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Quotations from 102 Top Picks

While reading 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, I came across so many worthwhile quotations that I could not fit them into a formal review.  So, today my review is being published on The Curriculum Choice and I’m posting these quotations here. (Links are to my reviews and articles; there are no affiliate links on this blog.) 

On worldviews and education, including math education

This summer I am studying Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey again.  The following quotation by Cathy mirrors a lot of what is said, in great and thorough detail, in Total Truth; Cathy applies some of these ideas in 102 Top Picks.

Parents who try to leave all spirituality out of learning are either purposely or inadvertently teaching their children a materialistic philosophy. If spirituality and transcendence never enter the discussion, you are teaching children that the world consists only of what they experience with their senses and know with their minds. It might allow for the possibility that God exists, but if He does, He is so irrelevant that He has nothing to do with important things like history and science. Even though most people don’t think of materialism as a religion, it serves that purpose with its own answers to the big questions of life and the reason for our existence.

If, on the other hand, you believe in God, it should be important enough to impart to your children—or else what’s the point of believing in Him at all? If faith and knowledge of God are important, then they need to be incorporated into the learning process within the content as well as the methods of presentation. You teach what you believe and you demonstrate your belief by the way you act, how you speak, and how you treat people. (P 25)

Yes, all our subjects, even math, should acknowledge God.  This is something that can be done poorly (as in some curricula where math story problems adapt Bible characters and Bible scenes to the problem at hand, whether subtraction, fractions or anything else) or it can be done well as pointed out in Mathematics: Is God Silent?    Cathy quotes one slightly exaggerated example to show just how pervasive worldview can be even in math.  Considering that at least one US high school math teacher has labeled a student a bigot for insisting that there are right and wrong answers in math, this example is not too extreme.

“The Loggers New Math”

Teaching Math in 1950: A logger sells a truck load of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit?

Teaching Math in 1960: A logger sells a truck load of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit?

Teaching Math in 1970: A logger exchanges a set “L” of lumber for a set “M” of money. The cardinality of set “M” is 100. Each element is worth one dollar. Make 100 dots representing the elements of the set “M.” The set “C,” the cost of production, contains 20 fewer points than set “M.” Represent the set “C” as a subset of set “M” and answer the following question: What is the cardinality of the set “P” for profits?

Teaching Math in 1980: A logger sells a truck load of lumber for $100. Her cost of production is $80 and her profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20.

Teaching Math in 1990: By cutting down beautiful forest trees, the logger makes $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the forest birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down the trees? There are no wrong answers.

Teaching Math in 1996: By laying off 40% of its loggers, a company improves its stock price from $80 to $100. How much capital gain per share does the CEO make by exercising his stock options at $80? Assume capital gains are no longer taxed, because this encourages investment.

Teaching Math in 1997: A company outsources all of its loggers. The firm saves on benefits, and when demand for its product is down, the logging work force can easily be cut back. The average logger employed by the company earned $50,000, had three weeks vacation, a nice retirement plan and medical insurance. The contracted logger charges $50 an hour. Was outsourcing a good move?

Teaching Math in 1998: A laid-off logger with four kids at home and a ridiculous alimony from his first failed marriage comes into the logging company corporate offices and goes postal, mowing down 16 executives and a couple of secretaries, and gets lucky when he nails a politician on the premises collecting his kickback. Was outsourcing the loggers a good move for the company?

Teaching Math in 1999: A laid-off logger serving time in Federal Prison for blowing away several people is being trained as a COBOL programmer in order to work on Y2K [Year 2000] projects. What is the probability that the automatic cell doors will open on their own as of 00:00:01, 01/01/00? (P 23)

On learning, learning styles, and learning disabilities

The authors of Make It Stick, a very practical book about learning theory, point out that effective learning is rarely easy but requires effort. In fact, catering exclusively to a person’s learning styles can be counterproductive in the long run.

After her extensive discussion of learning styles, Cathy suggests how to address this problem:

This does not mean that you teach each type of learner only with methods that suit his personality and temperament…. Instead, you use methods that work best for each child when introducing new or difficult subject matter. Once they have grasped a concept, use other more challenging methods when they are less likely to be stressful or produce failure. You can help strengthen students’ weak areas such as short attention span or lack of creativity by working on these problem areas within subjects that are especially interesting to your child or subjects in which they excel. (P 44)

In this context, Cathy addresses learning disabilities. Every child has strengths and weaknesses, but sometimes more is going on.

A word of caution is needed here. Sometimes you can mistake the characteristics or evidence of a learning disability for a learning style. If you have tried everything—paid attention to learning styles and methods and retaught five different ways—and your child still “doesn’t get it,” he or she might have a learning disability. Sometimes a child will appear to be a Wiggly Willy because a learning disability interferes with reading, writing, or thinking processes. If the work is too difficult, your child might act bored, restless, or inattentive to avoid dealing with the “impossible” task. (P 46)

If you suspect that your child has a learning disability, here are some things to think about.  Is your child perhaps “Overwhelmed, Underchallenged, Unmotivated, Disobedient, or Just Plain Lazy?”    Or is there a change in ability as discussed in “When Your Teen Can No Longer Focus”?   You could explore the concept of psychoeducational testing at home, but for the sake of your child, do get professional help if necessary.

On detailed learning goals

Most home educators worry about whether or not their children are keeping up with what “other schools” are teaching. This sort of concern can be a helpful prod to keep us focused and making progress. However, it can also be a distraction or even a diversion from what we really need to be teaching each of our children. (P 48)

After thinking through our priorities and approaches to homeschooling, we need to make all this practical: we need to determine what each child needs to learn.  In this we can be driven by what ‘other schools’ teach, by a uniform curriculum like the US Common Core, or by textbook companies, or we can think outside the box to determine what our own goals are for each child.

I believe that God created each child as an individual with particular gifts, abilities, and interests. He has a unique plan for each one. God’s creativity gradually becomes visible within each child as he or she matures, an unfolding delight that we can either appreciate or deny. We appreciate it by recognizing and working with each individual child, or we deny it by trying to force children to adapt to others’ ideas about how they should grow and learn. (P 49)

The mantra of much of the national education reform legislation over the past three decades has been “educating for the high-skill, high-wage jobs of the 21st century.” Translation: children need to learn knowledge and skills that others have predetermined are necessary to prepare them for the workforce.

We see this very clearly in our present educational system at the high school level. Education is becoming primarily about vocational training rather than development of an individual person with a body, mind, and soul. Part of that training might require learning enough to get into college, so they can get a degree, so they can get a job—simply a more complex form of vocational training.

While young people should be prepared to get a job when they get out of school, many parents believe that education is as much or more about personal development, learning to think, developing integrity, and spiritual development. After all, what benefit is it to raise young people who have the knowledge and skills to make lots of money if they are culturally, spiritually, and ethically clueless? (P 51)

Everyone operates by one worldview or another. The default worldview of our modern society is a materialistic humanist worldview. (Some might call it secular humanist.) It teaches that man is an accidental product of evolution. There is nothing more to him than his physical existence. God doesn’t exist and there’s nothing after death. It shouldn’t be surprising if people with this worldview believe that they should to try to get the most they can from this life because this is all there is.

In contrast, a Christian worldview colors everything with the belief in God’s existence. Because God is real, we believe He has revealed truth to us. Part of that revelation is the reality of life after death, the fact that we have a soul, and the fact that Jesus Christ died for us so that we can have eternal life with God. This understanding means there’s much more to life than the present physical reality. There is a larger purpose and meaning to almost everything. Our lives are not to be lived as if we are accidental entities. Instead, God calls us to live life mindful of the purposes to which He has called us.

Conflicting worldviews—whether they be Christian, Secular, Jewish, Buddhist, or something else— produce some conflicting educational goals. Certainly, they all share some common goals such as acquiring reading, writing, and computation skills. However, we are likely to differ in some choices of other subjects to be taught, what is to be taught each year, the amount of time and attention we spend on each subject, and details within subject areas. (P 51, 52)

Thus we need to think clearly about what and how we want our children to learn.  We need to be sure that the methods and topics we choose reflect our Christian worldview and agree with the Bible.  And then, after all the hard work and careful planning, we need to remember that we can plan all we want but in the end it is God who decides what is going to happen.  Thus we also need to be flexible in how we implement our goals, realizing that at any time we may need to change our method for achieving them.

As you gain experience, generally you will feel freer to create your own goals and worry less about what everyone else is doing. (P 56)

On logic and worldview studies

Whenever I ask my husband what he feels is important in our homeschool, he stresses logic.  Cathy Duffy agrees:

I am convinced that a grasp of logic—at a minimum, what is called informal logic—is essential to a good education. If you can’t think straight and then express your ideas logically, if you can’t spot the shysters and the propaganda and sort through it to the truth, then your education is incomplete.

In addition, many logic books on the market are fun to use. P 322

And we would agree with that, too.  Our children re-read The Fallacy Detective and The Thinking Toolbox purely for fun, and they also really enjoy the many mysteries in the James Madison Critical Thinking course.

What is more, you need logic to understand how the world’s opinion of itself is not the same as the Bible’s; if we don’t know how to think clearly we will easily be swayed by all sorts of false ideas.  That being said, if we refuse to acknowledge and thank God, then our ability to think will be compromised. (Romans 1:21)

In my opinion, logic goes hand in hand with studying worldviews. We have to teach our children to think and reason clearly before we can expect them to seriously address the big questions of life such as, “Who is Man?,” “What is his purpose?,” “Does God exist?,” and “What happens when we die?” Answers to questions such as these inform our worldview and influence the way we think about almost everything. (P 327)

Some of the 102 Top Pick reviews themselves contain similar gems of wisdom.  New homeschoolers, especially, can benefit from Cathy’s expertise, and even after two decades as a homeschooler I find myself encouraged by her.

At the end of my formal review of 102 Top Picks, I wrote, “Homeschooling parents inevitably waste money—and often their children’s time and patience—on curriculum mistakes.  Investing in 102 Top Picks will reduce that problem.”  As a bonus, 102 Top Picks is full of helpful ideas, like the quotations above, that become more profound the more you think about them.

Discount:  Cathy is generously letting me offer you a $3 discount that is good here through 8/31/17: AKA2017. (This can be used on either print or ebooks but it won’t work for just the charts.)

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to follow me on Google+ where I often mention helpful or interesting ideas, or connect with me on GoodReads where I  (eventually) share what I read. 

Disclosure:  I received a PDF version of 102 Top Picks from Cathy Duffy in order to review it.  I receive no compensation for giving my honest opinions.

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