There sure are a lot of experts. Here are some who have caught my eye, and who might be interesting reads for you. I can't remember the cry it out guy's name (or book), since it never, um, appealed to me (was that polite enough?) so I won't be suggesting it. There are a lot of other alternatives, though, to getting so fed up with your kid's demands that you make them go cold turkey. Like limit setting right from the start. Or my favorite, which is "when mom gets sick of it, things change."
Things to read about your child and education
I like David Elkind, author of The Hurried Child and Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk. Here's an essay of his called Much too Early! that talks about children's education. Interestingly enough, it's from a homeschooling site. Here's another essay of his from CIO (Chief Information Officer) Magazine, called The Reality of Virtual Stress. He really knows his Piaget, his Steiner, his Montessori, and he can give you a bit of an overview (within his context, but it's still good.)
So who is this Piaget guy, anyway?
Piaget is one of the foremost educational thinkers. His ideas are kind of opposite of Freud's "assume everybody is screwed up" approach, in my humble opinion.
Overview of Piaget
Now I'm literally just throwing this together because my son wants me to play blocks and it's really time to get him out of his footsie pajamas, but you might want to check out this link for a total overview of Piaget's concepts:
Piaget felt that critical minds were absolutely necessary for the survival of a free society:
"The principal goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply repeating what other generations have done - men who are creative, inventive and discoverers." [Ed. Note: um, I'm sure that he meant men and WOMEN here...]
"The second goal of education is to form minds that can be critical, can verify, and not accept everything they are offered. The great danger today is of slogans, collective opinions, ready-made trends of thought. We have to be able to resist individually, to criticize, to distinguish between what is proven and what is not. So we need Students who are active, who learn early to find out by themselves, who learn early to tell what is verifiable and what is simply the first idea to come to them."
The Reggio Emilia approach
Here is a smattering of information about the Reggio Emilia schools. I have information on this somewhere else also, so we'll have to wait until I FIND it to consolidate the two!
Child-initiated versus direct instruction programs
Why are people so crazy about the child-initiated learning approach?
The ECAP collaborative at the University of Chicago gives a very good overview of the seminal studies which seem to indicate that direct instruction of preschool-aged kids gives you a smart-sounding preschooler (for a year or two), but child-initiated learning programs gives you a child who performs better in the long term, and is happier with school and more interested in reading. That's reading things into it, of course. Here's a sentence that you should see from the site: "In the Illinois study, 78% of the nursery school group that engaged in child-initiated activities with minimal teacher support graduated from high school, compared with only 48% of the direct instruction group " Stuff like that. Here's the overview. And here's a paper by Lillian Katz called Curriculum Disputes in Early Childhood Learning. And no, "minimal teacher support" doesn't really mean that if you just ignore them they'll do fine.
Tell me about projects and project learning.
Lilian Katz seems to be the doyenne of project-based learning. I believe that she's also one of the people behind ERIC. If you search through ERIC, you can read many of her writings. She's also published a few books on the topic. One is called Young Investigators: The Project Approach in the Early Years. Another, recently updated book, is called Engaging Children's Minds: The Project Approach. Second Edition, by Lillian Katz and Sylvia Chard. This book talks about several different projects and appendices include guidelines for projects on houses, seedpods, instructions for making a book, and several project webs. Sally Beneke wrote a book called Rearview Mirror: Reflections on a Preschool Car Project, a summary of which is up on the ERIC site. If your kid is attending a Reggio Emilio school and you want to understand the project stuff better (or get involved), this might be good detailed way to look at how a school used a project..
Can I do project-based learning at home?
Yup. You bet. Here's a link called Best Practices Workshops, which ties in with a book (which I haven't read or even seen, since it doesn't come out until March of 2004) called Teaching your child to Love Learning: a Guide to Projects at Home. This link is actually to someone who is doing a workshop based upon Lillian Katz's book, and it has a bit of "spiritual" stuff stuck in with it (darn), but it might be of use to homeschoolers. It also contains some contextual stuff. Probably the best book that I saw for doing project at home is called Beautiful Stuff: Learning with Found Materials, by Cathy Weisman Topal. It talks about taking found materials and making things with them, which immediately appealed to me.
In my humble opinion, it's a good parenting strategy to grab ideas from Montessori (those cute little pitchers!), Reggio Emilia, and Waldorf with impunity. Educate yourself and use it to do stuff with your kid at home. Beats projects culled from "Better Homes and Gardens," right? Although those little popcorn Christmas trees are pretty neat...
Rudolf Steiner's Waldorf approach
My mother is a continuation school principal who has used Waldorf techniques on her students for ... oh, ten? fifteen years? She became very interested in the Steiner stuff and, since she's a voluble type, I heard lots and lots of stuff about it. We also tend to, um, delve into things as a family so ... wanna know about color theory and so forth? Biodynamic farming? Steiner was indeed a very interesting fellow.
It's 1/7/04 and I'm just starting to put Waldorf stuff up. It will take me a bit of time since I need to search through my files, so .. give me a bit.
The Association of Waldorf Schools of North America.(AWSNA) has a lovely page of Waldorf informational links. I really think that it's the best place to start. Two smart, interesting people named Bob and Nancy have a Waldorf website. Educated in math and history, they have a fascinating background and have been involved with Waldorf for over 20 years. Here is Bob and Nancy's Waldorf resources page. Hmmn. Apparently that link gets you to the page. Click on Waldorf for the Waldorf resources page, which includes lectures by Steiner to prospective Waldorf parents (note: Steiner is dead. These lectures are not current since, unlike the Dianetics folks, nobody publishes from the grave.) And here is a link to Bob and Nancy's very cool bookstore. Interesting. They sell the Finnish Moomin books, which are mentioned in our children's links page. They sell a broad range of neat looking books, frankly.
Parents commenting on waldorf education
I asked Tara if I could include her comment about her 5.5 year old who has been attending Waldorf school for three years. I thought that it was a wonderful encapsulated description of the strengths of Waldorf education for a boy.
"My son is in his third year attending a Waldorf preschool,
beginning when he was 2 1/2. What I notice in my son is an
amazing imagination, a long attention span, a reverence for
the beauty in the natural world, a sense of wonder for the
magical and the mysterious, and the ability to communicate
his thoughts and feelings very articulately. Some of this
may be due to who he is, but I do attribute much to the
school, his lack of exposure to media, and being around
other children who are also not exposed to much media. He
is still very much a boy, and can roughhouse and wrestle
with the best of them. But he can also sit through a
lengthy story or puppet show without trouble. Though
Waldorf education certainly isn't for everyone in the
grades, I think that their philosophy of ''a childs work is
play'' is beneficial for all young children, regardless of
where they go to school later."
The heavy stuff
This section is NOT ORGANIZED correctly. For example, I don't think it goes here, so please don't let it scare you!
Okay, moving right along, I kept wondering what Goethean meant, so now I know: "Goethean science is science based on the approach of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, author of FAUST, and who is most generally known for his poetry and literature." Here's a link describing Goethean. Incidentally, here's a link to the Goethean studies website at the Rudolf Steiner college.
Respect for infants?
Emmi Pickler from Hungary has some very interesting concepts based upon her work with orphans. First and foremost, she argued, one should respect the child. Magda Gerber down in Los Angeles has started something called Resources for Infant Educators based upon Pickler's research. Their site defines something that they call Educarers, who "show respect, for example, by not picking up an infant without telling him beforehand, by talking directly to her and not over her, and by waiting for the child's response. Such respectful attitudes help to develop an authentic child." Gerber has written a few books, including Your Self-Confident Baby.
Links from teachers and schools
This section is for browsing. It links to many schools and many educators' sites. Many people who put these sites together have great ideas and really know what they're doing. Why not check 'em out, even if they're in the midwest?
This website has some interesting quotes about education. It was put together by an Australian school with highfaluting concepts. And what's wrong with those? Nothing at all. In my opinion, read it all and then go with your gut. This site is written by a teacher who describes curriculum for the teacher's kindergarten class. In particular, I liked the resource list at the end of the curriculum.
Amusing and interesting links
Have you heard of hte Psi Cafe? They are a Psychology Resource site.