Candidates for California Superintendent of Public Instruction

I know this is very last minute but I wanted to post some of the replies I received today from the candidates that are running for Superintended of Public Instruction. Voting for the California Primary Election closes at 8:00 PM today, so if you haven’t voted and you have a heart for home schooling, here are the candidates and their responses to the question: “What is your view on home schooling?”

  • Gloria Romero
    I couldn’t contact her in my email list because her email address is not published anywhere. I find this a little odd for a state senator but, having exhausted my efforts in trying to located a contact email address, I chose to give up lest I spent my entire day trying to find her email address.
  • Lydia Gutierrez
    “Thank you for doing the ground work in wanting to support the best person who will fight for your child’s well being.
    I fully support homeschooling. Before traditional education, children were taught at home or self-taught, like our most favored President, Abraham Lincoln. I am concern what has been happening around the world of children being forced to go to public school or even families having to flee their country because of fear of being arrested because they homeschooled.
    We must fight for parental rights and this is why I supported the ‘Right to Work’ initiative that would not allow unions to use dues for political use without the permission of the member. My union, California Teacher’s Association (CTA) supported the ‘No’ vote on Proposition 4. This was wrong; every parent has a right to know what is happening to his or her child at school.
    When it comes to educating a child, the best scenario is parents, teachers, and the community are playing an active role in the child’s academic success.”
  • Alexia L. Deligianni
    “I support a parent’s right to homeschool their child.”
  • Leonard J. Martin
    Please refer to a previous post of mine detailing Mr. Martin’s response to this question.
  • Grant McMicken
    No response as of this writing.
  • Karen Blake
    “I fully support home schooling. I would work to keep the home schooling a viable option for all parents.”
  • Daniel M. Nusbaum
    “Dear Ms. H., I support and encourage families who privately homeschool their children. As long as the parent(s) have sufficient education, they should be left alone by government to teach their own children. If anything, government could and should do more to support homeschooling parents in their efforts, by providing teaching materials and other educational support requested by parents in order to be the best homeschoolers they can be! If elected I will educate myself to learn as much as I can about the homeschooling movement and the laws pertaining to it in California.” [NOTE: This is from his website. I could not find an email address for Mr. Nusbaum]
  • Tom Torlakson
    “Thank you for contacting me. I appreciate having an opportunity to respond to questions from voters. I’m glad you took the time to ask on Election Day!

    Homeschooling is an option about which many parents feel strongly and want to pursue. So, I support parents’ rights to choose this option for their children. “

  • Faarax Dahir Sheikh-Noor
    No response as of this writing.
  • Henry Williams Jr.
    “We homeschooled our children for 12 years in California (San Francisco Bay Area). I will see to it that parents have the full freedom to home educate their children.

    Sending you my Candidate Statement attachment with important media links.

    Just loaded this MUST WATCH YouTube video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTQug1jSlpI&feature=channel

    See: Queering the Schools
    http://www.city-journal.org/html/13_2_queering_the_schools.html

    In addition, I am highly recommending that Californians vote for Ken Miller as our next governor. Here are 2 of his media links.

    https://download.yousendit.com/OHo2SkhkNmNiR0pFQlE9PQ

    https://download.yousendit.com/OHo2SkhaTlE5NVh2Wmc9PQ

    Please feel free to forward this information to your circles of influence to help them decide on what is best for their families.”

  • Diane A. Lenning
    “Hi Robert, I support “free choice” in education which includes home schooling. My nephew was home schooled and got a quality education. It is important for parents and students to have choices in education.”
  • Larry Aceves
    “Larry believes that homeschooling is a parent’s right and if a parent chooses to home-school their child, he would support that decision.

    I hope that this helps to answer your question. If not, please let us know.”

If I get more responses I will post them as they come. Again, sorry for the late posting.

Why you should not vote for Leo J. Martin for California Education Superintendent

My wife Sandi just ran across a blog post written by a homeschooling parent who made contact with Leo J. Martin, a candidate for Superintendent of Instruction for the State of California in this year’s upcoming California elections.

In the blog post Mr. Martin is quoted as saying in reply to his position on homeschooling:

Home schooling’s appropriate for children who have special difficulties that make it impossible for them to participate in traditional schooling. But under California law, a parent has the right to home school provided the parent is qualified to offer instruction. Personally, I believe nearly all kids would benefit more from being in traditional schools. Many parents home school for religious reasons, because they still hold outdated views on race or ethnicity, or for what they consider to be moral reasons. Since we have provisions for students to attend a school outside of their local community when there are legitimate reasons to do so, home schooling as an alternative to “unsafe” campuses is hardly a legitimate alternative. For the most part – overwhelmingly – the public schools of California are not only safe but are providing a high quality education. Yucca Valley should be no exception. If it is, as Superintendent I would like to hear the
complaints.

There has also been a tremendous amount of fraud connected with home schooling. Corporate organizations have sprung up to drain precious taxpayer dollars from the state budget to “supervise” home schooling. That has been to the detriment of those children, who by necessity, must be home schooled.

My advice? Send the kids to a traditional public school.

Needless to say there are many points in his response that I take issue with as a homeschooling parent, such as:

  • Home schooling’s appropriate for children who have special difficulties that make it impossible for them to participate in traditional schooling.
    According to who? Appropriateness of homeschooling, location of education or educational curriculum should really only be defined by the parent of the child being educated or the adult who is seeking education. Just like many adults find that educating themselves at home is appropriate, so do many parents find educating their children at home appropriate. To say that homeschooling is “appropriate for children who have special difficulties that make it impossible for them to participate in traditional schooling” is completely ignorant and alienates a huge segment of the population of the state. Elected officials should know better than to call their constituents stupid. Candidates need to know this. Any person who would reveal such extraordinary ignorance in dealing with parents and their decisions on educating their children has no business being in a leadership position over the educational structure and development of an entire state.
  • Many parents home school for religious reasons, because they still hold outdated views on race or ethnicity, or for what they consider to be moral reasons.
    I actually had to read this sentence a few times to see for my own eyes that Mr. Martin did indeed say these words. Apparently he is completely out of touch with the reality that our kids face in public schools today, like issues of crime, drugs, rampant promiscuity, inability for staff and administrators to effectively discipline children, lack of values placed on education within the public school system and an increasing student to teacher ratio throughout the state at all levels of education. None of these have anything to do with religion, views on race, views on ethnicity or morality. These are all issues that our kids face in California public schools today, issues that all parents should be aware of and concerned with. These are just some of the reason parents choose to homeschool, and none of them are religious in nature nor indicative of outdated views on race or ethnicity.
  • Since we have provisions for students to attend a school outside of their local community when there are legitimate reasons to do so, home schooling as an alternative to “unsafe” campuses is hardly a legitimate alternative.
    Who gets to decide what is a legitimate reason for a student to attend a school outside their local community? Someone who believes homeschooling instead of sending your student to an unsafe campus is hardly a legitimate alternative? If this is the attitude of the highest ranking educational leader in our state, I’d rather not educate my kids in this state. With this statement he is in effect saying that just because your local campus is unsafe doesn’t mean that he agrees with your decision to homeschool. Thanks Mr. Superintendent sir. Is there a way you could be less concerned about my child or my desire for him/her to be safe at school?
  • My advice? Send the kids to a traditional public school.
    And my advice to you? Stay out of office. Your incredible disregard for parents and their children would be comical if not so incredibly alarming. Parents in our state need an advocate against our government. What we don’t need is an advocate for the government against our parents and children.

Mr. Martin’s response to an another email inviting him to look closer at homeschooling and to see for himself why so many parents choose this route for their children’s education was met with an equally alarming and ignorant response:

I did not expect any home schooler to be satisfied with my response. Nor will I change it to appeal to the thousands of home schoolers who are voters. If this election were in the 1950s I would have received a question from someone representing tens of thousands of parents who opposed the racial integration of our public schools. They would have been looking for a candidate who agreed with them. My response would have turned them off and they would have urged me to read all the arguments in favor of segregation. I know those arguments, as I know the arguments for home schooling. Now, I’m not equating home schoolers with segregationists, but the situation is the same. As I would not edit my response to the segregationists to win their votes, I will not shape my response to home schoolers to seek their votes
either.

I explained before that there are legitimate reasons for home schooling. If you meet those conditions, I fully support home schooling. But that is not why most home schoolers engage in it. And while they have a legal right to do so, I do not support home schooling in those situations.

Best Regards,
Leonard J. Martin

I am not going to go into my take on this response of his. All I will ask is that if you are a homeschooling parent in California, please spread the word that this man is bad for our state’s educational system. All homeschooling parents and children will suffer if this man is elected. Let’s do our part as a free state to see to it that he never makes it into office.

Since when have the courts become parents?

Someone recently sent me a link to a court case in which a judge ordered homeschooled children into public school based on his decision that the children needed more ‘focus’. This, despite the fact the kids in question had tested above their grade levels.

A North Carolina judge has ordered three children to attend public schools this fall because the homeschooling their mother has provided over the last four years needs to be “challenged.”

The children, however, have tested above their grade levels – by as much as two years.

The decision is raising eyebrows among homeschooling families, and one friend of the mother has launched a website to publicize the issue.

The ruling was made by Judge Ned Mangum of Wake County, who was handling a divorce proceeding for Thomas and Venessa Mills.

I couldn’t believe this was a real and true story. This kind of injustice doesn’t happen in America. Does it? I know judges have an appointed authority to interpret the law and enforce it accordingly, but if you read some of Judge Mangum’s own quotes you can’t help but be left with the same questions I am sure all people who read them have.

How can any judge see this case in the manner in which Judge Mangum is seeing it? How can he favor so heavily in favor of a father that has admittedly committed adultery, repeatedly, and has even gone so far as to admit that he took time away form his kids to pursue relations with his mistress? How can this judge feel as negatively as he does toward Mrs. Mills?

I am astonished by this to be honest. If you are a home schooling parent I would encourage you, if you are not already a member, to become a member of the Home School Legal Defense Association. It is an invaluable resource for home schooling families and something that every home school parent should be a part of.

And if you haven’t yet, stop on by The Homeschool Injustice blog set up by Mills family friend Robyn Williams and offer a word of encouragement to Venessa or support for the case that she is so valiantly fighting right now.

Teaching your child beyond the textbook

The other day I was at my sister’s house. While I was there I noticed by niece doing her math homework and as I sat next to her my sister asked me to help her because she was having a hard time with it. As I reviewed the material and looked at the problem it became clear that my niece’s struggle with her homework was not because she couldn’t do it or because it was too hard. The struggle was that context of the problem was completely irrelevant to her and as such, didn’t offer much in the way of motivating her.

So I decided to do to her what I do to my kids: teach her outside the textbook in a real life context that would make sense to her. This isn’t a cutting-edge principle by any stretch of the imagination, but it is one in which many parents fail to provide adequately for their children’s learning. And please don’t take that to mean that parents are failures at teaching. To the contrary, parents that invest time into their children are smashing successes. It’s just that often children need more out of their young education than their school or teacher can give them (hence my love for homeschooling).

The problem that my niece was working was pretty simple as it was stated: “A basketball team has won 15 out of 21 games. What percentage of games did they win?” Simple enough, right? But beyond setting up a percentage division equation, where is the thought supposed to come from in this problem? When is the last time you had a problem to solve that was written down on a piece of paper for you?

So after I explained how to set up the necessary equations to determine a percentage from a total and a quantity and I threw a few problems at her. The first was a handful of crayons. There were broken crayons and complete crayons. I asked her to first tell me what the total was. Then I asked her to count how many of the crayons were complete. Then I asked her to tell what percentage of crayons were complete.

We moved on from there to looking at the complete crayons and I asked her to tell me how many of the complete crayons had yellow wrappers and then tell me the percentage of complete crayons that had yellow wrappers. Each time I asked her to set the problem up on paper only after she was able to look at the situation and determine the variables and values for herself.

Then I gave her another problem, a little more relevant to what she does for fun. She is one a swim team. So I told her that there is a swim team that just competed at the championships. The team had 150 swimmers on the team. Of those 150 swimmers 20% were girls under the age of 12. I then asked her how many of the girls on the team were under 12. After that I told her that the coach wanted to surprise the girls under 12 on the team by taking them to a water park to celebrate their season. But the coach found out at the last minute that only kids 8 and over were allowed in the park. I told her that there were 9 girls on the team that under 8 years old that wouldn’t be allowed to go. I then asked her to calculate the percentage of girls under 12 that would not be allowed to go to the water park. Then, as a recap, I asked he to tell me the percentage of the swim team those 9 girls represented.

I set up problems like this for my kids all the time. I can, because I am one of their teachers. Very seldom do I take a problem as it was written in a book and hand it to them to solve. I am actually looking for a few things from my kids when I teach them, none of which is available from them calculating numbers on a page.

The first thing I want them to do is understand the nature of the problem they are solving. Setting up a solution to a problem has to start with understanding the problem at hand. If not, well your foundation will suck and will ultimately lead to potentially questionable results.

The next thing I want them to do is think about the simplest way to solve the problem. Complex problems can sometimes be solved by simple means. But looking at something and thinking right away that it is a huge problem and then getting worked up over it can and usually does lead to something going haywire. Thinking about the nature of the problem often presents potential paths to a solution, and sometimes even offers a simple solution.

After figuring the best way to solve the problem I like my kids to setup the way in which they will solve it. This can be the part where they write and equation, or using block put some on one side of a table and some on the other, or using army men or … you get the point. Whatever path they have chosen to solve the problem needs to then be converted to a solvable schematic.

From there it is just a matter of arithmetic or simple logic. When it comes to math I am really not at all concerned with the correct answer being returned so much as I am with the correct means to a solution being used. Arithmetic is the easier of the things to teach when it comes to math. Logic, not so much.

And such is the case with almost all disciplines of education. Language, history, science… all disciplines have challenges that need to be solved, solutions to those challenges and basics that are used in those solutions. unfortunately schools, textbooks and teachers often have to rely on making things as simple as they can for the bulk of the students being taught and this often results in many students that could learn more or learn faster being restrained and often retarded in their learning.

But if you are a parent you have opportunities every day to test your children, teach your children and train your children. In fact, it isn’t so much an opportunity as it is a responsibility. And it is a responsibility that parents must necessarily take seriously given the condition of our public education system.

Wrapping it up

Just for grins I gave this problem to my three older daughters yesterday after watching a cake competition on Food Network. Sarah gave me the answer before I finished telling her the problem. Lets see how well you do:

Say you are making a stacked cake. The bottom layer of the cake is a perfect square in shape with a known side length of L. Now say we are going to put a round cake on top of this layer and we want the round cake to be exactly in the middle of the square cake below it. The round cake will have a diameter, D, that is smaller than the length L of the square cake. How would you determine where on the square cake to place the round cake so that the round cake was exactly in the middle of the square cake?

Ready? Go!

Visiting the teacher’s mecca – RAFT

Last night I had the wonderful experiencing of going to RAFT. RAFT is the Resource Area For Teachers and because my wife and I homeschool our kids we get to access the awesomeness that is the RAFT showroom.

I was totally amazed at how cool this place is. They receive lots of teaching, classroom, office and business supplies from all over and sell it at stupidly low prices to teachers. Some of the stuff they sell if brand new stuff (like notepads, pencils, stickers and some books) while other stuff is used (some books, furniture, computer equipment) while other stuff is donated new stuff (company embossed shirts, coffee cups, mouse pads, computer bags). I was blown away at the sheer magnitude of the place, the inventory they had and the brilliant ideas they had for using some of the things there that you would never expect to see or use in education.

Like sport water bottle lids. Did you know you could use one of those, a CD and a balloon to make a hover device? They sell a kit for that for like $1. Everything the sell is typically below $2 though there are a few things that they sell for more (nice corporate apparel can get as high as $5 while computers and servers can go as high as $115). But the ideas they package with old unwanted material is amazing. And the amount of stuff they have there to test your imagination is even more awesome.

I saw CDs, CD cases, CD tube bases (excellent ring toss posts), CD tube bodies, scrap clothing material, scrap wood, butcher paper, binders, tinsel, medical pipette racks, food trays…. the list goes on and on.

So if you are a teach in norther California you really owe it to yourself to get to RAFT. You can get a lot of great ideas, a lot of great stuff and have a great time for just a little bit of money.

Interview with Miss Mota Mouth Michelle Naranjo

I am a social media hound. I love the social web and all that it encompasses. And as a web developer I love finding new instances of technology in use around the Internet. In the arena of Internet technology no where has there been as exhaustive an explosion of technological advancement and the inventive use of said technology as in the social media space.

It would go without saying then I have a pretty deep place in my internet <3 for social web sites that kick ass when it comes to the use of modern technology (or older technology with a modern, inventive spin on it). Of those sites, my favorites are Twitter, BrightKite and FriendFeed. I am not really sure if I like Plurk and Kwippy just yet, though I do use them. I also have accounts at Utterz, Pownce and Identi.ca, and I tie them all together with Ping.fm. I am not at all a fan of Flickr or Picasa or YouTube or Facebook or MySpace. There is just something so nasty about all of them that I only visit those sites on occassion and, when I do, it is usually only for short amounts of time.

Enough about my fascination with the social web. Today I was asked by Twitter’s own @missmotormouth herself, Michelle Naranjo, to be Interviewed because some of the recent Tweets I have made regarding fuel prices and the effects of said prices on families, outings and the general economy of the home. I have used the social web for a while as a medium to voice some of my discontent with rising fuel prices. I have used this blog to voice a lot more of the discontented feelings I have regarding lots of stuff. A lot of what I feel makes its way into the social circle, including my thoughts on homeschooling, marriage, finances, work, programming and many other issues that I hold dear to me.

In talking with Michelle about fuel prices we also got on the subject of homeschooling. We talked briefly about her daughter’s challenges in public and private schools and her success with homeschooling before being admitted to a magnet school. We talked about the current state of the California education system. We talked about Christianity (mildly) and we talked about the economy.

We also talked about Toyota and the trail they are blazing through the auto manufacturing sector, the experience I had with NUMMI (a GM and Toyota joint venture plant), some of the knowledge I had gained from knowing the Toyota Production System and some of the other things I have experience with, like car sales, design, time to market and customer experience. In the end it was a great hour or so spent talking business, economy, children and experience. Plus I was asked if, in the future some time, I might consider writing a guest blog for an as yet to be named site (not sure how I would do that seeing as I can barely keep up with mine).

But of all that I could take from this experience the one thing that stood out to me the most is that the social web can be used in today’s business world if used properly. Not all socializing on the net is young men stalking young women hoping to “hook up”. It is very possible to find lots of useful information, and to provide lots of useful information, when you use the internet in an appropriate way. It has given everyone an equal voice and a platform by which to project that voice. And I have used that platform, sometimes thinking that I was the only one on the internet, to broadcast my thoughts, rants, feelings and commentary. And lo and behold, someone was listening.

Socializing with me
If you ever want to know what I am up to when I am not totally neglecting this blog…
http://twitter.com/RobertGonzalez/
http://brightkite.com/people/RobertGonzalez/
http://friendfeed.com/robertgonzalez
http://www.plurk.com/user/robertgonzalez
http://www.kwippy.com/RobertGonzalez/
http://www.utterz.com/RobertGonzalez
http://pownce.com/RobertGonzalez/
http://identi.ca/robertgonzalez/

Discovering new discoveries close to home

Sandi had a therapy appointment yesterday in San Jose and I, with kids in tow, had an hour to kill. What better use of an hour than to find undicovered roads and learn a little bit at the same time?

It started out innocently enough. I took a right turn where I would normally take a left. It very quickly got exciting from there.

We were on North 1st street heading North. That takes you right into the heart of Alviso, a tiny little, almost forgotten town at the northern most end of San Jose and Milpitas. As we drove we were captivated by the style of the homes in the area. They were very turn-of-the-century, Southern Victorian style homes in the style of a hurricane infested residential area.

As we continued I noticed a few very old abandoned buildings. Then something caught my eye. It was a sign for the Alviso Yacht Club. Yacht Club? How could this be? There is not really a place to yacht around here. To prove myself correct, I drive just a little bit further.

I came to a court that had what appeared to be an entrance to a parking lot jutting out from it. Being in the mood for new discoveries I let my curiosity get the better of me and drove in. I am so glad I did that.

What we came across was the Alviso Marina County Park. Now I have known about Alviso all my life. I grew up in Newark and have lived in Fremont for quite a while. But I did not know that Alviso was this cool. And I specifically did not know that Alviso had this cool county park.

Since I had an hour I decided that the kids and I would get out and check this place out. And we were not disappointed. Though it is still a little early in Spring the poppies were out. The animals (squirrels, herons, pidgeons, lizards, etc) were out. The sun was out. It was perfect.

We hit the path and started looking, reading and snapping photos. There was a lot to look at and, even though it was a little warm, we managed to pretty much take the entire loop in about 45 minutes.

Here are some of the pictures we fetched while we were there.


A little history on the Alviso Marina County Park

Park Plaque

Hey girls, wucha find?

Two little curious girls

A view of the salt flats, the marsh and the mountains

A great view

Benny, the no tail having bearded dragon

Cool lizard

I wonder what the rent is on a place like this?

Houseboat


As you can see we had a great big old time in this little park. I am amazed that I have never heard of this place before. The kids already want to go back. So do I. And I would love to take Sandi with us next time.

I would also like to spend a few minutes wandering around old town Alviso. I think it would be neat to see the little town and eat at some of their very cool looking, small town type restaurants.