Back from techno-hell

After six days trying to get back into my WordPress admin account, I can post again! And the error messages are gone! I will get a new posts up soon.

Olá de novo

I’m back from our Brazil trip — fabulous waterfalls at Iguazu and four very hot (and humid) days in Rio. It turns out February is the hottest month there.

We saw soccer volleyball — they kick and head the ball, but don’t use their hands — on Copacabana beach, and hit the usual tourist sites, such as the Christ the Redeemer statue. Sugar Loaf, the Teatro Municipal and Santa Teresa. We didn’t see any mosquitoes, though I’m more at risk from insect repellent poisoning than Zika.

Blogging will resume today.

Flying down to Rio

This blog is taking its first vacation in 15 years — no guest bloggers — while I’m in Rio de Janeiro and Iguazu Falls. Yes, we’ve stocked up on insect repellant.

Why are we going on this trip so soon after going to New Zealand? Let’s just say that my husband would jump off a cliff if he could get a discount on it.

Anyhow, as part of my vow to chill out in 2016, I decided to let the blog take a vacation too. I’ll be back by March 1 or so.

New year, New Zealand

New Zealand’s Milford Sound

While you’re welcoming 2016 — or nursing your hangover — I am jetting to Australia, and then, in a few days, to New Zealand. I’ve wanted to go there for many years and my husband finally figured out how to use our frequent-flyer points to make it happen.

Darren will be guest-blogging in this space for the next week. Then I’m doing something I’ver never done before: Letting the blog go on vacation.

It’s my resolution for 2016: Be less obsessive.

I’ll resume blogging on Jan. 19 — or so.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Mama Squirrel is hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling — the Retirement Edition — at Dewey’s Treehouse.

I’m back

Thanks to Darren of Right on the Left Coast for blogging up a storm while I was traveling.

I had a moment in St. Petersburg that reminded me that comprehension depends on knowledge. We were walking along Nevsky Prospect, the main drag, when police cars blocked the road. We saw several jeeps with elderly women leading thousands of young, jovial rollerbladers in red T-shirts with a word in Russian. (Not being able to read Cyrillic was very, very frustrating for me.) Some were carrying the old Soviet flag with the hammer and sickle.  Pro-Communist demonstrators? They seemed too young. Then I saw the shirts said “1945.”

I knew the city — then Leningrad — had survived a 2 1/2-year siege during World War II. The Soviet flag had been the country’s flag in 1945, the flag of victory. When I got a wi-fi connection, I asked an app to translate “victory” to Russian. Yep. It was the word on the shirt.

I’m now in Kentucky for a family wedding. I believe the reception is at a bourbon distillery.

What can the world learn from Finland?

fl_coverMarc Tucker looks at two very different takes on Finland’s education system.

Finland has aced PISA exams by trusting first-class teachers to teach well, not by hold them accountable for test scores, argues Pasi Sahlberg in Finnish Lessons: What can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

In Real Finnish Lessons, Gabriel Heller Sahlgren argues that long-standing policies and practices caused Finland’s 2000 rise.

Teachers are respected in Finnish culture, which is more conservative than other Nordic countries, Sahlgren writes. Finland was a poor country until recently.

. . . as in most Asian countries, (Finnish) children were taught to defer to and obey their elders; obedience in this very hierarchical society was a cardinal virtue. . . . well after many other countries had adopted more progressive methods, Finnish teachers lectured and their students wrote down what they said in notebooks and learned it. Period. None of this currently fashionable student-as-constructor-of-knowledge and teacher-as-guide stuff. The increasing autonomy granted Finnish teachers under the new regime was used, he says, by many, if not most teachers to persist in their old ways.

Finns used to be known for their determination to succeed in the face of adversity, Sahlgren writes. Prosperity has eroded that grit. “Finnish students, who used to do what they were told, however boring and difficult it might have been, are now much harder for Finnish teachers to control. Finnish teachers may have no choice but to adopt more progressive attitudes and teaching methods.”

And Finland’s PISA scores are slipping somewhat.  On a new international ranking, which uses PISA, TIMSS and Terce scores, the top five countries for math and science achievement for 15-year-olds are Asian, followed by Finland and Estonia.

Tucker has some doubts about the thesis.

As it happens, I’m on my way to Finland, though not to check up on their schools. We’re visiting Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Tallinn (Estonia).

Darren Miller of Right on the Left Coast has graciously agreed to guest blog while I’m away.


SAM_6712.JPGI’m back from Japan, though just a bit confused about what time or day it is. We did indeed see spectacular cherry blossoms — our timing was perfect — as well as gardens, temples, mountains and lots of Japanese people. We bathed at hot springs. We learned to cook okonomyaki, a Japanese crepe with cabbage, bean sprouts, pork and other things. We boated through the Oboke Gorge.

Thanks to my guest bloggers for keeping the blog lively. I see the college admissions post has 58 comments.

I’ll be posting later today, as I recover from jet lag.


I’m off to Japan to look at cherry blossoms.

As your vacation from me, enjoy the bloggery of Diana Senechal (On Education and Other Things), Michael E. Lopez, Darren Miller (Right on the Left Coast) and Rachel Levy (All Things Education).

Carnival of Homeschooling

March Madness is the theme of the Carnival of Homeschooling, which is hosted by Corn and Oil .

Laurie Bluedorn writes about homeschool burnout at Trivium Pursuit.