Lecture by Lisa VanDamme on educating children in middle school


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Came across this lecture delivered by Lisa VanDamme in 1998. The lecture describes her experiences, learnings about educating middle school children in particular, while homeschooling 5 kids aged 11 and 12. She started homeschooling after parents disappointed by mainstream system came to her.

Here is the full lecture : http://www.vandammea...g_Education.pdf

The highlight of the lecture are the key principles demonstrated by transformation in kids within a span of 2 years.

Here are some of the important lines from various sections :


I teach the children literature, writing, grammar, vocabulary, math, science, and history. All of my students play musical instruments and are involved in sports, but these are strictly extra-curricular activities.


It is very stimulating to a child to understand that a novel is not just a sequence of events or a set of interesting characters, but that these characters and events are carefully and deliberately chosen by the author to convey a particular theme. By teaching them the fundamentals of literary analysis, you open their eyes to a new and profoundly important dimension of literature. Instead of passive observers, they become thoughtful scholars with the ability to integrate the characters and action to determine the novel’s theme.


Being able to write means being able to take a chaotic mass of information, pick out essentials, organize them into a logical structure, and express them articulately. Being able to write is essentially being able to think.

The process of writing is not taught in today’s schools.


I also want to mention that I strongly recommend that every child be taught how to diagram sentences. A diagram brings the relationships among the words in a sentence to the perceptual level.


I must say though, that I think to some extent math is an end-in-itself. I do not think it is necessary to bend over backwards trying to show a child that every math skill he acquires will be directly useful to him.

Math trains children in the skill of deductive reasoning. What is motivating to a child about doing math is not that he is convinced he cannot survive without it. It is the pleasure he derives from the mental exertion, and from knowing he can use his mind to solve a complex problem.


One day, Mr. Harriman was teaching the kids about the first evidence for the existence of atoms. He had spent several hours explaining many of the discoveries made by chemists, and he reached the Law of Combining Volumes, which states that the volumes of gases involved in a chemical reaction can always be expressed as a ratio of small integers. (For example, 2 L of H will combine with 1 L of O to make 2L of steam.) Francisco, as focused and intent as always, thought about this for a minute, and then raised his hand and asked, “Does that mean that equal volumes of gases contain equal numbers of molecules?”


My students love history, and they are able to recount the essentials of history from Ancient Greece to the early 19th century.

When I finished telling them the details of the trip, Aurora let out a big sigh, and lamented that she had been unable to appreciate these things when she had visited Europe two years before.


“Don’t make the mistake of thinking that these pupils of mine are some sort of superhuman creatures. They’re something much greater and more astounding than that: they’re normal children.” My students have the knowledge and the love of learning possible to all children given a good education.

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Science: the kid re-discovered (stated, as in completed) a classical law. It took me five minutes in Wikipedia before I could figure it out. While the kid had a lot more info to begin with than the guy who first came up with it, it's impressive. H2O is two H to one O expressed as volume the ratio is the same. One O combines with two H to get water as steam. Equal volume is equal molecules so you need twice the volume of one to the other. The grudge work, the real science, way back when was finding out what the boy was told to begin with.


in my defense I have a beer in my head

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Francisco, as focused and intent as always, thought about this for a minute, and then raised his hand and asked, “Does that mean that equal volumes of gases contain equal numbers of molecules?"

Last name d'Anconia? Avogadro constant

the number of molecules in one mole of one gas is the same as the number of molecules in one mole of another gas...

A mole of gas weighs the same number of grams as the atomic weight of the case. So two grams of H2 has the same number of molecules as 16 grams of 02 These are mole quantitiies.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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My daughter is a teacher and her five year old is about to start kindergarten. My granddaughter has not been officially home schooled but she can already read. As an aside (pat myself on the back) I have given money to Lavar Burton's Reading Rainbow project. So the dilemma is does she send her to public, private, or even Parochial school? Right now they are favoring Parochial school though we are not Catholics - it seems that good. My chief worry about the Private School isn't the cost. It is the fact that the kids who go there come from wealthy families. The school is elitist and cliquish, with uniforms similar to Parochial School but undoubtedly more expensive. I tried to do some research on graduates of the private school and their reviews online were very positive and glowing. We shall see what will be. Lisa Van Damme sounds like a real go getter.

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