Category Archives: Education

Wake Tech, MIT, and homeschool

It was an interesting juxtaposition yesterday when I received an email from a homeschooling mother about the push-back she received from Wake Technical Community College in North Carolina when she tried to enroll her 14 year old child into some classes there. We ran into the same flavor of push-back from Wake Tech when we tried to enroll our son Christian there under very similar circumstances. That interaction was well documented here on the is blog. Click here for a description of that particular part of the story. That email was ironic because, a few minutes before I read it, I was on the phone with Christian, now 22, who was sitting in an airport in New York waiting to catch a flight to Boston to make a presentation on his PhD dissertation topic to the people who fund his research at MIT.

Both our kids were extremely well served by Wake Tech. Both of the kids finished hard, math focused STEM degrees at the undergraduate level with honors, had multiple funded graduate school opportunities at least partially because of their college start at Wake Tech. They functioned well socially and academically at Wake Tech and they went there without adult supervision. We attribute their success from a social standpoint to the fact that they were not socialized in a traditional school cocoon and were able to interact effectively across a broad range of age groups and social backgrounds because of their homeschool socialization.

None of this had to do with any special abilities of our kids. They are/were of normal intelligence and academic gifts, but they excelled because they were in the kinds of environments provided by both homeschool and Wake Tech. It would seem like Wake Tech would want to do more of that sort of thing than less. I hope that I can help promote this if I ever have the opportunity to do so, either with Wake Tech or any other such excellent community college that will listen.

You can read about how we homeschooled by clicking here and how both the kids skipped high school by clicking here.

Fun note on Christian’s college trajectory

This image from six years ago came up on our social media today. It is Christian’s Dean’s List notification for the first semester of his second year at Wake Technical Community College. I had completely blown it for the following semester by forgetting to pay for everyone’s classes by the deadline. Kelly was able to get the classes she needed, but I had to register Christian for Differential Equations and Calculus based Physics at Johnston Community College which was about a 40 minute drive from where we lived. The only class I could get him into at Wake Tech was Linear Algebra at Wake Tech. Fortunately, he was able to take another class on line from Central Carolina Community College. He actually had a 4.0 semester that semester and finished every math class he needed to get an engineering degree when he was 16 years old.

There was an added benefit in that he got to do the driving over to Johnston CC every day–a great thing for someone who just got their license, Lorena took two classes with him, so she went with him every day, and he got paid by the college for taking notes for a couple of members of his class who were not able to do it themselves.

Kelly moves, takes on worthy endeavors and there are new clothes involved

Kelly's Melania Trump impressionThis is Kelly doing her Melania Trump impression. I guess now that she has moved uptown she needs to express herself with a high level of haute coutre. Actually, along with the move to a much better living situation, she is on the brink of some good, new and ambitious plans. She will start it all off next week with a trip to be with family and long time friends in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon followed by additional travel, preparation (hard preperation) for very difficult new endeavors. We hope we get to help her some with this through moral support and the odd weekend when she comes down her to wash clothes, play the piano and be pampered by Mom.

Christian’s natural habitat (Starbucks)

Christian studying at starbucksThis is Christian’s new habitat now that he does not have Mom’s kitchen island anymore. It has been fun to have him here and it is so nice to see him sitting down in the kitchen, thinking, playing his guitar, working on his computer, and studying while Lorena works in the kitchen. We miss that. We have been to Jimmy John’s twice, and out to breakfast three times since he has been here. Lorena has him all cleaned up with a new haircut. Lorena and Christian have been down to Anytime Fitness a couple of times with the obligatory stop at Starbucks for some coffee. Christian spends a lot of study time there. It is a way to keep going on his studies while avoiding being stuck in his apartment or the lab for ours on end. It is kind of amazing to us that he actually sits and just thinks a lot. It is part of the territory with his area of Information Theory. Most of all, though, we are trying to get him to forget all that for a few days and just relax. Maybe he will come back again before too long.

P.S. Note the nice new haircut. Mom dragged him down to the barber earlier today.

Kelly update

Kelly's new glassesFirst, the important stuff: Kelly’s new glasses arrived and I think she looks just stunning with her new librarian hipster look.

On other fronts, there are lots of good things going on. She loves her work, her company, and her fellow employees. She made a great decision to stop for now at a Masters degree and get some experience. I am not sure how she could have found a better first job than the one she is in. Amazingly, she makes use intense of the things she learned during in her Bachelors degree and internship in Statistics to inform her work doing precisely what she learned studying Marketing Strategy during her Masters degree. Write now she is deep into planning and running focus groups. Before that she developed a huge (for her corner of the industry) marketing survey and then evaluated the results with statistical tools the company had never previously used. One recent new innovation she brought to the company was a better way to set pricing more informed by data and analytics than by expert opinion alone.

So, three quarters of a year in, she has started to think a little about what to do next. She will finish her first round trip of the Marketing process in the fall and really needs to get her second round trip in where she does it completely on her own, and then a third round trip to own the process. After that, she needs to decide what to do next. There is a great growth path for her right where she is, but there are other academic and work options.

Kelly’s values are not at all in alignment with the Seattle zeitgeist. There are some particular evils held in high regard that are difficult to abide and they permeate even parts of the society, particularly in places like Portland and Seattle, that historically have been less coarse and held good morals. I think that reality will play heavily in whatever direction she wants to head next.

Still, when you have new stylish glasses like these, life looks pretty good.

Homeschool planning sheets

Click on the images or the following links to the single day planning sheets at a larger size:
[Kelly’s 2010 planning sheet] [Christian’s 2007 planning sheet]
Kelly's homeschool planning sheet from 2010Christian's homeschool planning sheet 2007Lorena found most of our homeschool planning and other materials when she unpacked our stuff for the library last week. It was a lot of fun to look at them and remember a little bit about where we were and what we were doing at the time all this took place. I forgot how much effort went into to providing a precise enough plan that the kids would know exactly what was expected of them while I was away at work.

It also made me realized that the kids worked hard to get where they are. Although both kids were able to advance to the point where they did full time college level work by the time they finished eighth grade, they did it more through hard work and day to day advances in each of a plethora of areas than by any special intellectual prowess.

For example, at the time of Christian’s 2007 planning report, just after he turned 12 years old in the sixth grade, Christian was just one year ahead of what would have been the most advanced students when I was in the sixth grade back in 1966. He got there through a ton of hard work, inching through Singapore Math for the previous two and a half years. the same thing was true for Kelly in 2010. She already had about a year of college credit from CLEP tests by the time this planning report was written, all through a lot of painstaking daily work.

It did not seem so onerous at the time. This is just what we did. By keeping at it and doing all the work every day, we inched a little ahead every year to the point where I was able to write this series of post about the culmination of our homeschool efforts on skipping high school.

Unpacking the books

Lorena start building the library in CentraliaSince we actually believe (or desire, God willing) we will be in the house for years to come, Lorena has earnestly started to unpack the books and put them into what we hope to be at least part of our small, but memory filled library. We have what we have always felt like was lots and lots of books even though we have  thrown out quite a few. This is about 1/3 to 1/2 of our books so I guess we really did not have that many in the end.

A lot of our books are the stuff we kept from homeschool. We also have a lot of the kids’ work and all their test and other records filed away in a filing cabinet. I do not know if I am nuts to keep the stuff, but it was such a big part of our lives that it is kind of hard to throw the stuff away. We read a lot of these books aloud together. I guess we are hoping we will have friends’ kids who will enjoy them when they visit and maybe even grandkids someday.

All this stuff went up onto the second floor landing where there is room for some more book cases when we can afford them. We have a couch and two chairs and want to put a ton of lights in there, too. Right now, we have a closed balcony wall that looks down into the living room from the landing. We want to modify that so we have a glass barrier that so it will open the room up a bunch more. There is already plenty of light coming in from skylights in the living room and a could of high windows. It is a nice room. Honestly we are loving this house.

Christian at work in Boston

Christian at MIT Lincoln LabsChristian has been to work for three days and it looks like he is getting his arms around things in the lab. He really likes the area where he lives although he says the culture is a little more direct. Actually, he did not exactly say “direct,” but you get the idea. He hopes to look around a little in Boston this weekend, maybe get in a workout and see the art museum across the street.

On another note, we got a call today from our builder, Mark P. He said the granite guy called him and wants to install the granite in the kitchen tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM. Lorena was very happy with that. The appliances were supposed to go in this week and the granite next week, but it looks like it will be the other way around. We should have some pictures to put up tomorrow.

The only things we have left after the appliances are the backsplash, painting and a few odds and ends. It will be nice to be able to cook on a stove and in an oven instead of on an apartment balcony grill.

Vancouver and the new job

Vancouver Hilton near my new jobI drove up to Vancouver, BC last night to stay at a Hilton close to where the brand new corporate offices of my new company are located. It is a beautiful drive up from Centralia and the border crossing is not too bad. Every time I come up here I think, “I don’t remember it being this beautiful.” It is truly an amazing place with snow-capped mountains, lots of beautiful stretches of water and a huge, cosmopolitan city. I am looking forward to being here now and then and my company says it is fine for me to bring Lorena.

Christian goes to Boston for the summer

Christian's hotel room in Boston (Lincoln Labs internship)Christian flew from Tempe to Boston yesterday to start an internship at MIT’s Lincoln Labs. He moves moved into a dorm at Northeastern University close to (or in) downtown Boston sometime today yesterday and will be shuttled over to the labs every day during his stay. This is another milestone in his march toward his degree. It seems to be a long, long way from laying on the floor learning arithmetic facts during his homeschool days.

He is a one or two years away from finishing his PhD and starting to think about what he wants to do next. He has made his own way economically and in the running of his household since he left home after his Bachelors degree. My level of participation in his education has stood at absolute zero since then, too. It is not that I wouldn’t like to help, I just do not have the skills or knowledge. I know his work at Arizona State and at Lincoln Labs is very demanding both in the hours he spends on it and the complexity of the work. He will be glad to finish.

Update: Amazingly, this is the view from Christian’s dorm room for the summer. He told me he got into the room last night. My understanding is he can see the Boston Museum of Fine Arts right out his window.

Christian’s job is to think

Christian at IHOP Tempe, AZ May 1, 2017We saw the April 30, 2017 whiteboard (below) when we first arrived at his apartment on our move to Centralia, WA. Christian hopes he is on the verge of his first (semi) important, first author publication in a major academic journal. The work for that paper is pretty much done. He has to refine the verbiage and get past the whole scholarly review thing which is never a sure thing, but he has something that is pretty solid. The two whiteboard’s below are two consecutive days of work. I thought he spent a lot of time at the computer, but that is not really how he works. He looks at the whiteboard and then he just thinks. His job, his professor tells him, is to think. He has a second paper in mind. He hopes it will be better than the first. The first is solid–something that needed to be worked out. The second, however, is something that might be a true innovation. Something new, not yet considered, that contributes to the field. We hope so, but it is hard to know. Even after a paper like that is published, its importance might not even be know in the lifetime of the author. Truly interesting stuff. AND the whiteboards look really cool.

April 30, 2017 – Christian’s Whiteboard
Whiteboard at Christian's apartment ASU April 2017

May 1, 2017 – Christian’s Whiteboard
Whiteboard at Christian's apartment ASU May 2017

Christian goes to MIT Lincoln Labs for the summer

Christian and Lorena at Christmas time in Texas 2016Lorena and I have not participated much in the education of the kids other than as cheerleaders since they started paying their own ways in graduate school three years back. So, it is nice to be able to report some new educational stuff. MIT Lincoln Labs who is funding Christian’s research offer him a summer research position this summer. Hopefully, he will be living in a dorm at Northeastern University which appears to right downtown (or within walking distance) Boston. It is an internship really, so now both Kelly and Christian have had technical internships at high tier research institutes, Kelly at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University and now Christian at MIT Lincoln Labs where he will continue his work in network information theory.

Tio Lynn earns his law degree

Tio Lynn's graduation photo!CONGRATULATIONS LYNN!!!! We are all very proud of Tio Lynn, child number three (Lorena is four) of Grandpa Lauro and Grandma Conchita. He earned his law degree and we all now have to call him Licenciado Lynn Neri. He is only a few months away now from meeting all the regulatory requirements to practice law in Mexico. He went through a lot of hard work to get to this worthy goal. That brings the family degree count up to three engineering degrees (Tios Lauro, Jorge and Rigoberto) and Lynn’s law degree. Lorena is still at work on her degree and I expect she will finish it before to long, if we ever quit uprooting her so she actually has the time to finish.

Thanksgiving with family (but apart)

Christian at the Rizos (Kelly, too)Christian hitched a ride with his friend Nathan to spend Thanksgiving weekend with the Rizos in San Diego. Kelly flew down last night from Seattle to join the crowd. We tried to figure out a way to be all together this year, but it just did not make sense. We could not be happier about the alternative as the Rizos selflessly made it all work out (again).

Kelly sent out this photo of Christian working on term papers, test preparation and homework. This is probably the last Thanksgiving he will ever have to do this. He has one more semester with a full load of classes followed by a semester with only one class, then he will be all dissertation all the time until he graduates. That is something for which he can certainly be thankful this Thanksgiving.

Lorena and I will spend some time with friends, but sometime during the weekend, we will cook a turkey–the thought of not having turkey sandwiches and other leftovers is more than we can bear.

Does this girl look harrassed?

Does this girl look harrassed?Kelly sent me a great article on how to raise successful girls. I think it is great and almost surely applies to boys as well. It is titled Want to Raise Successful Daughters? Science Says Nag the Heck Out of Them and was pretty much the operating mode of our family from about when the kids turned two (tongue in cheek, but maybe only slightly). I honestly think there is a good bit of truth to the claims in the article. We had our own little spin on it, but I cannot say that I am not guilty of at least a little bit of this kind of behavior. On the other hand, the über-tiger-mother-from-hades meme is one we rightly loathed so we are not buying this lock, stock and barrel, just maybe lock and stock.

By the way, does the girl in this picture look harassed and put out?

Kelly gets her MS diploma

Kelly's Master of Science diplomaI wanted to post Kelly’s Master of Science in Business Administration diploma as it is the current high mark in her educational efforts. She is almost certainly not done yet (talked to one of her professors last night about next steps), but she is at work now in a good job in downtown Seattle learning new stuff, loving her job and her new co-workers and on the way to figuring out what she really wants to do as a vocation. We are very happy and excited for Kelly.

Coming soon: A semi-momentous anouncement

Some really good stuff is happening, some of which has to do with schooling and some with work. Lorena and I are spending most of the day indoors today, not because we want to be here on a beautiful sunny fall day (not to hot for a change), but because we have to work. I have taken on another project to help with a medical device for developing countries and Lorena is studying for her Statistics class. She has two classes this term, so she is pretty busy. That is all good stuff, but not the subject of this post. I just wanted to put up a marker because some good decisions were made to make a change, but the exact direction is not yet established. I think in a couple of days we can celebrate it and talk about it.

Woo-hoo! Lorena starts back to college!

Clackamas Community CollegeWe found out today that Lorena made it past the waitlist and is now enrolled into two online classes at Clackamas Community College. She only has a few classes left and this was the best way to get her to her degree. It is a challenge because one of the classes is Statistics, a pretty hard class. I actually use statistics on a daily basis at my day job, but her best hope for good help is with Kelly (BS Statistics) and Christian (BS Applied Mathematics). We are very excited for Lorena and hope she can finish either this Spring or next Fall. After (in October) 24 years of marriage, I still relish the thought that we are paying for education. I hope it never ends.

The homework never ends

Christian's last weekend as a twenty year oldChristian got on an airplane a little after midnight on Wednesday to arrive here in Texas at five in the morning yesterday. He is here to celebrate his last weekend as a twenty year old. He got now sleep last night, but had a homework assignment due at three (Texas time), so he did not get to go to bed until yesterday afternoon. The crazy part is that, the problem he was required to solve assumed some things that were not stated in the problem and that mathematicians can never assume. He ended up writing a note to the professor to say how he just did not know how to solve the problem “generally.” The professor wrote back and said he never intended for the problem to be solved generally, just in some important cases. So Christian, in the time-honored tradition of graduate students everywhere, got to waste a night solving a problem that was unsolvable based on the incomplete information provided in the problem statement.