August 31, 2005

Boundaries of Technique Review

The book Boundaries of Technique by Andrew Yuengert is a technical and specialized book. It is one that I would only recommend to those with a deep interest in economics and ethics or those who are students of economics.

Having a tangential interest in economic theory and interest in ethics and the works of Thomas Aquinas I was initially very interested in reading this book. However, I quickly realized that my interest was not of the depth required to enjoy this book. Several times I have tried to pick up and get through the book and several times I failed. Yet having agreed to review the book I picked it up again determined to get through it.

This time I tried to approach it as if I had the interest of an economist and then the book was easier to read even interesting in ways. Once I could get past my initial holdups and accept that this book was not going to be light reading I was able to move through the book and grasp the main ideas in the book.

Yuengert, a professor at Pepperdine University focuses on redefining the distinction between positive and normative economics. He begins the book with a history of the rise in fact/value economic distinctions and separates that from positive/normative economic distinctions. This part may be tough to get through if you are not an economist - I found it was. Yet sticking with it you get to the more interesting part of the book - the author's thesis:

"It is the thesis of this book that an alternative account of the positive-normative distinction can be formulated from the moral philosophy of the medieval philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas...The Thomistic approach differs from recent analytical approach in that its focus is on human action - it is practical, not theoretical. Such an account will focus on the values of economists (we will call them ends) and the ways in which they are expressed in research actions."

Yuenagert, using this Thomistic analysis is able to provide a new framework for looking at the positive/normative distinction in a practical way. The author examines how economists conduct their theoretical research and apply that in their actions. The book goes on to outline Aquinas's moral philosophy, discuss the ends of human action and their hierarchies, compare Aquinas's time with modern day context and examines flaws in the separation of ethics and economics. He concludes with a summary and suggestions of where to go from here.

This statement from his conclusion is worth mentioning:

"The Thomistic tradition offers a framework within which to think about the role of ethics in economics. I will be content if economists begin to reason within that framework. I am convinced that even a small move along the neglected dimension of human action will yield large marginal benefits for the discipline."

What Yuengert is really asking is that economists examine the "Why am I doing this" more than they currently do now. For an economists values, ethics, goals and purposes can and often will affect their research and work and therefore they need to be aware of this connection. While this may seem like an oversimplification of a complexly written book - in his conclusion Yuengert keeps coming back to this very issue.

Again this book is not for everyone. It is written in technical language, often reading more like a dissertation than a book for common consideration. Yet Yuengart's audience is specialized and if you fall into it you will enjoy the book and come face to face with some realities in modern day economics that need to be dealt with and possibly changed. Yuengert provides a framework for justifying more humanistic economic research and actions using the well known work of Thomas Aquinas. If you are an economist, or student of economics or even a philosopher you should read this book. If you have an interest in economics and research but are not a scholar you may still enjoy the book if you can adapt to the technical, scholarly way in which it is written.

August 29, 2005

Book Review: Hedges

Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough To Protect It - Jerry B Jenkins

This book is well written by Jerry B Jenkins, most well know for his work on the Left Behind series. It is a great read for anyone married and a great book to give to newlyweds or engaged couples. While it is written by a man and for men - there are many valuable lessons for women and wives as well. It would be a good book to read together as a couple and discuss its application in your own relationships.

The book is filled with practical tips, stories, humor and a sobering realistic look at the temptations and difficulties most marriages face. Jenkins puts forth an honest depiction of the subtle ways marriages can be destroyed without placing protections (as calls hedges) in place prior to the temptations.

In his book Jenkins puts forth the philosophy behind having hedges and lists several hedges he and his wife have utilized in their marriage to protect it. Jenkins emphasizes that each couple's hedges may different, the important thing is to think about what hedges you need and then begin planting them.

The author recommends practical things for dealing with members of the opposite sex (other than your spouse) such as never being alone with them, having very limited physical contact with them and watching how you compliment them. Jenkins also provides good suggestions on how to strengthen your relationship with your spouse by reinforcing your vows, sharing your memories and your story with others, and spending quantity of time with your spouse and family.

The book is a quick and fun read with easy and powerful application to everyone’s lives. It would make good recommended reading for newlyweds, engaged couples and those of us married for many years.

This was my first review for Mind and Media run by Stacy Harp. Go to the site and read some reviews, and buy the books if you feel so moved.

August 25, 2005

New Coop

This year we will be joining a new coop. It is quite different in size and style. This one will have over 100 kids involved and is also parent taught. The kids are divided up more by age and this year our kids will all be in different classes. We will meet every other week rather than every week and for the age groups my kids are in they will follow a Five in a Row style book curriculum.

Ciaran's class, which I will be helping to teach is going to do the following books:

Noah's Arc
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
How to Bake an Apple Pie and See the World
Stone Soup
Polar Express
The Snowy Day
Cowboy Small
Is your Mama a Llama
I'd be Your Hero
I'd be Your Princess
Mama Do You Love Me
The Little Engine that Could

Rhiannon's class will be studying the following books:

The Story About Ping
Mirette on the High Wire
Cranberry Thanksgiving
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Katy and the Big Snow
Clown of God
Make Way for Ducklings
The Glorious Flight
How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

They will also have seperate craft, music, and PE time. Sirah will be in a nursery setting. I volunteer and get some time off as well. This semester I will be teaching in Ciaran's classes. I love working with preschoolers so I am very excited. They are just so much fun to learn with.

I am starting to get excited for the upcoming year. Now if we could just get in the habit of getting our chores done cheerfully first thing in the mornings!


August 24, 2005

Google Talk Review

Welcome to the land of geekdom here at SCHOOL@HOME. Many of our regular readers know we are techies and geeks. That we are early adopters and love good technology. Okay so no big surprise here, we are also a Google shop. Nearly as soon as google creates something we are trying it out, tonight that is the new Google Talk. We often find Google's product to be superior to any others in each area we test them in.

So tonight Serona is working on his laptop still coding for work at midnight. I am up knitting and surfing. I realize Google Talk has just been released. So of course as soon as the new google talk tool was available we immediately downloaded it, both of us on our laptops and started IMing over the new tool. It is more simplified than MSN is, no winks or emoticons or that sort of thing but it works so nicely with gmail, it will pull up your contact list. It is a clean and easy to use interface. Also if you have a gmail account it is really quick to setup, I mean really fast.

The google talk service also offers the ability to have voice conversations as well as text instant messanging. Since we were both sitting in the same room in order to try out the phone aspect of this I had to go to the other room. It works really well and I could hear Serona clearly. I do not have an internal mike in my computer but I could listen to him and then type my answers. I have decided to buy a headset to go along with this new technology.

For internet phone the quality is absolutely excellent so far. I recommend you try it. So far the quality is as good as a phone call and it is free. Plus you can also use the instant messanger features. I will be recommending this to friends and family and hopefully transfer people over to it from MSN and AOL. Overall my immediate reaction and review of google talk is a positive one. Definately worth checking out, especially if you are like us a google shop already.

See for yourself and check out


August 23, 2005

Days of Summer

We have been truly enjoying these days of summer. Some of the recent highlights.

Rhiannon lost her first tooth
Ciaran learned how to ride a two wheeler
Sirah took her first airplane ride

Some of the favorite places we have been spending time

The Arboretum
Nature Centers
Our Yard
Neighbors Yards

Some favorites special treats they get in summer but not usually

Ice Cream
Freezie Pops
Krispy Kreme donuts (though I wish we had Dunkin Donuts)
Soda Pop

Favorite Summer Pastimes

Exploring Nature
Playing in Yards
Climbing Trees
Butterfly Gardens
Frog Catching

Hope you enjoy your last few weeks of summer. We always extend ours into the middle of September. Those first few weeks of Sept are precious as everyone else goes back to school and we again have all the museums, parks, zoos and the library to ourselves all day long! Enjoy it.


August 16, 2005

Need Your Help - Young Reader Question

I have a question about how you have handled giving your younger children books to read. I have a tender hearted 6 year old daughter who is a voracious reader and at a reading level much higher than her age. I am finding that even books that seem appropraite have phrases or events that are upsetting to her but she has a need and love of reading.

For awhile she was reading the American Girl series books which were fine but would have an occasional thing that would upset her such as the phrase "I will skin you alive", which made her visualize this actually happening. I had read an entire series of these books with her before we had this incident. How have those of you with advanced readers handled finding books with appropraite content and language for your child's age and reading level together? Do you preread everything?

Lately we have settled into a system where she immediately tells me anything that upsets her in any way and we talk about it. We then use these moments as teachable moments. She has a solid grasp on reality versus fiction but she is still so young.

I want to foster her love of reading but she is unsatisfied and unwilling to read storybooks geared for her age because they are lower than her reading level. Yet I don't want to introduce concepts, phrases and language that she is too young for.

Any suggestions and ideas are welcome. Please leave comments here or email me. Thanks for your help!

August 4, 2005

Two Years Strong

I have been blogging now for over two years. I have come to really love it. This summer I have stepped back from it a bit in order to enjoy the outdoors and my kids more. I find that I am just not in the routine habit of blogging and record keeping on the computer as much. I do miss it though but I know it has been a good choice for me.

When I started this blog it was more just for our family to keep records of what we did, to let the relatives far away have glimpses into our lives and so my kids could have a written record of what we did and read while they were growing up.

Soon it became a place I kept track of all those good lesson plans and silly ideas I had so I could look back on them and repeat them with my other kids. Then suddenly things changed and I realized I had readers, a lot of them actually. People who found my blog from google or another blog and stopped by to see what I had to say on something. I realized I had an audience I did not know. Strange.

Soon the voice of my blog changed as I stopped blogging just for me and my family and it was a strange adjustment. Now just as I feel I have settled into the rythym of my blog sometimes it changes. I go long stretches without blogging and I find myself not desiring to share as much of the day by day of the summer as I just want to be outside enjoying it.

Blogging has been great for me. It has made me more disciplined. More aware and more in tune with what is going on in the broader homeschooling community. It has made me new friends throughout the country and even locally here in the Twin cities. It has given me permission to spout off and an easy space to save all those things that are important to me. It has given me an outlet for my writing and helped me refine my writing voice.

I love blogging and I am always amazed that people are interested in what I have to say. So thanks for reading. The usually scheduled programming will resume sometime in the middle of September. This year we will be trying out the free online curriculum Ambleside.


August 2, 2005

One for Science

Here is an article for science. Not for the squemish. Discussing new "water" filtration technology that can be useful for NASA, war-torn and natural distaster areas. Preread before allowing kids to read.

Check out The Big Gulp.