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Favorite school subjects: Spanish, Chemistry, Calculus, and Personal Finance?

I’m sure you’ll agree that literacy is one of the most important attributes to have. Of course, we weren’t simply born knowing how to read – or do pretty much anything, really – we were taught this necessary skill by others. Once people are out of high school, society expects them to be functioning adults – if there was something they didn’t learn during their schooling years, too bad. So why is do we simply assume people can take care of their own finances? There are 401(k) plans, investments, mortgages, making spending plans…these are pretty complicated topics! No wonder many Americans don’t understand personal finance!


If, for many people, simply learning finance as they go along isn’t the most efficient method, what is? If you answered, “Have high schools teach them the basics before they go off into adulthood” we’d agree with you. As would Charles County Public Schools in Maryland. Time will tell if other school districts follow in their footsteps, but I really like this idea. While schools mostly focus on academic subjects like Physics and History, as they should, they also teach practical skills like Health and Home Economics. Why should Personal Finance be any different?


I consider myself fortunate that my parents appreciated the value of this knowledge and raised me to be financially prudent. Had they not, however, my financial situation might be much worse – I can tell you I never learned any of this in school. Have you heard of any other initiatives to teach financial planning in school? What do you think about it?

Lightning protection

Lightning Protection

What weather phenomenon causes more deaths and destruction each year than floods, tornadoes and hurricanes combined? —– Lightning. From the comfort and seeming safety of our homes, its power and ability to destroy is often underestimated. It is a force to be reckoned with, but we can protect ourselves from its consequences. The following are a few precautions to help protect you and your home.

The Nature

Storms can create an electrical energy under certain conditions. Lightning is the visible form of that electrical energy and thunder is its audible result. Under the right conditions, that energy will travel to the ground and strike the highest or closest point. One lightning strike is the equivalent of 100 million volts of electricity. As a result of its power and erratic path, you cannot stop lightning from striking your house, but you can take measures to steer its force in a safe direction.

The Challenge

Lightning does strike. So, the key is to steer its force in a direction that will not harm you or your property. You need a lightning protection system for your home that:

• Provides a safe path for the lightning to follow into the ground.
• Prevents damage as it travels that path.

The Need

Although all homes should have a lightning protection system, here are a few of the conditions that may point to an even greater need for protection.

• Houses located on top of a hill, or in an isolated or open area.
• Houses in a region that has 30 or more thunderstorms a year.
• Homes in your area that have already had lightning strikes.
• Houses with tall trees nearby.
• Houses with a chimney or stovepipe.
• Houses with aluminum siding, a television antenna, a metal ridge or metal eaves.

The Protection

Contrary to popular belief, a lightning protection system will not attract lightning, nor will it prevent your house from being struck. However, it can provide a safe path for lightning to travel safely into the ground.

You should only use a qualified, licensed contractor to install your lightning protection system. Although your contractor can best advise you on the exact system you need, most systems include: roof lightning rods, ground termination rods, interconnecting conductors, and surge arrestors and suppressors for your wiring and electrical equipment.

If you’d like assistance in finding a qualified contractor in your area you may call the Lightning Protection Institute toll-free at 1-800-488-6864, or check out their website at

The Precautions

In addition to the installation of a lightning protection system appropriate for your house, there are several common sense tips that can protect you when there is a threat of lightning.


• Do not use a telephone except in an emergency.
• Stay away from electrical appliances, televisions, fireplaces, windows and exterior doors.
• You may unplug appliances prior to a storm, but do not do so once a storm has begun.
• Avoid touching kitchen and bathroom faucets and other metal components in your house.


• Seek shelter in an enclosed building or vehicle. If none is available, find a low lying area and crouch down with feet together and hands on knees.
• Avoid isolated trees, high ground, bodies of water, large open areas and large metal objects, including golf carts, bikes, fences and machinery.
• If with a group of people, do not stand together — spread out.
• If you feel a tingling sensation or your hair stands on end, a lightning strike may be eminent. Immediately crouch down and cover your ears. But, do not lie down flat or place your hands on the ground.

Note: These tips are designed to help you assess the safety and maintenance of your home and property, and to offer some precautions. Application of any or all of these suggestions may not prevent damage or protect you, or your property from harm. Your knowledge of the situation, use of your common sense and compliance with local and state codes should direct your course of action.

Selfless children create grocery bags from t-shirts

It’s always great to read about students caring about something and taking matters into their own hands. Some third, fourth and fifth graders in Iowa—concerned about the environmental impact of plastic bags on marine life –created their own reusable grocery bags from old t-shirts.


Yes—even though these students are nowhere near either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean, their goal is to improve the life of the aquatic animals there. (Although one could argue some river-dwelling aquatic animals closer by could also benefit.)


The logic may not be so far-fetched. Plastic bags can get caught by the wind and breeze through the air. They can travel for many miles. Maybe it’s possible for a plastic bag to travel far across the country and land in an ocean. If so, these children have some amazing foresight and creativity. (And the opening lyrics from a certain Katy Perry song make far more sense.)


How have you seen children try and change the world for the better? Food/clothing drives? Habitat for Humanity®? Litter clean-up? Whatever the form, the selflessness of these children is inspiring. If we all stepped up and took a little time to change the world for the better, it would be.

A Guide for Older Drivers

You know the saying, “I’m not getting any younger”? It’s true for the general population– by the year 2020, an estimated one in five drivers will be 65 years or older.

With old age comes changes that can greatly impact the ability to drive. Unfortunately it’s borne out by the fact that older drivers have higher rates of fatal crashes than any other age group except teenagers. Knowing the warning signs of driving impairments, adjusting to physical and mental changes, and developing transportation alternatives are critical to the safety of older drivers, their passengers and others on the road.



The ability to drive is largely connected to the ability to see. As they age, drivers should be cognizant of their ability to see clearly, particularly at night, the discernment of contrasts, peripheral vision, the ability to adjust to changing conditions and depth perception, all of which impact safe driving.

Avoid driving in poor visibility conditions and use the day/night option on your rear view mirror. To avoid on-coming headlights, focus your eyes to the right side of the lane and speak to your doctor about yellow, night-driving glasses. Have wide angle rear and side view mirrors installed to increase your view and to reduce blind spots.



Older drivers commonly experience hearing difficulties that can result in the inability to hear important sounds, like car horns, sirens and other emergency signals.

Hearing should be checked regularly. If a hearing aid is needed, be sure to ask about its effect on separating out background noise.


Motor Skills

Advancing age is often accompanied by a reduction in strength, which can impact the ability to brake or steer in an emergency. Stiffness in joints or arthritis, can also limit a drivers’ ability to turn his or her head sufficiently or to steer properly.

Regular exercise will enhance flexibility, strength and stamina. Keeping limber will expand the overall range of movement.


Reaction Time

Often a person’s reaction time slows with age, which increases the possibility of accidents, or reacting to road hazards.

Keep a longer distance between you and the car ahead to compensate for slowing reflexes. If possible, engage in sports or other physical activities that challenge your ability to respond quickly.



Older drivers often take over-the-counter and prescription drugs for a variety of ailments that can impair driving ability.

The effect of all medications taken should be addressed by a doctor.


Mental Acuity

Aging often results in a decrease in the ability to multi-task. Distractions on the road and in the car, including conversations with passengers and listening to the radio, can present serious challenges to older drivers.

Limit the use of the radio. Have passengers handle directions and the map navigation.


What do you think of these tips? Have any to add? Let us know in the comments!

The Bugs in Computer Science Education

Do you have any computer programming skills? If not, nothing to be embarrassed about, most people don’t. Now let me ask you this – do your students know how to program? Especially as more schools are dropping computer education, the answer to that is also probably no. We think there could be some potential downsides to that, as does a regular blogger from the prominent education site, Edutopia. It’s widely known we’re becoming an increasingly technical society, and that computer literacy may eventually be as important as regular literacy. Not to mention that computer programming is a lucrative profession! Who knows– some of your students could develop a passion for it, making their lives all the better.


In addition, computer programming teaches people to think logically and innovatively – skills that are useful to anybody. You never know when these specific skills may come in handy. Your bloggers here at aren’t professional computer programmers, but even we need to write code sometimes to do our jobs. These aren’t skills we simply picked up. If we weren’t fortunate enough to learn them in school, we wouldn’t be able to do our current jobs properly!


Think about some of the cool innovations from the past few decades: laptops, iPods, Facebook, HDTVs, smart phones, wireless internet, and much, much more. They’ve all been created by computer programmers. If the workforce of tomorrow doesn’t have the skills or tools it needs to innovate, how can we expect innovation?


Any additional thoughts? Let us have it in the comments!

Together-Everyone-Achieves-More! GO, TEAM!

Students’ paths go a number of different ways after graduating. Many will go directly to college. Some join the military. Others enter the civilian workforce. Regardless of what people end up doing, they’ll often find themselves working with others. In short, teamwork is a crucial skill for pretty much everybody in today’s day and age. If the purpose of school is to prepare kids for adulthood, shouldn’t collaborative learning and problems revolving around teamwork be used more frequently in middle and high schools? We believe so, as does a prominent education blogger.


The harsh reality is that once people leave high school, society assumes they’re an adult. Whether or not they’re prepared to do so, their first day on the job, in college, or wherever they go will expect them to be ready. If they’re not prepared to do what many expect of them (work with others), they’ll fall behind. At a time when less and less college freshmen are academically ready, this is an alarming trend.


As a teacher, it falls to you to make sure your students are ready for the real world. Are your students good at Chemistry and foreign languages? That’s great for IQ, but EQ (Emotional Quotient) will get them through life.


What do you think teachers should do to help their students develop teamwork skills? Let us know in the comments!

Are You Underinsured?

Many drivers make the mistake of thinking that they’re fully covered once they have auto insurance. Unfortunately, like most lessons taught in school, it’s not that simple.


You can find affordable car insurance, sign your policy, pay your bill and then discover after it’s too late that you’re on the hook for expenses because you didn’t purchase enough auto coverage.


To avoid this, we recommend you spend a few minutes with an expert who can help you determine exactly how much coverage you need. has licensed agents available Monday through Saturday toll free at 1-800-483-2243


First, an agent will want to know the basics: Are you married? Do you have kids? Do you own a home? All of these are key factors for an auto insurance company when they’re helping you determine coverage levels.


Next, you’ll want to find out about bodily injury coverage. In some states, the minimum required is as little as $15,000 for an injury to one person and $30,000 for injuries to multiple people. This can make for cheap auto insurance. But you may not be fully protected. For example, if you’re the driver in an accident that hurts four people and their medical bills average $15,000 each, the total amount would be $60,000. That means you’ll have to pay the $30,000 difference between the $60,000 in damages and the $30,000 limit. Had you opted for a policy with coverage up to $100,000 – and that might only cost a few dollars more a month – you’d be fully covered. It’s definitely something to think about when you’re choosing affordable auto insurance.


Another consideration is property damage. Some states require only a $5,000 minimum for this coverage. That works if you hit someone in an old car. Hit a brand new BMW, though, and you’re going to pull out the checkbook. And, again, this can be avoided for what is often only a nominal increase in your premium.


Bottom line: just because you have an insurance policy doesn’t mean you’re adequately insured. Whether you get a quote online or over the phone, take a few extra minutes to get “A+” coverage.

The Cell Phone – Multitasking – Social Development Connection

Have you ever heard somebody say they’re a good multi-tasker? It seems like there’s always that one student who insists they study better when listening to music (or something like that).  They could be the exception to the rule, but it’s more likely they’re overestimating their abilities – studies show most people are not good at multitasking. This shouldn’t come as much of a shock; by multitasking, we’re not giving anything all of our focus and we end up doing everything more poorly. But multitasking isn’t just affecting kids’ grades anymore—it could be hindering social development.


That’s right; a survey of almost 3,500 American “tween” girls shows that it stunts communication abilities. Have you ever had a conversation with somebody who’s simultaneously texting or sending e-mails? Did they completely ignore your body language? Did you think it was rude? You’re not alone. Many people agree with you: it is rude! The difference is, adults who do it have probably developed their social skills, for better or worse. They can function without their phones and can make eye contact, understand sarcasm, etc. if need be. Children who constantly do it are developing their social skills to speak without making eye contact, treat their friends as less important than their phones, and perceive texting with higher priority than face-to-face interaction. This could seriously hinder their relationships as they grow older.


So what’s a parent and/or teacher to do? Hopefully asking your kids to stop texting so much would work, but if it doesn’t, whip out your phone when they’re asking you a question.


Have a better idea for how to get kids to turn their attention away from their phones? Let us know in the comments!

Grading tests? There’ll be an app for that.

If you’ve ever assigned a series of essays, you know how daunting grading all of them can be. Now imagine that you’re a state department of education, ACT, Inc., or another organization with literally thousands of essays to grade. How long do you think that takes? Days? Weeks? If the Hewlett Foundation has anything to say about it, no time at all, thanks to its contest to create new software that will automate the grading process.


There’s no consensus on whether multiple choice tests or essay tests are more effective. Multiple choice tests are much less subjective and a much more logical venue for simply testing knowledge. Conversely, it’s almost impossible to cheat off of another student during essay tests and making wild guesses that prove nothing about one’s knowledge almost never work. As it currently stands, multiple choice tests are much more common if there’s a time crunch since they can be graded so quickly. We look forward to this contest bearing some fruit!


We wonder how effective any essay test grading automation would be also. How would any type of software react to humor or an uncommon analogy that hasn’t been programmed?  Is it even possible to sense if a paper has a consistent flow and train of thought? We look forward to finding out.


Have a great weekend, everyone!

Homework-sharing sites: helpful or harmful?

It almost goes without saying that in education, technology can be both your ally and enemy. So when Slader– the homework-helping site aiming to list every answer to every math textbook –was launched, math teachers realized they couldn’t just assign even-numbered problems. Now there could be a workaround.


It seems like it could be a harmful idea, but is it? Like it or not, students have been sharing answers with each other for decades. Yes, this will probably make it much easier. However, if used properly, it could be very useful. If a student legitimately tries the problem set, how is him checking that he did the problem correctly detrimental to his learning? Cliff’s Notes (or maybe SparkNotes today) can be used to bypass reading while still writing a decent essay. It can also be used to complement reading and give a better understanding. Like it or not, students have all sorts of methods to expend minimal effort and still get decent grades. It might not hurt their GPA, but it sets up lazy habits that could harm them in the long run.


So what side are you on? Are tools like these good or bad for the learning experience? Are they an inevitability that you can’t avoid so you might as well embrace them? See you in the comments!


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