Pragmatic Mom

May 9, 2010

POSITION: Mother, Mom, Mama

Filed under: Humor for Moms — Pragmatic Mom @ 9:52 am

JOB DESCRIPTION: Long term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work in an often chaotic environment.

Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call.

Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities. Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.

RESPONSIBILITIES: The rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5.
Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three sec onds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf.
Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers.
Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects.
Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks.
Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next.
Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices.
Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst.
Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product.

Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.

POSSIBILITY FOR ADVANCEMENT & PROMOTION: Virtually none. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: None required unfortunately. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.

WAGES AND COMPENSATION: Get this! You pay them! Offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent.

When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.

BENEFITS: While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life if you play your cards right.

Forward this on to all the moms you know, in appreciation for everything they do on a daily basis, and let them know they are appreciated.

March 22, 2010

Favorite Golf Books Because Spring is Here!!!

To coincide with the holy grail of the Master’s Tournament, my husband suggested these books for the golf nut in your life.  Could make a nice Father’s Day gift for later as well.  He qualifies.   He thinks it’s a crime against humanity if he’s not playing golf on a decent day;  he plays to a zero handicap; and he has amassed a huge collection of golf books and claims to have read every single one.  These are his favorites.  If you become a golf widow every spring like I do, your only recourse is to take up the game of golf.  And be sure to send your kids out to the course with your golf nut.  The kids love it.  They get to drive the cart, eat a hotdog outside, hit balls, play with the reseeding mixture, play with golf tees, and hang with their golf nut who would otherwise be absentee.  They learn great etiquette on the course and improve their  eye/hand coordination as a bonus gift.

The Art of Putting and The Art of the Short Game, both by Stan Utley.  Instructional books.

Playing Through:  A Year of Life and Links Along the Scottish Coast by Curtis Gillespie. 


The Seventh at St. Andrews  : How Scotsman David McLay Kidd and His Ragtag Band Built the First New Course onGolf’s Holy Soil in Nearly a Century by Scott Gummer.

The Edict:  A Novel From the Beginnings of Golf by Bob Cupp.

Scratch by Troon McAllister.

February 5, 2010

Books That Teach Compassion

Thank you to the reader who suggested a posting on books that teach compassion.  This will be a “rolling” list.  Please comment with your suggestions to add to this posting and we can build this list together!

If you want to purchase a book, please click on the image of the book to buy at  Thank you!

Hooway For Wodney Wat by Helen Lester.  Rodney Rat’s lisp makes him very shy until one day when his lisp makes him a hero.  [Picture Book, ages 4-7]


Halibut Jackson by David Lucas.  Halibut Jackson is so shy that he makes special outfits so he will blend in with his surroundings.  At a party for the King and Queen, he miscalculates and accidentally stands out.  Everyone loves his outfit and requests one so he opens a successful store and learns that he’s not so shy after all.  [Picture Book, ages 4-7]


It’s Ok to Be Different by Todd Parr.  A lovely and appealing book that sends a message that what makes us different also makes us special.  [Picture Book, ages 3-6]


Yoko by Rosemary Wells.  I have selected this book because it’s about bullying and acceptance.  Yoko is Japanese brings “weird” food to lunch and snack and everyone in her class makes fun of her.  Her teacher frets and comes up with a plan to have an International Food Day.  This is a great success except no one tries Yoko’s food, except at the end, Timothy tries it and loves it and becomes Yoko’s good friend throughout the rest of this series.  [Picture Book, ages 4-7] 

Yoko Writes Her Name by Rosemary Wells.  Yoko is back and this time the story is about “girl” bullying.  Yoko does things differently; she writes her name in Japanese, she brings in a Japanese book that reads left to write, and she writes her numbers in a strange way.  Two classmates think that Yoko isn’t going to graduate from Kindergarten because she can’t write her name.  When Yoko is upset and hides under a table, a kind classmate, Angelo, befriends Yoko and tells her she knows a secret language that he wants learn.  The tables are turned on graduation day when the girl bullies panic that they can’t write their names in Japanese and won’t graduate but Yoko shows them in time for the graduation march.  [Picture Book, ages 5-8]  

Thank You Mr Falker by Patricia Polacco.  Tricia has difficulty reading and Mr. Falker figures out that she is dyslexic which is life-changing.  [Picture Book, ages 6-12]


Mr. Lincoln’s Way by Patricia Pollaco.  Principal Mr. Lincoln can see the good in a bully and gently helps him to find his way.  [Picture Book, ages 6-12]


The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson.  A Newbury Honor book.  I actually have to read this book but my middle daughter had it for a holiday book club because the mom wanted to have the kids think about others who are less fortunate.  The story line is about a happy vagrant living under a bridge in Paris who suddenly has to share his space with a widow and her three children.  He finds that eventually he feels compelled to help the family find a permanent home.  [Chapter Book for Newly Independent Readers, ages 7-10]

Rules by Cynthia Lord.  Having a special needs younger brother is hard on twelve-year-old Catherine.  On the one hand, she protects him by giving him rules to follow so he can fit in better. On the other hand, she’s embarrassed about him.  When she meets an older boy with a physical special need, they connect but is she too embarrassed to invite him to the school dance?  Will her friends accept him?  Is she misjudging her friends?  [Chapter Book for Grades 3-5, ages 8-12] 

The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan.  Percy Jackson keeps getting kicked out of school because something bad always happens.  It’s not really his fault that bad accidents happen when he’s on a school field trip.  He’s also dyslexic and has A.D.D.  When he finds out his special needs are due to the fact he’s a half-blood (half mortal, half Greek God), it’s up to him to prevent WWIII from happening when a lightening bolt is stolen from Zeus.  [Chapter Book Grades 3-5, ages 8-16]

Quote Collection

” Never be afraid to try something new.  Remember that amateurs built the Ark. Professionals built the Titanic.”

“In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.” Jacques Barzun

(or in parenting!)

These great quotes are from my Twitter friend, TheTeacherPage, Bob Huges from Halifax, MA

He has great advice AND quotes and I’d encourage you to follow him.

“The object of teaching a child is to enable them to get along without a teacher.” Elbert Hubbard

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” Albert Einstein

“Example isn’t another way to teach, it is the only way to teach.” Albert Einstein

“Education is the best provision for old age.” Aristotle

“Teachers open the door. You enter by yourself.” Chinese Proverb

“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius

“Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.” Confucius

“Nothing ever becomes real until it is experienced.” John Keats

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” Mother Teresa

“The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery.” Poet and Educator, Mark van Doren

“Even a mistake may turn out to be the one thing necessary to a worth while achievement.” Henry Ford

“There are two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live.” John Adams

“Your best teacher is your last mistake.” Ralph Nader

“A wise teacher makes learning a joy.” Proverb

“Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.” Dale Carnegie

“When you shoot for the moon and you come up short, you still end up among the stars.” Les Brown

February 4, 2010

Just Changed My Tagline…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Pragmatic Mom @ 12:40 pm

Used to be:  A Virtual Village for Parents

too boring

Now it’s:  Type A Parenting for the Modern World

What do you think?

Choosing a Music Teacher

My sister is a piano teacher in California.  She has a three-year wait list and her students have rich and rigorous experience that includes not just the requisite recital, but monthly performance workshops, classical musical competitions, and juried piano recitals to earn certifications of merit.  Her students are serious about piano and practice everyday and the time commitment is a significant one.

Our  piano teacher is less rigorous than my sister because I had to coax my children into taking piano lessons.  Our teacher is less rigorous, and the repertoire is less classical.  My oldest dabbled in piano for 5 years then recently switched to flute with a new teacher who flute studio is more similar to my sister’s approach.  But because my oldest truly loves to play flute, she can commit to high level of dedication and daily practice sessions have become less of a chore for her.

My experience with choosing a music teacher is:

  • Pick a teacher whose personality is compatible with both your child and you.  This is potentially a long relationship and your  music teacher will start to feel like part of the family.  …and breaking up is hard to do!
  • While there are advantages to starting music lessons early, there are also drawbacks.  Make sure that your child’s first experience with music teacher (instrument not mommy and  me classes) is a positive one so your child doesn’t get turned off permanently.
  • I have talked to professional musicians who have said that a particular instrument “called out” to them and sometimes at an surprisingly early age.  Listen to what your child says if she repeatedly asks for music lessons for a particular instrument.  That being said, give your child the opportunity to try many instruments. “Quitting” an instrument doesn’t necessarily mean your child is a quitter.   And transferring from one instrument to another does not necessarily mean starting all over again from the bottom.  My oldest started with piano, took percussion in 4th grade, quit percussion after 1 month, but then found the flute and loves it.  My sense is that she will be playing flute for a long, long time!
  • Getting your child to practice on a daily basis is never easy.  It’s the rare child who will initiate practice on her own on a consistent basis.  Apparently there are bookshelves full of books on how to get your child to practice.  I’ll research and blog on this particular topic later.

This MTNA article can be helpful when trying to select a music teacher.  Link:

Choosing a Music Teacher

How Do I Find the Right Teacher?

You’ll want a teacher who will inspire and nurture a student’s musical growth and instill lifelong love of music. When seeking a music teacher:

  • Consult with friends, family and others who are acquainted with teachers in your community.
  • Ask for recommendations from local music teacher organizations, music stores,  schools or churches.
  • Arrange to interview prospective teachers, in person if possible, before making a commitment.
  • Ask permission to attend a recital of the prospective teacher’s students.  (this is a good one because you can “see” ahead as to what kind of progress you can expect from this teacher!)

How do I Interview Prospective Teachers?

Teachers are willing and eager to explain their techniques and objectives. The following are types of questions to ask during the interview:

  • What is your professional and educational experience in music?
  • What is your teaching experience? What age groups do you teach?
  • How do you participate in ongoing professional development?
  • Are you nationally certified by MTNA?
  • Do you have a written studio policy? Will you review it with me?
  • Do you regularly evaluate student progress?
  • What instructional materials do you use?
  • What kinds of music do you teach?
  • What other elements are part of your teaching curriculum?
  • Do you offer group lessons?
  • Do you require students to perform in studio recitals during the year?
  • Do you offer other performance opportunities for your students, such as festivals and competitions?
  • Do you use technology in your studio, such as computers, music instruction software, digital keyboards?
  • How much practice time do you require each day?
  • What do you expect of your students? Their parents?

What is the Parent’s Role?

Parental support in the learning process is vital. Whether or not you know anything about music, take time to listen to your child play, provide exclusive practice time on a quality instrument, and celebrate his or her continued accomplishments.

How is Music Beneficial for All Learners

Today there are unprecedented reasons for making music a part of everyone’s life.

Students taking music lessons now will determine the place of music in America and the value society places on music tomorrow. Regardless of what these students ultimately choose a profession, music making will remain a part of their lives, whether it’s listening to music, attending concerts or serving as leaders in arts associations, and community and church music programs.

Benefits of Music Study:

  • Hearing music stimulates the mind.
  • Music instruction enhances abstract reasoning skills.
  • Grade school students who took music lessons generally scored higher on cognitive development tests.
  • In older people, music helps lower depression and decreases loneliness.
  • Playing an instrument strengthens eye-hand coordination and fine motor skills.
  • Music lessons teach discipline, dedication and enable students to achieve goals.

How Important is MTNA Certification?

MTNA’s Professional Certification Program exists to improve the level of professionalism within the field of music teaching and helps the public readily identify competent music teachers in their communities. A Nationally Certified Teacher of Music (NCTM) has demonstrated competence in professional preparation, teaching practices, ethical business management and lifelong learning. An MTNA certified teacher is your best source to facilitate musical learning in an environment that encourages student confidence, independence, teamwork and high achievement. To date, more than 3,500 teachers across the United States have earned the NCTM designation.

My personal take on MTNA certification is that it is not a deal breaker.  (This article is from the MTNA so take this last paragraph with a grain of salt).  My understanding of MTNA certification is that it’s wonderful but also a time-consuming process to apply so not all teachers are willing to go through this.  Type A personalities will tend towards “certifications” but a certification is not necessarily a stamp of approval  that this is a wonderful music teacher for your particular child.

February 3, 2010

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

My sister sent me this massive tome for my youngest’s third birthday.  I was surprised; he can’t read yet and this book can rival a thick Harry Potter.  But my sister said, “No, no…it’s supposed to be this really cool book that is mostly illustrations.”  I glanced through it and it sat on the back burner bookshelf.

I took it out a few months ago, and it sat on my bedside table for another two months.  The sheer weight of the book was daunting.  Finally, I was in a rush to pack up for my jam-packed Tuesdays when I drive my kids around dropping off one to gymnastics then sprinting to the flute lesson…but secretly I love this day.  The flute lesson is a little island of quiet time; 30 minutes to read a book (which is usually why I blog on a book review on Tuesdays).  So, I grabbed this book because I was in a rush and my pile was down to two books, and what a pleasure it was to read this book!

I call The Invention of Hugo Cabret a children’s literature version of The Phantom of the Opera.  They are both set in Paris; Hugo is set around 1931.  They both sneak around in hidden canals and passageways that they know like that back of their hand.  And They both have deep, dark secrets from the past.  Hugo is almost a book within a book.  The book IS actually mostly illustrations (284!) , and much like the picture books Flotsam or Tuesday by David Weisner, the illustrations tell their own story.  There is also the story which is a fair amount of text, but part of it is broken up by pages and pages of illustrations and some of the story pages have only a scant paragraph.

The story of Hugo, itself, is a mystery that unwinds, layer by layer, into a deeply interconnecting and interesting story weaving the history of motion pictures with themes of magic, believing, and the power of friendships.  It’s really a lovely and riveting story.

The sweet spot for this book would be 3-5th graders, particularly reluctant boy readers.  Don’t let the thickness of the book deter your reader and this might be a perfect story to read together for reluctant readers.  This book won a slew of awards including Finalist for the National Book Award.

To purchase, please click on the image of the book to buy at  Thank you!

February 2, 2010

Welcome to Pragmatic Mom!

I’m a mom with three kids, ages 10, 7 and 5  and I live in a suburb outside of Boston.  I’ve been a full-time bread-winner (with my first child — my husband stayed home with her), a stay-at-home mom (with my second child because my husband said that if he had to stay home with two kids he’d be forced to leave us), and a part-time, outside-the- home wage earner/stay-at-home mom (just recently and coinciding with my third child’s 4 hour day at preschool).

Over the years, I’ve found that I wished I’ve saved all the mom advice I have either learned from mom friends or learned the hard way.  Now, I’m documenting it in hopes that it will be useful to you.  Topics include:  Best Investment Toys, Favorite Picture Books You’ve Never Heard Of, Favorite Books for Reluctant Boy Readers, Easy Dinners,  Getting Rid of Lice, Short List of Baby Equipment, Supplemental Education Tools for Phonics and Math, Birthday Presents for Around $20, and How to Set up a Book Club for your kids.

I blog everyday, more or less.  My blog is a virtual scrapbook for the all clippings and pieces of information that I used to save or try to remember.  My house is much cleaner as is my email box now that I can transfer and organize my “stuff.”   The topics I cover range from parenting to supplemental home education workbooks to learning foreign languages to cooking.   This clearing of paper is good feng shui for my house!

I am especially interested in children’s literature.  This is a return to my childhood when I was a professional geek and read every fiction and biography book  in my elementary school library.  True story:  I got called out of class one day because the school librarian said that I had checked out thirty books and my limit was two.  Well…I did read them all and sadly, not all of them were good.  It’s been a real pleasure for me to read children’s literature now, 30 years later than my elementary school experience.  What a lot of amazing books have been written since then!  I am eager to share these plus old favorites as well as other topics that I grapple with or catch my attention.  I usually read every book that I list and it sometimes takes me a day or two to read each book so if you are interested in the book lists, I do frequently add as I discover new books.  My opinion of what age the book is appropriate for, is just that, my humble opinion, but I also do consult book lists from libraries both to find new books and to place the books into age slots.  It’s especially tricky to place 4 & 5th grade versus middle school because it is a content call.

Any of the items pictured can be purchased on Amazon by clicking on the image.  Please let me know if there are other topics of interest to you and please share your advice!   You can email me at

Together, we can get through the ups and downs of parenting.  Thank you for visiting my blog!

NY Times Article: Foreign Languages Fade EXCEPT Chinese…

A Mom Friend at my elementary school sent me this article and asked me to comment on it for my blog.  She speaks Chinese and French and wants to start her children on both languages as well.

I believe deeply that this generation of children must learn two foreign languages if they are to play a part in this new global economy and that, sadly, the United States, is and will no longer be at the epicenter of the world.  I have heard that at our public high school, the college counselors are telling the high school students that top colleges want to see fluency in TWO foreign languages.
Then at work, the other day, I had a long conversation with a colleague at work whose husband is Finnish; he speaks 3 languages AND English.  We were saying that everywhere else in the world, it’s NORMAL to learn two other languages.  And I was at another dinner at Bentley College for folks who teach entrepreneurship at business schools, and these two professors from the Middle East who work in the U.K. spoke an amazing 7-9 languages.  And I made them explain exactly how and when they learned them.  (Secret:  they start early and keep adding).

But I am also remembering that when I was in college in the 1980’s, there was a wave of urgency for everyone to learn Russian.  But then the Soviet Union disintegrated and no one cared about the Russian language anymore.  Does anyone remember that?  And then there was this wave when everyone wanted to either teach English in Japan or learn Japanese about a decade later when I was in graduate school.  I myself started taking Japanese lessons after a short stint in Japan.

But, I do believe that as far as I can see, it’s probably prudent to learn Chinese.  It is never a disadvantage in life or in one’s career to speak another language.  AND it’s a tough language, so if you really want to be able to speak it with some proficiency, you better start early in order toto nail the pronunciation (tonal language; 4 tones so each tone is a different word even though the letter sound is the same).  My Chinese tutor tells me, as I do not speak Mandarin Chinese, that while there is a lot of vocabulary, there is very little grammar.  Once you have the pronounciation conquered and learn an immense amount of vocabulary (plus characters; one for each word!), it’s all downhill!

I  also have my kids learning Spanish.  It’s much easier to pronounce the words though we are struggling to roll our “r’s.”  It’s actually the opposite of Chinese in my mind; there isn’t as many vocabulary words as English, but the grammar, particularly those pesky irregular verbs, is enough to make you crazy!

As I see it, if you can speak English, Chinese and Spanish, you are covering a large chunk of the world.  Just add a little Farsi, and you are good to go!

Here’s my schedule.

English:  as a baby

Spanish:  as a toddler/preschooler through high school

Chinese:  as an elementary schooler through high school

Farsi:  in college

If you are inspired to start introducing foreign languages to your children, I have a blog entry on the products I use.

Here is the link to the article whichis about how America may be cutting back on Foreign Language instruction, but there is a surge of interest in Mandarin Chinese:

I also have the article duplicated below:

Foreign Languages Fade in Class — Except Chinese

Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

The Yu Ying charter school has recruited five native Chinese speakers living in the United States to teach their classes.

// //

Published: January 20, 2010
WASHINGTON — Thousands of public schools stopped teaching foreign languages in the last decade, according to a government-financed survey — dismal news for a nation that needs more linguists to conduct its global business and diplomacy.

But another contrary trend has educators and policy makers abuzz: a rush by schools in all parts of America to offer instruction in Chinese.

Some schools are paying for Chinese classes on their own, but hundreds are getting some help. The Chinese government is sending teachers from China to schools all over the world — and paying part of their salaries.

At a time of tight budgets, many American schools are finding that offer too good to refuse.

In Massillon, Ohio, south of Cleveland, Jackson High School started its Chinese program in the fall of 2007 with 20 students and now has 80, said Parthena Draggett, who directs Jackson’s world languages department.

“We were able to get a free Chinese teacher,” she said. “I’d like to start a Spanish program for elementary children, but we can’t get a free Spanish teacher.”

(Jackson’s Chinese teacher is not free; the Chinese government pays part of his compensation, with the district paying the rest.)

No one keeps an exact count, but rough calculations based on the government’s survey suggest that perhaps 1,600 American public and private schools are teaching Chinese, up from 300 or so a decade ago. And the numbers are growing exponentially.

Among America’s approximately 27,500 middle and high schools offering at least one foreign language, the proportion offering Chinese rose to 4 percent, from 1 percent, from 1997 to 2008, according to the survey, which was done by the Center for Applied Linguistics, a research group in Washington, and paid for by the federal Education Department.

“It’s really changing the language education landscape of this country,” said Nancy C. Rhodes, a director at the center and co-author of the survey.

Other indicators point to the same trend. The number of students taking the Advanced Placement test in Chinese, introduced in 2007, has grown so fast that it is likely to pass German this year as the third most-tested A.P. language, after Spanish and French, said Trevor Packer, a vice president at the College Board.

“We’ve all been surprised that in such a short time Chinese would grow to surpass A.P. German,” Mr. Packer said.

A decade ago, most of the schools with Chinese programs were on the East and West Coasts. But in recent years, many schools have started Chinese programs in heartland states, including Ohio and Illinois in the Midwest, Texas and Georgia in the South, and Colorado and Utah in the Rocky Mountain West.

“The mushrooming of interest we’re seeing now is not in the heritage communities, but in places that don’t have significant Chinese populations,” said Chris Livaccari, an associate director at the Asia Society.

America has had the study of a foreign language grow before, only to see the bubble burst. Many schools began teaching Japanese in the 1980s, after Japan emerged as an economic rival. But thousands have dropped the language, the survey found.

Japanese is not the only language that has declined. Thousands of schools that offered French, German or Russian have stopped teaching those languages, too, the survey found.

To prepare the survey, the Center for Applied Linguistics sent a questionnaire to 5,000 American schools, and followed up with phone calls to 3,200 schools, getting a 76 percent response rate.

The results, released last year, confirmed that Spanish was taught almost universally. The survey found that 88 percent of elementary schools and 93 percent of middle and high schools with language programs offered Spanish in 2008.

The overall decline in language instruction was mostly due to its abrupt decline in public elementary and middle schools; the number of private schools and public high schools offering at least one language remained stable from 1997 to 2008.

The survey said that a third of schools reported that the federal No Child Left Behind law, which since 2001 has required public schools to test students in math and English, had drawn resources from foreign languages.

Experts said several factors were fueling the surge in Chinese. Parents, students and educators recognize China’s emergence as an important country and believe that fluency in its language can open opportunities.

Also stoking the interest has been a joint program by the College Board and Hanban, a language council affiliated with the Chinese Education Ministry, that since 2006 has sent hundreds of American school superintendents and other educators to visit schools in China, with travel costs subsidized by Hanban. Many have started Chinese programs upon their return.

Since 2006, Hanban and the College Board have also sent more than 325 volunteer Chinese “guest teachers” to work in American schools with fledgling programs and paying $13,000 to subsidize each teacher’s salary for a year. Teachers can then renew for up to three more years.

The State Department has paid for a smaller program — the Teachers of Critical Languages Program — to bring Chinese teachers to schools here, with each staying for a year.

In the first two years of its Chinese program, the Jackson District in Ohio said it had provided its guest teacher housing, a car and gasoline, health insurance and other support worth about $26,000. This year, the district is paying a more experienced Chinese guest teacher $49,910 in salary and other support, in addition to the $13,000 in travel expenses he receives from Hanban, bringing his compensation into rough parity with Ohio teachers.

Ms. Draggett visited China recently with a Hanban-financed delegation of 400 American educators from 39 states, and she came back energized about Jackson’s Chinese program, she said.

“Chinese is really taking root,” she said. Starting this fall, Jackson High will begin phasing out its German program, she said.

Founders of the Yu Ying charter school in Washington, where all classes for 200 students in prekindergarten through second grade are taught in Chinese and English on alternate days, did not start with a guest teacher when it opened in the fall of 2008.

“That’s great for many schools, but we want our teachers to stay,” said Mary Shaffner, the school’s executive director.

Instead, Yu Ying recruited five native Chinese speakers living in the United States by advertising on the Internet. One is Wang Jue, who immigrated to the United States in 2001 and graduated from the University of Maryland.

After just four months, her prekindergarten students can already say phrases like “I want lunch” and “I’m angry” in Chinese, Ms. Wang said.

Loving My litl Webbook

The Latest at litl webbook:  A Chance to Win 2 litls!


@BakeSpace, I want to win two @litl webbooks for Valentine’s Day!

One person will win TWO litl webbook computers!

I wanted to add a note…

Recently the  litl Webbook was featured on The View.  As a result of so much fanfare, the litl Webbook inventory was wiped out.  There are a few litl Webbooks for sale on but these are NOT retailing for the $699 list price but actually much higher due to the lack of inventory.  I talked to the good folks at litl webbook customer support (very nice people) and they said that new litl Webbooks are about go into production.  The newest version will have a slightly different, more scratch-resistant case.  I think it is going to take a month-ish or so until this new production run ships.

If you are DESPERATE to get your hands on a litl webbook, then buy at an arbitrage price from now.  But if you can wait a little bit, the new ones will have a new, slightly more matte finish and the price will be the retail price of $699.

and now, here is my story about how I fell in love with litl webbook…

My family was selected to beta test the litl webbook this past fall.  We fit the criteria:  wifi, kids who are online gamers, and prone to excessive complaining.  The computers came and kids tore off the packaging and attacked the computers.  There are no instructions, and only the 5-year-old was able to figure out how to turn it on.  Play dates were in the house and no kid could be coerced into playing; they were all glued to the litl webbooks.  The litl webbook is, let’s face it, gorgeous. The beta version of the operating system was a little slow for our high-paced lives, and it was unstable but I was amazed in mid-Demember when a very speedy version of the operating system was uploaded to my webbook and everything worked perfectly.

We have 3 computers that we use pretty often:  a PC desktop in the home office that is theoretically off-limits to the kids, an iBook that is Mommy’s computer but is shanghai’d by the kids, and the litl.  We also have a very slow pc laptop that is the kids’ official computer and was rejected by all, and a pc tablet computer for my husband’s work that comes out occasionally.  We have a color laser printer that is wonderful but only prints to the hard-wired pc desktop because we are tech-challenged to hook up the other computers over an ethernet connection.

So…has the liTL webbook changed our lives?  Strangely, it has:

  • We used to read the newspaper in the morning but now read the RSS feed to CNN.  It helps us stay focused during the morning mad dash and it saves trees and $600 on a subscription a year.
  • We check the weather via the litl in easle mode in the kitchen.  The kids layer up based on the temperature…it’s helpful because they are always trying to get out of gloves and hats and the sunshine outdoors can be deceptive.
  • We use the egg timer (kids LOVE it) to count down the time to load up in the car.
  • We switched from a paper family calendar to google calendar using the liTL as home base.  My husband always hated the paper system; he can’ read my messy handwriting and I was loathe for a huge whiteboard or chalkboard in our kitchen.
  • My 5-year-old needs less tech support than usual on the liTL.  Just yesterday, as he’s yellling, “How do you spell Bakugan?”, his sister replied, “JUST USE THE LITL!” because we have set cards for his sites that he frequents (Webkinz, Ben 10 Alien Force, Nick. Jr./Noggin).
  • We could probably use some new features…a timer that turns off the computer after your screen time is done would be a good one!
  • When the kids are on the TV, I notice my husband using the litl to watch his shows on TV and this creates a more harmonious atmosphere and eliminates the need for yet another cable box.

I never thought I’d like a computer in my kitchen because I’m always fighting to keep the counters cleared off, but the litl is easy on the eyes and we found a good spot for it.  Now I don’t know how we existed without our litl.

For $700, it’s a bargain compared to an iBook which is what I would have purchased for my kids.  It provides exactly what we need (internet based stuff) and nothing we don’t.  The remote is cool and my 5-year-old uses it because he can’t reach the computer without a chair to switch channels.  We NEVER have to deal with tech stuff which is perfect for me; I hate that stuff.  We never have to download upgrades or anything; it’s all done for us at night.  We don’t have to worry about viruses either; it’s included.  We still have to upload our photos to flickr but the easel mode is also a digital photo frame.  And I think there is a two year unconditional guarantee.

Here’s a link from a Techno Dad blog on litl webbook:

The litl, at $699 seems like its priced out of the market compared to cheap, Windows-based netbooks. But when you factor in the included lifetime upgrades, the multi-angle screen, the automatic backups (litl will shut down your account if the computer is stolen), a two-year money-back guarantee, and the planned automatic upgrades like the ability to download photos and videos, the litl’s premium price is not only reasonable, but looks like  a good value.

If you want to see a demo, go to and type in litl.  I have litlhouse on my blogroll which is another blog by another mom who uses liTL if you want to see how another mom user is using the ltlL at home with her kids.

You can purchase a litl webbook by clicking on the image below through Amazon.  The remote is $20 bucks but sooo worth it!

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