Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A new type of cruise ship - the Aeroscaft

My wife and I are coming up on our 15th wedding anniversary. We've been kicking around a couple ideas on how to celebrate. We would really enjoy taking a sleeper car on a train ride. Unfortunately Amtrak is not cheap. An overnight ride on a 24 hour trip would cost any where from $1,000 to $1,300. That is pretty steep for one day.

We've also been considering a cruise. We took the whole family last year for a four day cruise. It was a blast. Our daughters told us this morning that they would have a great time staying with Grandma and Grandpa, and that we should go on the cruise. The price would be in the same range, but we could go on a three or four day cruise.

We'll continue brainstorming about how we want to celebrate our fifteen wedding anniversary.

I may have found what we will be doing for our twentieth. My mother forwarded a Popular Science article about a company in California is designing a cruise ship for the air. This Flying Luxury Hotel is called an Aeroscraft. It would be a fun way to see the country.

Some comments on reddit indicate that the Aeroscraft might not be able to handle bad weather.

I guess we may have to do a normal cruise also for our 20th.

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The Carnival of Education is up

The 104th Carnival of Education is up at The Median Sib.

There is also the Education Carnival over at

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Cool links from reddit - 30 Jan 07

The following are some cool selections I found via

A few general items:

Sweden announced that they will be opening a virtual embassy in Second Life. I wonder what the career path is for being an embssador to an online community? And what do they get paid?

Exchange Ingredients has 10 Tips for Better Money Management. This would be a good list to review with your children. They can start applying many of these steps now.

On the education front:

From Britain: Why homework isn't working. This is a long article on how homework for children before high school appears to have no academic benefit. Much of the article focuses on an effort by Alfie Kohn to reduce or eliminate homework from kindegarten to 8th grade.


Also from Britain: Protest over photocopied pupil. The opening line is: "A couple have taken their son out of Adwick Washington Infant School after claiming that a teacher placed his head on a photocopier, right, as part of a school project." There isn't much more information, other than the boy was five. I wonder what the teacher was thinking.

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Are you looking for information on the Second Amendment?

David Hardy blogs at Of Arms and the Law. David has been supportive of the Carnival of Homeschooling and has often mentioned it.

He recently produced a documentary film on the Second Amendment: In Search of the Second Amendment. It appears to be very supportive of the right to bare arms. The film even has an entry in Wikipedia.

I have thought about taking my oldest two daughters to a gun safety class. I'll probably do it some time in the next year or two.

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Carnival of Homeschooling, week 56: connections

Anne the PalmTree Pundit is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling.

She looks at different types of connections that homeschoolers make.

Swing on by and enjoy the variety of postings.

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

Monday, January 29, 2007

Homeschooling in an RV

Jim Twamley of RV Now interviews a mother who homeschoolers her family out of an RV. (Hat tip: Google Alert)

My wife and I would enjoy being on the road with an RV, at least for a couple months. It would be great to see so much of the world instead of just hearing about it or reading about it.

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

One of the things I love about homeschooling

This morning my oldest daughter and I read several pages from The Law by Frederic Bastiat. The Law was published in 1849. Frederic Bastiat puts forth several arguments for small governments, and why citizens have to watch their government. After reading a couple paragraphs I would talk with my daughter to make sure she understand the main points.

One of my goals from this exercise is to teach her to mark up books. As I mentioned almost a year ago, one of the important parts of really mastering a book is to mark it up, to make the book yours. The brain processes the information deeper when you stop and think about the main points of a book, and add your notes. Just adding a few comments on a page makes the reading much more active.

About ten years ago I was reading The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. One of the references mentioned in the book was How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler. I had never heard of the book before. I bought the book. I read the book. I read it again. There was a little light bulb which went off in my mind. It was OK to mark up books! In fact, it was a good thing. Marking up a book helps with the processing and mastery of the book. I wish I had been taught this sooner.

One of the things I love about homeschooling is teaching ideas and skills to my children. From both nature and nurture I have always been distrustful of large government. The Law helps articulate why we need to be careful. But I was pass 30 before I learned to mark up a book. My oldest daughter is learning this important lesson at twelve.

The next books on the schedule are John Adams by David McCullough and The Only Investment Guide You'll Ever Need by Andrew Tobias. I'll buy these books for her. She'll add them to her personal library. Some times we'll read parts of them together. We always discuss the books. And I encourage her to mark up the books. If she goes light, I'll go back through the book with her and tell her about some of the points I thought were important.

If you haven't taught your children to mark up a book, check out How to Read a Book from the library, or buy it, and read it yourself, with a pen in hand. Then you can work with your children to help them learn how to mark books up.

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We are hearing a lot of American Girl stories right now

A couple years ago our oldest daughter read many, if not all, of the American Girl Stories. These are fun, educational books. The stories are set in various eras of American history. The books are well researched. The reader learns about what a young girl might have thought and did long ago.

My second daughter's favorite character is Felicity, because Felicity tames a horse that is pretty wild. Felicity lives during the Revolutionary War. Our daughter learned that the Revolutionary War split families apart, and how the gun powder got stolen by the British.

For each girl there is the same basic pattern. The first books introduce each girl. The second book has the girl learn a lesson, often about friendship. The third book has a surprise for the girl, around Christmas time. The fourth book is about their birthday. In the fifth book the girl "saves the day." The sixth books is about the changes the girl is going through. This pattern allows the reader to feel comfortable and know what to expect.

After last Friday's trip to the library we've been hearing one of the stories about Addy. My daughters got one of the stories on tape. My second and third daughters have been listening to the tape again and again. Addy is a young black girl who lives during the Civil War time. She with her mother escapes to the North.

There are many other books. There is one about Kaya, an Indian American girl in the mid 1700s. Josefina is in the Southwest when it was controled by Spain. Kristen is a ioneer girl in the midwest. Samantha lives during the early 1900s. Kit survives the Great Depression. And finally Molly lives during World War II.

Wikipedia has some background information on American Girl. I hadn't know the history of the books. Pleasant T. Rowland created the dolls because she was looking for high quality dolls, but couldn't find them. The books are reasonably priced and can be found in many libraries. The dolls are expensive and can chew up a lot of money.

I like the American Girl series. I have read all six of the Molly stories. They were well written and I was surprised by how much historical information was in the books. If you have young daughters who haven't been exposed to the American Girl books, I'd encourage you to check them out. But beware there may be some pleads for the dolls and all the accessories.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007

In the news

One of the problems with our public education system is that it is hard to monitor. Parents are essentially entrusting their children and our tax payer money to complete strangers. Many of these strangers are talented and trustworthy, while many are not.

Here are a few of the "not" category who made the news recently.

Yonkers Teacher Under Fire For Anatomy Assignment

(CBS) YONKERS, N.Y. A 7th grade health teacher at the PEARLS Hawthorne School in Yonkers is facing termination after apparently asking his class to participate in a questionable anatomy assignment.

Jeffrey Kirby was removed by school officials Wednesday for starting off his anatomy lesson by asking the children to come to the chalkboard and draw male genitalia. Students then complained to the parents, who then complained to the school....

"To just ask individuals to come up and draw freestyle male anatomy is insensitive to the children," Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio told CBS 2.

Even my 6 year old daughter knows what male anatomy looks like. We have wonderful children's encyclopedia that shows the male and female reproductive system. It is very tastefully done. Having students draw male genitals on the chalkboard in a mixed gender class was just plain vulgar. My 12 year old daughters would have been mortified. This type of activity also breeds a certain disrespect for gender and sexuality.

Moving right along, we have another cheerleader scandal.

Ware Shoals High School principal arrested

WARE SHOALS, S.C.- Accusations of sex, lies and scandals run rampant at one upstate high school. On Monday, deputies arrested the principal of Ware Shoals High School for allegedly covering up for the school's cheerleading coach. The coach is accused of giving alcohol to her cheerleaders, and a whole lot more....

Last week, Greenwood county deputies arrested Jill Moore, the cheerleading coach at Ware Shoals High School for "moral offenses" involving some of her cheerleaders. On Monday, deputies also arrested Principal Jane Blackwell at the school. She's accused of knowing about the offenses and doing nothing about it.

The allegations against the coach get pretty ugly. She was basically "pimping".

According to FOX Carolina sources, Moore was dating a National Guard recruiter and was recruiting cheerleaders to party. In at least one incident, a 16-year-old student had sex and drank alcohol with another National Guardsman.

This article contains more information on the role the principal played in this scandal.

S.C. principal arrested during probe

COLUMBIA, S.C. - The principal at Ware Shoals High School lied to deputies investigating the school‘s cheerleading coach and was taken into custody at the school Monday, charged with obstruction of justice, police said.

Blackwell wasn‘t directly involved in those incidents but when investigators began asking questions, she told the cheerleading squad to keep quiet, Frederick said.

Frederick said immediately after Blackwell and others were told by investigators they planned to talk to each cheerleader, the principal called a squad meeting and told them not to discuss the case with anyone.

Blackwell asked investigators if they knew whether any calls were made from the school to the media and disciplined at least one student who mentioned the Moore case at school, according to a sworn statement filed with an arrest warrant.

Parents are making a big mistake if they think the school staff is going to police themselves. And now for a wonderful federal program for disadvantaged students.

Couple Accused of Ripping Off School District with Textbook Scheme

Tim Fuhrman/ FBI Special Agent in Charge: "Lining their own pockets with the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains. Approximately 4.5-million dollars in the last five years alone is staggering."

Susan Ross directed federal programs for the Davis School District, while her husband was in charge of getting grant money from the U.S. Department of Education. Both retired last year.

Each year, the district received more than 2 million dollars of federal grant money, including money for disadvantaged students.

Susan's job at the District included ordering books for Title One tutoring programs designed to help disadvantaged kids. But the district says the books were actually spiral-bound stacks of unauthorized color copies.

Bryan Bowles, Davis School District Superintendent: "They were barely photo-copied and bound with a binder you could have done at a local copy shop."

For example, the indictment says Ross and others made unauthorized copies of the book "Away We Go." The publisher's list price for the book was $13.22. However, the company she was tied to, charged the Davis School District $93 per copy. In all, it cost the district over $44,000.

This crime particularly ticks me off. The government keeps taking away our hard earned money under the guise of helping children. Time and time again, we see that much of the money is wasted in programs like this. A federal grant is just an invitation for fraud. The school was also at fault for not paying attention. What idiot pays $93 for a little book.

This is what the accused had to say:

Susan Ross: "We've done nothing but help."

I've heard the argument that these are just isolated incidents. They sure are easy to find in the news.

I've heard the argument that there are homeschoolers who do some pretty awful stuff too. That is true. But, their actions usually only involve their own children and their own money. When a teacher, principal or coach does something inappropriate it effects other people's children and wastes other people's money, and lots of it too.

I wouldn't be so mad if we could opt out. While they don't get my children, they still get my money.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

The next Carnival of Homeschooling will be hosted from Hawaii

Anne, the PalmTree Pundit, is hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling next week.

Submissions are due in two days, at 6:00 PM on the 22nd of January.

Click here for information on how to submit a post.

Update I: I forgot to include Anne's request for submissions. She is requesting entries dealing with connections.

Also consider sending in a submission to Joanne for the next Unschooling Voices.

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

Cool links from reddit - 26 Jan 07

The following are some cool selections I found via

Everything Interesting (And More) has posted Top 10 Magic Trick Tutorial Videos. Each video was very clear. The magic tricks were cool. This would be a good place to start for a child with some interest in magic.

If you live in the United States, have you ever wondered how your state compares to nations in the world? Coyote Blog has posted a Cool Map, which relabeled each state by the name of a country with approximately the same GDP as the state.

Several years back my mother took in a German Shepard pup to raise to be a guide dog. There is an organization which is doing a similar thing with miniature horses. The Guide Horse Foundation has pictures and information. My daughters would love to do this. Unfortunately (or fortunately) my wife is allergic and we couldn't have a guide horse in our home. But it would be fun.

Have you ever wondered about the break down of the Frequency Allocations of the Radio Spectrum in the United States? This is a great graphic showing how each frequency range is allocated, created by the NTIA Office of Spectrum Management. Pretty cool.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

A good list of what non-homeschoolers may not know

Kendra of Preschoolers and Peace has a nice list of what non-homeschoolers may not know about homeschooling.

Some times as homeschoolers we know how busy our lives are and don't stop to realize that others may not know. Kendra has done a good job of articulating some aspects that our friends and extended family might not be aware of. Reviewing the list can be helpful for both us, and our friends & family.

(Hat tip: One-Sixteenth)

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

It's not on the test

Here is a great song that was on NPR on Jan 1.

Not On The Test
by John Forster & Tom Chapin© 2007 Limousine Music Co. & The Last Music Co. (ASCAP)

Go on to sleep now, third grader of mine.
The test is tomorrow but you'll do just fine.

It's reading and math. Forget all the rest.
You don't need to know what is not on the test.

Each box that you mark on each test that you take,
Remember your teachers. Their jobs are at stake.

Your score is their score, but don't get all stressed.
They'd never teach anything not on the test.

The School Board is faced with no child left behind
With rules but no funding, they're caught in a bind.

So music and art and the things you love best
Are not in your school 'cause they're not on the test.

Sleep, sleep, and as you progress
You'll learn there's a lot that is not on the test.

Debate is a skill that is useful to know,
Unless you're in Congress or talk radio,

Where shouting and spouting and spewing are blessed
'Cause rational discourse was not on the test.

Thinking's important. It's good to know how.
And someday you'll learn to, but someday's not now.

Go on to sleep, now. You need your rest.
Don't think about thinking. It's not on the test.

I'm so glad we homeschool!


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One starfish at a time

The following is from a speech I recently gave in Toastmaster.


Imagine that you are five again. One day a few policemen and other adults show up at your house. They meet with your mother in the kitchen. You can tell that your mother is angry and upset. After awhile she comes into the living room. She sits down beside you and holds you tight. After a few seconds she tells you "I want you to go with this social worker. You will be living with another family for awhile. I hope to see you again real soon." Tearfully she gathers a few clothes and toys. You go out the front door, not knowing, or understanding what has just happened.

Imagine how you feel.

(There was a five second pause here)

This is how many children are placed in a foster care family. Often with no warning they are yanked from an unsafe home situation. They are placed with people they don't know, who have different rules, and expectations.

In our county about half of one percent of the children are placed in foster care every year. Unfortunately only half of them will eventually be reunited with their families. But even then, it will often be extended families, uncles and aunts, or grandparents. Many of these children have suffered neglect or abuse.

Ten percent of the children placed in foster care families in our county are babies. These are babies tested who tested positive for drugs at birth.

The foster care system is designed to protect children.

My wife and I are in the process of taking legally required classes to become foster parents. The following is some of what I have learned. I'll summarize the major points and encourage you to consider looking into being foster parents.

Here is a diagram of how children are ideally moved through foster care.

TAKEN and placed in an ESH

First someone initiates action by filing a report. This may be an anonymous report via the phone. It may be the result of some police involvement with a family. A neighbor may call in with a real, or imagined, concern.

Next there is an investigation. A social worker visits the home and makes a decision on what action to take. If there is reasonable concern the children will be removed from the home, often right then. If there is reason for concern, then the social worker won’t wait. The long term goal is for the family to change so that the home is safe. The social workers are directed to work to reunify children with their parents, and if that is not prudent, then they try to place the children with extended family.

After the children are taken from their home, they are placed in ESH, an Emergency Satellite Home. These foster parents will have a few hours warning. This is designed to be short term. At this point the social worker is just trying to find a safe place for children.

After a couple days the children may be moved to another foster care family. This is more long term. The social worker may have found a family which is a better match for the children. For example the new family is Latino and has a better appreciation for the culture of the children.

Once children are taken from their parents, the state becomes the legal parent. A judge makes decisions bases on recommendations from social workers and input from other involved parties. Everyone has a lawyer. The children have a lawyer. The social worker has a lawyer. The parents have a lawyer. Maybe each parent has a different lawyer. The foster parents may have a lawyer. The social worker acts as the eyes and ears for the judge. The overriding goal is always what is best for the children.

As I said earlier about half of the children placed in foster care are returned to their family. But this may not always be with mom and dad. Sometimes they will be placed with an uncle and aunt, or with grandparents. The judge will try to find relatives who will provide a safe and caring home. When possible the judge will try to keep siblings together.

The other half of the children end up with one of three outcomes:

1) They may just stay in the foster care system.
This often happens with teenagers. They will be adults in a couple years and they don’t want new parents. They just need a safe place till they turn 18.

2) A foster family may become the legal guardian.
Foster care parents are on a short leash. For example they can not give a child a haircut without permission from the social worker. Being the legal guardian allows the foster care parents more flexibility.

3) A family may adopt the children.
If a family is found which wants to take care of the child, a judge may rule that the family can adopt the children.

If you are interested in helping out, or just learning more, call your local foster care agency. They can provide you with information about how things work, and what you can do to help.

As I working on this speech I remembered the story of the starfish. The story goes that one day there was a huge storm. Thousands of starfish were thrown up on the beach. A man was walking down the beach after the storm and noticed a boy running up on the beach and then down to the water. As the man got closer he realized the boy was picking up starfish and throwing them into the ocean. When the man got close enough he asked the boy why he was bothering. The man pointed out that there were thousands of starfish on the beach and the boy couldn’t save them all. “You can’t make a dent with all these starfish, you can’t make a difference, why even bother?”

The boy picked a starfish and threw the starfish into the ocean. “I made a difference for that starfish.”

Foster care parents can make a huge difference in the life of a child.


The Carnival of Education, week 103, is up

This week's Carnival of Education is back at The Education Wonks. There is a large variety of interesting posts.


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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth or what is 26 x 31?

A google alert came up saying that Charity, The Crafty Mama, had linked to us today. Curious I jumped over and read her post on Parents Fighting Fuzzy Math. She has a great post on the problems with teaching math in public schools.

Charity linked to a video on fuzzy math. You know it is bad with a TV weather woman takes time out from her job to produce a video on Math Education: An Inconvenient Truth. I watched the fifteen minute video. A large part of the video shows different ways students are taught to multiple 26 times 31. I was amazed, and had a better understanding why so many students entering college can not do basic multiplication and division.

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Good thought about credit

Bob Thaves, the creator of Frank & Ernest, once said:

"Money talks - but credit has an echo."

As parents teaching our children the basic principles of finance and money management will save them headaches and stress. If they can learn that buying on credit and going into debt only postpones the day of reckoning, then they will be much wiser consumers.

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Carnival of Homeschooling, week 56: Fighting the January doldrums

Christine, The Thinking Mother, is hosting the Carnival of Homeschooing this week. She explores this time of year's affect on homeschoolers. There is a large variety of interesting posts. Drop in and enjoy.

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

Monday, January 22, 2007

What will the future hold for homeschoolers?

I've been mulling over some ideas about what will the future bring for children who have been homeschooled. I don't have any conclusions, but thought others might find these ideas interesting.

Sir Francis Bacon once said "Scientia potentia est" or in English: "knowledge is power." Like many short maxims, this is a generalization, and not true in all situations or settings. For example there is a lot of trivia that may never provide any true benefit.

The point Sir Francis Bacon was making is that knowledge can make a person more effective and more influential. By knowing history a person can see patterns in a current situation. Other people without the knowledge of similar situations may be blind to what is really happening. Someone who has studied chemistry can avoid mixing dangerous chemicals. With any problem, legal, social, business, and so on, knowing about similar problems and having some guidelines gives a person a greater chance of solving the problem.

One of the main points of education is to help children to become capable adults. With knowledge, and hopefully wisdom, our children will be able to handle hard problems and not be overwhelmed when hit with a major crisis. They won't throw up their hands and give up, but buckle down and work on solving the problem.

As a group homeschoolers tend to be dramatically more educated. This is not a couple percentage points more, but closer to an order of magnitude more educated. Some of the studies I've read show that as a group homeschoolers are a full standard deviation better educated.

One does this mean for society? In the past homeschoolers were a very small fraction of the total population. Up until now the percentage of adults who had been homeschooled was much smaller than 1%, in the 1980s it was less than 0.1%. There was very little influence. But currently about 3% of children in American are homeschooled. That means in a couple decades many of the well educated adults will have been homeschooled.

And since knowledge provides power, I believe that as a group homeschoolers will be more influential than the average person.

Another maxim is "There are three types of people in the world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who wondered what happened."

I believe that a lot of what happens in twenty years will be prompted by homeschoolers.

I think the future will be very interesting.

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

Have you been reading Weapons of Math Destruction?

edspresso has an article on Oak Norton and how he came to create a comic strip called Weapons of Math Destruction. It is a very funny comic strip, in a sad, painful sort of way.

Does anyone know of other comic strips focused on education, or homeschooling?

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Smog Referee - Part 2

This is a follow up to The Smog Referee.

Well, the visit to the Smog Referee went well. Going to the Smog Referee is much like seeing a doctor at a university teaching hospital. The Smog Referee was the teacher and my van was the patient. A student mechanic spent most of the time just looking at various aspects of the vehicle and looking up information in reference books. Normally, a smog check takes about 20 minutes. The Smog Referee took about an hour and a half. On the bright side, it cost 1/3 of what I was quoted at my local smog check shop before they discovered that they didn't have software recent enough to do the test.

I asked the Smog Referee why he could do the test when the local smog check shop couldn't. His reply, "We can just override the error message given by the software." I took this to mean that because they worked for the government, they had some by-pass code. I wonder if they purposely don't give the local smog shops the code to drum up "patients" for their students.

On the down side, I still had problems getting a licenses for the van. My local DMV couldn't find the fax that the out of state DMV supposedly sent verifying that the van had never been licensed in that state. I called the Hertz dealership where I bought the van. They told me that the local DMV office refused to give them the letter and would only send it directly to my DMV office. I learned that their local DMV said that their state DMV office would mail it to my local DMV office.

So, I returned to my DMV office and told them that they were looking for a letter, not a fax. They still couldn't find it. There is nothing scarier than two government agencies trying to exchange information. However, the local DMV manager took pity and issued me a provisional license anyway. I was told that if a letter didn't arrive in a few days, they would send me a notice rescinding my license plates.

Considering how bad they are at following up, I'm not to worried about that. Later that day, I got a call from Hertz. They had gone back to their DMV office. In the two weeks since I originally requested the verification letter, a new manager took over at their local DMV. This new manager agreed to give the notification letter directly to the dealership. The dealership will overnight the letter to me. So, hopefully, I will be able to finalize the registration sometime in the next few days.

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We've participated in another carnival

Carnivals are a good way to get some exposure for your blog.

We submitted Janine's post about The Smog Referee to the Carnival of Wheels, a blog carnival about cars. The Carnival of Wheels this week is hosted by The Garage. The Garage also has a post that Original Sixties Batmobile to hit the Auction Block. Back in the 70s we use to watch the reruns of Batman after school.

Also over the weekend the Carnival of Family Life #38 was posted at An Island Life. And this month's Carnival of Children's Literature was posted at Big A little a.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Reminder - submissions due in two days

Don't forget to submit a post for the 56th Carnival of Homeschooling. Submissions are due in two days, at 6:00 PM on the 22nd of January.

Christine of The Thinking Mother will be hosting.

Click here for information on how to submit a post.

And start thinking about a submission to Unschooling Voices, a monthly carnival on unschooling.

Here is Joanne's request for submissions. Entries are due before the 1st of February.

And here is more information about Unschooling Voices.

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

Friday, January 19, 2007

A dog definition of a blog

I laughed when I read this:

"For those of you who don't have a blog yet, think of one as a large yellow Labrador: friendly, fun, not all that bright, but constantly demanding your attention."
- David Carr, The New York Times, Jan 15, 2007

(Hat tip: Quotation of the day.)

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A few more from - 11 Jan 07

The following were found via

From the Ririan Project are 10 Reasons to Keep A Journal. We have our daughters keep a journal as part of their writing practice.

Donald Latumahina has 5 Reasons Why Doing What You Love can Optimize Your Life.

Would you like to have a Personal Blimp? I hope it works out that they become price affordable and safe.

Trent has 31 ways for Building a Better Blog for 2007.

Want to Improve Memory? Strengthen Your Synapses. Here's How is a technical review of how continuing to challenge your mind and educating yourself will keep your mind sharp. You really are improving your mind when you play Sudoku.

How being organized saves you money points out several different ways that taking the time to plan ahead and be organized can save you time and money.

For teenagers:

Liz Pulliam West, author of Deal with Your Debt, has an article on The best financial advice ever. This would be a good article to review with teenagers.

And Chris Buzzard has a good review on the importance of Saving Early. Compound Interest was once said to be the eighth wonder of the world. If people can learn to use it, rather than be a salve to debt, they'll have much better lives.

13 Things I Wish I Learned in College would also be good to review with teenagers.

One last thing for teenagers, Industry output and employment projections to 2012 is a twenty two page report which may help a teenager find something they love and would also be a good job to try.

Finally, something funny:

If you've never seen the towboat going under a bridge before, check it out.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Is High School Football a Public Good? by Jim Fedako

A couple weeks ago Jim Fedako posted on the Ludwig von Mises Institute an article Is High School Football a Public Good? He argues that public schools should not be involved with sports.

One of the big problems with public schools is there is such a conflicting set of ideas on what should happen at school. Many parents want their children to have a traditional academic education; they want their children to learn to read, write, and master arithmetic. Other parents are more concerned with socialization, or sports, or getting their children fed. A few parents are mostly interesting is having a place for their children to go during the day - free babsitting. Some parents want their children to be taught ethics, or a trade, or how to be a good citizen. With so many orthagonal views, it is no wonder that public schools struggle.

Jim Fedako opens his column with:

"Most of us would never think of asking our neighbors to foot a personal bill. We accept responsibility for car and roof repairs as ours alone. In addition, we don't bang on the door across the street in order to demand a contribution towards our children's figure skating lessons, taekwondo classes, etc. That which is consumed or used by our families is to be paid from our pockets — the definition of personal responsibility.

"Now let's change the situation slightly. Instead of a figure skating lesson — the realm of the private good, consider the local public high school football team — the realm of the supposed public good."

He provides a very thought provoking explanation of how public schools should not have sports programs.

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Education carnivals

Dr. Homeslice is hosting this week's Carnival of Education. is hosting the Education Carnival this week.

Online University Lowdown is hosting this month's Carnival of Online Education.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Dr. Laura has a blog

So, if you hate Dr. Laura just skip this post.

I wouldn't necessarily say I'm a huge fan but I find that I agree with what she says about 85% of the time and she has been pretty supportive of homeschooling on her radio show.

So here's Dr. Laura's blog.

I liked this post.

Women’s Work” SAVES Women’s Lives

Feminism Kills Women: Betty Friedan’s negative view of so-called “women’s work” created a movement that turned family life upside down and wrenched women from their homes. Turns out, women’s work, is the very thing that saves women’s lives!
Research following 200,000 women from nine European countries for an average of over 6 years and 3,423 cases of breast cancer determined that women who exercise by doing the housework can reduce their risk of breast cancer by 30% among the pre-menopausal women and 20% among the post-menopausal women.

“The International authors said their results suggested that moderate forms of physical activity, such as housework, may be more important than less frequent but more intense recreational physical activity in reducing breast cancer risk.” The research is published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention.

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A carnival for creative, crafty people

While looking through the list of recent carnivals I saw The Festival of Family Flair and wondered what in the world was this carnival. At first I thought maybe it was just a variation of the Carnival of Family Life. But the description says:

"Flair can be artistry and it can be genius. Crafts, recipes, hacks - share with us all the ways you and your family members have been creative!"

So the focus is different. GNMParents hosted the first Festival of Family Flair a couple days ago. It looks fun.

The Carnival of Family Life is hosted this week by Family Portal.

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Homeschool homies

Jess at Captured Thoughts found a funny music video: Homeschool homies.

My wife and I have watched it a couple times.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Friday, January 12, 2007

Speaking of carnivals - Catholic Homeschool Blog Carnival

This month's Catholic Homeschool Blog Carnival is hosted by Mary Ann Bernard. There is a nice collection of posts.

I only know of three active carnivals on homeschooling:

Carnival of Homeschooling
Unschooling Voices
Catholic Homeschooling

If you know of any other active carnivals on homeschooling, please let me know.

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Two carnival on education

I check out the Blog Carnival list of Carnivals fairly often. I surprised to find that in edition to the Carnival of Education, there is now an Education Carnival.

The 101st Carnival of Education is hosted this week by I Thought a Think.

And the very first Education Carnival is hosted by The description for the Education Carnival is: "All about education, online education and distance learning."

EdWonk does a great job of running the Carnival of Education. In large part the Carnival of Homeschooling is modeled after what he has done. I hope the Education Carnival is able to raise to the standard set by The Education Wonks.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Teaching to the test

This news article from Virginia is a prime example of teaching to the test.

Schools show why Johnny couldn't add


January 10, 2007

VIRGINIA MATH SCORES -- Hampton Roads school district officials and teachers think they now have the answer to a question that they've grappled with since August: Why did so many sixth- and seventh-graders fail the state's math tests in 2006, when they had done well on fifth-grade tests only a year or two before?

The answer? Teachers prepared students for one test, but students ended up taking something very different - a test with unfamiliar vocabulary, different concepts and more multistep problems than anything they had seen to date.

"All year, we taught the kids, thinking the sixth- and seventh-grade tests would look like the eighth-grade test, but they didn't," York County school Superintendent Steven Staples said.

I can understand there being some confusion when students see unfamiliar terms. But, the test scores were dramatically different from the previous year.

The results shocked educators and state officials. According to a state analysis released this month, seven of 10 sixth-graders correctly answered 20 items on the 50-question test that they took.Results were worse on the seventh-grade test. Seven of 10 students correctly answered only eight of 50 problems.

If the students understood the math concepts and not just how to get the right answer on a particular test, changes in the test format would not dramatically lower the test result. Answering only 8 problems out of 50 correctly demonstrates that students don’t understand how to use basic math concepts.

This correlates with the findings of a resent literacy study.


Twenty percent of U.S. college students completing 4-year degrees – and 30 percent of students earning 2-year degrees – have only basic quantitative literacy skills, meaning they are unable to estimate if their car has enough gasoline to get to the next gas station or calculate the total cost of ordering office supplies, according to a new national survey by the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The study was funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

So, students are being taught how to fill in the right bubble on the right test, but they can’t use math concepts on a different test or in their every day life.

What is the purpose of an education? If we only measure the success or failure of a public, private or homeschool education by test results, we won't really know if the process has been successful.

I'm not against testing entirely. It is one of many ways of evaluating student progress. It is also a means to an end, not an end in and of itself. Even if students score high on a specific standardized test, it doesn't mean they will being able to balance their check book.

Analysis of the Virginia test results revealed some interesting things.

Pyle said part of the problem was a change in the way that students were tested. Previously, students took a cumulative test, measuring what they had learned since sixth grade. Now students take 50-question tests at each grade.

"We're testing more deeply into the content" of each grade, he said.

With the previous cumulative style test, students could have a limited grasp on the math skills taught that year and still test well. In other words, on the previous test, very few questions were on grade level. Most of the questions checked more basic math skills taught in the previous years. On the current test, all questions are on grade level. Thus, it is a much harder test and more accurately measure the mastery of that academic year’s material.

I love this last quote from the article.

Pyle said the 2006 scores were part of "a period of adjustment" as teachers and students got used to the new tests.

Translation: Give us time to figure out how to teach to this test.

Here's an idea: Why don't they focus on teaching students math concepts instead of how to fill in the right bubble on a new test. I realize this is easier said than done. However, as long as the focus is scoring well on a particular test, than the focus is NOT on learning to master specific concepts and skills. If students master the concepts, they will score well regardless of the test format and they will be able to use math concepts in every day life.

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Can you belive this? Children told they can not ride the school bus because they speak English

Three children in Minnesota were riding the bus to school. The bus driver told them that since they spoke English they could not ride the bus home, or ride it ever again. The mother had to come pick them up after school.

In reading the full account, Kids barred from school bus because they spoke English, it makes a little more sense, but only a little. The school district had designated some bus routes for non-English speaking children. The children had been riding a non-English school bus since school started. The school district decided to enforce the separate bus routes on Monday, but didn’t tell parents.

I read things like this and wonder how parents even put up with the public school. The parents are trying to work with the school bureaucracy. It is enough to drive people bonkers.

(Hat tip:

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Smog Referee

We have an appointment with the Smog Referee. What is a Smog Referee and why would you want to see him? That is a good question.

This is our sad story. A few months ago, our 1985 Club Wagon failed to pass California's new smog requirements. We took advantage of the state's retirement program. They paid us $1000 to junk our van. I got a little choked up when we drove the van to the junk yard to be crushed.

After doing some looking around, we decided to replace our 1985 Club Wagon with another Club Wagon. Because of California's tough emissions requirements, we were worried about buying a used van. Once an older vehicle fails to pass the smog check, often the only thing you can do is retire the vehicle or replace the engine.

Frugal souls that we are, we decided to buy a gently used rental van. My brother who lives in another state works for Hertz car sales, so we were able to get a good deal on a van. For a few hundred dollars more we paid someone to drive it out to us.

Licensing a vehicle from out of state is a bit messy. The California DMV requires a smog check for every such vehicle regardless of how new.

So, I took it down to my local Smog Check place. After trying for fifteen minutes, the mechanic informed me that they didn't have the software compatible with such a new vehicle. I would need to have it smogged at the dealership. So, I called my local Ford dealership. They informed me that they didn't do smog checks and referred me to another Ford dealership about 20 minutes away. After a few more phone calls, I discovered that this dealership couldn't do the smog test either because they also lacked the software.

My next step was to call the DMV. I was hoping they would wave the smog requirement since it is a 2006 vehicle. No such luck. They referred my to the Smog Authority. This was an interesting phone call. The automated answering system listed options like, "For private investigation licensing hit 2, For security licensing hit 3, for....." Option 6 was the Smog Authority.

What kind of state bureaucracy handles both private investigator licensing and smog licensing?

So, once I got to talk to a real person and explained my dilemma, I was informed that I needed to see the Smog Referee. I am not making this up. They gave me another number to call.

After wadding through another answering system, I got to talk to "The Smog Referee." He informed me that they were very busy and it would take over a week to get an appointment. He gave me directions to a parking lot at a local community college with a warning not to be late.

All this to check the emission levels of a vehicle that is almost brand new.

I can't wait to see what a Smog Referee looks like. I'm expecting someone in a blank and white striped shirt with a whistle.

UPDATE: See Smog Referee - Part 2

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Stuff found via Google Alert

It has been awhile since I posted on some of the treasures I have found via Google Alerts.

Lisa Hendey posted an interview with Sandra Gillmore, author of Mommy Come Home. Sandra has a very strong message, from a religious point of view, that mothers should stay home with their children. She has advice for how to live on one income. And she is very positive about homeschooling. It looks like the interview was originally done back in 2004.

Matthew Dallman writes that Socialization is one of the reasons he is considering homeschooling.

Jay Mathews is a education columnist for the Washington Post. I have a Google Alert set up to notify me whenever his name appears, which normally means he has written a new column. I liked his column Bad Guess on U.S. Future. He opens with:

The two words most likely to make education reporters sigh wearily are "national" and "commission." Those of us who have been doing this for awhile know that many government, business and non-profit groups cannot resist the urge to gather great men and women together frequently to plan our schools' future. The result is almost always a great waste of time and paper.

He goes on to explain that the current well intended efforts by the government are not going to fix the problems with public education. He makes a number of good points.

In his column Innocents in Blogland Jay reports on some suggestions his readers have for education blogs to follow. Most of them were blogs I had not heard of before.

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