Government Regulation: Good or Bad?

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011
Dollar bills and coins.jpgIn his video, Max Borders shared his concerns about rampant government regulation and its effect on small businesses.  Borders mentioned that it is essential to our economic welfare to encourage cottage businesses to grow and prosper and to remove the government regulations that threaten to crush the small business and entrepreneurial spirit.

Borders declared,
"The urge to regulate is nothing new...but the extent of the regulatory state today is unprecedented in history.  The problem in all of this is that regulation is like a hidden tax...when taxes go up it becomes more difficult for companies to succeed.  Likewise when these hidden taxes - these regulatory costs - go up, it becomes harder and harder for entrepreneurs to thrive.  What I would argue is that cottage industries are at the beginning of wealth creation."

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Please help me win a scholarship!

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
I have been working very hard to raise the money that I need to attend The Master's College through scholarships.  My goal is to double major in Worship Music Ministries and Liberal Arts.

I recently applied for a $3,000 scholarship through WyzAnt, where I write an essay about who is my most important teacher and receive votes on my essay.  I need to make it into the top 10 to be considered for the scholarship.  Will you please help me earn this scholarship?

Just go to this site and vote for my essay entitled "Dr. Englin - Bringing the spark back into learning".

Thank you so much!

Ben-Hur Book Review

Monday, January 24th, 2011
When I say the name Ben-Hur, what do you think of?  Probably the thrilling chariot race where young Judah Ben-Hur amazed the world.  Or maybe it was the story of Judah's life and his quest for revenge?  

For a school assignment, I recently had the opportunity to read Lew Wallace's unabridged book Ben-Hur and I thought I would share a quick review of it.  I had been well acquainted with the Charleston Heston movie of this classic story and had assumed that the book would be similar.  I was surprised at how different the two really were.
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How to get Wisdom

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011
For a writing assignment, I had to write an extended definition about a topic.  I chose to write about Wisdom.

King Solomon and the Bee“How much better is it to get wisdom than gold!  And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.”  (Proverbs 16:16)  Wisdom is something that can be very hard to define because it encompasses a number of different qualities – each working together to strengthen the others.  In today’s society, the word “wisdom” is often used interchangeably with the word “knowledge” – but this is a gross misuse of the word!  Although knowledge is a small part of wisdom, wisdom is not the collection of facts and figures to be foolishly spouted off to anyone who will be made to listen.  A wise person will share his knowledge at appropriate times so as not to humiliate or embarrass, and for the sole purpose of helping others – not to draw attention to himself.  This knowledge is used to give him the ability to make good decisions or to be discerning.  Francis Bacon said that “A prudent question is one-half of wisdom”.  A wise person is always ready to learn from others no matter how young or old for he realizes that he does not always have the right answers.  

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Book Cover of A Tale of Two CitiesFor school, I had to write a critical book review of  Charles Dickens' classic A Tale of Two Cities. I thought that I would share that review on the blog.

ATTENTION: Review contains a spoiler

It is easy to understand why Charles Dickens is listed among the great authors when one reads his classic A Tale of Two Cities.  This exciting novel is the story of a family during the French Revolution and their struggles to survive.  Dickens quickly captures and maintains the reader’s attention throughout the entire book, then masterfully shapes his emotions so that he experiences the same curiosity, nervousness, horror, and awe as the main characters.

        Dickens begins his novel with a puzzling enigma to catch the reader’s attention.  This opening statement has become one of the most famous lines in literature:  “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”  How can it be the best of times and the worst of times?  And what times?  These questions puzzle the reader as he next reads about a man who was buried for almost eighteen years then  “recalled to life”, about the curious actions of his caretakers, the Defarges, and about the love of a daughter who, having never met her father before, willingly takes him in and cares for him.  In just a few short pages, the author has peaked the reader’s curiosity and is ready to help him experience the unrest of the age.

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The Pied Piper of the Mack House

Monday, November 1st, 2010
Emily proudly displays her new fluteRecently, I have been bartering baby-sitting services in trade for flute lessons. I have learned many notes, some songs, and even a few duets with my instructor, Jennifer Douglas! I have been interested in the flute for at least three years, and at our church’s annual Celebrate Music concert, where they play fun songs and afterwards, let you try some instruments, I always went and tried the flute.

By about the second year, I realized that the same person, Mrs. Douglas, that I’d tried the flute with before was there. It went the same way the following year and finally, I talked to my parents about wanting to play the flute and they came up with the idea of bartering baby-sitting for flute lessons! It worked, and I am enjoying my flute and my lessons!

Guidance in Homeschooling

Sunday, August 8th, 2010
We have now been home schooling 13 years.  While the routine of it gets a bit easier throughout the years, the desire to do and teach your children more continues to grow.  I'd love to go back and do it all over again - there was so much more information to learn!  This morning I read this piece by Janice Southerland.  It is a beautiful reminder to allow God to guide us through our endeavors to teach and raise our children.  

School has arrived at the Mack House!

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010
Kelly in front of her sixth grade curriculumOn August 2, my 6th grade curriculum arrived. I am so excited!  I LOVE learning!  I took inventory, making sure everything we ordered had arrived, and then I sorted my books by subject.  I cannot wait until next Monday, so I can start school.  My favorite subjects are health and history.  I'm very proud to announce that last semester, my sister, Emily, made the honor roll.  My goal for this school year is to get straight A's!

A Case for Homeschooling

Thursday, July 8th, 2010
I have never liked writing a paper for school and never doing anything else with what I've written.  I thought I'd post the argumentative essay I just finished.  

Many of our schools are dangerous and inefficient.  Often in the news there are reports about shootings and drug abuse in schools.  Children as young as elementary school are familiar with several curse words and are hearing about subjects not appropriate for their age.  Students are being taught that there is no God who created the universe, and that they are a result of random chance which diminishes the value of their life.  It has become popular throughout our society to refer to education as boring or torturous, and students have little incentive to read or experiment outside of school.  Students are graduating with few writing or math skills and without the knowledge of how to discover answers for themselves.  Yet despite this grim situation, a movement has been growing to repel it.  More and more parents have decided to pull their children out of public schools and to educate them at home.  Critics of this movement claim that homeschooling children are ill equipped to handle situations in the “real world”, socially deprived, or that parents are unable to meet the special needs of a child – yet with homeschooling it is quite the opposite.

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Happy Birthday America!

Sunday, July 4th, 2010
Painting of the Continental CongressToday,  this great country of ours, the United States of America, turned 234 years old.  234 years ago today, on July 4th, 1776, fifty-six men in the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, which was written by Thomas Jefferson. This document would soon bring freedom to America.

The men who signed the Declaration were not only risking their lives, but their families lives as well. They knew that if they signed it, and if they were caught, they could be tortured and hanged as conspirators against the king.

Today, We should be inspired by the men who took this great chance, for instance, John Hancock. While other men were making small signatures on the Declaration, Hancock signed his name large and right in the middle of the page. Stars and Stripes Forever When asked why he took that action, Hancock said that he"wanted the King of England to be able to see his name without wearing spectacles (glasses)"  

I hope this Fourth of July, you will stop and think about all the people throughout history, who gave their lives for America's freedom.

Mom Vs. Day Care

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
I was at a dinner party a few nights ago when a woman made the comment that in this day and age, both husbands AND wives have to work in order to get by, and children need day care.

Well, nothing puts a bee in my bonnet faster than such a ridiculous comment.

Before I go further, I do understand there are single moms who have to work - they have been dealt a tough role - but that is where families and churches need to step up to the plate to help these moms as much as possible, so that she can spend as much time as possible raising her children.  Please note, I am not advocating welfare - but time and compassion.  Kudos to dads who are raising the children.  We need to reach out to you, as well.

Picture of woman getting a pedicure.jpgBUT...we live in a society where most people feel they DESERVE to have the things they WANT (note, I did not say the things they NEED).  In Santa Clarita alone - there are more nail salons than Starbucks (and there are quite a few Starbucks!).  I cannot begin to tell you how ridiculous it is to spend $4 on a cup of coffee and a great deal more to have your fingernails and TOENAILS painted.  But we deserve it don't we?

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I thought I'd share a paper that I wrote for my English class.  The requirement was to use at least two methods (I decided to use reasons and comparison and contrast) to develop the paper.  The assignment was to write a paper about why I prefer a vacation at the mountains rather than a a vacation at the sea shore.   I do want to clarify that, while I still would prefer a visit to the mountains, I do enjoy visiting and learning about the seashore.  (And I love to visit aquariums!).  Just thought I'd mention that.  Here's my paper:

For a vacation, I prefer a visit to the forest rather than a visit to the seashore.  The variety in color, sounds, and sights in the mountains are much more appealing to me than the variety at the seashore.

The color scheme of the forest is extremely varied:  green trees burst into a brilliant gold, orange, or red in the autumn and scatter their leaves; the brown forest floor teems with insects and animals in a splattering of blues, grays, blacks, pinks, browns, reds, and many other colors; flowers poke their heads out to dazzle the world with their delicate colors and beautyPoppies pop with brilliant color - Wendy Mack (2010); and berries pop out in delicious arrays of reds, greens, and blues.  While the seashore has a beauty of its own, there is very little color variety to keep me interested.  All is a blur of blue water, blue sky, white sands, white rocks, and white seagulls.  Most of the different colors in the seashore comes from the shells which have strips of pale pink or pale blue, and from the dirty brownish-green seaweed that washes up on the shore, and perhaps an occasional starfish that is washed into tiny pools.  There is an assortment of color, but not as striking as the collection of color found in the woods.

Continue Reading "Mountains vs. Seashore - Which Do You Prefer?" »

Homeschooling is bad?

Friday, September 11th, 2009
I have just read an article that really upset me. This article by the Olympian listed several reasons why parents should consider not home-schooling their children.  This article seems to be getting a lot of attention and I thought I would add my opinion as a student being home schooled.

First I should probably tell that home schooling is a family effort.  I have been home schooled my entire life and have loved it.  My mother does not work outside of the home - but she's never idle.  She is constantly busy teaching my three sisters and I (all varying grades), running the household, as well as assisting my father as a secretary for his business when needed.  My father works at home and runs his business from his office which is on the same level we all do school.  He also acts as our principal (if needed), and teaches us occasionally.

In the article I read, the point was made that "...One disadvantage is the financial burden or hardship it can impose upon a family.  It is the responsibility of the parents to purchase the curriculum needed for home schooling where the public school provides it at no charge."  It is true that home schooling costs.  Books can be expensive, but this also gives the parents the freedom to choose the material for their child.  If there is something we disagree with, the parent can find another resource for their child - public schoolers do not have that option.

The article also brought up "...Another disadvantage is the amount of time it drains from parents who perform the task..."  There's no denying it, home schooling does take a lot of time an effort.  But the job of parents is to be responsible and devote the time to their children and train them.  All throughout history, we read how children were privately educated, whether by their parents or by a hired tutor.  Either way, the parents took on the responsibility of training their child through time and/or resources.  Parents took this task seriously and did their best to provide for their child.  They then took great pride when their children grew up with the established values and principles they had learned at home.

Another point made was "...the lack of a guide or counselor can be a serious disadvantage.  Sometimes, children have issues or concerns that they don't feel comfortable talking to their parents about....(in public school) Children also have their teachers to talk to and provide support.  It is important for children to have someone safe they can confide in when necessary."  If you are being home schooled your parents become your guide and counselor.  If your parents are involved in your life every day there isn't that hesitation of talking with them.   You know they care about you, else they wouldn't be home schooling you.  I can guarantee to you that most home school students aren't going to want to give up talking with someone they know and love for a complete stranger that the school district says you can trust.

Probably the biggest point that this article made is nothing new.  This argument keeps coming back again and again.  "...The biggest disadvantage to home schooling is the child's lack of socialization which does not provide them the opportunity to interact with other children."  This is a severely mistaken point of view that many people believe.  I have found that home schooling has allowed me more socialization than I probably could have had at a public school.  Without the constant interruptions that public schools have, I am able to focus harder on school, get more done, and get done faster than a public school student.  With the extra time I get every day, I have been able to participate in many different activities such as handbell choir, extra curricular science courses, vocal choir, church activities, robotics, drama, etc.  I still get to interact with people, the difference is that I get to choose who those people should be.  

I hope I have given some more information on the benefits of home schooling. I have found this to be a blessing to me - our family has never been closer. I admire and really want to thank my parents for making the right decision to home schooling us.
Not that this ever happens in our home but the neat thing about homeschool discipline is that you can tell your child that if she continues to disrupt the class she will have to leave the room and will miss home school for the rest of the day.

No one wants to miss out on homeschool.

Works like a charm.

Making faces in class

Friday, December 26th, 2008
My home office is connected to our conference room. When I'm not using it for meetings or client work, my wife uses it to conduct homeschool lessons for the children.

The laughter level was higher than usual - perhaps too much to stay focused. As principal, I decided to step in to see what the commotion was all about...
Kelly and her magnifying glass in school

It seems that Kelly had discovered the face-distorting potential of her magnifying ruler...

Continue Reading "Making faces in class" »

A Homeschool Family

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

What can I say?

It's hard to tell where the comedy ends and reality begins. It's like something straight from the Sampsons. (No, that's not a typo.)
Created by comedian (and homeschool dad) Tim Hawkins.
The Mack Family has finished another year of homeschool!

The GTD Breakfast Club

Friday, February 16th, 2007

My daughter, Wendy, recently made a post in the GTD Connect forum about how our family is learning about GTD at the breakfast table. [If you're a GTD Connect subscriber, you can read the posts and respond there.] I thought I would take a moment to share my own thoughts and experience here, too.

Over the years, I've often ask my children to help me test new software and programs. I find that they approach software from a totally different perspective and I always learn new insights as a result of their efforts. (Even Microsoft found benefit in this approach; they distributed Amy & Wendy's podcast on OneNote Shared Sessions to the OneNote design team.) Anyway, back to the GTD breakfast club...

In December, I decided to ask my wife and children to test some prototype features for my productivity software for using Lotus Notes with the GTD methodology.  (Little things, like linking projects to actions, switching contexts, and a tickler to calendar system.) In order for them to be effective helpers, however, I knew that they would have to distinguish between the methodology and technology of the productivity equation. I decided that this would be a good time for me to set up more formal GTD instruction for my family.

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First day of school

Friday, September 15th, 2006
It's been a busy week. Amy and Wendy recently began an on-campus homeschool science program at The Master's College. It's a 4-year science program, taught by Dr. Englin, a science professor at the college. Dr. Englin has been teaching this course as an outreach to homeschool families for the past 18 years. While our homeschool curriculum covers this material, its a welcome resource to let them review this in a college setting.

I'm thrilled to see them have the opportunity to further develop good study skills in a college setting.
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Teaching Your Kids GTD

Wednesday, September 13th, 2006
My daughter, Wendy, is the guest contributor today, with a post she recently wrote in response to a question in the GTD connect forum.
I think the best way to teach your kids GTD is to model it for them.  They need to see you doing it so that they can ask questions about it.  You could start your child off with mind mapping.  (One of the first processes that I learned)  Introduce this as a way to remember things, and teach this along side making lists.If your child is young you could have them draw pictures to represent things, then gradually substitute that for words.  

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This is an invitation to encourage our homeschool robotics team in the 2006 FIRST Robotics competition. My daughter, Amy, contributed to this post:
I'm excited! We have just started our first official day of LEGO Robotics 2006.

Our robotics team, the The LEGO Mountaineers is an all-girls home school robotics team. We have been competing in the FIRST Robotics competitions for the past 4 years. FIRST stands for For Inspiration And Recognition of Science and Technology. Its a great way to learn to apply skills in critical thinking, problem solving, math, science, computers, and robotics. It's fun, too.

Today, we finished making our first mind map for the 2006 FIRST Competition.

We use mind maps in all of our planning and we make maps often help us keep track of our goals, projects, ideas, and questions. This will also make it easier for us to keep track of what we have accomplished. Below, is a link to the mind map we made. I believe that it is because of our mind mapping and GTD planning skills that we were able to successfully plan, prepare, and win the Director's Award at two different competitions.

Continue Reading "2006 FIRST Robotics season begins - you can help" »

Imagination into action

Monday, July 18th, 2005
Mark Gershon posted a great comment on my blog this weekend:
Eric, I have the other side to hand to you, Yes, the Robotics are cool, but can't we wait until they know how to read, and write (i.e.  hand writing skills) before the computer takes over.  Please remember they need to move physically just as much!!!!

Mark, I agree with you, however, my children all know how to read and write. In fact, each of them began to read full-length books on their own by the age of 5, some at age 4. Dick, Jane, and their dog Spot were a great help in the early years. (Kathy had these books from many years ago) Dr. Seuss will of course remain a starter classic in our home. Amy and Wendy read the entire [original] Nancy Drew series a few years later. They love to read and write as much as they love to run and play outdoors.

We did not have to push them into reading. We simply read and spoke to them in full, complete, sentences from birth - no baby talk.

Kathy and I encourage reading and writing in everything that we do, whether it's in our homeschool or just for recreation. (We don't have television in our home, but we do have a large library of great books.)

I don't advocate robotics or computers in place of learning the basics; but, when kids have the basics, I think robotics are a great way for them to put their imagination into action.
Robert Scoble and his friend are soliciting ideas on how to get children interested in computers. Not just interested, but really interested - like taking one apart, building one, programming one from the ground up. These days, many children grow up playing with computers; they get into the games, but not what's inside.

When children grow up using computers, it's easy for them to be unimpressed with what's inside.

As a parent of four computer/PDA literate children, ages 12, 12, 7, and 5, here are a few suggestions that come to mind ...

Start early. Expose your children to computers as early as possible

We allowed our children to "play" with computers starting at age two. I purchased a "Jumbo Keys" keyboard that had oversized keys arranged alphabetically.

Be creative in explaining how computers work

       See Binary Carrots

Be selective about the software that they use

There is a lot of wonderful software out there; software that will encourage and promote critical thinking skills. There's also a lot of less-than-constructive software out there. I could do a sermon on this, but I won't. I'll simply recommend parental involvement.

OK, those are software-related suggestions. But, what about getting kids involved in building or programming computers? Consider these options ...

Build a LEGO robot and program it to do something

Get a LEGO Mindstorms set and build it with your kids. Its a great investment. Reusable, too. There's nothing quite like the experience of watching a creation that you have built and programmed run across the room and do something.
       Read: Productivity in motion

Join a FIRST Jr. Robotics Team

Help your child enjoy the excitement of team projects in technology and watch them experience the thrill of competition
Channel 9 guy thinks it's cool. Your kids will, too.
       See: The LEGO Mountaineers

Let them build their own computer

This year, I took four old laptops and helped my children set them up -- everything from formatting the drive, to installing XP, to loading service packs, applications and games. We've had a great time, and the kids have taken ownership of their computers. The process allowed for many length discussions about how and why things work.
       See: Why do they call them Radio Buttons, Dad?

Let them take a computer apart

Last year, for a science fair project Amy and I took apart an old computer or a printer (older the better; bigger stuff inside, lots of moving parts) -- all the way down to cutting open the hard drive and keyboard to see how they worked
       See: MackAcademy (Click on Science Fair)

What ideas do you have?

Geography Fair 2005

Saturday, May 21st, 2005
This afternoon, our family participated in a homeschool geography fair. In all, 12 children participated. The Mack sisters taught us about Egypt (Wendy), Japan, (Amy), New Zealand (Emily), and Mexico (Kelly). This is the second year that Kathy's organized the event, and it was educational, entertaining, and filling -- we sampled food from each country.

Emily, teaches us about Kiwi fruit from New Zealand

Michael Sampson, and his family (also homeschoolers) were kind enough to provide Emily with an inside look at their beautiful country. Michael sent pictures, newspapers, crafts and even money. [You're always welcome to send money, Michael.] He even called Emily to let her hear the funny way that New Zealanders talk. We'll get to hear more of that when he comes to visit us soon.

I really appreciate the opportunity to encourage our children to participate in public events like this. It's a great way to reinforce the instruction that goes on in the classroom at home. Between church, science fairs, geography fairs, speech, drama, and book report nights, our girls have become comfortable presenting in front of an audience.

How does a 5-year-old use a PDA?

Friday, May 13th, 2005
This week was a big week at the Mack Academy. Kelly gradated from the first grade. To celebrate, we gave Kelly a Palm IIIc.


Kelly's no stranger to PDAs but this one is her very own - a fact that she's more than happy to remind her sisters about. Fortunately, her older sisters have Zire 72s that they saved for, and Emily will have her own Palm soon, too.

So, what does a 5 year-old keep on her PDA?
  • Games
  • Handy dandy [digital] notepad
  • Flash cards
  • Bible & Memory verse flash cards
  • Calendar
  • Lists of important  things to remember
  • Grandma's phone number
  • eBooks

I'm not pushing the kids with this -- just allowing them to use the same tools that dad uses. As I model best practices, like GTD, I hope that some of those will wear off on my children. This coming school year, we will begin to integrate PDA use into our routine. I'm in the process of equipping Kathy to prepare flash cards on her computer so that she can beam decks to the kids to study in the car.

Follow the money ...

Saturday, April 9th, 2005
"Public Schools Wooing Home-Schooled Students." That's the title of yesterday's CNN article on education.

Why would a school district do this? Is it about educating the next generation of decision makers?

I'd like to think so.

It seems that more than one school district is trying to make up for severe budget cuts by... imagine this ... finding new ways to better serve students in their districts - particularly those who are not currently enrolled in public school.

This is a topic that I've wanted to write about for a long time. I'm no stranger to public education. Still, I'm the only member of my family not involved in public education. I spent eight years of my life in the American public school system. My wife, a devoted teacher, gave up her career in public education just so that she could home educate our children. (Why would she do that? It's a long story - perhaps I'll blog about it another day).  As you can see, I have input and experience from many perspectives.

The CNN article brings up the fact that many public school districts are trying to get homeschool families to send their children back to public school ... so that they can collect state funds. You see, although you and I pay state taxes earmarked for education, your local schools only collect if your child is in school. If you don't send your child to public school, the school does not get the money. The state keeps the rest. No refunds. Surprise. Perhaps this is why some school districts argue that families that choose to educate their children at home are hurting their districts. Sorry, I don't think it's the classroom attendance they are worried about; it's the ...

Regardless of their motivation, I think it is wonderful that so many school districts are looking at what they can do to better serve students in their district. I want to see all students benefit from a quality education. I even pay taxes to help make this happen.

There is MUCH that I could say about the topics mentioned in this article. Perhaps someday I will find the time to put all of my thoughts in writing. Meanwhile, I would like to quote two paragraphs from this news article that summarize a few of the reasons that Kathy and I choose to home educate our children:

Many home-school parents are fiercely loyal to the lifestyle, and to the educational benefits they see for their children. Some want to protect their youngsters from the peer pressure and drugs they fear are rampant in public schools. Others, like the Wilsons, home-school their children in part for religious reasons.

"I like instruction where the instructor, not just the body of knowledge, is important," Teckla Wilson said. "Home-schooling allows you to work out the pace that is best for them. And, we are Christians, and for me, it is important that I teach them to think with a biblical world view."
We would add to the above the amount and quality of hands-on instruction time. In fact, it was the amount of classroom instruction time (or lack thereof) that influenced my wife's decision more than any other factor.

I know that I've said this before: any parent with children still living at home - is a teaching parent. As a parent, everything that you do or say becomes a part of your child's education. Whether or not you choose to entrust your child to a school outside of your home for 8 hours a day or not, you still have at least 16 hours a day to influence and educate them. Make the most of it.  Children grow up fast.

I'm thankful that we live in a country where we enjoy many liberties, including the freedom to continue the excellent tradition of home education.

A tradition as old as the first family.

FYI: It's no small investment to educate your children at home. It requires a big commitment in time, expertise, and financial resources. We pay the same taxes for education as everyone else. In addition, we must purchase all of the curriculum, training, and resources that we use each year. Finally, most homeschool families must choose to have only one parent work outside of the home. I believe that the long-term benefits significantly outweigh the costs.

Time measurement for kids

Tuesday, October 26th, 2004
My colleague from New Zealand, Michael Sampson, and his boys have provided an answer to a pressing question about time management and its measurement.  The question, posed by my daughter, Emily, went like this:

Dear Mr. Sampson, My name is Emily Mack I am 7 years old. I live in California. My favorte days of the week are Wensday, Monday and Sunday.  
The things that I like are playing, Computers and writing stories.

I have a question to ask your boys. Does your clock run clockwise?( left to right)
In the picture you will see our clock.

      Eric's daughter,
      Emily Mack

Image:Time measurement for kids

Michael's son, David, was kind enough to post this response, along with a very helpful photo, in order to help clarify how time is measured down under.

California Adventure

Thursday, October 14th, 2004
Last week, we took a group of 60 home school kids and their parents to California Adventure for a 1/2 day overview of California history.

Image:California Adventure

We were delighted by the turnout from our local home school community. The staff and tour guides put together a wonderful program in which the kids got to experience the sights and sounds of California's rich heritage. After the tour, the kids were able to enjoy the rides in the park with their friends. That night, Kathy and I took our girls to our favorite place -- can you guess where?

The Latin Road

Thursday, September 2nd, 2004
My daughters and I are excited to begin studying Latin and world history. Two of our friends, who also home educate their children, have graciously offered to present year-long courses in these subjects to some of the home educated students in our community. This is a real treat for us, as both are professors at The Master's College, and they each bring a high level of expertise with them. On the first day of class, 30 home educated students attended.

Image:The Latin Road

When asked why they wanted to learn Latin. Some of the young people said that it was because they wanted to improve their English grammar, others wanted to score high on their SATs, others said that they wanted to learn Latin because their friends were, and still others said that their parents had made them attend. :-) One young person admitted that he and his friends wanted to learn Latin so that they could talk about people in a language that no one would understand.

Whatever their reasons for attending, I am certain that they will learn many things over the next year.

Our family is grateful for the opportunity to participate. I'm looking forward to learning with my daughters, too.

Image:The Latin Road

MindManager for Kids

Friday, August 27th, 2004
To visualize some ideas for their U.S. FIRST Jr. Robotics Team, I taught Amy and Wendy how to use my computer to create a mind map. We loaded up MindManager and within minutes the kids were using the software to create their basic map.

Image:MindManager for Kids

Mind mapping is not new to my kids. MindManager just makes the process much easier.

I really enjoy coaching Jr. Robotics because it provides me with a tangible way to show young people the results of their creative thinking in action.

I plan to look into teaching the team how to use MindManager as part of the preparations for this year's competition.

Over the next 4 months, the girls and I will be blogging about our team experiences on the way to the robotics competition. Be sure to add this site's RSS feed to your reader so that you can remain informed.  

Until then, here's a link to the girl's 2002 Jr. Robotics web site.

Home Education on the Rise

Thursday, August 5th, 2004
CNN reports that as more parents seek control of the curriculum and environment for their children, the estimated figure of students educated at home grew by 29% this past year. The results were released Tuesday by the National Center for Education Statistics, part of the Education Department.

Kathy and I have just returned from the Christian Home Educator's Association of California annual conference, where we spent a weekend with thousands of other parents who are successfully home educating their children.

Image:Home Education on the Rise

It was inspiring and energizing to be with such a large group of parents, gathered for the sole purpose of further equipping themselves to educate their children at home. The speakers were great, and the organizations, vendors and colleges present provided valuable curriculum, books, resources, and training in various methodologies of education.

I'll post a more detailed summary of the trip and commentary soon.

Christian Home Educator's Association of California

New worms unleashed, racing across ...

Friday, July 23rd, 2004
... the table...

Kathy had to travel to Los Angeles recently; she left the four girls in my care for the day. As usual, when dad's in charge, there are all sorts of adventures (and sometimes, mischief) to be found.

Image:New worms unleashed, racing across ...

After we completed our lessons, the decision was made to dump out a bucket of worms we had for bait and examine them. Suddenly, the idea came to me to let the girls  build a race track and race them.

Image:New worms unleashed, racing across ...

There is never a shortage of learning opportunities in our home. :-)

Since you are reading this on the web, I wonder if this qualifies as an Internet worm report?

Mission Impossible?

Saturday, May 15th, 2004
As an on-going homeschool activity, we have set a goal of visiting each of the California missions over the next several years.  This past week, we visited the beautiful mission San Juan Capistrano, the 7th mission in a chain of 21 missions along California's "El Camino Real."

Image:Mission Impossible?

We were able to walk the Mission site and visit the Serra Chapel.  We also toured the Padre's quarters and the soldier's barracks as well as the remains of the Great Stone Church. At noon, we heard the tolling of century old bells.

Image:Mission Impossible?

After our field trip, and in keeping with the spirit of the day, we headed across the street for authentic Mexican food.

Homeschool Geography Fair 2004

Saturday, May 1st, 2004
For the past few weeks our house has had an international flair as my children have been preparing for today's homeschool geography fair.  Books from the library, postal envelopes with foreign currency, embassy packages with information, and flags from foreign nations have all had a place on our dinner table for weeks.

Each child prepared a display and wrote a report about the country they selected. In addition to their report, each child gave an oral presentation to the group. Finally,  we were able to taste representative foods from each nation, which the children prepared for us.

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Amy chose to do her research on the country of Italy. She enjoyed learning about Italian culture, the Euros, and the opportunity to build a model of the tower of Pisa.
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Wendy researched the country of France and shared information and items she collected from her French relatives. She made chocolate crepes to share with the other children.

Emily studied about Ireland and served homemade Irish Soda bread.  She really liked learning that grocers sell vegetables from baby carriages. She also learned about the flag of Ireland and what each color represents.
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Kelly (4) read a patriotic presentation about the United States of America. Kelly showed an American flag that she made and she showed everyone where California is on a map that she colored. She let everyone sample authentic American food: hot dogs.

For next year's Homeschool Geography Fair, the girls plan to write to the Sampson Boys, down under, to collect some information about their homeland: New Zealand. Their dad, Michael is a great guy, a fellow technologist, and a dedicated homeschooling father.

I've been behind on the blogging lately - lots of exciting projects going: client work, another speech, preparations for the eProductivity.Net site launch, family/homeschool, and my own studies and research all keep me quite busy. I will try to post more details here and over at the Mack Academy web site soon.

Fallacy Detectives

Thursday, July 17th, 2003
Kathy and I have just returned from our annual trip to a home educator's conference.

We left renewed in our commitment to home educate our children and wondering how we are going to work in the new subjects that we desire to add to an already busy curriculum.  This year, what really has my interest, is the classical form of education and logic.  

On the classical side, the presentations on the Trivium, were quite compelling.  Kathy and I were as interested for the benefit of our children as we were for ourselves.

On the Logic side, I attended a session by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn on how to recognize bad reasoning.  Their book, "The Fallacy Detective" is designed to help families study logic together.

It was truly inspiring to spend the weekend at a conference with over 5000 parents, all of whom had only one focus -- improving their child's (and their own) education.

I walked away with a lifetime of recommended reading lists.

Science Fair 2003

Saturday, April 12th, 2003

This weekend, our family participated in our first Homeschool science fair. There were many children in attendance and all of the projects were outstanding.

Here are our entries...
(Scroll down to see more ...)
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Kelly Marie:
"How does a butterfly grow?"

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Amy Elizabeth: "How does a computer work?"

20030412 - Homeschool Science Fair Emily.jpgEmily Danielle: "What things are good at soaking up water?"

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Wendy Anne: "What things conduct electricity?"

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Here is a description of the event, written by one of the older students:

Homeschool Science Fair

by Caitlin Steele

On Saturday, April 12th , four homeschooling families joined together for a
science fair. The projects were all very interesting.  Kelly Mack researched the
butterfly's life cycle.  Emily Mack experimented on what household items
soaked up water.  Amy Mack took a computer apart and demonstrated how a
computer works.  Wendy Mack showed how an electrical circuit worked by
lighting up a light and turning on a fan.  Faith Steele explained how viscosity
worked by dropping BBs into household liquid items.  Caitlin Steele made a
battery out of several citrus fruits.  Calli Steele tested for acids and bases in
household products. David Brunelle analyzed glow sticks to see how to make
them last longer and Steven Brunelle examined the movement of water
molecules.  Daniel Tominaga tested chocolate bars to test whether freezing
them effects the taste. Tyler Tominaga exhibited how air pressure stopped water
from flowing.  All the projects were intriguing.

In addition to the above science fair projects, the LEGO Mountaineers, a girls
homeschool robotics team, shared their research presentation from last year's
robotics competition in which they won the Judges trophy.

It was fun to see all the projects.  Each worked hard on a different
experiment and it was great to have a forum to show them off.  Thank you to
the Brunelles for allowing us to use their home for the fair!

Binary Carrots

Saturday, March 29th, 2003
This evening at the dinner table, Amy asked Eric what a byte was.  Knowing that she was not referring to the mouthful of vegetables he had just taken, and that he first needed to explain what a bit was, he quickly grabbed a handful of vegetables and began to teach the girls the binary system -- using peas and carrots for zeros and ones.  Working from there, he was able to tangibly demonstrate bits, nibbles and bytes.  
Image:Binary Carrots
It brought a whole new meaning to minding P's and C's.  Whoever said you couldn't learn something while playing with your food?

Reach for the Stars!

Friday, January 31st, 2003
I've just completed a week long day & night astronomy class.  Amy & Wendy were invited by the professor to join us for the lab portion of the class.  They enjoyed learning about the stars and constellations.
Image:Reach for the Stars!
They even took the exam with me. I'm not sure who learned more. Thanks, Dr. Englin!

Living History at Ft. Tejon

Friday, May 31st, 2002
Image:Living History at Ft. Tejon
Be careful with that hammer Amy!

Eric, Wendy and Amy attended their annual Ft. Tejon living history overnight field trip.  This is a homeschool event that is organized by several of the parents in our group. This being their second year, things went smoothly, and they had a wonderful time living for 24 hours in 1850.  Eric ran the wood shop as the town carpenter.  Kathy, Emily, and Kelly joined the group for the evening camp fire.

Eric and Kathy were able to get away for a weekend (thanks to Kathy's mom and sister) to the annual Christian Home Educators Association convention in Santa Clara.  It was a good time of reinforcing our decision to home educate our daughters. We learned many new skills, and came home excited about teaching the girls what we learned.

Our homeschool drama group put on a performance of "Noah's Ark."  It was a grand production, and we had so much fun doing it.

Once again, Amy and Wendy were honored to be asked to join a choir ensemble that would meet throughout the summer.  

Image:Living History at Ft. Tejon
Careful, I'm armed and dangerous!

Christmas Play, 2001

Saturday, December 15th, 2001
Today, the girls sang in our local Homeschool Christmas play.

Emily begins kindergarten

Wednesday, October 31st, 2001
October was a big month for Emily. Even though she just turned four, she is beginning to read, and I felt that she was ready for kindergarten. So, she, too, formally began homeschool this year. We celebrated by taking her to the library to get her own card. Quite a big event!

Amy & Wendy - Getting Things Done

Thursday, October 18th, 2001
Today, Amy and Wendy were given the honor of a Getting Things Done seminar by David Allen.  David is a friend and client, who has known the girls since birth. They were the first children to attend one of the productivity seminars.  David was a most gracious host and included the girls in the discussion.  Amy and Wendy handled themselves well and I am very proud of them.  At one point in the seminar, David talked about the motivation for getting things done.  He used a story that his dentist told him: "You only have to floss the teeth that you want to keep."  Amy and Wendy that that was really neat and they asked me if we had any floss at home.  (Thank you David!)

Are you home educating your kids?

Saturday, June 23rd, 2001
If you have children, you have to ask yourself if you are home educating them as well.  OK, perhaps that is a misleading statement (See disclaimer #1) but I do want you to think about your role as a parent.

Our family home educates our 4 daughters ages 1 3/4, 3 3/4 and twins at 8 1/2. It has been a fun and stimulating experience thus far. Perhaps most exciting is to see the two younger children learning so much by watching their older siblings. We do not push our children, the 3 year old is learning to read because she wants to be just like her big sisters. The youngest pretends to read along. The older ones help with the teaching of their younger siblings and in turn, learn effective communication skills.

As for family dynamics, I can think of no better way to bring and keep our family close together than the experience that we have had homeschooling our children. I am fortunate to be able to run my consulting practice from home. I'm therefore able to be involved or at least aware of everything that is going on. We are all becoming our own best friends and this strengthens the family.

Now, I must make two disclaimers:

1. Homeschooling as an alternative to public or private school is not for everyone. That does not mean that you cannot have a homeschooling mentality as you approach every event and circumstance with your children as a learning opportunity. It is my personal belief that EVERYONE who has children should be homeschooling them regardless of whether they also choose to have them attend a public, private or parochial school for 5 or 6 hours each day.

2. As the income producer in our family, it should be noted that my wife does most all of the work on the formal classroom training. I cannot take credit for the many hours of classroom and textbook time that she invests with our children. I think that in most homeschooling families you will find this to be true.

I would welcome your comments or questions. We are only in our 4th year of homsechooling and perhaps there are some of you out there who have already graduated your children. I'd love to hear from you.

Our little angels

Saturday, December 9th, 2000
Our homeschool drama group put on a Christmas pageant and  Wendy was an angel, Amy was Mary, and Emily was Jesus at age 3.  
Image:Our little angelsImage:Our little angels
We look forward, this December, to celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus. Throughout the difficulties this year, we realized that we have experienced every Christian parents' dream - that our two oldest children have committed their lives to Jesus.  We are honored to lead them in their walk with Him.  We wish you the knowledge of that saving grace this holiday season.