Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Beginning math

"Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start." - Maria

It doesn't matter what the goal of learning math is, whether to discover how the 4 fundamental forces can be united or to balance your checkbook. You have to start at the beginning and that is numbers. Numbers are just a shortcut for dealing with big numbers that we can't easily handle using quantities.

Something I just learned was that people and especially children with remember 300 times more information if it is put to music then if it is just told them. We've been using counting songs, like "1,2 Buckle my Shoe" and "Inchworm" to teach our daughter about numbers. Additionally just counting things, like the number of items we pass to her from the washer that she puts into the dryer. Counting the number of bounces she does on the bed. She learned very quickly.

The Inchworm song is fun, being and engineer I recognize that the progression is something I use often, so I add to the verse numbers like:
32 and 32 are 64
64 and 64 are 128
128 and 128 are 256
256 and 256 are 512
512 and 512 are 1024

And instead of 1 little, 2 little, 3 little Indians, I like to do 1 little, 2 little, 3 little piggies, with her toes. It makes for a great little giggle game.

Monday, May 30, 2005

A Parents Duty

As parents we have been commanded by the Lord to teach our children.

To teach them the word of God is the primary thing. They need to have his word so they can gain a personal relationships with God.

But there is another thing. We need to watch our children and find what their talents are. You'll see it in their play, things that they are very good at and things they enjoy doing a lot are clues of what their talents are. This gives us a basis to build up parts of their curriculum that will emphasize and extend their talents.

But developing just their talents will not make them successful, by themselves.
We, as parents, need to help them learn the foundational skills they need to be successful. These skills are things like goal setting, money and time management, cooking, driving, and many others. I guess I could just give you a big list of skills that they should learn but that wouldn't be as meaningful just saying here is the skill and making a checkmark on the list. As easy as that is you only have to do this once a year, things change that is the only constant.

For example, one of the reasons Michael Jackson is so rich is because he used the money he made while singing to buy the rights to other artists' songs, so whenever they are played on the radio he gets the royalties. That was a good move on his part since he has passive income whether he is singing or sitting in court. Most singers haven't done this so they have to go on tour so they can pay their rent this year. That was a very important skill he learned that had nothing to do with his singing but has really helped him.

What skills do you children need when they are ready to leave home at 18-19 years years old? That is a good question. The first step in creating a good goal is to determine what the achieving the goal looks like. In many respects this is looking into the future, that is something God does so you had better ask him.
In any case, you need to ask yourself, what skills have made you and your family successful? What skills have made people you admire successful?

What does success mean to you? Even before you figure out what skills your children should have is to determine for yourself what success looks like. Is it a big house with a swimming pool and car? Is it a modest house with money in the bank while supporting missionaries in the field? What does success look like to you?

There are some common skills everyone should know, these are basic, housekeeping skills that you need everywhere: These are skills you can teach quickly and easily by just telling your children to "Watch me, then you can do it next time."
Skills like how to choose good, fresh food and how to cook it. I live in a college town and it is disturbing to see the new freshmen in the fall wandering around the supermarket trying to figure out what to buy. I had a roommate in college that survived solely on Total cereal, and Swanson Pot Pies for dinner with a Hungry Man dinner for Sunday night.
How to drive a car and keep it in good working order. My niece had a friend who had never rotated the tires and found out that it drove so badly in the snow because they were bald on the inside, though the steel belts that were showing should have helped.
Personal hygiene: some of our friends are foster parents they recently had a set of brothers who didn't not know how to use towels to dry off after a shower. I am sure if you are reading this you are far better parents but it does show how bad things can be.
Laundry: When I went to college I had to read the instructions on the detergent and the washing machine because I had never done laundry before. It is a very simple skill but often neglected to be taught.
Simple home repair and maintenance things like how to hang a picture, or fix a sticky window or door. or clear a jammed disposal, or change a lightbulb.

Q: How many nuclear engineers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Seven. One to install the new bulb and six to figure out what to do with the old one for the next 10,000 years.

That is only the start of what they could know. But you have to start somewhere.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Researchers Say Socialization No Longer an ''Issue''

It's always been obvious that the socialization question was bogus, now there's proof.

His studies found that homeschooled children are not disadvantaged when it comes to socialization. He said that those taught at home were more likely to invite others to play with them, they were not as competitive but more cooperative, and they kept their noise levels lower. Homeschooled children also played with peers of both genders rather than with those of the same gender, he added.

"Not disadvantaged" the results sound like there is a definite advantage to homeschool socialization compared to public school socialization.

My favorite definition comes from Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
Socialization, or the transformation of a human organism into a person who functions successfully within a particular social system, cannot be avoided. The essence of socialization is to make people dependent on social controls, to have them respond predictably to rewards and punishments. And the most effective form of socialization is achieved when people identify so thoroughly with the social order that they no longer can imagine themselves breaking any of its rules.

It is also rather scary.

Some ways to boost your brain.

To make homeschooling or even afterschooling work you need to make time for it. I will add some material to make doing things easier as I come across them.

New Scientist has an interesting article on 11 ways to boost your brain.

I don't know if I would agree with the drugs or the technological implants but the good old fashioned eat well, get enough sleep, listen to good music and some exercise are things that I used all the time in college giving me an edge over the poor guys who stayed up all night cramming for exams the next morning.

Something I haven't really tried are some of the other memory enhancing tricks they talk about:
First, learn a trick from the "mnemonists" who routinely memorise strings of thousands of digits, entire epic poems, or hundreds of unrelated words. When Eleanor Maguire from University College London and her colleagues studied eight front runners in the annual World Memory Championships they did not find any evidence that these people have particularly high IQs or differently configured brains. But, while memorising, these people did show activity in three brain regions that become active during movements and navigation tasks but are not normally active during simple memory tests...

Actors use a related technique: they attach emotional meaning to what they say. We always remember highly emotional moments better than less emotionally loaded ones. Professional actors also seem to link words with movement, remembering action-accompanied lines significantly better than those delivered while static, even months after a show has closed...

Strategy is important in everyday life too, says Barry Gordon from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Simple things like always putting your car keys in the same place, writing things down to get them off your mind, or just deciding to pay attention, can make a big difference to how much information you retain. And if names are your downfall, try making some mental associations. Just remember to keep the derogatory ones to yourself...

I have been using index cards to write things down and get them off my mind. I am using the organization techniques from Getting Things Done. One of the major ones is to write everything down, and a great way to do that is to make a Hipster PDA which is made of index cards, and I use all the time, even my 2-year-old daughter loves to use it.

The foundation of arithmetic

Math is a language. It is easier to compare to music then English as both are fairly limited and standardized so anyone can understand them. But really it is not different from even English.

The most basic part of arithmetic is counting and numbers.

Counting is the organization of quantities. *** means something different then *****. Counting one of the oldest recorded skills we have. The Lebombo Bone
proceeds the Agricultural Revolution and the domestication of animals.

Quantities are physical things: blocks, Cheerios, beans, or anything else. Young children also happen to respond best to physical things that they can see, touch, smell, taste and hear. All you have to do is give them a certain number of things and let them play with them. "Here are 10 Cheerios," or "Here are 7 blocks." over a fairly short period of time children will pick up on that.

Quantities are good, but are severely limited in scale. Counting 10-20 objects is easy enough but beyond that things fall apart. So we use numbers as a shortcut to represent any quantity we want. 1, 2, 3 are what we us instead of *, **, ***.

It is far easier to write 793,284,104,849,290,328,953,427,394 then it is to carry that many countable objects around or even to say it. Seven hundred and ninety-three septillion, two hundred and eighty--four sextillion, one hundred and four quintillion, eight hundred and forty--nine quadrillion, two hundred and ninety trillion, three hundred and twenty--eight billion, nine hundred and fifty--three million, four hundred and twenty--seven thousand, three hundred and ninety--four, by the way, in case you were wondering.

Our number system actually Indian, not Arabic as most people think, I was surprised too. The earliest known record comes from Monday 25 August 458 A.D. the date written on an Jaina cosmological text; the oldest known text to use zero and the place value system with word symbols.

Some primitive cultures had only words for one and two and could only get to four by saying one-two and two-two, to count beyond those quantities they devised various ingenious ways around the language, including counting the fingers and toes of groups of people. Primitive isn't the same as dumb.

What spurred me on

One of the major reasons that spurred me to do these things is the lose of Saxon Math. Which is summarized nicely:
here and

I don't blame Tim, the old saying goes if someone puts a million dollars in your hand close your hand. Generally speaking that is a good idea, but not if the buyer intends to distort and pervert your products. I think we can safely assume that is always going to happen in this marketplace. Too bad.

But as one player in the marketplace falls another can step up to the plate. That is what I am doing here and I am going to swing for the fences.

Changing the world One family at a time

Our civilization is in decline and that is not something I am going to just stand by and let happen.
The basic unit of civilization is the family and it is under attack from many sides:
Mothers are denigrated for staying in the home and are made to feel guilty if they succeed in the workplace.
Men are shown as clueless fools in the media.
Children are taught to distrust parents and embrace authority and the group.
Morals and religion have been taken out of our schools.

I used to be scared but now I am just mad, and I am not going to take it any more. The time for talk is over the time fore action is upon us.

I am not going to stand by and do nothing, and watch the future of my children and their children go down the tubes, but I can't do everything. I must choose what I can do. What I am doing is to create a series of math books that you can use to teach your children how to excel.

Math is a foundational skill for civilization, without an understanding of math you are innumerate, and like the illiterate you can be more easily controlled by those who want to control everything they can.

This blog is a first step.

The next step is beginning to publish a series of math books. I am writing a book on numbers and counting and will be publishing it as an e-book very soon.

If it proves popular I will release it as a physical book.

Come on board and change the world with me.