Day: September 22, 2013

Sunday, 22 September 2013

11:16 – Autumn is here and our weather reflects that. Our highs over the next week are to be mid-70s F (~24 C) and our lows in the mid-50’s F (~13 C).

Which reminds me of a little-known fact. One of my undergrad chemistry professors was adamant that “C” stood for “centigrade” rather than “Celsius”, no matter what any standards body said. As he pointed out, on the centigrade scale water freezes at 0 degrees and boils at 100, whereas on the Celsius scale water freezes at 100 degrees and boils at 0. So, to this day, I speak the name of the scale as centigrade rather than Celsius.

I picked up Barbara at around 1800 yesterday. I got there at 1705, just in case. I didn’t want her and Marcy to end up standing in the rain waiting for me. Colin and I are delighted that she’s home. Colin’s behavior changed while Barbara was gone. If there was one thing his mother taught him as a puppy, it was that paws require frequent washing. Ordinarily, Colin washes my front paws every chance he gets, several times in the evening while we’re watching TV and at least a couple of times in the middle of the night I’ll wake up to find him washing my front paws. And he does a good job. It normally takes him at least four or five minutes per paw. If they’re particularly dirty, he’ll chew gently as well as licking. The whole time Barbara was gone, he didn’t wash my paws even once. Last night, he started back in on washing them. It took him much longer before he was satisfied, seeing as how they hadn’t been washed for a week. He finally called it done and went to sleep again, but he woke up later and did a second pass on them.

I’m still working on stubbing out the manual for the EK01 Earth Science Kit. Public schools teach earth science as both a middle-school course–usually grade eight–and as a high-school level course. I think the middle-school level courses are pretty much wasted. The rigor is typically very low, and the expectations correspondingly so. Few colleges even consider the middle-school level science courses in a student’s transcript, and rightly so. So I’m going to do this manual and kit at the high-school level, if not first-year college physical geology. There’s nothing there that a bright 14-year-old shouldn’t be able to handle.

But “earth science” as taught in most schools isn’t just geology. In fact, the course is often named “earth and space science”. So, although there’s no need for a kit for astronomy, I think I’m going to include an astronomy lab component. Of course, for astronomy, “lab” is really observational astronomy. I’ll keep the “labs” simple and try to require only a binocular or perhaps an inexpensive telescope like the 4.25″ Orion StarBlast. Or perhaps I’ll just make the kit cover geology labs and perhaps one or two on topology and so on.

I frequently hear from homeschool parents with kids who are destined to major in STEM. They’re concerned because four years of high school gives them time for only four lab science courses, unless they double up. But there is an alternative, and it’s what I did when I was that age. I spent summers dividing my time between playing tennis and doing science. In other words, I did a full year’s worth of science every summer. A semester is 18 weeks or 90 school days, basically a quarter of a year. Kids typically do classes 180 days a year, or half a year, spread over two-thirds of the year. That’s roughly 500 school hours per semester, or 1,000 school hours per year. But homeschool parents have complete scheduling flexibility. Trying to do four full semesters a year would be really pushing it, but doing 2.5 or even three is within the realm of possibility. Assuming a summer break of roughly 12 weeks and running summer school three hours a day five days a week is sufficient time for the equivalent of one full-year course or two one-semester courses over the summer. If that time is devoted to science, that means a student has time in grades 9 through 12 to take eight full years of lab science rather than only four. Even at only 1.5 hours per day five days a week, that’s six years of science instead of only four.

That’s time to do two full years of chemistry, two full years of biology, and two full years of physics. And if the kids do two semesters’ worth of science every summer rather than one, that leaves time for four full semesters of additional science. Things like microbiology, molecular biology, organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, biochemistry, physical chemistry, an engineering course or two, and so on. Knowing what I know, if I were 14 years old now, that’s what I’d do. My real goal would be to skip undergrad entirely, be accepted into grad school at age 17 or 18, and get my doctorate at age 21 or 22.

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