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Thursday, April 24, 2014

The SHEM Convention (and Why College Isn’t the Right Option for Most Students)

Posted by jlwile on April 14, 2014

This is the St Louis Gateway Arch, which indicates you are in the "Show Me State" of Missouri.  (click for credit)

This is the St. Louis Gateway Arch, which indicates you are in the “Show Me State” of Missouri.
(click for credit)

Friday and Saturday, I spoke at the Southwest Home Education Ministry (SHEM) Convention in Springfield, Missouri. Driving from Indiana to the convention, we passed the famous Gateway Arch, pictured above. This, of course, let us know that we were in the “Show Me State.” I spoke at the SHEM convention last year, and it produced my favorite “talk” of the year – an entire session of nothing but questions from the teens. They didn’t plan a session like that this year, but I still got the chance to answer a lot of questions, both after my talks and at my publisher’s booth.

I gave a total of six talks over the course of the two-day convention. I talked to the parents about how homeschooling is the solution to our education problem and about how college tends to keep young adults active in the faith. This surprised a lot of the attendees, because they believed the “common wisdom” that students who go to college are likely to lose their faith. In fact, the research is very clear – students who do not go to college are significantly more likely to lose their faith. I also talked about how my wife and I came to adopt our daughter and what I did with her in homeschooling. That talk was in the last time slot for talks at the convention, and afterwards, one mother wrote on my Facebook page:

…I would like to thank you for sharing the story of your own family with us. Your talk was the perfect way to end the convention and it left me excited, and with renewed enthusiasm. Thank you.

I also gave two talks with Diana Waring. The first was about how arguing promotes learning, and the second was about what to do when your children’s plans for their future are radically different from your plans for their future. Finally, I talked to the teens about how homeschool graduates are doing. In that talk, I go through some statistics about homeschool graduates and what they are doing now, and then I focus on specific homeschool graduates and how they are truly changing the world.

As usual, the most interesting part of the convention for me was answering questions. At my publisher’s booth, for example, I had a long discussion about nuclear fusion with a homeschooled student who had all sorts of great questions. However, I want to focus on a question that occurred after one of the talks I gave with Diana Waring.

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The 2014 Southeast Homeschool Convention

Posted by jlwile on March 26, 2014

This is me standing in front of my publisher's booth at the Southeast Homeschool Convention.

This is me standing in front of my publisher’s booth at the Southeast Homeschool Convention.

As I wrote in my previous post, last week was a very busy week. It started off in North Carolina, where I spoke at a church, a bookstore, and two classes made up of homeschooled students. I then traveled to Greenville, South Carolina to speak at the Southeast Homeschool Convention. This is part of the Great Homeschool Conventions, and I am scheduled to speak at all of them this year. I did the same thing last year, but this year was different, because I now have new books to sell.

Last year, I just sat in an empty booth and waited for people to come to talk with me. It got to be a bit dull at times, because without something in the booth, most people passed right on by. Of course, I had several great conversations with people who specifically sought me out to talk with me, but there was a lot of “down time” in between those conversations. This year, my new publisher (Berean Builders) had a booth, so when I wasn’t speaking, I hung out there. The publisher had my new elementary series, but it also sells the books I wrote with my previous publisher, so people could come to that one booth to see all the books I have written over the years.

The attendance at the convention was great (up significantly from last year), and I got to speak with a lot of people, both after my speaking sessions and at my publisher’s booth. I did three solo talks this year: Recent News in Creation Science discusses some of the more recent scientific studies that confirm the predictions of young-earth creationism or falsify the predictions of evolution. The Bible: A Great Source of Modern Science discusses some of the scientific facts that were written in Scripture long before science figured them out. Finally, Teaching Elementary Science Using History as a Guide discusses the rationale behind my new elementary science series.

I also did two talks with Diana Waring, who not only has an excellent history curriculum but is also about to re-release a series called Experience History Through Music. This three-CD/book set allows you to hear some of the classic songs written during different parts of U.S. history and learn the history behind them. It is a delightful product that allows students to not only learn history, but experience it! It would be an excellent supplement to any study of U.S. History. The talks we did this year were I Didn’t See That Coming and Arguing to Learn. The former was about what to do when your young-adult children make decisions that are unexpected, and the latter is about how debating different points of view can be an effective learning tool.

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Speaking in the Raleigh, North Carolina Area

Posted by jlwile on March 24, 2014

This is me talking with some homeschool students at The Homeschool Gathering Place.  I ended up signing the young man's cast, which was surprisingly difficult because of its texture.

This is me talking with some homeschool students at The Homeschool Gathering Place. I ended up signing the young man's cast, which was surprisingly difficult because of its texture.

Last week was really busy. That’s why I haven’t written a post since the 13th. It started with a trip to The Homeschool Gathering Place in Raleigh, North Carolina. That’s where the photo above was taken. The owners of the store, who have been a blessing to homeschoolers for the past 18 years, arranged for me to speak at a nearby church, Colonial Baptist. It was a huge church, and the homeschool group there is quite large, so the turnout was great.

At the church, I showed several videos that demonstrate mutualism, which is something I find incredibly fascinating (see here, here, here, and here for a few examples). I also showed videos about some of the amazing design you see in nature, such as the way octopodes (the best plural of octopus) camouflage themselves. I then spoke about the recent scientific studies that either confirm the predictions of creation science or falsify evolutionary predictions, most of which has been discussed on this site. Not surprisingly, the videos were the biggest hit.

After the event at the church, I went back to The Homeschool Gathering Place and gave a talk about teaching science using history as a guide. That’s how my new elementary science series is designed. The talk was much more intimate, by design, and it generated a lot of good discussion. I also got to talk with students while I was there, as the picture above shows.

In between these appearances, I got to spend some time with an old friend, who I call “Roxy.” I think I might be the only one who still calls her that. She and I grew up together, but she left Indiana, and the last time I had seen her was more than 10 years ago. We seem to have the beginnings of a mutual admiration society going. She kept telling me how proud she was of what I had accomplished over the years, and I kept telling her how impressed I was with her. She is a very talented dancer, and I always looked up to her as we were growing up. Today, she is a mother who has raised great young adults. She also teaches dance and history to groups of homeschooled students. I got to help her teach two of her classes (history, not dance!), and those young students are incredibly blessed to have her! She is changing lives, and I am proud to call her my friend.

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Yet Another Benefit of Homeschooling

Posted by jlwile on October 21, 2013

Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services (Kevin Concannon) has lunch with schoolchildren on October 12, 2011. The study being discussed shows that lunch is when traditionally-schooled children eat less healthy foods than homeschooled children. (click for credit)

I have written several articles on the academic benefits of homeschooling (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). However, the benefits go far beyond academics. Homeschooled students are, on average, better socialized than their peers. They are more actively engaged in their faith than their peers, and they are more satisfied with life than their peers.1 They even sleep better than their peers!

Adding to that list of benefits, a recent study shows that homeschooled children are less likely to be obese than their peers.2 The study compared 47 homeschooled and 48 traditionally-school children, age 7-12. They measured the children’s fat mass, trunk fat, total body fat, and physical activity. They also asked the children what they had been eating. The researchers found that the homeschooled children had lower values in all three fat measurements. In addition, the homeschooled children reported better diets. As the title of the article aptly puts it:

Home-schooled children are thinner, leaner, and report better diets relative to traditionally schooled children

What was the main difference between the eating habits of the two groups? Not surprisingly, it was lunch. The traditionally-schooled children ate a lot more calories, sodium, and sugar at lunch than the homeschooled children did. Since lunch is the most likely meal to be eaten at school, the take-home message here is that the traditionally-schooled children are not being fed poorly by their parents. They are being fed poorly by their school.

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My “Top 10″ Science Education Tips

Posted by jlwile on September 20, 2013

The Home Educating Family Association recently published a list of my “top 10″ tips for teaching science at home. If you are interested, you can read it here:

Dr. Jay’s Top 10 Homeschool Science Tips

Another Experiment from Science in the Beginning

Posted by jlwile on September 6, 2013

As if I have not been harping on this enough, I have a new book out. It’s called Science in the Beginning, and it’s an elementary science course that uses the days of creation as reported in Genesis to introduce scientific concepts. The course is very hands-on, with an experiment or activity in every lesson. One of the homeschooled students who field-tested the course, Ryan McFall, has been kind enough to allow me to show pictures that were taken while he was performing some of those experiments. This one is about diffusion.

First, soak an egg in vinegar for a day or so:

The vinegar will slowly react with the calcium carbonate shell of the egg, turning it into a salt (which dissolves in water) and a gas (which bubbles away). In the end, you are left with an egg that has no shell:

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An Experiment From My New Book

Posted by jlwile on August 27, 2013

I have been posting a couple of videos of me doing experiments from my new book, Science in the Beginning. You can find them at the publisher’s YouTube channel. However, one of the Australian mothers who field-tested my book, Jen McFall, posted on her Facebook page some pictures of her son, Ryan, doing a few of the experiments. She has graciously allowed me to use the pictures to show other people how much fun the experiments can be. Here is one about how light can do multiple things when it encounters a new substance:

Step 1: Fill a glass bowl with water:

Step 2: Lay a utensil (like a spoon) on the bottom of the bowl:

Step 3: Arrange the bowl so it is at the edge of a counter, and then look up through the side of the bowl:

Notice that you see the spoon lying on the bottom of the bowl, but you also see an image of the spoon upside down on the surface of the water! This is because when light encounters a new substance, it can do more than one thing. You see the spoon lying at the bottom of the bowl because light passes through the bowl, passes through the water, reflects off the spoon, passes back through the water, passes back through the bowl, and travels through the air to hit your eyes.

You see the image of the spoon upside down on the surface of the water because light passes through the surface of the water, travels through the water, reflects off the spoon, travels back through the water, reflects off the air at the surface of the water, travels back through the water, passes through the bowl, and then travels through the air to hit your eyes. Nevertheless, when you look straight down into the bowl, you can see the spoon lying there (see step 2). That’s because some of the light passes through the surface of the water, travels through the water, reflects off the spoon, travels back through the water, and passes back into the air so it can travel through the air and hit your eyes.

So in the experiment, you see that when light hits the surface of the water after reflecting off the spoon, it can do two things. (1) Some of it passes back into the air, which is why you see the spoon lying at the bottom of the bowl when you look down at the bowl from above. (2) Some of it reflects off the air so you can see the upside-down image of the spoon when you look through the side of the bowl from below.

Contrasting Schools and Homeschools on College Preparation

Posted by jlwile on August 16, 2013

This is one result from the ACT National Curriculum Survey of 2102. (Click for source)

ACT, Inc. is a non-profit organization best known for its standardized college entrance test: the ACT. However, the company does a wide range of assessments for educational institutions, policy makers, and researchers. Every three to five years, they perform the ACT National Curriculum Survey. In this survey, they sample educators at the middle school, high school, and college level, asking them several different questions that are aimed at discovering trends in United States Education. Honestly, I am not all that interested in such reports, but a colleague of mine send me a link to the latest ACT National Curriculum Survey, mentioning the graph reproduced above. I thought it was worth discussing.

In the survey, ACT contacted a representative sample of educators in both public and private educational institutions across the U.S. They received results back from 2,943 high school teachers and 3,596 college teachers. That’s a fairly healthy sample. They don’t go into the details of how they ensured that the sample was “representative,” but let’s assume that their methodology was reasonably correct.

They asked high school teachers how well their students would be prepared for college (in the subject matter they were teaching) after leaving their classes. As you can see, in 2012, 89% said “well” or “very well.” They asked college instructors how well prepared their incoming students were for the classes they were teaching, and as you can see, only 26% answered “well” or “very well.” The numbers were slightly different in 2009, but not significantly so.

While high school teachers think they are providing good college preparation in the courses they are teaching, college instructors disagree. In the end, they find that very few of their students are actually prepared for the classes they are teaching. As the report puts it:

A stark contrast still exists between high school teachers’ perceptions of their students’ readiness for college-level work and college instructors’ perceptions of the readiness of their entering students.

To anyone who has taught at the college level for a while, this isn’t really surprising. Most high school teachers don’t seem to agree with college instructors when it comes to determining how to prepare students for collegiate-level studies.

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Homeschool: The Best Setting to Teach Science

Posted by jlwile on August 2, 2013

Making slime is one of the many fun (and gross) science experiments you can do at home. Click the image for credit and for the recipe.

I recently wrote an article entitled “Homeschool: The Best Setting to Teach Science” for a free eBook that is being distributed by the Home Educating Family Association. You can get the entire eBook for free by clicking on the link below

Well Planned Homeschool: Avoiding Common Back-to-School Mistakes

and giving them your E-MAIL address. Don’t worry – they won’t sell your address to anyone.

If you get the eBook, I strongly recommend you read the article entitled “Of Cormorants, Cats, and Kids” by Diana Waring. It is excellent.

The Human Body: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, Second Edition

Posted by jlwile on July 25, 2013

This is an example of Leonardo Da Vinci's drawings of the human foot's anatomy. (public domain image)

The Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, mathematician, engineer, inventor, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and anatomist Leonardo da Vinci said, “The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.”1 Indeed, the entire human body is a testament to the creative mind of God. That’s why Marilyn Shannon and I used Psalm 139:14 in the title of our our human anatomy and physiology book, The Human Body: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. The book was published in 2001 and has been used by many high school students around the world. Several students have written me over the years saying that the book helped them in their university-level studies, and some have even said it sparked their interest in a career in health care.

Of course, most textbooks need to be updated from time to time, especially to keep up with advances in the field. For example, when our book was published, scientists weren’t sure what the human appendix did. Many considered it a vestigial organ, but creationists and intelligent design advocates did not. As a result, the best we could write at the time was that the function of the human appendix was unknown. Several years after the book was published, however, scientists determined the function of the appendix (see here, here, and here). Even some evolutionists now agree that the appendix provides such a vital function that it is not vestigial in any way. In fact, one group says it is so important in some mammals that it evolved independently at least 32 separate times over the course of earth’s history!

It is not surprising, then, that the publisher of our book decided it was time for a new edition. However, since I am no longer a part of that company, I was not involved in its production. As people began to understand this, some asked me what I thought the new edition would be like. I told them that the co-author of the first edition (Marilyn Shannon) was involved in the project, so I expected the second edition of the book to be very good. She is incredibly knowledgeable in the field (she teaches it at the college level), and she is a strong Christian who has a good understanding of how faith and science interact. I didn’t know who else was working on the project, but I suspected that as long as she was the guiding force, it would turn out well.

I was recently able to review the book, and I was pleased to see that my expectations were correct. The second edition is an excellent course on human anatomy and physiology that will prepare students well for advanced study at the university level. It is “user friendly” enough to be used independently by home-educated students and is rigorous enough to prepare students who have already taken Exploring Creation with Biology for the Advanced Placement Test in biology.

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