Monday, June 30, 2008

Blog Readability--Or "Do You Write Like a 5th Grader?"

The title is obviously a joke. It's more like "Do you write so a 5th grader could understand?"

blog readability test

Movie Reviews

Apparently I've hit the jack pot on 50 cent words. Check it out here to see if you're at the 75 cent word level.

Just for fun since I didn't bother finding out how they determine the reading level.

Get 'Em While They're Hot!

Beautiful version of pinwheels at Allsorts (craft/fabric/sewing blog). If you're like me (and you're probably not), you may have, oh, I don't know--maybe $200 worth of scrapbooking supplies that you were supposed to use to document your family's many zany adventures that never actually got used. Well, here's one way to use them up!

The pattern is provided (for now!) along with other instructions. Cute and fun craft for ages 6 and up (depending on their scissor skill--my youngest is still rough around the edges). Great for younger kids to enjoy after the adult puts it together (they can pick the paper).

Federal Tax Credit--HSLDA and NHELD Go Head-to-Head

Dana at Principled Discovery has a lengthy post discussing the proposed federal tax credit for homeschoolers. She's disatissfied with NHELD's position against the legislation. I posted a comment about one of the reasons I'm against it:

I think the idea is that if HSLDA gets some kind of federal law pertaining to home school, there will be more incentive to get their constitutional ammendment passed. One of the main reasons for not supporting it is that it would make home school law-making a federal responsibility. If you can say that homeschooling is already a federal responsibitity, the switch goes from fighting it to trying to modify it. NHELD has spoken against this--it's harder to fight at the federal level (and others more legally based than pragmatic).

As you can guess, NHELD and HSLDA are at odds about how homeschooling rights should be defended. I am completely on board with NHELD and regard HSDLA suspiciously, given their other agendas. Moving homeschooling to a federal venue would negate NHELD's abilities to be a voice for homeschoolers. One main attorney, no matter how great her heart, will not have the resources that HSLDA has, given their broad donation-base of Christians who are hoping to mandate their morals in federal law.

I should have described what I think the main differences are between NHELD and HSLDA's approaches. NHELD is more of an 'originalist' when it comes to rights. We are guarenteed rights in the constitution and it is better to have those rights recognized than to further the myth that the only rights allowed to citizens are those actually enumerated in the constitution. If the only rights are those that are enumerated, then we can expect our constitution to become quite unwieldy as each right needs to be added.

NHELD works on a basis of ideology. There is no double-talk. When NHELD comes out against something, you know what they believe and what their grand plan is. They don't just want bits and pieces of seemingly OK legislation. They want to try to pass the best, most rights-protecting, wording. I love NHELD.

HSLDA is much more of an expediency advocacy group (which I am against just as much as I am against their theoacratic leanings). Whatever seems to work at the time to get a little closer to their final agenda is OK with them.

Cheap Books and Limited Free Samples

I love books.

Dover Publications reprints about a billion older text books plus a ton of copyright-free clip art books. They're also known for cheap classics as well as a number of abridged children's books. If you like getting free stuff, you can actually sign up to receive a link to weekly free clip art. I don't know what you'll do with it, but it could be used to practice art lessons (copy this, sketch that), or design your own cards or stationary.

If you love old library books (as I've recently decided I do in my attempt to corner the market on "How Did We Find Out" books and "How and Why Wonder Books"), then you can't beat Amazon marketplace ('see other ways to buy this book' button) and Enter a book search term and Campus i will check out all of the book sellers to find the book (used or new) and then display their price, even with shipping. Great resource I discovered from a local homeschool friend.

What Is it About Science...

that makes all leaders want to be at the forefront? In reading Joy Hakim's The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way, I notice that Alexander wants a center of learning and builds Alexandria. Then Harun al-Rashid wants his vast empire to include art and learning and so his son, al-Mahmun, founds the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. Charlemagne wants the same. What is it about science and art that makes leaders think it shows how superior their realms are? Is that why were in the space race with Russia 50 years ago? Hmm....

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Great Indian Music Video

The video is fun. Then someone was listening to it and though he could recognize some of the words as if they were English.

Head over to Althouse to find out what the Indian (I have no idea which language it's in) lyrics sounded like to this guy.

The FDA Is Cheating Us Again

This Wired Science blog post points out the inevitable. Because there is an FDA, doctors are less likely to use a substance that has been shown to work but does not have FDA approval. So if you're interested in finding out what newly discovered drug may not be offered to you in your doctor's office and what it may treat (though, of course, I would want to actually see what proof there is), check out the article.

I Love Lists

I love lists! I can spend all of my time making lists and then not follow them. Sometimes lists just help me organize my thoughts. But lists are like catnip for kids. For some reason my kids just adore lists. Things are almost always smoother, more fun, more complete, and just all-around joyful with lists!

So to make morning and evening routines more streamlined--Lists for the kids!

Clicking on the pictures should get you to the PDF document of that list.

Here's the morning list

Here's the nighttime list

I just used Microsoft word and Microsoft's free clip art.

How We Discovered the Atom--

--set to music.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Fountainhead Theme Applied

At Lorem Ipsum, I enjoyed seeing someone able to identify and apply a very important idea Rand presented in The Fountainhead.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Had to Share

I thought this was funny. It's a compilation of news casters misspeaking.

Fun With Widgets

I've spent way too much time checking out these widgets. Add all kinds of content to your blog.

For the Task Master in All of Us

I found out about this really neat website from one of the Yahoo groups (I don't remember which one).

It called Chore Buster and it is free (one of my favorite words). It's an awesome organizational tool for those of us who are not natural-born housekeepers (I'm like a natural-born house-killer). It's a scheduling tool that will take chores and assign them to people and days based on how often you think the chore needs to be done. It can be more or less random as you choose. I've decided that I'm sick of wondering how to get it all done. It's time to delegate! I've actually used it (well, knew about it and set it up anyway) for over a year. The kids are generally cooperative once a list is written down on paper and they have a great time checking off the chores as they finish them. The eldest (coincidentally the name of the book she's reading) will saunter over to the list and just do them (the ones I've bothered teaching her, anyway). For the youngest (mostly not reading yet) I draw little pictures on the calendar to match the chore or the object of the chore. We do NOT do everything I have on the calendar--but even doing some of it is already better then what we had been doing before: a catch as catch can approach. There is still one thing I won't do. I won't clean something (with some notable exceptions) that looks clean.

At the website, you get a free account (which you don't even need to have a password) and get started. You put in the people in your household, you decide what level of work they should do (100%--same as everyone else down to 25% for little-little kids). You can decide if the person should receive their chores via e-mail (daily or weekly). You can even say that a person shouldn't get chores on Tuesdays (in case they have sports practice that night) or is on vacation.

Once you get people entered, then it's time to put in the chores. This was actually one of the hardest parts. Decide what jobs need to be done around the house, how frequently (or on which days), and then put in how much work it is to do that chore. I think I started with easy stuff (lists used from and thanks to FlyLady--whose program worked for me for about two days).

Once you enter a chore, you can also decide who shouldn't do the chore (like cleaning the gutters I decided couldn't be done by me, my eldest, or my youngest--kinda leaving only the hubby). You can also decide which room the chore is in--that way you know what to do when you're in that room instead of running around across the whole house as you go from chore to chore. For our rooms I chose to use the upstairs, downstairs and outside. That way I have a list for the upstairs (for morning or evening time or school). Then I have another list I keep for the downstairs (food times and evenings). My husband pretty much gets the outdoor list, but the kids are assigned to water plants and weed. Now if only I could get them to go out there alone.

One way I found to use the system was particularly handy. Let's say you want a specific chore for a specific person (maybe even a specific day). Well Chore Buster isn't really into that because it's all about spreading out the chores equitably and (kindof) randomly. But I really wanted to have my kid's specific cleaning chore marked out. I created a chore that said 'room cleaning--oldest daughter' and then made it so that noone but the oldest daughter could do that chore. Worked like a charm. Could work with specifically rotating days for cooking or dishes for instance. Just make a couple of chores 'dishes-kid 1' and 'dishes-kid 2' then have 'dishes-kid 1' always be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or every two days starting 6/25/08 and make it so noone but kid 1 can do it. Do the same for kid 2, only on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday or every two days starting 6/26/08.

Another benefit (which I don't use because I don't believe in paying per chore--though I'd be happy to pay when their old enough to mow the lawn) is that you can put a price on the chore. There's also a selection for what part of the day the chore fits and if the chore should be done by two people. There are also some standard chores to get you started (import chores in the left-hand menu under chores).

To find out what chores to do when, I take the old fashioned way and print out a calendar. Those who are more electronically integrated can use an RSS feed, get a widget for your desktop, e-mail (mentioned above) , or mobile phone.

Perhaps the most helpful thing for me would be to make a chore to print out the next chores. That's where I fail at it! You can even check out other people's chores (if they left them public--here's mine as long as you remember that I'm forever an optimist. I'm in the top 60 for sheer number of chores--before baby.).

I Don't Believe in It

Naturopathy or homeopathy. It's amazing how many times I meet a new homeschooling mother and have to make the statement in the title. It's a lame statement. It is accurate because that kind of wackadoodleness isn't about medicine or science, but 'faith.' I always hope that the phrasing will stimulate some ill-used critical-thinking area of the person's brain and when they answer 'Oh, I believe in it,' that they'll realize that there is no scientific evidence of effectiveness. That and I'm hoping to emphasize the relation to religion--believing without evidence.

It's not just homeschool moms, though maybe I've been so nicely sheltered by being in an engineering firm and this is my first time being exposed to the general populace. It could also be the sheer number of women I'm currently interacting with. I have always gotten on better with guys and never could fathom women as well as you'd think considering I am one.

I can tell all of the people visiting those types of offices what they can expect:

Cut out wheat, dairy, eggs, and sugar (either one, all, or some combination). Usually on the basis of some 'test' performed (for which the client is charged as part of the initial visit). If you get a really experience naturopath you won't leave there without some supplements that you really need that the naturopath happens to carry.

It makes me sad (like Crying Indian in the litter commercials, single-tear sad)to see people fall for these so-called treatments. Please, please, please gain an understanding of scientific evidence (after all, if you're homeschooling you should be teaching it to your kids).

For the homeschool moms out there: it is hypocritical to teach your child the scientific method while visiting naturopaths--because they don't use it.

And in case you got nostalgic for the 70s, here's the original litter bug ad. Now I just need an excuse to talk about Smokey the Bear. Hey--I just found one!

You Are Very Glad You Are Not Me

While the title may generally be true at all times, it is particularly true at this moment. So we had a bad thunderstorm while we were away from the house last week. It fried our well. It also tripped the circuit breaker leading to our freezer in the basement.

The freezer in the basement filled with frozen food.

The freezer in the basement filled with frozen meat.

The freezer in the basement filled with frozen meat that is no longer frozen.

The freezer in the basement filled with frozen meat that is no longer frozen and has not been frozen for at least a week.

The freezer in the basement filled with frozen meat that is no longer frozen and has not been frozen for at least a week and that was just opened.

The freezer in the basement filled with frozen meat that is no longer frozen and has not been frozen for at least a week and that was just opened and now my whole house smells like a freezer full of rotten meat.

Anyone interested in moving to Connecticut? Perhaps I could interest you in some property!

The House that Jack built is one of my favorite books to read to the kids.

Update: Turns out the whole stench was caused be a few packages of gross chicken. Yuck!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Element Song

Another Tom Lehrer. The first shows the names of the elements, in case you were wondering. The second is just funnier. Both use the same song (which I think is funny enough to listen to twice--or more!--in a row).

Crunch Time--A Hierarchically Based Science Course for Elementary Students: Part 4a

I just realized I have only six weeks until the first course! The good news is I know the general outline I want to follow for the first month. I need to write it down. Then I need to figure out any equipment I want and order it. While I'm waiting for that, I'll work on the rest of the course. One thing I definitely want is a total course overview. That way I'll have some milestones to compare myself against. Once I have something more formal, I'll share!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Three-Thousand-Four-Hundred-Eighty-Nine Dollars and Five Cents

That's how much I just paid to get our well pump replaced.

Apparently well pumps and their control boards are not protected from lightning! If I'm lucky, our homeowner's policy will cover it (less deductible). We also took the opportunity to replace the water storage tank that was about to rust-through. So right now I'm really happy the water is back on and will stay on (at least until the next lightning storm). Now to go around and get some the air out of the pipes!

Oh yeah--one pleasant side effect is that I shouldn't run the dishwasher until some of the sediment flushes out of the pipes--at least until tomorrow. That means a required purchase of dinner. I think I'll try to talk the husband into Chinese food for us (which means McDonald's for the picky eaters--i.e. the kids).

Husband's Astrophotography--24 Comae Berenices

Here's hubby's pic (using our singularly not-up-to-snuff digital camera on his magnificent 10" tracking telescope) of 24 Comae Berenices (apparently Berenices is the name of the constellation and 24 Comae Berenices is the binary star in that constellation). Apparently figuring out the smallest separation of stars one can split using their equipment is the astronomer's equivilant of 'mine is bigger than yours,' 'my dad can beat up your dad,' and the ever popular pissing contest. I joke, of course, because amateur astronomers would never do that kind of thing--though it could explain a lot of those who end up spending $50K on this hobby.

The constellation Coma Berenices refers to a classical story concerning the hair of Berenice, the wife of Ptolemy III of Egypt. While the story is an old one, the constellation is relatively new, being introduced by Tycho Brahe (1546-1601).
According to the story, Ptolemy had waged a long war on the Assyrians, since it was they who had killed his sister. As Ptolemy returned successfully from the war, his wife Berenice had her beautiful tresses ceremoniously clipped and given to Aphrodite, laid out on the temple altar.

As the evening's festivities continued, the shorn hair was discovered to be missing. The priests might be sacrificed, if the queen's hair couldn't be found. It was the astronomer Conon of Samos who came to their rescue - proclaiming that Aphrodite had accepted the gift of Berenice's hair, which now shown brightly in the heavens next to Leo.


24 Comae is even more spectacular: a fixed binary with an orange primary and emerald component. (5.2, 6.5; PA 271ยบ, separation 20.3").
This binary is located eight degrees west of alpha Comae and one degree north.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How Well Socialized Are Homeschoolers--Surrendering the Premise

I get tired of hearing the socialization question. All of us do at one point or another. I also get tired of us homeschoolers trying to one-up the questioner about how well socialized homeschoolers are. Most of us would still be homeschooling even if we didn't have a ton of activities.

Does homeschooling have anything at all to do with helping your kid rely on other people and feel ineffectual without a collective framework? No? Then why do we even give those people the benefit of an answer that automatically assumes their position is even valid.

Want to get people to shut up? I modeled my answer from a recorded lecture given by Lisa VanDamme who served as a private teacher before opening her remarkably successful school in California.

An example conversation:

Curious Person Duped by What Professional Educators Call Socializing:

But what about socialization? That's really important.

Homeschooling Mom Who Understands Her Priorities and the Importance of Not Surrendering a Premise:

It would be the gravest crime against my children to destroy their intellect in favor of socialization. My children's education is the highest value to me and I would never handicap their ability to learn in order to satisfy an auxiliary concern about socialization.

Curious Person:
Of course. Learning should come first.

The answer reframes the question so that the assumed premise of the question is obvious. The assumed premise is that socialization should be the primary concern of any parent with regard to their children's schooling. I like to point out the obvious alternative--that learning is the primary purpose of schooling. Everyone who has ever heard the question reframed inevitably agrees.

That's because, unlike the professional teachers college professors, most regular people still think the purpose of education is, um, education. Of course, this is a great response when your children's education is your highest priority and the primary reason for homeschooling.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Husband's Astrophotography--The Andromeda Galaxy

Here's another older pic. This was piggy-backed, again, by placing the camera on the tracking mount but not using the telescope itself. The item of interest here is the big fuzzy circle slightly down from center. It is obviously not a star. It is the Andromeda Galaxy.
The distance to the Andromeda Galaxy is immense: some 2,300,000 light years, but nonetheless its vast size and luminosity mean that it is still visible to the naked eye (in fact, it is the most distant object that can been seen without a telescope). Even so, much of the structure in its spiral arms is too faint to be seen, so that it appears smaller than it actually is: if we could see the entire galaxy, it would occupy an area of the sky nearly six times the size of the Moon's disc.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Traffic Signs

There are any number of different signs on the side of the road these days. I took the first part of this quiz and got 100%. I must remember a lot about driver's ed!

We're Back

Vacation over. Driving is finished! Sunburn level was low (for the kids, anyway).

The Lodestone at the North Pole

So I have a fascination for older science books. Watch out! They are not always accurate. The How and Why Wonder Book of Magnetism states that the compass needle points north because it is attracted to the large deposit of lodestone at the North Pole. For those who haven't spent the last two months reading science history, lodestone was what magnetic stones were called.

It turns out that the most likely explanation for the magnetic field of the Earth is the molten core. This guy really wants to make sure, though. So he's doing what every scientist does to be sure--he's going to experiment. By building a model. A model of the planet, actually. Neatorama, again.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Just Like Work--Only Funnier

If you've ever had to sit through a Power Point presentation--this will look very familiar to you.

What Would We Do Without Compulsory Government Schooling?

Fight less. Be happier. Have our views actually respected by people who are trying to keep customers.

Wired Science has an article looking at the best possible way to balance the myriad of interest groups, pedagogy practices, government indoctrination, political correctness, zero-tolerance policies, bad teachers, and even funding concerns: No More Public Schools. OK, I'll admit that the article only deals with the evolution nonsense, but think of all of the other issues that are never resolved because of the sheer morass of public school.

The Cato institute guy makes a glaring error in talking about making laws and doesn't actually use a parental rights basis for supporting his view (you know those libertarians--pragmatic), but does pull out some good support in the end.

From Alasandra.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Yale Calls MIT and Raises--A LOT

MIT started quite a furor after providing some coursework on-line for free. Yale, however, has actually video recorded some classes and you can watch the classes on-line for free!

There aren't a lot yet but there is an astronomy, physics, and psychology. Hopefully there will be more.

You can find a list of other universities participating in OpenCourseWare here. If you wish, you can scroll down to the United States.

Going Gangsta

Nah--not me, but if you want to do something silly and timewasting you can check out what my blog would sound like when it's gangsta-fied. Not only was it funny, but it was interesting to see how many word didn't translate and what words did.


Then how about your other favorites? Try them here.

Thanks to my friend, Doug, for the link!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Husband's Astrophotography--The Pleiades

Here is his piggy-backed picture of the Pleiades (also known as the seven sisters). They're the very bright stars with a slightly violet tinge slightly to the left of center. (No, they really ought to be bright white, but hey.) All of the images posted (except for the moon shots) have been processed with free software husband has found specifically for astronomers.

One day the great hunter Orion saw the Pleiads (perhaps with their mother, or perhaps just one of them; see Merope above) as they walked through the Boeotian countryside, and fancied them. He pursued them for seven years, until Zeus answered their prayers for delivery and transformed them into birds (doves or pidgeons), placing them among the stars. Later on, when Orion was killed (many conflicting stories as to how), he was placed in the heavens behind the Pleiades, immortalizing the chase.

Homeschooling Tip--Pronunciation

Your kids have learned a lot by reading books. I know as a book reader myself that I'll learn words that I've never heard pronounced by anyone. Many times I've been guilty of using a word correctly only to pronounce it improperly.

I wasn't embarrassed because I understand my own limitations well enough to know I was taking a risk to use the word. It is like writing anything in this blog. I don't plan my blog writing or prefer to spend much time on it.

But, it is better to know the proper pronunciation. Nothing can distract from an intelligent conversation more than a glaring mispronunciation. Some people will mistakenly think this is an indicator of education quality.

If you are still your child's main teacher (even if just reading the books aloud) and run across a technical word or foreign word you've never heard before, find out how it's pronounced. When I was reading a book about the human body to my children I think I had to look up pronunciation at least once a page.

If your child has moved onto getting their education primarily through reading, find a way to make sure they are learning pronunciation. Quiz them verbally, have them read aloud to you, schedule them to get some face time with someone who is proficient in the subject.

Scientists names are especially prone to being read wrong since we have so many important scientists from so many countries. The names of specific mathematicians and the theories named after them are in a similar bind. Technical words are often pronounced differently than normal English.

The prompt for this post: I requested a book from the library. When the book comes in, the librarian calls. I came home to find a message on my answering machine, "This is the library. The book you requested...[complete with pauses] ar-chuh-meh-des...The Door of Science is in." The word the librarian couldn't pronounce was Archimedes (ahr-kuh-MEE-deez). not only includes the phonetic pronunciation, it also has sound files to listen to. In Ptolemy, the 'P' is silent. Make sure your kids know it!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"It's morally wrong. It's ethically wrong. It's a stupid piece of legislation..."

"...and it really needs to be amended so that other home-school students aren't discriminated against in this fashion." That's according the Shalynn Ford, the mother of a homeschooled girl who initially won a scholarship but was later discovered to be unqualified for part of it (of $5000, $1000 was taken away). As stated in the article:

The requirements for the Merit scholarship are a 3.75 grade point average and a 29 on the ACT.

But the Legislature included an additional 12 hours of college credit for home-schooled children.

I am sure a number of homeschooler would be up in arms about this. Apparently the scholarship requirements are decided by the state legislatively. The scholarship is to a state college (I won't even go into whether that is appropriate). There is no indication when the 12 credit-hours was included--I'm assuming it was before the Ford girl applied.

I'm not upset by this. When homeschooled student do 'high school' at home, parents already know we have big responsibilities. We need to keep transcripts. We need to give grades. We need to convince others (college admission boards) that those records are accurate. The people who are reviewing the information can decide what they will accept. If parental record-keeping is not enough, I think 4 college classes would be a suitable substitute. Shalynn Ford is obviously unhappy with the current requirements and perhaps she can convince the legislature to change them.

It is a great reminder though for the rest of us homeschoolers who may end up homeschooling high school that immaculate record keeping may not be the only thing we need to produce.

Another Math Video

This a famous satirist/mathematician Tom Lehrer song.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Scientists Who Lay It on the Line

Cracked brings you The 6 Most Badass Stunts Ever Pulled in the Name of Science. In case you ever forget why it takes a Real Man to be a scientist. (Not really, but these guys were sure of themselves.)

Teach Thyself

Schools are continually spending money and time on unproven methods (including most of their curriculum). All any salesperson has to do is show up with one study that says it’s effective and the adminsration is drooling all over it. Never mind the studies that didn’t work, or the massive number of other interventions that were included that muddy the waters of whether the technique itself was effective or these other changes. And they’ll even ignore the demographics of groups picked in the study and assume that because it worked with that group it would work with their group. School directors really need an education in how to read and apply statistics and credible study evidence.

In our Montessori school, I had a huge argument about Brain Gym with the director (just one of the reasons I left). His newest teacher was using Brain Gym techniques with the students. An example includes repeatedly squeezing the skin above the sternum and the skin between the collarbones to 'wake up your brain.' He said it was perfectly valid because other schools were using it and it was scientific (???). After I sent him an analysis (done by someone else--I'm not a statistician) of the studies presented about Brain Gym (what there were), he backed off.

He then asked my opinion of this other 'really great program' that someone had just tried to sell them. This one was based on Sensory Disintegration theory (it was years ago, Bridges Learning). It took almost no time to discover the Sensory Disintegration was not a scientifically recognized disorder and that none of the approaches attempting to remedy problems supposedly based in SD showed (statistically) significant improvements. The study then reported on the Bridges site showed improvement with inner-city kids (of which we had ZERO at our Montessori school) and the program involved a lot of extra teachers and a lot of physical activity and a lot of individual time. All of those things can affect learning independently of any of the sensory disintegration therapy--and you don't need to buy a big program to do it.

I am not at all surprised to find that most school systems do not look for evidence of effectiveness when it comes time to choose curriculum. The school boards either wouldn't believe research because of their preconceived ideas, would find excuses to count it or discount the research because they've already made a decision, they don't believe that 'evidence' is a valid way to pick curriculum, or they can't figure out how to interpret the studies to begin with. A little bitter sounding, eh? I am quite disgusted with the lack of scientific literacy of those teaching our children (and by that, I mean other people's children).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Husband's Astrophotography--Comet Holmes

Here's an oldie. It's comet Holmes--remember the comet that 'exploded' sometime back in October? This image was actually not taken through the telescope. Our older telescope (like the new one) had motors that would track the motion of the stars across the sky. Hubby had a board mounted to those motors on which he could place the camera. So the camera would be exposed for a long time and still track the stars. He calls that piggy-backing. I'll post a few other images he took that way.

Old Vaudeville Math Trick

Make sure your kids know why this is wrong!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Wierdest Thing Heard This Weekend

My oldest daughter had a sleepover this weekend and while all the kids were upstairs, I heard this echoing through the house:

'She peed in my pants! She peed in my pants!'

Uh--gross. Turns out they had the guinea pigs out and one had (somehow?) crawled into my daughter's pajama bottoms and then performed the act which caused her to scream and run for a shower.

Happy Father's Day!

Here's my pops with his mom:

Here's hubby doing the father role as only he can--by encouraging the girls in silliness and being the victim of their plots! Check out his facial hair experiment--also done because he's a great dad. The girls asked to know what he looked like with a beard and he was willing to let them see. The guinea pigs were an impulse purchase about a month ago--and they stink. If I had done some reading, we would probably be less a couple of animals. The kids do have fun with them. And again, the dad does the clean up. I'm glad he's getting a couple of nights off with his business travel (the only father's day present aside from a better telescope adapter for the camera).

Saturday, June 14, 2008


I'm off this week to visit my folks. Actually, what happened is that my husband is going on travel for four days and I thought, "I'll be damned if I'm stuck at home alone with three kids. I'm going to mom's." That and I haven't been to visit since the baby was born. That and they live near the beach (the Jersey shore at that). Here are some things we've done there in the past (in case you want to be jealous--which you can only do if you forget that I have to travel in the car, alone, for four hours with two kids and a baby who hasn't yet slept in the car for more than an hour): Cape May, the beach, and Philadelphia (which I realize I never posted pictures before so I'll put them here).

I'm using the scheduling feature of Blogger (what? You though I actually got up to publish posts at 8 AM?) and I have a some things planned to go up next week. Of course my father has a computer and the joy of Blogger is that I don't have to be home--I can log in from anywhere--so I'll be sure to check for comments and such.

The rebel rousers (not necessarily rabblerousers):

The power of the pen:

In Independence Hall:

Note the same alcove and chair from the painting above.

The Philosophical Society (in the not-modern usage):

The Statue of Washington (in front of Independence Hall):

Please Tell Me That Can't Happen in My House

Neatorama again (though I really read for this one). Yuck!

So as Tim Fraser was doing some laundry in his bathroom last Friday night, he became a wee bit disturbed when his toilet started spontaneously gurgling.

"I could see bubbles coming up and I thought ‘what the the hell is happening?’" he said, recalling that evening.

Then he caught sight of a grey, furry head with a pair of pointy ears and saucepan eyes emerging on this side of the s-bend.

Moments later there was a half-drowned possum sitting in his Fowler toilet bowl.

"It was like the toilet had given birth," he said.

I'll bet it was. And he has a video.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Husband's Astrophotography--The Moon

I love seeing the great shadows. Hubby informs me the best time to look at the moon is when there is an obvious demarcation from the illuminated side to the unilluminated areas. That way you can see the shadows of the peaks if you look at the terminator. Apparently looking at the full moon is fairly boring--for astronomers anyway, though no lovers have ever been at a loss.

Just a Little Bit

Ever find you'd really like to read something but just can't find the time to do it? Your day just slips by, and before you know it, it's time to put your head on your pillow.

If you're an e-mail junkie, you find a good portion of that lost time is spent reading e-mail.

But you could turn you e-mail into that chance to read the classic you've been meaning to get to, or the latest bestseller someone recommended.

There's a website (from the Well Trained Mind Secular Yahoo group) that will send bits of a novel you select into your inbox everyday. Great way to actually do that reading! It's called Daily Lit and it has free books that are out of copyright as well as new books for a nominal fee (much less than buying the book).

Lots of classics. If your kid has an e-mail adress, you could sign them up!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Homeschooling Tip--Equipment

A great pencil sharpener is amazingly satisfying. I bought a pencil sharpener for $10 and it would take forever to sharpen a pencil. My husband, who must understand that saving a few dollars on the initial purchase is nothing compared to good quality, brought home a $20 sharpener.

Wow! After using it, I had to have one for the downstairs as well. I exclaimed to someone that I just loved sharpening pencils. He looked a bit puzzled. The more I tried to explain why, the more puzzled he looked.

Sometimes it really is the little things in life.

Bill Nye the Science Guy

I loved Bill Nye the Science Guy when I was a kid. It all came back to me after watching him on Numb3rs! He even has a cool evolutionary wait screen.

3-Dimensional Imaging of Cells

Wired Science has an interesting story about the technology and a beautiful photograph. The microscope can resolve to 100 nanometers (that's 10 to the -7 meters or a ten-thousandth of a millimeter).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

A Life in Crisis

I really feel for some people. There's one person in particular who is trying to 'go green' but can never do enough and is even running into conflict with family because of it. There is quite a crisis described quite honestly in the blog. A real victim of the 'green' mentality. My guess is that this belief system was adopted at college. This person is running into the practical failings and beginning to understand the lack of evidence.

Unfortunately, that person hasn't yet and may not ever actually get to questioning the premises of the environmental movement at all. From the many blog posts on the subject, you can really see how conscientiously the person tries to implement this man-hating philosophy and how honestly it is reported with the confusion, the trouble it makes, the rationalizations when it is realized that modern conveniences are necessary.

I am not going to link to the blog because it really isn't about that one person--more of a post about the general state of 'regular' people who try to be green--as defined by an ascetic type of philosophy. They're not all rabidly anti-human like the leaders of the environmentalist philosophy are. They've just been deluded and are miserably trying to live a life that is impossible. The internal conflicts blogged about by this person are a perfect example. This person is honest enough to try to face them head-on.

It's a losing proposition until you get down to the premises. It is an absurd view to believe that humans are powerful enough to use technology to destroy everything but are totally powerless to use technology to solve any such problems that might arise. What a contradiction the environmentalists ask people to swallow--and the people lap it up without even realizing the asinine nature of it. I am so glad I have a philosophy that is pro-humankind, pro-technology, pro-happiness and lacking in conflicting values. As Ayn Rand states, "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." That's why I've put the "Exploit the Earth or Die" logo on the sidebar.

As it stands today, the environmental movement is using fear-mongering and pseudoscience to scare people into misery and eventual caveman living. I embrace humankind's nature as creators, reasoning beings, and problem solvers who use evidence and science to serve their needs best.

Husband's Astrophotography--The Moon

Here's another shot of the moon. I include his mapping below.

For Shame--What's Going on in Washington DC

National Review Online has an editorial at CBS news. As usual, congress is set to do something stupid with your tax dollars. The House has passed an education bill. Will it remove constructivist math from our classrooms? Make it easier to fire bad teachers? Set guidelines for evidence to assure curriculum works before introducing it to the classroom? Nope.
The legislation creates a new federal grant program to provide states and local school districts with money to build and modernize schools. Among the reasons offered by Chairman George Miller’s Education and Labor Committee for supporting the legislation: to “create jobs in the construction industry” and make “schools that are more energy efficient and reliant on renewable resources of energy” to reduce “emissions that contribute to global warming.

You know the government--just can't leave a bad situation alone. It just has to do anything to make it worse.

But He Looks Nothing Like You

In the oddest case of questionable maternity and paternity (if they even count), a one-celled, asexually reproducing rotifer (I don't know--apparently a tiny, transparent animal) can steal genetic material from other animals and incorporate it into its eggs. I'd like to see my husband incorporate that into his genetic algorythms. Neatorama, of course!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why Physics

LB had a great comment to the post about Professor Fowler.

Here again, we have physics as the primary discipline. Do you think that this is because physics was one of the earliest branches of science developed, is a more readily understandable science early on, or that in retracing scientific advances more people felt it needed to begin with physics? Or, D, none of the above.
Physics seems to be the science of choice. I think that physics has been a more 'active' science in the sense that you can really do a lot of experimentation. Physics has grown to include a varied number of studies that were once separate, like magnetism, electricity, light, sound, gravity, mechanics, astronomy, and cosmology (not sure about those last two--probably some usage I'm not familiar with). All of those sciences had been studied without reference to each other for a long time.

Chemistry is a science of experimentation, but it was secret for a very long time. Chemistry is fascinating in what it has done to help us understand atoms, and promote human living. It is a difficult science for home, too, in that to do experiments, even the early ones, probably means a lot of special equipment (beakers, chemicals, vent-hood, safety glasses). Not to mention that early chemistry (if you want to recreate hierarchical experiments) involves a lot of interesting experiments. There was the boiling of urine to find phosphorous, for instance. Early chemistry was also well hidden.

As far as I can tell, not having studied biology except in high school, it is much less of a field for experimentation. It involves a lot of observation. Though one cannot underestimate its importance (genetics, DNA, viruses, etc), it is also difficult to study personally. Slides just aren't that easy to prepare (dry or wet slide, staining, finding specimens). One can purchase a bunch of prepared slides, but that is such a step back from the process that the joy and wonder of discovery become partially divorced from the material.

It seemed to me that chemistry and biology just didn't seem to make as much sense as physics. Now that I know about hierarchy (studying a subject from percepts through to the higher level abstractions like cells and molecules), I'm guessing that had a lot to do with the method of teaching. I wonder, also, if physics has a longer, modern history. I think physic, initially involving the study of motion of bodies, was certainly the easiest to do methodical experiments and observations.

Let's face it, though. Modern physics has subsumed all of the other scientific disciplines. Chemistry at the atomic level is quantum mechanics, along with biology at the subcellular level. Even earth science has physicists investigating the magnetic field.

LB makes a great point. Chemistry, biology and other sciences (earth science, ecology--which I think of as related to biology) are essential to learn. I wonder if they are as easily studied in the younger ages as classical physics. Certainly they have starting points that are easily introduced. Biology would definitely begin with the history of classification.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Here you go!

Space Saving Bathroom

For those who love design and small spaces. (If you already read Neatorama from the last couple of posts, then you've seen it!)

A View of Pedagogy

[Bumped and dramatically restructured.]

Current pedagogy has been a disaster for schools. Dewey's epistemology leads to the pedagogy of hands-on experiments and denies that human minds can learn from anything other than doing and deciding. Rousseau's intrinsicism meant that he didn't really think teaching was necessary. Neither man captures how humans learn and what we need to do as teachers in order to effectively teach concepts.

Science in particular suffers from Dewey and Rousseau's beliefs. Dewey is why we have science experiments that don't actually teach anything. Rousseau is why people think kids will learn just from exploring outside. Children see science as baffling and boring using these techniques. I concentrate on science here, but each subject fails in this regard and benefits from the following approach.

Any learning done from books is set up to be as magazine-like as possible. Snippets of information here and there presented in a colorful way and always trying to appeal to the student through applications. These fail because there is no hope for the student to get a good grasp of the big ideas when they're broken up and removed from the work that supports them. The students know that, too. That is generally when they begin to feel lost and that science is just a game of trying to figure out what is on the test--if they even care enough to bother. No pretty colors or reference to pop culture is going to fix an out-of-context idea presented without a firm basis for understanding.

A different pedagogy is needed. There is a pedagogy that is much closer to how people learn. Lisa VanDamme (the founder of the renowned VanDamme Academy) does a wonderful job explaining the pedagogy here. The pedagogy relies on what is known as the hierarchy of knowledge.

The hierarchy of knowledge is how babies learn about the world around them and, historically, how scientists discovered the great truths we know now. They both begin by looking around and observing. Then they experiment. From those experiments they can draw conclusions about how the world works. That process starts with concretes and moves to abstract concepts. Babies don't usually have to go further than that until they start school. Montessori mathematics is an excellent example of using concretes and moving to further and further 'big ideas' (concepts or abstractions) after having a firm grasp on the perceptual level.

The hierarchy of knowledge can be applied to every study in school, moving from concretes (like nouns and verbs) to higher levels of abstraction (grammer and sentences) and once those are mastered, then even higher levels (like paragraphs and then essays). One would think, for science, I then advocate for starting with atoms and then moving to molecules and reactions. After all, that moves from smaller to larger like words to essays. Incorrect. The proper hierarchy is from concretes and the perceptual level to concepts and then more advanced concepts. Atoms are not directly perceived, they are, in fact, a very high level abstraction based on numerous observations--each one moving further from the directly perceivable and relying on each experiment that came before.

Students should be shown the path science took to understand the most abstract of principles, starting with the earliest investigation. Anything less would rely on telling students to believe it for no reason other than that the teacher said so. That would make for a poor scientist (and even worse, a poorly reasoning adult who accepts what others say without question). In science in particular, all truths should be evidentially supported. As Roger Bacon stated, only evidence can reveal the truth--not argument to an authority.

Let's talk about the typical learning experience. Have you ever heard in a class, or read from a book, some conclusion and thought to yourself "How could they know that? They could have just guessed that. Maybe they had a lucky guess that hasn't been proven wrong yet." I certainly felt that way a number of times in high school. For instance, when the teacher told us that everything really just consisted of tiny little particles with a lot of space between them even though the desk looks solid and hard.

That kind of information is called a 'floating abstraction.' It means you've been given the idea by someone else (you read it, or heard it) but because you don't know how anyone figured it out, you have very little actual knowledge of what it TRULY means. You just have that name with the definition taking up brain space but you don't have a deeper understanding. Even if you can solve your homework, you're working with a handicap.

What if, instead of just being told the final idea of atoms, you actually read or learned about the experiments done that prove their existence?

A philosopher, Zeno, introduces a puzzle. Zeno's Paradox questions how anyone can ever arrive anywhere if they always have to move half-way first. Wouldn't we then just have an infinite number of half-way steps? Democritus thought that had to be false and posited the idea an unbreakable bit of matter--it couldn't be halved--called the atom. Hero of Alexandria discovered that air is something, not the absence of things, by proving that water would not rush to fill up a glass lowered, inverted, into water. Hero thought that the atoms in solids and liquids touched each other and that's why those objects were hard and that the atoms of air had space between them. Hero thought that air could be compressed. Robert Boyle proved Hero's assertion.

In chemistry, evidence for atoms became more convincing. Antoine Lavoisier, a chemist in France, proved that reactions in a closed container do not lose or gain mass. Joseph Louis Proust, also a french chemist, showed that materials combined in chemical reactions in only specific ratios! John Dalton took both of those results and formed the Theory of Atoms. If chemical reactions maintained mass, then nothing is gained or lost, so atoms are not gained or lost--they are unbreakable. The proportions that Proust discovered also worked if atoms could combine with only a certain number of other atoms. Dalton put those ideas together--he was the first to support the atomic theory with enough evidence to convince other scientists and is rightly given the proper credit for it. More work is done to discover atomic weights and use the atomic model for determining how molecules are formed (which I will not go into here).

Still, very little was known about what an atom might be. We have an entirely different field to look at, the study of electricity, to help learn about the structure of the atom. Since learning of the strange property of matter that became known as electricity, scientists formed the theory of an electrical fluid moving from one substance to another (that's how we got the term 'current'). JJ Thomson was the first to prove, experimentally, that electricity is actually a kind of radiation, a part of matter leaving one substance and moving to another. He had electricity flow through a tube from which all air had been removed (a vacuum tube) and thus any flow of electricity could not have flowed through anything. He then showed that he could bend this flow with a magnet--showing that electricity and magnetism are part of the same effect and the amount of curvature allowed him to calculate the actuall weight of this small, charged particle (a great recreation of that experiment at this link).

Now there was some evidence that atoms had small, negatively charged particles that could easily be removed. Ernest Rutherford did another test. He bombarded a sheet of gold with the electrons--most make it through, but some are stopped by even larger particles in the gold. Rutherford realized that most of the electron couldn't make it through if the atoms were packed very tight--there must be some space between them. And also there must be a large center to explain the electrons that got bounced away. Thus the nucleus of the particle is discovered. After that there are a few other experiments with radiation to learn about protons and neutrons (which I, again, will not address here).

Now if you've read this far, I'm guessing you already understand more about atoms and why scientists know they exist. Imagine what a child in a science program structured in such a way could know--not just guess, not accept because the teacher said so, but really know. We didn't have to recreate every experiment, just the essential ones that the next step built upon. Each higher level abstraction, culminating with atoms, is fully supported with understanding how that conclusion could be drawn.

The knowledge then becomes certain and supported. With that evidence we gain a more in-depth understanding of the concept itself. It's not just a guess. It was proven. We can understand ourselves how the conclusions were drawn.

Not only do we, and the students, 'get' the final concept we SEE HOW it was discovered. This puts a stopper in the debate of 'thinking skills' versus 'information.' There needn't be one without the other. We can learn how to 'think' by learning how brilliant, dedicated people discovered the knowledge we need to know anyway! Presenting information in a hierarchical (one discovery building on another) fashion means passing on the info AND a great example of thinking all at once. It isn't about redoing every experiment (though recreating the experiments becomes meaningful in this context--not just 'dumb show' like it is today with no context and no hope of really understanding the essentials).

The hierarchy of knowlege as a pedagogy is about understanding HOW we know what we know--not just having the big final conclusions memorized.

Also see this post about a college professor who also uses a historical context (which is naturally hierarchical in science) for his college-level physics courses. He has a different, and compelling, take.

Updated to correct many mispellings and type-os. Thank you!

Make a Mosaic

From Creative Little Daisy, she recommended this fun meme. Here's mine.

And the originals: 1. Kim Fowley - off his trolley, 2. Bread Spread, 3. the jackets of jersey, 4. Orange as any orange on a tree, 5. Cary Grant, 6. Ice Under Water, 7. A DESERTED IRISH COTTAGE, IRELAND., 8. Miniature Cakes, 9. Our knowledgable Ahmed, 10. My Life, 11. liberated libros, 12. Kimberly Mackoy

Monday, June 09, 2008

Husband's Astrophotography--The Moon

Hubby has recently aquired a 10" telescope. With it, he's tried some experimentation for photographing through the viewfinder. Apparently we have a most substandard set up for photography, but he's tried it anyway! Hubby's not completely satisfied with the photos. Keeps telling me how fuzzy they are. It is exceedingly difficult to focus the camera in the dark.

Here's what you're looking at:

Pond Destroyers--You Are Being Watched

From Neatorama: A man removes the pond on the property he bought, only to discover an odd artefact.

A Big Ol' NASA Commercial

We went to a NASA exhibit at a local children's museum. What with all of the astronomy coursework, the Phoenix Mars lander, and one mondo-size telescope--well, we just had to go. Here is how it was billed:

NASA's Exploration Experience is an interactive traveling exhibit that inspires visitors as they embark on a simulated journey into space. The exhibit simulates a visit to the moon, the earliest destination in America's next great era of exploration. Interactive control panels and activity stations, immersive 3-D imagery, and audio effects will plunge visitors into a not-too-distant future on the moon's surface. The exhibit will demonstrate what it will be like to live and work on other worlds and explore the benefits these expeditions might reap here on Earth.

We went. It was pretty boring, really. The museum had a few space-related things:

Space suit and under suit (much flatter clothes to the left).

Space food. All freeze dried.

Space potties (well, when ya gotta go...). If you were on the ISS right now you wouldn't think this picture was disgusting at all--you'd be loving it. (First two links from GeekPress.)

Space urinals (the big gold thing is the original one for men, there's a small, upside-down, clear-plastic thing next to the breifcase which is the equivilant for women).

Here's the actual NASA truck.

Before the kids went inside, they got to have their picture taken as if they were on the moon (the white suits) or Mars (the orange suit).

The truck itself was divided into two sections. The first section was an interactive area for the kids. There was a 7' projection screen showing all of the benefits to everyone when NASA spends lots of money to go to the moon and then other people realize that some cool stuff was developed (hey--did you know that without NASA we wouldn't have advanced communications? Is it my imagination, or did they develop radios after we went to the moon the first time?) and they then sell it to the rest of us. There was also a 2' by 4' touch screen LCD computer game where the kids could place moon base components (don't even get me start on how incredibly awful the woman who was supposed to be helping was--she shouldn't be dealing with kids at all). There was a bit of moon rock that the kids could touch. Impressive to me was a vertical projection screen (projected from behind). In front of the screen were two vertical posts about 2 feet apart. When you moved your hand in the plane of the two posts (not touching anything, just in the air), a cursor on the projection screen moved and you could get some information about the moon.

After some time in the front room (about 15 minutes), you moved into the back room. The back of the trailer had six movie screens set up in a hexagon (actually the very back was screenless) with projectors above each screen. In this room was where the kids were supposed to 'visit' the moonbase that we will have in the future.

I recorded part of the 'moon visit.' What a commercial! NASA really produced quite an expensive commercial to try to indoctrinate kids on their supposed usefulness. You might enjoy it. When the kids are crawling all over the floor, there were interactive rock projections on the floor that would 'run away from them' when they tried to touch them.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The UroClub

Not Eurotrash, though the two might go together. Neatorama reports on a golf club for when you really gotta go. Neil Armstrong played golf on the moon. Maybe they could use the UroClub on the ISS?

Went to See Prince Caspian

At the end of May, I took all the kids to see Prince Caspian. The 6 1/2 year-old didn't pay a lot of attention. The 9 year-old like it. The baby was riveted at some parts but slept through most of it.

I thought it was 'eh.' OK without being really great. Not the movie itself--that was fine and wonderful to watch, but there wasn't much to the story. Let's see what I can remember. The family goes back to Narnia to help Prince Caspian. They get there and immediately Peter takes charge, which is a bit awkward, what with the new Prince getting ready to take over and all. They make a plan to attack a castle and Susan asks 'who are you doing it for?' To answer the question Peter starts leading the charge with a battle cry of 'For Narnia.' They get massacred. Peter and Prince Caspian blame each other (Prince Caspian didn't want to attack the castle anyway and Prince Caspian gets sidetracked during the actual battle in order to seek revenge). In the end, Peter leads a battle with the cry 'For Aslan' and they win that one.

The people they are attacking have been trying to exterminate the Narnians. They're a pretty blood-thirsty lot except for Caspian, who is an exception because his tutor taught him about the Narnians.

That's pretty much it as far as I can remember. Like I said, blah story--good scenes to watch.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Preschool Montessori Activities--First Year of Primary (3 Year-Olds)

Update: Check out the sidebar on the right for a lot of free Montessori material links.

I'm hoping to write down some of the things my children did when they were in Montessori preschool so that when it's time to figure out what to do with my newest babe, I'll have a resource of my own to prod my memory. The Montessori Primary class is divided into three years. It covers three year-olds to six year-olds, preschool to kindergarten. The class moves from working with motor skills through academics.

From what I recall, the first year concentrates on learning self-discipline and small-motor skills. Most of these activities would be in a section of the classroom called 'the practical life area.' The first-year students in the Montessori Primary classroom spend most of their time in the practical life area.

All of the activities with water were surrounded by the same preliminaries and clean-up. Each activity has all of the materials needed for a single task on a tray. First the children would prepare their area. They would put on a water-proof apron and spread out a placemat on a kid-size table. They would then remove the tray with the required materials and carefully and slowly carry it to the table. (Carrying a tray was one of the first skills taught in the Montessori primary classroom--hold it with both hands and keep the tray close to your body.) After the activity is finished, any water is poured down the drain and other materials are replaced the way they were before the child started working with them. The tray is placed back on the shelf and any water spills are cleaned with a towel.

Here are some of the activities: pouring (water from small pitchers--like a large creamer pitcher--into cups), scooping (beans or cheerios with a spoon or small scoop from a large bowl into a small bowl), clothes washing (get a large bowl, fill about 1/2 way with water, put in a squirt of soap, swish the clothes around, dump the bowl, fill with fresh water, swish the clothes around, hang them over a line or back of a chair over towels to dry), making soap bubbles (put water in a cereal bowl, grate soap with a real grater over the water, use a wisk to make bubbles by putting the wisk between your palms and sliding them back a forth), ironing (with a toy ironing board and toy iron and doll clothes), washing a baby doll (fill a tub with water, add some soap, and put the baby in the water and use a washcloth to scrub the baby), making colored water (you have a few test tubes in a holder, fill them with some water, and then use an eye dropper to put different colors of dye--food coloring, into the test tubes--combining different colors to see what they make), and setting the table (the teacher explains where all of the utensils go and the children then try it).

Academically the first year students would learn to sit in circle, try their best at the quiet game (trying to do everything as silently as possible), begin using a piggy bank game (piggy shapes that have numbers 1-9 on them with the same number of circles and the kids take pennies and place them on the circles, so the 3 piggy would have 3 circles and the child would place a penny on each circle for 3 pennies) and other number identification (number rods), learn shapes in circle--the 3-dimensional shapes (spheres, pyramids, cubes, prisms, cylinders, ovoids) as well as 2-dimensional (triangle, circle, square, rectangle, ellipse, oval), beginning to differentiate beginning word sounds by singing a song (apple, apple, a, a, a--where 'a' is the soung the letter A makes--not the name of the letter. Montessori felt it was best to not confuse matters by teaching both the name and the sound. The names would be taught with the alphabet song half-way through year two, or the pre-kindergarten year.), learn to spell their own names (using the actual letter names--an exception to using the sounds), learn the continents of the world (singing a song to the tune of "The Muffin Man", "Do you know the continents, the continents, the continents, do you know the continents from all around the world. There's Asia, and Africa, North and South America, Europe, Antartica, and Australia too. Now you know the continents, the continents, the continents, now I know the continents from all around the world."), and learn the days of the week (using a number of different songs--this one is the Addams family music. "Days of the week -clap clap-, days of the week -clap clap-, days of the week, days of the week, days of the week -clap clap-. There's Sunday and there's Monday. There's Tuesday and there's Wednesday. There's Thursday and there's Friday, and then there's Saturday. Days of the week -clap clap-, days of the week -clap clap-, days of the week, days of the week, days of the week -clap clap-.")

A great resource is Montessori in the Home: Preschool Years by E. Hainstock. Also see the sidebar for additional resources--many of which are free printables and instructions for making your own materials as well as general Montessori instructions.

Days of the week:
<bgsound src="">

Days of the week (Addams family):
<bgsound src="">

Months of the year:
<bgsound src="">

The continents song:
<bgsound src="">

Letter sounds and beginning sounds song:

<bgsound src="">

Do You Have a 'Color' Personality?

This might help you find out. Just answer the questions of the quiz and they'll give you a palette you might want to use as inspiration for painting your house.

From How About Orange, a craft and decor blog.


From Neatorama:

Forget Van Gogh; he only lost an ear. It was the great catrato Farinelli who made the ultimate sacrifice for art: he gave up his nuts!

And we're not talking Almond Joy nuts either.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Beginnings of Structure--A Hierarchically Based Science Course for Elementary Students: Part 4

I've read a few chapters from Isaac Asimov's Guide to Science Vol 1 Physical Sciences, Joy Hakim's The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way (teen book), George Gamow's Gravity (includes a refresher on calculus), and Morris Shamos's Great Experiments in Physics: First Hand Accounts from Galileo to Einstein. Which means I've read a couple of chapters in each book. I have yet to complete one! Other books in the queue: George Gamow's The Great Physicists from Galileo to Einstein, Jeanne Bendick's Archimedes and the Door of Science (children's book), Asimov's Breakthroughs in Science, Daniel Boorstin's The Discoverers: A History of Man's Search to Know His World and Himself (from time-keeping to soul-searching), and Joy Hakim's The Story of Science: Newton at the Center (teen book).

Along the way, I've been thinking about what I want the course to include. I believe I should introduce why we study science, what physics is, and how we're going to study it. Of course we need to talk about what came before (myths, terror), trying to understand the bare basics of planting seasons, and using measurement and numbers for commerce, taxation, and navigation. It's probably important to discuss why Greece was different that allowed them to begin to feel nature may involved some rules and be able to do some thinking exercises in that regard. Thales, Pythagoras, Plato and Aristotle are the first to be introduced. We can then discuss why Greeks didn't do experiments and their general opinion of the Earth and the Heavens. The others I think ought to be discussed so far include Aristarchus, Democritus, Hero, and Archimedes. Though that's a pretty tall order.

I still haven't really decided on the overall structure of the course. I'll include machines during our discussion of Hero. Some of the major underneath-it-all concepts I want to be sure the kids have a good feel for will include volume, mass, and density. I'm planning on lecturing and doing experiments.

Perhaps the first month will take up an introduction and Ancient Greece, perhaps including two sessions on simple machines. After that a lecture to discuss the Dark Ages and break into Copernicus (quickly--mostly to introduce the name and conflict) and then concentrate on Galileo. Perhaps stick with a trail that leads to a somewhat modern understanding of magnetism, electricity, light, and energy. I'm conflicted about whether to stick with a purely historical approach which would mix the different branches or whether to go into branches after some baseline work and then go back 'in time' for each branch (each branch would be presented historically).

This will change, of course, once I get out of Ancient Greece in my research and learn more.

What I will not do: surface tension, making slime or goo, mentos soda geysers, tornado spouts between 2-liter plastic bottles, demonstrate Bernoulli's principle, magic snow, cornstarch solutions that behave differently depending on force applied, or chromatography. I won't do these because the underlying concepts are actually quite advanced. They're fun (I recommend the geyser--the kids got a real kick out of that), but won't work in this course.

What I hope we can do: make negative and positive electrical charges and show their attraction and repulsion, measure volume by showing a change in fluid level, understand that volume is the space a body occupies, show that air is something, mass is related to the weight of the object, demonstrate friction, show that air can be compressed, talk about how we know about the current solar system model, demonstrate that a magnet repeatedly points to the north, that a magnet can be demagnetized, that a magnet can be made by leaving it aligned to the north (or by passing over another magnet), make hydrogen, combine hydrogen and oxygen to make water (um, depending on when that happened and whether I think it would still work to use electricity instead of an acid-metal reaction), split light with a prism, recombine light with another prism, shows that temperature goes up even when we can't see the light that causes it, repeat Galileo's ramp experiments, and show that superposition work in our Earthly reference (update: um, maybe next year--this is one of those important, but can be skipped for now items) . Of course, that will all depend on my final outline and whether I run the course for a year or 1/2 a year.

Something surprising that I learned: Some physicists blame Aristotle for the church's reluctance to embrace the sun-centered solar system model and general distaste for this-worldly experimentation. Didn't see that coming (obviously I haven't studied either Aristotle's philosophy or scientific history before).

I Will Derive

From, again, Kitchen Table Math.

Thanks for visiting. Here's another post with a great math video--from Kitchen Table Math. If you are concerned about education in general, it's a great blog!

(parody of a Fergie song, though I love it even though I don't know the Fergielicious song).