Saturday, December 31, 2005

Leave No Gifted Child Behind

Leave No Gifted Child Behind: "Many gifted students, of course, continue to shine on standardized tests regardless of the level of instruction they receive. But whether these gifted students -- who are capable of work far above their grade level -- are being appropriately educated to develop their full potential is not shown by looking at test scores measuring only their grade-level mastery. Nor do test scores indicate whether these students are being sufficiently challenged to maintain their academic interest, an issue of particular concern in high school. Shockingly, studies establish that up to 20 percent of high school dropouts are gifted."

They say the students that do best are those that have involved parents.

What is really happening is these involved parents are doing the actual teaching and the school are just providing something to talk about at home.

If you're involved and doing most of the work anyway why keep them in school?

Friday, December 30, 2005

Stanford - Learn

SCPD - Learn

I got a postcard in the mail from Stanford showing they have free courses online. Free is good.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Is TV okay?

APS Observer - Watch and Learn: "A few years earlier, the Department of Education had granted Children's Television Workshop $8 million to create educational television programs that would prepare young kids for school. The workshop was given a two-year lead time to develop a show curriculum and test the show's effectiveness before it was broadcast. The opportunity for trial, error, and retrial was an industry rarity. Traditionally, producers had created shows based on sellable ideas that could be ready to air quickly. Consultation with educators, if it happened at all, occurred after much of the groundwork had already been done. The workshop, however, had gathered a mixture of scientists and television people. Working in close collaboration on all aspects of production %u2014 from story ideas to scripts to the color of Big Bird's plumage %u2014 the team figured out how to get kids to Sesame Street, and how to keep them there."

Is watching television okay for kids? That is a very good question. The American Psychological Society looks at the question and some of the history.

We let our daughter watch a fair amount of TV, actually videos really, and we won't let her have a TV in her room. I did and we know many parents that do, but I would rather have her read more books then anything else.

Is TV okay?

APS Observer - Watch and Learn: "A few years earlier, the Department of Education had granted Children's Television Workshop $8 million to create educational television programs that would prepare young kids for school. The workshop was given a two-year lead time to develop a show curriculum and test the show's effectiveness before it was broadcast. The opportunity for trial, error, and retrial was an industry rarity. Traditionally, producers had created shows based on sellable ideas that could be ready to air quickly. Consultation with educators, if it happened at all, occurred after much of the groundwork had already been done. The workshop, however, had gathered a mixture of scientists and television people. Working in close collaboration on all aspects of production %u2014 from story ideas to scripts to the color of Big Bird's plumage %u2014 the team figured out how to get kids to Sesame Street, and how to keep them there."

Is watching television okay for kids? That is a very good question. The American Psychological Society looks at the question and some of the history.

We let our daughter watch a fair amount of TV, actually videos really, and we won't let her have a TV in her room. I did and we know many parents that do, but I would rather have her read more books then anything else.

Monday, December 26, 2005 - Money - A Competitive Nation, By Design - Money - A Competitive Nation, By Design: "Funds should also support the softer skills, the right-brain attributes deemed so important in this conceptual age, the skills that math- and science-focused India and China do not yet possess in any great capacity. After all, it is the ability to see the potential in the fruits of that research that currently sets the U.S. apart as a nation and has contributed to its lead as a producer of innovative goods and services."

Design skills could be very important in the future.

Why I homeschool

Multiple Mentality %uFFFD Carnival of the Capitalists for December 26, 2005: "%u201CPublic educators, like (ex-)Soviet farmers, lack any incentive to produce results, innovate, to be efficient, to make the kinds of difficult changes that private firms operating in a competitive market must make to survive.%u201D -Carolyn Lockhead"

Looking over Carnival of the Capitalist I came across this very interesting quote. Actually I think it is completely wrong, I think they are doing all those things very well, however their goal is not to educate our children but to grow the bureaucracy.

With school budgets seeming to increase far beyond the level of inflation every year it certainly seems to be very successful at it.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Are you preparing your children for a jobless society?

In the 1950's it was expected to have not only a single career but a single job for an entire lifetime.

Now we change jobs every couple of years and change careers 3-4 times.

Employers and employees have been complaining about lack of loyalty for ages, and it doesn't look like it will change anytime soon. The rate of change is accelerating. Jobs come and go. Entire departments, even whole industries can become obsolete overnight and disappear into the ether.

How are you creating your child's future? Will they be flexible enough to deal with what might be thrown at them?

While I was listening to a teleconference, where they were talking about balance, I realized that balance is not something that is important, we need to be balanced over time but we need not be balanced today. Something that drives us crazy is that our daughter will sometimes only eat salt and pepper, rather then worrying about it, we need to change our timeline, rather then every meal being perfectly balanced, we offer her good food that she'll eat over a day or two and it mostly works.

We can look at ourselves as made up of 4 parts:
Spirit, our essence, our personality, the child of our Heavenly Father within us.
Body, the container that holds our spirit.
Mind, our experience and knowledge.
Heart, our passion and emotions.

We cannot be at balance with all of these parts at the same time in every situation. The heart is terrible at balancing the checkbook and the mind is pathetic at romance. Each part is important but they are good at different things.

We need to be teaching our children how to use each part to best effect for the appropriate situations. You would not use a steering wheel to replace a tire even though they are both wheels.

You nourish the body with food and exercise and in doing things. Our spirits are nourished by communion with God. The mind needs knowledge and our hearts need love. But we cannot let any of these rule our lives alone.

We rest on the Sabbath to let our bodies be renewed and immerse our spirits in The Spirit. We allow our minds to rest while we play.

Let each part of us have a time for it to lead but within proper bounds.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

How to Sing Properly - WikiHow

How to Sing Properly - WikiHow: "Singing well is a skill, improved upon with proper breathing coordination. It is an extension of speech. This means the language being sung will have an effect on the position used for easy production of the tone. Style will also affect vocal position---more space is needed in classical singing style than is needed in 'popular' styles."

My wife and I sing in our church choir and I have noticed that singing is quite a workout sometimes. Breathing properly is a very healthy thing to do and will make your abs quite strong. We've not been doing choir for a while since our daughter was born and we are glad that they've started up again and we can get in there again.

Monday, December 19, 2005

What is the point of homeschooling your children?

Why do you bother to homeschooling your children?
Why is it important to you?
What does homeschooling success look like?

Remember grandma recommending you study hard and become a doctor or lawyer, so you would be successful.
What does successful mean in this or any other case?

You need to choose what you want your child to be when they grow up, unfortunately we choose wrong most of the time. How many majors or even careers did you go through before right now?

Our daughter is only three but I am already making decisions about what she will learn in the long run. Some lessons we believe she needs to have. I want her to have a deep understanding of technology, and also people. But those are easy things to deal with, give her a computer and a playgroup but then there are lessons in things that haven't happened yet.

There are lessons that I think she will need that I am not even sure how to teach because it isn't here yet. We live in an Information Age, and it is vastly different from all other Ages. If I give you or sell you an information product I don't lose anything by having done that. I still have the information and now so do you. It requires a mindset of abundance that no economist has done anything with, they all study scarcity.

I know that she will need to learn many things by experience, which only comes just after you need it.

I want her to know how nature works by going out into it and seeing and feeling and smelling it. Going to farms and seeing how they work, and factories too. Visiting other cultures if only by having ethnic parties, though I hope and plan for more. Going behind the scenes as much as possible to see how things really work it important to me. I remember the visit we made to a newspaper and the giant presses and all the work that goes into laying out a newspaper and it happens everyday.

I want to maximize her freedom, so I have to restrict her in some ways. The 10 Commandments aren't chains to hold us down but wings to let us fly. There is no need to learn things wrong before doing them right, only is we don't know better.

Something I do want her to do is make more mistakes and to do them young, like starting a business. I want her to have started 3-4 businesses before she goes to college. That is a experience I wish I had long ago. That would give her a better understanding of how business works.

What experiences are you planning to give your children?

Friday, December 16, 2005

BREITBART.COM - 11 Million Adults Illiterate, Study Shows

BREITBART.COM - 11 Million Adults Illiterate, Study Shows: "An estimated in one in 20 U.S. adults is not literate in English, which means 11 million people lack the skills to perform everyday tasks, a federal study shows. From 1992 to 2003, the nation's adults made no progress in their ability to read a newspaper, a book or any other prose arranged in sentences and paragraphs. They also showed no improvement in comprehending documents such as bus schedules and prescription labels."

That low?

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy

Current Chaos Manor mail: "Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy
is that in any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the
bureaucracy itself always get in control, so that those dedicated to the
goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less
influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.

How often do we see any organization created to solve a problem turn into the problem it was trying to solve? All the time.

I no longer wonder why the college aged people in Sunday School have such a hard time reading the Scriptures out loud. It is obvious that teaching anything to the student is secondary to having them in school. It seems like the teachers who do make a difference are very rare or why else would they get book and movie deals. So why are school deteriorating rather then improving? Because the people in charge are generally people who want the system to enlarge rather then be effective. Goals make a difference.

Manipulating time to increase our children's wisdom

"If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulder of giants." -Isaac Newton

The most powerful tool we can give our children is to teach them to read, and then give them the best books we can find.

Why is this so powerful, because we are compressing years, decades, even centuries of learning into a few hours. We let them stand on the shoulders of the giants who have already created solutions so we can create even greater solutions.

The saddest proof that our educational system is failing us is that 80% of college graduates never read another book from cover to cover for the rest of their lives!

The New York Times bestseller only sells about 5,000 books. Even the wildly popular, banned from some schools, hyper-bestseller like Harry Potter with 10 million books in the first printing of the last book, accounts for only 3% of the US population.

Finding the best books for our children is a challenge, starting with books that have withstood the test of time is a good place to start. If your child expresses an interest in a particular field you can ask around about who is the top person in that field, you can also go to the library and look in the bibliographies in the back of the books they have, most likely they reference at least a few in common. Mining the internet can produce nuggets as well.

Reading, and reading a lot, allows us to gain experience without all the missteps, wrong turns and mistakes that go along with life, because we learn from someone who has done that already and is showing us the right way. This way as we learn new things we can more quickly discern the good from the bad and get rid of the bad.

There is a saying, "A wise man learns from the experience of others."

What great books have you found?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Photography for the unprofessional

Wired Cola: "So there's my basic theory of digital photography: the first camera an amateur digital photographer buys should be one small enough to carry everywhere, whatever that means for you. I think other considerations come after that."

Art is a strong part of what I want my children to learn. Not just the history of great art but the creation of it. I came to appreciate musicians more once I started to learn how to sing and play the trumpet. One of the easiest art forms to start learn on is photography.

The marginal cost of taking a digital photo is for all practical purposes $0.00. That makes his second point a major one:

Instant feedback = instant learning.

I learned more about how to take better pictures in the first hour with my digital camera then all the time I spent with a film camera. It would be days if not weeks before we saw the end results of our shutter snaps. His first point is actually a corollary of this the more you learn the more you want to learn.

His third point is also important and has been said many ways by many people. The version I like best is,

"The best camera to have is the one you have with you."

A smaller camera that you can have with your all the time is better then a big clunky one you'll leave at home all the time. I like the Canon SDxxx series, small with a good lens. I would go for the one with the largest megapixels count since that will allow you to crop more, and more clearly then a smaller megapixel count sensor.

Children Learn by Monkey See, Monkey Do. Chimps Don't. - New York Times

Children Learn by Monkey See, Monkey Do. Chimps Don't. - New York Times: "The researchers turned to humans. They showed the transparent box to 16 children from a Scottish nursery school. After putting a sticker in the box, they showed the children how to retrieve it. They included the unnecessary bolt pulling and box tapping.

The scientists placed the sticker back in the box and left the room, telling the children that they could do whatever they thought necessary to retrieve it.

The children could see just as easily as the chimps that it was pointless to slide open the bolt or tap on top of the box. Yet 80 percent did so anyway. "It seemed so spectacular to me," Mr. Lyons said. "It suggested something remarkable was going on."
We don't appreciate just how automatically we rely on imitation, because usually it serves us so well. 'It is so adaptive that it almost never sticks out this way,' he added. 'You have to create very artificial circumstances to see it.'"

I have a few problems with this study. No that it is a bad study or that it is terribly flawed. It's just that there are other factors going on too that I don't think they've accounted for.

First they are using children in preschools. That is very much an "get along to go along" environment. Put another way the children learn very rapidly to imitate what the teacher is doing to get rewards and avoid punishment. So I tend to think that weakens the general argument of the study. It would be much better to use children cared for at home.

Second, they used food for the chimps and stickers for the children. It might be better to use food and hungry subjects to equalize this a bit. Stickers while a lot of fun for children might not have the same intrinsic reward potential that food/candy would have.

Third I seem to remember a study with toddlers that was similar, where some toddlers were shown how to turn on/off a light with their head rather then hands, which they imitated in the case when the teacher had her hands full but not if she didn't. So it seems as though something is going on in the way of imitation and reasoning.

Fourth, there was a study done of creativity of 3-4 years olds and they were found to be 95% highly creative in their thinking, but when tested again at 6-7 only 5% remained highly creative in their thinking. It was not stated but the one almost universal factor would be their introduction into kindergarten and first grade.

In conclusion I feel that schools are having a more subtle and powerful effect then we appreciate. There is a definite pressure to conform, to fit in, to not rock the boat. This also seems to be tapped into by the media, with almost all messages being of the type, "buy this and be a part of our cool group."

By high school, when children are asserting their independence, even the non-conformist groups are fairly uniform in style, in my high school we had people dressing in black and wearing ankhs; precursors to the modern goths, but still recognizable as a group. Were they all that different from the jocks or cheerleaders? Not really, the clothes were different but the attitudes were not.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What do you want?

One of the biggest fears I hear from parents about homeschooling is teaching math to their children.

What do you want in the way of help teaching math to your children? - electronics resources for everyone - electronics resources for everyone

If you have an interest in electronics this is a useful little site.

How to set goals

Goals are interesting things, they limit you by excluding things that would take you further away from them and they free you be allowing you to excluding those things that would take you further from your goals.

There are short-term goals that can be accomplished in days, hours. even minutes, and long-term goals that will take years.

Problems arise when we think we are making long-term goals when they are really only medium-term goals. Like the story of the bride who had focused her life on her wedding day. On that day she told her mother with a dreamy smile, "I am at the end of all my problems." Her wise mother kindly replied, "Yes, but which end?"

Or the man who studied hard in school, got a good job with a big company with great benefits, and age forty asks himself, "Is this all there is, isn't there something more?" and goes out and buys a red, convertible sports car, but is still dissatisfied with his life.

A good long-term goal should be open-ended, something that most likely is not solvable in this life. These might be things like:
Feeding the poor.
Building sustainable housing.
Teaching developing farmers how to make technology to make their farms more productive.
Establishing human colonies on other planets.

This is like the story of the boy on the beach. There had been an exceptionally high tide the night before and as he and his father were walking on the beach they came across many thousands of starfish washed up high on the beach. The sun was getting higher and the temperature was rising and the starfish would be cooked alive if they did not return to the the cool waters of the ocean. The boy started picking up starfish and throwing them back into the ocean as fast as he could. The more experienced father, looking down upon his son said, "Son, why are you doing that? There is not hope to save them all." The son replied, "Maybe not, but I can make a difference for this one." Together they threw many starfish back into the ocean.

This is in start contrast to medium-term goals:
Having enough money in my retirement account to last until I'm 85.
Getting a degree.
Getting a good job.
Getting married.
Paying off the house.
Medium-term goals have a very definitive end-state. It may take 30 years to pay off a 30-year mortgage but after 30 years you can burn the mortgage papers. Getting a Ph.D. degree it can take 8-10 years but you'll have a diploma to hang on the wall.

Problems occur when you confuse medium-term goals with long-term goals. All of the sudden you have reached that goal and you stagnate because you've never thought about what comes next.
A young man dreams of becoming an engineer and working on the Space Shuttle. He studies hard and gets good grades and his first job is at a big company with good benefits that makes stuff for the Space Shuttle. He redesigns an old product with new components, since the olds ones aren't made anymore. He has reached his major life goal, life is good. Then the layoffs come and he flounders looking for work because his inspiration, the driving force of his life is gone, he had achieved that goal and he isn't sure where to go next.

You need to have at least one and preferably two "impossible" goals. I recommend two since it is entirely possible to achieve one and you should have a backup already in place, because a lot of impossible things have been achieved: powered flight, supersonic flight, travel to the Moon, splitting the atom, climbing Mt. Everest and many more "impossible" things have become possible; even commonplace.

In conclusion, get out a piece of paper or open a word processing document and write down all the goals you've ever thought about. Just write don't worry about spelling or grammar, do that later. Write for 15 minutes. Then organize into short, medium and long-term. Pick one and work at it every day.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Skeptical Optimist: Our Grandchildren's Debt Burden in 2050: 540 scenarios

The Skeptical Optimist: Our Grandchildren's Debt Burden in 2050: 540 scenarios: "In this model, National Security spending will remain pegged at 4�% GDP, for two reasons: (1) I%u2019m assuming we learned our lesson after allowing it to drop to 2.9% during the regrettable late 1990s period of surplus-worship; and

(2) My granddaughter%u2019s security is nonnegotiable."

Something to look at and think about. How are you preparing your children for some of these futures?

Best Online Classic Children's Books: By Title

Best Online Classic Children's Books: By Title

This is an excellent resource for you and your children.

Read on!

The American Thinker

The American Thinker: "Quotas aside, the lessons of blue-state California should be clear to anyone with more than a passing interest in school choice and segregation. Stated bluntly, white liberals will object strenuously to school choice and racial segregation as long as their children are in the majority and among the top performers in school. However, when their children are fewer in number and relegated to the lower tiers of academic performance, they will happily embrace school choice and voluntarily segregate the public schools by moving to whiter school districts or sending their children to private schools.
If these demographic trends continue, the most likely fate of suburban schools in California and other blue-states with large concentrations of Asians such as New York, New Jersey and Maryland, is the emergence of a new "separate but equal" system of education mirroring the defacto segregation of schools in America's largest cities.
But, but, I thought the liberals wanted more diversity and academic achievement. Actions speak louder then words, but I wonder what they are trying to do to their children.

Obviously maximizing their potential is not the parents highest priority, though this article doesn't go into what they do want. Extracurricular activities are certainly good, but sports and drama will not provide prosperity to most who go down that path. A local company here has a few Olympians on the staff, they are not doing anything remotely related to sports at an electronics company.

Sports and drama and the like are not bad things, the physical and emotional talents of our children should be encouraged. But I wonder, like other scientists, why they don't give school letter jackets to the chess team. Might it be to give the students consolance when they are old and realized they had reached their peak before they could vote. Might that be a cause of the mid-life crisis?

Public schools are not good at maximizing their subjects potential. They are bureaucracies and bureaucracies are good at labeling things and perpetuating themselves. Solving the problem they were created to solve becomes something that needs to be sustained for the sake of the bureaucracy rather then resolved for the sake of the public.

While learning math and science is a good thing in my eyes, I know that a bureaucracy will mess it up some way so that the children will still not reach their full potential.

How do we help our children reach their full potential? Find what they do best and help them hone it to the finest edge, help them become virtuosos in their talent. Find what they love to do and help them find a way to do it profitably.

We need to expand our thinking beyond the normal because there is more then one way to skin a cat.

There is a story of a girl who started playing the piano when she was very young, she loved the piano and played it all the time. She went to music school and was very good at playing the piano, but when she went to New York she auditioned for all the orchestras and while she was very good they always found someone just a little better then her. Finally she went home, got married and stopped playing, now she doesn't even have a piano in her home at all.

This is a sad story. Not only has she buried her talent, but now no one else can benefit from it either. She had a highly focused goal of playing for a major New York orchestra, which is good but she turned her back on it when things didn't go the way she planned. There are other ways to play the piano profitably (teaching or playing for special occasions) but profit doesn't have to be a part of it playing even for just the enjoyment of it if fine. Turning her back on the piano is the saddest part of all.

Schools are not setup for providing for the excellence of our children. We must help them in spite of the system and we can.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Not Homeschooling? What's Your Excuse? - Guest

Not Homeschooling? What's Your Excuse? - Guest: "We have to understand that government schools in the U.S. were created to dull children%u2019s potential. Yes, read that part again%u2014government schools were never about truly educating your child; they were and are about creating happy workers and taxpayers, people unafraid to challenge the status quo and unable to read and think for themselves."

If you want your children to reach they're full potential you are going to have to teach them yourself. Heck, you'll have to learn how to do that yourself. The vast majority of people have been taught to be content "going with the flow," but they never look to see where the stream is going. Large organizations tend to look out for their own best interests not for yours.

You have the freedom to make choices that is the foundational difference between us and the animals. The earth was created by God to allow us to use our ability to make choices to see if we would follow His commandments and gain the resultant joy.

Public schools teach us to listen to teacher and let them take care of you. That is not the best choice of us or our children, but have we ever even questioned that? Few people do. Socrates said that the unexamined life isn't worth living and he was killed because he questioned everything.

We rarely die for questions these days but do we really live if we don't ask them?

Monday, December 05, 2005

Wired News: Pop Goes the Science Song

Wired News: Pop Goes the Science Song: "But, when he feels like livening up his biology classes, University of Washington lecturer Greg Crowther bursts into song to the melody of 'Sugar Sugar,' the bubble-gum '60s tune. 'Glucose, ah sugar sugar,' he sings. 'You are my favorite fuel from the bloodborne substrate pool / Glucose -- monosaccharide sugar -- you're sweeter than a woman's kiss / 'cause I need you for glycolysis.'"

These are some good learning songs. We really don't have enough of them. It is 100 times easier to learn something if you have a melody to help prompt your memory. We all use the ABC song to remember where things are in alphabetical order. And the there are the songs from Schoolhouse Rock that are so sticky as well.

These are well worth adding to your curriculum to help your children.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Sputnik Was Nothing - Issues 2006 -

Sputnik Was Nothing - Issues 2006 - "And we are not replenishing those losses from within. In international mathematics exams, 15-year-old American students performed well below the mean of participating countries. This is little surprise, since teaching out of one's field of expertise is common in the United States, especially in math and science. Nearly 70 percent of American middle-school students are assigned to teachers who have had neither a major nor certification in mathematics."

A common objection to homeschooling is that teachers are professionals, too bad it is in something else.