Monday, October 13, 2008

Oceanography - Hard to Study in the Midwest

Hard, but not impossible. Thanks to Julie Knapp at The Homeschool Diner for this great resource: the lab manual for Oceanography 1L at City College of San Francisco! Granted we can't do all the experiments, but I think Wolfie will be able to do enough to justify earning a full credit of science for the year.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

WoW: Blinded with Science

In his article How Videogames Blind Us With Science (yes, I stole his title), Wired Magazine contributor Clive Thompson discusses research by Constance Steinkuehler and Sean Duncan at the University of Wisconsin-Madison into the flow of conversation between World of Warcraft (WoW) players and how it may contribute to learning. He writes:

"What did they find? Only a minority of the postings were "banter" or idle chat. In contrast, a majority -- 86 percent -- were aimed specifically at analyzing the hidden ruleset of games.

More than half the gamers used "systems-based reasoning" -- analyzing the game as a complex, dynamic system. And one-tenth actually constructed specific models to explain the behavior of a monster or situation; they would often use their model to generate predictions. Meanwhile, one-quarter of the commentors would build on someone else's previous argument, and another quarter would issue rebuttals of previous arguments and models.

These are all hallmarks of scientific thought. Indeed, the conversations often had the precise flow of a scientific salon, or even a journal series: Someone would pose a question -- like what sort of potions a high-class priest ought to carry around, or how to defeat a particular monster -- and another would post a reply, offering data and facts gathered from their own observations. Others would jump into the fray, disputing the theory, refining it, offering other facts. Eventually, once everyone was convinced the theory was supported by the data, the discussion would peter out. ...

"At one point, Steinkuehler met up with one of the kids who'd built [an] Excel model to crack the boss. "Do you realize that what you're doing is the essence of science?" she asked.

He smiled at her. "Dude, I'm not doing science," he replied. "I'm just cheating the game!"

For what it's worth, Wolfie and Xavier believe it was cheating as well.

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Review of the Homeschooling Literature

From a friend on the Homeschooling Mensans list:

"A review of the literature on homeschooling, with excepted comments from Scholastic Achievement and Demographic Characteristics of Home School Students in 1998, by Lawrence M. Rudner, University of Maryland, College Park; http://www.economic; and Home-Education: Aims, Practices and Outcomes by Paula Rothermel, University of Durham, 2002.

Please note that these are direct quotes from the above sources and seem to represent an overwhelmingly positive view. Does anyone know of any research to the contrary?

During the last 20 years, the general public's familiarity with home schooling has evolved from a level of almost complete ignorance to one of widespread, if largely uninformed, awareness.

Research indicates that home schooled children in the U.S. and Canada regularly outperform their peers in both public and private schools. The international evidence on the academic performance of home schooled students is equally encouraging.

In the United States, at every grade level, home schooled students' average score placed between the 82nd and the 92nd percentile in reading and reached the 85th percentile in math. Overall, test scores for home schoolers placed between the 75th and 85th percentiles. In contrast, public school students scored at the 50th percentile, while private school students' scores ranged from the 65th to the 75th percentile.

Research also suggests that home schooled students are more sociable than their school peers, as well as more independent of peer values as they grow older.

Home schooling parents have above average levels of education. Among American parents who home school, 81 percent have studied beyond high school compared with 63 percent of parents nationwide. Interestingly, having at least one parent who is a certified teacher has no significant effect on the achievement levels of home schooled students.

A comparison of home schooled students' performance in a highly-regulated, moderately regulated, and unregulated American jurisdictions found no statistical difference. In other words, the degree of government regulation has no significant effect on the academic performance of home schooled children.

Even with our conservative approach, the achievement levels of the home school students in this study are exceptional. Within each grade level and each skill area, the median scores for home school students fell between the 70th and 80th percentile of students nationwide and between the 60th and 70th percentile of Catholic/Private school students. For younger students, this is a one year lead. By the time home school students are in 8th grade, they are four years ahead of their public/private school counterparts.

Studies show that teachers' credentials do not correlate with tested outcomes. In the U.S. in 1999, homeschoolers scored about 27 percent higher than public-schooled children on refereed nationally-normed tests. Research in the UK from Durham University by Paula Rothermel also shows that the parent's own education level did not correlate with outcomes for their home educated children.

Gifted children often stand a very good chance of being enriched through a home-education program. In the atmosphere without as much pressure, the child will often pursue their own academic studies, in their free time. their encouraged interest may lead them to surpass their parent's knowledge of the subject by the time they are 11 or 12. While clubs and other groups for homeschooled students are often difficult to find, they may talk to others with similar interests through the internet, homeschooling groups and even public-school clubs and groups.

In the U.S., opponents to homeschooling must overcome a basic legal problem. The U.S. Supreme Court (Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972)) placed the responsibility for this education on parents, and further defined the proper governmental goal for education as "literacy and self-sufficiency," that is, an educated, not a socialized child was recognized as the essential goal for the U.S.'s democratic government. This official decision removed the responsibility for children's educations from public officials, and placed it with the children's guardians. This crucial legal test occurred during an attempt to sue public school officials for malpractice, in a case in which illiterates graduated from a public high school. The decision was seen to favor the defendants, the public officials accused of malpractice, but necessarily gives parents broad rights to choose their children's educations.

This is the first UK study involving home-educated children and their families, using diverse methodologies, broad aims and large sample. The results show that 64% of the home-educated Reception (aka kindergarten)-aged children scored over 75% on their PIPS Baseline Assessments as opposed to 5.1% of children nationally. The National Literacy Project assessment results reveal that 80.4% of the home-educated children scored within the top 16% band (of a normal distribution bell curve), whilst 77.4% of the PIPS Year 2 home-educated cohort scored similarly. Results from the psychosocial instruments confirm the home-educated children were socially adept and without behavioural problems.

The home-educated children demonstrated high levels of attainment and good social skills.

Financial Bailout and How a Bill Becomes a Law

From a fellow homeschooler on the Homeschool Diner Conversations List:
I read this this morning and noted a few things. Off the wall things are buried throughout this. (see below)

This is LOADED with info for a Civics class!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Beware! It's 451 pages, double spaced and line numbered, it's in PDF form:

You may want to scroll to the following pages:

1. Definition of Senior Executive Officer and the term golden parachute - page 32-33 start with line 12 on.

2. de minimis - I had to look that up. It means so small or minimal in difference that it does not matter or the law does not take it into consideration. That's on page 39 starting on line 4. Interesting.

4. Page 40 starts with the $$ talk, specifically how much, who and how often.

5. Treatment of Homeowners' Rights - page 60 starting line 22

6. Increase in Statutory limit on the public debt - page 68 line 9..........WOW what a number!!!!!!

7. A study on finding out how this happened - page 89 line 10

8. Golden Parachute Rule - page 109 line 3

9. Energy Improvement and Extension Act - page 113 line 11

10. Credit for residential energy efficient property - page 133 line 10 (in the 190 they start talking about new electric cars)

11. Bike commuters - page 205 line 1

12. Energy Efficient Home Credit - page 218 line 5

13. 7 year cost recovery period for motorsports racing track facility page 290 line 1

14. Perm. authority disclosure of info relating to terrorist activities page 297 line 1

15. Child Tax Credit - page 297 line 14

16. Provisions related to film and tv productions - page 298 line 6

17. Wooden Arrows - page 300 line 20

18. Farming business machinery & equipment treated as 5 yr. property -page 307 line 4

19. Mental health and substance abuse - Begins on page 310 line 8 ........this ends at the top of page 344

20. Rural schools and community self-determination program - page 344 line 5

There are other earmarks such as; mine rescue, Indian employment credit, RR track maintenance, tax incentives for investments in D.C., wool, Exxon Valdez litigation, states and counties with federal land, disaster properties from Katrina and Ike.

Please remember this still has to pass in the House.

Feel free to share with others.

mazurowski@yahoo. com