"Intellectual distinction is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for election to a Rhodes Scholarship. Selection committees are charged to seek excellence in qualities of mind and in qualities of person which, in combination, offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. The Rhodes Scholarships, in short, are investments in individuals rather than in project proposals..."

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book recommendation

I was appalled when I read a Washington Times article written by Amy Chua as a teaser for her new book Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother.  I won't even link to the book, it's so bothersome.  You can read my blog post on it at my other blog

My husband knew this article bothered me.  He knew I blogged about it (thank you for reading my blog, honey!)  So, when this article entitled Roar of the Lion Father appeared in the Washington Times yesterday written by Toad Zywicki, I was ecstatic.  Hooray!  The article contrasts Anthony Esolen's boo, release in November 2010 called Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination to Chua's Battle Hymn.

Anthony Esolen is a professor of Renaissance English Literature and the Development of Western Civilization at Providence College. A senior editor for Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, he writes regularly for Touchstone, First Things, Catholic World Report, Magnificat, This Rock, and Latin Mass. His most recent books are The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008) and Ironies of Faith (ISI Press, 2007); he is working on his next title, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Press, forthcoming 2010). Professor Esolen is the translator of Dante’s Divine Comedy (3 volumes, Random House), Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered (Johns Hopkins University Press), and Lucretius’ On the Nature of Things (Johns Hopkins University Press).  How can I NOT like this guy?

If you don't have time to read the article, please know Esolen's book and philosophy sounds very TJEd.  So, if your methodologies for homeschooling your children include 3 hours of mandatory instrument practice, required rote memorization of everything and no social outside interested, you won't like this book.  You should read Amy Chua's book.  Here's a snippet of an interview with Anthony Esolen.  Pay particular attention to the last answer.
What is wrong with “rote memorization”?
Nothing at all, so long as what you are memorizing is immediately useful (multiplication tables), or beautiful (poetry, ballads, songs in general).
What is the place of technology in education?
That depends. Are we talking about the tool known as a book, that offers a whole world to the young reader, or are we talking about the jitters of the Internet, that offers a lot of sludge?
What does sex have to do with imagination?
Ask the great artists and love poets. Much indeed; but little of it has anything to do with “sex education”, which I believe is destructive.
What difference does it make whether the child is a girl or a boy?
If we have to ask that, then already we have missed the wonder that is girlhood and boyhood.
What do heroes have to do with the imagination?
They are its lifeblood; children need heroes; it is a miserable thing, to destroy in children their natural longing to look up to greatness.
What role does faith play in the development of the imagination?
It is essential, not just for understanding the great art of the west, but for that drive in human beings to look always for what is more, gratuitous, exuberant, and mysterious.
Why do schools set out to ruin the imagination?
They do so because imaginative children are by nature difficult to herd. Schools are built for a certain kind of efficiency and anonymity; they look like factories, and serve many of the same functions.
 My hubby bought me the book. I'll write a book report when I finish!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


With the homeschool Spelling Bee coming up in two weeks, we are doing a lot of spelling enrichment at our house.  Even though this game does not contain words from our Spelling Bee, it is still one of our favorites!

I think what I like the most about it is that my non-speller loves it too.  Here's why - the dictionary that comes with the game is divided into fun sections and most of the words are hilarious.  The kids can't resist these:
1) Fancy Words for Regular Things
2) Tongue Tang
lers and Ticklers
3) Idiotic Insults and Captivating Compliments
4) Parts, Farts and Functions
5) Astonishing Actions
6) Wacky Wordplay

It has drawn in my non-speller because, while he is not a speller, he loves silly words, too.  I'll give you a few examples:

coprolite:  -n, fossilized dung
omphaloskepsis: -n, contemplation of one's belly button
alektorophobia: -n, the fear of chickens

Believe it or not, I've found the dictionary that goes with this game in the oddest of places (like the magazine rack in the bathroom and in the back seat of the van.)  I think that's testament enough to how captivating it is to kids.  I'll add a few words, every now and again, for you to impress your kids with and see if they don't like these silly words, too.

p.s.  sesquipedalian:  -n, one who uses long words

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Even the public schools are doing it!

Several school districts in the Twin Cities area are trading in textbooks for high-tech e-readers. 

Take a look!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

More free book sources for Kindle

Here are a few other resources for free books:

Textbooks free for Kindle!

A Yahoo! Group that I belong to just started a discussion about free books for the Kindle.  Besides the places I've pointed out, I found these:
CK-12 Textbooks - AP level texts for Science and Math at Amazon

The organization that is behind the program is CK-12.  CK-12 Foundation is a non-profit organization with a mission to reduce the cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in the U.S. and worldwide. Using an open-content, web-based collaborative model termed the "FlexBook," CK-12 intends to pioneer the generation and distribution of high quality educational content that will serve both as core text as well as provide an adaptive environment for learning.

Check it out!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Technology meets the Classical Literature List

I'm currently composing a list of classical literature for my homeschool. I'm using a wide variety of sources, including the Accelerated Achievement curriculum CD, The Latin Centered Curriculum by Andrew Campbell, Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist, The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessi Wise, the curriculum lists from Ambleside as well as suggestions from Books to Build On by E.D. Hurst and book lists from Creation to Present: A Catholic World History Resource by Marsha Neill.   

What I am doing, really, is finding out what books are available for download for the Kindle.   We got one because one of our children has a vision difficulty.  The Kindle allows you to increase both the font size and line spacing on the screen.  It also has a text to speech option with a headphone jack.  Probably the best feature for me is the fact that you can move the cursor to ANY word on the screen and it brings up the definition from the built-in dictionary in the header or footer, allowing you to keep reading instead of having to put down the book to look up the words. 

The Kindle has been an object of contention lately because everyone is enjoying using it.  Really, I didn't think I would like it, but I, too, am one of the contenders.  My emerging reader is using it to look up words in the dictionary and have it read the definitions to her.  My super speller is having fun using the Kindle for word games like Word Smith or Word Up (like solitaire Scrabble).  My husband takes it with him to Adoration to read a book he has downloaded.  I am using it to keep up with my book club reading.  The Little Women book club books are all pre-1920, therefore public domain.  So, using the browser in the Kindle (new test feature), I can go to Project Gutenberg and download directly from the website to the Kindle.

I have some pros and cons for anyone considering a Kindle for their homeschool.

  • Reasonable cost at $139.  It's the cost of 10-20 books I would have normally bought in paperback, ones that are freely available already.
  • Very user friendly - my 7 year old figured it out in 5 minutes
  • Great for visually impaired individuals - text-to-speech and the ability to adjust font size and line spacing
  • Holds mp3's so if you like to listen to music while reading, you may do so
  • Very easy to organize books.  We have them organized by reader.  Each user has a book folder.  It uses real pointers, so that there is a pointer from each person's folder to the bookso multiple readers may have the book in their folder at the same time.
  • Web browser allows for easy download
  • Downloads a variety of content (mobi, mp3, doc, pdf) via the USB cable
  • Downloads a variety of content via users' kindle account (you email the file to your kindle account and the file is downloaded the next time the Kindle connects to a wireless network)
  • Kindle downloads are cheaper than the actual paper books and always backed up on your account online
  • The eInk technology is very readable in sunlight and I simply bought a clamp on book light for reading at night while nursing the baby.

  • It has a web browser, which can't be turned off or moderated (no content filtering allowed)
  • Can't download mp3's via the web
  • Haven't found a good protective cover that allows me to use the text keyboard easily.  We've resorted to just using a neoprene sleeve while not in use (and most of the time it's not in the sleeve).
  • You can't share books among Kindles.  Not a problem for us since we only have one but we may find it troublesome in the future.
  • .pdf files are hard to adjust to fit the screen.  All the content from Accelerated Achievement is .pdf, so I've had to download originals from Project Gutenberg to make them more accessible and easy to use.
  • If drop it, we're done for...

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I will.  I am considering an iPad as well, since it is multi-functioning.  I have had Apple products in the past and found their "ease of use" almost condescending.  I come from a Unix, command-line world, folks.  I'm always suspicious of things that are "too easy".  Now, that being said, I am all for making things accessible for the kids.  I just don't want to have to port everything to Apple and I'm not a fan of mixed platforms.  When I was in the desktop support field (20 years ago), mixed platforms were my biggest nightmare.  But, I'm willing to give it a try since things have changed tremendously since then.