Friday, February 29, 2008

In honor of Leap Day

One of our family stories has to do with my grandmother's brother or her uncle. I've forgotten just exactly the relationship. He had been born on Leap Day, February 29th. Once in his fifties he was at a county fair. There was a shooting competition for teeangers. He applies, exlaining that he had only had 13 birthdays and so he should be allowed to participate. He was turned down. Afterwards he said he was glad they had turned him down, a couple of the boys were much better shooters.

Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert and Sullivan is one of my favorite movies. This song explores the paradoz of being born on Leap Day:

Technorati tags: Leap Day

A resource for teaching

A friend sent me the URL for Lesson Plans at The Teacher's Corner. I explored the site for awhile. There is an incredible number of resources. For example I may go back to the Printable Sudoku generator. There was a link to Free Printable Maps, like the United States, Europe, and South America. They have a recipe for making Dinosaur Eggs. They have thematic unites; this month's is Chocolate. They have Seasonal Activities and Lesson Plans, for March alone there were about 50.

The Teacher's Corner was launched in 1998. Someone has put a ton of work into this site. This is a great resource for teachers and homeschoolers. I am very impressed.

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

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Carnivals of Space is up

This week's Carnival of Space is up at Starts With A Bang!

Technorati tags: ,

Leonardo da Vinci on Patience

I enjoyed this thought from Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list

"Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind."

-Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Artist, architect and engineer
Cited in BITS & PIECES
BITS & PIECES: Home Delivery 2001/08/16


Dan added: "Or as Herr Kemper is wont to say, 'Patience is a virtue.'"

I poked around a bit and found this reference which claims the origin of "Patience is a virtue." goes back to the 1300s.

Technorati tags: Leonardo da Vinci,

Status on the contest to select images for the Carnival of Homeschooling

A couple readers have asked about the status of the Contest for Carnival of Homeschooling graphics.

The first phase of the contest ended on the 28th of January. I had planned to have the second phase start a week or so later. In the second phase people could vote for their favorite images.

I apologize that it has taken so long to start the second phase. I have been working on the contest and it looks like I'll have the images up soon, probably this Saturday, so people can start voting.

Stay tuned.

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

USA Today reports that Teens losing touch with historical references

An alert reader sent me the URL to a recent USA Today article. Teens losing touch with historical references reports on a recent survey of public education in America. The survey of 1200 students found:

43% knew the Civil War was fought between 1850 and 1900.
52% could identify the theme of 1984.
51% knew that the controversy surrounding Sen. Joseph McCarthy focused on communism.

Half of those surveyed knew that Job from the Bible was known for his patience during suffering.

In 1983 the Federal Government released a report on the state of Education in America. A Nation at Risk warned that education had deteriorated over the previous decades. It had this famous quote:

"If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves."

This is another powerful quote:

"Each generation of Americans has outstripped its parents in education, in literacy, and in economic attainment. For the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents."

The survey mentioned in the USA Today article comes from a report released this week by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research investigates to see if there has been any progress in the last 25 years since the 1983 call to action. Still At Risk: What Students Don't Know, Even Now by Frederick M. Hess is a 24 page summary of the state of public education today and is also a call to action.

I don't have faith that the public schools, as they currently are structured, can be saved. Too many people have tried over the last five decades, and public schools have continued to decline.

Our alert reader said at the end of her email:

"I am SO glad I homeschool (my 7 year old knows who Job is)"

Janine and I echo this sentiment. We are very grateful we are able to homeschool our children.

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

Dick Cavett interview of Mortimer Adler

A comment on my book review of A Guideboock to Learning by Mortimer Adler led me to the the Center for the Study of The Great Ideas. This is an organization dedicated to bringing The Great Ideas to everyone.

The more I learn of Mortimer J. Adler the more I am impressed.

While exploring the web site I found an interivew of Mortimer Adler by Dick Cavett. The interview was in two parts on television. There are some great lines in first half of the interview:

CAVETT: ... You upset some people somewhere once by saying that you had only been educated in the last twenty-five years. I think that is a quote from an address you gave somewhere.
CAVETT: This, of course, because of your age being—is it seventy-five?
ADLER: Seventy-six.
CAVETT: Seventy-six, left out your—there is always an appreciative moan from the audience when someone like you or Bob Hope, who is that age, appears to be fifty. That left out, of course, the years of your formal education and—
ADLER: I call that schooling, not education.
CAVETT: Oh, please tell us the difference.
ADLER: Well, schooling is what goes on in institutions. It is only a preparation for education. No one ever gets educated in school. One of the troubles with the educational system is the wrong supposition that school is a place where you get an education, so that when you get a degree, that certifies you are an educated man or woman. That is far from the truth.
CAVETT: So now, yes, there is the phrase, “My son just completed his education.”
ADLER: Utterly crazy. Utterly crazy.

I also enjoyed Adler's account of studying under John Dewey:

ADLER: And John Dewey, who I had studied at Columbia in the early 1920s
CAVETT: The John Dewey?
ADLER: The John Dewey. He was, again, a kindly gentleman, who lectured very slowly so that I could take his lectures down in longhand. I would go home to my study and type the lecture out. I collected these lectures that I wrote about. And I noticed that what he said on Tuesday was inconsistent with what he said the previous Thursday. So I would write him a letter, and say, “Dear Professor Dewey, last Thursday you said . . . ” and I would quote. “But this Tuesday you said . . . and that does not seem quite consistent to me. Would you please explain?” Well, he came to class and said, “A student in class wrote me a letter.” He read the letter and then tried to explain. I wrote the answer down. And the answer didn’t solve the problem. So I wrote him another letter. And this went on for three weeks. And he finally had his assistant come to me, and say, “Dr. Dewey wishes you would stop writing him letters.”

I think John Dewey did great harm to education in America. I find it amusing that he wasn't consistent.

Over the years I've heard several references to How to Think About the Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization. Maybe I'm now old enough to start in on my education.

Technorati tags: Great Ideas, ,

A little off topic: Flash Match Filters and a White Balance Filter

I'm a novice with cameras. I like taking pictures, but I of the point and shoot school of thought.

A good friend of mine is a professional photographer. He is starting up a business of providing "clever photo accessories." If you are into photography you might be interested.

He has started out with two products: a set of Flash Match Filters and a White Balance Filter. Here's the information:

Phoxle™ Flash Match Filters
Phoxle™ Flash Match Filters conveniently match the color temperature of on-camera photo flashes to various ambient light conditions. Without Flash Match filters, photographers have to choose to white balance for the flash, or the ambient light. That choice leads to pictures with color-casts in the foreground or background (go here for examples). With Flash Match filters, photographers can approximately match the flash to the color of the ambient light and get much more pleasant and appealing color in their flash photographs.
Phoxle™ Flash Match Filters are designed with patent pending Spectresce™ technology, and are extremely easy to use. The photographer simply selects a color temperature filter from the booklet, peels the filter out, sticks it on the flash, and checks the color balance. When the shoot’s over, the filter peels off of the flash and goes back in the booklet.

Phoxle™ SpectraSnap™ White Balance Filter
Phoxle™ SpectraSnap™ White Balance Filters make getting accurate and pleasing color a snap. In-camera auto white balance functions are convenient, but not always accurate. Using SpectraSnap to make custom white balance exposures, photographers will see richer and more accurate colors in many shooting environments. And, the SpectraSnap unique over-the-hood mounting makes it easy and convenient to use with all lenses up to 120mm in diameter.
Phoxle™ SpectraSnap™ White Balance Filters are precision engineered using patent pending Spectresce™ technology to deliver very precise white balance exposures in a wide variety of conditions. They have very flat spectral responses, and very good radial sensitivity and color accuracy. Before and after photo examples, and typical performance characteristic graphs may be found on the company website.

You can order these products from the Phoxle Online Store.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Time to catch up on some blogging

The foster care boy we currently have is sick with the flu. He woke up a couple times this morning. Normally Janine will hold him then he'll settle back down and fall asleep. When needed Janine will feed him or change his diaper. At 4:15 am, he wasn't settling down. Janine woke me up and asked me to take a turn.

The boy is about to turn 18 months. He is a sweet boy and has a beautiful smile. With Janine being a stay at home mom, he spends ten times as much time with Janine as he spends with me. When he is miserable he doesn't want to be held by me. He wants Janine. I tried to rock him and he squirmed. I tried to just hold him but he fussed and fussed. Finally I put him on a coach beside me and we watched TV. He was a little fussy, but he sat there looking at the television.

After forty minutes he fell asleep!

Now it is a little after 5:00 AM. I have trouble falling back sleep. Once I am wide awake I almost never fall back asleep. With all this time I'll spend the next hour or two catching up on a little blogging.

Technorati tags: foster care, , ,

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

In the news

This headline jumped right out at me.

Recording has parents wondering what takes place at school

How much do you really know about what goes on in your child's classroom? A case in Houston probably has many parents wondering. A teacher was recorded verbally attacking students in class.

The abuse in Houston was taking place with 4 and 5-year-olds. Here in Utah, private preschool teachers do not need to be licensed, so parents really need to be on alert for any kind of teacher who may be demeaning a child.

As a side note, I thing the comment about private schools and teacher licensing is beside that point. A license doesn't prevent this sort of thing. The teacher in this story worked for a government school anyway, not a private school. Now back to the story....

After being told their daughter had behavioral problems, the family placed a digital tape recorder in Megan's backpack. This is what they heard: "Nobody are you good for. You're just a bad kid. When are you going to be a good kid?"

The teacher singled out students and directed anger toward the entire class. Among the things she could also be heard saying, was, "You're just mean to your teacher, and I'm going to be mean to you, too," and "Ya'll are just stupid kids, I swear to God."

This article ends with another inane comment.

Again, we want to emphasize these situations are not real common. Excluding preschools, most school teachers go through training and discussions with their districts on classroom management.

I liked the coverage better from ABC News:

Teacher to 4-Year-Olds: 'You Are All Just Stupid Kids'

A Houston mother, who said her daughter was well-behaved at home, was worried about what was going on in her child's classroom because the girl had been suspended four times for bad behavior.

So, Diana Mijares decided to secretly bug her daughter's backpack and was shocked to hear what was on the tape.

Megan Mijares' digital tape recorded mostly mundane moments at Memorial Elementary School's prekindergarten class, but then it captured the teacher yelling at the group of 4- and 5-year-olds. All of it happened without Megan's or her teacher's knowledge.

"You're just a bad kid," the teacher says on the six-hour tape. "You're mean to me, so I get to be mean to you."

This is where things get really sad.

In response to the allegations, the Houston Independent School District is investigating the case and the school's principal has reassigned the teacher.....

The teacher has a history of parental complaints. Another mother told ABC News Houston affiliate KTRK that the teacher yelled at her young son and then slapped his face in December.

Houston school officials confirmed a slapping allegation was reported to the principal. After an investigation, the principal found evidence the teacher slapped a student and she was disciplined.

"She was suspended for one day without pay back in December," said district spokesperson Terry Abbott.

Why is someone like that in a classroom with a bunch of little kids? The really scary things is that parents of the other children were so oblivious to the problem. How long would this have continued if the parents of this little girl had not investigated on their own?

This is one of the reasons my children do not attend government schools. I do not entrust my children into the care of strangers, especially when they are too young to articulate what happens in the classroom.

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

Monday, February 25, 2008

Great education resource for history

Joanne Jacobs reports:

"TimesMachine can take you back to any issue from Volume 1, Number 1 of The New-York Daily Times, on September 18, 1851, through The New York Times of December 30, 1922. Choose a date in history and flip electronically through the pages, displayed with their original look and feel."

Just amazing! The font for the full page is pretty small. You can open up each article in a separate window.

This is a great resource. When children are study American History they can see how the news was being reported when the event happened. Children might also enjoy seeing what happened on their birthday a hundred years ago.

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

The Carnival of Family Life is up

This week's Carnival of Family Life is being hosted at Colloquium.

To sumbit to the next carnival click on this carnival submission form.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

The ideal pets? No feeding! No fuss!

My mother found a live video camera of the nest for two Peregrine Falcons.

Technorati tags: Peregrine Falcons

The Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is up

This week's Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is up at Simply Charlotte Mason.

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

Humor: Best prank ever?

Another fun link from my mother - Jerry Guo explains:

"Over 200 New Yorkers recently walked into one of the busiest train stations in the world, New York's Grand Central Station, and at exactly 2:30 pm, all froze in place. There's one guy in the video who froze just as he was stooping down to pick up some scattered papers. Talk about commitment."

Technorati tags: humor

Arthur Benjamin the Mathemagician - simply amazing

My mother sent me a link to Arthur Benjamin: Lightning calculation and other "Mathemagic" which shows Dr. Arthur Benjamin doing some amazing math. The link is to a video. I am totally amazed.

I've requested his book Secrets of Mental Math: The Mathemagician's Guide to Lightning Calculation and Amazing Math Tricks from our library. I'm surprised that everyone one of the nine reviews on Amazon gave the book five starts. We may soon be buying the book.

Technorati tags: Arthur Benjamin, education, Mathemagic, Mathemagician

I love homeschooling

My middle daughter has been on a cooking kick for the last month or so. She is eleven years old. She started off cooking pancakes for breakfast and fairly simples dishes. The last couple weeks she been bringing home cookbooks from the library.

Today she made truffles! They were great. I'll be happy to let her make more.

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

Yet another fun geography game

McMama left a comment about a fun interactive U.S. geography game by Scott Bryce. I got 96 out of 96. It appears you get two points for each state, with Hawaii and Alaska not being options.

On the state capitals I did poorly, getting out 26 out of 50.

(Update I - 23 Feb 2008) Janine noticed the game didn't work in Firefox. I asked Scott about it. He explains that he wrote the game back awhile ago in Javascript.

Here are the other geography games we've mentioned: Place The State, Traveler IQ Challenge, and Statetris.

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

Statistics never lie but liars use Statistics

Dave's analysis that the CDRP Dropout Report is Not All That Valuable reminded me of the saying "Statistics never lie but liars use Statistics."

The California Dropout Research Project released a report on the dropout rate. It shows that the dropout rate for charter schools and alternative schools is higher that normal public schools.

But Dave found that if you dug into the report:

Looking at the data from the California Department of Education that CDRP used, there are some pretty big differences in the data from charters and alternative programs.
For example, CDRP showed Los Angeles Unified's dropout rate for traditional schools as 4.1%. They showed the combined charter/alternative dropout rate as 12.2%. If you break out the charter schools separately, the results are quite illuminating. The dropout rate of alternative programs in LAUSD is a whopping 20.7% while the charter school rate is 0.9%, even lower than the traditional schools. Even more telling is that charter schools are only responsible for 112 of the 10,588 dropouts in LAUSD that year. That's only .001% of the dropouts. In LAUSD, charter schools are not problem.
In San Francisco Unified, alternative schools have a 10.6% dropout rate compared to 1.7% for the charter schools. They're not the problem there either.


I wonder if we'll hear a public outcry on the dishonesty of this report?

Technorati tags: public school, public education, education

The value of intentions v. action

This came from the A Word A Day mailing list for yesterday:

Every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.
-James Russell Lowell, poet, editor, and diplomat (1819-1891)

Technorati tags: intention, action

Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books is up

Semicolon is hosting her weekly Review of Books.

Remember, it is easy to add a link to her review of books. If you have blogged about books recently consider adding your post to the review.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Book Review: The Surprising Power of Family Meals by Miriam Weinstein

Albert Einstein is reported to have said “Compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe.”

I often thought of this quote while I reread The Surprising Power of Family Meals: How Eating Together Makes Us Smarter, Stronger, Healthier, and Happier by Miriam Weinstein.

Miriam writes about so many benefits of families eating together that it is hard to even briefly mention them in a short book review. Here are a few:

1) Children learn to be strong by hearing family stories of those who experienced hard times. (p. 27)
2) Teenagers who eat with their family were twice as likely to get A’s. (p. 35)
3) Children who have daily family meals are much less likely to develop alcohol or drug addictions. (p. 36)
4) Daily family meals can help children survive an alcoholic parent. (p. 39)
5) Daily family meals provide a calmer environment and less stress, so children are less likely to develop asthma. (p. 46)
6) Daily family meals teach children how to moderate their food intake and avoid obesity, anorexia, and bulimia. (p. 48)
7) Children learn how to participate in conversations at meals. (p. 71)
8) Children learn manners at the dinner table. (p. 97)
9) Families which eat together are more likely to eat healthy foods. (p. 138)
10) Daily family meals can help children and parents get through divorce. (p.168)
11) Family meals are eight times more helpful in teaching children vocabulary than reading to children. (p. 208)

Miriam writes that there has been a huge change in family meals in the last two generations. It used to be that the family often ate together. This has changed.

In one survey 14% of the teenagers had not eaten with their family in the last week. Another 19% had eaten only one or two meals. In our hustle and bustle of running to and fro, families spend less time together. Our society no longer privileges family time.

I was surprised by all the effects that daily family meals had on children. For example the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that “when it came to prediction kid’s behavior, eating dinner with family was more important than church attendance, more important than even grades.”

Near the end of the book Miriam explains:

Although I have spent this book ranting about supper, you may have noticed that, underneath it all, supper is not really the point. Supper is only the occasion, the excuse. The subject is actually family – establishing, enjoying, and maintaining ties.”

Daily family meals are the compound interest of building children. It is the frequent deposits in to the life and character of your offspring. By having a forum for frequent discussions you are able to nip problems in the bud and strengthen your children so they can avoid problems. There are very few magic bullets in life, but daily family meals come close.

Miriam writes well. The book is well researched and organized. I enjoyed reading it and have made a greater effort to be with my family for both breakfast and dinner.

If you want encouragement for having daily family meals, read this book. If you are starting to lose the habit of daily family meals, read this book. If you want to improve your relationship with your children, read this book.

And remember have dinner with your family tonight.

Technorati tags: family, meals

Reminder - send in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

The next Carnival of Homeschooling will be hosted at The Daily Planet.

Please consider sending in a post.

As always, entries are due 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,

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Company won't hire those fresh out of college

Joanne Jacobs reports that those in their twenties are Good with Facebook, not with failure. Some businesses are refusing to hire "people fresh out of college unless they’ve done a work-related internship or have an advanced degree." There is concern that too many people graduating now have little work ethic.

Part of this problem is due to public schools making education a passive activity. Students are not allowed to get excited and run with a particular topic. They have to march with the rest of the class and study what everyone studies. I'm afraid too many people come out of K-12 having learned how to be passive.

One of the reasons we homeschool is so we can help our children develop a work ethic.

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

Carnivals of Space is up

This week's Carnival of Space is up at Chris Lintott's Universe.

Technorati tags: ,

Another geography game

A friend sent me the URL for another geography game. Place The State was created by Sheppard Software. The game has a blank canvas of the United States. You place the state where it is located.

The first couple states were challenging. Without another state, or some kind of boundry, to provide some reference I had trouble putting Iowa and Tennessee in exactly the right place. The rest were fairly easy.

Sheppard Software has tons of other games. I looked at a couple, there were some interesting ones.

If you missed our earlier posts, here is Traveler IQ Challenge, and here is Statetris.

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

You have until the end of February to get in a submission to Unschooling Voices

Silvia at Po Moyemu will be hosting Unschooling Voices in March. Unschooling Voices is a carnival for unschoolers. Silvia is asking for entries on:

"What do you do, as an unschooling parent, when your child expresses an interest in a particular topic and you don't know how to help them in a way that doesn't involve lesson plans and curriculum?"

Use this entry form to send in your post on unschooling.

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

Did you know about Wiktionary?

I was the Word Master for Toastmasters today. A typical Toastmasters meeting has three phases:

1) One or two people give speeches.
2) A table topics master invites people to give impromptu speeches. These are typically around a minute
3) The last phase is the evaluation phase - valuation of the meeting, of the speeches, and of table topics.

The job of a Word Master is to select a word to be used during table topics. This helps people expand their vocabulary and makes the job of speaking extemporaneously a little more challenging. The goal is to pick a word that is a bit unusual and maybe even unknown. I wanted to use "contemplate" but I wasn't sure if it was a fairly common word.

I went looking for word frequency lists and found Wiktionary. Wiktionary is "a wiki-based open contest dictionary." Wiktionary has been around since December 2002. Wiktionary is seems a bit spotty right now. Some of the entries I check on were very extensive, much better than any normal dictionary, but others needed more work. For example baby, horse, and work had the definition, the pronunciation with audio, and translations. Baby and Horse had pictures. Horse and Work had the ethmology.

The entry on homeschool was very light. Is anyone interested in beefing it up a bit?

Oh, the Wiktionary word Frequency List showed that "contemplate" was the 8220th most frequently used work in the Project Gutenberg books. I went with "contemplate" and it worked well.

Technorati tags: Table topics, Toastmasters, Wiktionary, education

These are the clothes that I want

I wonder how much these will cost - Clothes that clean themselves.

Technorati tags: self cleaning, clothes

Education and Politics - an ugly mixture

A Google alert for Diane Ravitch brought to my attention Diane's column on Why I Resigned. Mrs. Ravitch was on the board for Education Next, an publication about American education. She explains that she resigned "because Education Next published a deeply flawed account of Mayor Bloomberg's school reforms."

This is another example of how politics and public schools get intertwined, and the children suffer.

Technorati tags: Diane Ravitch, public school, public education, children, education

The Carnival of Education is up

This week's Carnival of Education is up at SharpBrains. The host structured the posts as a briefing to the next president of the United States on education.

If you would like to submit to the next Carnival of Education, go here.

Technorati tags: education,

Monday, February 18, 2008

Are you interested in Space? Could you be in Phoenix March 27th to 29th?

Space Access is having their annual Space Conference in Phoenix again. It will be from March 27th to the 29th.

I went for the first time last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. I blogged extensively about the conference. You can read my thoughts and observations on Space Access 2007 by starting here.

There are lots of space conferences, maybe dozens. After my father retired he started going to them. Space Access is his favorites. One of my brothers said:

"There are lots of people thinking about getting into space. There are lots of people who talk about getting into space. Space Access is run by people who are doing the work."

If you are interested in space, if you want to see what is happening, if you want to rub shoulders with movers and shakers, and if you can be in Phoenix this year from March 27th to the 29th, then consider attending Space Access 2008.

Here is the overview of how to attend:

"SA'08 takes place Thursday afternoon March 27th through Saturday evening March 29th, 2008, at the Best Western Grace Inn in Phoenix Arizona, ten miles from the Phoenix Airport via hotel shuttle. Start thinking about booking your flights and rooms now - late March is still winter tourist (and Major League Baseball Spring Training) season in Phoenix, so affordable rooms and good airfares go fast. Our rates are the same as last year, both for conference registration ($100 advance, $120 at the door, student rate $30 either way) and hotel rooms ($99 a night, tax and full buffet breakfast included). Phone the Grace Inn at 800 843-6010 for hotel room reservations and mention "space access" for our $99 room rate. Mail checks (sorry, credit cards only at the door) for advance conference registration to "Space Access '08", 5555 N 7th st #134-348, Phoenix AZ 85014."

Here is a list of companies and people who have confirmed that they will be there:

"AFRL FAST/RASTE/Commercial Partnerships, Armadillo Aerospace, Ken Davidian/NASA ESMD Commercial Development, FAA AST, Flometrics, Frontier Astronautics, Jordin Kare/LaserMotive, Masten Space, Jim Muncy/PoliSpace, Misuzu Onuki, Rocketplane LLC, Space Propellant Depots Panel with Jon Goff, Dallas Bienhoff, Frank Zegler, and Rand Simberg, Space Studies Institute, SpeedUp, Henry Spencer, Unreasonable Rocket, XCOR Aerospace."

I will be attending again this year. It would be fun to see you there.

Technorati tags:

The more things change, the more they stay the same

From the Quotation of the day mailing list:

"Il y a plus affaire a interpreter les interpretations, qu'a interpreter les choses, et plus de livres sur les livres, que sur autre subject: nous ne faisons que nous entregloser. Tout fourmille de commentaires : d'autheurs, il en est grand cherte."
- Michel de Montaigne, Essais III 13 (published in 1588)

[The submitter's translation: "There's more activity interpreting interpretations than interpreting facts, and more books about books than on any other subject: all we do is footnote one another. Everything is teeming with commentaries: there's a great shortage of authors."]

I wonder what he would think of blogs, where so many posts are links to other posts with brief commentary.

Technorati tags: education

The last two Carnivals of Space

I haven't been keeping up.

Two week's ago the Carnival of Space was hosted at Orbiting Frog.

Last week the Carnival of Space was at New Frontiers.

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Humor: Who's on First - the computer version

Who's on First by Abbott and Costello is one of the all times great's! If you haven't ever heard it, or heard it recently, you might enjoy listening to it:

My mother just forwarded me the modern version. It is also great fun. I've not been able to track down who wrote it. Enjoy:

If Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were alive today, their infamous sketch, "Who's on First?" might have sounded something like this:
ABBOTT: Super Duper Computer Store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: Thanks. I'm setting up an office in my den and I'm thinking about buying a computer.
COSTELLO: No, the name's Lou.
ABBOTT: Your computer?
COSTELLO: I don't own a computer. I want to buy one.
COSTELLO: I told you, my name's Lou.
ABBOTT: What about Windows?
COSTELLO: Why? Will it get stuffy in here?
ABBOTT: Do you want a computer with Windows?
COSTELLO: I don't know. What will I see when I look at the windows?
ABBOTT: Wallpaper.
COSTELLO: Never mind the windows. I need a computer and software.
ABBOTT: Software for Windows?
COSTELLO: No. On the computer! I need something I can use to write proposals, track expenses and run my business. What do you have?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yeah, for my office. Can you recommend anything?
ABBOTT: I just did.
COSTELLO: You just did what?
ABBOTT: Recommend something.
COSTELLO: You recommended something?
COSTELLO: For my office?
COSTELLO: OK, what did you recommend for my office?
ABBOTT: Office.
COSTELLO: Yes, for my office!
ABBOTT: I recommend Office with Windows.
COSTELLO: I already have an office with windows! OK, let's just say I'm sitting at my computer and I want to type a proposal. What do I need?
COSTELLO: What word?
ABBOTT: Word in Office.
COSTELLO: The only word in office is office.
ABBOTT: The Word in Office for Windows.
COSTELLO: Which word in office for windows?
ABBOTT: The Word you get when you click the blue "W".
COSTELLO: I'm going to click your damn blue "w" if you don't start with some straight answers. What about financial bookkeeping? You have anything I can track my money with?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: That's right. What do you have?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: I need money to track my money?
ABBOTT: It comes bundled with your computer.
COSTELLO: What's bundled with my computer?
ABBOTT: Money.
COSTELLO: Money comes with my computer?
COSTELLO: I get a bundle of money with my computer? How much?
ABBOTT: One copy.
COSTELLO: Isn't it illegal to copy money?
ABBOTT: Microsoft gave us a license to copy Money.
COSTELLO: They can give you a license to copy money?

A few days later:
ABBOTT: Super Duper computer store. Can I help you?
COSTELLO: How do I turn my computer off?

Tom King says he wrote the above piece and gives his permission to post it.

---------Technorati tags: computer, humor

A fun geography test

I friend sent me a URL to the Traveler IQ Challenge.

I got to level seven on the world version and on the United States version.

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

Unwise procrastination

In contrast to wise procrastination, there is this thought from Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list:

Some people procrastinate so much
that all they can do is run around
like firefighters all day --
putting out fires that should not
have gotten started in the first place.
-Nido Qubein
From the Masters
23 Jan 2008

Technorati tags: Nido Qubein,

Matt Miller wants to have national funding of public education

A friend brought to my attention an NPR interview of Matt Miller on his proposal to nationalize school funding. The interview is almost seven minutes. It is partly in response to Matt's recent article First, Kill All the School Boards.

Matt's concern is that it is not fair that some school districts get more money per pupil than other school districts. He also says that local control is not working, that the teacher unions have too great influence. His solution is two steps:

1) Have the federal government collect all the taxes for education and then give each school district their "fair share" of the tax money.
2) Some how give individual schools more local control.

There are so many problems with this proposal it is hard to know where to start.

One of the first problems that occurred to me is that it is not clear the exactly same amount of money should be spent per student. Matt is upset that Massachusetts spends more than Missouri, but the cost of living is much higher in Massachusetts. It costs more to hire teachers. It costs more to buy land. If there were some federal law mandating that each school got exactly the same amount per student, the schools in Boston would effectively receive less money.

The obvious answer is to then some how benchmark a local cost of living adjustment, but this would be the camel's nose to increase more federal government control of public education. Bad idea.

Matt's article starts off by appealing to Horace Mann and Mann’s efforts to improve literacy in America. Matt doesn't seem to understand that this wasn't the problem Horace Mann was trying to solve. In 1850, before the government funded schools started taking off, literacy was at a high rate. A generation of McGuffrey readers produced an amazing high level of literacy in the mid to late 1800s. Horace Mann's solution was for a problem that didn't exist. Horace got a lot of support from people who were concerned about all the Catholic Irish immigrants. Horace appealed for support by saying that public schools would help convert these ignorant Catholic children into good educated Protestants. These so called uneducated Catholic children were attending Catholic schools. Religion, not literacy, was the issue.

Fundamentally Matt seems to be avoiding some of the politics of education. He is concerned over the how ineffective local school boards are in improving public education. I agree that public school boards are a problem. But Matt then proposes to move control even farther away from parents by pushing all the money through Washington DC. He seems to think it will be easy to pass laws allowing more local control, but if Congress takes over the complete funding of public schools you know that Congress and special interest groups will push to have more control.

We've had friends who have dealt with public school boards. We've had friends who have run and been on public school boards. My perception is not that we have too much local autonomy, but too little.

I do agree with Matt on one point. Teacher Unions have great influence on school boards. And because of so many laws, school boards have little real options. They can decide to paint the school red or green, but it is hard to make any fundamental change without running into a law. There are so many rules and laws about what public school boards can and can not do, that pressure from parents has little effect.

We had a situation in our local school district where there was an harmful elementary school teacher. She delighted in tormenting the students. Students who had her came back as adults to testify against her. Parents asked for her removal. But the school board was unable to fire her. She finally retired.

I do agree with Matt that it would be better to free up public school boards and allow them to take action. Currently they are so hobbled by rules they can take little effective action.

Matt seems to be unaware that study after study has found that more money doesn't help public education. He is focusing on the wrong problem. For decades the amount per student has climbed twice as fast as inflation. Pushing more money into a broken system won't fix it.

Technorati tags: public school, public education,

Dumb and Dumber

I keep running into examples of "dumbing down." If you've set foot in a library recently, you have probably noticed the abundance of "junk" books targeting youth. It has gotten to the point that we've actually started limiting visits to the library. There is so much there that is worthless or harmful.

Well, the library system has hit a new low.

Libraries Turn Up the Noise, Draw Teens

ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (AP) - Libraries in southeastern Michigan are turning the page on peace and quiet.

Video game events at public libraries are drawing crowds of teens, including about 100 competing monthly at "Guitar Hero" at the Rochester Hills Public Library.

What a time waster. I found the reasoning behind these events the same that drives the dumbing down trend at schools.

"Getting teens to come to the library is right up there with getting them to go to church: It's not exactly the first place they want to go," Christine Lind Hage, library director, told the Detroit Free Press for a story Sunday.

How do the teens benefit from going to the library if they are not reading good books at the library?

"It's a big social event," said Stephanie Jaczkowski, 17. "I've met a lot of friends there, and they're really good friends."

The Canton Public Library six months ago began offering games and holding monthly tournaments for Nintendo Wii bowling and "Super Smash Bros."

It comes back to how you measure success. They are measuring success by the number of teens who visit the library, as if standing in a building with a lot of books will somehow lead to a love of reading by osmosis. That is as useful as sleeping with a dictionary under you pillow to increase your vocabulary.

Tags : libary, video games, teens, education, homeschooling , home school,

Dumbing down in the news

You have to wonder what they are thinking. This is another news story from across the pond.

Pupils 'pass' language exam without speaking

Oral tests are to be axed from foreign language GCSE examinations because they are regarded as being "too stressful" for pupils.

Pupils can now pass French GCSE without writing a word of the language. The exam is dominated by multiple-choice questions. All that is required is to tick a box or to link phrases.

So, students can pass a foreign language without even speaking or writing the language. With this kind of thinking, someday students can pass math without doing multiplication and pass history without knowing any dates and facts. Wait, isn't that what we have now?

It becomes more and more apparent that for our children to be properly educated, parents should NOT trust the government schools to get the job done.

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

The continuing saga of David and Tonia Parker

As we reported last year - Back in 2005 Tonia and David Parker of Lexington, Massachusetts, were upset to find the public school giving their 5-year-old son books promoting gay families.

WorldNetDaily reports the latest:

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday agreed with a judge's decision last year that a school can expose children to contrary ideas without violating their parents' rights to exercise religious beliefs.
"Public schools," wrote Judge Sandra L. Lynch, "are not obliged to shield individual students from ideas which potentially are religiously offensive, particularly when the school imposes no requirement that the student agree with or affirm those ideas, or even participate in discussions about them."


Like we said last year the fundamental issue here is how much latitude does the government have it exposing children to a variety of beliefs, and how much say do the parents have in deciding what their children are taught. Homosexually is a hot button for lots of people, but the bigger issue here is do parents have the right to tell schools not to teach certain topics. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court has said NO.

If you have watched the trends in public schools this will not be a surprise. Over the last hundred years the government has asserted more and more control over what children are taught.

The Parkers plan to take this to the Supreme Court. I'm afraid the Supreme Court will rule for the schools.

Technorati tags: , David Parker, Tonia Parker, public school, public education, , ,