Sunday, July 31, 2011

Home Schooling - Sequential Thinking And The Socratic Method


Song:  New Horizons

Group:  The Moody Blues


It forms the core of all critical reasoning...
of being able to correctly judge a correct path
to problem resolution...and to life.

Sequential thinking, as a process, is intuitive...in most.

Spectrum Children, initially, have some problems with it.


Of course, were life really so simple...
there would be very few problems

(it actually is...it is people who make life so complicated.
It all lies in the accurate gauging of the situation.
The proper variables to consider are often occluded
by unknown motives and subsequent actions of people).



However, when we talk of personal decisions
and straight forward situations...
it becomes far easier to render appropriate responses.


Situations...

problems or opportunities/goals for which to solve or strive.



Actions or Inactions...

the paths to walk, or not walk...
to effect the outcome.



Outcomes...

the logical result of the paths walked.



The Socratic Method...

the method of teaching by guiding the responses
through the narrowing of variables through questions.

By asking the right questions...
it keeps the students on a correct logical path
to problem resolution.


The great value of the Socratic Method lies in 
the intuitive way humans naturally think.

The basis for Sequential Thinking and the Socratic Method...
is Cause and Effect.

Cause and Effect is upon which science is based.



It is to which acquired intelligence boils down...
the correct use of variables 
(ever expanded through experience)
to solve problems efficiently and effectively.

Example of the Socratic Method in teaching:

(a condensed version of an actual conversation between
Alex, and I, after our blueberry picking, as I was 
using the Socratic Method in teaching during
Inferential Learning)

Concept Of Inferential Learning

Me:  Describe to me what you had seen yesterday at the Blueberry Farm.
If you were to walk out from an area undisturbed by man onto
the farm...what would you have noticed that broke the natural pattern?

Alex:  What do you mean? I saw a lot of blueberry bushes.

Me:  Did the plants grow naturally in that place?
 What patterns did you see?  
What seemed to have been placed there by man?

Alex:  They were planted in long rows.

Me:  What else did you notice that was man caused...
something done for a purpose?

Alex:  (Thinking in silence)

Me:  Why were the plants trimmed back?
What is the whole purpose of the plants?
What did they provide that the farmers want?

Alex:  Blueberries.

Me:  Why weren't they allowed to grow wild?
A plant has only so many resources and so much energy.
They would produce too much what and not enough of what?

Alex:  They would produce too many branches and not enough fruit.

Me:  Correct.  What else did you notice?
What things do plants need to live?

Alex:  Sunlight...Carbon Dioxide during Photosynthesis...

Me: (interrupting him)  What about when there is no sunlight?

Alex:  Oxygen

Me:  Good...without Photosynthesis plants respire Oxygen and 
give off Carbon Dioxide 
(overall small positive balance O2 - CO2 made into food for plants).
  What else does a plant need?

Alex:  Water

Me:  What is the chief function of water for the plant?

Alex:  (Thinking in silence)

Me:  Why is water considered a nearly universal solvent?

Alex:  Because many chemicals can be dissolved into it.

Me:  (I briefly went over Nitrogen and how it
may come from the atmosphere - conversion
by lightning to a form that can be readily dissolved in water 
(moisture in air to precipitation) and used by plants...
and by conversion by bacteria in the soil of organic
compounds to a form of Nitrogen used by plants
(also man made by chemists in the form of Ammonium Nitrate).

However...as he has not gone over the Nitrogen Cycle yet...
I opted to keep it simple as my focus was on the methods of the farmers
in getting water to the plants efficiently.  I also covered the need for 
other trace minerals for the plant).

Me:  So water dissolves necessary minerals for the plants.
What is one of the chief functions of water to a plant?

Alex:  It carries the minerals to it.

Me:  Yes...it transports what it needs.
 So, by what means did you see that they watered their plants?

Alex:  By big water sprinklers.

Me:  But there was no evidence of them using water sprinklers.
Why wouldn't you want to use sprinklers?  Is that an efficient means of 
water dispersal on set points?  What would happen to much of the water
were it allowed to rain down everywhere?  What would happen during the day?

Alex:  It would evaporate.

Me:  How could you water efficiently?

(I knew he knew nothing of Drip Irrigation...
but I wanted to lead him there in his mind)

Would you flood the whole area...knowing that too much 
water would kill the plants...and that water is expensive?

Alex:  No...just on the roots.

Me:  Yes...how could you do it efficiently?

Alex:  (Thinking in silence)

Me:  What do I use to water the roses in the backyard?

Alex:  A hose.

Me:  What were the black lines running the length of the furrows
next to the plants?

Alex:  Hoses.

Me:  How did they get the water on the plants?  
What do you have to do to a closed cylinder if you 
want the contents to come out at predetermined points?

Alex:  You have to make holes.

Me:  Yes.  Now how would you control the amount of water
coming from the holes at a set pressure?

(I decided to eliminate pressure as a variable to make it simple..
but I explained how it could be used).

Alex:  By the size of the holes and the number of them.

Me:  How else?  

Alex:  By how long you keep it on.

Me:  Yes...you control the total output by rate and time.

This led to a discussion on Drip Irrigation and on to Hydroponics.

 I generally teach new material by explaining concepts
and by then using the Socratic Method to have him
explain the concept in detail...
and, of how he thinks he could improve upon it or adapt 
the concept to new scenarios or problems. 

By using the Socratic Method to teach...
you not only keep the child in the intellectual loop...
engaging his brain and interest...
you are teaching a method for him to incorporate
in his thought process...
and to eventually teach his children.

He will start asking himself questions 
and begin guiding himself through the 
Sequential Thought process.

Far too often...
people are taught what to think...
instead of how to think.

By using the Socratic Method of thought...
which leads into correct Sequential Thinking...
a child learns how to properly structure his thought process...
which leads to correct conclusions.

Correct problem identification...
correct identification of variables to consider...
correct thought pattern...
leads to correct problem resolution.

In learning how to think...
children are given the true key to knowledge.

With critical thinking skills...
a light in the darkness of ignorance is forever lit...
never to be extinguished.

With this key...
the door to new horizons is opened...
never to close.



Saturday, July 30, 2011

Home Schooling - Field Trip - Star Gazing And Lake Alpine


Song:  Come Saturday Morning

Group:  Sandpipers




Our camp site

After setting up camp...
we went to Bear Valley to see the stars.

Some amateur astronomers had set up 
telescopes and had given some interesting facts on 
the stars and constellations.

It was very beautiful up there...
the light breeze was just cool enough to really feel refreshing.
The night sky was cloudless and moonless...
the Milky Way was clearly visible...
as were countless numbers of stars.

It gave me the opportunity to show Alex how to judge direction 
by the stars
(Although, in general, you wouldn't travel the mountains
or forests by night...
you would be doing so in the desert).

We then drove back to our camp and turned in early.




Saturday Morning at Lake Alpine.

We ate at the Lodge and then rented a double Kayak.


Alex, and I, paddling on Lake Alpine.


We had gone around the lake and were coming in.

It was a spectacular view from the Kayak.

After paddling for a while...
I would dip both hands in the lake
and pour the refreshing water over my head.

The wind was just enough to give a cooling breeze...
the mountains and trees in the background added to 
make the paddling a pleasure.

I taught Alex how to paddle correctly...
and how to steer the Kayak.

During this trip...
I added basic cosmology lessons as we were driving.

He really enjoyed this day.

I told him our next camping trip will be beach camping...
he is looking forward to it.

It will give me an opportunity to explain to him about
the Coastal Redwoods and the Ocean currents.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Home Schooling - Field Trip - Sutter Gold Mine


Song:  Stones

Artist:  Neil Diamond




At the gift shop prior to our tour of the 
Sutter Gold Mine.

Sutter Creek was where the California Gold Rush (the 49ers)
began.

The Sutter Gold Mine is still an active mine...
they are going to start actual gold mining operations
one week after our visit here.

The tours will stop for the foreseeable future.

We were lucky to have gone there in time.
We hadn't learned of this until after we had arrived.


Alex got to pick out a Quartz Geode to have
broken open and keep.




His Geode was filled with Quartz Crystals.





We were taken on a tram down into the mine
where we had seen olden mining methods.


We were led into the safe room...
a room dug out of the strongest rock...
a place of refuge in case of cave in.

It had pipes for air and water...
as well as multiple communication lines.

The tour guide had done a good job of explaining
the various jobs involved in the mining operations
and what each had entailed.




We than walked up through various shafts.



Alex near a small vein of Gold bearing Quartz.
Just above our heads...
the tour guide had pointed out some gold in the Quartz.



A pneumatic drill used to make the blast holes
(still used in modern times).


A void left from the extraction of a Quartz vein.


A pulley and bucket system used to transport the ore
to a drop hole...where it is loaded onto ore trucks.


The mine from the outside.

In a week, they will be setting up an ore processing plant nearby.


Alex had really enjoyed this very informative
and historical place.

He learned of the mining techniques of old...
the equipment and jobs...
everything from powder monkeys 
(usually children placing charges and running)
to canaries used to detect a lack of Oxygen...
the old type of explosives used and the new.

He had seen the actual road used by the 49ers in and out of the mine.

I was glad to have been able to show him this
valuable part of the history of California.

Nothing beats actually experiencing the location...
feeling the conditions underground...
the working conditions and equipment used...
to bring alive the subject in his mind as he reads
more in depth about it in the future.

We shall be visiting Lake Alpine in a few days.

I shall be covering basic Cosmology with him
as we will be going to a star gazing event 
near Lake Alpine.

Afterward, we will camp out and row the lake the next day.

He is very excited about this event.

I am excited for him...
and at having the opportunity to explain to him
the basics of the cosmos.



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Home Schooling - Free Night For Alex


Song:  Guantanamera

Group:  The Sandpipers


This song reminded me of when I was Alex's Age.

My father would take us to the Flea Market, or some other places
nearby, just for the fun of it.  

This song would often be playing on the radio as we drove down the road.

Although the Flea Market is still there...
all of the orchards and tomato fields are gone...
it is all now, the heart of Silicon Valley.

Whenever I drive in my old neighborhood...

I can still see, in my minds eye...
the old scenery.

I can still hear, in the mp3 player of the mind...
all of the old songs.


A local fun outlet for children to enjoy the night.

Alex has been doing well in his studies.

I asked him where he would like to go.

He picked this place.

We first went out to eat...
and then we went inside to enjoy the arcade for awhile...
then outside to enjoy the other activities...
we then finished up back inside.





He had fun going from machine to machine.

He hadn't been here since Kindergarten.

Although he had fun...
he likes camping the most.

We shall be going to Lake Alpine in a few days.

I think...
in the ling run...
it shall be the camping and the field trips 
that he will remember most.

We often play nice music while driving
to our destinations.

He will, later, associate these songs to his memories
and be able to look back with fondness.

It is all part of making the trips magic for him.

He will then wish to do the same for his children.


This is a sure way of multiplying pleasure in life...

your child's enjoyment...
the knowledge that he will remember those times...
your enjoyment from your child's enjoyment...
knowing that he will do the same for his children.

This is a long term project of happiness.

The special times you spend with your children...
the magic created by your planning...
ensuring good times in all aspects...
helps mold his future outlook and attitude.

The good times and memories
shall be remembered...
 forever.




Sunday, July 24, 2011

Home Schooling - Alex Update - Alcumus and Alto Flute


Song:  Storm

Artists:  Yoshida Brothers




Alcumus...

A learning and rating web site put together by
 former Math Olympiad Winner...
Richard Rusczyk.

Alcumus is part of...
Art Of Problem Solving.

My last report of Alex's score in Alcumus was in April 2011.


He was 1,423 out of 14,255 competitors 
(no age or country limitations).

The competition is comprised of three categories...

Algebra...
Counting and Probabilities...
Number Theory.

Alex is evenly balanced among the three categories.



For most of his problems...
he does them in his head.

On some, he writes out the problem...
he doesn't use a calculator
(important... as we use Alcumus to reinforce 
his rapid calculative capabilities).

Just yesterday...
he broke through into the triple digit realm.

He was ranked at...

994 out of 16,716 participants.

The number of participants have increased by almost 2,500 
in the past 3 months.


A very happy Alex.

He had, for the first time, gotten into the top 1,000.

Not bad for a ten year old!

He told us as he neared it and then completed some problems
to give him his new placement.

His mother quickly got her camera and took this shot
just as he got his new score.

He gets so excited whenever he progresses in any endeavor.

Although the placement fluctuates depending on the performance
of the others between his sessions at Alcumus...
he has been steadily moving up in his rankings.

He usually finishes his daily online Home Schooling with Alcumus
(he still does off line Home Schooling activities afterward).

The competition greatly motivates him to keep sharp.

We use Thinkwell Math for his Algebra II.





Alex playing the Alto Double Minor Pentatonic Flute.

He can now almost cover two octaves in range and he is learning
a simple song...
Sakura.

I have him do 5 separate sessions of scale practice and push ups
throughout the day
(he needs to build up his push up capabilities for his Karate).

As I, not only, do not wish to over load him with too much at once...
I wish for him to realize the efficiency of multiple practice sessions
in his daily routine.

For skill practice...
it is, in general, more effective to have a 
quantity of quality practice by breaking it up into
multiple daily sessions.

To have him do an imperfect repetition of a skill
due to fatigue, is to have him take a step backwards.

By having him fresh for each session...
he learns the correct application each time.

It actually makes a difference neurologically.

As his body gets its feedback from the motion...
the neurological connections are strengthened.

It is no different from the cutting of a grove into an old time 
phonograph disc.

To make an imperfect grove would result in imperfect results...
results that would need to be corrected and adjusted for
in subsequent lessons.

It also keeps him motivated, as he sees the lessons as relatively
easy to complete and fun to do.

I also ordered another two flutes...

one for Alex...

a concert tuned Transverse Shakuhachi...

and one for me
(for duets with Alex)...

another Transverse Shakuhachi (lower range).

I love the older Japanese music...
we shall be playing some in the future.

There is also another very important purpose
to achieving results in increments...

Mama would never have let us get more flutes had I
ordered them all at once.

By getting the flutes incrementally...
I should be able to sneak these in more easily than with
one large order.

Ah...another reason to achieve results incrementally!  :)


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Home Schooling - Memorable Events In Life


Song:  Time In A Bottle

Artist:  Jim Croce


Besides living your life well...

envisioning...
engineering...
and steadily walking the correct path
to self actualization...

it is in being able to give these
principles to living life well to others
that lead to a full life for all involved...
and of the beauty of the adventure on that path.

There is, of course, nothing profound about this.

It is basic common sense.

We, however, sometimes forget the important things
in life as we let the day to day operations occlude... 
and sometimes override, our overall goal.

As we grow from childhood...
everyday memories get lost in the jumble
of repeated experiences.

It is the anomalies in life that are remembered...
and those of special connections with others...
things that are so special that they stand out.


My memories of my Father 
(died in Feb 2011)
(young Alex in picture)

consist mostly of when I was still very young.

(His death prompted me to write three subsequent articles)

Dealing With Grief

Concept Of Mortality

Concept Of Sorrow

He had worked many hours to provide for his family.

I never realized how hard he had worked to keep us
without need...
until I started working.

Of course, as he never complained about working hard...
it had never stood out in my mind.

It was those special times when I was young...
the picnics and camping trips...
of him buying me something that I had
particularly wanted when I was 2 yrs. old
(I had wanted...more than anything...this blue toy car)...
of the decorated Christmas tree with the stocking stuffers
hanging on it every Christmas...
of when he was teaching me how to throw a baseball
by playing catch in the backyard...
and of when he got kicked out of my Little League game
for booing the ref..
and especially of, his questions and explanations...
of, and to, us, whenever we went to new locations
on family trips...
that I remember so well.

I didn't know it then...
he was explaining fundamental concepts.

I also remember, particularly well, him giving me the freedom
to fully explore his library, to read which ever book I pleased
(a room filled with Science and History books mostly -
not every Father would do so...as he prized them...and I was very young)
and our discussions of them.

My Mother...
was always trying to ensure that we children...
were comfortable and happy.

She hadn't really enjoyed camping so much...
she went because she enjoyed seeing her children
enjoy themselves...
and so she went without complaint.

I remember playing outside and smelling
my mother's cooking...
and running back inside with anticipation
at the feast to come.

She would always cook a lot of food
and took care that it was nutritious and delicious.

I remember her homemade doughnuts and her canned
preserves.  She froze cherries from our trees and
gave them to us as treats throughout the summer.

I remember how she would sacrifice her money
in Monopoly to we children...
selling her properties to give strategic advantage
to whichever of us was behind...
so we wouldn't feel bad.

What I remember most of all...
during all of our trips...
 was their focus, not on the place so much...
as their focus on us, their children.

They got their enjoyment by seeing the wonder
in our faces.  

If we enjoyed it...
they enjoyed it.


Notice how I hadn't put in those times when every family fights...
when words were said in anger...
when tears flowed...
when perceived injustice had occurred.

I weigh people on a scale.
It is the good and bad as a whole.

The important things having been done...
verses the small negative events.

The things that are done in life must take on a weight
far greater than mere words.

Bad things done or said in anger
must be overweighed by the overall good things
done or given as the norm.

Humans are emotional creatures...
just as we sometimes lose our temper...
others do so also.

If we are to expect forgiveness...
we must forgive others.

To have all good wiped out by a negative event
(there are some actions that cannot be allowed to happen...
in general, they are rare and extreme)
is to be living on a constant precipice...
one slip and you fall into a self made crevasse...
one that is unrecoverable.

Each of our memories change us...
to see things in correct perspective allows us
to correctly categorize them into memorable events.

To remember the relatively small negative experiences...
is to taint the good.

To have a collection of bad memories...
is to have had a bitter life.

There are too many good experiences in life
to waste their potential to improve your living it...
by harboring resentment.

There are, of course, negative actions or inactions
that merit cutting the offender out of your life
so they cannot negatively affect it anymore...
just by concentrating on what is good in your life...
allows you to move past the events.


I have been on many Asperger's Forums for a while.
What disturbs me is the amount of discontent
and depression expressed on them.

Too many of them, I feel, concentrate on the negative
experiences in life...
so much so...
as to blind them to the good.

The prime objective in life is to be able to meet
the requirements of providing a means of living
a life well, and with a passion.

To give your child a life of good memories...
one that allows them to live life with a sense of adventure...
one that gives them the knowledge of the possibilities 
of happy times...
ones that stick in their memory...
is to fundamentally change them for the good.

It gives them the motive for leading a good life.

What I remembered most of my childhood was the good times.
What I remember most of all of my Parents...
was their interaction with us.




(Playing Wii Sports...the lazy way  :)

(Taking Alex on field trips)


(Conceptualizing knowledge with him)


My most treasured memories in life are not... 
the places I have seen...
the things I have done...

they are of my interactions with my family.


( A rare grammatical error from Alex...he realized it after showing me)




Alex's memories of us consist of our interactions with him.

Our positive experiences with our children
give them a positive outlook on life.

They see and hear everything we do and say.

If we constantly complain in front of them
about negative experiences in life...
they will look upon life with trepidation...
they will see life in a negative light...
and they, too, will focus on the negatives...
not weighing the good...
they will just see life as a measurement of the bad.

By making each of their outings a magical experience...
by giving them something new to explore...
by giving them underlying concepts to mull over
as they experience their new adventure...
it will then become special...
and so...
memorable.


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