Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Links to interesting postings - 28 Dec 05

We were gone for most of Monday and Tuesday. One of our family traditions is we taken an annual train trip to Sacramento, hang out in Old Town Sacramento for awhile, and then return. I think we got started doing this because we had been reading The Boxcar Children books. I've been slowly working through some email, various blogs, and stuff around the house. What follows is selections from stuff posted over the last four or five days. Enjoy.

Joanne Jacobs put up a post yesterday commenting on an editorial in the Washington Post by Susan Goodkin. Susan says that because of "No Child Left Behind" gifted children are being slighted. I think the issue of gifted children being ignored, or given less oppurtunity to develop their talents to their fullness, has been an issue for longer than the last six years. As I mentioned in a post earlier this month Cheri Yecke in The War Against Excellence had interesting data on the amount of money spent on helping gifted children.

Spunky relates an incident with her husband when he pointed out how homeschooling can be like climbing a mountain. Go read the whole thing.

At The Education Wonks, EdWonks posts about an article on a school which has started teaching Chinese.

Selections from Carnival of Education - week 47

This week's Carnival of Education is back over at The EducationWonk. There is a nice selection of twenty five posts. Here are some of the ones I found especially interesting:

At Going to the Mat, Matt Johnston does a great job of taking apart the NEA's argument that teachers with equal credentials should get equal pay. He makes the issue clear in pointing out that an expert chief can take the same ingredients as a poor chef, but make a much better pie. For education the issue is further complicated by each children being different. Teachers are not given the same ingredients. Matt's point is valid, especially with this complication.

At News, the Universe, and Everything, Quincy comments on a fascinating situation down in Arizona. Neil Manzenberg, a retired music professor, decided he is bored and offers to teach music at a local high school. They won't let him, because he hasn't taken some class. It is a class he taught at Indiana University and Purdue for nine years. Joanne Jacobs noticed this last week and links to this article. As Quincy says, if Manzenberg is teaching next year it will show that Arizona is serious about education. If Manzenberg isn't teaching, it will show that Arizona cares more about bureaucracy. Just the fact that this is an issue is a sign of some of the problems in public education.

At The EdWahoo Elliot Haspel has a post about a steep decline over the last ten years in the percentage of college graduates who have a basic ability to comprehend written instructions. The post had this line: "What to make of the decline? First, it's clear yet again that our K-12 education system is not providing an appropriate curriculum nor appropriate pedagogy if one in two students who successfully graduate high school do so at best able to perform tasks on the level of parsing through TV Guide (pg. 3)."

Bruno Behrend at Extreme Wisdom is trying to start a debate about Are Public Schools Unconstitutional? His focus is on how often public schools are involved in religious issues. From reading the constitution it appears to me that the Federal Government has no place being involved with education.

At Right on the Left Coast Darren has the break down on where his union dues go. Not surprising a lot goes to non education related issues.

Thoughts about the affects of a Carnival of Homeschooling

At The Common Room Headmistress makes a good point about the Carnival of Homeschooling:

"I hesitated over this one, because I don't like ghettoizing home-education (which is one reason why we're not blogging at a popular homeschooling blog hosting service)."

I agree that homeschoolers should not be isolated, but I think there is power in associating with people who have similar interests and can teach us what they have learned. On the flip side, we can also learn from people who have different interests and different perspectives. I plan to continue reading the blogs of Joanne Jacobs, Education Wonks, and others who are interested in public education.

I hope this doesn't become an "either/or" situation. There may be a few who have followed the Carnival of Education who might now only read the Carnival of Homeschooling. I hope we'll get new people who haven't been reading any Carnivals, and that many homeschoolers who read the Carnival of Education will now also read the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book The Tipping Point talks about “Connectors,” people who help spread memes. (Memes is another name for ideas, and is used when talking about how ideas spread.) Connectors are the people who are involved in many unrelated groups at the same time. For example, connectors are involved in local politics, sing with a choir, work with a Boy Scout group, etc. When news comes to a person who only associates with a small group of like minded individuals, the information likely never gets beyond his small group. In contrast, a “Connector” will pass the idea into different groups. The idea or news has much greater exposure.

Malcolm has a fascinating discussion of the midnight ride of Paul Revere. I had not realized that there were others who went out to notify the countryside. The reason Paul Revere got all the fame and glory is because he was so effective. Almost all the colonial forces that met the British were notified through Paul Revere. This is especially powerful considering he was arrested after just a couple hours. He was a classic Connector. He rode into a small village late at night and knock on the door of someone he knew. Paul Revere would pass on the message, hop back on his horse and ride to the next town. Because the person knew Paul Revere, he would trust the message and wake up his neighbors and friends. So when the British arrived, the colonists were ready. To show the power of Connectors, Malcolm also tells of William Dawes, who also rode out into the country side, but he had no personal contacts. So when he knocked on their door, people were upset, didn’t trust him, and didn’t pass on the message.

My hope is that we can be “Connectors,” and link good ideas from various groups. As good ideas pops up in a homeschooling post, we can forward it on to various education blogs, and to the Carnival of Education. When we see a good idea in an education blog, we can mention it on homeschooling blogs.

Reason to homeschool #3: Time

Parents often tell me that they will supplement their children's education at home to make up for the educational or moral deficiencies of the public school.

I always ask, "When?"

Before school when you are rushing to get to school? Maybe after school, when the child is tired and doing the assigned homework? How about on the weekends, instead of helping around the house or taking a break with their brothers and sisters?

Of course, when the child is at home, he or she may no long want to spend time with family. Putting children in age segregated classes for long periods of time teaches them that peers are more important than family, even more important than learning. If that were not the case, people wouldn't keep asking homeschoolers about "socialization."

Time with our children is very short. Our family has been dramatically reminded of this quite of few times. In our society, more frequently than we choose to admit, families lose each other. At some point, usually too late, parents realize that their children have grown up to be someone they don't really know and lacking the skills to be a successful adult.

Parents tell themselves that later, when they aren't so busy, they will spend more time with their children. Usually, later is too late.

Homeschooling gives families time to do what matters most.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Where to send your submission for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

(This post will always the have information on where to send submissions for future Carnivals of Homeschooling.)

Submissions are due to: by 6:00 PM (PST) on the Monday evening of the week. It will be greatly appreciated if the submissions come in earlier. Please send the following information:

Title of Post
URL of Post
Name of Blog
URL of Blog
Brief summary of the post
(With "carnival" or "submission" in the subject field of the email.)

You can also send in a submission via Blog Carnival by going here.  (As of November 2011 Blog Carnival seems to be slightly broken.  It is accepting entries and storing them in an Insta Carnival format available to me, but it doesn't have the complete information for a submission and the submissions are not being forwarded to the Carnival Hosts.  So for now please just send an email to the  Thanks.)

If you haven't read any blog carnivals before, please read What is a Blog Carnival.

Update I (12 Jan 06):
Please review these thoughts about expectations for carnival participants.
Update II (16 Jan 06)
Spunky suggested have a gmail account which would forward the submissions to the host for the week. I've created and will change where it forwards each week. I've moved the schedule to here.
Update III (4 Jan 07)
We've had some trouble with GMail tagging submissions as SPAM. To make sure I can dig out your entry please put "carnival" or "submission" in the subject line. Thanks.

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

Requests for submissions to the first Carnival of Homeschooling

The overview:

As the town crier strode down the cobble stones he yelled: "Hear ye! Hear ye! Let it be known that the first Carnival of Homeschooling will be gathering at Why Homeschool on January 3rd for your entertainment, enlightenment, and education. Submit your best post on homeschooling by January 2nd. Hear ye! Hear ye! ...."

There was some buzz as the villagers wanted to know details. What was the Carnival of Homeschooling? Who was invited? Where would it be? Why should they come? Behind the town crier were a couple pages who were handing out pamphlets with details and information.

The request:

Please submit a post about homeschooling, either one of your own, or a really good one you have seen recently. The first Carnival of Homeschooling will be published on January 3rd, submissions are due to Henry Cate on January 2nd, at 6:00 PM. For information on submitting a post, click here. To learn more about carnivals, click here.

If you are crafting a post for the carnival, think about first time viewers, people who don't know much about homeschooling. Try to be engaging to catch their interest. Spell check and proof read your submitted post several times.

If you are hesitant about submitting one of your posts, read here for some reasons on why it is a good idea to be part of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Some additional thoughts and details:

If you haven't paid much attention to blog carnivals, you are in for a treat. They are a great way to sample a variety of blogs all from one post. If you have followed some carnivals, like the Carnival of Education, then you know just how useful carnivals can be for finding new interesting blogs to read.

The Carnival of Homeschooling will expose you to what other homeschoolers are blogging about, and it will also give you a chance to show off one of your best blog posts.

If you are ready to submit a post, click here.

Over the last year I've been a bit surprised that no one ever put together a carnival of homeschooling. I sort of figured that there weren't that many blogs out there on homeschooling. (After working on trying to start the Carnival of Homeschooling, I now think at least part of the reason is putting together a carnival is a lot of work.)

I have followed the Carnival of Education pretty much since it got started. Typically there are 20 to 50 posts in a weekly carnival, and a few of them will be homeschool related. Since about three percent of the children in America are homeschooled this made some sense, that there weren't that many homeschool blogs. But Spunky's homeschool blog contest blew that thought out of the water, as there were over 200 different blogs in the various categories.

After some reflection I realized that while there may be a couple million public school teachers, with the several million children being homeschooled, we had at least a million parents who were involved in homeschooling. So it made sense that there were lots of homeschooling blogs.

If you would like to help make the Carnival of Homeschooling a success, click here.

To find out how to submit a post to the Carnival of Homeschooling, click here.

Ways to help the Carnival of Homeschooling

1) One of the most important things to make a blog carnival a success is for it to have interesting posts. So submit your best post from the last week.

2) The other really important thing is to spread the word. Please tell people about the Carnival of Homeschooling, especially after it comes out. Mention the carnival on your blog, email to your friends about it, mention it to your local homeschool groups, beg your family to read it, and tell any related mailing lists you are on about it.

3) If you would like host a Carnival of Homeschooling, first check out a few carnivals to get a sense of what they are like, for example the Carnival of Education and the Carnival of Unschooling. Next read this post and this post about the work involved in putting together a blog carnival. If you are still interested in hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling, send Henry Cate an email to tell of your interest, and when you are available.

It will greatly improve the time you host the Carnival of Homeschooling if you have a theme to structure the postings. Most of the readers of a carnival will be people who haven't spent much time thinking about homeschooling, and so we want to try to entice them to read the various postings the carnival links to, and to encourage them to come back next week for the next carnival. So start thinking now about a way to make your carnival post very entertaining and interesting. The structure might be around old movies, cities, a tabloid, and so on.

Update I (23 Jan 06)

These are some additional posts about hosting a carnival:


If you have any additional ideas on how people can help make the carnival of homeschooling successful, please add a comment.

Reasons to submit a post to the Carnival of Homeschooling

The basic reason for having a post on any carnival is it will lead to a temporary increase in traffic. If the visitors enjoy your spotlighted post, you will get some return visitors. (If you don't know how many visitors your blog gets, check out We use Site Meter.)

Let’s be honest. It isn't fun to stand in an empty room talking to yourself for hours and hours. Most of us are blogging because we want other people to read what we have to say.

Sometimes we just want to share with family and friends pieces of our lives. We want our loved ones to know about a cute thing one of our daughters did. Or we may want to share some thoughts and feelings with those we care about.

Many bloggers, myself included, want a larger audience. We're trying to enter into a dialog, and to influence or educate people about topics we are interested in. For those in the second group the only way to do this is to get people to read our blogs.

Sometimes random people may happen across our blog, and sometimes close friends and family will check it out, once in awhile. But to really have an effect, you need to work at increasing the traffic to your blog.

A carnival is one great way to do this. People will often read a blog carnival because they are interesting and they can be entertaining. A good blog carnival will bring a large crowd to the carnival post, and the viewers look at each booth to check out what is being offered. If you have an interesting post, some viewers will come back, again and again.

About 70,000 new blogs are created every day. True many of them are targeted for a limited audience, for family and friends, but there are still thousands of new blogs every day trying to catch the attention of blog readers. As Gilbert and Sullivan say in Ruddigore: "If you wish in the world to advance . . . you must stir it and stump it, and blow your own trumpet, Or trust me, you haven'ta chance!" "

So submit one of your best posts about homeschooling from this week to the Carnival of Homeschooling!

What is a blog Carnival?

The idea of a blog carnival is to put a variety of related blogs on display for a casual viewer, like if they were walking through a traditional carnival. An instance of a blog carnival is a post with links to a variety of posts on other blogs all on the same topic or theme. (For example there are blog carnivals about education, birds, capitalism, and so on.) Many blog carnivals come out once a week; some are less frequent. A blog carnival post will highlight some of the more interesting posts on the carnival's topic or theme.

Part of the reason blog carnivals are called carnivals is because they sometimes move around. Like a carnival which travels from town to town, blog carnivals often go from one blogger to another, to share the work load, and to get additional exposure for the carnival.

Many viewers will check out a carnival because it is a quick way to learn about other blogs, without having to go to each of the 20 to 50 blogs in the carnival. A carnival provides an opportunity to give more exposure to a set of blogs. This is a win-win for the bloggers and for the readers. Some of the top blogs, like Instapundit, will mention every carnival they learn about. Carnivals also give bloggers a chance to see what other bloggers are saying about a given topic.

This post has some additional information about carnivals. If you know of some other good posts about blog carnivals, please add a comment.

Some examples of carnivals which are related to the Carnival of Homsechooling are the Carnival of Education and the Carnival of Unschooling.

If you want to see some of the variety of carnivals, check out this list and this list.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Selections from Carnival of Education - week 46

The Carnival of Education is hosted this week by Bora Zivkovic's blog Circadiana. There are a whole bunch of blogs mentioned. Below are some of the ones I especially found interesting.

An Educational Voyage has a discussion of the Socratic Method.

Matt Johnson explores how did reading get limited to just reading literature.

There was a good discussion on Scheiss Weekly about how a minority voice is often dictating what happens in public schools.

Friends of Dave has an excellent post about the problems of just giving public schools in California more money. The post has this great line "There are some funding issues in public education, but raising taxes to give schools more money without making needed structural reforms isn't going to be money well spent."

Only a couple more days to vote for the Homeschool Blog Awards

Forthose who haven't heard, Spunky has organized the Homeschool Blog awards. If you haven't voted yet, best to do vote now, before you get distracted.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Links to interesting postings - 21 Dec 05

Today is the shortest day of the year. If you are trying to explain to your children how the days get longer and shorter, the Astronomy Picture of the Day for today might be helpful. It shows the sun rising in a Greek today at Summer Solstice, Equinox, and Winter Solstice.

We always have to be careful when a chicken little starts yelling the sky is falling. Joane Jacobs has a post discussing a Christian Science Monitor article examinding the data for just how many engineers the United States, India and China are really graduating each year. Part of the problem is India and China appears to call a lot more people engineers than we do in the US. When comparing like to like "the Duke study finds the US handed out 137,437 bachelor's degrees last year, more than India's 112,000."

Daryl Cobranchi has a post and links to an article about to some bullying in Massachusetts. This is about the same victim we talked about just over a week ago. Billy George has been beaten up several times at school. The parents pulled him from school. The issue is working its way through the court. Daryl rightly found this statement about victims by a family court judge very offensive. "I have seen kids wind up in front of a judge because they are sick to their stomach at the idea of going to school, and they are afraid," Perachi said. "It's not unusual for me to order a child to go to school." (Italics added.) The judge is speaking about children who are so afraid they are truant, but I sure hope the quotation is out of context, I can't image thinking the best thing for a young child is to send him back to school to be beaten up again. (We've mention bullying before, here and here.)

The Common Room has a nice list of Books for Boys, posted by the Headmistress.

HomeSchoolBuzz has a post and mentions a column about homeschooling. Someone asked about homeschooling, and Leanna Landsmann provides a nice answer.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Carnival of the Capitalists

The Carnival of the Capitalists came out yesterday. It was hosted by Coyote Blog. We were lucky enough to have my wife's posting about teaching children some basics about saving money.

Carnival of Education entries are due

EdWonk is hosting the Carnival of Education this week. Entries are due today, and the Carnival will be out tomorrow. Go to here for more information. This is a good way to get some exposure for your blog.

Links to interesting postings - 20 Dec 05

Chris O'Donnell has a post titled School is the AntiFun. He links to a blog dedicated to fun by Bernie DeKoven. Bernie explains how school destroys children's playful nature. Bernie links to an essay by Brooke Lowder. Both Bernie and Brooke talk about the importance of play. One of the things we greatly enjoy about homeschooling is how much our daughters play together.

At The Common Room, Headmistress mentions Sudoku which I've recently been enjoying. She links to an article on Sudoku which includes some history. If you like logic puzzles and haven't played Sudoku yet, check out this web site for the rules and suggestions on how to play.

Kimberly Swygert at Number 2 Pencil starts a discussion on public schooling vs. unschooling. I've left a comment that one of the problems we have is not that school is tough and regimented, but that it is mindlessly tough and mindlessly regimented.

HomeSchoolBuzz has a post which points to an article about a child actor who is homeschooled. My youngest daughter recently informed me that she would like to be in a movie. We may have to make a family movie this next year. I'll see if she asks about it again.

On Townhall Phyllis Schlafly has a column about how the courts have ruled many times recently that parents have little authority in deciding what schools can do with children. I had heard about the recent 9th Circuit ruling in California. She lists a number of other similar rullings. With rulings like these I expect more and more parents will realize the benefits of homeschooling.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Selections from - 19 Dec 2005 mentioned several interesting articles today.

Michael Shaughnessy has a list of influential educators. All of them were people who seem to be trying to correct the existing system. There weren't any homeschoolers.

Michael Shaughnessy also had an interview with Edward R. Amend about the emotional needs of gifted children. It is an interesting interview. If you have gifted children with issues, it is worth checking this out. Dr. Amend had this line: "The research has been fairly clear in suggesting that the degree to which a gifted child's educational needs are being met is an important factor in their overall adjustment."

Scott Jaschik has an article about the effects of 9/11 on education. Since the terrorist attacks the government has been slow to let in students from other countries. Many people seem to be concerned that the United States might be losing the dominance in education it has held for so long. There are some signs that the government might be allowing more foreign students to come study here.

Dallas News has an article on how Mr. Murdock, the state's official demographer, has been trying to improve education in Texas. One of the lines in the article worried me a bit: "For years, Mr. Murdock has been telling us that if Texas wants to be a competitive force, it needs to get more kids to graduate from high school and college." It almost sounds like how the Wizard fixed the Tin Woodman by giving him a diploma. The real focus should be improving education, not in gradulating more people from highschool. They are related, but if you focus on higher graduation levels then you can miss what is really important.

Links to interesting postings - 19 Dec 05

The Headmistress at The Common Room has a post about the basics of getting rich. This wisdom from 1870 is still valid today.

Joanne Jacobs has a post about vouchers and she links to an interview of Milton Friedman, by Nick Gillespie the chief-in-editor of Reason. It has been fifty years since Milton Friedman proposed the idea of vouchers. He explores the difference between charity vouchers, which may help poor families, and universal vouchers, which would prompt education reform. In 1995 he and his wife created Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation. At that time Milton Friedman wrote "Change is now occurring so fast that it is hard to keep up with it." But as of today only about 20,000 students have vouchers. He is still optimistic that vouchers will happen, but I am afraid they won't happen anytime soon.

I enjoyed two of HomeSchoolBuzz recent postings. One links to an article on the Duggars, and homeschool family with 16 children. The second links to an article by Barbara Blake-Hannah, of Jamiaica, on unschooling and Mary Griffith's book "The Un-schooling Handbook: How To Use The Whole World As Your Child's Classroom.

Armstrong Williams in a column on TownHall wrote about a recent visit to a public high school. At the school he spoke about his childhood, how growing up his father would wake him up at 4:30 AM to work for a couple of hours on the farm before Armstrong headed off to school. Armstrong was trying to encourage the students to work hard so they could succeed. Many of the students were black and he was told time and again that they didn't have a chance, because whites were holding them down. He said it was sad that so many had given up. I'm sure that most blacks who homeschool their children will teach their children that with hard work they can succeed.

Any need for another homeschool political organization?

Daryl Cobranchi is conducting a survey to find out if there is enough financial interest to support another political organization. As homeschoolers we do need to be informed so we can get involved if the government tries to regulate homeschooling. The Home School Legal Defense Association speaks very loudly for many homeschoolers, but not all homeschoolers. If you would be interested in financially supporting a political organization designed to protect the interests of homeschoolers, and only focusing on homeschooling, click over to here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Links to interesting postings - 17 Dec 05

The District Administration Daily has a post about a New York Times article. The article talks about trying to measure the return on America's investment in education. Overall I wasn't that impressed with the article, but one statement jumped out at me. In this academic year close to one trillion (1,000,000,000,000) dollars will be spent on education. It is a mind numbing amount of money.

At EducationWonk today there is a post on school food in Los Angeles and a link to an article about some of the problems with public school food. A lot the food is basically typical fast food, and not all of it is well prepared. As part of our homeschool our daughters make about a fifth of the meals. It is rarely fast food and they are learning a number of useful skills.

HomeSchoolBuzz has a post and links to an good article about homeschool and the dedication it takes to homeschool. This was a great line: "No matter how good a teacher is in any school, they don't love my child like I do." Seven mothers talk about some of the lessons they have learned in homeschooling. This is part of a series on homeschooling.

Townhall's section on education links to a Heritage Foundation article which frames a vote coming up in Congress as being between students and special interest groups. Congress has promised to help students affected by Katrina, but nothing has happened yet. The teacher unions are fighting any effort to allow vouchers or school choice.

Mike Antonucci of Education Intelligence Agency Online has a post on his blog Intercepts that links to an article about the contrast of teachers asking parents to train their children to respect teachers, but the teachers don't have respect for each other.

Mike Antonucci has another interesting post about what public education is in a financial mess. Money for education is largely tied to the number of students in a school. It appears one of the main causes is that the growth rate of teachers is higher than the growth rate of students. So the pie goes up by the number of students, but there are more teachers which need to be paid. A good point from Mike's post: "In 2004-05, America enrolled 297,101 more students than in 2003-04. But it employed 49,732 more teachers. That's 1 teacher for every additional 6 students."

Friday, December 16, 2005

Links to interesting postings - 16 Dec 05

This one isn't related to homeschooling or education, but I found it fun. On Slashdot someone mentioned that scientists have figured out the emotions of the girl posing for the Mona Lisa. A study at a University of Amsterdam compared her face to a library of neutral faces images of young women. The software determined that Mona Lisa was 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful and 2% angry. (No rounding errors?)

Slashdot also had a post on what many blogs have had problems recently, the rapid growth have caught some hosting companies unprepared. Bloglines and TypePad were specifically mentioned. Both are working hard to handle the growth. Some interesting numbers on TypePad, they are pushing about three terabytes a day of network traffice, and it is growing by 10-20% a month. Last month they got seven million hits. Coyote Blog mentions TypePad was recently down for 20 hours.

EduWonk has a post which links to an interivew of Joe Williams who wrote Cheating Our Kids : How Politics and Greed Ruin Education. The book came out in October of this year and is already being reprinted. It appears the book documents many of the problems with public education. The closing line of the interview is "I'm not suggesting that parents be out there running schools, but if they were a little more demanding, we wouldn't be in this mess." There are a lot of parents who are demanding more, we have laws demanding more. It doesn't seem to be helping.

EduWonk has this great quote about some of the problems with getting charter schools started: "Deborah Driver, one of the organizers, said the obstacles to opening a charter school in the county are immense because the school system wields power of approval over a would-be competitor. 'It's like you make an application to McDonald's to see if you can open up a Burger King,' Driver said." This was taken from a Washington Post article.

On Enter Stage Right Nancy Salvato talks about some issues on school choice. She clears up some of the myths about vouchers. She argues that vouchers would improve education. I still don't think they will happen, but I would love to be wrong on this issue.

Selections from Google alerts

The following are selectsion from some Google alerts.

A group of homeschoolers got together and gave their children an opportunity to make Christmas gifts. We've found it worth while to have our children make some of the Christmas gifts they give to family and friends. It provides a deeper mean for them.

PR Web has a Press Release on So - Why Do You Homeschool? by Mimi Davis. Amazon didn't have a picture of the book, but I was able to find a picture of the cover here. Has anyone read the book?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Links to interesting postings - 15 Dec 05

District Administration Daily in their daily list mentions an article in the Denver Post about how a third of all Colorado public school students entering Colorado colleges needed to take remedial classes. This is better than California, which has numbers closer to half of the students.

Education News has links to an interview of Bob Clecker by Michael Shaughnessy. Michael has done dozens, maybe hundreds, of education related interviews. I've enjoyed them. Bob C. Clecker is the author of Lets End Our Literacy Crisis: The Desperately Needed Idea Whose Time Has Come which was published earlier this year. The interview focused on the issue of illiteracy in America.

The importance of work

Joanne Jacobs has a post about the achievement gap in education. This relates to something which has been on my mind the last week. Joanne links to an article by Dan Seligman in Forbes which says:

"... the prime objective of educational policy is to eliminate the "achievement gap"--the gap between what's learned in school by disadvantaged kids and what's learned by middle- and upper-class kids."

Dan says this can not be done:

"It is not possible to close the achievement gap. The mission statement is a summons to a fool's errand. The reason that the gap will never be eliminated is that intelligence rises with socioeconomic status."

Dan says that the gap is due to the socioeconomic status of poor families which determines their cognitive ability, and thus the achievement gap. And he closes with:

"Absolutely nothing has happened to suggest that the federal government will succeed in this effort ..."

Joanne responds with:

"I suspect intelligence accounts for a small percentage of the difference in achievement. After all, Asian-Americans of all socioeconomic groups have closed the gap and become high achievers. It's not IQ. It's culture."

Several of the comments on Joanne's blog make the point that in general, Asian students work much harder than American students.

A couple years after my wife and I got married we spent did some research into investing, trying to improve our financial education. One point has stuck with me over the years. When trying to build a nest egg there are two very important factors. The first is related to the size of how much is invested. Someone who puts aside 10% of their income will, all other things being equal, have a better end result than someone who only saves 5%. But the second important factor is the growth rate of the investments. If the person saving the 10% puts all of his money in the bank and gets a low rate of return, after 40 years he won't have that much more money. In contrast if the person who saves 5% is wise and looks for investments with growth potential, like stocks, then over time he will get several times the return on his money, and by 40 years later will have a much bigger nest eggs, several times bigger.

Education and parenting are similar to this. We all start with a certain basic investment, our gifts and talents. Unfortunately we can't change this. But what happens with them over time is a direct result of the effort and work we put in to develop our initial abilities. If we can help our children learn the principal of work, and help them to get on a higher growth rate, then as adults they'll be able to achieve much more than if they merely coasted through school. Many Asian families understand this principal and have their children work hard.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Report of Joanne Jacobs' kickoff meeting for her new book

I was able to attend Joanne Jacobs' kickoff meeting for her new book Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea, and the School that Beat the Odds. It was held tonight at 1460 The Alameda in San Jose, at the charter school she wrote about, Downtown College Prep, often called DCP. The meeting started a little after 7:00 PM. The crowd continued to grow and grow. By 8:00 PM there were around 200 people.

Jennifer Andaluz, one of the two founders of DCP, started off the meeting by introducing herself, and then introducing Joanne. Jennifer told of one of the young girls that Joanne had tutored. When the young girl had started at DCP she hadn't been able to do multiplication; now she was going off to medical school to be a nurse. Jennifer thanked Joanne for her presence at DCP. Jennifer then turned the time over to Joanne.

Joanne first put in a plug asking the audience to help DCP improve their library. When DCP first got started that it didn't have much of a library, and Joanne used to donate books. She asked the audience to buy books from Books Inc., which had a table there, and donate the books to library. This was classy. I overheard at the end of the meeting something about how all the books had been bought!

Joanne mentioned one of the patterns she had noticed at DCP. The students were given time to read, and in the early fall the 9th graders would act like they didn't know what to do. They would sit in weird contortions, but by spring they would be much more comfortable with sitting and reading.

She then sat and read chapter twelve from her book. The title of chapter twelve is “the shortest basketball team in america.” Two of the teachers beg every girl in the school with a C average to join the basketball team. They felt DCP needed to field a team, real schools had teams. It was a very moving story of the girls struggling with game after game of losing with scores like 36 to 6. When they played another small charter school they lost by only 23 to 21. The girls were excited, they recognized they were improving. DCP came back the next week and beat the other team by 27 to 23. In the second semester with grades improving more students could be on teams, and DCP was able to field a girls softball team and a boys baseball team. Later one of the students was out in middle field quoting Macbeth: “Fair is foul and foul is fair.” The teachers realized that something magical was happening, “Our kids are quoting Shakespeare. That means we won.” In the book Joanne Jacobs makes the point that:

“DCP students enter the school as academic losers. They don't know how to play the game. By the standards of middle-class high schools, DCP students aren't really in the game. But if they keep working, they get better. If they stick with it, they'll win a college education.”

The students were learning this lesson. It was a moving chapter.

After finishing chapter 12 Joanne went on to say that it was important to be honest with students. The students at DCP needed to learn that they are lousy, but that they could get better. It would have been wrong to lie to them and say they were doing well. And it would have been just as bad to tell them they are lousy, and wouldn't get better. DCP told them, you are not doing OK now, but you can get better. Most of the students learned that lesson.

About here Jennifer Andaluz asked all the DCP teachers in the audience to raise their hands. The crowd gave them a round of applause.

Joanne thanked the teachers, and said she had great respect for the job they did, that it was a hard job. (There were about fifteen teachers in the audience.) She said that as a tutor she often found it hard to help one student learn, and recognized that teaching a class of twenty or more students was a challenging job.

She said that she liked the cheerful spirit at DCP.

Next she opened up the meeting to some Q and A.

1) The first question was about how she had learned about DCP. Before working on her book Joanne had been working at the San Jose Mercury as editorial writer and columnist specializing in education. She first met Jennifer when she came to talk to the editorial board about how she and Greg Lippman were mobilizing support for the charter school. Initially Joanne's plan had been to focus on another charter school up in East Palo Alto. It was in the early stages of seeking a charter. As they started hiring teachers she found she wasn't going to get the access she wanted. The new teachers said they would be stressed by her presence in their classes. She then tried another charter school, but got a similar message. She had been tutoring at DCP, with the thought of trying to get exposure to a number of different charter schools. In desperation she asked Greg Lippman and Jennifer Andaluz if she could do her book on their school. They said fine. She was surprised that they so quickly agreed. They said DCP was not a consensus school. They were in charge, so it didn't matter what the new teachers felt. And more importantly DCP was about openness, they wanted an atmosphere of openness. So Joanne got to become an integrated part of the school; she attended everything, and got to know the students.

Joanne was very entertaining. For example she mentioned that she found she was a good tutor in math. She relearned algebra as she helped the students with their problems. But that with English and History she tended to just blurt out the answer. She was horrible with biology, which surprised her since she had gotten an A in high school biology. She wondered if they had rewritten biology since then.

2) The next question as something about how hard had it been to get a publisher. She admitted it had been a great struggle. For her it had been hard to get an agent. Many agents had sent very polite rejection message. “We like your book idea. It is a great idea. Good luck.” From the start she hadn't planned to write this book to make money, but she hadn't realized just how poor writing this book would make her. She originally thought she would take about a year to write it. It ended up taking five years. She left a good paying job to write the book. But it didn't sound like there were any real regrets.

3) The third question was about what had she hopped to achieve with this book. She explained that about five years ago she made a list of things she wanted to do. One of them was write a book. She was interested in charter schools, charter schools were taking off and it seemed like good timing. She said it is good to understand what goes on in education, that still many children get left behind.

4) One of the members of the audience asked what was unique about charter schools. Joanne explained that charter schools were often very different from each other. But most charter schools have more buy in from the students and parents, and that the students are there by choice. Many charter schools fail because of not working hard enough to get the needed money. Charter schools often do very well because they are able to focus, they are small, and they have a mission. Many schools in America try to do everything for everybody. She did admit that there are bad charter schools, some of which are badly run, some have bad education ideas, or other issues. One of the benefits of charter schools is that they could adapt quickly. Greg & Jennifer at one point commented that they had made a ton of mistakes in the beginning, but they changed. Charter schools don't have a captive audience, if they don't attract the students, they don't get the money, so they are highly motivated.

5) Someone asked about her out look on society and young people after working with DCP, and what she felt the key was to helping students. She said she was surprised to find that she liked hyper active boys. On the whole the students at DCP were very likeable, and she had gotten to see them in different modes. DCP is a tough love school. For many students, especially students who had had some troubles, they needed the structure that DCP provided. She said the students got it. She said there is a lot of humor in the book, because there is a lot of humor at the school.

6) I asked what she felt were the bright areas in American education. She said she felt the NCLB which focused on the children who had been ignored was a good first step, but there is still a lot to do. She feels there has been some progress in the elementary schools, but it is harder to improve the middle and high schools. She feels that there are some great advantages to smaller schools. There are many people focused on the right issues. The next generation needs to be educated. She very much feels we need to be honest with the students. She is in favor of high school exit exams. The students need to know what they know or don't know.

7) Someone said it would be good after we read Joanne's book to give it to politicians. Joanne said no it would be better to buy two books, keep one, and give the second to a politician.

8) Someone asked if there would be a movie. Joanne admitted that she was surprised for there was some small chance. After a review in the Wall Street Journal she had been contacted by three different outfits expressing an interest in making a movie based on her book.

She spent most of the second hour signing books. She didn't get out of there until about 9:00 PM.

It was a very pleasant evening. Joanne Jacobs is a very personable lady. She was entertaining. If you have a chance to attend one of her book events, consider going, I think you would enjoy it.

Selections from Carnival of Education #45

As usually EdWonks does a wonderful job of pulling together a number of posts on education from a variety of blogs for this week's Carnival of Education. Like he says it is nice to see the diversity of subjects.

Some how I missed a post on HeartKeeperCommonRoom about how you need to know the question of what does education look like before you can figure out the answer of should you homeschool. It had this great line: "Many people make those choices based on what they think education should look like without first asking the real questions- 'what is the goal of education? 'What does true education look like?'" As they say, read the whole thing.

Tim Fredrick points out that for children to love to read it helps to give them books they want to read, and then don't quiz them on what they read. I remember how a big part of the Robinson Curriculum was having the children read, read anything they wanted, as long as they were reading. I think Dr. Robinson had his own children reading over six hours every day.

Chris Lehmann asks how do the ideas and thoughts in The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell apply to Education. Then in his next post he provides some answers. I did enjoy Malcolm' s book. Maybe when I get some time I'll try to toss around some ideas about how The Tipping Point works for homeschooling.

Jim Horn was in the Carnival for a post about how voters in Colorado decided to pay extra taxes so they could withdraw from NCLB. In poking around on Jim's blog I noticed a post about how Texas Governor Rick Perry is trying to find people who can teach, and avoid the whole mess of people interested in teaching being forced through education classes.

One teacher was upset that half the students in her class were getting an F. She said most of them just don't care. It would be interesting to do a study to see how many children in public schools just don't care, versus those who are being homeschooled.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

An educational map of the world

This came across on one of the mailing lists I'm on:

It is a fascinating picture of the world, showing relative sizes of countries according to the number of people in each country. Make sure to look for Canada, and Greenland.

Unschool lesson in economics (or trip to the mall)

One of the most important things we can teach children is how to use money wisely. For a lesson in economics, my kids and I hit the mall. The kids were excited to see all the stuff for sale. While in each shop, I would discretely point out the price. The kids were surprised at how much more expensive items costs at the mall. We talked about "over head" costs and how that is passed on to the consumer.

We also took a minute to watch the other shoppers. We talked about whom the shoppers were (mostly teens and early twenties) and what the shops sold (goods geared to that crowd). We also discussed impulse buying and credit card debt. I went into detail about how much an item bought on credit really costs.

We are going to do a follow up lesson after Christmas, so the kids can see how the prices change after the holidays. I especially like the end of the year sales. (That is about the only time I shop in a mall). A couple years ago, on New Year's Day, I bought (for only $9) a very nice artificial Christmas tree that would have cost me $90 if I had bought it two weeks earlier. Because of allergies, we no longer use a "real" Christmas tree. Before buying the Christmas tree on sale, we borrowed a friend's artificial tree which looked a bit on the battered side. Now, every year when I put up that discount Christmas time, I feel so happy. I think about how nice it looks in comparison to the tree we had used before. I'm teaching my children that part of the joy of obtaining something you want is waiting and saving to get it.

We also use the "Money doesn't grow on Trees" method of money management. The girls each have savings accounts and we make regular fieldtrips to the bank to make deposits. The girls fill out their own deposit slips (except the 5 year old) and wait in line to see the teller (including the 5 year old). My 11 year old is paying for much of her clothes. My 9 year old saved up money to go on a trip to Virginia to see her cousins. When the kids ask to eat out, I ask them if they are buying. Most of the time, they decided it is better to eat in. ;)

Hats off to a classy response

Yesterday EdWonk had a post linking to an article about Joel Turtel and a column by Joel Turtel. EdWonk had a derisive comment based on something in the article that he thought Joel had said. It ended up that Joel had not said the particular line. (The article was a bit confusing.) When EdWonk recognized his mistake he apologized for it. My respect for EdWonk has dramatically increased. (I've always been impressed by what a great job he does with the Carnival of Education postings.)

Links to interesting postings - 13 Dec 05

Daryl Cobranchi found, as Daryl put it, a truly wonderful essay by an assistant professor who talks about why he and his wife homeschool. It is a good read, well worth checking out. I am reminded of some studies that found that as a group public school teachers are more likely to put their children in private schools. And in some of the worse school districts in the nation, almost half of the public school teachers would pull their children from the public schools. The observation in the study was that as informed experts they recognized how bad things were.

From a Google alert I learned of an article about a young ski racer who is homeschooled so he can get in enough practice. Another alert lead me to a column by Debra Dragon, a homeshcool columnist, who talks about how many studies show homeschoolers are doing well academically.

One more Google alert linked to an article about many problems in Montgomery County public schools. This was a scary line: "But when a kindergartener is stabbed on a bus by a sixth grader and the school system doesn't make this information public, it certainly looks as though administrators are interested in protecting only themselves." The article mentions many child safety issues the Montgomery County public schools have, and how the administration seems more interested in covering up, rather then fixing.

Check out all the different homeschooling blogs

Spunky initiated a homeschool blog contest. She took submissions for two weeks. Now people can vote by going here.

It is an incredible list. There are over 300 different options for voting. With probably at least 200 distinct blogs. It is going to take weeks for me to check out all the new blogs.

I am sure this is a ton of work. You might tell Spunky thanks for helping to organize it. On the award page, where you can vote, several others are mentioned as being helpful for putting this together. Consider thanking them also.

We've been lucky enough to be considered for two categories, "Best Homeschool Family Blog" and "Informational Homeschool Blog."

It appears this contest may be an annual event. Spunky kicked this off with a title of "Homeschooling Blogger Awards 2005." If the contest happens again next year it will be interesting to see just how many hundreds of blogs we have then.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Links to interesting postings - 12 Dec 05

EdWonks has a couple interesting posts. In one he links to a column by Joel Turtel who examines the importance of reading and the consequences of illiteracy. EdWonks is not impressed with Joel’s analysis of the problems with public education. Joel has written "Public School, Public Menace" which explores areas in which public schools are harming our children.

EdWonks also has a link to an article about how an Illinois school board may ban whole milk, but OK nutritious potato chips and candy.

Townhall's education site linked to a column on the double standards of the NEA. There has been a recent commercial blitz asking Wal-mart to reach a higher standard. S. Alex Bohler points out how in general the NEA fights any calls to push education to a higher level.

Instapundit links to a posting by his wife on why so many of this generation of children are fat. She has one solution, "Potato Guns!"

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Susan Wise Bauer - her books & her "typical" days of homeschooling

In looking around at various blogs I've seen many people write about a typical day of homeschooling. My wife wrote about one such unschooling day we had recently. These kinds of postings help each us recognize that sometimes we have rough days, and that is OK. It is also interesting to see how other people implement various approaches to homeschooling.

Often when I read about a day of homeschooling I am reminded of Susan Wise Bauer's postings about some of her days of homeschooling. If you haven't read these, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2004, stop now and go read them. They are wonderful. For awhile my daughters would beg me to read the postings to them once or twice a week.

My wife and I came across The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and her mother Jessie Wise just before we started to homeschool seven years ago. The book was very helpful in laying down a framework for providing an education deep in the classics. This gave us a sense of one way to do homeschooling. It is a bit funny, the first edition pushes a lot of structure, pretty much a school at home approach. But when you read Susan's homeschooling days you realize that her days were not always structured. (My daughters sometimes remind us that chocolate is an important part of homeschooling.) We heard Susan speak at a homeschooling conference in Sacramento a couple years ago. She made it a point to say that the publisher demanded that the book have a very structured approach. Susan said that the second edition encouraged a more flexible approach.

A big part of our approach to homeschooling is to use the classical approach from "The Well Trained Mind." One of the main themes in the book is to cover the history of the world three times. The first time through in grades 1 to 4 the child gets a basic overview of what has happened over the last couple thousand years. Then the child goes through again during grades 5 to 8, and one last time in grades 9 to 12. Each time the child gets a deeper understanding of what is happening, and why it is happening. My wife and I got each of the four volumes of "The Story of the World" by Susan Wise Bauer which do a pass through the history of the world. (one, two, three, four) The books are very informative and provide a good overview.

We also got the CDs for each of the four books. Our daughters like listen to the CDs on the way to appointments, when we travel, and sometimes when they fall asleep at night. On one trip we listened to the whole second volume. They enjoy the CDs and like to listen to them, over and over again. They have listened for hundreds of hours. Our best guess is about five hundred hours worth. For their age they have a great understanding of history.

Selections from some Google alerts

Google is an amazing company. Their search engine is very useful. They keep looking for more and more features to bring to the web. I heavily use their alert service. Google will constantly search the web, various online news sources, or the usenet postings, depending on your interest. When Google finds a match, it will send you an email. If you aren’t using Google Alert, check it out.

Today Google sent me a number links to homeschool and education related articles.

Public schools have their hands a bit tied in dealing with bullies. Because public school is a right, it is very hard to kick out badly behaved children. If a victim tells on a bully, and the school does very little, then the bully feels empowered to hurt the victim again. The lesson the victim learns is not to tell. Here's an article about a 12 year old boy in Massachusetts who was badly beat up, and his sister was threatened with rape. Two months later the school still has done very little, so the parents pull the boy from school and are going to homeschool him. If a 25 year old man beat up another 25 year old man, we'd throw the aggressive in jail. But for some reason our society seems to think it is OK to let 15 year old young men beat up other 15 year old young men.

We've mentioned a couple other recent incidents, here, and here, on bullies in school. I have added another Google alert search for "bully school" and will monitor the results.

This article is an interesting contrast. An 18 year old boy assaults a police officer and gets put in jail on a bond of $30,000. So maybe the lesson is children can beat up children, but don't mess with the police.

It is stories like this which make some homeschoolers feel a bit paranoid. A homeschool family in Las Vegas had a police man and a social worker knock at their door at 9:30 PM. The social worker demanded that he be let in to the house. The social worker wanted the children waken up so he could interview them. HSLDA was able to get the social worker to leave the family alone.

I am very interested in what Google Alert search patterns others are using. Daryl Cobranchi recently suggested [ student arrest ] as a good search pattern. Do you have any favorite patterns?

My profile has been updated

My wife has encouraged me a couple of times to add some details to my profile, so I finally got around to updating it.

Links to interesting postings - 10 Dec 05

Dr. Helen Smith again addresses some issues of boys and education. Most public schools want young boys to sit quietly. Dr. Helen references an article in the Washington Post by Michael Gurian, author of The Minds of Boys : Saving Our Sons From Falling Behind in School and Life. In the article Michael Gurian says: "It doesn't matter too much who boys and men are -- what matters is who we think they should be." In an update she has another quotation from Neurobiologist Larry Cahill of the University of California-Irvine who said “A lot of scientists still don’t want to talk about sex differences in the brain. It scares people…(But) what scares me is seeing my own findings and choosing not to believe them." If you have young boys, it would be worth checking out her post. In general public schools want boys to site still and be quiet. Public schools also push academics on young boys before they are ready to learn.

HomeSchoolPost has a link to a nice article about why some mothers choose to homeschool. One of the women is quoted as saying: “My mom has taught my kids history for years. My dad taught them computer skills. They have had opportunities to take flying lessons. They have had lots of opportunities that they wouldn’t have had in public schools, nor would they have had the time for some of these things had they been in public school.”

Education Watch just put up a post about a research study in the UK. "... researchers from the University of Bristol have found that children whose teacher had received a financial performance reward, achieved half a grade higher in each subject at GCSE." So when there is a bonus for better education, many teachers were able to improve how well they taught.

Why vouchers are not going to happen soon

Instapundit has a link to a well written post by Shaver Jeffries. Shaver deplores the current state of public education and its effect on black students. He argues for vouchers as a way to solve the problem. This post is partly response to Shaver’s post:


In trying to address the problems with public education today school choice is often proposed as a solution. All most any kind of universal voucher system would greatly improve public education. Right now parents have very little influence on what happens in the classroom. With vouchers parents could move children to a school where the needs of their children were better addressed. The parents wouldn’t have to wait until some proposed change was implemented, a couple years later. Competition would prompt the schools to work harder to attract children.

However, I don't believe a good voucher system will happen, at least on a large scale, any time in the next ten years. There are too many roadblocks. For a couple decades the idea of vouchers has been pushed and attempts have been made to implement them. Why haven't they been more widely adopted?

In many discussions of public policy there are often special interest groups with a vested interest. Often farmers or businesses will approach Congress to ask for laws limiting or regulating foreign competition. There will be claims of unfair competition, or shoddy workmanship, or an appeal to protecting jobs; however, the main reasons are to protect their business and to raise their profits. When these laws are passed, the average consumer will end up paying a few cents more for the product, while the farmer or business will be able to raise their prices (or keep their prices higher than the world market's level) and thus make more money. The special interest group has a vested interest in pushing for restrictions to slow down or keep out goods and services from outside the US to be sold inside the US. It makes sense for them to organize and lobby for restrictive laws. For the rest of us it is a small enough inconvenience that we don't oppose such laws, just to save a few pennies.

This same pattern is one of the reasons vouchers are so hard to implement. There are several vested special interest groups who feel threaten by vouchers, notably teacher unions and related public school officials. The worry is if vouchers are available many of them might lose their job. So they are organized and work hard to make sure vouchers don't happen. They raise every concern they can think of to slow down, water down, or stop vouchers. Make no mistake, teacher unions are well organized and heavily committed to opposing vouchers.

What are parents to do then? One option is to try and get more involved. They can inform and teach their friends as to the advantages. Maybe over time enough parents will become a strong enough lobby that unrestricted vouchers will become available to all. Looking at the past of the voucher movement, I really can't see any major changes in the next five to ten years. Realistically parents would be leaving their children in public schools with the hope that their grandchildren might some day be able to take advantage of vouchers.

Another option is to find, or create, a good private school. Many private schools do a great job of teaching children. One of the big drawbacks to this is the parents end up paying twice for education. Once via taxes, and then again for the private school tuition. For families with limited means this is not an easy option.

The option we have chosen is to homeschool. It is relatively inexpensive. Our children are getting a great education. And it is happening today. We don't have to wait until vouchers are finally available in twenty years for our grandchildren to have a quality education.

If you are concerned about the education your children are getting, consider looking into homeschooling. A good place to get started would be to meet some homeschoolers, and their children. Attend a homeschool group. With somewhere between 2% and 3% of the children in American being homeschooled most of us know of someone who homeschools.


Update I:

For those interested in learning more about choice in education this is a good place to start. The web site is by the Heritage Foundation and is devoted to news and reasons for vouchers and school choice.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Selections from does a good job of selecting both education related news articles from a variety of sources, and listing recent commentaries and reports about education. When I make the time I generally find interesting items. Today was no exception.

One link was to a column titled "School Funding: Any Argument Will Do" by David W. Kirkpatrick, a Senior Education Fellow at the U.S. Freedom Foundation. In the past David Kirkpatrick has written on various topics related to education. This column focused on the illogical reasoning school districts use to fight against funding for charter schools. I think charter schools and vouchers are an improvement over general public schools, but I am afraid that any voucher system will be so watered down by teacher unions, politicians, and other people that it won't be very effective.

Another link was to an article about an incident where a young man in high school was suspended for speaking Spanish at high school. Here are the first two paragraphs:

Most of the time, 16-year-old Zach Rubio converses in clear, unaccented American teen-speak, a form of English in which the three most common words are "like," "whatever" and "totally." But Zach is also fluent in his dad's native language, Spanish -- and that's what got him suspended from school.

"It was, like, totally not in the classroom," the high school junior said, recalling the infraction. "We were in the, like, hall or whatever, on restroom break. This kid I know, he's like, 'Me prestas un dolar?' ['Will you lend me a dollar?'] Well, he asked in Spanish; it just seemed natural to answer that way. So I'm like, 'No problema.' "

You got that? Zach was suspended because he responded in Spanish "No problema." to a question given in Spanish. In general Americans recognize the value of knowing more than one language, but for some reason this high school wasn't willing to tolerate anything but English during the restroom breaks. Zach's father asked for a copy of the written policy on only speaking English in high school. The school admitted there wasn't such a written policy and readmitted Zach. It all seems a bit weird that the school would make a bit deal about it.

I have heard of some parents who choose to homeschool who have listed as one of their reasons is so they can pass on their culture. Then they could speak any language they want at home.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Selects from the first Carnival of Unschooling

At Andrea has put together the first Carnival of Unschooling. It looks like it will be a monthly event!

One link was to a long summary of various activities. The final event mentioned was a group going to a chocolate factory. The pictures were enticing. Children can learn a lot while being interested in something like making chocolate.

Another link lead to Allison Tannery's blog. In looking around I found a nice post about the fun of having extended family close by.

The last link was to a discussion of how learning can happen at unexpected times.

There was a good selection, especially as this was the first carnival of unschooling. It was interesting checking out some new blogs. Hopefully it will grow to have many more blogs.

Family Support Makes a Difference

My mother-in-law left a nice comment on my Homer's Odyssey post. This kind of support makes a big difference. My children's grandparents are wonderful. They support our homeschool efforts. They go along on field trips. They invite the kids over for over nighters (which make a big difference to mom and dad). Grandpa has taught chess at our homeschool co-op for the last three years. He practiced soccer with the girls. Grandma does little sewing projects with the girls, like making outfits for their dolls. They attend the girls' performances (talent shows, plays, piano recitals). They bought educational materials we requested (phonics videos, Robinson CD's, books, play equipment for the backyard). They take the kids hiking. My middle daughter saved money to go visit her cousins in Virginia. My in-laws made a special trip (paying their travel expenses) so that she could go with them.

Even more important than what they do, is what they don't do. They don't criticize the kids or our parenting style. They don't quiz the kids to see if they are keeping up with the neighbors. They don't compare the grand kids to each other. Our kids are late readers. My in-laws never ever hinted that it was a problem.

I've seen more than one friend get discouraged and give up homeschooling due to pressure from family members. I am extraordinarily grateful for all the support we get from our family and friends.

Poor Science education is back in the news

The Thomas B. Fordham Foundation issued a press release yesterday announcing a 75 page report on the state of math and science education in the US. To the surprise of no one who has been following the topic for the last couple years, the public schools in most states are doing a poor job. This has been picked up by a number of people and organizations. For example the Education Wonks and the New York Times have mentioned the report. Joanne Jacobs (coincidentally?) had a post yesterday about how the United States is losing its technological edge.

This was a fun line in the report:

"Some states—notably A-rated California, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, New Mexico, South Carolina, and Virginia—produced exceptional academic standards documents that, if followed in the classroom, would result in excellent science programs." (The emphasis is mine.)

So some states have high standards, but they don't always result in excellent programs. But at least we have the standards! It seems to me that the focus should be on are the children being taught. If they aren't mastering the basics of math and science then everything else is just noise.

There is a push for high standards with the claim that by having high standards you have a chance of public schools delivering a quality education. It seems to me that standards are only loosely connected to the quality of the education. You could have average standards, and with good teachers have a decent education in science and math.

The report hammers on those who push "discovery learning" a method of trying to get children to discover for themselves what it took years for Newton, Einstein and others to figure out. It would be wonderful if we had a generation of children who could rediscover all the breakthroughs that have been made in science over the last several centuries, but this is an unrealistic expectation. Children need to be taught the laws of motion, not asked to figure them out on their own.

Cheri Prerson Yecke made an interesting point in her book The War Against Excellence: The Rising Tide Of Mediocrity In America's Middle Schools that public schools today put a great deal of emphasis on helping those with mental challenges to do their best, while often ignoring the gifted children, or giving them token support. I think the funding for the bottom 3% was 15 times more than the funding for the top 3%. Cheri Yecke documents how many teachers treat gifted children with contempt. If we are going to produce a generation of competent adults who have a good foundation in math and science, it would help if the teachers would have a better attitude towards those who could be our next generation of scientists.

In some ways this didn't really feel like news, I remember reading about how America responded to the launching of Sputnik by the USSR in 1957 by similar calls to action. Many Americans attacked public education as doing a poor job in preparing students in math and science. During the 1970s in response to Japan's powerhouse economy there was also similar condemnations of the poor job public schools were doing. Public schools have long been doing a poor job; this is not new.

The sad thing is this is not a simple problem. People have been working on it for decades and it hasn't improved. Having a solid background in math and science would help our children to have a better life. Fortunately we as parents can take steps to make sure our children have a solid background. If enough of us homeschool, it will greatly help our nation.

Links to interesting postings - 8 Dec 05

Thomas Sowell has another list of books today. The theme this time is on books that changed or influenced him. If you haven't read his biography, A Personal Odyssey, I encourage you to at least skim it some time. I highly recommend it. It is amazing to me that he changed so much over the years, from being poor, to being a Marxist, to being a highly respected conservative. He has shown great integrity.

The EdWonk has a post reflecting the sad state of education in regards to history. He is a school teacher and was surprised to find that not only did his 12 and 13 old students not know who attacked whom on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor, he found that they had little knowledge of what had happened on Stepember 11, 2001.

The United States of America was founded as a Christian nation. Many of the founding fathers felt education was important so that people could read the Bible. At the time our nation was formed several of the states directly supported various religions. (It was the federal government that was to be kept out of religion.) For over a hundred and fifty years religion to some level was involved in education. Joanne Jacobs has a post to how the ACLU is so aggressive against religion that schools hesitate to have a Christmas tree with ornaments and a star. She links to an article on how school officials struggle with what kind of decorations to have and what kind of music can be played. I’m glad we homeschool and our children can hear Christmas music.

Joanne Jacobs also has some interesting news about Glen Reynolds who does Instapundit. Glen complained on Michael Silence's blog about how Glen's daughter had to carrying a 19 pound pack of books back and forth to school. It would be fun if Glen and Helen decide to homeschool their daughter. Having read Instapundit for over a year my guess is he won't change soon, but if he has more trouble with the public school he would do something like homeschool or private school.

For anyone who happens to be in Silicon Valley at the time, I do plan to attend Joanne Jacobs' book party next week, 7:00 PM on December 14. This is to kick off a push for her book, Our School: The Inspiring Story of Two Teachers, One Big Idea and the School That Beat the Odds. Click here for more details on the book party.

This is the second day in a row that I've pulled a sad item from Daryl Cobranchi. He links to an article about a young girl who was sexually assault on a school bus, and the school officials appear to have broken their own rules and done very little about it. The news reporter's investigation finds that there is a pattern of the school officials often not following proper procedure. This is not for the faint of heart.