Sunday, July 27, 2008

Momma Mia

I finally did it! I went out like an adult--without children. Not with my husband though, with a few other moms. We did a 'girl's night out' and saw Momma Mia and hit a bar afterward.

Momma Mia was fun. Don't expect great vocals (they were apparently more concerned with getting stars than singing talent). After getting over the weird, unnatural hand-gestures, the forced-feeling staging of some songs, and the mediocre vocals, I'd say the movie was better than it was bad.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Round Up!

The Objectivism carnival is up at Rational Jenn! More art appreciation, a great view on the love affair with primitivism, politics, and lots of other great posts!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Homeschool Scheduling (For the School-at-Home types like myself)

I know I've been absent and incommunicado (I'm still reading your blogs--though I don't have time to post comments, etc). I have big, heavy things on my mind!

It's time to get ready for the start of school. This is the time last year that I battened down the hatches and wasn't heard from again for 5 months. That and a little thing I like to call 'baby,' or 'monster,' or 'big guy,' or what-have-you. I tend to be an ultra-focused person. It's more like obsessive. I really throw myself into one thing and most everything else tends to fall by the wayside. When I'm ready to plan for school, I spend almost every moment doing that. When I'm ready to sew, I spend almost every moment doing that. When I'm ready to have my house be kept up, I spend almost every moment doing that. When I'm ready to blog about homeschooling, I spend almost every moment doing that. You get the point (uh, I know--you got it three sentences ago). To the detriment of most anything else. One-track mind, you see. I'm sure there's a nice, long, clinical-sounding name for it.

How am I planning for school, you might ask? You didn't ask, but you might! Mightn't you? Huh? Well? Aw, come on.... Ask or not, and ye shall receive.

I did half a plan last year. I had the curriculum and figured if we just worked on it each week everything would be hunky-dory. Except that we didn't work on a lot of it. My kids gravitated to stuff they liked, like reading and math, and the rest just got left more and more often. So my older daughter, going into 4th grade, knows long division but still has 3rd grade spelling and we did very little writing. My youngest is going into 2nd (though she could be considered a 1st grader since her birthday is at the end of November) and she can read most words (though she doesn't want to) and can add with carrying but hasn't learned about verbs yet. Too bad. So sad.

In order to catch up with the stuff we should have done this past year and to work on the stuff we should be doing this new year, I need a plan. A real plan. A weekly plan. With books chosen and page numbers marked for each week. It is tough and yet hasn't been as hard as I expected.

The first step for me was to figure out what we should be learning. I started with this World Book list and an Excel worksheet. (Note: The World Book list is just a quick synopsis of what kids might be learning in public school--though not necessarily what they ought to know. I do change what I cover from that list and do not cover some things on that list.) I put the subject down the left-hand side and the months August through June across the top (mid-August to mid-June since we missed a lot and need extra time to catch up). I then wrote all of the points from the World Book list across in each topic until I got to June and then started back at August and kept on going. You'll note that this is not great if the topics actually seem to match. If that was the case, I then put two in August before moving on to the next month. Once I did that for each of the topics listed in World Book, I went to Ambleside Online. From Ambleside I picked some books for literature study and in some cases even followed their schedule for how much to read each week (wow--that is really intense for two kids--I'll be hoarse by the second day).

After getting those big items, I then checked my existed curriculum to see if what I have covers some of it (spelling: yes; vocabulary for 4th grade: yes; writing: no--ordered; math: changing programs--ordered; classification: need to make material and get books from library). For what needs to be covered still, I write out a list of what needs to be made (spelling and vocab for my 2nd grader) or bought. I still use a lot of Montessori materials which I make.

Once some books and curriculum are isolated, it's time to get down to the nitty-gritty. I list each school week. For books I figure we may read a chapter a day (depending on the length) and thus we'll read A Little Princess over the course of four weeks (at least it will be scheduled for four weeks). We'll follow the Ambleside Online recommendation and plan to read two Aesop's Fables a week. For the rest of the subjects, I take the curriculum we have (or will have) and schedule so that it is finished by year's end. For grammar, that means taking the 77 lessons left and scheduling two a week to finish by mid-June.

For homeschool history, we'll sign up for History at Our House for both girls. Two levels--one lower elementary and one upper elementary. I hope it works out for my youngest. This will be her first experience, except for being shushed while the nine-year-old was on the phone last year. I may try to do some general music and art this year. By the time I'm done with the 'do or die' topics, we don't usually have time left for art and music, and what I want the kids to learn (color wheel, names of notes, etc) just doesn't seem to be as much fun as they imagine.

Wish me luck! I'm an expert planner, but follow-through depends on baby-dom, cooperation, my own momentum, and various other factors. Look! I already have my excuses in place.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers

Here! (Dang! I forgot again.)

Carnival of Homeschooling


Nominate Your Favorite Homeschool Blogs

For the Homeschool blogger awards! At Alasandra's.

Don't Press the Button--The Jolly Candy-Like Button


Don't know Ren & Stimpy? I may pity you or I may envy you. I haven't really decided yet. Ren is a high-strung chihuahua and Stimpy is his friend, a cat. The title is a take on one of the episodes. It's just about the ugliest cartoon ever.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Every Element has a Video

Here is a website that has a video for each element. Hydrogen is pretty cool.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Run, Do Not Walk to Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog

Here's a new effort by Joss Whedon. I enjoyed it! Not for the kiddos (unless they've read some of the sex ed books I'm going to include in the next post). Check out all three parts right away before they are only available on iTunes for $1.99 each.

NSFW: Sex Ed Books for Kids (Sexual Education)

I already said that I had been to a book sale last week. While I was there, I came across a couple of "How Babies Are Made" books that I thought I'd share. They're picture books. Yep--not just discussing the mechanics, but pictured for true and complete edification. I now present these pictures to you so you can decide for yourself which, if any, of these books you may wish to share with the beloved children in your home. If you don't have children in your home, you may just enjoy the pictures!

The first book we've had before. It's called "How Babies Are Made" and it's a paper collage format. It starts very simply with the 'birds and the bees.' Really it starts with the bees and the pollen and moves onto the chickens and eggs, and then dogs. This is a bit of an abstract approach. While the mechanics are discussed, some things are left to the imagination. As you can see, the illustrations are quite nice. The text of the book is simple, kind of large, and to-the-point.

Here is "The True Story of How Babies are Made." This book is creepy and fascinating in only the way that the 70s can be. First of all, check out the dude's facial hair. There is something about the squiggly lines that just reminds me of worms. The whole vibe (ha!) of the 70s continues in the utter lack of clothing, the facial and fully natural body hair, the perm, and the really complete explanation of act of fertilization itself (don't hang your prude middle-America morality on us, man). There is nothing left to the imagination in this book (which is great when you have one of those kids who just won't take 'trust me' for an answer). The biggest issue I have with this book is the wierd, wierd, wierd drawing style. When you get the last photo, you may have the same issue! This book has more text than the book above, but is not necessarily more informative.

Is that not quite creepy? I mean, really, is that kid about to do a somersault right outta that thing? I'm pretty sure, judging by the strained smiles on the father (hey--look, he decided to get dressed) and the doctor (poor backward woman didn't know enough to use a midwife and give birth at home--just kidding--though it would have really driven the whole 70s meme home), they are a bit nervous about this creature springing forth on his own as well.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Lots of Great Reading Touching on Most Everything!

For some great thought-provoking reading on morals and ethics without a religious base (and most decidedly not socialist), head on over to the Objectivist Round Up hosted this week (Happy Anniversary!) at NoodleFood.

On art, Nicholas Provenzo presents Five Great American Paintings: Part III: Lincoln the Railsplitter posted at The Rule of Reason.

There's a lot more with environmentalism, a great book review of the Sparrowhawk series, politics, economics, and religion.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Equipment----A Hierarchically Based Science Course for Elementary Students: Part 5

I have definitely gone beyond the point of no return. Actually, I guess I could return or exchange as long as I save the packing slip. Yessirreee, I've ordered material for my science course. I'm asking a fee for attendance from the few families who are willing to come. The fees are supposed to offset the cost of purchasing equipment. At the elementary level, I decided that I wanted the kids to do lab-work after hearing about some discoveries.

What I decided to buy:
  • lodestone, paper clips, bar magnets, ring magnets, compass, nails, copper wire
  • glass rod, plastic rod, silk cloth, wool cloth, fur, pith balls, thin sheets of zinc, aluminum, copper, and iron
  • demonstration balance, pulleys, string
  • density blocks, spring scales, graduated cylinders, rulers, geometric solids that are actually hollow
  • thermometers
  • 3/4" and 1" diameter spheres in wood, cork, steel, and aluminum (3/4" only)

It's probably too obvious--but anyone want to take a guess what experiments we'll end up doing? Go ahead and leave a comment! I am looking forward to finding out the ones I missed.

Find more posts of my on-going science saga here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Running a Homeschool Literature Study Class

I'm not, but I would love it. My eldest and youngest would enjoy it. But I don't want a typical book club where the kids throw around their own opinion--it should be a class where the children have assigned reading and then the parent/teacher helps them to identify elements of the story, and ensures comprehension.

Lydia of Little Blue School ran a class for some homeschoolers and she sure has some great materials. I found this link from the CT Homeschooler Inclusive yahoo group. The materials are for the book Treasure Island. It looks like there are some crafts, some unit-study type work, and vocabulary. She also talks about how each went. Nice resource.

Another Hubby Fave

This one my husband sings to the girls while he's cleaning their catch (when they get one) after fishing: Fish Heads. I recommended skipping the two minute long introduction to get right to the song (almost half-way).

Can you just imagine the damage we're doing to our children?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Work, Work, Work!

I know, I don't have traditional work anymore but I have been busy working.

With summer comes beach time, friends time (more playdates), craft time, pool time, and bike time. One thing we did this week was some nifty tie-dye craft using Sharpie markers.

This weekend was an absolutely huge library sale. I spent most of Sunday there and two hours on Saturday. Saturday looked disappointing--but we did get there at the end of the day. I only really had time to check out the kids' books. There were very little science-related books on-sale in the kids' section. I was really disappointed because I was hoping to find a lot of things. On Sunday I was there for long time. Lo and behold, when I spent more time in the adult non-fiction section, cha-ching! I'll post some of those finds separately.

The other thing I've been doing is trying to determine what material I need to buy for the science course. I'll make a list in another post.

Galileo Vid

Nice little video about Galileo.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Another Classic Comedy Song

Not the most tasteful selection!

Shaving Cream from Dr. Demento

Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers

I don't know how time slips by so quickly! It's cool homeschoolers time and I totally (again) forgot to submit--if I even had anything worthy this week. C'est la vie--BUT don't miss out like I did! Go see what's shaking!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ultimate Transportation Freedom?

A few towns have experimented with removing all traffic control. They've had great luck with it. Here's a report of a town in Germany.

Friday, July 11, 2008

UN Rights of the Child

Taught to preschoolers in Britain. From Joanne Jacobs.

Nurseries across the country are adopting the project, which will see teachers explaining to children as young as three that people across the world live different lives but everyone has a right to food, water and shelter.

Wow! That's so wrong, on so many levels. It's pure indoctrination because little children do not have the context of knowledge to even know what rights mean.

Husband's Astrophotography--54 Leo

Here's another photo using the new 10" telescope through the eye piece. This one is a double star system in the constellation Leo. Hubby wasn't quite as satisfied with this photo. You can see the stars aren't quite round.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I'm Coming Out

On this blog I generally have not felt free to 'let it all hang out.' Some stuff, sure, the little annoyances (like my bad spelling) you all know about. The important stuff is kept behind closed doors. When I'm having trouble with schooling (can you say panic attack?) or really, really bad days with the kids, I like to keep that to myself. But I've been spending a lot of time realizing some bad parenting things I do and beginning the process of fixing some of it. Here is a bad one!

I'm a perfectionist and instilling perfectionism in my kids! I've been seeing it over the past few months. I've felt kind of lost about the whole thing. It seemed like it could be the personality of one kid, but when the second one started erasing her letters over and over again--I just had to face facts. There was a single common denominator--me staying home with them.

So I've picked up a few parenting books again and I'm reading those along with other things I need to do with homeschooling. But I did come across this article about perfectionism at Psychology Today that explains why it's so harmful and gives a quick-start guide for appropriate techniques to use.

I know I'm the only perfectionist in the crowd and must be the only person lost in how to deal with it. But the article is interesting and maybe worth a look to see what horrors other parents are inflicting on their children. (I am being a little sarcastic--there must be at least one person reading this who is also a perfectionist with their kids. One? Hello? Bueller? Crickets!)

The funny thing is that I knew all that from when I first read my parenting books. Sometimes old habits die hard!

Parentalcation on Teaching (and Other Mentoring/Training/Management/Goal Setting Skills)

Notice how long the title is? Because what Parentalcation reveals from his military training is what should be done in all the situtations in the title:

In ever single professional development course I have taken, one of the key themes that we are taught in training and mentoring is the establishment of training objectives and measurable goals.

When I am assigned a new Airman, I am required to sit them down and specifically state my expectations. I have been trained to make the expectations easily measurable, and not subjective.

When I develop training plans, I have to write a specific goal, and then define a measurable evaluation. Before conducting any training, I tell my trainee's exactly what I expect them to be able to accomplish upon completion of the training.

It's my responsibility to break down the task, and to go over each step. I am to assume nothing, and develop the tasks so that someone with zero experience will be able to accomplish the task upon completion of the training.

If upon evaluation, my trainee can not perform the task to the measurable objective then I immediately schedule remedial training.

I do not give up or make excuses.

I am continually trying to improve. If someone doesn't get something, I assume that it's because I haven't explained it clearly.

If my Airman were not to get trained properly, my bosses and my commander would hold me responsible.

Like Shez, at Homeschooled Twins, says: If my child doesn't understand, it's my fault, not hers.

History for Homeschoolers and Others--book reviews for Lewis and Clark

The History at Our House blog (history classes for homeschoolers and afterschoolers) has a great review of some kid's books dealing with Lewis and Clark. What a great resource so that you don't have to drag home every single book yourself. I hope Scott Powell does more of this.

Round Up for Objectivism

This week's collection of worthy blog posts is at Rule of Reason! I totally forget to submit. If you've ever enjoyed Ayn Rand, there are lots of good thoughts!

This Land is Neither Yours Nor Mine

Greenwich, CT is having issues trying to figure out who is in control of public land. An empty, weed-strewn lot was converted by a few teens into a wiffle-ball field and has attracted numerous other teens to the area to play. This is driving the neighbors batty because they bought their property not realizing that the land could or would be repurposed. Then it's a fight between the kids and neighbors and everyone is duking it out through the government to figure out who gets their way.

Cool Fluid Dynamics

Here are a couple of videos demonstrating wave dynamics in what are known as non-Newtonian fluids (fluids whose properties change depending on what's happening to them).

The very end would make a great horror movie--"It Came from the Lab!"

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Electricity and Matter on YouTube

The first two videos of the series actually talk about how some of the properties were discovered. The rest of the videos are interesting, but do not present evidence for the current model. I included them for completeness sake of the series.

Anyone Else Remember Dr. Demento?

My husband found this on You Tube: Star Trekkin'

What could be better? The perfect storm of science fiction, TV, comedy, and song.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers

This is a new one for me and fairly new in general! Check the 3rd version out at Homeschooled Twins (I have a post--yippee).

Carnival of Homeschooling

Turn down your speakers--the site plays music. At The Daily Planet.

College Courses on YouTube

I haven't checked for any other materials, but UC Berkeley seems to have put a few (not many) free courses on You Tube here. There is one physics course that is meant for liberal arts majors (not much math).

Here are the MIT course offerings. Nice long list with a lot of technical detail. Chemistry, engineering, physics are all in the list. There are also liberal arts things, but you can see for yourself.

Stanford University has some offerings, though not much. They do have a typical first two years of undergrad physics, as far as I can tell.

These may be great courses for the dedicated, high-acheiving homeschool high school student.

RFK Jr.'s Take on Neocons

Some nice points about why neocons are not really conservative.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Homeschooling Stats

This article, about a family of 10 kids homeschooling in Illinois has some recent statistics about the number of homeschooling families and their primary reason for homeschooling. It's also a fabulous story of one woman defying the public school's label for her child and turning schooling into a family event.

Husband's Astrophotography--The Ring Nebula

This was hubby's best picture yet. It's taken through the telescope. The image is of the Messier Object 57, or M57 as listed in sky charts. It's an example of planetary nebulae--fuzzy images earlier astronomers thought might be planets. Better images helped astronomers realize their error, though they're still referred to as planetary nebulae. Not only can you see the color and the ring, but there's the hint of the inner star there as well.
The Ring Nebula (also known as the Messier 57 or NGC 6720) is located in the constellation Lyra. It is among the most well known and recognizable examples of a planetary nebula.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Model Cars

Having girls, you might think we'd never step foot in the car, boat, and airplane model hobby field. With my eldest being 9 now, I thought it was a good time to see if she was interested in models. Age is important because some models can be very complicated. Lo and behold--they both jumped at the chance to make their own cars.

My 6 year-old fell in love with the gold wheels and cool stripes. This was a super easy 'assembly line' kit. No glue, paint, or tears. Watch out for the occasional small part that might go missing. The directions are simple pictures. Beware though, they do go in an order subordinate to the order of the pictures. There are two sets of numbers--one set for the pictures and one set for the assembly diagrammed in the pictures. We also had to glue the wheels on. They fell off while she was playing with them.

This is the BMW Z4 kit my older daughter picked--she loves convertibles. It was pretty nice. It needed glue, but there's weren't an incredible number of parts. No painting was needed for this kit. The doors, hood, and trunk opened. The directions were also in pictures and had even less direction than the above kit--there was definitely at least one place where we confused which piece had to be put in first--and we had already glued it in place. Then the wheels also were coming off and when I glued them in place, oops, I glued the axle so it wouldn't turn. We lost a piece (no stick shift for this driver). Over all it was a lot of fun and simple. The models were expensive (~$15) but I didn't have buy paint and they used them as toys afterward.

The Atom

Vintage educational video about atomic power. Very old school. Not at all hierarchical, but certainly neat.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Which Star Trek Character Are You?

Your results:
You are Jean-Luc Picard

Jean-Luc Picard
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
Mr. Scott
Will Riker
Beverly Crusher
James T. Kirk (Captain)
Geordi LaForge
Deanna Troi
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
Mr. Sulu
A lover of Shakespeare and other
fine literature. You have a decisive mind
and a firm hand in dealing with others.

Click here to take the "Which Star Trek character am I?" quiz...

Changing Bad Habits

I hear people talk about goal oriented behavior all the time. It is apparently wonderful and allows you to be much more productive. I'm not one of those people, but perhaps if I followed the suggestions in this article, I could be!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Possible to Live Longer through Chemicals?

Resveratrol, taken in pill form, is shown to be as effective as caloric restriction (reducing calories to half or more of normal for life) in helping cells stay healthy, as reported by Wired Science blog. This could be great news since they're starting clinical trials.

Ominous Parallels with Obama?

Armed and Dangerous (via Instapundit) thinks that Obama is more likely to set us on the path toward fascism with his adoring, unquestioning fans. I've not read the Ominous Parallels (and I need to!), but for those who have, does that analysis seem to hold water? My husband has been reading a two-volume biography of Hitler and I was surprised to learn that Hitler didn't hide any of his nefarious plans--he was elected whole-heartedly with his ultimate goals in plain sight.

Where does McCain fit in that?

Update: Gus Van Horn touches on this subject as well.

The Star Spangled Objectivist Round Up

I'm very excited to host the Objectivist Round Up again. The last time I hosted I had school preparations to begin and a baby on the way! Now our on-line community has grown by two (Congrats, Jenn) and summer is here again. Since this carnival falls so close to a holiday near and dear to our hearts, I decided to add some fireworks of my own to celebrate. The Star Spangled Banner by Francis Scott Key was included in History at Our House this year and Scott Powell pointed out the rockets used in that battle. I thought about the link to fireworks and a theme. I present the Star Spangled Objectivist Round Up!

The Star Spangled Banner
by Francis Scott Key

Flibbert presents Flibbert's Theory of Psycho-Temporal Mechanics posted at Flibbertigibbet. "This week, I am submitting for your review, my theory about why late people are always so late. I think they really just don't know how long things take. They're not bad people, contrary to what you as an on-time person may think. They're just wildly optimistic about their ability to travel faster than the speed of light. Read all about it on my blog."

Deb Ross presents Biz Kid$ - new PBS show posted at Mariposario. Deb found an interesting resource!

Oh! say can you see, by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming;
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
Oh, say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Ari Armstrong presents Heller in the Rocky posted at "The Rocky Mountain News published my op-ed about the Heller decision, which affirmed the individual's right to own a gun."

Peter Cresswell presents Not PC: Gekko drives by posted at Not PC. "Phony capitalists of the Gordon Gekko kind are bankrupting people again, consuming people's real capital in their pursuit of pyramids based on lies and phony credit. But if you really want to get angry at the dishonesty, get angry at those who are responsible for the scam: the politicians and the central bankers who've made fraud a central feature of the banking system."

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze o'er the towering steep
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam;
Its full glory reflected now shines on the stream;
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Stephen Bourque presents Is That Red Ink Or Blood On Your Finger? posted at One Reality. Mugabe is holding elections. Democracy for all?

C. August presents Boston's Medallion Morass posted at Titanic Deck Chairs. "What is there to do when a government system has grown too complex, everyone involved is unhappy, and no new regulations seem to be able to fix the problem? Trash the whole damn system and let the free market take over, that's what!"

And where is the band who so vauntingly swore,
'Mid the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country they'd leave us no more?
Their blood hath washed out their foul footsteps' pollution;
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Thomas Rogers presents Then they came for the puppies, and I did not speak out.... posted at Laissez Faire. "The new Islamist Frontier seems to be the removal of images of dogs from society. One can guess what they have in mind for the actual dogs."

Greg Perkins presents Don’t Talk to the Police posted at NoodleFood. "Here is a 30-minute lecture that was a real eye-opener to me, in the practical sense of what can happen to even the most innocent, intelligent, articulate, and law-savvy of people when participating in an interview with the police. Basically, it is an applied epistemology lesson on the contextual nature of knowledge (evidence)."

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation;
Blessed with victory and peace, may the Heaven-rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, for our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, "In God is our trust":
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Diana Hsieh presents Highlights from OCON: Day 1 posted at NoodleFood. "This is the first post in my ongoing series of reports on the Ayn Rand Institute's summer conference (a.k.a. OCON). (It links to all the other posts too.)"

I wonder How Does One Participate in Local Governance? More of a bleg than a post for consideration. What method does one use to evaluate school budgets and can you ever vote for them? I know I've got something wrong but I can't seem to figure it out.

Myrhaf presents The America Obama Loves posted at Myrhaf. "Here's a look at Obama's concept of patriotism for this Indepence Day edition of the Objectivist Carnival."

What a fitting post to finalize this carnival. I hope everyone has a great holiday weekend. Next week's carnival will be hosted at The Rule of Reason. Submit your post via the handy-dandy submission form.

Help Desk Support

I am sure a number of us can relate.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Review: The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way by Joy Hakim

As part of my research for the science class I'll be running for my own children as well as other homeschoolers, I read The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way by Joy Hakim. It was recommended by Deb in this very long post about hierarchy.

Quick take: It's a very in-depth history from pre-history until The Age of Discovery. The author brings up a lot of interesting points (in the search for knowledge-for-knowledge's sake versus the practical use of knowledge, she points out that both are important--though I think both are practical in the end). The histories of numbers and the calendar are also presented. It's written for teenagers, so the writing style is quite casual. This is a history book, not a science book, so there are hardly any equations, or experiments. The author does talk about the dominant philosophies that lead to the beginning of science and it's banishment during the Dark Ages.

Use in the science course: This book has a lot of information (not as much as the next one, but a lot of information for covering the time period before the Renaissance). There is some math included, which makes it more useful than other histories. Too much is covered from the standpoint of the course I want to offer and needs to be seriously cut. There is also no really good scientific flow--no easy indicators of what information is being relied on for the next step. There is also not enough math to really count for science.

Surprising fact I learned: Hero of Alexandria actually had a lot of steam and water powered machines to do things like open doors--and he apparently even had a steam-driven carriage.

All that being said, I took something like 50 pages of notes.

Here are some of the major points:
  • A lot of emphasis on creation stories early in the book.
  • The author says, "Paul says, [quoting the bible] 'For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.' Considering that can make you humble. We're just human beings trying our best to understand the wonder and vastness of the world around us." Small, small nit-picking on my part since most of the rest of the book is very positive.
  • Too much clutter on the pages and chopping up the text. Be prepared to interrupt the narrative to read little sidebars, timelines, text boxes, and whole sections thrown into the book. And they can't be ignored. They introduce important information that will be referred to in the main text.
  • All of the names include pronunciation.
  • Good emphasis on the scientific use of 'theory,' as opposed to the Christian Fundamentalist misunderstanding of the word 'theory.' A sidebar explains theory and hypothesis. I thought this was way too important to leave out of the main text. The definition of theory is also in a sidebar.
  • Very casual writing style. Definitely tries to appeal to teenagers in some areas (this doesn't happen all that frequently--or I got used to it).
  • Book starts with creation myths (hey--that's what I was going to do), moves to the calendar (that seemed to take a while), goes into Greece for most of the book and continues through Roman conquest and fall, through the Dark Ages and ends at the Age of Discovery.
  • Author points out that political freedom leads to freedom of thought and that laws that direct belief and thought chill independent discovery like science.
  • As you might expect for a book targeted to teens, there is no controversy presented about what is attributed to whom and when. All discoveries are presented as fact without any "we believe..." modifiers.
  • Joy Hakim really brings home the bacon when stating that Greeks are the foundation of Western Civilization. The ideas they came up are part of everyone's heritage--no matter where you are from.
  • I like that the author includes some root words in the sidebars (that seemed more appropriate to me--not critical to the text, adds something of passing interest, and small).
  • Didn't emphasize that thought exercises, like most of the early Greeks did, was not truly science as we know it today.
  • Throughout the text, the author includes timelines.
  • How the knowledge of the ancients is known today is discussed. It includes talking about how Moslems saved a number of texts and translated them as well as tried their hand at some discovery (I think it is a great misfortune that the large number of star names that begin with 'al' are not explained to be named by Moslem scientists).
  • The technological advances in China are discussed and properly set aside because they did not actually try to understand how nature worked--just enough to get the tools they needed. All of the other civilizations of the time (or before or after) are also side-stepped for the same appropriate reason--no quest for abstractions.
  • Very interesting story of how our modern numbers were adopted from the Middle East. Great story about merchants, wanting the best for their business, used the most efficient method for calculation and switched to Hindu-Arabic numerals even though they were outlawed.

Scientists, and their conclusions, included

  • Babylonians--calendar
  • Thales--no supernatural, finds heights of objects by measuring shadow, amber attracts after rubbed, first fossils, all is water
  • Anaximander--earth curved like a cylinder, stars on a sphere (not a bowl)
  • Anaximenes--air make everything, air is small particles, rainbows were natural (not a goddess)
  • Anaxagoras--brought the learning to Athens, taught (?) Pericles, Euripedes, and Socrates, inhabited planets, powerful mind brought order from chaos, moon is ordinary matter that reflects sunlight, sun was a fiery stone, "Reason rules the world," tried for going against religion
  • Empedocles--everything made of earth, air, fire, and water
  • Phoenicians--celestial navigation
  • Pythagoras--circles are perfect, ran a cult devoted to numbers, he wore trousers from China instead of regular robes, first to model the world in numbers, numbers were real like stones, developed theory of vibration of strings applied to music, the Pythagorean theorem
  • Democritus--all things are made of atoms (unbreakable small particles), volume of a cone
  • Socrates--because there's no experimenting, studies the soul because it's in that realm that is in motion (the regular world), "know thyself"
  • Plato--didn't trust his senses, perfect and ideal was the world of thought, Platonic solids
  • Aristotle--examined existing objects, eventually lead to experimentation (much, much, much later), loved to integrate, revered by later Europeans so much that they didn't want to contradict his conclusions even when they were wrong, thought water, fire, air, and earth were elements, the heavens were perfect and unchanging, Earth (and things in the 'earthly sphere') were imperfect
  • Aristarchus--Earth revolved around the sun, size of the moon, distance to the moon, Earth spins on it's axis, inclined axis causes the seasons
  • Alexander the Great--Library of Alexandria, center of civilization, learning, and scientific progress at Alexandria
  • Hero of Alexandria--steam engine, siphons, pump, area of triangle, six simple machines (pulley, lever, wedge, wheel and axle, screw, siphon), used compressed air for gadgets, upside-down glass in water, vending machine, pneumatic gun, water clock, solar-powered fountain, automatic doors
  • Euclid--prime numbers, made light part of geometry, "The Elements," axioms
  • Apollonius of Perga--conic sections (yay for conic sections!)
  • Archimedes--Earth rotating around the sun, practical applications of science were ignoble, but he did it anyway and did it incredibly well, war machines, volume of an irregular shape by water displacement ("Eureka"), density, law of the lever, center of mass, concentrating light with mirrors
  • Erastosthenes--diameter of the Earth
  • Lucretius--lightning and thunder, sound, light, atoms
  • Eudoxus--set up a coordinate system for the sky, mapped the stars
  • Hipparchus--found a new star, remapped the stars in case it had been missed, magnitude of stars, noted a shift of stars over long period of time (200 years), invented stargazing tools, epicycles on planet orbits, modeled geocentricity through math, round Earth, used the celestial coordinate system for Earth, father of trigonometry
  • Claudius Ptolemy--geocentric, Earth was mostly dry land, thought Earth was 30% smaller in diameter than actuality
  • Hypatia--killed for lecturing the Greek philosophers
  • Augustine--like practicality and religion, continued with Aristotle's ideas
  • Boethius--translated Aristotle's logic
  • Pope Sylvester--pipe organ, wooden planetarium, collected ancient manuscripts, studied in Islamic Spain, brought the abacus to Europe, physics is a branch of mathematics, read Plato and Aristotle, started a trend of studying in Spain
  • Adeland of Bath--translates "The Elements" to Latin, atoms
  • Maimonides--worked with Aristotle's science, also clarifying it
  • Avicenna--worked with Aristotle's science, also clarifying it
  • Averioes--worked with Aristotle's science, also clarifying it
  • Aryabthata--used 9 digits, base 10
  • Brahmagupta--0, negative numbers
  • Fibonacci (Leonardo Pisano)--abacus, 9 digits, place value, 0 as place-value holder
  • Thomas Aquinas--merge science and religion, think about both the after-life and the here-and-now, can learn from pagans like Aristotle
  • Roger Bacon--scientific knowledge cannot be blindly accepted from authorities, scientific truth is the fruit of observation and experimentation
  • Johannes Gutenberg--printing press

Husband's Astrophotography--Saturn

I think hubby couldn't sleep very well the night he took this photo. Obviously this is Saturn. It was sometime in April and he was just thrilled with the ring separation (between the rings and the planet), the coloring, the cloud bands (always thrilling), and the fact you can even see some separation in the ring itself. I have to say that after seeing the moons actually orbiting (really--you could see them move) Jupiter, getting a glimpse of Saturn with it's distinctive rings really helped me understand why there is an army of amateur astronomers even though anyone can get Hubble images on the web. It was the primary reason I suggested he begin his Astronomy course.

Making Things Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Make cool new crayons easily from broken remnants. I've got a lot of those. Actually, I think I might create some broken remnants to make these rainbow-y kind! Now if only I had cool molds like they show in the picture. I'll have to make do with mini-muffin tins.

Inexpensive Sunprints

Crafty Crow also points to a way to make sun prints without the expensive blue paper. The family used it to make nature studies while camping.

Great Drink for the 4th

It's a layered red, white, and blue drink using different densities of liquids to create the effect. What could be better? Science and a great holiday refreshment at the same time. From Crafty Crow! Now my kids don't like cranberry juice, gatorade, or soda, so maybe grenadine (small amount), kool aid, and water?

Carnival of Education

At Educatorblog. Great way to get insight in the current education debates from those on the forefront. There are usually lots of posts from teachers and those who publish education magazine--so you can see where those with careers in modern education are coming from.

How Does One Participate in Local Governance?

I've been struggling with this idea since I moved into a house. I don't condone government control of many aspects of life, even local government. This leads to conflict, for me, about dealing with local officials and budgets. Our town votes on a town budget and a school budget every year. I know that government-run schools are wrong. Every year I either vote against them or refrain from voting.

I'm dissatisfied with that! I feel like I'm living in denial. There are government-run schools. They will have tax-payer money to run them. I would like to be a constructive force for change in the government school system--not some curmudgeon who will always vote 'no' and thus ignored. (This is a huge issue in our town because almost a third of the residents are seniors who are sick of paying for other people's kids on their fixed incomes.)

I once thought that perhaps I could recognize the whole exercise as improper, but vote for or against the budget based on whether I thought the expenditure itself--apart from where it was coming from and why--seemed appropriate. But then I convinced myself that this was also an evasion.

I'm also curious about how one would deal with local government officials. Suppose I want to appeal my property assessment. Would I first make an opening statement about the entire process being immoral? That would be ridiculous. They don't care. I'm not sure it would be completely OK to not say anything at all. My most pressing concern is with the school board.

I'm not planning it, but what about running for office? Could an Objectivist run for local offices and knowingly have to deal with zoning, open-space planning, recreation departments, insanely stringent environmental regulations? Of course one would do whatever one could to minimize or eliminate such overkill.

I've worked myself into a damned-if-you-do and damned-if-you-don't situation and I can't come up with the proper reasoning to find a solution.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling

Here you go!

It includes a great post about finding math history resources on the internet.

A Little Beastie Boys Parody


I just can't help myself.

Thank You--Feel the Love

I want to thank all of you who leave comments!

I can't tell you how great it is to know someone is reading this sh--stuff. I appreciate the feedback--ALL of it! It seems like we have quite a great community here on-line that brings those of us with similar views together in a way that I'll probably never get to experience in the real world (you know, living in Western Connecticut and not being an NYC girl).

Thank you, again! Please consider dropping a note for whatever thought passes through your brilliant (hey--I can say whatever I want) minds while checking something out. Knowing you're out there just makes this exercise of writing random thoughts way more fun!

Pictures from the Beach

My grandmother (she's 92 this year):

Storm clouds over the beach:

The baby:

The 6 year old:

The 9 year old:

It was fun! They were learning how to body surf.