Monday, July 26, 2010

Lemonade Stand Economics

Most people think the recipe for lemonade is water, sugar and lemons.

In my house, it's kids, boredom, and 100+ degree summer heat.

This past weekend, with record temperatures outside and rampant boredom inside, my kids decided to test their entrepreneurial muscles with an old fashioned lemonade stand. They didn't know it at the time, but their fun activity was really summer school in disguise, with lessons in marketing, economics, mathematics and social studies.

It also proved to be a good learning laboratory for management. Overheard: "Delaney, enough cookies. You're eating all the profits!"

Much to my surprise, my kids turned a healthy profit, before succumbing to the scorching sun. Of course, it's easier to make money when your venture capital firm (Dad) doesn't require you to pay back the small business loan, instead forgiving it in exchange for a tall glass with extra ice.

Reminded me a little of a Reading Rainbow episode from years ago. Levar Burton connects the lemonade stand to the New York Stock Exchange while teaching kids about math, and also visits with Nantucket Nectors, the "Juice Guys."

Maybe this exercise in small business will mean I've raised a couple Juice Guys of my own. I hope so: I could use some free Half & Half...

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Power of Books in the Home

Can simply having more books in the house predict your child's academic future? Does the actual number of books make a difference?

An interesting study of households around the world provides some insight -- and showcases the power of books, and why strong reading skills can be a jump-start to academic success.

Of course, most people associate home "libraries" with affluence, but even in poor and rural parts of China, children in families with the most books in the home get the most education.

This is true even when controlling for factors like parental education, parents occupations, gender, nationality, the political system of the country, and yes, even wealth.

Columnist Jay Matthews has an interesting review of the study in the Washington Post. Check it out...then go to your library, and check out a book for your child!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Inspiring Story for a Monday

Yes, I hate Mondays.

I despise Mondays that involve a flat tire before I even leave my garage most of all. (Thank you, roofing nail.)

And no, pictures of cats with crazy hair and wacky captions aren't going to do it today. Sorry.

But this story did manage to lift that Monday cloud, and I feel doubly inspired to get down to business.

I challenge you not to feel the same way, when you read the story of teenager Destiney Johnson and the man she reached out to in a time of need, Ronnie Johnson (no relation).

Ronnie's hard-scrabble life had taken a turn for the worse, and when salon owner Suzan Dickerson extended a hand with some food, he offered his prized possession as a gesture of thanks, his time-worn Bible.

Though Ronnie took great solace in the scriptures, at age 57, the book was a reminder of a secret he'd kept his whole life. Ronnie couldn't read.

So Suzan took time to read to him on occasion, trying to brighten what was otherwise a difficult struggle on a daily basis.

That's when Destiney stepped in.

She made it her mission to teach Ronnie to read. And she's using Hooked on Phonics to do it!

Destiney, you're truly an inspiration. And best wishes to you, Ronnie. You've taught us all that it's never too late, especially if you have the will...and the helping hand of someone like Destiney.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Summer Reading

As many of you know, I am the youngest of nine children, and that ranking comes with many, many nieces and nephews. Last year around this time, my oldest nephew graduated from high school and left for the Air Force Academy, while one of my nieces graduated from kindergarten. This year it’s another niece who will be attending my own alma mater, Virginia Tech, and still a different niece who will be starting kindergarten in the fall. As it turns out, for the past 14 years, I have had a niece or nephew graduate from kindergarten every year, and for the next 13 there will be one graduating high school.

Graduation, from kindergarten through high school, makes everyone think “School’s out! Off for the summer!” This brings to mind the importance of summer reading. Teachers of young students everywhere will tell you about the strain of the summer reading gap: those months between the last day of school and the first day of the new school year when students revel in their “freedom” from homework and learning, then return and have to “relearn” much of what was lost over the summer. This doesn’t just happen to struggling readers, though it’s hardest on them.

This summer, be proactive with your children. This is the time to help them see reading not as part of homework but as a leisure activity. Remember when our lives actually included leisure activities? Remember lying on the beach with a fantastic novel that you chose yourself and no one was going to quiz you about the next day? Sometimes children who are just learning to read haven’t quite grasped the luxury that reading affords. Reading is a necessity, but it can also be a luxury.

So this summer, make it a point to find lots of reading materials that will get your child excited about reading. Look not only for standard books, but for comic books and magazines and the backs of cereal boxes. If you are doing any traveling this summer, hop on the Web and find some good books about the places you’re going. Let your child help plan the vacation by reading up on it and becoming invested in the destination.

I often hear parents say their children have much more homework now than when they were children. Use this summer to give your kids a break by showing them that reading IS a break. It’s a lesson they’ll practice from kindergarten graduation throughout the rest of their lives.

Happy reading!

*Special thanks to Jennifer Young for the use of her art.