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Month: June 2019

Washington Homeschool Organization Conference Notes: Dale McGowan – Engaging Ethics

Special note: even though Dale writes about parenting from a non-religious point of view, his talks were not from any pro or anti-religion point of view. The two books of his I’ve linked at the end of the post were not referenced in his talks, but are included as a small sample of his work.

Not knowing what is wrong is rare – you already know what is right. Example: “you mean to say murder is WRONG?!” No one says that.

Morality – prosocial, helps people, improves lives

Moral stages (1950s-1970s)

  • Piaget’s developmental stages
  • Kohlberg’s moral development

Moral development stars earlier than previously thought – 12-24 mos = shame, guilt, pride etc can be felt. Theory of mind – can be used to comfort or mess with someone else. Parents are the early regulator.

Moral development acts on existing temperament – 40-70% of temperament is genetic. Temperaments – open, slow to warm, negatively reactive.

Moral development positively correlates to healthy attachment to primary caregiver.

Moral development: experience > formal teaching.

Religion is an unrelated variable — Dr. Larry Nucci — studies children’s moral development. Moral indoctrination interferes with moral development, children can’t think morally.

Moral development has a mostly positive default. Children will hit moral landmarks regardless of what parents do.

The Ethical Eight

  1. Responsive and prosocial home life, strong attachment
  2. Encourage active moral reasoning
  3. Don’t hit or humiliate kids
  4. Encourage kids to question authority, including yours
  5. Make them comfortable with differences
  6. Use knowledge to drive out fear
  7. Teach and expect responsibility and maturity
  8. R E L A X

Some of Dale’s books:

Dale’s Website

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Washington Homeschool Organization Conference Notes: Kieran O’Mahony – Ignite Your Children’s Learning With A Neural Lens

Basic overview of the brain

The amygdala controls defense (fight, flight, react)

Boredom results in shutting down and can move us into the defense mode. If a child doesn’t feel safe they can’t learn.

We can move the brain to use the prefrontal cortex and restore calm.

Learning Components

  • Physical Movement – BDNF (brain-derived neurtrophic factor)
  • Choice and Prediction – we all hate being told what to do (can cause us to be reactive)
    • when we are predicting we can not be functioning from the amygdala
  • Fun and Laughter – releases feel-good neurotransmitters, makes the brain “talk”
    • serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin
  • Human Interaction – also releases feel-good neurotransmitters
    • a lack of human interaction releases cortisol
  • Sense of Discovery – prefrontal cortex –> curiosity, imagination, creation
    • discover the answers vs being told them
    • we are hardwired to learn
    • boredom activates the amygdala

Dandelion vs Orchid Children

Serotonin Transport Gene – short, long.

  • Dandelions: long/long
  • Orchid: short/short
  • can be a combination (short/long)

Dandelions are resilient kids who thrive in any environment. Orchids need to be greenhoused – very sensitive children. 23andme can show the results of this. You’ll know if you have an orchid.

Always teach towards the orchid, dandelions flourish wherever they are.

The Environment

Also important for learning:

  • Safety (obviously)
  • Sleep (regular routine, 7 days a week – practice good sleep hygiene)
  • Low cluttered spaces keeps working memory open

Working Memory

1950s – Miller’s Law –> 4+/- 2

The Finger/Palm Game

Engaged a lot of learning components

Anticipation is often greater than the reward


Keep lessons short, end on success

The younger the child, the more activities are needed

Kieran’s Websites:

Kieran has a book coming out this fall (IIRC) as well.

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Washington Homeschool Organization Conference Notes: Dale McGowan – The Four Parenting Styles

Special note: even though Dale writes about parenting from a non-religious point of view, his talks were not from any pro or anti-religion point of view. The two books of his I’ve linked at the end of the post were not referenced in his talks (The Altruistic Personality was), but are included as a small sample of his work.

  • Parenting guidance in the 1920s:
    • John Watson
      • Little Albert and conditioned response
      • Holding babies will spoil them
  • Parenting guidance in the 1950s:
    • John Bowlby
      • attachment theory
  • Parenting guidance in the 1960s:
    • Harry Harlow
      • cloth and wire monkey experiment
    • Diana Baumrind
      • discipline
      • warmth
      • communication
      • expectations
  • Four Parenting Styles:
    • authoritarian
    • authoritative
    • permissive
    • uninvolved (added by Martin)


  • Permissive Parents can be:
    • affectionate
    • anxious to please
    • can’t say no and stick to it
    • easily manipulated
  • Permissive parenting outcomes in kids:
    • demanding and whiny
    • easily frustrated
    • lacking empathy and kindness
    • poor to average student
    • a follower
  • Uninvolved parents can be:
    • emotionally removed
    • unpredictable
    • inconsistent
  • Uninvolved parenting outcomes in kids:
    • clingy and needy
    • rude
    • troublemakers
    • poor students
    • a follower
  • Authoritarian parents can be:
    • emotionally aloof
    • “because I said so”
    • emphasize differential in power and rights
    • physical punishment and/or verbal insults
    • dismisses a child’s feelings (eg: “that’s not something to cry over!”)
  • Authoritarian parenting outcomes in kids:
    • well behaved
    • average to good student
    • moody and anxious
    • a follower
  • Authoritative parents can be:
    • affectionate and engaged
    • set limits and enforce consequences
    • use reason, logic, and appropriate negotiation
    • empower decision making
  • Authoritative parenting outcomes in kids:
    • happy and kind
    • good at problem solving
    • a leader
    • a good student
    • cooperative and responsible


  • How to parent authoritatively
    • listen repsonsively
    • validate emotions
    • establish clear rules with clear reasons
    • positive incentives
    • logical, proportional consequences
    • allow small choices from an early age (but beware the paradox of choice)
    • balance freedom and responsibility
    • encourage self-discipline by always moving toward autonomy and allowing mistakes

The following book links are Amazon affiliates, meaning I get a small commission if you use these links to purchase. Thank you for your support.

A book recommended by Dale: The Altruistic Personality: Rescuers of Jews in Nazi Germany
Some of Dale’s books:

Dale’s Website

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Washington Homeschool Organization Conference Notes: Ed Zaccaro – 8 Components of Quality Math Education


Math is typically taught as “all scales, no music”. By tuning into our children’s passions, we can help them achieve excellence.

It is important to include real life math investigations – helps eliminate the “I’ll never use X” thought.

Make math interesting, challenging, and important.

Example: Dr. Alice Stewart used math (statistics) to show that X-rays of pregnant women had a valid result of an increase in childhood leukemia in the 1950s.

A child’s interest and passions are NOT always their areas of giftedness. Don’t squelch them.

Use math to solve real world problems:

Example: the gold kangaroo coin for $100 that is absolutely tiny because the advertisers used mm to show the diameter.

Example: whalers would promise 1/200 of profits, some hired men would DEMAND 1/300 of the profits not knowing they were getting ripped off.

A way of making math interesting: take boring worksheets and turn them into a game, ie “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire”



We can benefit from our mistakes. Some math mistakes in media:

Wizard of Oz: the scarecrow doesn’t properly quote the Pythagorean Theorem after he gets his brain

Proposition 203 in Arizona (cigarette tax)

Help kids develop GRIT

When working work variables, try the 2-10 method. Example:

Tom paints n cars in t hours. How many cars does he paint in an hour?
Tom paints 2 cars in 10 hours. How many cars does he paint in an hour? (5, t/n)


Introduce various subjects like math, history, science, analogy, etc. Dinner time trivia is a good painless way to do so.


Example: marble jar

You don’t need to be a math superstar in order to teach math.


Example: Level 1, 2, 3, and Einstein level of math problems.

Kids in primary grades can do much harder math problems than we expect (intuitive learning)


Keep learning basic facts

Teach thinking, not rote


This forces a thorough understanding of place value

Base 2, 5, 10, etc

Some of Ed’s Books:
The following links are Amazon affiliates, meaning I get a small commission if you use these links to purchase. Thank you for your support.

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Book Notes for: Rewiring Education

Title: Rewiring Education: How Technology Can Unlock Every Student’s Potential
Publisher: BenBella Books, Inc
Authors: John D. Couch, Apple Inc’s First Vice President of Education and Jason Towne, research fellow at Harvard University

Why I read this book: I’m always interested in how technology and education fuse and I’m especially interested in challenging educational norms. I’m a product of the public school system and while a lot has changed since I went through it; a lot has still stayed the same.

The premise: our current educational models are in dire need of reform. The traditional public school system was designed to produce workers, not thinkers. In a technological age we are in need of thinkers. Before we can revolutionize education we must first understand aspects of learning such as potential, motivation, and even the learning environments. After we’ve understood that, how can we harness and utilize technology – and encourage our kids to become creators, not consumers? How can we use the technology our kids know and love to transform their education, to enable them to solve problems – but more importantly; how to think.

Interesting to note: David Thornburg (an educational futurist) talks about three learning spaces – the campground, the watering hole, and the cave. Couch and Towne add the mountain. Campground is one to many (think stories around the campfire), the watering hole is peer to peer (think of workers in the office or a group project in school), and the cave is one to one (reflective assimilation of what you’ve learned). The mountain is the environment where mistakes are encouraged and supported (like climbing a mountain, you’re going to slip and stumble from time to time).

Examples: Mythbusters, Sal Khan, Wifi on Wheels, Apple Camps, The Primary School, Ad Astra School, Minecraft

Worth Googling: challenge-based learning, Health Without Borders, blended learning

Overall take-home message: Technology can be the great equalizer in terms of giving every child access to a watering hole. An online course for coding can link children all across the United States regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds, geographical locations, or schooling choice. Provide access, opportunities to build things, and teach your kids to code. Coding teaches kids to THINK – even if they never go on to be computer programmers. Technology is just like any other tool – used well and it can do great things for us, used poorly and it can be extremely detrimental. Therefore, it’s important to look at psychology long before we look at technology; so we can make sure we are using technology appropriately.

Recommended for: people interested in the intersection of technology and education, people looking for an outside the box approach to education, people who need some positive information about technology and kids, homeschoolers or afterschoolers who are tired of the same old approach to learning that they experienced

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Grades 2,4, and 6: Wildwood Curriculum

After lots of thought and research, I’ve decided not write my own curricula this school year. While I thoroughly enjoy writing my own, this is not the season for me to do so. Some factors that weighed in my decision:

  • the newly diagnosed learning disabilities
  • the number of appointments each week for therapies + regular checkups (vision, dental, medical)
  • my health
  • my goals for the kids for the upcoming school year
  • what worked and what didn’t work from the previous school year
  • where the kids are at in terms of age
  • what I’m expecting the upcoming year to be like
  • and so on

I decided to definitely go with Wildwood Curriculum as much as possible, substituting books that we already have read as needed. I’m not expecting too much modification, except for my 9 year old who isn’t quite ready for Form 2 but has done most of their Form 1 readings. For him I’ll be making a combination Form 1/Form 2 transition year.

Now that I have my bearings for all the kids, the fun part begins: selecting books and writing out the weekly plans!

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