Friday, May 29, 2009

Survey - how many boys and girls do you homeschool?

I am really fascinated with the Condition of Education 2009 report. Greg Toppo of USA Today brought this to my attention. The report found, among many other things, that there has been a dramatic shift in the demographics of children who are homeschooled.

In both 1999 and 2003 when similar surveys were done, the ratio of boys to girls was close to fifty-fifty. In 1999 the percentages were 49% boys, and 51% girls. Then in 2003 it flipped slightly to 52% boys and 48% girls. Now according to the recent report, in 2007 the ratio was 42% boys and 58% girls. This is almost two boys for every three girls.

I'd like to know if this is true for homeschoolers who read our blog. Could you please fill out the two surveys below? Please fill out both of them, even if you only homeschool children of one gender.

Thank you!

And if you have any insight into why parents might choose to homeschool their daughters, and put their sons in public schools, please leave a comment.

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

The rising cost of education

Steve Voeller has a surprising statistics in his article: Not all education spending must be spared. In writing about the Arizona education bureaucracy he reports:

Over the last five years, student population has increased 11 percent, but administrators and managers combined have increased nearly 46 percent.
According to the Department of Education, total state aid to education increased 40 percent from $3.2 billion in 2004 to $4.5 billion in 2008. Student population plus inflation increased 25 percent during that same time.
I've heard educations costs have climbed twice as fast as inflation over the last several decades. It looks like inflation for the last five years was about 14%. If you factor out the population growth from the 46% growth, there is a remaining 35% increase. This is a just a bit higher than twice inflation.


Technorati tags: government schools, public school, public education, education

From the archives - A good lesson for us to learn, and to teach our children

A good thought:

"You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it."
-Margaret Thatcher

When I post the quotes I like to dig around on the internet for links to the person who said the quote. I enjoy learning a little more about the source of the quote. Google lead me to her last speech in the House of Commons, 1990:

Technorati tags: challenges, battles, Margaret Thatcher

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Another beautiful picture from APOD - The Andromeda Galaxy

Robert Gendler ( gave me permission to post his picture of the Andromeda Galaxy:

It is amazing how even the closest large galaxy to our galaxy is inconceivably far, far away.

Technorati tags: , , Robert Gendler, Andromeda, Galaxy

Great advice for married couples

From A.Word.A.Day, this is good advice for any relationship:

"The last word" is the most dangerous of infernal machines; and husband and wife should no more fight to get it than they would struggle for the possession of a lighted bomb-shell.
-Douglas William Jerrold, playwright and humorist (1803-1857)

Technorati tags: Douglas, William, Jerrold, last, word

Looks like after two thousand years Europe is going to be Muslim

Since the death of Christ much of Europe has been Christian, especially after 300 to 500 AD. There were several instances in the Middle Ages where Islam tried to conquor Europe, but was fought back. It looks like now Europe is just giving up:

Technorati tags: Muslim, Islam, Europe

Technology - All your movies on a single DVD!

This is fascinating - All your movies on a single DVD:

Scientists unveiled new DVD technology on Wednesday that stores data in five dimensions, making it possible to pack more than 2,000 movies onto a single disc.

This is just an amazing breakthrough. At one of my first jobs out of college we had workstations with ten megabytes disks! These disks will hold terrabytes, a million times more storage.

The down side is they don't expect to be shipping these new disk for maybe as much as twenty years.

Technorati tags: Technology, storage

Maybe we'll get another fifteen minutes of fame!

Last year Garvin Thomas of NBC Channel 11 interviewed Janine and I about our response to a court ruling in California which seemed to outlaw homeschooling. (You can still watch the video.)

Then the next day Janine was on the front page of our local paper!

Maybe we are going to get our second fifteen minutes of fame.

Greg Toppo of USA Today just contacted me about a recent report on the status of education in America. The Condition of Education 2009 was recently released. (Note it is a large PDF file of over six meg and 359 pages.) Greg pointed me to pages 15 and 135 which focus on homeschooling.

Greg summarized the report in his article Report: Homeschooling more widespread.

There are a couple fascinating trends in the report:

1) The biggest surprise to me was the demographics of boys to girls. There are almost three girls being homeschooled for every two boys. Any have an idea why?

2) Homeschooling continues to grow. The study found that in 2007 there appeared to be 1,500,000 million children being homeschooled, almost twice what it was in 1999.

3) The percentage of number of parents who are homeschooling for religious reasons has climbed to 36%. It use to be that there were three main reasons, religious, academic and school environment. They all had about the same percentage. Now the other two reasons are 21% and 17%.

I'll try to dig through the report a bit more when I have some time.

Now it is off to a meeting.

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

Getting rid of bad teachers

One of the big reasons why public schools are ineffective in educating children is it is so very hard to get rid of bad teachers. The LA Times reports Firing tenured teachers can be a costly and tortuous task:

The Times reviewed every case on record in the last 15 years in which a tenured employee was fired by a California school district and formally contested the decision before a review commission: 159 in all (not including about two dozen in which the records were destroyed). The newspaper also examined court and school district records and interviewed scores of people, including principals, teachers, union officials, district administrators, parents and students.Among the findings:

* Building a case for dismissal is so time-consuming, costly and draining for principals and administrators that many say they don't make the effort except in the most egregious cases. The vast majority of firings stem from blatant misconduct, including sexual abuse, other immoral or illegal behavior, insubordination or repeated violation of rules such as showing up on time.
* Although districts generally press ahead with only the strongest cases, even these get knocked down more than a third of the time by the specially convened review panels, which have the discretion to restore teachers' jobs even when grounds for dismissal are proved.
* Jettisoning a teacher solely because he or she can't teach is rare. In 80% of the dismissals that were upheld, classroom performance was not even a factor.

Keeping bad teachers has several consequences:

1) Most bad teachers are not motivated to improve. Why bother, they have the job almost no matter what they do.
2) Average and good teachers are unmotivated. Why should they put themselves out to do a good job? Competence is not rewarded, only tenure is rewarded.
3) And the biggest consequence of all is students in government schools are getting a very poor education.

The next time someone claims parents can't teach because they are not professionals, I consider encouraging them to read about how many teachers are not really professionals either.

(Hat tip: Friends of Dave)

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, government schools, public school, public education, education

Teaching lessons about money

I like the account of the account of the Tightwad Mom teaching her children lessons about money.

Technorati tags: money

Anyone read "Problem Solving 101?"

This review of Problem Solving 101 makes the books sound worthwhile. Has anyone read it?

Here's the first couple paragraphs of the review:

This slim book by Ken Watanabe, (111 pages, made even slimmer for reading by the use of numerous "useful diagrams and quirky drawings"), is subtitled A Simple Book for Smart People, all of which may give you cause to read it. The author says on the first page that "One of my missions in writing this book was to show everyone a simple way to deal with the problems they face in their everyday lives." More specifically, he says "This is a book about kids solving problems."
But problem solving "isn't just an ability; it's a whole mind set...Rather than accepting the status quo, true problem solvers are constantly trying to proactively shape their environment." While he maintains most, or at least more, people can do this, children as well as adults, that doesn't mean they (you?) will.


Technorati tags: Problem, Solving

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

Tami Fox will be hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling next week at Tami's Thoughts and Views.
As always, entries to the Carnival of Homeschooling are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.
Here are the instructions for sending in a submission.

Carnival of Homeschooling

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

Politics - How Washinton Rations

How Washington Rations is a good article about the complexities politics will run into as politicians try to craft rules for all situations:

This is precisely the sort of complexity that the Democrats would prefer to ignore as they try to restructure health care. Led by budget chief Peter Orszag, the White House believes that comparative effectiveness research, which examines clinical evidence to determine what "works best," will let them cut wasteful or ineffective treatments and thus contain health spending.
The problem is that what "works best" isn't the same for everyone. While not painless or risk free, virtual colonoscopy might be better for some patients -- especially among seniors who are infirm or because the presence of other diseases puts them at risk for complications. Ideally doctors would decide with their patients. But Medicare instead made the hard-and-fast choice that it was cheaper to cut it off for all beneficiaries. If some patients are worse off, well, too bad.

Choices in life tend to go across a spectrum. What is best for young people may not be best for older people. Unfortunately politics often degenerates options to a single choice. Officials will decide one course of action for everyone, which may too often is not good for everyone.

By deciding on one course of action, it will be harder for new technologies to cross the chasm and become the better choice, down the road.

(Hat tip: Dr. Helen)

Technorati tags: politics, choice

Great medical breakthrough - how to increase your blood pressure

I wonder how often we do this?

"One way to get high blood pressure is to go mountain climbing over molehills."
-Earl Wilson (1907-1987)

(From Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list)

Technorati tags: blood, pressure, Dan Galvin, Earl Wilson

Man vs. Machine on Jeopardy!

My father has played chess for decades. Now that he is retired he teaches chess classes.

He taught me the basic moves when I was two. I would move the pieces around for a couple moves, and then reach over and take his king!

I've been fascinated by how people have been able to program computers to beat chess masters.

It sounds like it may be harder for computers to win at Jeopardy - How IBM Plans to Win Jeopardy!

For decades, humans have struggled to create machines that can extract meaning from human language, with all its messiness, subtle context, humor, and irony. Traditional approaches require a great deal of manual work up front to render material understandable to computer algorithms. The ultimate goal is to make this step unnecessary.
IBM hopes to advance toward this objective with Watson, a computer system that will play Jeopardy!, the popular TV trivia game show, against human contestants. Demonstrations of the system are expected this year, with a final televised matchup--complete with hosting by the show's Alex Trebek--sometime next year. Questions will be spoken aloud by Trebek but fed into the machine in text format during the show.


I wonder if they will bring back Ken Jennings?

Technorati tags: computers, Jeopardy

From the archives - industry vs. genius

Our society seems to value genius more than work and so many parents don't teach their children a work ethic. We're trying. Our daughters will work hard at times. I think they are learning the lesson.

"In the ordinary business of life, industry can do anything which genius can do, and very many things which it cannot."
-Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)

Technorati tags: industry, genius

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Have you checked out HomeSchoolBuzz lately?

I was reading through some homeschool blogs for lunch today, when I realized I hadn't promoted HomeSchoolBuzz recently. Gary does a great job of staying on top of news on and about homeschoolers.

Also you might check out his Homeschool Blog Buzz. He provides snippets from homeschooling blog so you can get an idea if you are interested in a particular post.

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

Hey Janine, check out Bananagrams

My wife enjoys Scrabble. I think she might enjoy Silvia's New Favorite Game.

Technorati tags: Bananagrams, Scrabble

Arizona education compare to other nations

Matthew Ladner has good graphs comparing Arizona education with other nations in Putting Arizona on Par with the Third World.

Arizona spends $9,707 a year per student. This is five to nine times more than third world nations, and 50% more than the European Union.

Technorati tags: government schools, public school, public education, education

Looking at creating a startup company?

An article about What VCs Are Investing In has two interesting couple paragraphs:

Enthusiasm for Web startups has, however, clearly changed since the height of the Web 2.0 boom. This is due partly to tighter economic constraints, but also to plummeting costs of starting Web businesses as cloud-computing infrastructure has spread. Since less capital is required to start a company, there is less need to turn to outside investors.
"I think most [Web] startup companies should not take venture-capital money," said
Jeff Fagnan, a partner at Atlas Venture, during a panel discussion. He cited, in particular, companies building lightweight Web applications or software for portable devices like the iPhone. In some cases, Fagnan said, venture capital may damage a startup by creating conditions that push the company to aim too high from the outset.

I wonder if Venture Capitalists will have less impact as more people realize that Paul Graham is right, Moore's Law means startups are much cheaper.

If you, or your children, are looking at creating a technology company, now may be a good time.

Technorati tags: opportunity, Paul Graham

From the archives - Age and wisdom

"The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom."
-H.L. Mencken

Technorati tags: Age, wisdom

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another response to increasingly high taxes

I eat my lunch at my desk and browser the internet. Today I was surprised to find a second response today by people who are frustrated that taxes and debt have climbed so high in the last couple months.

Dr. Helen reports that some Older workers 'going Galt' by retiring early.

People coming up on their retirement years are now often deciding to skip the last few years of work and retire. Instead of putting money into the government, they are taking money out.

This is known as an unintended consequence to raising taxes.

Technorati tags: high, taxes

Millionaries Go Missing - this is what happens when you raise taxes too high

This would be a good lesson for all states to learn in Millionaries Go Missing:

Maryland couldn't balance its budget last year, so the state tried to close the shortfall by fleecing the wealthy. Politicians in Annapolis created a millionaire tax bracket, raising the top marginal income-tax rate to 6.25%. And because cities such as Baltimore and Bethesda also impose income taxes, the state-local tax rate can go as high as 9.45%. Governor Martin O'Malley, a dedicated class warrior, declared that these richest 0.3% of filers were "willing and able to pay their fair share." The Baltimore Sun predicted the rich would "grin and bear it."
One year later, nobody's grinning. One-third of the millionaires have disappeared from Maryland tax rolls. In 2008 roughly 3,000 million-dollar income tax returns were filed by the end of April. This year there were 2,000, which the state comptroller's office concedes is a "substantial decline." On those missing returns, the government collects 6.25% of nothing. Instead of the state coffers gaining the extra $106 million the politicians predicted, millionaires paid $100 million less in taxes than they did last year -- even at higher rates.


As we become more and more mobile, I think we'll see more and more of this. When one state raises their taxes to a much higher level than other states, people will move.

At some point I predict that could happen at a national level. If Congress continues to raise taxes, then people will move to a cheaper country.

(Hat tip: Digg)

Technorati tags: Millionaries, taxes

Humor: Board caught plagiarizing a report on copyright reform

From Slashdot, funny:

"There is a storm brewing in Canada as the prestigious Conference Board of Canada has been caught plagiarizing US copyright lobby group documents in a report on copyright reform."

Technorati tags: copyright, reform

More on Preschool being a bad, bad idea

Last week Janine wrote about a disturbing trend in Only 19 minutes of free play in Kindergarten.

Chester E. Finn Jr. has a great column on why we should Slow the Preschool Bandwagon which reinforces Janine's point that early academics is not good for children. If their brains are not ready, pushing academics does more damage than good.

(Hat tip: Friends of Dave)

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

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up

The Headmistress is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling at The Common Room.

Carnival of Homeschooling

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

From the archives - Smart vs. Wise

I'm trying to be smart and wise:

The difference between a smart person and a wise one is that a smart person knows what to say, but a wise persons knows whether or not to say it.

Technorati tags: smart, wise

Monday, May 25, 2009

How much in control are we really?

Dan Ariely makes me wonder Are we in control of our decisions?

(Hat tip: TED)

Technorati tags: behavioral, economics, Dan Ariely

One of our reasons for educating our children

I've heard this quote a couple times, but realized I had never posted it:

"Education makes people easy to lead, but difficult to drive; easy to govern, but impossible to enslave."
-Henry Peter Brougham

Technorati tags: Henry, Peter, Brougham

Insightful and funny - Teenage Affluenza

I don't think our daughters have a bad case of this:

I think it is good to keep a constant eye out for this disease.

(Hat tip: knot in the string)

Technorati tags: Teenage, Affluenza

The universe tilted.....and then righted itself.

We had one of those moments yesterday when the universe tilted.

First, a little background to the story. I'm a diabetic and have been for more than 30 years. When my children were younger, I was a bit obsessive about watching my children for signs of the disease. Since I frequently test my blood sugar, I would often test theirs just to reassure myself that all was well.

Every year I have my children screened as part of the Diabetes TrialNet study. I was relieved when test results came back negative for the antibodies which are the forerunners to the development of diabetes.

When we had the girls tested a few months ago, the technician suggested that we have Baby Bop tested too. I explained that it wouldn't be necessary since Baby Bop (our foster and soon to be adopted son) wasn't our biological child and thus wasn't at risk like my daughters.

Now back to our story......

We were at church yesterday when I tested my blood sugar during the worship service. Baby Bop watched me intently. Henry asked Baby Bop if he would like his blood tested too. So, I pricked his finger and performed the test not thinking anything of it. We were both stunned when the result came back as 183.

For you non-diabetics, the range of normal is generally 80-130 with 60-150 on the extreme ends. So, 183 is not good.

Henry's first response was that it was some kind of error. Since my blood test moments earlier had a normal reading, I didn't think there was a problem with the meter or the BG strips. To rule out cross contamination, I cleaned Baby Bops hands with a baby wipe and did the test again.

This time the result was 181. Not good at all. By this time, our girls have picked up that something was going on. We reassured them that everything was ok while I mentally ran through the lists of things I would need to do and what life would be like for our family with a diabetic toddler.

We decided to wait and do the test one more time after the service was over. I took Baby Bop and washed his hands carefully. Henry and I then went into an empty room to do the test one more time. By this time, Baby Bop did not want to have his finger pricked one more time and Henry had to hold him.

We heaved a heavy sigh of relief when the result was 112. Probably the high readings were caused by food residue on his hands. Still, next year when I have the girls screened for diabetes, I'm having Baby Bop screened too.

Tags : Type 1 Diabetes, autoantibodies, Natural History study, TrialNet

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Only 19 minutes of free play in Kindergarten

A friend sent me this article.

Kindergarten Cram

....When I was a child, in the increasingly olden days, kindergarten was a place to play. We danced the hokey­pokey, swooned in suspense over Duck, Duck, Gray Duck (that’s what Minnesotans stubbornly call Duck, Duck, Goose) and napped on our mats until the Wake-Up Fairy set us free.

No more. Instead of digging in sandboxes, today’s kindergartners prepare for a life of multiple-choice boxes by plowing through standardized tests with cuddly names like Dibels (pronounced “dibbles”), a series of early-literacy measures administered to millions of kids; or toiling over reading curricula like Open Court — which features assessments every six weeks.

According to “Crisis in the Kindergarten,” a report recently released by the Alliance for Childhood, a nonprofit research and advocacy group, all that testing is wasted: it neither predicts nor improves young children’s educational outcomes. More disturbing, along with other academic demands, like assigning homework to 5-year-olds, it is crowding out the one thing that truly is vital to their future success: play.

A graphic included in the article showed that kindergartners spend on average....

89 minutes on literacy
47 minutes on math
21 minutes on test prep
19 minutes on free play

I wonder why they ask homeschoolers about socialization. It is the school kids with a problem.

Regardless of the cause, Miller says, accelerating kindergarten is unnecessary: any early advantage fades by fourth grade. “It makes a parent proud to see a child learn to read at age 4, but in terms of what’s really best for the kid, it makes no difference.” For at-risk kids, pushing too soon may backfire. The longitudinal High/Scope Preschool Curriculum Comparison Study followed 68 such children, who were divided between instruction- and play-based classrooms. While everyone’s I.Q. scores initially rose, by age 15, the former group’s academic achievement plummeted. They were more likely to exhibit emotional problems and spent more time in special education. “Drill and kill,” indeed.

Here's an irony for you. Early academics can lead to lower academic achievement and emotional problems. Brilliant!

This was one of the major reasons we choose to homeschool. We had a coveted spot at a local "basics plus" school. They were beginning an all day kindergarten program and with an accelerate academics approach. I'm so glad my kids never went to that school.

This is also one of the reasons I find universal preschool so scary. Can you imagine how much harm they would do with preschoolers?

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

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Other homeschooling carnivals

The recent Charlotte Mason Carnival was hosted by Candace at His Mercy is New. Go here to submit an entry.

The recent Hands-on Homeschool Carnival was hosted by Kris at Science of Relations. Go here to submit an entry.

The recent Homeschool History Buffs Carnival was hosted by Brenda Sain at The Tie That Binds Us. Go here to submit an entry.

The recent Homeschool Showcase was hosted by Kris at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. Go here to submit an entry.

The last of the More Organized Homeschool Carnivals was posted at Heart of the Matter Online.

The next Homeschooled Kids Blog Carnival will be up at on May 28th, so you have a couple days to send in an entry.

I was sad to learn the Canadian Home Educators Blog Carnival is taking a break.

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

Is being bullied a good thing?

Last month I asked Why do the adults put up with government schools? Ting-Yi Oei, an assistant principal was directed to investigate if students were using their cell phones to exchange sexy pictures. He found one instance, and was told to save the picture on his computer. Then a public prosecutor filed charges of child pornography. After spending $150,000 of his own money defending himself the judge threw the case out of court.

I wondered why adults put up with the abuse in public schools. It seems like too many teachers, and others involved with government schools, get way too many hassles.

A day after the post a reader sent me a link to an article on how Being Bullied Can Make Kids Stronger. I finally responded today. I've been working through old email, trying to get my inbasket back under control.

The article tries to look for a silver lining in the ugly cloud of school bullying. The writer speculates that little children in elementary schools who suffer from abuse will end up being stronger.

After reading the article the thought hit me, hard, if a parent some inflicted the kind of abuse these bullies inflict, Child Protective Services would yank the children away from the parents. So why is it that society seems to allow, and even justify, this ugly bully situation?

Clearly part of it is many parents feel obligated to send their children to government schools, and they are not able to protect their children. What is even worse, often schools won't protect the children. Our society has become "sue" happy. Many teachers won't discipline a bully because the bully's parents might sue the school and the teacher.

I remember few bullies at any of my schools. Kids did get in fights now and then, but there was no pattern of wide spread abuse.

There may be a few students who will suffer through the abuse of a bully and end up being stronger for it. But I expect most children are not better off for having been teased, taunted, or tortured. A long history of being made to feel scared or worthless does little to make children strong.

I am so glad Janine and I homeschool. Our daughters have had few interactions with bullies. We're able to intervene and protect them. This is our job as parents.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, government schools, public school, public education, education

From the archives - Never doing a day of work in our lives

As parents I think one of our goals should be to help our children take initiative and find their bliss so they never have to work.

"I never did a day's work in my life; it was all fun."
-Thomas Edison (1847-1931)

Technorati tags: , Thomas Edison

Another beautiful picture from APOD - The NGC 4565 Galaxy

Roth Ritter (Dark Atmospheres) gave me permission to post his picture of the NGC 4565 Galaxy:

It appears the NGC 4565 Galaxy is shapped like ours. It is gorgeous.

Technorati tags: , , Roth Ritter, NGC 4565, Galaxy

Free online books

This has a pretty amazing lists of sites with free online books: Get (Almost) Any Book For Free: 100+ (Kosher) Sites Offering Great Literature for Download.

(Hat tip: Bob Durtschi)

Technorati tags: online books

Hamlet - The Gilligan's Island version

I watched this years ago. It was fun to watch it again. Here is Hamlet, in seven minutes:

(Hat tip: MiaZagora's Homeschool Minutes)

Technorati tags: Hamlet, Gilligan Island

Thursday, May 21, 2009

How much traffic is Youtube getting?

This is interesting Our Users Upload More Video Than YouTube Users:

Yesterday, we shared some mind-boggling stats from YouTube. In all, users now upload 20 hours of video per minute to the site, which, as we wrote “means that for every second in time about 33 minutes of video make it to YouTube(), and that for any given day 28,800 hours of video are uploaded in total.”
While those numbers are staggering, live video streaming service wants you to know that its users upload even more video than that. According to the company, this month they are averaging more than 22 hours of video uploaded per minute, which, would technically make it bigger than YouTube, at least in this metric.


That is an amazing volume of video!

(Hat tip: Hacker News)

Technorati tags: streaming, video, Youtube,

A few reasons why I'm concerned about the proposed National Healthcare plans

John Steele Gordon does a good job explaining why the Why Government Can't Run a Business:

The Obama administration is bent on becoming a major player in -- if not taking over entirely -- America's health-care, automobile and banking industries. Before that happens, it might be a good idea to look at the government's track record in running economic enterprises. It is terrible.
In 1913, for instance, thinking it was being overcharged by the steel companies for armor plate for warships, the federal government decided to build its own plant. It estimated that a plant with a 10,000-ton annual capacity could produce armor plate for only 70% of what the steel companies charged.
When the plant was finally finished, however -- three years after World War I had ended -- it was millions over budget and able to produce armor plate only at twice what the steel companies charged. It produced one batch and then shut down, never to reopen.
Or take Medicare. Other than the source of its premiums, Medicare is no different, economically, than a regular health-insurance company. But unlike, say, UnitedHealthcare, it is a bureaucracy-beclotted nightmare, riven with waste and fraud. Last year the Government Accountability Office estimated that no less than one-third of all Medicare disbursements for durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs and hospital beds, were improper or fraudulent. Medicare was so lax in its oversight that it was approving orthopedic shoes for amputees.
These examples are not aberrations; they are typical of how governments run enterprises. There are a number of reasons why this is inherently so. Among them are:


Read the rest of the article for his reasons. He makes some good points.

(Hat tip:

Technorati tags: government

Why do people want government schools to solve every problem?

Students at public schools in New York City are required to have and be able to recite their goals for each class. Joanne Jacobs covers some of the idiocy with this policy in Show Me Your Goals, Sir.

Technorati tags: children, government schools, public school, public education, education

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

The Headmistress will be hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling next week at The Common Room.

As always, entries to the Carnival of Homeschooling are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Here are the instructions for sending in a submission. You have ten hours.

Carnival of Homeschooling

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

From the archives - What you know may limit you

"I failed on a climbing problem many times before realizing I was climbing as high as I KNEW I could and then letting go. On my next try I climbed with no thought of failure and reached the top. We cannot know what we can do in advance. The only way to find out is to go all-out trying, thinking only of success."
- Royal Robbins, Modesto resident and mountain climber/entrepreneur

Technorati tags: life, limits

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why TED talks are so good

I've listened to a few TED talks that were just fascinating.

I like Jonathan Drori's talk on Why we don't understand as much as we think, where he makes the point that you have to be careful what goes into our brains, because it is almost impossible to change our first mental models. I don't know if there is a better reason for homeschooling.

Both Janine and I have listened to Sir Ken Robinson talk several times about how schools kill creativity.

Today I learned one of the reasons why TED talks are amazing. Tim Longhurst reveals The TED Commandments - rules every speaker needs to know. The TED organizers send a stone tablet with the rules:

1) Thou Shalt Not Simply Trot Out thy Usual Shtick
2) Thou Shalt Dream a Great Dream, or Show Forth a Wondrous New Thing, Or Share Something Thou Hast Never Shared Before
3) Thou Shalt Reveal thy Curiosity and Thy Passion
4) Thou Shalt Tell a Story
5) Thou Shalt Freely Comment on the Utterances of Other Speakers for the Skae of Blessed Connection and Exquisite Controversy
6) Thou Shalt Not Flaunt thine Ego. Be Thou Vulnerable. Speak of thy Failure as well as thy Success.
7) Thou Shalt Not Sell from the Stage: Neither thy Company, thy Goods, thy Writings, nor thy Desparate need for Funding; Lest Thou be Cast Aside into Outer Darkness.
8) Thou Shalt Remember all the while: Laughter is Good.
9) Thou Shalt Not Read thy Speech.
10) Thou Shalt Not Steal the Time of Them that Follow Thee

Think what that does to a speaker, to get a stone tablet with the above rules!

(Hat tip: Hacker News)

Technorati tags: TED

Father's Day is around the corner

This is a nice video:

Technorati tags: parenting, children, family, father

From the archives - being involved

Be involved:

The man who rows the boat does not rock it.
-Irish Proverb

Technorati tags: life

WolframAlpha - another search engine

Google and Yahoo! do a great job of helping people find what they want on the internet. It is hard to remember what it was like years ago when information wasn't at your finger tips.

There many other search engines. Some are trying to compete with Google, while others focus on a niche.

WolframAlpha is trying to do more than merely find web pages, they are trying to be a "computational knowledge engine." It was launched this last weekend. Technology Review reports that it did over thirteen million queries over the weekend. Physorg explains:

A new search engine described as an "electronic brain" could make searching the Internet more intelligent. Called Wolfram Alpha, the search engine computes its own answers rather than looking them up in a large database, as Google and many other search engines currently do. With its computational abilities, Wolfram Alpha could lead to new types of questions, answers and computations that today's search engines can't handle.

Instead of building a list of links which hopefully match the keywords entered, WolframAlpha tries to build a report. When WolframAlpha is able to process the terms, it does a pretty good job. I entered the town I live in, the company I work at, and when I was born. With these WolframAlpha provided some useful information. But it drew a blank on "homeschool."

WolframAlpha is still new and I think it shows great promise. It will be interesting to see how it grows and develops. It might even challenge Google.

(Update: 20 May 2009)
Turns out WolframAlpha has a Terms of Use which is a bit restrictive.
(Hat tip: Groklaw)

Technorati tags: WolframAlpha

The importance of family

A friend sent me a link to this a snippet from a movie. Be warned it is a bit violent, there is some blood.

At the end I thought about just how important families are to children.

Technorati tags: parenting, children, family

An example of how politics gets into education

One of the big problems with public education is so many people try to "fix" problems via government schools. Here's a recent example of some of the politically correct trying to effect change via the schools: Parents fight homosexual indoctrination of kindergarteners.

A California school district seems intent on teaching pre-school children to accept the homosexual lifestyle.
The Alameda Unified School District announced it was considering a supplemental curriculum to eradicate "homophobia" in kindergarten children. Brad Dacus, founder of the
Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), said the meeting room for the public session earlier this week was overcrowded with angry parents.
"Nowhere at anytime did it give any protection for children being bullied because of their faith, their religion, their size, their race, ethnicity," he points out. "It is only going to give this special anti-bullying protection for homosexuals and transsexuals."

Brad Dacus makes a great point. There is a double standard here. The goal is not to protect children from bullies, but to use it as an excuse to change how children think.

(Hat tip: Reddit)

Technorati tags: children, government schools, public school, public education, education

Good explanation on "Why Credit Card Companies Are So Mean"

I like Daniel Indiviglio's explanation on Why Credit Card Companies Are So Mean.

Technorati tags: Credit, Card, interest

Monday, May 18, 2009

Why we are still at Risk

We've mentioned a couple times the 1983 Federal Goverment report A Nation at Risk warned that education had deteriorated over the previous decades.

The report is the source of 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."

The report also has another famous 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."

Ronald A. Wolk explains: Why We’re Still ‘At Risk’: The Legacy of Five Faulty Assumptions:

Our new president has looked into the abyss of our current economic, energy, environmental, and health-care policies and promises to challenge the fundamental assumptions on which they are based. He admonishes us to join him in thinking and acting boldly.
We can only hope he feels the same way about education policy.
After nearly 25 years of intensive effort, we have failed to fix our ailing public schools and stem the “rising tide of mediocrity” chronicled in 1983 in A Nation at Risk. This is mainly because the report misdiagnosed the problem, and because the major assumptions on which current education policy—and most reform efforts—have been based are either wrong or unrealistic.


Ronald makes some good points.

I'm afraid that at least for the short term government schools will only get worse.

I'm glad that we have the option to homeschool.

(Hat tip: Reddit)

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