When I began homeschooling my daughters, I didn’t give a lot of thought to the use of worksheets other than using blank maps for geography.  My plan was to review information by asking each girl questions during our sessions.  After several months of experience I now have a greater appreciation for the value of worksheets.

Verbal review takes away from the time that we could use for covering new information.  By assigning worksheets I can monitor the learning and retention of data in a way that is more convenient and efficient.  The girls can do the worksheets while they watch television or listen to music, and that makes it convenient for them.  I can still do some verbal review of the subject matter to make sure they have the information memorized and aren’t just copying it (not that they would do that if they weren’t given permission to do so, but I’m a fan of “Trust, but verify.“).

The first use of worksheets (other than blank maps, word searches and crossword puzzles) was for math.  We had been using (and still are using) flashcards for math, but I found a couple of good websites for math worksheets that I thought were useful for supplementing our verbal review ( and

I also decided I wanted to make worksheets that covered the material we were studying in other subjects, so I started a database in an office suite called LibreOffice (which is free to download).  I created one table for definitions, which included both the term to be defined and the definition itself; and another table for questions and answers.  Each of those tables was linked to a table of topics, which in turn was linked to a table of subjects, which in turn was linked to a table of categories.  This gave me the maximum flexibility for creating new worksheets that covered multiple topics.  Worksheets that covered only one topic I would save, but others I could generate using queries and a template in Calc (the spreadsheet application in the LibreOffice suite,  equivalent to Microsoft Excel).

As I was creating the first worksheets which just covered definitions, I decided to use a set of four worksheets for each topic:

  1. A sheet of terms and their corresponding definitions
  2. A sheet for matching the randomly sorted terms with their definitions by drawing a line from one to the other
  3. A sheet listing the definitions with blank lines for writing in the terms
  4. A sheet listing the terms with blank lines for filling in the definitions

With this system, each sheet allows for a greater demonstration of knowledge of the material than the previous one.  I start out by giving the whole set to each girl, then subsequently print whichever sheet seems appropriate for the demonstrated mastery of the topic.

Each set is saved in a separate Calc workbook, with each page on a separate worksheet.  By using a spreadsheet I can re-sort the order of the items to avoid the possibility of the girls memorizing the order of the answers.  In a column next to each item I insert the formula =Rand(), then copy it for each row of items.  This formula works both in Calc and in Excel, and gives me a random number next to each item.  Then I highlight both of the columns and sort ascending by the random number.  The first worksheet which has the definitions doesn’t get re-sorted, but the other three do.  Then I delete the cells with the random numbers and print the worksheet.

I haven’t done any worksheets yet with just questions and answers, only worksheets with terms and definitions.  My anticipation is that I will do both types of worksheets the same way.

When the girls have learned the material for a given set of topics, rather than giving them worksheets for reviewing individual topics I’ll give them worksheets that cover multiple topics.  This is where having the information in a database will come in handy, although it could actually be done in a spreadsheet as well.  I like using databases because it allows me to write queries that group the data that way I want it, but the functionality could be duplicated in spreadsheets if the person setting them up preferred.

I’ve only done three sets of worksheets so far, but I’ve exported them to pdf files and attached them to this post in case anyone wanted to see an example.




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Global Average Temperature

The concept of a global average temperature is an interesting one, but the problem with it is that is gives no useful information.  It is composed of the average of a certain number of sites, but it doesn’t tell you specifically where or when any changes occurred.

Global average temperatures can be compared to grade point averages.  If one’s GPA is at an extreme, such as 4.0 or 0.0, then information can be clearly gained from the number.  That person is either doing well at everything or poorly at everything.  Similarly, if the global average temperature of a planet is at an extreme, such as above 100 degrees C or below -100 degrees C,  then we have useful information:  we know we can’t live there without special equipment.

If a person’s GPA goes from 2.5 to 2.6, there is no actionable information unless that person is taking only one class.  If the person is taking more than one class, in which class or classes has that person improved, and in which does he or she still need improvement?

Likewise, knowing that the global average temperature has gone up by one degree is equally useless information.  Did the entire world get hotter?  Did one hemisphere go up by 2 degrees and the other remain the same?   Did one fourth of the world get hotter by five degrees and the rest cooler by a third of a degree?  Did the temperature increase occur over land or over the oceans?  Did it occur primarily at night, or during the day?  Or only during the winter, or only during the summer, or both?

On a planet where the extremes of temperature are greater than 100 degrees C apart, where the difference between daytime highs and nighttime lows is routinely greater than 10 degrees C, and where a one degree change falls within the range of natural variation, does a one degree change even matter?

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Olive Oyl Hospitalized for Anorexia

Olive Oyl was hospitalized yesterday after a visit to psychiatrist Siegfried Roy, who determined that she suffered from anorexia nervosa. She was admitted to the Betty Boop Clinic, and is expected to be there for several weeks. Ms. Oyl was not available for comment.

Anorexia nervosa is a mainly psychological condition in which the sufferer has an aversion to body fat and has a distorted self-image. These factors incline the sufferer to engage in eating patterns which can lead to other serious illnesses, and in extreme cases can result in death. Anorexic eating behaviors tend to result in a body form known as toothpicky, which may be attractive to skeleton people, but which is very unattractive to almost everyone else.

According to a friend, Olive Oyl began seeing a psychiatrist to deal with relationship issues. For many years she had been wooed by two suitors, Popeye the Sailor Man and Bluto, and she was having trouble staying committed to one or the other, tending to prefer whichever one happened to be winning the current day’s fight. Usually the winner was Popeye, but she would have been equally happy to go with Bluto, also known as Brutus. She was beginning to wonder if her fickleness was normal, and if there was something she could do about it.

Popeye and Bluto both stopped by the Betty Boop Clinic to visit with Olive Oyl. Questioned by a reporter at the entrance to the clinic, Popeye said that he had always thought that Olive was a bit too skinny, but that she was what she was and he loved her anyway. He said he had never wanted to be critical of her, particularly since she had always seemed so ready to drop him for Bluto at a moment’s notice.

Bluto was already inside of the clinic when Popeye entered, and a fight between them soon broke out. They were both ejected from the clinic, and permanently banned from the premises.

Olive Oyl’s medical doctor estimated Ms. Oyl’s chances of improvement at about eighty percent, although the likelihood of a full recovery was somewhat less than fifty percent. The doctor said that the most likely treatment would involve regular psychiatric sessions, and a high calorie diet. He said that in a few weeks she should look considerably less toothpicky, and more like a regular person.

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Fixing The Banking System

In my opinion, these are the laws that would need to be made in order to fix our banking system, which includes transitioning us from fractional reserve banking and eliminating the FDIC:

1. The FDIC will only insure deposits in fractional reserve banking accounts for the next ten years, after which time the FDIC will be closed, and no bank accounts will be guaranteed by the federal government after that time.

2. All banks must prominently post:

  •  Whether or not they are insured against robberies;
  • Whether that insurance applies to robberies by employees, non-employees, or both;
  • If insured, the name and contact information of the insurance company;
  • The amount for which they are insured.

3. No new accounts will be fractional reserve accounts.

4. New accounts may be either one of two types: interest bearing; or full reserve.

5. Neither new interest bearing accounts nor full reserve accounts will be insured by the FDIC.

6. If a bank informs its customers that a certain portion of an interest bearing account can be withdrawn upon demand, the bank must keep that portion of the account in reserve.

7. The bank must hold in reserve the total of the amounts which the bank has guaranteed that will be available for withdrawal to all of its customers with interest bearing accounts and full reserve accounts.

8. The bank is not required to offer the same percentage in reserve for each interest bearing account customer, but may negotiate with the customer the amount to be held in reserve for immediate withdrawal.

9. All interest bearing accounts must be administered within a joint fund, although a bank may have more than one such fund.

10. In any given fund of interest bearing accounts, gains and losses by the fund must be shared proportionately among the investors according to the percentage of the investible fund that they hold; the customers’ reserve amounts are not to be included in this calculation.

11. When signing up for an interest bearing account, customers must be notified in writing of the following facts:

  • The portion of the account that is guaranteed to be available for immediate withdrawal will be held in reserve, and will not be invested, and will not earn interest.
  • The portion of the interest bearing account that is not held in reserve will not be available for immediate withdrawal.
  • The bank will require advance notice for withdrawals of all or part of the funds that are not held in reserve [and the bank will specify in writing the amount of notice necessary].
  • Interest bearing accounts are subject to gain, but they are also subject to possible losses.
  • Losses in interest bearing accounts are not insured by the FDIC, or by any other agency or organization; if the investments the bank makes with the customer’s money suffer losses, the customer will lose money.
  • The customer will be notified in writing on a monthly basis of the status of the interest bearing account, including the amount of money that has been gained, or the amount of money that has been lost.
  • If the account loses more than fifteen percent of its value within a given month, the customer will be notified in writing within three business days of such loss. For each additional ten percent loss in the value of the interest bearing account, the customer will be notified in writing within three business days.
  • Past performance of interest bearing accounts is no guarantee of future results.

12. No money from a fund of interest bearing accounts can be invested in any investment vehicle or transaction which could result in a loss greater than the amount invested.

13. Interest may not be paid on a full reserve account.

14. Banks may, but are not required to, charge a monthly fee for full reserve accounts; and they may, but are not required to, charge transaction fees instead of or in addition to monthly fees for full reserve accounts.

15. A bank may offer to discount or waive the fees on a full reserve account to customers that invest or have invested a certain amount of money in an interest bearing account; this minimum investment is to be determined by the bank, and is to be the same for all current and new customers; and this amount may not be changed more than once every sixty calendar days.

16. If the account balance of any fractional reserve account falls below $100 for more than 24 hours, the bank is required to do the following:

  • Within one business day, reclassify the account as a full reserve account.
  • Immediately upon reclassification, remove from the fractional reserves an amount equal to the remaining balance in the account and transfer it to the full reserves for the newly reclassified account.
  • Within three business days of the account reclassification, notify the customer in writing of the following:
    1. In order to comply with federal banking regulations, the account has been reclassified from a fractional reserve account to a full reserve account;
    2. The account will no longer pay interest;
    3. Any fees to which the account is subject, and the date on which those fees will begin to take effect;
    4. The process by which a customer can sign up for an interest bearing account.

17. For accounts converted from fractional reserve to full reserve:

  • No fees may be charged for the conversion of a fractional reserve account to a full reserve account.
  • A monthly fee may not be charged for the first thirty calendar days after the conversion.
  • After the first thirty calendar days, any applicable monthly fees must be prorated for the remaining portion of the calendar month.

18. No bank may invest any of its funds in any investment vehicle or transaction which can result in a greater loss than the amount invested by the bank, regardless of whether the bank has the potential to hedge that greater loss by an offsetting position.


These  rules would reform the banking system, and would prevent banks from extending themselves to the point where they pose a threat to the entire economy.

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A person who doesn’t forgive remains a prisoner of his own pain.

Quoted from Seek Wisdom, Practice Kindness.

Posted in Inspiration, Philosophy | Leave a comment

Historians Learn That Socrates Was Expelled From School

According to a document recently discovered at an obscure Italian monastery, when Socrates was a young boy he was expelled from school. The document was an ancient letter that had been preserved in a sealed urn, and dates from the fifth century B.C. The letter was written by a Greek teacher named Adynatos, and was apparently written after Socrates was an adult and had gained some notoriety.

The letter was found by two Italian boys who were visiting their uncle for the day at the monastery. The boys had been told to stay in the chapel and pray all day, but they soon tired of that. When no one was looking they snuck out and began exploring. In a room full of miscellaneous objects they found a sealed urn. When they were trying to open it they accidentally dropped it, and it smashed on the floor. The noise brought the abbot running into the room, and he saw the old document surrounded by the shards of pottery. He picked up the letter and recognized it for what it was. The boys did not get into trouble, but they did have to go back to the chapel and pray until their mother came to pick them up.

In an agreement with the Greek government, the letter will be returned to Greece. A translation of the letter follows:

“Dear Koutsompolis,

“You asked if I had heard of this Socrates fellow, who has been stirring up the young men, and teaching that there is only one god.

“My friend, I have indeed heard of him. He was a pupil of mine in the school for young boys where I taught. He was not there long before I had to expel him from the school, and his parents were forced to educate him elsewhere. He was the most impudent student I ever had the misfortune to teach.

“This young scamp had the effrontery to answer every question I asked him with another question! It was maddening.

“‘Socrates, what is two plus two?’ I would ask.

“‘Oh honored teacher Adynatos,’ he would reply. ‘What is this thing called math that we do? What does it mean to put numbers together? Are they not separate? When we juxtapose them, are they still not separate, only closer? Is it just to consider them together without their consent? Must we not first know the meaning of justice to understand what it means to be just?’

“‘Socrates!’ I would yell, infuriated. ‘Answer the question! It’s a simple question! What is two plus two?!’

“‘A simple question, revered teacher Adynatos? And what does it mean that a question is simple? Must we not know the meaning of simplicity first? And knowing the meaning of simplicity, will that not lead us to a greater understanding of the nature of complexity?’

“My good friend Koutsompolis, that young boy made my head want to explode. I could only take a few days of that when I told his parents to take him away, and to never let him darken my door again.

‘My advice to you is to stay away from him. He’s nothing but trouble, and I predict that he will come to a bad end. You mark my words.

“The best of health and all good wishes to you, Koutsompolis, from your good friend, Adynatos.”

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Humans are impulsive beings that are capable of logical thought, and who are sometimes guided by it.

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A man is never a prophet in his own corporation, unless he runs it.

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On The Rich Getting Richer

It is often said that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Whether this statement is true or false depends to a large extent upon how one measures poverty.

Wealth (or the lack thereof) can be measured in two basic ways: absolutely, or relatively.

Wealth measured absolutely is determined by the level to which a person’s basic needs (not desires) for food, shelter and clothing are being met, regardless of whether anyone else has more or less. Anyone who has more of each of these three necessities than is needed for survival is rich in an absolute sense, regardless of varying levels of surplus among the population. A person who doesn’t have enough to meet the basic needs is poor regardless of whether some people lack to a greater or lesser extent.

Wealth measured relatively is determined by who has more or less, regardless of whether any or all of those people are poor in an absolute sense.  If, in the geographical or political area which is being considered, the vast majority of people are rich in an absolute sense, those who have the lowest surplus will be considered to be poor, and those who have the greatest surplus will be considered to be rich.

Measuring wealth in an absolute sense, the notion that the poor are getting poorer in developed economies is false when compared with the poor of a hundred years ago.  Most of the people who today are considered poor in the United States have shelter, indoor plumbing, electricity, one or more color televisions, one or more radios, a telephone or cell phone, and at least one video playback device. These are luxuries that the poor of a century ago could not have had.  People who do not have health insurance today are able to get medical treatment for emergencies, and receive a level of care that would have been impossible  even for the rich of a century ago.  There are also free clinics in most areas where basic medical care can be obtained.  Today there are social welfare programs such as food stamps, unemployment benefits, and social security, none of which existed in the United States a hundred years ago.  Most localities have mental health crisis centers for those who need it.  There are also food banks, churches, and other charitable organizations that offer help on many levels.  Taking these factors into consideration, the poor of today in the United States and in other developed nations are far richer than the poor of a century ago; so much so that there only a very small percentage of the population is poor from an absolute standpoint.

In developing economies, there were almost certainly times when the population pressures were much lower than today and in which a greater percentage of the population had a surplus of food, shelter and clothing.  In those areas the poor have gotten poorer.  However, the increase in poverty has not been because the rich have taken a greater share of the wealth.  The powerful have been taking resources from the less powerful in those areas since at least the beginning of recorded history.  The reason for the increase in poverty is because the death rate has declined due to improved medical technologies, and local populations have increased dramatically.  Areas have reached population levels that have outstripped their economic ability to provide for those populations.  In time, as democratic political systems and capitalist economic systems are adopted by developing countries, those countries will see a decline in absolute poverty, although not in relative poverty.

Measuring wealth relatively, the proposition that the highest levels of the rich have a greater surplus than the lower levels of the rich is true, but this isn’t because they have robbed anyone.  As the market for goods and services increases, due to both population increases and increasing globalization, the amount that a person can potentially make also increases.  In a population of only three million, the potential number of widgets sold for a $1.00 each might make the seller appreciably richer than the average person, even when competition is taken into account.  In a market of three billion people, the number of widgets sold for the same price is potentially a thousand times greater, so the people making the most profit from those widgets could become vastly wealthier than they could have become in a smaller economy.

The majority of people are paid for their labor rather than by selling goods or services in a global marketplace, so although their wealth is generally increasing in an absolute sense, the amount of their surplus compared to those with scalable incomes is considerably smaller.  In that sense, the rich are growing richer and the poor poorer, and this is likely to continue until world population and the globalization of trade reach a peak.  Interestingly, though, once humans begin moving off of the planet and the area of trade becomes interplanetary, the total population will probably begin expanding at a faster rate again, and the rich of the future will probably make the rich of today look like paupers (relatively speaking).

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Historical Eras

[This is a document I prepared for homeschool.]

There is no single correct way of dividing the story of humanity into significant phases. History can be subdivided into different periods (or ages, or eras) depending on which aspect of human activity one focuses. Below are some possible ways of dividing history into meaningful periods based on the criteria in bold print:


  1. The Age of Speech – information can only be shared directly by word of mouth (before c. 3,200 BC)

  2. The Age of Writing – information can be stored in a long-lasting format, and ideas can be shared through time directly from one person to a multitude of readers (c. 3200 BC to c. 1440 AD)

  3. The Age of Print – information can be reproduced relatively quickly in large quantities in a durable format, furthering the sharing of ideas (c. 1440 AD to c. 1990 AD)

  4. The Age of the Internet millions of people can communicate with millions of others rapidly using the written word, images, sound recordings, and videos; all of which can be saved and shared, reducing the ability of small groups to control the flow of information to the majority of the people, and allowing the maximum sharing of ideas (c. 1990 AD through the present)


  1. The Stone Age – stone is the predominant material for advanced tool use (c. 2.5 MYA – c. 6000 BC)

  2. The Metal Age – metal is the predominant material for advanced tool use (c. 6000 BC – c. 1765 AD)

  3. The Industrial Age – tools become motorized (c. 1765 AD – c. 1947 AD)

  4. The Electronic Age –  electrically-powered devices containing solid-state transistors revolutionize manufacturing, computing and communications (c. 1947 AD to present)

Food Production

  1. The Age of Subsistence – food is obtained through hunting and gathering (before c. 10,000 BC)

  2. The Age of Agriculture – humans take control of their food supply and begin planting crops and domesticating livestock (c. 10,000 BC to c. 1860 AD)

  3. The Age of the Tractor – the amount of food a single person can produce increases by a factor of 10, and a larger percentage of the population is available for the production of other goods and services (c. 1860 AD to present)


  1. The Age of Tribes groups are united by kinship, leaders regarded as first among equals (before c. 4000 BC)

  2. The Age of Kingdoms people are divided between rulers and subjects; the supreme leader having the power of life and death over most or all of the subjects (c. 4000 BC to 1776 AD)

  3. The Age of Democratic-Republics the division between rulers and subjects is eliminated or reduced over time; leaders are increasingly chosen by popular elections (1776 AD to present)

There are also other revolutionary inventions that could be used as the boundaries for eras:

Money facilitates greater ease of commerce; also allows greater specialization of occupations than can be supported in an economy based purely on barter (c. 3000 BC to present)

Banking creates pools of capital that can be invested in a variety of potentially profitable ways (c. 1300 AD to present)

Corporations – allows investors to pool capital and to limit risk, thereby encouraging enterprises that might otherwise have been too costly for an individual investor, or that might have been too risky (c. 1600 AD to present)

Science the methodical search for knowledge with an emphasis on demonstrable evidence (c. 1600 AD to present)

The dates of these boundaries are not exact, and cases could reasonably be made for other dates.  This only serves to support the proposition that the division of history into distinct periods, although a very useful way of framing the past, does not have one specific interpretation that is necessarily superior to all others.  Human activity is multi-dimensional, and attempts to categorize it using a single dimension limit one’s appreciation for the scope of human enterprise and development.

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