Monday, December 22, 2008

The Civic Literacy Test

Time once again to take the Civic Literacy Test from ISI. Here's my score.

You answered 32 out of 33 correctly — 96.97 %

Average score for this quiz during December: 74.7%
Average score: 74.7%

I missed the very last question! Anyway, some background: ISI does a survey of students in 50 colleges to see if college helps improve basic understanding of how America works. The Government anyway. It turns out that going to some elite universities makes you dumber. A Summary:

Seventy-one percent of Americans fail the test, with an overall average score of 49%.

Only 24% of college graduates know the First Amendment prohibits establishing an official religion for the United States.

Talking on the phone, watching owned or rented movies, and monitoring TV news broadcasts and documentaries diminish a respondent’s civic literacy. (RML This includes Fox News and CNN, not just Oprah and Days of Our Lives.)

Only 54% can correctly identify a basic description of the free enterprise system, in which all Americans participate.

Check out more info at American Civic Literacy.

, , , , , , ,

Monday, December 08, 2008

Parenting Goals

So, what are your goals as a parent? My wife has always thought we needed some goals, but I'm just not that kind of person that goes around making "goal" and "objectives" (much to my detriment in other areas). I want my kids to be:

  • Solid Christians.

  • Contributing members of society.

  • Good family men.

  • Workers with integrity.

  • Know what the heck they are talking about (i.e. educated).

  • Able to fix simple things

  • Kind but tough

  • and, all-around good guys.

Apparently though, I need some kind of objective measurable goals. (This was the part I hated about getting my teaching degree during the "outcome-based education" fad.) So, what kinds of goals do you have? Do you have some goals for this next year? For a longer time span?

  • Daily prayer?

  • Daily devotions?

  • X-number of scriptures memorized?

  • Understand Latin?

  • Know how to read music?

Please leave comments, I really am interested.

, ,

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Do Computers in the Home Help with Test Scores?

A new study by Charles T. Clotfelter, Helen F. Ladd and Jacob L. Vigdor of Duke University shows that just having a computer in every home is not going to help students learn. In fact, it may be detrimental. Especially in Math and Reading. These are some very surprising results. Scaling the Digital Divide: Home Computer Technology and Student Achievement is a 56 page PDF, just so you know. Some interesting quotes:

Among students in nursery school through 12th grade, rates of home computer use were 78% for whites and 46% for blacks; 88% for those with a postgraduate-educated parent and 35% for those with high school dropout parents.

Students who own a computer but never use it for schoolwork have math test scores nearly indistinguishable from those without a home computer, while scoring slightly better than reading. Students reporting almost daily use of their home computer for schoolwork score significantly worse than students with no computer at home.
Italics mine.

Could it be that students waste time surfing? Facebooking? Gaming? Does depending on a computer for schoolwork cause the brain to fail at learning how to figure things out? Or does working on a computer keep things in short-term memory? Does it create impatience?

Rather than spending so much time facebooking, or even doing schoolwork on the computer, what they need to be doing is learning how to do things with the computer. Create games and web pages, do programming, and yes, learn math and reading. These are the things that will help them make a good living. Sitting around entertaining themselves will only leave them and their children "underprivileged."

Discovered at

, , , , ,

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

New Carnival of Homeschooling is Up

Be sure you check out this week's Carnival of Homeschooling at Dana's place. For those who may not know, a carnival is simply links to a bunch of blog posts on one subject brought together in one place.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Konos Timeline Idea

We used to have a timeline across the wall down the hallway. That was a little hard on the paint and kind of a pain to keep the paper characters from falling off the wall when the kids kept dragging hands or shoulders along the wall. So my brilliant wife came up with the idea of using poster board putting the Konos timeline into a giant book. Take a look. She likes the handmade people better than the pre-made ones. She bought a book of pre-made ones, and she will still use some, but the kid-made ones are just so much more "cheery" looking.

To use the timeline, you just add things as you study history and the timeline provides a visual of how one historic event relates to other historic events, even if they are on different continents.

, ,

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Jury Duty Today

Today, I went in to report for Jury Duty. A lot of people complain about jury duty and try to get out of it, but I think that jury duty is great. It’s great that our country trusts the common person to decide something of this importance. It’s great for the accused to not have to face a stacked-deck jury, or worse, no jury at all. As I looked around the room I was pretty impressed with the average American faces. The variety, the interestingness, the civic mindedness. I would love to have had a camera. I don’t think that’s allowed. Speaking of which, they confiscated my pocket knife as I entered the building. I got it back when I left.

The judge was very good. He gave instructions and then they called up 24 people (I was not among them). They got asked questions and we were supposed to be paying attention. First the prosecuting attorney asked several straightforward questions with some lessons about law thrown in. A few people were excused for one reason or another, and someone from the galley (where I was) was called to take their place. Then the defense attorney asked questions, but he was much more rambling and funny and generic in his questions. He mainly primed the jury about “presumed innocence” and “burden of proof,” which is always on the prosecution. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime was committed and that this person committed the crime. Like in a football game, he may take the ball 99 yards, but if he doesn’t cross the goal line, there is no score, no finding the defendant guilty. I also learned that “reasonable doubt” is not the same as “beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

When I got home I told the family all about it and how "innocent until proven guilty" holds until all evidence has been heard. The accused is to be considered innocent by everyone in the jury until the jury goes into the room and deliberation begins.

I was never called to be one of the 24, so I was eventually released. Twelve of the ones that had to stay will be released, and the rest will spend one or two days in court. Hey, for $10 a day, who wouldn’t want to serve?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Radio Interview on Homeschooling

I did a short interview with our local public radio station. The interview is 4:43 long. I begin at about 2:30. Look for Homeschooling date aired July 25, 2008, or the direct link to the interview. My voice isn't as bad as I expected, but I get a little quiet a couple of times.

, , , , ,

Friday, August 01, 2008

Prepare for the Beginning of School with a Party!

Today the kids are having a party. We begin school on Monday. The kids and my wife hung up streamers, blew up ballons (and yes, blew-up in both senses of the word) and are having great food all day. The dear wife said that they had a lot of fun just decorating for the party.

We used to take them out for donuts on the first day of school, but my kids don't get enough sugar to be immune, so they were all hyped-up and a problem all day.

We had a "Fiesta" lunch. For those who don't know about that, here's the recipe:
All these go on as layers on your plate. They don't all sound like they would go together, but you have to try it

corn chips
taco meat
sour cream
black olives

The kids love it, however all but one has something they want to leave off. Not a big deal as long as it isn't the meat or rice or beans.

They are going to swim. Someone gave us a swimming pool. It was much easier to put up than I expected. It's 15 feet across and 40 inches high. Man they love it.

Tonight we are going out for pizza. The kids haven't been out to a restaurant since my Dad was here in February I think. Wait, that's not true, someone took them to McDonald's for fries last month. Anyway, have a party to start off your school year. It might take some of the sting out.

Thanks to WP Clip Art for the pic.

, , , , ,

Friday, July 25, 2008

John Wayne Talks about Being a Parent with Dean Martin

The movie with Kirk Douglas is The War Wagon. Martin and Wayne were in Rio Bravo and The Sons of Katie Elder together.

edit: I forgot the HT: Dirty Harry's Place.

, ,

Monday, July 21, 2008

Big Tent Homeschooling

I was thinking of doing a post on Phariseeism, but Spunky beat me to it (Dana beat her). Here's what I posted in the comments:

We've been to one homeschool convention after our first year of homeschooling. (Five years ago already?) I wasn't particularly disgusted or inspired. I don't really see a need to "start my own" convention, a lot of us don't get too excited about any kind of convention.

"...the homeschool movement must decide whether it will work to advance a specifically Biblical vision, or take a "big tent" approach..." A movement cannot make a decision. Individuals make decisions. Sorry to disappoint all the idealists out there.

I'm not a Pharisee that wants to add rules to being a Christian. "You aren't a good Christian unless you homeschool." "You aren't a good Christian unless you homeschool the same way we do." "You aren't a good Christian unless you have a ton of kids." Or worse, generalize to everyone, "You aren't a good parent unless you homeschool."

I'm not exclusionary either. "Only Christians of my particular doctrine can homeschool." One of the nice things about homeschooling in a small town is that all the homeschoolers work together without adding additional requirements as to dress code or beliefs.

, , , ,

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hugs are Great, Even from Boys

Last night we set up the tent in the back yard for the kids to sleep in. I gave my 8 year old my high-power flashlight. He smiled, took it and started to walk away, but then turned around and gave me a hug around my legs. Then he turned and left. I just said, "You're welcome." Being number three out of four boys, I think he suffers from "middle child syndrome" if any of them do. He really likes the special attention.

This morning my 12 year old son walked in, gave me a hug and walked out, never saying anything. That was nice too.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What Kind Of Faith Matters?

I'm going to a funeral tomorrow. My friend Leon was 55. He was diagnosed with cancer last October; less than 10 months ago. He wasn't expected to die this soon. After several months on enferon, he was going to start chemo this week. Leon got sick Wednesday morning and went downhill all day, died that evening. His wife says there are things they didn't clear up or talk about because they were believing God that Leon would be healed. And if you talk about those things, doesn't that mean you are doubting God?

What I have to say about that (now) is that just because YOU have faith that God is going to do something does not mean God is going to do that something. It's a lousy world, a fallen world, and we are not soothsayers or fortune tellers, we do not know what God's will is in any situation, as much as the more hard-line among us think they do. So make those wills, talk about what happens if you die.

We have some well-meaning friends who are just sure if we have enough faith God will heal our every disease and discomfort. Hogwash. We had faith God would heal my wife when her pain started and it went on and on and on. How much faith is required? If you simply believe, isn't that faith? Leon's family is a family of massive faith. He suffered and then he died. That enferon is nasty stuff. My wife was in a much worse place mentally and emotionally when she was trying to drum up enough "faith" to be healed. She was much better after she reread Calm My Anxious Heart: A Women's Guide to Finding Contentment by Linda Dillow.

The lie with faith-healing is that it puts the focus back on me. Almost like "If I have enough faith, I can heal myself." "God is powerless unless I do something about it." That kind of mentality.

Paul "left Trophimus sick in Miletus." (2 Timothy 4:20) Does that mean Paul or a companion of Paul did not have enough faith? Timothy had a bad stomach "Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses." (1 Timothy 5:23) Does that mean Timothy had a lack of faith?

Job was a man of faith and look what happened to him.

I read Job recently. My wife went through some really horrible months of pain that no one could figure out (this started right after Leon found out about his cancer - our families frequently commiserated). Job didn't answer any questions, except that there is no point to suffering; it just happens and we have to deal with it the best we can, holding on to God's goodness. I didn't do so well. Don't give me any nonsense about how Job was given everything back. His children died. Were they raised from the dead? No. Having more children does not make up for losing children.

Ecclesiastes was more comforting, if you can believe that. Ecclesiastes talks about what a meaningless life this is and you should just enjoy the good days when you have them. "When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future." (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

My faith has been tested by fire, and I'm not sure what it'll look like when I'm done. Perhaps there was more dross than I knew.

, ,

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Lack of Solid Roll Models for our Young Poor

Andrew Klavan has written a good piece on the lack of husbands and fathers with America's poor.

I visited a fourth-grade class in a slum school recently. Since I’m a storyteller by trade, the teacher asked me if I’d tell the kids a story. Now I’m a good storyteller and an all-around charming guy, no doubt, but I wasn’t prepared for the degree of fascination I inspired. Rambunctious mischief ceased on the instant and resolved itself into riveted attention and awestruck stares. I was awfully pleased with myself by the time I was done.

“Don’t take it personally,” the teacher told me brusquely. “It’s just that they’ve never seen anyone like you before. A man—obviously tough—who’s not a gangster.”

...Her point was that you have to take just one look at me to see what, in fact, I am: an unapologetic, because-I-said-so, head-of-household male. They used to call us “husbands” and “fathers” back in the day. That’s what these kids had never seen.

This is not only a problem in the cities, but many rural areas are facing the same problems. From southeast Kansas to the Great Smokey Mountains, if the area was built on something other than farming, such as mining, or small factories, or as a transportation hub, then poverty is a big problem. Most of those types of jobs are now gone and so is hope for a better future. Then, any motivated young people leave the area taking with them the chance of better jobs in the future. Families break down and meth moves in. At least that's what happened around here.

The most important part of Klavan's article is where he talks about conservatives rebuilding culture. If I was more creative, I'd love to take part in that.

Technorati Tags:
, , , ,

Friday, May 16, 2008

Evan Almighty DVD Movie Review

Rated PG, Directed by Tom Shadyac, Starring Steve Carrel, Lauren Graham, Morgan Freeman, John Goodman. 2007.

“The LORD works in mysterious ways.” Evan Almighty supports this non-Biblical saying in a very funny fashion. Just so you know where I cam coming from, I am theologically conservative and am always concerned about how Believers are portrayed in movies. So, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this Hollywood film, but I am pleasantly surprised to find it enjoyable on a just-a-movie level, and to see positive examples of outrageous acts of faith.

You may remember Evan Baxter (Steve Carell) from Bruce Almighty as Bruce Nolan’s (Jim Carrey) job rival. Baxter is a newscaster from Buffalo, New York, who wins a seat in the US Senate. He moves his wife Joan and three sons, Ham, Shem, and Japeth Dylan, Jordan, and Ryan, to suburban Virginia, outside D.C. The family is so excited they even pray. The wife (Lauren Graham), nervous about how much time Evan will spend on his new job, prays for the family to grow closer. Evan prays for God to help him fulfill his campaign slogan: “Change the World.” Evan, like most of us, just expects a little unseen nudge from above to make things go smoothly. His prayer does not get answered the way he expected. Neither does Joan’s.

From his first day in the Senate, Baxter is favored by bigwig Senator Long (John Goodman) and his career looks great. Plans go awry when God (Morgan Freeman) reveals to Evan that he needs to build a boat. Not just any boat, a 450 foot long Ark. Baxter is your standard reluctant hero. But, animals start following him. His beard grows rapidly. Soon it’s a not really a choice between God or a comfortable life. Don’t worry, God does not break his promise and flood the world again. But there is a reason for the Ark.

Don’t think of this as a sequel to Bruce Almighty,think of it as a companion movie. Carell’s humor is not as broad as Carrey’s. The movie is appropriate for families and non-offensive to Christians or Jews.

The biggest problem in the movie happens right off the bat. Carell does not seem like the kind of guy who could win a Senate seat in New York. His character is a driven perfectionist, and a newscaster may be popular enough to win. So, for the sake of the rest of the movie, just let that pass.

Morgan Freeman is an inspired choice for God (pun intended). One has to have a certain gravitas to play God. A generation earlier James Earl Jones would have played the part. Much biblical wisdom about obedience is dispensed. It’s good to remember Psalm 110:10 and Proverbs 9:10 going in: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

The movie is funnier than expected (unless you are expecting Jim Carrey funny). Of course, I don’t have high expectations for most current comedy. Not that I’m nostalgic for some “good-old-days.” Do not say, "Why were the old days better than these?" For it is not wise to ask such questions. Ecclesiastes 7:10 (New International Version) Most new comedies are coarse and lack wit. Many seem like a series of sketches put together, rather than a story with humorous situations arising out of the storyline that builds to a climax. The climax here is ridiculous, but keeps with the spirit of the tale.

Evan Almighty has some cleverness. Pay attention to the names of the wood company and the real estate lady, though her name has no significance the way the wood companies does.

You’ll find Evan Almightysomewhat predictable (especially if you know the Noah story), but an enjoyable ride.

Instantly watch from thousands of TV episodes & movies streaming from Netflix. Try Netflix for FREE!

, , ,

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Should I Homeschool my Children?

I wrote this in 2003. We now homeschool all our children and they all like it more than public school.

To Home School or Not to Home School

Should you consider home schooling for your children? For one of them? For all of them? Is there one that may need direct attention more than others? Our first grader is very bright and has a vocabulary that is way beyond first grade, however he isn’t getting his seat work done in school. His Kindergarten brother loves school and does very well with his paper work (this has changed somewhat). The first grader is very flighty and doesn’t appear to be listening, but when he asked a direct question he almost always knows the answer. But ask him to put the answer on paper and you may have to wait for over an hour to get two sentences. It's possible he is gifted, or he could be right-brained, he is most certainly strong willed, spirited, and internally motivated. These can be good or bad traits, depending on what he does with them.

So what is the best way to get him turned the right direction? Would leaving him in public school with a teacher that must divider her time between 23 other children be best or would taking him out for a few years and investing in him be the wiser path? Home schooling seems to have the most advantages according to everything we have read, except for the amount of work required for the parents (even though the mother usually does the majority of the teaching, both parents should be involved for home schooling to work).

One concern many people express about home schooling is "Won't the child be deprived of important socialization?" The smart-alack answer is "I'm homeschooling the child, not hiding him." There are plenty of opportunities for socialization. Is the only way for a child to gain social skills to be stuck in a room with 25 other immature kids his age? There are opportunities during worship times, the park, the store, the YMCA, and of course with the family.

Home schooling may not be for every child or every parent, but it is a viable option for those who are willing to put in the extra effort for those kids that may not fit the regular school system. Our decision has been to home school one, while leaving the other in school. One wants to be home schooled, while the other wants to stay in public school.

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , ,

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

One Tough Mom and One Dumb Kid

A mom puts an ad in the paper to sell the kid's car after she finds alcohol in it. Good for her.

Technorati Tags: