Thursday, January 31, 2013

In My Father's House, There are Many Rooms....

I had an epic dream last night.  I dreamed that I was in the house of my childhood--except that it wasn’t really.  It wasn’t a house that in my waking life I had ever been in before, but the feeling of the big old rambling house was that it was ‘home’.  It was a huge house, full of many, many rooms, each room full of things, the belongings, the accumulated memorabilia and ephemera of a lifetime.  

The house, which had been added on to and added on to over the generations, was a house of the accumulations of centuries of living and rooms of memories of a long and full life.  And we--the relatives with whom I was wandering through the house--had been alive a long, long time. 

We wandered from room to room, looking at things, toys, games, photos, items and rooms that evoked memories and places.  In some of the rooms were other relatives, old, still, but not really dead, just…part of the furniture, part of walls, the room itself in the particular room where they had chosen to finally take a rest.  And that’s what we, the relatives I stood with, were looking for--the room to finally take our rest.  

You see, we’d been alive for a long time, much longer than normal--like hundreds of years--and it had been a long, full and wonderful life.  And we were thinking that perhaps, it was time to stop, sit, and rest and we were looking for the room where we wanted to spend the remainder of our time.  

But as we wandered, looking at toys, photos, out the window, the stacks and piles of collected souvenirs of a lifetime of living, thinking through the memories that the plethora of belongings in each of the rooms evoked in us, one of us said, “There’re so many things I’d like to do just one more time before we rest.”  “We haven’t played this game in awhile.”  “I’d like to walk along the shores of Lake Superior again.”  “I need to get back to Street Fair just one more time.”  “I haven’t talked to so-and-so in ages…I should call her….”  So we kept walking….walking through the rooms, the many rooms of the age-old mansion….

Friday, January 25, 2013

Writing the Research Paper--another educational adventure with Ben

Hi, Mrs. Goble--

Here is a more coherent email about Ben's progress on the research paper.

I think I've told you what an 'difficult' child Ben can be.  He's probably, what do you call it, Oppositional-Defiant (?), ADD,  and OCD and most days it's a daily battle just to get him clean, clothed, and properly fed.  Then, we come to school work.  It's kind of amazing that I'm able to push him as hard as I push him to get the grades he gets.  He basically failed the 7th grade at his Brick & Mortar school, so I'm really very pleased with the progress he's made this year.

First of all, we're doing fine with the topic of researching a higher education option.  I know we had talked earlier about having him do last year's topic of researching a legend (Big Foot, the Loch Ness Monster, etc.), but two things happened:  1) he was looking up fantasy characters like Chuthulu (from HP Lovecraft) and Japanese anime gods and other amazingly obscure (and fictional) stuff....I decided that he needed a dose of reality, rather than more fantasy; 2) after the discussion about what he should DO a legend paper on, I made a second executive decision that I wasn't up to fighting my way through TWO research papers with him.

Second, we've turned in the first form of the first assignment where we listed our sources, the proper MLA form and a description of each source, but we have not turned in the second assignment where we list questions, list the source and write the answers in small boxes.  As you may or may not know, I preview a good number of the lessons and portfolio projects for Ben to try to find ways to approach the project in concrete and linear ways that won't overwhelm Ben (or me).  He gets frustrated with jotting things down on an organizing worksheet and then having to recopy it on an electronic form and then taking the notes and copying it again into research paper language.  It seems redundant and I don't blame him.  Sometimes I am amazed at what he can and can't process.  For example, we were looking at a list of campus organizations and clubs for BSU, and Ben was writing specific clubs HE would be interested in.  That is fine, but what were trying to do is come up with some general, blanket statements about the variety of opportunities for involvement at BSU.  In short, he was unable to look and read and come up with something like, "Ball State has a huge variety of student organizations including the Chess Club, the Anime Club, Belly-Dancing, and Intramural Sports."  It was interesting to see that.

In any case, what I'm getting at here is that neither one of us found the "Brain-Storming:  Research Questions and Notes" form to be useful to the project.  He's very easily frustrated and I didn't want to frustrate him more by trying to complete a form that didn't seem to fit into the flow of what we were doing.  So...I wanted to tell you what we ended up doing, if that is worth anything.

[This is a strategy I learned from the National Urban Association when they came to do a three-year project in IPS.]  Before yesterday's Live Lesson, I had had him make a list of ten questions he wanted to answer during the course of the research.  I copied all of those on to post-it notes.  We then added some questions after sitting through the Live Lesson yesterday.  Then, I had him look at the post-it notes and think generally about what kinds of questions we were asking.  We grouped them into these categories:  What You Need to do to Get Into the College, Basics about the School, What You Can Learn, and Living at College.  We went to the library this morning and proceeded to work on answering the questions one at a time, which he did in paragraph form in a Word document, which can then become a part of his final paper.  Using this strategy, we are now 1/3 of the way done with the entire paper.  I have to say that he and I are very pleased with the progress we've made.  We had fun researching Ball State and picking out some books about careers in animation and film.  It was a great morning.

So...anyway, if you need to count off on the project because we didn't fill out that form, that's fine, but I did want you to know that we learn the skill that the the form was teaching.

Mrs. Goble, thanks for being a good an understanding teacher.  I'm not saying that just so you'll excuse Ben from that paper, but I really do feel grateful to you and to INCA for providing a way for my son to be successful and for me to take an active part in his achievement.  It truly is a daily battle here, but I honestly think that he is making some progress, gaining some skills and so forth.  I don't know yet if college is in is future, but it's heartening to see, every once in awhile, a spark of interest from him in something academic and in his future.  :-)

Christine Schaefer