Archive for May, 2010

Any Correlation between Your Child’s Reading and Writing Skills?

Friday, May 21st, 2010





All the recent news articles, keep focusing on recruiting and retaining the best science and math teachers but  why the scant mention of recruiting and retaining the best  English teachers?  


As a former college English composition instructor, I saw first-hand the deplorable state of freshman writing.  Not only is it’s used incorrectly as a possessive when it can only be the contraction for  it is but an apostrophe + s was added to nouns to form plurals!   Yes, dear reader’s, this is true!  Alas, what is one to do?


Studies have shown that there is a high correlation between reading skills and writing skills.  Not surprisingly, students who were voracious readers were excellent writers.  Students who love to read are text savvy.  They know what paragraphs look like.  They know paragraphs open with a topic sentence supported by facts and examples.  Good readers are familiar with rules of punctuation and the grammar.  Good readers develop an extensive vocabulary.


Parents, I urge you to read to your toddler.  Make sure your first through third graders learn to read and encourage them to read to you.  If your child loves to read, your child will love learning.  An added bonus:  your child will become a proficient writer.


Encourage your children to design and write their own books.  When they come home from school with their artwork, take the opportunity to not only display it on the fridge but write a story about their drawing.  Talk about how now they are not only the illustrator but the author of a story.


Every time I read a picture book to my children, I would read the names of the author and the illustrator.  Sometimes they were one and the same.  Teaching your child to love books is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.


little-rabbit-foo-fooLittle Rabbit Foo Foo, a storybook by Michael Rosen, charmed my  three and four-year old grandchildren while visiting in California. No matter how many times we read it, they couldn’t wait to turn the page and see Little Rabbit Foo Foo bop yet another creature on the head despite Good Fairy’s warnings!  



Little Rabbit Foo Foo turned out to be a real page turner!  Within one afternoon, the three-year old twins had memorized the book, could pick out the words: little, rabitt, foo foo and good fairy among others. They also knew when to turn the page. My daughter grew up with the song/game so it was fun to see her children enjoy it so. The illustrations by Arthur Robins of Rabbit Foo Foo riding through a forest on a motorbike, red mallet poised in the air are delightful as is the put-upon Good Fairy. For the children, it was thrilling to see naughty Rabbit Foo Foo defy the Good Fairy but there were consequences.  Your little ones will love it!


Be sure to also teach your children the game.  Children sit in a circle and recite the verses as a child in the role of naughty Little Rabbit Foo Foo circles the group and then lightly taps one of the children on the head who in turn becomes Rabbit Foo Foo.


The lesson in all this is:  share with your children the JOY of reading good books.  You, the parent, are the Good Fairy who can turn your child into an avid reader and a skilled writer! 










Interview on Homeschooling 101 Blog Talk Radio

Friday, May 14th, 2010


I just came across an interview I did on Homeschooling 101 Blog Talk Radio.  In the interview, I discuss how I developed my method, discovering patterns for each of the tables.  I also discuss the benefits of my method for children with special needs.


The link is:


School Choice Reform? Now is the time.

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

Yesterday, I read an excellent article, “Pennsylvania Kids Deserve School Choice,” in The Wall Street Journal.  Written by Anthony Hardy Williams, an African-American legislator in Pennsylvania, who is running for governor, the article appeared on the op-ed page of the Journal. 

Mr. Williams argues President Obama’s $4.35 billion Race to the Top program will not improve public education in and of itself. Should Pennsylvania be awarded a $400 million grant, Mr. Williams states this amount would represent “less than half of 1% of the $23 billion spent annually” in Pennsylvania’s public school system, a paltry “$56 more per child.” 

Believing competition among schools improves the quality of education, Mr. Williams advocates school choice.  School choice would allow not only public schools but charter, magnet, private and vocational schools to compete for “a piece of the $23 billion” spent annually in Pennsylvania’s public school system.

Some might wonder whether school choice is in fact a legitimate option. According to Mr. Williams, the Supreme Court ruled in the 2002 case of Zelman v. Simmons-Harris that school-choice programs are constitutional.  This ruling by the court has “the potential to fulfill the promise of Brown v. the Board of Education and bring true equality to education.”  However, there are those who oppose school choice.  The teachers union argues that what ails the public schools, particularly those in the inner-city, isn’t lack of competition but rather adequate funding. “This is a myth,” Mr. Williams says.

Apparently, Pennsylvania spends an average of $16,462 per student.  Yet if a private or charter school were to spend this amount on a student and not produce results, parents would remove their child from the school and that school would ultimately fail.  “But parents don’t have the option of withdrawing a child from a failing public school,” Mr. Williams explains.  “Today’s system permits failing schools to continue, penalizing less fortunate children.” 

In Mr. Williams’ case, his mother, a public school teacher, alarmed by the unsafe neighborhoods her son traveled through on his way to school, saw to it that he got a scholarship to a private school.  

Parents should have the right to choose the best school for their child.  How can we call ourselves a free country when we deny parents this fundamental right?  Yet our legislators in D.C. including President Obama send their children to private schools.  Indeed, would Mr. Obama be president had he not attended the prestigious Punahou school in Hawaii?  Would he have received the same quality education in Hawaii’s public schools?  His mother like Mr. Williams’ chose to opt out of public education for her son.

Many African-American mothers email me, telling me they opted to homeschool rather than send their children to these failing inner-city schools.  If we do not give parents school choice, the achievement gap will continue to widen.

Were I living in Pennsylvania, Mr. Williams would have my vote. Anthony Hardy Williams should be applauded for his courageous stance.  In several television interviews, I’ve heard Geoffrey Canada support school choice.  Bravo to both men for supporting families and defending their right to choose the best school for their child.  Education should be about the children.

To read the article in full, google “Pennsylvania Kids Deserve School Choice at The Wall Street Journal.”

Multiplying by Eleven? Discover Fun, Easy Patterns!

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010


Everyone loves multiplying numbers 1-9 by 11 because of their fun, double-number patterns:  11, 22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88 and 99.

For two-digit numbers, add the first and second digits and place the answer between these.  Example:  45 x 11 = ___.

·         Four plus five is 9.

·         Place 9 between 4 and 5.

·         The answer is 495.

When the sum of the first and second digits is greater than 9, increase the left-hand number by 1.  Example:  28 x 11 = ____. 

·         Add the first and second digits:  2 + 8 = 10. 

·         Add the 1 to the 2:  1 + 2 = 3.

·         Place the 0 between 3 and 8. 

·         The answer is:  308.

By teaching children these fun, easy patterns, we will instill in them a love of numbers and fascination with math.

Away at Yosemite

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

I just returned from a trip with my family to Yosemite, a place of incomparable natural beauty.   In my view, Yosemite is God’s cathedral: lush green meadows surrounded by towering granite walls, open to the sky.

With all the rain we’ve had this year, falls were roaring!  We could hear them at night.  Sleeping in a tent cabin is rugged, the closest I come to camping.  I like burrowing in my sleeping bag when it’s 40 degrees at night.  Camp Curry is on the valley floor, so convenient to everything with spectacular views of the meadows and Half Dome.  Dinner Saturday at the elegant Ahwahnee was a special treat, well-deserved after our a full day of hiking.  We did make it to the TOP of Yosemite Falls.  So high up, I felt as though I was in an eagle’s nest  looking down over on the valley. 

It was good to be away from laptops, tv and texting.  We had our cell phones for emergencies. Take your children on  on an excursion such as this.  Have them experience nature and see deer in the meadows and roast somemores over a campfire. Step back in time with a camping vacation.  Indulge in life’s simple pleasures.  These are the best.

Book Recommendation: APPLE FRACTIONS by Jerry Pallotta

Monday, May 3rd, 2010


 Who knew a book about ablogphotos5pples and math could be so engaging? In Apple Fractions, author Jerry Pallotta and illustrator Rob Bolster teach children all about fractions and all about apples.  Tiny elves, smaller than the apples themselves, use saws and ladders and ropes and mallets to divide McIntosh, Golden Delicious, Granny Smiths, Red Delicious, Gala and Cortland apples into halves, thirds, fourths and more.  Children will enjoy seeing the tiny elves toil away and at last make cider, apple juice and apple pie. The text is well-written and the illustrations delightful.  Your child will learn the underlying concept of  how the whole can be divided evenly into increasingly smaller pieces we call fractions.   A terrific picture book!

A Deck of Cards to Practice the Times Tables?

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

deck-of-cardsHere’s a fun game your family can play to review the times tables.  For beginners, remove the face cards.  Give aces a value of 1.  Divide the deck into two. Take the top two cards of the each deck and have your child multiply these.  Example:  8 x 7 =? 

Why not also practice addition and subtraction at this time?  This will help reinforce the commutative property of multiplication and addition, i.e.,  8 x 7 is the same as 7 x 8.   The order does not matter.  8 x 7 = 7 x 8.   The same for addition:   8 + 7 is the same as 7 + 8.  However, the order  matters in subtraction.  8 – 7 is not the same as  7 – 8.  The order does matter.  8 – 7 = 1 but  7 -8= -1.  If  you owe someone $8 but give that person $7, you owe that person $1.  You are minus $1.

For more advanced students, include the face cards.  The King would represent 12; the Queen, table 11 and the Jack, is a wild card.  It can represent any number your child chooses.  Table 11 is easy because of its fun pattern —  the doubling of each number:  22, 33, 44 and so on.  Table 12 has to be learned.  If need be, provide pencil and paper and have your child actually do the multiplication.  This will give your child practice in double-digit multiplication. 

For multiplying numbers 10 to 18 by 11, notice how the middle number is the sum of the number being multiplied.  Example:  12 x 11 =  132  [1 + 2= 3 — three is the middle number.]  Another example:  14 x 11  = 154.   How easy is that?  When the sum is larger than 9 as in 19 x 11,  increase the left-hand number by 1.  Example:  11 x 9 =  209 [1 + 9 = 10.  The middle number will be 0.  Carry the 1 and 1+1 = 2]. 

Make learning math a GAME in your house.  Math is fun!