The Mack Sisters Handbell Debut at Bellfest 2010

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

This summer, Amy & Wendy decided to prepare a special piece to perform at the Master's College annual Bellfest and chose the song "O Holy Night". While they have been ringing bells for a long time, this was Emily and Kelly's first time to ring handbells and they were very eager to learn. The girls had a lot of fun practicing together and filling the house with music and were able to pull it off. It was amazing to see how quickly the piece came together and how smoothy it went.

After an audition, the girls were invited to perform in the Master's college Bellfest and everyone enjoyed it!

The girls enjoyed playing this song on the handbells and the four of them look forward to performing together again.

Andantino - The Fellowship of the Ring

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

This year, Amy & Wendy have the opportunity to experience small ensemble ringing through through a new group: The Fellowship of the Ring. They started this trio last year with their friend Morgan Ruthardt and enjoyed it so much that they decided to continue the ensemble this semester. At the beginning of the semester, the three of them made the decision that the trio would only play music that was either written or arranged by someone in the ensemble, allowing them the freedom to play whatever song they wanted in whatever way they chose to play it. Because all either music majors or music lovers, writing their own music has helped them grow in their musical abilities. It has also given them a better understanding of the pieces they are playing (how they work and fit together) as well as a lot of fun.

I've enjoyed watching this handbell ensemble and I look forward to their next performance.

It's time to stop following Justin Beiber on Twitter and hit the books...

Now that the wildly successful "The man your man could smell like" campaign has made its way around the world, we are beginning to see some very classy parodies. How does the saying go? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

By the way, in case you've been under a rock or away from the planet for a while, here's the original

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.
This weekend, Amy and Wendy were invited to participate in Bellfest 2007 at The Master's College.  Christine Anderson taught a bell class for small groups, ensembles, and solos.  Amy and Wendy prepared a beautiful piece to share at the concert at the end of the day. (Click on the image to watch the video)

What's amazing is that the girls accomplished this using two inexpensive sets of children's bells. If you've ever seen or rung one of these bells - where the clapper can go in any direction - you will know how hard it is to get one of these bells to ring only once or on queue. Amy and Wendy perfected a technique that allowed them to do this well, and they were an inspiration to everyone present.  I'm very proud of them..

I'm also very appreciative of Mrs. Anderson for her kindness and invitation and inspiration to my children.

You can visit Christine Anderson's web site at Voices in Bronze
The Mack Family has finished another year of homeschool!

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.
Continue Reading "First day of school" »

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.  

Continue Reading "Teaching Your Kids GTD" »
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" »

Picture challenge for Mr. Womack

Wednesday, March 15th, 2006
Dear Mr. Womack, We really enjoy your picture challenges. We have one for you.

Recently, we were on vacation and were able to view a small part of a race.  What kind of race was it, what was it called, and what city were we in?  Here are your clues: wheels, ocean, man powered, helmets, hundreds of participants, cow bells.

Continue Reading "Picture challenge for Mr. Womack" »

Technologists in training

Friday, August 19th, 2005
When I lived in Mons, Belgium, as a kid, I apprenticed to a master craftsman for about a year or so. The man was a fine woodworker and he taught me many things, a few of which I actually remember. (Like pointed end of the tool goes away from the body.) In addition to learning how to sweep, sand, and carve, I learned about pride in workmanship and the reward for focused effort. Though I did not understand or appreciate it at the time, I became a part of a rich heritage and tradition of knowledge transfer from master to student. Now it's my turn, as a parent, to do the same


Two weeks ago, I brought Amy & Wendy along to David Allen's to help me deploy several new T42 ThinkPads for David's ever-expanding staff. We'd rehearsed the software loading and deployment process back in my lab, so when we got to Ojai, Amy & Wendy knew what to do. It's a great way to expose my children to technology, teach them the value of work, and allow them to earn money to put towards the new computers they plan to buy. (Yes, they get paid when the work they do brings value to a client)

My colleague, Michael Sampson, is also mentoring his children as Technologists in training. That's neat!

I think of this as a modern day version of one generation passing on their skills to the next.

Outlook help needed

Wednesday, July 27th, 2005
Wendy and I are sitting here, watching NASA TV on her laptop.  The shuttle crew has just radioed down to Houston control to ask for help; it seems that they cannot get Outlook to connect to the on-board server. As best as Wendy and I can determine, they are running a network of laptops on board, with one laptop apparently acting as their mail relay to the ground.

NASA Television 07/27/2005
9:25 PM PST

Wendy's indicated that she would be happy to make an on-site visit help them troubleshoot their network. Michael and I have recent experience with high altitude networking.

I'm not sure if the Shuttle crew is following my blog while in space, but I thought that we might collect some possible solutions for them - just in case they check in via RSS. Meanwhile, I'll listen to the NASA channel for details.

Tune in now to  NASA TV to watch along.

Parents: be involved with your children

Thursday, July 21st, 2005
There are many studies that show the benefits of different modes of education, including home education, government schools, parochial schools, and private schools. It is not uncommon for a discussion of these to quickly, , turn into a discussion of which is better: home education vs government schools, or which provides a more socialized child, or any of a number of other aspects of the educational experience. I know; I have these discussions often with parents of school-age children - regardless of where they choose to educate their children.  Recently, a blog entry led to some interesting discussion in follow-up emails and comments.

I do not believe that the debate should be between public government vs home education. I can come up with strong arguments for both points of view - I've even debated many of these in public settings.  Both options offer opportunities and benefits to our children. I think there is a more important discussion that needs to occur in every home: the importance of parental involvement in the training and education of their children.

Ask any teacher and they will tell you that one of the most important factors that influence the outcome of a child's education is parental involvement. This is important, because teachers will only be involved for a brief period of time in the life of our children. Even the finest teachers in the finest schools only have but a few hours a day to influence their class. From that, subtract time for distractions, (breaks, disciplinary interruptions, lunch, assemblies. etc.) Divide the remaining time by the number of students in the class, and you will realize just how little time that is really available in each day for the education of each individual student.

Theoretically speaking, even if a school were operating at 100% efficiency - educating the full time that our children were in attendance - they would only have the students for what, 6 hours a day? What parents do with their children for the remaining 18 hours a day will largely determine the effectiveness of their child's education.

While I'm thankful that our government provides educational opportunities for children, the government cannot - and should not - be responsible to provide the total education of our children. It's not their job. That's my job and Kathy's job as parents. If you're a parent, it's your job, too. Parents, you must be involved, not only in selecting the format and venue for their child's education, but in every aspect of encouragement and reinforcement that goes on until your child leaves home as an adult.  

For parents that choose to educate their children at home, as we do, or for parents that choose to send their children to a government school, parochial school, or even the finest private school, I say: BE INVOLVED. Be involved and stay involved, all the way through high-school and college graduation. That's a big responsibility. Far more important than career or work or recreation.

Outside of our spiritual responsibility to our children, I believe it's the most important responsibility that we as parents have.

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.

Times have changed

Thursday, July 14th, 2005
Two recent comments to my blog about Amy & Wendy's podcast got me thinking about how tech and times have changed since I was a kid.

Colin Walker:
Excellent podcasts - I take my hat off to everyone involved. Listening to them, it really points out how times have changed since I was 12 years old.

Warner Crocker:
These efforts by these two young ladies continue to impress mightily.

Warner, Colin, in 1978, when I was 15, I was what some would have called a computer genius - or at least a computer wiz kid. (Whatever that means).  When I was a kid, if you wanted a computer, you had to build it - either from a Heathkit  - or better, from scratch. In either case, you started with chips and circuit boards to wire wrapping and soldering. The one megahertz 8-bit CPU in my H-8 wasn't fast by today's standards, but I never complained. (I simply clock doubled it to TWO megahertz and added beefy cooling to the chassis.)

I once read an article, about 20 years ago, that attempted to explain why so many young computer wizards had appeared on the scene all at once. (Aside from the fact that computers were suddenly available to the masses; at least those with the money and time to build one.)

The article, as best as I remember, offered these reasons:

Young people often:
  • Have lots of time
  • Are infinitely curious
  • Are not intimidated by the dreaded "BDOS ERROR ON DRIVE A:" (If you remember CP/M you'll get it)
  • Are willing to experiment to find a work-around
  • Will spend hours, trying to make something work (i.e. Text Adventure)
  • Usually don't care what others think about their computer efforts
  • Take satisfaction in leaning/knowing things others don't (or won't)
If you have  young children and computers, put them together; then get out of the way.  (No internet connection needed)

I love encouraging my children - and children in general - to explore technology. That's why I enjoy robotics outreach programs where I get to dress up like this. I wish that when I was a kid, I had access to everything that they have now.

I look forward to seeing what my children will accomplish as they grow up. I look forward to learning from them, too.
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.

Why do they call them radio buttons, dad?

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005
We all know what radio buttons are -- software buttons that allow you to make only one selection. But why do they call them by that name and how do you explain the answer to a kid who was born long after those radios - the ones with the mechanical push-buttons - disappeared?

Radio Button.jpg

I faced this challenge, this evening, as I taught my children how to install Windows XP onto their computers. (Part of our homeschool computer class)

My answer: a radio button is a round button you can click on to select one of several choices in a list. You can only select one radio button at a time. When you select another button, the original button is deselected - it "pops up," just like the mechanical car radios. (Unless, of course, you were like me as a kid: I tried to see how many buttons you could push down at the same time.)

Google, provides a technical definition here.

However, Jake Howlett, has a much better explanation.

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

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?

Technologist considers home education

Monday, June 21st, 2004
Fellow technologist, Richard Schwartz, recently blogged that he is considering home educating his gifted daughter, and he's looking for information from other technically oriented parents who are already doing this. If you fit that description, he'd like to hear from you.

Kathy and I have been home educating our four daughters since birth (the older twins are now 11.75 years old) and we have found it to be a simultaneously challenging, time-consuming, exhilarating, and rewarding experience. It's a lot of work, but the benefits can be tremendous.

Home Education involves many aspects and can be accomplished in a variety of ways. That's one of the wonderful things about becoming responsible for your child's education. You do not have to do everything alone or even at home. I tell parents that any parent can (and I believe should) become a home-educating parent -- regardless of whether or not they entrust their child's education to an outside institution (public or private) for portion of their day.

Home education is about more than just where the learning takes place; it is about the process and the approach. Every discussion, event, activity, problem and question that your child  asks is a learning opportunity.  What will be learned depends entirely upon how you respond. This can be a great deal of fun, too. Just take a look at my past blog about Binary Carrots.  (I could fill a daily blog site with stories like these.)

My first recommendation, Richard, would be to attend a local home education conference. There, you will find a variety of resources. For my wife and I, it is one of our favorite times of year, and in many ways, it is better than  [gasp]  Comdex or Lotusphere. Imagine the excitement of being in a convention center with 5000 other people -- all parents -- who have only one focus in mind -- how to best educate and equip their children for life. Add to this the speakers, exhibits, curriculum vendors, and learning resource companies; you will definitely leave exhilarated and with a new perspective.

Since many focus on the academic potential of home education, which is great, I'll mention something else: relationships. We have found that our own family relationships have been greatly strengthened by the time and activities that we do together, and I have observed this in most of the other homeschool families that I know.  This destroys the myth that quality time is better than quantity of time.  You need a lot of both. Kids watch and learn from everything that they see.

I could go on all day, about this and other benefits, but I'll take my leave. Perhaps I'll write more to post on our Family Homeschool site, which I am currently converting to DominoBlog, so that I can more easily add information, resources and sections. Amy and Wendy have already asked for sections where they can blog about their LEGO robotics team and other school-related projects and activities.

Best wishes for your family success.

Eric Mack

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

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.

Image:Homeschool Geography
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.
Image:Homeschool Geography

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.
Image:Homeschool Geography
Image:Homeschool Geography

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.

ProDesktop 3D CAD

Friday, August 15th, 2003
My friend and fellow robotics mentor, Rob Steele, and I have just completed a 3-day Solid Modelling (CAD) course for educators, sponsored by PTC, makers of ProDesktop and ProEngineer.  The course was held at California State University, at Northridge.  Once we complete our course assignments, we will be certified to teach ProDesktop to students. We plan to use this training to teach students in our U.S. FIRST robotics teams real-world CAD/CAM skills.

Here is an example of some of the basic solid models we worked on. The next step in this exercise is to render the materials to cover the surface of the model. I can't wait to show the kids how to take their concepts to design.  Eventually, I plan to teach the kids how to take their computer designs and machine them on a CNC mill and lathe using some of the equipment in my CNC Lab.
Image:ProDesktop 3D CAD

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.

Binary Carrots

Saturday, March 29th, 2003
This evening at the dinner table, Amy asked me what a byte was.  Knowing that she was not referring to the mouthful of vegetables I had just taken, and that I first needed to explain what a bit was, I 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, I 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?

Home Education

Sunday, March 16th, 2003

My wife and I home educate our 4 daughters. We have set up this web site to be a place where we can share news and information about our homeschool activities as well as home education in general.

Visit the Mack Academy Web Site

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!

Sports for the Mind

Saturday, December 7th, 2002
Image:Sports for the Mind
I have just returned from a quick trip to San Diego where the all-girls homeschool robotics team that I am coaching participated in the U.S. FIRST LEGO Robotics Competition.   The team consisted of my two oldest daughters and four other homeschooled girls.  It was a fun opportunity to teach a little math, a little science, how to build a LEGO robot, and how to give a presentation.

The girls had to give their research presentation as well as their technical presentation before a panel of judges; scientists from the San Diego Supercomputing Center.  They were then called back throughout the day for additional interviews with the judges.

At the end of the day, during the awards ceremony, the team was awarded the Judges trophy for their excellent work on their technical and research presentations.  The girls did an outstanding job on their research and presentation projects. I am very proud of all of them.

Here is an emotional video of the girls being called down to receive the judges trophy.   (Amy is the one accepting the trophy)
     RealVideo - High speed               RealVideo - Low speed

I plan to update the girls team web site with more photos and their newspaper articles soon.

If any of you have, or know of middle school-aged children, the U.S. FIRST organization, founded by Dean Kamen, is a truly wonderful group of people, dedicated to the inspiration and recognition of science and technology in students.

Amy & Wendy & GTD

Thursday, October 18th, 2001
Today, Amy and Wendy were given the honor of attending a David Allen seminar with me.  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 Allen!)

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.

Nutty Professor

Sunday, July 30th, 2000
This year, the theme for our Vacation Bible School was Science.  As an outreach of ICA Robotics,  I put on my lab coat and my special colander hat, complete with wires, lights, and propeller.  I entertained the children with a variety of robots, including our family favorite, HERO 2000.
Image:Nutty ProfessorImage:Nutty Professor