Summer Reading Challenge



As our year winds down (1 week left!), the summer months of doing nothing looms ahead…
Actually, they will be quite busy. But… I always like to make sure that our students are reading. If they are reading, they are learning.

So, they have a Reading Challenge this summer. In the past we have had a couple different challenges. Some working out better than others. The first challenge, if I remember correctly, was to just read something 5 out of the 7 days of the week. The parents took it to the next level, and required them to read 2 hours every day! I was in shock, and quietly confided to my wife that there was no way that would fly. Come to find out, they stuck with it pretty well, and it is from that summer that readers were born.

My next attempt was to cumulatively read ½ of our existing library of some 500 books. Out of our goal of 235 books, we reached about 125. Not bad, but there were some weaknesses there, of which the kids too full advantage. First of all, in order to discourage the reading of next-to-nothing picture books, I took pictures of them holding the book they just finished. That cured most, but not all of that problem. I thought I was pretty crafty. That led to another problem however, when one of my students wanted to be pictured with the LARGEST book he could find, our Atlas. And of course he read the atlas.

As I have completed 4 ½ years of teaching now, I can tell that I am starting to get more of a grasp on things. This year, I thought through our goal a little better, enlisted the kids’ input and opinion, did the math, and gauged different incentives. I even did a 1 week trial run with the worksheet to work out the recording details.

In the end, we have a cumulative (all 5 kids, and myself) goal to reach 10,000 pages, starting this last week of school, and continuing for 15 weeks over the summer, ending September 1.

Some of the “guidelines”:

– They can only re-read one book that they have read before. (It amazes me how ready they were to re-read entire series of books – for the 3rd or 4th time!)

– We will record our progress weekly.

– We will not be recording daily. That is a lesson learned from our practice week. We will just count the pages on the day the book is finished.

– The incentive is Amazon gift cards. If the first cumulative goal of 10,000 pages is meet, each kid will get a $20 gift card to be used however they want.

– The bigger incentive is a stair step reward ending up with meeting the 30,000 page goal. A $50 Amazon card!

The kids are excited, and if projections are accurate, each of the kids should end up reading 1-3 books per week this summer. As a teacher, I would be ecstatic if they end up at that pace.

Summer 2015 Weekly Reading Chart

We will see how things progress. I honestly think that they will meet it without too much help from me.

Top 5 Courses of Study


The Information Age is bringing about tremendous change. Not only in content and content delivery, but instantaneous access to ANY subject imaginable.

I have recently narrowed down what I believe are the essentials for me to emphasize to my own kids and my students.

A Love of Reading
Reason #1 – Practical. Reading really helps to be successful in college.
Reading improves your vocabulary to do better on the ACT/SAT.
Reason #2 – Joy. Whether or not a student plans on college, reading is fun! Reading excites the imagination. Reading means Life Long Learning. Reading allows you to enter the heads of so many different people. Reading allows time travel, ability to meet famous and infamous characters, and to BE THERE with those characters. To see what they see, to hear what they hear, to experience what they experience.

If I can get my kids/students to at the very least enjoy reading, my job as a teacher is practically done.

Practical, Hands On Education
Reason #1 – Spouse will greatly appreciate someone able fix those little life annoyances. Takes more time, but CAN (but not always) save money. Will ALWAYS learn something new.
Reason #2 – Builds confidence, and confidence in one area (carpentry), can bleed into attempting another area (say mechanic work).
Reason #3 – Increases job prospects.

Things every kid should learn – how to swing a hammer, how to use a skill saw, how to use a cordless drill.

Math (at least through basic Algebra, not such a fan of the higher maths – limited day-to-day application)
Reason #1 – Understand money. (see below)
Reason #2 – Understand how statistics and numbers can be manipulated to say ANYTHING, so beware.

I always think I could have majored in Math, had I been able to stay with my 7th grade Math teacher. The power of a good math teacher is evident now in Caroline able to change our Heartline students’ minds 180 degrees to enjoying math.

Reason #1 – Money is a constant in our modern lives, money is manipulated as like no other, people are manipulated like no other. Students MUST understand money.
Reason #2 – Debt is a killer. A killer of time and resources and joy. They MUST stay out!
Reason #3 – Understanding of inflation, compound interest, debt interest and fees, mortgage, and basic stock market functions allows for educated decisions.
Reason #4 – Money is Power. Money is a tool. Money is relative, its value changes. The right perspective is imperative.

Character (honesty, kindness, empathy, perseverance, self-discipline)
Reason #1 – Without character, none of the rest really matters.
Reason #2 – Without character, a really educated kid becomes a really dangerous adult to themselves, their families, and their society.
Reason #3 – A person with character is of untold value regardless of their competencies.
Reason #4 – Emphasizing character in kids is a constant reminder to consider my own.

Am I missing anything? What do you think is most important for YOUR kids to learn?

Animal Farm Academy


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Our students are quite the naturalists. Favorite activities involve lunchtime lizard/snake hunts. Thus far, just this week we have added a snake, bird, and of course the constantly caught ameiva ameivas (lizards).

So, on our school grounds we have little chirping chicks following their mother around. We have bleating goats always hungry and always wanting to be moved. We have egg laying chickens, we have soon-to-be meat chickens. We have a guard dog, that gets tied up during the daylight hours. We have geckos, inside and out. We have tarantulas. (Babies at the moment, but the mommas will soon be coming out as well, I am guessing.) We have fish in their tanks. We have woodpeckers in the trees, butterflies in the air, mosquitoes EVERYWHERE!

And that is just outside.

Small bird (604x640)

Our current indoor menagerie, housed in deceased ornamental fish’ aquariums turned terrariums, consists of a bird, 2 snakes and a couple lizards, separated from their cousins inhabiting the outdoor lizard coliseum (for some reason?).

Tragedy of the day/week – Chickens invading said coliseum and winning the gladiatorial battle between lizard and bird. Attested to by Owen, running into the room declaring that “Festus” the lizard lay in the yard torn in two. Sad, sad days. That is until lunch when the new snake is found.

The facts that I learn are quite numerous. Though I still have not learned all the differences in lizards. Names: skinks, ameiva ameivas, lizards, zandolit, tree lizards, geckos, anols.

Quote by Isaac just now… “I thought that Haiti killed all of its animals. But they really have some cool animals here.” After talking to P who informed him of boas that live around the town he is from. (P informed us that for Karnival, there are men that will feed boas alcohol and bananas, to get them drunk, and let the boas crawl on them. They are even for sale downtown. Looks like we will be having another field trip.)

So many exciting and unexpected happenings down here on the farm, er… Educational Institution.

Summer Camp!


For the second year in a row, we will be hosting a Summer Camp for English Speaking kids that live here in Haiti.

I am really excited about this year. I finally broke down and admitted that I really could use some help this time around. I am nervous, not sure how everything will work out, but excited.

For 10 weeks this summer, we will have focused, educational camps every other week. In between the camp weeks, we will host a Learning Resource Center with activities and different learning stations such as a work shop, art studio, stocked reading room, and computer lab.

The schedule is:

June 15 – 18 LRC
June 22 – 25 Art Camp
June 29 – July 2 LRC
July 6 – 9 Physical Science Camp
July 13 – 16 LRC
July 20 – 23 Sports Camp
July 27 – 30 LRC
Aug 3 – 6 Ag/Nature Camp
Aug 10 – 13 LRC
Aug 17 – 20 World Changer Camp

More information on what each camp will consist of is to come.

Camps are $50 for the week. LRC will be available for $10 per student per day.

Just let me know if there are further questions. We are working out more and more of the details all the time, so stay tuned for more information. So if you know of anyone here in Haiti who might benefit from being a part of what we are doing, feel free to pass on the information.

We had a great time last year doing something different, and will definitely have an amazing time this year as well!

Homeschooling High School with Thoughts of College


Two of the students I teach are in Middle School, and I am starting to think ahead to High School. High School age is where my interests lay. When we first came to Haiti, my wonderful co-teaching wife was the elementary expert, and I got to focus on the one High Schooler we had for two years. Since she graduated, and our family has grown, I have been the primary elementary teacher.

But time marches on. And our elementary kids are getting older, and I am thinking about High School again.

I ran across a Yahoo News article sometime back about a family who has started several of their kids in college by age 12.

My brilliant, beautiful bride started college at 16. I was completely clueless as to what college even was, just knowing that for some reason I was expected to go. (And I lucked out on that front and was gifted a very generous college scholarship, which I almost squandered. But that is another story.)

Point being that college is a common expectation for many parents, especially homeschooling parents.

The news article that I read featured the Harding family, and I ran across their book in our library’s digital section available for download. I still have not completely finished it, (I get too distracted sometimes) but found a very interesting concept I had not considered about High School credits.

The author and mother of the Harding family points out that if a student is doing High School level work, then they should get High School credit for it, whether they are High School age or not.

For some reason that struck me as making complete sense.

It made me think about our current Geography work that our “Middle Schoolers” are doing. By the end of the year, they will hand draw on a blank sheet of paper, a map of the entire world, and label the countries and their capitals along with many different features. Over 700 pieces of information

That, I would say, is far more than High School Geography level work. That, though they definitely will not remember all of it, will remain with them their entire lives. And that, I believe is the purpose of education.

I think they should get credit for that.

So this year, I will be starting their High School transcript, and at the age of 13, technically 7th graders, they will have a credit for High School Geography.

This revelation opens up so many possibilities, if the kids are ready, they can go ahead. If they complete all the High School standards that you want to require of them, then they can go ahead and start college classes. Even college classes can count towards High School credit. Dual credit courses are being done in High Schools all the time now.

The possibilities are quite exciting to me. I look forward to what these kids will do, and my mind boggles at all the options my kids (ages 3 and under) will have in just 10 years.

‘Getting Out of the 4 Walls’ i.e. Field Trips in Haiti


This year a priority for me has been to start getting the kids out more. To see more of Haiti, to take advantage of what we do have available to us. To experience different organizations, businesses, sights, smells, and sounds.

As you know, logistics in Haiti can be quite daunting. So though I wanted to be ambitious and go out on a field trip every other week, I decided to be more conservative and hope for once a month. And thus far, we are on track.

We have…

Participated in a rabies vaccination program in St. Marc (thank you so very much, Kelly the Vet)

Seen Haiti Recycling in action

Fed the fish and (brought some home) from Operation Blessing’s tilapia farm

And our last field trip we toured the largest flour mill in the Caribbean (thank you Eric and Marc)

Here are some pictures from the flour mill field trip…


Flour Mill 6 (640x480)

Les Moulins D’Haiti (The Mill of Haiti)

Flour Mill 3 (480x640)

We were lucky and caught a ship unloading, while the weather was overcast and somewhat damp. We hear that normally there is quite the dust storm while they unload.

Flour Mill 5 (480x640)

Vertical Grain storage for good old American wheat.

Flour Mill 4 (480x640)

The large building in front of us to the left is flat storage for Russian wheat.

Flour Mill 7 (480x640)

One of the warehouses that will be emptied/sold out in one day!

Thanks go out to Marc, a manager at the mill, for a wonderful tour. They conduct tours for school groups on a regular basis. So if you need a tour in English, French, Kreyol, Dutch, or German, just let me know, and I will get you his contact information.

The mill is rather remarkable. All brand new, modern equipment, computer controlled, and I believe that it was very good for the kids to see and realize that there really can be first world operations in Haiti.

And it feels easier to have access to such modern manufacturing facilities than it would be in the States.


So, are there any other ideas out there for other places we could take 5-10 curious pre-teens and teenagers?

‘Digital Natives’ ?



The term first came to my attention through an interview with the founder of FUBU. He mentioned how young American consumers have changed. In the past they HAD to have the latest styles of clothes and would spend their money on the latest and most fashionable every few months. But now as “digital natives”, they are content with t-shirts and jeans, but now they have grown up with technology and HAVE to have the latest and greatest electronic device.

That term ‘digital native’, describes exactly what Becky and I have mentioned in the recent past. How kids nowadays have always had access to technology, where we grew into technology, contrasted with our parents who had to adapt to technology.

An article I noticed today talking about new teachers, uses this term to describe the incoming generation of educators. The author tells how they “constantly use technology to communicate and to access information and this generation sees access to high-speed Internet and devices as a given.”

The potential consequences of this new digital age are intriguing and much will still be learned.

My guess of the effect on TCK’s is that they would in general be a little behind their peers in the States in adopting the latest and greatest. (As I believe they are somewhat behind the newest fashions and fads. Not a bad thing!) They definitely have access to technology, but perhaps not the latest, and in some/many cases having inconsistent internet access can slow things down.

An advantage for parents that I can imagine, is that TCK’s are more likely to have to depend on their parents for gateway access to technology, having less contact with peers showing them how to use the latest apps and such. That would give parents more time and influence to teach their kids to use technology responsibly.

Times are changing. I ruefully look at my library, and know my physical books that I grew up with are outdated, old, falling apart, (getting eaten by termites) getting replaced with e-books, and blog posts, and apps, and…

There are pros and cons to every change, every revolution. I personally am looking forward to learning more about both the benefits and challenges in this Information Age that we have been in for some time now. And especially how it is affecting education.

Are there ways that your TCK “digital natives” are using technology in school that you feel help their education? Are their ways that your “digital natives” are using technology that may hurt their education?

Need Help?



Have you ever needed help with the education of your kids while living abroad? I’d like to help your students by providing tutoring for subjects of difficulty and coaching for subjects of particular interest.

I am a certified teacher and have experience teaching most subjects at most grade levels over the last 4 years. Is there a particular subject that your student is struggling with and needs a different perspective and some personalized help with? I am sure that I can help.Some of the details…

Tutoring – In Person or Online via Skype or Facetime
• Free first meeting to learn about your student and create an action plan.
• Regularly $20 per session. $10 per session until May 15, 2015.
• Each session will be 50 minutes of tutoring.
• Goal: To provide personalized assistance to help your student succeed.

The second way I’d like to support families educating their kids abroad is by being a learning coach. My goal is to know and encourage the passion of your student, coaching them to even further development and success in their love of ___(fill in the blank)___. Some of the details…

Life-long learning coach – In Person or Online via Skype or Facetime, and email.
• Free first meeting to learn about your passion and create an action plan.
• $100 for the first month, $50 per month following that.
• Short, action oriented sessions held 2 times per week, 15-30 minutes each.
• Flexible scheduling.
• Email conversations always available.
• Target student: A student with a known passion, wanting to take it to the next level.
• Target student: An adult returning to school for a specific reason.
• Target student: An aimless High Schooler, trying to discover a passion.
• My Goal: To provide consistent, personalized assistance to help you explore and develop your passion in depth.
Please email me at to let me know how I can help.

Can a 16 month old be a TCK?


Abbi has a problem. Everybody leaves. Everyone goes “bye, bye.” She hates that word. She has this little whine and pout whenever she hears the word.

The moment that struck daddy’s heart to the core was at the airport. We arrived at the DFW from Haiti, where Becky’s sister came to pick up her and Abbi. I continued on to College Station to pick up a vehicle. We walked to the “No Return” glass revolving door. I kissed them both good bye and waited as they stepped in. As the glass door turned round, and there was no turning back, Abbi looked back and cried with both hands on the glass, crying for her “Da.” She knows how to break her daddy’s heart.

With all the comings and goings in her young life, I do wonder how they affect her. I thought we would have a few years before the effects of that Third Culture started on our kid. Maybe not. Just how soon are kids affected with Third Culture Kid syndrome? I do not know. Anyone out there know?

I suppose I will have to read the book again pretty quick.

Teaching is like… a toddler on a playground.


Having a toddler around provides new learning opportunities every day. While in Haiti, I noticed that how I interact with Abbi on the playground parallels teaching in many ways.

DSC00619 (800x600)

Abbi loves to climb. And I get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach every time she is close to an edge. Muscles tense up, ready to catch her if she falls. Overall, she tends to the cautious side, for which I am very grateful. She has her Mom’s sense of adventure and her Dad’s sense of caution. We will see which one wins out.

Abbi cannot get enough of playgrounds, and now that we are in the States, that has only intensified with the great variety we have here, and a Nana that loves taking her. On our school playground, Abbi loves to climb to the top in order to slide down the slide, and has from early on. Teaching is a whole lot like playing with her. I follow her around, holding her hand when I need to, letting go when I don’t. I want her to be safe, and I want her to be adventurous. I want her to do hard things, and I want her to succeed. Always striving for balance, always wondering if I am doing it right. Always praying to the one who knows for sure.

I see at least three parallels between playing with a toddler and teaching students. Those include providing a safe environment, consistency, and setting appropriate standards.

When Abbi is climbing stairs 6 times her height, through which she could fall onto rocks, I follow her. I let her climb, but with hands ready to catch her if/when she falls. I let her do it on her own as much as she can, but provide the safety net if needed. I think kids need to do things on their own, but know that someone is there to catch them, if they fall.

I am always amazed at how many times Abbi can WANT to do something. Becky informs me that every toddler is like this. Putting blocks in and out of a bucket… over and over, and over, and ……. Kids like consistency. Abbi did not learn how to climb the stairs and slide down the slide in one day. But day after day, we kept coming back. Some days were spent longer than others. Sometimes it was with mom, some days with dad, and some days with the other kids. Some days were crash and burn, and walk home crying kind of days. Other days were “DIY” days when mom and dad were not watching. (Thankfully the DIY day did not coincide with the crash day.)

Abbi cannot play on every part of the playground, yet. She cannot climb the rock wall, or the net, although she will try on occasion. And that is OK. She will soon enough. We celebrate the things she can do now, let her know the harder stuff is there, but never push her to do what she cannot. The standards line is razor thin. Just where is that point where they REALLY learn something new and exciting and hard, without getting totally discouraged and giving up? I do not know. But I suspect that line is different with every kid, and can only be found through trial and error.

Teaching and learning and playing are fun. And, to me, are all interrelated. I love it. Abbi, the toddler, continues to teach me, and shows me how to do my own job.