Websites I liked this week:
This is a very funny site of the least helpful reviews on the net (mostly Amazon).
Favorite reviews so far (from the type of people who missed the forest for the trees and then accidentally burned them all down):
These next sites can help stamp out reviews like those above:
The National Repository of Online Courses. http://www.montereyinstitute.org/nroc/nrocdemos.html It's a free (my favorite word) site with online courses. My ninth grader is working on the Civics course this week, and it's terrific. Well organized, well written, easily understandable so the student can work alone, and the student sets the pace. There are a ton of really excellent educational lectures and courses, for high school and beyond, but most of them are not free.
I am thinking of subscribing to this one :http://educator.com/ , also for the ninth grader. It's only thirty five dollars a month, and the courses look pretty good. Thirty five bucks is pretty damn reasonable, especially in light of some online schools which are hundreds of dollars by the time you've worked through the course load. You can sign up for a month at a time, which is a nice option in case it doesn't work out.
This next site http://www.powa.org/ is dedicated only to writing, and my daughter and I have only just started on the site, but so far its very practical, helpful, and well organized. It's an interesting concept. I am having a really difficult time trying to teach my ninth grader how to develop writing skills beyond the basic essay, and I am hoping this site can help us.
Can I just add a little rant here? My ninth grader has spent the last five years in English class working on grammar and spelling. Not writing, not vocabulary, grammar and spelling, period. And guess what? She can't write. When I pulled her out of school mid-year, the first thing I had her do was write a one page essay. My reaction after reading it was one of disbelief and anger. She has been an honor student for years, with excellent grades, but obviously writing has been the lowest priorty for her teachers.
My oldest daughter lucked out with an amazing fourth grade teacher who had a passion for writing, and she has been able to write a solid, air tight, kickass essay ever since elementary school. This particular teacher believed that the subject matter was irrelevant, that good writing was applicable and relevant in every aspect of school. His kids wrote for science, history, physical ed., you name it, they wrote about it. He didn't worry overly much about spelling, and he believed that grammar was best taught alongside writing, not exclusive to it, and not overly emphasized . And of course, he read to the kids and had them read. All the time. Challenging books, too, not just the tired usual suspects recycled by teachers throughout the entirety of elementary school (the daughter who wasn't taught to write was also not encouraged to read. Her third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers all spent four months out of the school year on 'Because of Winn Dixie'. To this day she gets twitchy when she sees that book. When I had her read 'Lord of the Flies' for her summer book before sixth grade, the teacher wrote on the book report that she should ask her for permission before reading any more books because Lord of the Flies was not on her sixth grade book list. Contrast that with the fourth grade teacher, upon learning that my daughter had read 'To kill a mockingbird' over the holiday break, said "Kid, you are awesome, did you love Atticus as much as me?" True story.)
Fast forward eight years and my eldest daughter writes so well that her teachers regularly use her essays as examples for the class, and others have taken her aside and told her it would be a crime if she didn't become a writer. One child learned writing (and reading) early and well, and was told a hundred different ways that it was important. Another child learned that writing was something that she wasn't old enough to do yet, something to learn in the far future, that books were interchangeable and boring, and shockingly enough, she doesn't write well, doesn't think she can learn, and doesn't particularly want to. I firmly believe that writing is in the same category as learning a foreign language: we need to teach it when the kids are very young. They are capable, and at that age they are willing. It is ridiculous to complain that kids these days have no respect for the written word if we aren't going to respect it in the classroom. Kids are in school for seven hours a day, don't tell me there isn't time to fit it in.
One more site with various web listings that claim to be free (I haven't spent too much time looking through the individual courses yet);
Two websites that I've heard advertised on NPR all the time but never bothered looking up til this week:
http://www.edutopia.org/ (funded by George Lucas) and http://www.learner.org/index.html (the Annenberg Foundation). These aren't school classes so much as resources for educators. The resources seem to be free, the classes for credit are not.
One last site that I used this week with the ninth grader: http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/9-12/index.html. I love this site. I love that NASA is trying really hard to combat all this Doomsday nonsense, I love that they are spending time and money to educate people, especially young people, and I love their list recommended websites under 9-12 grade learning.
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