautifully written and spoken text!
The best way to teach them how to appreciate and use words correctly is give them books and let them read. Read and read and read and read . . .
But I digress. We are celebrating words and their usage, so I have a few resources, quotes, and links for you.
For Words Matter Week, you may visit WordsMatterWeek.com to find quotes about words, blog prompts, activity suggestions, a downloadable version of the cuttlefish poster, and more.
When ideas fail, words come in very handy.
–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The Vocabula Review is a consistent advocate for the written word. If you’ve never read an issue, you’re in for a treat!
There’s a great power in words, if you don’t hitch too many of them together.
The Excellence in Literature Handbook for Writers is a very helpful resource for students, teachers, and anyone else who writes. It offers instruction on essay writing, as well as a useful guide to grammar, usage, and style. You can read more about it, see a complete table of contents, and purchase a copy at Everyday Education.
Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.
For National Grammar Day, a song:
One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.
The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns, as it were, instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink. –George Orwell
A bit of history: National Grammar Day was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar (SPOGG) and author of Things That Make Us (Sic): The Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar Takes on Madison Avenue, Hollywood, the White House, and the World.
This year’s edition of National Grammar Day is hosted by Mignon Fogarty, the author of the New York Times best-selling book Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing and The Grammar Devotional: Daily Tips for Successful Writing from Grammar Girl (TM).
If you want to diagram sentences, Grammar Made Easy is the simplest way to learn how. It even comes with a couple of bonus items, including an audio workshop. Enjoy!
Welcome to the September 18, 2012 edition of carnival of homeschooling. Time and what to do with it seems to be top of the mind for many of our contributors. After all, it’s the beginning of the year and there’s still a chance that you’ll be able to fit in everything you planned! In addition, you’ll find a few articles on words, nature, celebrations, and more. I hope you enjoy it!
[Note for Mid-Atlantic readers: There's a link at the bottom for the new location for Friday's Beat-the-Clock Essay Workshop. There are a few spaces left if you have a student who will be taking the SAT or ACT this year.]
Matt and Kristen share their ‘Weekly Homeschool Plans 2012” at A Little Homie, saying, “We are back in the swing of things, as of mid-July. In fact, the girls have managed to complete 200 credits already this homeschool year! Here’s how the typical week looks for us.”
lindafay presents How to Recover from Homeschool Burnout posted at Higher Up and Further In, saying, “Burnout is a very dangerous disease that can lead to the death of a homeschool. If parents remain in burnout for very long, they generally end up sending their children to a private or public institution simply because the pain of this illness is too great to bear any longer. You need a cure, and you need it fast. Well, I have good news for you, the cure is at your fingertips and the medicine is pleasant.”
The political season offers many opportunities for family learning and discussion. For Americans, any discussion of our government should begin with a thorough understanding of the content and purpose of the Constitution of the United States. But for most of us, it’s been awhile since we studied the Constitution (if we ever did). And few have studied American progressivism and its political antecedents. As we move toward election season, a refresher course in these things can offer fruitful conversations and bring more clarity to your choices than all the campaign ads and debates you could endure.
Constitution 201: The Progressive Rejection of the Constitution and the Rise of Bureaucratic Despotism is a ten-week online course taught by the faculty of Hillsdale College. It will offer “an in-depth look at American progressivism–its historical roots and principles; its rejection of America’s founding principles and Constitution; its political successes in the New Deal, the Great Society, and recent years; the ongoing debate between progressives (or modern liberals) and conservatives, the chances of a constitutional revival.” The course is open to all who wish to register, and it’s free (though there is an optional donation of $50 to cover the expenses of making this available to everyone).
You may also want to take Hillsdale’s Constitution 101: The Meaning and History of the Constitution, also offered free. It’s pre-recorded and ready to listen to at any time. Together, these two courses offer a solid introduction or refresher course on deeply important matters. A solid grasp of history and an understanding of the founding principles of the United States can keep your family from being swayed by emotional hyperbole or distracted by trivia, and these courses are a good start.
If you’re unable to take the classes at this time, you may at least sign up for a free subscription to Imprimis, Hillsdale’s high quality, totally free newsletter. Described as “A Monthly Digest on Liberty and the Defense of America’s Founding Principles,” Imprimis features a thoughtful article on important topics. I’ve received it for years, and find it inspiring and instructive.
“Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.”
Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
We enjoy many educational freedoms in the United States, but others aren’t as fortunate. A fellow writer has shared the following disturbing news with me and asked that I pass it on.
“Education Under Fire” is a 30 minute documentary about the actions of the government in Iran to dismantle the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education in Iran. Amnesty International has picked this up as one of their issues to follow. Two Nobel peace laureates, Desmond Tutu and Jose Ramos-Horta have written an open letter to the international academic community, requesting that they take some specific steps to mitigate the problems in Iran.
You can find the open letter and other information at the website www.educationunderfire.com.
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
and I didn’t speak out because I was Protestant.
and there was no one left to speak out for me.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed.
New Living Translation (©2007)
I sent out the relish recipe in the newsletter and thought I’d post it here as well. One of our readers in Malaysia reminded me that they have no cranberries there. I sometimes forget that even small things such as cranberries can be a cause for giving thanks! There are doubtless some lovely tropical fruits in Malaysia with which to create a lovely salad or dessert. I hope to visit and find out some day! Read more
Update: The website is back up, and as far as I can tell, all the main nav links are functioning. If you find something odd, please leave a comment below, and we’ll fix it as quickly as possible. Enjoy!
If you wanted to visit Everyday-Education.com, and you see the page only briefly before it disappears, I apologize. The site is undergoing maintenance, and will be back up very soon (if all goes well). I’m sorry for the inconvenience!
If you’d like to participate, write a post on your own blog on the appropriate topic each day, then visit the appropriate post on the NAIWE NewsWire blog to leave your post title and link in the comment section so that others can enjoy what you’ve written. Be sure to share your posts in Facebook, Twitter, and other social media!
What are great books? First and foremost, literary classics are the standard for great literature. Few people would make a great books list that left out William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, or Mark Twain, and most of us probably have a list of special books that have touched our lives. Great books are the books that stay with us long after we’ve put them down. Read more
I know that many of you still have a lot of questions about Excellence in Literature. Andrew Pudewa of the Institute for Excellence in Writing has just put together a little video (about two minutes long) to give you an overview of the EIL approach.
If you have enjoyed IEW’s materials, or if you have a teen who loves to read or write, I think you’ll find that Excellence in Literature is an ideal next step for your motivated teens. But I’ll let Andrew tell you all about it!
IEW co-published the American and British Literature levels with me, but there are three other levels (Introduction to Literature is a available now; Literature and Composition and World Literature will be available by late summer, Lord willing–if all goes as planned). All five levels have the same format and approach, and they don’t have to be used in order. You’ll find more about them at www.ExcellenceInLiterature.com.
One of our Convention Season Specials is Evaluate Writing the Easy Way for only $5 with the purchase of any level of Excellence in Literature. This offer is good through July 12, so don’t miss it!
Note: If the video doesn’t show up for you, try playing it at the original site.