Monday, May 26, 2014

In Which I Scoot

This weekend, for the first time in my life, I rode on a scooter.

Not just any scooter, mind you, but one made for professionals. The Zinc Team Series Chozen scooter.

I was a bit nervous unboxing it, as its trip across the pond from the UK resulted in some damage to its packaging, but it turned out to be very well protected inside. Other than the scooter itself, inside the box there was an owner's manual and two Allen wrenches.

Putting it together was not a challenge, thanks to the clear instructions. Handling it to put it together allowed me to see that this was a quality device, obvious to even the novice scooterer such as myself. From the comfy rubber grips on the handlebar to the rough-textured standing surface to the fluid movement of the wheels, this was one solid scooter. Nothing at all like the ones I had attempted to use as a kid.

I won't list the specs here (you can find them at the link above), but I will say that while my skills on a scooter are limited, the high quality of the Zinc scooter made it easier to get started. It's very well balanced, and I was able to spend an afternoon maneuvering around my driveway without any problem. Even my daughter gave it a try (with my help, of course).

With some practice I know I'd get better at it, but it'll be a long while (if ever) for me to be a skilled enough scooterer to be worthy of a Team Series scooter from Zinc. 

Much fun was had by all.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

In Which I Think Ahead

You might not believe me, but last weekend, my daughter turned three years old. 

She is growing ever so fast, and is very smart and independent. There has not been a single day that I can remember where she hasn't made me laugh. She is learning her limits and tests our patience most days, but all she has to do is run up to me when I pick her up at daycare after work, smiling ear to ear and excited to see me, and my heart melts. I am hers, she is mine, and that's that. 

I have a couple of friends who have children who are a few years older than mine, and they've been talking a lot recently about their struggles with the public schools where we live. I've been getting some insight and insider knowledge about what I can expect (in a few more years at least) what my daughter would be going through. Honestly, it frightens me.

I've heard of teachers picking on their students. Using the same kids as scapegoats because of their history when incidents occur without first investigating to find the true instigator. Ignoring their aptitude and refusing to place them in classes that challenge them and foster their interest. Not listening to parents and addressing their concerns when they are brought to light.

It seems obvious to say it, but the education you receive while you are growing up can make or break your future. My parents made the decision to pull my sisters and I out of public school before we entered high school because of their concerns over how the public school system didn't seem to be doing a good job. My parents chose the curriculum and set the pace for us, and we excelled. I applied to eight different colleges during my senior year, and got accepted to every single one of them.

Not all public school systems are bad, but in my region of the US, most of them are not doing their students and justice. I heard a statistic (I don't recall the source, so don't quote me on this) that less than half of the local high school students are able to read at their grade level, and even less of them could receive acceptable ratings on standardized tests pertaining to history and math.

Now that high school is more than ten years ago for me, and I'm looking at sending my daughter to the same public school system that I was pulled out of, I'm worried. While home schooling worked for me and my sisters, my wife and I cannot afford to have one of us stay home to do the same for our daughter. For the same financial reasons, private schooling is also not an option. So, we are spending time researching and reading reports, learning about what other public in our state seem like a good place for fostering the mind of our beautiful daughter. 

Lowell Milken, someone who has spent decades working to improve teaching for the K-12th grade levels across the United States, has said:
“The need to assure that every child has the opportunity afforded by good teachers is urgent. As urgent as the need to be well nourished and for exactly the same reason. A child's growth depends on it.”
I couldn't agree more. I understand it is my job as a parent to make sure she gets the most out of her schooling, and will not sit idly by and not make sure she has the best that I can provide for her. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

In Which I Would Tend to Agree

Editor's Note: Below is a guest post that I thought was interesting, at least for anyone who has ever contemplated homeschooling. I was homeschooled, which some of you might recall, through most of junior high and all of high school. While it works for a lot of people, it is not for everyone, but with all the advances in technology these days, homeschooling is definitely a lot easier to coordinate and accomplish successfully than ever before.
I hope you find the post below informative, as I have. 


Technology and Homeschooling
Increasing numbers of parents have decided to homeschool their children  as a result of faltering school systems, uninspired lessons and a general feeling that the family's values are being ignored by the educators. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, home education is now growing at a rate of  7% to 15% per year. The majority of homeschooled students are elementary and middle-school aged students but there are also tens of thousands of high school students who learn in their home environment.
The only thing that's typical about homeschooled students is that there is no typical homeschooled student. Some students are homeschooled for their entire lives while others are homeschooled for a limited period of time. Some parents limit their children's learning to what they teach them at home while others engage in local homeschooling networks in which the children  meet for playdates, take field trips together, establish joint extra-curricular art and music programs and even study together in each other's homes.
Some parents choose to homeschool their children for ideological reasons while others are concerned that the school system is unable to meet their child's needs. Special needs children and children who have been bullied are often removed from their school because their parents feel that they can provide them with the best learning environment in a supportive homeschooling framework.  
Online education is playing an active role in the homeschooling community. There are online support groups for both parents and students, structured online lessons and a wide range of Internet apps which are available to enhance lessons and facilitate students' socialization as they master the coursework.
Many education providers have begun to step up to meet the needs of homeschooling families. These providers offer systematic, structured lessons that take the student through each stage of a subjects as the student progresses from unit to unit and from year to year.
There are many benefits to online learning for homeschooled students. eLearning
  • Allows a student to pursue specific topics and subjects that are of particular interest,
  • Enables students to find a method of learning that fits their own personal learning style,
  • Facilitates more independent study and self-directed learning,
  • Is interactive and engaging,
  • Presents formats for students to collaborate with other students on projects and assignments,
  • Offers different types of rubrics so that students can evaluate their own success as the parent/educator evaluates the student's progress. The evaluation process itself can become a learning process in online education.
There are numerous eLearning platforms available but most concentrate on a specific subject or age range. Some parents become frustrated because they want to follow an established program for all the subjects but, in the end,  they find themselves using one platform for math, a second platform for language skills, another platform for the sciences and so on.
Veteran homeschooling parents offer a number of suggestions to newcomers who are looking for a free, high quality online learning platform. A good eLearning platform will provide students with high quality material and supplemental assignments that will turn them into independent learners with the knowledge and life skills that they need to move on to further their studies and enter the work force.
A good solid eLearning program for elementary, middle school and high school students should provide:
  1. A support-staff comprised of certified educators,
  2. An Individual Learning Plan for each individual student,
  3. Flexible pacing and individualized instruction modules,
  4. Structured learning that propels the student from unit to unit in an orderly progression,
  5. Blended learning which combines both online and offline coursework,
  6. Interactive apps to ensure engaging and compelling lessons,
  7. CDs, videos, written material and hands-on materials to ensure varied instruction methodology,
  8. Online tools which connect the student with other learners, including the ability to collaborate on assignments and engage in social interaction
eLearning ensures that all students, including students with various disabilities and challenges, have access to challenging and high quality material that will allow them to progress at their own speed. K12 which is subsidiary early education giant Knowledge Universe offers a number of tuition free online programs which are supervised by state Departments of Education in over half the states including the Jenison International Academy in Michigan, Hoosier Academy in Indiana, Colorado Preparatory Academy in Colorado and Miami-Dade Academy in Florida.

-- written by David Tanner

Monday, October 28, 2013

In Which I Have So Many Questions

The universe if full of many things I do not understand. Things like particle physics, or how Grey's Anatomy is still on the air. Or, as the purpose of this post, why people do weird shit with their car. I present you with this curious display as a prime example:

I spotted this after grabbing some groceries after work recently, and I really don't know what to make of it. I found myself identifying and trying to make sense of what I saw in stages. To take it all in at once, I feared brain might leak out of my nose.

Let's see... It's a baby doll wearing a bandanna around its neck... holding a stuffed kitten that is wearing a winter hat... tied to the front passenger seat of a small four-door sedan...

Nope. Doesn't make any sense at all. Oh... oh, shit. Does anyone have a nose towel?

Happy Monday, folks.

Monday, August 5, 2013

In Which I Receive a Compliment

The other day, this guy at work came up and asked me a question. Ever since I changed departments within the company, I seem to be the guy who everyone goes to with a question. I'm not in any position of authority, but they flock to me with their questions. Overall I don't mind, and I usually continue at my work while I answer them. Not trying to be rude, just efficient.

"Mike, do you ever think that the people on our team are like the Justice League?"

I could all but hear the brakes in my mind squeal. I set down my pen and looked at him to see if he was being serious. Judging by his expression, he was.

"What do you mean?" I asked, needing clarification if I was to answer him truthfully. 

"You know, that we were all hand-picked for the job."


"Oh. Well, I've always been more of a Marvel Comics guy, so I can't say that I've ever thought to compare us to the Justice League, no."

"Okay, then..." he said, sounding almost disappointed. He puzzled for a moment, and then asked, "What about the Avengers?"

Still serious. I'm not sure what this guy is driving at, but I'm already playing along. Might as well humor him. 

"No, I've always pictured us as more of X-Men than anything else."

"I can picture that," he says, nodding in excitement, and turned to look over the rows of cubicles where the other people on our team sit. "So if we're the X-Men, what character would you be?"

I sat back in my chair, stumped. It's not like I haven't thought long and hard over what superpowers I'd like to have, carefully weighing out the pro's and con's of each, because I totally have. It's just that I wasn't prepared to be asked that at work. 

Crazy, I know. But as it turned out, I didn't have to respond. My coworker answered for me. 

"You'd be Professor X," he said with conviction, and crossed his arms over his chest. He then turns back to me from surveying our colleagues, and looks at my sideburns. "And Wolverine. You'd be a Professor X/Wolverine hybrid."

Who knew that I'd have the best compliment I've ever received paid to me at work?

Happy Monday, folks.