Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fire On The Mountain!

This week we took our annual vacation to Jellystone Park in Luray, VA. The first night there arose a fierce thunderstorm with strong winds. In the morning we noticed smoke rising from the mountain in front of us (called Neighbor Mountain). Fire on the mountain! Run, boy, run!

[] Dozens of firefighters hiked up steep mountain trails in triple-degree heat Friday, as efforts continued to contain a pair of unusual summer wildfires burning over hundreds of acres in the Shenandoah Valley.

Drivers headed into downtown Luray could see a white haze enveloping the top of Neighbor Mountain in Shenandoah National Park.

The fire on Neighbor Mountain was first reported Tuesday morning. The cause is under investigation. As of Friday afternoon, the blaze was not contained and had spread from 200 to 800 acres, said Shenandoah National Park spokeswoman Karen Beck-Herzog.

From what we could see only the underbrush is burning and not the tree canopy itself. If it stays an underbrush fire, it will be much easier to contain and will ultimately be "healthy" for the forest. If it becomes a canopy fire, then the trees themselves will die and it will become dangerous and difficult to contain.

It burned all week and is still burning as of this writing. At night there was an orange glow and you could see the fires burning. We had to reassure the Nodlings that we were in no immediate danger.
 It sure made for some interesting counterpoint to our vacation. What did you do this summer? Oh, the usual: went swimming, made s'mores, watched a forest fire ...

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Thou Shalt Not Compare

The first Commandment of raising school-aged children and grades is: Thou shalt not compare one child with another.  

Everybody knows this rule and follows it diligently because otherwise No-Good-(TM)-can-come of-it and children-only-end-up-with-bruised-egos-and-otherwise-avoidable-misunderstandings.

But I'm breaking that rule to illustrate a point. Hey, the Nodlings don't read my blog and you probably don't either. If that makes me a bad parent, so be it.

I don't compare them to each other when their report cards come home, I always take them individually and review them against their prior performance or what we know to be their ability. They are still young enough that they get an "effort" grade along with the academic grade. I value that more highly than the letter grade they earn. As long as they are reaching their potential, I'm satisfied, and they get praise for that.

But what exactly is their potential? How can I help each one if I don't know? Short of an IQ test, we have to rely on experience, report cards, and periodic test scores. There is one set of tests they take annually that gives me a glimpse into their abilities: the ACT (or in our case TerraNova testing).

The results show up in neat little bar charts and percentiles. The percentile scores indicate that they scored better than X percent of everybody else who took the test for that grade level. That gives me an idea of their potential.

By graphing the results, I wanted to see the shape of their abilities. (Hey, I'm a picture guy; that's the way that things make sense to me.)  That hopefully will help me to understand each Nodling, the strengths and weaknesses.

Now -- without exaggeration -- I have at least one genius and one mentally retarded child. Everybody else falls somewhere between that 40 and 140 IQ. That's quite a challenge sometimes. (I'd say the kid with Down Syndrome is easier to deal with than the genius, although the techniques are similar -- but that's another subject.)

Here is a graph of the 3 older Nodlings. The percentile range for "average" is 25-74, and "above average" is 75-100.
Both Blynken and Nod-girl have two scores in the "average" range and everything else is "above average".  Wynken has top-flight test scores almost across the board.

What is striking to me is that Blynken's spelling and language mechanics scores are markedly out of range of the rest of her abilities -- hmm, that might mean a learning disability (or a kid who likes to rush through certain tests). On the other hand, those scores are almost exactly average -- nothing wrong with that. Her report card grades in those subjects are actually very good; her other subjects tracked closely with her abilities.

Nod-girl's test scores and her grades were in perfect sync. That's my girl!

Wynken's grades underperformed his test scores by a consistent margin -- which is what happens when you don't turn in your homework in a timely fashion. (Not like he didn't have a constant reminder from us.)

Parenting a child with a high IQ is interesting. It's not that he thinks he's smarter than us -- he actually is. What he lacks is wisdom and the ability to put that knowledge to its proper use. Sorry, kiddo, you still need parents for moral guidance, experience, love, support, etc., etc. ;-)

The challenge is to know each one's abilities and encourage them to reach their potential. In the final analysis, however, no one is going to ask to see your diploma to get into Heaven. If we can do that for our kids we will have succeeded, graphs or no graphs.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chasing Tail

This black snake got his tail literally chased by an angry jay bird across my driveway and down two houses. The bird is unfortunately out of frame, but this snake was in a hurry.

The snake couldn't get away fast enough. It looked like it was running on its elbows. Funniest thing I saw all day.

Making Pasta

This is my first time making pasta (at midnight, why not?).

I used white flour, spelt flour (because I saw it in the store and was curious), eggs and a bit of olive oil. Rolled it out (would have been MUCH easier with a pasta machine) and cut it with a knife. Here it is hanging on a plastic hangar to dry.

I blame too much cooking channel. We'll see what happens when I cook it tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Classic Misunderstanding: Transit of Venus

There has been great excitement and also great misunderstanding about this celestial phenomenon called the Transit of Venus.

The transit of Venus occurs when the planet Venus' orbit causes it to appear as a small, dark disk moving across the face of the Sun. It happens with pairs of transits eight years apart separated by long gaps of 121.5 years and 105.5 years. Observations of the 1639 transit were combined with the principle of parallax, to provide an estimate of the distance between the Sun and the Earth and thus the size of the Solar System. (cf. Wikipedia)

This image shows Venus at the start of its transit of the sun.
NASA / Reuters

I was going to get a pair of binoculars and build a projection camera for the event, but because it was cloudy on the East Coast, the kids and I watched it on the NASA Edge Ustream. It was still an awesome spectacle that won't be repeated until 2117.

Scientists and people from ages past have been continuously fascinated by this phenomenon. However, there has been some confusion by us moderns about just what a "Transit of Venus" might be, so the crack staff at WBN research department offers the following clarification on a Classic Misunderstanding:

Classic Misunderstanding of the Transit of Venus

You're welcome.



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