Ancora Imparo - I am still learning

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Latest of Nathanael's Nuggets of Wisdom

Last night, we went grocery shopping. Well, I usually do not get them because they are expensive and not the most nutritious things in the world; but last night I allowed Taliesin and Nathanael to both get a nacho Lunchable. They were sitting in the car eating on the way home and I said something that prompted Kelsey to say Taliesin and Nathanael are spoiled. I asked them, "Are you spoiled?" Taliesin quickly told me no! Nathanael thought for moment and then replied, "I'm spoiled because that's how God made me." Well, I guess that settles it then.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Earth Day and Beyond - in Pictures

First let me apologize that every picture here seems to be a different size. Not sure why that is. LOL.

Earth Day 2009: Earth Day activities for this year included making masks from recycled cereal boxes, making paper machee Earths, reading "The Lorax," decorating Earth cupcakes and a Wall-E cake, and planting seeds in cups for the kids to take home and plant in their own gardens.

Nathanael's dance recital. He had lots of fun! He's all ready for summer classes.

Some fun at-home activities. Today, Taliesin and Nathanael have been in the mood to read and build. We've been studying from A Child's First Library of Learning: Science Starter. We've talked about everything fom the atmoshphere to how water has currents and, as pictured here below, how light separates into colors (Also had to build a rainbow out of Legos, of course). The top picture is of Nathanael playing in beans. LOL. He wanted to see what would happen if he peeled them. We had just talked about why golf balls will soar farther than a smooth ball (has to do with the dimples), so, of course, when he saw the little indent inside of the bean, he was pretty excited. :^) The middle picture of the blue and red blocks represents cold air and hot air to show how a tornado forms, of course.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Speaking of Diversity (see Women of Passions): This Week's Education Assignment on Diversity

I am thankful that teachers discuss diversity in classrooms. I believe it has always been present, but diversity was not thought of as diversity just a few decades ago. Diversity takes many forms. We always think of ethnic diversity, which is certainly important when planning our classrooms. However, diversity also takes the forms of cognitive development, gender differences, differences in socioeconomic status for students in a classroom, and even creative differences. Likewise, students in any given classroom will exhibit a wide range of abilities.

I believe three of the most important keys for any teacher dealing with a diverse classroom is, first of all, to celebrate diversity. When we celebrate diversity, we will be able to encourage and respond to all students. This celebration leads to the second key - showing the students that we do care about them and their success. Lastly, I love the suggestion in the text of not only using a curriculum that can relate to all students but also not being afraid to deviate from the textbooks. I think this is so important when dealing with a wide range of diverstiy and abilities in the classroom.

I believe the first key - celebrating diversity - is one that is often ignored. When teachers have students that are "different," whether in terms of abilities or in terms of interests, all too often they label those students "difficult." None of us are the same. God created us each as individuals. And that individuality needs to be celebrated not frowned upon. Just this weekend, I was blessed to be a part of a conference for a book I recently wrote for. One of the group leaders travelled with her fourteen-year old daughter. The daughter has the sweetest disposition, an awesome testimony, and a beautiful singing voice; but she is one that many would look at as "different" because of the way she dresses and because of her creativity. She wore a black shirt that laced up the front, a ruffled black skirt, and black and red striped stockings with black sneakers. As is probably obvious, she is also very creative artistically. But how many people would view her as being "strange" because of how she dresses or how she views things creatively. I have noticed the same issues arise with my six-year old son, Taliesin. Taliesin is truly my artistic thinker. He views things differently. And when he's excited, he loves to talk about what he is excited about - be it an insect he sees, a movie he has watched, a book he has read, or an experience he has had. So many times, I see people pass off what he says with no response. Diversity is something that is definitely not celebrated in the world, even though we like to think that it is. As a society, in general, I believe we need to become more understanding that we are all created to be individuals. We are not all alike. I probably could not count the times that I have been looked at as a little strange because my sons are in dance class. They both love to dance. Taliesin loves dancing because he views it as an art. Nathanael loves music, so dancing naturally flows from music. But even today, people look at dancing as something girls do, not boys. Celebrating diversity is perhaps most important in the classroom, where children are being taught how to function in society. Perhaps with diversity celebrated in the classrooms, there will be hope for tomorrow's society.

I believe celebrating diversity leads to respect for the students. This leads to encouraging students and responding to them. As I said, Taliesin loves to talk about things that he is interested in. I all too often see adults who become frustrated with this and just do not respond to him. When they will not, I will respond to keep him interested in what he cares about. I become so frustrated that, as the book points out, parents and teachers often encourage conformity rather than creativity. Students need to hear responses from parents and teachers that reinforce that we care about them as individuals. This also goes for students of various abilities. No matter the ability of each individual student, teachers need to provide reinforcement and encouragement. I remember when we were attending our local homeschooling co-op a couple of years ago. I was helping in Taliesin's class, and the students were to write their names on a lined chalkboard. Taliesin wrote his "T," but he wrote it perpendicular to the lines rather than on the lines. When he showed it to one of the teachers, she errased it for him to re-write it properly - without a comment. Now, she did not mean anything by this; but that dicouraged Taliesin. He did not want to go back after that. And I did not force him to. I think often teachers mean well, when in fact they are discouraging students and causing them turn away from learning.

On a more academic level, I believe it is very important for teachers to choose curriculum that encourages diversity and to stray from that curriculum when necessary. I totally agree with the textbook when it says curriculum should project various cultural and ethnic groups in a positive, accurate light. I believe the curriculum should also apply to diverse learning styles and interests. All too often, school curriculums are geared toward visual/auditory learning. Those students who are more hands-on learners lose out and are often considered problem students or even ADHD because they cannot follow what the teacher is trying to teach. Understanding the abilities and learning styles of each individual student is so important in a diverse classroom. I also agree with how the textbook promotes individualized study. I can say from experience that individualized study encourages independent learning and can be tailored to meet the needs of most any student. When the student feels that (s)he is learning in a way that (s)he can understand, the results will be so much better than expecting him/her to learn like all of the other students do.


Women of Passions

Well, we just finished our Ignite Your Passions conference for Women of Passions. I have to say it was an awesome experience! The speakers were definitely passionate about God and about family! I feel very blessed to have been a part of it!

I am posting below my teaching from the conference. I hope you enjoy it!

How many of you are parents here? Have you ever noticed how kids change our lives? We pretty much live for our families. I have always known this. I wrote in the Women of Passions book about reasons that I left my last job – reasons that many others do not understand. What I did not mention in the article was another reason that I left this job is they would not work with the schedule that I needed with my sons. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. Just a couple of weeks ago, I only worked for four hours in one complete week at my present job. My sons were pretty sick – running high fevers and all the fun stuff that comes with having sick kids. I remember the last day that my son Nathanael was feeling under the weather, I called in to work and told the manager that if his fever went down; I would come in. If it did not, I would not be in that night. Nathanael, who was cuddling on my lap at the time looked at me and said, “You can’t go to work.” I asked him, “I can’t?” Without missing a beat, he looked at me and said, “No,
because I sick; and I am the world of you.” This wisdom from my four-year old son really brought things into perspective for me. How do we choose what we do on a day-to-day basis? How do we make the choices that truly matter in our lives?

Do you ever catch yourself wondering “why?” Why do I have to choose between work and family? How do I possibly balance enough time for each? Why am I stuck in this job? Why are we having these health issues? Why are we having these financial issues? Why would God allow this to happen? We are told in Romans 8:28 that all things work together for good to those who love God. Do you ever wonder what that meant to Paul’s audience and how that truly applies to us?

There is an age-old question that skeptics love to present, theologians love to answer, and philosophers love to contemplate. It’s a question that us ordinary people think about a lot more than we really care to let on – “Why does a good God allow suffering?” This could be a question the Roman church asked itself on more than one occasion – a question that was answered in Romans 8:28.

The Roman church was unique – kind of like Christians today. No one knows for sure who actually founded the church in Rome. Some say it was the apostle Peter. Others day Paul did. Still others say that early Jewish Christians traveled to Rome and started it. Whoever its founder, the Roman church was unique in that it was comprised of both Jewish and Gentile Christians. And this diversity was causing arguments within the church itself. Does this sound familiar? So many times within churches or groups or even within families, our diversity – our differences cause tension. And how many times do we ask God to take our side? “God, You know that I live for You! I know this is how You feel, so please change their mind.” Isaiah 40:13-14 asks us an important question –
who is it that understands the mind of God and who has given Him council? That is an extremely humbling question – who of us has known the mind, the spirit, the inner being of God? Which of us would be worthy to give God guidance?

This is exactly what God reminded these early Roman Christians of in the early Chapters of Romans. He reminded the Jewish Christians of the Roman church that they will be judged by the very Law they are judging others with. He reminded the Gentile Christians that they really had no room whatsoever to condemn another. After all, they are the ones who had chosen to worship creation rather than the Creator before God, in His grace, brought them the Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In short, He was asking both groups, “Who are you to point out their sin?”

Now, something else we have to keep in mind when we study the Romans is that not only were they experiencing conflict on the inside, they were also a persecuted church. Now, granted they were probably not a part of the early persecution in which Christians were killed because of their beliefs. They were, however, ostracized because of their beliefs. If you have ever felt like no one understands you, that’s probably a good idea of how these Romans felt – and with good reason. Have you ever felt as though things are coming from you from all directions? And it’s especially hurtful when these things are happening to those we care about. Somehow, we can usually withstand comments and attitudes toward ourselves. But we have a hard time dealing with it when the persecution hurts someone that we care about.

And have you ever noticed that when we really are passionate about a project that we know God has called us to that this is when the troubles really start. I’m sure the Roman Christians were feeling this way as well. I remember when I first became involved with this conference. At the same time, I began writing a book that I have felt a deep call to write. This is the exact same time that issues began arising – financial issues, sickness within the family, all kinds of things. The final straw, for me, came when it began affecting my four-year old son.

Do any of you that have children or grandchildren or kids that you care about know what a lovey is? Taliesin, my six-year old, has a stuffed reindeer that he carried around for quite a few years. In fact, Taliesin’s lovey has been in more than one of our family pictures. Well, Nathanael found his lovey a little over a year ago in the toybox – a gray tiger striped cat he named “Flower.” Well, shortly after I began these projects, “Flower” disappeared – literally. Nathanael was devastated. He is the kind of child who does not like a lot of toys. At Christmas, he usually asks for one toy and says he does not want anymore. He has one backpack that he carries one or two favorite books in. He has a pair of silky black basketball shorts that he lives in during the summer. And as far as stuffed toys go, “Flower” was it! I remember Nathanael getting out his other toys and trying to play. He would stop and say, “Mommy, why are eyes wet?” He could not enjoy himself. Even after two weeks and a brand new gray tiger striped cat I found
online; he still was as sad as he was the first day Flower was lost.

I admit I wondered why during those long days. I can really relate to the Roman Christians. Here they were, doing the work of God, and they were facing these issues – both internally and externally. They were so good at doing the work of God, in fact, that Paul commends their faithfulness in Romans 1:8. He even said that he thanked God for their faithfulness, which was being declared all throughout the world! Everyone was hearing of their faithfulness. So why were they having so many problems?

Do we have any country music fans here? I admit that I love country music, and one of my favorite songs is a song that came out a few years ago called “A Few Questions.” This song asks questions like “How can we put a man on the moon and still have a need for a place like St. Jude’s?” and “How can two people who have built a loving home try for years and never have a child of their own? And somewhere out there tonight there’s a baby no one’s holding tight in need of love?” What I love about this song is it finds its answer in the Bible – specifically from the Book of Job – “Where you there when I hung the stars? Were you there when I created the world?”

When these Roman Christians asked why, God answered because “all things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Back when my little boy, my son who did not even want to unwrap the presents at his fourth birthday party because he missed his “best friend” was enduring his own suffering, I claimed this Verse. I did something that, all too often, we forget to do. I gave God the control of everything. I had taken control long enough. I had justified in my mind that I was his mother, and I needed to make everything okay. I could do that no more. That is a very humbling feeling when you do realize that God is so much greater. He deserves the control. We do not.

That very night while my husband and I were at work, my sister who babysits for us had her own spiritual encounter. “Flower” was found on top of a desk in a room that three people had previously searched. Maybe “Flower” had a Toy Story adventure. I do not venture to guess. What I do know is God was and still is in control of everything.

But Romans does not stop with reminding us that all things work together for good, it also reminds us of our future rewards for our perseverance. Romans 8:18 reminds us that what we suffer now is not even close to the glory that God has prepared for us. Even creation itself is awaiting that day. – That day when we will share in the glory of Christ and be liberated from our sufferings. We have something special. It’s called hope.

And what’s more, until that day, we have God’s Spirit living within us and
making intercession for us. If God be for us, who can be against us? God will have the final say. We are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us so. What an amazing thought!

To close, I would like to pose a question that you can answer by looking deeply within yourself. Do you feel a call upon your life? But is something stopping you from following it? Are there situations that are beyond your control that are preventing you from listening to what God truly desires you to be? I encourage you to give it to God. Only He can have the victory. We can learn a lot from the early Roman church. We are a lot like them. And, like them, we have the same promises of God – promises that He will be there with us, all the way.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Ignite Your Passions Conference

Tonight is the big night and tomorrow the big day - the Ignite Your Passions conference for Women of Passions. Right now, this is taking most of my time; so I have not had a chance to post the Earth Day pictures yet. I also have some fun pictures from Nathanael's dance recital last night. They're all coming soon....


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Earth Day! We just got back from our Earth Day celebration for the unschooling group. Will be posting pictures soon!


Monday, April 20, 2009

Moon and Museum

We have been attending some fun community activities in conjunction with Week of the Young Child. On Saturday, we visited a K-State Salina exhibit from NASA. Taliesin and Nathanael enjoyed thouching this piece of a moon rock!

Today, we visted Smoky Hill Museum. They had fun activities for the kids today such as making masks and going on a treasure hunt.
Taliesin and Nathanael had a blast!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

This Week's Education Assignment - Motivation and Self-Determination Skills

I have to say that this has been one of my favorite chapters in this class thus far. I believe motivation is so important in keeping students interested. And I love the suggestions offered in the text. I could not agree more that we, as teachers, need to project enthusiasm and listen to our children's interests. I believe that motivation simply comes down to respecting our students enough to care about what interests them. Respect shown garners respect given. This definitely helps with classroom management. I am not going to respect someone if I feel that person does not respect me at all. Even as an adult, I respect my managers at work much more when they show me respect and treat me as an individual, not just someone who does a job that they do not want to do. When we show a genuine interest in what our students learn, that shows them respect. They understand that we care, and they will want to do their best for that person who cares for them. I could not agree more with the text when it encourages teachers to encourage curiosity, questions, and inquiry and when it says that teachers often need to be patient. All children are different. And because they are different, they learn differently. It is so important to honor those differences if we would like students to honor us. When I think of motivation, I always think of Ephesians 6:4, which exhorts parents to not exasperate their children. The same could be an exhortation of any teacher (parent or not). If we expect our children (students) to honor us, we have to be worthy of that honor. Respect, I truly believe, is the key to effective motivation and effective classroom management. These go hand-in-hand.

As far as teaching self-determination skills goes, I think this is also highly important. I believe this is one of the areas that schools, in general, fail at the most. They are not producing independent learners. I probably sound like a broken record, but this is where listening to the child and following the child's interests comes into play. It is so important that our students become critical thinkers. Teaching in a way that promotes self-determination skills and independent learning is critical if critical thinking is our goal. Children are taught from kindergarten to follow just what the teacher says and does instead of being allowed to follow their curiosity, interests, talents. Then when they reach the upper grades, teachers try motivational techniques to teach students to think for themselves. The students do not know how to, because they were stopped from doing so at a critical stage in their development. The teaching of self-determination skills should begin at a young age. Better yet, children should be allowed to learn critical thinking from the time they are born and all throughout their school years. They need to be allowed to problem solve and to follow their curiosity all throughout their youth if we expect them to be motivated adults.

Last week, I wrote about one of the reinforcements my husband and I used with Taliesin and Nathanael in that each of them were allowed to choose an Easter toy for their hard work in the store while we were shopping for groceries for a BBQ. The day after they bought their Easter toys (a musical toy in which a trigger is pulled and a rabbit spins around to the song "Easter Bonnet"), Nathanael's toy stopped shutting all the way from so much playing with it. He asked me for a rubber band. I tried to put the rubber band on in a way that would allow the toy to both open and shut. Nathanael, my four-year old son, kept telling me that would not work. He was right. He then took the rubber band and asked me to "put it on this way." When I put the rubber band on as he asked me to do, the toy worked just the way he wanted it to. Such is critical thinking. All too often, this skill is lacking in school-age children. All are capable of it, but they have been taught to allow others to do their thinking for them. Another example is the restaurant that I work at currently has kids' meals. There have been so many times that elementary school children have brought their toys up to me to change out for them because they do not want that kind. They actually have to be told that they can change with the friend standing next to them. They do not think of that. I definitely do believe that self-determination is essential for independent learning and critical thinking! When students are taught these critical skills, as these examples show; they are motivated to think for themselves, which results in a better managed classroom.


Last Week's Education Assignment - Reinforcers

I have heard several arguments for and against the use of reinforcers with children. Reinforcers are "rewards" that are given for children's/students' positive behavior. Those against reinforcers point out that we, as parents and educators, are buying our children's/students' good behavior. For instance, ideas such as giving children an allowance for chores or giving money for good grades on report cards have always been controversial. On the flip side, those in favor of using reinforcers point out that we, as adults, do get paid from our jobs. We would not work if we did not get paid. I believe I am somewhere in the middle. I do not see anything wrong with an occasional reward. I believe that even God will give us an eternal reward. That said, I do believe that giving too many rewards or reinforcers can result in the opposite effect of what we intend - children who do not want to do anything without a reinforcer. I do use reinforcers with my own sons at times. For instance, just today, we were shopping for a BBQ we are planning this evening. We were in Wal-Mart for approximately two hours. Both Taliesin and Nathanael behaved very well. I told them how much I appreciated their help and each of them got one of the Easter items that were on sale. At times, we also do plan trips as a type of reward for hard work. For instance, because Taliesin and Nathanael have been doing an excellent job at being helpful here lately (as we record on their helpfulness chart). Therefore, sometime next month, we are planning a trip to the zoo. Again, as long as reiforcers are used sparingly, I see nothing wrong them. It is when we use them constantly so that children come to expect them for every little thing instead of allowing the good behavior to be a reward that they can become more of a problem than a solution.
The following is a list of reinforcers:
1. A type of tangible reinforcer that I use most often is a certificate. I hand out certificates at our homeschooling group's project fair each year. I also believe certificates are good for younger children who master new skills such as potty training, sharing toys, listening to what the parent and/or teacher is saying, etc.
2. I also do use token resources such as stars or stickers off and on. After so many stars or stickers, the child can earn a tangible reinforcer. Sometimes children enjoy making the earning of token reinforcers into a game of who can get the most. I plan to use this type of token reinforcer leading up to a tangible reinforcer with my preschool. The first day of class, I will ask the students to help me think of good rules that we should follow. I will record them on a chart. Each day, when the students follow their rules, they will earn a star or sticker. At the end of a two-week or month-long period, we will have some kind of tangible reward such as a certificate for them to take home and put on their wall.
3. I believe recognition falls less into the category of reinforcer and more into the category of just showing respect to the students. However, since the book mentions it as a reinforcer, I will record it in my list. I believe it is always important to acknowledge when a child is behaving extra well or does a good job. That is something we all enjoy, even as adults. Even Jesus taught that for those who follow His commands, we will hear "Well done, good and faithful servant."
4. I also do like the ideas of using activities as reinforcers. Things such as helping the teacher gather materials or being able to help other students really does mean a lot to children. Again, though, I do not necessarily think of these as reinforcers the way the book does. I think, again, it just comes down to respect and allowing the children to be themselves. For instance, right now, Taliesin is so excited over helping me with the preschool with the younger children. He is naming all kinds of things that he is going to help with.
5. One of my favorite reiforcers that the book lists under priveleges is computer time. I do use this as not only a reinforcer but as a way to encourage Taliesin and Nathanael to use teamwork. They love pulling up websites such as Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder. They have learned to take turns with the games and activities and to encourage each other in the games, etc. I look at this more as a learning tool than a reinforcer. The only way I can see this as a reinforcer is if they are no longer able to use the computer because they are arguing or not using the computer properly.
6. I also like the idea that the book lists of watering the plants and doing other classroom jobs. This is something that Taliesin and Nathanael do, but, again, not necessarily as a reinforcer but as a learning tool. For instance, they love helping my husband me feed the fish and their pet guinea pig and pet rats. This, though, is more of a way for them to learn responsibility and care than it is a reward for good behavior. I can see how it could be used as a reinforcer in that the child with the best behavior gets to handle this necessity for the day. Another good way to modify this may be to allow the children with good behavior to hold the pet longer or pet the animal longer.
7. The book lists classroom money as a reinforcer. We do not use classroom money, but my sons do help deliver a weekly newspaper route. Some weeks they help more than others (depending on the weather); but they get a monthly paycheck for their work. I can see how classroom money would be a reinforcer for positive behavior.
8. I can also see how earning extra recess time would be a reinforcer, although I do not think recess should be withheld at all. Children need that physical activitiy and unstructured playtime. We do use a trip to the park or to the mall's play center as a reinforcer here. Since we live just four blocks from a park, I will be using the park as a reinforcer with the preschool as well.
9. An extra snack at snack time may also be something that I will use as a reinforcer for the preschool. Perhaps if one of the children has been doing an extra good job that day, (s)he can help me pass out the snacks and take an extra cracker/graham cracker for him/herself.
10. Many view extra teacher time as a reinforcer. However, I believe that the teacher should automatically spend a lot of time with the students and should not favor one over the rest, even in the interest of a reinforcer. This will signal certain students out as "teacher's pets." I just believe that it is so important for the teacher to respect the students if (s)he wants to be shown respect.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More Easter Pictures

Taliesin, as you can see in this bottom picture, enjoyed visiting the Easter bunny. Nathanael did not want to get near him! Oh, well, at least we have him with Santa Claus for the first time this last Christmas. LOL.
It was definitely a good Easter this year!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter 2009 pictures part 1

This bottom picture is too funny not to mention. Nathanael got the lavendar bunny for a prize from our Easter egg hunt. The pink bunny was a present from Easter Bunny. When I asked him what he was going to name them, he replied the pink one is "Sweet" and the lavendar one is "Heart." A little later, he was cuddling with me, covered up with his favorite Spider Man blanket. His feet just kept popping out. I asked him, "Are your feet named 'Sweet' and 'Heart,' too?" To this he replied, "No. This one's 'Boog' and this one's 'Er.'"

More Pictures Coming Soon!


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Blessings

Let me first say that I have some adorable pictures of Taliesin and Nathanael from yesterday and today. They're on my phone, and for some reason, no matter how many times I try; I cannot get them to e-mail out correctly. I'll call our service provider tomorrow. As soon as I can, I'll get those posted.

Yesterday, Taliesin and Nathanael had fun with an Easter egg hunt that we arranged along with our neighbor across the street - for Taliesin, Nathanael, and our eleven-year old neighbor. They had so much fun. Usually we attend an Easter egg hunt at one of the local churches; but this year I was unable to get ahold of them to find out the time. Oh, well, they had just as much fun this way, anyway. After the egg hunt, it was, of course, time to color Easter eggs. Gotta make sure the eggs look good for the big bunny's appearance. ;^)

Early this morning, I was awaken by Taliesin whispering to me, "Mommy! Mommy! He came!" They had so much fun finding eggs and all of the goodies left in their baskets. Then it was off to church. It was very nice that Kelsey was actually off from work this morning and was able to attend with us. Taliesin loved this! He cuddled next to Daddy until it was time for him to go to his class. And then, of course, Daddy had to take him to class and pick him up from it. LOL. After church, we had lunch at McDonald's and custard at Freddy's before coming home. Of course, Taliesin and Nathanael had to watch Springtime with Roo this evening. What Easter would be any kind of Easter at all without it?!

Tomorrow night, we're having a BBQ and movie night. Should be fun. And, I hope, by then, my pictures will be safely in my Inbox and I'll be able to post them, too!


Friday, April 10, 2009

Taliesin's karate tournament

Taliesin had his first ever karate tournament tonight. He enjoyed himself. I have never attended one myself, so I had no idea what to expect. But Taliesin did a great job. He ended up with two medals - a third place in weapons and a second place in sparring. I'm very proud of him!


Thursday, April 9, 2009

More philosophy - epistomology

For this week's philosophy assignment, I had to study Gettier's counter opinion to Plato's traditional definition of knowledge (that knowledge is knowledge when we have a reason to believe what we believe). In the scenario we were given, a person's knowledge (justified true belief) is faulty because of a broken clock.

Knowledge is such an interesting topic, especially considering the metaphysics topic we explored last week. I definitely see metaphysics and epistomology as connected.

To begin, I should say that I do agree with Gettier to a certain extent. We can justify a good many things and believe them, but these things just are not true. I remember hearing one example of justification that really drove the point home for me. The example stated: suppose you have a friend who was in an airplane crash. There have been searches upon searches, but no survivors have been found. You would probably justify in your mind that your friend perished in the crash. In reality, however, your friend is floating in the ocean, holding on to a piece of debris, wondering when (s)he is going to be rescued. I think that is the perfect example of what Gettier is referring to. I think this is a good example of a justified true belief that turned out to be false.

In this example and in the clock example provided in this discussion board, I do believe the subjects have knowledge. If I look at a clock, I have no reason to believe it to be incorrect; unless I see another and another that say a different time. In the above example, the person whose friend was involved in an airplane crash would have no reason to doubt the authorities that there is little chance of survival. That is to say, to the best of one's knowledge, this is the case. In this case, I believe Gettier's theory is flawed. Knowledge is not omniscience. Knowledge is the believing of something to the best of one's ability.

I do believe knowing our viewpoints following an internalistic model is important. We do need to know why we believe what we believe. In the clock example, we would know the correct time based upon the justification that the library would have a working clock. In the airplane example, we would know based upon the information from the authorities. That said, I also believe it is important that we do not judge ourselves as all-knowing. As finite creatures, we prove over and over that we are not all-knowing. We possess knowledge, but not ultimate knowledge. There are always going to be times that we are proven wrong. This should, then, change our knowledge.

I do agree with the definition of justified true belief as presented in the point casts - a "true belief" that we believe and have a reason to believe. I do think, however, that this definition could go further. There are some things that we cannot explain. In this sense, this internalistic defintion of justified true belief does not seem to go far enough. As externalists point out, there are some things that we just "know" to be true without proof. For example, I have a justified true belief in angels and demons. Can I prove with reason that they exist? Others can justifiably disagree with me and probably present a more rational case than I can. Rationality and reason are not always the proper answers, however. I think what can be added to the definition of justified true belief is an element only explained by the human mind - that spiritual aspect of humanity that we discussed in metaphysics. I think most people will agree that they sense something more. This something more is our spiritual longing for not just more knowledge, but knowledge on a higher plain than we understand now. There are some things that I believe we can truly say are justified true beliefs because they do surpass the traditional defintion of knowledge - they reach that higher plain of understanding.

I do, in a sense, believe that Gettier had some valid points. In the clock and airplane examples, the knowledge that the subject thought he/she possessed turned out to be false. However, the subject's understanding was correct based upon the information (s)he had available. I do not think that the person's knowledge was at fault, but rather once his/her horizons were broadened with new facts, so to speak; the knowledge would change. I like the expression, "I reserve the right to change my mind." Changing one's mind to coincide with new evidence does not show lack of knowledge. On the contrary, it shows not only knowledge but wisdom to be able to admit a mistake and move on in the correct direction. I believe this is the best counterexample to Gettier's counterexample. We can only form our opinion (our knowledge) based upon the facts at hand. This does not immediately mean a flawed knowledge but flawed facts.

I do think we need to be careful when stating that we "know" something. However, I think it is even worse to be unwilling to adjust our justified true beliefs when they are proven incorrect, beyond a shadow of a doubt. Because we are finite creatures, we are not all-knowing; I believe the best defintion of "knowing" something is to sincerely believe it. This does not mean that our knowledge will never be proven wrong. We are flawed creatures. Our knowledge is not perfect, we just believed whole-heartedly in the knowledge we possess.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009


Lots of fun building projects today...

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Past Few Days

Well, Taliesin and Nathanael enjoyed reading and studying while they were sick this past week. Day one, they decided to study about the earth. One of Nathanael's favorite things is looking up pictures of tornados and volcanos online. He is gaining some fantastic computer skills and has learned how to spell many words by typing them to conduct a search. Taliesin prefers playing computer games - his favorite right now is found on Bob the Builder's website. I Spy books are always a hit. Taliesin is so much into hidden pictures right now. At Nathanael's request, we read two Little Einstein books - Butterfly Suits and Music in the Meadows. I love these books! I like how they keep the little ones' attention by asking questions and even including songs and actions for the kids to participate in. Taliesin had fun with Arthur's Reading Race. He enjoys reading the words along with D.W. in the story. They also enjoyed studying about the creation, Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, and Jonah. They also got into more Dr. Seuss and into dinosaurs. Nathanael was very interested in why dinosaurs are "extinct." He found this word fascinating. Last night, Taliesin requested that we bring out the Resurrection Eggs. I love the Resurrection Eggs. They really reinforce the concept of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection in a hands-on way that kids love. Other than these, we watched a lot of DVDs - mainly Winnie the Pooh, Veggie Tales, and here lately Fraggle Rock. Yeah, we made the most of our time at home. And, of course, it was all child-directed. :^)


Friday, April 3, 2009

"I Am the World of You"

Today, Nathanael informed me that I could not go to work because, in his words, "I sick. And I am the world of you!" He then added, "And I am the world of Daddy, too." Just too cute! And so true. Our kids really do become our world, don't they? Taliesin and Nathanael are definitely the reasons I missed four days of work this week and didn't even get my college assignment (the philosophy assignment) posted until the very day it was due - and wrote it in thirty minutes, at that. LOL. And those are just small ways that they become our world. Amazing, isn't it?


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Interesting Philosophical Discussion

For my philosphy, I had to read a scenario of an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation in which Data, an android, is set by Maddox to be taken apart. Picard, the captain of the Enterprise takes Maddox before the JAG to fight this, because Data can think and reason and has self-awareness. I had to post a philosophical post regarding this episode - over whether I feel androids will ever be human and the consequences if they would.

As I was reading the scenario of the Star Trek episode and these questions, several ideas were running through my mind - ideas such as: what it is that makes us human?, are we unique in our humanity?, what about the rest of creation? The first thing that I thought while reading the scenario, however, was that the writers of the episode were playing on our sympathy for Data. I was reminded of the movie I Robot and of how, by the end of the movie, I was rooting for the robot. But, then, I remembered that if scientists do eventually create artificial intelligence with human emotions, feelings, and actions; the writers have simply captured the emotions that we humans may feel toward our "property." Wow! This question is much more complex than I first imagined when reading over this assignment.

Man is comprised of three elements: body, soul, and spirit. Philosphy asks us how we know that these properties exist. The body, obviously, is observable. We can see and feel our own bodies. But how do we truly know that the soul and spirit exist? I remember, when I was child, contemplating how no one else was me. No one else understood totally what I was feeling and thinking. I wondered, "Why am I, me? Why are they, they?" Many argue that the mind and the brain are the same thing. I have to disagree. A child would not contemplate such questions with the brain alone. There is a spiritual aspect to the mind. I read a good example once regarding this philosphy, although I cannot remember where I read it. This unknown reference stated that if a person is connected to an MRI, the MRI can read when a person is dreaming. However, it cannot read what is being dreamt. That left a huge impact on me. There is a spiritual level to human beings that allows them to dream and to contemplate existential questions.

This leads us to the point of a soul. This point was brought up in the Star Trek episode. It is hot philosophical and theological issue: is man the (only) creature to have a soul? Some philosophers feel that humanity is what we see here - a body. Once the body dies, nothing lives on. All we have is here and now. Others, on the other hand, believe that man possesses a soul that lives on - the idea of immortality of the soul. Yet others claim that man can live on without a soul - the Christian materialists described in the Hasker text. Perhaps the best way to answer this question: does man have a soul? - is to contemplate the question that I asked myself as a child "What makes me, me and you, you?" Is it something physical - the color of hair, the color of skin, the color of eyes, one's height, one's weight?" If this were the case, then were I to bleach my hair from brown to blonde, I would cease to be me. If I were to lose or gain weight, I would cease to be me. This, of course, is a laughable conclusion. Perhaps it is something emotional. That is, does a significant event in someone's life such as a marriage, divorce, or birth of a child change that person's humanity? In all fairness, it may change the person's view on life; but, nonetheless, the person who experiences these events is still human. Nothing has been changed in that area. There is something beyond the physical and the emotional that makes me, me and you, you - a part of us that sees without using eyes and senses without using skin. That part of us is best defined as the soul.

As a Christian, I believe God's creation (whether human or non-human) is unique. God breathed into his creation. As scientists attempt to create a non-human machine that can think, feel, and understand as man does; they are, in a sense, attempting to become God. Such is a result of the philosophy that science is the answer to all. I maintain that science is not the answer to all! I do not believe that man will be able to create a machine that has the feelings and emotions of an ant let alone of a human being. God is God. We are not. My computer may be faster than I am and may be able to store more information than I will ever be able to. However, it cannot understand what is stored.

Recently, my four-year old son lost a favorite stuffed toy - a gray stuffed cat he named "Flower." He was very, very upset for the two weeks that "Flower" was missing. What made this experience difficult for him (and for his parents)? Was it the fact that "Flower" had feelings and would fear being lost? Of course not. (Regardless of what the writers of Toy Story believe - LOL). What made it difficult was the emotional attachment that my son, a human being, felt for the stuffed cat. (Needless to say, we were thrilled when "Flower" was found!) In the same way, scientists may create a machine that will work for us and assist us in our endeavors - one that we will build an emotional attachment to. However, without the breath of God, I conclude that there is no way for that machine to develop an emotional attachment back.

This being said, the only thing that would be considered a "crime" in turning of any artificial intelligence the future may hold would be in emotionally harming the human beings who care about the machinery. This would definitely not constitute murder in that murder is the taking of a human life. An android is no more human - with a human spirit and sould - than "Flower" is a real cat. My sons swings "Flower" by the tail and tosses "him" into the air. Would I allow him to do this to our pet cats? Of course not! This being said, I do feel that the view of Maddox in the Star Trek episode is heartless. It is important to remember the view of those who do care about Data. No, Data is not a human being, and, as such, does not have human rights. However, there are humans who care about Data. Their rights should be respected. Maddox, however, I believe is closer to the truth about the differences between humanity and machines that Picard is. The mind, the soul, the human aspect that makes each of us human, as Maddox believes, is not present in any machine. Picard seems to be willing to place human value on a non-human object. He views Data as human because "he" has human characteristics. However, no matter how hard Picard may try to prove his point, Data will never possess a human mind or soul. That is unique to a creation of God.

I believe that Maddox does have a point by stating that Picard is being emotional. That, however, is the difference between man and machine. Man is emotional. That is part of our make-up. It is not part of the make-up of a machine. Is he being irrational? I do not think so. He is defending something that he truly cares about. If that is considered irrational, so be it. Would someone cry if his/her house was destroyed by fire? More often than not, yes. Is (s)he being emotional? Definitely. There are emotional attachments to a home. In the same way that it is illegal to destroy someone's home, I do not think it is right to destroy anything that is non-harmful that a human being has developed an emotional attachment to.

I do believe stating that robots could be enslaved is going too far. Again, I think back to the movie I Robot. Is it possible that robots being treated as servants is immoral and unethical? I do not think it is. This would be worse than saying that keeping a horse to ride is unethical. Horses are creations of God. Robots are simply creations of the mind of man. Horses are flesh and blood with physical feelings (and possibly emotional?) I believe all of God's creation contain an immortal soul (but this is another philosophy). Robots do not, based upon the previous discussion.

This all being said, I do believe the judgment of JAG was correct for the incorrect reasons. I do not believe Data had a self-understanding. However, as I stated above, I do believe strictly for the emotional attachment that human beings showed for the machine, it should not be destroyed.

Kandy Crosby-Hastings

Taliesin and Nathanael feeling better

Well, last night Nathanael's fever reached 102.5. Today, both Taliesin and Nathanael are feeling quite a bit better. Taliesin's fever is gone for the moment, and Nathanael's is much lower. They both enjoyed the spice cake with cherry frosting that Kelsey baked me last night for my birthday. (Notice that Kelsey put that I'm 33 on my cake. That's okay if I'm a year older, in reality - LOL). And, of course, I got a Pirates of the Caribbean birthday card. It is one of my favorite movies!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My Poor, Sick Babies :^(

Well, the good news is it's not mono! That is a big relief. But both of my poor babies are still sick. Last night, Taliesin's temperature reached 103.9. I called the exchange, who said if it gets to 105 to go to the ER. Nathanael's temperature has been hovering around 100 or 101. We've been making the most of it, though - reading lots of fun books, watching Winnie the Pooh and Veggie Tales DVDs, and eating popcicles.