Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up - School rooms and places we learn

Heather is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling at Sprittibee.

She starts with:

Welcome to the September 28th, 2010 edition of carnival of homeschooling - the 'School Room' episode in honor of 'where we learn'. If you have been a long-time visitor here, you'll know that I have MOVED a lot over my homeschooling years and I've 'done school' just about everywhere in the houses we have lived in. Some houses have had dedicated school rooms (sometimes frequently used, other times neglected for the kitchen table) and others haven't (read: 2 bedroom apartment living in Arkansas).

Carnival of Homeschooling

Monday, September 27, 2010

Our PSAT ordeal

Our 16 year old daughter recently took a practice PSAT test at our local library. Little did I know how difficult it would be for her to take the actual PSAT test. I've called a dozen or more schools and have not yet found her a testing spot.

We have a scheduling conflict with our local school district (though they haven't returned me call anyway.) The neighboring school district which is testing on another date won't even consider it because we don't live in the district boundaries.

I'm getting one of two responses from the private schools I've called: We only allow students registered at our school or we are full. I got an email today from a German International school that said that maybe they might have a spot and that they will know on Thursday. I'm assuming the test will be in English.

I'm still waiting to hear back from another private school that is a bit closer.

It probably won't make that much of a difference. I was a National Merit Semifinalist. It looked good on paper, but I didn't get a scholarship. I did go to college on scholarship sponsored by Dad's employer, so maybe the National Merit was taken into account for that scholarship. However, my brother got the same scholarship and I don't think he was a National Merit Semifinalist.

We are planning on taking the ACT and SAT in the spring. Luckily for those tests, I register directly with the testing service and am not dependent upon the whim of a school.

Who are we putting first? Students, or the teachers?

I like the title for Dave's post: If we put students first, shouldn't ineffective teachers go first?

I think the fact that our society has a hard time firing poor teachers means we really aren't putting our students first.

What are you doing November 19th?

For Harry Potter fans: New trailer for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I"

We'll probably wait until the 22nd or 23rd, when most kids are in school.

A break down on the cost of higher education

Last year I wrote:

"I have blogged in the past about the problem of rising cost of a college education. In a nut shell the cost of college education has climbed twice as fast as inflation for decades. It has gotten to the point that a college education is not an economic benefit for many."

This year I found that it is worse than that: College tuition has been climbing three times as fast as inflation.

I've often wondered just exactly what is the breakdown? Where is all the money going? What does tuition keep going up faster than inflation, year after year?

Like many problems I doubt there is a simple answer, but I would like to know at least some of the causes.

Here is a partial answer, the LA Times' article Colleges: Where the money goes starts with the problem:

"At Pomona College, a top-flight liberal arts school, this year's sticker price for tuition and fees is a hefty $38,394 (not including room and board). Even after adjusting for inflation, that comes to 2.9 times what Pomona was charging a generation ago, in 1980."

Their basic assessment is:

"Athletic teams, administrators and tenured professors soak up huge chunks of colleges' budgets, and tuition and fees rise to keep up."

Read the whole article for details.

Report Card on American Education

Report Card on American Education: Ranking State K-12 Performance, Progress, and Reform is the result of a study on how the states are dooing in education. The introduction page has a nice interactive map of the US where you can see quickly how a particular state is doing. The same page also has their ranking. The full report is 141 pages.

Interesting thought

I'm not sure to what extent this is true:

Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.
-Thomas Szasz, author, professor of psychiatry (b. 1920)

(From A.Word.A.Day)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

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

I hope everyone is having a wonderful weekend.

In the hustle and bustle of the business, don't forget to send in an entry to the next Carnival of Homeschooling. Heather will be hosting the carnival next week at Sprittibee. She asks:

I love seeing people's school rooms. I figure most other homeschool moms are the same... so next week when it is my turn to host the Carnival of Homeschooling, I'll be taking submissions not only for great articles you have posted on your blogs so I can link them here... but also PHOTOS of your school rooms. I'll be sure to credit you with a link back to your blog or school room post under each photo.
My school room is still blue - still mappy ... but much more of a mess lately. Hopefully we'll get a chance to clean it up after we work through our workboxes today.
I can't wait to see your school rooms!

So 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,

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is being hosted by Tiffany at her blog: As For My House.

She starts off the carnival with:

Welcome, one and all, to the Carnival of Homeschooling!
School. It’s kind of a “One-Size-Fits-All” program. People with kids who are exceptionally bright struggle with the system. So do those whose kids have learning challenges. And anyone whose child has a learning style different than their teacher and peers. Oh, and…
Well, when you really get right down to it… There is simply nobody named “All”.
We homeschool so that I can be Tiffany, and my children can be Nick, Jewel, and R.T. – each of us with our unique personalities, gifts, challenges, motivations, and style. We celebrate the differences.


Carnival of Homeschooling

Saturday, September 18, 2010

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

The next carnival will be held at As For My House.

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,

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I had no idea

I was very puzzled by an article about the economy in England.

University 'way out of recession'

A tougher jobs market this year prompted a surge in applications to university in the UK - and pressures on public spending limited the expansion of student numbers, leaving an estimated 40,000 well-qualified applicants without places.

Yes, I did know that times are tough all over the world, but I was stunned by "40,000 well-qualified applicants without places." Where I come from, if your child doesn't get into one university, there is always another less prestigious university or jr. college to choose from. Why would 40,000 potential good students find themselves with no higher educational options?

Today, I think I figured out the answer.

Willetts signals way in for private universities

Plans to let more private universities into England's higher education system could feature in a new Higher Education Bill, a minister has said.

The article has a lot about funding that I didn't really follow that closely, but this little tidbit jumped out at me. Not only does the government ration health care in the UK, they ration higher education. Currently, there is only 1 or 2 private universities in all of England. The government literally has a strangled hold on higher education.

I'm still trying to make sense of the strange laws that govern university education in the UK.

From Wikipedia: Universities in the United Kingdom

Universities in the United Kingdom have generally been instituted by Royal Charter, Papal Bull, Act of Parliament or an instrument of government under the Education Reform Act 1988; in any case generally with the approval of the Privy Council, and only such recognized bodies can award degrees of any kind.

...The vast majority of United Kingdom universities are government financed, with only one private university (the University of Buckingham) where the government does not subsidise the tuition fees.

To put this all in perspective: (According to InfoPlease)

In the United States, as of 2005, there were almost 3 private 4-year universities for every public university [629 public 4-year universities vs. 1845 private 4-year universities]. And, our universities score high in the international university rankings.

University rankings dominated by US, with Harvard top

The US accounts for 72 of the world's 200 best universities, according to an international league table.

The Times Higher Education magazine's table, based on a number of criteria, including teaching, research and staff and student mix, has Harvard top.

Only five British institutions are ranked among the top 50, with Cambridge and Oxford in joint sixth place.

As much as I think there are problems in the United States university system, apparently it is not nearly as bad as in the UK.

I think there is a moral to this story. To improve the quality and access to education, we need move private schools and fewer government regulations.

Great News - The Odious Ogre is out

I loved The Phantom Tollboth. I love the lessons, especially the one about wasting our time. I frequently remind my daughters about the time Milo is asked to move a large pile of sand with tweezers. Too often in life it is easy to be distracted from the more imporatant things.

Natalie posted on Facebook yesterday that the same author and illustrator are finally wrote another book, after fifty years. The Odious Ogre just came out. Here's an article on the book.

I've asked my local library to get it. I am looking forward to it.

Book reivew: Venus Equilateral

Fantastic Collectibles is a great place to get old Science Fiction books. I recently treated myself to over a dozen books, many of which were between $1 to $3.

Venus Equilateral is a collection of short stories about great scientists who work on a relay station in the L4 or L5 orbit for Venus. The author, George O. Smith, realized that if people moved to Mercury, Venus and Mars, there would be times when the sun would be between two planets, making it impossible to communicate. The Venus Equilateral Relay Station was built to allow messages to be transmitted around the sun.

The stories are very dated. Many of the stories were published in Astounding Science Fiction between 1942 and 1945. Often the heroes go into technical details in trying to solve various problems.

Don Channing, one of the heroes, is the ultimate engineer. He is forced to deal with crooks, lawyers and businessmen. He and his gang whip out new technical marvels in almost every story. For example in one of the later stories they build a matter duplicating machine. George O. Smith does a great job in exploring the impact of that on society. Think about what it would mean if you had a machine that could duplicate money, gold, cars, books, and so on.

I did enjoy the stories, but the dated technical details bogged me down at times. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give this a 3.

A good thought to teach your children

This was recently on A.Word.A.Day:

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.
-Edmund Burke, statesman and writer (1729-1797)

I find it a challenge to figure out where to put my ounce.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Monday, September 13, 2010

P. J. O'Rourke calls for the end of public schools

About public schools P. J. O'Rourke says we should End Them, Don't Mend Them.

He writes a bit about how the cost of public schools is even worse than we normally hear:

In March the Cato Institute issued a report on the cost of public schools. Policy analyst Adam Schaeffer made a detailed examination of the budgets of 18 school districts in the five largest U.S. metro areas and the District of Columbia. He found that school districts were understating their per-pupil spending by between 23 and 90 percent. The school districts cried poor by excluding various categories of spending from their budgets—debt service, employee benefits, transportation costs, capital costs, and, presumably, those cans of aerosol spray used to give all public schools that special public school smell.
Schaeffer calculated that Los Angeles, which claims $19,000 per-pupil spending, actually spends $25,000. The New York metropolitan area admits to a per-pupil average of $18,700, but the true cost is about $26,900. The District of Columbia’s per-pupil outlay is claimed to be $17,542. The real number is an astonishing $28,170—155 percent more than the average tuition at the famously pricey private academies of the capital region.
School districts also cheat by simple slowness in publishing their budgets. The $11,749 is from 2007, the most recent figure available. It’s certainly grown. The Digest of Educational Statistics (read by Monday, there will be a quiz) says inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending increased by 49 percent from 1984 to 2004 and by more than 100 percent from 1970 to 2005.


He covers several more problems with public schools and ends with a call to shut down public schools.

I would be surprised if it ever happens, but he does make several good points about the huge problems with our government run schools.

(Hat tip: Newmark's Door)

It is easy to miss the value of an education

I like this quote from a recent A.Word.A.Day:

It has always seemed strange to me that in our endless discussions about education so little stress is laid on the pleasure of becoming an educated person, the enormous interest it adds to life. To be able to be caught up into the world of thought -- that is to be educated. -
Edith Hamilton, educator and writer (1867-1963)

I believe that as a group, adults who have been homeschooled are more excited about education and continue their education throughout their life.

Humor - Cruise Ship Passengers

Victor Schwartz, a friend, sent out this report:

Continuing on my 5-day cruise …
Today the Cruise Director went through a list of “The 10 Best” (dumb questions from passengers), as voted for by all the Cruise Directors of all the Carnival ships. Clearly, enough material for a book. But this one I chose to share with you now:
At about 12:30am on the first night of her cruise, a lady phoned the Guest Services Desk:
Lady: “Help, I’m trapped in my cabin. How do I get out?”
Guest Services: “Did you try the door?”
Lady: “There are TWO doors. One leads to the bathroom, and the other is marked ‘Do Not Disturb.’”


A resource for homeschoolers: The Khan Academy

My mother sent me a link to the Khan Academy.

Here is their summary:

The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) with the mission of providing a world-class education to anyone, anywhere. Despite being the work of one man, Salman Khan, this 1600+ video library is the most-used educational video resource as measured by YouTube video views per day and unique users per month. We are complementing this ever-growing library with user-paced exercises--developed as an open source project--allowing the Khan Academy to become the free classroom for the World.

Anyone have children watching these videos?

Positive article on Classical Conversations

The Sacramento Bee has a nice article by Jennifer Marshall. Core teaching for a classical education starts with an insightful point:

These days women get more bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees than men do. And yet many women don't feel up to the task of educating their own children. Never mind that we live in a country where women are brain surgeons, rocket scientists, CEOs and presidential candidates. Schooling is best left to professional educators, moms have been told for decades, so pack the kids onto the school bus and leave the rest to the real experts.

Jennifer Marshall makes the claim that mothers aren't able to teach their children sound silly. (Hey Mom you can be a rocket scientist, a CEO, but you aren't smart enough to teach your own children.)

The article goes on with the history of Classical Conversations, founded by Leigh Bortins. (We don't use it, but it sounds interesting.) It has grown from an original 10 students to now over 25,000!

A great success for a homeschooling family.

An interesting claim: We have too many teachers

Andrew J. Coulson makes the claim We Have Too Many Teachers Already! He starts with:

A story yesterday on describes the plight of Jenny Frank, who is young and eager to begin a career in teaching but hasn’t been able to land a job. It’s always sad to hear of people failing to find work in their chosen field, but the article in question completely misses a staggeringly important national story. As I mentioned this morning on Fox ‘n’ Friends: we have about 1.5 million too many teachers already!
Since 1970, public school enrollment has barely budged–up just 9 percent. Over the same period, employment has doubled. We’ve added 3 million new government school jobs. Half of those are teachers, another quarter are teachers’ aides, and the rest are service personnel and bureaucrats. This hiring binge has contributed to a quadrupling in the real, inflation-adjusted cost of a k-12 education: from $38,000 to $150,000 (constant 2009 dollars). It has not contributed to improved student achievement which, at best, has been flat at the end of high-school over that entire period.


I realize that politically it would be very hard to layoff even a fraction of the surplus teachers we have now.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

I didn't know vacuum cleaners came with this option

With the way some of our children leave stuff on the floor, this might be a good option.

Radioactive decay isn't constant

This post is partly made to be an extension of my memory.

I find this fascinating: Radioactive decay rates vary with the sun's rotation:

A team of scientists from Purdue and Stanford universities has found that the decay of radioactive isotopes fluctuates in synch with the rotation of the sun's core.
The fluctuations appear to be very small but could lead to predictive tools for solar flares and may have an impact on medical radiation treatments.
This adds to evidence of swings in decay rates in response to solar activity and the distance between the Earth and the sun that Purdue researchers Ephraim Fischbach, a professor of physics, and Jere Jenkins, a nuclear engineer, have been gathering for the last four years. The Purdue team previously reported observing a drop in the rate of decay that began a day and half before and peaked during the December 2006 solar flare and an annual fluctuation that appeared to be based on the Earth's orbit of, and changing distance from, the sun, Jenkins said.


The assumption has always been that radioactive decay never varied; it was always constant. This affects things like atomic clocks and estimates on the age of artifacts.

Right now scientists only see a slight variation, like one tenth of one percent. So it may not make a huge difference.

I find it exciting that there is still much of the universe we don't understand.


This caught my eye.

'Shameless' generation grows as seven million now live in households where no one works

A fifth of Britons live in households where nobody works, according to official figures.

They reveal that almost four million households contain no one who has a job – meaning more than seven million under-65s live without any experience of employment.

In some parts of the country almost a quarter of households are workless. In the past year alone a further 148,000 have been added to the grim statistic.

.....They also reveal that 1.9million children live in homes where no one works – fuelling fears that the benefits culture will be passed from one generation to the next.

The last line made me laugh. Who could have predicted that children with parents who were never required to do anything for their own support would follow the same path? [Note: That is sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell.]

This is a cautionary tale. No matter how well intentioned programs may be, when institutions provide that which the individual or family ought to provide, negative outcomes are inevitable.

For example, look at how literacy has declined since the rise of compulsory schooling.

Friday, September 10, 2010

You may want to rethink how your children study

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits reviews some recent studies on how students master the material.

One study finds that studying the material in different locations improves retension.

It was not a surprise to me that cramming has little long term value. I like this summary:

Cognitive scientists do not deny that honest-to-goodness cramming can lead to a better grade on a given exam. But hurriedly jam-packing a brain is akin to speed-packing a cheap suitcase, as most students quickly learn — it holds its new load for a while, then most everything falls out.
“With many students, it’s not like they can’t remember the material” when they move to a more advanced class, said Henry L. Roediger III, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s like they’ve never seen it before.”


The article also covers the impact of mixing content and self-testing.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

I am surprised it is only 62%

Interesting survey: 62% Say No Matter How Bad Things Are, Congress Can Make Them Worse.

My personal belief is about 90% of the time Congress will make things worse.

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

The next carnival will be held at Raising Real Men.

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,

Where did all the time go?

Our little Baby Bop turns four today.

Janine first wrote about him a little over two years ago.

We gave him a few cars this morning and he is blissfully happy.

Right now the rest of the family is in the crawling around back porch. This is part of his OT.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up - The Road Less Traveled Edition

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is being hosted at Lesson Pathways.

The carnival starts with Robert Frost's famous poem and then explains:

There are many different paths to homeschooling. Some choose to homeschool for religious convictions, while others for educational, special needs, moral reasons many other motivations in between. Though everyone has their own reason for deciding to homeschool, we all have one thing in common; we have chosen a different path than our public and private school counterparts. At some point, we have all come to two roads in the wood and we have all taken the one less traveled by.

Go enjoy the carnival!

Carnival of Homeschooling

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A new favorite quote

Janine recently put this quote up in our kitchen:

The true defining situation for a person is what they do when they are alone and don't have to do anything else. What do they do? Do they do frivolous things? That's when you define what you are.
Kevin Rollins, former CEO of DELL

My current belief is a balance is reasonable. I allow myself about an hour of down time each evening.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Computers and Education

My recent post, Home Computers: Help or hindrance in education, focused on research that shows the detrimental effect of home computers on academic performance.

Now compare that to this TED presentation. Incredible research. Here's a brief description, but I highly recommend watching the presentation. Wow! Homeschoolers, especially of the unschooler variety, would definitely agree with his premise of "minimally invasion education."

In 1999, Sugata Mitra and his colleagues dug a hole in a wall bordering an urban slum in New Delhi, installed an Internet-connected PC, and left it there (with a hidden camera filming the area). What they saw was kids from the slum playing around with the computer and in the process learning how to use it and how to go online, and then teaching each other.

In the following years they replicated the experiment in other parts of India, urban and rural, with similar results, challenging some of the key assumptions of formal education. The "Hole in the Wall" project demonstrates that, even in the absence of any direct input from a teacher, an environment that stimulates curiosity can cause learning through self-instruction and peer-shared knowledge. Mitra, who's now a professor of educational technology at Newcastle University (UK), calls it "minimally invasive education."

So why was there such a big difference in the two studies on the influence of technology? The first thing that pops into my head is the social aspect. Use of a computer for solitary entertainment has a far different effect than computer use in a social context working on a joint endeavor.

Monday, September 06, 2010

But what about the bright kids

This study brought back some unhappy memories.

Children learn more quickly if the brightest are prevented from putting their hands up

Those who are less willing to answer teachers' questions rapidly switch off when a minority dominate, according to Professor Dylan Wiliam, deputy director of the Institute of Education at London University.

He is pioneering an alternative technique in which all children in a class are made to answer questions, by writing their answers on small white boards they are given. They then reveal their answers simultaneously to the teacher.

The article has some reasonable suggestions, but it all brings back the bad feeling I had as a kid. The teacher wouldn't call on me because she knew that I knew the answer. I would pretend not to pay attention in hopes of getting called on. It was so frustrating to know the answer and have to sit through the discussion and not be permitted to speak.

Use the last carnival for ideas for this week's submission

Sometimes it is a struggle to find a topic for an entry to the Carnival of Homeschooling.

If you are struggling, you can check out last week's Carnival of Homeschooling hosted by Amy Bayliss.

This week's carnival will be at Lesson Pathways Blog.

Go here for the instructions on sending in a submission about homeschooling.

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,

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Homeschooled or Dropouts

I will be interested to see what they find. Texas is known for being a homeschool friendly state. I hope that doesn't change.

High number of home-schooled students leads to state audit

In an attempt to ensure that public school districts aren’t disguising high school dropouts, the Texas Education Agency is conducting an audit of students who withdrew under the auspice of home schooling.

TEA officials wouldn’t reveal details of the audit — other than to say that the state is contacting a random sampling of families to validate that they intended to home-school when they left middle or high school.

More than 22,620 Texas secondary students were listed as withdrawing to home-school in 2008 — raising a red flag among some experts and educators who worry that Texas’ lax regulations are encouraging abuse in the hands-off home-schooling category. The 2008 figures reflect a 24 percent jump from the prior year and roughly triple the number of high school home-schooling withdrawals from a decade ago.

I don't doubt that there a small percentage of parents who claim to homeschool who are not. The big question is what to do with the "fakes" in a manner that doesn't negatively impact the genuine article.