Saturday, October 20, 2007

Chess for Juniors

Chess for Juniors, by Robert M. Snyder, covers basic and intermediate chess concepts for young people.  We are using the book with our 6yo dd, who started learning chess when she was 4 or 5.  She’s been reading kids chess books since she learned to read over a year ago, and she’s been playing chess against the computer for over a year as well.  However, I am not qualified to teach her anything more than just how the pieces move, and without instruction she becomes discouraged as the computer repeatedly wins their games because she is not using strategy.  So we bought this book to work through together so that she would have a better foundation in chess.  I am working through it with her, about one chapter or half of a chapter each week.  We get the chess board out so that we can set it up to match the illustrations in the book.  So far (we are just on chapter 6), I have found the presentation very clear and easy to follow, and the topics move slowly enough for us without being plodding.  The book covers the very basics, such as how each piece moves, as well as more advanced topics such as specific openings to learn and employ.

Parenting with Love and Logic

Parenting with Love and Logic, by Jim Fay and Foster Cline, presents many of the same parenting concepts recommended by Charlotte Mason 100 years ago.  The first half of the book covers the philosophy while the second half provides specific examples of the philosophy in action.  The relatively simple philosophy centers on natural consequences, allowing children to learn from their own mistakes.  The book clearly lays out principles to follow and provides guidelines for knowing how to use natural consequences (or logical consequences if natural consequences are not appropriate).  I found a great deal of resonance between this book and Charlotte Mason’s principles for child training.  If you have read Charlotte Mason but need to see her principles in action or if you needed more explanation of her principles from a modern perspective, this book can help.  The book does not really deal with habit training, which is a key component of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, but right at the very end of the first half of the book it gives a brief explanation of how to apply their principles that hints at the habit training aspects of CM.  Of all the many parenting books I’ve read, this one seems the most compatible with CM’s philosophy and also the most practically helpful.  However, the advice, if taken to an extreme, could lead to callous parenting.  I don’t think that’s the authors’ intent, but it’s certainly possible.  Also, some of the example consequences were not ones which I was comfortable allowing in my own home, and some just wouldn’t work with homeschooling.


I’ve been thinking about this, and I think maybe I should amend my review to add a little clarification.  I really did get a CM-comfortable vibe while reading the first half of this book, the philosophy half.  Many of her principles were there, such as not pestering the children with endless demands and commands, setting a good example yourself, using natural (or logical) consequences, not manipulating the children but allowing them to make their own choices, and others.

However, when I mentioned that habit training was missing, I should have emphasized that more.  CM wanted us to use even natural consequences only when absolutely necessary.  If we are consistently training the children via habit training, consequences of any kind should be rarely necessary.  Also, the training process should ideally be almost invisible to the children, happening below their radar so to speak.  This book does not acknowledge any of that, so it relies very much on the consequences to do the work.

Depending on where you and your children are in this process, you might need to really use consequences for awhile to get the kids on track before you can focus on more gentle habit training.  But long term, you wouldn’t want to stay primarily in the consequences mode if you were following CM’s recommendations.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Math Progress

Our formal math lessons are still working through addition and subtraction.  We’ve covered up through the 7′s, I think.  I don’t present more advanced math concepts usually because I want to make sure we follow an orderly progression that helps develop strong numeracy.  Sometimes, though, dd figures things out on her own (which is fine).

A week or so ago she told me that she really preferred numbers that had two in them, like 4, which had two 2′s, or 6, which had 4 and 2.  After we talked about this a bit, I told her about even and odd numbers.  She was able to explain the difference in the result when you add two even numbers versus two odd numbers or one of each.

Another night in the car she asked me what half of 2 was.  We talked about that and how to figure it, and she went on to tell me what half was for all the even numbers up through twenty.  Then she asked about half of 9, so we talked about why we couldn’t do half of 9 without using a number in between 4 and 5.  I didn’t bring up whole numbers as a concept.

DH surreptitiously asked me if we had covered this stuff in school, and I told him we had not.  Sometimes these concepts come up while we are doing other things, so it’s not as though we never discuss them, but we aren’t formally learning them.  For instance, dd offered up the fact that 16 and 16 are 32.  Well, upon questioning her, I learned that she got that fact from a lullaby on a CD they listen to at night sometimes.  I knew that but had forgotten, and she took that lyric and filed it away in her math facts.