Saturday, June 30, 2007


Natalie is hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling next week at The Homeschool Cafe. She has put out calls for the Independence Edition.

Entries are due this Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Here are the instructions for sending in a submission.

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

The June 30, 2007 Saturday Review of Books is up

We are a book family. We have thousands of books scattered around the house. We love to read. Often the first thing my daughters will do in the morning is read.

One of the reasons I like Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books is it provides some extra encouragement to write a review about a book I have recently read. You may have noticed that most of my recent book reviews are done Friday or Saturday morning.

If you like books, drop in on this Saturday Review of Books. I'm sure you'll find something interesting.

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Book review: The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More by Chris Anderson

The Concept

Once Chris Anderson articulated the concept, it seems fairly straightforward, even obvious. To illustrate the basic idea, imagine that you are opening a book store. But you only have enough room to sell ten titles. (Just to show the concept.) Which book do you pick? If your purpose is to maximize your profit, you’ll pick the ten books you think will sell best. You are looking for the best sellers. On July 17 one of your books probably would be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Books stores in the real world are faced with a similar problem. They have limited shelve space. They can hold more than ten books. For example a typical Barnes and Noble carries around 40,000 different books. But they still have to pick which 40,000 books they think will sell the best.

If you were to graph books by volume sold across the world and sort them in the order they were sold, you’d see that there are a few books which sell in the millions. Coming down the curve there would be books in the hundred thousands, then tens of thousands, and so on. A typical book store will try to carry the most popular books. These books would move quickly. The book store restocks and makes more money. Having a poor selling book sitting on the shelves is a lost opportunity.

What Amazon realized is that there is still demand for books beyond the 40,000 Barnes and Noble carries. If you go down the demand curve you’ll find there are books selling thousands of times a year, hundreds of times a year, some even sell once or twice a year. Amazon carries several million books. Some where around 40% of their book sales come from the demand beyond the most popular 40,000 books.

This is the long tail. It is the products that are not normally available in a physical store. Selling millions of low volume products can be almost as much money as selling thousands of high volume products.

The long tail phenomenon works with books, music, movies and so on. Many of the online businesses are meeting the demand for the less popular, but still in demand, products. Because an online business doesn’t have to worry as much about shelve space, they are able to carry a much, much greater product line

The Book Review

Chris Anderson does a great job of explaining the concept of The Long Tail. He shows how over the last couple hundred years the history of business is a history of hits. Businesses tried to carry what would sell the most. Bookstores carried the best sellers. Movie theaters showed the top selling movies. Music stores only carried records they thought would sell in volume.

This has changed with the development of the internet. Now companies like Amazon can sell almost any book ever printed. This is the long tail, all the products that businesses can sell that before they couldn’t sell in volume high enough to generate a profit. Now companies like Netflix can carry almost any professional movie ever made. YouTube is taking this a step farther and providing an outlet for all the amateur movies recorded. iTunes sells a huge portion of the songs recorded. There are other businesses exploiting the long tail.

Chris Anderson found that there are a couple requirements for an online store selling products to be successful with the long tail concept. The first couple conditions make sense, there has to be a way for more people to create the product, and a way to get the product out to the consumers. Computers now allow many more people to be involved in the production of books, movies and songs. The third condition is there has to be a way for customers to find what they want. Internet search engines make it almost trivial to find that unusual game, toy, or electronic device that you’ve heard about or even just wondered if it existed.

What it means

The Long Tail concept provides a framework for understanding possible new business development. If you are thinking about starting up a business, especially one on the internet, it would be very worth while to read this book.

As bloggers most of us exist in the long tail. There are a few like Instapundit who get 200,000 hits a day. My wife and I have been blogging a year and two thirds. We still haven’t hit a total of 200,000 hits. We are part of the long tail. Understanding this, we recognize that in aggregate, a thousand of us bloggers have as much influence as Instapundit.

The world is a complex place. It can be overwhelming. A model like The Long Tail provides insight and understanding into what otherwise would be just over powering noise.

Chris does a great job of explaining the idea, and providing examples. He has a lot of interesting data. This book is very insightful, and well worth reading.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

A little "Momsense"

I got the pointer to this off a homeschool mailing list.

Here's a little Momsense.

It's too bad that this show "Momsense" is no longer being performed. However, you can buy the DVD of the show here.

This is the bio of the creator, Anita Renfro. She is still performing other routines. Here's a sample of some of her other performances.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Carnival of Space, week 9, is up at The Planetary Society

Emily Lakdawalla is hosting this week's Carnival of Space at The Planetary Society Blog.

There are eleven posts. Boast your rockets over and sample what space bloggers are writing about this week.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

In the news: New science

This article out of the UK tracks the decline of academics across the pond. It is almost painful to read.

Ditch lessons, schools are told
State secondary schools are being told to ditch lessons in academic subjects and replace them with month-long projects on themes such as global warming.

The pressure to scrap the traditional timetable in favour of cross-curricular topics is coming from the government’s teaching advisers, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA).


Alan Smithers, professor of education at Buckingham University, said: “This will narrow what children learn. People come with up these ideas for the less academic but they wouldn’t dream of letting their own children be taught in this way.”

There is a ray of hope.

About 130 science teachers have signed the petition, which calls for the course to be scrapped because it requires pupils to discuss issues such as pollution but not to learn “hard science”, such as the periodic table in chemistry.

The petition reads: “Many anticipated it as ‘science fit only for the pub’. Now, at the end of its first year . . . science teachers (particularly physics teachers) are indeed judging it to be overly simplistic, devoid of any real physics and inadequate preparation for further study. This GCSE will remove Britain’s technological base within a decade.”

This excerpt from another article gives a good overview of the changes.

New science A-levels are being "dumbed down" to such an extent that some courses will demand no prior knowledge of the subject.

Draft syllabuses for chemistry and biology published by one exam board state that the first part of the qualification, the AS-level, can be tackled without the candidate having studied the subject before.

I had to do a little research since I'm not familiar with the school system in England. There are three "levels" of course work. GCSEs (General Certificate of Secondary Education), AS (Advanced Supplementary), and A (Advanced). I'm still a bit fuzzy on what it all means but I'm assuming that the A level classes are similar to our AP classes.

So, they are making the Advanced classes easy enough that anyone can take them. It will be interesting to see if the public responsed with an increase in homeschooling and private school enrollment.

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The Carnival of Education hits the road

Mike in Texas is hosting this week's Carnival of Education at Education in Texas. Like Judy, he decided to run with a theme of being on the road.

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Funny Homeschool Video

I stumbled across this funny homeschool video. It was produced by two homeschool teens. It is part factual/part spoof called a "Day in the Life of a Homeschooler."

The cinematography isn't great, but it's cute. My favorite scene is the science experiment that demonstrates buoyancy with ice cream and root beer.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Countdown for entries the next Carnival of Space - Twenty hours and counting

EmilyLakdawalla will be hosting the next Carnival of Space at The Planetary Society Blog.

Here are the instructions on how to submit a post.

Entries are due Wednesday evenings at 6:00 PM PST.

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Barbara Frank explains Zero-tolerance

Barbara Frank comments on the recent incident in the news about a 13-year-old boy being suspended for hugging his girl friend. I like Barbara's definition of zero-tolerance:

"Zero-tolerance is loosely translated as 'we can't assess anything without having to form a committee, so we'll just say no to everything.'"

I had seen the headlines about the boy getting into trouble for putting his arm around a girl. I rolled my eyes and moved on to the next story. Barbara Frank pointed out that the boy was in trouble for a number of things. One of them was he got up for his assigned cafeteria table without permission. It seems pretty bizaire. I don't remember ever having an assigned table, ever!

Like Barbara Frank, we don't have assigned seats. We don't even have an assigned table. We have a fairly large kitchen table, and then a smaller play table for young children. Ever so often oud youngest daughter will use the small table, when friends show up.

Homeschooling means you never get in trouble for hugging your classmates.

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

The May/June edition of Home Educator's Family Times is up

The internet provides a torrent of information on almost any topic. It is hard to keep up, even when with a narrow focus like homeschooling. I’ve not followed homeschooling magazines very closely, because I have the time.

I recently got an email about the latest edition of the Home Educator’s Family Times. The full May/June 2007 issue is available via PDF format. Or you can read it in pieces via their main site.

One of the main themes in this edition is homeschooling and pets. There are three articles about how pets help with homeschooling. Family Times is starting a new section in their magazine devoted to pets and homeschooling. They ask Does Your Pet Help You to Homeschool? Please tell us how! By going to the article you can submit your thoughts and experience.

There are a dozen additional articles about homeschooling. It is worth a gander.

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

How many unschooling children go on to homeschool or unschool their own children?

Shawna of The Homeschooling Experiement asked:

"How many unschooling children go on to homeschool or unschool their own children?"

I left an answer as a comment on her post, and then thought others might like to know:

Dr. Brian Ray does research on homeschooling. He works at the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI). In 2003 he did a survey of 5,524 people who had been homeschooled seven or more years and were now adults. He published the results of this survey in Home Educated and Now Adults. I heartily recommend the book.

In the abstract Dr. Ray reports that of those who had school age children, 74% were educating their children at home. At first I was a bit surprised that it was this low. It has been a year or two since I read the report, but I thought the number was higher. I skimmed through the report and found on page 47 that only 9% were sending their children to public schools. The other major categories were private schools, or homeschooling/private school combinations.

It seems that into the next generation homeschooling has a good retention rate.

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

This sounds like a classic reason why public schools are having trouble

The Goldwater Institute has filed a lawsuit to protect charter school autonomy. The first two paragraphs in their press release appears to identify one of the reasons why public schools are doing so poorly:

"Phoenix--Today five charter schools announced they filed suit to prevent being forced to change the curricula that has helped them rank among the top public schools in the country. The lawsuit is the first filed by the new Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

"The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) has mandated that the schools align their curricula to an ADE-determined grade-by-grade curriculum sequence. “These rules would have the perverse effect of dumbing-down some of the most successful schools in the entire United States,” said Clint Bolick, the litigation center’s director."

The ADE does not seem to be upset that students at these charter schools are receiving a poor education. It doesn't appear that the ADE is going after public schools. No the ADE is worried that the charter schools are drawing outside the lines, outside the lines the ADE created. Maybe at some point there ought to be a law that charter schools can do pretty much anything they want if the students are receiving a better education than the public schools provide.

Later in the press release we find that the ADE is upset that United States history isn't being taught in the 7th and 8th grades. Great Hearts Academies, one of the charter schools, teaches ancient history in 7th grade, medieval history in 8th grade, and then United States history in 9th grade. Once the students have a historical context they understand US history much better.

Goldwater Institute's stance is that the ADE doesn't have the authority to mandate a prescribed curriculum. If the law in Arizona was that the ADE got to force charter schools to follow some curriculum, then maybe this would be some what reasonable. As it is, it just seems arbitrary.

The ADE's action seems like a typical bureaucratic move. They aren't concern with is the job being done, but is all the paperwork filled out correctly. There is a time and place for filling out paperwork, but this seems way over the top.

For more information check this out.

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Making a difference

Last week A Word A Day had this thought:

"Do not commit the error, common among the young, of assuming that if you cannot save the whole of mankind, you have failed."
-Jan de Hartog, playwright and novelist (1914-2002)

This reminds me of the story of the starfish. It is easy to recognize that we are limited human beings and not able to solve world hunger. But there are many places we can make a difference in the life of an individual. It is worth making the effort.

I enjoy the quotes from the A Word A Day as much as the words. My original purpose in joining the mailing list was to get the quotes. Many of these quotes are from people I have not heard of before.

Jan de Hartog sounds like an interesting man. He was born in Holland. He escaped Nazi occupied Germany, lived in the UK during the war, and then settled in the United States. He always considered himself Dutch. He wrote many stories, mostly about the Dutch at sea. I'm going to check out my library, and I expect to read one of his books.

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Benefits of travel

I have been mulling over some of the reasons we take these month long family vacations. I see three main benefits to travel: Education, Growth, and Family Time.


When we travel we see museums, hike in the hills, and try to learn about our country’s history. We spend very little time at amusement parks. In fact it has been four years since we took our daughters to an amusement park. It was Marine World. We went with my youngest brother and his family.

In our trip last month, our daughters learned about American history at Colonial Williamsburg. They learned about geology down in the Shenandoah Caverns.. They learned about animals at the Virginia Safari Park and the Washington DC Zoo. They saw famous paintings at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

I find that travel also provides great opportunities for discussion. Our daughters asked questions about the Revolutionary War while we were at Colonial Williamsburg. And while in Washington DC we had long discussions about the proper role of government.

I asked for some input from my wife and she said that part of the reason we travel is to explore the world. We live in a great big world. There is much to see. We are trying to expose our daughters to more than they normally see from our neighborhood.


Travel is often stressful. After our flight into Baltimore, we learned that the airline had lost our middle daughter’s suitcase. She was pretty upset. She seemed to feel that she couldn’t continue on the vacation. We calmly told her that it really was no big deal. If her clothes didn’t show up, we could hit Walmart and buy her some new outfits. Luckily the airline delivered the suitcase the next morning.

Our youngest daughter was uncomfortable being down two hundred feet in the Shenandoah Caverns. She thought the cavern was beautiful, but didn’t like the idea of having two hundred feet of dirt over head.

The first night at my brothers our daughters were awaken by loud booms as a thunder storm rolled in. The younger two girls didn’t remember ever hearing such loud thunder before. They were a bit scared. My brother said this happened all the time. They realized their cousins were still sleeping and so my daughters decided it was safe to go back to bed.

All of these experiences and many more help prepare our daughters for the challenges that life will throw at them.

Family Time

The longest lasting associations most of us will have are with our siblings. Our parents normally die before we die. Most of us will be buried long before our children. The people we know the longest are our siblings.

As parents we want our daughters to have close, strong relationships. After Janine and I got married, my parents loaned us a tape. Gary Smalley shared ideas on how to have a strong family. He felt things like travel and camping were great for helping families to draw closer to each other. Having shared experiences builds bonds. These experiences need to be more than watching TV together. When I get together with my siblings we don’t talk about the hours of television we watched together. We talked about the horse rides we took at my grandparents.

Taking our daughters on trips provides them with common experiences that will help tie them together through the years.

Travel has many benefits. The above three are the main reasons we get out of our comfort zone and go out to explore the world.

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

In the News: School testing fraud

This news story is from Long Island.

Probe reveals school test fraud is multiplying

Musto, who was testifying at a state licensing hearing, said he had worried that his students weren't adequately prepared for the June 2004 exam because he had taken time off from classes to look for another job. Further, Musto insisted, he had been advised by colleagues that it was OK to "give a student a point or two, just don't get caught" -- an allegation rejected by Freeport authorities.


Meanwhile, the education department itself faces complaints that it isn't taking test security seriously enough. One controversy revolves around the department's decision earlier this month to allow Uniondale High School to store Regents exams on its premises during the latest administration, despite evidence that one or more Uniondale staffers had falsified students' test answer sheets over the previous two years.

This raises a difficult questions. How do you evaluate school performance if test results are the product of cheating? This goes back to another problem with testing and education. It pushes schools to be more invested in raising test scores than academic proficiency.

So, if test results are not reliable, what else is there? A "public school friend" of mine visited the local middle schools, before deciding where to send her daughter. She described getting a "bad feeling" from the class room. She took the time to read the student assignments posted on the walls and to watch how the students reacted to the teacher. She noted how the students treated each other. In a short amount of time, she concluded that this was NOT the right place for her child even though the school reported supposedly good test scores. She visited the school and just "knew" the quality of the education.

Homeschool families have similar experiences. I remember a statement I heard at my first homeschooling conference: "Homeschooling parents just know how their children are doing."
It is not the result of one test, but the sum of a thousand little data points gathered by spending prolonged contact with your children.

So, back to "How do you evaluate a school without relying on faulty test data?" You have to be on the inside or know someone who is inside the system because everything else is just smoke and mirrors.

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HomeSchoolBuzz on homeschooling news

People joke about trying to drink from a fire hose. My feeble attempts to keep on top of the hundreds of blogs I try to read feels more like trying to drink from the Mississippi.

I do make it a point to frequently drop in on Gary does a great job of tracking homeschooling in the news.

Gary found a cool article about a 14 year old homeschooler who is managing other people's money! Tales of a Ninth-Grade Fund Manager goes on for several pages showing how Brandon spends almost all of his awake time studying the stock market. It is great when teenagers find their passions and are supported in their efforts.

The Utah Home Education Association recently had their annual convention, so homeschool was in the news in Utah. Gary found a positive article about the growth of homeschooling: The decision to homeschool. It is a good article. One of the fun parts of the article was a mother explained that when her children got out of line she would threaten to send them back to public school.

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

Even with minor surgery Shannon gets this week's Carnival of Homeschooling up

One of the main reasons for the success of the Carnival of Homeschooling is we have a great group of dedicated bloggers who take turns hosting the carnival.

For examle this week Shannon puts together a large Carnival of Homeschooling, even with minor surgery planned for this week. Swing by HomeschoolHacks and check it out.

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

Four days to get in a submission to Unschooling Voices

Joanne has put out a reminder that entries for the monthly Unschooling Voices carnival are due by the end of June. Go here for details on how to submit a post.

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

Did you know that Pearl Buck was homeschooled?

I read The Good Earth by Pearl Buck long ago. It was either high school or college. I had not realized that Pearl Buck was homeschooled. Sherry at Semicolon mentions it today.

Sherry is asking for help on how to manage her many projects. She has an exhausting list. If you have any tips on how to juggle dozens of projects, you might drop in.

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Carnivals! Carnivals! Get your nice fresh Carnivals

Dana at put together the 8th Carnival of Principled Government at Principled Discovery. To submit a post about the founding principles of the United States go here.

The June edition of the Carnival of Children's Literature is at A Year of Reading.

The Headmistress found another Homeschooling Carnival. This may be a bit confusing with the Carnival of Homeschooling that Janine and I started up. I think it is great that there are so many carnivals about homeschooling. I know of four active carnivals on homeschooling.

Online University Lowdown is hosting the 4th Festival of Good Books.

And this week's Carnival of Family Life is up at Everyday Disasters.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Are you looking for information on some country?

Have you wanted to quickly find how many people live in Algeria, what the main industries are in Qatar, or the land area is for Nicaragua?

There is one place you can go for all this kind of information. My mother sent me the URL for the CIA's World Factbook. This web site has a ton of information.

(In case you got to wondering, 33.3 million people live in Algeria, Qatar's main industry is oil, and Nicaragua has 129,000 square kilometers.)

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Adventure Camp

Since I am the contact person for our homeschool support group, I often get calls and emails for organizations offering services to homeschoolers. Here's an email I got today.

Hello Janine,

Good speaking with you briefly this afternoon. I am hoping you can post this information for local homeschoolers to access. Here is a link to the Discovery Kids website where you can learn a little more about the program and see a promo video:

We are most interested in students who are homeschooled due to their curricular flexibility, although anyone between the ages of 12 to 14 are welcome to apply. We will have an on-site tutor, so any assignments given will be completed. In the past, due to the hands-on nature of this camp, school credit has been given just for participating. The camp is operated as one of the standard SeaWorld / Busch Gardens camps, with round-the-clock supervision by accredited counselors. The camp is scheduled to run from September 1 through 17 in Florida and all expenses are covered. The only requirement for admission is that the child must be able to swim.

Attached, you'll find the casting application with submission instructions. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns you may have and be sure and pass on this information to as many people as you can! I will follow up with you in a few days to see if there’s anything I can do.


Jenny Anderson
Production Coordinator
phone: 813.229.1212, x243 fax: 813.229.6333

I'm passing this along in case someone is interested.

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Less than 44 hours to send in a submission for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

This is the weekly reminder for the Carnival of Homeschooling. The next carnival will be held at HomeschoolHacks.

Entries are due this Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Here are the instructions for sending in a submission.

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

In the news

This story out of Michigan is a grim reminder that college campuses can be very dangerous places, especially when the administration covers up crime details.

University Under Fire for Cover-Up

Associated Press Writer

YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) -- For two months after Laura Dickinson was found dead in her dorm room, Eastern Michigan University officials assured her parents and the public there was no sign of foul play.

But campus police knew otherwise all along.

It wasn't until a fellow classmate was arrested in February that the truth came out: Dickinson had been .... murdered....

I've decided not to include the graphic details. Needless to say, it was ugly and in no way could be construed as natural causes like the parents were lead to believe.

Now university officials from the president on down are being accused of endangering students to protect the school's image.

"Somewhere a choice has got to be made to tell the parents," Dickinson's father, Bob Dickinson, said from the family's coffee shop in Hastings, about 120 miles from Detroit. "We always suspected something had happened besides something natural. But we had no idea what."

I've seen other stories like this. Schools (public, private, college, high school, middle school and so forth) routinely cover up major crimes in an attempt to avoid a scandal or liability. It is very dificult to find accurate crime statistics for schools.

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, the landmark federal law, originally known as the Campus Security Act, requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses.

The law is tied to participation in federal student financial aid programs, and thus it applies to most institutions of higher education both public and private. It is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education. Yet incidents like the one at Eastern Michigan University still occur.

I was suprised to find that the laws governing the reporting of crime in public schools vary from state to state. There is no federal mandatory K-12 school crime reporting and tracking law in the United States. As a result, nobody really knows the crime rates in public school.

NCLB may contribute to underreporting of crime in public schools. Since being labeled as "persistently dangerous" has serious political and administrative implications for local school administrators, principals could be pressured to underreport school crime and violence. [National School Safety and Security Service}

Especially underreported are sexual misconduct crimes, as documented here.

I spent 30 minutes with a search in google and could not find the crime reporting laws for public schools in California. As a consumer, it makes it hard to evaluated the relative safety of various educational institutions. It is not surprising that safety is one of the major factors driving the increase of homeschooling.

Caveat Emptor!

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It is Saturday morning and Sherry's Review of Books is going strong

We live out on the west coast. I've been up for an hour. It is kind of early in the morning, especially for a Saturday. But dozens of people have already submitted book reviews to the Saturday Review of Books on Semicolon.

The weekly Review of Books seems to get more popular each week. Already there are over 40 entries.

If you have recently posted a review of a book, drop in and add your review. If you are looking for a good book to read, swing by and I'm sure you'll find something new and interesting.

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Book review: Talking to Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede

My daughters often read the four books from the Enchanted Forest series by Patricia C. Wrede. They came across the books a couple years back. They seem to check out the books and audio tapes every couple months. Over the last year I have listened to bits and pieces of the series.

Talking to Dragons is was the first book published, but it is really the fourth in the series. The hero of the story is a 16 year old boy by the name of Daystar. For the first 16 years of his life he lived on the edge of the Enchanted Forest with his mother. Then one day his mother gives him a sword and sends him out into Enchanted Forest. His mother tells him he has a mission, but won’t tell him what the mission is.

Fairly quickly Daystar bumps into a fire-witch. They are both in trouble with wizards, and decide to stick together. Daystar was taught to always be polite to dragons. They come across a young dragon. Daystar is very polite and the dragon joins the group. Near the end of the book Daystar finally figures out his mission and helps save the day.

This is a fun book. It moves along well. I stayed up till midnight to finish it. If your children like fantasy, you might have them try this book.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Do you live in the United States? What country produces as much as your state?

This is a fun way to look at a map of United States. Each state has the name of a country with about the gross product.

(Hat tip: Kim's Play Place.

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The 3rd Carnival of a Thomas Jefferson Education is up

This month's Carnival of a Thomas Jefferson Education is up at Trinity Prep School.

If you would like to entry a post for next month's carnival, jump over to Blog Carnival and use the submission form.

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

Are you looking for advice on homeschooling?

Kelly at Pass The Torch asked homeschooling bloggers to post advice on homeschooling.

Yesterday she put up a post allowing bloggers to add a link to their post. You can go check out advice from dozens of bloggers. If you have posted suggestions about being a better homeschooler, you can add a link to Kelly's post.

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

Thursday, June 21, 2007

IQ, Birth Order and other stuff

Interesting research on the effect of birth order and IQ.

Eldest Sons Do Best on Tests

Boys at the top of the pecking order — either by birth or because their older siblings died — score higher on IQ tests than their younger brothers. The question of whether firstborn and only children are really smarter than those who come along later has been hotly debated for more than a century.

Norwegian researchers now report that it isn't a matter of being born first, but growing up the senior child, that seems to result in the higher IQ scores. Petter Kristensen and Tor Bjerkedal report their findings in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

Here's the interesting theory proposed by another researcher.

Frank J. Sulloway of the Institute for Personality and Social Research at the University of California, Berkeley, welcomed what he called the Norwegians' "elegantly designed" analysis. "These two researchers demonstrate that how study participants were raised, not how they were born, is what actually influences their IQs," said Sulloway, who was not part of the research team.

The elder child pulls ahead, he said, perhaps as a result of learning gained through the process of tutoring younger brothers and sisters. The older child benefits by having to organize and express its thoughts to tutor youngsters, he said, while the later children may have no one to tutor.

This has potential applications in education. Homeschooling naturally gives children the chance to act as as tutor to younger siblings. It raises the question of how to give these types of opportunities to youngest or only children.

Schools could also use this model. When I was in third grade, my teacher put me outside in the hall to work with another student who was a struggling reader. It has been long enough ago that I don't remember if it was a one time thing or something that happened on a regular basis. Either way, I remember enjoying it.

The strict grouping of children by age and ability might also hinder the development of IQ and leadership qualities.

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Top 10 Signs You're Doing a Good Job as a Homeschool Parent

Carolyn Morrison has the Top 10 Signs You're Doing a Good Job as a Homeschool Parent. It is both a thoughtful and a funny list.

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The Carnival of Space is up

This week's Carnival of Space, number 8, is up at Universe Today. There is great variety in the posts about space.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Idaho's entrenched homeschooling movement

I just loved the title of this news article from the Boise Weekly. I get the feeling that the author, Shea Andersen, is not quite a fan. The article included this cartoon by Mike Flinn which seems a bit derogatory.

Keep 'Em Home
Otter and Idaho's entrenched homeschooling movement

Here are a few excerpts:
But teachers still ponder the state's home-schooled kids.

Sherri Wood of the Idaho Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, said her organization does not oppose homeschooling per se, but she questions the ability of all parents to take over a child's education. "We have found that homeschool parents are not necessarily taking on the responsibility that they should take on as educators," Wood said.

Also, Wood said, kids who aren't in school are missing out on the socializing effects a public school offers kids.

Ahh, the dreaded S work again.

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Could the asteroids be the next gold rush?

Growing up I often heard Johannes Kepler’s famous line: “Between Jupiter and Mars, I Place a Planet.” Kepler had been studying the distances of the known planets. He thought there was a large gap between Mars and Jupiter. Later Ceres and other asteroids were discovered! In doing a bit of research on this quote, I was surprised to find that full quote was “Between Jupiter and Mars, I Place a Planet, and also another between Venus and Mercury.”

When I was fourteen I read a book about asteroids. One of the points in the book has stuck with me over a couple decades. The book said that a small asteroid of about one cubic mile was worth about $50 billion. This was in the 1970s. Nowadays the number would be closer to $300 billion. Scientists have found that asteroids have a greater density. There appears to be a greater concentration of metals when compared to the earth.

NASA is launching a probe next month which will fly out to the asteroids. The probe, named Dawn, will first go to Vesta, and then to Ceres. Dawn should arrive at Vesta October 2011. It will orbit for seven months, studying the asteroid, and then leave for Ceres. Dawn is scheduled to arrive at Ceres in February 2015.

Early space development may be largely financed by tourists, at least in the short term. Over the years more people and industry will start to move out into space. Mining the asteroids may prove to be the next gold rush. Stories are told of miners walking along the river banks picking up nuggets of gold. It may be that at some point men in rocket ships will be able to fly to the asteroids and pick up valuable metals. Today large copper mines in the United States can be profitable if about one percent of the dirt is copper.

It will be fun to see what we learn from the Dawn probe.

Update I: 22 June 07

Astronomy Picture of the Day just posted pictures of Ceres and Vesta.

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The Carnival of Education is up

Now that public schools are out for the summer many teachers are taking a break. This week's Carnival of Education revolves around a theme of going back to the beach. The carnival is held at What It's Like on the Inside.

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More on the importance of developing a powerful vocabulary

The Headmistress pointed to a recent post by Mama Squirrel. Mama Squirrel is responding to a recent article in the The article is on vocabulary and asks Are we losing our lexicon? There is a push to expose children to fewer words, so they don't have as expansive vocabulary. Mama Squirrel argues it is imortant to help children develop a large vocabulary and has suggestions on how to help.

Mama Squirrel's post and the article are both worth reading.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Robots and Math

This is an interesting article which proposes that robots can turn around declining math scores.

Robots: America’s Answer to Dwindling Math Scores

The United States of America may lose its supremacy as a superpower if our children of today can’t grasp the technologies of tomorrow. The trend has already been set. High-level engineering jobs are currently being outsourced to other nations, not only because of cheaper costs, but inadequacies of filling them in the states.....

Many children in this “superior” country just view mathematics as something needed to pass a proficiency test. Its value is discarded. The implementations are unseen. The desire of children to follow this type of career path is decreasing. Obviously, these future implications are disturbing and may some day be detrimental to the foundation of our country. However, I believe nurturing children’s enthusiasm in needing to use math may be the answer. Not surprisingly as stated in Robots for Kids, “Robots rank right up there with dinosaurs when it comes to grabbing the attention of elementary school students…” [1 p. 232]. Hence, I predict an interest, active participation, and proper guidance in robotics will increase nationally recorded math scores.

This is a long article with many concrete suggestions. The author, Nick Cherney, has an ambitious plan laid out for grade school, middle school and high school.

In our household, we've tied the study of math to money and investing. I think my kids would be interested in robots, as long as they could make a little robot family. (My daughters would only play with building blocks if they were making a bed for their doll or something like that.) Mr. Cherney also noted that the "robot approach" has been more successful with boys than girls.

I suggest that they try a little robot romance with a wedding and baby robots and the girls will get with the program.

Overall, I think Mr. Cherney has an idea worth looking at. Whether in school or homeschool, it looks like a fun idea.

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The Carnival of Homeschooling is up - week 77, The 77 Sunset Strip edition

Judy Aron is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling at her blog Consent Of The Governed.

This is the 77th edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling. This reminded Judy of 77 Sunset Strip, so she took the carnival on a road trip. Judy reminds us that "homeschooling is a journey... not a destination."

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

Monday, June 18, 2007

The value of playing outdoors

This is an interesting article from the UK.

Modern children miss out on greatest childhood joys: playing outdoors

Forget computer games, television shows and DVDs, children derive the most fun from playing outdoors, research shows.

Scientists have revealed that while staring at a screen may seem tempting, our happiest childhood memories revolve around more simple pleasures, such as building sandcastles and making daisy chains.

Kite flying, rock-pooling and other low-tech outdoor activities are also vividly recalled.

By contrast, TVs, computers and other electronic gadgets barely feature in our treasure trove of childhood memories.

Researcher Dr David Lewis said that the findings suggest that modern-day children are in danger of missing out on some of the finest life experiences.

This topic has been on my mind lately. Homeschoolers have a great advantage when it comes to spending time outdoors. However, we can also fall into the trap of spending too much time inside.

I would blog more, but I'm going to leave my computer behind and spend some time outside.

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Looks like I have another book to check out: "Somebody's Gotta Say It" by Neal Boortz

Silvia who blogs at Po Moyemu (which means "in my opinion" in Russian) has a quote from a recent book by Neel Boortz:

"There is no greater long-term threat to our continued prosperity, economic liberty, freedom, and quality of life in the United States than that presented by teachers unions. And that includes Islamic terrorists."

Silvia says this is from Neal's book Somebody's Gotta Say It. He has a chapter on The Tragedy of Our Government Schools. She found the above quote on page 121. She says Neal defends the above assertion by writing:

"We can recover from the destruction that may be visited upon us by these Islamic radicals. But can we recover from the damage being done by our hideous government schools?A massive terrorist weapon might destroy a city. Our government schools will destroy a nation."

It appears Neal is mostly saying we need to get away from the current structure of government schools. He doesn't mind homeschooling. He is for school choice.

I don't know much about Neal Boortz. He is a radio talk show host. And he writes columns. I am going to track down his book Somebody's Gotta Say It at the library and at least read the chapter on government schools.

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

The Carnival of Online Education is up

The 8th Carnival of Online Education is up at Online University Lowdown.

I think this carnival comes out every two weeks. If you would like to be in the next one, go here to submit an entry.

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The Carnival of Family Life is up

This week's Carnival of Family Life is up at the so called me. There are 55 entries.

To submit to next week's edition go here.

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Perfect Attendance Rewarded With Car

Am I the only one that sees a problem with this?

Perfect Attendance Rewarded With Car

Harford Public Schools student will be rewarded for perfect attendance with a new car.

Tony March Automotive struck the deal to supply a new car for a student with perfect attendance six years ago, and the program continues, with a Hartford student set to be rewarded Thursday night.

The car isn't the only reward for attendance. Jeffrey Dressler's Mega Education Program will give a $5,000 savings bond to another student who had perfect attendance for at least one month during the past school year.

Travel vouchers valued at $250 will also be rewarded to parents who have been involved in PTO activities during the year.

There is something seriously wrong when students have to be bribed and coerced to go to school. It is indicative of many problems.

First, students have a exaggerated sense of entitlement. Education is its own reward. An education provided at someone else's expense is a privilege to be appreciated and should come with obligations to reimburse the cost incurred.

Second, if schools provided a service that the public valued, students would be waiting in line to get in and parents would eagerly get involved. Something is seriously wrong with a school you have to bribed students to attend.

Third, public education disregards true diversity. Compulsory attendance laws treat all children like interchangeable widgets. Some children are pushed into the classroom before they are ready for formal education. These same laws dictate content with no regard to interest, ability, talent, learning style, and developmental readiness. Students who have no interest in academics are forced to literally serve their time and are discouraged from developing other potential talents. These unhappy students also drain resources away from the students who are eager to learn but are held back to accommodate slower learners.

Homeschool is a great option for moderate and high achieving parents. Families with fewer in home resources flock to voucher and scholarship programs which provide subsidized access to private institutions and higher performing schools.

For those who are left to make their way in a badly designed public school system, they can at least now hope for a car.

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More on Zero Tolerance

Hopefully, schools will figure out that zero tolerance makes zero sense.

No room for school's zero tolerance

Fifth-graders in California who adorned their mortarboards with tiny toy plastic soldiers this week to support troops in Iraq were forced to cut off their miniature weapons. A Utah boy was suspended for giving his cousin a cold pill prescribed to both students. In Rhode Island, a kindergartner was suspended for bringing a plastic knife to school so he could cut cookies.

It's all part of "zero tolerance" rules, which typically mandate severe punishments for weapons and drug offenses regardless of the circumstances.

Lawmakers in several states say the strict policies in schools have resulted in many punishments that lack common sense, and are seeking to loosen the restrictions.

I hope they are successful. I personally am insulted that a child was forced to "disarm" his plastic soldiers. Though, this sort of silliness is not limited to schools. I'm embarrassed to admit that the homeschool park day group that I attend bans squirt guns at the park, and all weapons play, or anything that looks like boys rough housing. Even at Halloween, the police officer and the knight costume had to go sans weapons.

Since we meet in public parks, the rule is technically unenforceable. I tell my kids to play on the far side of the park if I think that someone is going be upset by their style of play. I feel ridiculous every time I have to explain this policy to a homeschooler who calls for information about our group. I usually preface it with, "This is a really quirky group. They are very nice people, but..." It is sad the this policy, which caters to a small minority, has pushed more than a few homeschool families to find another homeschool support group.

I can't tell if I'm being considerate of the small minority or a coward for letting it go on like this. A few years ago I surreptitiously reworded the park day guidelines so that they weren't quite so extreme, but I didn't nearly go far enough.

When I was new in the group, I didn’t think it was my place to change things. Now that I’m one of the old timers, it is time for me to take a stand. But first, I will need to go out and buy some squirt guns.

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