Monday, July 28, 2014

Getting started with Python

I have been a software engineer for most of my career.  I am a bit of a nerd and programming has been both a lot of fun and a good way to provide for my family.  I was using Java for much of the last fifteen years.  Just recently I joined a small start up and was encouraged to develop some tools in Python.  After four months in Python I've decided it is a pretty good language, especially for small projects.

As such I'm putting together some resources to help my two younger daughters learn some of the basics about programming and a little about Python.  I'll share some of the resources here.  If there is a lot of interest I might do a few more posts, or expand this post.


Installing Python

To get started you'll need to install Python.  To do so go to the Download page of the Python.org site.  Python underwent a fairly major change in going from the 2.x version of the language to the 3.x version.  I suggest that you go with the newer version.  Over time the old version will fade away.

In windows, after you download the file, click on it.  It will ask if you want to run, say yes.  To complete the installation process check out Using Python on Windows.


Getting started

Once you have installed Python, click on the "Start" button and then "IDLE (Python GUI)".   This should bring up a command window with Python running.  Then type:

print ("Hello world.")

Congratulations, you have just run a simple Python program.

One of the nice things about Python is that it is interpreted, which means it will execute commands in sequence, rather than compiling the whole program before running.  This feature makes it easy to get started, but you can get bit by a bug in your program that a compiler would have flagged as a problem.


The next level is to create a file to be a Python program.  Create a file with this:

#! python
import sys
sys.stdout.write("hello from Python %s\n" % (sys.version,))

Then run it by doing:

py

Here are some more things you can try out.


Editors

To get started all you really need is a simple editor.  Something like Notepad will work just fine.  But if you want to use something designed to write programs you have lots of options. There are over a hundred editors.  I've been using Komodo at work, which has a free version that is very functional.


Learning Python

Google makes heavy use of Python.  They have some Python classes.  Here is Day 1 Part 1 and Day 1 Part 2.

Codecademy has a Python course.  I haven't used it, yet, but a friend at work found it helpful.

Python Essential Reference by David M Beasley is a fairly dense book.  A beginner will have to go slow.  But I've found it helpful and useful.


Google is your friend

One last thought: often you may get stuck.  You can often find the answer by going to Google and typing in "python" along with some of what you are trying to do.  The chances are someone else had a similar problem and the answer is already out there.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Please remember to send in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

Please remember to send in a post about homeschooling for the next Carnival of Homeschooling, which will be held at Living Life and Learning.

This will be the 448th edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Go here for the instructions on sending in a submission.

As always, entries to the Carnival of Homeschooling are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

I have a reminder mailing list. If you would like email reminders, please tell me.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Thursday, July 24, 2014

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up - Planning, Organizing, and Choosing Curriculum Edition

Sarah is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling at Embracing Destiny.

She starts the carnival with:

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I’ve learned a few invaluable gems of wisdom over the years as a homeschool mom, mostly the hard way. One of those gems is about planning, organizing, and choosing curriculum. You can have the most beautiful planner, the most useful planning system, the greatest organizational tools and methods, and the top ten picks of all the well-known homeschool scholars for your curriculum, but if it doesn’t work for you and your children, it’s all for naught. Lest we forget one of the greatest benefits of homeschooling — the ability to adjust and find what works for our own family’s learning styles — I wanted to start with this reminder. The best laid plans that are never carried out don’t amount to much. Keep your focus on your own goals and those of your children, not the Jones family homeschooling next door. 

 On that note, if you are looking for a system that works and want to do some research on different planning, organizing, and curriculum choice methods, you’ve come to the right place. Who better than homeschool moms themselves to share what has worked in practical application?
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Enjoy!


Carnival of Homeschooling

Monday, July 21, 2014

How foreign of a concept is homeschooling these days?

My family is hosting three young boys from China. Their ages are 14, 15 & 17. They have been with us for almost two weeks and they will leave tomorrow. Our interaction with them has been a little bit limited. They spend most of the day with a group studying English and going to the local tourist sites.

Their diction is pretty good. I don’t think I’ve had any trouble understanding the words they say. But their vocabulary is limited. One of the boys has been studying English a couple years more than the other two. Fairly often we’ll ask a question or tell them something and the other two boys will immediately look to the first for an explanation. Even still there are times when we’ll say something and all three will give us blank look.

One of these times was when we first mentioned homeschooling. We explained what it meant and there was both a look of “Did I really understand what you just said?” and “How would that ever work?”

Scientists talk about a paradigm shift being very important in expanding our understanding of the world. As we learn new concepts or gain insights into the way the world works, we undergo a shift in how we perceive the world. I think this happened a little with the three boys as we explained homeschooling. They started to see the world in a new light.

I’ve wondered the last couple days if homeschooling may still a foreign concept for much of America. Many of my close friends also homeschool and I am worried that there may be a group mindset that since we understand homeschooling and recognize the value of homeschooling that most people most at least understand what homeschooling is all about. But is this true?

Even though we’ve gone from tens of thousands of children being homeschooled in the 1970s to a couple million being homeschooled now, I think there are still many in the United States who don’t really understand homeschooling.

I do think over time things will continue to get better. The number of children being homeschooled continues to grow. I think the drive to homeschooling is largely driven by how broken the public school system. Even though we may think homeschooling is well understood by our neighbors and friends, it may be there are still many for whom homeschooling is a foreign concept.

The answer is to be patience and explain how it works. We can help our friends through a paradigm shift. Over time more and more will come to understand homeschooling.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up - The Finding Solutions Edition

Susan is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling, over At Home & School.

She starts with:

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Welcome to the Finding Solutions Edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling
Homeschoolers face many different challenges and deal with a variety of doubts about our chosen educational path. Even after homeschooling for 20+ years, I still have questions and concerns, and reading about how other homeschoolers deal with their anxiety helps me remember that I am not alone, and that solutions can be found for any obstacle we may encounter.
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Enjoy.


Carnival of Homeschooling

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Please remember to send in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

Please remember to send in a post about homeschooling for the next Carnival of Homeschooling, which will be held at At Home & School.

This will be the 446th edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Go here for the instructions on sending in a submission.

As always, entries to the Carnival of Homeschooling are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

I have a reminder mailing list. If you would like email reminders, please tell me.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up - The Thank You Edition

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Notes From A Homeschooled Mom.

It starts with:

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None of us would have any success at homeschooling without the help of others. All of us have been inspired, supported, encouraged, counseled, and befriended by a more experienced homeschooler, and if it had not been for them, we would not be here to pass on the torch.
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It is a great message.  It is important to say thank you.


Carnival of Homeschooling

Monday, July 07, 2014

A homeschooler's summer goals

I asked my youngest daughter, who will be a freshman in high school this fall, to share her summer goals.

Here is her response:

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My Dad asked me to write about my three biggest goals this summer. They are:

1) Read 20 books

2) Keep on practicing math (Algebra)

3) Get better at computer programming.


In order to read twenty books this summer I have been visiting the library regularly, sometimes even twice a week.  I’ve been enjoying fantasy books along with some of the classics, like Sherlock Holmes. It has been nice to have the library as such a resource, and being able to find enjoyment in something other than technology is a blessing. So far this summer one of my favorite reads was “Ranger's Apprentice”

For math I have been using resources such as Khan Academy and ALEKS. I really like the progress reports on Khan academy; its great to see what you have already accomplished. This last school year I struggled some with math and I didn’t enjoy it. But in the summer I can do whatever type of math interests me, without the stress. I have found that I like factoring trinomials.

To get better at computer programming, I can also use Khan academy. It does also come in handy that my Dad is a programmer. He is planning on giving my sister and I some instruction in Python. It will be a nice way to get a taste of the wonderful world of programming.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Please remember to send in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

Please remember to send in a post about homeschooling for the next Carnival of Homeschooling, which will be held at Notes From A Homschooling Mom

This will be the 445th edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Go here for the instructions on sending in a submission.

As always, entries to the Carnival of Homeschooling are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

I have a reminder mailing list. If you would like email reminders, please tell me.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Life Humor 3.4

From the Henry Cate Life Humor collection:


Life Humor 3.4 was originally posted 2 June 1988

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From Herb Caen's column ...

A single lane bridge in Marin County has a sign which reads:

Unsafe to cross bridge when water covers this sign.

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This is the conversation that will take place many years from now when the crew of Starship Enterprise returns to earth and discovers your newly acquired ti computer.

"Can you operate it, Spock?"

"Well, Jim, this computer was designed and constructed 300 million years ago by a totally alien race of methane-breathing, squid like  beings who built it using technologies unknown to us and used it for purposes we cannot conceive of and then mysteriously vanished leaving no shred of documentation as to its operation.

"It may take a few moments."

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For the interested (and the record) these are mainly taken from THE LITTLE BROWN BOOK OF ANECDOTES, edited by Clifton Fadiman.


In his legal practice, Abraham Lincoln was never greedy for fees and discouraged unnecessary litigation.  A man came to him in a passion, asking him to bring a suit for $2.50 against an impoverished debtor. Lincoln tried to dissuade him, but the man was determined upon revenge. When he say that the creditor was not to be put off, Lincoln asked for and got $10 as his legal fee.  He gave half of this to the defendant, who thereupon willingly confessed to the debt and paid up the $2.50, thus settling the matter to the entire satisfaction of the irate plaintiff.

--

Shortly after John F. Kennedy blocked the hike in steel prices in 1961, he was visited by a businessman who expressed wariness about the national economy.  "Things look great," said JFK.  "Why, if I wasn't president, I'd be buying stocks myself."

"If you weren't president," said the businessman, "so would I."

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Following the death of a United States Senator who was a close friend, Woodrow Wilson received a telephone call from an ambitious politician who said that he wanted to take the Senator's place.  Wilson, shocked by the man's crassness, replied, "That's perfectly agreeable with me, but you'll have to speak with the undertaker about it."

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A long time ago UNIVAC (now UNISYS) had a mainframe computer called an 1106.  They used rotating drum memory.  For those of you not familiar with drums, they are massive rotating cylinders.   They also tend to possess a great deal of rotational inertia.

Anyway, a UNIVAC customer engineer told me that they tried to install  these machines in naval vessels, rotating drum and all.  The story goes that everything was fine until the ship executed a hard turn to port. The drum, resisting this course alteration, merrily broke loose from its mountings and crashed through the side of the ship.  WHOA BOY!

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Sorry to change the subject a little, but this priceless little anecdote occurred while I was working for a hardware store while in college.

I'm standing behind the counter, wearing my little scratchy polyester uniform shirt, and this big huge guy walks up to me carrying two rolls of shelf paper and says "Is this going to be enough to cover my shelves?"

I stare at him for a moment, and then say "Well, that depends how long your shelves are."  Silence.  "How long are your shelves?"

"Oh," he says, "Three feet each."

Silence.

"Ok," I say, "How many shelves do you have?"

"Four per cabinet."

Again silence.

"All right, I'll bite," I say in raw disbelief, "How many cabinets, indeed, do you have?" (I fully expected to hear "Three per room.")

"Two."

"Fine, so it sounds like you have two cabinets with four shelves each that are three feet long."

"Yeah?"

"So that sounds to me like 2 * 4 * 3."

"Yeah?"

"That's 24."

"Yeah?"

"Those rolls are ten feet each."

"Yeah?"

This time, ¨I¨ went silent.

Long pause..................

Then, with a look of pure enlightenment generally displayed only by Zen masters: "I think I better get another roll."

"There is a God."  I thought.

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One customer at a computer store (or perhaps a computer faire) asked a salesman a number of questions about a given model of computer. Does it do this? Yes, it does this. Can it do that? Yes, it can do that. Does it have these? Yes, it has these. Finally he began to become somewhat suspicious of the amazing capabilities of this machine, and asked in as serious a tone as he could muster:
Does it have flim-flam flip-flops?
Yes, yes, it has flim-flam flip-flops!

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One day I happened to be in our local "mom and pop" computer store, scanning the new magazines, when a fellow came in to buy some floppies for his home computer. The proprietor happened to be behind the counter and asked the man which computer he had. He then took a box from the shelf behind him, and opened it. "How many disks do you need?" he asked.
"Oh, two I think" came the answer. The proprietor then rang up the sale, and gave the man his change. With that, the man said "Thanks very much", picked the disks up off the counter, carefully folded them into quarters, and stuffed them into his shirt pocket as he strolled out the door.

The experience left me speechless, but I noticed that the owner didn't even flinch. (No doubt because he knew the fellow would be back for some more disks!)

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Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Some of our best posts from April 2009

Janine and I have been blogging about homeschooling for almost eight years. If you missed some of our early posts, you have missed some of our best thoughts. Here are some highlights from April 2009:

Our long time readers know that I love to go to the Space Access conferences and blog about the talks.  Here is the table of contents for the 2009 Space Access conference.

It was just over five years ago that Susan Boyle sang I Dreamed a Dream for Britain's Got Talent.  I shared some thoughts about the lessons we could learn from Susan Boyle.  Here is a video of her singing:


This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up - Countdown to Summer Edition

Mama Squirrel is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling at Dewey's Treehouse.

She starts the carnival with:

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Welcome to the 444th Carnival of Homeschooling, which is posted on Canada's 147th birthday! This week it's all about the numbers.
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Go check out the carnival countdown!


Carnival of Homeschooling

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Life Humor 3.3

From the Henry Cate Life Humor collection:


Life Humor 3.3 was originally posted 4 May 1988

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WALT DISNEY IS NOT DEAD!
He's in suspended animation.

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Seen on a sign on the back of an 18-wheeler on the freeway today:

"This truck is operated by a professional.  His driving  kills are on display.
If you have comments, please call (800) XXX-XXXX."
The (unintentional or otherwise!) omission of the "s" before "kills" sure changes the meaning!

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If you think the 80286 is brain damaged, you ought to check out the Colorado State Legislature.

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An end-user hotline received a call about a bad software disk.  They asked the customer to make a copy of the disk and mail it in to the hotline. A few days later, they received a letter with a mimeographed copy of the disk.  Since it was a double-sided disk, both sides of the disk had been Xeroxed.

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A software installation (for S/36, I believe), instructed the operator to insert each disk in order into the floppy drive, and hit so that the software could get copied in.  The customer hotline received a call from one customer complaining that disks 1-4 had gone in fine, but that they just couldn't get disk #5 to fit.  Wonder how long the disk drive held out after that.

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I had a similar experience while working as a student operator at Michigan Tech. One particularly trying afternoon, the computer was merrily crashing for a number of reasons. After about four such spectacles, we broadcast that the computer would be down for the remainder of the afternoon. There was a resigned groan from the users and they began to file out of the Center, except for one comely young wench with wide blue eyes who wandered up to the counter and queried:

"What's wrong with the computer?" Too tired and irritated to give her a straight answer, I looked her straight in the eye and replied: "Broken muffler belt." A look of deep concern wafted into her expression as she asked: "Oh, that's bad. Can you call Midas?"

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I work for University Computing Services answering questions about any and all aspects of computing here, and as a result I run into some truly astonishing mental densities...  A few excerpts from the Help desk:

Caller: "What's the name for when you're entering data into the computer?"

HD: "Data Entry."

Caller: "Thank you!"


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Monday, June 30, 2014

Great advice

From Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list:

Make sure you visualize what you really want, 
not what someone else wants for you. 
 -Jerry Gillies

It is a mystery

If you have a theory or suggestion, I would be interested to hear it.

(Well, it is not so much a mystery any more.  Apparently, this symptom is common with visual processing disorders.  Now to figure out what to do about it.)

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Anyone who reads our blog is probably is aware that Baby Bop (our son) has some unusual neurological processing issues. Reading is particularly difficult for him. He can memorize words, but he just can't decode the sounds that the letters make.  He has been in speech therapy since he was 18 months old. (He is almost 8 years old now).

Recently, he has hit a new developmental window and is beginning to be able to decode letters and sounds (sound out simple words). But, this bring with it an interesting side effect from this letter sound decoding: he begins to yawn almost nonstop. It is an involuntary response. He is not even aware he is doing it unless I point it out.

[He also a visual tic disorder.  When he was about 2 years old, his head would jerk to one side after a few seconds of exposure to a video screen.  Now that he is older, he can handle limited screen time without the tic showing up, but we never quite know how much is too much or if he has outgrown it altogether.]

When he is looking at site words or word that he has memorized, he doesn't yawn. As soon as he starts sounding out an unfamiliar word, he yawns. I'm not talking about small yawns either. They are big, nonstop yawns.

Today, we worked on reading. I had Baby Bop do a cartwheel or jump up and down every time he started to yawn. This would only bring a momentary pause to the yawning. As soon as he started sounding out a word, the yawns would start again.

Really, the only thing that stopped the yawning was Baby Bop jumping up and down while he was sounding out the words (which he was more than happy to do). For now, I guess he is going to be jumping up and down while reading until we can come up with a better plan.

Good TED talk: The first 20 hours -- how to learn anything: Josh Kaufman

I really enjoyed this - The first 20 hours -- how to learn anything: Josh Kaufman:


I've asked my younger two daughters to watch this.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

FYI: The Carnival of Homeschooling has been updated

I've been distracted and not kept up the archive for the Carnival of Homeschooling posted in the past.

I've updated it today.

Please remember to send in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

Please remember to send in a post about homeschooling for the next Carnival of Homeschooling, which will be held at Dewey's Treehouse.

This will be the 444rd edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Go here for the instructions on sending in a submission.

As always, entries to the Carnival of Homeschooling are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

I have a reminder mailing list. If you would like email reminders, please tell me.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Good TED Talk - Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

I enjoyed Amy Cuddy's TED Talk - Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are:



I do think our body language can influence how we think and act.  It clearly isn't the only factor, but it is probably 5% what impacts us.

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up

Sarah is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling at SmallWorld.

She starts the carnival with:

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Welcome to the Carnival of Homeschooling!

I'm glad you're visiting here at SmallWorld at Home. Let me introduce myself for those who are new here. We have just finished our 14th year of homeschooling and will have two high schoolers—our last freshman {gulp} and a senior {triple gulp} in the upcoming year. Our oldest son—who was homeschooled all the way through— just graduated magna cum laude from college. {And the question always is: what's he doing now? I'm happy to say that he is now working for an airline for two years so that he can have FREE flights. Like, everywhere in the world. His goal? See the world and then settle back down into graduate school. He is living the dream!}

But enough about me; you're here for the Carnival! We have a little something for everyone on this homeschooling journey with this carnival, from preschool to college. Grab a cup of something cold (it's really hot down here in the South, folks) and start reading!
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Enjoy!


Monday, June 23, 2014

How busy are you?

From Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list:

Nobody is so busy that they can't make time for the people they really care about.
-Leila Sales

The latest Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

The latest Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is up at A peaceful day.

A 360 of Paris

This is pretty cool:  Paris - Panorama 360

For learning it is better to take hand written notes

Scientific American shares A Learning Secret: Don’t Take Notes with a Laptop.

I find this interesting as my second daughter will be heading off to college this fall.

The article starts with:

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“More is better.”  From the number of gigs in a cellular data plan to the horsepower in a pickup truck, this mantra is ubiquitous in American culture.  When it comes to college students, the belief that more is better may underlie their widely-held view that laptops in the classroom enhance their academic performance.  Laptops do in fact allow students to do more, like engage in online activities and demonstrations, collaborate more easily on papers and projects, access information from the internet, and take more notes.  Indeed, because students can type significantly faster than they can write, those who use laptops in the classroom tend to take more notes than those who write out their notes by hand.  Moreover, when students take notes using laptops they tend to take notes verbatim, writing down every last word uttered by their professor.
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The study found that when taking notes by hand the student processed the information more deeply.  And a big negative of those who had laptops was too many got distracted and used their computer for activities not related to their classes.

Hat tip:  Instapundit

My sister's impressions of homeschooling

To get a different perspective on homeschooling I asked my sister for her impressions.  Here is her response:

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My first impression of homeschooling was 25 years ago of a relative’s daughter. I thought she was kind of weird. She seemed very socially awkward and overly dependent on her parents for her age.
So when my brother started a family 20 years ago and talked about homeschooling, I thought to myself 'uh-oh'. But as I have watched over the years, my opinion of homeschool has done a complete turnaround.
My brothers kids are smart, independent and socially okay... well better than okay, they are unusually great kids. Sure I am kind of a biased Aunt but I have been very impressed.
Henry's family is involved in a couple home school co-ops so the kids seem to get plenty of interaction with other kids but with a lot more adult involvement.

Through the co-ops, the kids are involved in band, plays and choir. I have attended several performances and have been impressed by the quality of the other kids in the co-op.
The smaller group size seems to provide both more options for growing talents and less possibility of getting lost in the shuffle that can happen fairly easily at a public school.

I guess it is yet to be seen what kind of adults these kids become but at this point they are smart, kind, resourceful and hardworking so I expect they will continue on that track.
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