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VDA'S NO HOMEWORK POLICY Every year, dozens of parents sit at my desk and describe to me the intense frustration they feel as they watch their children churned through the public schools. One of the refrains of their complaints: endless homework. Read more →

VDA'S NO HOMEWORK POLICY

Every year, dozens of parents sit at my desk and describe to me the intense frustration they feel as they watch their children churned through the public schools. One of the refrains of their complaints: endless homework.

Read more →

AN INTERVIEW WITH MISS VANDAMME This is an interview conducted with Miss VanDamme just two years after she founded VanDamme Academy.  Read more →

AN INTERVIEW WITH MISS VANDAMME

This is an interview conducted with Miss VanDamme just two years after she founded VanDamme Academy. 

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THOUGHTS ON COMMON CORE Most of the rhetoric in defense of Common Core is so insipidly conventional and blandly optimistic that it is hard to know what its proponents are advocating – and hard to object. Read more →

THOUGHTS ON COMMON CORE

Most of the rhetoric in defense of Common Core is so insipidly conventional and blandly optimistic that it is hard to know what its proponents are advocating – and hard to object.

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THE VDA APPROACH TO SCIENCE I am normally a fan of field guides. I think every library should have observational guides to the birds, insects, and rocks of our world. Unfortunately, whenever they try to aim themselves at children and to be “educational,” they often end up diluting their value as a catalog with explanatory gibberish.  Read more →

THE VDA APPROACH TO SCIENCE

I am normally a fan of field guides. I think every library should have observational guides to the birds, insects, and rocks of our world. Unfortunately, whenever they try to aim themselves at children and to be “educational,” they often end up diluting their value as a catalog with explanatory gibberish. 

Read more →

WE DON'T TALK ABOUT COLLEGE Years ago, I accompanied an 8th-grade student I had homeschooled as she visited prospective high schools. At one school, the director of admissions welcomed us and then proceeded to assault my student with the information that entry to college had become highly competitive, and she must therefore chart the right course through the right high school to stand even a chance of admission to the better colleges. Read more →

WE DON'T TALK ABOUT COLLEGE

Years ago, I accompanied an 8th-grade student I had homeschooled as she visited prospective high schools. At one school, the director of admissions welcomed us and then proceeded to assault my student with the information that entry to college had become highly competitive, and she must therefore chart the right course through the right high school to stand even a chance of admission to the better colleges.

Read more →

PYGMALION OF THE SOUL Several years ago, I taught Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw, to a class of junior high students. Pygmalion is the story of a lowly flower girl who is invited into the home of a brilliant phonetician after he makes a bet that he can teach her the elegance and speech of a proper English lady and pass her off as a duchess at a garden party.  Read more →

PYGMALION OF THE SOUL

Several years ago, I taught Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw, to a class of junior high students. Pygmalion is the story of a lowly flower girl who is invited into the home of a brilliant phonetician after he makes a bet that he can teach her the elegance and speech of a proper English lady and pass her off as a duchess at a garden party. 

Read more →

AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME Using a passage from the great Victor Hugo’s Ninety-Three, I will illustrate the difference between literary analysis as I learned it and as I teach it. Read more →

AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COME

Using a passage from the great Victor Hugo’s Ninety-Three, I will illustrate the difference between literary analysis as I learned it and as I teach it.

Read more →

THE NEW FRONTIER In my recent research of and visits to high schools, I have learned of the emergence of a new educational trend: student-led classrooms. The teacher, according to this theory, should act as “a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage,” simply facilitating, managing, and directing the students’ own work and discussions. But many of today’s schools are taking this still further... Read more →

THE NEW FRONTIER

In my recent research of and visits to high schools, I have learned of the emergence of a new educational trend: student-led classrooms. The teacher, according to this theory, should act as “a guide on the side, not a sage on the stage,” simply facilitating, managing, and directing the students’ own work and discussions. But many of today’s schools are taking this still further...

Read more →

 
A CULTURE OF DIGNITY I have always regarded VanDamme Academy as having its own culture, distinct from the culture outside its walls. I loosely define this culture in one word that captures many aspects of the school’s environment: “dignity.”  Read more →

A CULTURE OF DIGNITY

I have always regarded VanDamme Academy as having its own culture, distinct from the culture outside its walls. I loosely define this culture in one word that captures many aspects of the school’s environment: “dignity.” 

Read more →

A DAZZLING UNIVERSE I love the novel Shane, by Jack Schaefer. That it has not made it among the canon of literary works for junior high and high school students is a travesty. Its charming story of a boy’s worship for his hero, its moving depiction of a steadfast friendship, its portrayal of men of unsullied, resolute, strong-willed character, make it a literary masterpiece ideal for young women and men. Read more →

A DAZZLING UNIVERSE

I love the novel Shane, by Jack Schaefer. That it has not made it among the canon of literary works for junior high and high school students is a travesty. Its charming story of a boy’s worship for his hero, its moving depiction of a steadfast friendship, its portrayal of men of unsullied, resolute, strong-willed character, make it a literary masterpiece ideal for young women and men.

Read more →

DON'T LET IT FADE If I were to create a short portfolio of my proudest career achievements, it would include a song written last week by one of my seventh grade students. Let me explain why, and then I will share it with you. Read more →

DON'T LET IT FADE

If I were to create a short portfolio of my proudest career achievements, it would include a song written last week by one of my seventh grade students. Let me explain why, and then I will share it with you.

Read more →

Why read? One of my favorite days of every year in 7th grade literature is the day I teach the “mob” scene in To Kill a Mockingbird. In this scene, a mob has gathered outside the jailhouse, ready to take the law into their own hands and lynch the man being held there. And all that stands in their way is Atticus, the man’s feeble, old lawyer, who knows they are coming, and will do the little that is in his power to stop them. Read more →

Why read?

One of my favorite days of every year in 7th grade literature is the day I teach the “mob” scene in To Kill a Mockingbird. In this scene, a mob has gathered outside the jailhouse, ready to take the law into their own hands and lynch the man being held there. And all that stands in their way is Atticus, the man’s feeble, old lawyer, who knows they are coming, and will do the little that is in his power to stop them.

Read more →

 
School's may be cesspools — but don't throw the education out with the bathwater I am appalled by the state of American education. I am appalled not primarily by the crowded classrooms, decrepit buildings, unmotivated, unionized teachers, severed arts programs, drugs, violence, or many-children-left-behind, but by that which should be the central, fundamental, defining element of any school – the education.  Read more →

School's may be cesspools — but don't throw the education out with the bathwater

I am appalled by the state of American education. I am appalled not primarily by the crowded classrooms, decrepit buildings, unmotivated, unionized teachers, severed arts programs, drugs, violence, or many-children-left-behind, but by that which should be the central, fundamental, defining element of any school – the education

Read more →

THE KEY OF LIGHT My favorite quote of the week, perhaps even of the year, came from an eighth grade student. “I feel like a terrible person.” That demands explanation.  We had just completed Victor Hugo’s epic novel Ninety-Three, which happens to be the novel from which the title of this blog was derived. One of its primary characters, Cimourdain, is an ardent Revolutionary.  Read more →

THE KEY OF LIGHT

My favorite quote of the week, perhaps even of the year, came from an eighth grade student.

“I feel like a terrible person.”

That demands explanation.

 We had just completed Victor Hugo’s epic novel Ninety-Three, which happens to be the novel from which the title of this blog was derived. One of its primary characters, Cimourdain, is an ardent Revolutionary. 

Read more →

SURPRISED BY POETRY If I were asked for a short list of my proudest professional achievements, my course Making Poetry Part of Your Life would be near the top. And the audience’s response was enormously gratifying... But when I pitched the course to self-described “crusty fighter pilot” Lee Behel—he was skeptical.  Read more →

SURPRISED BY POETRY

If I were asked for a short list of my proudest professional achievements, my course Making Poetry Part of Your Life would be near the top. And the audience’s response was enormously gratifying...

But when I pitched the course to self-described “crusty fighter pilot” Lee Behel—he was skeptical. 

Read more →

LITERATURE, IDENTITY, AND SELF-WORTH The following is a thank you letter written to me by an 8th grader graduating from VanDamme Academy after having attended the school for two years. In Why Read? I explain my goal in teaching literature. It is gratifying to know how deeply this student understood.  Read more →

LITERATURE, IDENTITY, AND SELF-WORTH

The following is a thank you letter written to me by an 8th grader graduating from VanDamme Academy after having attended the school for two years. In Why Read? I explain my goal in teaching literature. It is gratifying to know how deeply this student understood. 

Read more →

 
THE POVERTY OF POLITICAL DISCUSSION EXPLAINED, IN ONE LESSON “What was considered a good education 50 years ago…is no longer enough for success in college, career, and citizenship in the 21st century.” So says the National Education Association. Their interviews with “leaders of all kinds” yielded the now omnipresent wisdom that the most important skills for K-12 education are the 4 C’s: Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity. Read more →

THE POVERTY OF POLITICAL DISCUSSION EXPLAINED, IN ONE LESSON

“What was considered a good education 50 years ago…is no longer enough for success in college, career, and citizenship in the 21st century.” So says the National Education Association. Their interviews with “leaders of all kinds” yielded the now omnipresent wisdom that the most important skills for K-12 education are the 4 C’s: Critical thinking, Communication, Collaboration, and Creativity.

Read more →

TEACHING SCIENCE INDUCTIVELY- PART 2 We gain knowledge by an inductive discovery process. Whether we consider the scientific genius who first made a discovery, or the student who is learning about it, the process is essentially the same.  It begins with observations and low-level concepts, and moves by means of experiment and mathematics to higher-level concepts, generalizations and theories... Read more →

TEACHING SCIENCE INDUCTIVELY- PART 2

We gain knowledge by an inductive discovery process. Whether we consider the scientific genius who first made a discovery, or the student who is learning about it, the process is essentially the same.  It begins with observations and low-level concepts, and moves by means of experiment and mathematics to higher-level concepts, generalizations and theories...

Read more →

GOOD: AN ANTIDOTE TO OVERPARENTING A few years ago, I met up with a friend at a coffee shop in San Diego. My friend was a lieutenant commander in the navy who had served as a member of a SEAL team in Iraq. But right now, we were just two pals chit-chatting over coffee. At one point in our conversation, I started complaining about some trivial inconvenience. Read more →

GOOD: AN ANTIDOTE TO OVERPARENTING

A few years ago, I met up with a friend at a coffee shop in San Diego. My friend was a lieutenant commander in the navy who had served as a member of a SEAL team in Iraq. But right now, we were just two pals chit-chatting over coffee. At one point in our conversation, I started complaining about some trivial inconvenience.

Read more →

HIDDEN LESSONS IN HISTORY You know that over the course of the three-year cycle of history, VanDamme Academy students are learning about the progress of human civilization... But did you know that your kids are simultaneously making a progress of their own? Read more →

HIDDEN LESSONS IN HISTORY

You know that over the course of the three-year cycle of history, VanDamme Academy students are learning about the progress of human civilization...

But did you know that your kids are simultaneously making a progress of their own?

Read more →

TEACHING SCIENCE INDUCTIVELY- PART I We gain knowledge by an inductive discovery process. Whether we consider the scientific genius who first made a discovery, or the student who is learning about it, the process is essentially the same.  It begins with observations and low-level concepts, and moves by means of experiment and mathematics to higher-level concepts, generalizations and theories... Read more →

TEACHING SCIENCE INDUCTIVELY- PART I

We gain knowledge by an inductive discovery process. Whether we consider the scientific genius who first made a discovery, or the student who is learning about it, the process is essentially the same.  It begins with observations and low-level concepts, and moves by means of experiment and mathematics to higher-level concepts, generalizations and theories...

Read more →