Friday, September 29, 2006

For Mummy Lovers

Xavier is working on Egypt in his world cultures class and we've found some fun resources for Egyptophiles.

The book Egyptology by "Emily Sands" is a big pop-up book purporting to be the journal of a 1920's lady adventurer. While telling the story of a fictional expedition, it's also jam-packed with little stuff in pockets and drawings and other ephemera which give both a flavor of the times and background information about ancient Egypt. They've also published a companion volume is The Egyptology Handbook: A Course in the Wonders of Egypt, offers even more detail, broken down into actual lessons. We didn't get that companion book, though, because it was too schooly. The same company has produced similar books on Wizardology, Pirateology and Dragonology.

What math did the Egyptians know and when did they know it? Great for unit studies or math kids, Mark Herkhomer has a terrific page on the physics and mathematics behind the building of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

A couple of good sites on mummification:

The British Museum's site offers clickable mummies that give you up close pictures of the items used in the mummy making process. They also offer a Flash game in which you pick three magic spells to protect you as you journey through the underworld. is also a great resource, written by a professor of education and mummy aficionado. It describes the process for Egyptian mummies but also mummies from other cultures, including bog people and Otzi, the mummified man from the Alps. This site is intended for children and educators.

Akhet Egyptology is more comprensive and provides more in-depth information, including catalogues and photographs of grave goods and other Egyptian art and artifacts.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Set Your Tivo: New Season of NOVA

Hello Educators,

Next week NOVA presents the repeat broadcast of "Einstein's Big Idea," a two-hour special that explores the stories behind the world's most famous equation, E = mc2. (Subjects covered: physics, energy, properties of matter)

We'd like your help in spreading the word about the NOVA Teachers e-mail bulletin. If you refer three teachers to sign up for the bulletin, we'll enter you in a drawing to win five free NOVA videos. Simply refer three teachers to sign up at:

http://www.pbs. org/nova/ teachers/ mailing

Just make sure your friends enter your name and e-mail address so we can track your referrals. (That would be Lessa Scherrer and ;-)

In the coming weeks:

Sept. 26 -- Mystery of the Megavolcano

Oct. 3 -- NOVA scienceNOW

Oct. 10 -- The Viking Deception

For a downloadable PDF of the entire season visit

http://www.pbs. org/nova/ teachers/ schedule. html

Karen Hartley
Teachers Editor
NOVA Web Site

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Get Your Parrots Ready!

Tuesday, September 19th, is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. I also want to wear costumes, wash the poop deck (aka the kitchen floor) and learn about scurvy, but that might lead to mutiny. Maybe I can convince them to watch Treasure Island. LOL

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Bedtime Wars

Bedtime, or rather getting-up time, has been the biggest hurdle for the beginning of this school year. Xavier had to write three laws, a la Hammurabi, for his world cultures class and the first injustice he decided to right was imposed bedtimes. Klaus hasn't woken up to his alarm since the first day of school, and Wolfie and I are both dragging ourselves out of bed as close to 9 am (Dad-imposed homeschool start time) as we can get away with.

Klaus's problem is self-inflicted but, being a night owl myself, it makes a lot of sense to me that we should follow our natural rhythms, even if that means studying at midnight and sleeping 'til noon. M.S. Beltran, writing in the March-April 2004 issue of Home Education Magazine, agrees. She writes, "Training at an early age to meet with any pre-set hours seems inessential; we can be trained to go against our body's natural rhythms with minimal discomfort, but we cannot change those rhythms. Each individual has certain hours during the day that are peak performance hours, in which his or her body naturally operates at optimal performance levels. Sleep experts agree that, rather than wasting these precious hours, scheduling activities around one's most productive time of day is the most beneficial approach. To ignore the body's natural tendencies, as Dr. Dement puts it, is akin to a person "using his best shirts to scrub the floor." (The Promise Of Sleep, p. 423)."

DH, the morning person, just does not understand this and, to his credit, he's probably right that no studying would get done if we left the boys to their own devices. We differ on whether that's a problem in 6th and 7th grade, but since the boys are in charter school, so do have deadlines, though very flexible ones, I'm going along with the 9 am thing. Leaving the structure of the public school has been very difficult for him, so this is the compromise I've made to allow the boys to stay home. I do wish that just sticking Beltran's article under his nose would help him see the light. Or rather, the beauty of the dark.

Good Homework is So Hard to Find

"The nation's best-known researcher on homework has taken a new look at the subject, and here is what Duke University professor Harris Cooper has to say:

Elementary school students get no academic benefit from homework -- except reading and some basic skills practice -- and yet schools require more than ever.

High school students studying until dawn probably are wasting their time because there is no academic benefit after two hours a night; for middle-schoolers, 1 1/2 hours.

And what's perhaps more important, he said, is that most teachers get little or no training on how to create homework assignments that advance learning."
Valerie Strauss reported yesterday in the Washington Post.

This is big news, because Cooper was the one who invented the ten-minutes-per-grade rule, i.e. first graders get ten minutes of homework every night, second graders get 20 minutes, and so on up to 120 minutes for high school seniors. Practically speaking, high school homework amounts to much more than that. I remember several all-nighters my senior year. Granted I was taking three AP classes and using my study halls to "be a teacher's aide" (aka goof off), so I suppose that's to be expected. ;-)

Click the link above to read the rest of this article. It's pretty good.

CNN Reports: The Search for Genius

From Brainteaser: Scientists Dissect the Mystery of Genius

""If I showed you two brains side by side, one with an IQ of 150, one with an IQ of 75, I can't tell the difference," says Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health, one of the most experienced researchers in the field.

But Jung and his colleague Dr. Richard Haier of the University of California, Irvine, claim they are on the verge of refining imaging techniques to a point that would make traditional intelligence tests obsolete.

They're suggesting that the amount of grey matter correlates with intelligence, so the ability to measure grey matter will do away with the need for intelligence tests. I think this is an unnecessarily limited view. Since women have much more white matter than men (men have more grey than white), I suppose it figures male scientists would think measuring only grey matter was reasonable. ;-)

Anyway, "Genius: Quest for Extreme Brain Power," hosted by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, airs at 10 p.m. ET Sunday.

You know the Culture of Praise has Gone too Far When...

I just got a confirmation email from Klaus' cell phone company. It begins:

"Hi [Klaus],

Nice work! You've successfully swapped your Virgin Mobile phones..."

We're praising people for upgrading their phones now? What's next? "Good job! You bought lunch!"

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Back to School Update

So the first week of school is over and things have been going pretty well. Klaus got most of the classes he wanted with very little fuss. He's now taking AP modern European history, AP chemistry (second year), enriched English, P.E., Japanese I and Algebra II/Trig. He was also taking Honors earth science, a graduation requirement in our state, that is usually taken in 9th grade but came home the first day, said the 9th graders were driving him crazy and could he take it as an independent study?

We looked up one semester online classes, found a couple options and he made an appointment with his counselor to see if it would be okay. She said, "Sure!" (I love his counselor.) So he has a study hall now instead of earth science.

I can't tell you how proud I am of Klaus. Taking last year off to homeschool was definitely the right decision. After having to manage his own schedule, he now realizes that school imposes structure to teach good study habits, not because they think he's stupid. And he's empowered enough to know what he wants and to figure out ways to get it.

The other boys are still trying to figure out how the homeschooling thing works. Xavier has had the most problem adjusting to not being told what to do every minute. He's going to be great at this, though. I was gone for about two hours getting my hair done. While I was gone, Xavier got stuck on the science he was working on, so he switched to social studies and got another chapter done. He's been getting up in the morning and doing his clarinet practice and half hour exercise without being told.

Wolfie needs a little more supervision, but he's really excited about his Medieval Studies class. The correspondence course is set up with reading assignments then his choice of two out of five or six projects. The projects aren't officially graded and I was afraid he wouldn't want to do any of them. But when I asked him, he said, "I can't decide. I think I'll make the mosaic and the Viking journal looks pretty fun." That's my boy! :D

Now if I could only get them to wake themselves up in the morning.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Should Kids' Lives Be All Sweetness and Light?

Not according to Izzy Kalman, school psychologist and psychotherapist, who has developed a program to reduce bullying by teaching kids (and adults) not to be victims. "The problem is not bullying. The problem is not knowing how to handle bullying.. The most dangerous people, both to themselves and to others, are people who think like victims. Bullies don't commit suicide or shoot up schools. Victims do these things. If you think like a victim, you will be bullied by people throughout your life. You will be made miserable by your bosses and spouses and children." Click here for the text of Kalman's interview with Education World.

A companion piece from Education World about the worst kind of classroom bullies--teachers. The article reads in part:

"Educators let students know they care.
Bullies let students know who's boss.

Educators teach self-control.
Bullies exert their own control.

Educators set ironclad expectations.
Bullies rule with whims of steel.

Educators diffuse minor disruptions with humor.
Bullies use sarcasm to turn disruptions into confrontations."

The anti-bullying movement in the schools is a piece on the warm fuzzy self-esteem movement. An August 8 piece at suggests that the self-esteem movement is just as wrong-headed as the anti-bullying programs. "Rather than imparting self-esteem, some experts believe this gives kids an unhealthy sense of entitlement.

"Self-esteem comes from those feelings you have about yourself for a job well done, for when you have achieved something," says Dr. Georgette Constantinou, administrative director of pediatric psychiatry at Akron Children's Hospital in Ohio. "It's not something you pour into your children."

My thoughts? Kids know when they're given a trophy just for showing up. If they have no incentive to work hard, they don't. So we're training an entire generation to do the bare minimum to get by then to feel entitled to the same rewards as everyone else. Is this really what we intended?