Last update: 2007-06-18

Growing and drawing

2007-06-18 :: (Nika)

Recently, we have been doing a lot of learning through our new garden.

You can read all about that at Humble Garden.

We have also been doing art. Q continues with her dragon artwork.

KD is now pitching in with drawings of family members and today, of a bus.

Sci-casts: Zeptoliters and tiny tiny bits of fluid

2007-04-20 :: (Nika)
What do you call 10,000 atoms of liquid?

Try a Zeptoliter

(sourced from Wikipedia)

This table shows you how we label various volumes of fluid using the metric system.

Recently, we have been listening to podcasts of all sorts (got a new computer that has the ability to play the multimedia we need, before we were deaf to the podcast world!)

A podcast, lasting 60 seconds, that talks about the way scientists can dispense a zeptoliter of fluid can be found at the Scientific American podcast site.

"Using what is thought to be the world's smallest pipette, two researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have shown that tiny droplets of liquid metal freeze much differently than their larger counterparts. This study, focused on droplets just a billionth of a trillionth of a liter in size, is published in the April 15, 2007, online edition of Nature Materials." SOURCE

"Our findings could advance the understanding of the freezing process, or ‘crystallization,' in many areas of nature and technology," said Eli Sutter, a scientist at Brookhaven's Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN) and the lead author of the study." SOURCE

There are many more 60 second scientific podcasts there for you to explore.

Here is a list of other science podcasts, have fun!

Parents - preview them to be sure they are ok with you.

Science podcast directory
This week in science
Science Friday
NYT - Science Times
The Guardian
Berkeley groks science (go Heinlein!)…

KD is beginning to homeschool now

2007-04-18 :: (Nika)

3 year old KD is counting everything, anything at all, including completely imaginary things. This is a shot of a piece of paper she wrote over as she counted to a 100. Hope you can see how she was writing in lines.

Auto-homeschooling is awesome.

We have been printing a number chart for her to count with. She will, completely on her own, point to each number and say it out loud.

find it here

As with most kids this age, she does it intensely, constantly, and completely. She will not stop counting until she hits her target (often 100).

Some of the things she counts are:
things she is eating
snow flakes
bits of playdo

She has to say a number if she sees it printed somewhere. That often gets her started again.

She is really getting place values. When she sees the number "35" she doesn't say "three", "five", she says "thirty five."

The ONLY drawback with this is when it comes time for time-outs. We do them where the child has to count out loud.. this is now no longer the trial is was before!

Baby O continues his crazy self. He is getting better at being up on his tummy and doing pre-crawl stuff.

Here he is this last Easter.

Q is taking a break from EPGY this trimester (most of the kids in her class are). We recently did some photo-safari in Boston's Chinatown.

Will post that at another time.

Here she is at Easter.

Here is KD on Easter too.

Q's video from the International Boston Seafood Show

2007-03-16 :: (Nika)
Below you should see a YouTube video Q took this last Monday at the International Boston Seafood Show. If you do not see it let us know.

More videos are coming of some nifty machines they had for processing fish and stuff.

There are some related posts at my food blog (Nika's Culinaria):

International Boston Seafood Show 2007: Frozen Sushi from Polar Seas - Delicious!

Post Preview: International Boston Seafood Show 2007

International Boston Seafood Show 2007

Fishing for some clarity - Well Fed Network article

Auto-design that has gone to the fishes

Ducktrap orgy

Ichthyological super models

King of Crabs

Birth of a New Essay

2007-03-07 :: (Nika)

Q is currently getting ready to work on her new essay in her Spring Stanford EPGY writing class. As you might imagine, there is brainstorming in the beginning (painful stuff for EVERYONE in the house, let me assure you).

The current essay-in-the-works is meant to be a work on personal experiences on one of three topics:
Growing up
Learning about disappointments
about what being a friend means

She chose to write on "Growing up".

If you come back to visit, you can watch the process of this building into an essay.

Today we have her premise and a bit of fleshing out of the idea.

Thesis statement: Growing up is mental as well as physical, and you sense yourself growing up.

The mental part about growing up is about feeling older and being older. The sense of feeling older is that years pass by, and you count the years, and you feel older than ever. You feel more mature by being able to do things that younger people can't.

The physical part is about getting taller, and stronger. When you get older, bigger, stronger, you acquire the ability to lift heavy objects and reach high objects. You concentrate more on activities, and are able to more control your emotions. You feel more mature and become more mature.

You become aware of various events and objects as you grow, seeing the world more and more. Events like the new millennium, you become aware of, because you see that there are only 7 years after the 2000, which you did not notice before. You learn about presidents that were in control while you were too young to know. You learn more things as you grow up. You start to understand what happened before you were born.

Happy Winter Solstice! May you have light

2007-03-01 :: (Nika)

(Through the portal © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)

Today is the shortest day of the year and tonight is the longest night. It is an important time for those of us who live in northern lattitudes because it marks a very real and very important occasion, the switch from loss of light every day to the slow return of light, precious seconds every day. I dont get SAD (seasonal affective disorder) so much as just sensitivity to light length and quality. On this day we celebrate the Sun and light candles at night in anticipation for the new year and rememberance for the past year.

If you would like to learn more about the winter solstice and traditions around it (ancient and new) try these links:
Winter Solstice wiki entry
Stonehenge wiki entry
Maps and layouts
Amazing Stonehenge photo gallery
Stonehenge clones and morphisims
Party at the henge
Modern Stonehenge Solstice Ritual
Modern Druids and the Stonehenge
Information on Druids and the Stonehenge
List of Solstice websites that may interest you
To mark the occasion, we made our own stonehenge cake! We printed out some layouts and photos.

(Stonehenge site)

Then we set to work!

We gathered the various materials we would need to build our stonehenge and sat down to the hard work of nibbling on ladyfingers and sneaking bites of frosting.

(Materials © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)

We trimmed off the ends of the ladyfingers and cut a few in half lengthwize (for the capstones).

(Cutting the stones © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)

(More cutting © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)

Q spread frosting on her plate as a foundation.

(Spreading the foundation © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)

KD did the same. Baby O worked on his nap.

(KD working on her henge © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)

The frosting had to be put all over the plate. Here Q is using an off-set spatula.

(Spatula in hand © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)

She had to be sure to get a deep enough layer of "snow" so that the ladyfinger stones would stand upright.

(Frosting "snow" © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)

Q studied the photos and layouts of the Stonehenge and then set to work constructing hers. If you look carefully, you will see that she stuck very closely to the actual layout.

(Frosting does an excellent job of anchoring the stones © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)

Almost done.

(A few more stones © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)

The henge takes shape!

(Henge-in-progress © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)

KD's henge is coming together beautifully. It did not last long tho. Alas, cake and frosting are too tempting for a 3 year old.

(Little fingers work the stones © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)

And voila, CakeHenge 2006!

(CakeHenge 2006! © 2006 Nika All rights reserved)…

Evolution vs. Creationism / Intelligent Design in Our Schools - by Q

2007-02-20 :: (Nika)

(Charles Darwin as a 7 year old boy in 1812)

As I mentioned a while back, Q was taking a distance learning course EPGY Writing last fall (she is now taking the next in the series).

Her final assignment was to write an essay on a controversial topic. What you see below is that essay.

Evolution vs. Creationism/Intelligent Design in Our Schools
By Q
December 6, 2006

The goal of public education is to teach children about the world so that they can get a job, to think clearly, and to know about the world. Most people agree that what is taught in school should be based on facts. This includes subjects like language, history, and science. These days, some religious people are trying to have religious topics taught in public school, and specifically they are trying to have Creationism taught along with Evolution. This is a big controversy and has caused a lot of negative feelings between some religious people and people who want to keep public school free of religious teachings. I believe that Evolution and not Creationism or Intelligent Design should be taught in public school.

In America, our public schools have traditionally followed the idea of government (which includes public schools) and religion being separate so that people can be free to believe what they want. (See this link about the doctrine relating to the Seperation of Church and State) Kids should not be forced to believe religious ideas that are different from their own, and they should not be taught that things are facts when they are actually made up myths. This means that religion should not be taught in school but in churches and temples or people's homes. It would not be fair to teach just one religion because each person has the right to their own religion and a public school that taught just one religion would hurts the rights of those from other religions (and those with no religion).

To understand the controversy, the ideas of evolution, creationism, and intelligent design need to be understood or defined. According to the Theory of Evolution, life evolved from simple ancient life forms into the species that we see on Earth today through a huge number of small changes called mutations from one generation to the next over billions of years. Even though Charles Darwin didn't know about DNA molecules, he is credited with stating the whole Theory of Evolution in the way we know it, which is that mutations that turn out to be helpful for a species' survival and reproduction are the ones that get passed on to future generations, and the ones that lead to death or less reproduction just don't get copied into future generations of a species. (On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin) The theory of Evolution says nothing about how life started or why, just how it has changed over time. Understanding evolution helps scientists better understand everything from how molecules in the body behave and came to exist the way they do today to how ladybugs got their red shells to why butterflies migrate.

People who believe in Creationism believe that one single all powerful supernatural being, usually referred to as a god, or just God, created the universe and all of the things in it, including the Earth and the living things on it, in their presently observed forms. There are actually many different forms of Creationism or creation myths (See this link). The ancient Norse, for instance, had an entirely different mythology that had a Theory of Creation with it. (See this link). Most religions have some kind of story about the origin of the universe and life.

Intelligent Design, as it is being used today, is a very recent set of ideas that argues that there are aspects of life and some molecules inside living cells that are so complex that they could not possibly have been formed spontaneously in nature without a supernatural "intelligent designer." Thus a supernatural designer had to exist before life existed. Like Creationism, Intelligent Design comes in different varieties, including some that say that a Christian God was the entity that had to be that supposed designer and some that don't. For the purpose of this essay, they can be taken together with all the different varieties of Creationism because they all imply and assume the existence of a supernatural being with power and influence over the origin of the universe and life.

One goal of the supporters of Intelligent Design is to have these ideas taught in public school along side or instead of Evolution in biology classes. From the beginning, public school teachers and principals and others involved in running the public schools have had a problem with this. (See National Academy of Sciences) Many believe that the two would clash, and kids would get confused almost to the point of saying that Evolution means that God created the universe. In 1925 there was a court trial that concerned just this problem. It is called the Scopes Monkey Trial (See this link). The basic idea was that it should not be illegal to teach Evolution in schools. The jury said that they agreed that teaching Evolution in public schools should not be illegal. Since then, many different states have tried to pass laws that make it illegal to teach Evolution, then trials have occurred to stop these laws. (See this link)

It seems like there has always been controversy when new scientific ideas have developed, especially those that suggest something different than the established religious ideas of the day. The idea that the creation story in the Bible is not the only true answer to the question of how man came to be has been brutally attacked for hundreds of years. It is no surprise that this controversy continues today.

I believe that the big conflict between evidence and fact-based science and Creationism / Intelligent Design would not happen if everyone just kept them separate, with Evolution taught as science in school, and Creationism / Intelligent design discussed elsewhere if people want to. But it seems like this conflict might go on for decades or more. We might not ever stop fighting about it because its very, very fierce on both sides, and it looks like nobody is backing down. Everyone is rushing to get a tiny bit of proof, or at least a logical argument, so more people will believe their side of the debate.

But the basic important fact is that that Theory of Evolution has a great deal of evidence supporting it ( See "Evidence of Evolution" for a summary of some of it; there exists a great deal more), and Creationism has none at all. No offense to people who take the Bible as historical fact and truth, but the Bible is a collection of myths written by human beings many years ago. There just isn't any scientifically verifiable proof that the Genesis story of how the Universe and Earth and humans that comes at the beginning of the Bible is a true explanation of what actually happened. On the other hand, scientists in the fields of biology, geology and paleontology have discovered a great deal of evidence to support the basic predictions of Darwin's Theory of Evolution, and those many individual pieces of evidence have been subjected to a lot of debate over the years and still seem to point to proof of Evolution. It's not any single piece of scientific evidence that proves Darwin's theory is correct, it is all of the evidence together that agrees with each other that makes a strong case for the factual correctness of the Theory of Evolution as we know it today.

As I wrote above, Intelligent Design seems very similar to Creationism because it assumes that a supernatural being played a role in creating life and guiding evolution. Michael Shermer, who is a philosopher and a regular columnist in Scientific American and Skeptic magazines, made a good argument about why Intelligent Design does not come close to what scientists would consider as a good scientific argument.

In an essay titled, "Not Intelligent, Surely Not Science" in March, 2005, Shermer wrote that Intelligent Design (ID) "is saying, in essence, that if there is no natural explanation for X, then the explanation must be a supernatural one. IDers cannot imagine, for example, how the bacterial flagellum (such as the little tail that propels sperm cells) could have evolved; ergo, they conclude, it was intelligently designed. But saying 'ID did it' does not explain anything. Scientists would want to know how and when ID did it, and what forces ID used."

I agree with what Shermer said. If we assume that science that is taught in public schools should be theories based on actual evidence and not myths like what is written the Bible, and also that recent ideas based on unscientific bad logic should not be treated like real evidence-based science, then clearly only Evolution should be taught as the real scientific theory about how life came to be on Earth. Evolution has a huge amount of evidence that makes it worthy of being taught as science in public schools. Creationism and Intelligent Design simply don't.



The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin

The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex by Charles Darwin

Wikipedia articles that are used for general background and not for quote evidence for proving things:

Wiki on Evolution

Evolution. (2006, November 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:08, November 17, 2006

Evidence of evolution. (2006, November 13). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:09, November 17, 2006, from

History of evolutionary thought. (2006, November 14). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:10, November 17, 2006

Creation-evolution controversy. (2006, November 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:11, November 17, 2006

Creation science. (2006, November 14). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:12, November 17, 2006

Intelligent design. (2006, November 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:12, November 17, 2006

Creation and evolution in public education. (2006, November 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:13, November 17, 2006

Teach the Controversy. (2006, November 17). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:13, November 17, 2006

Scopes Trial. (2006, November 16). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 17:18, November 17, 2006

Separation of church and state. (2006, December 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:27, December 6, 2006

Essay by Michael Shermer:

"Not Intelligent, Surely Not Science", March, 2005

Websites that are also just for background:
Tree of Life
Evolution for teachers at Calif Museum of Palentology
Evolution 101 at Calif Museum of Palentology

Challenger Jan 28 1986 RIP

2007-01-28 :: (Nika)

Never forget that space exploration takes a LOT of tenacity, guts, vision, dreams, and fortitude. NASA deserves all our respect for the work and risks they take for all of mankind.

Take a moment to remember that on this day in 1986 the Challenger exploded before our very eyes. Try to remember where you were when you learned of the news. Tell your children. Let them know how much you care. They will learn more than you could guess by seeing the concern in your eyes and hearing the story from your lips. You can refesh your memory by visiting this site for more details.

I remember that I was at the mall with my mom. We saw this huge number of people standing quietly in front of a TV sales storefront. We walked up and watched in our own silence, in our own shock.

A very similar thing happened when the US started to blitz Bagdad back in Daddy Bush's Gulf War. I was picking someone up from the airport. I saw a huge number of people standing quietly in a concourse bar, staring up at the TVs hanging from the ceiling. I stopped and stared for some time, in shivering silence, as scenes of apocalypse in Bagdad flashed on the screen.

NASA and affiliated agencies have suffered considerably under the Bush administration. It is our responsibility as citizens to demand that the Democrats repair and rebuild all that has been lost to Bush's Folly. It is for ourselves and our children.…

Homeschooling temporally challenged children

2007-01-08 :: (Nika)

Homeschooling temporally challenged children .. or how to homeschool your infant.

Pick up a rattle. Put rattle in baby's hand. Put rattle back in baby's hand until said baby gets the holding concept.

Guide baby's hand so rattle touches the baby's lips and tongue. Allow baby to chew rattle. Take pictures.

Recover rattle from older siblings who should be reading instead of playing with rattle. Start over again with the baby.

Its so easy, even an adult can do it!…

Carnival of Homeschooling - Week 53 - the Anniversary edition

2007-01-02 :: (Nika)

(KD at monitor, playing G'compris)

We are getting ready to change the homeschooling deployment technology AGAIN :-). (Ok, its more like adding to it) We will be installing a computer monitor on the wall (that is actually a HD TV) for Q's EPGY lessons (math and english) as well as KD's content. Baby O doesnt really need any baby-purposed content yet because the whole environment is his classroom.

Progressive HomeSchool was featured in this week's 53rd Carnival of Homeschooling! Its their one year anniversary too! Visit to learn about other homeschool bloggers. Its always an interesting place to go to to see what others are doing in their homeschool blogs and lives.…

Slice of Life

2006-11-16 :: (Nika)
Wow, its been quite a few days since my last post and look whats happened!

We continue to homeschool and adjust to baby-ness as part of the management of homeschool. Baby O is 5.5 weeks old now and very used to the chaos. He takes it better than I do most of the time. Heck, if I could lie down in a cozy bassinet and shut my eyes, I would be able to cope with the chaos too.

I got KD a cabbage patch newborn some weeks before Baby O was born. Since the birth she has gotten a bit more into the nurture thing (as much as she needs to). Today I found the following scene!

Cute huh?

Well, when KD saw me shooting this, she decided she didnt want all that attention on some cheesy doll and smelly newborn so she did this:

Cant blame here! She is too cute to not shoot too :-).

Q has been proceeding with EPGY Writing and is starting a 7 week project on writing an essay relating to something that is controversial. We/she chose EVOLUTION and the whole misguided "controversy" around it. It will be an excellent introduction to the politics of absurdity that America wades through on a daily basis. She will learn about queer perversions like Creationism and "Intelligent Design" (sic).

We had an election. America decided that its ALL about the corruption (thats my take home message). America decided its time to actually take its vote seriously and vote the BUMS out. Thankfully, thats what happened! The amount of angst and focus and anger that got us as a nation to the message we were able to send on Nov. 7 may translate into an electorate that will ride the new pols like the donkeys they are so that we get GOOD government. A government that is of and for the PEOPLE and not of and for Halliburton.

So with that in mind, we took this picture.

Modern Homeschooling

2006-10-24 :: (Nika)

(Q at the keyboard, getting ready for EPGY Writing © 2006 Nika)

Right now we are doing two classes with Stanford EPGY, Writing and Math. The writing class has a real-time didactic component once a week where Q sits down to a web served class. An instructor at Stanford speaks over the internet and also serves up various screen-based content as kids from all over the world listen in and also speak with their microphones. There are kids connecting from Europe and Alaska and I am not sure where else. About 15 or so kids are part of this course.

This photo shows Q writing up a book review to be posted to the class discussion board and also commenting on some of the other kid's posts. The level of writing and critique is set quite high, Q is having to work to reach up to the level needed.

Its great stuff, not always easy by any means. One thing that keeps her interested is the interactions with the instructor and the other kids.…

News Bubbles

2006-10-16 :: (Nika)
I am trying this new widget and deploying it in this post. If it turns out interesting, it might be integrated into the site design.

News Bubbles
Newzbubble gathers most of the major news feeds (depending on the edition you select) renders them as bubbles and allows you to see which stories are the most popular.

About the author
Vincent Maher is the director of the New Media Lab at the Rhodes University School of Journalism & Media Studies. Feel free to email him if you have suggestions, or visit his blog.

Our baby has arrived

2006-10-10 :: (Nika)

Its hard to get online these days so here is a quikie update.

Our little boy, Baby O, was born 10/7/06 at 7:20 pm (EST).

8 lbs 8 oz. 22 inches long 15 inches head circumference.

We went in on Saturday because I thought my water had broken (had not). They could not get a good heart tracing in the usual spots, only up high on the tummy.

Turns out that our little guy was frank breech. Sitting yoga style, like a little zen master, full lotus.

I knew it was time but the cervix wasnt filling the medical criteria.. they were going to send me home to do a c-section later next week.

As I am a hypnobirthing mom.. I concentrated on the cervix and then before we knew it we fit the criteria (dilation). So I was being prepped for a c-section.. all the lovely needles and scary ideas.

I continued to lay there with more and more labor, doing my hypnobirthing, thinking about how I had seen a video of a mom who turned her breech baby by hypnosis..

Docs came to check and, against all odds, the baby had flipped and we avoided a c-section! The docs were blown away.. I was in labor so I didnt care if they were impressed, I wanted pain relief at this point.

NEVER got it!

I had two epidurals and neither worked at all.. so it was a "natural" birth for me and it was hard-fought I tell you. Delivery was fine for the little one, I was thanking dieties it was over, the doc's ears were burning from my indelicate language that came out of no where! (I never expected to do that, ever, but I survived!)

All apgars were 9s, he is a professional eater, very calm. All that interuterine zazen helped make him my second meditative hypnobirthed baby. So glad its the last labor!

Eggstra Eggstra - A heads up

2006-09-24 :: (Nika)

(Zygote © 2006 Nika)

That time is almost nigh, the baby is almost done, his appearance is just around the corner. I may not be able to keep up on this blog as much as I have in recent times but its not because I bored with this, its just tiring to just sit at the keyboard! Photo shoots are also a bit more tiring than usual so its harder to get those going as well.

I am hoping to pace myself through the next few weeks to a couple of postings a week on both my blogs.

Dont go away! :-) I know you wont.

Eggs hold great potential and they hide special treasures.

(Challah eggs © 2006 Nika)

Early gestation is a quiet hopefully calm thing.

(Eggland's Best © 2006 Nika)

Sometimes gestation can make you batty

(Screaming eggs © 2006 Nika)

If you open yourself to it, it can be a transcendant inward spiraling journey

(Spiral egg © 2006 Nika)

Or it can make you feel like we are in the End Times (sic)

(Sidewalk egg © 2006 Nika)

All of a sudden, its all over and then other types of fun start!

(Post labor © 2006 Nika)

Hopefully one ends up with a well cooked outcome

(Heart o' Gold © 2006 Nika)

And not scrambled brains!

(A perfect scramble © 2006 Nika)…

Another harvest for Q

2006-09-21 :: (Nika)

(Thumbelina carrots © 2006 Nika Boyce)

Ages ago we planted some thumbelina carrots (Daucus carota sativus) and a variety of eggplants in small containers on the deck. I thought this would be lots of fun for my oldest, Q, to grow, pick, and eat.

(Sprouting thumbelina carrots © 2006 Nika Boyce)

(Thumbelina carrot tops © 2006 Nika Boyce)

At one point we had these wild mushrooms growing around the carrots

(Mushrooms from the planter of the thumbelina carrots © 2006 Nika Boyce)

Yesterday Q decided it was time to harvest the little guys and has been enjoying their sweet flavor and cute look.

(Thumbelina carrots © 2006 Nika Boyce)

(Thumbelinas and one white eggplant © 2006 Nika Boyce)…

Quiet moments, learning

2006-09-20 :: (Nika)

(KD in the sun © 2006 Nika Boyce)

We didnt start homeschooling Q until 4th grade and we had been through a painful process that turned out to be pretty unproductive in the local schools. In the end even the teachers, counselors, and administrators agreed that homeschooling was the best fit solution.

As a result, Q has quite a lot of difficult deschooling to do. Heck, we all do.

KD, at 3 years, is fresh and unspoiled by the "system" and is also, obviously, a completely different child! It is so much fun to get her into more structured learning experiences because she reacts to it without any negative bias. Unbelievably refreshing. This is common to all little ones at this age, homeschooled or not. Its what allows them to learn so well. I wish I had given that gift to Q but hindsight is mostly 20/20 and we have learned a few things through Q's experiences that help with KD.

(Q doing her Hiragana © 2006 Nika Boyce)…

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 38

2006-09-19 :: (Nika)
I was invited to participate in this week's Carnival of Homeschooling, very exciting! I have run community events on my other blog, Nika's Culinaria, but have been really low key with this blog.

Welcome to all you new visitors from the CoH!

The featured post for my part of CoH is a post I did on Phylogeny and Evolutionary Biology.

I hold a PhD in Cell and Developmental Biology and was trained with mechanism and biological networks as a very prime concept. There is no holistic understanding of Biology and many sciences without an understanding of the evolutionary relationships between chemical species, molecular species, organism species, ecosystems, and other meta-level systems. Its a very complex and beautiful thing.

I hope that more homeschooling families embrace science more fully if for no other reason than to immerse themselves in what can be an infinitely interesting universe.

After all, it IS our universe, might as well revel in it's beauty!

I created this blog out of a need and desire to meet like-minded progressive homeschooling families out there. I have "met" many and each has been a dear wonderful person and family. My only regret is that we are all so darn busy that I dont have a stronger relationship with my fellow progressive homschoolers. I continue to blog in the hopes that it WILL happen, eventually :-).

This blog is a documentary at times of what my older daughter Q is doing, what her little sister KD is doing, what I am doing, sometimes its off topic political comments, sometimes its science and math and geography.

I dont know if readers are put off or appreciate the uneven texture of the blog but thats just the way my mind and our lives work!

I am due to have the third and last addition to our family in the middle of October (hope we make it to full term) and then I am hoping to get to a few meta-homeschool projects.

Without a hard commitment but rather a statement of intent, I am hoping to:
- get our homeschool electronics concept more launched
- I am also working on an online classroom (based on Moodle) that will, with the help of everyone who is interested, provide an online co-op experience driven by parents and children
- continue with our podcasts
I appreciate you visit, drop a comment, inroduce yourself!…

Genius - meaning and practice

2006-09-18 :: (Nika)

So this morning I could not sleep past 5 am (good practice for when the baby comes I guess) and I found myself watching Sanjay Gupta's program called "Genius: Quest for extreme brain power" on CNN.

I was left with mixed feelings.

Its great that they have put together this show and the site. I am sure it represents a lot of work and it does a respectable job of illustrating the extreme disservice our public schools pay to our gifted children (especially here in Massachusetts). It also points out how NCLB has further devastated gifted programs.

"NCLB: No child left behind, no child leaps forward" is my motto relating to this boondoggle of a republican travesty.

I think my negative reaction lies in this impression that is given that genius children are destined for greatness and that is how they SHOULD actualize. What I mean is that if a child has an IQ over 145, they must be hyperachievers to truly reach "full potential".

I find that offensive. Our minds are not only for the use of the State or Race. How we succeed or not should be by our OWN definition.

Even more importantly, this program doesnt deal with the reality of most gifted kids (and adults) - asymmetrical giftedness. VERY few kids are globally gifted. This program does not explore that and can mislead parents of kids who are profoundly gifted in one area and who are average or challenged in other areas to never identify the needs of their kids.

It doesnt deal with Dual Exceptionality (those who are gifted and have a disability or are gifted and have ADHD).

"These children show a greater degree of asynchrony among cognitive, social and emotional areas of development, and much greater variation in their ability to act maturely. Cognitive deficits, compared to other gifted children, are shown in less ability to think sequentially, to use working memory adequately, to solve problems using part to whole relationships, and to reason inductively especially since they have trouble picking out the main or salient feature among data. Gifted children with AD/HD, compared to gifted peers, complete less work, tend to try to hurry through it, often change topics on projects, or take inordinately long to complete simple exercises. They find it particularly difficult to work in groups, even groups of gifted children. Gifted children with ADHD also find completing tasks less rewarding than do other gifted children, that is, for many, the intrinsic reward of completion is not as satisfying to them. On the other hand, when working on a self-chosen activity, gifted children, with and without AD/HD, are able to immerse themselves in the task and work for long hours without much external reinforcement. This ability to hyperfocus, the falling into "flow" (Csikszentmihalyi, 1996), is what makes creative work so satisfying to so many gifted children, whatever their other problems."
Our journey with our profoundly gifted dual exceptional child (and love of my life) into homeschooling is just beginning. There is no way to buy a curriculum off the shelf and motivation is ALWAYS the hard part.…

Dear Flickr Friend has passed

2006-09-17 :: (Nika)

We have never held or seen this kitty in person but we fell in love with him on flickr (and his wonderful dad Kenny who we send our thoughts and love today).

He may have lived and died in far away Kuala Lumpur but we could see through his lovely photos that he was a sweet soul.

Rest In Peace little Tino…

On the Origin of Disco Species

2006-09-15 :: (Nika)

(Sabre Tooth Tiger, fitted out in disco gear © 2006 QB)

Q watched a Science Channel documentary on the Sabre Tooth Tiger the other day. I was reading so I didn't watch it with her, so I am not exactly sure what spurred the following piece that Q wrote. After the program, she came to me with a gleam in her eye and said, "You know, Sabre Tooths COULD have worn disco clothes". Her assertion was that we could not really rule it out per se because the fossil record didnt negate it or support it. I thought it was a great beginning, so I asked her to draw and write on it.

That drawing is at the top, the writing is below.

On the Origin of Disco Species, according to Q:

"I made a picture about saber-toothed tigers with disco clothes. It looks like a bear with a disco fur. It has a disco hair head. Sometimes I think it is like a lion. It's really weird but cool.

It is very possible that they wore them and the clothes rotted when they died and are not there anymore like the flesh. The bones are the only thing that remained and that the colors on their teeth rotted away because of the tar pulling on the color.

They might have been very civilized creatures. They might have had cities that just rotted because this was a few million years ago. Maybe they took the hides of their prey and made huts.

On the other hand, maybe they made a lot of paint. Or they just lived normal lives as big lions with gigantic teeth.

Disco clothes really sound like they would give away the saber tooth to the prey and the prey would get a head start, letting it get away and the saber tooth tiger dying of hunger. If that happened then the tigers would die out and they could not stumble into a tar pit. Therefore, they must have just had brown fur and normal colored teeth.

Still they might have had inner teeth that were colored. They do not show that often when they are hunting. Only when they bit stuff that it might show if they had it colored. Maybe they would have a rainbow tail fluff thing.

I really think that my picture that I drew really looks like a saber-toothed tiger dressed in clothes. Sometimes it looks like a big bird with wings and a clown nose but I do not really want to draw another one.

Millions of years ago, saber-toothed tigers roamed the lands and we do not know their colors. If they did have disco clothes, that would be astounding."

Soon Q will be starting the distance learning Stanford EPGY English Expository Writing Course (ages 9-11). It will be great to see how they work with kids to develop their writing skills. The course is deployed online as well as voice-based group lessons.…

Old Sturbridge Village Homeschool Day!

2006-09-13 :: (Nika)

(Musket demonstration © 2006 Nika Boyce)

Q and I spent the day yesterday at Old Sturbridge Village at their homschool day. We got to meet several of the homeschooling families from nearby Worcester, was wonderful!

The day was astounding in it's beauty.

Here is some information from their site about homeschool day at OSV:
Join us for an event day designed for Home School families. We offer you and your children the opportunity to visit the Village and engage in hands-on activities and participatory programs. This is a great opportunity for children to gain exposure to many aspects of 1830's New England life in an interactive way.
We did it pretty much freeform activities, they had more structured things but we have been here before and like to do certain things.

We had a picnic on the common (way too expensive sandwiches from Micknucks Fresh Marketplace in Stubridge - I am boycotting them, I recommend you do the same, their customer service is simply pathetic).

We walked around a bit and then saw a musket firing demonstration.

(Musket demonstration - the fire © 2006 Nika Boyce)

(Musket demonstration - the smoke © 2006 Nika Boyce)

The kids played 10 pins in the bright sunshine

(10 pins © 2006 Nika Boyce)

We then went to the pottery demonstration, early, only to wait MORE than an hour for Q's turn! We have never had to wait so long before.

(Getting ready to make a clay pot © 2006 Nika Boyce)

(Throwing the clay pot © 2006 Nika Boyce)

In that hour, I had time to contemplate life, watch how the kids related with each other and how some parents let their kids run wild! (even little ones)

I also took a few photos of the scene around the pottery barn.

(Pottery barn door © 2006 Nika Boyce)

(Field near the demonstration farm, one of my favorite places but no pics of that because we didnt visit there yesterday © 2006 Nika Boyce)…

Bush's failure is his legacy

2006-09-11 :: (Nika)

Disney's and ABC's "Path to 911" propaganda - what you can do

2006-09-10 :: (Nika)

(Graphics credit: fubar of Needlenose)

How is this anything but Terror Porn?

As distributed from DailyKos


A large rebuttal project is underway to combat the lies that will be broadcast on ABC tonight. We need your help NOW. There are only a few hours before a bare-bones site must go live.

The site will be at, with many other similar domains purchased by generous Kossacks redirecting there, as well.

You can help now by doing some distributed research for content. It is good to post here, but please also go to the message board set up specifically for this project:

Register there and help flesh this thing out.

Also, if you have any special skills to contribute, or iron-clad, crashproof server space, etc., please e-mail anothermassachusettsliberal, who is coordinating the team.

Here is what we need you to collect:

- Links to Statements/Letters of Objection
- FALSE Reviews/Articles: Defamation Accomplished
- Links to Primary Source Documents
- Links to ABC/Disney Statements
- Timeline Links
- Links/Info for Actions to Take

In addition, you can also help with the following:

- Ideas for content, organization, navigation, etc. Brainstorm.
- Purchasing likely domain names and forwarding them to the site above.
We only have a few hours to do this. We want something basic and live by the time the movie airs.

YOU can help make this happen.

(AnotherMassachusettsLiberal (the site developer) will be along later to post, as well. Please pardon a bit of repetition today. The time crunch is vicious on this one.)

Update: Please DO feel free to spread the word to other friendly sites. I don't have time to post everywhere, so I need your help in gathering volunteers. Try not to be obnoxious about spamming, of course.

In Memory of Steve Irwin & a Q Tribute

2006-09-05 :: (Nika)

The following is a tribute written by Q.

Steve Irwin was a man who changed the world of animal protection and science. He and his wife Terri captured and released countless crocodiles and alligators. I am really shocked that he died. He was a person that I learned a lot from. I learned that crocodiles are different from alligators by their teeth. He took care of hundreds of animals at the Australian Zoo. He released countless more. He died from a stingray wound through the heart.

According to the Wikipedia article about Steve Irwin on the day of his death,
"Shortly after 11:00am local time on 4 September 2006, Irwin was fatally pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while diving in Queensland's Batt Reef, which is part of the Great Barrier Reef. The events were caught on camera and the footage is now in the possession of Queensland Police."

News reports said that Irwin was snorkeling in shallow waters while being filmed for a kids' nature show to be hosted by his eight-year-old daughter, Bindi.

The Wikipedia entry cited news reports that said, after reviewing the footage of the incident and speaking to the cameraman who recorded it, marine documentary filmmaker and former spearfishing champion Ben Cropp speculated that the stingray
"felt threatened because Steve was alongside and there was the cameraman ahead..."

Cropp was quoted saying that, in such a case, the animal responds by automatically flexing the serrated barb on its tail, which is up to 30 centimeters (roughly 12 inches) in length, upward. In this case, the motion struck Irwin's chest and pierced his heart.

The Steve Irwin Wikipedia article cited reports that
"crewmembers aboard his boat called emergency services in the nearest city of Cairns and administered CPR as they rushed the boat to nearby Low Isle to meet a rescue helicopter. Medical staff pronounced Irwin dead when they arrived a short time later."

Steve Irwin wrestled 12-foot long boas and pythons. He usually was always trying to find animals in need of help. He also tried to stop crocodile farmers and other exotic animal farmers. He called them "Hitlers". Sometimes he got bitten badly and couldn't film for many weeks.

Steve Irwin died instantly if the news is correct. I really wish he didn't die. He was a person that the world of animal protection needed.…

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Progressive HomeSchool


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Progressive HomeSchool