Archive for the ‘Teaching Science’ category

Homeschooled Warrior Hobbit’s Flying Dreams Come True

August 18, 2011

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One of America's finest, Ben "Frodo" Broussard, next to a Navy T-45 Trainer.

Since I was a child I have dreamed about flying. And not daydreams about flying airplanes (although I’ve had plenty of those), but deep dreams where I was actually flying! Just me zipping through the air, or running along the ground and “gliding” down a flight of stairs instead of walking. Fortunately, because of the major safety hazards involved, I have never attempted to turn my flying dreams into reality. However, a former student of mine and U.S. Naval Academy Graduate, Ben “Frodo” Broussard, recently had his dreams of flying (airplanes) come true, along with his dream of landing on an aircraft carrier.

Now, not to make light of the multitude of accomplishments that so many of my former students have had and continue to achieve, but as a former aerospace engineer and lover of all winged things, I hope you can understand my particular excitement about Ben’s recent achievements. And as you will see, it is not just Ben’s flying achievements that I am excited about.

Jump back in time with me to the late 1990’s when Ben was just 10 years old and totally absorbed with a book on airplanes. As his mother, Lisa, told me recently, Ben read the book with a “gleam in his eye,” and it was then that he realized he wanted to land a plane on an aircraft carrier someday. But then, at 13, Ben received the hard news that he needed glasses, which at the time meant you were not eligible to fly Navy planes. Devastated by the news, it did not deter Ben from pursuing the dream.

And this is where it is important to realize that the Broussards are no ordinary family, not because they have roots in Louisiana, but because of their unwavering faith in God’s plan. It is unfortunate that I have to call them “unordinary,” but it’s true. There are a lot of families that simply do not know, or do not care about, trusting God with their lives. But the Broussards are a great example of what it means to walk with Christ, rejoicing in the good times, accepting the trials, working hard and having fun along the way. As the answer to Question 1 of the Westminster Catechism says, the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, and I would say the Broussard family knows how to do that!

Fast-forward now to 2003, when Ben was a student in my homeschool coop AP physics class. In these classes, students do their homework and video lectures at home, at their own pace. We meet once a week for discussion, but mainly to do a hands-on lab activity. One of our lab activities is to build and launch a model rocket. It is actually a competition, where all students get the same Estes Alpha rocket kit, but are allowed to make modifications in an attempt to maximize its speed and minimize its weight. Ben took the modification a little too far though, and forgot to add the onboard computer guidance system that his rocket obviously needed. Upon launch, this future aeronautical engineer’s rocket cartwheeled out of control, and sent more than a few students ducking for cover! Now, there are some students who would have cowered and been extremely embarrassed by such a massive failure, but Ben had the right attitude and took it in stride. And that is part of what Scripture teaches when we read in Hebrews 12:1 about running with perseverance the race marked out for us. And if you are a student, remember this the next time you start whining about having too much schoolwork, or you get mad at God and your parents because you think things are too hard. Instead, honor your parents by doing the things they have asked you to do with a smile on your face and a 100% effort. And don’t beat yourself up when the inevitable failures come, but instead pick yourself up, humble yourself before the Lord, let Him lead you, and try again.

Ben graduated in 2004 in his homeschool class of 1, where he received top honors. A man of many talents, Ben the actor made quite a production out of his graduation, which included, of all things, a rap song he made about my DIVE math and science lessons and my use of the phrase “think about it.” Of course, I had to ruin the fun of the evening with my overly serious graduation charge to Ben, which you can read here: Ben Broussard Graduation Charge, 2004

After high school graduation, the improbability of Ben reaching his dreams seemed more real than ever. You see, Ben did not get into the Naval Academy on his first try. Miraculously though, in the Summer of 2004, he was accepted after Induction Day, which is something that hadn’t happened in 30 years, and hasn’t happened since. Some might say Ben was “lucky”. His mother believes it was Providence, that the “Lord moved a very established institution to accomplish His plans.” I agree with Ben’s mother!

So Ben goes to the Naval Academy, where he is asked by officers how many were in his graduating class, and shocks them when he responds with “ONE, Sir!” Fortunately, U.S. military academies are not so surprised by homeschoolers anymore, and in fact they seem to like them quite a bit.

Ben still had the vision issues though, and was content to settle for a position as a navigator if necessary. But thanks to God allowing the achievements of modern medicine, Ben had PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) surgery his junior year, and now has 20-20 vision. The successful PRK surgery would allow Ben to pass his flight medical his senior year.

Of course, Ben still needed to graduate, which he did, and he still needed to be accepted to flight school, which he was. Somewhere along the way during The Basic School for Marine Officers (TBS), he aquired the nickname of the “Warrior Hobbit.” And then, in July 2011, Ben “Frodo” Broussard’s 15-year dream of landing on an aircraft carrier came true. The video below was produced by Ben, and the footage from the cockpit is what he saw. The other footage was shot by Ben as well. Watch as Ben and other USMC pilots make one of the world’s most awesome, and most difficult jobs look easy:

In Ephesians 2 we are reminded that we are saved by the gift of faith God gives us, not by works. But if you keep reading, you see that as Christians we are also called in Christ Jesus to do the works He has prepared beforehand for us to do. Ben did not achieve his personal dream because he focused only on it at the expense of everything else. Quite the contrary, Ben was blessed with this incredible accomplishment while walking humbly with his God, enjoying life, loving others and making them laugh along the way. It is good and important for us to dream and plan and let our children do the same, but it is more important to commit to His plan and seek His will every second of the day. Thank you Broussards for setting a great example of what a Christian homeschooling family should look like!

UPDATE!!! March 28, 2012: “Frodo” received his “wings”, and is now flying Harriers for the United States Marines! Harriers are amazing aircraft that can take off and land vertically! Watch this video by Frodo, he’s flying Harrier #27:

DIVE Earth Science is here!

July 20, 2011

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Unlike our lineup of High School Science products, DIVE Earth Science is a standalone curriculum. No extra book(s) are required, although a list of optional materials is provided for those who want to go above and beyond the basic curriculum.

DIVE Earth Science will change the way you think about the Earth! God gave us the Earth to use and manage wisely (Genesis 1:26-28). DIVE Earth Science teaches students how to use Earth’s abundant resources, while avoiding the “ditches” of overuse and overprotection.

DIVE Earth Science consists of four sections: Earth Science Basics, Flood Geology, Limnology and Oceanography, and Meteorology and Astronomy. In Earth Science Basics, students are presented with foundational ideas that are developed further in the other three sections. This method is similar to John Saxon’s successful mathematics teaching format of introducing a foundational topic early on, and reviewing and building on it later.

In many Earth Science courses, students are taught misleading arguments that withhold many facts, such as “the Big Bang is the only explanation for how the Universe was created”, “fossil fuel burning is the only cause of global warming”, “fertilizer runoff from farms is causing the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico”, “all oil is formed from dead dinosaurs”, and many others. Possibly more than any other curriculum before it, DIVE Earth Science brings clarity to these arguments, and strives to tell “the rest of the story”.

In any Earth Science course, the subject of Earth history will inevitably arise. The subject has become highly politicized, mainly by the liberal left, who falsely equate the study of history with testable, repeatable science. Today, only one creation story is dogmatically taught in most government schools and universities, and it is not the story found in Scripture. DIVE Earth Science treats the study of history honestly, which means we treat it like history, not science. And that means historical documents like Scripture are helpful and necessary.

With DIVE Earth Science, students will learn to discern between unverifiable natural history research and verifiable scientific investigation. Also, students are presented with a variety of ideas about how the Earth and Universe formed, not just one “consensus” view! The goal of DIVE Earth Science is not to support a consensus view, but to teach students how to search for truth. Christian or non-Christian, “old” earth or “young” earth, I would hope that is something we would all want to help our children do!

We have a CD-ROM version for $80, and an online subscription for $50, plus $10 for each additional family member. The online version has many advantages including access anywhere you have a computer and Internet, no CD to damage and/or lose, and maybe most importantly, automated scoring and grade tracking. Click here to learn how the online version can make grading a breeze for busy homeschool parents! DIVE Online works on Windows and Mac computers, and even though it is Flash-based, it will also work on an iPad if you use the Photon browser.

Here is a sample pdf file of the laboratory manual, which includes the yearly schedule:

Sample Earth Science Workbook and Table of Contents

Here’s a pdf file containing a list of all laboratory supplies. Many items can be purchased locally, and Internet links are provided for other supplies. There is also a list of optional reading materials, both Internet links/videos, and books/DVDs to purchase:

DIVE Earth Science Lab Instructions and Supplies List

Here’s a demo of the Getting Started lesson, plus the video lectures, lab activities, computer-based homework and facts practice for Week 3:

DIVE Earth Science Demo

DIVE Earth Science will change the way science is taught. It will give your child a 21st Century Earth Science education, while strengthening their faith in the absolute truth of Scripture as a God-inspired work that is a true account of the history of Earth and the Universe.

Here is a link to our Facebook page, where I have a description of DIVE Earth Science topics covered each week. Just click on the photos, and the descriptions are attached to them.

To purchase, click here for the CD or here for the online version. Here’s a short commercial about DIVE Earth Science:

Do you have a question or comment about the new DIVE Earth Science? Post it below:

Understanding vs. Memorization

April 29, 2011

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A Google search of the phrase “understanding versus memorization” yielded some of the following comments:

  • “The old style of teaching used to stress memorization.”
  • “More and more top-level research on how we learn backs up the benefits of ‘teaching for understanding’ versus memorization.”
  • “Productive thinking is defined as thinking based on an understanding of the nature of problems rather than on memorization of facts and rules.”

Another popular homeschool math curriculum states that only 5% of mathematics should be learned by rote and 95% should be understood.

So, it seems that memorization is “out”, and understanding is “in!” Or is it? Before we continue, I think it is important to define some terms:

understand-perceive the meaning of

memorize-commit to memory; learn by heart

analogy– a comparison between two things

When looking for a curriculum, whether it’s math or science, I think it would be a bad idea to pick the curriculum based on its emphasis on understanding versus memorization. In a good curriculum, there is no competition going on between the two. Both understanding AND memorization are important. What is even more important though, is the use of an analogy, a comparison between two things. Think about it, what was one of the first assignments God gave to a human? To name the animals. When we name things, we are making a comparison of two things, 1) the object and 2) its name. Jesus used parables all the time, and parables are a form of an analogy. And think about what Jesus did, he would use an example of something people were already familiar with, or had committed to memory, to perceive the meaning of something else. He would use a common item like a seed to help people understand things like faith (Matthew 17:20) and God’s word (Luke 8:11). God designed our brains to learn new things using analogies. 

A good curriculum will use the analogy of something familiar to learn about something new. I have a copy of “Elements of Algebra”, originally written in 1765 by Leonhard Euler. This book is important because 1) it was written by the man that most consider to be the greatest mathematician EVER, and 2) the basic layout of most modern algebra textbooks is based on this book. One thing you will not find in this book is a discussion of “understanding versus memorization.” What you will find though is the extensive use of analogies. For example, to help a student understand adding fractions, Euler begins by explaining how to add fractions with common denominators. Euler familiarizes the student with this simple example. Next he uses it as an analogy to teach the more complex subject of addition of fractions with different denominators.

Any good math curriculum would teach addition of fractions in this way. Saxon math, for example, begins teaching addition and subtraction of fractions in their 3rd grade text, Math 3. This is continued in Math 5/4, as they build on understanding and memorizing how to simplify fractions. Adding fractions with different denominators is not covered in detail until Math 6/5, when the student has had ample time gaining experience adding and simplifying fractions, and committing the techniques involved to memory.

One reason I like the Saxon method so much is that it is not an “understanding versus memorization” approach, but instead relies heavily on the use of analogies. A student is given time to understand a concept and commit it to memory. Over time, something that may have been difficult for a student to do becomes familiar and easy to do. Once it is familiar, then Saxon presents a new concept that builds on the old one. The familiar concept is used as an analogy to help the student understand a new concept.

Understanding and memorization are both important. A student who has memorized basic math facts and rules will have a strong foundation on which to build. Memorization provides a foundation on which to advance learning. It is not an “old style of teaching” or “5% important”.  A good math curriculum will challenge a student’s understanding of the facts and rules by giving them opportunities to apply the facts and rules in new situations to solve new problems. A good math curriculum is one where memorization and understanding work together, and new concepts are gently introduced, mainly through the use of analogies. This is how Leonhard Euler taught math, it is how traditional Saxon textbooks teach math, and it is how I teach math, and it works!

Understanding and memorization are important in all learning, including advancing your learning of God and His perfect plan for you. If you spend time on Scripture memory, and you go to a good church that helps you understand God’s word, you will advance your learning of Him. Hebrews 5:12-13 is an excellent example of the importance of having a strong foundation for our Christian walk. Advance your learning through understanding and memorization, not just one or the other.

2011 Catalog

April 20, 2011

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My favorite part of making this catalog was taking the pictures! Click the link below to view it:

2011 Catalog

Using DIVE Science Video

August 18, 2009

DIVE Science is not your ordinary high school science curriculum. While the textbook is at the heart of most science courses, the video lectures, labs and homework are the foundation of DIVE Science. Watch the video to learn more about how you can use DIVE Science to get a college preparatory high school science education taught from a Christian foundation.

Click Here to watch Using DIVE Science Video