Thursday, October 30, 2008

Get Your Hot, Fresh Round Up Right Here!

I'm pleased the Phillies won the series and I am also pleased to read the Round Up this week!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More on the Election--Further Thoughts

Of course, to take the Big Picture into account, the parties are more than just their candidates. That is a complicated equation. The parties breed the candidates, but the candidates that get elected also influence the party. The parties will take the candidate's election as a signal of where to move.

Just another dimension of an already complicated situation.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Just a Tidbit on the Election

I am still officially undecided on the presidential election. I do not know whether I will vote for Obama, McCain, or not vote for president. Politically, I am homeless. Neither party supports the principles I hold. As a capitalist, I want individual rights to property and liberty defended, along with aggressively defending me and my rights from military threats by any means we have at our disposal. The democrats recognize individual rights as long as you want government money to support art no one would ever voluntarily pay to see or if you do not own a business. Republicans support your rights only if you are unborn or want to own a gun. In the end they both like to confiscate your property and insist on taking over some part of your life in some unwelcome way.

For a lot of people, that seems to be good enough. For others, they might make a check list of each candidates' pros and cons and try to decide between them based on whatever 'most' people seem to be concerned about this time. Is the economy really bad this year? Are we at war? What are the headlines? I have certainly used that technique myself. I have also been the one-issue voter. This time, I wanted to make a decision from a more fundamental basis.

I have been reading both candidates' websites. There were not very many surprises (except for the sheer amount of programs both want passed with Obama apparently doubling or tripling McCain). This article about Obama at the Wall Street Journal, a review of his book "The Audacity of Hope," was particularly eye-opening. And from Althouse today, a brief description of McCain's appearance on "Meet the Press."

Whenever he found the chance, he would stress that Barack Obama has a far-left ideology, and whenever he needed a different argument -- such as when Brokaw confronted him with his own statements in favor of making the rich pay more taxes -- he would resort to the argument that different times require different solutions. How can you use these two rhetorical strategies alternately? It's incoherent.

Which is what McCain is; incoherent. He's more pragmatist than any other Republican we've had to deal with in recent history. Since pragmatists don't have their own ethics, he uses christian ethics with a good dose of 'country first.' Even these seem to be reigned in by what he thinks he can accomplish. He will choke free speech to get a clean government and he is against a federal marriage amendment. His tax cuts and health care ideas are defended because of their results, not based on morality. He does have some ideals, but there seems to be almost nothing he will not compromise.

There are Christians in this country who want to have their moral system ensconced into law. This is evident in the anti-abortion movement, at this point focused on overturning Roe v. Wade, as well as the many efforts to block same-sex couples from marrying. Allowing religious dogma to define laws will turn our country into factions fighting over whose religion is more correct, more numerous, or more acceptable to most people. It is only the republican party that would even entertain such nonsense.

Obama is a true believer the likes of which you would have thought would be ashamed to show their faces after the fall of the United Soviet Socialist Republic. Apparently, when you don't believe in an objective reality, no failure in the real world can shake you.

The Wall Street Journal article talks about Obama's take on liberalism and how he feels he can get everyone on board by being a great leader. The article stresses that Obama has been consistent in his ideals. He is a man of consistent ideas and he fairly glows with the self-confidence it gives him. Many people, even some so-called conservatives, have picked up on this special Obama quality. For many liberals, Obama is the beneficent leader-cum-dictator they have been hoping for. While Obama's platform is not full-throttle communism, the goal of the Democrats has always been a 'death by a thousand cuts.'

Obama has me considering this quote:

The battle of human history is fought and determined by those who are predominantly consistent, those who, for good or evil, are committed to and motivated by their chosen psycho-epistemology and its corollary view of existence.

Ayn Rand, For the New Intellectual, p. 21.

McCain, himself, is rather old-school and this link has seemed appropriate for him.

And that is without taking vice presidential candidates into consideration.

I am not a philosopher. I am just someone trying to sort out information I have tried to gather for myself, within the time I decided was appropriate to spend on it in terms of the rest of my priorities. I endeavor to use my brain and good principles. With some effort I'll come to a conclusion that is consistent with what I think works best for me and my kids' future.

For the only philosophy that supports freedom and reason, you can visit here.

Postscript: Any third parties are even more divorced from my standards.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


A few months ago we splurged and I got myself a new computer*. It was a pretty decent deal from Dell. Since we decided to put a school room upstairs and because I make a lot of my own school material on the computer, I finally realized I could do some of that work during actual school time if I only had a halfway decent computer upstairs.

Because I'm often making my own materials, I needed the typical suite of office-related software. I was very familiar with Microsoft Office products and had assumed I would need to purchase them. But no! My geekily awesome husband discovered OpenOffice. (I have not yet downloaded the newest version so all of my comments are based on an older copy.)

OpenOffice has the same functionality as Microsoft Office. Word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and drawing programs are all included. It even has a database program which is above and beyond what Microsoft usually provides in its Office suite.

I've been using it for a while. It opens regular Microsoft formats and can save in Microsoft formats too, if you're concerned about compatibility. I haven't had any issues with stability. Not all of the functionality is the same, however, and that's annoyed me a couple of times. My biggest issue was cutting and pasting from web pages. Because I like to use some of the resources from Ambleside Online, where there are free electronic versions, but my daughter doesn't like to read on the computer screen, I was trying to print out some of the electronic books. That turned out to be difficult, but I don't know that Word would have done any better.

I mention this because I thought I may as well post some of the phonics lists I've made. I want to keep them in a format that anyone could edit. That way any words that don't suit can be easily removed or other words added. I spent so much time making them, perhaps someone else can benefit as well. If you want to download them, you may also need to download OpenOffice if you don't already have a word processing program.

*Yes--the new computer does have Vista. Since I mostly surf the web and do typical office work, I really haven't seen a lot of issues. Really weird things do happen (like not recognizing mouse clicks on the task bar). Internet explorer is truly the most annoying though. The tabs are OK (not thrilled with them--wish you could tile windows). What really peeves me is that pop-up windows don't work properly. They pop-up and the main window also changes to that content.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Parenting Expert on Underachievement (It Starts with the Parents?)

I would like to consider an excerpt from "Between Parent & Child," by Dr. Haim G. Ginott [all emphasis in original]. The author is the mentor of Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish of "How to Talk so Children Will Listen, and Listen so Children Will Talk." I love those books even though I sometimes have a hard time extrapolating their advice to my own situation. In a way, I like Ginott's books better, all two of them, because the way the abstract principles are discussed seems more understandable, though still miles away from my concrete use of them. As a homeschooler in specific, the following passage really stood out.

This also echoes something Lisa VanDamme mentioned in her recorded lecture. She talks about opting out of the public school system for a homeschooling alternative but mentions that it would be preferable if the teacher was not the parent. I was accepting of that statement (heck, I'd happily hire someone else to teach my kids if I could afford it and I thought they were teaching them with the proper pedagogy). But I didn't get the whole import of why she didn't recommend parents as teachers. Read on if you're curious.


From the first grade on, parents' attitudes should convey that homework is strictly the responsibility of the child and his teacher. Parents should not nag children about homework. They should not supervise or check the homework (the writer is well aware that this policy may be contrary to the teacher's demands), except at the invitation of the children. When a parent takes over the the responsibility for homework, the child lets him, and the parent is never again free of this bondage. Homework may become a weapon in the child's hands to punish, blackmail, and exploit the parents. Much misery could be avoided, and much joy added to home life, if parents would show less interest in the minute details of the child's assignments and instead convey in no uncertain terms: "Homework is your responsibility. Homework is for you what work is for us."

The value of homework in the early grades should not be overestimated. There are many fine schools that assign no homework to young children. The pupils seem to gain just as much wisdom as those who struggle with assignments at the ages of six and seven. The main value of homework is that it gives children the experience of working on their own. To have this value, however, homework must be graded to the child's capacity, so that he may work independently with little aid from others. Direct help may only convey to the child to the child that he is helpless. Indirect help, however, may be useful.

For instance, we might make sure that the child has privacy, a suitable desk, and reference books. We might also help him figure out the right time for homework, in accordance with the seasons. In the mild afternoons of spring and fall, a child's fancy will surely turn first to playing and (hopefully) then to homework. In the cold days of winter, homework must come first if there is to be TV later.

Some children work better when they may chew a pencil, scratch their heads, or rock a chair. Our comments and restrictions increase frustration and interfere with their mental work.

The child's homework should not be interrupted by questions and errands that can wait. We should remain in the background giving comfort and support rather than instruction and assistance. Occasionally, we may clarify a point or explain a sentence. However, we should avoid comments such as:

"If you weren't such a scatterbrain, you would remember your assignment."
"If you only listened to the teacher you would know your homework."

Our help should be given sparingly but sympathetically. We listen rather than lecture. We show the road but expect the traveler to reach his destination on his own power.

A parent's attitude towards the school and the teacher may influence a child's attitude toward homework. If a parent habitually berates the school and belittles the teacher, the child will draw obvious conclusions.

Parents should bolster the teacher's position and support his policies regarding responsible homework.

When the teacher is strict, the parent has a wonderful opportunity to be sympathetic:

"It's not an easy year--so much work!"
"It's really tough this year."
"He sure is a strict teacher."
"I hear he demands a lot."
"I hear he is especially tough about homework. I guess there will be lots of work this year."

It is important to avoid daily flareups over homework:

"Look here, Reggie, from now on you are going to work on your spelling every afternoon of every day--including Saturdays and Sundays. No more playing for you and no TV either."
"Roger! I am sick and tired of reminding you about homework. Daddy is going to see to it that you get down to business. We don't want illiterates in our family."

Threats and nagging are common because they make one believe that something is being done about the situation. In reality such admonitions are worse than useless. They only result in a charged atmosphere, an irritated parent, and an angry child.

Many capable children lag in their homework and underachieve in school as an unconscious rebellion against their parents' ambitions. In order to grow up and mature, each child needs to attain a sense of individuality and separateness from his mother and father. When parents are too emotionally involved with the scholastic record of the child, he experiences interference with his autonomy. If homework and high grades become diamonds in his parents' crown, the child may unconsciously prefer to bring home a crown of weeds that is at least his own. by not attaining his parents' goals, the young rebel achieves a sense of independence. Thus the need for uniqueness may push a child into failure, regardless of parental pressure and punishment. As one child said, "They can take away the TV and the allowance, but they cannot take away my failing grades."

It is apparent that resistance to studying is not a simple problem that can be solved by getting either tough or lenient with children. Increased pressure may increase a child's resistance while a laissez faire attitude may convey acceptance of immaturity and irresponsibility. The solution is neither easy nor quick. Some children may need psychotherapy to resolve their struggle against their parents and to gain satisfaction in achievement, instead of underachievement.

Others may need tutoring with a psychologically oriented person. It is imperative that the parent not do the tutoring. Our goal is to convey to the child that he is an individual in his own right--apart from us--and responsible for his successes and failures. When the child is allowed to experience himself as an individual with self-originating needs and goals, he begins to assume responsibility for his own life and its demands.

I've made no bones about the difficulty I've had with my homeschooling so far this year. We've had some tough patches with complete refusal to do work. That coincided quite well with my realization that how well educated my children are is a direct reflection of my "work" as a homeschooling parent. For a month, schooling became about them as a reflection of me. So it was only periphally about my kids but mostly about "my diamonds," as phrased by Dr. Ginott.

This set up a double disappointment for myself. Not only was pushing the kids (and all that lecturing, threatening, and lack of sympathy were what I was pushing with) a miserable act of dictatorship on my part. It made me feel mean. Possibly because I somehow recognized that I had abandoned some of the parenting ideas I had believed so worthwhile from my reading when the kids were younger. It also made the kids combative almost instantaneously. Which made them, thus me, miserable.

Back to the general gist of the excerpt. Assuming the author is correct (I think it is--it matches up with what I've seen), how to encourage children's independence while homeschooling? I'm more concerned about preserving the ability to homeschool (without a major outsourcing of the effort which I couldn't afford anyway) and support my kids' needs and my ultimate goals as a parent and a teacher.

Could it ultimately come down to motivation? Lisa VanDamme has done a huge multi-part article on motivation. She attributes motivation in her classroom to appealing to a child's own sense. Radical unschoolers wait for the child to seemingly-to-me (I admitted haven't read any of it) wander into something and everything is equally valid because the kid picks it. The child-led unschooler or informal homeschooler tries to make all of the required topics interesting by using a possibly unrelated topic, usually kid-approved and based on some limited choices or interest-of-the-moment, to meld into some required subjects (and in the case of math, I can imagine the unit study math of 'two penguins and five penguins problems') and then the rest of the curriculum is 'filler' based on the original topic. Charlotte Mason believed in gentle, but thorough, schooling (I think). How to get the kids to buy-in? I'm not sure. The classical homeschooler (Charlotte Mason is usually considered a kissing-cousin) may use some of the above techniques, but the desired outcome of the type of schooling, thinking ability and rhetorical writing, does not give clues for how to motivate. Religious education usually has one ultimate purpose, though there may be a second that is fundamental to type of curriculum--a rigorous education that is very similar to traditional schooling. Other motivations that may be used that have not yet been mentioned include authoritative (do it because I say so or you'll be punished--which is the dangerous water I'm getting out of), make it fun (lots of games), bribing, and I'm sure there are a lot of other options.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

And They're at the Starting Gate

And they're off! Voting commences for the best homeschool blogs at Alasandra's Homeschool Blog Awards. Some of your favorites are there (and me, too). Voting ends in December.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Make it Yourself Halloween

I've been a big fan of paper toys ever since I stumbled across The Toy Maker's website a long, long time ago. I've made a number of her items, supposedly for the children. If you promise not to tell, I'll admit that I was the one who enjoyed them the most.

Here are some Halloween links so you too can have odd little dioramas or just neat looking stuff around your house.

The Toy Maker's Holiday page (with Halloween and Thanksgiving)

Raven's Blight Manor (I particularly enjoyed the mechanical bat--being all mechanical and all, the moving sculpture--which my daughter asks me to throw away every year because it creeps her out, the hearse play set--how many kids can say they have one of those?, the pocket monsters--perfect for reminding hubby of how much I love him while he's wearing these ghoulish guys at work, the necronomicon books--which my daughter asked me to print over and over again because she uses them as a journal)

For another optical illusion, make this dragon, you can even choose different colors here.

Canon has some very intricate paper toys/crafts (for when you feel like your scissors will never dull)

Epson has luminaries for you to make yourself, masks, and masks, pails, and bags.

HP has masks (I like the tiger), party decorations, pumpkins stencils, cards, and invitations. I like the hanging decorations.

In case you need an accessory for your Harry Potter costume, you can make a wand here.

Family Fun is always chock full of ideas!

Then there's always the inimitable Martha Stewart.

If you think all of the above paper models are for sissies and you could do them blind-folded, then I recommend Haunted Dimensions where you will find scale models of Disney's Haunted Mansion and surroundings.

For the seriously hard-core Halloween fanatics (not me), the Make blog has some great ideas, not to mention a whole contest for this year.

We're having a Halloween party on the 27th--so I'm off to actually decorate my house and figure out activities and menus. Pin the grin on the Jack O'Lantern, anyone?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Finding Words with Specific Letters

Because I incorporate some Montessori methods into my homeschool (especially for Flurpee, who'd not quite seven yet), I have been working on word list cards. I don't even know the real name. The cards are lists of words using a specific phonetic combination. Here are examples of letter combinations and words.

The cards are small enough to be held easily by kids hands. Each set of cards introduces one combined-letter sound and then introduces common words that use it. Each card includes the letter combination on the top and the phonetic diacritical marks for the pronunciation (the kids don't need to know this--though it can help them realize when different letters sound the same). The letter combination is highlighted in each word. Here's my example:

I've been making my own words lists for a while and it can take a long time while I try to find words with a specific letter combination (like 'ay' or 'ai' for a long a sound, 'y' at the end of a word usually sounding like a long e, or 'ow' sounding like 'ou' or a long o sound). I just found this website though, which has helped immensely. All I need to do is type in the particular letter combination with the right wildcard symbols (- for a single letter location or * for any number of letters) and a whole big list comes up. of course I need to pick out the sound I'm actually looking for and use words that are more common, not obscure or technical.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thought You Heard Them All?

Hanover and Flurpee have been making up knock, knock jokes. Check out one that she used on Mr. Powell during history. He got a kick out of it.

Weekly Round Up

Here's the latest in rational thought--the best of the best of the best, SIR!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Humans for Humankind

That's it! I'm starting a new organization, club, group, PAC, whatever. I tossed out the comment "I'm all about humans first" after another mom recommended we not use disposable cups at a nature center, to which a different mom declared, "I'm just the opposite." Not nearly enough people are pro-human.

Environmentalism, socialism, or religion thinks humans are inherently bad. Religion has humans tainted with original sin and always battling the animal instincts in order to make themselves worthy for salvation. Environmentalism just considers humans a blight on the natural world (that we somehow ceased to be a part of once we started building permanent civilizations). Socialism believes that, with the hiring of their first employee, people suddenly turn from being trustworthy and in-need-of-protection to hideous blood-sucking task masters that would sooner see a worker drained of all vitality than leave work before their 23 hour shift is up.

For someone, like myself, who grew up admiring the wonderful accomplishments of science and technology, and whose interactions with all people have left me with the distinct impression that most people are honest and fair, these gloomy anti-human views are gross distortions. I'm so pleased that I can live without guilt. That's what comes of having a philosophy that actually supports happiness.

So I hope anyone who reads this will consider the basic idea that, in general, humans are not inherently bad or evil. Humans are a pretty decent lot. We have used our resources (specifically, our marvelously large brains) to feed billions of people, go around the world in a matter of hours, allow millions of people to live with decent standards on only a few square miles, uncovered basic laws of the universe, discovered the concepts of rights and law-and-order, and figured out how to make most people live far longer than ever before. I think that's pretty damned cool. Some people will look at that list, and for every item come up with a 'yes, but....' And for those people, I feel immense pity.

The civilized world is a great place, and humans have made it so! Please join me in being a "Human for Humankind" and take a brighter, more objective look at the modern world and our wonderfully full life and standard of living within it; all made possible through human ingenuity, hope, and perseverance.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How You Can Explain Taxes to Children (and Everyone Else)

From Weekend Pundit (via Why Homeschool?):

How our tax system works ...

Suppose that every day, the same ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.

The fifth would pay $1.The sixth would pay $3.

The seventh would pay $7.

The eighth would pay $12.

The ninth would pay $18.

The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that's what they decided to do.The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. 'Since you are all such good customers,' he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20.' Drinks for the ten now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay.

And so:

The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings).

The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33%savings).

The seventh now pay $5 instead of $7 (28%savings).

The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings).

The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings).

The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings.'I only got a dollar out of the $20,' declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man, 'but he got $10'.'Yeah, that's right, exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair that he got ten times more than I got''That's true' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!

''Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!'The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important - they didn't have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

This explanation has been attributed to many different scholars and economists, but Snopes wasn't able to pin down the origin of this 'lesson'.

It is apparently old--but no less good. I am not familiar with the actual percentages so I wonder if it's right on for amount.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

What They Said.

I haven't commented on the so-called financial crisis because others are doing it so much better than I ever could. Read here for extensive, in-depth, freedom-loving analysis and for a quick take on why the market keeps going down, I think Judy Aron also hits the nail on the head. So for my official comments on the crash of the global economy, "what they said," just about sums it up.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Effect of Kindergarten Teasing?

I was discussing why I didn't understand why Flurpee says she can't read or write (she writes just fine even though she has to ask how things are spelled and she crazily erases any letter that's not 'just right' and her reading is perfectly fine for a second grader--we're working on dipthongs and she already has blends down, silent-e rule, a lot of sight words, and many suffixes though I have to help occasionally) with another mom. Flurpee also hates when people 'laugh at her' which means any laughing where she didn't deliberately crack a joke--even if I'm just laughing because I'm overwhelmed with her sweetness and cleverness. The other mom asked a very insightful question that immediately reminded me of the following events that happened two years ago. She asked if Flurpee had ever been teased. It hadn't even occurred to me. I don't know how intense things truly were and in my adultness, I had forgotten the impact that kids will keep with them for a long time.

One of the reasons I had my daughter in Montessori primary school was to have her in a place that emphasized learning where I loved the teachers (they are great) and where there was a small student-teacher ratio so they could keep a close eye on the kids' behavior. Two of Flurpee's good friends in Montessori school were very bright. One girl, who was a year younger than Flurpee, was working at an advanced kindergarten level and the other girl was also very advanced in kindergarten. Flurpee was at a perfectly adequate kindergarten level and was doing kindergarten work both of these girls had completed early in kindergarten if not even the year before.

These three girls were close friends. Being the three kindergarten girls they did many chores together, played together, and shared being able to teach the other kids. Yet those two girls also got together more frequently outside of school and hung tight during school. So it was pretty typical of some of the three-girl dynamics people have occasionally warned me about.

It didn't take them long to realize that Flurpee's level of work was behind their own. From early in the year they started comparing her work to their own. They talked about how they finished that work the year before, that they were smarter, that they were working on the green boxes in reading (long-vowel sounds that come after standard letter sounds and blends), and that they were learning money in math when Flurpee was still doing regular (non-carrying) addition and subtraction with four-digit numbers. Comments like, "That's so easy," "I did that so long ago," "I can't believe you're still working on that." Then it started with laughing and namecalling.

The teachers did not realize there was a problem for a while. They had no reason to suspect something was going on because these were generally nice girls and supposedly friends with Flurpee. Once I told the teachers what Flurpee told me, they seemed incredulous (given their friendships and the generally nice demeanor of the girls). It didn't take them long to see the teasing for themselves.

I am so glad my friend was willing to listen to me complaining and I'm so glad she was able to ask a question that led to me to such insight for Flurpee's struggles. Now I need to figure out how to support her properly to leave those taunts behind her.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Round Up

For great thoughts about why the financial crisis is the fault of the government's many historical interventions and why they're screwing it up even more with the bail out, check this out!

Carnival of Homeschooling!

Right here!

Third Science Class for Elementary

We had another science class. We reviewed Thales (first scientific explanations, amber can attract all kinds of stuff, magnets can only attract iron). We reviewed our shapes (spheres, hemispheres, cylinders, cubes). We talked about circles changing to ellipses to the observer as the angle of the paper is changed. I showed that the shape of a sphere when it has been cut is a circle. (These are great for the talks about shapes.) We talked about how the face of a cube is a square. The kid who's advanced in math knew that the difference between a cube and a square was that the cube was 3-dimensional. For the other kids I tried to emphasize that area is flat (um, yeah, we'll get to the other stuff later) and that cubes take up space and have volume. Those are the next two concepts I need them to understand: area and volume. After all, density it coming up.

We also talked about 45 degree right triangles again. We talked about how it is half of a square, on the diagonal, and we know that both of the legs of the triangle are the same length. I then used three different sized triangles and pointed out that no matter how big or small the triangle gets, as long as it has the same shape, we know the two legs of the triangle will be the same length. I mentioned that this may have been how Thales could have measured the heights of tall buildings. He could have waited until the shadow of a smaller object was the same as its height and then measured the shadow of the larger object to find its height.

This talk was a summation of the evidence that the Earth is a sphere. The kids seemed rather shocked that people 2400 years ago would have known (without spaceships, satellites, and round-the-world cruises) that the Earth was a sphere. I got most of my information from the first few pages of How Did We Find Out the Earth is Round by Isaac Asimov.

We started by talking about some of the ancient ideas about how the sun rose and moved across the sky every day. Some people believed it was carried by a chariot, that it would set into the ocean and be sailed back to the east to begin its trek again, or that it would die every night to be reborn in the east. They liked that one--they spent the next few minutes performing their miniature Oscar-winning dying scenes.

We talked about how Anaximander thought the heavens had to be a sphere because they move from east to west, but there was one point (the North Star) that did not ever set. Then we talked about the number of different ideas that people had for the disk of the earth; that it was smaller than the sphere (but noone seemed to fall off the edge and why didn't the oceans drain?), or that it extended to the celestial sphere (and people could go and visit the actual place where the stars and sun met the disk of the Earth and lift up the starry curtain--more antics about the possible death that would ensue). Neither of those ideas were satisfying to the Greeks. [I used a large, decorated, clear glass serving bowl to show the sky and the north star was the center of the bottom. I used a circle cut out of paper to represent the 'flat Earth.' I rotated the upside-down-bowl to show the stars (the decorations) turning from east to west and how the north star (the center of the bottom of the bowl--I should have taped a star to it) didn't move. Most of these kids were in the astronomy class last year so they had the experience of seeing the constellations being in about the same place night after night, but also how the constellations would move across the sky as the night wore on.]

The Ancient Greeks were also discovering that the moon looked different depending on where it was in relation to the sun. If it was on the same side of the sky as the sun, then it was dark to us. If it was on the opposite side than the sun, it was fully bright, with all of the variations as it moved between. They figured that if the moon changed shape with part of it dark and some light, that it must not give off its own light and was lit up by light reflected from the sun. The changes of the shape of the moon and how the curve was always circular showed that it was a sphere. [I used a flashlight and a small ball to give them the idea, not dark enough for a real demonstration, of how the different phases looked. Since most of the kids had taken astronomy, this was old hat to them and only a reminder.]

The sun never changed and was always light so it must have light of its own. They could also tell that the sun could shine on the Earth just as well from every location. The sun also shined on the moon from every location. The sun also had to be a sphere in order to shine equally from all different directions. [This time I took the flashlight and moved it around the 'Earth' (a different ball) with the moon laying next to it, and they could see how the flat circle of the flashlight did not illuminate the spheres the way the sun does.]

So the stars were on a celestial sphere, the moon was accepted as a sphere with the evidence of their observations, and the sun was accepted as a sphere based on their observations, then what about the Earth? Did that mean the Earth was a sphere? The Greeks knew that the Earth wasn't like the stars--we don't have stars under our feet (more antics of burning yourself by picking up starstuff under your feet). The Earth isn't like the moon, it's not white all around us. And the Earth is definitely not like the sun since it's not glowing (and we had the death throes again). So what evidence could show us if the Earth was flat or not?

If the Earth was flat, the stars would never seem to change location (apart from rising and setting). That was not the case though. As a person traveled north, stars they used to be able to see at the southern horizon had disappeared below the horizon. If they traveled south, they realized that stars at the northern horizon moved so they couldn't be seen. (From east to west, of course, the stars did not have a fixed position, so there was no easy landmark to notice if they changed based on location.) The only way that could be explained was if the Earth curved as you moved from north to south. [Either the kids were very quiet, or this really didn't hit home. I tried using my flat circle as the circular Earth to show that walking toward the 'north' wouldn't change the perspective of the stars but that curving the circle (I actually did bend it) would make a person look at a different area of the sky. What I should have done was to draw examples of the same star patterns from different lattitudes and show how they're closer to the horizon and also drew two circles on the blackboard--one for the celestial sphere and another for the Earth--with a little stick figure looking along the tangent line to the edge of the circle at that location to represent his line of sight and how it would hit different places of the celestial sphere.]

So the Earth, Anaximander thought, was a cylinder. Now that seemed to have its own difficulties. Why didn't it look curved? Why didn't you slip as you moved toward the curved section? Why didn't the water fall off? There seemed to be almost as many questions. [I used a formula can as my Earth now.]

As for why it didn't look curved, just think about how a large ball would look to an ant. From the ant's perspective, it would look pretty flat. The Earth is very large and we are small in comparison. In our view, it could look flat. [I didn't, but it could help to have a beach ball to illustrate this point.]

The cylinder theory was tested at sea. If the Earth was flat, then things that move away from you would get gradually smaller and smaller and then no longer be visible. So when observing ships leaving and then moving toward the horizon they watched carefully to see what happened. Every ship seemed to go deeper and deeper until they couldn't see the ship itself, just the sail and then that too sank. The ships weren't flooded, for most do return. And oddly, they didn't just sink when moving to the north and south, but when heading east and west too. So the curvature wasn't just in one direction, it was in all directions. The only shaped that curves equally everywhere is a sphere. [I used paper circle and a picture of a ship that I cut out before class. I moved the ship from the center of the circle and showed that it would just get further away. I then used the formula can and took my model ship over the north and south direction of the cylinder and showed how the ship dropped out of sight. Then I took it east to west and showed that it couldn't drop out of sight on the cylinder and we then switched to the ball again and we could see how it dropped out of sight in every direction.]

That wasn't even all. There was still another bit of evidence to clinch the deal. The final evidence relies again on the sun and moon. We talked about the sun and moon going around the Earth and that the moon could be on the opposite side of the Earth than the sun. When the Earth gets in the way, that's when there is an eclipse. Eclipses can happen in different areas of the sky. In every single case, the shadow of the Earth has a circular edge. If the Earth was a flat circle, the shadow cast would have to look elliptical when the angle between the three objects changed. Only one shape has a shadow that always looks like a circle from any angle--a sphere. Philolaus was convinced and gathered up all of the evidence and pronounced for the first time that the Earth was a sphere. (Note: Aristotle ~350 BC came up with the idea that because the Earth is a sphere, everything must be attracted to its center and people stopped wondering wny the water didn't run off.) [I taped a smaller circle to the blackboard (the moon) and used another circle (the Earth) to make a circular shadow on the 'moon' with a flashlight. Then I changed the angle of the flashlight and the 'Earth' and the shadow on the moon was obviously elliptical. I then used a ball to shine a shadow on the 'moon' and I changed the angle with the flashlight and rotated the ball and the shadow was always a circle.]

On the blackboard:

Anaximander ~560 BC
Heavens were a sphere
Earth is a cylinder because stars changed location as you moved North and South
Philolaus (fil-oh-lay-us) ~450 BC
Earth is a sphere

Activity: There were no lab activities that really lent themselves to the subject matter. I found a book called Science Crafts for Kids that had some good ideas and a few great ideas. I had been preparing for one of the crafts and saved an oatmeal container and a few formula containers (cardboard sides required). Cut out three arches around the sides so that there is a lot of light and some large openings to get your hand through (there should be three approximately inch-wide legs holding up the top). Paint and decorate the container (we didn't have time to do that). Loosely lay clear cellophane over the top and then push it down slightly in the middle. Wrap a rubber band around the top of the container to secure the cellophane. The pour water into the cellophane and place an object underneath to see the magnification. It's not much (about 2X). The kids ooh-ed and aw-ed for about four seconds before realizing it didn't really change much. Here's another type. One thing I mentioned the parents can try is changing the depth of the water in the top and then seeing if that affects the magnification. I didn't do it myself, so I don't know.

The kids were a bit rowdy because I had been letting them get a little crazy in the last couple of classes, but this time it was actually distracting and we ran out of time for our activity.