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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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.

Lost WWII sub USS Grunion found

Over sixty years after the sub went missing, an expedition hired by the sons of the commanding officer, Lt. Cmdr. Mannert L. Abele, found the sub.
Abele's sons, Bruce, Brad, and John, began working on a plan to find the sub after finding information on the Internet in 2002 that helped pinpoint USS Grunion's possible location.

In August 2006, a team of side scan sonar experts hired by the brothers located a target near Kiska almost a mile below the ocean's surface. A second expedition in August 2007 using a high definition camera on a remotely operated vehicle yielded video footage and high resolution photos of the wreckage.

No political blog posts this weekend.

I am going to try to avoid reading any political news or posting any political blog posts this weekend. We have a month to go before the elections and i am already tired of all the politics. I can barely contain my anger over the bail out bill and am mortified beyond belief that a woman such as Palin is embarrassing us on a daily basis.

My blood pressure requires a politics free weekend. Let's see if my morbid curiosity can keep me away from it all.

Scents can stimulate more than just the nose.

Ladies, next time you need to get your husband in the mood, waft the scent of some doughnuts, lavender or pumpkin pie past his nose. According to Dr. Alan Hirsch a nationally recognized smell and taste expert and the founder of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago scents can stimulate more than just the nose.

Women's interest was aroused by baby powder (can guarantee that anything relating to babies does nothing for this woman. it would rather make me run a mile) and a combination of Good & Plenty candy and cucumber (just the scent strangely enough).

Dr Hirsch also discovered that you can use bad smells to generate nightmares. I found this particularly interesting as Ben insists that when I don't give him an aroma therapy massage before bedtime he has nightmares. I've always thought that it was a ploy to get them more often. Perhaps the good smells help give him good dreams rather than bad dreams he has without the good smells.

Make Tracks!™ Family Trail Weekend!

Make Tracks!™ Family Trail Weekend!

I find it truly sad that we have to encourage our families to go outside for a short hour.
a Kaiser Family Foundation study found that the average American child spends 44 hours per week (more than 6 hours a day!) staring at some kind of electronic screen. Studies have linked excessive television viewing to obesity, violence, and even lower intelligence in kids. Now, a growing wave of research indicates that children who spend time outdoors are healthier, overall, than their indoor counterparts.

Children who regularly spend unstructured time outside:
Play more creatively
Have lower stress levels
Have more active imaginations
Become fitter and leaner
Develop stronger immune systems
Experience fewer symptoms of ADD and ADHD
Have greater respect for themselves, for others, and for the environment
The National Wildlife Federation recommends that parents give their kids a "Green Hour" every day, a time for unstructured play and interaction with the natural world. This can take place in a garden, a backyard, the park down the street, or any place that provides safe and accessible green spaces where children can learn and play.

To give parents and caregivers the information, tools, and inspiration to get their kids -- and themselves -- outside, NWF has created GREENHOUR.ORG, a website rich in family-friendly content and which hosts a supportive virtual community where families can learn, explore, and share their outdoor experiences and backyard adventures.

That 6 hours a day chained to an electronic media item shocked me. It made me realize, yet again, how far out of the mainstream we are. Our kids go days at a time with no electronic media input, Often the only screen time they get is school related screen time.

Where are you going to walk/ride for your outside next week? Marc and I will be in DC so the kids will have to rely on Loraina to take them to a trail. They love going to First Landing State Park. I need to check if dogs are welcome. I'll bet the pups will love going there for a walk.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Objectivist Round Up - Financial Crisis Edition

The Crucible and Column has published the latestObjectivist Round Up
This week we're focusing specifically on the Financial Crisis from an Objectivist perspective. This is a crucial point in our nation's history, and one which illustrates the value of good ideas, and the failure of bad ones. Your voice is necessary in this time of high anxiety. Hopefully, the Objectivists here help make things a little bit clearer. This issue is quite full so let's get right to the substance.

Also, the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights has set up a web site dealing specifically with the Financial Crisis and offering insight and analysis on this crisis and capitalism in general.

Hurry on over to The Crucible and Column to read this excellent round up of Objectivist thinking.

7-Election '08

This is my third US presidential election (2nd one that I get to vote in) and I am loving it. I think it's a crazy system, but oh, boy, do I love all the high drama.

Today I heard about something that really tickles my fancy. 7-Eleven customers can choose between Obama or McCain coffee cups and the results of the informal poll are tallied daily. Apparently this poll correctly predicted the results of the last two elections.
In the 2000 7-election their George W Bush coffee cup outsold the Al Gore cup by just 1%. The 2004 7-election results tracked identically with published national results. 51% for Bush and 40% for Kerry

As a former marketer, I think this is a brilliant marketing campaign. Kudo's to the marketing team at 7-Eleven. You can follow the results daily.

I hope that this year, before all the journalists start commenting on polls, that they do a short statistics course so that they can correctly report on polls. I become rather irate when I read reports that claim that candidate x has overtaken candidate y in the polls by 2 percentage points, only to discover that the margin of error is 6% and the difference between the candidates is only 2%. How difficult is it to understand the concept of a margin of error? Then there are all the gleeful reports where the journalists haven't checked the study design...

Christian Radio Exposed

UPDATED 18 November. This was apparently a farce that I fell for. LOL. It sounded so perfectly legit to me.

My friend Kim blogged that Christian Radio has been on a continuous loop for the last 20 years.

Except for the obvious dishonesty I don't see much wrong with it:
None of the ministers heard on Christian radio have actually taped a program for two decades. As some ministers died or left the ministry, the program directors introduced "new" ministers by changing the pitch of a previous minister’s voice. For example, after the death of Christian radio personality Martin Wyse, Wyse’s old shows were digitally manipulated to give him a Scottish brogue, resulting in the creation of Alistair Begg, who does not actually exist.
The only other thing that changed over the years were the advertisements, the director says.

Isn't radio about giving people what they want? Their advertisers were still advertising with them, so their ratings must have been good enough. What's the big deal if the people were still tuning in and enjoying it. I wouldn't mind a business like that.

I wonder if I could start a homeschool radio like this? I could spend a year taping shows then stick them on a continuous loop. Once in a while I could let Ben manipulate them digitally to make it sound as if we had different hosts and Bob's your uncle, we have a business with very low input costs. Think homeschoolers would fall for it?

Update on acorn collection

I received a comment on my blog from Kate McNamee of Growning Native about my post on Virginian Acorns.
Potomac Conservancy's Growing Native is a partner with the Virginia Department of Forestry for seed collection. Growing Native is a year-round volunteer project that collects hardwood seeds and plants trees to help restore and protect rivers and streams in the Potomac River watershed.

This fall, Growing Native has launched a "Get Out and Get Nuts" Challenge. For every pound of seed that is collected, Ford will donate $1 to Potomac Conservancy's tree restoration projects. So, as you collect, don't forget to enter!

After you collect your seeds, let us know how many pounds you have gathered by entering the "Get Out and Get Nuts" Challenge. VisitGrowing Native for more information!

From their website:
What is Growing Native?
Volunteers of all ages and backgrounds participate in Growing Native by collecting native tree seeds and planting trees along streams and rivers across the region. Not only are participants creating forests for tomorrow, they are also learning the important connection between healthy, forested lands and clean waters.

Since Growing Native’s inception in 2001, nearly 30,000 volunteers collected more than 94,000 pounds of acorns, walnuts, and other hardwood tree seeds. These seeds have generated seedlings that will be used to restore sensitive streamside lands.

In addition to providing native tree stock, Growing Native builds public awareness of the important connection between healthy, forested lands and clean waters, and what individuals can do to protect them

Growing Native evolved out of a need for native hardwood seedlings to support expanding reforestation and restoration efforts in the Potomac River watershed. Maryland and Virginia state nurseries are experiencing a shortage of native seedling stock due to the ever-increasing demand for trees, particularly for new streamside forest projects. To replenish the supply of native seedlings and ensure diversity in the nursery's tree stock, Growing Native was established in 2001. A majority of this program's tree seedlings are used to create diverse and healthy streamside forests, which are key to maintaining and improving water quality and providing wildlife habitat.

You can register your seed collection here.

Growing Native is looking for ambassadors:
Growing Native ambassadors have a passion for the outdoors and want to share it with others. As a community representative for Growing Native, ambassadors encourage others to “get nuts for clean water” by organizing and leading seed collection events in their area!

Ambassadors attend a fun and free training, where they are trained to identify native trees and their seeds. Sign-up today and take advantage of this great opportunity to meet other nature lovers and give back to your community!

Join one of our Growing Native Ambassador Trainings in September! To view training dates, click here. For more information, contact Kate McNamee, Outreach Coordinator at or by calling 301.608.1188, x211.

Growing Native provides educator resources, a boy scouting badge and a handy dandy tree identification guide.

Virginian acorns need to be collected by 20 October.

Weird cases of arrested development

MSNBC aired this program on women who play with lifelike dolls. There is something creepy and odd about grown women who spend a thousand dollars on a lifelike doll and then treat it like a real baby. Shira watched this segment with me and said she thought the women were "cuckcoo".

One woman in the BBC documentary, married and in her 40s, said she wanted a real baby, but was too busy to commit to caring for a real one. A reborn doll satisfies her maternal instincts, she said, without all the carrying on and mess.

Reborns, she said, “never grow out of their clothes, never soil them. It's just fabulous. The only difference, of course, is these guys don't move.”

At least one nursing home in the United Kingdom makes dolls available to female residents, who become calmer and less disruptive when “caring” for their infants.

Walsh said her husband doesn’t think it strange that his wife plays with dolls. “He likes them too,” she said. “He says when he holds the baby it makes him feel good. It reminds him of the day his daughter was born. Everybody likes to hold a baby. It makes you feel at peace. It makes you feel calm.”

None of the women apologized for their love of reborn dolls or felt they were doing anything that is unhealthy.

“I don’t really worry too much about what people think about me,” Walsh said. “I just try to make myself happy, and it makes me happy to collect dolls. I feel like a little girl that just never stopped loving dolls.”

This is just too weird for me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Simple Pleasures: Carnival of Homeschooling presents: The Simple Pleasures of Homeschooling

Simple Pleasurespresents the latest edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling

One of the entries is very fortuitous as Shira was talking about trying to draw a hummingbird. I am going to show her Julie's instructions

Cyberschool Kids Are Cool asks what we think about skipping grades.

This is not a topic that I've ever thought about wrt our homeschool. I think it is only an issue if you use cyberschools or "a grade in a box" curriculum. I report Ben and Shira as being in second grade but none of the work they do is actually on second grade. I'm not sure what grade level they work at and don't particularly care as long as they show a consistent growth and mastery of the subject matter.

I know that cyberschools fill an important need in the community but I hate how they box the children in. I'd hate to have to deal with external people over what I teach my children. I love the freedom we have to pick up a tool and discard it if it doesn't work for us. I love the freedom we have to work on a subject almost exclusively for weeks on end and then ignore it for as long as we wish. Cyberschools don't give you that freedom.

Calling All Virginian Acorns

The Virginia Department of Forestry has put out a statewide appeal for donations from any tree owners willing to bag up their acorns and deliver them to their city or county's forestry office.

They collect acorns to preserve native Virginia tree species. Growing Native is a year-round volunteer project that collects hardwood seeds and plants trees to help restore and protect rivers and streams in the Potomac River watershed. Citizens can help preserve native Virginia tree species by collecting acorns and delivering them to the VDOF nurseries.

10 species are collected by the Virginia Department of Forestry for planting in the seedling nursery in Augusta County. At that nursery and one near Courtland in Southampton County, the department grows 32 million hardwood and evergreen trees each year for sale. I find that statistic mind boggling - 32 million trees a year!! I'm fascinated by reforestation and man-made forests. I used to live in Johannesburg, one of the world's largest man-made forests. There are so many trees in Johannesburg now that the microclimate has been changed.

This year's appeal happened because the pin oaks and northern red oaks in the Shenandoah Valley have produced few or no acorns this year. So, fellow Virginians, here's your chance to do something that will benefit your grandchildren and their children.

They need white oak, pin oak, northern red oak, black oak, cherry-bark oak, chestnut oak, southern red oak, swamp chestnut oak, swamp white oak and willow oak, in addition to Chinese chestnuts.

The department's guidelines for collecting can be found here, but, in a nutshell, there are the two biggest things to remember: Don't mix acorns from different species in one bag, and please put a few tree leaves in the bag before sealing it to help with identification.

I can't think of a better activity for my two to do. Last year they must have collected 20lbs of acorns for their "collection". We had tubs of acorns all over the house for ages. Ben was reminiscing about his collection last weekend and I talked him out of making another collection this year. He is going to be over the moon to be encouraged to collect acorns.

We're surrounded by pin oaks so acorn collecting should be a breeze for us.