Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Not A Chore - An Economic Opportunity



Song:  Stairway To Heaven

Orchestra:  London Philharmonic Orchestra




Before I make my argument against the notion
 of a child having to do "chores"...
let me first show you what Alex had chosen to do.

Although I pay for lawn maintenance...
besides them wanting to charge an extraordinary amount
to weed the rock beds...
they wished to do so by spraying herbicides.

I never have any herbicides anywhere near any of the property.

It is not just for the rabbits and lizards which inhabit the yard...
it is mainly to keep any residue from affecting Alex.

Although there is weed block (a plastic sheeting) underneath the rocks...
after over two years without having to weed the rock bed...
a few hardy weeds have made an appearance...
and so, when my wife recommended that it would be a perfect
opportunity for Alex to earn some extra money...
Alex loved the idea...
as did I.

The yard is my responsibility...
I didn't wish to weed...
Alex wanted to earn money...
problem resolved.

(Although I don't wish to give the appearance of my being lazy...
I actually am  :)


Although we buy everything for Alex...
he still likes to save his money.

He enjoys seeing his account grow larger...
even if only by small amounts
(He is a natural saver.  Even as a young child, he loved to save
all of my change that I would always give him.
He would love to see how the money grew).

Pretty much anything Alex wants...
we get for him.

One of our great pleasures in life is to be able to make Alex happy in life.

Alex is very simple...
 and even though I often ask him if he would like anything special...
he often says that he has no special desires that have gone unfulfilled.

I know that what we do seems to be heresy to many parents...
that to not have a child have many chores as his responsibility...
that to buy everything for a child, instead of having him have to buy them...
that we will somehow spoil him...
that he will be robbed of the chance to build character through labor.

I will state my case later in this article...
and what I have to say will surprise many...
and hopefully, will give just as many...
reason to rethink what has come to be...
a societal norm.


Yesterday, I gave Alex the opportunity to make some extra money.

The job took less than an hour...
and I paid him $20.00 for his efforts.

He merely had to pull the weeds from out of the rock beds around the house.

I followed him around...
and with me not being one to miss an opportunity
to teach a principle or to reinforce a concept...
as I had noticed him pulling the weeds in an inefficient manner...
I thought, aha...
a perfect opportunity to not only explain a better way...
but to explain the reason through simple physics...
and the feedback he should be feeling in order to achieve
biomechanical efficiency.

Alex was using the tips of his fingers in a pinch grip to pull the weeds.

I had explained that the force necessary to effect the task was excessive...
and that he would have sore finger tendons after repeated use in such a manner.

I had told him to approach the weeds as low as possible...
 in a slight sweeping C fashion of the arm
(with the arm almost fully extended)...
 and to hold his hand vertically 
as if he were attempting to shake hands with it.

Then, by just a gentle bending of the hand...
with just the thumb gently clasping down on the weed bunch...
and with a 90 degree turning of his wrist to the outside
(not even grasping the weed)...
a friction hold would form.

It then becomes a simple matter of just leaning slightly back...
and the mass of the body effects the pull
(many of the "weeds' were larger plant suckers...
and so, were difficult to pull).

Very little muscular motion or force is used...
even on the tougher pulls.

I had told him that by pinch gripping...
the end of the (working) lever was far from the fulcrum...
which would then necessitate much more force used 
to achieve much less force applied.

I also told him that by then trying to use his arms to effect the pull...
he was wasting energy, besides not having the force that the body 
could generate far more efficiently and effectively.

I told him that when moving the body...
to always strive to get the most movement...
or the most amount of force...
with the least amount of effort.

The way to achieve this is to gently exhale as if you are sighing...
and to combine all motions into the space of that exhalation.

By sighing...
you enforce relaxation...
and the timing necessary to coordinate the body into one unit.

By combining all motions into one...
the largest muscles of the body move first...
and in a coordinated fashion...
which results in power coming from the ground up...
and efficient and effortless movement.


I know that all this seems a bit much coming from a lesson in pulling weeds.


However, it was far more than this.
It was a lesson in major life principles.


Alex thought my reasoning was sound...
he applied my suggestions...
he was happy to be weeding in an efficient manner...
and I was happy to have taught him important principles in life

(unless you have reached perfection...there is always a better way...
to always monitor situations using feedback...
to think things through...
and to constantly adapt to achieve greater efficiency...
not merely through bodily motion, but in everything...
as gauged by the results).


Now...
you would think that this approach would work with everyone.


Many years ago...
when I was still an inexperienced husband...
I noticed my wife being inefficient in the kitchen.

I thought, aha...
a perfect opportunity to not only explain a better way...
but to explain the reason through simple physics...
and the feedback she should be feeling in order to achieve
biomechanical efficiency.


Although my intent was pure...
 her reaction wasn't entirely what I had expected.

When her retort was the typical...
"If you think you could do it better...
then you do it."

Now...
had I thought it through and just left it alone...

Well, what I had thought at the moment would be a good idea...wasn't.

I had thought that a little humor would diffuse the situation.

So I said...
"It is far easier for me to just sit back and make recommendations".

Even though I had smiled when I had said it...
 her knitted eyebrows told me she had appreciated...
neither my suggestion...nor my humor.

Ok...
two lessons learned.

Firstly...
to tailor the lesson to the audience.

Secondly...
and perhaps most importantly....
when making recommendations to a wife about her kitchen...
don't.  :)






Alex worked happily.

He was even happier when I paid him :)

He did the work that I would have had to have paid someone else to do...
for a fraction of the cost, without the persistent hazardous chemicals in the yard...
and he got to have a chance to earn some money
(Ok...I don't have to pay someone else to do what I could do...
but as I have said...I am lazy :)

Alex did the work of a man...
he deserved to get paid as one.


Now...
some may believe that a child should be expected to perform many chores 
around the house for free, that it is his responsibility...
and that it will teach him responsibility.


My counter to this:

What I would really be teaching him...
is that by having him do for free...
that which is really MY responsibility...
is that a position of authority allows one to skirt personal responsibility...
and to assign it to those he sees as beneath him...
to somehow justifiably transfer his responsibilities
to those who are not in a position to refuse.

NO...
the yard is my responsibility...
not my son's.

His responsibility...
is to excel in his studies...
and so, to excel in life.

In this...
he performs admirably. 

Alex is also very neat.

He picks up after himself...
his room is always tidy.


So far as having a chore to teach him responsibility...
there is no chore which teaches more about responsibility...
no chore more effort inducing...
no chore more time consuming...
no chore more important...
than preparing for life through academic performance.

As a child...
Alex's sole function in life...
is to learn.

He is preparing for life...
and nothing will prepare a person for life more...
and nothing will transpose to good work ethics more effectively... 
than the development and daily practice of good study habits.


Physical labor is easy in comparison.
Physical labor doesn't involve much in the way of thought.

It is tedious and unnecessarily time consuming...
the only saving grace of which is to negatively reinforce the desire
to not have to perform such tasks for the rest of a child's life...
and so, to do well in school so he could then choose a career 
which he would love doing.

As Alex needs no such lesson...
lengthly chores at home would take away from his study time...
or from his richly deserved free time
(Although Alex is responsible for taking out the trash...
and for picking up the mail...
it takes but a few minutes of his time...
and it is to reinforce his organizational skill
for events not done on a daily basis).

A person may counter that if a child has time to play or relax...
then he has time for chores.


My counter:


A child who has time for chores...
has time to study.

Once he is done with the proper amount of his daily studies...
then he only has time for his free time
(we always strive to give Alex at least one hour a day free time...
a little more on the weekends, in the summer, and during the holidays).


A child who puts in tremendous effort into his studies...
needs, and deserves, free time to enjoy and to recharge himself...
to be free from the mundane daily tasks of those who don't put in the amount
of intense effort as does someone who takes his studies seriously. 

A child who studies well...
well understands real work.

To assign a serious student a chore for the "learning experience"...
would merely be an exercise in tedium.

A child who is subjected to tedium...
learns to adapt by escaping into his mind...
to daydream...to distract himself from the mind numbing
and senseless repetition in hopes of not becoming
the intellectually apathetic and zombified person 
who accepts this as the way things are...
or worse still, as the way things should be.

I say again...
nothing teaches a child more about...
personal responsibility...
determination...
hard work and excellent work ethics...
than does academic excellence through excellent daily study habits.








Monday, May 26, 2014

Alex Completes Linear Algebra / Courses From edX



Song:  Heaven And Hell - Third Movement 

Artist:  Vangelis



Alex just completed his Linear Algebra course...




and he had taken his Final Exam and received a score of 93% for the course.

While his score was acceptable (it is equivalent to an A)...
it also means that he had not fully understood 7% of the material
(the goal should always be 100%).

 Alex had taken this course along with his other school work...
and during his math competitions as well...
so, perhaps it is understandable.

Do not get me wrong...
I am very proud of my son.
He is self motivated in his course work.

However...
 as the old Asian Parent saying goes...
"Getting an 'A' in school...
merely means Acceptable" :)

As this course was on line through edX...
he studied everyday for 30 minutes to 1 hour
(only after he had completed his normal homework and other advanced work).

After his summer UNR course on Probabilities and Statistics...
along with his AP Calculus and AP Biology on line courses from thinkwell learning...
he will be taking a computer science course through edX.



I will also have a particularly challenging research and writing project for him
(the content of which is to be disclosed at a later time).

Summer is the perfect time for us to put his advanced learning into high gear.

The following is one of many University level courses which are on line...
and which are...FREE.

With such courses available for children to advance their knowledge...
you simply must take advantage of the great choice and availability of such opportunities.








The following is the layout of Alex's Linear Algebra course (12 week course).








Alex said he had enjoyed the course.

It had video of the instructor demonstrating the concepts on a white board...
along with some computer graphic demonstrations.

Another positive attribute of this course...
as with the thinkwell learning courses...
after the exams...
it allows the student to find out which problems were missed...
and the option exists to review and relearn the missed concepts
(of course... this will not alter the exam score).


Just to give perspective as to what is available now...
 when I was in college...and even later when I attended university...
there was no public Internet.

The most advanced home learning available was through television.
One of two such TV courses I had taken was...Cosmos
 (the original with Carl Sagan.  
The music attached to this article was the signature song
played throughout the series).

I got credit through a college by taking a course on Cosmos.
I watched the, then, new show on TV, and I had to go to the college
to take exams on it.  I also had to write papers on the content of the show...
which I then had to turn in at the college.

Now days, children may access these online courses...
usually 24/7, so they may complete them at their leisure...
and so, have them fully fitted to their schedule...
and all at their will and command.

And...
I simply must say again...
for FREE.

This is a perfect fit for advanced work for children who attend public school...
as well as for children who are homeschooled...
either full time or as a hybrid mixture of both (as Alex is now).

As a child enters High School
(as Alex will next school year)...
his grades will become an extremely important and permanent record
from which Universities shall determine the fitness of the child...
as a prospective candidate for their institution.

A child is simply not ready for a university if he just takes high school classes.

He must take AP courses...
and university level courses before entering. 

Once he enters University...
it is not so much the content which confounds so many...
it is the rate at which he must absorb the material...
and then must apply in the general as well as the specific.
This is what, so often, makes a child feel lost
(and so the high drop out rate).

By having a child already familiar with the content...
the format...
and the course load...
he will then be able to understand and apply his knowledge
at the rate necessary to not only keep up, but to excel
 in an academically challenging atmosphere.



Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Reading Log For Better Reading Comprehension



Song:  Everything

Artist:  Helen Jane Long


This is one of Alex's weekly reading logs
(the last one for this year).

Although this book is one of his required readings for school...
and the reading log is also an assignment...
the idea of a reading log is such a great way to improve reading comprehension 
that it should also be used by homeschoolers.

Although Alex often reads for many hours a day...
for books which are assigned...
he only reads for thirty minutes a day.

He likes to read his leisure reading books for longer periods at a stretch.

When I had Alex read the novel 'Musashi'...
I had him read for thirty minutes at a time...
and then I had him outline what he had read.

I then asked him to synopsize what he had read...
and I asked for the percieved motives of each character...
as well as what he would have done in their stead.

I also asked what he thought would happen and why.

By keeping each reading comprehension practice session to thirty, or so, minutes long...
it allows a child to more fully digest the material.

If the child wishes...
he could always read for many hours a day...
so long as he takes a break every thirty minutes to 
analyize and log what he had read
(For reading comprehension practice).

For leisure reading...
we just let Alex read to his heart's content.






We have made great strides in Alex's reading comprehension at home
by having him analyze his reading material
(along with his school assignments).

Alex is also fortunate in having had great English teachers at his school...
along with having had a particularly talented Social Studies teacher last year
(and part of this year...until the teacher was reassigned to another grade level)
who had stressed imaginative and advanced writing for all of his assignments.

As a result...
Alex is much more relaxed in our discussions of his books.

Reading comprehension directly translates to better understanding 
of all a child's subjects.

A child cannot correctly answer a question on material he doesn't fully understand.

It is not enough to merely regurgitate material.

As a child moves up the educational ladder...
he will be asked to analyze material...
and then to apply the concepts to hypothetical or unrelated real life situations...
to correctly analyze past actions...and to predict future ones.

Through the analyzation of material read...
a child will learn about perspective and motives...
which then leads to more accurate predictions of human behavior...
and so...
a rational basis for the prediction of results for a certain set of circumstances
which have human interaction or involvement.








Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Two New Thinkwell Subjects For Alex



Song:  Glimmer Of Hope

Composer:  Ivan Torrent


My wife is purchasing two new homeschooling courses for Alex 
to start learning this Summer after the Probabilities and Statistics course
he will be taking on the campus of the University of Nevada Reno.

Alex loves the courses from thinkwell and Plato.

He will be taking...
 AP Calculus BC and AP Biology...
both of which are from thinkwell.




Now these exact same courses are sold by prestigious Universities as an online course
for almost $2,000.00 a year or $1,300.00 for 6 months (unlimited access 24/7)...
PER COURSE!

My wife purchased the same AP Calculus BC course for 6 months for...
$60.00!

She also got the same AP Biology course for 6 months for...
$75.00!


They are on sale now for $120.00 and $150.00 respectively (usually $300.00 or so)...
and as my wife is part of a homeschooling network...
she gets a 50% discount.


To be able to supplement your child's education with this top of the line
online course work at such reasonable prices...
every parent should be part of his/her State's homeschooling network.

The networks are free to join...
and you need not be a full time homeschooler to join.



Just look up homeschooling and join a network...
and start your child on his way to academic advancement.

Although Alex had already finished Calculus I and II last year...
this AP course should give him a good solid review before he starts High School.

He will also be taking on campus University courses...
so this review will refresh his memory for the more difficult 
Math classes he will take.

He last took High School Biology a couple of years ago (Plato)...
but this AP Biology course should really get him ahead
for when he starts High School.

Alex is almost finished with his University level online Linear Algebra course...
and in a couple of weeks, he will be attending UNR for a summer course.

After he finishes the summer course...
he will start both of these online courses...
and I also have an extensive research and writing project for him 
to complete before Summer's end.


Yes, Alex is 13 years old...
however, he will be 14 years old this November.

There is just so little time to prepare him for life.

Just recently...
 I realized that in just two short years...
Alex will be getting his Driver's Permit.

Although...
before he gets his Driver's License...
he will attend two professional schools of driving
(one basic course before I start teaching him on the road...
and one extreme driving course after years of practice with me:
crash avoidance...
car manipulation in skids...etc.).

I will put him through years of driving practice with me next to him...
and I will put him through his paces in all weather and road conditions...
endurance driving - night and day...
long distance and long hours...
mountain, city, and country...
Sun, Rain, High Winds, Snow and Ice, Fog...etc.

Just as driving is a necessary skill in life...
so must academics be thought of in the same manner.

It takes thorough forethought and preparation.

Just as it takes many years of high skill practice to be ready for the road...
it takes many years of high skill academic training for your child to be ready 
for University.

Many children do not make it at University because they
simply are not ready for the rigor and demands.

By exposing your child to advanced courses at home
with online courses...
he will be able to get ahead of the curve...
he may advance at his own pace...
and he will be on the path to entering...
and eventually graduating from...
a University...
and so...
on to a better life.

By joining a homeschooling co-op...
you make it an inexpensive way to help your child achieve his dreams.

























Saturday, May 17, 2014

A Very Short Saturday Bike Ride



Song:  Fight For Life

Composer:  Ivan Torrent



I had researched a new bike route for the start of our Mountain Biking season.

It was to begin in the town of Verdi...
just 10 minutes from our house.

However...
I saw that much of the trail used roads with which had to be shared with vehicles.

I don't wish to have Alex mixed in with cars, for any length of time...
as part of our bike route.

Although the web reviews said it was a good route...
I had found it to be too dangerous to risk.

We followed an offshoot road for a few minutes...
and ended up at one of the edges of Toiyabe National Forest.

We stopped just beyond this sign and parked.


As we live in the North Western Mountains of Reno...
Toiyabe National Forest is just 15 minutes from home.



We decided to try the unpaved road which continued into the mountains.
Alex started unloading the bikes.






We then started peddling up...
and up...
and up...
and then we walked our bikes...
up...and up...and up.


Stop!

No more.

Time to rest before heading back down.

This road led up to a mountain peak...
and eventually led to the back way of Stampede Reservoir.


No...
we headed back to the car...
 loaded up the bikes...
 and set out to explore the back roads of Verdi
to see if we could find a flatter road to ride on.

Although we had not found a more suitable route...
our short Saturday excursion was not completely wasted.

We had driven past a restaurant we will soon try in the future.

As this is now the season for us to explore new bike routes...
sometimes they will not be what we fully expect.

They will, however, always be a new adventure to which we may look forward
in hopes of finding that Sierra Nevada mountain range gem of a ride.

Some time in the next few months...
my elder sister will be visiting.

We shall take her on the Lake Tahoe - Truckee River bike route.

Hopefully...
this time there will be no major forest fires burning in California...
ones which would occlude much of the distant views...
as had happened when Alex and I had last ridden it.















Monday, May 12, 2014

Alex At The Mathcounts Nationals - V



Song:  Journey To The Magical Kingdom

Group:  Future World Music



After everyone showered and changed into their suits...
it was time to go to the Awards Ceremony and Banquet.












I enjoyed watching the team members practice.

They are all so mature, and of course, all so very rational.

They had always behaved very well...everywhere they went.

Each is very spirited...but never were they rambunctious or disrespectful.

Each is so highly intelligent...but never were they snobbish.

Each had the reserve of natural modesty...
yet each had the fire of deep intelligence in their eyes.

Each was raised very well...as was demonstrated in their actions.

It was a pleasure to have known the other team members in our short time together.


The coaches of the teams were recognized for their tremendous leadership.


Alex had seen one of their pictures on the three screens on stage.

They had put up each competitor (for approximately 10 seconds) for all to see.

I had to wait with camera in hand...
turned on and refocusing on the main screen every few minutes...
ready to take a photo of each team member as they appeared
(they were in random order).







After our dinner...
each had this completely edible chocolate dessert.

After the banquet was completed...
the awards ceremony began.


The 1st place team was California.

California, by a wide margin, is the winningest State in Mathcounts history.


This tremendous young man was the National Champion...
from California.


You simply must see him perform during the Countdown Round.
He is the Merlin of Math.


The team jumped to their feet as the award for 
the Most Improved State Team was announced...
Team Nevada.

Last year...
Nevada came in 33rd place...out of 56 teams.

This year...
Team Nevada placed 15th.












After the Awards Ceremony...
we had to get to bed as we then had to get up at 3:30 AM to checkout 
and catch our 4:30 AM shuttle to the airport.






The team waiting for our flight out of Orlando, Florida.



The other parents on the trip.
They were very nice.  
The father had secured us good seats at the Countdown Round 
and had guided us to an area to capture the State Team entrance (Banner).

We had also talked while waiting for the team to exit some of the rides.


We were all boarded and ready to get back home.


Flying into Reno from Las Vegas.


After catching a connecting flight in Las Vegas...
we finally got back to Reno.

Although we had fun in Orlando...
it was so good to be back.

The much cooler climate here in Reno
cheered Alex up almost immediately upon stepping outside the airport
(we still have snow on some of the mountain tops).


I will be going to the University of Nevada Reno tomorrow.

The Math Professor (The one I had talked about earlier)
 was willing to accept Alex as a summer student.

I will be registering Alex sometime in the afternoon.

Now that Mathcounts is over...
we may now concentrate on getting Alex more advanced through the University...
and by having him concentrate on the AMC 10 and 12 competitions for next year.

After his Summer Session at the University...
I have a special writing assignment for Alex.

He is very much looking forward to it...
and we dream of making a fairly large societal impact with it

( Perhaps it is merely a pipe dream.
However, what better way to spend a summer...
than by chasing pipe dreams?  :)

More on this at a later time  :)











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