Recycled Post For Parents With Elementary Aged Kids

I promise I didn’t plan on doing this–I just happened upon this post form last year with tips on evaluating your kids’ teachers, and I thought it was a good time to bring it up again since school has just started back.  This is one of the few posts I’ve written that I think may add some value to society.  If you have young kids in school it is worth a glance.

And while I have your attention on education, the missus is giving away a $20 Abunga gift card over at Reading Coach Online this month.  The drawing is open to anyone who subscribes by email.  If you haven’t been to her site, it is loaded with information and fun activities to help your kids with their reading.  It’s a great resource for both homeschooling parents and parents with kids in school as well.

How Much Schooling is Enough?

I was listening to Dave Ramsey this afternoon and he fielded a call I’ve heard him take several times in the past–“Should I quite my job (or sell my house, or cash in my savings, or sell my kid, etc.) to go back to school and get a master’s degree?”  I think this is a pretty tough question to deal with.  On one hand, there’s a ton of knowledge to be gained by going back to school, and the fact that you’re paying to learn in an intense environment means that at least some of it will soak in.  On the other hand, is there any information they are giving you in school that you can’t get in a book or online?

I’ve considered an MBA several times.  It’s easy to talk myself out of it since my brother-in-law is storing his entire Duke MBA experience in our garage right now–all I have to do is open up boxes and start reading books.  But the advantage I see of going back to school, especially for business, is the connections you can make; the people you meet.  Those connections are a little tougher to make out in the real world, but it can be done.

I guess I tend to believe that the value is in the information you have and the people you know, not in the piece of paper you earned.  A degree doesn’t always imply an education, and an education doesn’t always imply a degree.  There’s no denying the fact that the degree can open some doors that the knowledge itself can’t.  Then again, the people you know can probably open more doors than both.  However, in the long term, it seems like knowledge and talent are ultimately going to trump everything.  As Dave Ramsey says, “Your raise will be effective when you are.”

And if your abilities are going to be discounted based solely on the fact that you don’t have the right degree, you probably aren’t keeping the right company to begin with.

At this point, more school almost seems like a luxury purchase to me.

East Tennessee High Schools Among Best In Country!

From the KNS:

Three East Tennessee schools are among the top 1,300 U.S. public high schools, according to a 2008 ranking released this week by Newsweek.

Oak Ridge High School in Anderson County is ranked 892, Farragut and West high schools in Knox County are ranked 1,031 and 1,042 respectively, according to the listing.

3 out of 1300?

0 out of 891?


Is this article supposed to be a pat on the back for area schools or a hit piece?  Lots of people are asking about Maryville High School in the comments.  Why wasn’t it included on this list?  Supposedly it is the pinnacle of high school football education in this state.

Remember that girl in high school that everyone thought was hot, mostly because everyone else thought she was hot?  Did you ever go back and look at your yearbook and realize that she wasn’t all that pretty?

Just wondering…

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!

Bad For The Country?

When I got in my car today, Sean Hannity was on. I know, I know–but that’s the station I’d been listening to earlier. I’ve pretty much established what I think of him before, but what he and his guest, Bernie Goldberg, had to say today really drives homes those feelings. Although I don’t remember which one said it, the other was definitely in agreement. I’ll keep the quote to the part that I know is 100% correct so as not to unfairly portray these gentlemen:

“It’s bad for the country.”

Since you probably don’t listen to his show, you may wonder exactly what they were talking about.
Was it the federal government meddling in the education system? Was it the devaluation of our currency by the Federal Reserve? Was it the triumvirate of big government regulation-happy candidates to which they we have narrowed our realistic choices to?

Nope. Bloggers. But not every blogger is bad in their eyes, just those that disagree with them. Actually, they didn’t use the term “blogger”. I believe the phrase they used was “idiot with a computer and a modem.”

It seems that to Mr. Hannity and his guest, an idiot with a microphone has more right to an opinion than an idiot with a computer.

My favorite thing about free speech is that it allows me to speak my mind and spread my ideas if they are good. My second favorite thing about free speech is that it allows every idiot with a bad idea to expose himself as an idiot, and have his bad idea ripped apart.

For these reasons, I hope that Mr. Hannity and I both continue to enjoy the benefits of free speech.

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?

Me a Social Entrepreneur? Well, Kinda Sorta

This weekend we took advantage of my newly found unemployment opportunity for real advancement by traveling over to the midstate to visit some friends and my parents. I seldom read the Tennessean (much improved site), but I saw this article at my folks’ house this morning, and it almost describes something The Missus and I have been working on lately.

Several surveys have found that many people in this generation don’t believe that government is the most effective means to solve many of today’s social problems — the private sector offers more efficient and effective solutions.

They no longer believe that massive programs work. Instead, they hope to create solutions that solve one small problem at a time.

That pretty much describes us. The only difference between what we’re doing and what is described in the article is that we aren’t going the non-profit route, at least not yet. Are we being unrealistic to hope that we can make a living working from home while helping people all at the same time? Maybe, but I don’t think so. Besides, if we fall short of that goal and end up only helping thousands of people and only supplementing our income doing so, that’s not such a bad thing either, right?

The issue we’re addressing is education, and our project involves putting a huge amount of educational power into parents’ hands. Right now we’re gathering information from groups of parents about what they really need and building content. One thing that is becoming evident to us in this process is that no matter how much free information is out there–it is out there, and it is free–the web is really lacking qualified people who can gather up that information and put it into an easily digestible form for everyone else.

By the way, sorry for any perceived secrecy. It’s not that I don’t want anyone to know about our project. Quite the opposite, I want to make sure we’re good and ready before we open it up for launch. I promise you guys will be the first to know, and you’ll probably hear more about it than you ever wanted to!

All Your Children Are Belong To Us

At least one state senator, DiAnna Schimek, in Nebraska thinks so.

Her bill would require home-school students to take state-mandated tests or have their schoolwork assessed by an outside evaluator. If studentsprogress falls short academically, they would be sent to public or private schools.

That’s ironic.  One major factor in parents’ decision to homeschool in the first place is that the State doesn’t seem to measure up to their standards.  This would actually make sense if the schools and parents swapped roles–parents should be mandating standards to the State, not the other way around.

“Our responsibility is to see that the children of the state do have access to an education,” she said. “That’s a constitutional responsibility.”

The children of the state?  I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt–I’m sure she misspoke and meant to say “the children who live in our state”.  Surely.  And while I’m sure Nebraska is constitutionally bound to provide access, are they constitutionally bound to force participation?  My guess is no.

I don’t know anything about the governor of Nebraska except that he is correct in his assessment of the bill:

“The bill presents a heavy-handed, state government regulatory approach to this issue which, in my view, is not warranted,” Heineman said in a statement. “It dramatically infringes on Nebraska parents’ choices regarding the education of their children.”

According to the article, this lady’s husband is a lobbyist for a teachers’ union, but that doesn’t influence her.  Right.

She said her concern comes from the stories she hears about students who are kept out of public or private schools but receive little to no schooling.

She heard some stories.  She should have said that in the beginning.  My bad.  Never mind–totally justified.  It now makes perfect sense.

More Educashun

I had a couple of interesting conversations about education yesterday. One was with a friend who home schooled both of his kids, and the other was with a couple of high school teachers. The one thing I took from both conversations is that it doesn’t seem like anyone is happy with the system, whether they are getting paid by it or paying into it.

So why do we keep it around? As I commented over at Meville, who is happy with it?

As is the case with most things, the answer probably lies in asking another question–who has the most to gain by keeping the status quo? That’s probably the group fighting the hardest to maintain it. I’ll leave it up to commenters to guess who that may be, but I have some ideas.