Electronics Kit for my Kids

Cory Doctorow mentioned that Elenco makes a perfect copy of the Radio Shack 200-in-One electronics kit. I hadn’t read to the end of his article before I’d placed an order.

It’s not an exaggeration to say this kit pushed me into my career. I got the original Radio Shack version for Christmas one year when I was a kid, and on rainy days I’d work my way through the book of kid-friendly projects. Even though I usually didn’t understand how they worked, I got brave enough to test ideas like “I wonder if I could wire a light bulb into this section and have it still work?” and “what happens if I replace this with a smaller resistor?” I didn’t know what ohms or farads were, but got an intuitive feel for which parts did what. I lost any fear of experimenting and that willingness to try new things has served me well.

I don’t know if my kids will love this little kit as much as I did. I’m not going to push it – that’s for them to decide. However, a part of me hopes they have even half the fun I got from it.

Nebraska Wants To Adopt Your Kids

Senator Brad Ashford of Omaha has proposed criminalizing the act of keeping your kids home from school. This is abhorrent for many reasons, and should be withdrawn from consideration immediately.

Deputy Douglas County Attorney Kim Hawekotte and Ralston Public Schools social worker Steve Snodgrass, both active in truancy prevention in the Omaha area, said the proposed language change will make it easier for schools to identify students who are being improperly excused.

"By taking that sentence out," Hawekotte said, "the schools have to react when a youth isn't in school, no matter what the reason. You want the system to kick into place to make that determination."

No, Ms. Hawekotte: you want the system to kick in. Our kids rarely miss school for non-medical reasons. However, sometimes we take advantage of educational opportunities that require a day or two of absence. As parents, this is our privilege and responsibility. It is not your job to second-guess our decisions.

As introduced, LB 1159 would get law enforcement, including the county attorney, involved earlier by making it an infraction to be the parent of a truant child. The first offense would prompt a $50 fine, the second, $100. The third would be considered a Class III misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months of jail time and a $500 fine.

We are considering taking a long weekend to Mt. Rushmore or Yellowstone National Park near the end of the school year. For various reasons, we might possibly have to make that trip while class is still in session. Mr. Ashford, your plan would require our school system to investigate us as criminals and fine us for teaching our kids first-hand about our country’s history, geology, and geography. Will you be passing a bill to take our kids on an equivalent field trip? Or will they simply miss out on that experience because likeminded senators deem themselve better parents to our kids than we are?

"If you're not in school, you're not learning," said Ashford of Omaha, chairman of the Legislature's Judiciary Committee.

Mr. Ashford, that’s one of the most offensively ignorant things I’ve read in a while. Formal education is critically important, but I assure you that my children learn outside the classroom. From teaching my kids to write computer programs, to learning French together as a family, to taking trips to national monuments and museums, they are learning.

I don’t want to downplay the need for kids to attend school as required, but completely reject your asinine assertion that their education ends when I pick them up from school.

The solution is simple: don’t fix what’s not broken, especially when the fix would cause even more problems. If a child is suspected of truancy, investigate that child. If a school system is unable or unwilling to do so, then address that problem. Don’t create an assumption of guilt every time a child misses school, though. You are not my kids’ parent. I am. Irk you though it may, I know more about what’s best for them than you do.

This bill puts State above Parent. Kill it.

Long Weekends

Summer’s upon us again. The kids just got out of school on Wednesday, which reminded me that my last post was to say that the kids were just starting back and I haven’t said a word since then. Anyway, we have them signed up for pretty much every summer sport offered and Gabby’s getting ready to start piano lessons, so they’ll be keeping pretty busy.

Jen and I have been mulching the flower gardens, to the tune of about one pickup load of mulch per weekend. We’ve put down about 4 tons now, and I think we’re finally getting to the end of it. Which is good. Because at this point, if I never move another handful of the stuff, that’ll be fine by me.

Up In The Morning And Out To School

Well, it’s officially school time again. Gabby and Ari started back yesterday, and Jake went this morning for the first time.

Gabby seemed really happy. She got in line with her friends and immediately jumped back into the swing of things.

When we took Ari into the Montessori preschool, she ran off to play with the other kids as if she’d been there all along. When I picked her up in the afternoon, she told me that she’d learned how to read (so I suppose that they’ll cover math today, and maybe start on biology next Monday).

Jake looked a little unsure this morning, but he was mostly smiling as he lined up and walked to class. I just wish I’d remembered to bring his bookbag and a camera. These are the things that happen when I’m the one who gets the kids ready for school. At least they were fed, dressed and clean.

Running Before Walking

The kids started swimming lessons yesterday. They all had a great time and left smiling. As I was putting Jake to bed, I asked him about his day:

Me: What was your favorite part of swimming lessons?
Jake: Jumping off the diving board.
Me: Really?
Jake: Yeah. It was a little scary, though.
Me: Well, sometimes the most fun things are a little scary.
Jake: Yeah. (pause) I wish I’d done a back flip.

The Piano’s Broken

We got a used piano a few months ago. After we cleaned it and put it where we wanted it, I played a few short songs (poorly). Throughout the rest of the day, we’d occasionally hear one of the kids hitting a few keys and laughing.

Several hours later, Jake came up to me with some bad news:

Jake: Daddy, I think the piano’s broken.
Me, alarmed: Why? What happened?
Jake, upset: I pressed all the keys, but it didn’t make the right music come out.

Our Bird Is Dead

Gabby was in the preschool at Christ Lutheran School, and her classroom had a caged parakeet. One day Gabby told me that their bird was dead. Since she was only three years old at the time, I didn’t think she knew what that meant, so I asked her about it:

Me: What do you mean, dead?
Gabby: I mean, the bird died.
Me: But what do you mean when you say that it died?
Gabby: It began to stink, so my teacher had to put it in a box and bury it.

Oh. I guess she knew what she was talking about after all.