Tag Archives: Education

The First Grader; Watch the Trailer, Make a Difference!

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Wow! After watching this trailer, I’m sort of at a loss for words, which hardly ever happens. What an amazing film this looks to be! Inspirational, moving, meaningful….IMPORTANT…And, if you just watch the trailer, Capella University will donate $.50 on your behalf to worldwide education. That’s a win/win, so what are you waiting for? 🙂

Official Movie Site

Multiplication Rock–Still Rockin’ After All These Years!

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Math has never been one of my strong suits. Okay, let’s not mince words–I suck at math. So, when I was a kid, 3rd grade I think, I learned my multiplication tables by singing along to SchoolHouse Rock’s Multiplication Rock series. And it stuck because sometimes I still remember what times what equals what musically. Of course, the other customers in line at the bank do look at me funny when they hear me singing, “A man and a woman had a little baby…they had three-E-E in the family…yes they did…”

So, when my kids had trouble with their times tables memorization, I looked them all up on You Tube and have now made that a part of the daily routine–watch one Multiplication Rock video per day, three times. And it’s working! I don’t know what your experience was like, but back in the 70’s, my classmates and I were not allowed past 3rd grade until we knew those times tables. And it came in handy too, later on when we worked on finding multiples, factors, and beyond, with simplifying fractions and such.

Nowadays, it seems educators don’t put quite as much emphasis on that rote memorization, although they should in my opinion. In the modern era, memorizing the times tables is more of a suggested course of action, instead of “Boy (or Girl)  do not even think of darkening the doorstep of that 4th grade classroom until you know these tables off the top of your head!” Yes ma’am!

So, if your little person is having some trouble with the times tables, give Multiplication Rock a try. It’ll work, I promise! Plus, I am getting tired of rockin’ out in the bank line all by myself…

Here they are in all their glory, minus the Ones and the Tens, of course, because those are easy. Any number times one is itself, and any number times ten means add a zero. Even I can remember that, so how hard can it be?

The Twos

The Threes

The Fours

The Fives

The Sixes

The Sevens

The Eights

The Nines

The Elevens

The Twelves

A Day Trip Worth Taking; Manzanar National Historic Site

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One of my favorite souvineers from a life of travels…I picked this up at Manzanar’s Interpretive Center gift shop. This Japanese word translated reads, “It Can’t Be Helped”.

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which forced Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast of the United States. To carry out this order, ten Japanese internment camps were established in the states of California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas. Approximately 120,000 men, women, and children, many of whom were actually loyal American citizens, were forced to leave their homes, sell any property they owned at a profound financial loss, and relocate to one of these camps. 

Read More About the History of Japanese-American Relocation

A few years ago, I visited one of the camps which has been preserved as a museum by the National Park Service. Manzanar Internment Camp, now a National Historic Site, housed 11,070 “relocated” Japanese-Americans during World War II. Manzanar is located in the state of California, in the Owens Valley region, at the eastern base of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The specific location of the camp as listed on their website is: “Manzanar is located on the west side of U.S. Highway 395, 9 miles north of Lone Pine, California and 6 miles south of Independence, CA.”

A typical scene from inside a barrack apartment at Manzanar, Photo from the Dorthea Lange Gallery

I visited Manzanar as an adult, and it had a profound impact on me. I grew up in the South, and I don’t remember hearing much about Japanese internment camps, and had certainly never seen one. This is probably due to the fact that Japanese-Americans lived mostly in the West during WWII, and that was also where all of the internment camps were located, except for the one in Arkansas, which I never heard about at all when I was growing up in Tennessee.

One of the guard towers of Manzanar-Photo by Fred Causey… Each guard carried Thompson submachine guns, shotguns, and 30′ caliber rifles…

As I toured the facility, and browsed the many exhibits at the park’s impressive Interpretive Center, I was struck by the incredible strength, tenacity, and grace that seems to lie at the heart of Japanese culture. I was also a little embarrassed that I hadn’t known more about this regrettable bit of American history before that day. Every American who has the opportunity to visit Manzanar should definitely do so! It is a great historic and cultural educational opportunity for both children and adults, and also a moving experience for anyone who visits, as you fully realize the loss and indignity this group of individuals was forced to endure.

Some of the children of Manzanar, Photo from the Francis Stewart Gallery

If you are taking a vacation to California, or if you live in the Western region of the U.S., there is certainly a lot to see! I lived out West for several years of my life and really enjoyed all of the beauty and the history I was able to take in there. My travels would definitely have been incomplete without a visit to Manzanar, however, and I urge you to take a day to see it yourself sometime—I promise you won’t regret your detour from the tourist traps, nor the extra gas (also known these days as liquid gold) you’ll burn to go a little out of your way!

Manzanar’s Website: http://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm

Directions: http://www.nps.gov/manz/planyourvisit/directions.htm

Operating Hours & Seasons: http://www.nps.gov/manz/planyourvisit/hours.htm


Wild Kingdom Off The Beaten Path

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The Circle B Bar Reserve

Just this side of Disney World, and a relatively short drive from whatever overpriced, overcrowded theme park resort you might be staying at in Orlando, is a tourist’s treasure that is so off the beaten path, so under-publicized, that it is known mostly to Central Florida residents. It’s the Circle B Bar Reserve, an environmental freshwater marsh and swampland reserve that is not only a total kick in the pants to visit, but unlike your favorite theme park with their marked up souvenirs and $50+ burger and fries lunches, admission is FREE. Special guided tours are available for a fee, but you really don’t need one to see what there is to see at the Circle B.

Walking at the Circle B, Down Alligator Alley

Obviously, the infamous American Alligator is the star attraction at Circle B, and you will be treated to plenty of them in their natural habitat in the reserve’s Lake Hancock, and also in the open swamps that line your walking trails. And no, there is no barrier between you and them—this is raw nature at its best! It’s safe, for the most part, as long as you don’t do anything stupid and make sure to keep your distance if you happen to spot one of our reptilian friends on your walk. There are even signs on the trail advising tourists to turn and go another way if a gator happens to be laying on the walking trail. Visitors are warned to not attempt to walk around the gator. The scary thing about that to me is that you know that sign is there because somebody at some point was dumb enough to try. Oh, and by the way, gators can outrun us, so don’t think for a minute that you have the upper hand because of your big ole human brain. If, despite your best efforts, one does take a shine to you, this guy seems to have some pretty good gator attack and avoidance advice: Israel Dupont; Living With Alligators. I heard a rumor somewhere that you can always try to sit on their back and clamp their mouth shut, at which point they are rendered helpless. Er…no thanks, I’ll pass…

Look Closely–On the left-ish side of the photo, you’ll spot a baby alligator, covered in green swamp muck!

Just to let you in on a little Florida Insider information—here in our state, if you see a standing body of water anywhere, including lakes, rivers, drainage ditches, swimming pools and bathtubs, it’s best to just assume there’s a gator in it, because chances are, there is. This little fella moved into the small pond just a few yards away from my house last Spring. I named him Al.

Al, The Neighborhood Gator

For serious nature enthusiasts, there is much, much more to Circle B than just alligators. The reserve’s website boasts of a “tremendous bird population, including a variety of wading birds, waterfowl, ospreys and bald eagles”. For butterfly lovers like me, there are several gorgeous fluttering specimens which may be observed in their natural habitat as well.

And they’re friendly  too…

As if all of this wasn’t enough, the reserve has a very nice, air conditioned Nature Discovery Center which is open Tuesday – Saturday 9AM -4PM and Sunday Noon-4PM. There you’ll find lots of educational information and exhibits, as well as friendly folks who can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Florida wildlife and wetlands!

I hope you’ll take the time to visit this Florida treasure! You’ll probably want to leave your mouse ears back at the hotel though. I can just hear it now…

Lounging Gator #1: Hey Fred, juicy giant rodent at 3:00!

Lounging Gator #2: You can have him George, that last one gave me heartburn…

Oh, and one more thing…PETS ARE NOT ALLOWED at the Circle B, for obvious reasons!

Homeschool is the New Black

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There are 2.04 Million K-12 Homeschool Students in the United States as of 2010 ~ National Home Education Research Institute


I never planned to homeschool my children—never in a million years. Frankly, it was just not something that appealed to me, nor did I ever dream that it would become absolutely necessary, but it did. I attended elementary school in the 70’s myself, suburban public school, and received a fine education there. So naturally I assumed that my boys, now ages 9 & 12, would have a similar experience—oh was I ever wrong. I think most of us can agree that, overall, the quality of public education in the United States as well as the overall environment of our schools is circling the drain and has been for a few years now. Causes of this are highly debatable, political and polarizing, and my mission statement for my blog (yes, like Jerry Maguire I DO have a mission statement) stipulates that I will write about topics in a manner which will appeal to a broad audience. In other words, I have my own opinions on causality, but I won’t share them here—it’s not the proper forum. That being said, if someone would care to comment below and give opinions, please let ‘er rip! As long as you play nice, and are respectful of the opinions of those who feel differently, I’ll approve your comment. There is nothing wrong with healthy debate!

At any rate, as I said, I never planned to be a homeschooling mom. I have noticed that a lot of parents choose to homeschool  for religious or moral reasons. This was not the case with me, and I have no objections to my kids learning about evolution, sex, etc. in a controlled classroom environment. Nor do I feel that I need to integrate daily religious education in with their grade level secular education. But, that’s just me, and if a parent does object to public school educational curriculum on religious grounds, that is their right and should be fully respected by all of us as Americans.

My personal decision to withdraw my 12 year old from 6th grade at our local public school this past January was instead an act of desperation—a last resort. He was failing every subject, and basically had been for the last couple of years, yet he was never held back, never recommended for summer school, and simply promoted along as if he had mastered the material for that particular grade. Now, in my day, (I can’t believe I’m old enough to say something like that) if a student was not cutting the mustard in one or two subjects, that child attended summer school. If they were failing the bulk of their courses, they were held back to repeat the next year in a total do-over. That’s just the way it was, and the way I assumed it would always be—again, boy was I wrong. Nowadays, it seems that the whole “No Child Left Behind” thing is being operationalized to include never holding any child back, even if it would be in their best interest. Somehow, I don’t think this is the “spirit of the law”. Nevertheless, this is what is happening out there in the trenches, folks! This is especially true for students who are categorized into the Special Education system, which these days can mean just about any sort of learning issue, from mild to moderate, to severe. My son has ADHD, making it extremely difficult for him to concentrate long enough to absorb classroom material, and this is especially apparent in math. Therefore, these days, in the public school system that translated into a team of teachers, administrators, and me developing an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) which included “special accommodations” for him at school. This seemed fine, but again problems arose when all good intentions were operationalized. In effect, he was placed with children whose abilities were far lower than his, and his bar was lowered beyond belief.

The long and short of all of this is that he was being passed upward from grade to grade, bullied relentlessly by the other children due to his Special Ed status and inability to keep up in his regular classes with the very common “Inclusion Model”, and drowning in a sea of educational bureaucracy. School bullying is on the rise in our public schools as well, but that is another topic for another day. I had to do something I considered radical—I knew I had to bring him home to save him. Once I saved him, I knew I had to then help him to understand his own worth and life potential. I truly believe that our story, sadly, is not uncommon nowadays. I am extremely fortunate that I live in the state of Florida, and we have free access to Florida Virtual School (FLVS), which is a fully online, fully accredited, high quality K-12 educational delivery system. The content is truly phenomenal! There is an impressive amount of interactive multimedia in each course, which are closely monitored by a licensed K-12 teacher. Make no mistake though—an adult must be present and maintain a high level of involvement at home. In other words, this is still homeschooling, just a good way to source and deliver grade level curriculum to your child, and have the whole experience overseen by a licensed professional educator. This program has been very successful and popular here in Florida. It basically amounts to a pilot program for this type of educational option which, hopefully, is being watched closely by other states and will soon be duplicated in a widespread fashion all across the U.S.

I’m about three months in now with my homeschooling experience and what a difference 90 days has made!!! My son has gone from failing everything, but inexplicably being passed anyway, to 2 B’s and one A in the three core subjects he is taking at FLVS. That A was celebration worthy, lemme tell ya! Math has been more of a challenge…Due to his experience and the damage that was done in public school, he was behind—way behind. In fact, I had no idea until I began to work closely with him at home, but he was actually at least two years behind grade level in Math. So we went back for some corrective action…I sourced some math curriculum from another vendor, Time4Learning, and we’re taking corrective measures now so he can learn the math I thought he already knew in order to catch up to the grade level he’s at with his other core courses. And he’s learning….so much! He randomly spouts facts to us now about science, ancient civilizations, and the short stories he’s reading and analyzing in his language arts course. And, aside from all of that, I have begun to see life and light in his eyes again…illuminated by his own realization that he is not a throwaway kid after all, and he can achieve a future of his dreams built upon a solid basic educational foundation. He’s even started talking about “when I go off to college”…WOW!

I sat down with my laptop this morning to write a very different blog about homeschooling…but this is what came out instead. I have read a lot of articles and blogs on homeschool lately, and none of them are really communicating these ideas in this way. The face of the American homeschooler is changing—and changing rapidly now. Stereotypes of homeschooling parents and homeschooled kids are crumbling as this practice moves into the mainstream…the typical, rather than the exception to the norm. This is my new reality, and my son’s as well. I am now thinking very seriously of bringing my other son home to school once he reaches 6th grade too—in his case by choice, not necessity. And that, I can assure you, is something I never thought I would ever do!

Most Common Reasons Given for Homeschooling (Source: National Home Education Research Institute):

  • customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child,
  • accomplish more academically than in schools,
  • use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools,
  • enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings,
  • provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults,
  • provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality associated with institutional schools, and
  • teach and impart a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview to children and youth.

Do you homeschool or wish you could? Do you disagree with educating children at home? Why or why not? Feel free to comment below, but like I said, play nice. This is a very emotionally charged topic, and the other guy probably feels just as strongly as you do!

For more information on Florida Virtual School, please visit the FLVS website at: http://www.flvs.net/Pages/default.aspx

To learn more about education policy in the United States, including No Child Left Behind, and Individualized Education Plans, visit the U.S. Department of Education website at: http://www.ed.gov/