Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hallowe'en Playlist

Lightnin' Hopkins, Black Ghost Blues
Roky Erickson and the Aliens, Two Headed Dog
Mozart, Dies Irae
Robyn Hitchcock, Sleeping With Your Devil Mask
Tom Waits, Cemetery Polka
Frank Sinatra, Witchcraft
Roky Erickson and the Aliens, Creature With the Atom Brain
Mussorgsky, A Night on the Bare Mountain
The Pogues, Haunting
Carl Stalling, Anxiety Montage
Roky Erickson and the Aliens, Night of the Vampire
Hoodoo Gurus, Dig It Up
Bach, Toccata and Fugue in B Minor
Squirrel Nut Zippers, Hell
Roky Erickson and the Aliens, I Think of Demons
Camper Van Beethoven, Oh Death
The Judys, Ghost in a Bikini
Tom Waits, Black Box Theme
Robert Johnson, Hellhound on My Trail
Bauhaus, Bela Lugosi's Dead
Roky Erickson and the Aliens, I Walked With a Zombie
Carl Orff, O Fortuna
The Mekons, Club Mekon

Yes, I am stuck in the 80's. And I like Roky Erickson. If Keep Austin Weird is our civil creed, Roky is our high priest.

Monday, October 30, 2006

No Comment

A condemnation of those amateurish homeschoolers by a teacher in the Dallas ISD, home of the nation's most fascinating school board:
Critics of homeschooling say it is impossible for a parent to know how to teach a wide array of subjects without training.

"We are professionals," Dianne Birdwell, a high school history teacher, said.

She responds to the idea that public schools do not teach enough about faith or religion by saying that parents need to teach their children about those subjects after school.

"We know how to teach and you need to be their parents," she said.
And that's been working out so well.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Unsolicited Naming Advice

With the excuse of two dear friends currently expecting their second children, my thoughts have been turning lately to baby names, and the perennial attempt to come up with something euphonious, meaningful, classic or else five minutes ahead of the trend (or both--the holy grail), but not so trendy that the playground will be full of coeval name-mates (like all those poor Amandas of the '80s). Turns out there's now useful software to help with some of the decision. If only my mom had had this before she gave me a name that was common as dirt and already on its downhill slide into post-saturation unpopularity when I was born ... (*snif*).

For general principles on what to name (and what not to name) your spawn, there's no better name book than Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana, whose authors make the point that while most baby-name books give a list of names and a (purported) etymology, it's really more useful to know whether, having hiply named your child Thelonious, "the esoteric appeal is worth the beatings." Don't downplay the importance of name meaning, though; a friend was explaining to me the other day how her daughter's (lovely and original) name meant both "gift of God" in one language and something else charming in another language, and then asked me what Offspring #2's name meant. I had to stare off in the distance and admit it's old Irish for "drunk." My friend's reaction made me feel like I had named my little princess Chainsaw Pitbull. But truthfully, "drunk" suits her personality pretty well.

Speaking of Montana--and Dakota, and Dallas, and Brooklyn--are we finished naming babies after places yet? You'd think Paris Hilton would have been the kiss of death for that trend, but in the last month I have encountered on the playground a tiny Oslo, and a toddling Lubbock. Lubbock! Bad enough people round here name their little scions Austin and Travis (really, people, do you want the post office to be that confused? maybe you could just change the last name to "78701"). I think it can't be very long before I meet my first teething Waco.

Monday, October 23, 2006


That's what we used to call re-creating lab notes, working from the results you should have gotten and concocting experimental results to match. Now there's a whole new kind of dry-labbing: virtual science labs (HT Joanne Jacobs). The comments on Joanne's blog are mixed: on the one hand, this looks like a terrible idea--reminiscent of virtual finger-painting software (no mess!) and the whole phenomenon of "experiencing" life in textbooks inside a classroom that drives so many parents to homeschool; on the other hand, with growing class sizes and increased concerns about school safety (and liability), it can be a safe way to do dangerous experiments, especially experiments that were performed by the instructor anyway, with the students watching. Further, it seems that students using the virtual lab instead of the hands-on lab have higher pass scores on the Chemistry AP Exam. You don't learn how to fix an experiment that isn't working, and you don't get unexpected results that can teach you something else (these have been prominent features of homeschool chemistry); but you don't risk blowing things* up, either.

Virtual chemistry is of obvious interest to homeschoolers. In the standard litany of Concerns About Homeschooling, the corollary to "Parents obviously can't teach all the advanced high school subjects at home" is "You can't duplicate a chemistry lab at home." Putting aside the questionableness of the assertion, should the appearance of virtual chemistry, and the encouraging reports about its success rate, be good news for homeschoolers? Or is it bad news for public school kids, who may be losing one more reason for being in school?

The chemistry text we use, General Chemistry by Whitten, comes with CDs featuring virtual experiments which have helped Offspring #1 to grasp some concepts more fully than a mere prose description or an attempt to reduplicate the experiment at home. Many of the experiments, even with the fairly good home lab we're setting up, would just be impossible for us to do, due to hazard level or expense. A mix of hands-on and virtual labs seem the obvious--and for us, necessary--way to go.

*Great quote from link: "And people ask me why I don't like chemistry."

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sick Day, Redux

How about just one week where everyone is healthy?

Scheduled Monday assignments:

Math: Problem Set C from Saxon Geometry, Trigonometry, Algebra III. Complete Logarithm exercise D3.
Greek: Review vocabulary; correct errors on p. 71 of Hey, Andrew! 5; complete p. 72 adjective worksheet.
Latin: Vocabulary and grammar drill; further work on Unit 5 of Artes Latinae 2; continue translating "Baucis et Philemon" through "pocula lignea."
Science: Selected review questions on PP. 86-87 of General Chemistry. Lab work: Qualitative analysis of mystery compounds (TOPS Analysis p. 8)
German: Exercise B of "Adjektive: Eigenschaften von Menschen und Tieren" in Rosetta Stone. Begin memorizing Das Vater unser.
Literature & Composition: Read chapter 42 of Drums. Answer comprehension questions; complete "Words & Phrases" exercise; discuss metonymy and synecdoche. Begin compare & contrast essay for writing assignment 1 (p. 473).
Reading: At least 5 stanzas of Sir Gawayn and the Grene Knyght; copy any unfamiliar ME vocabulary into notebook.
History: Read Saint Louis and the Last Crusade (7th crusade). Prepare to discuss.
Extracurricular: Altar serving at funeral; evening fencing class. Practice chess.

Actual Monday assignments:

Watch first season of The Tick on DVD.
Read H.P. Lovecraft's The Colour Out of Space and Other Stories.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

40th Carnival of Homeschooling

At HomeSchoolBuzz.com.

Interesting post at Textbook Evaluator on the DOE's apparent endorsement of controversial mathematics curriculum Everyday Math. The Evaluator follows the trail to the actual studies that are supposed to prove the program's effectiveness, and discovers (surprise) that there's no there there. (Do follow the links: this is a curriculum so bad it was rejected in California, but is used or under consideration in plenty of other states, and now has a senseless DOE imprimatur.)

Since the horribleness of public school math curriculums are one of Eudoxus' top 5 reasons for homeschooling (he flipped through one of the locally used elementary school math textbooks back when we were making The Decision, and nearly had an apoplectic fit--and they say it's hard to get your husband on board with homeschooling!), this is a subject of interest to us. Amazing that homeschoolers get to pick among the cheap and proven effective Saxon, Miquon/Key To, and Singapore Math curriculums, and the public schools are still failing to figure out how to teach math. Even with both hands and a flashlight.