Wishing you and your family Happy Times this Thanksgiving

November 26th, 2010

On the front page,  the testimonial page, of every workbook I sell, I write, “Wishing you Happy Times!” and then I sign my name.  My wish is twofold:  not only do I want mastery of the times tables  to be a happy experience for your child but I also wish you  and your family Happy Times.

At the Thanksgiving dinner table yesterday, I reflected on all the blessings bestowed on my family:  good health and happiness, a daughter and a son and a son-in-law and daughter-in-law I love deeply and, of course, my daughter’s five little ones, the last two are four-year old twins. 

I also reflected on my journey with my little workbook and the families I’ve gotten to know through it both at book and homeschool fairs and also through emails from PayPal customers.  For your loyal support, I am extremely grateful.  You’ve shared your experiences with me, some extremely poignant.  That my little workbook has made a difference in your child’s life makes me truly happy.

                                 Wishing you and your family Happy Times!


The Parent Trigger? Parents of children in failing schools are no longer “waiting for superman”

November 18th, 2010

Saturday, The Wall Street Journal had an op-ed piece by David Feith on “The Radical School Reform Law You’ve Never Heard Of.”  Apparently, some parents of children in failing schools in Califronia are no longer waiting for superman but, in fact, have become superman.  Perhaps a more apt image would be Dirty Harry in that these parents advocate “pulling the trigger” on failing schools.  In Los Angeles, where a high school student has only a 50% chance of graduating and a 10% chance of going to college, it is hardly surprising that an activist group called Parent Revolution is demanding reform.  If 51% of parents sign a petition, they can force administrative changes, invite a charter school to take over the school or shut it down.  Amazing . . .

Thousands of parents have already pulled the “parent trigger” by opting out of the public education system to homeschool.  At homeschool fairs, I’ve met hundreds of parents who in order to “save” their children had to withdraw them from the public schools.  Some are parents of special needs children whose needs were not attended to, some are African-American parents who do not want their children particularly their sons “socialized” by their public school peers and others are parents who are fed up with the bureaucracy.

Go to a homeschool curriculum fair and you will be surprised by children who are genuinely interested in learning and unfailingly polite to adults.  Is it because these children spend more time with adults or because their teacher-parent devotes one-on-one quality time with them?  A homeschool parent knows if his or her child is falling behind in math or reading or acting out in class and can remedy the situation.  We need to replicate the homeschool experience by having classes with fewer students and weeding out those who are hell-bent on not learning and thus keeping others from learning and making a teacher’s life impossible.  Another benefit:  homeschooling gives families great flexibility in scheduling extracurricular activities such as sports or music lessons, visiting museums or taking family vacations. 

The assumption is that homeschool families are typically middle-class and can afford to homeschool.  That is not the case.  Many families struggle to get by and still homeschool.  They feel the material sacrifice is well worth it.  I doubt that in their home, their children have a “50% chance of not graduating from high school and a 10% chance of attending college” as David Feith states is the case for the average student in Los Angeles.

I applaud the parents of the Parent Revolution.  It is time the public school system made our day by being accountable and putting the needs of children ahead of their own.

To read the article, go to:  online.wsj.com/…/SB10001424052748704462704575609781273579228.html

AfterMATH of the election?

November 4th, 2010

Listening to all the pundits analyze the aftermath of the election, I was struck by the word aftermath.    Its  Old English derivation is: “a second crop, as of grass that grows after the second mowing.”  The modern meaning is: “the result or consequence, especially an unpleasant one.” 

For me, the word seemed to mean after-the-MATH, that is, the vote counting and the projected winners based on percentages of precincts reporting.  Election night is all about the MATH (a night of numbers, patterns and percentages), so to me the day after is literally the afterMATH, a time to analyze what the numbers of last night mean.  What does the Republican sweep of  the House mean (a referendum on the Presidency? as some pundits assert) and how will the sweep affect the administration’s policies?  I am hopeful that education reform will be a high priority. 

Speech writer for a winning candidate!

November 3rd, 2010

As a former English instructor, I am often asked by friends for help revising their teen-ager’s college entrance essay. Lately, I have received requests to fine-tune resumes of acquaintances who have lost jobs; no surprise in this economy. Once the political campaign season started, I let it be known I was interested in working with candidates running for office.

A Korean-American candidate, running for city council, contacted me and asked me for help with the delivery of a speech announcing his candidacy.  I took one look at the speech and said, “Where I can really be of service is helping you write a better speech.”  The candidate, who came to this country at the age of 19, had a compelling rags-to-riches story.  “Let’s present the movie of your life to the voters,” I told him.   To describe his journey, I wrote:  “I arrived in Orange County with $200 in my pocket and a suitcase full of dreams.”

Hearing the candidate deliver the speech I’d written for him the night he announced his candidacy was indeed an outstanding moment.  “My Peggy Noonan moment,” I tell friends.  Today my candidate and his supporters celebrate his victory.  That I helped a hard-working immigrant to our country realize his American dream is extremely gratifying. 

Election Night, It’s all about percentages!

November 2nd, 2010

guv77ca4upaw3caz8ki62cab46e4ycagrdr7xcagfqi0gcao8pqqical8svcoca8dksxqcaf5vyjgcaa5chdqcahuw8dlcajw4cvwca3wymjocatf1jezcaruq2ohcaazpbkacaqiax7fca2kiaaqI voted absentee  in the comfort of my kitchen amidst my notes on ballot measures.  So for me, no early morning trek over to the polling booths at my local elementary school or a quick dash this afternoon. 

This evening many of us will be riveted to our television screens waiting for election results.  For those of us in California, it will be interesting to see whether Meg or Jerry wins. Gallup polling predicts Jerry. The Fiorina/Boxer race appears to be close.  As you watch the results this evening, why not take a few minutes to explain to your third grader how tonight is about not only counting the votes but about analysts making predictions based on the early returns.  What does it mean that X candidate will win by 25%?  How is it X candidate is the projected winner based on an early lead of 12%?  Will that percentage change over the course of the evening? Tonight math matters.

                                        [Image from worldofstock.com]

How to Become a Mom Entrepreneur?

November 1st, 2010

v401rcat2qicwcad0em4bcai5vbkncal7izubcaw6cg9zcazxqfejcasuo2ppcailvec9ca1n5n3hca5z76p8caklebbacabwwvn6cabl13x5cajx997aca68r29bcaeokuvucab3mgmtcaia1jl11I enjoyed watching  Donny Deutsch’s show, The Big Idea.  Donny Deutch, an advertising executive, got his own cable tv show after appearing in an early episode of Trump’s The Apprentice.  On his show, Donny would interview entrepreneurs about their products.  The question he asked his guests was:  “How did YOU come up with THIS product?”  Restated the question was:  “How did you come up with your BIG IDEA?”  Invariably, the guest entrepreneur would answer:  “When I was confronted by X problem, I found a way to SOLVE it.” 

The story the entrepreneur told was compelling, sometimes arising from a personal tragedy such as designing a better infant car seat after having had a child injured in a car accident or a nagging, everyday irritant such as not being able to fish out car keys from the bottom of one’s purse (what woman hasn’t had this problem?) or how to keep bra straps from showing when wearing sleeveless tops with wide armholes.   The products featured on his show might cost but a few dollars.  Donny would urge his audience to find solutions to problems in their daily lives. A problem solved could the BIG IDEA for a new or improved product. 

I would dream of being on Donny’s show and telling him that I too fit his entrepreneur pattern of:  frustrating PROBLEM prompts BIG IDEA and determination to SOLVE that problem.  It’s not that difficult to come up with a BIG IDEA.  What is difficult is carrying through on a BIG IDEA and transforming it into a product consumers will actually buy.  I imagined telling Donny how frustrated my son was filling in pages of mindless drills to learn the multiplication tables and my deciding right then and there that there HAD to be a better way!  I would tell him how I drew a grid for tables 1-10 and found amazing patterns for all the tables.  I would tell him how each day my son and I papered the fridge with our discoveries. I would conclude by saying I decided to hire a graphic artist, design my book from cover to cover and publish Teach Your Child the Multiplication Tables to help other families and how in four years I’ve sold almost 10,000 copies!

Every day, moms are confronted with frustrating problems such as discovering toilet paper cascading down the stairway from a child’s bathroom.  An enterprising mom invented a toilet paper dispenser to keep that from happening.  Another mom used her creativity by improving the design of the standard baby pacifier. Why not a pacifier shaped like a rasberry in an eye-catching color?  Look at everyday items in a new light.

Moms spend their days solving problems large and small.  Why not take the leap and become a mom entrepreneur?  Hats off to dad entrepreneurs too!  The results of improving other people’s lives are rewarding.

                              [Image from makijlal.com] 

Halloween Candy Entrepreneur?

October 29th, 2010



Sunday night your little goblins, witches, pirates and fairy tale princesses will be dragging home bags full of Halloween candy.

Now like any good parent, you will want to go through the bag with your child.  Maybe you don’t want them to eat all the sugary hard candy or squirrel away bubble gum that somehow appears in their hair the next morning.  Maybe you want to limit them to an assortment of favorite candy bars.  Snickers was a real get in my house.  At this moment your little princess or pirate will make a sour face and loudly protest that it’s not fair that mommy or daddy is taking candy from them.  Whoever  popularized the notion that something was as easy “as taking candy from a child” did not have children and, therefore, never experienced the outrage of a five-year old Dracula or the weepy indignation of a Strawberry Shortcake.  What is a concerned parent to do?

I suggest you and your child lay the Halloween loot on the kitchen table in order to decide how much and what kind of candy your child keeps.  Sort by type.  This is a good lesson for the little ones.  Instead of counting all the candy, arrange in rows of 5 or more and then multiply to find the answer.  You’re taking inventory just like a candy shop owner would. 

Now after you and your child have determined what and how much to keep, offer to buy the candy you don’t want your child to have.  Why not a penny for each of the hard candy, 5 cents for the candy bars and so on?  The idea is to have your child do the math.  Let your child see the value of what she or he has collected.  A few dollars in exchange for the candy can be saved for a special non-candy treat.  Your child has not only learned a math lesson but also a lesson in entrepreneurship:  this much candy earned me this much cash.  “Hmm, how much can I collect next year?” your child may be thinking.  So this Halloween taking away some of your child’s candy will seem less of a mean trick and more of a  . . . fair exchange.

                           [Image from 97thfloor.com]

Should we be funding mediocrity? Rating teacher effectiveness

October 27th, 2010



The documentary, Waiting for Superman, has put the the failure of our educational system under a scorching spotlight and ignited a debate between those who defend the status quo (largely the teachers union) and those (parents and taxpayers) who are frustrated with the desultory return on their tax dollar.   Adding fuel to the fire, The Los Angeles Times published evaluations of  6,000 city school teachers.  These evaluations were based on how well each teacher’s students performed on standardized tests. Included in the evaluation was a “value added” analysis that factors in where students started at the beginning of the school year and tracks their progress in subsequent years.  Within hours of being posted on the Times website, over 200,000 had viewed  the database.  Not surprisingly, the teachers union objected to the publication of this database saying it was unreliable measure of a teacher’s effectiveness. No one is arguing that this should be the sole criterion for gauging a teacher’s effectiveness but it should be one of the criteria. 

Los Angeles spends $30,000 per pupil .  Education accounts for 40% of the state budget.  However, the graduation rate is a dismal 40%.  Are our high schools “factories for failure” as one principal in Waiting for Superman claims?   Consider that almost 60% of Los Angeles high school students did NOT graduate yet only 2% of LA Unified teachers are denied tenure.  Doesn’t this discrepancy astound you?  Sixty out of 100 students don’t graduate but only two out of 100 teachers are dismissed.  Something is wrong with this ratio.  I applaud The LA Times for publishing this database.  Other city papers will follow suit and meaningful education reform will ensue.

                                    [Image from blogs.babble.com]

“Libraries Are the Medicine Chest of the Soul”

October 26th, 2010



This quote, an inscription over the doorway of the library in Thebes, appeared in a friend’s blog (www.PinkFrenchie.blogspot.com).  Her blog entry prompted me to write the following:

Books we’ve read reveal
who we were at a certain time.
Leafing through them
we see snapshots of who we were.
Why was that novel chosen?
And what did it mean to us then?

Great books we’ve read
take us back to a moment in time.
They’re like a visit with a good friend.
The conversation resumes
and we settle in and enjoy.

Every home should have a library which includes your favorite books.   Children’s bedrooms should have a bookcase filled with treasured books.  Be sure to add to their collection through trips to bookstores.

If on a budget (and who isn’t?), borrow books from the library or buy them through the “gently used” bookstore run by your local library.  Should your local library not have one, you can usually find a used book bookstore in your town.  At a quarter per book, you will soon have a box of books to take home. 

By making a trip to the library or bookstore a highlight in your child’s week, you are embarking with your child on an extraordinary journey, filled with great characters and wild adventures.  Books like good friends can comfort us during difficult times as well as inspire, teach and entertain.  Good books are lifelong friends.

A Teacher’s Perspective

October 24th, 2010


A friend sent this email:

After being interviewed by the school administration, the prospective teacher said:   ‘Let me see if I’ve got this right.  You want me to go into that room with all those kids, correct their disruptive behavior, observe them for signs of abuse, monitor their dress habits, censor their T-shirt messages, and instill in them a love for learning.  You want me to check their backpacks for weapons, wage war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, and raise their sense of self esteem and personal pride.  You want me to teach them patriotism and good citizenship, sportsmanship and fair play, and how to register to vote, balance a checkbook, and apply for a job. You want me to check their heads for lice, recognize signs of antisocial behavior, and make sure they all pass the final exams.  You also want me to provide them with an equal education regardless of their handicaps, and communicate regularly with their parents in English, Spanish or any other language by email, telephone, newsletter, and report card.  You want me to do all this with a piece of chalk, a blackboard, a bulletin board, a few books, a big smile, and a starting salary that qualifies me for a supermarket position?“ 

My commentary:

Let’s help our teachers by promoting the best and compensating them well.   Let’s make it easier for truly gifted individuals to enter the teaching profession.  Why is it a teacher must have a teacher’s credential to teach high school English and yet that same individual can teach freshman English at our top universities as a TA with two-weeks of instruction and yearlong mentoring?  Why not do the same in our K-12 program?  Let’s bring the BEST and the BRIGHTEST into our classroom?

                          (Image above from blogs.babble.com)