Tuesday, November 19, 2013

BBC Language Website

Oh, BBC. First you give me "Call the Midwife," and now you give us free language lessons; is there nothing you can't do? With the bar across the top saying "This page hasn't been updated for a while," I'm guessing this isn't the Beeb's highest priority but it's still a nice reliable place to study more than 35 languages. They have audio and video tutorials, exercises, grammar, activities and tests. I'm particularly charmed by the learning opportunities offered under the heading HOLIDAY PHRASES FOR FESTIVALS IN SPAIN:

  Hello, gorgeous! 

 Two beers, please. 

 Two glasses of wine, please. 

 I am (an Ibiza, a Benicassim, a Tomatina) virgin. 

 I haven't slept in (3/4/5/6/7) days. 

 Where are there some more toilets? I'm desperate! 

 Can you please direct me to Oasis?

 Fancy a skinny dip in the sea? 

 My mate wants to know if you fancy me.

 I feel sick. I have a headache. 

 I have a hangover. 

 I need condoms/painkiller/anything for diarrhoea. 

Quite useful, but I shared a house with some British people in my twenties; they say this stuff pretty much everywhere.

Mango Languages

Mango Language is a highly-friendly language website. It's the first one I've found that uses the culture and the history of the country as a part of learning the language, which I quite like. And with 60 languages, I'm guessing you and your family will find something to study pretty easily. My only quibble with the website is that after entirely too long spent rooting about on it I can say that the price is $79.00, but it doesn't say whether that's a year, a month, a session or an hour. It might be worth finding out, though, if the program seems like a good fit for your family.

A Class or two...or 775.

Trying to find upper-level work for your teen homeschooler or the happy autodidact in the house? Here are 775 university-level classes available online.

Live Mocha

As the language website Livemocha describes their service:

Livemocha offers several different types of online, instructor-led training service designed to help members of your organization become fluent quickly and effectively. Live lessons taught by expert instructors are structured around our award-winning course curriculum and combined with 24/7 access to our online, self-study language courses. Live courses can also be customized to fit an organization’s needs. 

 Livemocha’s instructor-led courses provide the instruction, support, and practice learners need to start speaking a new language with confidence. Expert teachers: All instructors are highly qualified, native-speaking teachers. Vetted in a rigorous selection process by Livemocha, every teacher has extensive language teaching experience. 

And if learners develop a strong connection with your classroom instructor, they may also arrange for private tutoring to continue to develop their speaking skills. Your own pace: With over 110 progressive lessons, learners can repeat classes as many times as you like or move right through the levels. 

Schedule group lessons when works for your organization, and practice online at anytime. 

 Custom Lessons: Our expert teachers also create specialized flashcards and tailored speaking or writing exercises for organizations in the Livemocha Classroom. Students learn faster and learn what they need for their job, school, or personal goals. 

 24/7 practice with native speakers: Practice at any time with native speakers from Livemocha’s community of 16 million people from around the world. 

 Try a conversation or get one-on-one assessments of your new skills. And remember, as a Gold Key holder in Livemocha, you will be first in line for all reviews of your speaking and writing exercises.

Unlimited access for $52.00 a month. I've seen cheaper programs, but this one seems really good.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Homeschoolers May Legally Partake of Sport!

Ohio has found it in their budget and their hearts to let private schoolers and homeschoolers participate in extracurricular and sports through their local schools. Countless parents who are tired of being goalie smile in relief and gratitude.

Duo Lingo

Duo Lingo teaches French, Portuguese, German, Italian and Spanish. You can play games, read articles, practice with friends, build up points and win prizes. It’s incredibly user-friendly; I had the kid try it out a year ago and within two hours she wanted to use her new Portuguese sentences on her godfather. Yes, it’s fewer languages than some of the other websites but it’s among the easiest to leap into.


For $9.95 a month, your family can receive 10 vocabulary words every day in the language of your choice. I can think of a few people I know who could use the English version of this.

Studio Arabiya

If you or your children want to learn Arabic, I can recommend Studio Arabiya without equivocation. The prices are great, they're good about engaging with the students and I was completely happy with the results. I had some concern that since my family isn't interested in reading the Qur'an that there would be a disconnect, but neither Alice nor I ever felt that way.

100 Useful YouTube Channels for Teachers

You know some of these, but I'll be you don't know all of these. I can't wait for the kid to be done with Chinese so I can let her poke around in here.

Harvard Graduate School of Education Resource

The Harvard Graduate School of Education website is, well, not exactly compelling, but tuck this away because you might need one of these wonky little links some day and if you need it, you need it right away and only that particular page.

Tips and tools for high-schoolers

Let your high-school age homeschooler jump into this link for new things to learn and do. Wait, does that sound dirty?

Virtual (reality) rats

Hat tip for this link to Jennifer Ouellette who, among other things, writes brilliantly about science and also finds the best stuff. Go look at her books and tell me your science-minded pre-teen or teen won't think they sound awesome. I've also had the luxury of reading ME, MYSELF & WHY, her book which comes out next year, and it's TREMENDOUS.

  Got a biology-minded child? Have a tech-minded child? Want to just see something very cool? Scientists have trained rats to use virtual reality. I wonder if I could get better results from the kid emptying the dishwasher if I began the experiment with sugar water.

Friday, November 8, 2013


You need ten science experiments you can do at home with your 6-12 year olds? Scientific American has you covered.

Chris Hemsworth: Physics Teacher?

Thor, it seems, isn't just a blindingly handsomemovie hero from Asgar. He's also a lesson in physics.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Extra Bits for Students of the Elizabethan Age and Their Geeky Parents

In the past week we've been given a walk-around tour of 17th Century London and now you can go through through the Globe Theater. Or, I should say, Theatre.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Time, Part 2

In the previous blog, I suggested that if you homeschool your children will have plenty of extra time to work on new projects or interesting sidelines and they might become more authentic versions of themselves and this, we all may agree, would be a good thing. Now let's speak of the downside of homeschooling:

YOUR time.

The parent at home is going to be counting out Me Time in sand grains. Or shot glasses. These wonderful offspring, they're always around. Even if they aren't sitting next to you as you two figure out phonics, fractions or philosophy, even if they are in their room or the garage, using all this lovely extra time to start their business or write their book, you still aren't alone and there's a pretty good chance that child is going to need to make a quick trip to Best Buy, or Michael's, or the library to get something in the next few minutes. Some days I find myself envying people with long commutes; all that gorgeous time spent going 2.3 miles an hour on the 405, finishing a thought in their heads.

(People who actually travel on the 405 every day, feel free to find me and beat me with a mallet for trivializing your pain.)

Have more than one child? Have a child with special needs? Double what I just said. If you're an introvert, you certainly can homeschool, but know that if your children aren't introverts, this is going to drain you. And then they get older, and they sleep less and you get a house like mine, where the kid only goes to bed 90 minutes before I do and there are days where I feel as if I've been doing a radio call-in show for twelve hours straight. I've come to appreciate my insomnia because while I look like Skeletor, it's the only time of the day I can truly call my own. Well, plus the cats.

This utter lack of self time  shouldn't scare you off of homeschooling if every other part seems to make sense for your child and your life, but it's something to consider. You're going to have to consciously look for places in every day where the kid is here and you are over there; those sports teams and after-school activities are a Godsend for many reasons. And if the extracurricular activity asks you to volunteer, be smarter than I am and offer to do fundraising or helping to sell ads. Yes, it's awful to beg for money but it beats being the already drained introvert who becomes the assistant coach who shuns help taking down the goals just for a few minutes by herself.

Not that I've done that.

Want more secrets about what homeschooling is REALLY like? Go to learning dangerously.com and see my videos about what to consider before you homeschool. Even if you could never imagine homeschooling, maybe the statistics about homeschoolers being, on average, happier and getting higher test scores intrigues you. Leave your email under WORKSHOPS and I'll let you know when my new webinar Secrets of Successful Homeschooling Families: What they know that you can use, is up. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

"Yes, but..."

That steadfast commenter of the Internet, Anonymous, responded to the last post about time-management:

This is true, however there is just as much time "wasted" in driving or walking to see other people during the day, going to outside vendors or destinations in homeschooling. I would argue that there's better teaching one on one, but don't understand the argument about too much time wasted in schools. I see so many people who can't even sit through a meeting if the discussion isn't directly about them. Do we want to encourage people to only look out for themselves and have no patience? Overall I think the homeschool/school time "wasted" is a wash and we should just be worrying about what is the best educational model for a child to become a well rounded adult. 

Anonymous is right about a few things. Time not specifically spent on education during a student's class time is not always time wasted, nor is every second of homeschooling another step closer to winning the Scripps Spelling Bee. But it's a leap to go from "Hey, into every life a little rain must fall and some time will be sucked up so you might as well get used to it" to "This will produce me-firsters and those morons who can't tolerate a simple business meeting unless we give them a birthday cake."

First, in a CBS study done of homeschoolers in one college, they had, on average, a higher GPA at the end of the first year, and then again at graduation, than students who has come in from a bricks-and-mortar school, and they're also more likely to graduate in four years than the traditional student. For these students, it would appear they've learned to work within a system with all of its challenges and opportunities and intermittent bureaucratic tedium.

Second, those me-firsters with patience issues? Statistically, the odds are quite high that they went to a bricks and mortar school. Just saying. I will never use any medium to declare "HOMESCHOOL IS GREAT AND AWESOME AND ROCKS AND YOU SUCK FOR NOT DOING IT!" In fact, I'll be the first to admit that not only do I not think it's for everyone, I'm not even sure it's for us. Maybe I'm hurting the kid. Time will tell. What I do know is that, in a more creative world, families would have many more options concerning the education of their children than we do today; options that stressed learning over management and imagination over containment. 

I'm starting to hear about students who are in high-school for the morning and working on their own projects in the afternoons, which can include independent study, internships or community-college classes. A recent article in WIRED about the teacher who created a revolution within his class by letting his students learn how to learn should be mandatory reading for anyone thinking about educational reform.

Which is why I liked the comment from Anonymous so much. Whoever you are, you're as concerned about where education is headed as I am.

"...we should just be worrying about what is the best educational model for a child to become a well rounded adult"?

Well, I couldn't agree more.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why To Homeschool

Here's a reason to homeschool: time.

The dirty secret of education–even in the best-run school–is that a good part of the day is spent handling administrative details. such as taking attendance, gathering homework, handing back homework, and getting students from class to class. It's as much a managerial process as an educational one and if you have–as any class will–a few lively or disruptive students, the time spent in non-educational pursuits will tend to expand.

When my daughter started at a French immersion school when she was seven, the first words she learned in French were "Matthew, what are you doing? Stop it and sit down!" My daughter's pronunciation of that phrase was flawless, but I still question whether it was worth the tuition we were paying. Any parent who homeschools will tell you that the educational basics are usually covered in about half the time it takes in a bricks-and-mortar school. This leaves the student the luxury of being able to follow interests, get a job or an internship (if they're older), and generally use that extra time to explore who they are and what kind of person they'd like to become.

Or maybe your worst fears come true and your children decide to use all that newfound time to play Minecraft until they become block-shaped themselves. I've never said homeschoolers were any better than the average child, and I never will. But my experience has been that this extra time adds up, every day, every week, every year to where it affords options and opportunities which the family didn't have before homeschooling. And options are always interesting.

 NEXT: A reason why not to homeschool: time.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Rules for homeschooling in Thailand

Thinking about homeschooling in Thailand? Here's what you need to know.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Who benefits from homeschooling?

If studies are any indication, while nearly all demographic groups show an improvement in test scores, Hispanic and African-American children show the greatest gains. Dr. Brian Ray's book, Strengths of Their Own, has the results of a study of over 5,000 homeschooled students and reports that: Another important finding of Strengths of Their Own was that the race of the student does not make any difference. There was no significant difference between minority and white homeschooled students. For example, in grades K-12, both white and minority students scored, on the average, in the 87th percentile. In math, whites scored in the 82nd percentile while minorities scored in the 77th percentile. In the public schools, however, there is a sharp contrast. White public school eighth grade students, nationally scored the 58th percentile in math and the 57th percentile in reading. Black eighth grade students, on the other hand, scored on the average at the 24th percentile in math and the 28th percentile in reading. Hispanics scored at the 29th percentile in math and the 28th percentile in reading. Me again. Am I saying homeschooling will Save Us All and Is the Future and is Totally Awetastic !!!1! I'm still prepared to have the kid look at me in the years to come, roll her eyes and say "Um, Mom? My education? You tanked it. Thanks. Here's your decaf cappucino, no foam." And I'm certainly no fan of measuring education exclusively by test results. But this study merits attention.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why "Dangerously"?

So why is the blog "Learning Dangerously"? Why isn't it "Learning Happily" or "Learning Confidently" or, if my life is any indication, "Learning in ratty t-shirts and yoga pants"? Because education is a risk. At many times, it's a zero-sum game; if you put your child in School A, they can't go to School B. You decide to let your child become a high-level gymnast by 15, they aren't going to have the time to become a professional pianist by 17. When confronted with this fact, we parents do the research, think about the needs of our family, cross our fingers, and plunge in. After we make the choice, we frequently act as if a) that was the only possible choice or b) it was the best possible choice. But what it really is is a gamble. It used to be that if you behaved yourself, got the grades, attended the right schools and chose the right major, your life was secure and predictable until retirement. That's not true any more. So if the tested path isn't a guarantee, then maybe there isn't a reason not to try something new. Take a chance. Learn dangerously. Maybe we will as a society look back a century from now on this generation of homeschoolers and view them with the same affectionate contempt we reserve for people who used to think you could determine personality traits through the shape of the skull. Or maybe a few of these individuals will have changed everything. Either way, people are learning dangerously, and oddly, and wonderfully, and I plan to keep watching them.