Monday, April 30, 2007

The London Eye

Wow... what an awesome ride!
The London Eye is an amazing ferris wheel that offers spectacular views of London.

The British Airways London Eye is the world's tallest observation wheel at 135m high. Located on the banks of the River Thames it offers fabulous views over London.

Since opening for The Millenium, the London Eye has become an impressive landmark in London on the Thames. It has become so popular, despite it's pricey admission, that it is the most popular UK visitor attraction, visited by over 3.5 million people a year (an average of 10,000 a day). An amazing feat of design and engineering, passengers in the London Eye's capsules can see up to 40 kilometres in all directions, in complete comfort and safety. The views are spectacular!

I am not one for "tourist traps", but if you visit London, you shouldn't miss this. Great fun, and terrific photo opportunities!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Tunnel Under the Bering Strait?

This bit of proposed technology caught my eye.

Backers Make Push for Russia-U.S. Tunnel

It's intriguing to think that people are looking to recreate "the land bridge" via a $65 billion highway project that would link two of the world's most inhospitable regions by burrowing under a stretch of water connecting the Pacific with the Arctic ocean.

People have dreamed about doing this for more than a century, but war, revolution and politics always seemed to get in the way.

Walter Hickel, a former Alaska governor and interior secretary under President Richard Nixon thinks its time to change the old slogan "Workers of the world unite!" to be "Workers - Unite the world!". He said that the route would unlock hitherto untapped natural resources -- and bolster the economies of both Alaska and Russia's Far East.

The article says this:
The proposed 68-mile tunnel would be the longest in the world. It would also be the linchpin for a 3,700-mile railroad line stretching from Yakutsk -- the capital of a gold- and mineral-rich Siberian region roughly the size of India -- through extreme northeastern Russia, in waters up to 180 feet deep and into the western coast of Alaska. Winter temperatures there routinely hit minus 94 F.

By comparison, the undersea tunnel that is currently the world's longest -- the Chunnel, linking Britain and France -- is only 30 miles long.

That raises the prospect of some tantalizingly exotic routes -- train riders could catch the London-Moscow-Washington express, conference organizers suggested.

Lobbyists claimed the project is guaranteed to turn a profit after 30 years. As crews construct the road and rail link, they said, the workers would also build oil and gas pipelines and lay electricity and fiber-optic cables. Trains would whisk cargos at up to 60 mph 260 feet beneath the seabed.Eventually, 3 percent of the world's cargo could move along the route, organizers hope.
It is said that the feasibility study alone would cost $120 million and would take two years to complete and that actual construction of the road-rail-pipeline-cable effort could take up to 20 years. Vladimir Brezhnev, president of Russian construction conglomerate Transstroi, said that the technology to tackle the construction work already exists.

It is hoped that the governments of Russia, the United States, Japan, China and the European Union will endorse the tunnel as part of their economic development strategies and that government officials will raise the issue at the G-8 summit in Germany in June.

This could be an exciting prospect, despite it's cost.
I think it is wonderful that human dreams and possibilities like this could come to fruition... although I am not certain I'd want to travel 68 miles under the ocean! It is certainly a topic that one would likely see on the History Channel "Modern Marvels".

Friday, April 27, 2007

Study: Religion is Good for Kids

Live science reports on an interesting study which concludes that religion is good for kids.

The article says this:
Kids with religious parents are better behaved and adjusted than other children, according to a new study that is the first to look at the effects of religion on young child development.
The study was done by John Bartkowski, a Mississippi State University sociologist.
He and his colleagues asked the parents and teachers of more than 16,000 kids, most of them first-graders, to rate how much self control they believed the kids had, how often they exhibited poor or unhappy behavior and how well they respected and worked with their peers.

The researchers compared these scores to how frequently the children’s parents said they attended worship services, talked about religion with their child and argued abut religion in the home.

The kids whose parents regularly attended religious services—especially when both parents did so frequently—and talked with their kids about religion were rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents.

But when parents argued frequently about religion, the children were more likely to have problems. “Religion can hurt if faith is a source of conflict or tension in the family,” Bartkowski noted.
There were also some interesting conclusions and observations that Bartkowski arrived at.
Based on his research, he seemed to think that religion can be good for kids for three reasons. First, religious networks provide social support to parents, he said, and this can improve their parenting skills. Children who are brought into such networks and hear parental messages reinforced by other adults may also “take more to heart the messages that they get in the home,” he said.

Secondly, the types of values and norms that circulate in religious congregations tend to be self-sacrificing and pro-family, Bartkowski told LiveScience. These “could be very, very important in shaping how parents relate to their kids, and then how children develop in response,” he said.

Finally, religious organizations imbue parenting with sacred meaning and significance, he said.

University of Virginia sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, who was not involved in the study, agrees. At least for the most religious parents, “getting their kids into heaven is more important than getting their kids into Harvard,” Wilcox said.
Well, I think that whenever the family is engaged in something together on a regular basis that it can only be a positive for kids. The social aspect of religious observance, the holidays, and so on are also certainly very beneficial for kids, and create common memories for the family. My mom always said that it didn't matter what religious beliefs kids are brought up with, but that it was important that they had something to believe in. This is certainly an interesting study, and no matter what your religious beliefs, there is nothing better than family unity, sense of community and teaching your kids key concepts like the importance of friends, peace, sharing and respect for others as well as a host of other virtues along with the knowledge that our life has meaning and purpose and that there are things in the universe much larger than us.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Homeschoolers - Delaying College

Sometimes starting college means deferring entry for a year, also called deferred matriculation or "gap year".

Yes, you read this correctly, there are colleges out there that either may ask you to go off and do something interesting with your life before settling down to pursue college coursework, or they will allow you to do it if you ask. Some may even offer many benefits to those students who defer for a year.Here is an example web page from Harvard on the subject of deferred matriculation.

Why would colleges ask you to do such a thing?
Well for one thing they try to offset some of their large freshman classes and it relieves the problem of crowded freshman dormitories.

Many students already have a fully loaded senior year of high school (homeschoolers included!!) and admissions officers are seeing a larger pool of very qualified students. They send out many application acceptances and cannot predict well enough how many of those will turn into actual attendees. They also have seen that too many students show up pretty burned out by their freshman semester. So in response, colleges have seen that it is a good idea to have the option for students to take a year off and relax, travel and work a bit. On Harvard’s web site there is a paper entitled “Time Out; Or Burn Out for the Next Generation” which outlines opportunities available to explore during an interim year. Personally I know of one young man who worked and traveled through 5 continents before he started his freshman year at the University of Pennsylvania.

One of the biggest benefits that colleges like Harvard, Dartmouth and UPenn have seen is that these students come back with a clearer picture of what it is they would like to do. Students come to school with fresh new insights and experiences that help them to contribute to their classroom and overall college experience. They return home with solid ideas about where they want their college career to take them. For instance, they may decide after working on some environmental project in the Amazon that they want to pursue studies in science regarding renewable energy, or in International Relations. They may also find out that working with animals is definitely not for them. It also gives them once in a lifetime travel opportunities. Additionally, these kids make global connections and are able to network with people outside of their own backyard. They learn to speak other languages more fluently and they have a better understanding of the world.

Programs such as Dynamy, Americorps, CityYear and others offer great learning experiences in the United States and abroad. The Center for Interim Studies is an agency that offers their services in helping students find internships, jobs and travel and they have seen an enormous rise in interest. More and more kids are trying to figure out what it is they want to do before they plunk down thousands of dollars in college tuitions. It just makes a lot more sense nowadays to start college when you are more prepared to pursue something specific especially since kids are already coming to college with a good amount of college credit through AP exams and CLEP’s and college courses under their belts.

If you are interested in deferring for a year, contact the college that you are looking to attend and see if they have such a program. If they do not, then you may want to reconsider your college choice.

Also check out places like Willing Workers on Organic Farms,

There are also homeschooling parents with children who have benefited from these programs, so ask around in your homeschool group.

There is a world of opportunity out there for you! So check it out.
Below are some books that might help.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Toilet Paper Ban? She's Joking... Right?

Singer Sheryl Crow has said a ban on using too much toilet paper should be introduced to help the environment.

Crow suggested using "only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required".

Well, as it turns out - she was joking...
or at least she claims she was joking.

Crow has also commented on her website about how she thinks paper napkins "represent the height of wastefulness".

She has designed a clothing line with what she calls a "dining sleeve".

The sleeve is detachable and can be replaced with another "dining sleeve" after the diner has used it to wipe his or her mouth.
Gee.. and to think many kids have been doing that for quite a while now, minus the detachability thing.. LOL. Actually the debate still remains: Does one use more resources tossing a paper napkin into the trash, or washing a cloth napkin (or sleeve)?

I think it would be nice if these jet-setting energy hogs who are on a stage that burn more lights than a small city, would stop telling me what I should and should not do to "protect the environment". It's getting a tad annoying.

The Capitalist League - Reports After Visiting Alaska!

He's baaack!
Check out the great pictures from Alaska and discussion about the cure for the common cold (among other things).
Welcome home David.. and I hope your cold clears up soon!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Letter To Contemplate

This letter in the Hartford Courant yesterday struck me as something worth thinking about, as I have been reading a few articles having to do with how people responded to the VA Tech shooter.
Allow Citizens To Defend Themselves
April 23, 2007

In response to Frank Harris III's April 20 Other Opinion column "Duck And Cover, Run And Hide":

Hide, play dead or submit. Is this the best advice that we can muster these days? Perhaps Col. Jeff Cooper said it best: "Fifty years ago young people were made to understand - around the dinner table - that strife was a part of life, and that they might well encounter it, and that it would then be their duty to face it without blinking - ready, willing and able to use force quickly and expertly if necessary. Boys were taught to shoot and use their hands, and girls were taught to expect that in their men."

If our children expect to be taken care of by parents, police or politicians, and are not taught to be self-reliant, they will never learn to face strife in their lives.

Virginia Tech professor and 76-year-old Holocaust survivor Liviu Librescu knew strife in his life. He also instinctively knew that something had to be done. Holding the door against a crazed gunman, he heroically gave his life so that others could live. If only he or someone like him was allowed to have the tools at hand to end the attack, maybe the state's bells would not be ringing 32 times.

Len Bergeron

Now I realize that this wound is fresh. I realize that we cannot pass judgment, especially as we do not know what we ourselves might do in that situation. Please do not take this post as a criticism of those poor souls that perished in this ordeal. It is certainly not meant to be that. However, I would like just to offer some things to think about with regard to these types of tragedies.

Some people have even drawn parallels of this event to Katrina; that people waited around for police, or other government entities to save or help them, and many even died while waiting for that help. I have read some posts on this issue and some state that in these situations sometimes we cannot wait. Sometimes we must act on our own, even at our own peril.

Sometimes we need to have tools like tasers or mace or other means of self defense to halt senseless killings.

Some question whether we have become a nation of people who cannot or will not defend ourselves? Have we cultivated a culture of passivity? Do we depend too much on waiting for the SWAT team to arrive? Perhaps it would be wise to have every American kid be exposed to some sort of self defense training. There is nothing wrong with knowing how to subdue an attacker before he does more damage. Todd Beamer, and a few other passengers on the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 on 9/11, knew this well. Whether they tried to get control of the plane back, or crash it to save other lives, the fact is that they acted. They did not hide or submit.

I can't say how I would have reacted in either situation, and I pray that I will never know, but we really ought to take a moment to contemplate the lessons afforded us in these tragedies, and see where we might be better prepared in case of a "next time". Certainly the calvary will not always arrive in time.

Update: The Liberty Papers posted a very good article about defending yourself against a gunman.

Monday, April 23, 2007

It's the Bard's Birthday!

There was a star danced, and under that was I born.
~William Shakespeare
Twelfth-Night, II, i, 351

April 23, 1564 - April 23, 1616

From Life and Times of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare, was born in April, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, about 100 miles northwest of London. According to the records of Stratford's Holy Trinity Church, he was baptized on April 26. Since it was customary to baptize infants within days of birth, and since Shakespeare died 52 years later on April 23, and--most significantly--since April 23 is St. George's day, the patron saint of England, it has become traditional to assign the birth day of England's most famous poet to April 23. As with most sixteenth century births, the actual day is not recorded. And as with most remarkable men, the power of myth and symmetry has proven irresistible. So April 23 it has become.
William Shakespeare,English poet and playwright,wrote about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and a variety of other poems. He was a popular writer in his own lifetime, and his work has become celebrated over time. Shakespeare enjoys a reputation of being the greatest writer in the English language, and in Western literature, as well as the world's pre-eminent dramatist.

Shakespeare is the most quoted writer in the literature and history of the English-speaking world, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. He is sometimes referred to as the "Bard of Avon" (or simply "The Bard").

Shakespeare's works have been translated into every major living language. His works are continually performed all around the world. Many quotations and sayings from his plays have passed into everyday usage in English as well as in other languages. Over the years, many people have speculated about different aspects of Shakespeare's life, and some have even debated whether or not someone else wrote some or all of his plays and poetry.

Absolute Shakespeare has more.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Yankees Fans and Mathematicians

Yeah I know, I know, the Yanks lost yesterday and the day before... but....

A mathematician has created a model which predicts that the Yankees will dominate this year.

The projection comes from a model that Bruce Bukiet of the New Jersey Institute of Technology developed and has used and updated for the past six years to predict how many games each team will win during the 162-game season.

The article about Bukiet says that so far, Bukiet is on track. The Yankees won their season opener against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Major League Baseball is divided into the National League and the American League. Each league comprises three divisions. The winners of each division (the team with the best record) and one wildcard team play in each league’s playoffs to determine who will face off in the World Series. Here are Bukiet’s predictions for this year’s division winners:

AL East: New York Yankees
AL Central: Cleveland Indians
AL West: Los Angeles Angels
AL wildcard: either the Boston Red Sox, the Toronto Blue Jays or the Minnesota Twins
NL East: New York Mets
NL Central: close race between the Houston Astros and the St. Louis Cardinals
NL West: San Diego Padres
NL wildcard: Philadelphia Phillies

Mathemeticians.. Baseball Psychics.. who knows.. I just enjoy the game and I love the Yankees.

Update: Jennifer at Diary of 1 blogged about a contest in conjunction with TeamMASCOT - so please go check out the cool team gear that you can get over at

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Rhode Island Homeschool Forum

Home Educator’s Network of Rhode Island
Second Annual RI Home Educator Conference

NO COST to attend the HENRI Conference due to some great people who are sponsoring this event!!!

What: An Assembly of Homeschoolers from across the Region coming together in an intimate setting to listen and discuss all things homeschooling.

When: Saturday, April 28 2007

From: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm

Where: Providence Public Library Auditorium

Why: To SHARE UNIQUE EXPERIENCES and Information to Those Interested in Home Education!!

Please mark your calendars for this unique conference.

The conference will feature live music, a homeschooling art exhibit, a documentary by John Taylor Gatto, and an interactive teen/young adult panel which captivated last year’s attendees.
Due to the intimate nature of the conference, vendor areas will not be available.

Tentative schedule:

10:00 Opening - Who's HENRI?
10:15 Dr. Sam Blumenfeld
11:00 Pam Puniello
11:30 John Taylor Gatto
12:30 Lunch Break - music by Fishing with Finnegan
1:00 - Shooting Starrs Theatre presents The Princess and the Princess
1:45 - Luz Shosie
2:45 - Teen/young adult panel questions and answers
4:30 - Debrief and maybe a mom's perspective
4:45 - Closing with the kids

For more information contact HENRI at ppuniello (at) fctvplus (dot) net

I attended this last year - it was totally worth the time and I had a really enjoyable day.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Been Stopped At The Airport Lately? put out an interesting article entitled: How To Get Off A Government Watch List

The article gives you some clues as to how you might determine if you are on a watch list and then what you might do to get off that list. It states:
Most likely, if you are being singled out at the airport for extra scrutiny, or your credit report says you might match a Treasury list, you are the victim of a bad matching algorithm or a vague watch-list entry for some other person.

For instance, men named Robert Johnson across the country have been logging extra hours at airports because there's no way for the airlines to know, without an I.D. check, which Robert Johnson is the one the government is looking for.
Some of the clues which might suggest you are on a watch list would be:
1. The repeated inability to print out a boarding pass at home or through a kiosk;
2. Being pulled aside repeatedly for extra questioning and scrutiny of your luggage;
3. Not being able to open a bank account or get a mortgage, despite fine credit.

Sometimes at the airport if you get an "SSSS" on your boarding pass, you might just have been elected for a random screening, because if you paid cash or bought a one-way ticket that might be a tip-off to authorities, because most people use a credit card or purchase a round-trip fare.

If you find yourself a victim of wrongly being placed on a watch list, then you need to figure out how that happened. It's probably just as miserable an experience as having your identity stolen.

If your problem is travel-related, then you can try the Department of Homeland Security's new online redress system, called the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. They ask you to fill out a form and provide some documentation.

If DHS determines that your name is matching incorrectly to a watch-list entry, (like if your last name also happens to be Amadinejad), it may add you to a "white list" that gets you through airport security without the extra scrutiny.

If you're attempting to get off of one of the secret government watch lists that you have purposely been placed on, then that can only be done by the agency that put you on the list in the first place. The Feds say you have to find the agency that nominated you to the list, and then appeal through that agency's ombudsman, privacy officer or Inspector General. DHS may forward your complaint to the Terrorist Screening Center, which runs the master watch list, but apparently the department won't tell you which agency blacklisted you. The Terrorist Screening Center maintains the master "unified terrorist watch list" (and you can't examine it), but says it is "only the keeper", not the creator, of the list. Nevertheless, in 2005 the center removed 31 entries, based on complaints forwarded to it by watch-list-using agencies, according to a recent Congressional report.

Wired's article goes on to say this:
DHS spokesman Darrin Kayser says that this current system, which is new, demonstrates the government's determination to stop inconveniencing Americans.

"The program exhibits our commitment to an efficient and safe travel experience by offering a seamless redress policy that differentiates between legitimate travelers and those who wish to do us harm," Kayser said.
You should also get a copy of your latest credit report. You are entitled to a free copy from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year. You should look to see if there is an Office of Foreign Assets Control alert on your report. If there is, and you're not actually on the list -- which is public -- contact the credit bureau, the Fair Trade Commission, advocacy groups and the media. There's no clear legal recourse, but you can work to get yourself off those lists and give those companies more than a piece of your mind (if you have one left after this type of ordeal).

Treasury Department spokeswoman Molly Millerwise says individuals on the OFAC list can challenge the designation, and that OFAC offers detailed guidance on how companies can comply with the list. She said:
"OFAC has and will continue to work with credit bureaus and reporting agencies to help them ensure the accuracy of their reporting on the OFAC list. We're actively thinking about ways to help them improve their processes."
Well these are the hoops we now have to jump through ... all in the name of homeland security.

Perhaps we should change some of our traditional sayings that wish others good fortune. For example:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
And may your name never appear on a government watch list.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Homeschoolers: Sharing A Letter That I Received

You'll never believe this.. or maybe you would.. and maybe you should.

I received a letter from the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence. It was sent to me signed by Julia Peterson, Special Projects Co-Ordinator.

It said this:

I am writing to tell you about a new program that will help your members increase their instructional skills and improve their children's reading abilities.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education and based on recommendations by the National Reading Panel, the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence has developed the reading professional program certificate, ideal for homeschool educators who want to master the theory and effective practices of reading instruction.

The American Board's comprehensive reading professional certificate program includes:
- A self assessment
- An individualized learning plan developed in collaboration with an experienced teacher
- An ABC's of Reading Instruction CD-ROM with six modules of reading acquisition and instruction
- An ABC's of reading Supplemental Study Booklet which includes activities, suggestions for classroom reading games and additional study materials
- Testing at any Pearson Vue Testing Center

We would like to establish a partnership with your organization to better provide home educators with an all inclusive reading instruction program. We are able to provide you with free materials and information for your website. Please return the enclosed response card if you are interested in receiving a complimentary copy of our ABC's of reading Instruction CD-ROM. To learn more about the American Boards' reading endorsement, please visit or contact me at 202-263-8301 or I look forward to working with you.

So are you nauseous yet??
First of all, I wondered how they got my name and address, as the envelope was made out to Judy Aron, West Hartford Homeschoolers. Second, I have a fundamental distaste for this organization seeking to "credentialize" homeschool parents. As if we cannot teach our children to read without their help and guidance and "experience".

Give me a break.

Why would I, or any homeschooling parent, want to have a "partnership" with these people? It seems they are preying upon the doubts of homeschool parents who may not think themselves capable of teaching their own children to read.. as if it were rocket science! More interestingly, this initiative is funded by the US Dept. of Education.. does that offer a hint? Looks like they are targeting homeschool parents. Are you a bit concerned yet?

Oh and by the way - their website says this:
The program fee for the reading endorsement is $250. Enroll today in the ABCTE reading certificate program by visiting MyPass. The reading certificate program is recognized as a route to the State reading endorsement for current teachers in Idaho (K-6) and in Florida for elementary teachers (K-6) and special education teachers (K-12).
If you don't think that at some point homeschool parents will be mandated to get this type of certification, then think again. These programs are being put in place. They are being funded by our government, the same government that gave us No Child Left Behind. Homeschool parents - this letter may be an invitation now, but you are peering into the future of what will be required.

There is no better reason to remain mindful of the potential of losing our current freedoms, and rejecting these types of programs outright.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

VA Tech

As we stand appalled and shattered by the senseless destruction of so many lives we turn to our Creator and pray for all involved, of whatever background, for healing to the injured, comfort to the mourners (friends and families who will bear scars for a lifetime), and elevation for the souls of the deceased.

May Our Creator grant that we as a nation come together for the good as we have in tragedy.

I hope that we can find answers to some of the questions this tragedy raises.
I hope that we can learn from the heroism and courage of those who saved others.
I hope that we can allow the good deeds and memories of those who perished to live on.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

So What Is Your Legislature Wasting Its Time On?

Egads.. The Connecticut legislature may consider legislation to establish an official state punk rock song. Our state already uses "Yankee Doodle,” as their official state song, but this legislature is considering adding both an official polka, and maybe even an official punk rock song.

These are the same people who want to give themselves raises and make it a full time legislature.

So this super-majority Democrat legislature apparently doesn't have anything better to do then to consider adopting a bill declaring “Connecticut Fun,” a 1983 tune by a band called Punkestra, the official state punk-rock song.

This is certainly more important than .. say.. protecting CT citizens from eminent domain abuse.. or giving us tax relief.. or developing an energy plan.

I am so glad these people have their priorities straight.

Monday, April 16, 2007

UK Schools Handing Out The Morning After Pill

The Daily Mail reported these items:
More schools will be encouraged to hand out the morning-after pill to underage girls after a strong endorsement of the service from Office For Standards In Education, (Ofsted) inspectors.

Around one in three children already has easy access to condoms and emergency contraception - without their parents' knowledge or consent - thanks to sexual health clinics based at secondary schools.

Many more heads are expected to set up contraception services in their schools.

The education watchdog declared that school nurses "provide a valuable service" distributing contraception and advising pupils on birth control, and providing emergency hormonal contraception and advising on other forms of contraception.. The report said: 'School nurses can arrange visits from their colleagues in the community and work with them to promote health and improve young people's access to health services.'

By 2010, ministers want every secondary school to have access to a nurse providing emergency contraception and advice as part of a drive to reduce the number of teenagers becoming parents. Inspectors complained that progress towards establishing the centres had so far been 'modest' but many extended schools are now providing a good range of services.

Family campaigners warned the initiative may simply encourage promiscuity. They pointed out that more than 20 studies have failed to find a link between better access to the morning-after pill and a fewer teenage pregnancies. They say that Ofsted has swallowed the lie being peddled by the sex education and contraceptive industry that using contraception is the mark of sexual responsibility. No less than 23 studies from ten countries have found that increased access to the morning-after pill actually made no difference to unintended pregnancy and abortion rates, yet Ofsted continues to fly in the face of international evidence.

However, Ofsted seems to disagree:
In its latest report on the state of sex education, Ofsted inspectors said handing out the morning-after pill was more effective at reducing teenage pregnancies than promoting abstinence.

'There is no evidence....that "abstinence- only" education reduces teenage pregnancy or improves sexual health,' their report said.

'There is also no evidence to support claims that teaching about contraception leads to increased sexual activity.'

Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said school nurses gave children the chance to talk to someone impartial outside the classroom, where they may be embarrassed to ask questions. But she added: "When it comes to things like morning-after pills and condoms there are many parents who will be concerned if they are not informed. The majority will be quite devastated if they suddenly found that their kids were on birth control pills and they didn't know anything about it."

Official figures show pregnancies among under-18s rose in 2005 to 39,683 - up from 39,593 in 2004 and much higher than the 35,400 recorded a decade earlier in 1995.
With the establishment of school health clinics and national control of education creeping its way along in our country, we will not be too far behind with the implementation of these kinds of programs, funded by our tax dollars. School clinics in some places might already give out birth control and abortion referrals. Some states have policy on this and others do not. As it is now, kids cannot and may not buy a coke from a school vending machine in CT, but they can get an abortion without parental consent. Something is definitely wrong with that picture.. it not only throws parents out of the picture completely but also may further enable kids to engage in risky behaviors, because they know they can just as easily abort the "consequence". Many people will say.. well kids will have sex anyway, so let's give them tools to deal with "the consequences" without their parents even knowing. How can the schools enable sex between minors which is also a crime in many states?

Putting the moral and religious issue of abortion aside, I think the minimization and exclusion of parents regarding this issue is reprehensible. Undermining parental authority and consent is just really wrong, in my opinion. Yet, parents are supposed to be held responsible if their kids break the law or go truant from school?? How come parents are responsible in some instances and not allowed to be included in others?

I would think that school boards should be held liable for the results from negligent referrals regarding "sexual health" of a child. What happens if a child is harmed by either referred procedures or school administered medication like the Morning After pill? Schools and taxpayers will naturally be averse to this type of legal and economic liability.

How are kids being taught responsible behavior without parental guidance, and with the easy availability of repeated abortion on demand? and also, has anyone thought about how much money the pharmaceutical companies are raking in by funneling their drugs through government schools in this manner?? It's a whole separate market for them to target!

For me as a parent, it is yet another reason to homeschool our kids, and be able to more directly and effectively deal with our kids without government enabling of bad behavior and without government inserting itself into the picture.

On a positive note, Idaho just signed a parental consent bill - read it here. Under the new law, all unemancipated, unmarried minors must get consent from a parent or guardian before getting an abortion, or get a judge's permission.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Trinity College Robotics Competition - Today!

All this past week my family has been hosting two Israeli teenage boys. They comprise one team out of many who have come from Israel to compete in the Trinity College Fire Fighting Robotics Competition. Families in our community help by giving the kids and their teachers a place to stay while they visit and prepare for the competition. We have enjoyed their company while they have been preparing to compete. The two teens that we have hosted this week won first place in all of Israel for their robot. (The robot shown above is not theirs). The Israeli teams always do incredibly well. Their reputation for technology and ability to problem solve is well deserved.

Adults and teenagers from all over the world come to compete. It is very exciting to watch them put their robots to the task of putting out a fire in a maze that is supposed to simulate a house. The robots go from room to room seeking the light or heat source and when they find it they go into the room and put out the fire, which is a candle flame. Some robots use water, and some use wind, (via a fan) as well as other ingenious methods.

Oh, and for the record, there are always homeschool teams that compete, and they usually place very high in the standings (that is when they aren't winning).

The creative ideas and technology that is developed and utilized is a testament to human ingenuity.

There are many categories of competition. Here are the rules.
More pictures are here.

Update: The boys we hosted came in Second Place for the High School Standard Division. They did a great job!.

Yom Hashoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today, all across the state of CT, as well as the rest of the country and the world, there will be memorial services and gatherings to remember the Holocaust and the six million Jews who perished. It is the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

Shoah is the Hebrew word for "whirlwind." It is the term used to described the conflagration that swept up six million Jewish souls between 1938 and 1945. Countless others (Gypsies, "enemies of the state", handicapped and other "undesirables") were also persecuted and murdered. A war was waged against the Jews and unspeakable atrocities were perpetrated against a defenseless people. Men and women, young and old alike, were butchered at the hands of the Nazis. Fully one third of the World's Jewry at the time, including one and a half million children, were murdered. Some of those souls belonged to my family as well as my husband's family. We are family of Holocaust survivors. With every birth and Bar and Bat Mitzvah that we have celebrated, we affirm that Hitler's plan failed, yet we can only dream as to what the possibilities could have been for the souls whose lives were snuffed out.

Every year, on Yom HaShoah, we remember the souls who perished in the ghettos, and in the gas chambers. We also celebrate those who survived and the families that live after them.

And yet, the murderers were not a People who would normally be called "barbaric." On the contrary, the majority of the officers of the so-called Concentration "Camps" were medical doctors (!), or doctors of philosophy, or respected professionals. The German culture was rich with music and art and education. How then, one may ask, could such a degree of evil be exhibited which perhaps has never been exceeded in all of human history?

We must also remember that the murderers' evil was not unopposed. Tremendous bravery was exhibited by relatively small numbers of Jews and Gentiles, such as at the Warsaw Ghetto, where the Jewish Community acted in concert, and by hundreds of individuals whose efforts resulted in the saving of tens, even hundreds of thousands of lives. I sometimes muse, in my circle of friends which one of them might risk their lives, and the lives of their family, to save mine. You might think that odd to even imagine, yet it does occur to me.

My cousin, Judith Altmann, of Stamford, will be speaking at the CT State Capitol next week. My maternal grandmother and her mother were sisters. Cousin Judith was 14 when her home country of Czechoslovakia was occupied by Germany. She was transported with her family first to a ghetto and later in cattle cars to Auschwitz, the infamous death camp where as many as a million people were estimated killed. Anne Frank was detained at the camp before being transferred to another camp, Bergen-Belson, where she died.

The day they arrived in Auschwitz, Cousin Judith's parents were killed. That was a part of my family that were murdered on that day. The prisoners' heads were shaved and food was almost nowhere to be found; during the day they were forced to work as slave laborers. Every week they would be allowed to shower, but these showers were a source of tremendous fear because they never knew whether "the gas will come out or the water," she recounts.

By the time the war ended, almost all of Cousin Judith's immediate family had been killed; of her immediate and extended family only herself, her brother and a niece survived. My grandmother was already in the US, as she came here in 1920, and later her sister and brother and mother came here as well, as did other members of the family. Those that stayed behind were caught up in the war, and the hatred in Hitler's Germany, as were my husband's family who were German Jews.

My cousin Judith regularly speaks at area schools and has spoken at WestConn. She says that it is important that she share her story and teach people what hate can create, so that something like the Holocaust does not happen again. However, she warned that if people are not on their guard, a similar event could occur.

"It could happen again in any country because people follow the mob," she says because even back then no one believed it would happen then.

I suppose that is why I am so mindful of what our government does via legislation, and my concern for the lack of transmission of history to our children. We must not follow leaders blindly as sheep. We must remain vigilant of our freedom to speak, to write, to assemble and enjoy all of the other rights that our Founders believed we should have.

With the growing Anti-Semitism in Europe, and the rhetoric coming from Iran's leader Amadinejad, we would do well to remember the past, so that it is never repeated.

Other Holocaust Websites - Here
A Timeline of what happened - Here

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Nor'Easter Coming My Way...

We're expecting lots of rain and high wind gusts.. so we'll be bringing the rabbit hutch inside and putting all the trash bins into the garage. These Nor'Easters can be nasty. Weather forecasters are expecting lots of flooding, especially at the shore. I'm mid-state so I am sure we'll see some downed trees and power lines.

It's a good time to hunker down at home and just "chill".

More About The Missing Bee Population

Reason Magazine offers this piece: Are biotech crops killing America's bees? Apparently the author thinks that the Sierra Club is using this opportunity to bash the bio-tech industry. The author, Ronald Bailey, Science Correspondent, states:
colony collapse disorder is not confined to biotech-friendly United States. Hives are collapsing in biotech-free Europe too. The head of the German beekeeper's association says there has been a 25 percent drop in bee populations in Germany. Bizarrely, one particularly irrational German beekeeper blames biotech corn even though the Germany's biotech corn is only 0.06 percent of the total crop. Last week, the Irish Times (subscription required) reported that in Britain 30 per cent of hives inspected so far have been lost and that hundreds of thousands of colonies have collapsed in Spain. Beekeepers in Poland, Greece, Croatia, Switzerland, Italy and Portugal have also reported heavy losses.
The only thing that is clear is that the cause for what is being called "colony collapse disorder" (CCD) is not at all clear.

Check out my previous post about this.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Last Chance To Vote Today !!

Consent Of The Governed was nominated for Best Current Events, Opinions or Politics Blog and for Best NEW Homeschool Blog

So here I am doing some last minute campaigning.. (this brings me back to Nov 2007 and my run for State Representative.. LOL)

There's some stiff competition!
Please visit the Homeschool Blog Awards and vote for your favorites from among many categories if you haven't done so already.

Make Congress Read The Laws It Passes!

If you haven't visited the website Downsize DC, then you should.

They believe that the federal government has grown too large, too intrusive, and too expensive. They believe in constitutional limits, small government, civil liberties, federalism, and low taxes.

Among other issues they are working on, they have a webpage for the Read The Bills Act
The premise behind this legislation is simple. Downsize DC believes that it is the fiduciary responsibility of Congress to read each word of every bill on the floor of Congress before they vote. Every Congressman should know what each bill contains. (Heck, I think we ought to do this in our State legislatures as well!)

Downsize DC believes that Congress has not met their fiduciary duty.

* They carelessly pass mammoth bills that none of them have read. Sometimes printed copies aren't even available when they vote!

* Often no one knows what these bills contain, or what they really do, or what they will really cost.

* Additions and deletions are made at the last minute, in secrecy.

* They combine unpopular proposals with popular measures that few in Congress want to oppose. (This practice is called “log-rolling.”)

* And votes are held with little debate or public notice.

* Once these bills are passed, and one of these unpopular proposals comes to light, they pretend to be shocked. “How did that get in there?” they say.

Downsize DC says that there is a basic principle at stake here. America was founded on the slogan, “No taxation without representation.” Downsize DC believes that a similar slogan applies to this situation: No legislation without representation.
To that end they say this:
We hold this truth to be self-evident, that those in Congress who vote on legislation they have not read, have not represented their constituents. They have misrepresented them.
So they have come up with the Read The Bills Act which requires this:

* Each bill, and every amendment, must be read in its entirety before a quorum in both the House and Senate.

* Every member of the House and Senate must sign a sworn affidavit, under penalty of perjury, that he or she has attentively either personally read, or heard read, the complete bill to be voted on.

* Every old law coming up for renewal under the sunset provisions must also be read according to the same rules that apply to new bills.

* Every bill to be voted on must be published on the Internet at least 7 days before a vote, and Congress must give public notice of the date when a vote will be held on that bill.

* Passage of a bill that does not abide by these provisions will render the measure null and void, and establish grounds for the law to be challenged in court.

* Congress cannot waive these requirements.

Downsize DC believes that these will be the effects of these provisions:

* Congress will have to slow down. This means the pace of government growth will also slow.

* Bills will shrink, be less complicated, and contain fewer subjects, so that Congress will be able to endure hearing them read.

* Fewer bad proposals will be passed due to “log-rolling.”

* No more secret clauses will be inserted into bills at the last moment.

* Government should shrink as old laws reach their sunset date, and have to be read for the first time before they can be renewed.

I think it's a great idea.. and one I will support. If you agree, then visit their website and see what you can do to help this initiative.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Homeschoolers - Has Your Teen Written A Resume?

When our sons applied for college they sent a resume along with their transcript information. Whether your homeschooled teen is deciding to go on to college or not, a good item to have prepared is a resume. This blog post is for your teen.

A resume is a way to show a snapshot of your work and volunteer experiences, your interests, as well as describe any awards that you may have won (i.e. writing contests, sports awards). The word resume comes from a French word meaning , “to summarize”.

Even if you never show a resume to a prospective employer or if you never send one off to a college, it is a good idea to put one together because it helps you to recognize and take stock in your strengths and abilities. It also gets you to document on paper, the dates that you were employed or did volunteer work, and any pertinent information relating to those positions.

There are many resume formats to choose from. Some people even include a photo – but that isn’t necessary. Go to the library and pick out a few books about resume writing and fiddle around with a few formats to see what suits you. Just getting some basic information down on paper is a terrific start and the fine-tuning can come as you continue to edit and make adjustments. Microsoft Word has a resume template that can be of use to you, but you have to know your information before you start creating it. After you put together a final copy of your resume remember that your resume will become a document that you should update every few months.

There is no “right way’ to write a resume, but ultimately it can be a way for you to make a good first impression. Some people spend an awful amount of time just choosing the paper it should be printed on! Nowadays the paper it is printed on is unimportant anyway because the document ultimately gets faxed or copied. My thought is to keep it simple. Resumes should be easy to read and ideally your information should fit on one side of one page. Try to say as much about yourself in the least amount of space. Always check your spelling and grammar carefully because poor usage will be a detriment no matter how impressive your skills or experience. It is always a good idea to have someone else proofread your resume.

As far as job experience goes, do not underestimate any types of things that you have done. Part-time, summer jobs, and volunteer work are all very important. These jobs have given you experience and skills, which are very important for people to know about. When you describe those jobs the rule of thumb is to use action words to describe what you did. Don’t just give a job title. Spell out exactly what your duties were. Words like “sold”, “ tutored”, “managed”, “improved”, “ organized”, and so on, give the impression that you are a person who can get things done. Avoid using the word “I” because it is not necessary since the resume is about you to begin with. Above all do not inflate or lie about yourself.

As a homeschooler you want to highlight some of the wonderful projects and experiences you have had as part of your education. Don’t be shy about listing any special projects or assignments that you did, or places you have traveled to. Document the special skills or talents that you have, like the ability to speak a foreign language or operate shop equipment, or your ability to take care of farm animals, or type 50 words a minute.

If you are a teen sitting there thinking that you have no skills or talents to speak of, then putting together a resume is exactly what you need to do at this time. Spend some time thinking about yourself and what your interests are, and how you have pursued them. Think about what your spend your time on and who you interact with. Writing a resume is a good way to learn about yourself and see that you really have learned to do many things and possess many useful skills. Now you need to put that information on paper.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

MySpace Postings And Free Speech

An Indiana Court Said: MySpace postings are free speech

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." - First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that a judge violated a juvenile's free-speech rights when he placed her on probation for posting an expletive-laden entry on a MySpace site which criticized a school principal.

Here is what happened:

In February 2006, Greencastle Middle School Principal Shawn Gobert discovered a Web page on MySpace about him. The girl who was brought before the court and who did not create the MySpace page, made derogatory postings on it concerning the school's policy on body piercings.

The state filed a delinquency petition in March alleging that the girl's comments constituted harassment, identity deception and identity theft. The juvenile court dropped most of the charges, but in June found the girl to be a delinquent child, placed her on nine months of probation and the judge also ruled her MySpace comments were obscene.

The girl appealed, arguing that her comments were protected political speech under both the state and federal constitutions because they dealt with school policy.

The Court of Appeals found that the comments were protected and that the juvenile court had unconstitutionally restricted her right of free expression.

The three-judge panel in Indiana ordered the Putnam Circuit Court to set aside its penalty against the girl.

Judge Patricia Riley wrote in this in her 10-page opinion.
"While we have little regard for A.B.'s use of vulgar epithets, we conclude that her overall message constitutes political speech,"
With regard to free speech in this country I think we all generally hold this thought:

"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

This quote is commonly attributed to Voltaire. Norbert Guterman, in his 1963 work, "A Book of French Quotations," suggests that it was a line in a letter written by Voltaire to M. le Riche on Feb 6, 1770. "I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write." [Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 15th ed., 1980.]

Impure speech and hate speech are definitely not nice. They both can be damaging and even be an incitement to bad behavior. However, if we truly have the right to speak our mind then what do we do about comments made by Don Imus or Michael Richards (Kramer) or Ann Coulter or Mel Gibson and Jesse Jackson? I think we have come a long way in this society, such that now when people say ugly things, they are rebuked for it.

Perhaps people, celebrities in particular, might be wise to think before speaking, although to me the whole issue is not only about free speech but is mainly a testament to how low our everyday vernacular has sunk.

I totally agree with the posting about Imus on The Liberty Papers:
Freedom of speech means the freedom to speak without fear of punishment or supression by the state. It does not mean freedom to speak without having to deal with the consequences of saying something stupid.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

BiLingual Education Gets A Failing Grade

According to the NewsMax report, Former New York Congressman Herman Badillo, says bi-lingual education is failing immigrant students – and actually preventing their integration into American society. In 1974, when bilingual education became federal law it was expected that students would only be in bilingual classes for a year or so. The premise was to teach newcomers math, history, and other subjects in their native language, so that these kids would not fall behind in those subjects while they learned English.

Herman Badillo, was a chief author of the 1974 legislation. He never suspected that a bilingual lobby would emerge that would keep students in bilingual classes for two, four, six, or even eight years! Badillo claims that the "bilingual lobby" includes the National Association for Bilingual Education (NABE). One aim of NABE is to keep students speaking their native language instead of switching. Well.. there is something to be said for keeping one's traditions and language. many Jews and Italians and other immigrants have done just that - but they have also assimilated in many other ways so that they can be successful and included in American society.

What has happened to millions of youngsters, is that their bilingual education has been a bridge to nowhere, producing shockingly high dropout rates, social isolation, and the inability to achieve the "American Dream. Many frustrated parents, voters and other groups have begun to fight back against bilingual education.

Now Badillo, 77, has become a Republican. He is a senior fellow at the libertarian-conservative Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. He has also penned a new book about his views; One Nation, One Standard: An Ex-Liberal on How Hispanics Can Succeed Just Like Other Immigrant Groups.

The Newsmax report cites this:
"Instead of helping students learn English, bilingual education became monolingual education in Spanish," Badillo says.

He also discovered that 30 New York City teachers were recruited in Spain to teach bilingual classes, but the city had to provide translators for them because these teachers spoke no English. Students were sidetracked for years into Spanish-only "bilingual" classes and were usually directed away from college preparatory classes and into vocational training, limiting their future opportunities.

And because school policies of "social promotion" advanced students without regard to their mastery of curriculum, "many graduated high school barely able to read or write in any language," Badillo says. "Bilingual education often produced bi-illiteracy."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich voiced sentiments similar to Badillo's in a recent speech. He told the National Federation of Republican Women: "We should replace bilingual education with immersion in English so people learn the common language of the country and prosperity, not the language of living in the ghetto."
A recent study done by the Pacific Research Institute found that in California – where more than a third of the population is Hispanic – 47 percent of students classified as English Language Learners (ELs) scored high enough on the California English Language Development Test to be reclassified as fluent in English. Yet most CA local school districts adopt additional standards to prevent such reclassification.(Read overall results here)
Why is that? Well.... Follow The Money !!

Authors of the study said that "school districts simply want more money … [and] have a financial incentive for keeping students classified as EL because federal Title III funds are distributed on a per-EL basis, and the state Economic Impact Aid program ... is based in part on EL student counts." At its peak nationwide, bilingual and English as a Second Language education programs cost taxpayers more than $12 billion each year, according to one estimate.

I have relatives who came here from other countries and had no bilingual education. They struggled, but they all learned English quickly and entered American life. They were all successful and never gave up their heritage or their language or their roots. Many of their traditions and their stories live on in my home. Do I speak Czech or Hungarian.. no.. I could have learned it from granny or my mom.. but had no desire to - who would I speak it with other than them? They recognized that, and quite frankly they wanted to be American... not Hungarian or Czech .. they became US citizens.. that is why they moved here. They wanted to be part of this great thing called America. They recognized the importance of their heritage, but also the importance of some of the changes they needed to make in their life to make their life better. Learning a new language was one of them.

Monday, April 9, 2007

I'm Calling Washington, DC. How About You?

Nancy Pelosi and her entourage have clearly broken the law of our country. I believe she and the people who accompanied her to Syria, etc., should be arrested and jailed.

According to the the Logan Act it is a felony, punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years for any American, "without authority of the United States," to communicate with a foreign government in an effort to influence that government's behavior on any "disputes or controversies with the United States."

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 45 > § 953
The Logan Act was created in 1799, and states this:
§ 953. Private correspondence with foreign governments

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply, himself or his agent, to any foreign government or the agents thereof for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.
The Logan Act was named after George Logan. In 1798, he went to France without permission from President John Adams, to try and settle the Quasi-War. The Quasi-War was an undeclared war fought entirely at sea between the United States and France from 1798 to 1800. In the United States, the conflict is sometimes also referred to as the Undeclared War with France.

Nancy Pelosi has done the same thing as George Logan, and should be held to the law. Whether you agree with her politics or not, and whether you think the results were good or bad, the fact remains.. she broke the law. I believe that she bungled her attempt at US diplomacy and even went as far as misrepresenting and speaking on behalf of Israel. She is not the US Secretary of State and she should not be operating as if she heads some sort of shadow government of the US. I do not agree with how the Bush administration has handled some things, but we cannot allow people, like Pelosi, to unjustly assume powers and positions that they do not have.

The media have pretty much ignored this. There have been a few mentions, but I think citizens across the country should not ignore this.

On April 3, the New York Post published an editorial entitled “Nancy’s Nonsense” and they stated this:
More than two centuries ago, Congress passed the Logan Act, which forbids private citizens from negotiating with foreign governments. As an elected official, Pelosi isn't restrained by the law - but its meaning is clear.

Negotiating with world leaders - particularly those at odds with the United States - should be left to the president, or those authorized by him to do so.
On April 6, Robert F. Turner of the Wall Street Journal, wrote an article called “Illegal Diplomacy” and he had this to say:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may well have committed a felony in traveling to Damascus this week, against the wishes of the president, to communicate on foreign-policy issues with Syrian President Bashar Assad. The administration isn't going to want to touch this political hot potato, nor should it become a partisan issue. Maybe special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, whose aggressive prosecution of Lewis Libby establishes his independence from White House influence, should be called back.

The "Logan Act" makes it a felony and provides for a prison sentence of up to three years for any American, "without authority of the United States," ...
Either we enforce these laws that we have or we shouldn't have them.

I am calling the White House at
The Comments Line: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414

Justice Department: 202-514-2000
Office of the Attorney General: 202-353-1555

I'll be calling my Congressional Representatives too!

Wow! Consent Of The Governed Nominated For 2006 Homeschool Blog Award !

Consent Of The Governed was nominated for Best Current Events, Opinions or Politics Blog and for Best NEW Homeschool Blog

Thank you for the nomination!
Please visit the Homeschool Blog Awards and vote for your favorites from among many categories.
There are so many wonderful candidates!
It'll be hard to choose, that is for certain.

Voting Starts today and will last a week.. so please get your vote in early.
You get one vote per category.

Let The Voting Begin!

Wow ! - Consent of The Governed Gets The Thinking Blogger Award.... Twice!

My thanks go to both Christine over at the Thinking Mother, AND The Tutor over at Apollos Academy for naming Consent of The Governed as one of their winners of The Thinking Blogger award. Any blogger who is awarded this honor can give another blogger this award. Here is the information about the origin of the award. Now my obligation is to choose 5 bloggers who make me think. Christine already chose 2 of my favorites - so I don't know if I can repeat those choices (which are Dana at Principled Discovery and the Cates family at Why Homeschool) So I will choose 5 others.

1. I grant this award to Izzy over at Homeschooling Revolution. She always has interesting homeschool posts and always has a great sense of humor to go along with them. I admire her for pursuing her legal studies and yet she still has time to post some really good gems. If it weren't for Izzy's prodding me, I would not have created my blog. If you haven't read her book, I encourage you to do so.. and perhaps give it as a gift to someone who is considering homeschooling. I have had the pleasure of meeting her in person and can vouch that she is one terrific woman who is an involved intellectual.

2. I also award The Capitalist League this award because David has had really interesting, insightful and well written posts on many issues. For those who think I am showing "nepotism" or favoritism I have to say that even if he weren't my son, I would still nominate him. I really enjoy his analysis of issues and the topics that he chooses. I particularly enjoy his Capitalist Success stories on Mondays and his posts which begin "And Another Thing..." I hope that more people become regular readers of his blog because he really does have some great things to say that will make you think.

3. My next choice for this award goes to Susan at Corn and Oil. Susan has been another inspiration to me. I had been reading her blog long before I started mine. She always posts insightful and interesting posts. Her activism and passion for homeschool freedom is balanced with her wisdom and insight. She is also an incredible researcher. We are lucky to have people like Susan in the homeschool community.

4. Also added to my nomination list is Tamara at Woman With Stylus. Tamara always has some wonderful thought provoking proverb or saying on her blog and she infuses art, travel, fashion and architecture into her blog to show how we really mirror ourselves through the objects that we see and touch. Her posts always make me think. I know Tamara personally and she is kind and very well read and has such a quiet grace about her. I am glad to have met her through our homeschooling circle.

5. I also award Blueberry at Goodberry Hills this award. She's not only a fabulous and talented artist, but her posts offer a glimpse into aspects of life that we can all relate to (like her recent bout with kids and chicken pox). She offers common sense positions on important contemporary issues infusing her faith as well as her devotion to family. She is someone I'd love to chat with over tea.

This was a fun blog meme to play along with. Thanks again for the nominations from Christine and The Tutor, this was a really nice thinking exercise for me.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Have A Blessed And Joyous Easter

For all of my readers who celebrate Easter, I wish you peace, joy and health in this season of renewal. May the Lord be with you always, to the end of the age.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Martha Stewart's Gracious Living Goes Into Orbit

Billionaire Charles Simonyi had his gal pal Martha Stewart specially design his gourmet space meals for him. I mean really - billionaires like Simonyi cannot be expected to drink Tang while on their space vacation - can they?

Martha designed this elegant repast:
The menu includes quail roasted in Madiran wine, duck breast confit with capers, shredded chicken parmentier, apple fondant pieces, rice pudding with candied fruit, and semolina cake with dried apricots. It was all to be prepared by celebrity chef Alain Ducasse's consulting and training center, ADF, according to Space Adventures.

This blogger wonders if Simonyi's napkin will stay on his lap due to the marvels of velcro. Pity he had to leave the wait-staff behind.

The article says:
Martha Stewart ranks third on's list of "The 20 Richest Women in Entertainment," with assets of $638 million. In March 2005, she completed a five-month prison term for lying to federal investigators about a stock sale.

Charles Simonyi is a software engineer and developer of Microsoft Word who paid between $20 million and $25 million for a 13-day trip to the space station. He is one of the 400 richest Americans according to Forbes Magazine, and he is to lift off Saturday aboard a Soyuz space capsule with two Russian cosmonauts.

Born in Hungary, Simonyi began programming on a bulky Soviet computer called Ural-2 as a teenager. He went to Denmark to work as a programmer and moved to the United States in 1968, where he worked at Microsoft Corp. developing Microsoft Word and Excel and eventually founded his own software company.

While at the space station, Simonyi will be conducting experiments that include measuring radiation levels and studying biological organisms. He will also be writing a blog that he hopes will inspire others, especially children, to get interested in space exploration.
So tell us Martha...does the fork float on the right or the left?

Homeschoolers - Things You Should Know About Diplomas

As we are approaching the May/June graduation season, I thought it timely to post this essay about homeschoolers and diplomas. I hope that it offers you some ideas and is helpful, or at least gives you a few things to ponder.

A diploma is a document issued by a university or other school testifying that a student has earned a degree or completed a particular course of study. Credentials such as this are a way to establish evidence or testimonials attesting one's right to credit, confidence or authority (American Heritage Dictionary).

The value that we place on credentials can be subjective. You may believe certain university degrees are worthless and others very meaningful. For instance, you probably would choose to go to a doctor who has a medical degree from Penn State as opposed to a doctor who has a diploma from some obscure medical school in the Caribbean. This is why we get into the whole issue of accreditation. Accreditation is the granting of approval to an institution of learning by an official review board after the school has met specific requirements. On the other hand, accreditation may mean something to some people and nothing to others.

We can get into a whole discussion about the value of credentials and accreditation, which is why some homeschoolers worry about "the high school diploma". Most people today can see that kids are graduating from traditional high schools not being able to read and write, yet they still possess an accredited high school diploma. Maybe some high schools are trying to rectify that situation by putting in place certain graduation requirements. In some places exit exams have been put in place to try to evaluate what a child has learned from their 12 years of formal schooling.

We all know that exams may not be a very good measure of what anyone really knows, and that the tests can be made easy enough to provide a passing grade to the majority. Indeed, what is considered a passing grade can also be subjective. So how can we really assess what a child knows from 12 years of schooling? This has been a problem for college admissions counselors, and probably a reason why they rely on established and accepted benchmarks such as SAT scores and other standardized testing results. The problem with that however, is that it has not been shown that there is a real correlation between how well you do on the SAT and how well you will do in college. One fact that we do know is that College Board and others are making a fortune on testing, as a result of creating the need for it. Many colleges across the country are rethinking how they can adequately assess their applicants. Should someone who never obtained a diploma and went off to start a successful business, and now wants to do an MBA program be turned away because he never had a diploma? Colleges are seeing that they need flexibility or change in their policies.

There are some points to remember regarding high school diplomas.
1) Not all colleges request that you have one in order to apply for admission.
2) Job applications may ask if you have one, although most do not ask whether you have an accredited diploma.
3) Not all public or private high schools are accredited, and they provide diplomas upon graduation.

You can certainly print up a diploma for your homeschooled child, and that is a valid document stating that they have completed a course of study to your satisfaction and your standards of achievement. Will everyone accept that document as a valid credential? Some may and some may not, and it depends how comfortable you are with that. Suffice it to say I do know homeschooled teens that made it into some good post-secondary schools without the aid of an accredited high school diploma. If your child is already taking community college courses, then possession of a diploma showing high school proficiency should be a moot point when it comes to college application. Truly, just the fact they have already done college level work should be the best indicator and benchmark for college admissions that your child is a good candidate.

If you feel that your child will not get anywhere in the world without an accredited diploma, then you can consider some options. One option for the homeschooled high schooler is to do a home school high school course of study through an umbrella school or independent program. Programs like American School, or Laurel Springs and others, will provide some structured study and upon completion your child will receive an accredited diploma (suitable for framing). Another option is to take the GED (General Equivalency Diploma) exams in your town, and when you pass the exams you will obtain a GED certificate (also suitable for framing). Please be aware that obtaining a GED may have it's own set of issues. While it is an accepted credential, some people see it as having a certain stigma attached to it. Usually that stigma has something to do with being a "drop out". The nice part about these two options is that your child can still do a whole bunch of independent homeschool study along with the pursuit of these other credentials and you can put it all on one transcript and pass it along to the college you are applying to.

In our case, my kids' comfort level in high school was to have some structure, take exams and get grades. My kids did the American School program, completed it and earned their accredited diplomas. They also did a number of things outside of their American School coursework, like language courses, local college courses, online courses and study abroad. I considered all of that to be their overall homeschool high school course of study. In addition to the American School diploma that they earned, I also conferred upon them a home produced diploma from Aron Academy Homeschool (which, by the way, was also suitable for framing). I personally put more value on the home produced one, as it encompasses all of their home school high school study.

When they applied to colleges, we had American School send a transcript, but we also sent our own which documented all of the other things that they did. We probably could have just had American School send a transcript and be done with it all, but we wanted to show the colleges that their other studies were included and important. I believe Rutgers was the only college that one of my kids applied to that did not care about the documentation, all they wanted were test scores. The bottom line is that if you are looking to go on to college, you need to check with college admissions and see what they require. Be careful too, because you might get different stories if you talk to different people in the same admissions office. Don't be afraid to ask a few times and speak to someone who knows for sure. Look at the wording of admissions requirements, it may say that they "generally" or "normally" require an accredited diploma.

College admissions officers use a variety of benchmarks to determine how well your child will succeed in their college programs. You will find that state colleges will be the pickiest about credentials. They are built that way because they support public education and so they are supported by the same system that awards high school diplomas in the first place. They will most likely demand you have an accredited high school diploma or GED. Private colleges on the other hand, may be much more flexible because, in my own opinion, they seem to be more concerned with the true quality of the student and the background that they are bringing with them to college. They may be more apt to look at a portfolio of work, or meet with you in an interview, rather than just rely on a school transcript or credential.

If you are filling out a job application, chances are they will just ask if you have a high school diploma. Even if you have a "home brewed" diploma, you can say yes to that question. Most often they don't ask if it is accredited, nor does it seem to matter. I don't know of anyone who had to bring in a copy of the document in order to be employed. As an adult, can you remember anyone wanting to see the actual copy of your sheepskin?

A final point, from a legislative point of view. Please be mindful of any laws that are proposed, or put in place, requiring homeschooling parents to have an accredited high school diploma themselves. If your child graduates without one, then they will not be able to homeschool their own children! This is done by intention in some states. It is a way to put the brakes on homeschooling. In fact, there should not be any laws that are contingent on possessing an accredited high school diploma, such as being able to drive.