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And 'Rithmetic

Chapter 1 And 'Rithmetic from Free At Last by Daniel Greenberg

Sitting before me were a dozen boys and girls, aged nine to twelve. A week earlier, they had asked me to teach them arithmetic. They wanted to learn to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and all the rest.

"You don't really want to do this," I said, when they first approached me.

"We do, we are sure we do," was their answer.

"You don't really," I persisted. Your neighborhood friends, your parents, your relatives probably want you to, but you yourselves would much rather be playing or doing something else."

"We know what we want, and we want to learn arithmetic. Teach us, and we'll prove it. We'll do all the homework, and work as hard as we can."

I had to yield then, skeptically. I knew that arithmetic took six years to teach in regular schools, and I was sure their interest would flag after a few months. But I had no choice. They had pressed hard, and I was cornered.

I was in for a surprise.

My biggest problem was a textbook to use as a guide. I had been involved in developing the "new math," and I had come to hate it. Back then when we were working on it -- young academicians of the Kennedy post-sputnik era -- we had few doubts. We were filled with the beauty of abstract logic, set theory, number theory, and all the other exotic games mathematicians had played for millenia. I think that if we had set out to design an agricultural course for working farmers, we would have begun with organic chemistry, genetics, and microbiology. Lucky for the world's hungry people that we weren't asked.

I had come to hate the pretensions and abstruseness of the "new math." Not one in a hundred math teachers knew what it was about, not one in a thousand pupils. People need arithmetic for reckoning; they want to know how to use the tools. That's what my students wanted now.

I found a book in our library, perfectly suited to the job at hand. It was a math primer written in 1898. Small and thick, it was brimming with thousands of exercises, meant to train young minds to perform the basic tasks accurately and swiftly.

Class began -- on time. That was part of the deal. "You say you are serious?" I had asked, challenging them; "then I expect to see you in the room on time -- 11:00AM sharp, every Tuesday and Thursday. If you are five minutes late, no class. If you blow two classes --no more teaching." "It's a deal," they had said, with a glint of pleasure in their eyes.

Basic addition took two classes. They learned to add everything -- long thing columns, short fat columns, long fat columns. They did dozens of exercises. Subtraction took another two classes. It might have taken one, but "borrowing" needed some extra explanation.

On to multiplication, and the tables. Everyone had to memorize the tables. Each person was quizzed again and again in class. Then the rules. Then the practice.

They were high, all of them. Sailing along, mastering all the techniques and algorithms, they could feel the material entering their bones. Hundreds and hundreds of exercises, class quizzes, oral tests, pounded the material into their heads.

Still they continued to come, all of them. They helped each other when they had to, to keep the class moving. the twelve year olds and the nine year olds, the lions and the lambs, sat peacefully together in harmonious cooperation -- no teasing, no shame.

Division -- long division. fractions. Decimals. Percentages. Square roots.

They came at 11:00 sharp, stayed half an hour, and left with homework. They came back next time with all the homework done. All of them.

In twenty weeks, after twenty contact hours, they had covered it all. Six years' worth. Every one of them knew the material cold.

We celebrated the end of the classes with a rousing party. It wasn't the first time, and wasn't to be the last, that I was amazed at the success of our own cherished theories. They had worked here, with a vengeance.

Perhaps I should have been prepared for what happened, for what seemed to me to be a miracle. A week after it was all over, I talked to Alan White, who had been an elementary math specialist for years in the public schools and knew all the latest and best pedagogical methods.

I told him the story of my class.

He was not surprised.

"Why not?" I asked, amazed at his response. I was still reeling from the pace and thoroughness with which my "dirty dozen" had learned.

"Because everyone knows," he answered, "that the subject matter itself isn't that hard. What's hard, virtually impossible, is beating it into the heads of youngsters who hate every step. The only way we have a ghost of a chance is to hammer away at the stuff bit by bit every day for years. Even then it does not work. Most of the sixth graders are mathematical illiterates. Give me a kid who wants to learn the stuff -- well, twenty hours or so makes sense."

I guess it does. It's never taken much more than that ever since.

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Why, Lord willing, I will never send my kids to daycare

Delightful Discipline, Goodgame's reminisces of growing up in a Polish-American family, was so funny I read the book aloud to my family even in restaurants.

Here's an excerpt and some of my thoughts after ...

At the age of four, I experienced another example of mother's discipline which left her mark on me.

For being a good boy, mother rewarded me with a trip to the local Woolworth store and the privilege of selecting one ten cent toy. I am of the opinion that more parental authority has been lost in Woolworth dime stores than probably any other public structure. (Not that Woolworth is the chief offender; any modern shopping center will provide equal opportunity for rebellion.)

Mother deposited me at the toy counter under strict orders to remain there awaiting her return. Actually, wild hippos couldn't have enticed me from those treasures. My serious meditations were abruptly violated by a small boy and his mother. This mannerless male shoved me rudely aside and began grabbing toys wholesale. His mother pleaded for moderation, but to no avail. I was shocked by his behavior, yet fascinated by the amount of plunder it produced.

"Rupert," the mother sniffed, "don't you think you've quite enough toys?"

He never gave her the courtesy of a reply as he continued to rip toys off the counter and fling them into her out-stretched shopping bag.

"Rupert, dearest," she pleaded, "unless you come with me this very instant, I shall be forced to speak to your father." Rupert merely glared and kept on grabbing. "Now, Rupert," she cautioned, "perhaps father shall be so upset with your conduct that he might even be forced to spank-"

She never finished. At the very mention of the word "spank," Rupert went into instant insanity. With a screech he hurled himself head-long to the floor, kicking and thrashing like a snake in a lawn mower. He was magnificent!

Rupert's mother immediately dropped to his stricken side, sobbing apologies for having hurt his finer sensibilities. All sorts of desserts and bribes were promised if he'd only stop screaming and be a good boy. Rupert's recovery was as remarkable as his affliction. He hopped to his feet and filled the shopping bag, then dragged mother to the candy counter. At the time, I thought their togetherness, each attached to the shopping bag between them, was pure tenderness.

Rupert's theatrics were not wasted, as I was inspired to use the same act on my mother. It seemed most logical that she would be too embarrassed to punish me in public, especially in the presence of strangers. The walk home would also work to my advantage, allowing time to cool her ardor. Besides, unlike Rupert, I would only request one additional toy. I was positive that mother would reward such unselfishness.

I went into action. From the vast array of toys I selected two, a blue Model A car and a red World War I German Fokker airplane. My expectations were so great that I forgot mother's command to stay at the toy counter and I sought her out in the "no man's land" of women's wear. "Mommie," I gushed, "these are the toys I want."

"Junior," she reminded, "why didn't you wait for me at the toy counter?"

"I'm sorry," I explained, "but I just wanted these toys."

"Well, all right," mother replied, "give me the one you want and take the other back and wait for me there like I told you."

I was apprehensive at mother's blindnesss to my needs, but with the success of Rupert still music in my ears I pressed on. "But, Mommie," I begged, "I've been such a good boy, can't I have two toys?"

"Do what I told you," she said firmly.

A small group of spectators began to collect and I gathered courage from their presence. The moment of truth had come, I stood my ground.

"If words fail to move you," mother warned, "I might have to spank ..."

Spank! The magic word, and like Rupert I responded on cue. With a shriek I dropped to the floor, noting with satisfaction the startled expression on mother's face. I had just begun to thrash when I felt her tender hands lifting me to my feet. "It worked!" I thought, as I helpfully turned toward the direction of the cash register. Then, all came crashing down as mother re-wrote the ending. Her actions were shockingly swift and professionally pure as she stripped my short pants to my ankles and upended me over her knee. In this woefully exposed position, I received personal tutoring.
"Lesson one," she spoke as her hand descended, "if words won't move you, something else will."

I immediately took this lesson to heart and elsewhere.

"Lesson two," she continued, "whenever you cry for something, you won't get it."

Both of us were now warming up to the subject at hand.

"Lesson three," she concluded, "toys are not worth crying over, so I shall provide you with something worthy of your tears."

I cried, honestly and unashamedly, with mother's full approval. Lessons reinforced, she set me upright, restoring my pants to their former honor, which now barely covered my embarrassments. I looked to the crowd for some shred of sympathy, but I stood alone. Even Rupert would have disowned me for the way I had botched the job.

"Take one toy back," mother gently reminded me.

I recognized this as a command, not a request, but rebellion dies hard, even in a four-year-old. I gave it one final shot. "Mommie, I pleaded, "can't I have both toys since you've already spanked me for them?"

A ripple of admiration came from the crowd, but my mother was not to be intimidated. "Junior," she explained, "one toy is yours for being good, you earned that toy. But for the other toy you were naughty, and I'm not going to give you a toy for being bad."

A wave of praise burst forth from the multitude. Even Solomon would have been impressed at mother's wisdom. "Now be a good boy and take one toy back," mother urged.

In full view of the admiring throng, I obeyed. We left Woolworth's together. With one hand I held my toy, the other clutched my mother. Somehow I knew as never before how much she loved me.

Even today, when I enter a dime store, memories of my mother's firmness tickle my heart, especially if the Ruperts are still practicing their profession. For who else but a real mother could have taught her son a million-dollar lesson in a dime store?

from Chapter Three: Woolworth Wail-out

Sapphireslinger again:

This is why, Lord willing, I will never send my children to daycare. Sending them to pick up every other kid's bad habits at an age when they have little objective judgment, and to be haphazardly disciplined by people to whom daycare is a job and not a family?!

I hope my children will eventually go into the world as lights, but can't they have a childhood immersed in good stuff first?

The way you're trained to find counterfeit money is by learning the good money by heart so that when anything is the least bit off, it stands out from a mile away.

I have heard all sorts of nonsense excuses for sending children to public school, including that they'd be a "light in the darkness" for the other, less spiritual children. That's a heavy expectation indeed, for someone who probably can't even tie thier own shoes.

The sad fact is that most parents spend less than 1 hour a day of quality time with their school-aged children. We expect them to learn OUR values in 1 hour a day, and hold them responsible if they don't. Yet at the same time, we expect them to be exposed to the attitudes, philosophies, curriculums and beliefs of people who may think the exact opposite from us for 6 or more hours per day - and not absorb any of it!

Read the rest of "Be Still My Soul"'s article here.

There is a time to shelter and a time to transition, but I don't think preschool is the time to send them out as little lights into the world. Don't you remember being little and not able to step back objectively until you reached a certain age?

From the time they begin walking I will teach them to be as independent as possible in everything except dealing with peer pressure and a deluge of bad attitudes before their judgment has firmed up into the more abstract logic stage.

From the time they can speak I will be asking them, "Now, how would you answer this and this?" and showing them how to put their answers into words on paper, and in speeches, and on websites.

But to make it mandatory that they spend eight hours a day in a public school immersed in peer pressure with no time for their own dreams or learning to take charge of their own education?? They'll get enough feedback from their neighbors, friends, relatives, and the comments people leave on their websites. But it will be meaningful feedback, peer pressure with breathing space; not the visceral response of the pack in the classroom and on the track, where logic means nothing but being trapped in a mind that either fears or bows to the latest popularity.

If it's social interaction you want, I'd rather take them for six months to horseback across Mongolia letting them bounce their ideas off people they meet along the way.

Imagine a girl going through a rough time in public school, thinking the world begins and ends with her classmates. I can't think of a better way to extricate her from such an artificial hell than to send her, say, horseback riding across Mongolia for half a year. Now imagine her coming back to the same school and peers. Now, how much is she going to take seriously what they say? How much distance, aka perspective, will she have acquired that she can now hold their influence at arms' length and have a firm self at her center.

(But how could you send her to Mongolia if she is locked into the inflexible school year schedule and the rat race of test scores?)

Remember the movie Castaway, how Tom Hanks was so much more aware and in control of himself after having been temporarily blasted out of the rat race?

That is what I want to give my children with homeschooling: Distance, and the ability to recognize the off-kilter without my saying a word, because they were immersed in a world of good and love and respect and sharpened minds... during their early formative years, when they need to first know love, before they know what love is not.

So yes, I want to give my children both more shelter and yet more freedom and responsibility than the average public school. I want to give them both a happier childhood and a wiser maturity. I do not want the wasted life of Ferris Bueller-come-Clinton for my children.

All of the following famous people were educated at home, and it didn't seem to hurt their world-changing abilities any:

Generals 上將
Stonewall Jackson 托馬斯*傑克遜
Robert E. Lee 羅伯特·李
Douglas MacArthur 道格拉斯·麥克阿瑟
George Patten

Inventors 發明家
Alexander Graham Bell 亞歷山大· 格拉漢姆 · 貝爾
Thomas Edison 托馬斯·愛迪生
Orville and Wilbur Wright 萊特兄弟

Painters 畫家
Claude Monet 克勞德·莫奈
Andrew Wyeth 安德魯·魏斯

Preachers 傳道者
John Wesley 約翰·衛斯理

Scientists 科學家
George Washington Carver 喬治·華盛頓·卡佛
Pierre Curie 皮埃尔·居里
Albert Einstein 愛因斯坦

U.S. Presidents USA 總統
George Washington 喬治·華盛頓
John Quincy Adams 約翰·昆西·亞當斯
William Henry Harrison 威廉·亨利·哈里森
Abraham Lincoln 亞伯拉罕·林肯
James Madison 詹姆斯·麥迪遜
Franklin Delano Roosevelt 富蘭克林·德拉諾·羅斯福
Woodrow Wilson 伍德羅·威爾遜

World Statesmen 政治家
Winston Churchill 溫斯頓·丘吉爾
Benjamin Franklin 本傑明·富蘭克林
Patrick Henry 帕特里克·亨利
William Penn

Writers 作者
Hans Christian Anderson
Pearl Buck 賽珍珠
Agatha Christie 阿加莎·克里斯蒂
Charles Dickens 查爾斯·狄更斯
C. S. Lewis C·S·路易斯
George Bernard Shaw 蕭伯納

Others 其他
Charlie Chaplin, actor 查理·卓别林
George Rogers Clark, explorer 喬治·羅傑茲·克拉克
Andrew Carnagie, industrialist

-- a partial list from Home-Style Teaching by Raymond and Dorothy Moore

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Beloved Books (when I was 1 - 3 years old)

As soon as I could sit up, my mom would prop me up next to her on the sofa and putting a magazine in my lap she would look at her magazine while I looked at mine.

When I was three, my dad memorized scripture with me in his study and read me Curious George and Richard Scarry's Please and Thank You Book.

Richard Scarry's Please and Thank You Book

Curious George Rides a Bike

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Beloved Books (when I was 4 - 7 years old)

Me reading Childcraft, my brother and dad

When I was 4 - 7 years old, we were living in Kaohsiung Taiwan for the first time, which helps in remembering what books I liked then. Besides, most of them were given to me by a missionary family who went back to the States a year and a half after we got there.

These books were my first love. I read them all to my mom as she worked in the kitchen, reading myself hoarse, and she, being a complete newbie to homeschooling, was just so relieved I was reading that she seldom asked me to do kitchen work, which is why to this day I'm a fair cook, but something always gets in the way of cooking.

Here is the approximate order I read them in:

(Where available, hyperlinked titles will take you to the book's page on where you can read it online for FREE with many options for reading/downloading the book: plain text, html sometimes with the original illustrations, a Plucker version for your cell phone, and sometimes an audio version, etc.)

1. Friendly Village: Round About - 1950s First Grade Reader
2. Friendly Village: If I Were Going - 1950s Third Grade Primer

Stories of Alice and Jerry and an entrancing Norman Rockwell way of life, stuck in my head as pseudo memories. These are the only books on this page I don't remember reading to my mom.

Friendly Village

If I Were Going

3. The Magic Faraway Tree books
and Adventures of The Wishing Chair - Enid Blyton.

Read them all to my mom.

Adventures of the Wishing Chair

Folk of the Faraway Tree

4. But the Chronicles of Narnia 纳尼亚故事集 eclipsed everything else.

In Prince Caspian, I still remember misreading "applause" as "applesauce" (something like "They gave him a great round of applesauce.") and my mom laughing.

Another set of covers (these I used to own):

Some other favorite covers:

Too bad there isn't a whole set of covers by Christian Birmingham as this so captures the feeling of what I read:

5. The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet - Eleanor Cameron

6. Stowaway to the Mushroom Planet - Eleanor Cameron

Read them both to my Mom.

Wonderful Flight to Mushroom Planet and Stowaway to Mushroom Planet

7. The Forgotten Door - Key Alexander

Read it to my mom.

The Forgotten Door

8. Blondie and Dagwood - Chic Young

I briefly took piano lessons at the home of a nearby friend of the family but I particularly remember devouring her extensive stash of Blondie and Dagwood comics, and I was noticing clothes (when Blondie couldn't decide what to wear). I never read those comics again, so they're an encapsulated bit of nostalgia for me.

I also saw Gone With the Wind and a really psychedelic cartoon of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh at this house. GWTW and Little Orphan Annie were my favorite movies at this age.

9. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 綠 野 仙 蹤 (Frank Baum, illus. John R. Neill)

I enthusiastically read The Wizard of Oz to my Dad at the breakfast table and he had to stop me from following him all over the house with it. A year later when we returned to the States I was bitterly disappointed in what my eight-year-old self considered that imposter of a movie starring Judy Garland. It was the black and white version and nothing like I had imagined in my head or the pictures in the books.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz9. Old Yeller 老 黃 狗 - Fred Gipson

Read it to my mom and cried.

Old Yeller

I don't remember when I first read these next two books but this is the soonest we would have gotten them, and they were favorites growing up:

Make Way For Ducklings 讓路給小鴨子 - Robert McCloskey

Nursery Rhymes by Douglas Gorsline

Deeply nostalgic. Beautiful line drawings.

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Beloved Books (when I was 8 - 9 years old)

We went back to the States for two years when I was 8 and 9 and I promptly found the rest of the Oz books in the library. It was very hard to find English books in Taiwan and I hadn't been old enough to take the bus alone to the bookstore, so the U.S. was book paradise.

We traveled with my dad around the eastern United States raising support to come back to Taiwan, and staying in people's homes was bliss. The first thing I said in every home was "Where are your books?" and you didn't see me anymore. I was immersed in other worlds while absorbing the atmosphere of the homes we stayed in. It was a glorious childhood.

We hadn't had a TV in Taiwan, and now we were watching cartoons at Gramma's. However, very early on when I was eight, on one of those perpetual car trips up and down the Eastern seaboard, I remember crying in the back seat as I heard my dad telling my mom we weren't going to watch TV anymore (except for "Discovery" and "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood" it turned out). This was perhaps just as well, considering that my favorite TV shows at the time were "The A-Team", "Dungeons and Dragons", and "The Dukes of Hazzard". +/-

But books gave me that same movie feel inside my head, and here are the books that have stuck in my head as pseudo memories:

(Where available, hyperlinked titles will take you to the book's page on where you can read it online for FREE. Scroll down that page and you'll see many options for reading/downloading the book: plain text, html sometimes with the original illustrations, a Plucker version for your cell phone, and sometimes an audio version, etc.)

The Oz Books by L. Frank Baum
e-book and audio

Some covers I especially remember reading to my mom, in no particular order:

Glenda of Oz and Ozma of Oz
Scarecrow of Oz and Road to Oz
Tik Tok of Oz and Road to Oz

Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh 尼姆的秘密 by Robert C. O'Brian
Read it to my parents.

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Robin Hood 囉 賓 漢 by Howard Pyle

Robin Hood

Heidi 海蒂 by Johanna Spyri
ebook and audio


Heidi's valley today ... +/-

We were homeschooled, and when we were staying with my paternal Gramma down in St. Petersberg, Florida, my dad got the key to the empty church building during the week and my mom would pick a classroom to teach us in. I still remember stretching out with my homework on the preschooler's bright yellow and orange shag carpet and the church smell of halls and empty classrooms. It was like having our own secret clubhouse. Outside was a huge Florida field with a lone spanish tree with spanish moss hanging down and we would take breaks and eat tuna fish sandwiches out there. Of course every spare minute I got was spent raiding the church library and I know I read at least this next book there:

Black Beauty 黑骏by Anna Sewell
e-book and audio

Black Beauty

Little Women 小婦人 by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women

Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
e-book and audio

Jo marries Professor Bhaer and they have a family/school of their own.

Little Men

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink

(true story mostly, and I adored the cover art by Trina Schart Hyman)

Caddie Woodlawn

Daniel Boone (a true story)

I don't remember which biography of his I read, except that it was fairly complete and adult, so this is the closest picture to what the book made me feel like that I can find.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
(true story mostly)

Read the whole set to my mom and 15 years later I read them all to my dad, and with various English students through the years.

Little Britches by Ralph Moody (a true story)

Little Britches

The Hardy Boys by Leslie Macfarlane aka. Franklin W. Dixon +/-

Leslie McFarlane had a reputation for versatility -- at various points in his career he was an editor at Maclean's, a screenwriter, producer and director for the National Film Board of Canada, head of the TV drama script department at CBC, and a Hollywood scriptwriter (for Bonanza).
It is his Hardy Boys work, however, that stands out as his most endearing legacy. As one of a stable of ghostwriters writing under the pen name of Franklin W. Dixon, McFarlane is widely credited for creating the literary style and characters' personalities that served as the template for the series, and he also served as its most prolific author, writing 20 books in the 58-volume series.
"I was about 10 years old when I discovered the Hardy Boys books on my dad's bookshelves, and began reading them," recalls son Brian McFarlane. "One day I asked him why he was interested in reading kids books and he told me he didn't read them, he wrote them! 'But don't tell your friends that I write that nonsense,' he told me. I don't think he had any idea of the huge impact those books had on young people and how it hooked so many of them on reading."
"He considered the Hardy Boys books hack work but he nonetheless approached his work as a pro," says daughter Norah Perez. "He had a funny relationship with those books: he never got any fan letters, no feedback from the Syndicate, no notice of sales figures. Some times he vowed he'd never write another Hardy Boys book. At the end of his life he said to us: 'You know, I think people are only going to remember me for those [*] books.'"
"It's the diaries, though, that I find most fascinating," continues Perez. "The daily entries not only include intimate family revelations, but also record my father's personal, professional and financial struggles before, during and after the Great Depression, through the Second World War and the postwar years."

At that age, my imagination was so vivid I was putting myself into the stories I read as a shadowy extra character. I read as many as I could get my hands on.

Hardy Boys

Rascal 小 浣 熊 by Sterling North (a true story)


Trixie Belden and the Red Trailer Mystery

Trixie scorned dresses, wore jeans and had her hair cut short like a boy's. I never wanted to be like her sartorially (Ozma already had my heart) but years later I went "A-ha!" when wondering how women got brainwashed out of beautiful clothes and into men's work clothes. Not that I held Trixie responsible but she was indicative of that mindset.

Trixie Belden and the Red Trailer Mystery

Child Abuse in the Classroom by Phyllis Schafly

Read this to my parents. It's why lots of people homeschool.
Child Abuse in the Classroom

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