Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Gifted Educational Resource - For Children And Teens


Song:  Chevalier de Sangreal

Artist:  Hans Zimmer




My wife had found this great gifted educational link page:




My wife will be using this as a reference area to get more educational material for Alex.

It is a great resource page with many useful and interesting links for reference 
and study material for the gifted child...
or for the parent to have her child become advanced
through daily study of advanced material.


It is separated by category and each page is chock filled with material to choose from.

There are 22 areas of interest including...

 Brain Teasers and Logic Problems...
Math / Physics / Mechanics...
Homework Help...
Computer Programming...
Economics...
Science..etc.

---

One of the key differences between the gifted child, and other children...
lies in his ability to grasp concepts and to be able to apply them effectively.

Through parental guidance of a child's homework...
the parent may conceptualize the lesson for the child to digest and to apply.

Instead of foundering in a sea of frustration...
the child has his mind opened...
his educational experience greatly accelerated and heightened...
 through his parent's conceptual guidance.

He sees learning as an exciting and growing experience.


I must reiterate...
a gifted child learns rapidly...
however, it doesn't necessarily mean he will have a higher 
educational top end.

The most important aspect for learning is drive.

A child who develops good study habits...
shall succeed...
gifted or not.

A child who has been given a love of learning
through positive reinforcement...
a solid daily study structure
(with parental guidance)...
and highly stimulating educational material...
will have been given the key to his future.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Alex's Progress In Geometry


Song:  Leaves In The Wind

Artist:  Isaac Shepard






This is Thinkwell's Geometry course.

We have found Thinkwell to consistently have the best math courses.
This Geometry course is no exception.

Alex learns well from this course...
as well as all of their other advanced math courses.

We have tried many others...
none has been more effective at teaching Alex advanced math.

Alex says that the explanations are complete and that they are very interesting.




To give you an idea how effective this course has been...
we just started him on this course a couple of months ago.

Alex just completed number 8 of the 13 areas to complete the course...
with 90% and above test scores - after his earlier rushing
(although it all should be 100% as a goal).




Alex studying Geometry on his laptop.


He does Thinkwell Geometry and Alcumus Geometry at home.

At school, he does an online Geometry course in the library on one of the school's
computers in lieu of a regular math class.

His school - Coral Academy Of Science - allowed him to advance at his own pace
through an on line High School program
(with full High School credit).

He started it a couple of months ago.

The Geometry on line course is designed to be a year long course.

It has 8 portions...
Alex has finished the 8th and last portion.

However, I wanted him to review the entire course before taking his final in it.

He has another 3 weeks before his other finals begin.
I told him to take his Geometry final just in the week prior to allow
him the maximum preparation time without it interfering with his other finals.




Spring has arrived.






I am taking Alex to his Saturday Math Club study session.

Coral Academy Of Science has really been a great school for Alex.

Mr. Gul...
the math club teacher...
is a very dedicated professional.

Alex loves the way he teaches.

After school on Mondays...
Alex attends the SAT preparation class...
and on Wednesdays and Saturdays...
Alex attends the math club study sessions...
all of them taught by Mr. Gul.



Teacher extraordinaire...

Mr. Emre Gul

with Alex next to him...
along with the others on the math team at the State Math Competition.


Although Alex has only been a student at 
Coral Academy of Science for a couple of months now...
we have seen tremendous improvement in his capabilities in all areas.

Alex really loves his teachers and his classmates.

He loves going to school...
and he loves doing well there.

I must say...
I am very impressed with his school.

I am especially impressed with Mr. Gul.

The amount of dedication he has towards his students...
and to his profession, is inspiring.

I know Alex is in good hands.

As Alex still wishes to, one day...
become a Math Professor...
I am sure Mr. Gul will be one of the teachers
whom he will model himself after.

A very good teacher to model himself after indeed.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Humorous Look At An Operational Flowchart


YouTube Video:  The Big Bang Theory - The Friendship Algorithm



The Big Bang Theory is one of my favorite shows.

For those who have not seen this great show...
the lead character (Sheldon) is a brilliant...
but socially inept young scientist.

He has been characterized as a stereotypical (not to be confused with typical)...
brilliant person with Asperger's Syndrome (commonly known as the nerd syndrome).

In this video...
Sheldon had constructed a flow chart to help him with a normally
intuitive function in most people.




Now...
while flow charts are a valuable means of describing events past...
a means of describing the reasons for things to come...
a way to organize and coordinate events...
need one be made for all events in life?

Of course not.

It is merely a visual representation of an organized thought pattern
in relation to a preconceived occurrence or incident.

My wife had used flow charts to help Alex organize his thoughts 
when he was still very young.

However...
to have to use a flow chart as an initial step before one can be functional...
would simply lead to disfunction in life...
as things not only often happen at unexpected times...
but in unexpected ways.

The usefulness of showing a flow chart to a child is in the establishment
of cause and effect, as well as chronology, in the child's mind...
so he may place his thoughts in perspective.

A flow chart is often used in the planning of complex operations...
as an initial stage for the achievement of an objective in the civilian or military sector.

It is a way of predicting and controlling outcomes through coordinated actions...
and of being able to adapt to variables through the use of preplanned contingencies.


In practical usage for the teaching of a more organized way of thinking
for a child (especially one on the Autistic Spectrum)...
a parent may wish to take a simple event and create a simple flow chart...
and walk the child through it.

You could then advance to having the child create his own...
and then have him solve a simple objective.

Once a child does this a few times...
he will have a great start to thinking in terms of goals and objectives first...
and then the details afterward.

By practicing the practical application in life...
through the use of directed questioning (Socratic Method)...
you will have him thinking through a situation in its entirety...
and with more practice...
he will be able to predict outcomes and to be able to plan for contingencies...
all automatically, on the fly, in his head.

It is at this point that it becomes internalized...
it becomes intuitive.

So...
what does all of this mean?

How exactly do you apply this without writing it down?

A simple and time honored method is simply playing a "what if?" game
several times each day with your child.

Simply pose a question to him...
point out an obvious flaw in the environment and have him pose a solution...
give him an objective to achieve and have him engineer a solution...etc...
have him justify the plan of action...
the ramifications of the planned actions...
the expected reactions...
the identification of possible objective modifying variables...
and the plan for contingencies to mitigate them.

My wife has been doing it for years through Alex's bedtime ritual.

Through her question and answer format of Alex's reading of his books...
and of her reading of passages of them to him and of her subsequent questioning 
of him on possible occurrences and outcomes by altering the scenarios 
and/or the altering of the timing of events...
she has been able to have Alex greatly improve his thought process.

I frequently incorporate examples from life, and the environment, to engage Alex
in mental exercises.

The methods I frequently use are explained in these two articles:



In these articles...
I give real life examples I often use with Alex.


So why explain this simple way in such a complex manner when I could
have merely given the examples?

I had to fully explain the thought process underlying what we do, so new parents
may use it as a checklist in designing their own exercises for their child.

---

Few things in my daily life frustrate me more
than obvious flaws in the structural design of roadways
(decreasing radius turns...blind spots in critical areas such as buildings
or vegetation too near a corner intersection...rendering it a blind intersection
(dangerous even with stop signs)...obvious safety hazards...
and especially the misplacement of road signs - you know the ones... 
the warning of a sudden mountain hairpin corner...
placed just at the entrance of the turn instead of much farther
up the road where one could safely decelerate BEFORE entering the turn...
or a country road turn off that is placed at the turn instead of farther up the road
(you know that the ones responsible had not taken into account the distance traveled in
a set period of time at the normally traveled speed vs. human reaction time)...
and of human behavior on the road that can be potentially hazardous to others...
that I notice while driving.

I end up giving an impromptu lesson to Alex by..
identifying the problem...
the potential dangers...
a solution that actually should have been thought of and implemented in the first place...
 without first placing a driver in a potentially hazardous situation.

 I also give the lesson with great gusto so Alex may not only be aware of these types 
of situations when he starts driving...but so he is aware of my thought process in arriving
at my conclusions...all to teach Alex some valuable lessons.

Well...
at least this is my stated reasoning to my wife.

OK...OK...

I go into a good 15 second tirade of cursing the road planners...
of the civil engineers...of the other drivers...etc...
and it makes me feel better
(yes...I am one of THOSE guys  :)

And yes...
I have reported some problems and the solutions necessary in the past.

Hmmm...come to think of it...
they have never seemed particularly interested in what I have had to say  :)




Saturday, April 21, 2012

Book Review: Critical Thinking Skills - Developing Effective Analysis And Argument


Song:  In The Year 2525

Artists:  Zager and Evans


Although I love this song - (ever since I had first heard it in 1969)...
I included it as light sardonic humor.

It is filled with false premises...and faulty logic  :)
( just dig that rhythm and beat though :)


And so...
it brings me to this great book by Author: Stella Cottrell




Just another great book my wife had gotten for Alex to digest...
piece by piece... during his nightly bedtime routine.

My wife has ALWAYS read to Alex at bedtime.

She will read to him...
he will read to her...
she will ask conceptual questions.

His last moments of the day...
before sleep overtakes him...
are ones of learning.

She is presently reading this book to him at bedtime.


Before I go into the actual review of this book...

there are three very important times of the day in which a mother
may make a tremendous amount of difference in her child's life...
(even a full time working mother)

Intellectually...
Physically....
Emotionally.


1)  Intellectual:  After school - reviewing her child's homework
(checking for accuracy...insuring concepts are understood).

2)  Physical / Emotional:  Meal time - nutritious food and a relaxed atmosphere
of trust where affairs of the heart may be discussed. 
 This is where the mother does most of the listening...
with some directed questioning to guide the conversation.


3)  Intellectual / Emotional:  Bedtime reading - Even light reading may be turned into an
intellectual exercise by asking him what he thinks may happen later in the book...
and having him explain why.  Ask what would happen had a different scenario
presented itself.  Ask what he would have done under similar circumstances.
This is also a perfect time to explain important concepts through directed texts.

All of these may be done after normal work hours.

I must, once again, tell of the critical importance of a bedtime ritual...
to both, the parent, and the child.

Besides the importance of a structured routine of intellectual development...
it goes far deeper.  

Especially when started from birth...
the bonding between parent and child...
one of shared proximity...
shared time...
shared thoughts...
shared hearts...
becomes greatly heightened and ever growing.

There is the steadily reinforced inherent knowledge 
of trust, warmth, respect and love
as the parent bestows her wisdom and love
to the most pure and innocent being on the planet...
her child.

 I, as a man, looking from the outside, to the inside...
 suspect the great endurance a mother develops in the relentless
caring of her child, comes from the great energy she derives from
the depth of love for her child.

It becomes an inner drive fed by
an energy reserve that increases in capacity...
and constantly replenishes, the more she bonds with her child.

A mother raising her child is one of the greatest feats of endurance
a human experiences.

While a marathon lasts but a few hours...
a mother's marathon lasts for years.

A bedtime ritual greatly enhances the bonding experience.

OK...
now on to the book review.


As taken from the introduction (mostly verbatim)...



Aims of the book


  Understanding the concepts used in critical thinking...

 Developing clearer thinking...

 Interpreting and producing arguments more effectively...

  Being more observant of what is seen and heard.

-----

Activities in the book


The book supplies activities to apply the concepts it introduces...
and to practice the new skills.

The answer pages give, not only the correct answers...
but the underlying reasons for the answers...
allowing further development of the fundamental concepts.

-----

Contents of the Chapters


Chapter 1:   Introduces critical thinking, looking at the range of underlying skills 
and underlying attitudes associated with critical thinking... 
and of the benefits of thinking critically.

Chapter 2:    Looks at aspects of thinking skills such as focusing your attention...
identifying similarities and differences, sequencing, categorizing, and close reading.

Chapter 3:    Introduces argument as a central aspect of critical reading 
by identifying the components of correct argumentation and by providing
practice in the identification of these components.

Chapter 4:   Expands on chapter 3 through the distinguishing of
subjective disagreements and objective arguments...
and of how to identify a central critical argument in a sea of
summaries, explanations, and descriptions.

Chapter 5:   Focuses on the quality of reasoning.  It gives the understanding
of the structure of an argument.

Chapter 6 and 7:   Develops skills in analyzing the details of an argument. 
They cover the aspects of implied and implicit arguments, as well as 
the identification of false premises, whether implied or expressed...
and of the common types of flawed logic.

Chapter 8:  Focuses on finding and evaluating sources of evidence to support
an argument.  It particularly focuses on several methods used to ensure the
quality of the relied upon evidence, such as, statistical analysis...
levels of probability, and of the triangulation of evidence (cross checking).

Chapter 9:   Looks at specific ways of applying critical reasoning to 
reading and note taking.

Chapters 10 and 11:  Focuses on the application of critical reasoning to writing.

Chapter 12:   This chapter gives various models used to develop critical reflection 
(Inferential Learning).


Now...
I must apologize.

I usually read each chapter and provide a synopsis for my book reviews.

However, the introduction of this book was so well written and complete...
I simply could not have done better.

This book is perfect for advanced elementary school students...
and certainly for junior high school students.

This book excels in the teaching of how to think...
not just in what to think.

------

When I get frustrated...
I will sometimes degrade an argument into an emotive one...
one in which I will spit out a fallacy of logic.

Although I will almost always realize and correct it before going forth...
my son has, at times, corrected me (with great delight :)
by quoting the particular fallacy of logic I had committed  :)


As we are preparing Alex for formal argumentation...

I look forward to the day in which my son will consistently...
 and soundly, defeat me in intellectual combat (applied critical reasoning)
(neither my wife, nor I, can keep up with Alex in math as it is).

As my son's instructor in life...
it is my sacred duty to prepare him for the world.

As his life teacher...
the day will inevitably come... 
in which he surpasses me.

On that great day...
in losing intellectually to my son...
I will have ultimately won.



Monday, April 16, 2012

Lake Tahoe Cruise - M.S. Dixie II


  Song From A Secret Garden

Rendition:  Calikokat



On our way to Lake Tahoe for a well deserved day trip.





Alex has been doing such a good job with his studies...
that we decided to go back to Lake Tahoe
to take a mini cruise aboard the M.S. Dixie II...
on this...
his last day of spring break.


It is a 2.5 hour tour from the South East shore (Zepher Cove) to the Western shore 
of Emerald Bay... and back.

As Lake Tahoe is but an hour or so drive from home...
we may always enjoy it as a spur of the moment day trip.

The day was sunny and relatively warm (50's).

The M.S. Dixie II is a triple decker personnel ferry built after the Mississippi River Boats.

The whole upper deck is an observation deck with almost unrestricted views.

This is where we stayed for the whole of the westward journey, and part of the way back.


Alex on the Observation deck of the M.S. Dixie II en route to Emerald Bay.

Alex works so hard with his studies...
we are always looking for new places to take him.

He enjoys taking trips and seeing new sights.

As with all parents...
we enjoy, so much, giving our child, new and beautiful experiences.


The sky was blue and the water calm.

What a beautiful day it was.




After an hour of transit...
Emerald Bay inlet is just in view.


What a serene view we had beheld.

The air was crisp, and our mood was light.


The small island in Emerald Bay.


Lake Tahoe is at an elevation of some 6228 ft. above sea level.

The surrounding peaks of Emerald Bay reach some 3,000 ft. above that...
making for some majestic sights as we cruised inside.


We had slowed to a crawl near the Western shore and had circled around 
before heading back to Zepher Cove.



As we headed back...
the wind had picked up some...
and so...


we decided to go down to the 1st deck inside viewing area.


We disembarked at our starting point at Zepher Cove.

With beautiful sights...
beautiful weather...
and with nary a ripple on the water to disturb our journey...
the only thing that could have made our cruise more epic would have been
a 110 piece orchestra playing the whole way from the observation deck.

What a thoroughly pleasant trip this was.

This is another must experience when visiting Lake Tahoe.

At just $38.00 per adult and $15.00 per child...
it is simply not to be missed.



On our way back home...
there is this small country chocolate store alongside of the highway.

We stopped and picked up some very good chocolate, toffee, fudge and the like.








Alex doesn't often eat sweets...
and so, when he gets to...
it is a real treat for him.





We are actually relatively near the mythical Ponderosa Ranch
of Bonanza fame (there was actually a private mock up nearby...
however, most of the shooting was done at a ranch near Hollywood).


It was a 570 acre tourist mock up of famous scenes from the show...
including the town and ranch...
at Lake Tahoe.

Sadly, it closed in 2004.

I loved the show while growing up.
I would have loved to have seen it...
and to have shown Alex it.

There are, however, many preserved western towns nearby.

Virginia City...
which is nearby...
has some real history.

We shall have to make that another small day trip... one day soon.




Friday, April 13, 2012

Alex's Finished Project



Song:  Never Ending Story

Artists: Limahl



This is the final phase of Alex's report on the technological 
advancements of weapons of war throughout history - for his English Class
( as described in an earlier article:  Alex's Second Solo Essay ).



Alex first worked on his outline.



He then researched the information online and typed out his report.

I reprinted his original report below:


      A History of Weapons   By Alex

  Weapons have come a long way, from prehistoric times, to modern ages. 
In this report, I will describe how various weapons have changed over time.
  Over 60,000 years ago, bows and arrows were invented and used. 
Humans also threw weapons made out of sticks and stones at each other, 
including clubs and maces. Some African cave paintings show people 
with clubs, along with tipped spears.

  Later, in the Copper Age, weapons evolved to knives, slings, and swords. 
Chariots were also used. In this era, domesticated animals were also used 
for battles (i.e. pulling chariots).

  In the Bronze Age, there were siege towers and battering rams. 
Chariots died out and were replaced by cavalry. As people were taking 
advantage of natural resources in the Earth, weapons also progressed. 
The Greeks were planning ahead of their enemy in order to fashion the 
proper weapon, and used a different style of warfare. They defeated 
the Persians, but the Macedonians emerged, and they had advanced 
weapons such as sarissas 1(long spears with iron heads), artillery,
catapults, and ballistae which were improved by generals such as 
Alexander the Great.

  The Medieval Ages spanned a large period of time, and saw great 
progress in weapon development. The Normans built castles for 
defense, longbows were used, and hand ballistas were invented. 
However, in this time period the Barbarians were invading the 
Roman Empire. They, along with other tribes, such as the Vandals, 
developed their own weapons as well. Those weapons were superior 
to Roman weapons at the time. They were weapons such as throwing 
axes, barbed lances, and double-edged axes. Later in the Medieval Ages, 
the earliest guns were invented. Handguns were also popularized during 
this time. Forts were built to both defend and attack. Indian soldiers at 
the time used tulwars, 2 or curved swords.

  During the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s, weapons evolved to 
new levels. Machine guns were invented, the revolver in 1835 eliminated 
the need for standard swords, steam engines changed war at sea, hulls 
in ships were made of iron, and explosives, such as TNT and dynamite, 
replaced gunpowder.

  Finally, in the modern times of the 20th century, the tank was 
introduced by the British, and the Zeppelin by the Germans. Dive 
bombers were used by aircraft during WWII. During that same era, 
two cities in Japan (Hiroshima and Nagasaki) got bombed with atomic 
bombs within three days of each other. The hydrogen bomb, an 
extremely powerful bomb, was invented during the 20th century 
as well. In the Gulf War of 1991, laser guided missiles were used 
to great effect.

  Nuclear weapons originated in the mid-20th century, when 
scientists started to better understand atoms. Earlier, in 1898, 
Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium, which furthered scientists’ 
understanding. The earliest nuclear weapons were atomic bombs, 
developed by the United States during WWII. After atomic bombs 
came the first thermonuclear (fusion) weapons. These weapons 
would start the process of nuclear fusion when activated. They were 
planned to have been about 1,000 times more powerful1 than regular 
atomic bombs. In the 1950s and 1960s, many nuclear tests were 
conducted. V-1 and V-2 rockets, nuclear-tipped rockets, and ballistic 
missiles were a result of these. During the Cold War, intercontinental 
ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were developed, and produced in great numbers, 
until the signing of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT). The last 
known nuclear weapon detonation was performed during a 2009 North 
Korean nuclear test. 2

  Biological and chemical weapons played a large role in warfare 
over time as well. Back in the Middle Ages, the Mongol Empire had 
armies that used a deadly disease, later known as the bubonic plague. 
They would infect besieged cities by catapulting dead, infected bodies 
over their walls. Black Death, as it was later known, spread to many 
different countries in Europe and Asia, killing about 1/3 of the European 
population at the time, and many more people of the Asian population.

  Biological weapons were also used around the 18th century. There 
is evidence of the British disseminating smallpox-infected blankets 
among the native American population to infect them. As much as 
a quarter of their population died. These diseases likely came from 
Eurasia where many people there had developed immunity.3 However, 
the American population had not, and many died as a result. Much later, 
during WWI, the German Empire placed anthrax on Russian horses. 
In WWII, the Imperial Japanese Army targeted the Chinese with disease.

  Finally, there are chemical weapons. These weapons were used 
millennia ago, as poisoned arrows and spears. It was during the 
Renaissance, though, when chemical weapon usage was at its peak. 
In the late 15th century, the Taino people created smoke screens 
with peppers and ashes before attacking. Spanish conquistadors 
found this out in their travels. In the 17th century, armies started 
fires by launching incendiary artillery at their enemy. During WWI 
and WWII, Chlorine and Phosgene gases were used, despite the 
Hague Declaration of 1899 prohibiting “the use of poison or 
poisonous weapons” 4.

  Weapons have come a long way, from primitive clubs, maces, 
sticks, and stones, to guns, missiles, and bombs. They have 
changed, from simple sticks and stones used mainly to hunt, to 
the most advanced, dangerous, and feared weapons of warfare. 
As time passed, humans developed more, and better, strategies 
against such weapons. Even though weapons have undergone 
a very long history, and many modifications, there is one thing 
in common all weapons have: for man to kill man.

Alex completing his assignment with a computer program illustration presentation
of the above report.


Alex on my wife's computer.

Alex had to also complete an equivalent to a PowerPoint presentation of his report
in addition to his fully typed one
 (we used Apple's Keynote software - similar to PowerPoint - except in price...
Keynote costs but $20.00 - PowerPoint costs $140.00).

My wife downloaded the software...
showed Alex the basics...
and he took off and completed it in short order.








Alex set the fonts and uploaded appropriate illustrations for each era 
of major technological advancement in weaponry.  

Alex's school - Coral Academy Of Science - is very organized.

Students may complete such assignments and E-mail their video presentations
directly to the teacher.

Alex will be starting his next project tomorrow - for another class - Social Science.

He will be doing the same as the above...
except he will also have to present his Keynote presentation to his class.

The topic will be Ancient Japanese Civilization.

Although he still has a few weeks to complete both of his projects...
we always have him complete his projects as soon as possible.

As it is still Alex's Spring Break at school...
he is completing all of his projects now.

Since it is vacation for him...
he only studies 5 - 6 hours a day...
the rest of the time is free for him to enjoy.

We usually reserve his weekends for his projects...
but Spring Break allowed us to get way ahead of the game.


Yesterday, Alex studied 5 - 6 hours of Math.
He loves solving higher levels of his math in Alcumus.
He just successfully solved a level 22 problem in Geometry 
( level 25 being the highest).

He, and my wife, raced to see who could solve it first...
Alex won (again  :)

He enjoys, so much, making his Alcumus 
ranking and mastery levels go up
(Alcumus is a competitive math web site
from the Art Of Problem Solving).


Although Alex is still in the 6th Grade...

as I had explained to him...
the ability to...

Outline...
Research...
Organize and Present information
in an efficient and effective manner...
is a never ending story...
one in which he will be tasked to do ever more...
the higher he goes in education...
and, most likely, in his future employment.

What he is learning now...
will serve him well in life.

The key to doing well...
in really anything...
is to find a way to thoroughly enjoy what you do.

Taking great pride in one's work...
by being creative...
is an outlook that engenders passion.


It is the fool who does the necessary begrudgingly.

The intelligent person finds a way to make it enjoyable.


As the words of a great philosopher so grandly illustrates...

Just...a...spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down...
the medicine go doooown...the medicine go down...  :)

(Mary Poppins)



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