Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Common Items and Communism

Yesterday we covered the rise to power of Mao Zedong in China. Initially, his version of Communism made the poor people of China much better off. After all, he took away the land from rich people (and then killed a lot of them) and gave it to the poor people! But that's not really communism*, is it? That's actually theft and land redistribution. These actions could have been justified in the minds of some as a "good of the many outweighing the good of a few" scenario except that then he took the PRC in a really communist direction. In the Great Leap Forward, he had peasants' private lands consolidated into huge communal farms that removed individual ownership of even furniture. Among other causes, the lack of material rewards for individual efforts on these communes led to decreased agricultural production and famine that killed approximately 30 million people.

*   Communism, per Merriam-Webster: : a way of organizing a society in which the government owns the things that are used to make and transport products (such as land, oil, factories, ships, etc.) and there is no privately owned property

I wanted my children to understand the problems with communism, but because most of their time is spent with family--at its heart a very communal unit, especially our home, where I use King Solomon's method of dealing with fights over objects ("work it out or Mommy confiscates the toy")--I wasn't sure how to illustrate why communism keeps failing in a broader setting. I ended up using Play-Doh as an object lesson.

We have a family collection of Play-Doh canisters and Play-Doh shaping toys. Because it is arid here, Play-Doh dries out if not stored promptly and properly. Also, our Play-Doh tends not to stay nice because the children mix colors together and end up with muddy-colored stuff. Yesterday at the grocery store, I saw a sale on individual containers of Play-Doh: just $0.49 each! Each little girl got to pick out her very own color of her very own container of Play-Doh. When we got home, all four played and played at the small kitchen table with their Play-Doh yet never mixed colors. And, except for dd2, they cleaned up the Play-Doh off the toys without adult help and stored it neatly away in the containers.

Give people--even children--private property, and they'll tend to take better care of it and be less wasteful than they would be with common property. I pointed out to my children that their behavior with the Play-Doh illustrates one very basic reason why communism works so poorly.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Obstetrics Wish List

I'm at 32.5 weeks of pregnancy! Hurrah! The home stretch is in sight. My OB even gave me the "go straight to the hospital if you think you're going into labor" spiel this morning. :)

I've been reading a lot about childbirth recently, as I often do when pregnant. Modern medicine is amazing at helping women and babies get through the risky event of birth relatively unscathed, as is evident by what happens in countries that aren't as blessed. Here is a 2004 WHO compilation of perinatal mortality rates by country. The US was at 7/1000--average for developed countries--while less and least developed parts of the world had perinatal mortality rates of 47/1000 and 60/1000, respectively. I feel very grateful to live in the USA and have access to good health care.

However, there's always room for improvement. I have a short wish list of birth-related technology advancements I'd love to see implemented in this country in the next few years:
1) Universally available wireless fetal monitoring during labor; in a time when people are tweeting and Facebooking on smart phones about the progress of their labor, it seems really antiquated that fetal monitors are still mostly wired rather than wireless. It would be great if they could be waterproof, too, for those women who want to use birth tubs.
2) Use of the Odon device to speed up labor and help with obstructed labors. It may have been developed for poorer countries, but it can help decrease the hazardous use of forceps and vaccums in the US, too.
3) More accurate technology to measure whether the baby is suffering from oxygen deprivation during labor. It would be good if we could have fewer unnecessary C-sections and more prompt C-sections for babies beginning to suffer brain injury; unfortunately, at present we often can't know which C-sections were or were not necessary until after birth because fetal heartrate monitoring cannot tell us how much oxygen a baby is getting during his descent. This recent report of MRI usage to "evaluate fetal cerebral venous blood oxygenation" looks like a promising step towards measuring the baby's oxygenation rates during labor, although it's just a first step, for I can't imagine the adoption of a protocol to put laboring women into MRI machines anytime soon.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Finally some good news in history!

We just finished learning about World War II and the creation of Pakistan and Israel in our history studies. So much fighting, hatred, death, and destruction! We covered the atom bombs in Japan, the Holocaust, and the mass displacements of people when Pakistan was created. After learning about the creation of Israel and the continued security issues in that region, dd9 said it should be called "Problem Land"; it's ironic how close that is to "Promised Land."

To my relief, I get to tell my children about something good today: our country helped rebuild Europe under the Marshall Plan. This was a very positive part of our national history. Yes, the US did it partly to counter Soviet influence, but at its core, it was a large humanitarian effort, and Germany and France would likely be very different today had they not received this assistance right after the devastation of WWII. It takes time to rebuild infrastructure and harvest crops, and immediate aid saves many lives after disasters.

We even found a pro-Marshall plan propaganda film called The Extraordinary Adventures of a Quart of Milk (1951), which showed how good French roads made it possible for milk to get from a dairy to a factory to be made into powdered milk. It can be viewed online for free thanks to the Deutsches Historisches Museum.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ship Captains

Remember that saying, "The captain always goes down with his ship"? He (or she) is entrusted with the welfare of everyone on board his vessel and is expected to use his ultimate efforts to save the lives of his crew and passengers. Yet as we saw with the Costa Concordia in 2012, ship captains sometimes choose personal survival instead.

Given the importance of honor in Asian cultures, I suspect that this South Korean ferry captain is going to spend the rest of his life wishing he had gone down with his ship. He allowed himself to be rescued before hundreds of his passengers, most of whom were just school-age students, and those left behind most likely are all dead. I can't imagine the shame of living with having saved my own skin while doing nothing to save hundreds of young people for whom I was responsible. A Korean school vice-principal, who was among those rescued, has already taken his own life.  In light of the current suicide rate in South Korea, I wouldn't be surprised if Captain Lee eventually goes that route, too. The Korean ferry sinking was a tragedy for everyone involved.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Long vowels

Dd9 has known for years that long vowels generally say their name and that they are indicated by a horizontal line over the vowel. She couldn't resist getting involved as I was teaching dd4 a reading lesson today, butting in and telling her what the long sound of a certain vowel was. Just as I thought that we'd moved on and that dd9 was back to doing her own schoolwork, dd9 stood up, held her pen horizontally over her head, and said her name over and over again. She was being a long vowel. She laughed at her own joke till her face turned red.

I admit I inflict some painfully puerile jokes on my children, and I suspect that what I make go around is going to be coming around for a long time to come.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Kites

It's finally spring. We went out two afternoons last week and flew kites. Only one kite flew really well, though, and it was a flimsy little plastic thing that looks as though it might have come from the dollar store. Our bigger, fabric kites just never stayed up for long. The flimsy kite stayed aloft so well that I could get it up in the air and then hand the string over to dd2 to "fly it" for a while.

We hit the dollar store yesterday and bought three cheap-o kites. Also, dd9 used a garbage bag to make a diamond kite, which she wants to try out. Now we just need for the breezes to pick up again.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

#432 Carnival of Homeschooling: Homeschooling & Farms

With spring finally here--although I fully expect some more snow before the month is out because that's just how weather is in Colorado--for this Carnival of Homeschooling, I thought I'd look at intersections of homeschooling and farming.

Many parents, homeschooling or not, have a strong desire to teach their children about nature in-depth. My father liked to take us hiking, and my parents had us children grow a garden and raise chickens. One year we even raised a steer in our backyard for a while. He was rather bad-tempered (I wonder if he understood our nickname for him, "Dinner") and got out sometimes, wandering up and down our residential street, which taught us the importance of locking up gates securely.

While this is by no means solely a homeschooler phenomenon, I've seen many of my friends and relatives who lean towards homeschooling raise chickens and/or other livestock, grow big gardens, and dream of the little farm they're going to have someday out in a rural setting. Here are several blogs I found of homeschoolers living (or at least pursuing part of) that dream:
For those like the Bruggietales in Australia, who have achieved the dream of country life, it's a field trip for the children to go to the city where the buildings and planes are so close together.

I love to encourage my children in their desire to grow a garden. Last week, we focused our Friday schoolwork on learning about seeds and Colorado agriculture.

Of course, there are several carnival submissions that don't really have to do with farm life:

O'DonnellWeb gives us an  informative post on college admissions and interviews. (I can't help but point out, though, that he gives partial credit for his daughter's scholarship-winning interview skills to the nine years experience she has in competitive horse judging, which is loosely connected to farming.)

Henry Cate of Why Homeschool posts about how in both software development and life, it is often not the first solution but the second, third, or even fourth that turns out to be the best one. It's a valuable lesson to teach one's children.

Down a Rabbit Trail: Interest-Led Learning with a Charlotte Mason Flair submits this insightful post on narration a la Charlotte Mason.

Tea Time with Annie Kate shares a summary of the books in the Camp X historical fiction series about WWII. It looks like a really fun series; we're not Canadian, but I might be handing it to my children to read in a few years, especially since it shows that not all the German officers were Nazis (I'm part German :) ).

Nerd Family announces the Discovery Education 3M Young Scientist Challenge, which looks like an awesome contest. I wish my children were old enough to participate. The deadline to enter is April 22.

In closing, here are some free homeschooling resources I found on farming.
Thanks to all those who submitted blog posts!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Seeds at Springtime

Although we're getting a snowstorm tonight, it's still officially springtime, and my girls are trying to start their gardens by planting seeds in egg cartons and keeping the soil moist until the seeds sprout. Yesterday for our Friday schoolwork--usually light and consisting mainly of PE, Art, Science, and Colorado History--we learned about seeds.

For science we watched a YouTube videos on how seeds germinate. We were all surprised to learn that seeds need oxygen to sprout. It turns out that until sprouting plants can do photosynthesis to make oxygen, they need a little oxygen from outside sources. The children especially liked a time lapse recording of bean seeds sprouting.

For Colorado History, we watched YouTube videos on Colorado agriculture. Given a long local drought and my failures at gardening here during those years, I thought that agriculture in this state couldn't be very significant. Was I wrong. Besides Olathe sweet corn, Rocky Ford melons, and Palisade peaches, Colorado produces greenhouses of lettuce, lots of cattle and sheep, and even potatoes. Maybe I need a greenhouse....

For PE, I found a "farmer" inspired workout on YouTube that I had the kids watch and imitate. It was the least successful part of our formal studies on Friday.

For art, I told them about "seed art" (much like making mosaics with seeds) and showed them many examples of seed art from the internet. Dd9 was interested enough to pull out our bag of wild birdseed and make a little flower. Here's a photo of her work.

"just a flower"

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Carnival of Homeschooling will be here next week!

Hi! I'll be hosting the next carnival of homeschooling here on Tuesday of next week. Please submit entries to be included in it by 6 p.m. on Monday. The instructions for how to do it are at this link. I look forward to seeing all your great posts!

Carnival of Homeschooling

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fool's Homeschool Carnival

I will be so happy when this day is over. My girls keep yelling to try to surprise other family members or playing dumb pranks on each other (grated cheese in a sister's hair at dinner? really??). I need some ideas for harmless, genuinely amusing April Fool's Day jokes. There's a homeschool carnival up that makes it almost sound as though April Fool's Day could be fun. Maybe next year I'll try some of their ideas.