Archive for the ‘Social Commentary’ Category

Coming Full Circle with Special Education

After homeschooling our kids from kindergarten to grade 7, and with child #4 graduating high school and going off to college this year, my husband informed me that our budget needed for me to go back to work.  So I dusted off my teaching certificate, and have begun the process of securing a Missouri teaching certificate. In the meantime, I also began to substitute teacher for our local school district.


My going back to work  meant the end of homeschooling our youngest child.  For various reasons, we chose to homeschool our kids for grades K-7, and then let them begin attending school in the 8th grade and continuing on until graduation.  Our youngest was going to begin public school for the first time in the 7th grade, and the Middle School requested he take some tests to establish his grade equivalencies.  We agreed and were a  bit downhearted when the testing showed our son was behind in one subject area.  It was recommended he repeat the 6th grade, which we didn’t want him to have to do.  We countered with we felt he could succeed in 7th grade with our help, and if the school felt he needed Special Education in that one subject, then we would agree to that plan.  Thus, our introduction to the world of Special Education began.

 special ed chalkboard

I discovered that the Special Education teachers and their assistants genuinely care for the students put into their charge.  The IEP(Indidualized Educational Program) created for our son  worked excellently for him.  At the last parent-teachers conference for the school year, I learned that having our son attend Special Education class was a nice “cushion” for him to fall back upon as he became acclimated to the ways of how a public school runs.  The program also proved beneficial in that our son aquired new skills in this subject and is now on grade level.  In fact, I was told that he probably doesn’t need the extra help when he enters 8th grade.

A couple weeks ago,  I received a phone call asking if I was available to substitute in  one of the elementary school’s Special Education classrooms.  I agreed as it meant now I would get to observe a Special Education class in action.

The classroom I was directed to was two classrooms; they were entered by two doors on two  connected hallways, and there was a doorway between the two classrooms.  The two classrooms also shared their own bathroom.   Instead of individual desks, students sat at tables with chairs around them.  Colorful posters decorated the walls, some with inspiring messages, and some reviewing the points of good manners.  There were colorful, cloth covered baskets containing picture books, grouped according to reading levels. There was a  bookcase containing chapter books of award-winning children literature books and  another containing all of the teacher textbooks and a student textbook for the main curriculum used at the school for each grade.   Ipads and headphones, were in evidence, to be used for rewards if assigned work was completed; since the majority of students coming to the Special Education room for help were boys, the popular ipad game was sending a motorized  vehicle into outer space, and then watching it land.

After helping with some lunch and recess duties, it was officially time to work with a Special Education student.  The boy walked in presently, probably of average size for his grade.  He walked stiffly, a bit slowly, I noticed.  I wondered if he had a slight case of cerebral palsy, which may have explained his stiff movements.  As he walked into the room, he introduced himself to me, and before I could tell him my name, he flung his arms around me and gave me a strong hug.  What a sweet child, I thought.  He selected a book from a basket and asked me to help him read through it.  The other Special Education aide reminded him that he had to read it mostly by himself, and then that when he finished it, one of us  would read it with him.  Then, if there was time, he could take his comprehension test on the book.  His  reading of the book was fine, and I only had to guide him on a few of the longer words; I told him what the unfamiliar words meant.  Soon it was time for this student to go back to his regular classroom.  I did get to see him once more as he had to get ready for an early bus pick up, and since part of my job was to get the early bus riders to the foyer of the school building, this student suddenly needed to visit the restroom and he immediately grabbed my hand and asked me to walk him to the bathroom in the Special Education classroom.  While he was in that bathroom, I got to observe the main Special Education teacher work with a kindergartner who was pacing the room and probably unwinding from his day, and watch her aid another student with a vocabulary worksheet.  It struck me that in the Special Education room, the teacher and the assistants work one on one with only a few students, which in a way is similar to a homeschooling lesson in that a homeschooling mom often is teaching her students one on one, or in a small grouping.

As I walked down the hall with the boy who had had to visit the bathroom, he once again reached for my hand.  He peppered me with questions, as we walked the halls back to the foyer to await his bus.  He mainly wanted to know if I’d be back at his school the next day, in the special education room.  I explained to him that since I was a substitute teacher, I went to a lot of different schools and that perhaps I’d be back another day, but I didn’t know if I’d be back as soon as the very next day.  As he waved good bye to all of us Special Education aides in the foyer, and walked stiffly to get onto the bus, I began to think about this  boy’s future.

Young girl wearing a dunce cap.

Young girl wearing a dunce cap.

When public education began in the United States (1821, in Boston, Massachusetts), students who struggled with learning were probably punished and/or ridiculed; teachers hitting students with rulers across the opened hand, or the dunce cap worn by the student as they were made to sit in the front of the classroom, facing their classmates.  My guess is that many of these students dropped out and their obtaining a full education didn’t happen.  Jumping to the mid-1960s, President Johnson(a former teacher himself) signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act which established the beginnings of Special Education, however it really didn’t begin to take off and expand until the 1970s.

So, on  one hand, this boy that I worked with, will have a stigma to battle at school.  That stigma placed upon him by his classmates of being one who has to leave the regular classroom daily and get special help.  However, on the whole, it means he is being given a chance to succeed, which many years ago, wouldn’t have been possible for him in a school setting.

With this week being known as National Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States, my hats are off to all teachers and especially to the Special Education teachers who with immense patience, diligence, and caring, are giving their all so students can succeed.   Special Education teacher

Number 4 Child Will be Flying Away Too Soon!

May 27th, 2016, will be an exciting and monumental day for our family.  Baby #4, our 3rd son, will be graduating from Rolla High School.  The maroon graduation robe is hanging in his room, hooked on top of the curtain rod, and every time I walk by his open bedroom door I am startled, as it looks like a figure is standing there, from what my

peripheral vision is seeing!   HS Graduation

Memories of this son’s childhood come flooding back to me a lot lately.  Without getting too personal, he was the easiest delivery, he potty-trained himself, and taught himself to read at age 4!  He just picked up our collection of Dr. Seuss books, and while I was homeschooling his 3 older siblings, he’d sit with those books on his lap and just figured out reading.   I also remember how this child liked to be a contrarian.  If the sun was shining and I said, “What a nice day out,”  he’d be quick to retort that it was a cloudy and stormy day!  When his siblings couldn’t wait to get out into the snow and sled or make a snowman, he was content to stay in the warm house.  I’ve always told him it won’t surprise me at all if he chooses to live in the Southern U.S. where snow and frost and ice are rare.

Truman State

Truman State University is his future spot for higher learning.  He wants to be a doctor and with the hard work he has put in at school to earn all A’s, plus all of the extra curricular activities where he has helped lead, the scholarships have been a wonderful reward.  He has mentioned wanting to work in the future with Doctors Without Borders, but for a pre-med student, that goal is a long ways off.

Fox and the HOund

This is my son who loved to watch Disney’s animated movie, The Fox and The Hound.  Over and over and over again, he’d ask to watch this dvd.  Of course, I’d let him as it meant a chance for me to tackle household chores uninterrupted, but I did get a bit tired of hearing it play on the tv.  I think a few days before he departs for college, I will have to pop this dvd in and watch it with him, and add in a big bowl of popcorn, and I might need the kleenax box nearby, too.

Before the final good-byes as he departs for this next chapter of his life, I hope he will know how proud of him his father and I are, how much we love him, and how rich our lives have been from God blessing our lives with him 18 years ago.

Two Helicopter Landing Pads at Mark Twain National Forest?

Near Rolla, Missouri lies the Mark Twain National Forest.  It’s one of 155 such designated forests in the United States, the forests falling under the jurisdiction of the US Forest Service and the USDA.  The forest is 1.5 million acres and most of it is located in the Ozark Highlands.  It covers 29 counties in southern Missouri and represents 11% of all forested land in the state.  Named after favorite son and famous author, Mark Twain, the Forest was set aside as a protected area in 1939.


I was somewhat surprised when I was reading the Rolla Daily News on Feb. 19th when I  learned that the U. S. Forest Service wants to build 2 helicopter landing pads, or helibases, in the National Forest, in Phelps County.  The article went on to state the acreages of the land needed for this project, and the types of buildings that will also be needed along with the helibases; 140 acres of forest to construct several landing sites, buildings for the pilots and other air staff,technology,etc.  The Forestry Service wants to be closer to the forest in fighting wildfires, listing that as their main reason for wanting to build this complex.



The Forestry Service presents the information in the newspaper article as a done deal, doesn’t mention how many  millions of dollars this project will cost, and near the article’s end, mentions that they are required to ask for the public’s comments until March 14th concerning the two helipads.  For those citizens of Missouri who want to send their opinions about these Helipads: 1.  One can mail a letter to the Houston/Rolla/Cedar Creek Ranger District, 108 S. Sam Houston Blvd.,  Houston, MO 65483.  Attn. Mark Hamel.  2. Fax your opinion to Mark Hamel, Integrated Resource Analyst at 573-364-6844.  3. Or send an  email to:   and include Helibase Development Project #48670 on the subject line of the email.


My opinions about this project? I have several.  The current helipad that is in use for the National Forest is at Rolla’s airport in nearby Vichy, MO.  Wouldn’t it be less costly to add the additonal technologies, another landing pad, and another building or two at an already exisiting airport?  Trees wouldn’t need to be knocked down, and with the University of Science and Technology next door in Rolla, couldn’t the university be consulted, professors and students be utilized, in coming up with green energy ideas for  the current Vichy site?  I think using taxpayers’ dollars in the  most cost-effective way possible is always a good thing to strive for, I think keeping the helipad and building a new one at the Vichy site is a win for the city of Rolla, I think not cutting down forest in a National Forest is a good thing, and I think utilizing the University for any help they could supply would also be beneficial.


Here is the article from The Rolla Daily News, article written from Staff Reports.


Sole Hope-A Worthy Endeavor

In the Book of Matthew, Jesus related a very strong visual of what the day of judgement would look like.  He relayed how the people of all the nations would be divided into two groups, much as a shepherd divides up the flocks into  the sheep and the goats; the sheep on His right hand side, the goats on His left.  He tells those on His right that they are blessed and they are to enter into their inheritance.  “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat,  I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Mt. 25:35-36.   The righteous are puzzled by Jesus’s announcement.  They ask when did they see Him in such need? Jesus reminds them that whenever they did something to meet the needs of their fellow man, that they were also serving Him.

A thought provoking passage, to be sure.  One that is good for self-introspection.  How are we doing at serving our fellow man, woman, or child in need?  Sunday, I had an opportunity to do just that, working alongside a wonderful organization, called Sole Hope.

Sole Hope began a few years ago when Asher Collie was perusing the internet for more information on international adoptions.  She found a Youtube video about the horrors of jiggers, the parasitic chigoe flea of Sub-Saharan Africa.  These fleas burrow into the flesh of unsuspecting humans, the feet the most common site of the attack.  After burrowing in, the flea lays eggs, which cause infections, horrible sores, difficulty in walking, and if left untreated, can lead to fatal conditions such as gangrene, and sepsis.

The images from the video stayed with Asher and she shared her concerns to her husband, Dru.  Something had to be done to combat this horrid medical issue, and that’s where Sole Hope was born: creating shoes for the people in Uganda in order to protect their feet, provide medical clinics to help those infected, and education classes in order to help the Ugandans know how to protect themselves from these fleas.

Sole Hope hosts shoe preparation parties and that was the event I was invited to at my church, Greentree Christian, in Rolla.  8 pf us ladies  divided our efforts into 3 different groups of activity.  Some of us cut apart the donated and washed blue jeans-cutting away the hems, seams, front pockets, and waistband in order to leave behind the main leg material of the denim.  Another group took the cut denim and laid onto it the patterns for making the shoes upper parts, tracing the patterns onto the denim.  The third group cut the pattern pieces out and then pinned them together as a set.  These would then be mailed to Sole Hope’s headquarters in Uganda, where locals there make the shoes.  Another good idea that has stemmed from Sole Hope’s work is that in Uganda, bicycling is a thriving mode of transportation, however when one’s bicycle tires wear out, it’s not uncommon to toss that tire off of the road, out into the brush.  Sole Hope has been able to collect these unwanted tires and has found a company that can recycle the tires into the soles of the shoes being made.

It was a small effort on my part, but I had an enjoyable time working with the other ladies at the Sole Hope Party, and it was nice to think that my small effort could have a good and larger impact on people who would truly benefit from pairs of shoes.

If you are intrigued about Sole Hope and what they are about and trying to accomplish in Uganda, then click on this link and learn more.      The included gallery is a montage of pictures of Sole Hope in action in Uganda.


Affluenza and Ways to Innoculate your Kids!

I had a wonderful Christmas break.  Time with my family, gift-giving, good food to eat, and getting to sleep in a bit each day.  Now that 2016 has arrived, it’s time for me to jump back onto my blogging site so here is my first post for this new year.

I enjoy watching the old tv show Perry Mason.  My family rolls their eyes, but I do catch them at times following along with the plot of the show.  The other day, even though the episode was from 1961, it could have been torn from today’s headlines: a rich, spoiled young man who behaved rudely to all, an insensitive jerk, was murdered.  Take out the murder in the Perry Mason plot, and it reminded me of the sad saga of the “Affluenza”  afflicted young man from Texas, Ethan Couch.

Perry Mason logo

Actors Bryan Grant and Torin Thatcher, as the spoiled rich kid and his enabling tycoon father, Season 5"s The Case of the Unwanted Bride

Actors Bryan Grant and Torin Thatcher, as the spoiled rich kid and his enabling tycoon father, Season 5″s The Case of the Unwanted Bride

I don’t know Ethan Couch.  I don’t know his parents.  What I do know about he and they is what I’ve heard and read in national news reports.  It was on June 15, 2013, in Texas,when Ethan Couch was driving while intoxicated.  He lost control of his vehicle.  Unfortunately,  a group of people happened to be standing on the side of the road with a disabled SUV.   Four people were killed when Couch plowed into them and crashed into the SUV.  Two people in Couch’s vehicle were badly injured.   In total, 9 people were injured in this crash.  The nation took notice when in December of 2013, the judge ruled that Couch would receive 10 years probation and ordered him to a place of long-term therapy.  Couch’s defense attorneys argued that the young man had “Affluenza”, meaning that since Couch had lived a life of luxury, that he wasn’t raised with any discipline and  really didn’t know right from wrong, that therefore he didn’t understand that his actions can have consequences.  Many people in the U.S., when they heard about this defense, shook their heads in disbelief.   Couch  made the news recently, along with  his mother Tonya, because they were both in Mexico, Ethan living it up with booze, drugs, dancing girls, and he missed a probation meeting.  Missing that meeting meant trouble for Couch; violating his parole agreement.  His mom, Tonya, is also in trouble for aiding her son in going to Mexico  and hindering the police in the apprehension of a felon, her son.   Here is a link from CNN that goes over all of this mess of a situation.

There are so many lessons to be learned here but I’ll try to keep it to just a few.  Parents, one has to raise ones kids with discipline!!!  Now, I’m not talking about punishments for clumsy accidents, like spilling a glass of milk or knocking over a potted plant or leaving the lights on in the kitchen after everyone else has gone to bed, but I am talking about discipline being needed when your child out and out sasses back at you, disrespects your parental authority, tells you NO!  That can’t be overlooked or ignored.  If your kids can’t show you respect, then that means they won’t show respect to any other adults they meet in their life.

Ethan Couch is from a wealthy family.  This fact made me think about another weatlhy  American family, the Rockefellers.  It was a couple years ago on American Experience, a show on PBS that I watch from time to time, and  the episode was  about the Rockefeller family.  What impressed me was that John D. Rockefeller Jr. had 6 kids with his wife Abby, and while they lived in a fabulous home in New York state, he insisted that his children be assigned daily chores to do and that they receive an allowance based on if they got their chores done or not.  This was a super wealthy family!  John Jr.’s father, John D. Rockefeller Sr., founder of Standard Oil, had a net worth of $336 billion dollars!!  Yet his son, was careful to raise his own 6 children to know how to work, and how to earn money, and how to give it away.  John Sr. was also known to have given $500 million dollars away through his lifetime to various philanthropic groups, colleges, etc.  I have a sad suspicion that the Couch’s probably didn’t assign their son many chores to do.  It is a good idea to train kids in helping with household chores and when they get to be teens, having them find a part-time job.  Our teens have worked part-time jobs and it has benefited them in money management, in making purchases for items that they have wanted, and in getting along with the public-be it customers, bosses, or co-workers.

John D. Rockefeller Sr. with his son, John D. Jr., daughter-in-law, and 6 grandchildren.

John D. Rockefeller Sr. with his son, John D. Jr., daughter-in-law, and 6 grandchildren.

Discipline, respect for one’s elders, knowing the value of a dollar, knowing the value of doing good work, knowing the value of giving of one’s funds cheerfully-these are great ways to innoculate your kids from developing “Affluenza”.


Oh, the Irony!

Williams College, a private, liberal arts college in Williamstown, Massachusetts devised a series in 2014 known as “The Uncomfortable Learning Speaker Series”.  Three students in 2013 noticed that much of the discussions and/or debates at Williams College leaned heavily in favor of left-thinking philosophies, and conservative thought was not being uttered very much.  The students decided that they wanted speakers to come to Williams who would deliver speeches from diverse points of view, and open up the debates and dialogues on campus.  The series was met with enthusiasm and

Fast forward to last week, when the ironic and  illogical happened.  A speaker for the upcoming Uncomfortable Learning Series was uninvited!  Was the speaker a supporter of terrorism?  A supporter of anarchy?  A person who doesn’t think the President is a U.S. citizen??  Not at all!  The scheduled speaker, Suzanne Venker, was going to discuss the failings of Feminism “because it denies the existence of biology and teaches that equality means sameness, which is a losing proposition when it comes to planning a life-particularly if that life includes marriage and family.”1

The folks at Williams College who plan the Uncomfortable Learning Series began to hear complaints about having Venker speak.  Why didn’t the planners stand their ground?  Isn’t the point of this series to encourage students to at least hear another person’s viewpoint?  From my readings about this speaker series, students aren’t forced to attend, so if a speaker is going to discuss something that really, really, really makes a student uncomfortable, that student can stay in their dorm room and nap! Or surf the internet!  Or do their homework!!

This refusal to allow one speaker to speak at Uncomfortable Learning made me also think about an article one of my cousins shared on Facebook.  My cousin found an article interviewing two gentlemen, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathon Haidt.  Their article which they wrote for The Atlantic,  The Coddling of the American Mind,  is about a disturbing trend, growing on college campuses, of students wanting words and discussions stopped if those words and discussions make them feel uncomfortable.  They cited in their article one anonymous professor, who wrote a piece for Vox, stating that he’s a liberal professor and he has to be careful of how he teaches as his liberal students terrify him!  Lukianoff and Haidt go on in their article how this coddling of students’ minds can also lead to mental health problems.

I know that when I was a college student, back in the dark ages of 1983-87, political correctness was beginning to raise it’s misguided head.  I think that this new trend is a direct offspring of the campus pc police, meaning that the loudest students and/or faculty that don’t like an idea or philosophy try to get it shut down, making it forbidden to discuss those ideas or philosophies on campus.

I really hope those at Williams College, running that speaker series, will realize that they caved in to the pc police and re-invite Suzanne Venker to give her speech.  Don’t become wimps, Williams College!  Enlighten your students’ outlooks on life!  Don’t let one vocal group of opposition shut down your scheduled speakers!

Sources used for this blog:  1Williams College’s ‘Uncomfortable Learning’ speaker series dropped me. Why? by Suzanne Venker, Oct. 20th, 2015,

‘Uncomfortable Learning’-How 3 Students Changed Their Elite College For The Better,  Jennifer Kabbany,  Sept. 5, 2014, The College Fix

Where Did Colleges Go Wrong? Hara Estroff Marano, Oct. 14, 2015, Psychology Today

The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathon Haidt, Sept. 2015 issue, The Atlantic

Beware of Aunts that Sue and Noisy Toddlers

I was cleaning up in the kitchen yesterday morning after the family had departed for work and school.  The radio was on and ABC News was giving the top of the hour national news report when this story caught my ear: A woman who lives in Manhattan had filed a lawsuit in Connecticut, against her nephew for injuries she sustained to her wrist when she fell from a hug he gave her at his 8th birthday party!!

Jennifer Connell went to her nephew, Sean Tarala’s birthday party.  When she arrived, the nephew was riding his brand new bicycle.  When he saw his aunt, he got off the bike and ran to her and gave her a hug, which knocked them both to the ground, breaking the aunt’s wrist.  She didn’t complain at the time as she hadn’t wanted to upset the boy.  However, she claims life has been difficult for her since the broken wrist occurred, and she decided to sue the boy in civil court for $127,000!!

Life has been hard for her? Did she not seek medical attention for the wrist?  Did she receive poor care for the wrist? Did it not heal properly?  One of her complaints was that it’s been hard to hold an hors d’oeuvres plate!  Upon further reading about this lawsuit, the nephew, now 12, had his father accompany him to the jury trial as his mom died last year!!!  I think the death of a parent is a lot harder to live with than the difficulties one might have in holding a plate of food!!

Fortunately, the jury only deliberated for 20 minutes and came back with a verdict rejecting the civil lawsuit.  If one really thinks about this, an aunt suing her nephew, the consequences of this action have probably irreparably damaged this lady’s relationship with her nephew, and possibly with other relatives, too.  What a sad situation.  Thank goodness for a jury with common sense!   Noisy toddler

My last paragraph is about concert etiquette.  My husband and I attended last week’s Rolla Choral Arts Society and Rolla High School, Rolla Jr. High, and Rolla Middle Schools’ Fall Concert.  The choirs all did very well, and it would have been a very enjoyable evening if the family sitting near us had had some common sense and left their toddler at home.  The family had a baby with them, who slept throughout most of the concert.  However, their toddler kept up a constant chatter, sometimes emitting a high-pitched screech.  His parents constant “Shhhhhh’s” meant nothing to their child.  The concerned look from the senior citizen ladies in front of our seats didn’t phase the parents of the noisy toddler.  My husband glanced at them and gave me a look of “don’t these dolts know their loud child is ruining this experience for the audience??”  Finally, after the concert was 3/4ths of the way over, this family left.  My advice to parents of very young children, wanted or not, is do not take toddlers to a musical concert of any kind! They don’t have the maturity to sit quietly, the concert is probably going to overlap on the youngster’s  bedtime or nap time(if it’s a daytime presentation) and sleep for a toddler is more important than seeing some friend or relative perform.  If you can’t hire a babysitter for the evening, then just stay home, please!


* credit to the CT Post, Daniel Tepfer,”Jury Rules Against Aunt Who Sued Boy Over Hug”, Tues., Oct. 13th, 2015.

*credit to Baby Blues comic strip, by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott



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