Monday, October 31, 2005

Klaus' Number Puzzle Answer

And the next two lines are:


Why, you ask? Each line describes the one before it. The first line is the number one, the second line describes the first: one (number) one. The third line describes the second: two (number) ones. The fourth line describes the third: one (number) two, one (number) one. And so on. Clever, no?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Scientists Discover Dyslexia Gene

Up to a fifth of dyslexia cases could be caused by a faulty version of a gene called DCDC2, scientists believe.

In the mutant form, DCDC2 leads to a disruption in the formation of brain circuits that make it possible to read, say the Yale team. Their finding could lead to earlier diagnosis of dyslexia, meaning educational programmes for dyslexic children could be started earlier. The work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The gene is located on chromosome six and Dr Jeffrey Gruen and his team at Yale School of Medicine believe it causes as many as 20% of dyslexia cases. Dyslexia covers a range of types of learning difficulty where someone of normal intelligence has persistent and significant problems with reading, writing, spelling. Up to six million Britons are believed to have dyslexia - 4% of the population is severely dyslexic and a further 6% have limited problems. Other genes have already been linked to dyslexia.

Dr Gruen and his team studied 153 families with members who had dyslexia. By comparing specific DNA markers they found many of the people with dyslexia were missing a large portion of genetic material in the DCDC2 gene. Dr Gruen said; "The gene itself is expressed in reading centres of the brain where it modulates migration of neurons. This very architecture of brain circuitry is necessary for normal reading. "We now have strong statistical evidence that a large number of dyslexic cases - perhaps as many as 20% - are due to the DCDC2 gene." They said it was likely that many other genes were also involved in dyslexia - some already discovered and some still to be discovered.

Scientists at Karolinska Institute, working alongside a team of researchers from Finland, have identified a new gene on chromosome 3, called ROBO1, that appears to be associated with dyslexia. Their study is due to appear in the scientific journal PLoS Genetics. A spokeswoman from the British Dyslexia Association said: "Even though dyslexia is unlikely to be a single gene disorder this new knowledge could lead to earlier identification of this learning difference. "Our research has shown that the earlier dyslexia friendly teaching practices are implemented, the more likely dyslexic eople are to acquire the skills required to reach their full potential."

Story from BBC NEWS
Published: 2005/10/28 15:39:27 GMT


Friday, October 28, 2005

Unschooling Article at Salon

I've been holding onto this article until I had time to say something pithy about it, but it's been more than three weeks now, so I think my pithy moment has passed.

BTW, you can read the entire article without joining Salon by clicking the button marked "FREE" at the bottom of the teaser. You have to look at a car ad first, but then it will take you to the whole article.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

New School for the PG in Reno

""For a nation, I'm not sure why we value equity over excellence," Ms. Green said. "All kids are entitled to an appropriate education for their ability, not just those we're teaching to a minimum standard."

Click here for the complete NYT article.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Klaus' Number Puzzle


See if you can figure out the next few lines.

Answers and explanation to be posted on Monday.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Things that Make You Go, "Duh!"

One of the most interesting/rewarding/difficult things about raising really smart kids is that they often make connections (and very young ages) that I wish I could have thought of myself. For example, yesterday Klaus and I were discussing the Intelligent Design movement and I told him the argument I had picked up from my reading about the Dover PA school board court case. I knew this example incorrect but couldn't quite articulate (to my own satisfaction) what the counter-argument would be. Turns out I didn't need to.

Argument 1: You're walking along the sidewalk and come up a wristwatch lying there. You don't wonder how it could have evolved to be how it is; you recognize that it's an incredibly intricate machine which must have been designed by someone of higher intelligence. Similarly, human beings must have been designed by someone of higher intelligence.

Klaus says (immediately), "That's ridiculous. Watches are inanimate objects. Inanimate objects don't evolve."

When Klaus was 4, he was very interested in outer space. We lived in Denver at the time--great for stargazing--and had watched comets, etc. on tv, like the comet fragments that crashed into Jupiter. One day Dad was telling him the names of the planets. "And this one we call UR-anus because otherwise it sounds like we're talking about your anus."

Klaus: "Urine-us. (with water spraying sound) Heeheeheehee!"

Also around this same time, Klaus was talking with one of Dad's colleagues from medical school about the comet impact that may have killed the dinosaurs. Dr. X told him that nothing like that would ever happen nowadays.

Klaus: "What about Fragment G?" (The largest of the coment fragments that hit Jupiter.)

Dr. X hadn't made the connection and frankly, neither had anyone else I know.

The Great Comebacks, Part Deux

Mom: "I guess you're not as bright as I thought you were."

Klaus (age 9): "Duh, Mom. I'm not bioluminescent."

Chester (age 5) received an orange from Santa in his Christmas stocking. "He gave me a fruit? What a silly idea!"

Dad: "Why did you climb into bed with us last night?"

Wolfie (age 6): "Well, I hadn't done it in awhile and I thought I'd try it."

The first snow of the year. Chester (age 4) says, "There's snow on the ground. I'm going to go outside and write my name!"

Fearing the worst, Dad asks, "Oh? How are you going to do that?"

Chester: "With my finger!"

Finally, I was telling Wolfie (age 11) about this blog over the weekend. He looked at me in mock-horror and said, "Is raising gifted kids a game to you, Mom? This is my life we're talking about!"

The Declaration of Educational Independence

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that a Public Education System long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shown, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by Abolishing the Public Education System to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Government Control, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Public Education System, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.

Read the whole declaration. It's amazing!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Algebra Resources for V/S Kids (and others)

These links were first suggested by members of the TAGMAX listserv:

Hands-On Equations by Dr. Henry Borenson

Thinkwell's multimedia CD-ROM "textbook"

MathUSee highly recommended by parents of gifted and v/s kids!

Real World Algebra is story problem-based, which sounds like it might be to language-based, but might appeal to the "big picture" thinker in a v/s kid.

The author of Algebra Antics has been giving seminars at community colleges in Southern California for years.

Algebra Out Loud combines reading strategies with math. Should be particularly good for the very verbal with poor sequencing skills.

Another Mental Math Resource

For students who are learning arithmatic or need a refresher, The Math Page offers not only problems sets but clear explanations of the way to think a problem through to get the answer in your head.

For example: "Now, once you know that
6 + 6 = 12,
then you could know that
6 + 7 = 13,
6 + 5 = 11.

In essence, this is the way mathematicians think--reducing a problem to the simplest way to approach it before trying to find the answer.

Ammunition Against Disapproving Mothers-in-law

Homeschooling's True Colors, an excellent article from Mothering Magazine, treats the common myths about homeschooling and shows the research contradicting them.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Tease Your Brain!

Figure out what the variables stand for in these equations. For example 12 M in a Y equals 12 months in a year. Give it a try!

Just for Fun

UC Riverside Actively Recruits Homeschoolers

HSing is becoming more and more accepted. Are we on the brink of a revolution?

“Among the homeschool community, we find large numbers of students who are smart, mature, creative, independent and well-socialized people,” said Frank Vahid, a professor of computer science who has three children who are homeschooled. “We want such excellent students in our classes. They have a lot to offer the university community.”

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lateral Science

Just had to share this link with you scientist-types out there or parents of scientist-types. Lateral Science describes all kinds of old-fashioned (read Victorian) and unusual science experiments. I can't wait to try writing under the shell of an egg!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Look at me, I'm Winston Churchill!

Yet another quote about gifted kids being ignored in the school system. This is not a new phenomenon, folks...

"Clearly there was something odd here. Winston, Davidson had conceded, was the ablest boy in his [grade]. He was, in fact, remarkable. His grasp of history was outstanding. Yet he was considered a hopeless pupil. It occurred to no one that the fault might lie, not in the boy, but in the school.

Samuel Butler defined genius as "a supreme capacity for getting its possessors into trouble of all kinds," and it is ironic that geniuses are likeliest to be misunderstood in classrooms. Studies at the University of Chicago and the University of Minnesota have found that teachers smile on children with high IQs and frown upon those with creative minds.

Intelligent but uncreative students accept conformity, never rebel, and complete their assignments with dispatch and to perfection. The creative child, on the other hand, is manipulative, imaginative, and intuitive. He is likely to harass the teacher. He is regarded as wild, naughty, silly undependable, lacking in seriousness or even promise. His behavior is distracting; he doesn't seem to be trying; he gives unique answers to banal questions, touching off laughter among other children.

E. Paul Torrance of Minnesota found that 70 percent of pupils rated high in creativity were rejected by teachers picking a special class for the intellectually gifted. The Goertzels concluded that a Stanford study of genius, under which teachers selected bright children, would have excluded Churchill, Edison, Picasso, and Mark Twain.

(From William Manchester, The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill.
Visions of Glory, 1874-1932, pp. 158-159)

How about "boys who don't think they're funny"?

Originally uploaded by The Princess Mom.
In my effort to get organized, I bought this magnetic "Things I Need" grocery list to hang on the refrigerator. It wasn't long before other people had added their needs to the list as well...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

National Chemistry Week

In honor of National Chemistry Week, here are some links (courtesy of the Wi-TAGhomeschooling listserv):

A Flash Version of the periodic table (if you have dial up service... you don't want to go there ;-)

Wondernet (by the Am Chem Soc) - kitchen chemistry for youngsters (with really good explanations of "What's going on")

Cavalcade of chemistry - Free fun lesson plans

Robert Krampf's Free Experiment of the Week -

Demos for online chemistry software (you can purchase the software, but it is spendy)... you don't get the answer with the demo, but we figured out most of it ;-)

Edmunds scientific catalog:

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Gift of ADHD

Found this article today on The author, Lara Honos-Webb, Ph.D., is waxing poetic about how wonderful it is to have ADHD because it helps you "get the big picture", "take risks" and "be creative". While I agree that recasting the problems of ADHD in positive terms is a good thing, I think she's got the wrong horse here. The children she's describing are visual-spatial (v-s) learners, not ADHD.

This is the kind of confusion you run across when people declaim that there's no such thing as ADD and it really means gifted. Not so, my friends. As I've mentioned before, you can be identified as gifted and have ADD that gets in the way of your giftedness. While I agree that v-s kids don't fit well into the traditional a-s (auditory-sequential) teaching in traditional schools, and that may lead to them being labeled ADD when they're clearly not, the two are completely different animals.

Think of it as convergent evolution. Even though the dolphin and porpoise are not related, they look similar because they've evolved to exist in the same environment, which necessarily rewards the same types of adaptations. Similarly, ADD and v-s may be evolutionary adaptations to our current profoundly visual, information overloaded society. Because they are both adaptations to the same environment, they would share characteristics, but that doesn't mean they are the same thing.

Having a fantastic mental picture of a fascinating project is v-s and can very easily be the behavior of a gifted child. But having ADD that keeps you from completing the project in your head is not a "gift."

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Mental Math Resources

This site has several very good/fun mental math activities for the home,
mental math activities for the car, as well as fun math writing and talking

Mental Math: Computation Activities for Anytime, Grades 4-8 (a good, useful
workbook by Richard Piccirilli)

Mental Math Challenges (another good book on mental math)

Project Motivational Math

OPPS! (This is a fun Pre-Algebra game, but you already know of it; I'd
thought I'd add it to the list anyway, in case anyone else was curious)

More books on mental math:

* Mental Math in the Primary Grades

* Mental Math in the Middle Grades

* The Great Book of Math Teasers: Mental Gymnastics

* Mental Math and Estimation

* Doing Simple Math in Your Head

Three Interested Boys

Happened upon 12 Angry Men on Turner Classic Movies last night. I'd heard great things about it and listened to some of an audio performance in college but never actually seen the movie. I expected to be the only one in the livingroom after about 30 minutes, but instead by the end of the movie, the whole family was watching! We got to discuss prejudice and "being a man" in the context of the 1950s as well as a bit of courtroom procedure. I ended up being glad both Wolfie and Chester had been sick and slept most of the day, otherwise I would have had to put them to bed before the movie was half over. Instead we watched, we discussed, then we finished reading Heroes, Gods and Monsters of the Greek Myths (our current bedtime book. Next is The Hound of the Baskervilles). They can stay up 'til 11 on a school night once in awhile, right?

I was very proud of them, not least because the movie was black and white, there were no fight scenes, and we've had trouble getting them to watch even The Wizard of Oz because the movie was "too old." Even DH admitted 12 Angry Men was an interesting movie and he rarely will watch classic films with me. I guess there's hope for them yet.

Although a good MGM musical would still be a tough sell. ;)

What Should Gifted Programs Look Like?

In last month's District Administration Magazine, Contributing Editor Rebecca Sausner writes that gifted researchers "seem to divide rather neatly into sides that believe either that grade acceleration of gifted students is the best approach, or that enrichment opportunities for all, with advanced enrichment for the gifted, are the way to go. National organizations seem to straddle the continuum between the two." Her article, Gifted Education: Deceived, Denied and in Crisis is subtitled, "Why gifted ed still matters and what you can do to improve your district's offerings" although she does a better job surveying the current status of gifted education in the schools than in suggesting what to do about it.

The article does give an excellent overview of the situation facing gifted students in the public schools. I was disturbed to find out that "The National Research Center for Gifted and Talented, run by Renzulli out of the University of Connecticut, received $11.2 million last year, which comprises the bulk of the Jacob J. Javits Gifted and Talented Students budget." I checked out the Renzulli project. It looks like a fabulous site, built for individual differentiation, that provides a gateway to huge numbers of enrichment sites. Considering it's entirely web-based, one would think it would be an ideal product for homeschoolers.

Unfortunately, their program is only available to school districts. According to their FAQ, "The license cost for the Renzulli Learning System is $35 per student per year, with a minimum enrollment of 20 students per school." When I emailed to ask whether individual homeschoolers could benefit, I was told, "Perhaps if a large homeschooling group was to get together and buy a site license..." (sigh)

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Utopia Elementary School

I've been pondering the last couple days what an ideal public school situation would look like. I think that birthdate, while an unequivocal standard, is a stupid measure to determine where a child should be in school. I'm sure I've mentioned before how strong a proponent I am of ability grouping. Even though ability has become a dirty word in education since the "Self-esteem Movement" of the 1980s-90s (which current research is showing to be a crock), called "elitest" and all that, I honestly believe that grouping children of like ability is the best way to teach everyone.

Ideally, elementary school should be more like high school, with a greater variety of subjects and students grouped by like ability and interests rather than age. This should benefit kids at all points on the educational spectrum. Those having more trouble grasping the material would have the time to really work on the fundamentals. Those sailing through could be pushed even further. those is the middle would have a chance to differentiate themselves to a greater degree than they can now.

But would elementary teachers go for it? Turns out some already have. I received the following info from Sara Stone in the Elkhorn, WI school district:

"We did some flexible grouping in our elementary math classes. Students were pretested and then "shuffled" The top 1/3 were placed together and their needs were met through depth of material. Pacing had to stay the same as the other two classes so the unit of study ended at the same time in all three classes.

The other 2/3 were heterogeneously grouped. What the teachers found was that the top 1/3 were NOT the same group of kids every time. There were a core group of about 5-7 who pretested into that group but the rest flexibly moved in and out based on the pretest. Parents were thrilled and faculty felt that they were meeting educational needs better than before.

They also found, that since the top kids were not in the other two classes then students had to come up with ideas, answers etc. that the students previously relied on from the top kids. Also, it allowed students the opportunity to move at a pace that was more appropriate and then could discover the concepts rather than always having the top kids answering. So, really moving the top kids out allows for more educational growth for the other students. I do think a key here was that kids knew that they could move in and out of the group based on the pretest.

So, contrary to popular misconception taking the top kids out does not mean the rest of the kids will fall apart. ...It is NOT the task of the top kids to make the other kids learn. Last time I checked that is the teacher's responsibility. AND if she/he is using the gifted kids to enable the kids learning how is she meeting the needs of those gifted. "

Ah, a school after my own heart. :D

I also heard this morning from a mother on the Mensa Bright Kids list that the private school her son attends uses a similar method, but for all subjects, not just math. Glory be!

Now the question is, how do we get the rest of the public schools to follow suit?

When are they ready for college?

The question that parents of gifted kids run up against too soon (in my opinion) is when are they ready for college? For homeschoolers particularly, a community college seems a good fit for teens (and pre-teens) who need higher level learning than their parents may be able to provide. Community college (CC) also provides a college experience for kids who may not be sufficiently mature to live outside their parents' home. But without a diploma, how do we hook them up?

In our state, the Youth Options program through the Department of Public Instruction is set up specifically to allow high school juniors and seniors to take community or UW college classes that count toward their high school diploma. Tuition is paid through the public schools and although it's trickier to get access that way, if you have a relationship with someone at your local school, that's a possibility. Prior to that, it would have to be on a case-by-base basis, negotiated between you and the particular school or professor and tuition would most likely be entirely your responsibility.

Our local community college has an entrance exam called COMPASS that all incoming students take to make sure they are placed in the appropriate classes. The COMPASS test is not age-restricted, so if your child took the test and passed it, you could easily approach the registrar and say, "Look, he's working at a college-level. How about you let him take this one class and see how he does?"

There is some question about whether racking up a large number of community college credits is a good thing for homeschoolers to do. It very much depends on what your post-high-school plan is, because there are as many ways to view these credits as there are four-year universities. As I understand it, there are more advantages to entering college as a freshman (priority in housing, more openings available, more financial aid available) than as a transfer student. Each college is different as to which credits they will allow to transfer and who qualifies as a freshman, so it's worth checking with the schools (and potential schools) on your list to see what their policies are.

I was looking into this primarily for upper level science and math classes. Although I've been doing okay supervising Klaus's correspondence-school biology lab and DH said he'd oversee a similar chemistry program, physics and AP level wet lab work would be more difficult in the dining room, as would any math higher than algebra II (at least for me. Less so for dh).

Klaus and Wolfie are taking the ACT in February, so I think we'll wait until we get those results back before making any CC decisions. That should also give us some time to narrow our list of possible schools so we can get some guidance that way.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Darn those gifted students!

Interesting article in the NYT yesterday about chess instruction programs in elementary schools. It sounds like a great program. I know Wolfie and Chester were very excited about the city-wide chess tournament the district held last year.

This is the quote that got my attention:

"It teaches problem solving, perseverance, being able to learn something new," Mrs. Hicks said. It also teaches concepts of rank and file, horizontal, vertical and diagonal.

The biggest problem, she said, was that some students already knew how to play or learned it more quickly than their classmates. "It is not as productive for them as for the others," she said."
(Boldface is mine, of course.)

Isn't that always the way? Gifted kids actually learning something and wanting to continue, thereby ruining everything for the rest of us!

I have seen the future and it is...Dutch?

And I was so proud of myself for being a good advocate for my kids this year...

Netherlands Court Bans Complaining Mom
Fri Oct 7,10:05 AM ET

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A woman in the Netherlands has been banned from any contact with her daughter's school or teachers after complaining too much, a court ruled Friday.

The woman, whose name was not released, "overloaded" the Borgh Elementary School in the northern city of Zuidhorn "with an incessant stream of questions, comments and complaints," a panel of judges at the Groningen District Court wrote in their judgment. "For causing an illegal hindrance ... she will be barred from approaching the school or the school area for a year, and forbidden from addressing the school, educators or the board in any way other than as specified in the verdict," the judges said. The woman's complaints ranged from treatment of her daughter — described as "highly gifted" — to disagreements about curriculum, method of teaching and the safety of the school. In the 2004-2005 school year, the woman sent 50 e-mails and 20 letters to the school, and came nine times to visit.

She also wrote 29 letters to the school board and others "to the National Complaint Commission, the Labor Inspection Service, the Educational Inspection Service, the Queen's representative and the media," the judgment said. In the future, the woman will be allowed to submit complaints to the school on a single page of paper once a month, the court ruled.

Hm, in the 2005-2006 school year, I have visited the school once, emailed two teachers once and the GT coordinator twice. And it's only the first week of October. I think I'm in trouble...