Archive for December, 2012

Lost Opportunities Are Different Rewards

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Seldom do I think about post titles until I am finished.  Indeed, my titles are a quick type as are my posts.  Today as I sit with my cup a joe, I thought about the past week and what accomplishments were made.  I am also relishing the relaxation of being alone looking out the window at the snow.  May they continue to sleep for another hour.  Like my peaceful morning, time is almost up for the planned tasks.

My goals were to have Youth 1 work on more math.  That hasn’t happened until yesterday.  Youth 1 is not very happy with this.  There are piano goals for the two.  Youth 2 finished the homework and even had the chance to play on a harpsichord last night.  Stairway To Heaven sounds interesting on one.  The nutrition class never materialized.  It could happen today… or not.

The goals we had never materialized because of the time we didn’t have.  We shot for the moon and could not lift off.  We did achieve some goals that were more important such as having the neighbor come over for Christmas dinner.  We worked at the local soup kitchen.  These were some of the lessons taught.  My children observed firsthand care and compassion out of their parents.  These lessons may be more valuable than mathematics or nutrition.

This Christmas break was not a failure on the education front.  It was a different path from the one we planned.  There are two days left and a partial school day for Youth 1 and Youth 2 begin today.  They will no doubt remind the Educator and myself of the promises we missed but have not forgotten.  There was no Hobbit or Lincoln.  These will have to come after the break.  I am more than willing to forgo the Hobbit for Youth 2 has not read it, and it is on the curriculum list for the spring.

As a homeschooling family, we are successful when flexible.  This is true with all homeschoolers.  You may not achieve your goals for the goals were something else.  Do not narrow your focus.  Like prayer, sometimes the results are different than what you expect.

Now back to my title of this post.  I have not quip which would surprise the family.  No, I am blank with the title.  How about Lost Opportunities Are Different Rewards.  It has a meaning… at least to me.


Cursive Writing R.I.P.?

December 29, 2012 Leave a comment

I can still remember learning cursive in school.  Was it a large part of my education?  I do not remember.  What I do remember was the simple worksheets helping me to learn cursive writing.  To this day, cursive writing remains my least active form of communication.  Even when letters were still popular, I preferred block lettering.  It was slower but neater whereas cursive was sloppier and more difficult to read.  Look at my signature today and you can make out the first letter or two before my signature is a sine or cosine wave.

There are arguments to remove cursive writing in schools.  Technology is now at the level where we communicate via the typed word.  All communication medium requires typing skills and not handwriting.  Where do we require cursive skills other than our sloppy signature?  How many of us write two or three page letters?  If we write anything it is on a card.  Even now there are quite a few of the impersonal e-cards being sent.

The pro-cursive people cite better learning skills.  If we write everything down we learn better.  They tend to relate cursive to increased artistic talent.  These are their strongest arguments for keeping cursive writing in schools.

As I review the history of cursive writing, I see the gradual reduction in cursive requirements.  Before the typewriter, everything was done in cursive.  There was no other way to communicate the written word quickly for cursive can be a very fast method when compared to block lettering.  The advent of the typewriter reduced cursive writing significantly in the business world.  There still were letters to be written by hand, but the territory cursive writing held was reduced.  When I arrived in middle school, cursive writing was no longer used for reports.  Don’t forget the phone, too!  The phone reduced the need to write letters.  We were using typewriters to produce all papers.  As the computer arrived, cursive writing took another beating.  More ground cursive writing held eroded.  We now had email to communicate with.  As our phones became mobile, the cursive style was reduced even more.  We have computers and phones connected to the internet which reduce the need for cursive writing.

Should schools remove cursive writing?  There are statements made saying typing needs the allotted time cursive held.  I strongly disagree with that.  My children learned typing in a short time.  It is very easy to learn both techniques in school.  The reason schools are removing cursive education has less to do with the evolution of technology than it does using this time for something else.  To me, I do not see the need for cursive and nor do I care one way or the other.  I am not sweating this.

Cursive writing accounts for about <1% of my handwriting, and it is most likely my horrible signature.  If I add the keyboard, cursive writing is roughly 0% while my printing is 10% or less.  As I discuss this with other people, the percentages are about the same with a few exceptions which is age related.  There percentage of cursive use, higher with older people, decreases as you go younger.

Until there is a need for cursive writing, it will go away in the future and become an artistic form of writing.


Soup Kitchen

December 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Retirement is not about relaxation.  Every successful retiree known to me has an activity that keeps them going.  It may a small garden, taking care of a loved one, helping out at a church or a soup kitchen.  As a non-retiree, I dream of hobbies on my list of to do things.  There is one item on my list for when my two children leave the nest.  It is helping others.  Yep, a conservative person concerned about the well-being of a fellow human.  Kind’a breaks the myth, doesn’t it?

Today, my two children and I participated at the local soup kitchen for the first time.  It was an interesting and satisfying experience for us.  Youth 1 and I were initially stuck in a back room working with items to be stocked, straightened out and shipped.  Youth 2 was working in the kitchen.  Later Youth 1 and I got to go to into the kitchen to wash dishes.  Youth 2 was busy doing the tasks given.

As I worked with the fellow volunteers, I recognized they were all very religious and are from different denominations.  From time to time there are people sent from the courts and of course scouting is involved.  These people were happy to help those in need of this meal.  All of the volunteers today were retired except for four of us.  Three youths and me.  This soup kitchen has too many people wanting to volunteer.  Too many people in the kitchen.

So, who are these people coming in for the meal?  Well, there is a lady with children who live in the woods.  She didn’t come today.  There is a bag lady.  She is homeless and hunts for a place to sleep in the town.  I met people with health issues that prevent them from participating in society in what is considered a normal way.  Some people come for companionship.  They are elderly and lonely.  I’m sure some may not have much money, too.  A free meal may help stretch the dollar.  There are those that take advantage of the soup kitchen.  Every one of these people are treated the same.  Talking with the people, you quickly recognize what group they are in.

I didn’t get to see many of the homeless people that get night food or homeless people that receive sleeping bags.  No, I saw people with smiles when they were served their food today.  I saw people who were very polite and thanked us for the meal.

What I learned today besides the sights, sounds and smells of the soup kitchen, were there are true dedicated people volunteering.  They have found a use for themselves after retirement.  They are here to serve mankind.  I see myself in this position in the future years.  If you are young and have time, take the time to help others.  No government was needed.  What is needed is for people to not only take three, four or five hours a month; donate useful food items or money to purchase necessities.  There is no need to take half of your selfish life to dedicate it to helping people.  You do not need your inefficient government to be involved.  You need yourself and a few hours of your time.

Microsoft Surface

December 28, 2012 2 comments

I have finally got to spend time with this Microsoft product.  Unlike Apple “fanboys”, I am providing an honest look at the Surface.  There is much to compare with the iPad even though they do not do the same thing.  There are similarities.

The rating of the iPad and Surface are based on work (Productivity that can be done), entertainment, cost and hardware.  There will be no 10s on this.  You can always improve a product.  A 9 should be difficult to achieve.  Now to the rating.

Looking at the hardware, I find there is some between the two but will move some of this to the productivity.  I give the iPad and Surface a 7.5 and 7 respectively.  Microsoft could have done more with the camera.  The .5 difference is not very different.  If you compare these to other similar products, they blow the competitors out of the water.  The other products not mentioned here would rate at best a 5.  These two have sturdy constructions.  I have not had any problems with charging the battery of the Surface.  It has a friendly feel.

The keyboard is part of the construction, and the Surface keyboard is nice.  It does take some getting used to.  Mistakes will be made for it is a different type of keyboard.  There is a standard keyboard option as well.  From what I understand, a mouse can be used with the Surface.  Sorry, I haven’t tested this out. (Think productivity)

Another part of construction is the laptop feel.  What I mean by this is, I can attach a usb or a micro SD to the Surface.  I am able to transfer files from my laptop to the Surface.  I can connect the Surface to my home network.  Yep, my NAS will work with the Surface. (productivity again)

When looking at construction, you need to look at cost.  This is where the difference appears with these two and the others.  Cheaper quality means cheaper price.  Between the two, the price is a little too high.  I am familiar with this in Apple.  They love to gouge.  Microsoft really isn’t much better.  In this case, Microsoft Surface wins only slightly.

Productivity is a big issue with me.  I want a device that has multiple uses.  My laptop needs to be portable in the house, internet, Office and entertainment.  It does what I need it to do.  This is what I want in devices such as these.  I can not understand why anyone would own a Kindle, seriously!!  It is a piece of junk.  I used one and stopped.  One, give me a book and two, it is no good for anything else but reading.  JUNK (I sang that word as I wrote it).  The iPod Touch is limited for me.  It is nothing more than an entertainment device and portable but that is it.  The iPad is nothing more than a larger version of the iPod.  I have yet to find a good use for it.  My laptop can do what it does at home.

The bonus with the Surface is having Office.  This means excel, word and power point.  I use these three every day of my life.  How does this provide me production other than being available.  There are times I wish I had my laptop and was able to type in information.  Better yet, Youth 1 can utilize these features while at school.  The papers written last semester could be done at the university.  I often receive emails with documents (known senders and expected docs) where having Office comes in handy.

A constant statement with iPad users is the users do not use the iPad for work.  They do their writing on the laptop.  The iPad is for pleasure only.  These people go trips carrying the iPad and laptop.  Yeah, yeah I hear people state they write on the iPad.  They are far and few between.  Personally, I doubt most of them.

On the entertainment front, iPad was built for this.  After all, Apple wants you to buy a Macbook, too!  Let us give iPad credit for the quality in this section.  The resolution is better than the Surface.  Now to the detail.  There really is little appreciative difference here.  With the small screen size the two have, I do not have any issues with the Surface and its resolution.  These two are close to even.

I hate iTunes.  Let me state that I despise iTunes.  Apple does have a lot of apps, though.  Microsoft is slowly building as will any new person to the market.  I must give Apple the lead on this.  Remember, this is temporary and iTunes is horrible.  It may take up to a year for Microsoft to catch up in the quality of apps.  Now there are a lot of garbage apps with iTunes.

The reality is the two are not far off from each other.  I’ve watch movies and listen to music on the Surface.  There really is little difference between the Surface and iPad.  In time the apps will equalize, and the advantage iPad holds will go away.

I have not covered everything there is to cover.  It would take several posts to come close to it.  There is the metro apps to discuss and its difficulty.  Google takes care of this learning curve.  As I look at my results,  Construction:  iPad 7.5 – Surface 7.0, Productivity:  iPad 4.0 – Surface 8.0, Entertainment:  iPad 7.0 – Surface 7.0, there is an edge to Surface.  There are plenty of paid reviewers that disagree, but I doubt if they really have used it or gave it a chance.  The Surface is far from perfect but a worthy instrument.

If you are looking for something that works like a laptop and tablet, the Surface is for you.  If you love Apple, by all means stay with the iPad.  I have experience with both and have enjoyed both.  The laptop side of the Surface works for me.  Research for yourself.  You may find the price to be too much.  The Surface can be beneficial for the student that is away from home for education and requires a laptop but wants something light.  You need to determine if the $600 price tag is worth it.  You may want a laptop instead or nothing at all.

White Christmas

December 26, 2012 Leave a comment

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…”  Yes, we had a white Christmas.  The couple from Texas are enjoying their white Christmas with their  family while others are not so happy.  For us it is great.  Skiing is coming up and we need the snow.

Waking up to Christmas is very Currier and Ives, thus Christmas.  In other words, our Christmas setting is not complete unless there is white.  Oh, I need to throw in a fire except this year it was in the low 40’s.  Yes, a white Christmas is a great mood setter.

Today, the day after Christmas, we have a lot of snow coming down.  This means we are staying put, and I’ll be clearing a looong driveway.  This is one of the downsides to the snow.  As I watch it come down, I know I’ll soon be outside.  There is the Ying and Yang, taking the good with the bad.  My only good choice is to accept it and do my duty.  The bonus is coming in the house to a toasty fire!

While I enjoy the outdoors, Youth 1 unhappily works on school.  There is a ying and yang for this youth – clearing the driveway!  I didn’t forget Youth 2.  Youth 2 will be outside with a shovel when I finally embark on my wintery job.

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December 26, 2012 2 comments

As a homeschooling family, we are continually looking for clues as to our homeschooling effectiveness.  We have looked at other homeschoolers, public school, private school and of course standardized testing.  There are problems with all of these.

Homeschoolers are not schooled equally.  I have found a considerable amount of youths to be inferior with their education.  Sad, but true.  There are some that are quite advanced, too!  The biggest problem is the content.  They may not be studying the same content as my children.  It really is difficult to gauge.

Public and private schooled children are an improvement to the homeschooled children.  They are taught in a standardized way and can be judged.  Again, it matters who you compare too.  I can compare my youths to children of families that do not place value on education.  I can also pick the unique child that excels.

Standardized testing can be most deceiving.  I am aware of homeschoolers finding easy tests or shortened tests in order to provide a better score for their children.  How can you judge your child’s abilities if it is too easy?  You are not helping your child by making it easy.  Without a challenge there is no progress.  The Educator and I try to select as close to public and private school standardized tests as we can.  This testing provides us the best information on how our children are doing.

We compare all of the data we collect to judge how well we are educating our children.  Because this is not foolproof, we are cautious about our belief in our educating abilities.  This is particularly so with the Educator.  It is my belief that my two youths are more advanced in general over children their age.  I do not think they are the best, for there are others that surpass my children.  What validation is there to provide us with peace of mind?

Youth 1 had little choice about the class taken at the university.  We selected based on Youth 1’s abilities.  This would be the hardest of the options for our teen, and we would be there to help if our teen were to fall.  It became apparent that our teen was able to do the work required for the course.  The Educator and I provided the encouragement.  As the semester came to a close, Youth 1 was on the borderline and needed the last paper to be an A.  Youth 1 received an email from the professor stating Youth 1 indeed received an A.  This A validated the Educator as a parent instructor.  The Educator has done well teaching our two youths.  The A also validated Youth 1, for Youth 1 did the work without help and on the professors timeline.  There is validation for all homeschoolers as well.  Youth 1’s A states homeschoolers can do a proper job of educating their children.  The myth of the homeschooler can not instruct as well as a schoolteacher is exposed.

Now to reality.  Youth 1 has two classes next semester, and the Educator and I worry once more about how well we have taught.  I guess we require constant re-enforcement about our educating abilities.

True Christmas

December 26, 2012 Leave a comment

Since the birth of our children, I have preferred to stay home for Christmas.  My children have appreciated this for years.  Our parents have visited for Christmas from time to time, but not so in recent years.  We even have had neighbors come over for dinner in the past.  All of these visitors make for an enjoyable Christmas but a tiring Christmas as well.

In recent years I’ve tried to gently discourage company with the exception of our parents in order to provide more relaxation.  It is very tiring cleaning up at eleven in the evening on Christmas day after you have spent the entire day preparing to entertain and then entertaining.  Indeed Christmas was becoming less of the spirit and more of an annoyance.  To be up for over eighteen straight hours is too much.  Most company that visits do not help in the preparation of meals or cleaning up.  I took it upon myself to provide a relief during this time.  This has change this Christmas.

A neighbor of mine was going to be alone for Christmas.  To me, Christmas is about celebration.  I invited the neighbor over for dinner.  Our neighbor spent the evening enjoying not only the meal but our company.  We too enjoyed our neighbor’s company.  For the first time in a few years, Christmas was true.  We did this out of kindness, and the neighbor appreciated our offer.  Yes, it was a late night but well worth it.  Someone spent Christmas with “family” instead of being alone.

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