Monday, December 15, 2008

The Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers has moved to Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

I've been having a problem with my left eye. I have an inflammation of the vitreous that is not responding to medication. This has resulted in an eye that is extremely light sensitive and extremely painful. Added to this, what little vision I did have in that eye is almost entirely gone. As you can imagine, I have been restricting activities that require use of my eyes Blogging and reading blogs is one of those things.

I have no idea how long this inflammation is going to take to clear (after a week of heavy doses of steroids it had shown no improvement. I am now fasting and have doubled the steroids. This means I am now exhausted from lack of food and in pain from the steroid toxicity in my eye.)

All this conspired to me not being able to host the Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers.

Kris of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers has kindly agreed to take over the carnival.

Read the first of her carnivals here.

She's done a sterling job showcasing some very interesting blogs.

Homeschool Biggest Loser

My friend Lydia has organized a Homeschool Biggest Loser competition. I'm the "super secret data collector" so please make sure I am super busy by entering if you want to lose weight,
The Biggest Loser is a show on NBC where overweight people compete to lose weight over a course of three months of diet and exercise. Each week they weigh in and compare their weight loss as a percentage of their total weight. There are benefits to winning the “weigh in” each week, and then the winner at the end gets a large sum of money. All over the country, groups of friends, co-workers, and neighbors form their own “Biggest Loser” groups, combining public accountability with friendly competition to motivate them to lose weight.

I am organizing a group like this, locally, for homeschooling moms/dads/grandmas/whatever and you are invited to join us.

Are you happy with your jeans size, your resting pulse, and your energy level? Then I salute you. If you’re not, then you and I have something in common. We’re not as skinny as we’d like, as healthy as we’d like, as active as we’d like, but basically we’re happy with life and it’s not that much of a priority to get fit. I’d like to lose forty pounds, but my weight isn’t an urgent issue for me. Most of my clothes fit, I manage to struggle around, and my husband likes me alright. I suffer from a lack of motivation, but as soon as competition is introduced, I am suddenly motivated.

We start January 1 and go for 12 weeks. So, the first official week ends on January 8 and the last ends on March 26. This is for locals in Hampton Roads only - sorry!

You weigh in each week on the same day with at least one other person. The aspect of public accountability is key to the “Biggest Loser” concept. You can sign up with a buddy or you can have a designated weigh-in person. That person reports your weight to our super secret data collector (Shez, who is not participating) and it gets put into the tabulation device (an Excel spreadsheet) and at the end of every Thursday, she will announce who lost the biggest percent of their total weight. If you’re switching the day you weigh, or if you don’t weigh in with someone else in a given week, you forego your chance to win that week’s prize but from then on you’re back in the contest. You could theoretically report one weight at the beginning and another one at the end and still win, if you have lost the biggest percentage of your starting weight.

The “buy-in” is two ten dollar bills which you put in the communal “pot” when you sign up. Each week the winner for that week gets one ten dollar bill. At the end of the 12 weeks the overall winner gets the $120 that’s left in the pot. This is assuming we get 12 people. If we get more, there will be more left in the pot. Or we may up the weekly winning, depending on what everybody wants once we get rolling. Shez will be operating the "pot" also, so you'll need to get your two tens to her at some point before January 1.

Everyone has to continue to love each other dearly.

Did I leave anything out? Do you have any questions? It’s late, and I’ve been formulating my plan to lose weight. It involves the Wii fit, a required number of tomatoes per day, and dog-walking.

If this contest sounds awful to you, I totally understand. Maybe it’s completely backward and wrong to combine money and competition with health and wellness. However, if this sounds like something that might be fun, might get you into an exercise routine or a healthier diet, then you are welcome to join us.

What do you think? Any takers? We have 7 members so far, and we have just launched a community on Ning where we can share photos, reports of celery consumption, whines about exercise, and keep track of weekly winners and fun events. You can see that here:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Very disturbing pictures of a poodle with a crazy owner

The pics on this website are very disturbing. I can't imagine going to all that trouble to trim and dye my dog's hair to make it look so weird.

Here's one of the pics to whet your appetite.

A reminder of how good we have it today!

I had one of those rotary telephones he talks about until I was in my mid 20's. Had to laugh at what he had to say about people with zeros in their telephone numbers.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

StoryCorps is declaring November 28, 2008 the first annual National Day of Listening.

from StoryCorps
This Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks you to start a new holiday tradition—set aside one hour on Friday, November 28th, to record a conversation with someone important to you. You can interview anyone you choose: an older relative, a friend, a teacher, or a familiar face from the neighborhood.

You can preserve the interview using recording equipment readily available in most homes, such as tape recorders, computers, video cameras or a pen and paper. Our free Do-It-Yourself Guide is easy to use and will prepare you and your interview partner to record a memorable conversation, no matter which method of recording you prefer.

We hope that you’ll make a yearly tradition of listening to and preserving a loved one’s story. The stories you collect will surely become treasured keepsakes, growing more valuable with each passing generation.

I'm reminded of the wonderful stories my grandfather Brian used to tell me. How I wish I had recorded them as a youngster. I plan on having Ben and Shira call their grandparents and great grandmother this Friday and record a story from each of them. They are both entranced by the stories Marc and I tell them and they love the story that their great grandmother tells of how the doctor wrote out her birth and death certificates at the same time, 94 years ago. She was born prematurely, in a blizzard in rural Maryland and weighed a scant 2lbs. The doctor wrote out the death certificate because he said there was no way she was going to survive and no way he was coming out in the blizzard again. Her aunt put her in a shoebox and placed her at the back of the coal stove. It worked! Two weeks ago we celebrated her 94th birthday.

I think that this is a great project for the kids. This is a project with legs. Seeing as my parents live half a world away, we'll wait until we see them again so that the children can video tape them telling more of their stories.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Gore's "Farenheit 9/11"

The Irish Times reports:
A new Irish film claims that climate change guru Al Gore is an alarmist and that those who think they are saving the planet are only hurting the poor

IF THE ADVANCE publicity is anything to go by, Not Evil Just Wrong will do for Al Gore what Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 did for George W Bush.

"This is the film Al Gore and Hollywood don't want you to see," declares the website for the latest work by film-makers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer. The site even features a big picture of Gore, with his lips in the photograph seemingly digitally enhanced to make them look like Heath Ledger's Joker from the latest Batman film.

The website goes on to say that their latest film - which takes on what are described as global warming alarmists - is "the most controversial documentary of the year". Indeed, it could very well be the most controversial. And Al Gore and Hollywood may well not want you to see it
. Read more.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Homeschooling cranky, convalescing children

We're just spent nearly 2 weeks in the Silverberg home battling the crud. Each child had a high fever for around a week, of course, there was very little over lap so it felt like it was never going to end.

Ben is now well but Shira, while her fever has broken, is still not feeling great and is very, very, very, very delicate. Did I say she was delicate? Perhaps I understate things when I use the word "delicate". She's my child who cries at the drop of a hat, who becomes frustrated at the drop of a hat and who beats herself up at the drop of a hat. That's when she's well. Take this behavior and multiply it a thousand fold and you have Shira when she's not feeling well.

We had half a dozen eruptions before 8am. I then decided that school was just not going to happen today. Instead we're listening to Patricia Wrede's, "Dealing with Dragons". Review
Cimorene, princess of Linderwall, is a classic tomboy heroine with classic tomboy strengths--all of which are perceived by those around her as defects: "As for the girl's disposition--well, when people were being polite, they said she was strong-minded. When they were angry or annoyed with her, they said she was as stubborn as a pig." Cimorene, tired of etiquette and embroidery, runs away from home and finds herself in a nest of dragons. Now, in Cimorene's world--a world cleverly built by author Patricia C. Wrede on the shifting sands of myriad fairy tales--princesses are forever being captured by dragons. The difference here is that Cimorene goes willingly. She would rather keep house for the dragon Kazul than be bored in her parents' castle. With her quick wit and her stubborn courage, Cimorene saves the mostly kind dragons from a wicked plot hatched by the local wizards, and worms her way into the hearts of young girls everywhere.

We're having such fun. While we're listening, Shira's drawing dragons, Ben's building dragons with legos and I am having peaceful times blogging and futzing around in the kitchen.

Every time Cimorene tried to do an activity she enjoyed, she was told that "girls did not do that", when she questioned it, she was told, "because that's the way it is". This was a great springboard for a discussion about perceived roles and societal pressures.

Our children are being brought up by parents who make choices that don't fit the mainstream or their extended family's preconceptions of what is right and proper. It's good for Ben and Shira to read literature that deals with these issues.


One of the reasons I am so attracted to Marc is that he always has some odd interest on the go. One of his odd interests is playing odd musical instruments. The theremin is one of his favorite odd instruments. What is a theremin you ask? I'll let the guys at Theremin World explain:
The theremin was invented in 1919 by a Russian physicist named Lev Termen (in the United States his name was Leon Theremin). Today, this marvelous instrument is once again in the musical spotlight.
Besides looking like no other instrument, the theremin is unique in that it is played without being touched.

Two antennas protrude from the theremin - one controlling pitch, and the other controlling volume. As a hand approaches the vertical antenna, the pitch gets higher. Approaching the horizontal antenna makes the volume softer. Because there is no physical contact with the instrument, playing the theremin in a precise melodic way requires practiced skill and keen attention to pitch.

Originally, the theremin was intended to play classical music and even replace entire orchestras with its "music from the aether." While that never quite happened, it has been used in many recordings over the years. Several big band conductors featured the theremin in numerous specialty ablums. During the 60's and 70's, bands such as Lothar and the Hand People, the Bonzo Doo Dah Dog Band, and Led Zeppelin brought the theremin into the public eye for a short time. (However a theremin did not play in the song "Good Vibrations", but the instrument used was based on it.) Then, the theremin slipped back into obscurity until the recent revival of the 1990s. Today, lots of bands use theremins, though few in a musical context.
The spooky sound of the theremin was used in several movie soundtracks during the 1950's and 1960's. It provided background mood music for such sci-fi classics as The Day the Earth Stood Still, where it played a serious musical role, and It Came From Outer Space, as well in classic, well composed, thriller soundtracks such as Spellbound and The Lost Weekend.

Here is a theremin master, Clara Rockmore playing The Swan (Saint-Saƫns)

One of my equally odd friends, Shell sent me a link today to a Make video on how to make an optical theremin in a petrie dish.

Might be a fun project for a teen.

Beep-it from Michael Una on Vimeo.

We've had some fun with the theremin. One Halloween Marc played spooky music but we had to stop that after we ended up scaring the daylights out of some of the littlies.

The Food Miles Mistake

My favorite magazine, "Reason", has written a good article on why the concept of food miles is flawed.
So just how much carbon dioxide is emitted by transporting food from farm to fork? Desrochers and Shimizu cite a comprehensive study done by the United Kingdom's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which reported that 82 percent of food miles were generated within the U.K. Consumer shopping trips accounted for 48 percent and trucking for 31 percent of British food miles. Air freight amounted to less than 1 percent of food miles. In total, food transportation accounted for only 1.8 percent of Britain's carbon dioxide emissions.

In the United States, a 2007 analysis found that transporting food from producers to retailers accounted for only 4 percent of greenhouse emissions related to food. According to a 2000 study, agriculture was responsible for 7.7 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. In that study, food transport accounted for 14 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture, which means that food transport is responsible for about 1 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Food miles advocates fail to grasp the simple idea that food should be grown where it is most economically advantageous to do so. Relevant advantages consist of various combinations of soil, climate, labor, capital, and other factors. It is possible to grow bananas in Iceland, but Costa Rica really has the better climate for that activity. Transporting food is just one relatively small cost of providing modern consumers with their daily bread, meat, cheese, and veggies. Desrochers and Shimizu argue that concentrating agricultural production in the most favorable regions is the best way to minimize human impacts on the environment.

Local food production does not always produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the 2005 DEFRA study found that British tomato growers emit 2.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide for each ton of tomatoes grown compared to 0.6 tons of carbon dioxide for each ton of Spanish tomatoes. The difference is British tomatoes are produced in heated greenhouses. Another study found that cold storage of British apples produced more carbon dioxide than shipping New Zealand apples by sea to London. In addition, U.K. dairy farmers use twice as much energy to produce a metric ton of milk solids than do New Zealand farmers. Other researchers have determined that Kenyan cut rose growers emit 6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per 12,000 roses compared to the 35 tons of carbon dioxide emitted by their Dutch competitors. Kenyan roses grow in sunny fields whereas Dutch roses grow in heated greenhouses.

Entire article here.

I sometimes feel as our entire society has suspended rational thought when it come to the environment. People grasp at poorly thought out ideas and then take them as gospel. I am finding it dreadfully difficult to keep Ben and Shira from believing some of the environmental nonsense that abounds today. I thought that being homeschooled would help. I suppose in a way it does, but every outside activity they do is full of this poorly thought out, environmental gospels.

I am now on the look out for a book/program/blog/anything that can help me teach young children how to question everything they read/hear. It's tough because young children are genetically programmed to believe what their elders teach them. Our poor children have mom and dad teaching them one thing and the masses of humanity teaching them something else.

Shira asked me a question the other day that made me realize that she's been reading "Reason". This is good. I leave copies in the bathrooms and she and Ben are obviously picking them up. It's been great for their reading skills. Most of the topics are too complex for them to understand at age 7, but it does give me good starting points for discussions.

The Woman Who Lived On The QE2

This BBC story piqued my interest. It tells of an 89 year old woman who made the QE2 her home on and off for 14 years.
She pays about £3,500 a month and says she prefers it to any retirement home.
With elegant surroundings, lavish meals, cocktails and dancing every night it is easy to see why Mrs Muller fell in love with the ship.
She said: "We're spoiled to death, we get to see the whole world and meet the most incredible people."
In the morning she reads a print-out of The New York Times, works on her memoirs and calls on friends.
Then she plays bridge until tea, followed by cocktails and dancing.
Once the liner reaches Dubai, Mrs Muller, known as Bea to the crew, will be without a home, although she has no plans to return to dry land.
"I'll keep on staying at sea, I don't want to go back to housekeeping," she said.

What a wonderful way to spend your retirement if you can afford it.

This story made me wonder if there isn't a more cost effective method of doing this so that a homeschooled family can sail the seven seas for a year or so. I know there is the option of sailing your own yacht, but that defeats the purpose, sailing your own boat involves work. I really like the idea of having a serviced cabin and all food cooked for you. Then all I would have to do is see the world and educate my children. Mmmm. another dream to add to my list. LOL. Of course, I would have to overcome my antipathy to cruise liners. I had the misfortune to spend a week on one in the Indian Ocean. I couldn't find any privacy. Cruise directors made it their job to make me miserable. They ferreted out everyone who wanted quiet, alone time with a book and tried to cajole them into having "fun". UGHH. It was horrid.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Parenting beyond belief

Dale McGowan, author of "Parenting Beyond Belief" has compiled a very useful list of rational, secular, parent bloggers over at his blog The Meming of Life
Our greatest deficit — the lack of a connected, mutually supportive community — is slowly being erased. Equally important, this chorus of voices helps us to build consensus about the best practices for nonreligious parenting. So visit ‘em, read ‘em, comment and link up — and let me know who I missed.

Next week he's listing secular homeschool bloggers.

""Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake,"

According to the Houston Chronicle, this December The American Humanist Association will run an ad campaign where they will write, ""Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake," on the side of busses.

As you can well imagine, certain sectors of society are up in arms about it.
The humanists' entry into the marketplace of ideas did not impress AFA president Tim Wildmon.
"It's a stupid ad," he said. "How do we define 'good' if we don't believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what's good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what's good, it's going to be a crazy world."

I worry about people who need an extrinsic reason to behave morally. If the fear and punishment factor were to be removed from these people, are they telling us that they will stop behaving morally? Are they saying that the only reason they behave morally is because they fear their punishment in hell? Or if it is not punishment, why do they feel that they need an external authority to tell them how to behave?

The Objective Standard has a good article that addresses the root of "good" behavior for non-theists.

Todays ramblings

from today's Virginian Pilot
More than 60 percent of its investors lived in four areas: Norfolk, New York, Chicago and Israel, the report said.

I see this all the time in the American media. American "things" are given greater status than those in the rest of the world. This is like Africa being a country (and Palin is not the first American that I've come across who believes this. We walked out of a library storytelling session when the librarian told the children that they were going to learn about the animals from the country of Africa. She then proceeded to start with the tiger. I was willing to let Africa go, but when she started on an Asian animal, I was out of there. I called the librarian later to discuss her errors. Her reasoning was that continent was too large a concept for little children. What total BS.)

Anyway, back to the Virginian Pilot. Norfolk has less than a quarter of a million inhabitants but it's an "area" just like Israel, a country is an "area". LOL.

The story that was attached to this sentence is very sad. Joseph Shereshevsky was a neighbor who defrauded millions from the orthodox Jewish community. I think he is the lowest form of pond scum. I am really irritated by the entire fiasco. He lived large and very visibly donated vast sums of money. I keep on hearing people talk about how he is a good man and should be let out on bail. He was arrested at the airport with a one way ticket out of the country. This is not a good man. He was convicted on fraud charges before he came to live in Norfolk. Then he milked people of their hard earned money so that he could live a life of luxury and have his name associated with a myriad of charities

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Is effective solar power around the corner?

IT Business reports that researchers from MIT have discovered a new way of storing energy from sunlight that could lead to unlimited solar power.
Sunlight has the greatest potential of any power source to solve the world's energy problems, Daniel Nocera, the Henry Dreyfus Professor of Energy at MIT and researcher on the project, said in a statement. In one hour, enough sunlight strikes the Earth to provide the entire planet's energy needs for one year.

The problem, however, is how best to harness that energy.

The research is a "giant leap" toward generating clean, carbon-free energy on a massive scale, said James Barber, a biochemistry professor at Imperial College London who was not involved in the solar project.

Nocera said he's hopeful that within 10 years people will no longer power their homes using electricity-by-wire from a central source. Instead, homeowners will be able to power their homes with solar power during daylight hours and use this new energy storage method for electricity at night.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ragamuffin Studies: Making Ready: Cross Quarter, the Election, and Saecular Winter

Ragamuffin Studies: Making Ready: Cross Quarter, the Election, and Saecular Winter

Elisheva Hannah Levin has written an excellent blog post in response to Christine over at The Thinking Mother's suggestion in her post Election Outcome a few days ago:

"Now that we have elected a new President I have an idea. How about if we all write down our thoughts about our futures and our hopes or worries?"

Marc and I have been talking about nothing else for days. I was going to blog about it but then I read Elisheva's post and knew that I had very little to add. So when you read her eloquent words, know that I agree with them wholeheartedly.

I liked this quote from her post (the emphasis is mine):
As an American who loves and respects the Constitution of the United States, I accept Obama as the Constitutionally elected President of the United States. However, my loyalty must be to the US Constitution, not to his person, or the person of any president or government official. Government is our servant, not our master; the duty of government is to protect our rights, not to save the world. I am uncertain as to whether Obama and his supporters understand this. (I am certain that his predecessor did not). I will know by what he does and not what they say. At his inauguration, he will swear to preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in this duty I wish him success and resilience. The Presidency is an awesome job and a great responsibility, and so I wish him health, long life, and good courage. But I do not promise him unquestioning loyalty or unwavering support. That would be inappropriate. I am a citizen, not a subject.

Project Feeder Watch

This info came through on a homeschool list I am on. We've signed up and are eagerly awaiting our materials.

You can download your handy, dandy, Homeschooler's Guide to Project FeederWatch -- a free science module for homeschoolers that focuses on Project FeederWatch! You can also learn about your backyard birds here.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has just released its newly revised, FREE Homeschooler’s Guide to Project FeederWatch.

For more than 20 years, Project FeederWatch has been an easy, fun way for children to learn about birds and strengthen their skills in observation, identification, research, computation, writing, creativity, and more. FeederWatchers keep track of the numbers and kinds of birds at their feeders through the winter and report what they see to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

The Homeschooler’s Guide to Project FeederWatch will guide you through bird-related activities that promote learning across many disciplines, including science, math, history, and the arts. Examples of these activities include:

Natural history: Observe and research a bird’s behavior and life cycle
Math: Calculate average seed consumption rate and graph data
Writing: Keep a nature journal to write stories and poetry
Geography: Research the geographic ranges of birds
Art: Keep a feeder-bird sketch book or create a papier mache mask To download the Homeschooler’s Guide to Project FeederWatch, visit and click on the “Education/Home School” button. You’ll be able to download the PDF in low (2.2MB) or high (6.7MB) resolutions.

You may choose to use the free guide as a stand-alone resource, or sign up for Project FeederWatch to submit the data you gather. If you would like to be a project participant, the signup fee is $12 for members of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, $15 for non-members. There are discounts for group participation.

If you have any questions, please let us know how we can help by emailing

David Bonter
Project Leader, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Searching for a spelling program

I'm looking for a computerized spelling program for my kids. I want something that teaches all the rules, then gives them practice with that rule. I'd like something that uses programmed instruction.

I know I could teach this manually but I am looking for something my children can use while I am doing one-on-one teaching. If Ben isn't working on something while I teach Shira he becomes disruptive. I find that something computer based works better than if I give him pencil and paper work, or worse, reading to do.

When Ben and Shira were learning to read we used a great program called, Reading Horizons. I truly believe they are the strong readers they are today because of this superb program. It touches on spelling but does not focus on spelling which is why we now need a spelling program.

Do you know of a good computer based spelling program that works on Macs?

I tried Spelling Time from Big IQ but it is a joke. It just provides 5 days of playtime for a set of words. The words they set for each grade level are way too easy and it relies on brute memorization. I want something that teaches from rules.

Before you comment about all the exceptions. I know there are exceptions in English, but if the kids get the rules down pat, the exceptions become easy. Also please don't comment that spelling programs are unnecessary, that if the children read, they will learn to spell. I agree, the more a child reads, the better their spelling, but I like to work with rules as I feel it helps provide structure. I'm also becoming tired of all the "mom, how do I spell......?" questions when I am focussing on something else.

Just like fluent handwriting, good spelling makes a child's life easier and gives them more time to focus on the more interesting things there are to learn.

Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers # 12

Welcome to another edition of the Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers. I've taken a break from blogging for a few weeks and now am pysched about blogging again.

Before we launch into this edition, I'd like to talk about two carnivals that are targeted at homeschooled children.

The first run by Julie and her daughter from Homeschooling Ideas. They host Homeschooled Kids Carnival.
This is THE place to show off your blog if you are homeschooled - and to see what other homeschooled kids are blogging about.

The second is one that I am have started. Hopefully once it is up and running, other homeschool bloggers will start hosting it. Read all about it here. This is your child's chance to showcase his/her creations, be they something made with legos, a frosting work of art, a drawing, a painting, a photograph, a sculpture, a poem, a short story or something I haven't yet thought of that shows his/her creative spirit. Each carnival, the winning entry will receive a book of the child's choice from (max value $8).

Kris from Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers gives a step-by-step tutorial on how to make papier mache projects.

If your children, like mine, have celiac disease, or a wheat allergy, papier mache projects become a problem. I sent a query to a large celiac listserve and was given this recipe to use instead of the flour mixture and then follow Kris' instructions..
Gluten Free Papier Mache mixture- Take 1 heaped soup ladle of powdered cornstarch
- Place in a heat proof bowl
- Add enough COLD water to form a paste and to dissolve powder to consistency of thick cream.
- Pour in one kettleful (1.7 litres) of RAPIDLY BOILING (MUST be bubbling away...) and stir like crazy...!

It is very very HOT like porridge and it can form lumps so I usually give it a whisk or beating with my electric mixer to smooth it. Paste should change from opaque white to translucent once the boiling water is added. It will keep a few days and can be microwaved to be heated so it's less "jelly-like". Kids love to use it while it's warm, but it works equally wellcold.

Salt can be added to prolong shelf life."

Amy Smith presents Fun With Paper . She gives a good list of websites that give patterns for children to do fun paper projects. Definitely a keeper.

Kris presents Bird Cinema
Bird-Watching meets You-Tube at Bird Cinema. You can upload your own clips or view other amateur and professional videos about birds. I find this great for matching bird sitings with bird sounds, and other informative videos are available, too. Here is one from the BBC:
Shira is entranced by this website. She's crazy about birds and this feeds her need to identify every bird she sees. My kids have asked that we register for Cornell's Orinothology Bird Feeder Project

Julie of Homeschooling Ideas writes about her family's experience with Computer games in their homeschool
I can only speak for myself and my children, but thinking about it, we have seen some wonderful learning opportunities that have arisen as a direct effect of computer games. Of course, I couldn't dictate these results - we have played many games where nothing educational seemed to happen and the children enjoyed only the entertainment value! But looking back, a lot of valuable learning has been initiated by certain games.

I wanted to give some specific examples so my thoughts on this are below. Note that I am not recommending these games - merely outlining the effects of computer games on our homeschool learning.
Have a look at her post, there are good reviews on various computer games.

We fit into a very strange subset of homeschoolers. We use the computer as a learning tool but don't often play computer games. I see that Ben has a tendency towards electronic media addiction. The best way for me to manage this is to keep his screen time severely limited.

Alison from Homeschoolers' Guide to the Galaxyreviews Nebel's Elementary Education saying: "If you were to ask me to recommend just one reference book to guide you through homeschooling the elementary years I'd recommend Nebel's Elementary Education. Keep reading and I'll tell you why."

Amy Smith from Kids Love Learning writes about a fun way she taught her son to read.
We love Raggedy Ann and Andy and the original stories written by Johnny Gruelle. In one of the many books I have read, I came upon a great idea to encourage beginning readers to practice reading. The idea was to have the child's doll or stuffed animal do the reading for them. I tweaked the idea a bit and this is how it worked
read more here. I love this idea. I met Johnny Gruelle's books when Ben and Shira were around 4. We listened to them over and over again. has a very good reading if you are interested.

Amy also blogs about one of my all time favorite preschool activities, viz felt boards
Felt boards are a fun and useful learning tool and we have been using ours to teach Rosa about numbers and shapes. I made my own numbers and shapes felt set which was quite simple to do. The numbers were traced from

Alasandra reminds us to Vote for our favorite homeschooling blogs
You can vote for your favourite adult, group and teen homeschool blog in the side bar. There are 58 days left for you to vote in Alasandra's Homeschool Blog Awards. So far 170 people have voted. Little Blue School is in the lead for Adult Homeschool Blog, The Homeschool Classroom is in the lead for Group Homeschool Blog and Quilted Story is in the lead for Teen Homeschool Blog.
. I'm very excited because my friend Lydia's blog is currently winning the race.

Talking about Lydia, she has posted a great song about The Wreck of Odysseus' Ship.
These lyrics remind us of the folly of Odysseus' silly crew and their willingness to eat anything that wasn't nailed down, including the cows of the sun god, which they had been specifically told not to eat. The song is sung to the tune of "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot. If you don't have this song on CD, go to Project Playlist and search for it, then add it to your playlist and listen to it whenever you like!
Ben and Shira are full of songs about Odysseus' travels as they are studying the Odyssey with Lydia at our co-op.

Sharp Brains addresses the problems of children multitasking.
Today's kids are into multi-tasking. This is the generation hooked on iPods, IM'ing, video games - not to mention TV! Many people in my generation think it is wonderful that kids can do all these things simultaneously and are impressed with their competence.
Well, as a teacher of such kids when they reach college, I am not impressed. College students these days have short attention spans and have trouble concentrating. They got this way in secondary school. I see this in the middle-school outreach program I help run. At this age kids are really wrapped up in multi-tasking―at the expense of focus.
If you only do one thing for your family this week, reading this article should be the it.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the carnival of cool homeschoolers using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

New Blog Carnival - Carnival of Homeschooled Children's Creations

Few things inspire my kids more than being able to show off their creations. Every time they create something of which they are very proud, they ask me to photograph it and post the pic to my blog.

Working on the Book Arts Bash has shown me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that homeschooling children are incredibly creative.

I thought that a blog carnival dedicated to children's creations would be a perfect way for children to showcase their work.

Do your children love creating with their building toys? Ben's latest craze is building vehicles with his Zoobs.

Or do they, like Shira, love to walk around the neighborhood with camera in hand?

Perhaps they love to cook. Ben made his first ever gluten free, dairy free flat bread the other day.

Shira loves to bake gluten free, dairy free, soy free chocolate chip cookies.

Perhaps your children have been inspired by the Sorted Books Project, like my two have. Notice the sentence the kids made here. Think my political cynicism has rubbed off on them? Please note that this is not meant as a dig to the current president. They took this picture during the primaries.

Enter their poetry, short stories, photographs, pictures, collages, lego creations, just anything that your children have created - please include your child's age and first name.

There are two ways you can enter, write a blog post about your child's creation and then submit to the blog carnival via the Blog Carnival submission form or email the entry to me at shez dot silverberg at gmail dot com and I'll include it into the carnival.

Each carnival, the best entry, as judged by me, will win a book of their choice from (valued up to $8)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Call for Carnival Submissions

Do you have something controversial you want to say? Have you done a really neat craft with your children that you want to share with other homeschoolers? Do you have an interesting, or different "take" on how to teach a subject? Have you written a lesson plan you want to share with other homeschoolers? Have you discovered some interesting resources? If the answer is yes to any of the aforementioned questions, or if I've missed something that you want to share, here is your chance to share it with other cool homeschoolers. Please submit your blog post to the Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers by clicking on the link below.

Blog Carnival submission form - the carnival of cool homeschoolers

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Blog Carnival archive - the carnival of cool homeschoolers

Sunday, October 26, 2008

This is not a spoof

I was convinced this video clip was a spoof when Marc showed it to me. I was convinced that no one could be that stupid or dogmatic.

In case you think that McCain's supporters are all idiots. Here's a clip of idiots on the other side.

This election, more than any other, has convinced me that we should require restrictions to voting. If you are not sufficiently educated to be able to understand the issues at stake you should not be allowed to vote. Heck, I"m happy if you just understand your candidate's position.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

COH logoThe Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Melissa's Idea Garden.

The first post touched on a topic that I've worried about ever since I gave birth. What plans to make in the event of the homeschooling mom dying. In our case we've bought enough life assurance on me to cover the wages of a teacher to come into the home and teach the kids. If something should happen to Marc, we have enough life assurance to allow me to continue staying at home and maintain our current lifestyle. Our big worry is what will happen if both of us die. Marc's sister, who will be their guardian, has a very demanding job. We need to talk more about the children's education should ever happen.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Carl Sagan : Pale Blue Dot.

Ron Paul: Bail Out Means We All Suffer

At least one politician speaks out with some good sense. We're seeing the end to our monetary system, inflation is on it's way and the market, not politicians, is best suited, and able to solve this crisis.


Marc and I love watching "Family Guy". Last week we watched an episode that featured this clip.

The two of us were on the floor laughing. This typifies our marriage. We've been together almost 9 years and still we have these moments of sheer blankness followed by hilarity over how the other one pronounces something. Being the lone South African within an American family, I am the one who is usually the one who is laughed at. It doesn't bother me though because I take comfort in the fact that I'm the one with the hoity, toity accent who knows how to eat with a fork AND KNIFE at the same time (and how to eat peas from the back of the fork.) LOL

Today's levity from the Onion

Portrayal Of Obama As Elitist Hailed As Step Forward For African Americans

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Book Arts Bash Finalists

When Lydia broached the subject of running a writing competition for homeschoolers I was a little leery of the idea. However, her enthusiasm soon carried me away and before I knew it, I was, working along side her setting up The Book Arts Bash - An Exhibition Of Literary Arts.

I can't even begin to tell you how great it is to work on projects with her. My history is littered with projects where I've had many great ideas that have been shot down by others in the team who felt they were too different or too risky. Lydia is the total opposite to everyone with whom I have ever worked. If anything, I am the one who has to reign her in. It's so great working with someone who truly believes the sky is the limit.

The two of us really got ahead of ourselves when we tried to decide on categories for our homeschooling writing competition. After some brutal cutting we finally settled on a hundred categories. In retrospect we should have been more brutal with our cutting but we loved all the categories so we were unable to cut them down further.

I was totally in love with the picture book, pop-up book, drama and storytelling categories. So much so that I was convinced that we'd be inundated with entries in these categories. I was beyond excited when Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart agreed to judge the pop-up book category.

To say I was less than enthusiastic about the novel excerpt category was putting it mildly. I was convinced that no one would take the time or trouble to write so many words.

Talk about not knowing your market!! We had not one pop-up book entry and hundreds upon hundreds of novel excerpts. Who would have thunk it?

We, plus a team of other homeschoolers and educators, put in countless hours reading all the entries. It was beyond difficult to cut own each category to a mere three finalists. Sometimes we just could not do it and ended up sending a few more finalists to the judges. As you can see in the short story category, more than a few age groups have more than three finalists.

The most difficult age range to judge was the grades 7th-9th. The quality of writing in this age group is superb. We finally gave up trying to cut the novel entries down to the top three and settled on six.

While the goal of this writing competition was not to obtain contracts or book deals for our entrants, I harbor a not so secret wish, that one or two of our entrants will do just that. I am in awe of how well a some of our highschoolesr and middle schoolers write. Awed and humbled because I am not able to meet their standards.

I'm waiting with baited breathe until we hear back from the judges. We've asked them to all get back to us by 1 November, so watch this space. In the mean time, if you go to the Bash's website and look under each category, you will find the finalists.

Once the judges have sent us their critiques and ranking, we'll publish the final winners and excerpts on the website.

We've learned some good lessons from this first Bash. Our next one is slated for early 2010. Based on the entries we received this year, the next Bash is going to be for novel excerpts only. We'll create categories within this broad one. Categories like thrillers, sci-fi/fantasy (the most popular categories with the kids), historical fiction etc..

Another lesson we learned is that we have to ditch the paper and go digital. For the next Bash, entries will be submitted digitally. This will cut down mailing costs (paper is heavy and expensive to ship to judges).

Writing skills

I've been listening to friends who have chosen institutional schooling for their children talk about homework. I am stunned at how much handwriting is expected of even kindergarteners.

I don't know how anyone can expect a lot of handwriting from young children as I truly do not think that their fine motor skills are sufficiently well developed.

I've seen how my kids get really tired when I expect them to write out spelling words or do their math on paper. That's why I switched to white boards a while ago.

I find that the kids don't need as much fine motor control when they write on white boards and thus don't become as tired as quickly as they do when they use pen and paper.

In the above pic you see them working through their math. They were reading the instructions off the Professor B math program on my computer and then doing the problems on the white board.

When we do other lessons each child has his/her own board.

This is yet another reason I love homeschooling. It allows me the freedom to find solutions that work for my kids.

Our activities this term.

Ben and Shira have been having a blast with their art teacher, Gerry Lee Wertheimer.

Gerry is a gifted artist and art educator. She's been coming to our home every Tuesday afternoon to give the children a 2 hour private art lesson. The kids have done both group and private lessons and private lessons are the way to go. Gerry is teaching the children to really look at their subjects and is teaching them how to translate that onto paper.

The last few lessons have been devoted to learning how to sculpt.

Their first sculpting lesson involved learning to sculpt heads. Gerry's is the one in the middle.

Another week they made seahorses. Shira's has the baby in the pouch.

I love how Gerry teaches the children about their subjects, so while they were sculpting their seahorses they also learned about the animal and its habitat.

Shira's rather proud of the dog she sculpted

I just have to show you this collage that Ben made when he did a class with Shara Wertz from the Norfolk Parks Department.

I think it is absolutely fabulous.

Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers # 11

Welcome to another edition of the Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers. I hope you enjoy reading the entries as much as I did. This edition is host to a plethora of science related blog posts.

book arts bash logo

Lydia from Little Blue School presents the finalists in The Book Arts Bash. She writes:
The most competitive category, unbelievably, was the novel excerpt. No one could have predicted this! We received dozens and dozens of novels. Stacks and mountains. We certainly had no idea there were so many excellent novelists out there in the homeschool world, typing away at their masterpieces. We are so impressed. The most difficult categories to narrow down to finalists were the novels, the short stories, and the poems, all deep in quality and chock full of entries. At times we had three different people looking at your work, trying to get it down to three finalists in each grade division, each genre. That wasn't always possible, as you'll see in the results! I can honestly tell you that just being a finalist in these categories is a real accomplishment. The competition was fierce.

Lydia, other than being my partner in the Book Arts Bash and the Get Up and Explore Science Spectacular - Homeschool Science Fair, is the person who finally helped me get red and blue states sorted out. Everyone has something they can never remember and I am no different. I, for the life of me, cannot remember which party has the red states and which as the blue states. Lydia's bog tagline is all I need to remember, "Little Blue Children. A Big Red State" and then I know that Republicans are red and Democrats are blue. However, it looks like she might have to develop a new tagline as it looks like Virginia might swing to blue this year.

alasandra's logo
Alasandra presents Alasandra's Homeschool Blog Awards. Entries for this year's blog awards closed yesterday. Go on over to her blog to be vote for your favorite homeschool blogs. Mine's nominated, hint, hint, hint.

Alasandra has a great rant asking people to Stop harassing homeschoolers.
Some public health officials are concerned the growing popularity of home schooling has created gaps in the vaccination safety net, leading to outbreaks of rare childhood diseases

Grit from Grit's Day has written a series of posts on Why her family homeschools.
A new month needs a new focus, so thanks to the Pig whose fault this is, and October, because it is here already, I shall record the many reasons why Shark, Squirrel and Tiger do not go to school, but play all day long under the guise of home education. And when they plead Why, Mother, Why? I can point them to the blog, go open a beer, and hope that they can read.

The first reason we educate from home may as well be attention span.
Another reason
All these are excellent reasons to home educate, and we use them daily. You can talk about what you like. You can find out things together. You can decide what's important to know, and you can pursue it in any way that works for you and your child. Really, this is empowerment of the greatest kind, because you can explore cultures and create knowledges together, and there's no-one to stop you. No blank faced Whitehall civil servant with a tick-box form because it's Wednesday, so today you should do commas and fractions, and stop crying. Next week we're going to test you.
They homeschool because they feel like running
Sometimes we do, make, pursue ... and there's no intention and purpose to that ... we follow the sniff of the air, the beat of a heart, the sound of a hand clap, the shadows and the sunlines, and we make our day on impulse and do what we do, because we want to, and we feel like it.

I believe this is precious in childhood: this tidal surge of confident inquiry, thinking comes later; a sudden, irresistible urge to run at a clap across a field because limbs can take us there, those legs running across the grass surprised by energy and impulse, followed by laughter. In those moments of childhood, there's no self-doubt, no difficulty, no constraining hand to stay us and control us. There needs to be no thoughtful significance to the act, no result, no textbook, no purpose, no discussion. We enjoy.
They also homeschool because they like to watch sport
We get to watch when Shark steps with singular determination to the sailing dingy; when Squirrel twirls, and with that face she thinks a serious ballerina should have; we get to watch how Tiger's eyes light up when she clings to a horse, and we even get to bite our knuckles and pray they don't all fall in, fall over, or fall off.

Every week throughout their lives we see some new and wonderful physical ability. From standing up to chew on the table edge, to falling off the climbing frame in the playground and not dying, swimming for the first time, cycling without pink princess wheels, then archery, abseiling, skiing. This month alone I've watched gym, trampoline, tennis, ice skating, kayaking. And the best of it is I can be right there when it happens. I can seek out any type of lesson that's wanted, we can choose the places and times to go, the instructors we like; and I can look at my little faces delighted and excited as a sudden new skill is found and disbelieved and found again.
They also homeschool for the creativity it allows grit to engender in her children (this btw, is one of my major reasons for homeschooling. I firmly believe that institutional school sucks the creativity out of children and teachers.
Art art art. This is one of the biggest reasons why I home educate, if not the biggest, most important, and dearest to my heart. I have seen art, craft, dance, music, drama, play, imagination and creativity, all steadily removed from the primary curriculum. That is a loss to children; that is a loss to all our lives. And I know I am not a lone voice in the wilderness shouting that one.

But complaining in a staff room didn't seem to be getting anywhere. Marching right in, taking control to put a creative education in place, changing a state of mind from consumer to producer, imagining ourselves doing, learning for ourselves, and getting out the paints. That's creative.

Sonja Cole presents Video Wednesday: Rick Riordan Author Study posted at Kid Lit Kit.

I need to read a copy of one of Rick Riordan's books as the blurb on Scholastic's website makes them look really good. I've been burned too many times to allow my kids to read a book I've never heard of before I've vetted it. One of the librarians recommended "Animorphs" to my kids. Since I had no idea what was in these books, I decided to read one for myself. On the second page I saw the young boys referring to a young girl as a "skank". I was dumbstruck. I wondered if this librarian had ever read the books or if she was just recommending them based on the sheer number of books in the series and their obvious popularity.

I don't care that they are popular, I was not giving my then 6 year old children a book to read that was so insulting to females. It must be said though, that they have never heard that word, but still, they don't need to learn it, at least not yet.

Riordan's series, Peter Jackson and the Olympians sounds like a series of books that will be right up my kids' alley. They are obsessed with Greek Mythology and love mysteries. At the moment they are studying "The Odyssey" in their co-op bookclub. Unfortunately the Mary Pope Osborne translation was not available so they are using Rosemary Sutcliffe's one. Sutcliffe's rendition of the Odyssey is most disappointing. Thankfully already had a copy of Osborne's rendition and the kids know it inside out and back to front. We also have Osborne's rendition on audiobook and we have the Naxos edition. Ben tells me that The Odyssey is his favorite story in the "whole wide world" and he listens to both with amazing regularity.

race picGreg Laden always has exceedingly interesting and useful science related blog posts. This blog post deals with The Science Museum of Minnesota's exhibit"Race: Are we so different?".
First, the parts we agree with: There is no such thing as race (biologically), race is a social construct used as a political and economic tool, even efforts to use race in a "positive" way such as in medicine or forensics are doomed to failure because of the lack of biological validity of the concept, and so on and so forth.
Here, the idea of the exhibit is really to help people to realize that well formed thoughts about their fellow humans that are based on the race concept are like well formed thoughts about the world they live in that are based on the flat earth. But more destructive.
The main thing we did not like about the exhibit and the AAA race model is the AAA version of the origin of racism. The AAA story couches racism in the context of American colonial history, slavery, etc. etc. It states that racism is a purely Western invention, and distinguishes racism from other forms of hating your fellow human being. The rise of the modern capitalistic system, the nation state, the colonial and post colonial economies and societies, and slavery are the kitchen and racism is the bitter and poisonous buffet, manifest in myriad ways.
True enough, but not broad enough.
Stephanie Zinn has good commentary on Laden's post.

human picJulie presents Homeschool Anatomy Resources posted at Homeschooling-ideas Blog. Julie reviews online activities that help children learn about human anatomy. She writes, "games and puzzles including Whack-a-Bone and Brain Jigsaw. It seems aimed at teenagers, but I played with my 10yo with no problems. The games are well designed and you do have to learn the bone or muscle structure to succeed"

PisecoMom presents Batteries and Bulbs posted at Mind Games.

Piseco reminds me that I need to start doing some electricity experiments with Ben and Shira. Ben has a neat building kit that makes electric circuits, but somehow doing activities like the ones Piseco has done with her son seems so much more satisfying.

Kim, a fellow Objectivist homeschooler, writes about her third elementary science class. Kim has developed what looks like to be a rather good science program for her science club. I'm saving all her blog posts so that I can use her structure for my kids. She's teaching science in an historical context, ensuring that each new concept builds on one that the children already understand.

teslaSarah Natividad (aka Wacky Hermit) presents The Return of T.E.S.L.A. posted at Organic Baby Farm.
T.E.S.L.A. (Totally Educational Science Learning Activities) is our science club for kids ages 7-11. We do hands-on experiments and learn from Galileo's "book of the world". We invite both homeschoolers and public-schoolers (it's not their fault their school's science program sucks!) These are our plans for the months of October and November.

If you are looking for resources to teach chemistry to your children, Jennifer Hill has some resources for you on herFamily Blog

I recently discovered Lisa Bergantz's blog, SMMART ideas(Science, Math, Music, Art, Reading, Time-out for skills).
I originally started compiling Science and Math activities when my first little girl was born. Because of my Science background, the intent was to introduce my children to these "hard" subjects through simple learning activities. I want my children to gain exposure and confidence in Math and Science. I have expanded the compiling to other subjects as well, including Music, Art, and Reading

Watch Lisa demonstrate how to make ribbon streamers

rain stickKris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers presents Step-by-Step: How to Make a Rain Stick. As always, Kris' projects look like so much fun. I think that homeschoolers need a blog like The Crafty Crow for fun learning based projects. I wonder if Cathy Ceceri would be interested in doing something like this? I love Cathy's craft ideas. If you haven't yet seen her book, Around the World Crafts, go and take a look.

dress up picAmy Smith presents Learning Through Dress Up posted at Kids Love Learning.When I was growing up, one of my friends had a dress up trunk which I thought was the coolest thing. There were old lady wigs, long dresses, high heel shoes, gaudy beads, and big clip on earrings. I wanted my own children to experience the dress up fun I had as a child so I set out to stock a dress up bin for them.

Thomas J. West presents When Should You Get A Private Music Teacher For Your Child? posted at Thomas J. West Music. He writes:
Whether your children are enrolled in a traditional public school, private school, or are home schooled, the study of a musical instrument (including voice) can be a vibrant and important part of a child's education. Many parents are not experienced musicians, so they are unable to help their children at home when they are practicing. Eventually, the subject of private lessons is bound to come up. Here are some helpful tips for determining whether or not hiring a private music instructor is right for your situation.
I wish that Thomas West lived in Norfolk. We desperately need a piano teacher like the one he seems to be. We've just had an experience with the piano teacher from hell. She came highly recommended and is the president of the local piano teachers' association. Despite proclaiming that she had taught kindergarteners for over 30 years, the woman had no idea how to teach young children. She taught way too many concepts in a lesson, didn't ensure that the children understood what they had to practice each week, or even if they had understood what she had just taught them, and wrote inadequate notes. We ended up with daily tears over practicing and Marc had to reteach each lesson. At our sixth lesson with her, I asked her to slow down on teaching so many concepts and to ask the children to demonstrate what she had taught them instead of asking them if they understood. Of course a child is going to tell a crotchety old woman that they understand what she's said, even if they don't. The witch started screaming at me that there was something wrong with my children because no one else had ever questioned her teaching methods. She had Shira in tears over her intimidation. Needless to say, we resigned, never to return to her studio.

Now we're taking a break. We're loathe to start up with a new teacher just yet as the children have been thoroughly traumatized by this last one. I want to make sure that they still love music and the piano and when we go back to a teacher, will love practicing.

piano image

We've been wondering if one of those electronic teaching programs might not be a useful stop gap. Serendipitously, One Family's Blog posted about one of those online programs I plan on having a look at his program. I just wonder if it works with a real piano and not an electronic one.

I need to do some research. Wouldn't it be great if there was a piano teaching program that used programmed instruction? One of my biggest worries when the kids practice the piano is that I am musically inept and I can't hear if they are doing something wrong. Often I think they've had a good few days of practice and then Marc hears them and I find out they've been doing it all wrong. Programmed instruction for practicing will make life so much easier for me.

Silvia presents Feedback Wanted for Make:television posted at Po Moyemu--In My Opinion.
It's looking like a great show! If you're into making things, looking for inspiration, or just seeing what some really creative people are doing, check it out! And if you're a kid--maybe you'll want to make some of these things out of your toys instead of the larger parts. I think they ought to have a showcase of kid-ventions too!

keri@Sunny presents Tropical Storm Kyle posted at Sunny. This blog post is a photo essay of her children's treasure finds on the beach after Tropical Storm Kyle. WARNING: This blog has a loud sound track that starts as soon as you open the page. Great pics if you can stomach the obnoxious noise.

Theodore Pappas presents There He Goes Again (Charles "Bell Curve" Murray on Education) | Britannica Blog posted at Britannica Blog.
A controversial but important topic for all educators, including the homebased: Charles Murray (of the controversial "Bell Curve" book) has a new book out on education that argues, says the blogger, that some kids "are not worth the time and trouble to educate because they are 'just not smart enough,' in his words, to learn anything more than manual skills. And he can prove it! Scientifically!"


I would have written this with more tact, but I do agree. I think this move to expect every child to go on to university cheapens the worth of a degree. I've watched babysitters work on their university course work and have been horrified at the dumbing down of tertiary education. Not everyone is cut out to go to university. We should start looking at the German education system where they have non academic tracks. Where children can finish school with useful trade qualifications. Murray does make an assumption that bothers me immensely though. He suggests that it is poor children who do not have the intellectual capacity to go on to university. I disagree with it intellectual ability being economically based, but do agree that not all children should go on to university. Read the review of the book. It's a good one, the review I mean, can't comment on the book as I haven't read it yet.

Spanish Kit presents An Introduction to Spanish Irregular Verbs posted at Learn Spanish.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the carnival of cool homeschoolers using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Growing like weeds

My kids are growing like weeds. They both put on an inch in the last 6 weeks. Shira is now 4ft 6inches and Ben's 3/4 of an inch shorter. That puts Shira at the 97th percentile for height and Ben at the 96th percentile. Both are at the 84th percentile for weight.

I'm just hoping that this growth spurt does not mean we're going to have to buy new shoes again. This summer both kids grew out of brand new shoes in 6 weeks. Shira went from a 2 to a 3 1/2 in six weeks. It hurt badly to have to buy two sets of New Balance sneakers for each child in such a short time.

Fury Over Cat Eating Festival

I found this article in The Sun very amusing and perplexing.
ANIMAL rights groups are up in arms over an annual festival in Peru that serves up hundreds of fried CATS to locals.
The 'Gastronomical Festival of the Cat' – dubbed the 'Massacre of the Moggies' – sees townsfolk in Canete, near Lima, feast on the fluffy pets for two days.

I have never been able to understand why meat eaters get all bent out of shape when other meat eaters eat cute and furry animals. If you are going to kill an animal for it's food, surely any animal will do? Just because it has cute eyes, is soft and cuddly and purrs shouldn't make it off limits.

I can understand the Peta types being upset over this cat festival as they manage to become upset over just about everything, but I truly do not understand how the average burger eating Joe can become upset over eating cats and dogs.


I bought Maria Miller's Early Geometry last week. The kids are loving it. Ben's in 7th heaven as he can read the text and work at his own speed. I just check on him to ensure he understands the concepts and once in a while insist that I get to teach a concept.

It's so exciting to see that one of my offspring has inherited my love for geometry. I used to spend hours doing geometry problems for fun as a kid.

Right now the kids are playing with Mighty Mind. This is the perfect tool for helping cement the concepts of shapes and how they fit together.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Update on the Book Arts Bash

Lydia and I spent Friday afternoon sorting the entries to the Book Arts Bash.

Lydia wrote:
Biggest surprise: There were no pop-ups. Not one. After we humbly petitioned and then raucously celebrated getting Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart as judges, there were no entries. Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart, people! These are paper engineering artists! They have an entire studio dedicated to pop-ups in NYC. They did the official pop-ups for Disney, for the Narnia books! They are the authors of Encyclopedia Mythologica and Encyclopedia Prehistorica, the cutting edge pop-ups that are redefining the genre. Shez collected a marvelous list of resources and how-tos for the pop-up page at the contest site, just in case people needed help finding tutorials. No entries. Not one.

Another surprise: There were fewer than 10 entries in all the K-2 categories, total. That shocked me! I thought the younger kids would be more involved.

The biggest stack on the table *by far* was the 7-9 grade group and the biggest category in that group was the novel excerpt! Amazing! I am so surprised and impressed with these middle school aged authors! The huge outpouring of prose, the staggering pile of pages -- completely glorious and inspiring.

Hey, it is ALL GOOD! Having said all this, we received another huge post office crate full of entries on Friday that we've yet to sort. Maybe that one is full of pop-ups -- who knows?! We've got a ton of entries and more coming in. We're going to be able to afford nice prizes and all the postage. We are very excited. It's awesome opening up these packages and seeing everyone's work. There are some beautiful, beautiful ABC books, some really awesome comics, lots of short stories and poetry, and even some novel cover art (my favorite category!). The panel is going to have a hard time narrowing it down in some of these categories! Very very gifted writers doing excellent work.

I'll keep you updated as we go along. This is fun!

McDougall on Presidential Health

Dr. John McDougall, physician and promoter of low-fat vegan diet, has prepared the following report on the health of the presidential candidates McCain and Obama. It makes interesting reading for anyone, but as McDougall asserts, may be particularly important for the consideration of American voters.

Note: This is not a political post, LOL, it's one on health. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

He ends with:
You Must Be Kidding Yourself If You Are in Doubt
While it is impossible to predict with certainty any person's future health, time of death, or degree of disability, the evidence at hand clearly says John McCain is in relatively poor health and Barack Obama is in excellent health. All politics aside, no one could conclude otherwise. To McCain’s credit he appears to be holding up well during this grueling campaign, but his current appearances do not negate the medical facts.
Additionally, although it is impossible to accurately merge all the figures that predict mortality—38% (actuarial figures), 27% (cardiac risk), and 44% (melanoma mortality)—it would not be unreasonable to guess that McCain’s chances of dying within the two terms of Presidential office far exceed a coin toss. Add to this the risk of him becoming disabled to the point of non-performance, then who among well-informed voters would bet their stock portfolio or their subprime-mortgaged home that, if elected, McCain will still be our President come 2017? Would you, or the company you work for, hire an employee with McCain’s medical problems? How about someone with Obama’s health history? Of course, there are many other important issues that will determine the vote you will cast come November 4, 2008, but the health of our candidates is of paramount importance and should be weighed appropriately.

Why, oh, why could Ron Paul not be the Republican nominee? If not the nominee, at least the VP. I shudder to think of Palin as president.

Spelling list for this week, October 4, 2008

Ben and Shira are practicing for the Spelling Bee in January. I'm using to help them practice their words. Here is this week's list.


Last week the kids decided that the words were too difficult and they didn't want to take part in the spelling bee. However, on Wednesday when they saw a friend merrily spelling the words, they decided that they wanted to do spelling bee again and proceeded to spell all their words correctly.

Petition YouTube for Pat Condell - a victimless criminal

Pat Condell supported the petition against Sharia law in the UK with his video, "Welcome to Saudi Britain."

As a result of his usual brave and dignified stand in favour of freedom of speech his video has been removed.

He merely criticised the Saudi-based Islamisation of the UK. He did not incite violence nor hatred of Muslims.

find more details and the petition here

Richard Dawkins asks a very important question, "If a voice as humorous and high profile as Pat Condell's can be silenced when asking people to sign a legal petition, who's going to hear our voices, we little people? "


Benny, Ben and Shira set up shop yesterday. My kids need better entrepreneurial skills. Benny convinced them that Ben would supply the products, Shira would set prices and they'd all sell them. For this, Benny would receive 50% of the profits and my two the remaining 50%.

My two thought this was perfectly equitable because Benny thought up the project. On one hand I am glad they think this way because they are giving credence to intellectual capital but on the other hand, I wish they had stood up for greater profits.

Children who spend time with their fathers have a higher IQ

From the Telegraph we hear that:
strong fatherly involvement in their early life can also improve a child's future career prospects, the research shows.
Academics at the University of Newcastle, who carried out the study, also found that men tended to pay more attention to their sons than their daughters.
The researchers warned that it was not enough for parents to live together, but that a father should be actively involved in a child's life to benefit their development.
The study looked at more than 11,000 British men and women, born in 1958.
The scientists asked their mothers how often the father of their child took part in activities with them, including reading, organising outings and general "quality time".
The findings, published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour, show that those children whose fathers spent more time with them had a higher IQ and were more socially mobile than those who had received little attention.
The differences were still detectable by the age of 42.
Dr Daniel Nettle, who led the research, said: "What was surprising about this research was the real sizeable difference in the progress of children who benefited from paternal interest and how thirty years later, people whose dads were involved are more upwardly mobile.
"The data suggest that having a second adult involved during childhood produces benefits in terms of skills and abilities that endure throughout adult life," he added.