Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Advertising slogans

If you are in the need of some light relief, read some of the entries for the Phoenix Metro light rail slogan contest.

Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers # 10

Welcome to another edition of the Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers. I hope you enjoy reading the entries as much as I did.

Alasandra challenges us to read a banned book. This week is "Banned Book Week". Read a book from the banned list and help maintain our freedoms.

Everyone is free to make decisions about what to read, but no one should be allowed to prescribe to everyone else, what they may, or may not read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this next entry. Living by Learning says,
Discover ideas and resources to enrich home school lessons through field trips to museums and zoos. Find links to online resources that will help you plan a fun and engaging trip.
She gives very good ideas on how to use digital "toys" on your next field trip.

I know that many consider iPods to be luxuries but in our home they are necessities for our children's education. We've filled their iPods with good music and good literature. We have strict rules, no earphones and no walking around with them. Each child has a set of speakers that s/he can move around the house and I have an adapter for use in the van. The iPods have saved my voice on more than one occasion. The kids have always had a taste for literature that far exceeds their current reading ability. I just was not able to read enough to them to keep them satisfied. The iPod allowed them to listen to as much literature as their little hearts could ever want.

Thomas J. West investigates whether those musical instruments available at Wal Mart and Toys R Us a good choice for homeschoolers? If your child is beginning to learn to play a new instrument, you need to read this article before you buy him/her the instrument.

I love the art idea from Narrow Path. She gives step-by-step instructions on how to help your child make an impressionist masterpiece.

Maxwell sent me a link to a website that is chock full of really good arts activities. Artsology. On their Investigations page, they visit, amongst others, the Cloisters in NYC to discover monsters in art, Navajo sand painting and artistic representations of Zeus through the ages. Their videos page contains a selection of videos

Jazz legend Thelonious Monk plays the classic song "Round About Midnight."
Listen as Jack Kerouac reads from his novel "On The Road" with a slideshow of images of Kerouac as well as Neal Cassidy.
A selection of flower paintings by the American artist Georgia O'Keeffe set to a soundtrack of music by Mozart.
A video slideshow introduction to the paintings of Surrealist artist Salvador Dali.
Watch Miles Davis performing "Footprints."
A video montage of faces painted by Picasso, with each one transforming into the next one.
Watch the influential bebop genius Charlie Parker play his alto sax!
Hear Pavarotti sing the famous aria "Nessun Dorma" by Puccini.
A fantastic display of tap dancing by Gregory Hines.

Moving from the arts to science. Kim writes:
I've started a pretty big undertaking for me. I'm running a weekly physics class for elementary students. Here's a summary of my first class. It's quite nerve-wracking knowing that every week I need to prepare a lecture, an activity or experiment, review the previous information, and also prepare any needed vocabulary and concepts for future classes. I'm having fun so far and the kids seem to be getting something from it. I'm really happy that those moms felt OK with trusting me with their kids. It also is a class that needs to be developed from scratch because I want to present the evidence required for the first ideas and the next ideas. That's a tall order because every other science programs starts with the final conclusions or just very impressive bouncy balls or slime.
I wish we lived closer to Kim as her science class sounds like the type of science class I would want for my children. I have huge problems with almost all the science programs I have found as they do not present the information in a logical way. Her second science class sounds even better than the first. Kim, I think you need to package this class for resale. I'd certainly be interested in buying it from you.

I've recently discovered the joys of distance learning. I realized a few months ago that I become overwhelmed when I try to teach every subject to my children. I often struggle to find the perfect resources and end up having to do too much work before I teach the kids. Luckily, there is a growing body of master teachers who are providing their teaching services over the internet and through teleconferences. I think that these services are underutilized by the homeschooling community.

Amongst these teachers is Scott Powell of History At Our House. Scott is a masterful teacher who brings history to life for his students.

Scott has written a good essay in Secular Homeschooling titled, "Why History".
History is widely considered to be a core component of a proper homeschooling curriculum. In fact, according to homeschooling authorities Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, "history is the subject," because it presents "the unfolding of human achievement in every area — science, literature, art, music, and politics." Yet how many of us can say we were excited to learn history as a child, that we emerged from our own youth with a history education that actually empowered us to make our way through the world, and that we regularly engage the past of human civilization as a vital component of our lives?

There is no shame in admitting that you found history dull, that you thought it was a waste of time, or even that you hated it as a child. The way that it was taught, it probably deserved your disdain! Like Kevin Arnold, the young man of the TV show The Wonder Years, you probably remember history as mind-blowingly boring. I'll never forget the episode in which Kevin's history teacher, played by Ben Stein, begins a lesson: "The Hundred Years' War…Year Four!" As a historian, I laughed and I cringed when I first saw that episode. It captures perfectly why for so many people the mere thought of attending a history lecture causes their eyes to roll to the back of their heads.

Honestly, if you like history (or, like me, you love it), you know you are one of only a few.

But if history is something almost everyone hated as a child, how can it be something we all believe we need to teach our kids? Is it because we want them to suffer as we did? Of course not. Still, the question remains: "Why history?"
Read the entire essay here

Scott is not alone in teaching homeschooled students over long distances. Michael Gold tutors all levels of mathematics through calculus and statistics, to work with home schoolers on math courses and curriculum, to teach logic and basic science, or to prepare you or your child for the SAT, ACT, THEA, GRE or GMAT. He writes:
To make it easy for the student and to properly build the student's knowledge of mathematics, I teach in a step-by-step manner. Material is organized logically to make math easier for the student to grasp, and methods are always provided for working problems. This organization and use of method should give students reasoning skills that will help them in other areas of academics and in life. I also provide applications of mathematics, to motivate the student and to show the power of ideas.

The study of mathematics provides a unique opportunity to learn fundamental thinking skills used in all areas of life, from science to law, from reading to analyzing every-day claims. So, as it arises naturally in our tutoring sessions, I will use our time to improve the student's logic and reasoning abilities.
When I heard about Michael's business, I thought of all those people whose main complaint about homeschooling is that they believe the majority of parents are not able to teach higher level math. It's becoming easier and easier for homeschooling parents to outsource the subjects they don't wish, or feel competent to teach. A cheaper option for distance math education, but far less personal than Michael's services is Aleks.

ALEKS is a web-based, artificially intelligent assessment and learning system. ALEKS uses adaptive questioning to quickly and accurately determine exactly what a student knows and doesn't know in a course. ALEKS then instructs the student on the topics she is most ready to learn. As a student works through a course, ALEKS periodically reassesses the student to ensure that topics learned are also retained. ALEKS courses are very complete in their topic coverage and ALEKS avoids multiple choice questions. A student who shows a high level of mastery of an ALEKS course will be successful in the actual course she is taking.

ALEKS also provides the advantages of one-on-one instruction, 24/7, from virtually any web-based computer for a fraction of the cost of a human tutor.
I've only heard good things about Aleks, however, when we tried it, I discovered that my children need human interaction. Perhaps when they are older, computer based math learning will work for them, but right now, they need to interact with a human.

Unlike Scott and Michael, Melinda Kinnear does not specialize in one specific subject. She offers workshops and tutoring for grades K thru 10th in the following subjects:
Language Arts & English
Reading Comprehension
Science (Earth, Physical, & Life)
History (U.S. & World)
Spelling & Vocabulary Building
More importantly, she offers very individualized instruction. She writes: If your child is having a particular problem with a subject, I can
customize a course just for him/her to address & meet his/her specific

I realized I am not alone in struggling to find good textbooks and curricula for my children. Kathy Ceceri of Crafts For Learning writes that textbooks stink!.
In a November/December 2004 article in Edutopia magazine called The Muddle Machine, writer Tamim Ansary confirmed what everybody who’s ever opened a lousy science, math, history or English textbook has suspected for a long time – the answer to the question “Who writes these things?” is “No one.”

Ansary, a columnist for the online encyclopedia Encarta.com and author of 38 nonfiction books for children, was an editor at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich for nine years before going on to write for Houghton Mifflin, McDougall Littell, Prentice Hall, and many other textbook publishers. And according to his insider’s view, the process used to create the books schools rely on looks more like a sausage factory than a scholarly collaboration.

Regardless of the prestigious names and credentials which often appear on the title page of most textbooks, in standard practice textbooks are written by teams of in-house writers (or, more recently, outside “development houses”) who use as the basis of their product not the latest findings by experts in the field but – other textbooks. As Ansary describes, the “chum” is then updated by the application of whatever hot new teaching philosophy is coming down the pike, tweaked by an editor to make it sound as if it were penned by a single consciousness, and only then adorned with the name of the researcher or professor who is dubbed “the author.”

Dana is a far better mom than I. When her children acquired gray tree frogs, instead of telling the children to send them back from whence they came, she went shopping and set up a habitat for the frogs. Dana, I think Ben and Shira want to come and live with you. They think life is very unfair because I refuse to have any reptiles or rodents in the house.

It was fortuitous that Mary of The Informed Parent wrote about italic handwriting.
Italic handwriting makes a lot of sense to me. You first learn to print and then it doesn’t take much to switch over to cursive italic letters.
Shira want to learn how to write in italic or how to do calligraphy. All of a sudden she is transforming her chicken scratch handwriting into something beautiful and wants the tools to make it even more beautiful.

Dawn is my kind of homeschooler. She submitted two entries to this carnival. In the first entry, she writes about the excellent lesson plan on classical music she developed. Then, just before I could start to feel inadequate, she wrote:
I don't know if you accept multiple posts but I thought this and the "Musical Afternoon" had to go together. The first is that typical, "Look at everything we did! I'm so organized and clever!" post and this submission is the immediate followup where I realized that post made me look like something I'm not - an organized mom. Of course I had to correct that!

Kris, a truly organized homeschooler, blogs about the joys of dusting off all her old preschool "stuff" for her current young preschooler and teaching one-to-one correspondence to preschoolers through (mostly) play.

Angie of The Homeschool Classroom shares her list of age appropriate chores. What makes this different from other chores list are the side notes on what to expect from children about chores as various points in their lives.

I always enjoy reading about homeschoolers who have finished their journey. Malia Russell shares the story of her daughter, Christina's homeschool graduation. Christina is a remarkable young woman who is an inspiration to us all. Mazal Tov, Christina.

As a goodbye present, I wish to present you with this information. Did you know that it is possible to get a free college education without a scholarship? I didn't until I read this blog post on Destroy Debt

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.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On Kids and Puppies.

Marc and I were talking about how similar puppies and kids are.

Our kids can't fall asleep easily unless they've had a good dose of mommy and daddy attention before bedtime. Our puppies can't settle for the night unless they first fall asleep on us.

Both puppies and kids are ruled by their stomachs.

Both puppies and kids have two states of being - busy, busy, busy or dead to the world.

Both puppies and kids become out of sorts if they are not given enough undivided parental attention. We've seen this with our kids for years. Whenever Marc or I go through a busy patch and are not able to give the kids the "right" amount of attention, they end up becoming overly emotional, or badly behaved or just plain out of sorts. Now we're seeing the puppies are just the same.

It's amazing how similar the young of two different species are.

Geeky cake designs

Web Urbanist has a post about cake designs that appeal to the geek in me.

Here's one for my open source loving husband.

Go on over and have a look at all 20 cake designs

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Featured Blog Carnival

Today's featured carnival over at Blog Carnival is my very own Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers. How neat is that?

Banned Books Week - September 27–October 4, 2008

Sarah Palin and all your right wing crazy friends who want to restrict the books libraries can offer their patrons, this week is for you.
Banned Books Week: Celebrating the Freedom to Read is observed during the last week of September each year. Observed since 1982, this annual ALA event reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. This year, 2008, marks BBW's 27th anniversary (September 27 through October 4).

BBW celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

BBW is sponsored by the American Booksellers Association, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, American Library Association, American Society of Journalists and Authors, Association of American Publishers, National Association of College Stores, and is endorsed by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress.

According to the American Library Association, their office for Intellectual Freedom received 420 challenges last year.
A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. According to Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of challenges reflects only incidents reported, and for each reported, four or five remain unreported.

The “10 Most Challenged Books of 2007” reflect a range of themes, and consist of the following titles:

1) “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

2) The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

3) “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit and Offensive Language

4) “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

5) “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

6) “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language,

7) "TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

8) "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually Explicit

9) “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

10) "The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to A

I had a chuckle at book number 9, "It's perfectly Normal".

This book is in my library and on my list to use with the kids. Right now we're reading it's companion book, "It's So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families".

It's a really good sex ed book for the early elementary crowd. I did skip parts of the book that I didn't feel were necessary for the kids to know about right now. For the moment I am sticking to the concept of intercourse being for reproduction and for enjoyment between married couples and as the need arises, I'll expand on my explanations.

Read more about Banned Book Week at the ALA's website
What you can do to fight censorship and keep books available in your libraries

Here are some of our suggestions to help you celebrate the week. We hope one is a good fit for you. If you can think of other ways to celebrate the week, please share them with us at oif@ala.org. Your ideas may inspire other people!

Stay informed. If you read or hear about a challenge at your school or public library, support your librarian and free and open access to library materials. The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom estimates they learn of only 20 to 25 percent of book challenges. Let us know if there is a challenge in your community. Find out what the policy is for reviewing challenged materials at your school or public library. Join the Intellectual Freedom Action News (IFACTION) e-list.

Organize your own Banned Books Read-Out! at your school, public library, or favorite bookstore.

Get involved. Go to school board meetings. Volunteer to help your local school or public library create an event that discusses the freedom to read and helps educate about censorship—maybe a film festival, a readout, a panel discussion, an author reading or a poster contest for children illustrating the concept of free speech.

Speak out. Write letters to the editor, your public library director and your local school principal supporting the freedom to read. Talk to your neighbors and friends about why everyone should be allowed to choose for themselves and their families what they read. Encourage your governor, city council and/or mayor to proclaim "Banned Books Week - Celebrating the Freedom to Read" in your state or community.

Exercise your rights! Check out or re-read a favorite banned book. Encourage your book group to read and discuss one of the books. Give one of your favorite books as a gift. The 100 most challenged books of the 1990s is a good resource!

Join the Freedom to Read Foundation. The Foundation is dedicated to the legal and financial defense of intellectual freedom, especially in libraries. You can also support the cause by buying Banned Books Week posters, buttons and T-shirts online.

Dedicate one day's programming on your National Public Radio (NPR) station to Banned Books Week. For example, "Today's programming on [the name of the radio station] is made possible in part by [your name], who is celebrating this Banned Books Week by re-reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings [or another favorite banned or challenged book] or by accomplishing some other activity related to the week.

Mount these Web badges on your blogs and home pages to help spread the word about BBW.

L'Shana Tova

Birthright Israel has a great political Rosh Hashanah ad.
The presidential candidates for 2008 atone for their sins for the New Year. Happy Rosh Hashanah from Taglit-Birthright Israel!

Cartoon by http://jewishrobot.com

The Daily Show On The Bail Out

Sometimes I think that the only sensible political commentary is made by the comedians.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling

The latest edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling is up at A Pondering Heart.

Rational Jenn: Objectivist Round Up #63

Rational Jenn presents yet another Objectivist Round Up that provides good reading and much food for thought.

Sam Harris on Sarah Palin

As most of my friends and family are aware, I totally aghast at the love affair that a good part of America seems to be having with Sarah Palin.

I'm horrified that people want as a leader of this country, someone who is just like them. I don't want someone just like me as president. I want someone who is super intelligent, highly educated and well versed in international and national politics. I also want a clear thinker, not someone who thinks that her god is the cure for all that ails this country. Sam Harris writes what I wanted to say so much better than I ever could:
The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin's lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. "They think they're better than you!" is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. "Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!" Yes, all too ordinary.

We have all now witnessed apparently sentient human beings, once provoked by a reporter's microphone, saying things like, "I'm voting for Sarah because she's a mom. She knows what it's like to be a mom." Such sentiments suggest an uncanny (and, one fears, especially American) detachment from the real problems of today. The next administration must immediately confront issues like nuclear proliferation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and covert wars elsewhere), global climate change, a convulsing economy, Russian belligerence, the rise of China, emerging epidemics, Islamism on a hundred fronts, a defunct United Nations, the deterioration of American schools, failures of energy, infrastructure and Internet security … the list is long, and Sarah Palin does not seem competent even to rank these items in order of importance, much less address any one of them.

Palin's most conspicuous gaffe in her interview with Gibson has been widely discussed. The truth is, I didn't much care that she did not know the meaning of the phrase "Bush doctrine." And I am quite sure that her supporters didn't care, either. Most people view such an ambush as a journalistic gimmick. What I do care about are all the other things Palin is guaranteed not to know—or will be glossing only under the frenzied tutelage of John McCain's advisers. What doesn't she know about financial markets, Islam, the history of the Middle East, the cold war, modern weapons systems, medical research, environmental science or emerging technology? Her relative ignorance is guaranteed on these fronts and most others, not because she was put on the spot, or got nervous, or just happened to miss the newspaper on any given morning. Sarah Palin's ignorance is guaranteed because of how she has spent the past 44 years on earth.

I care even more about the many things Palin thinks she knows but doesn't: like her conviction that the Biblical God consciously directs world events. Needless to say, she shares this belief with mil-lions of Americans—but we shouldn't be eager to give these people our nuclear codes, either. There is no question that if President McCain chokes on a spare rib and Palin becomes the first woman president, she and her supporters will believe that God, in all his majesty and wisdom, has brought it to pass. Why would God give Sarah Palin a job she isn't ready for? He wouldn't. Everything happens for a reason. Palin seems perfectly willing to stake the welfare of our country—even the welfare of our species—as collateral in her own personal journey of faith. Of course, McCain has made the same unconscionable wager on his personal journey to the White House.

In speaking before her church about her son going to war in Iraq, Palin urged the congregation to pray "that our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God; that's what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan, and that plan is God's plan." When asked about these remarks in her interview with Gibson, Palin successfully dodged the issue of her religious beliefs by claiming that she had been merely echoing the words of Abraham Lincoln. The New York Times later dubbed her response "absurd." It was worse than absurd; it was a lie calculated to conceal the true character of her religious infatuations. Every detail that has emerged about Palin's life in Alaska suggests that she is as devout and literal-minded in her Christian dogmatism as any man or woman in the land. Given her long affiliation with the Assemblies of God church, Palin very likely believes that Biblical prophecy is an infallible guide to future events and that we are living in the "end times." Which is to say she very likely thinks that human history will soon unravel in a foreordained cataclysm of war and bad weather. Undoubtedly Palin believes that this will be a good thing—as all true Christians will be lifted bodily into the sky to make merry with Jesus, while all nonbelievers, Jews, Methodists and other rabble will be punished for eternity in a lake of fire. Like many Pentecostals, Palin may even imagine that she and her fellow parishioners enjoy the power of prophecy themselves. Otherwise, what could she have meant when declaring to her congregation that "God's going to tell you what is going on, and what is going to go on, and you guys are going to have that within you"?

You can learn something about a person by the company she keeps. In the churches where Palin has worshiped for decades, parishioners enjoy "baptism in the Holy Spirit," "miraculous healings" and "the gift of tongues." Invariably, they offer astonishingly irrational accounts of this behavior and of its significance for the entire cosmos. Palin's spiritual colleagues describe themselves as part of "the final generation," engaged in "spiritual warfare" to purge the earth of "demonic strongholds." Palin has spent her entire adult life immersed in this apocalyptic hysteria. Ask yourself: Is it a good idea to place the most powerful military on earth at her disposal? Do we actually want our leaders thinking about the fulfillment of Biblical prophecy when it comes time to say to the Iranians, or to the North Koreans, or to the Pakistanis, or to the Russians or to the Chinese: "All options remain on the table"?

It is easy to see what many people, women especially, admire about Sarah Palin. Here is a mother of five who can see the bright side of having a child with Down syndrome and still find the time and energy to govern the state of Alaska. But we cannot ignore the fact that Palin's impressive family further testifies to her dogmatic religious beliefs. Many writers have noted the many shades of conservative hypocrisy on view here: when Jamie Lynn Spears gets pregnant, it is considered a symptom of liberal decadence and the breakdown of family values; in the case of one of Palin's daughters, however, teen pregnancy gets reinterpreted as a sign of immaculate, small-town fecundity. And just imagine if, instead of the Palins, the Obama family had a pregnant, underage daughter on display at their convention, flanked by her black boyfriend who "intends" to marry her. Who among conservatives would have resisted the temptation to speak of "the dysfunction in the black community"?

Teen pregnancy is a misfortune, plain and simple. At best, it represents bad luck (both for the mother and for the child); at worst, as in the Palins' case, it is a symptom of religious dogmatism. Governor Palin opposes sex education in schools on religious grounds. She has also fought vigorously for a "parental consent law" in the state of Alaska, seeking full parental dominion over the reproductive decisions of minors. We know, therefore, that Palin believes that she should be the one to decide whether her daughter carries her baby to term. Based on her stated position, we know that she would deny her daughter an abortion even if she had been raped. One can be forgiven for doubting whether Bristol Palin had all the advantages of 21st-century family planning—or, indeed, of the 21st century.

We have endured eight years of an administration that seemed touched by religious ideology. Bush's claim to Bob Woodward that he consulted a "higher Father" before going to war in Iraq got many of us sitting upright, before our attention wandered again to less ethereal signs of his incompetence. For all my concern about Bush's religious beliefs, and about his merely average grasp of terrestrial reality, I have never once thought that he was an over-the-brink, Rapture-ready extremist. Palin seems as though she might be the real McCoy. With the McCain team leading her around like a pet pony between now and Election Day, she can be expected to conceal her religious extremism until it is too late to do anything about it. Her supporters know that while she cannot afford to "talk the talk" between now and Nov. 4, if elected, she can be trusted to "walk the walk" until the Day of Judgment.

What is so unnerving about the candidacy of Sarah Palin is the degree to which she represents—and her supporters celebrate—the joyful marriage of confidence and ignorance. Watching her deny to Gibson that she had ever harbored the slightest doubt about her readiness to take command of the world's only superpower, one got the feeling that Palin would gladly assume any responsibility on earth:

"Governor Palin, are you ready at this moment to perform surgery on this child's brain?"

"Of course, Charlie. I have several boys of my own, and I'm an avid hunter."

"But governor, this is neurosurgery, and you have no training as a surgeon of any kind."

"That's just the point, Charlie. The American people want change in how we make medical decisions in this country. And when faced with a challenge, you cannot blink."

The prospects of a Palin administration are far more frightening, in fact, than those of a Palin Institute for Pediatric Neurosurgery. Ask yourself: how has "elitism" become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

I believe that with the nomination of Sarah Palin for the vice presidency, the silliness of our politics has finally put our nation at risk. The world is growing more complex—and dangerous—with each passing hour, and our position within it growing more precarious. Should she become president, Palin seems capable of enacting policies so detached from the common interests of humanity, and from empirical reality, as to unite the entire world against us. When asked why she is qualified to shoulder more responsibility than any person has held in human history, Palin cites her refusal to hesitate. "You can't blink," she told Gibson repeatedly, as though this were a primordial truth of wise governance. Let us hope that a President Palin would blink, again and again, while more thoughtful people decide the fate of civilization.

Beware Wordsmart

I did something I never do, I bought something from a telesales person. She made such a good case for her product and the guarantees sounded so good that I figured I had nothing to lose by trying it.

Big, big mistake.

I bought WordSmart because it sounded like a fun way to help my children grow their vocabulary. Before I bought it, I asked the saleswoman 3 or 4 times if this product worked on Macs. She assured me it did.

When I opened the package I discovered that the main disc was for Windows XP ONLY. Some of the discs worked on Macs but the main program was a Windows program only and not even for the latest version of Windows.

I was ticked off but before I sent it back I decided to have a look at the program on an old Windows laptop we own to see if it was worth keeping. I need not have wasted my time. This was the most boring piece of junk I had ever had the misfortune to look at. It's sold as an entertaining and fun way to teach vocab to children. The last time I looked, scrolling dictionary based definitions were not fun or entertaining to seven year olds.

That decided it for me, I was going to send it back. I called the company for a "return authorization" number and that's where the fun started. A young snot, Joel, refused to give me the authorization number. He said that since some of the discs worked on my Mac I should just use those. I told him that even if I loved the program, which I did not, I was not going to pay full price for half a program. He just refused to listen to me. He kept on telling me that if I truly loved my children and wished them well, I would keep the program and do it with them. He kept on giving me larger and larger discounts if I would give it a longer trial.

It did not matter how often I repeated myself, "I am not interested in this program. I just want a return authorization number and a full refund on my credit card". He kept on insisted that by returning this program I was short changing my children.

I finally stated that if I did not get my authorization number and refund immediately, I was going to declare a dispute with the credit card company. Blow me down if the little snot didn't try one more time to harangue me into keeping his shitty little piece of software.

I finally received this blasted return authorization number and UPS'd the box back to them. I am giving them a week to give me a refund and if I don't see it on my card by next Tuesday, I am going to call my credit card and tell them that this is a disputed charge.

Pompeii - The Life of a Roman Town by Mary Beard

I have just placed a pre-order on Amazon for The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found by Mary Beard. I can't wait to read it based on the review done by The Times Online.

Must admit that I far prefer the American title of the book to the British one. Doesn't "the Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found" sound far more exciting than "Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town"? Whatever the title, the review makes the books sound like a must have in my library.
Mary Beard uses the relics buried by the eruption of AD79 (the fish-weighing scales and flour mills, the gladiators' helmets and grafitti) to bring everyday Roman culture alive.

Beard covers the big public issues - economy and government, gods, games - and animates them superbly by tying them to the biographies of real Pompeiians: the heart-throb gladiator Celadus, the well-connected local worthy Marcus Holconius Priscus, and the warty banker Lucius Caecilius Jucundus. She is most interested, however, in the domestic and the intimate. In the excellent chapter on painting and decorating, she doesn't just analyse Pompeiian style, she opens up cupboards to count the paint pots and turn over the spoons and spatulas. She doesn't only describe the grander rooms with their fantastical frescoes and deep tones of “Pompeiian red”, she explores the corridors and service quarters, revealing the ferocious zebra-stripe colour scheme “which would not have looked wholly out of place in the 1960s”.

Pompeii's smells must have been no less vibrant than its colours. The 20,000-seater amphitheatre had no lavatory. Huge local fortunes were built on a kind of fermented (rotted, some say) fish sauce. As for the Roman baths, they were apparently “a seething mass of bacteria”, which weren't regarded as safe to enter with an open wound. Cleanliness aside, they sound closer in spirit to a 1970s San Francisco bathhouse than, say, today's sleek spas.

Rome's famed hygienic fastidiousness is not the only classical myth that Beard delights in busting. Togas, when they were worn at all, came in fierce colours, not just white. Losing gladiators were much more likely to survive than be killed. And if the cramped dining rooms and minuscule kitchens of Pompeii are any guide, the decadent banquet of the celluloid imagination was probably a rare affair. The notorious dormice dipped in honey really were a Pompeiian treat - the jars found with internal, premoulded dormouse exercise runs prove it - but the wealthy largely made do with a “finger buffet” of bread, olives and cheese, perhaps with sausages and black pudding. The poor, it seems, dined out at simple cafes.

Most shockingly, the Romans were not quite as morbidly hypersexual as we like to imagine. The Stabian Baths were indeed brightened up by athletic-erotic scenes - including depictions of both a trio and a foursome. Carved phalluses and boastfully obscene graffiti really are found everywhere. But much of what has been called erotic, Beard protests, is more “a familiar and slightly edgy mixture of sex, drink and play” than evidence of “terrible moral turpitude”.

Miracle Berries

I initially started reading The Telegraph's article about miracle berries out of curiosity. I was fascinated to read about something that rewires the way we taste certain foods.
it have much of a taste of its own. Instead its appeal lies in its transforming powers. The bright red berry contains a molecule that temporarily rewires the palate's perception of sour flavours, coating the tongue with a sweet aftertaste and tricking you into thinking that the food in question is sugary. Unpalatably sharp but healthy fruits, such as English blackberries, lose all their bitterness. Lemons and limes are suddenly delicious raw.

Yet this is a food that doesn't punish waistlines. ''The miracle fruit contains no fat,'' says Japanese scientist Mitsuharu Shimamura, who has lectured audiences worldwide on the berry's potential. ''And the calories are negligible.''

However, I became rather disquieted when I read this paragraph:
Long term it's impossible to overestimate the fruit's potential. With obesity levels at epidemic proportions and our western diet dangerously high in sugar, this small African berry could revolutionise the way we eat, giving us that sugar fix we crave without the calorific penalty, or the side-effects, that often accompany it. Although the berry has yet to be officially sanctioned as a health food or taken up in a major way by the food industry, perhaps it's only a matter of time.

Our civilization is all about the easy, quick "fix". We have sugar junkies, so instead of teaching them to break their addiction, let's give them a berry that tricks them into thinking their addiction is being satisfied. I wonder if it won't make them crave even more sweetness. I know that if I eat a lot of fruit, I crave sweetness, but if I eat a lot of greens I find most fruits too sweet.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blog Carnival of homeschooled kids

Homeschooled children now have their own Blog Carnival

Read all about it at Homeschooling Ideas.

The first carnival is on September 30th.

Ben and Shira blog. It's been sporadic and I intent to make blogging a serious part of our schooling. I think I'll have them enter one of their book reports.

We have family rules about blogging. I have to approve all blog posts before they are posted (you can see the one on my kids' blogs that were done without my approval. I left them up but waved a big stick). All comments come through to me and I show them to the kids.

Specs and 7 year olds

Spectacles and 7 year olds are not a good mix. In the last 12 months Ben has managed to break his frames twice and damage one lens. Shira has managed to lose her specs twice in less than 2 months.

Ben has a great need to fiddle and fix. He sees me going to the optician to have my specs adjusted every so often and thought that he'd save me the trip to have his adjusted. He did his own adjusting. Net result? New frames needed twice. He's now banned from adjusting his own frames. Thankfully the optician's insurance covers damage to frames and lenses.

The problem is that it doesn't cover lost specs. We have no idea what happened to the pair Shira lost first, however, we do know what happened to yesterday's pair and if we had time and lots of patience I am sure we could find them.

The kids and dogs were playing at the "meadow" (a large green area 3 houses from us that is essentially a median but is a block wide and 3 blocks long). The dogs started licking Shira's face so she handed her specs to Ben for safe keeping.

One thing led to another and the kids realized that Shira's specs were lost. Turns out that Ben hand them back to Shira by puting them down on the grass and telling her that he'd given them back to her. She didn't hear him and continued playing and running around.

Hilarity ensued when the kids called us to help them find the specs. Both kids were insistent that they knew the general area of the specs. The problem is that they were both insisting that the specs were in completely different areas of the meadow.

Marc and I tried to do a grid search but nightfall made it impossible to continue. I am not hopeful of finding them this morning as longish grass and small specs don't make a good combination.

Now the new rule is that you are not allowed to take specs off your face unless you are swimming, showering or going to sleep and then there are rules for what happens to the specs when you take them off your face.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Stressed, stressed, stressed.

This weekend I realized that my stress levels were out of control. One reason has to do with family issues and the other with how we've structured our school schedule this year.

I think it is time to take both in hand before something explodes (that would be me LOL). Three items on our schedule are causing the most amount of stress for me. One of the reasons we homeschool is because we like flexibility. Three things we are doing have totally taken away our flexibility. Shira is belongs to a Nature Girls Club that meets on Sunday afternoons from 3-6 pm. It's a great club. She loves it, her fellow club members love her, the leader is a gifted teacher and truly inspires the children, BUT, if the girls miss three meetings they are tossed out of the club.

You have no idea how stressful it is to have this restriction placed on our weekends.

Shira is also a member of a children's chorus that meets every Tuesday from 4:30-5:30pm. The children's chorus has a policy that children who miss 3 lessons in a semester are either booted from the choir, or are not allowed to perform at their concerts.

This is slightly less stressful than the Nature Girls Club because the semester is only 3 months long. Nature Girls meets every week all year round. However, they hold concerts on weekends which makes life awkward when we want to travel.

The last schedule stressor is this phenomenal history program we're doing. We signed up for the live classes. These classes are held every Monday to Thursday from 1- 1:30pm. I have been very, very surprised at how stressful it has been to arrange our schedule around being at a telephone every day. So many of the extra curricula activities we want to do start at either 12 or 1 pm.

Today the children and I decided that we're going to change our history subscription to the recorded lectures. We'll still listen to his lectures daily, but won't be tied to a clock and phone.

This will do much to reduce our daily stress but we're just going to have to live with the other two. However, I suspect that she may get kicked out of Nature Girls as we, her parents, are not going to let Nature Girls stand in the way of family commitments and travel plans.

Of course, this is causing stress because the child loves this club. We don't have local family. To see family we have to travel. This club makes it difficult for us to get the kids to see their grandparents. This club issue is going to come to a head in the next few months as Shira is going to miss meetings in October because we're going on vacation, November for her great grandmother's 94th birthday party and then two weeks in January while we travel with my cousin.

Part of the family stress has been resolved and I am adamant that steps are going to be taken to reduce the remaining family induced stress.

My parents came to visit us earlier this month. Since they live half a world away, they have to live in our home when they visit. I do not enjoy house guests. I dislike how my routines are interrupted, I hate how I have to have a happy face on all the time. I am a loner, I don't like people in my space (husband and children are exceptions and even then I need time away from them once in a while). Even though my parents are very easy house guests, and we enjoy their visits, it is very stressful having them in our home.

To further increase the stress, while my folks were visiting, my stepdad starting losing his balance. By the time we cut their visit short and sent them back home to their doctors, he was almost unable to walk and was very confused. It turns out that he had a subdural hematoma from a fall 4-6 weeks prior to his visit. Thankfully the surgery to relieve the pressure was a success and he will be out of hospital tomorrow, but the fear was that he was not going to survive. Stress like this is not fun.

While. this was going on, another family member decided that this was the prefect time to start making demands of her own and despite very clear answers from both Marc and me, she decided, in her wisdom ignore our wishes and to continue with her demands.

She took an already stressful situation and made it exponentially worse.

I made a decision yesterday that she's done this to me for the last time. In future, if she questions Marc's or my answers to her demands I am just going refuse to take her phone calls or take the children to visit her. My days of indulging her and putting myself out for her are over. She decided that her wants were more important than my or my parents' needs while we were facing the very real possibility of my stepfather's death. This, to me, shows that she has no respect for me and as such deserves none from me.

How do you all deal with family members who act as if their wants are the only ones that matter and who make the lives of everyone around them miserable until they get their own way? The reality is that I cannot remove this person from our lives, so I'll have to settle for second best. All our interactions will now be on my terms, not hers. None of her wants will be met by me any longer unless she is completely respectful of me and mine.

I just hope that life is going to become less stressful. We're going to do the prerecorded history program, so the daily stress over being at a telephone has been taken out of our lives, I've started preparing Shira for the fact that she may end up being kicked out of Nature Girls and I am taking a stand with a certain family member. No more emotional blackmail. She may get her wants that require my input met, if it suits me.

The biggie is that my stepdad is well on the road to recovery.

Homeschooling not just for children

The AP reports:
Kathy Leeds grows animated as she describes the courses she is taking this fall, including classes in current events, art and literature.
But Leeds will never step foot on a campus or in a classroom. The 79-year-old widow has multiple sclerosis, uses a wheelchair and is confined to her Manhattan apartment.
Leeds is one of about 500 people enrolled for the fall semester in a telephone-based educational program for homebound seniors called DOROT University Without Walls, believed to be the largest program of its kind in the country.
The curriculum includes more than 250 courses and runs the gamut from understanding feng shui and poetry writing to discussions on moral, ethical and philosophical issues and a discourse on women of the progressive era. Informational classes on money management, Internet surfing and medicine also are available.

Full text here
More information on University Without Walls

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Brazilian Homeschoolers beat the test.

I've been following the case of the two Brazilian homeschoolers David and Jonatas Nunes. These two brothers had already passed law school entrance exams at the age of 13 and 14, but the results were insufficient for local government authorities, who threatened to deprive their parents of custody and attempted to levy a steep fine.

The family spent a year and a half fighting the authorities. Finally the court gave the boys a test to try to prove that their homeschooling was inadequate. Despite stacking the deck against them, the boys prevailed.
David and Jonatas Nunes have passed tests proving a high level of knowledge in a variety of subjects, including history, the natural sciences, the arts, sports, computing, and mathematics.

The tests given to the Nunes children were so difficult that public school teachers admitted that they could not pass them. The two boys, aged 14 and 15, had only one week to study for several of the tests, which were announced only a week in advance.

The exams were ordered by a local court in an attempt to determine if the Nunes had committed the crime of "intellectual abandonment", which could have resulted in a heavy fine, and possibly jail time for the two parents, as well as loss of custody of their three children.

While the boys were told well in advance they would be tested on mathematics, geography, science, and history, they were informed only one week before the test date that they would also be tested on Portuguese, English, arts, and physical education, including questions about the history of handball, basketball, soccer, and other sports.

Read the entire article here.

Unfortunately, even though the boys passed the test, the Nunes family may not be out of the woods yet as the government has not yet rules on the test results.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Do you have white pride?

A friend sent me the link to the website of this bunch of kooks. While I deplore the concept of White Nationalism, I suppose they have the right to their views as long as they don't harm anyone. I just feel so much pity for their children who are fed this diet or racial BS.
Sometimes parents will base their decision to homeschool on the racial composition of the local school. If the school is small and majority white, then some feel there is no need to pull their children from the government school.

However, there is something you need to take into consideration and that is the teachers and the textbooks.

Your children may not attend school in an integrated setting, but they are still learning from the same books and receiving the same garbage in the lectures.

In fact, sometimes this type of school is even more dangerous. Because they have only been exposed to the cool non-whites portrayed on television and in movies, they are unaccustomed to the hatred most non-whites have for whites.

In school they will learn about all of the so-called accomplishments and inventions of the other races. They will be taught how terrible, evil, and oppressive white people are. They will still have to write reports about Martin Luther King Jr. They will still learn lies about Rosa Parks. They will still be taught that white nationalism is basically a mental disorder that is only suitable for society's rejects. They will be taught lies upon lies about the Christian faith, the founding of America, the wonderful attributes of homosexuals and lesbians and so on.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Are Homeschooled Kids at a Disadvantage?

I recently discovered a website called, Opposing Views. I love reading well thought out debates and this site looks like it might just offer that.

Opposing Views is currently running a debate titled, Are Homeschooled Kids At A Disadvantage?".

I like how they have arguments from experts on the topic and from general users.

Pop on over and have your say.


Remember those Diet Coke and Mentos guys? This time they are working their magic with 280,951 Post-It notes.

EepyBird's Sticky Note experiment from Eepybird on Vimeo.

Spelling out the Constitution

"A More Perfect Union" spells out the preamble to the United States Constitution with forty friends in a high school gym in New York City. See more at andrewsloat.com

(HD) A More Perfect Union from Andrew Sloat on Vimeo.

Tina Fey as Sarah Palin


I'm a firm believer in the power of building toys to develop creativity and three dimensional thinking in children. I think that a day spent building things with toys like Legos and Zoobs is worth more to a child than a day spent doing worksheets.

Ben and Shira spent a large portion of today building with their Zoobs. We first met them at the Virginia Living Museum and were so taken with them that we suggested to grandparents that these might make a perfect Channukah present. Last year Marc's parents gave Ben the largest kit available. He couldn't have received a better present. But what are Zoobs you ask?
ZOOB pieces have an educational birthright: their design is based on a living and natural system—the nucleotides found in DNA that are the building blocks of life—and their mobility mirrors the natural movement of people, animals, and machines. This mobility also enhances ZOOB’s educational value, by allowing children to see an assembly as it moves, and by demonstrating the movement of biological, anatomical, and mechanical parts.

ZOOB pieces are easy enough for 6 year-olds to play with, and academically robust enough for educators to use them to model items such as DNA double helixes, anatomic parts, and architectural or mechanical designs.

Here is the skeleton that Shira built this afternoon. I love how she gave the skeleton a rib cage.

Here are some videos of what you can make with Zoob pieces.

Michael Palin for President

If Sarah Palin can be a breathe away from president, then I want Michael Palin for president, at least he means to be comedic.

Happy Constitution Day

September 17 has been designated as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to commemorate the signing of the Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787.

The Department of Defense has a good website that they designed to provide training for all their employees.

Watch Justice Sandra Day O'Connor speak on the constitution and citizenship day.

Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers #9

Welcome to another edition of the Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers. I hope you enjoy reading the entries as much as I did.

This carnival starts off with a post from a very crafty blogger, Kathy. Kathy is the author of one of our favorite craft books, Around the World Crafts: Great Activities for Kids who Like History, Math, Art, Science and More!. Next week we're planning on making the abacus and the macala set from her book.

Kathy reminds us that Friday the 19th is the official "International Talk like a Pirate Day".

Kathy's post gives you some really good resources to include "The International Talk Like a Pirate Day" into your homeschool day.

This following entry from Happy to be @ Home gives detailed instructions on how to go about making a flag for your homeschool. Just imagine the fun in your household if you use these instructions to make a pirate flag to go with "The International Talk Like a Pirate Day"!

I want to make a flag for our homeschool but am rather worried about what it will end up looking like. I asked the kids what symbols they thought best reflected our homeschool. Shira said a vulture because it has the best sense of smell of all the birds and that means it's successful. She thinks that the word that best describes our homeschool is "successful". She then amended her symbol to a pyramid because pyramids took a lot of concerted effort to build and once built, the results lasted for thousands of years.

I have to admit to preferring the pryamid to the vulture. I suppose this is how our founding fathers felt when Ben Franklin suggested the turkey as the national bird.

Ben's ideas included a Rube Goldberg contraption and fireworks, because homeschooling allows you to invent things, is fun and full of surprises. The child has me seriously perplexed because I can't see that in our homeschool at all. At least he loves being homeschooled. I was worried about the fireworks until he explained their use to me. I suspected it was payback for how I lost my temper this morning.

Mother Hen from Ship Full O'Pirates has my eternal gratitude. Her little pirates, like my little Ben, always want to know How Stuff Works. Her little pirates, like my Ben, wanted to know how a drawbridge worked.

She has a fine video on her blog. I was glad of the reminder that How Stuff Workshas many videos on their website. I need to bookmark this site on the children's computers.

Talking about computers, my new MacBook arrives tomorrow. Yeeha!! It's a thing of beauty. It's Marc's birthday on Saturday so he bought me a new computer. Now that's the way husband's birthdays are supposed to work. It also came with a steeply discounted iPod Touch. I've been wanting one of those for a while now because I dislike my Palm Pilot with a passion as I have never managed to get it to sync easily with my Mac. I always end up with dozens of bad entries. It is going to be so good to combine my PDA with my iPod.

Getting back to the carnival.... If you have preschoolers in your home, this Three Little Pigs project by Piseco is just the thing for you.

I have never gotten as fancy as Piseco and built props to go with our fairy stories but like her, I do love to read different versions of fairy stories to the children. Last year we spent weeks reading each of the well known fairy stories. There is a version of Cinderella in almost every culture. Of course, we always liked to end our reading of a fairy story with a fractured version of it.

At Home Science's, Kris, lets us know about a neat physics game, Fantastic Contraption She writes: "he object of the game is to move a pink wheel from the blue design box to the pink goal box by building your own fantastic contraption with only wheels and rods.

Be careful--you may find yourself spending a lot of time playing this one...

Homeschooling Ideas has the perfect science project for budding scientists. She shows you how to create different flame colors using different chemicals and then, more importantly, provides the scientific explanation.

Larissa Walker from Walker Homeschool Daze writes how she has completely revamped her history classes. Her children always liked history, but now using her technique that involves a great text and Google, her children are loving history and more importantly are retaining much more than they used to.

As usual, Kris of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers has a craft that enhances the teaching of ancient history. This edition sees her giving us detailed instructions on how to make a Roman Headpiece

Lydia reviews a resource for studying the presidents of the USA
I bought this book at Sam's Club when I was collecting materials to inform my elections unit production, because of the cool set of cards in the beginning of the book -- pictures of the presidents on the front and facts/trivia on the back, along with different game ideas for learning the names and order. That seemed like a great selling point, and it is. However, I've found that we're using this book a lot, and it has benefits beyond the deck of cards in the front. For example, there is *another* set of cards in the middle! Who knew?
After that first section, there is a page for every President, with a summary of their lives and the major events that happened during their presidencies.

Greg Laden reviews "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pre-Algebra"

What is Pre-Algebra (so you know, whether this book fits your needs or not)? The definition of Pre-Algebra probably varies a bit from place to palce and time to time, but here's a rough list of topics:
Basic number theory ... remember all those different kinds of numbers, like "natural" and "whole" and "skimmed" (no, wait, "skimmed" is milk, not numbers).
Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division ... (so what, you say!!!) of not just numbers but of exponents, decimals, negative and positive terms, and exponents. Ultimately, these are many of the basic rules you will need in algebra.
Basic expressions ... what re they ... and introduction to equations.
Geometry (areas, volume, etc. etc.) including the beginning of triangles. (Triangles are not just shapes, but rather, the beginnings of some heavy concepts. I mean after all, a whole branch of math is named after them ... Trigonometry. There is a reason we've never heard of Squarometry!)
Basic data analysis: Collecting data, display and basic analysis, and probability.
I cannot promise you that this book matches exactly your local state standards for pre-algebra math, but my sense is that it would for almost all possible users.

As luck would have it, two entries talk about children who don't want to be homeschooled.

Kim of Kim's Play Place writes about her children's dislike of homeschooling and what she is doing to try to make it more appealing to them. I've often been silently thankful that I have children who need alone time like they need oxygen. They find the idea of being surrounded by other children all day to be quite horrifying. Of course, this puts me in a tailspin when I think about what would have to them should something ever happen to me.

Kris of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers writes a post with advice to homeschooling parents on what to do if your children want to go back to school.

Jaynelle, a military homeschooler who left Norfolk for Florida this year writes about how to go about finding a new homeschool support group based on her extensive experience. I've had itchy feet lately and Jaynelle's post made me realize how much I enjoy moving to new places. I'm forever researching homeschooling in far flung locales on the off chance we might get to move there.

Alasandra presents Scholastic Blames Homeschoolers for Measles Outbreak posted at Alasandra's Homeschool Blog Awards.
So they know 7,000 public school students didn't get vaccinated for "religious reasons" BUT Scholastic has an article entitled Homeschool Parents Spread Measles on their website. Why are homeschoolers being blamed instead of the 7,000 public school students who are unvaccinated due to religious reasons? They also ignore the fact that most parents make the decision to vaccinate before the child reaches school age (see vaccination schedule). The decision to homeschool may be driven by the parents desire not to expose their children to what they see as risky vaccines. But homeschooling isn't to blame for children being unvaccinated.
I was as irritated as Alasandra when I read this article. Our choice not to give the children the MMR vaccine had nothing to do with our decision to homeschool. We may give the MMR as three separate doses before they reach puberty but I need to do more research before we make that decision.

It seems as ifThomas J. West wrote this post just for me.
"I can't carry a tune in a bucket" is a common expression of those who consider themselves unmusical. Having a "tin ear" is another common description. It is certainly true that individuals possess varying levels of aptitude in regards to their musical intelligence, however, just like mathematic or linguistic intelligence, every person can take their aptitude level as a starting point and work to build stronger skills in that area.
Read the entire article on pitch development here

I cannot sing a note in tune and worst of all, I cannot hear that I cannot do so. I am blessed, or cursed, with a daughter with perfect pitch. She used to cry as an infant when I tried to sing to her and as soon as she was old enough she'd put her hands over her ears and beg me to stop singing because she said it was so terrible it hurt her ears.

It's a very interesting experience being the mother to two musical children. Both children play the piano and recorder and Shira sings in a choir. I haven't been able to help them with their piano practice for months. My only role is to ensure that practice happens. We have to wait for Marc to come home from work to help them when they get stuck. They started with a new piano teacher this month and they absolutely adore her.

You know that saying, "the apple does not fall far from the tree"? It's very true in our family. We have two type A parents who get bored really easily and here we have two children who are thanking us for moving them to a very exacting teacher. They think it is the best thing in the world that she gives them far more homework and expects far more of them than their previous teacher. They think that it is so cool that they learn more in one lesson with her than they learned in 4 with the other teacher.

Keeping with the arts.... Dianne M. Buxton presents Ballet Shoes, the Movie, With Emma Watson posted at Ballet Shoes and Pointe Shoes.
This is amovie review of "Ballet Shoes" written by Noel Streatfeild and published in 1937. While I urge you not to miss out on the wonderful book, this movie is colorful and exciting. Three sisters with ambitions to fulfill their dreams, also focus on loyalty and devotion to their family.

Years ago I read a book on how to bring up boys. The author made a huge impression on me with one of his points. He stressed how important it was to have mentors in your child's life. That your child needs adults who he can learn from that are not mom and dad. He was not detracting from the importance of the parents' role, he just felt that as children reached their teens they often find it easier to take advice from adults who aren't their newly brain damaged parents.

One of my great sadnesses is that neither set of grandparents live near enough to be a daily presence in my children's lives. My stepdad would be the perfect person to mentor the children in handiwork, my mom in needle craft and my father-in-law would instill in them a love of math and science. He's already bought books for the children on DNA and physics and can't wait for them to be old enough so that he can teach it to them.

Cassie of Homeschool Four is lucky enough to have father who is an artist and who loves to teach her children.

My children would kill to have an artist for a grandfather. Look at these great paintings her children made with grandpa.

Don't forget that homeschoolers have the opportunity to have leading authors, editors and publishers judge their writing if they enter the Book Arts Bash
The purpose of the Book Arts Bash is to have fun writing and illustrating books, and to help students and teachers reach across the curriculum to include writing and art in other areas of study. Any homeschooled student or homeschooling parent can enter.

Hurry, you only have 2 weeks left to enter.

I was surprised to discover quite how many US Olympians were homechooled. Kim of Global Scholar lists them and writes about different homeschooling options that are available, including online tutoring.
Serena and Venus Williams, two of the biggest names in Tennis, are both shining examples of homeschooled Olympians. Both grew were withdrawn from middle school and taught at home by their father, Richard Williams.

Their education included giving speeches at local schools and focusing on the basic subjects, such as math, science, English and social studies. Venus graduated in 1997 with a 3.9 GPA.

Thomas Finchum, 2008 U.S. diving contender, was also homeschooled. Thomas trains 5.5 hours per day, six days a week and is homeschooled at Emmaus Lutheran Middle School to keep up with his studies.

Another U.S. diver, Ariel Rittenhouse, receives her education online. She attends Halstrom International Online High School and follows the curriculum and testing requirements of a normal high school. Ariel can finish homework assignments and keep up with schoolwork while on diving trips and in-between practices.

Here are some additional athletes that opted for homeschooling over traditional school.
• Mark Hazinski – USA Table Tennis
• Katie Hoff – USA Swimming
• Kelci Bryant – USA Diving
• Nastia Luikin – USA Gymnastics
• David Boudia – USA Diving
• Amber Trani – USA Gymnastics

In saying goodbye, I leave you with this excellent post aimed at Wordpress bloggers. WordPress Hacker presents Auto Create Navigation Tabs for New WordPress Pages posted at WordPress Hacker.
In this article I explain how you can setup your blog to automatically create main navigation links/tabs when new pages are published by using custom fields to mark those pages you want to appear in the navigation menu.

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, September 16, 2008

97% of children play video games.

Ben had better never read about this study about the video gaming habits of children.
The survey, released Tuesday, combined the telephone responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,102 young people, ages 12 to 17, and their parents. Performed from November 2007 through February of this year, and partly funded by the MacArthur Foundation, it had a margin of error of three percentage points.

Among other things, the survey found that:

—Ninety-seven percent of young respondents play video games. That's 99 percent of boys and 94 percent of girls, with little difference in the percentages among various racial and ethnic groups and incomes. In fact, 7 percent of those surveyed said they didn't have a computer at home, but did have a game console, such as Sony Corp.'s PlayStation, Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox or Nintendo Co.'s Wii.

—They play often. When surveyed, half of the respondents said they had played a video game the previous day.

—Their games of choice are as diverse as their tastes in music or TV. Eighty percent of respondents play five or more different game genres, with racing, puzzles, sports and action the most common. Favorites were "Guitar Hero," "Halo 3," "Madden NFL," solitaire and "Dance Dance Revolution."

Poor Ben thinks he's very badly treated because video games are banned in this household.

Ben has a tendency towards electronic media addiction. My cure for it is to not have it on hand. Our television set is in the master bedroom so it is out of sight and out of mind for him. If I let him, he'd watch videos all day long. I ended up telling him that he has to earn video minutes with reading minutes.

Right now his dearest desire is to own a hand held video game thingy. I think though that he's coming to the realization that he is not going to own one any time soon.

One day he'll thank me for reading Jane Healey's book, "Failure to Connect", but for now he thinks he's very hard done by because of our family stance on electronic media.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Home Schooling: A family's journey by Gregory and Martine Millman

I received a preview copy of this book to read. I admit to starting to read it with extreme skepticism as I have found that most of the homeschooling books I've read to date to be particularly uninspiring.

This book turned out to be a very pleasant and welcome surprise. The Millman's thoughtful approach to life shines through strongly on every page. While I disagree quite vehemently on a few points, unschooling being one of them and travel another, I appreciated the look into another family's decision process that lead them to homeschool their six children.

The book has something in it for everyone. The beginning or aspiring homeschooler will find chapters on the Millman's own journey towards homeschooling. They cleverly compare choosing educational methods/institutions to choosing stock investments.

They then go on to talk specifically about how they homeschooled their children. Parents whose children have wildly differing learning styles will take heart when they read this section as the Millmans talk about how they used different techniques with different children. One issue they talk about that struck a strong chord with me was that our school systems today expect too much writing, too soon from our children. I've been thinking this for a while and have been loathe to start the kids writing as much as their peers. The Millmans have given me confidence to go with my gut.

Even though this is a book about unschoolers, those of us who prefer a more hierarchical approach to education will still find many gems in this book.

Of particular import, is the section on college admissions. The Millmans have gone through the college applications process with three daughters and all daughters were accepted into very prestigious universities. I am by nature a long range planner so I enjoyed this look into the college application process. Probably the most important facts I took away from this were that homeschoolers must start planning their application process much earlier than traditionally schooled kids and that they need to do an enormous amount of research before they apply to colleges.

I was so impressed by this book that I went out and bought 3 copies that I gave to acquaintances who are considering homeschooling. If you can only recommend one book on homeschooling to someone, this is the book you should recommend.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Colonial Wiliamsburg

I feel slightly guilty for how little down time we've given my folks. They arrived from Johannesburg on Saturday night after tropical storm Hanna had left us and the very next day we started on our field trips.

The living museums at Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown and Jamestown are holding their homeschool days for the next two weeks. We started off with a trip to Colonial Williamsburg on Sunday.

i wish I'd managed to arrange our schedules better, we only managed to spend 2/3's of a day in Colonial Williamsburg. This museum really needs a few days if you want to do it properly. I think that in March I might look into staying at a hotel with an indoor pool and spend 5 or 6 days leisurely visiting all the museums.

Shira dressed up as a little colonial girl. Got to love my kids. Shira makes up excuses to dress up in fancy costumes and Ben thinks that costumes are dreadful. If pushed, he'll put on his robe and tell you that he's a Jedi Knight or a biblical character (it depends on who the target audience is).

Don't you think this is the perfect method of disciplining children? I've told the children that when we return from vacation I am going to have a set built in our back yard.

My favorite part of the entire trip was visit to the cobbler. The woman who manned the store was a gifted interpreter. She made a huge impression on the children. As soon as we left the cobbler we happened on this lady.

She is a cobbler's apprentice. She spent an age explaining exactly how the apprenticeship works. She even demonstrated all the tools she had made as part of her apprenticeship.

Unsurprisingly, the boys enjoyed the arsenal.

The highlight of our trip was the colonial chocolate we discovered. This chocolate is dairy and soy free and absolutely delicious. We were all in heaven.

Yorktown Victory Center

Yesterday we went to Yorktown Victory Center's Homeschool Day.

This was one of those field trips that was both wonderful and quite dreadful. I was rather bummed at how badly the tour guide we had massacred the material.

We started off with a two hour guided tour of the center. On the surface of it, it sounded like a great idea, however, having done it, I think it was a dreadful idea. The tour started at the model farm with the living interpreters. The parts of this portion of the tour where the living interpreters did the talking were outstanding. They knew how to pitch it at the children's level. We thoroughly enjoyed the woman who was cooking in the kitchen. The children now have a whole new appreciation of the lives of colonial women.

The tour fell apart though when the tour guide took over. He had no ability to talk to young children. Everything he said presupposed a good knowledge of revolutionary war and colonial history. I prepared my children well before we did the tour, but even so, the knowledge that he required was at an adult level.

If I were the organizer of this event, I'd have separated the groups by age groups and have had 2 much shorter tours for the young ones. Perhaps one of the farm and one of the military encampment. I'd also ensure that the guides are able to communicate with and enchant the children. Mine were not the only children in our tour who were bored to tears. Heck, the man even bored me and I was very interested in the topic.

However, it was not all a wash. The kids did get a huge amount of out the tour and loved getting close to this turkey.

They also enjoyed looking at the fruit and vegetables that were grown on colonial farms. I was surprised at how small the watermelons were.

No surprises here, but Ben's favorite part was the military encampment. He was thrilled that this "soldier" demonstrated his weapon.

As usual, the dress up part was a huge hit.

The kids were tickled by this sign. They thought it funny that they advertised that the laundry was done with soap.

After lunch we did a class on the tools people used during this time. It was very hands on and the teacher was exceptional in her ability to engage the children.

Shira got to put on pockets and an apron as if she lived in the colonial era.

They got to card wool, look at a gunpowder horn, play with colonial era toys and a host of other fun things.

All in all, I think this was worth while tour, however, I hope that the organizers make it more accessible to the younger set next time. Living museums are wonderful and can be made even more engaging when the adults who communicate with the children are passionate about transmitting their knowledge to said children.