Saturday, May 31, 2008

Not Safe for Work, Or Home, Or Anything?

This is so funny. It's like the Victoria Secret catalog that women can steal from men. Of course, I'm pretty sure men who are perusing this catalog won't have many women about (if they have any self-esteem, that is--though perhaps a great sense of humor). I didn't even know that modern engineering could mean the end of sock-stuffing.

Please clear out small kids (unless you really want to explain some anatomy) for this link.

Sit Down and Shut Up

The Consumerist (as well as a number of other blogs) highlighted a car dealership that used an interesting ad. The California Ford dealer used the following in a radio ad:

Did you know that there are people in this country who want prayer out of schools, "Under God" out of the Pledge, and "In God We Trust" to be taken off our money?

But did you know that 86% of Americans say they believe in God? Now, since we all know that 86 out of every 100 of us are Christians who believe in God, we at Kieffe & Sons Ford wonder why we don't just tell the other 14% to sit down and shut up. I guess maybe I just offended 14% of the people who are listening to this message. Well, if that is the case, then I say that's tough, this is America folks, it's called free speech. And none of us at Kieffe & Sons Ford are afraid to speak up. Kieffe & Sons Ford on Sierra Highway in Mojave and Rosamond: if we don't see you today, by the grace of God, we'll be here tomorrow.

Yeah--just a little nonsensical, eh? I bet he'd feel differently if the country were 86% some other belief that they're not. Then they'd be happy we have a rights-protecting republic instead of a majority-tyranny democracy.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Time for Another Post about My Oldest Daughter's Reading

This must get monotonous but I can't contain myself. Over the past week my just-turned 9 year-old read a book title Peter and the Starcatchers. Story-wise it's about Peter Pan before Hook became Hook and before Wendy.

The story is derivative and 'blah' to me. Not to my daughter, though. That book is BIG! And it has very few pictures. It's almost as large as a piece of paper and over an inch thick and small type. She devoured that thing!

Right now she's back to the Sisters Grimm (book 4). She's really excited because there's a fifth book out and she really wants to finish both. We got them from the library yesterday. I wonder how long those will take?

Update: She finished both Sisters Grimm books (4 and 5) in four days.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Library of Congress Flickr Account

From one of the homeschooling Yahoo groups, I found out about this Flickr account for the Library of Congress. There are photos from 1910 and the 1930s and 40s.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Two Super Scary Things

First, the 21 best mug shots. I agree with the final photo--lovin' the look, man.

(from GeekPress)

From the links on the bottom of that: You know a photo gallery has to be interesting when it's named WTF.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling

At Walking Therein.

Heading to Mars

We watched the live feed from NASA as the Phoenix Mars lander landed on Mars. We've been designing satellites and probes for such a long time, it's easy to forget that we still do it so infrequently that there is still a high likelihood of failure. Just watching the engineers' faces as they receive each positive report shows how wonderful it was to get confirmation that all of their hard work paid off. Here are the first photos.

Monday, May 26, 2008

This Sums Up a Mystic's Nirvana Quite Well

Look for this woman to be the next New Age guru. This is raising an actual physical disability to a desirable state of being. She may as well tell people they too can ignore reality by having half a lobotomy.

What the Hell?

From Joanne Jacobs, a class voted a boy out of kindergarten!

Alex hasn't been back to school since then, and Barton said he won't be returning. He starts screaming when she brings him with her to drop off his sibling at school.

Thursday night, his mother heard him saying "I'm not special."

Barton said Alex is reliving the incident.

They said he was "disgusting" and "annoying," Barton said.

"He was incredibly upset," Barton said. "The only friend he has ever made in his life was forced to do this."

The child's mother filed a complaint with the school resource officer, who investigated the matter, said Port St. Lucie spokeswoman Michelle Steele said. But the state attorney's office concluded the matter did not meet the criteria for emotional child abuse, so no criminal charges will be filed, Steele said. Port St. Lucie Police is no longer investigating, but is documenting the complaint, she said.

Steele said the teacher confirmed the incident did occur.

From what I can tell, this is a perfect example of class-wide humiliation that passes for 'discipline' in public schools. I think he was voted to leave the class for the rest of the day. I decided not to quote the parts of the article that discuss that the child may have Asperger's. That he may have an excuse for his disruptive behavior does not make his treatment any more acceptable. This was a deliberate attempt to humiliate a child into obedience. One does not get obedience from humiliation or manipulating 5 year-olds to give the result the teacher wanted (which is probably what happened given that most 5 year-olds are just learning what proper behavior is themselves no less how to judge others).

Appalling. These horrible types of systems are one of the reasons why I homeschool. In Connecticut the mother would refuse to bring the child back to school and then the school would ignore her letter of withdrawal and call the Department of Children and Families to investigate her for Educational Neglect.

Memorial Day

(photo from Cape May, NJ)

Even People in England Can Get Fed Up

Of course the title is a bit of a joke. Being an American who doesn't understand how people in this country can accept the amount of government interference we have, to look on England is to be completely baffled. I'm sure there are people in England who are equally appalled at their even more interfering government. Here is an example:

A powerful coalition of England’s leading independent schools is demanding that the Government scale back its new national curriculum for the under-fives, claiming that it violates parents’ human rights by denying them the freedom to choose how they educate their children.

The Independent Schools Council (ISC), which represents 1,280 fee-paying schools educating more than 500,000 children, has written a blistering letter to Beverley Hughes, the Children’s Minister, complaining that the new curriculum will mean that the education of under-fives is subject to greater government interference than that of any other age group.

A leaked copy of the letter, seen by The Times, says that the curriculum, known as the Early Years Foundation Stage framework, will compromise its member schools’ independence. “This clumsy intrusion into the early years’ curriculum of independent schools is both unjustified and unnecessary. More importantly, this interference conflicts with the rights of parents to privacy in their home life, which includes the freedom to choose how they educate their children and to educate them free from the control of the state,” the letter states.
I only hope that people realize that this shouldn't just apply to schools, but also to individual parents.

(via Edukey)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Business Unusual?

I've been unemployed for a year and a half now. One of my major panic attacks about quitting work to homeschool was the prospect of being unemployed for about 10 years (by the time the then-youngest was about ready for high school, now I'm looking at 14 years if I continue to homeschool and 18 years if it seems like we'll homeschool through high school) and then trying to reenter the work force in anything like my then-current profession. I pretty much decided that any future employment of mine was either going to be in retail ("Would you like paper or plastic, Ma'am?") or would involve a fresh college diploma (I always was jealous of my husband's extra degree).

With this idea of a science course for homeschoolers, though, I wonder if there might be another path. Whenever I meet an ex-homeschooling parent, usually the mother, more often than not I'm presented with a business card touting their math or general tutoring abilities. Ah, I think, so this is what homeschooling moms do when their children are older.

In our area there are a number of nature-study type classes for homeschoolers as well as a few co-ops. The co-op I saw seemed interesting but many of the courses were disappointing. They concentrated on non-essentials (like crafting, or a foreign language), or used a curriculum like any homeschooler could buy. Obviously I didn't take the whole meaning of co-op into account. This is likely because most parents already have curriculum for the essential classes.

The interest expressed in the astronomy class was eye-opening. Not only did we have quite a large waiting list the first time around, now that people are beginning to look for fall classes, we've been cold-called by enough families that we didn't have to re-list the course. In fact, the sheer number of interested parties convinced hubby to run the class again.

So can I make a small business out of offering science courses to homeschool families? The science course I was already contemplating was mostly to light a fire under my own butt and also to introduce the hierarchical pedagogy to others. I've had some interest in the course. Sometimes it seems like people accepted the course before they even heard what it was about.

To make a business, though, involves a lot of consideration. There's the amount of work required to prepare material (I'm sure Mr. Powell of History at Our House is quite familiar with that). Since I'd be holding the class at my house there's upkeep of the house. Maybe even liability claims? What if someone drops a weight on their toe? I'd have to purchase a decent amount of material to cleanly demonstrate some concepts. How many kids could I have without losing the quality of the presentation? How many classes should/could I offer? Would that be enough to make it profitable? How long should I expect before my initial investment is paid off and I actually start making money? How much would parents be willing to pay for an in-person class? (That's a lot higher than I would have thought considering how much people pay for sewing, quilting, and naturalist classes and other curriculum materials.) How often and how long should the class be held? How profitable would I like it to be? Do I need a lawyer, a business license, a tax attorney? Would the ability to buy wholesale be worth the need to determine the tax on the part of my house used to run the business?

Heck, I'm trying to answer most of those questions and I'm no where near trying to make money.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Addition with Carrying in Our Homeschool

This is my littlest explaining her Montessori-inspired math work. I say Montessori-inspired because I do not have the Montessori golden-bead materials, though everything else is just about the same.

Yet Another History at Our House Post

I know I post a lot about History at Our House--but it's with really good reason. My oldest daughter (3rd grade but took the upper elementary history this year anyway) is in her second year with Mr. Powell's teleconferenced history program. With my mommy-addled memory, we've missed a number of lectures and it was really affecting her participation in the class. For the first time in an amount of time I'm ashamed to admit, we've participated in three whole weeks of class.

When I reminded her it was almost time for her history lecture, she jumped up and said "I find history exciting!" I asked her what she liked. "The Civil War and the IndustrialRevolution." Of course I had to ask why--not everyone is excited about history (isn't that an understatement). Her explanation was that "it tells us how we have thethings that we have today."

I have to congratulate and thank Scott Powell for offering the class and teaching it well. I am so glad that he has a class that we can participate in from a great distance and my oldest has a real teacher and class experience and all I have to do is remind her when to phone in! And it is a perfect example of how relating to kids' own experience and interests is a wonderful motivation.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Of Automatons and Homeschooling

When you want your children to do something and they tell you no or ask why, what is your initial emotional reaction? I know mine is sometimes anger and annoyance. Who are they to question me? I am the mother and ruler of this house and what I say goes. They should do it, not just because it needs to be done, but because I said so. It is annoying to hear the 'why' question, or wait until they are finished with some other task, or even to have them 'sass' me by telling me they don't want to do it.

But I do my best (not always successfully) to quash those emotions when they rear their ugly head--for to me, they are ugly emotions. I try to remind myself about my general belief of raising children. I do not believe my children are here to be seen and not heard. I did not bring my children into this world to react unquestioningly to figures of authority--even me or my husband.

My children are living, thinking, beings. They do not know as much as I do, and they need a great deal of guidance, but that is precisely what I want to give them. I want them to understand that neither I, nor the rest of the world (generally), is capricious. There are reasons for rules. In most instances, there is room for negotiation as well. We don't spend all of our time haggling because my kids accept my reasons--or I make it clear that this is not negotiable. But when it comes to what order they might do their school work, or whether toys can be left out to be used later, they have a great deal of control in how things work.

And I like that. I like knowing that they will be experienced decision makes, negotiators, and rule-obeyers--when the rules make sense to them. I also like that they feel, generally, that I have respect for their reasoning skills, their ability to follow-through, and their overall capabilities.

I don't want an automaton that will listen no-matter-what and never question authority. Will these children be able to differentiate who to obey? Just parents? All elders? How will they be able to trust their own judgement if it isn't exercised early on? Believe me, that is no small concern. Children raised under authoritarian parents are ridiculously insecure in decision making as adults.

I also like a little sass in my girls. We have fun together and gently tease each other--this also allows me to teach the difference between mean-spirited teasing, fun teasing, mean language, who she can or shouldn't talk to like that. My children don't fear me. They respect me and desire my good opinion on their behavior. I'd rather have respect and thinking than unquestioning obedience.

Homeschool Vs. Public School: A Vignette

A friend of mine just finished her college courses to become a high school science teacher. While she's waiting for a job in the public school system, she's making ends meet by teaching elementary students in a private Catholic school. I'm always interested in new curriculum (still trying to find a good fit for us*).

I eagerly asked her what curriculum the private school was using. She couldn't remember the actual name, so I just asked her what the kids were learning for 3rd graders. She emphasized math facts and rudimentary multiplication. She pointed out that it really didn't make any sense to teach them anything else because they weren't ready for it. I listened carefully, but in a kind of daze.

See, I had just taught my daughter long division with multiple digits (like 2508 divided by 43). I am not writing this to brag (but lets face it, I am quite proud of her and her willingness and desire to learn more than what she knows even when she knows it's going to be a struggle)**. I am writing this to point out that in public school, this kid, who is perfectly capable of doing much, much more than is even conceived of by the public education teaching paradigms, would be sitting bored to tears in a 3rd grade classroom with no hope of being really challenged. I have her at home and I can introduce her to a new concept when she's ready--not on some arbitrary calendar date (even some homeschool curriculums would easily fall into this trap).

*I have had Saxon for 2nd and 3rd grade, but I do not like how they deal with addition facts, the sheer repitition (yes--I skip it, but I paid for all of those pages I'm not using), and the place-value system. I do like how they introduce word problems quite concretely and I generally like the material that is covered, as long as we ignore how long it takes to introduce it.

**And she asked to do it. Her other 8 and 9 year old friends in Montessori are also working on long division (maybe not with multiple digits in the divisor). Other people who learn that I just taught a 3rd grader long division get an incredulous expression on their face. Yes, my daughter is smart--I can't take that away from her. After I explain fundamentals, she even sees the correlation to other parts of math, like how division and fractions are essentially the same. I really only ever need to show something to her once or twice and she learns "how to do it". A lot of it has to do with her wonderful understanding of math from Montessori, though we haven't used Montessori for any advanced multiplication or division--we've done that totally abstractly. I haven't yet taught her how to divide fractions to get the decimal representation, I want to introduce some goemetry first and reintroduce the tenths, hundredths, etc.


The Carnival of Homeschooling. (Fixed the link to go to the right post. Helps when the link to the carnival actually goes to the carnival.)

Jury Duty

Easy peasy! For my first ever experience with jury duty it could hardly have gone better. I went to our local superior court and signed in. I got there at the requested time, though nothing happened for another 1/2 hour (note for future). They showed a tape about the process which was very nicely done and reminded me of why our system is so great. They called the names for the first jury panel (the first group that a court will voir dire for selection). Most of the gathered people were called, leaving just about ten of us. Then the women came to front of the room and said, approximately, 'thanks, don't come back for four years.' I was there for a grand total of two hours, won't have to serve again for four years (as long as I keep whatever documents the state mails me as proof), and I got to watch a nice video.

Guns, Guns Everywhere!

I've been enjoying Perry Mason while nursing the baby (can't read because he gets distracted and tries to eat the book). I caught the 80s reunion movies and enjoy the show a lot. One thing I've noticed that seems to be a dramatic change in our society is how commonly guns are portrayed. Every time you turn around someone has a gun in their purse, desk drawer, coat pocket, nightstand table, and/or glove compartment. This clip at 3 Ring Binder from the movie Sabrina also shows a casual (not necessarily unsafe) attitude toward guns.

Because of my upbringing in not-quite-rural, liberal, northern schools with kind-of hippy parents, I thought guns were little evil doohickeys with minds of their own for killing--likely to go off at any time and for any reason with little regard to the people near them. It's refreshing to see them treated as the tool they are.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Research--A Heirarchically Based Science Course for Elementary Students: Part 3

Over the weekend, hubby and I went to two library book sales. I'm always looking for children's science and history books, Nancy Drew, and early readers. The good news for me is that libraries are trying to get rid of outdated books--but the only science and history books I really want are all from before the 70s, generally. This time I also picked up whole lot of Rex Stout books (someone was obviously getting rid of a collection). I've never read Rex Stout, but I did enjoy some of the Nero Wolfe TV shows. I also thought they looked a bit like pulp fiction.

I also checked out the adult science and history sections to see if I could find anything that might be helpful with getting the information I need for the course. I'm a total amateur when it comes to science. I have a degree in mechanical engineering, which means I'm not intimidated by the thought of delving into science, but, let's face facts, as hubby (who has bachelor's degrees in physics and math and a masters in computer science) points out: there was physics for physicists and physics for engineers. Guess which one was harder. Same goes for math. I may have taken five semesters of calculus, but I learned more about using it--never had to go into proofs like he did.

So, what I'm basically saying is, I'm a novice in the scientific world and I know it and I know I need a lot of help to get up to speed. I've always been a perfectionist, so I can guarentee that I do not need to know nearly as much as I am going to try to find out in order to present science to 1st through 5th graders. In the back of my mind, I think even just the "How Did We Find Out..." books might be enough--if I reorganize the information presented across a number of books. It seems to be the right depth for elementary age.

I did, however, find a few histories or compendiums of science that I'm reading. I've got my index cards and I'm treating the class like a really ill-defined research paper. After I take a good amount of notes, I'll come up with an outline (trying to follow Dr. Peikoff's advice on communication) and then fill it out from there.

So far I've discovered one of the books starts back at the definition of time and the calendar (too early for my purposes) and another starts at Copernicus (too late!). The first chapter of another Asimov book (boy, I knew he was prolific--but I had NO IDEA how prolific) seems to be about right--though I don't yet know if the book itself presents information chronologically or not--the other two do.

Part 1
Part 1a
Part 2

"How and Why Wonder Books" Science Book Recommendations

I already talked about how much I like the Asimov "How Did We Find Out..." series. They are the catalyst that made me realize I could do the course because his books provide a great representation of the sequence of important discoveries.

Another book series I'd like to recommend is the "How and Why Wonder Books" series. They have entries that are science- and history-based. I've investigated a number of the science books. While they are not heirarchially based, like the Asimov series, their optimism and their undiminished respect for human accomplishment (in the ones I've read) have been very impressive. They often have a good introduction to the topic that may put it in historical perspective before diving into the meat of the matter.

Structuring the Course--A Heirarchically Based Science Course for Elementary Students: Part 2

One can spend a lot of time teaching science. I am sure that if I had a half-hour course every weekday that I could fill it with useful information. That's not workable for most families (including my own). Nor do I have the time to prepare that amount of material. I'm working with a handicap as it is. Homeschool courses are generally offered once a week. Thinking of music lessons or co-op classes, they would last for about an hour. It seems that co-ops also run in semesters (two or three in a school year).

My hubby's astronomy course lasts approximately 20 weeks (a very long semester) and he plans on running that in the fall and the spring (there actually isn't enough time--he's counting on a few cloudy nights to catch up). His schedule is ruled by his topic and what he's covering.

What is my topic and what will I be covering? I'm leaning toward physics, but it seems that I won't be able to be exclusive--there's a bit of cross-over. I've been thinking about covering a topic in physics a month and running for four months. That's not very much, though. I will also need to include an introduction.

There are so many topics in physics, too, plus all of the groundwork needed to understand the basics. Magnetism, machines, light and optics, discoveries about planets, electricity, and gravity all require knowledge of force, pressure, volume, matter, mass, and measurement. I do not really plan to talk about every discovery of these bare bones facts. They're pretty concrete and lead themselves to easy discovery by the kids. I will, also, need to skim many of the topics. The depth and breadth of the course are, obviously, inversed. The deeper I go into any one topic, the less the course can cover overall. The more I want to cover, the less I can go into each. I'm currently thinking of a broad, sallow coverage (with the exception of the 'how' and the basic definitions needed for further, in-depth, analysis--which I will cover more in-depth). As recommend by Dr. Peikoff, I will be guided by chronology.

I wish I had David Harriman's physics and I'm also glad I don't have it. His physics course would be a great outline, but I'm completely sure it would be way too advanced for elementary students. I am also looking forward to puzzling this all out for myself.

Part 1
Part 1a

On Using Biographies--A Heirarchically Based Science Course for Elementary Students: Part 1a

LB, in a comment on Part 1, asked whether it seemed like biographies would be valuable. I said yes, if they werre present chronologically. I'd like to ammend that answer. I think the experiemtns are very important to recount. I don't know if every biography would include the necessary experiments. The proper context must also be laid, in my opinion. I think most biographies would do a good job doing that. I would also warn against biographies that attempt to show too much of the man, as opposed to the scientist. I'm guessing a lot of modern biographies would do this. Whether or not Newton was easy to get along with might be interesting as an aside, but it is likely to be independent of his scientific greatness. It also might be downright distracting. So I would recommend biographies that concentrate on the science, the scientist's place in it, and some interesting information like where they were born, how the world worked at the time, how they helped advance human knowledge, and any personal information that may have helped or hindered them in having their conclusions accepted.

Part 1

Monday, May 12, 2008


When hubby and I were dating, I knew things were going well when we drove past a power substation and I admitted that I found them romantic as a tribute to what mankind has accomplished. He didn't laugh at me. It was shortly after that he introduced me to Ayn Rand.

Free Curriculum Mother's Day Sale from CurrClick

All ages and lots of non-religious selections. Will need to register in order to download. They also offer a monthly free download as well.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Comics Of the Future

From the Past!

The Daily Mail has a few shots of a new exhibit in Britain. Wish I could see more!

Can't Pass This Up!

William Shatner was handsome--check out the pic at the link. I don't recall ever seeing one of those on the show.
He's coming out with an autobiography. It's excerpted here.

Mother's Day Fun

Last night we moved the little monster (the 5 month-old little guy) into his crib. He's been too big for the bassinet for a few months now, I was just putting off the inevitable. Last night was the final straw when his foot actually got caught in a handle opening of the fabric. That meant moving the nursing chair and myself into the baby's room. This is all around awful. We have an old bed in there with a stiff mattress and now I can't just nudge hubby to let him know it's his turn with the babe. I have to actually yell for him--which will just make it that much less likely that I'll even bother. Of course any transition for babies comes with a penalty, so he was up twice as often and had that much of a harder time getting to sleep.

In the morning, hubby and kids were nice enough to let me sleep late, though and I got to sleep until 8 AM. I could have slept later if one of the kids hadn't been experiencing a crazy-loud meltdown. I was presented with hand-made mother's day cards from both girls. No present because I'm a waffler and can't figure out what I want (or at least what I want that I'm also willing and able to pay for). After that, I enjoyed some pancakes for breakfast (hubby's Sunday morning breakfast) which I didn't even cook. We then loaded the kids, ourselves, some hammers, a crow bar, a nail claw, and a metal bar into the car for a ride around town.

some hammers, a crow bar, a nail claw, and a metal bar???

Yep! I recently found out that there's a place RIGHT NEAR US that has an old garnet mine. It's called Green's Farm Garnet Mine in Roxbury, CT. These aren't gem quality minerals, but when you have two kids who like to collect rocks, that hardly matters. We spent an hour getting lost (though we found a really old cemetary from the 1700s) and then found the place! It's someone's house.

You pay $3 per car (by putting the money under the front mat). We were quite stumped. Here we were at some stranger's house, walking in their driveway and yard not quite knowing what to do. Soon a cute, furry dog greets us a trots off down a path to the left of the garage. What else could we do but follow him. Lo and behold--the clever pooch led us to the exact spot.

We didn't know what to expect. It was called a mine and I didn't know if there would be anything obvious or not. It turns out that it was just a sharp valley in the hill. There were a few other rock hunters chipping away. They had quite an impressive haul--though it turns out we did quite well ourselves. In many places the rock was chipped away leaving exposed garnets. The garnets were obvious where they were imbedded in the rock. We found a number that were a quarter-inch and half-inch in diameter. Hubby found some that were three-quarters of an inch. They were obvious by their color and their shape. We spent a couple of hours pounding and digging. Of course I forgot my camera, but here are some of the best samples.

After a hard day with hammers and crow bars, we headed out to the local Friendly's for dinner. By then we were quite ready for a rest.

Go Speed Racer! Go!

Which could also be interpreted as a recommendation. Which is good, because it is. Mostly I really enjoyed the movie.

It was full of fast paced action scenes, race courses out of the imagination of a hard-core gladiator-meets-the-ninja type. I think Trixie, played by Christina Ricci, was weak (not nearly as fun as the Trixie in the cartoon). Susan Sarandon does an OK job of being the mom. John Goodman was really good as Pops. Sprittle and Chim-Chim were cute and a little more circumspect than I recall in the cartoon. I wish they had the original theme song in the movie more.

Reservations: the evil guys are race-sponsors that are typical-for-Hollywood corrupt power mongers. Another not-so-great part was Speed learning to drive from his brother Rex and Rex telling him that the car will tell him what it needs. In the end it seems much different than 'feeling' the car--which we all do while driving.

Otherwise it was very enjoyable and a lot of fun. Both my 9 year-old and my 6 year-old enjoyed it.

Happy Mother's Day!

Hope you had a wonderful day!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Doomed to Failure?--A Heirarchically Based Science Course for Elementary Students: Part 1

I got a look at what I'm competing against (not really a competition since I wouldn't expect anyone to treat this as more than an enrichment). A mother brought over Real Science for Kids. This is a fairly popular science curriculum for homeschoolers. This particular book is for chemistry, biology, and physics for 4th through 6th graders.

Chemistry begins with introducing the periodic table of elements. They explain that it is periodic (good start for the periodic table) and that elements in the same column behave in similar ways. Then you look at lists of ingredients and try to find materials that are listed in the table (i.e. how we interact with elements everyday). The next lesson explains that there are molecules that use ionic and covalent bonds (what each might mean is briefly explained without actually mentioning shells--see here, but it goes on to state that they shouldn't really worry about it right now). The exercise for this lesson is to use big and mini marshmallows and toothpicks and build the molecules for water, methane, etc. They tell you to use one toothpick for hydrogen and four toothpicks for carbon.

I didn't get any further than that right now. What I gather from this (and a conversation I had with a homeschooling mother who would like the government to oversee homeschoolers' progress) is that my pittance of an offering--a few tidbits of science from 3000 to 300 years ago is probably not going to make much of a splash. Certainly not because the approach is wrong, but because the parents expect the type of information supplied above and would probably feel that their kids aren't learning anything 'real' if the big conclusions aren't discussed.

What does this mean for me? Of course I know that introducing subjects using heirarchy is absolutely meaningful and will actually lead to understanding (instead of the memorizing with full understanding perhaps--and I mean if they're particularly intelligent--coming if those students take chemistry or physics in college). I want other kids to have a good concrete basis for their abstractions so that they can be good thinkers when they become adults--and thus help the world I'm living in fight bad ideas. But will anyone be interested in a science course they may believe is too easy for their kids?

I probably cannot convince everyone of the pedagogy and I really can't spend that much time or find every person who might be convinced. So I'm rebranding the approach. I'm planning on presenting a course in science from a historical perspective (providing that phrase doesn't have some other connotation of which I am ignorant). Problem solved, I think. The parents won't be expecting a bunch of Mad Scientist type of non-integrated experiments and I'll get across the approach I'm planning on taking. When their kids come home talking about the discovery of the compass, then their parents won't wonder why I'm not discussing the entire theory of electromagnetism.

New Round Up!

Rational Jenn, as usual, has the goods!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Ayn Rand and BB&T and Stupid SOBs

I guess that NPR article got some play. There is a totally stupid and naive so-called humor story that completely misrepresents everything about Rand's philosophy of Objectivism at some outfit called the Washington Indepent. Take someone who only knows one line about Objectivism, who thinks they're a commedian, and who really couldn't give one good goddamn about truth and you get nothing at all inciteful or funny. I won't even link it because I have no idea what the Washington Indepent is.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Trying to Organize an Elementary Science Course

After being inspired by LB, I thought I'd try to host a science course. I'm pretty scientifically literate and I like the idea of helping kids learn the 'right way.' That means trying to follow the heirarchy of knowledge. Now, without a lot of historical research and knowledge, this is pretty darn hard. With a lot of historical research and not a lot of knowledge, this becomes much harder. So many different discoveries--but I only want to present the important ones.

I plan on posting on this regularly as I try to come up with an outline. One thing any course I may offer won't be is a jumble of science experiments showing highly advanced concepts.

Tax Freedom Day

If you don't already know (and I doubt anyone reading this blog already doesn't), Tax Freedom Day is the first day of the year you are actually earning money for yourself instead of the government. Using sales taxes, property taxes, income taxes, gas taxes, service taxes, and numerous other taxes, we spend a good portion of our time (higher than you think!) working for the federal government. I didn't agree with pretty much anything else that Alan Keyes had to say, but he was right in calling income taxes slavery.

Why Homeschool has more details about how many days one spends paying for what types of taxes, and most interestingly, a table of how much people have been paying on average since 1900. Enlightening and frightening.

Ayn Rand Chair?

NPR had an article on Morning Edition (thanks, T) talking about BB&T donating a cool $1 million in order to fund a course on an ethical defense of capitalism based on Ayn Rand's philosophy. As usual, there is the following asinine quote:

But not everyone at the university is excited by the gift. Rick Wilson, a sociology instructor at Marshall and head of the West Virginia Economic Justice Project, says that Rand's philosophy, objectivism, is based on the view that selfishness is the only moral value.

"[Objectivism] goes against the collective wisdom of the human race, I think, pretty much everywhere," says Wilson. "I think it's a curious interpretation of philanthropy to use corporate money to promote, really, an extreme philosophy."

I like how he throws collective around like that. Especially when trying to dissuade people from hearing about a philosophy of individualism. The whole point is that not everyone believes the same thing--that's why he's even being asked. Yeah, the collective wisdom of fascism (give yourself to the state who will walk all over you), communism (give yourself to the state and be indentured to other people who will walk all over you), and judeo-christian ethics (give yourself to anyone who comes along asking anything of you no matter what you might think of them or their worth because otherwise you go to Hell). "Collective" kind of stands out there, doesn't it? It's the collective above the individual that gets you all that crap.

Homeschooling Carnival



I didn't realize the seminar announced on NoodleFood wasn't land-locked. It uses a conference call so even us poor rubes in the suburbs of a suburb of an urb can participate.

The seminar will move slowly, for the good of us slow people, go through Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff. I tried this once on my own and got really frustrated by the time I reached Chapter 3. And it only costs $15. Perhaps that will help with my feeling of not-doing-enough-philosophically.

If it works out and is helpful, I'll sign up for the Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, too. Then I can finish the Fountainhead, read Ominous Parallels, and really and truly massive The Objectivist newsletter collection we have. Perhaps after that, I'll actually know something!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Picking Books

It's no secret that my oldest is a READER (I just couldn't emphasize it enough). She loves, loves, loves to read. She's finishing off Nancy Drew books at an alarming pace. I can barely keep up with the supply. She has read the first 12 books. I think she's averaging a book in a little less than a week.

During a play date with another homeschool mom of a girl in the same grade, I mentioned the Nancy Drew books and she looked at me with some surprise and said that they were fifth grade level books. Can I tell you I had no idea what she was talking about? I knew that Junie B. Jones and Magic Treehouse were pretty low-level. After that she moved to the Disney Fairy books and Judy Moody (according to the back of the Fairy books, they were about 3rd grade). I was anxious to get along into more substantial territory. When she started reading Nancy Drew, I was pleased.

Now that I know they have some reading level associated with them, I'm anxious to find other books that she might like that are similar. I've had a heck of a time finding the right level of books in the past. When I got her the Edge Chronicles books, I had to do a lot of reading aloud to pique her interest. Once the story took off, I couldn't read them fast enough for her and she did most of the rest herself.

I just found this resource at Hoagie's Gifted Education Page (found from a Google search for 'how to determine grade level of book') which also leads to this cool widget on Scholastic.

It's called "BookAlike." You type in the name of a book your child is already reading (or has tried to read) and you can get books recommended at the same level or at higher or lower levels. I don't even know what levels means and there can be some variation, but it is a huge help in just knowing some things to check out.

Five Stars!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Blog Housekeeping

I split the links section up into topics. I have the Objectivist who I know homeschool put together even though their blogs are not necessarily about homeschooling. I just like having a tally of the ones I know about!