Friday, November 16, 2012

Happiness as an Educational Goal

A couple of months ago, I took out Happiness and Education by Nel Noddings from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.  I have been meaning to write about it for a while now, but with the difficulty concentrating that I have due to fibro fog, reading takes me a very long time.  Anyway, I really enjoyed the book and its arguments.  I liked the discussion of happiness as a reasonable goal for education.  There really is quite a bit of support for it when looked at through the eyes of philosophy.

One of the best parts, however, was that it really illuminated how lopsided the conventional education system is towards hard academics and career preparation.  While intuitively, it seems unnecessarily to coop kids up on a nearly full-time basis for academics, I am not sure I thought about how many things that conventional school doesn't cover or cover enough that take up a significant part of life such as home making and interpersonal relationships.  I suppose that most people expect students to learn those things at home, but, of course, with all the time spent in school and on homework, they are not covered well at home either.

The book also touches on the inherent materialism that is the goal in education since everyone expects that if they work hard at school they'll get a good job and be able to buy everything they need.  Education is often cited as a way to promote equality and diminish poverty.  However, someone will always have to do the work that society values with low wages so it illuminates that poverty is a social problem and not an educational one.

These are just some of the things that I gleaned from reading this book.  I recommend it to everyone with kids, but especially homeschool parents.  While I haven't made dramatic changes to our routine because of it, it has helped me put our activities into good perspective.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Worm Farming Adventures

We have had a worm farm in our kitchen since before June 1st.  It has been a great learning experience for T and C.  My main reason for getting it is that I couldn't stand the idea that we put food scraps in the garbage.  Having the scraps be preserved, sort of, in plastic bags in a landfill bothered me.  Since we are in the city and close to large apartment buildings and businesses with dumpsters, a regular outdoor compost pile seemed out of the question since it could attract rats.  Most people compost to have a garden.  Hopefully, we will transform our front yard slowly starting next spring, but we are far from being gardening people.  It wasn't our main reason for getting one anyway, it was the landfill thing.

I waited until now to do a big post on it even though I have mentioned it on my other blog with our homeschool days itemized.  Now seems like an appropriate time since we recently rotated the last tray and found our mostly finished compost.

I say mostly finished because some of the paper wasn't eaten either because we didn't make the pieces small enough or because we had so much in the first tray as bedding.  However, the food was completely gone and we found no worms or cocoons as they had all hatched and migrated to the upper trays for new food.  We decided to put the paper back through one more time.  It was a great experience for the kids to see that the food was gone.  Here is a picture from June from that tray:

The journey was especially fun too.  We got to see the worms mate and we found cocoons.  Now that the population is much bigger, likely doubled, we catch them mating about half of all times we open the bin now. 

In this picture, there is both interlocked clittela between the worms and if you look closely, a nice cocoon near them.  Worms, in this case red wigglers, spend their days eating, crawling, and mating.  They mate weekly, when mature, and don't need to sleep.  They are hermaphrodites, but can't fertilize themselves.  Knowing their activities and optimum conditions is important for trouble shooting problems.  One example of a problem was escaping worms, not loads but too many.  In that case, we had stirred in food too soon that was still too hot and they had no cool place to find refuge.  We discussed chemistry a bit observing heat from the composting food.  It is important to note that microorganisms take care of the food and the worms eat them. 

Observation of worms in a habitat isn't the only positive.  It is also a good experience for the kids to take care of the farm draining the farm and adding food and paper.

It was a great all around project for biology, chemistry, environmentalism, responsibility, and sustainability, never mind the complete circle when we use the compost in our front yard.  The only part we bi-passed was making the farm.  I hit a sale on a tray set up and bought it when I had the chance to do it, but a more complete way to do this is to build your own using some of the videos on you tube as instructions.  In my case, I was concerned about my energy level and didn't want that to hold us back from the rest of the project.

If you have a worm farm, are you enjoying it?