Friday, May 7, 2010


Just finished reading John Gatto's book "The Underground History of American Education" (

During the week or so that it has taken for me to get through it I have been challenged to think about education, schooling and my girls.

This will probably be one of many posts on the topic as I process the information and discuss with my family our way forward.

During the last week, mainly because of the book, I have been taking greater interest in the homework that my eldest is doing. (She's currently in Year 3 at a private school).

(Just as aside, I'm basically happy with the school and how it does encourage the children to think and deals with them as individuals. However, further investigation is warranted.).

Anyway, getting back to Miss 8 and her homework. Each week she has a list of spelling words to learn (using the look / cover / write method). Recently she has been asked to put these words into sentences.

Now Miss 8's handwriting is, on the whole, shocking. I have discussed the need for her to take time with what she is writing, to ensure that her environment is condusive and to focus on neatness (or at least legibility).

The other morning I went into where she was working and had a look at the sentences she had written. Content wise, the sentences were good (maybe a bit scant given her vocabulary) but almost illegible. She still has to write with a pencil rather than a pen and the pencil was blunt which didn't help the situation.

I asked her if she thought that the quality of work she had done reflected her ability. She said "no", so I rubbed out the sentences she had written, helped her sharpen the pencil (the lead kept on breaking when she did it) and asked her to write the sentences again. She wrote one sentence - better - but not as good as she could, so I asked her again if she thought it good, again she answered "no", so again I rubbed it out. We did this for about 6 sentences, two or three times each.

I thought she would be upset by this process. However she wasn't. About half way through doing the sentences like this - and ensuring that ALL words (not just her spelling words) were spelt correctly and capitalisation and punctuation was correct - she reached over to me and gave me a great big hug and said "thank you". She was beaming, very happy, like she is when she helps me cook.

The next morning she finished off the other sentences by herself, all neat and legible.

This has given me pause for thought. I would have thought that she would have been upset by me rubbing out the sentences that she had written a couple of times each, but it had the opposite effect.

Was it that she found pride in doing a job properly, or was it simply that she had my attention and focus for that time or was it something else entirely?

Mmmm ... more thinking required.


Suldog said...

I must ask. Over here, in the US, we spell it "sentences". Would that be incorrect where you are? I thought I was aware of most differences in spelling (extra or fewer vowels, and use of "s" rather than "z" in many words, for instance) but have never seen this one before. Just curious.

Julie said...

Interesting question Suldog. I did spell it as "sentence", but the spell check changed it all to "sentance". I've just ran the spell checker again and this time it's told me "sentance" is wrong! Weird ...

Crucis said...

Our local public school here near KC, no longer teaches grammar nor spelling. My wife help tutor a 3rd grade girl with reading (we later discovered she was dyslexic) because she was hardly literate due to the schools technique of "sight" reading---whatever that is.

My two oldest grandkids (10 and 6) go to a private "Classical Christian" school. They use phonetics to teach reading, grammar, rhetoric, debate and in middle and high school grades, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin among other languages. Their choir sings classical music in Latin, German and Italian.

I'm hopeful they will be a better education than we gave our daughter who went to a "regular" Christian school. Both sets of grandparents and the parents aren't letting any of the kids go to private school as long as we collectively can afford the private one.

Old NFO said...

I think it was the 'personal' time... and YOU taking a direct interest in her doing well...

Wai said...

Teach her to grip the pencil loosely and not deathgrip it. The index finger and thumb should form a nice rugby shape over and under the pencil. She needs not apply too much pressure, or else her hand will cramp up and her penmanship will look like chickenscratch.

Julie said...

Wai - would love to be able to get her to do that. I always tell her to grip it looser - she says she is, but in reality the poor pencil is pleading for its life :)

Crucis I like the sound of a 'classical' education, but have only heard of it through the 'homeschooling' network, not a school.

Jim definitely could have been. Had to do the same with my youngest - she was supposed to be drawing a picture of a model train. Encouraging her to rub out her rough drawn lines and use a ruler had the same reaction.

Crucis said...

"go to private school..."

Rats! Make that public school.

Crucis said...

Julie, this particular school, Whitfield Academy, was started by a group of home-schoolers and followed a template from a private school in Idaho.

Here's a link if you'd like some info.

WV: wingless
No, I'm not. I still have my PP ticket (if I could pass the physical.)