Part of the Solution

After being part of the problem (and not just the problem I’m discussing here) for most of my life, I think I may have taken a step in the right direction towards redemption. Of course, without The Missus I’d still be inciting bedlam at every turn. But she’s got a lot more heart and a lot more smarts than I have, and I’m just riding her coattails with this one.

We’ve launched Reading Coach Online. It’s a FREE educational resource for parents who want to teach their young children to read or help their older children become better readers. The idea is to provide research based information on how children learn to read along with lesson ideas and activities for all ages that address all aspects of reading (phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension). Strong reading skills make learning every other subject, even math, much easier. The ultimate goal is to help parents give their children the foundations to become lifelong learners.

Did I mention it’s 100% free? I did say that it is free, right?

As a reader of this blog, I’m sure you are thinking what every other reader is thinking–this guy seems barely literate himself, what does he know about teaching kids to read? A good question, and I have an excellent answer–not much. However, I’m lucky enough to share a home and child (along with half of everything else that used to be “mine”) with a reading expert. We’re both kind of nerdy, and we talk about reading and learning quite a bit. She has not only an amazing knowledge base on the subject, but has the unbelievable ability to explain things in a way that even a dolt like me can easily understand. She has experience not only as a classroom teacher, but also as an elementary reading specialist and an educational consultant for one of the large curriculum publishers.

In a former life, she was paid to travel to school systems to train and evaluate teachers on effective reading instruction. School systems pay a lot of money for this training, but we thought the same information should be readily available for parents on the web. The research is available (if you are into reading that stuff), there are some resources out there for use in the classroom, and of course there are expensive curricula available for home schoolers. What has been missing is an easy to digest source of information that can be used by parents at home for free.

We’ve been kicking this idea around for about a year now, and a couple of months ago I freed up a large chunk of my schedule, giving me more time to bond with the kid and her more time to research and write–a doubly good situation. We had plenty of ideas of things to do with the site (feel free to forward your suggestions), and plan on adding more and more features as we go. Currently there is a strong base of articles that explain the basics of reading instruction along with a series of lesson ideas (one will be added daily) that can be read and implemented by parents quickly and with very few materials.

I know this sounds like it would cost money, but it’s free. Really. We’re even footing the bill for shipping and handling.

I’m really proud of the work we’ve done with Reading Coach so far, and I think it will be a valuable resource for parents/grandparents and even teachers. Please take a couple of seconds to check it out, and feel free to drop us a note with your thoughts or comment on any of the articles or lesson ideas you find interesting or helpful. And if you find spelling or grammar errors, please be gentle. We’re constantly proofreading and finding stuff!

Big Oops for Former Electrical Engineering Professor

J. Reece Roth was allegedly involved in providing sensitive data to the Chinese.

I had professor Roth for a class.  Here’s how remarkable the guy was–I’m not 100% sure what class it was.  Plasma engineering maybe?  All I remember about him is that he was slightly on the tubby side, the suits he wore included a vest, and he seemed very disinterested in dealing with undergrads.

My class attendance record probably insures that he remembers even less about me.

AARP Cares About Everyone? Really?

A while back, I wrote a post on “Divided We Fail”, the AARP’s shameful ad campaign that uses children to try to disguise the organization’s true intentions. Reader “poz” writes (I’m assuming in response to that post):

you are scary, it is sad to see that you feel there is a hidden agenda w/aarp.
Why can\’t you beleive that there are americans who do beleive in improving
our quality of life for our future generations?

Ok, maybe if I do a proof by contradiction it will make sense…

Let’s assume poz is right and I am wrong. Let’s assume the AARP’s goal is to improve the quality of life of future generations. If this is true, aren’t they a shameful organization for tricking our country’s senior citizens into believing that they are in Washington lobbying on behalf of their interests (if you weren’t aware, AARP is just another special interest group). And don’t they owe our country’s seniors an apology for the conflict of interest created by licensing the name of their organization to health and life insurance companies that target seniors and benefit from the very policies they are trying to have enacted?

And if this is true, shouldn’t they drop the “RP” from their name? Shouldn’t they stop being the American Association of Retired Persons and start being the AAFG–American Association of Future Generations?

Man, I really hope what poz says isn’t true. If he/she is right, the AARP is much more reprehensible than little old me painted them as being in my original post. I only accused them of tricky and misleading advertising. Hell, Pepsi does that.

And for the record, I believe there are a great number of Americans who care very deeply about future generations. However, I don’t believe these people can be found in special interest groups that are pimping those generations out and deceiving their own members on behalf the corporations they are in bed with.

Hillary Clinton and the Economy

I can’t believe she said this:

“It’s time for a president who is ready on day one to be the commander in chief of our economy,” the New York senator said, reframing her leadership campaign theme. “Sometimes the phone rings at 3 a.m. in the White House, and it’s an economic crisis.”

So what is the solution at 3 am? Do you get on the phone to the Chairman of the Fed and beg him to drop interest rates 0.75%? Do you decide to take away buy people’s property and pay other people to flood it? Do you log into your online account and borrow millions billions trillions from China to write out checks to the American people that are just big enough to allow them to buy some stuff from…China?

Do you then go back to sleep after one of these snap decisions, resting easy that the situation has been resolved?

To be fair, it’s not just Clinton, and the American people are encouraging them to stick their noses where they don’t belong. I can’t remember where I read this (thanks to public education), but it describes the powers and duties of the President of the United States pretty clearly.

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

Where does it say the President is in charge of the economy or even has anything to do with the economy? And seriously, do we want one person to have that kind of power? Wasn’t that exact situation a major factor in that war fought a couple hundred years ago?

Homeschooling Ruled Illegal in California–Seriously

Last month I posted about a proposal in Nebraska that would mandate testing to homeschooling families.  Today, thanks to Reason, I read an article in the LA Times stating that homeschooling has been ruled illegal by a California appellate court.

“Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children,” wrote Justice H. Walter Croskey in a Feb. 28 opinion signed by the two other members of the district court.

Hold on.  WHAT?!  Excuse me?  Did I read that correctly?  They don’t have the constitutional right?  Pause for a second to digest that.

You know who loves this ruling, right?

Teachers union officials will also be closely monitoring the appeal. A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said he agrees with the ruling.

“What’s best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher,” he said.

Credentialed by the State, right?  No conflict of interest there.  Relax Teachers Union people.  Good teachers have been in demand since ancient times, way before unions.  They’ll always be in demand and are in no danger of ever being out of work.

Notice something I’m not discussing here is religion, which the Times article mentions frequently.  It’s almost as if they’re trying to make this a religious issue, which it obviously isn’t.  It just so happens that many people homeschool their children for religious reasons, but that’s not the only reason.

This will surely be overturned, but is it something the State would be willing to take to the limit.  Are they willing to line up tanks outside of someone’s home and threaten them with bullets for refusing to send their kids to gov’ment indoctrination camps schools?

California, if you’re still wondering why the rest of the country unfairly labels you a bunch of crazies…

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Racist Graffiti And A Paper Noose

This not only appears on the KNS, it’s on the AP Wire.

The Sumner County Sheriff’s Department is investigating a possible hate crime after racist graffiti defaming a black school administrator were found with a paper-towel noose.

Graffiti in a restroom?  *gasp*

A noose made out of paper towells? *oh no!*

Congratulations news outlets.  The juvenile morons who did this just got way more attention than they could’ve ever hoped.  This is nothing more than some immature, ignorant kids expressing their ignorance and stupidity while they take a dump.

We may not like the fact that they are immature and ignorant, but a hate crime?  Let’s hope these dangerous criminals are apprehended before Halloween.  If not they may graduate to stealing pumpkins or maybe even TPing a yard or two.

The Perfectly Aged Kindergartener

In yet another move that is sure to greatly improve the life of every citizen, the Tennessee legislature is pondering whether or not to change the cutoff date that determines when children can attend kindergarten.

Makes sense to me.  Who better than a group of politicians to decide when your kid is ready for school?

The proposal would require children to be 5 years old before Sept. 1 to qualify for kindergarten, up from the current Sept. 30 cutoff.

Oh, I should have read that it was going to change the cutoff date by a WHOLE 29 DAYS before passing judgment.  That puts a whole new paint job on things.  Sorry for the snarky comments.  This is looking more and more like a worthwhile piece of legislation.

He says that moving up the date would help children adjust to the social and intellectual challenges of school.

Intellectual challenges?  Wait, I thought they were talking about public schools?

If you really want to help children, just butt out.  Stop dictating all the decisions about how they are educated to the people who actually care about them–their parents.

Two Hours Late

Driving in this morning I was listening to all the school and business closings.  Several of them were running “two hours late.”  Here in the South, the slightest bit of snow or ice is enough to cause schools to open either one hour late, two hours late, or close altogether.  Basically, those are the only three options.

I was reminded of a day when I was in sixth grade and our school opened two hours late because of snow.  After we arrived, we spent at least another hour sitting in our homeroom class while the administration figured out how to schedule the rest of the day.  Not that I really minded sitting around and goofing off with my friends for an hour, but I remember wondering why they hadn’t planned for this in advance.

I mean, there were only 3 possible scenarios, and one (being closed) meant that they wouldn’t have to plan at all.

My Homies Shakespeare and Tupac

Taylor’s right. Shakespeare kicks serious ass. I would say he kicks more ass than Tupac, but he didn’t continue to publish works after his death, so I can’t go that far. But she has an interesting point–lots of kids aren’t into Shakespeare mostly because they aren’t into their teachers.

So, if you’re a high schooler trying to avoid reading Shakespeare because your teacher is telling you to do it, hear this: They’re right about him. But contrary to what your goofy-assed English teacher says as she swoons over some lines you barely understand, you don’t have to like him right now. The important thing is to NOT LET THE ENGLISH TEACHER KILL IT FOR YOU.

In my case, the school system in general screwed it up by introducing us to Romeo and Juliet first. I guess because it’s “easiest” to get? Dunno.

Anyway, when I read Hamlet, I couldn’t believe how great Shakespeare was. I was kicking myself that I’d not gotten everything from Julius Caesar I should have the previous year.

I attempted to make up for my iambic pentameteric deficiencies in college, but ended up studying just enough Shakespeare (one semester) to know how much more there is out there and that I’d barely even scratched the surface. Although, I’d make the argument that one of the side effects of really learning is that you find out how much you don’t know.

So here’s the advice that I’m almost 100% sure no one will take–kids, read all the Shakespeare you can while you have the time and someone willing to fill in all the stuff you don’t catch on your own and answer your questions.

The Wire and The Press

Last night we watched the first episode of season 5 of The Wire, and it is already shaping up to be very interesting. This season is focusing heavily on the newsroom of The Baltimore Sun and how news is sorted and reported. The best quote so far is, “I wonder what it’s like to work for a real newspaper,” which is ironically the same thing said about the Baltimore Police Department in season 3.

All we know of the newsroom so far is that staff has been cut by the parent corporation in Chicago, and the older guys who can actually write (“you don’t want to say that people were evacuated”) are being pushed out in favor of young kids who see the Sun only as a stopping point on their way to The Times or The Post.

One thing I’ve noticed about The Wire is that it exposes the fact that every profession they’ve examined is made up of people that basically fit into the same categories. There are always people who only care about their stats, the people that are there to do the minimum to get the paycheck, the ones who are only interested in furthering their careers, and the ones who do the job because it is a part of who they are and only want to do their best work. So far this has held true for police, politicians, teachers, drug dealers, thieves, and sometimes drug addicts.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the newsroom.