Archive for February, 2013

#1 Portfolios For Homeschooling

February 16, 2013 Leave a comment

I was preparing to review some portfolios my two youths created in the past. Okay, the Educator and I did portfolio preparation with whatever direction the youths wanted. They did do most of work. This started me thinking about those new to homeschooling. I can remember our first experience with portfolios. We hadn’t a clue at first until we went to a group function, and the hosts kindly displayed their children’s portfolios to us. For those of you thinking about homeschooling or a new to homeschooling, here are some vague tips or advice. If you have questions, please ask.

You need to find out if your state requires a portfolio and what should be included in a portfolio. The state we live in requires a portfolio for each child being educated. Generally portfolios should include summaries of what a child did and a time log. This can be viewed as a form of record keeping. It is a snapshot showing what your child has learned. This portfolio is viewed by an evaluator and then the school district you are in.

What do you include in the portfolio. The state should have guidelines for this. You can talk to current homeschoolers as well. My first bit of advice is be very wary of these homeschoolers. Many want you to do the minimum work for a portfolio. This is part of a power struggle between homeschooling parents, school districts and the law. It may or may not be a perceived struggle.

How do you construct a portfolio? The method we were shown was a simple version. The used a three ring binder with a cover the child designed. Samples of the child’s work were put into sleeves for viewing. Photographs were glued to a sheet of paper and included as well. It was nicely done and looked like the family constructed it. They had about thirty or forty pages in this portfolio showing examples of the child’s work and photographs of the child in educational action.

Our family looks at a portfolio for not just the school districts but for educational history of our children. We spend a lot of time constructing our portfolios. We select sections of work on all of the subjects our children have studied. We scan the written work such as papers, math, worksheets or labs. For projects that are large such as our studying of countries done on a tri-fold display, we take photos of the board. We use a lot of photographs of our children do lab experiments or visiting a historical site. We even includes photographs of our children in a sports activity for physical education. The scanned sheets may include some of the photos we have taken or may have some type of art applied to the portfolio page. We have headers differentiating the subjects. There is the list of our log. It is not uncommon for the portfolios to be two-hundred pages or more long. We then construct the cover and next have it bound. This is labor intensive and can be difficult for large families. Again, the main purpose is for our family and not the school.

What is the best method of constructing a portfolio? No one can answer that but you. You can take actual sheets your children worked on and place them in a binder. That is great! You can do what we did. It looks more professional, but it works for us. There is no wrong method. All you need to remember is, are you meeting the state requirements? If your portfolio meets these requirements, you are fine. Don’t rely on the school district and be wary of homeschoolers.

I will tell you, our one advisor continually admonished us for doing too much. The school district praised us. Every year we get a comment on our portfolio stating it is the best. We are not looking for the approval. Again, we are looking at the future when our children decide to review it and enjoy the memories. Do not listen to the advisor or school district for approval. Do it for yourself. If just getting something down in order to get the evaluation over then so be it. I won’t judge you.

You need to discover what is best for you. Review as many portfolios as you can. Come up with a game plan. Do you begin constructing the portfolio as you educate. We tried it and somehow it has never worked for us. Will you construct the portfolio after everything is done. Set a game plan and try to follow it. Make adjustments as you go along. After a few years you will have you method that works for you.

There are two items you need to satisfy with this portfolio. They are the state’s law that you are educating in and yourself.

Next time I’ll try to write about whether or not you should homeschool.


College Advice For The Freshman

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

A recent post of mine titled Time Management received a like from an individual in college. I perused some of this person’s posts. Sorry to that person, but I didn’t have much time to read closely. This got me thinking about success in college beside managing your time. As a former college student, I have tried all of the shortcuts. These shortcuts are like the story of the dad taking a “shortcut” that costs the family hours of unnecessary travel. Here are a few quick tips for college students and future college students.

1. Display interest to your professor. This could gain you a few extra points or the benefit of doubt. This means doing work on time. Never wait to see how the other students react.

2. If you don’t understand, raise your hand and ask the dumb question. You may find out there are plenty of others thinking of the same not-so dumb question.

3. If the professor offers time for you to visit to discuss your paper or project, visit them. This goes back to #1.

4. Youth 1 goes to the library to complete whatever schoolwork there is. I am proud that my child recognizes the on-campus eatery is too distracting. Your best students will be found in the library studying. Your dorm is not the quietest place nor the least distracting. Don’t do what I sometimes did… nap.

5. When taking a test with mathematics, do not throw some junk work and then the correct answer. Professors that catch this will take more points off than if you actually did the work and got the answer wrong. What do I mean. Sometimes in math you know the answer ahead of time; take a multiple choice question for example. Professors are looking at your thought process or intermediate steps and not your answer. DO THE WORK.

6. Get eight hours of sleep. Taking exams on minimal sleep doesn’t guarantee a better grade no matter who has done it. You do not retain the lecture especially if it is boring.

7. Get your A’s early. Your first two years will normally dictate whether or not you get into the college of your choice. Yeah, you made it to University Main but without a 3.45 gpa or better during your first two years you will not be able to major in Human Biology. Say hello to the major you don’t want.

8. If it is an open book test, believe that it will be a difficult test. Too often the professor makes the question difficult to comprehend.

9. If the professor says it is not on the test… DON’T BELIEVE THEM! I fell for that one and have never forgiven him. I still dislike men with thick, black mustaches.

10. The elective should be easy, but the professor needs to feel important, so they treat the course as if it is your major. Research who is teaching the elective.

11. Plan out your social time. Is it a sporting event during the week? If so, adjust your schedule in order to maintain the proper study time. The weekend isn’t a 48 hour get away from schoolwork.

12. Make friendships with those taking the same classes. Studying as group will improve your grade.

13. Read the books. Cliff notes do not always work.

14. Read the instructions and the problem. You need to understand your task before you take on the problem. The instructions will contain pertinent information that will assist you in solving the problem, correctly.

15. Check your answer to make sure you didn’t make a mistake. No sympathy for those turning in a test with twenty minutes left.

16. Go to class and speak up in class. This is twofold. Going to class helps you with retaining the information. Being there and being active tells the professor much about you. Remember #1. If you are truly sick, you will have sympathy from the professor.

These are but a few tips. Many of these are related but work best when separate. Utilizing these 16 items and proper time management help alleviate the stress of college. College really isn’t difficult; you are difficult. You’ll understand in twenty years.

Time Management

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Talking with a former college roommate of mine, we discussed what was difficult about going to collge. We were discussing Youth 1’s college experience as a junior in high school. Youth 1 was experiencing exams that are relatively new except for the math tests I give. We were in an agreement. Two college grads. He with a masters degree and me foregoing the masters for married life.
We are in complete agreement that college is less about difficulty of subjects and more about time management. Managing your time is key in colleg for good grades and enjoyment. We have seen countless people leave school because they managed their time poorly. These people partied, played, watched the tely and basically spent their time enjoying college life. They were unable to manage their time properly and they failed.
Even I experienced time management issues at the university level. In high school, I never had to study. My homework could be completed in my free periods. To me it was easy. I knew my history and loved math. I studied the spelling and word definitions Sunday night at 8p. I learned to be an excellent procrastinator. My school was not challenging me. There was no need for the silly projects or homework they have now. In fact, there were dumb projects during my school time as well. The biggest problem going to college was not knowing how to manage my time. There was an expectation of being able to do homework as I watched the tely, listened to music or daydreamed. It took me several years to adjust.
What is managing time? Well, look at all you want to do. If we take a six ounce glass and say you have ten ounces of activities you want to do. Clearly, you can not add ten ounces into a six ounce glass. This is where time management comes in. Your school work is three ounces. Playing is two ounces. Some type of hobby is two ounces. Mandatory activities is 1.5 ounces. Spending time with friends is an ounce. We leave .5 ounces for emergency issues. Prioritize first. Your mandatory activity is first. That is sleep, eat or other tasks. Next comes your education. You now have used 4.5 ounces with 1.5 ounces remaining. The remainder needs to be split with the other tasks. Playing may be 1/4 ounce and hobby 1/2 ounce, friend are another 1/2 ounce. Emergency can be the remaining space. This lineup is changed as needed. Generally, the first two are unaltered.
Homeschooling my two youths has kept me aware of time management. It has not been perfect. Youth 1 has driven us crazy with the poor time management. Going to college this year has introduced this teenager to the need of managing time. Youth 1 is slowly learning time management. Youth 1 has had to learn this the hard way. Fortunately, taking two classes this semester has helped my teen adjust.
Homeschoolers have a more difficult time with this. Seldom are homeschoolers held to deadlines. Too often are homeschooled children finishing up in late June or even continuing through the summer. There tends to be less structure and thus limited time management. Fortunately, our children tend to be well-educated.


February 6, 2013 Leave a comment

Let me begin with saying I enjoyed Lincoln the first time around.  As a history buff, I was kept occupied by the action-less movie.  I do not need explosions to overcome poor dialogue.  In essence, I do not need a Michael Bay movie.  Good acting, dialogue and proper setting is what I require.  There is one caveat; I will never watch this movie again.  My $5 spent on this was worth it once.

Watching Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln was a treat.  He pulled this off spectacularly with his walk, mannerisms and stories.  I came across believing I have learned something more about Lincoln from this movie.  I think Lincoln imitating an English accent was too good.  His mannerisms, personality and aura are dead on.

Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln was great.  I observed this character and began to believe she was the spitting image of Mrs. Lincoln.  For her part, Sally’s acting was nicely done.  Any problems with the character were Spielberg’s fault and not hers.

David Strathairn was great as Seward.  The hair was nicely done.  Like the two Lincolns, he became Seward and resembled him nicely.  I only wish his strong anti-slavery stance came through in the movie as well as his total dedication to Lincoln.  Again, Spielberg missed it.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a very nicely done Robert Lincoln, son of the president.  I do not know much about Lincoln other than his being saved by Booth’s brother Edwin.  I find the resemblance of the character and real Lincoln to be very close.

Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens wasn’t bad either.  Mr. Jones really doesn’t resemble Stevens even though his aged face helps him to look like Stevens.  His facial expressions provide life to Stevens and to what Stevens’ expressions may have been.

There are several other characters that could be mentioned but I need to move on.

Lincoln’s stories are wonderful and provide rewards to the viewer during the film.  We are dealing with politics.  Yes, it is Hollywood politics; this is the condensed political argument where vital details are left out.  You would grow bored if it were not for the stories.  Yes, I believe the Ethan Allen story is true.  I’ll need to double-check since it has been years that I read anything about Lincoln.  Mind you, I mean true with Lincoln telling it and not Ethan Allen’s visit to the U.K.

There are factual parts to the movie, though they may not be true for a particular scene in the movie.  I can get along with that and enjoy the movie.  Right now, I can not come up with a few.   I guess I would need to see it, again.

What else held my attention?  Well, the story about the 13th amendment was the key point.  My knowledge on this part of history is weak, and I needed to know something about this.  This movie provides me with research points and a “Hey, I’m Here!” notification to catch my attention.  The writing was well done in my first impression opinion.  Sadly, I initially liked the Braveheart dialogue until I spent time thinking about it.  I’ve never been able to watch that movie to completion.  There is also the scenery that grabs me.  When you combine all of this, the movie is excellent.  I guess I should throw in the political savvy of Lincoln shown in the movie.

Okay, why won’t I ever watch it again?  I am not a perfectionist, but I require accuracy.  Often when I watch a movie based on fact, I research it.  Once I realize the inaccuracies of the movie, my like for the movie wanes.  This happened with BraveheartThe Patriot was a known fictional movie but was overdone with the bad guy British and goody-goody Americans.  Lincoln is a movie from a part of history that I have studied.  From the beginning, I was leaning over to the Educator stating what was wrong.  Honestly, I am angry with Spielberg.  Sometime artistic impressions are best left out.

To begin this attack of mine, I bring up the opening scene where Lincoln is talking to two black soldiers.  This most likely never happened.  These two black soldiers came across as very literate.  Yes, they could be free men, but I doubt it.  Also, they would not find the time to stand around shooting the bull with the President.  Next comes two white soldiers that can recite Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.  The black cavalry soldier finishes the address.  Right there the movie took a huge hit with me.  This scene should have never been in the movie.  My getting into the movie fantasy couldn’t start.

Mary Todd Lincoln giving Thaddeus Stevens a tongue lashing at the reception line in the White House was way off.  Again, I was pulled from the movie only to think about what was wrong with the scene.  Sally Field’s character was continually misused in the movie and this scene is one of them.

Lincoln slapping his son, Robert was another big NO.  It stopped my fantasy of being in the movie immediately.  I wanted to slap Spielberg!  I can go along with his artistic license of that scene until the slap occurs.

I found Lincoln’s ride through a battlefield to be entirely out-of-place and false.  What was the purpose of this, I ask?  It served no purpose and never happened.  Whatever Spielberg was trying to convey didn’t work.  He could have shown Lincoln riding through Richmond with blacks cheering him.

Lincoln’s and Mary’s argument was another scene where I felt out-of-place as much as the scene was.  I don’t know if this ever happened, but it didn’t work for me.  Yes, I believe I get it.  Spielberg is giving you information about Mary.

Another glaring error is the part with the Confederate delegation being met by black soldiers.  Want to talk about a big error.  Is Spielberg trying to get black involvement in the movie?!  If so, then put the correct people with the right context in there.  In fact you had them!  They were working in the White House and were active on the freeing of slaves front.

Next in line is the ending.  Spielberg didn’t know when to stop.  He had a good movie going along and blows it.  The 13th amendment has passed and everyone is happy.  That is what the movie is about, a condensed political fight to pass the 13th amendment.  There is a point in the movie where the ending would’ve been perfect.  Lincoln is with some of his cabinet and they are in a celebratory mood when his servant comes to get him for the play.  You see the servant watch Lincoln as he walks out of the White House.  Perfect ENDING!  We all know what will happen afterwards.  There is no need to have poorly constructed scenes of his death and Tad.

I felt the movie was lacking on easily shown facts.  Spielberg didn’t expand on scenes that needed expanding and went too far on scenes with no bearing to the picture.  I don’t need to see people reciting a speech that no one considered worthy enough of repeating until Lincoln’s death.  I do not mind artistic license if it is in context.  Heck!  Saving Private Ryan is purely artistic license when you think about it.  It is good historical fiction.  I think Spielberg should listen to the consultants he had and read some books about the historical topic he’s working on.

I believe the reader will find this movie enjoyable and educational.  I don’t think many people realize when the 13th amendment was passed.  In fact, I believe most high school student have no idea who Seward is.  This movie provides a blurred account of an actual event.  This movie does not tarnish Lincoln’s image but makes him a real person.  The actors and writing are well done and can overcome some of Spielberg’s poor decisions.  To me Lincoln is walking down the steps of the White House to live in history.

Categories: Education, Homeschool Tags: ,

The Month of January

February 3, 2013 Leave a comment

I can not say the month began on a good note.  No, there really isn’t much positive to say.  January has been spent with illness, house catastrophes and a few other issues.  Spending time immobile because of illness is no fun.  Having to take care of family members that are ill are no fun.  Having water course through two floors of a house on a path not designed for liquids is no fun.  Having to shell out money to repair and replace items is most certainly no fun.

It sounds like January for me was hell.  If I look at this month in detail, I see nothing different than past January’s.  Youth 1 and Youth 2 have been skiing even with the weather rather warm.  Basketball for Youth 2 has been going well.  For hockey fans, the NHL is back.  Youth 1 has enjoyed a successful semester so far.  There really is no difference with my January’s.  I can even take the illness and view it as a weight loss method for me.  Gotta find some positive out of being sick.  Youth 1 was able to tear apart broken machinery.  Okay, I have yet to find a positive on the water damage.  I need to move over a bit and get a different view.  The damage could have been worse.  I could be replacing a ceiling, floor, computer and piano.

Life is about viewpoints.  In photography, great photos often are about the position of photographer.  The same goes with life.  I can look at January as a miserable time of my life.  Instead, I moved over a little and backed up a bit and found a nice viewpoint.

Categories: Family Life