Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cymatics: Sound and Creation

I got this link from another homeschooler. It's a lovely five minute video on cymatics, the study of visible sound and vibration. The patterns that are created by sound waves and their reflection in living forms (tortoise shells, sunflower seed heads) is fascinating and just begging for a 4H or science fair project. Wish me luck in getting one of the boys to pursue it!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Lockhart's Lament or You Should Read This Now!

I've read this before but apparently I didn't blog it. Can't imagine why--it's fabulous! Makes me want to go back and re-teach high school math to Wolfie. A living books approach probably would have kept him interested in math, which he isn't anymore. :(

Anyway, here is a bit of "A Mathematician's Lament"by Paul Lockhart, an elegant proof that we may be teaching our children about mathematics but we're certainly not teaching them mathematics.

"By concentrating on what, and leaving out why, mathematics is reduced to an empty shell. The art is not in the “truth” but in the explanation, the argument. It is the argument itself which gives the truth its context, and determines what is really being said and meant. Mathematics is the art of explanation. If you deny students the opportunity to engage in this activity— to pose their own problems, make their own conjectures and discoveries, to be wrong, to be creatively frustrated, to have an inspiration, and to cobble together their own explanations and proofs— you deny them mathematics itself. So no, I’m not complaining about the presence of facts and formulas in our mathematics classes, I’m complaining about the lack of mathematics in our mathematics classes. "

It's a great argument against schooling in general, since while he claims no other subject has been so sucked dry of life and reason for living, the same could be said about history, economics, and most science courses. I've even seen it done in English classes. Pretty much any class that uses a textbook is about as interesting as the pile of wood pulp used to make said textbook. Oh yeah, I went there!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Reporter Needs Your Help

I just got this message. "I found your blog while researching an article I'm writing for Parents magazine. I'm looking to interview the parents of an exceptional/gifted child. The main goal of this article will be to help parents learn how to deal with their kids' separate needs. In many families, one child is the subject of much attention due to either a positive accomplishment (ie. academic exellence, mvp) or a negative situation (ie. chronic illness, behavior issues). When this happens, a perfectly normal/average child may begin to feel inadequate or left out. I hope to raise parents awareness of this situation and give them tools for dealing with it. I read that your children are grown, but I thought you might be able to connect me to a family with 2 young children (under the age of 10) because of your connection with the Mensa organization."

I'm always willing to help out a fellow writer, but in this case I'm not qualified because my kids are too old for Parents' target audience. Can anyone out there help a brutha' out?

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Mommy Wars: Oy Vey, Maria!

Okay, okay, I found this several months too late to reply to Marguerite, a commenter on Judith Warner's NYT blog entry ""Families to Care About, but I have to reply and I have a blog, so I'm gonna.

The article was about those "Real Housewife"-type mothers who send their kids off to daycare so they can have some "me time," and how their whining about their husbands losing huge amounts of salary in the recession was falling on deaf ears. (Not so much at the NYT clearly, but I digress.) I don't usually read Judith Warner, because she strikes me as one of those whining opt-out mothers, and yes, I know writing a blog can be a full-time job, which is why I don't post so often anymore.

However, the commenter who signed herself Marguerite had this to say in response to the entry:

"There is nothing new in the news media providing a slanted perspective on gender roles. Over-coverage of kept wives and under-coverage of the working poor generates more interest, if not sells more papers - who wants to read about people being miserable and having to work their fingers raw? It’s a (journalistic) upper-class version of People and Star magazines.

That being said - I have zero respect for women who chose voluntarily to give up careers to be their husbands’ housekeepers. If they aren’t bored stiff, they clearly have a lack of intellectual aptitude - which is perhaps why hubby selected them in the first place. A nice contrast is Laura Bush vs. Hilary Clinton or Michelle Obama. Enough said."

Hold on, there, Marguerite. NOT QUITE enough said!

Let's not assume that stay-at-home moms = "women who chose to voluntarily give up careers to be their husband' housekeepers." Anyone who knows me knows that I am a terrible housekeeper. I'm a SAHM because we prefer to raise our own children.

Sentence #3: "A nice contrast is Laura Bush vs. Hilary Clinton or Michelle Obama."
Okay, if you say so. But didn't Michelle Obama give up her career to support her husband's presidency, and doesn't she now call herself the Mom-in-Chief? As for Laura Bush, according to the National First Lady's Library, she has a master's degree in Library science but retired from teaching for work behind the scenes on both her FIL (Bush 41) and husband's political campaigns. Granted, she doesn't have Hillary's strident voice or Michelle's biceps but let's not go assuming W married her because she's a pretty idiot.

I saved sentence #2 for last, because it's my favorite: "If they aren’t bored stiff, they clearly have a lack of intellectual aptitude - which is perhaps why hubby selected them in the first place." A-hem. Where to begin? Rather than listing the credentials I have accumulated since staying home, I'll just put it this way. If I call the last fifteen years "A Longitudinal Study of the Educational and Parenting Needs of Gifted Boys," can I have my IQ points back?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Peer Pressure Cuts Both Ways

There's an article in the Guardian about the pressure gifted boys feel to dumb down and fit in. It's not just a smart-girl problem anymore. I'm not sure if that's a good or a bad thing.

Monday, March 23, 2009

ABCs for Baby Nerds!

How awesome is this? A seller on Etsy has just come out with a set of ABC flashcards for nerd babies! Now I'm jealous that my sister has grandchildren and I don't!

C.S. Lewis on Education: The More Things Change...

The More They Stay the Same. CS Lewis on the modern educational system of his time:

The scene is in Hell at the annual dinner of the Tempters' Training College for young devils. The principal, Dr. Slubgob, has just proposed the health of the guests. Screwtape, a very experienced devil, who is the guest of honour, rises to reply:

...The basic principle of the new education is to be that dunces and idlers must not be made to feel inferior to intelligent and industrious pupils. That would be "undemocratic. " These differences between the pupils - for they are obviously and nakedly individual differences - must be disguised. This can be done on various levels. At universities, examinations must be framed so that nearly all the students get good marks. Entrance examinations must be framed so that all, or nearly all, citizens can go to universities, whether they have any power (or wish) to profit by higher education or not. At schools, the children who are too stupid or lazy to learn languages and mathematics and elementary science can be set to doing the things that children used to do in their spare time. Let them, for example, make mud pies and call it modelling. But all the time there must be no faintest hint that they are inferior to the children who are at work.

Whatever nonsense they are engaged in must have - I believe the English already use the phrase - "parity of esteem." An even more drastic scheme is not impossible. Children who are fit to proceed to a higher class may be artificially kept back, because the others would get a trauma-Beelzebub, what a useful word! - by being left behind. The bright pupil thus remains democratically fettered to his own age group throughout his school career, and a boy who would be capable of tackling Aeschylus or Dante sits listening to his coeval's attempts to spell out A CAT SAT ON A MAT.

In a word, we may reasonably hope for the virtual abolition of education when I'm as good as you has fully had its way. All incentives to learn and all penalties for not learning will vanish. The few who might want to learn will be prevented; who are they to overtop their fellows? And anyway the teachers - or should I say, nurses?- will be far too busy reassuring the dunces and patting them on the back to waste any time on real teaching. We shall no longer have to plan and toil to spread imperturbable conceit and incurable ignorance among men. The little vermin themselves will do it for us.

Of course, this would not follow unless all education became state education. But it will. ..."

~ C.S. Lewis Screwtape Proposes a Toast From The Screwtape Letters, New York: Touchstone, 1961.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Letting Teens Sleep In Is a Good Idea?

I say yes, DH says no. "The most productive time of the day is morning," which is why our school day begins at 9am at the latest. I have to agree that Wolfie has been very productive in the first hour study hall he has at the high school before German II.

However, my most productive time of day is noon to 2:30pm (second most productive time of day is 10:30 pm to 2 am), which dear DH, being a morning person, just cannot understand. Thus the ongoing battle at my house about bedtimes and school times.

Now it seems the head teacher (aka principal) at Hugh Christie Technical College, Tonbridge, Kent (UK) agrees with me. "[O]n Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays his 14- to 18-year-old pupils start lessons at 11.30am – because research suggests that that teenagers' brains work better if they get up later.

"Their punctuality and attendance has improved, their questioning and answering is better because they are more alert and the pace of lessons is often much quicker," Barker says."

I know such an experiment will not convince DH, but if there are any homeschooling families out there who need this bit of info to adjust your schedule more comfortably, you now have anecdotal research to support your decision.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

See Shakespeare's Plays in a Whole New Way

If your kids are into graphic novels, check out Classical Comics. Not only are they real, unabridged classics in graphic novel format, but they also come in original text (for example, Shakespearean English), plain text (modern English) and quick text (~elementary reading level modern English) so differentiation is a breeze.

I think the graphic novel format is perfect for Shakespeare's plays, which are much more understandable when performed than when read. The teacher's guides are designed for British schools Key Stages 2 and 3, which correspond roughly with late elementary and middle school in the states. They include activities, quizzes, and tests with copyable black line masters and answer keys.

We're using Henry V right now--original text for my reader and plain text for my non-reader, although I have to say the plain text is helpful even for advanced readers. I never really understood what the Archibishop's arguments in favor of war with France were until I read the plain text version, and I've read the play at least twice and seen the movie a half dozen times. The plain text also preserves Shakespeare's language where possible, so I don't think using that exclusively would ruin the educational experience.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

For Language Learning, Check Rosetta Stone

We've used Rosetta Stone in a number of languages over the past few years. Klaus tried to use it for homeschooling Japanese three years ago. It was a failure. We couldn't tell what he had completed and it seemed he was making no progress, even after spending several hours. Because of that, and the expense, and the fact that they didn't offer Irish, we tried Pimsleur and a number of other language learning products for Xavier last year.

They weren't very helpful, either.

Now, it seems, Rosetta Stone has realized that with some parental/teacher support, they can make their product well worth the expense. The homeschool edition offers reports for parents "suitable for adding to an education portfolio." All of their languages seem to be offered in this new homeschool version, including Irish.

Click here for an excellent, detailed explanation of what each package offers, courtesy of

Rosetta Stone itself is offering a $100 off deal, but you can also check out the group buy from the Homeschool Buyer's Co-op.