Friday, December 29, 2006

Beautiful pictures from APOD

Since I started asking my youngest daughter for comments on pictures from the Astronomy Picture of the Day web site, we have had some good discussions about space.

I explained a little about the Emission Nebula in Orion and she said there were little rainbows on the side of the nebula.

The Witch Head Nebula gave us a bit of trouble. I saw a head facing left, using the whole nebula. My youngest saw a upside down witch, also facing left, but only using the bottom half of the nebula.

In looking at the NGC 1055 and M77 galaxies, my daughter thought the one on the top left looked like a shield.

Frequently when we are out at night my second daughter likes to find Orion's belt. My youngest daughter thought the Path To Orion looked more like an arrow, than rocket exhaust.

While explaining the picture of Massive Stars in Open Cluster Pismis 24 my daughter wanted to know how scientists decided that a star was 200 times more massive than our sun. We had a short chat about how it would be hard to put a star on a scale or measure it with a measuring tape. She thought it was funny that a scale or tape would burn up.

My daughter wasn't impressed with Star Forming Region NGC 6357. But from there we checked out the Cat's Paw Nebula, and she thought that picture was cool.

To my daughter the exhaust from a Minotaur rocket in Minotaur Dawn looked more like a crack in the sky. My daughter explained that it was like the light was peaking through the picture.

The Moon Over Andromeda is the most striking picture of this set. My daughter wanted to know who lived in the Andromeda galaxy. I said we don't know. She said we should shot a rocket there. I tried to explain that the distances were too great for us to travel right now.

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How to mark a book by Mortimer J. Adler

Maureen Wittman found an article by Mortimer J. Adler on How to Mark a Book. I greatly enjoyed his How to Read a Book. If you haven't read How to Read a Book, I strongly encourage you to check it out.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Carnival of Education, and the shortest Carnival ever?

Darren of Right on the Left Coast hosted this week's Carnival of Education.

Michael Hardt of Family School hosted this week's Carnival of Kid Comedy, which only had one entry.

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Exchanging houses

There was a question on theThe Well-Trained Mind's K-8 General Board on Home Exchanging for vacations. I replied there, but then decided to also post the reply on our blog.

I've been able to arrange with my managers over the last couple years a program of working remotely about one month a year. I'll work remotely around twenty hours a week for a month and thus only have to use up two weeks of vacation. It is a bit stressful for me, but Janine and our daughters end up having a month long vacation in some fun place.

We've done a couple variations of exchanging houses:
1) One year we found some friends who were getting major reconstruction done on their house. We rented our house to them. We then found a furnished apartment in another city.

2) Another time we were able to connect with the brother of a good friend of ours. He wanted to bring his family to our part of California, so we exchanged houses.

3) In 2005 we just left our house empty and went back East. In 2006 we went back to Washington D.C.

We are starting to set something up for spring of 2007. I've found that it doesn't make sense to start arranging things too far into the future.

Our dream is to spend a month in England. We don't have anything looking promising in England for our next trip, but it does look like we might be able to go to Europe. We have some friends from Holland who think they may be able to find a family to switch houses with us. Another friend is from Sweden and she thinks there is a good chance we may be able to exchange houses with some friends of hers.

There are some organizations which will arrange house exchanges. We've been reluctant to do this. We feel more comfortable in renting to friends, or trading with people who are friends or family of people we know and trust.

We have found that spending a month in a place really gives you a better feel for a city, and it is more relaxing. When we spend a couple days or a week visiting a new city there is always a sense of urgency. We are always trying to cram in everything. With a month you can take it easy. We will even have days when we don't do anything touristy.

If you can arrange it, exchanging your house can be a lot of fun.

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Request for submissions for the first Anniversary edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling

I apologize for any confusion from my previous post.

There will be a Carnival of Homeschooling next week. It will be the first year anniversary. In some ways it is hard to believe that the carnival has been going for almost a full year.

Please consider submitting a post about homeschooling.

As always submissions are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM PST. Here are the instructions.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

The last Carnival of Homeschooling this year

Rebecca of What Did You Do in School Today? is hosting the last Carnival of Homeschooling. She is using a theme of A Year and a Day. Drop in and enjoy what others are saying about homeschooling as the year draws to a close.

This week's Carnival of Family Life is at Career and Kids.

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Monday, December 25, 2006

Horses, Lawyers, and Perry Mason


All three of our daughters are horse crazy. They constantly talk about and dream about horses. They have dozens of toy horses. For Christmas they wanted more toy horses. (They also wanted real horses, but we’ve explained that we can’t have horses right now since we live in a suburban area.) Our daughters often play with their toy horses. They also like Herd Your Horses and Horse-opoly. They read about horses and can talk extensively about different breeds.

My girls come by this interest naturally. My grandparents had a horse ranch for about thirty years. As a child, I was excited to watch baby horses born. One year they had eleven foals. That weaning day was a loud and noisy day. The foals ran all over the place and constantly whinnied for their mothers.


Several months ago my oldest was wishing for a horse. I told her that horses cost a lot of money. One of my brothers recently got a sailboat. He said sailboats are holes in the water you throw money in. I explained to my daughter that likewise horses are holes you throw lots of money in. I told her when she got older that if she had money she could buy and keep her own horses. She said that maybe she would like to be a lawyer. She knew lawyers can make a lot of money.

We have some good friends who use to live a block away. A couple years back they moved to a nearby city. The husband is a patent attorney. We decided to have them come join us for dinner, partly with the intension that our oldest daughter would interview the father about what it was like to be a lawyer, and how to prepare. After dinner my oldest asked questions and listened for a half hour. She learned a little about the law profession. She was still kind of interested.

Perry Mason

A couple weeks back one of the local television stations started showing Perry Mason. I have enjoyed watching them with my oldest two girls. The six year old finds them boring.

In preparing for this post I asked the older two girls what they liked and learned from watching Perry Mason. My oldest said:

1) She learned how formal court rooms are
2) She learned that law was kind of interesting
3) She liked the kinds of dresses women wore fifty years ago
4) She was surprised that there were planes fifty years ago. (I guess we’ll have to work on timelines again.)
5) She thought the phones were “like kind of weird.” I also had to explain why they had to talk with an operator to make a phone call.

She finds Perry Mason entertaining, and likes that it isn’t bloody. There is usually a murder, but it is not graphically shown.

My second daughter said she also learned:

1) That it is often best to call the police right away. Often Perry Mason’s clients get into trouble because they don’t go straight to the police, but try to cover something up.
2) She also pointed out that you can’t jump to conclusions. The obvious suspect is rarely the person who did it.

I’m glad we’ve had a chance to watch an old television show. It has been both fun and educational. This is one of the ways children can learn a lot about the world. We have had many discussions. The setting for each show is different. We've learned about shady land deals, inheritance, and so on.

If you have a chance, give Perry Mason a chance.

Now if any of my daughters become lawyers I’ll have to be careful about telling lawyer jokes, like:


God decided to take the devil to court and settle their differences once and for all.

When Satan heard this, he laughed and said, "And where do you think you're going to find a lawyer?"


Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, an honest lawyer and an old drunk are walking down the street together when they simultaneously spot a hundred dollar bill. Who gets it? The old drunk, of course, the other three are mythological creatures.


Q: How many lawyers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Fifty four. Eight to argue, one to get a continuance, one to object, one to demur, two to research precedents, one to dictate a letter, one to stipulate, five to turn in their time cards, one to depose, one to write interrogatories, two to settle, one to order a secretary to change the bulb, and twenty-eight to bill for professional services


A lawyer and a pope died on the same day, and both went to heaven. When the pope noticed that the lawyer had a larger mansion, he questioned Saint Peter about the allocation of rewards. The justification was "Well, we've had 265 popes up here, but this is the FIRST lawyer!"

Three professionals were discussing the nature of God. The doctor said, "The Bible states that God made Woman by taking a rib out of Man; God is obviously a surgeon." The engineer replied, "But before God made man he created Heaven and Earth out of Chaos; this is obviously the work of a master engineer. The lawyer just smiled and said, "But who do you think created the chaos?"


A Hindu, a rabbi, and a lawyer are traveling together and need to stop for the night. So they stop at the next farmhouse, and find lodging, with the qualification that the house is only big enough for two of them, and one will have to sleep in the barn. So the Hindu volunteers and goes out to sleep in the barn while the lawyer and rabbi sleep in the house.

A few minutes later, however, the lawyer and rabbi hear a knock on the door, and opening it, find the Hindu who protests "There is a cow in the barn. Surely you can't expect me to sleep with cattle." So the rabbi and the lawyer agree that perhaps the rabbi should trade places with the Hindu, and the rabbi goes out.

Within a short time, the Hindu and the lawyer are getting ready to go to sleep, when again there is a knock on the door. Opening the door they find the rabbi protesting, "There is a pig in the barn. Surely you can't expect me to sleep with a pig!"

Weary of the whole problem by this time, the lawyer pulls the rabbi into the house, grabs a blanket and heads for the barn. Almost immediately, there is a third knocking at the door, and opening the door they find the pig and the cow.
"Surely you can't expect us to sleep with a lawyer."


A very rich man, who was very close to his money, got together with his closest friends one day, who happened to be a Priest, a Doctor, and a Lawyer (or course.)

The Rich Man was very old, and getting older, and was thinking about his approaching death. He told his three friends this, and asked them to do a favor for him when he died.

"Here are three envelopes, each contain $100,000, one for each of you. I don't wish to go to the afterlife without my money. Please, when I am buried, would each of you throw your envelopes into the grave on top of my coffin?"

The three friends agreed, and took the envelopes.

Sure enough (of course) the Rich Man died. At his funeral, the Doctor, the Priest and the Lawyer threw their envelopes on his coffin.

As they were leaving the funeral, the Priest said to the others, "I have a confession to make. The church needed a new altar badly, so I . . . I took $5000 to buy it," and looked at his feet.

The Doctor said, "Well, since you've admitted it, I too must confess that I took money. The children's hospital where I work needed a new, expensive X-ray machine, so I took $30,000 to buy it."

The Doctor and the Priest both turned to the lawyer, expecting a similar confession. Instead, he said "Oh, now, I didn't take any of the money. There was a check for all $100,000 in the envelope!"

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We wish you a Merry Christmas

To all who celebrate Christmas: We wish you a Merry Christmas.

We wish everyone the best in this Holiday season, and hope you all have a wonderful New Year.

The Cates

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Carnival of Education, week 98, is up

I'm a bit slow in mentioning this. The Carnival of Education this week is being hosted by The Median Sib.

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In all the hustle and bustle of the season

This time of year tends to be hectic. There is lots going on. People are buyings gifts, traveling, and spending time with family.

This post is just your friendly weekly reminder: Don't forget to send in your submission to the next Carnival of Homeschooling!

Rebecca of What Did You Do in School Today? will be hosting the carnival next week.

As with tradition, the submissions are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM PST. Here are the instructions.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Thursday, December 21, 2006

One of those moments

I enjoy the comic strip Baby Blues. Today's struck home.

Our daughters are turning out to be decent human beings. Like Darryl MacPherson I'm not always sure exactly what I'm doing right.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Monday, December 18, 2006

In the news today

Talk in Class Turns to God, Setting Off Public Debate on Rights

Shortly after school began in September, the teacher told his sixth-period students at Kearny High School that evolution and the Big Bang were not scientific, that dinosaurs were aboard Noah’s ark, and that only Christians had a place in heaven, according to audio recordings made by a student whose family is now considering a lawsuit claiming Mr. Paszkiewicz broke the church-state boundary.

“If you reject his gift of salvation, then you know where you belong,” Mr. Paszkiewicz was recorded saying of Jesus. “He did everything in his power to make sure that you could go to heaven, so much so that he took your sins on his own body, suffered your pains for you, and he’s saying, ‘Please, accept me, believe.’ If you reject that, you belong in hell.”

The student, Matthew LaClair, said that he felt uncomfortable with Mr. Paszkiewicz’s statements in the first week, and taped eight classes starting Sept. 13 out of fear that officials would not believe the teacher had made the comments.

Since Matthew’s complaint, administrators have said they have taken “corrective action” against Mr. Paszkiewicz, 38, who has taught in the district for 14 years and is also a youth pastor at Kearny Baptist Church. However, they declined to say what the action was, saying it was a personnel matter.

“I think he’s an excellent teacher,” said the school principal, Al Somma. “As far as I know, there have never been any problems in the past.”

Staci Snider, the president of the local teacher’s union, said Mr. Paszkiewicz (pronounced pass-KEV-ich) had been assigned a lawyer from the union, the New Jersey Education Association. Two calls to Mr. Paszkiewicz at school and one to his home were not returned.

In this tale of the teacher who preached in class and the pupil he offended, students and the larger community have mostly lined up with Mr. Paszkiewicz, not with Matthew, who has received a death threat handled by the police, as well as critical comments from classmates.

Greice Coelho, who took Mr. Paszkiewicz’s class and is a member of his youth group, said in a letter to The Observer, the local weekly newspaper, that Matthew was “ignoring the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which gives every citizen the freedom of religion.” Some anonymous posters on the town’s electronic bulletin board,, called for Matthew’s suspension.

On the sidewalks outside the high school, which has 1,750 students, many agreed with 15-year-old Kyle Durkin, who said, “I’m on the teacher’s side all the way.”

While science teachers, particularly in the Bible Belt, have been known to refuse to teach evolution, the controversy here, 10 miles west of Manhattan, hinges on assertions Mr. Paszkiewicz made in class, including how a specific Muslim girl would go to hell......

This news story is a good example of what can go wrong in government schools. It reveals a great bias both for and against Christians. While I'm a fan of missionary work and not impressed with the Big Bang theory, I have to side with the boy. It is not appropriate to preach to a captive audience composed of minor children.

I'm all for freedom of speech, but let's use a little good manners. Even if the teacher believes that the Muslim girl in his class is going to Hell, he should keep it to himself during classroom time. While the teacher was discussing things off topic, he was not talking about science, which is what he was paid to do.

One could argue that turn about is fair play. Humanism and Socialism are preached every day at schools with impunity. The only thing that make this story noteworthy is that a Christian philosopy was promoted at a school in New Jersey, and most locals supported the teacher.

It also bugged me that they were throwing around the phrase "separation of church and state" like it was in the constitution. It is not, but that is another post.

Regardless of your philosophy, I wouldn't delegate the education of my children to a person I couldn't personally vouch for and easily monitor. That's one of the plusses of homeschooling. Since there is no such thing as a neutral education, we can pick programs that fit our point of view. Most homeschool children are very "socialized" and will run into opposing viewpoints as a matter of course. Ultimately, children will grow up and choose for themselves. However, as a parent, I'm not obligated to promote the opposition's cause or give up my home court advantage.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

14 Days of Homeschooling

A friend sent me the lyrics below for the "14 Days of Homeschooling." I poked around on the internet a bit and found it also on Ann Zeise's A to Z Home's Cool and other web sites also had the song, but I couldn't find it credited to a particular person. Does anyone know who wrote it? I like Ann's version because she has a bunch of links, which I used below.

I also found that William Gasarch has collected a long list of variations on the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Update I:
Ann has asked that I only use the first couple links within the song and delete the rest, so I've removed all but the first two. If you are interested go check out Ann's version.


14 Days of Homeschooling

To the tune of "Twelve Days of Christmas."

On the first day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Can you homeschool legally?"

On the second day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the third day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the fourth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the fifth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "YOU ARE SO STRANGE! What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the sixth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "How long will you homeschool, YOU ARE S0 STRANGE, what about P.E. , do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the seventh day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE!, what about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, do you homeschool legally?"

On the eighth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, what about P.E. do you give them tests, are they socialized, do you homeschool legally?"

On the ninth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "They'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE!, what about P.E. do you give them tests, are they socialized, do you homeschool legally?"

On the tenth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "What about graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE!, what about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the eleventh day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "I could never do that, what about graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, what about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the twelfth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "Can they go to college, I could never do that, what about graduation, they'll miss the prom, why do you do this, look at what they're missing, how long will you homeschool, YOU ARE SO STRANGE, What about P.E., do you give them tests, are they socialized, can you homeschool legally?"

On the thirteenth day of homeschool I thoughtfully replied: "They Can go to college, yes you can do this, they can have graduation, we don't like the prom, we do it cuz we like it, they are missing nothing, we'll homeschool forever, WE ARE NOT STRANGE!, We give them P.E., and we give them tests, they are socialized, AND WE HOMESCHOOL LEGALLY!

On the fourteenth day of homeschool my neighbor said to me, "How can I get started, why didn't you tell me, where do I buy curriculum, when is the next conference, WILL PEOPLE THINK WE'RE STRANGE? I think we can do this, if you will help us, we'll join a sports team, and we'll homeschool legally."

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

Forced to Homeschool

And now from news of the weird...... Students now being ordered to be home schooled? Though technically that's not true. He will be a public student doing independent study at home.

Troy student won't be expelled in pellet gun case

December 15, 2006

JOLIET — A Troy Middle School student will be home schooled instead of being expelled for gun possession


Ryan Morgan said that on Nov. 15 he and another student heard that a gun had been stashed in a boys bathroom, finding it in a garbage can. Morgan reportedly put the gun in his pocket and then handed it over to an assistant principal about 10 minutes later in a cafeteria.


Suspension sought
Audrey Morgan said her son tried to do the “right thing.” The couple asked the board to give their son a 10-day suspension instead of sending him to an alternative school.

The board spent about three hours in closed session and then in public session voted unanimously for the home-schooling option. Izzo said administrators were bound by state law to bring an expulsion recommendation to the board.


When Ryan Morgan arrived home that day, he did not know that “he had been expelled,” she said. He provided “all the information that lead to the arrest of the other boy.”

Life is stranger than fiction. Don't you just love to see you tax payer dollars at work. I hope the boy has a good experience at home and never goes back to school.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Teaching children to anticipate

This came in from the Quotation of the day this week:

"The sage anticipates things that are difficult while they are easy, and does things that would become great while they are small. All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from a previous state in which they were easy, and all great things from one in which they were small. Therefore the sage, while he never does what is great, is able on that account to accomplish the greatest things."
- Lao-tzu, Tao Te Ching (63).

This reminded me of a favorite saying:

"An extraordinary pilot uses his or her extraordinary judgment to avoid having to use his or her extraordinary skills."

Preparing for the future is a great skill or habit to teach. Taking care of a small problem will often prevent it from becoming a big problem. And when a problem is big it often takes more time and effort to resolve.

To help our children develop the mind set of anticipating and preparing for the future we need to walk them through the basic steps of planning at an appropriate level. As adults we can often see a problem coming long before our children. We have a several options:

1) We can take care of the problem ourselves.
2) We can tell the children exactly what to do to avoid the problem.
3) We can explain what the problem is and ask them how to they might solve it.

Recently my wife went back East to help her sister for a week. My parents live close by and so I arranged for my daughters and me to stay with my parents. My parents would watch the girls will I went in to work. The girls needed clothes while we stayed at my parents.

I could have packed their clothes. I could have given them a list of clothes to pack. What I did was to talk about what things we would need and had them pack. This was a bit of a stretch for our six year old. After she declared she was done I asked about a few specific things and then she went back and added them to her suitcase.

The more we work with our children to plan for the future, the more they will develop the habit of anticipating. This way they'll be able to avoid great problems and accomplish great things.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

Recent carnivals

I returned from a short business trip last night. So I am late in mentioning a few carnivals:

This week's Carnival of Education is up at The Education Wonks.

The Carnival of Family Life is up at GNMParents.

I looked through other recent carnivals via the Blog Carnival list and found there is a Carnival of the Student at Student Help Forum that looks interesting.

Update I:

JoJo Tabares is hosting a Carnival of FUNschooling at Communication FUNdamentals.

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Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Request for submissions to the next Carnival of Homeschooling

This is the weekly reminder to send in something for the next Carnival of Homeschooling. Dana at Principled Discovery will be hosting. She has put out a call for entries.

As always submissions are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM PST. Here are the instructions.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Carnival of Homeschooling, week 50, is up at Apollos Academy

The Tutor is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling at Apollos Academy. She tells a delightful story of getting ready for Christmas and the New Years.

I just realized that I incorrectly refered to last week's carnival as week 48, when it was really week 49. They say there are two things that we lose as we grow older, the first is memory. I forget what is the second thing.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Business Week Online Article about homeschooling

Here's an interesting article from Business Week Online.

Meet My Teachers: Mom And Dad

A growing number of affluent parents think they can do better than any school Slater Aldrich doesn't attend any of the top-shelf public or private schools near his family's Madison (Conn.) home, not even his mother's alma mater, the $18,000-a-year Country School. Instead, the 11-year-old spends his days playing the role of town zoning officer, researching the pros and cons of granting approval to a new Wal-Mart (WMT ). Other endeavors include pretending he's a Sand Hill Road venture capitalist, creating Excel-studded business plans for a backyard sheep company, and growing his own organic food.

"It's kind of like living on a white-collar farm," says his dad, Clark Aldrich. Aldrich vowed he'd never put his kid through the eye-glazing lectures he endured in school, even at prestigious institutions like Lawrence Academy and Brown University.

Over all it's a pretty good article. Now that rich yuppies are doing it, homeschooling can't be all bad. Here's the funny part:


Homeschooling isn't universally applauded as a solution, however. Some parents and educators worry that it retards children's socialization. Others say it siphons much-needed resources like per-pupil funding and the activism of the most savvy parents. Schooling in isolation could threaten civic cohesion and diversity of thought, says Stanford University education professor Rob Reich. Reich favors stricter homeschooling regulations to supplant the current patchwork of state laws so that children can be assured of exposure to more than just what their parents sanction. He also worries about parents pushing homeschooling on their kids.

Retards children's socialization don't you just love that phrase.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dads- Part 7

Next in the series on how Dads (or at least the Dad at our house) participate in the education of their children. (If you missed it, here's Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.

7) Dad gives Mom opportunities to take off her teacher/mommy hat.

One of the problems of running a business out of your home is that the work is never done. In essence, you are always on the job. Homeschooling can be a lot like that. It is easy to feel like you should always be doing one thing more. I think that is one of the reasons that so many people don’t make it through the first year of homeschooling. They can’t take the pressure of being continuously “on the job.”

Giving mom a break doesn’t have to be a big thing. It can be as simple as “Honey, I’ll watch the kids. Why don’t you go to the grocery story by yourself.” I like to grocery shop, I know I’m strange, but I enjoy it. So, it’s a treat to go by myself.

In the last few years, we’ve taken this concept to a new level. Once a year, I reluctantly take off my teacher/mommy hat to go spend a week with my sister. I say reluctantly because going out in the world by myself is like being Superman (or in this case SuperMom) and leaving my magic cape at home. For a week, I am just Janine, not somebody’s mother or teacher.

As a Mom, I feel powerful and brave. As a teacher, I feel smart. My sense of well being comes from a clean house, accomplished children and completed homeschool projects. While these things are good, they are not a good thing to base your life on. The routine of home can distract me from weightier issues like life, the universe and our part in it.

So I stop moving, and stand still, and hopefully think. It is not something I really enjoy but it is something important to do for me. Don’t get me wrong. I like my sister. The annual sisters’ getaway has been a very good thing but it is hard for me to be away from home.

I should add that my sister is an over-achiever. Each year she comes up with some huge project to do. Last year, I spent a week scanning family photos. My sister and I traveled to my aunt’s home in Chicago and my uncle’s home in Madison, Wisconsin. We literally spent every waking moment hunched over a computer. She would scan the photos to her laptop and I would enter the photo information into a spreadsheet on my laptop. At night, alone in my room, I would think profound thoughts about the people in the pictures. There is something about seeing the face of someone who lived and died over a hundred years ago that puts a new perspective of things.

While I’m gone my kids are having the time of their life. They spend some days and nights at grandpa and grandma’s house. They eat out a lot. Henry is working some from home to cover the rest of the time. They do mostly unschool type projects. So, this is a little vacation for them too.

Right now I’m in Kentucky at my sister’s house. My sister broke her ankle so it’s slowed her down a bit. This year’s project has been to go through boxes of my deceased parents keepsakes and papers. I have years of correspondence to look at. Some things are fun to read, others are painful. I’ve really had time to think.

I can’t wait to get home. I’ve thought of things I want to do differently in the coming new year.

Fishing and homeschooling

There is an old saying:

“If you feed a man a fish, you feed him for a day.
If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for life...”

There is wise counsel in these two lines. To really help someone it is better to teach them how to take care of themselves. When they are starving you give them a fish. Once the hunger has been satisfied, it is a great kindness to teach them how to provide for themselves. They more they learn to do for themselves the less they will be at the mercy of others.

But the setting for the above saying implies a passive situation in which the hungry man is waiting for, or even needs, someone else to provide for him and teach him.

As parents I think we need to expand this thought in two ways:

1) Children should learn to take initiative. I don’t want my children to sit passively around waiting to be taught. Children will be happier, more successful, and more productive if they learn to be proactive. We try to teach our children to see a problem and then take steps to solve it. When they ask us for help we’ll often respond back with “How could you solve it?” We could give them a fish and they would be happy for the day. But if they can learn the attitude and mind set of taking initiative they will be much happier for the rest of their lives.

2) Children should learn how to learn on their own. In some ways this is an extension of being proactive, but it is focused. Far too many students graduate from high school and college with the mind set that you can only learn from experts. In the saying above there implied expectation that some expert will have to teach the man how to fish. If children see a skill or some knowledge they want to master, most of the time they can learn it on their own.

Can anyone suggest a clever way of capturing the higher proactive approach? I'm thinking of something like:

“If you feed a man a fish, you feed him for a day.
If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for life.
And if you teach a man to be proactive and learn how to learn you have taught him how to be happy for the rest of his life."

Someone once said: “Invent a witty saying, and your name will live forever.” I think his name was Anonymous.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Dads - Part 6

Next in the series on how Dads (or at least the Dad at our house) participate in the education of their children. (If you missed it, here's Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

6) Dad regularly has one-on-one time with each family member.

Each month, Henry has a daddy/daughter date with each of his daughters separately. Usually, this takes the form of going out to breakfast or ice cream. Each child gets her turn alone with Dad. Before going out, Henry will give me a few minutes to write down some of the good things that child has done recently. While Dad and Daughter are together, Dad will use this list to compliment and encourage the child.

Usually, each “date” takes about an hour. Henry often just lets the child talk about what ever she wants. We don’t use this time to talk about problems or to correct a child. Its purpose is positive reinforcement.

Also, I think Henry does it to remind me to focus on the positive. It can be very hard if you are frustrated with a child to think of good things to write for Henry's "good things" list.

This one-on-one time is not just for the kids. Henry makes a point to spend one-on-one time with me. When the kids were younger, I would arrange a babysitter or babysit swap so that we could have an evening together. This has gotten easier as the children have gotten older. Now, it is quite easy for me to leave the kids home for an hour while I sneak off to have lunch with Dad.

Married dating serves a dual purpose. It demonstrates to our children that Mom is important to Dad and it improves our relationship. In years past when we've let date night slide, we found that as a couple we were more quick to find fault and were all around grumpier.

For most homeschool families, homeschooling isn't just about education. It's about building strong families. And while family can function as a unit, it is built on distinct relationships that each need attention.

I'm reminded of that old public service announcement that was on tv years ago:

Dad, give your children everything. Give them your time.

Next see Part 7.


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Friday, December 08, 2006

Next Carnival of Homeschooling, or what are you doing this weekend?

This is the weekly reminder to send in something for the next Carnival of Homeschooling. The Tutor at Apollos Academy will be hosting.

I'll be spending part of this weekend working on my post. I am kicking around an idea about fishing and homeschooling.

As always submissions are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM PST. Here are the instructions.

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Links to interesting posts - 8 Dec 2006

Whenever we try something new it is easy to make mistakes. One way to avoid making costly mistakes is to get advice from someone more experienced. Carolyn of Guilt-free Homeschooling has a list of Common Mistakes Made by New Homeschoolers.

I enjoyed the Headmistress' thoughts about Saving Time.

I saved the following links awhile back and then got distracted and never posted them:

For those of you who like Harry Potter here is a list of Harry Potter Lesson Plans and Using Harry Potter to “teach.”

I enjoyed this map showing where people live in the United States. (Hat tip: Cool List Digest)

Just over a month ago there was some news about a Massive surge in spam hits the Internet. The most recent graph shows some promise that things are getting better.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

Thursday, December 07, 2006

My daughter's review of recent Astronomy Pictures of the Day

I have been saving up links to various pictures from the Astronomy Picture of the Day. I had my youngest daughter again review the pictures.

She said the picture of the M33 galaxy is very nice.

She thought the picture of the Andromeda Galaxy was wonderful! I have to agree. Of the picutres in this post, the Andromeda Galaxy is my favorite.

To her the Unusual Starburst Galaxy NGC 1313 looks like a worm.

Instead of A Pelican in the Swan she saw a raindeer leaping up, on the left side of the Nebula.

She thought the Arms of NGC 1097 galaxy looked like they were twisting around.

And her observation of the M77 galaxy was that it had lots of blue stars.

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We wish Spunky the best

It was shocking to read that Spunky has decided to move on. My wife and I have been talking a bit about it over the last couple days. Spunky has been a main fixture in the homeschool blogging world. She seemed so permanent, like Mount Rushmore. I thought she would always be there. In internet years she's been blogging a gazillion years.

She has been a force for good. She writes well. She has been insightful. She does her research. She has been a voice of warning. She has shared her wisdom and experience. I've enjoyed following her blog over the last two years.

You can tell that she has touch so many lives by all the comments she is getting on her last post. There are 128 comments so far.

We wish Spunky the best in the next phase of her life.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Another cool thing about Google Alerts

After the post last week about Google Alerts, which was suppose to be titled Google Alerts are better than ever, a thought occurred to me. I use Google Alerts to tell me when someone linked to our blog. I tried this out and it worked!

If you want to try this out, go to the Google Alert site and enter:

Search terms: link:your-blog
Type: Comprehensive
How often: once a day
Your email: your email

It is important that the field for "Search terms:" has the key work "link:" This is what tells Google that you are looking for a site that has recently linked to you. After you click on "Create Alert" you'll get an email asking for confirmation. Give the confirmation, and then every time Google notices that someone has linked to you Google will send you an email.

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The Carnival of Homeschooling is up - week 48, with an Abraham Lincoln theme

Susan from Corn and Oil is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling. There are a great variety and a large number of posts in the carnival. There are a lot of good ideas and thoughts.

The Carnival of Family Life is again at Be A Good Dad.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

News from Judy Aron

Judy Aron does a great job of digging up news around education, preschool, mental health and government involvement in these issues. Here are some of the following items she has dug up:

A Mother Speaks Out Against TeenScreen is an eight minute video of a mother who speaks against mental screening without parents permission. The school did a ten minute screening on a teenager and labeled the girl OCD. The mother read a few of the questions. The questions did not let the students explain the answers. The questions were badly written. But even more importantly, the schools should not have testing the girl, and especially without the permission of the parents. It was a powerful argument against letting schools do any kind of mental examination.

Matt McGann gives some advice for students applying to MIT - Homeschooled applicants. Matt works in the MIT admissions office.

There has been a big push to fingerprint and do iris scans of children, and their parents. There are all kinds of warnings over safety. Iris scanning begins in US schools makes the point that since most kidnappings are done by partners or spouses, and so only letting parents pick up children won't prevent many kidnappings. In Tracking children goes high-tech is an account of Children's Identification and Location Database (CHILD) Project system. Would You Let Them Scan Your Child? has a scary account of parents trying to opt out of having their children fingerprinting and the school going ahead anyways.

Recently the Prime Minister of the UK has said that "All pupils should leave school able to cook, enjoy the theatre, handle home finances and surf the internet." I don't know about the UK but in the US most public schools are still struggling with teaching children how to read, write and do math.

In another effort to push preschool is an announcement: Latin America, Caribbean, Lead in Pre-School Education. The press release says that studies have shown the value of preschool. All the studies I've seen show some improvement for children from broken families. But when tracking children from healthy two parent homes, preschool provides no benefit. Unfortunately this won't stop the push for universal preschool.

Judy Aron has just recently started her own blog. So you can stop on top of all the fascinating things she finds by going to Consent Of The Governed.

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Dear Abby

In today's newspaper, Dear Abby answered a question from a homeschooler. Nothing profound, but I thought it was fun. I noticed that the newspaper printed "home-school" instead of "homeschool." I wonder if the author of the letter wrote it that way, or the newspaper editor stuck it in.

This question to Dear Abby reminds me of an incident my husband had at a high school reunion. While visiting with old classmates, my husband was bemused when a former classmate pulled out pictures of his dog, much as one would share pictures of his children. While I don't have anything against pets, it is sad when they take the place of children. (If you read my post recent post on pets, you might argue that I'm really not a pet person.)


DEAR ABBY: We are a small family of four living on my husband's income. We have a small farm that I run, and I home-school my children. My husband works full time in another job. We aren't poor, but we do have to count our nickels and dimes and budget for things we want.

This is the first year we have splurged on gifts for the children, and we spent more on my sister-in-law because, for once, we had a little extra to spend. It has brought us joy that we can be a bit more generous.

Now that our Christmas budget is spent, my sister-in-law has asked twice that we purchase gifts for her dog -- wrapped, no less -- because her dog likes opening packages! I ignored her request the first time. After the second one, I told her we don't ask people to purchase gifts for our kids, and we don't purchase gifts for other people's pets. Now she's offended.

Abby, it may not seem like a lot, but for us, it's a big deal when we get to purchase a movie and a pizza every few months. We never ask anything of anyone. We're a happy, tight-knit family regardless of our financial status.

My husband has had enough. He's tired of his sister's self-absorption and wants to tell her to grow up and that the world does not revolve around her and her dog. Instead, I asked her to simply return any gifts she has bought for us and spend the money on her dog. Are we being unreasonable? -- IN THE DOGHOUSE IN ALASKA

DEAR IN THE DOGHOUSE: Not at all. Your sister-in-law is out of line to put the bite on you for gifts for her dog, and you are within your rights to tell her you have a bone to pick with her. After she chews on it awhile, let's hope she comes around.

I also wonder if this is one of our homeschool blogger friends.

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The power of tutoring, another reason for homeschooling

Six months ago Lioness of We Have Always Lived in a Homeschool wrote about the power of tutoring in The Golden Quote. A couple times a month I'll refer friends to her post. She references a study reported in "The 2 Sigma Problem: The Search For Methods of Instruction as Effective as One-on-one Tutoring," by Benjamin S. Bloom.

The power of tutoring is almost unbelievable; Lioness has as the golden quote on the study:

"In study after study, whenever tutoring is matched against some competing pedagogy, including technology, tutoring wins handily. In his own research (Benjamin) Bloom found that tutored students outdistance 98 percent of those taught in conventional groups settings.(7)"

What this means is when students are tutored 98% of them will do better than children taught by other normal methods, like classrooms.

Lioness points out that tutoring in academic circles sounds a lot like homeschooling.

Another important point from the study is that the tutor doesn't have to be an expert.

If you haven't read this post before, or haven't read it for six months, give it a gander. Lioness goes into much greater deepth on the findings of the study. Her post is worth checking out.

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Unschooling Voices #6 is up

This month's Unschooling Voices, a carnival about unschooling, is posted at A Day in Our Lives.

And this week's Carnival of Family Life is at Be A Good Dad.

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