Sunday, January 31, 2010
Earlier this week, I broke down and ordered Thomas Stanley's Stop Acting Rich! It's not exactly a book for the general reader, more like a marketing guide to what brands and stores wealthy people actually patronize. I found some of Stanley's choices odd. Why devote so much attention to watch brands, for instance, when watch-wearing is a dying custom? I would have been more interested in chapters on electronics, groceries, furniture and what kind of vacations wealthy people actually take. That said, there's nobody like Thomas Stanley for beating luxury brand loyalty out of the reader. Reading this book is like getting vaccinated against the entire advertising industry. Stanley's chapters on liquor and wine are instructive and in places very funny:
Are you interested in enhancing the beauty of the interior of your home? Do you want to impress your guests via visual cues that denote sophistication? If you answered yes to these questions, then go with the beautiful bottles. That is what we do in our home. I tell our vodka-drinking guests that we offer four types of vodka: Smirnoff, served out of a Grey Goose bottle; Smirnoff, served out of a Jean-Marc XO bottle; Smirnoff, served out of a Pravda bottle, and Smirnoff, served out of a Smirnoff bottle. Yes, it is all Smirnoff, which sells for $12.99 (750 ml) or $18.99 (1.75 ml). I acquired the "expensive" empty bottles from a fellow who tends bar at a country club.
I salute you, Dr. Stanley!
I'm going to keep the book for reference, mainly because of the chapter on shoes and clothes. Next time we have a major dress-up purchase, I will consult Stanley's lists.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
- I got something which I didn't like. And then I liked it.
- D got a Geode.
- I will be very happy.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
C was in a very good mood this morning. "I feel great even though I'm going to school!" she said.
Monday, January 25, 2010
C had one thought to share with us on the advantages of modern living. "I'm glad that my purple clothes aren't made with stinky clams."
C was inspired by the second collection at church yesterday and wants to dip into her charity fund to give to Haiti.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
- I took C and D to the ranch where C had her first riding lesson this morning. We didn't have coats, but C was wearing her pink long-sleeved shirt with horsies on it and did not feel the chill. She had four people working with her and her horse, one on each side, one with a lead rope, and her instructor. The stable has mostly Ponies of the Americas. I had never heard of the breed, but they are a well-blended mix of many ingredients, including Shetland pony, Arab, Appaloosa, Welsh pony, and Indian horses. The POA website says that they look like a sort of scaled down horse and they have a gentle disposition and are good with children. The two I saw working today seemed very patient and gentle. C got to curry her pony, she got to lead her, and she got to do a little bit of riding. C practiced stopping and riding with her hands on her hips.
- After two practice drives this week and with the GPS to help, the driving was much easier than expected.
- We had lunch at home and a bit of a break and then I drove the kids to Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs at the $1.25 theater. C didn't like the movie because she found the enormous falling food and giant sentient cooked chickens scary. After that the three of us went to Pei Wei for dinner and then the kids split a pumpkin smoothie at Jamba Juice. The movie, dinner, and treat cost the three of us a total of $28.
- C needs a costume for history night and she will need to practice her talk. That needs to happen this weekend.
- We're home now and C tells me that she is "so hungry and so bored".
Friday, January 22, 2010
- Yesterday, just as we were outside getting ready to leave for a walk, D threw up over himself, his bicycle, and the sidewalk. I mostly just hosed off everything. He's staying home today.
- The hyacinths that frame the front entry are starting to come up. Time to think about gardening!
- Our dishwasher stopped cleaning dishes adequately a few days ago. I put in a call to the guy who manages our rental house on Wednesday. Within 30 hours of that call, we had a new dishwasher. Meanwhile, the washing machine has started to make odd squeaky noises. The washing machine, unfortunately, belongs to us.
- I'm going to need to drive C out for her first session of riding therapy by myself this weekend, so my husband had me do two practice drives this week. I haven't driven 55 mph since my driving lessons 1.5 years ago, so my first outing on the highway was pretty scary. The route is about 35 minutes each way, with a varied assortment of city driving, highway, and country roads. Fortunately, we've got GPS, which takes 90% of the trouble out of the country road portion. Variations on this route will get us to our dentists, the fancy pants suburban HEB, Barnes and Noble, Target, Michaels, and other important destinations.
- We recently got a very elaborate Thomas set in the mail consisting of a lighthouse (with sound effects and a working light), a lifting bridge, and a barge named Bulstrode. It cost us $40 and I priced it out at 60 points for D. He was 5 points short this morning but really wanted it. I had him do five Bob books (that's a set of famous phonics books with simple line drawings) and he got the set. He was saying that it was hard toward the end, but he didn't want to quit. Normally, I wouldn't want to cross wires with the school reading program (it's hyper-phonics, with the kids explicitly learning things like each possible pronunciation of "ough"), but the Bob books are pretty consistent. As I discovered when I was teaching C to read several years ago, you have to watch nearly all of the commercial phonics boxed sets, because they are phonics only in the very loosest sense of the word. As I recall, they'll have a book devoted to the short u sound ("uh") and then they'll throw in a long u ("yoo") without having introduced long u, and that's just the mildest of their transgressions against phonics. However, the commercial sets (Dora, Backyardigans, etc.) do tend to have a lot more character and story interest. Today, D had some trouble with confusing b/d and he tends to guess words based on pictures, but he's doing pretty good. I told him that C can be pronounced either "k" or "s" but mostly "k" and he informed me that he has already learned that at school. He's in pre-K.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
- In the 1980s, research found that "nearly 80% of all gifted programs surveyed at that time used pull-out groups to deliver differentiated educational experiences to gifted children, and this option is still widely practiced today." A special teacher works with gifted kids on "enrichment or extension activities" most commonly for one or two hours a week. Ideally, the normal classroom teacher will not have any tests or special activities or introduce new material during this time.
- Cox, et al. (1985) found that pull-out programs were generally less effective academically than most other grouping options for gifted students.
- Cox found the following problems with pull-out programs: gifted kids having to make up missed work (not very motivating!), lack of cooperation between the gifted specialist and the classroom teacher, resentment of the gifted specialist for getting the "best students" and having a curriculum that other teachers consider "fluff." Rogers doesn't say this, but there may be some justice to the criticism, particularly of the curriculum. I remember seeing a gifted specialist talking about a year-long or semester-long project that he was doing with his gifted class. They were visiting an old cemetery, taking down information from gravestones, and analyzing the data. This sounds like a pretty cool project, except for the fact that it took up such an inordinate amount of time. I can't imagine that all of the kids were as joyous and interested in this at the end of the term as they were at the beginning.
- A 1990 analysis of 9 studies on pull-out programs found that "substantial academic gains were made when the regular curriculum was systematically extended in the pull-out program."
- The studies included in this synthesis of research may have been unique, because too often, the typical pull-out program does not have a single focus or outcome and is not coordinated with the regular curriculum. Instead, the pull-out program becomes a potpourri, doing critical-thinking for a few weeks, followed by a study of mythology, followed by a little creative problem solving. [It does sound fun, though.]
Next up is cluster grouping.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Very interestingly, an article on slashdot says that Wii balance boards are very nearly as good as an $18,000 medical balance board. Odd as that may sound, the issue may be that the research and development needed are about the same, but the makers of medical balance boards have to recoup their investment on a much smaller market.
In other news, I kept both kids home on Friday (D with an actual fever, C on suspicion of illness). D will be staying home tomorrow, too, but we're planning to send C to school, although she did have a somewhat elevated temperature earlier in the weekend. Our big school news is that C will be presenting a task of Hercules at a school history night. She needs a prepared talk, a shoebox diorama and a costume. This is not my favorite part of school, but I think C will genuinely enjoy producing the diorama. 3D design is one of her strengths. She will be doing it all by herself, I think, although I will probably talk her through the planning process. I think I will delegate the Greek costume to my husband. There must be a youtube or something.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
- Rogers says that under traditional tracking, "it was almost impossible to move to a higher track." Robert Slavin (1987) found that "the academic effect size of tracking is zero." That sounds like curtains for tracking. However, Rogers says, not so fast. The evaluation method used was achievement testing. "If a gifted child were tested before being tracked and scored near the ceiling of the test (97th-99th percentile), and then the child's achievement was measured a year later--again scoring at or near the ceiling of the test--the effect size would of course look as though no growth had taken place." As Deirdre Lovecky reminds us in Different Minds, to evaluate gifted children, we need a test with headroom. James and Chen-Lin Kulik did research in the 1980s on tracking with somewhat different results. "Almost a half-year's additional academic progress was found for each year the gifted children were in the full-time program at the elementary level (K-6). Gifted students in full-time programs at the secondary level (grades 7-12) made one-third of a year's progress." It's an open question whether the gains were more because of differences in curriculum or whether gifted children simply benefited from spending time with each other.
- The Kuliks (1985) found that gifted children who are grouped with other gifted children have "somewhat lower" self-esteem. However, they also found that all tracked children "were substantially more motivated toward subject areas than were students who were not ability-grouped."
- Rogers describes one version of the school-within-a-school (which she also calls a "magnet") where the gifted children do their academic subjects together, but are grouped with other students for "art, music, physical education, recess and lunchtimes."
- As always, I run the risk of quoting the entire book. My apologizes. It's a very good book!
- Rogers discusses "Untracked Whole-Class Instruction," where the class is heterogeneous and everybody is supposed to be doing the same thing at the same time. "This organizational model is not an appropriate option for gifted learners!" Must. Not. Quote. Whole. Book.
- Rogers tells a very interesting story about her involvement in evaluating a school where all the kids were supposed to learn the same curriculum, largely on computers. Teachers circulated to help to those who needed it. Any enrichment was at the same level. "At the end of the first year of this study, all of the children had actually declined in their math skills. However, the lower ability students, who had received the major share of teachers' time, had made some gains in other academic areas. The students of average ability generally maintained their progress in other areas, but the higher ability students significantly declined in all academic areas. By the end of the third year, the lower ability students were continuing to improve in their achievement, and the average ability students were now declining at a rate steeper than the gain being made by the slow ones. The high ability students--those who still remained in the school--continued to decline significantly in all academic areas." Holy cow! You see why I'm in danger of quoting the whole book. If this had been a pharmaceutical trial, all of the average and high students would have been pulled out at the end of the first year.
- One interesting study by Chauvet and Blatchford in 1993 found that any form of small grouping--whether teacher-selected mixed-ability, like-ability, or friendship grouping--was better than whole-class instruction [presumably whole class heterogeneous, since that's the usual control]. And among the three small grouping choices previously mentioned, like-ability groups were superior in achievement to groups based on friendships, but friendship groupings were superior to mixed-ability groups assigned by the teachers.
We've only done part of Chapter 7, but I think I should start a new post, beginning with Rogers on pull-out groups.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Me: I'm really tired because you woke me up this morning at 5 AM.
D: I'm letting you have a nap!
C was at school, so I did lie down for a nap. It was very nice, although D woke me up a couple of times to buy Scotch tape and to ask for crackers.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
- [Grade-skipping] is more frequently considered--when it is considered at all--in the earlier years of a child's schooling, perhaps because the beginning levels of learning are more basic and it is much easier to see when a child has mastered those levels and is ready to move on to the next grade.
- For schools with limited resources, grade-skipping is a cost-effective way to move a child along, particularly when the school cannot provide significant academic enrichment or differentiation at the current level. However, it is probably the accelerative option with the worst reputation. The bad reputation is almost wholly undeserved. The argument against grade-skipping that is most often given by educators is that the child's social and emotional development will be irreparably harmed if the child is put in a class with older students. Years of research and follow-up studies done on gifted children who have been grade-skipped show that this is simply not true. [In the interests of full disclosure, I skipped 8th and 12th grade, going directly from 7th to 9th and from 11th grade to my freshman year of college (as a college freshman, I was in an early entrance group as well as an overlapping great books program that was put in a particular dormitory and I'm sure that helped a lot with my adjustment). Skipping was definitely a good experience both socially and academically, and I don't think I missed anything, although I never did take calculus. It's also true that I'm not sure that my composition skills have ever really gelled. I find it really hard to pull together my thoughts, especially for longer pieces. On the other hand, I'm not sure that I could have fixed that with an extra course here or there when I was 13 and 16.]
- It is noteworthy that when these [gifted] children do move to the higher grade, they are in fact more likely to make friends, perhaps because the older children may have similar interests or are slightly more socially mature.
- By "non-graded class," Rogers means a class "in which students are grouped in a way other than by grade level or age."
- In a non-graded classroom, students are placed in a classroom according to their approximate level of achievement, regardless of their age or actual grade level. [Yay!]
- About once every 15 years, the non-graded approach is touted as a panacea and then disappears again about five years later as a "management nightmare for teachers." [Bummer.]
- Rogers says that the non-graded classroom is somewhat similar to the Montessori method.
- Rogers tells the story of a 4th grade teacher who had 28 children working at their own pace on math. She tested them at the beginning of the year to see at which point in the math textbook they were still scoring 80% on a placement test and distributed the kids accordingly. At the beginning of the year, they were spread among 16 chapters in the book. By the end of the year, there were 33 chapters of difference between the head and the tail of the class. "The teacher moved continuously through the classroom during each math period and found she spent about 90% of her time helping the slower math students with additional explanations, reteaching, and with staying on task." OK, this is not sounding good. Why not split the levels up between different teachers to lessen the differences between different groups in a single class, so that each group could get more time? However, even under this rather chaotic system, the slower children actually made more progress than in previous years. In addition, "the brightest students were allowed to go beyond the usual limits and ceilings placed on them in class and were happily engaged in sixth- and seventh-grade skills by years' end." Hot dog!
- In studies conducted since 1924 on the non-graded classroom, "gifted children showed an additional two-fifths (40%) of year's achievement for each year they were placed in non-graded classrooms."
- The multi-grade classroom means that more that a classroom will contain students from more than one grade, for instance 2nd and 3rd. A gifted 2nd grader might benefit from that sort of class, but what about the next year? Ideally, they'd go on to do 3rd grade in a combined 3rd/4th class, but you can see how difficult this system would be to manage. The multi-grade classroom does not seem to produce higher "achievement or non-cognitive effects" for gifted children as compared to the single-grade class.
- Grade telescoping, also called "rapid progress," involves allowing a child--or preferably a group of children of the same age--to complete the school's curriculum of several years in one year's less time. For example, a middle school student could complete the three years' curriculum of middle school in two years, perhaps attending summer school in between the two years to keep up the learning pace.
- Telescoping "has been widely used in some Australian school systems." Telescoped students achieve at the same level as students who went through the curriculum at the standard pace and have similar levels of social and emotional adjustment.
- Grade telescoping should raise increasing interest among parents and teachers of gifted children in light of the troubling current trend in middle school philosophy and programming to stress the importance of social adjustment, with much less emphasis on cognitive development, knowledge, or skill acquisition. Recent articles (not research) justify this trend by saying that because middle school children are developing so rapidly in their physical and emotional domains, they do not have the capacity to develop their minds to a higher order.
- The research on gifted children does not support this viewpoint. Research clearly shows that it is the thinking and learning of bright children--not their socialization--that is accelerated throughout their youth. The brighter they are, the more likely they are to enter the stage of abstract and logical thinking--also called the Piagetian Formal Operations stage--by middle school age (Carter and Ormrod, 1982).
- Testing out is the fifth option in this chapter. Students who test out gain 3/5s of a year of academic achievement, but rate themselves slightly lower on socialization and psychological adjustment.
- Lastly, we come to early college admission, which I discussed earlier in this post. Early entrance covers a lot of ground, from just starting college one year early to doing a truly radical program where students cover both high school and college in four years. Early entrance students have been found to be very similar to students who enter college later, although they "were less conforming, less assertive, and tended to get higher grades". Brody and Stanley (1991) write that "rarely does a student who graduates from college several years earlier than typical immediately go to work in a permanent career." They tend to go to graduate school, pursue a second bachelor's degree, study abroad, volunteer, do internships, etc.
There are four more chapters.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
- Rogers encourages early school entrance for gifted children. "For selected children--that is, gifted children between the ages three and six--the academic effect size was about a half-year's jump in achievement." There was actually a slight benefit to socialization and self-esteem for gifted children who did early entrance.
- Rogers talks about "compacting" the curriculum in particular subjects for gifted children: assessing the kids to see where they are and then providing streamlined, accelerated instruction to eliminate unnecessary repetition.
- Current studies have found that 75-80% of elementary school students of average or above average ability can pass subject pre-tests with 92-93% accuracy. Similar findings have been found for fourth, eighth, and eleventh graders in science and social studies curricula in several states. This means that grade-level instruction is often too basic and unchallenging for bright students, as well as for many other learners.
- Rogers warns that excessive compacting can stress students. "Apparently, being compacted and enriched or accelerated in all academic areas all of the time didn't allow the children sufficient time to just sit back and "digest" what they were learning."
- With compacted math and science, gifted elementary students can gain an extra 4/5 of a year of progress per year. Wow!
- "Concurrent enrollment" (where a gifted child spends time in more than one building) is another option, as are talent search programs such as John Hopkins University's CTY. Rogers writes that talent search summer programs offer gifted students (especially those from small communities or rural areas) a chance to learn things that they couldn't in their home school districts, plus a chance to form friendships.
- Correspondence courses, distance learning, and independent study are yet another option. As Rogers notes, correspondence courses require a lot of self-discipline and students may miss the chance for immediate feedback (although nowadays, online courses make up for some of these problems). Back in the day, I got one semester's college credit for the distance learning Russian courses I took from University of Washington. Both self-discipline and lack of immediate feedback were a problem. I wasted a lot of time and could have worked harder, true, but I had the advantage of being able to spend as much time as I needed on the fundamentals, a lot more than I would have had I taken my first Russian class as a college freshman in my pressure-cooker Great Books program when I was cranking out a paper every week.
- Next options are Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate. I am a big fan of AP and I definitely think that I had better experiences in my two high school AP classes than I would have had doing the same courses at the college level where the same material would be taught much faster, while at the same time I would have had more distractions. I'm less familiar with IB. One of my most intellectually intimidating fellow graduate students was a product of a US IB high school program, but I also have read descriptions of IB's elementary program that did not impress.
- One very exotic option is college-in-the-schools, where a college instructor comes and offers a course.
- Rogers describes a successful laboratory-based mentorship for a high school student who got to work with a professor on synthetic blood. A lot of times, the sort of "enrichment" that is offered to gifted children sounds like something every child could benefit from, but this is truly an example of a perfect fit between a gifted kid and a program.
- There are a couple of other options that I missed or skipped while blogging (single subject acceleration and testing out), but you get the general idea. Rogers also provides a very helpful chart showing what age range each intervention is most suitable for.
- In the early years, early entrance to school, compacting, and single-subject acceleration may be the most appropriate choices for a gifted child. In the middle years, many more options can be offered, including testing out, concurrent enrollment, independent study, and Talent Search programs. During high school years, options such as correspondence courses, Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, college-in-the-schools, mentorships, and post-secondary options can be offered to gifted learners.
- The above quote suggests that options expand in the higher grades. There are few subject-based acceleration options for elementary school and the ones that Rogers lists are extremely uncommon in the wild.
We've finished Chapter 5. Chapter 6 is Grade-Based Acceleration.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I sometimes wonder (very briefly) if C ought to be in conventional organized athletics, which (according the Laura McKenna at 11d) are supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread for girls. Reality intrudes pretty quickly, though. First of all, C has limited patience for group activities. She'd get bored and space out and people would be yelling at her. Secondly, she doesn't have the stamina or the coordination. Thirdly, the motivation isn't there. I realize that athletics are supposed to improve stamina and coordination, but I'm afraid that here as elsehwere, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer--the less coordinated you are and the less stamina you have to begin with, the less you get out of organized athletics.
Compulsory team sports start at C's school in 4th grade, and I have some concerns about that. For the moment, I'd like to stick to one-on-one and high-interest activities, although it's pretty hard to find physical activities that C finds engaging. She likes swimming and the occasional bike ride, and that's about it. She wanted to do ballet last year, but her interest fizzled after she got excluded from the spring performance and I haven't been able to persuade her to go back. At Sun Peaks, she had two days of ski lessons. On the first day, her learn-to-ski lesson wasn't supposed to be private, but she wound up being the only student. It was a 6.5 hour full-day class on a frigid day (around 20 degrees Fahrenheit), but she was very happy and elated at the end of the day, perhaps due to her teacher's skillful deployment of hot chocolate and the warming hut. The next day, she had a 1-hour private lesson with a different teacher. Despite the short lesson, C greeted me at pick-up with a volley of complaints about the tightness of her ski boots that continued up until we returned the boots at the rental office. So, yes, I have concerns about C and athletics, and I don't see sports as the answer to all my prayers. I think athletics for C is going to be much more a problem to be solved, rather than a solution.
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Sunday, January 10, 2010
- I saw my first turbaned Sikh on skis. There were lots of South Asians at Sun Peaks and relatively few persons of East Asian ancestry.
- Interestingly, Sun Peaks has many Australian and UK personnel. The kids had a number of Englishwomen as their ski instructors.
- My original plan had been to put D in half-day daycare/snowplay/ski instruction and C in a full-day class, but I was thwarted first of all by the need for immunization records for D and secondly by the fact that C was delayed by a fever in Vancouver for a day. Kids D's age don't do group lessons at Sun Peaks, so D did three two-hour private lessons instead. For his age group, that was a relatively reasonable $50 Canadian per hour. C did a 6.5 hour learn-to-ski day of lessons (she was the only child in the class, it being an off-season Wednesday, so that was a very good deal), followed by a one-hour lesson on our last day. I would have signed her up for two hours, but the private lesson rate for her age was twice that as for D's age. My grandpa and I did a bit of work with D before his lesson. Grandpa would launch D from the top of a small hill and I would catch D (a fairly risky maneuver) and then push D back uphill to my grandpa. That was pretty vigorous exercise for me, even just for 20 minutes. My husband and I aren't rich enough to do ski trips regularly (the last one C went on was 4 years ago), but I was very happy to introduce the kids to something that gave me a lot of pleasure as a child (I first skied at the age of 5 in Sun Valley, Idaho, many years ago). Also, for little Texans, snow is mysterious and wonderful. The leisure that I had envisioned for myself on the trip never materialized (I was always hiking up hill and down hill to book lessons and rent skis and take kids to lessons and pick them up from lessons and meet relatives, plus various family members kept getting feverish, etc.). After all those days on the road, I am very happy to be home.
- Both kids can now do a very nice snowplow (tips together, ends apart), which the instructors call a "pizza." The instructors contrast pizza (a V-shape) with French fries (parallel skis). French fries make you go fast, while pizza slows you down. My grandparents had a hotel room overlooking the bunny hill, so I was able to hang out comfortably in their room watching the kids go up and down the mountain. It was very cold!
- A lot has changed since my skiing heyday (the 80s). Helmets are now routine and snowboarding is now respectable.
- I finished reading Master and Commander and am in the middle of Patrick O'Brien's second Aubrey and Maturin book.
- My husband got out for three hours of cross-country skiing before getting feverish.
- We paid about $105 (I forget Canadian or US) a night for our hotel room. That got us a murphy bed and a sofabed and a very efficient kitchenette.
- On the bus ride from Kamloops to Vancouver, the four of us got to have Tim Hortons' donuts during a short layover. I recommend the coconut creme.
- We flew home non-stop from Vancouver to DFW yesterday. The Canadian restrictions for carry-on items for flying to the US are draconian and illogical. Told at ticketing that I wouldn't be able to take a backpack on the plane, I repacked almost everything (snacks, books, toys, crayons, change of clothes for D, etc.) from the backpack into a large plastic bag with handles. We spent about 2 hours in the security line. When we got to our plane, it was only 1/3 full.
- We're home!!!