Monday, August 30, 2010

Home Computers: Help or hindrance in education

This research found an unexpected trend.

Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement

Does differential access to computer technology at home compound the educational disparities between rich and poor? Would a program of government provision of computers to early secondary school students reduce these disparities? We use administrative data on North Carolina public school students to corroborate earlier surveys that document broad racial and socioeconomic gaps in home computer access and use. Using within-student variation in home computer access, and across-ZIP code variation in the timing of the introduction of high-speed internet service, we also demonstrate that the introduction of home computer technology is associated with modest but statistically significant and persistent negative impacts on student math and reading test scores. Further evidence suggests that providing universal access to home computers and high-speed internet access would broaden, rather than narrow, math and reading achievement gaps.


....The research suggests that programs to expand home computer access would lead to even wider gaps between test scores of advantaged and disadvantaged students, Vigdor said. Several states have pursued programs to distribute computers to students. For example, Maine funded laptops for every sixth-grader, and Michigan approved a program but then did not fund it.

We use the computer a lot at our house. My older daughters take three courses online from a private school. My oldest takes an online course from a university. All my children use ALEKS for math. My youngest daughter taught herself to read on But, my children do not use facebook.

However, parental involvement seems to mitigate the downward trend.

Vigdor and Ladd concluded that home computers are put to more productive use in households where parental monitoring is more effective. In disadvantaged households, parents are less likely to monitor children’s computer use and guide children in using computers for educational purposes.

This study has given me some food for thought.

Looking for advice on scholarships and grants

Our oldest daughter turned 16 a couple weeks ago. She will probably be leaving for some university in two or three years. (I am feeling a bit old.)

I think all our children will go to a college or university. Since it is so very expensive, we are interested in finding out what resources are out there for finding scholarships and grants.

I figure that there are dozens of our readers who are farther down this path than we are right now. Could you give us some advice and suggestions?

Do you have a favorite book?

Are there some web sites you recommend?

What other resources are good to check out?


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

You have just eleven hours to send in an entry for the next Carnival of Homeschooling.

The next carnival will be held at Amy Bayliss.

Send in your entry about homeschooling.

Go here for the instructions on sending in a submission.

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

Carnival of Homeschooling

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Friday, August 27, 2010

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up - a Panorama of Homeschooling

Dave is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling at Home School Dad.

He explains his theme:

I have decided that this week's carnival will look at the panorama that is home schooling. I will intersperse the fine posts offered by fellow bloggers with panorama shots I have taken with my camera since my discovery of the setting.

Carnival of Homeschooling

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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

UC Berkeley gets an 'F' in general education

This article caught my eye.

Group co-founded by Lynne Cheney gives UC Berkeley an 'F' in general education

Just as the vaunted U.S. News and World Report rated UC Berkeley as the nation's top public university last week, a less-noticed ranking system from the conservative American Council of Trustees and Alumni gave UC Berkeley an "F" because it only requires students to take one out of seven core subjects as defined by the study.

Here's a little information about ACTA:

ACTA was co-founded by Lynne Cheney and former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm in 1995. (UPDATE: Cheney has since left the group.) Cheney had criticized professors for using humanities classrooms to advance what she saw as their left-wing political agendas, according to a Chronicle of Higher Education profile [PDF] of ACTA's president, Anne Neal.

The nonprofit, based in Washington, D.C., has itself criticized academia for graduating students with only a "thin and patchy education, with enormous gaps of knowledge in fields such as history, economics and literature," according to one of ACTA's publications, "The Hollow Core."

The organization takes aim at "distribution requirements" on most campuses, which allow students to pick from a wide range of courses to fill subject-area requirements. "Our colleges and universities have largely abandoned a coherent, content-rich general education curriculum … The general education curriculum has become anything goes," the website says.

I think they have a good point. It seems more and more these days that college graduates are basically ignorant on topics many high school graduates mastered a few generations ago.

By the way, my alma mater (Utah State) and Henry's (San Jose State) both got B's. [I took all the core classes, even if they weren't required. I admit that my literature class was a bit wishy-washy though.]

Quite a few colleges in California ended up on the F list.

UC Berkley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz

Still Not Ready for School

This week in sunny California, we've had a heat wave. I've spent two days at the ocean. It must have been rough for all those kids sitting in desks in un-air-conditioned classrooms.

I've spent a little time setting up the schedule for our homeschool co-op which starts the second Friday in September. In years past, we've sorted made up things as we went along. This year, we sat down and planned out the entire year. It is kind of nice to have all the classes, field trips, and choir performances laid out on the calendar.

I haven't gotten to my own plans yet, but I've still have out of town guests. My oldest is at the age that there is so many deadlines to worry about: PSAT, SAT, ACT, CHSPE and so forth.

I really wish I had another few weeks of summer.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Banning homeschool teams - update

UPDATE: MathCounts has reconsidered its policy in regards to homeschoolers thanks to Home School Legal Defense Association.

Update to Eligibility Guidelines for Homeschools and Virtual Schools; 09-10 Participants will be Grandfathered into 10-11 Program Year

After taking all concerns into account, a compromise was crafted that would grandfather in homeschools and virtual schools that participated in the 2009-2010 program year to allow them to participate on teams in this year’s Competition Program. All new homeschool and virtual school participants must abide by the new eligibility rules that require those participants to register only as individuals.

This compromise was brought to the MATHCOUNTS Board of Directors and approved unanimously. Therefore, for the 2010-2011 school year, all homeschool and virtual school groups that registered for the MATHCOUNTS Competition Program either as teams OR individuals during the 2009-2010 program year will be allowed to register teams or as individuals for the upcoming 2010-2011 program year, following all of the 2009-2010 requirements for participation.

On the MathCounts website there's a letter which claims that homeschoolers were never really banned in the first place. However, their eligibility rules currently on the website (posted below) still states that "Students taking middle school mathematics classes who are not full‑time sixth, seventh or eighth graders are not eligible."

Either way, I'm glad to hear that homeschoolers can participate in most venues.


This is a real nonsensical solution to a problem.

National Math Competition Bans Homeschoolers

WASHINGTON -- Concerned Women for America has confirmed that MathCounts, a national math competition for teams and individual students in grades 6-8, will not allow homeschoolers to form teams and compete in the 2010-2011 school year. The MathCounts board unanimously decided to exclude homeschoolers in response to a few situations in which "super teams" were formed by pulling certain gifted students from public schools and labeling them as homeschool teams. MathCounts has provided unique opportunities for gifted students to compete and to shine. The program is comparable to the National Spelling Bee. Winners on a national level are rewarded and meet the president at the White House. These examples of cheating obviously mar the competition, but homeschoolers as a whole should not be completely wiped from the competition.

Penny Nance, CEO for Concerned Women for America, said, "It appears that the objectionable behavior was committed mostly, if not wholly, by non-homeschool kids, yet the MathCounts board chose to punish homeschoolers. Homeschoolers have excelled in the competition. Is this another example of punishing those who excel so that others can feel good about themselves? These students should not be punished for the misdeeds of a few cheaters. Homeschoolers may still be permitted to compete as individuals, but the reality is that far fewer students will be able to participate if homeschool teams are banned from involvement."

So, let me see if I understand this. Parents with children from various PUBLIC SCHOOLS were combining their children into teams and calling themselves homeschoolers. In essences, they stacked the deck for their team. The board responded by banning homeschoolers who have done nothing inappropriate.

It would have been very easy to require that homeschool teams only allow children to participate who had not been enrolled in a public or private school during the previous calendar year, except for homeschool satellite or homeschool charter programs. That would have taken care of the cheaters.

From MATHCOUNTS Competition Program Frequently Asked Questions

Who can compete?

Students enrolled in the sixth, seventh or eighth grade are eligible to participate in MATHCOUNTS competitions. Students taking middle school mathematics classes who are not full‑time sixth, seventh or eighth graders are not eligible. Participation in MATHCOUNTS competitions is limited to three years for each student though there is no limit to the number of years a student may participate in the school‑based coaching phase.

If you would like to share your thoughts about this decision, here's the link to Math Counts.

Here's the names of the board members.

Better yet, here's a list of sponsors who you may want to contact.

Personally, I would contact all the sponsors and encourage them to remove their support from the MathCounts organization and point out how much bad publicity could be directed at their organization for supporting such unfair practices.

National Society of Profession Engineers

National Council of Teachers of Math

CNA Financial Corporation

Raytheon Company

The National Defense Education Program (NDEP)

Northrop Grumman Foundation


Texas Instruments


General Motors Foundation


National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying (NCEES)

Wolfram Research

Tyco Electronics Foundation

Caserve Foundation

Rockwell Collins

The Actuarial Foundation

Fluor Foundation

American Public Works Association (APWA)

This reminds me of when Arizona banned homeschool chess teams from the state competition.

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

Here is your gentle reminder to send in an entry for the next Carnival of Homeschooling.

The next carnival will be held at Home School Dad.

Send in your entry about homeschooling.

Go here for the instructions on sending in a submission.

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

Carnival of Homeschooling

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

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up! The back 2 school edition

Andrea is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling at Notes From A Homeschooling Mom.

She starts with:

My family just completed our first week of back to home... school for the 2010-2011 school year. Today is actually the kids' first day back to their homeschool program which meets once a week on Tuesdays, giving me time to work on this carnival. When back to school time starts, it is inevitable that a neighbor will corner me on the subject

Carnival of Homeschooling

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

Monday, August 16, 2010

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

We're back from vacation and I'm trying to catch up on the important things: You have just six hours to send in an entry for the next Carnival of Homeschooling.

The next carnival will be held at Notes From A Homeschooling Mom.

Send in your entry about homeschooling.

Go here for the instructions on sending in a submission.

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

Carnival of Homeschooling

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

The First Day of School

Today is the first day of school for my local school district. Even though my kids don't go to school, it negatively effects my family. Most extra-curricular activities rotate around the school calendar. So, my summer is coming to a screeching halt. :(

Some of our homeschool friends who use a local homeschool charter program are forced to start today too.

I recently read an article in Time Magazine which suggested that summer break should be discontinued altogether. I think that is a terrible idea. It is the only taste of freedom and autonomy that most school children experience. I have such happy memories of summer vacation when I was a child.

By the way, the article justified the end of summer vacation because "when American students are competing with children around the world, who are in many cases spending four weeks longer in school each year, larking through summer is a luxury we can't afford."

My summer were filled with trips to state parks, bike rides, camping, reading, playing, building forts in the empty field behind our house, visiting grandparents, museums, library, vacation bible school, playing in the creek, hiking, and family time.

The article focuses on the educational loss experienced during the summer by poor children. While I don't doubt that is a real problem, I don't think that ruining summer for everyone else is good solution.

I'm so very glad my children do not go to school. We are heading to a local children's zoo and amusement park, and we don't expect to see any lines.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Valedictorian speech that went viral


Here's a link to a video of the actual event:

Supposedly, the Valedictorian of Coxsackie-Athens High School gave the following speech during the graduation ceremony.

Here I stand by Erica Goldson
There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, "If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years . ." 
The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast -- How long then?" Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years." "But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?" asked the student. "Thirty years," replied the Master. "But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student. "At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?" 
Replied the Master, "When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path."

This is the dilemma I've faced within the American education system. We are so focused on a goal, whether it be passing a test, or graduating as first in the class. However, in this way, we do not really learn. We do whatever it takes to achieve our original objective.

Some of you may be thinking, “Well, if you pass a test, or become valedictorian, didn't you learn something? Well, yes, you learned something, but not all that you could have. Perhaps, you only learned how to memorize names, places, and dates to later on forget in order to clear your mind for the next test. School is not all that it can be. Right now, it is a place for most people to determine that their goal is to get out as soon as possible.

I am now accomplishing that goal. I am graduating. I should look at this as a positive experience, especially being at the top of my class. However, in retrospect, I cannot say that I am any more intelligent than my peers. I can attest that I am only the best at doing what I am told and working the system. Yet, here I stand, and I am supposed to be proud that I have completed this period of indoctrination. I will leave in the fall to go on to the next phase expected of me, in order to receive a paper document that certifies that I am capable of work. But I contest that I am a human being, a thinker, an adventurer – not a worker. A worker is someone who is trapped within repetition – a slave of the system set up before him. But now, I have successfully shown that I was the best slave. I did what I was told to the extreme. While others sat in class and doodled to later become great artists, I sat in class to take notes and become a great test-taker. While others would come to class without their homework done because they were reading about an interest of theirs, I never missed an assignment. While others were creating music and writing lyrics, I decided to do extra credit, even though I never needed it. So, I wonder, why did I even want this position? Sure, I earned it, but what will come of it? When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I'm scared.

John Taylor Gatto, a retired school teacher and activist critical of compulsory schooling, asserts, “We could encourage the best qualities of youthfulness – curiosity, adventure, resilience, the capacity for surprising insight simply by being more flexible about time, texts, and tests, by introducing kids into truly competent adults, and by giving each student what autonomy he or she needs in order to take a risk every now and then. But we don't do that.” Between these cinderblock walls, we are all expected to be the same. We are trained to ace every standardized test, and those who deviate and see light through a different lens are worthless to the scheme of public education, and therefore viewed with contempt.

H. L. Mencken wrote in The American Mercury for April 1924 that the aim of public education is not

to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. ... Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim ... is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States. (Gatto)

To illustrate this idea, doesn't it perturb you to learn about the idea of “critical thinking.” Is there really such a thing as “uncritically thinking?” To think is to process information in order to form an opinion. But if we are not critical when processing this information, are we really thinking? Or are we mindlessly accepting other opinions as truth?

This was happening to me, and if it wasn't for the rare occurrence of an avant-garde tenth grade English teacher, Donna Bryan, who allowed me to open my mind and ask questions before accepting textbook doctrine, I would have been doomed. I am now enlightened, but my mind still feels disabled. I must retrain myself and constantly remember how insane this ostensibly sane place really is.

And now here I am in a world guided by fear, a world suppressing the uniqueness that lies inside each of us, a world where we can either acquiesce to the inhuman nonsense of corporatism and materialism or insist on change. We are not enlivened by an educational system that clandestinely sets us up for jobs that could be automated, for work that need not be done, for enslavement without fervency for meaningful achievement. We have no choices in life when money is our motivational force. Our motivational force ought to be passion, but this is lost from the moment we step into a system that trains us, rather than inspires us.

We are more than robotic bookshelves, conditioned to blurt out facts we were taught in school. We are all very special, every human on this planet is so special, so aren't we all deserving of something better, of using our minds for innovation, rather than memorization, for creativity, rather than futile activity, for rumination rather than stagnation? We are not here to get a degree, to then get a job, so we can consume industry-approved placation after placation. There is more, and more still.

The saddest part is that the majority of students don't have the opportunity to reflect as I did. The majority of students are put through the same brainwashing techniques in order to create a complacent labor force working in the interests of large corporations and secretive government, and worst of all, they are completely unaware of it. I will never be able to turn back these 18 years. I can't run away to another country with an education system meant to enlighten rather than condition. This part of my life is over, and I want to make sure that no other child will have his or her potential suppressed by powers meant to exploit and control. We are human beings. We are thinkers, dreamers, explorers, artists, writers, engineers. We are anything we want to be - but only if we have an educational system that supports us rather than holds us down. A tree can grow, but only if its roots are given a healthy foundation.

For those of you out there that must continue to sit in desks and yield to the authoritarian ideologies of instructors, do not be disheartened. You still have the opportunity to stand up, ask questions, be critical, and create your own perspective. Demand a setting that will provide you with intellectual capabilities that allow you to expand your mind instead of directing it. Demand that you be interested in class. Demand that the excuse, “You have to learn this for the test” is not good enough for you. Education is an excellent tool, if used properly, but focus more on learning rather than getting good grades.

For those of you that work within the system that I am condemning, I do not mean to insult; I intend to motivate. You have the power to change the incompetencies of this system. I know that you did not become a teacher or administrator to see your students bored. You cannot accept the authority of the governing bodies that tell you what to teach, how to teach it, and that you will be punished if you do not comply. Our potential is at stake.

For those of you that are now leaving this establishment, I say, do not forget what went on in these classrooms. Do not abandon those that come after you. We are the new future and we are not going to let tradition stand. We will break down the walls of corruption to let a garden of knowledge grow throughout America. Once educated properly, we will have the power to do anything, and best of all, we will only use that power for good, for we will be cultivated and wise. We will not accept anything at face value. We will ask questions, and we will demand truth.

So, here I stand. I am not standing here as valedictorian by myself. I was molded by my environment, by all of my peers who are sitting here watching me. I couldn't have accomplished this without all of you. It was all of you who truly made me the person I am today. It was all of you who were my competition, yet my backbone. In that way, we are all valedictorians.

I am now supposed to say farewell to this institution, those who maintain it, and those who stand with me and behind me, but I hope this farewell is more of a “see you later” when we are all working together to rear a pedagogic movement. But first, let's go get those pieces of paper that tell us that we're smart enough to do so!

A found the following news article in a local paper:


A June 26 article about the Coxsackie-Athens High School graduation quoted a speech prepared by valedictorian Erica Goldson and given by her in advance to the school district’s administration. The administration in turn provided a copy to a reporter, who used it to prepare a short item on the graduation exercise.

On Monday, Goldson said she did not give that speech during the graduation ceremony. She said she submitted a fake speech to the administration and then gave a different address during the ceremony.

On Monday, Goldson provided to the Freeman a copy of the speech that she said she gave at graduation. In the speech that she said she gave at graduation, Goldson questioned the value of the American education system saying, in part, that it conditioned students to create a complacent labor force, rather than to support their potential.

Although steps are taken to avoid factual mistakes in our news stories and photo captions, errors can occur. It is Freeman policy to make corrections as soon as possible. Contact the city editor — (845) 331-5000, ext. 410 — if a factual error appears.

I've had a hard time finding sources to corroborate that the speech was actually given or how it was received by the audience. There are multiple mentions of it on the Internet, but they all could be quoting each other.

I linked to a blog which supposedly belongs to Erica Goldson. However, I can't confirm that either.

This news article seems to be written by someone who actually attended the ceremony.

Next stop: The future

Erica Goldson, the Class of 2010 valedictorian, encouraged her classmates, and those who will come after them, to question authority and push the boundaries.

“Focus more on learning, rather than on getting good grades,” she said. “Step up and ask questions.”

I found the following letter to the editor in another local paper, The Phoenician Times, July 15th, 2010. It begins on page 32 on the lower right column.

(The following was read as the
valedictorian’s speech at Coxsackie-Athens
High School in recent weeks, creating
quite a stir among administrators, to
great applause from students and many
of their parents)

So, I'm fairly certain this is not an Urban Legend, but I can't be certain that the speech posted was actually delivered in its entirety at the graduation ceremony.

Either way, it is a pretty good speech.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Books in the home

Like many homeschoolers, we have a large personal library. I estimate that we have over 100+ feet of shelf space devoted to books. We have built-in bookcases in our front room around our fireplace. We have a book case in the kitchen, our bedroom and at the end of the hall. We have two bookcases in the our office. We have a two walls of built in bookcases in our family room, as well as two half-size bookcases that run along the third wall. In that room, only doors and entryways are bookless.

So, it is with much satisfaction that I read about this study.

Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations
(Note: It costs $31.50 to purchase the article.)

From the press release:

RENO, Nev. – Whether rich or poor, residents of the United States or China, illiterate or college graduates, parents who have books in the home increase the level of education their children will attain, according to a 20-year study lead by Mariah Evans, University of Nevada, Reno associate professor of sociology and resource economics.

For years, educators have thought the strongest predictor of attaining high levels of education was having parents who were highly educated. But, strikingly, this massive study showed that the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education). Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.

This study reminds me of the Home Educated and Now Adults research which found that even less educated parents could successfully homeschool. I imagine that personal libraries contributed to their success.

Yet again, we can see that it is the quality of the home and the attributes of the parents that propel educational achievement.

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

You have less than four and a half hours to send in an entry for the next Carnival of Homeschooling.

The next carnival will be held at Life Nurturing Education.

Send in your entry about homeschooling.

Go here for the instructions on sending in a submission.

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

Carnival of Homeschooling

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

Monday, August 02, 2010

It would help if more history lessons were like this

This is a great video:

It wouldn't be cost effective to make all lessons like this, but it would help if there were more videos like this.

What an amazing world we live in

Sharp-eyed robins can see magnetic fields starts with:

It has been known for decades that some birds are able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and set their direction as if following a compass heading, which is an extremely useful ability for birds migrating long distances. The ability is believed to be linked to the availability of light and it is thought that specialized molecules in the birds' retinas allow them to literally see the magnetic fields, which appear as patterns of light and shade superimposed over the regular image from light. Now a new study shows that the internal compass also depends on the birds having clear vision in their right eyes.

When Will I Use Math?

Every now and then our daughters struggle with math. Some times they'll question the value of math. My oldest daughter has told me at times that "Math is Evil."

When Will I Use Math? helps students to see the value in mastering math. One major reason the site lists is how many careers use math, and these are careers to have high salaries!

Remember - the new cell phones are powerful computers

About a year ago I realized that the latest cell phones were more powerful than a computer we had bought in 2004. Powerful computers, no matter how small they are, can have problems.

What your phone app doesn't say: It's watching starts with:

Lookout Inc., a mobile-phone security firm, scanned nearly 300,000 free applications for Apple Inc.'s iPhone and phones built around Google Inc.'s Android software. It found that many of them secretly pull sensitive data off users' phones and ship them off to third parties without notification.
That's a major concern that has been bubbling up in privacy and security circles.
The data can include full details about users' contacts, their pictures, text messages and Internet and search histories. The third parties can include advertisers and companies that analyze data on users.
The information is used by companies to target ads and learn more about their users. The danger, though, is that the data become vulnerable to hacking and use in identity theft if the third party isn't careful about securing the information.


So be careful about what applications you load onto your cell phone, and what information you store there.

Interesting - tax cuts

My Tax Burden is a web site which models how your taxes will change in 2011.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

A great thought about time

Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list:

Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time, which every day produces, and which most men throw away.
-Charles Caleb Colton
quoted by Richard L. Evans and