Current Events, Entertainment

Social Media: Have we gone too far?

Social media on Smartphone

While I realize as a writer and I may have a different outlook on social media than others due to the simple fact that it the primary gateway for me to keep a pulse on the thoughts of potential readers; it occurred to me today that sometimes it is all too much.  Personally, professionally and even socially.

Today I found myself working between social media access instead of the other way around.  Before 9 a.m. today I had Facebooked, tweeted, emailed, texted, iTuned, iPaded and even went old-school and used my laptop.  When I go out of the house I am now finding myself juggling my purse, phone and some other kind of electronics.  Next week we are taking an last minute road-trip before summer ends and as we pack we are not just packing electronics but downloading movies, TV shows and games on our devices to past the time in the car.  Whatever happened to fighting with your siblings in the backseat?

Just a few days ago a group of people I am close with made a secret group on Facebook so we can share photos, etc. in a safe space because of other peoples’ issues.  That is where, while I was glad to have the capabilities to make that secret group, the fact that we have that option and have to use it really made me take a step back and wonder how we got here.

Then this morning, a comical exchange on social media occurred when a small group of virtual friends got into a discussion over the fact that just about all of us had been either unfollowed or blocked by a certain someone.  Why?  Because he didn’t like something we had each said to him at different times over the past few months?  We all live in different states or providences, have never met in person and while our comments to each other are normally oozing with sarcasm and smurkiness – Someone felt compelled to  flip the twitch on us because he disagreed with us on something most likely mundane and inconsequential.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am ALL FOR cutting people out of your life if they have repeatedly hurt you, used you, taken advantage of you; in fact I highly recommend it.  Family, long-time friends, neighbors, etc. if that individual doesn’t appreciate you or add anything at all positive to your life, then hell yeah, let them go.

I just saw that Sean King, one of the voices of the Black Lives Matter movement blocked  conservative pundit/columnist Michelle Malkin from his Twitter account.  All that shows to me is that King is a child and can’t defend his argument so he cuts off one of his detractors because he can’t respond to her line of questioning.  It is that simple.  If you are a person with a strong conviction about something, you should be able to defend it against your more ardent detractors.  If you can’t do that, then you need to find a way to do it or else your cause is a lost one.

The Other Side of the Coin

I know people who are on Facebook that never post, never comment, never engage in anything.  So, why are they there?  To see what everyone else is doing and keep up on gossip.  I have a relative that has literally posted one thing in the past year but when we get together all she talks about is seeing this and that on Facebook about everyone under the sun. So you know that she is on there for the wrong reason.

Now, these people deserve to be deleted, unfriended, blocked and anything else you can do to them.

Conclusion

Social media has taken on a life of its own.  While for many it is just a fun way to share your day with family and friends who may live far away or those you don’t get to see very often.  But the marketing world has moved us all to a new level where they now use social media as their primary source of contact with potential clients and customers.  It seems like social media has become saturated with subliminal advertising and it is becoming harder and harder to even find your posts among the ever-growing litany of ads.

So, before you hit that unfriend or block button, really think about it and how it makes you look.  Are you being reasonable or, are you that kid in the sandbox when you were six who marched off because someone took his favorite shovel?

Uncategorized

The Civil Suit: The Estate of Kevin Ward, Jr. v. Anthony Wayne Stewart

Civil Justice

On August 7, 2015 at 2:43 PM the family of Kevin Ward, Jr. filed Civil Index Number CA2015-000280 with the Supreme Court of Lewis County in rural Lowville, New York against Anthony Wayne Stewart.  Many have questioned the timing of the filing, since the incident in question was just two days shy of its one year anniversary. Some speculated that the Ward Family may have wanted to take advantage of the additional public attention due to the fact that Stewart, the plaintiff, was in nearby Watkins Glen for the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup road race for the weekend.

While I certainly cannot read the collective mind of the Ward Family, it may have more to do with the summonsing process. In New York, a filer has three years from the date of an incident to file a civil suit.  If the summons is delivered within the State of New York, the plaintiff has 20 days to reply to the summons, otherwise, the plaintiff has 30 days to reply.

With that piece of knowledge, we can assume that Tony was served the summons on either Saturday, August 8th, or Sunday, the 9th.  Therefore, a response will need to be prepared and filed by Tony’s legal team on or about the 28th.  A settlement prior to this date is an option as well.

The Interview

Based on this August 14th interview with CBS News, the parents of Kevin Ward, Jr. are adamant, they want justice for their son.  When presented with the two major facts in this case, the Ward’s still blame Stewart.  Mrs. Ward said,

“I wish he has never gotten out of the car, I really do, but I also acknowledge the fact that if Tony would have stayed low on the track and not gunned his engine and headed for my son, my son would still be here.”

Mrs. Ward certainly chose her words carefully.  There was no acceptance of responsibility, only recognition that he got out of the car.  Not that he shouldn’t have, not that it was wrong, against the track rules or anything of that nature.  Only that she wishes he never got out.  The rest of her quote highlights what we could expect as the focal points of their argument in the civil case; their belief that Tony purposefully went high, gunned his engine and headed for their son.  

When asked about the marijuana in her son’s system, Mrs. Ward refutes the findings of the official investigation, “I do not believe my son was impaired.”  Do they have some evidence that has not been made public that can negate the findings of the toxicology reports?  Are they hinting at misconduct on the part of Ontario County?  I can think of no other way they can make these findings go away.  

These two major points; their son exiting his vehicle under caution and pointing at Tony’s car and the other, the fact that the official investigation found marijuana in their son’s system, enough to be determined to be “judgement impaired,” were most likely the key findings, along with the evaluation of the video of the incident, that lead to no criminal charges being levied against Tony Stewart.

Mr. Ward concluded with interview saying, “There is no doubt he (Stewart) knew what he was doing and it was Tony’s car that revved that motor.”

Series and Track Rules for 2014

The complaint filed in this civil suit, which, we might add, demands for a jury trial, lists 55 factual allegations I’ll addressed in a few paragraphs.   We have learned that the sprint cars were all equipped with one-way radios allowing race officials to communicate with drivers.  One question we were able to answer is whether or not the 2014 Eastern Sprint Series Rulebook explicitly stated that drivers would be penalized for exiting a vehicle under caution. It does not.  But it does clearly address the use of narcotics.

C.4 A violation of any rule relating to abusive conduct, intoxicants or narcotics and unauthorized contact with track officials may be subject to immediate suspension without a warning.   

They also address “rough riding”:

C.5 A driver determined to be rough riding may be black flagged and/or immediately suspended and is subject to a loss of up to 100 points per infraction. He/she is also subject to being placed in the scratch position for a designated number of A-Main races not to exceed 2 races per infraction.

We also found  the Canandaigua Motorsports Park’s 2015 track rules. Under Procedural Rules:

  1. No drinking of alcohol or ingestion of any intoxicants by any participants allowed at any time before or during the racing program, or any evidence there of by any driver, owner or crew member.
  1. Any driver involved in an accident, spin, or has a mechanical failure on the track MUST stay in their car until the Safety Crew arrives. If there is imminent danger of fire or leaking fluids you may exit the car and stand as close to the car as possible. If you exit your car you will be  penalized.

Yet, we have no way of knowing if these rules were added for the 2015 season or if they were indeed in effect for 2014. Hopefully this is something that Stewart’s legal team can determine.

Complaint Specifics

Reading through the complaint, there are items that the Ward’s state as fact that might be more opinion than fact.

No. 7: This item discusses the rules that all drivers agree to prior to racing focusing on exactly how drivers are supposed to respond to a yellow flag.  While it goes into detail about drivers needing to go either down low or up high to avoid a disabled vehicle, it conveniently does not mention that drivers are required to stay in their vehicles which, we are told, is always mentioned in the drivers’ meeting regardless of the series.

No. 13: “During the aforesaid final race on August, 9, 2014, Tony Stewart killed Kevin Ward, Jr.”

Did Tony Stewart cause the death of Kevin Ward, Jr.?  Based on the fact that criminal charges were not issued for Stewart, I have an issue with this declaration.  I and others doubt that Tony even saw him. 

No. 18:  “While the race was under a caution, Kevin Ward, Jr. exited his vehicle and made his way a short distance down the track on foot. While the race was under a caution flag, 13 other cars passed Ward on the low side of the track before Stewart made his way all around the track to the point where he was approaching Kevin Ward, Jr.  – and 6 cars safely passed Ward while standing on the track.”

Was Ward “standing” on the track? I don’t think his feet ever stopped moving.

No. 19:  “ Unlike the other race car drivers who had just passed Kevin A. Ward, Jr., instead of going low on the track per regulations of the event, Stewart came up the track directly toward Kevin Ward, Jr.”

This issue was clearly addressed in the press conference by Ontario County DA Michael Tantillo on September 24, 2014.  Tantillo said, “The videos did not demonstrate any aberrational driving by Tony Stewart until the point of impact with Kevin Ward.” It is worth mentioning that there was also a video, Tantillo mentions, that was the track video, which he stated was of better quality than the amateur video that most of us saw.

No. 20:  “As Stewart’s car approached Ward, who was standing on the track, Stewart climbed up, gunned his engine, causing his 700 horsepower vehicle to slide and strike Ward with his right rear tire, crushing Ward and flinging his body an estimated 25 feet down the track.”

No. 22:  “Upon information and belief, all other drivers who passed by Ward while he was standing on the track, easily were able to avoid Ward.”

Again, Ward was not standing on the track, he was actually moving even closer to on-coming traffic than when the previous six cars past.  He was waiting for Stewart and as Stewart’s car neared, Ward moved even closer.  Some even feel that Ward grabbed the wing of Stewart’s car. 

In some later declarations of fact in the summons, we start to see the Ward Family insinuate that Kevin was financially responsible for his parents.  

No. 39: “Prior to his death, Kevin Ward, Jr. was an able bodied man who devoted himself to the welfare and comfort of his family, who contributed substantially to the comfort, support and well being of his adult parents, who worked regularly for his father’s business – and who, but for being killed, would have one day taken over his father’s business.”

According to Kevin Ward, Jr.’s obituary, he was employed at his dad’s company, Westward Painting, in the roles of “head mechanic and painter.”  Junior worked for Senior, not the other way around.  So the argument that he contributed to their support is misleading.  Unless the Ward’s can prove that Junior handled the family finances, paid the bills and his paycheck was vital to their day-to-day survival, this is a distortion if not outright lie.  According to a records search, Westward Painting was started in 1992-93 and Kevin Ward, Sr. is the sole proprietor; Kevin, Jr. wasn’t even born yet. Unless the Ward’s can prove that Kevin, Jr. was the only one with the skills to be head mechanic and painter and that the business could never be sold or that no other member of the Ward Family was capable of taking over the business, this is not true at all.

Conclusion

The declarations go on to mention much of what we have all read in the past year, the Ward Family’s insistence that Tony’s behavior is what should be in question and no one else’s.  There is absolutely no mention of Ward, Jr.’s impaired judgment or drug use or even a hint that he played a role in his own death.

After reading through this complaint, now, more than ever, I would like to see Tony’s legal team respond to this complaint with their own list of declarations of fact.  The Ward Family has said repeatedly they want justice for their son.  I have looked through a whole series of synonyms for this word, and no where did I see the word “revenge.” Unfortunately, I think the Ward Family, confused by their pain, are not seeing the fine line between the two.

Current Events, People of Interest

Tony Stewart: Where there is Smoke, There’s Fire … and Kevin Ward, Sr.

Anthony Wayne Stewart
Anthony Wayne Stewart

In the past year, I made every effort *not* to publicly comment on the events that took place on August 9, 2014 at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in Western New York State.  Having grown up in an area steep in racing tradition and having spent more than my share of Saturday nights sitting in Turn 1 of our local track breathing in the fumes and listening to the roar of the engines echo off the landscape, I have always loved racing.  Today, I have friends who race at the same track we spent our teen years at, even family who race there as well.  I have watched some horrific wrecks and was even witness to a driver dying as his car hit Turn 1.

In the beginning, I could understand the anger in the comments made by Kevin Ward, Sr.  He and his family were hurting, seeing the hopes and dreams of someone they loved so deeply cut short in an instant.   Even after the criminal investigation was over and the grand jury decided not to charge Tony Stewart, fans could still understand their emotions. Yet the grand jury decision was due in no small part to the two major facts that Kevin Ward, Sr. seems to conveniently or selectively ignore:

  1. Kevin Ward, Jr. got out of his car
  2. Kevin Ward, Jr. was under the influence of marijuana

We have all watched the video and there are just some pieces of the puzzle that make us ask, “What in the hell is Kevin Ward, Sr. thinking?”  I can certainly relate to his pain; my family has suffered the loss of a few young and vibrant loved ones who died in accidents where they took chances, risks that were directly related to their deaths.  It is worth noting that each were doing something that they loved, just like Kevin Ward. Jr.

Here are some rhetoricals that I can’t seem to work through …

Would Kevin Ward, Jr. have gotten out of his car and gone after the 14 Car if it hadn’t been Tony Stewart behind the wheel?

Here is where it gets down to the heart of the matter.  Did Ward, Jr. have a history of getting out of his car when it wrecked, in direct violation of track rules and regulations? Had he done this before?  Was this standard operating procedure for him? According to reports, he had been involved in racing since his age was in single digits so it would go without saying that at some point it would have (or should have) been pounded into his head that you do not get out of the car until the safety crew arrives.

We’ve been told that Ward, Jr. was a charismatic individual, it’s quite possible that he felt he had something to prove with Stewart on the track with him that night.  Going after Stewart would have been something to talk about after the fact over a few beers in the pits.  Probably a pat on the back from his dad as well.

Did Kevin Ward, Jr. get his hotheadedness from his father?

Ward, Sr. and other family members have not shied away from the press or social media in the past year. They have been almost belligerent to the facts that came out of the official investigation.They clearly want to place blame anywhere but on Ward, Jr.  Even after the video, when slowed down and analysed, shows Ward Jr. making his way down the apron waiting for Stewart to come around under the caution.  Once Stewart is in view, Ward. Jr. goes even further down the apron and some believe even grabbed on to the back right wing of Stewart’s car which caused Stewart’s car to fishtail toward Ward. Jr. causing him to get caught under the back tires.  The video clearly shows the back right wing being brought down, most likely by the weight of Ward, Jr.’s body.

Now, putting these three things together, I just can’t grasp how the Ward Family can place blame on Tony Stewart.  Did Tony tell Ward, Jr. to go against track rules and get out of his car?  Did Tony tell him to make his way down the apron as cars passed?  Did Tony tell him to come closer still to the 14 Car as it drove by under caution?  And, did Tony tell him to grab the wing of the 14 Car?

Did it ever occur to the Ward Family that the marijuana might have caused Ward, Jr.’s initial accident with Stewart?

Does the Ward Family really want us to completely forget that Ward. Jr had “enough marijuana in his system to impair his judgement”? (Source: here and here – added 8/13/15) Is it possible that his impaired judgement and not Tony Stewart caused the initial accident and then, to literally add insult to injury, the impaired Ward gets out of his car, heads down the apron into on coming traffic and once Stewart’s car comes into view, he goes even further down the apron and actually grabs Stewart’s car?

Yet, all of this is Tony’s fault?  I supposed Tony gave him the pot too?

Who knew that Ward, Jr. had smoked pot before getting into his race car?

These are the tough questions that no reporter wants to ask.  Based on lab reports, Ward, Jr. would have had to ingest the pot within a few hours before his death.  That means, most likely, he smoked it at the track.  I hope Aunt Wendi, who claims that Ward, Jr. was with family for the 10 hours leading up to his death grasps the levity here.  Clearly, Wendi and Ward, Sr. are brother and sister – facts cloud their version of the truth.  According to the toxicology reports, at the time of death, the pot in Ward, Jr.’s system was at a level that is defined as “judgement impaired.”  So, someone had to smell it on him, someone had to see his red eyes or the other physical signs that he was high.  Did Ward, Jr’s pit crew and friends know he was high when he got behind the wheel?  He would have had to smoke it sometime after racing officially started at 7 pm. If reports are correct that he died between 9 and 10 pm, the Ward Family has a rough road ahead if they want a jury to believe that Stewart was directly responsible for their son’s death.  It would be hard to believe that no one at the track knew that Ward, Jr. had recently smoked pot or quite possibly smoked it there. Did his family know he smoked on occasion?

Now, the Ward Family has filed a civil suit against Stewart, just days before the one year anniversary of their son’s death.  According to USA Today;

“The suit claims that Stewart caused the accident that crashed Ward Jr.’s car initially, and citing his “unique race car and driving skills” and “extreme skill and control over his car” acted recklessly in revving his engine and not steering clear of Ward Jr. in the aftermath as other cars had. Ward Jr. died of blunt force trauma.”

“The suit does not state what the Ward family is seeking in damages. The suit contains four actions: wrongful death; terror, pain and suffering prior to death; intentional/reckless conduct; and gross negligence.”

“New York law dictates that the suit can only collect for the future loss of expected earnings or care Ward Jr. would have generated. No figure is included in the suit.”

It is my guess that the Ward Family is banking on the fact that Stewart is going to settle before going through the publicity of a jury trial in the middle of racing season.

I fail to see how the court case has legitimacy if Ward, Jr. was only 20 years-old and not financially responsible for his parents.  If Ward, Jr. had a wife or children, then yes, the legal system would expect his future earnings to support his family, but not his parents.  Wouldn’t attorneys have to prove that Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Ward, Sr. were being financially supported by their 20 year old son?  If someone with some legal expertise could comment, that would be great.

My final question is this;  If Kevin Ward, Jr.’s death did not involve a high-profile, established (and wealthy) NASCAR driver and instead it involved Billy Bob Rivers who raced cars on the weekends and worked Monday through Friday at the local Pep Boys, would the Ward Family be taking Billy Bob to court?

Uncategorized

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

musingmaryann:

Proud to share this blog post from my like-minded friend Lucie – she sees the hypocrisy in this that most of us do. While the hunt of this lion is not something that I support, it pales in comparison to what has been transpiring with Planned Parenthood and the selling of baby parts for profit. Is a Lamborghini really worth it? For anyone with an even semi-functioning moral compass, I would hope the answer is no. Happy Reading!

Originally posted on Life Lines by Lucie:

Everyone knows this song recorded by The Tokens. The lion in my article is Cecil, a 13 year-old Zimbabwe lion. According to officials, Dr. Walter Palmer, a dentist from Minnesota, allegedly paid $50,000 to facilitate a lion hunt. Palmer was told permits were secured and the hunt was legit. Whatever the story, Palmer, with the aid of 2 Zimbabweans, tracked and killed the lion.

The outrage against Dr. Palmer is rabid and viral. The death threats are so intense Dr. Palmer has gone into hiding. His home and dental practice are besieged by protestors dressed as dentist hunters who toss stuffed lions at the buildings. PETA wasted no time calling for Dr. Palmer’s death by hanging. Tributes to the fallen lion include celebrities calling Palmer a ‘poor excuse for a human being’1. Jimmy Kimmel, on his ABC talk show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, choked up while speaking about it…

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Current Events, MSM, People of Interest

Liberty Mutual and Planned Parenthood: Is There a Connection?

  LM_China-RGB  pp

Since the public release of the damning undercover videos of Planned Parenthood (PP)  staffers and administrators discussing the harvesting of organs as part of their abortion process many Americans have taken a sincere interest in where PP gets their funding.

Many Americans feel that the federal government should not fund agencies like this, the left feel it is a vital part of their “woman’s right to choose” mantra.  Yet, even the most ardent of left-wingers are hesitant to jump into the cesspool that is growing in PP’s backyard.   They are beginning to sense that PP’s marketing and public relations teams have done an admirable job of keeping their reality out of the eye of the general public … until now.

Many news sources have been sharing lists of companies who support Planned Parenthood.  My family and I have been with Liberty Mutual for over 15 years and have enjoyed a great relationship with the staff in our local office and those we have dealt with at regional and corporate offices the few times that we have had to make claims.   I have always been quick to recommend them to people looking for  good insurance company because we have had such a positive experience for so long.

When I saw that Liberty Mutual was on the list of those giving to PP, I did what I often do, I do my own research and make sure that the information that has been shared with me is correct.

Yesterday, I texted Liberty Mutual my question and below you have their response:

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About an hour ago I got a call from a representative from Liberty Mutual’s corporate headquarters in Boston to follow up on my Twitter query.  I must admit that I was impressed that they responded in less than 24 hours.

The woman, named Kristine, explained the following to me.  While LM doesn’t directly fund PP through corporate grants and the like, PP *is* one of the 7500 non-profits that LM employees can donate to via payroll deductions.  Additionally, LM matches employee donations to the tune of 50 cents to the dollar.

I then asked how a non-profit is put on this list of 7500 non-profits.  She said that if an employee has a non-profit that they want to support and is not on the list, they can submit the non-profit for consideration to be added to the list.  As long as the non-profit is a 501c3 in good standing, they will add it to the list for employees to donate to, and for the company to match, again, 50 cents to the dollar.

I explained my objections to my money being indirectly put in the hands of PP and she was very open to my comments and thoughts.  I asked that she consider passing my thoughts up the chain to the decision makers in the hopes that they may reconsider including PP on their list of charities/non-profits.

If they do not publicly share the removal of PP from their list of non-profits, we plan on changing insurance companies.  Why?  Because we are at a point in our lives where we need to make sure our money is being used for things that we support and in all honesty, the more Americans who make this decision, the sooner we can orchestrate change in the right direction.

Current Events, Entertainment

AMC’s TURN: One of The Best Things On

Renew Turn

Every once in a while, a TV show comes along that just grabs you.  For whatever reason, and it is hard to admit it, it almost consumes you because it is just that good.  For myself and millions of Americans, TURN on AMC has become that show.

At first it was the allure of seeing what it was like living in the Colonies during the American Revolution.  Yes, we had long since sat through the films in school and read our Social Studies textbooks but from the moment AMC started promoting this show, there was just a different feel about it.  I got excited and started ingesting anything and everything I could find about the show before it even aired!  The series follows the unexpected evolution of what would become known as the Culper Spy Ring, whose main members were childhood friends in the town of Setauket on Long Island, NY.  The first spy, a reluctant farmer named Abe Woodhull, became known under his pseudo-spy name, Mr. Culper.

Woodhull, played perfectly by British actor Jamie Bell, is brought into the spy business by way of his childhood friend, Continental Army officer Ben Tallmadge portrayed by American-born stage actor Seth Numrich.  Soon after, Abe is made aware of the fact that his old buddy Caleb is also working for Washington and not long after, they recruit strong-willed Anna Strong, played by Heather Lind.   I just have to throw this out there, I love Anna for the simple reason she has no fear to get in the face of the other three if they need a good dose of common sense.  The natural beauty of these four is that they have known each other their entire lives and this is what makes them so successful; they know each other so well that their faith in each other is unwavering.

I have watched each episode at least twice and often times three times, and I am not the least bit ashamed to admit it.  First, the casting director for this series did an incredibly stellar job with casting these characters, who, I might add, are, with a few exceptions, based on actual individuals who played a significant role in the American Revolution.  Yes, the writers have taken a few very minor liberties and strayed a bit from the historical aspects of the story making it, shall we say, sexy to be a spy for General Washington.

The acting is simply superb.  I cannot tell you how many times, as I was lost in what was happening on my TV screen, I had to remind myself that this was a TV show.  The wardrobe people, make up, I mean it is all there, every last bloody drop of a revolution.  They ingeniously wrapped the battles, the people, the day-to-day life and the inventive spirit of the time all into a nice neat little spy package.  The sub-plots are all things that we can relate to; father vs. son, love vs. loyalty, faith in your childhood friends vs. those who have never met them and the indelible thrill of trying to get away with something.

What surprisingly drew me in was the realization, as I got to know the characters in the early episodes, that these people, these farmers, traders, tavern owners, were risking everything in the name of freedom from the Crown.  I don’t know if it was just never explained to me in such a way before or if I just wasn’t able to grasp the concept in my younger years, but if this spy ring had fallen on the losing side of things at the end of the American Revolution, they would have not just lost their lives, their families who were left would have had everything taken from them as well.  The level of risk that this group of friends took on in a time where families and neighbors were warily suspicious of each other – it is almost beyond comprehension.

While it pains me to focus on just a few of the insanely talented actors that walk across my screen each Monday evening, I must admit my favorites are Ian Kahn as General George Washington and Daniel Henshall as the bravely rambunctious and often sarcastic trader-turned-spy Caleb Brewster.  Khan brings through the genius of Washington as well as his passion for the cause is nothing short of beautiful fashion.  Henshall personifies the fun of being a spy.  He is the first one to say, “Let’s do this!” and the first one to volunteer for the most dangerous of duties, all with the smile of a Cheshire cat.  Idara Victor does an amazing job as a former slave turned house maid of British Major John Andre.  Idara’s character Abigail uses her position in the André household to collect information that she shuttles back and forth to the others right under the trusting eye of her master.

Yet, beyond the story, beyond the acting and the costumes, for me, the true value of this show is that it gives me the patriotic opportunity to share this show with my teenagers to not just help them bring their school lectures to life but to also give them a sense of precisely what our Founding Fathers and everyday colonists like Abe, Anna, Caleb and Abigail were willing to risk to give us the nation we proudly call the United States of America.

Every Monday, you can find me anxiously awaiting the 10 PM EST start time, then lost for the next hour to only be left with that sinking feeling once the final credits roll and I am struck with the reality that I am going to have to wait an entire week to know what happens next!

Now we anxiously, and not so patiently await Season 3 …

Current Events, Education

Homeschooling : The First Year

home-schooling-header-copy

Homeschooling conjures up all sorts of images for Americans.  With the recent introduction of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) the number of homeschooling families has exploded in the past two years.  A concern over an untested set of standards that are controversial in their origins as well as the latitude that they give teachers to teach topics and ideologies that many believe have no place in a public school are at the heart of these decisions that more and more US parents are making.

Each family that makes this decision has their own personal story and the reasons vary from family to family.  Families with strong religious objections to what is taught in public schools, until recently were the overwhelming majority of homeschoolers.  Today, parents are making this choice for some unforeseen reasons.  Some do not want their children used as test subjects in what amounts to an experiment in public education, others do not want a social agenda pushed on their children and others still,  were left with no other choice simply because CCSS was destroying their children both emotionally and academically.

 The sudden increase in expectations and the unfounded assumption that by taking students who were more than three-fourths the way through their public school experience and telling them that they will be expected to perform at a higher level without having had the foundation and practice in prior years for many was just too much.  Being told that they would simply be expected to “catch up” was for some, the last straw.

Our family was one of those families.  With the CCSS thrusted upon school districts without giving them the necessary time to internalize the Standards, discover how to put them into a framework for the school setting, and most importantly, prepare the much-needed in-services or conferences to give teachers a clear understanding of the expectations – teachers all across America are simply floundering and our students are paying the price.

Students with mild learning disabilities were being overrun with unattainable expectations and teachers were so weighted down with preparing materials, reporting student learning objectives and simply figuring out, often by trial and error, what the hell they are supposed to be doing.  In our case, after three major attempts to reach out to teachers and ask for implementation of specifics from our student’s IEP (Individualized Education Plan) we were almost forced into homeschooling.

We are presently winding down the last few weeks of our first semester of homeschooling, we have found that it has been the best thing for us.  Because we had the ability to slow things down, work at our own pace and analyze our student, we have been able to clearly see where strengths and weaknesses are and fill in the holes and gaps that were left uncorrected for the sake of expediency in the formal classroom.

Thankfully, our student is very self-motivated and has, for the most part, worked through Algebra as an independent study.  Because of the mild learning disability that we were presented with, areas like Social Studies and English Language Arts, have required us to have very unique teaching tools.   Yet, by knowing your child already and knowing how they work both personally and academically, our student has flourished and regained confidence that was torn down by the ineffective teachers that were simply perpetuating the misconception that if you throw more content at students that they will learn more.

Many critics of homeschooling scream about things like socialization, elitism, little monitoring, etc.  Then there is my favorite, “You are destroying public education by being selfish.”  This article from the Daily Kos answered the “selfish” question the same way we do –  “Stay and work from within, at the cost of my son’s future? I don’t think so.”

The reality is that with more and more parents homeschooling co-ops and social events are planned which makes the socialization question moot. Just about every area of every state has a Facebook page for homeschooling parents to plan co-op, social events and share information and programs.  Elitism?  The wealthy have been sending their students to prep schools and other private schools for over a century, some more for convenience than anything else, and no one has batted an eye.  Monitoring? A decade ago many states had no real regulations for homeschooling parents; that has changed dramatically.  In our state parents have to submit a detailed curriculum, quarterly grades and also take a end-of-the-year proficiency exam (they give us several choices).

Others are concerned that homeschooling will have a negative effect on our student’s post-secondary options.  More and more colleges and even major universities are opening their doors to homeschoolers.  There are many online programs that, in the end, give you an accredited diploma that is accepted at the overwhelming majority of major US universities.  Yet, even if you choose your own curriculum, without an official diploma, that still doesn’t mean much anymore.  Entrance exams like the SAT and ACT can tell a university what they need to know about what a student really has learned from homeschooling along with taking SAT II Subject Tests.  Colleges and universities are looking for well-rounded students more than anything else.

For now, we are following the same general content as the students in public school, but at our own pace and with our own emphasis and there are more than enough resources available free online that we honestly spent less than $100 on textbooks for the school year.  Keep in mind that there are hundreds of websites that resell used textbooks at deeply discounted prices.  Do not just depend on Amazon or Barnes and Noble for textbooks.  I am an avid reader and several year ago found http://www.thriftbooks.com/ .  This was a goldmine for textbooks.  We actually found everything but the workbook for Social Studies on this site.  In fact, the Algebra textbook we wanted was only $9.  Another great thing about this site is that when your order is over $10, shipping is free.

If you find yourself in the predicament where you have to choose between your child’s future or allowing the public schools to destroy them, know that homeschooling can work and with enough planning, thought and input from your student, it can be awesome!