Archive for September, 2013


September 23, 2013 1 comment

My first experience with a mango was in Boston years ago. A Venezuelan chap shared his mango with me. I found the mango to be different but tasty. This is not the mango I wish to discuss.

I was recently directed to a language program, Mango. My initial attempt was a free trial that gave me no good information. When I re-read the Homeschool Mom’s comment, I saw a clue. The Library! A quick look and yes, the local library has this program for free.

You will need flash and a microphone. Most computer if not all have the microphone built in.

Mango at the library offered many languages to learn and even the variations of spanish. How can you beat this program when it is free? As I ran with the Spanish (Latin America), a few flaws became apparent. I believe learning a language should involve not only listening to the language, speaking the language and spelling but all visual clues. When you can visually attach a word to an object, you remember.

The program is great with explanations and where the language is spoken. Feedback is not as good as Rosetta Stone. The spoken language on this program is very fast compared to others I have listened to. Not sure if that is a good or bad thing.

The Educator mentioned to me of a homeschooling family that tried Mango. This family was not positive about the program, and they did not continue with it. Unfortunately, the Educator doesn’t remember what the issue was, and I am unable to ask them about Mango. I have only scratched the surface, so there may be some issue further down.

I looked at several levels of learning for Spanish. The first level quickly bored me, but I spent three years in college studying spanish. There were no visual cues to help me along, or I never saw them. The other levels offered were similar and became tedious for me.

I would pass on this program if I had to pay for this course. Having Mango free at the library makes it a worthwhile venture. I never found an area where I could view an object as reinforcement as I study. The feedback I found was basically non-existent. To me, learning a language needs visual and audio assistance. It is far easier to learn what pantelones is if you have an image of it to go along with the audio. Again, this language program is worth trying if it is free. If your library were to offer Rosetta Stone as well, do both.

The ideal method of learning a language is to spend a few years living in the region where the language is spoken. A little expensive and unrealistic. Since living in a different country is not an option, you want an environment where you have visual reinforcement to the audio. The image needs to match the word. You need immediate feedback when you are talking in the foreign language.


Online Learning

September 21, 2013 Leave a comment

Yesterday, a co-worker and I were in a heavy discussion about education. Our discussion was about the direction of education and college professors that can’t teach. We did agree that a college professor that can not teach or does not put the time in is wasting the student’s money. “This is what I’m paying high dollar for?!” The discussion concerned mainly learning online.

The Educator and I have been using online materials for education the past four or more years. I include any dvd as online learning. This method of education is basically the same. We have used Rosetta Stone, Teaching Textbooks, some other language tool, The Great Courses and additional courses. My oldest child is using some Chemistry online program for part of his college course.

All of these courses look and feel great on the surface. Rosetta Stone provided feedback, though limited. Teaching Textbooks is like having the invisible teacher. The Great Courses has the college professor discussing their topic. You can learn much through this method of learning… until you hit a roadblock. Feedback is nil, zilch, nada. You are left will unanswered questions. Even Rosetta Stone leaves you with questions it is not designed to answer.

Learning online is a cheap method of learning especially at the university level. There is feedback at this level but not great feedback. If anyone has tried to get a point across online, you understand. It is better communication when you are face to face. Feedback through the current methods can be quite difficult but not impossible. The future will have easier methods of feedback, but it will not help programs such as those mentioned above.

For homeschoolers, doing work online presents a few problems. The biggest is who can answer the student’s question, and the parents are left out of the education unless they too watch.

My co-worker and I agreed the future of higher education will be directed to this method for it is much cheaper than paying professors. There is agreement about the method not being the most efficient, but you do have professors that can not teach. After all, if 2/3 of a class is either failing or dropped out, how effective is the professor? Yes, I do have a specific professor in mind. Eventually you see this as a common way of learning. In fact you have this happening, now.

Mathematical Groans

September 17, 2013 4 comments

My advice to my two youths is constant when concerning math. One is to understand the concept. Another advice I have is for them to be neat with their work and never skip a step. Do not do it in your head.

Last night as Youth 1 was chugging along on calculus. Okay, it was not a chug. It was more like a car with a dead battery. I would hear a groan emit from my oldest’s mouth. Sometimes a paper would crumple and fall to the dining room floor. The six assigned problems for grading were all wrong and another groan sounded out. Youth 1 did every problem wrong, and I was not doing the work for my child.

I pointed out the problem. First, the work was sloppy and thus hard to follow. Two, steps were skipped and mistakes made from the skipped steps as well as the sloppiness. Now, Youth 1 had to rework the six problems as well as the 25 additional practice problems. “I hate math,” was the new sound. Trying to bolster the confidence of a frustrated and defeated child is like trying to bolster a wet, mud wall.

My solution was to go the the 25 extra problems and work one with my child. Immediately, shortcuts were started in which I promptly stopped. I showed my child my work on the problem. The ansewr was not my concern, but the neatness. I was able to do the work using five lines while my child struggled with the problem using 3/4 of a page.

Finally, Youth 1 started from the very beginning and with my prompting to not take shortcuts, Youth 1 was able to solve the math problem with not only ease but in a short amount of time. The next problem went just as easily as the first one, when done correctly. My child was on a roll. What took forever in Youth 1’s mind now was completed in a minimal amount of time. My child’s interest in math was reinvigorated and thus stayed up a little late to review some videos on a calculus website that was being avoided for weeks.

Today is a new day and lessons learned yesterday are likely lost today.

Reform Math, Everyday Math or Fuzzy Math

September 17, 2013 Leave a comment

My first introduction to reform math or everyday math or even fuzzy math happened about five years ago. As my oldest child was in a swimming lesson at the local YMCA, a friend was sitting at a table struggling to do math. Thus began my horror as I watched this child suffer.
Being a math person, I jumped to help the child. Sadly, I was unable to help this student. The child was struggling to learn multiplication. As I struggled to show the child how to quickly and accurately do the problem, I was quickly informed that the lattice method was the only way allowed to solve the problem.
I watched this child struggle with several problems before trying this method. It took me a moment to figure out this method. It is much slower and more prone to errors. The proof of this was my first several attempts at this method where I made mistakes and this child’s own attempts.
This child was making mistake after mistake and each problem took roughly five times longer than the “old” way. If he was not neat, the problem was going to be wrong.
What is the lattice method? It is a mathematical process dating back to at least the 14th century. It fell out of favor as improved methods came about. Now we have the University of Chicago to thank for bringing it back based on “studies”. Maybe we should bring back additional outdated and obsolete methods of life. Bring back oxen to plow; we can have reform plowing. Let us rid ourselves of phones, computer for we can find alternatives from the past. Now you know my thoughts on reform math.
This new style of math believes in the use of calculators! Their “research” states calculators enhances cognitive gains. Excuse me? How does a calculator help? I know from personal experience from instructing children that a calculator does NOT enhance anything. How can you begin to understand concepts if you use a calculator?
I have seen the results of this mathematics and state it has failed in every instance where I have experienced it, from this young child I worked with to other children exposed to this math. I have two children exceeding their grade level math requirements and it is not from this math style. My oldest has scored very high on the PSAT and SAT in math. My children’s standardized tests showed a very high score in math.
Mathematics requires a lot of time that public and private schools do not have. The teachers generally are not fully qualified to teach these courses. The best way to learn math is through understanding the concept but also doing problems, many problems. You can learn the concept but not know how to apply it unless you do examples.
In the end, the correct answer is important and not your method.

Homeschool Spanish Academy

September 14, 2013 3 comments

We have tried various language programs as well as different languages. We have gone through Latin, German and now Spanish. Each has been different in some way. The more recent program has been Rosetta Stone. It is a nice attempt at learning a language but still fails. I recommend this program simply due to the lack of effective language tools.
The results I have seen with Rosetta Stone has been disappointing. My children have retained little if any spanish after two years. The program was buggy, too. I would rate this program a C.
Earlier this year, I mentioned another way of learning languages. It is Homeschool Spanish Academy. The Educator and I reviewed this course and after much deliberation decided to try it. There was a huge discount for us, otherwise we were not biting. You now know the course is pricey.
You can buy 7 week or 15 week lesson plans. The lessons are either 25 minutes or 50 minutes. It is recommended to have two lessons a week. I’ll give it away, there is a flaw, here.
This program has several technical problems to overcome. First, you need Skype and a decent internet connection. This can be problematic. Yes, I had to resort to help with Skype. Youth 1 was my expert. Having familiarity with Skype alleviates potential software issues. Internet connection is the next problem. Our internet connection is good for where we live though there are occasional problems. The biggest issue is the amount of usage at our house. It is very conceivable for four or five devices using the internet at our home. A reliable computer is another must. My old desktop doesn’t cut it, so we do not use it for this class. Most of these technical issues can be overcome.
Before the first lesson, contact is made from the technical support via phone call or email. The tech will guide you through the use of Skype in order to determine if everything is okay. We had a phone issue on Youth 1’s day and the tech skyped my child. The Tech was very friendly and willing to assist. This process takes place roughly a half-hour before the lesson.
As I look at the program, there is plenty of positives. The student is speaking with a Guatemalan. The instructor is fluent in English. Now, the company claims to have vetted these instructors with the utmost care. From listening to the various instructors we’ve tried, they seem friendly and helpful.
There is homework given by the instructor in the form of pdfs. I have not seen any other format at this time.
You must schedule each class. This can be on different days or even different times of the day. This is a great flexible way to study. Youth 1 is only available at certain times of the day, and there are days where something else is planned. This flexibility is very helpful with us. There is a huge downside.
It is almost impossible to schedule a class! As of this writing, there are ten instructors. Yes, 10! We are unable to schedule consistently. We may get one class in a week and then two weeks later another. This inhibits learning of the language if you have gaps between each class. This struggle has made this class almost impossible to continue with. We have resorted to scheduling far out and way in advance of our known schedule. This is very frustrating. They do not have enough instructors.
The group has expanded this year and have gone too far. They risk losing customers and developing a bad reputation. We are strongly considering dropping this method next year. It is not worth the price to worry about scheduling especially if my child does not learn. I can spend far less money for my child to not learn a language.
I must give this course a grade of F.
As I sum up my review, I really love the idea, but they are not ready. The insufficient number of instructors is a HUGE problem. Another downside is the language limitation. Only spanish is offered. If you’re interested in Russian or German, you must look elsewhere. Until they at least double their instructors, I can not recommend this course.
If you’re interested in this course, check out their website, . Hopefully for them, the number of instructors will soon increase. I wanted to say yeah, but the rating is ney.

Miss America Pageant

September 13, 2013 Leave a comment

I have never had any interest in any of these types of pageants. These pageants are nothing more than a beauty pageant with fluff. That is until I read about someone. This year I may just watch the pageant.

Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, has attracted my attention and not for her beauty. One, she is military. This one fact attracted me to read about her. It is what I read in the article that interested me. Theresa is studying Chemistry and Chinese at K-State. She is also trying to obtain a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree, too. I can throw in the other skills and honors she has. It is her platform issue, too, that attracts my interest: “Empowering Women: Overcoming Stereotypes and Breaking Barriers.”

As I think about it, I will likely not watch. These women and the pageant do not interest me. If I should happen to watch, I hope she wins.

Categories: Uncategorized

Alternative Tutor

September 8, 2013 Leave a comment

From time to time, difficulties arise in education. The student does not “get it” either from the professor/teacher or book. Homework cannot not be done because the concept is not understood. If the instructor is unavailable or a tutor is not available, there is another method.

Google or Bing or whatever search engine you use is the key. You may find websites or even YouTube for your help. There are lessons on YouTube that can help the student. I have found this method helpful to students. They may require three or four videos before they understand, but it is worth it.

Utilize this method. It can alleviate stress for both a student and a parent.