Skip to main content

Unschooling, Assessing Learning, and Character Charts

The eight year old kid—No. One—leaned in,  “I think Mary has a really good idea about character charts.  I’ve got two books going, and I’m stuck on both of them, and I think that would really help.”  I quietly shushed her because Mary was still presenting her thoughts on outlining novels to the room of assembled writers at one of our favorite libraries, but my mind was reeling.  So many things had just happened!

First, I didn’t know One was working on two books.  I knew she was working on one book, but not two.  The kid had started a second book, and I didn’t even know.  Cool!

Second, she was paying complete, and rapt attention to the presentation.  I ususally get some kind of indication from the gang they heard what was being said when they attend talks with me, but that indication usually comes days or week later out of the blue.  Not today.  Today, the kid was clearly latching onto every word. 

We’ve attended writing lunches since the kid developed an interest in writing—not too long after she learned to write, around the time I started finding My Little Ponies copy books she’d made laying around her room.  I knew One liked going to writing lunch presentations, but I suspected her interest might be significantly influenced by the snacks at the meetings.  (I knew the snacks hadn’t hurt my dedication.)  And in fact, just a few hours before One had mentioned Mary’s great idea, I’d asked the kid if she’d rather hangout with her younger sibs, pointing out that they’d—frankly—get a better lunch than us.  I was wrong in my suppositions, and One had just shown me how wrong I was.

Third, the kid had picked up on the speaker’s name, and was using it!  She and I frequently discuss how important it is to use people’s name—OK, I discuss it, One listens.  Still, she hadn’t perfected the skill yet.  The kid’s gregarious as all get out, but only manages to get her new friends’ names about half the time.  Here she was talking about the speaker by her first name.  I have to admit, that I rarely keep the speaker’s name straight until I remind myself three or four times.

Just like that, I’d received three updates on the kid’s learning progress.  All in the space of about 5 seconds while both sat there attending a talk we we interested in, munching on free snacks.

Mary as it turned out was a great public speaker.  The kid and I listened to the rest of her presentation—each of us enthralled. When Mary wrapped up, the kid went wandered up to meet her and talk to her a bit more.

Me?  I sat back thinking about what had just happened.  In unschooling, learning assessments—tests—aren’t a thing.  Consequently, lots of people ask how it is we know the kids are learning things.  This is how.  Every now again, the kids themselves demonstrate a thing they’ve learned all on their own, a thing they’re passionate about.  That’s how unschooling parents know what kids are up to, and what they’re learning.  To use a writing phrase, the kids don’t tell us, they show us.


Popular posts from this blog

Cool Math Tricks: Deriving the Divergence, (Del or Nabla) into New (Cylindrical) Coordinate Systems

Now available as a Kindle ebook for 99 cents! Get a spiffy ebook, and fund more physics
The following is a pretty lengthy procedure, but converting the divergence, (nabla, del) operator between coordinate systems comes up pretty often. While there are tables for converting between common coordinate systems, there seem to be fewer explanations of the procedure for deriving the conversion, so here goes!

What do we actually want?

To convert the Cartesian nabla

to the nabla for another coordinate system, say… cylindrical coordinates.

What we’ll need:

1. The Cartesian Nabla:

2. A set of equations relating the Cartesian coordinates to cylindrical coordinates:

3. A set of equations relating the Cartesian basis vectors to the basis vectors of the new coordinate system:

How to do it:

Use the chain rule for differentiation to convert the derivatives with respect to the Cartesian variables to derivatives with respect to the cylindrical variables.

The chain rule can be used to convert a differe…

Division: Distributing the Work

Our unschooling math comes in bits and pieces.  The oldest kid here, seven year-old No. 1 loves math problems, so math moves along pretty fast for her.  Here’s how she arrived at the distributive property recently.  Tldr; it came about only because she needed it.
“Give me a math problem!” No. 1 asked Mom-person.

“OK, what’s 18 divided by 2?  But, you’re going to have to do it as you walk.  You and Dad need to head out.”

And so, No. 1 and I found ourselves headed out on our mini-adventure with a new math problem to discuss.

One looked at the ceiling of the library lost in thought as we walked.  She glanced down at her fingers for a moment.  “Is it six?”

“I don’t know, let’s see,” I hedged.  “What’s two times six?  Is it eighteen?”

One looked at me hopefully heading back into her mental math.

I needed to visit the restroom before we left, so I hurried her calculation along.  “What’s two times five?”

I got a grin, and another look indicating she was thinking about that one.

I flashed eac…

The Javascript Google URL Shortener Client API

I was working with the Google API Javascript Client this week to shorten the URLs of Google static maps generated by my ham radio QSL mapper. The client interface provided by Google is very useful. It took me a while to work through some of the less clear documentation, so I thought I'd add a few notes that would have helped me here. First, you only need to authenticate your application to the url shortener application if you want to track statistics on your shortened urls. If you just want the shortened URL, you don't need to worry about this. The worst part for me was that the smaple code only showed how to get a long url from an already shortened rul. If you follow the doucmentaiotn on the insert method, (the method for getting a shortened url from a long one), there is a reference to a rather nebulous Url resource required argument. It's not at all clear how to create one of these in Javascript. The following example code shows how:
var request = gapi.clie…