I thought this book gave a great overview of the various composting options for the urban/suburban dweller. As an apartment dweller, I was particularl...moreI thought this book gave a great overview of the various composting options for the urban/suburban dweller. As an apartment dweller, I was particularly interested in vermicomposting, to which Cullen devotes an entire chapter. He discusses a lot of the science behind composting and the best ways to maximize our benefits from it.
The reason I'm not giving this book five stars is that it's kind of dated (which makes sense--it's 20 years old). There are good instructions for building your own worm bin but then I got online and discovered that there are waaaaay better commercial options now, AND better ideas for homemade bins.
Basically, I recommend this book for the general knowledge and the overview of composting methods and science, but make sure you browse the internet before you jump into any composting projects.(less)
I read a lot of parenting books but if I could choose just one book for every parent in America to read, it would be this one.
Marketing to kids is at...moreI read a lot of parenting books but if I could choose just one book for every parent in America to read, it would be this one.
Marketing to kids is at the root of pretty much all that is wrong with childhood: obesity, precocious sexuality, violence, disrespect for parents and authority, constantly staring at TV and computer screens rather than engaging in healthy and creative play. I could go on and on.
Honestly, when I first encountered Linn's strong feelings about marketing to kids, I was like, "What's the big deal?" Like many others, my initial response was that it's ultimately up to parents to monitor what media their children consume and what purchases their children make. And that's true--it is ultimately a parent's responsibility. But in the film "Consuming Kids", Enola Aird (founder and director of the Motherhood Project) made what I consider to be a very appropriate analogy: What if the director of a fleet of trucks announced that from now on all his semis would be hauling down the street at 100 mph, especially streets where children often are, and just told parents to watch their kids and keep them safe? We wouldn't tolerate that. We would argue that the drivers also have a responsibility to drive safely, particularly where children are concerned. But that is essentially what is going on with marketing to kids. When we say it is solely the parents' responsibility, we are giving marketers the authority to barrel down our streets with no regard for the well-being of their little marketing targets. Everyone has a responsibility to protect kids, including marketers and policy makers. Living in a democracy does not mean we live in a free-for-all society where anyone can just do anything they want. We still have a responsibility to promote the common good, and that is what Susan Linn and her Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood are doing.(less)
This is a quick and engaging read—I read it in one day, sitting outside watching my kids play. Now, the very act of homeschooling, or even considering...moreThis is a quick and engaging read—I read it in one day, sitting outside watching my kids play. Now, the very act of homeschooling, or even considering it, obviously demonstrates a basic open mindedness, but there’s a possibility that this book expanded my “radical” homeschool thinking even more. It made me really question what most of us have come to accept as a normal way of educating children.
I noticed three themes in Gatto’s speeches and essays: the effects of institutionalized schooling on community, family, and real learning.
He says we should de-certify teaching. Interesting. (Honestly, when did we decide that only experts could teach multiplication? I can teach my kid shapes, colors, letters, counting, and maybe reading but she turns five years old and suddenly I’m no longer qualified? So I have to send her off to the institution, to the experts? Huh?) In Gatto’s mind, all adults are responsible for educating the children in their community. But wait, what community?
“Children and old people are penned up and locked away from the business of the world to a degree without precedent: nobody talks to them anymore, and without children and old people mixing in daily life, a community has no future and no past, only a continuous present.” (p.24)
This is perhaps the most profound idea I found in this book, the emphasis on the interaction of people of all ages resulting in richer lives for all of us. All adults should be responsible for educating children. But the interaction of children with older people isn’t just a teaching opportunity. It’s also an opportunity to enrich the lives of both, to broaden their daily experiences and their daily emotions. Why do we insist on separating them?
Gatto also criticizes institutionalized schooling for robbing families of the time to actually grow as families. After spending seven hours at school and then coming home to do a couple more hours of homework (and don’t forget the time getting ready and then getting to and from school), when does a family develop?
Aside from family time, why should my children spend seven hours a day closed up in a classroom, just so they can come home and spend two more hours doing homework? Is seven hours really not enough? They have to come home and do more? And then the day is over.
This brings me to Gatto’s focus on real learning:
“Two institutions at present control our children’s lives: television and schooling, in that order. Both of these reduce the world of wisdom, fortitude, temperance, and justice to a never-ending, nonstop abstraction. In centuries past, the time of childhood and adolescence would have been occupied in real work, real charity, real adventures, and the realistic search for mentors who might teach what you really wanted to learn.” (p. 25)
When are kids supposed to learn from real experiences, out in real places? Because school is not a real place. It is a place designed to supposedly prepare children for the “real world”. But the school itself is an artificial environment. It’s a place where children are artificially grouped by age (something that doesn’t happen anywhere else in life). It’s a place where almost everything is learned by reading about it or listening to a lecture about it or watching a movie about it—almost never by actually doing it or seeing it in real life. The best times to see and do in real life are passing by while kids sit in these classrooms listening to somebody drone on about what’s going on out there.
Tweaking the educational system in an attempt to fix it is laughable (though I don’t really find the problem itself funny). After watching Waiting for Superman and then reading this book—taking in a “big picture” view of the problems with the system—it really is ludicrous to think that if we just get the “right” computers in the classrooms, we can fix the problem. Or maybe if we put Smart Boards in every classroom. Or maybe if we choose the “right” curriculum. It’s a mess. Tweaking won’t fix it.
But John Taylor Gatto gives us some basic criteria for reform:
“Any reform in schooling has to deal with its absurdities.
“It is absurd and anti-life to be part of a system that compels you to sit in confinement with people of exactly the same age and social class. That system effectively cuts you off from the immense diversity of life and the synergy of variety.
“It is absurd and anti-life to move from cell to cell at the sound of a gong for every day of your natural youth in an institution that allows you no privacy and even follows you into the sanctuary of your home, demanding that you do its ‘homework’.” (p. 24)
Having said all that, John Taylor Gatto’s books are best read as persuasive writing. He does make a couple uncited claims, one of which I know is a little crazy (“Shall we ignore the evidence that drug addiction, alcoholism, teenage suicide, divorce, and other despairs are pathologies of the prosperous much more than they are of the poor?” Actually, with the possible exception of teenage suicide, these things are much more common among the poor.) Still, most of his writing isn’t about facts or statistics—it’s just a very persuasive opinion. (less)
Useful but not my favorite Montessori book. A lot of it just felt obvious and I was just really bored reading it. That said, I wouldn't mind owning a...moreUseful but not my favorite Montessori book. A lot of it just felt obvious and I was just really bored reading it. That said, I wouldn't mind owning a copy for reference (I checked it out from the library).(less)
I randomly picked this up at the library and it is probably one of my favorite children's books ever. The illustrations are beautiful, whimsical, and...moreI randomly picked this up at the library and it is probably one of my favorite children's books ever. The illustrations are beautiful, whimsical, and engaging. The story is unique and just super cute. I love it so much that I'm reviewing it--and I've never reviewed a children's book before. That's mostly because I think adding a bunch of children's books to your "read" shelf is just a cheap way of increasing the number of books on said shelf, but this one is good enough I can have one cheapy, right?(less)
I have really mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, Trelease's treasury of read-aloud books is AWESOME. I would buy this book for that alon...moreI have really mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, Trelease's treasury of read-aloud books is AWESOME. I would buy this book for that alone and I give 5 stars to that part, which is significant because it comprises over half of the book. Plus, the overall thrust of the book (read out loud to your kids) is something I am passionate about.
The rest of the book....eh. Some of the information is really inspiring and some of it just fell flat for me. For one thing, the writing and reasoning are lacking. The conclusions Trelease draws from the research he is citing are often a pretty big stretch. For example, "In the nearly ten years since the arrival of the [Harry:] Potter books, school crime was down, teen pregnancies declined, and teen smoking and drug use dropped." Okay. Well, what other random social statistics changed during those same ten years? I'm certain there were negative changes. Are those tied to Harry Potter mania? I doubt it. But Trelease is totally implying that the reading obsession that consumes kids during their Harry Potter years is linked to a drop in teen pregnancies? What??? That needs a VERY significant amount of research to draw any kind of usable correlation. And that is typical of a lot of his correlational claims throughout the book.
I did like the emphasis on reading to children even as they get older and are able to read to themselves. Trelease's information in that section is very interesting and that's a practice that probably doesn't really occur to many of us.
So basically, the Treasury of Read-Alouds makes this book completely worth time and even money. The rest of it is maybe worth a quick scan.
P.S. What is with the Oprah worship? I mean, I agree that the woman is incredibly powerful and used her power to get A LOT of people reading and discussing books and I think that's wonderful. But it's almost like he was trying to get a spot on her show or something. (I wonder if he ever did...)(less)
Somewhat helpful but I've seen better overviews (Homeschooling for Dummies comes to mind).
Every chapter begins with a Bible verse and then the religi...moreSomewhat helpful but I've seen better overviews (Homeschooling for Dummies comes to mind).
Every chapter begins with a Bible verse and then the religious references just keep on comin'. When will people learn that if their book is going to be a heavily religious version of an otherwise non-religious topic (which, technically, homeschooling is), then they need to PUT IT ON THE COVER!!!
It's 2010, people--Christians aren't the only people homeschooling anymore...by a long shot. They don't own the idea or the term.
(But I did really like the chapter about Carschooling. I've not seen that anywhere else, so that's why the book gets 2 stars instead of 1.)(less)