By the Way…

I’ve neglected to mention that I was asked to serve as a resident “expert” on unschooling over at CafeMom for the month of August. It’s been a long time since I’ve done much homeschooling/unschooling related work, so it’s been kind of fun. Come on over if you want to add to the conversation—I’ll be there off and on every day for the rest of the month.  (They’re even going to have a drawing at the end of the month for a copy of The Unschooling Handbook.)

Another for the “Duh” Files…

Yet another study that appears to discover the obvious (though it’s interesting to me because there is depression in my family): “Tuned In Parents Cut Kids’ Depression.”

The gist is that kids do better when parents tailor their interactions to each kid’s personality instead of using the same approach with every kid. According to researcher Liliana Lengua:

It is parents’ instinct to help and support their children in some way, but it’s not always clear how to intervene in the best way. This research shows that parenting is a balance between stepping in and stepping out with guidance, support, and structure based on cues from kids.

Is there any aspect of life where assuming some standardized version of a person works better than addressing the specific needs of the individual in front of you?

Getting Real

From Virginia Heffernan’s column, “Education Needs a Digital-Age Upgrade,” in yesterday’s New York Times, about Cathy N. Davidson’s forthcoming book, Now You See It:

To take an example of just one classroom convention that might be inhibiting today’s students: Teachers and professors regularly ask students to write papers. Semester after semester, year after year, “papers” are styled as the highest form of writing. And semester after semester, teachers and professors are freshly appalled when they turn up terrible.

Ms. Davidson herself was appalled not long ago when her students at Duke, who produced witty and incisive blogs for their peers, turned in disgraceful, unpublishable term papers. But instead of simply carping about students with colleagues in the great faculty-lounge tradition, Ms. Davidson questioned the whole form of the research paper. “What if bad writing is a product of the form of writing required in school — the term paper — and not necessarily intrinsic to a student’s natural writing style or thought process?” She adds: “What if ‘research paper’ is a category that invites, even requires, linguistic and syntactic gobbledygook?”

What if, indeed. After studying the matter, Ms. Davidson concluded, “Online blogs directed at peers exhibit fewer typographical and factual errors, less plagiarism, and generally better, more elegant and persuasive prose than classroom assignments by the same writers.”

Some of this sounds suspiciously similar to ideas unschoolers have been talking about for years. Ms. Heffernan’s persuaded me—I’ve already ordered Ms. Davidson’s book and am looking forward to its release next week.