On Education

The New Words Are In, Merriam-Webster Dictionary

2 Min read 13 New words Late to Coffee with a Baker's dozen * New words are in. And, 370 words have been added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary this September. You likely know many and below are some of my favorites. The editors break them down by category, but I...

Bringing Writers and Readers Together: Why I Write

2 Min read Short Take Creative process For writers and readers AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * Maybe the better way to think of this letter is, why you read TreeHouseLetter. For me, it's about why I write. Which, are two sides of the same coin. I updated my site...

Books I Love

5 Min read 17 Books, 19.5 including mentions in footnotes Genres: Memoir, Essays, Fiction, Writing, Love, Poetry, War Toolbox, Texture in writing Contemporary and classic books from the top of my stacks, my more current reading. * The most common question I get is,...

What Book Would You Take to a Desert Island?

7 Min read 2 Book recs Film rec Article abstract, on Virtue and Vice* Toolbox, Improve writing, ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes * What book would you take to a desert island? I didn't know and hadn't given it much thought until Saturday when I told my...

Graveside Gratitude, Giving Thanks in November

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm         I learned more from two friends in death than I had learned from them in life. I had not known them well and perhaps that is why, but they were men I met whose lives touched mine, in a fashion,...

Poetry Dinner Night – A Quarantine Scene

Does she or doesn’t she? Do you recognize this from the 1956 ad campaign? Does it elicit unsavory thoughts? This Hall-of-Fame advertising slogan was used for Clairol’s Hair Color and within six years seventy percent of women were dying their hair. Maybe you remember...

Are We Killing the Fat Man? The Corona Trolley Dilemma

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY ITUNES ANCHOR.FM THE TROLLEY PROBLEM The Trolley thought experiment, first put forth by the philosopher Philippa Foot, pits two schools of moral thought against each other: deontological ethics and utilitarianism. In simple words, the...

The Three Gifts – So what have you learned in 50 years?

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm   ** A child's note, three gifts from a parent, and Tolstoy's famous story **   I stumbled upon a note recently from my ten-year-old son, written in print with a pencil, the scrawl tending slightly downward. To...

On Presidents, Politics and War, and Poetry

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm You ever have that moment when something you’ve believed for some time begins to shift and slip, leaving you a bit off-balance? I had that happen in a foundational way. Flipping to the date of a page-a-day calendar, I came...

TikTok Connect the Dots – the United States and China

AVAILABLE on PODCAST Anchor.fm Spotify iTunes   My friend’s daughter Sue left to attend the University of Rochester this fall and had shared a story. The school website lists international students as twenty percent of the undergraduate population but Sue said...

On Poetry and Mondegreens and Teenagers

 Listen to PODCAST iTunes Spotify I had a teacher in eighth grade named Miss Michaelson. She was a bit long in the tooth and had a jagged helmet of black hair. A big boned woman, she wore dresses which wrapped about her like robes on a Greek statue, the overall...

National Punctuation Day – the Vulgar Pronoun – Read THIS

I was looking up the definition of the demonstrative pronoun this last week, and got a lesson in modern American slang. Gestures help with understanding just what this means in certain circles, but if you give it some thought, you will realize that the mean and the...

History Teacher Provides a Lesson – But Not One She Intended

Some unlucky souls have already returned to school and we will keep them in our thoughts. Meanwhile, stretch out on the lounger, kick off your shoes, and crack open a cold one while we consider our luckier path, no school till AFTER Labor Day. Let's contemplate the...

When Lightning Strikes, Are You Ready?

We were all shaken out of bed this morning at 5:25. I'm pretty sure the house, or very nearby, was hit by lightning. I smelled electrical smoke.  Spent the last 2 hours walking around inspecting but could not see the strike. Cable, Internet and phone still out. No AC...

A Stone Pig and Cold Feet – Common Core in New York

He wasn't tall but he was fit and wore the beard of a man in charge of his own schedule. His shop opened last year and he doubled its inventory since, adding furniture like a stool with inlaid walnuts, another with legs of horn, and collectibles like the Adirondack...

Walking on Water – Faith & the Adirondack Loon

“I was artfully created by God!!!” screamed a young man, the words loud on the morning lake and louder still than the bell rung before to begin the daily ritual. We had paddled across to see the camp and explore the far shore, the water still and dark from its evening...

Postcard from New Orleans – a First-Timer’s Sketch

Jamal pulled his Black Chevy Impala along the corner of Toulouse and Chartres where we flanked the bay window of a jewelry store, hiding from what amounted to a spit of rain, a gift from above. The heat dropped into the 80s and the rain tamped down the smell of human...

An Appeal to the “Supreme Judge of the World” – July 4, 1776

Just 1300 words long, the Declaration of Independence is worth reading this weekend. You'll learn something about the United States, about its history, and about yourself. If you have children, include them. For the last few years, our family has read this founding...

Gifts From Croatia

Our Croatian driver Nico said, "What three things does the U.S. President use from our country every day?"  I didn't know when I first arrived in Split a few weeks ago, but I've returned with answers for curious readers. Nico smiled in the rear view mirror.  "The...

Millennials & the Prom – PROMposals in the Digital Age

For their fifth birthday they rented a bouncy gym, for their tenth a pirate ship, and for confirmation the country club with DJ, dance, and photography. The millennials (and their parents) do nothing by halves. Asking a date to prom is a rite of passage into adulthood...

Disappointment on Ellis Island Field Trip, Shattan’s Day Off

"The field trip was a huge disappointment.  It took us four hours of driving, two ferry rides, and we had half an hour in the museum," my son said. "Did a guide or a ranger give you a tour?" I asked. "No. Our teacher told us to do three things. We had to sketch...

Liberty for Sale: Philadelphia and the Downside of Capitalism

April 1   Philadelphia played a significant role in our country's history and I'm just back from my second visit in recent months.  But be warned, you won't like what I have to share. Good stuff first. The City of Brotherly Love was once our nation's capital and...

Taking a Teen to NYC

Freaky Friday is here: it's the first day of spring and there's a snow storm in Connecticut.     We're just back from a blustery cold visit to NYC.  My teen daughter and I took our first trip, three days and two nights, just us. We watched An American in...

Withdrawal From the Orgy: Rise of the Asexual and the Demisexual

American society has become so sexualized, young people are seeking refuge in labels that make them feel OK to pull out of the orgy. Withdrawal by a new name, they call themselves asexual and demisexual.  Think of the asexual or "ace" as the atheist of the religion of...

Piano and Poetry: a Primer on How to Critique Music

Here are my late night texts to my husband on how to critique piano music. Can you hear Caroline playing? Listen for clean articulation of each note, even tho it's fast A musician must be heard and given feedback. It's stunted when she doesn't get anything. But wait...

High… How are you? Cannabis in Colorado

Rocky Mountain High has new meaning after our ski vacation last week in Aspen. I visited  a pot shop. The front half was empty save for an ATM machine. It's a cash business because banks won't support the industry. The back half of The Green Dragon Cannabis Co looked...

The Super Bowl, My Son, & Home Economics

EXTRA! EXTRA!  Read all about it:  my son learned how to clean a toilet this week.  In earnest.  We're making real HEAD way. We had friends over to watch the superbowl and needed to clean house. Our housecleaner of six years retired and woe-to-my-children, they must...

A Year of Reading

If you could see a summary of the food you digested in 2014, you might find some surprises:  17 pounds of chocolate, 47 of bottles of wine, 5.7 servings of red meat a week, 1.3 fast food visits per week, the venial sin in this quarter is fried chicken or Five...

Eavesdropping on Greenwich Teens: Are They Going to Pot?

Greenwich is one of the country's wealthiest towns.  The other day, I drove there, parked the car on the main avenue, and walked 30 meters to a shop, when I overheard a conversation behind me. "Don't you want to hear my story?" a girl said.  "Jackson was so worried. ...

Where Are the Tough Teachers? Mediocre Music & Why We Need Mr. K

I drove to my son's winter concert listening to Yo-Yo Ma's holiday album with musicians Chris Botti on trumpet and Natalie MacMaster on fiddle. I wanted to get into the holiday spirit, but perhaps I set myself up for disappointment. The school's preparatory ensemble...

A Passion for Puzzling

There are puzzles and then there are puzzles. If you like jigsaw puzzles, you're familiar with the kitschy cardboard variety depicting Disney characters, classic art, nature, or animals.  The pieces often consist of two outward tabs and two inward blanks and are apt...

Toni Morrison’s Beloved: Should Books Get a Rating Like Movies?

Parents get upset about the book Beloved and here's why.  In the first chapter, Toni Morrison wrote about the five men who were "so sick with the absence of women they had taken to calves." Go ahead.  Read it again; I had too.  My reading group picked this as part of...

Common Core in Connecticut: Bureaucracy Beats Democracy

A panel of speakers discussed the Common Core this week at the New Canaan Library with a room full of concerned citizens.  Connecticut adopted verbatim the new standards in 2010 as a means to opt out of the No Child Left Behind law. Many of us knew little about it....

UCLA today: Students take ‘diversity’ and skip history

The faculty of University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) College of Letters and Sciences voted Friday a close 332 to 303, with 24 blank ballots, in a move toward forcing students to take a diversity course as part of their undergraduate requirements. (Michelle Moons...

Why Students Don’t Write Well – the PSAT and English Today

Many children struggle to write well today.  Here's the number one problem they face. First let's consider their writing skills.  See how you fare on these three questions from a full length PSAT or Prelimary Scholastic Aptitude Test, the precursor to the SAT. Choice...

Two Monks and a Woman – A Zen Story not a Bar Joke

One day, two monks set out on a journey to a temple in a distant village. Along the way, they came to a shallow and fast moving river where a young woman waited, full of despair for fear of falling in. The monks looked at each other because the rules of their order...

High School Sports: Vulgarity vs. Virtue

Exhausted and losing, the Viking girls huddled on the court and referring to their opponents, team captain Idalis Figueroa said, “That’s not who we are. At King we believe in the virtues: kindness, integrity, respect, perseverance. This is how we play.” (This may...

Cut the Flab, a Writing Primer

Simple steps to improve bloated writing   In a digital world, many people only know you through your writing. At work and in your personal life, social media extends our connections across the globe.  So it’s more important than ever to write well. But who has time...

Banned Books Week, Soft Bans & Selective Shelving in Schools

People made over 18,000 attempts to remove books from schools and libraries since 1990, according to the American Library Association  (ALA article link).  Here are the Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books (scroll to bottom). My family read six of them, so we have...

School Guidance, Common Core & the Orwellian State

Our Middle School principal sent guidance on the topic of town safety: students are discouraged from walking into town after school. He shares the numbers and concludes: Anyway you “do the math”, you can calculate that a large number of unsupervised middle school aged...

Did You Get Your Latex-Free Gloves? Back-to-school Supplies

My son has a rotating eight day schedule annotated in as many colors. A suggestion is noted in bold on the school's shopping list:  "Please try to have students color-coordinate their class supplies with their class colors (ex. Yellow Binder for Yellow Math class)."...

The Woodcutter’s Tale – a Back-to-School Parable

Once upon a time, there lived a woodcutter who went into the forest to chop down wood.  He felled 18 trees that day and brought them to the timber merchant. "You are the best woodcutter around," the merchant said and gave him his pay. The second day, the woodcutter...

The Age of Insolence & Politically Correct Nursery Rhymes

The stair and attic lights were on when I went upstairs.  I whispered goodnight to my daughter, then reminded her she left the lights on. "David and Laura left them on," she said. I walked to David's room and told him to turn off the lights. "Why me?" he said. "I...

Einstein on Classic Literature

Somebody who reads only newspapers and at best books of contemporary authors looks to me like an extremely near-sighted person who scorns eyeglasses. He is completely dependent on the prejudices and fashions of his times, since he never gets to see or hear anything...

Handwriting, a Foundation for Communication and Thought

During a year of homeschooling, my children practiced penmanship. The positive impact on everything from legibility to understanding and reinforcement was impressive. A year back in public school and my son's handwriting has regressed.  And he no longer writes in...

How Do We Teach Creativity? Odyssey of the Mind

In the Age of Information with energy challenges and dwindling resources, we need more and more creative, innovative solutions to the world's problems.  The existing education system does not teach this well. So how do we teach creativity today? I'm just back from...

Yale Commencement – Awards for Everyone

This year's Yale University Commencement consisted of two acts, a dozen Honorary Degrees followed by Awards for Everyone. Act one occurred on the Old Campus at 10:30 AM and act two moved to the residential colleges at noon for awards and diplomas. Secretary of State...

Read Austen, Train Your Brain

Mention Austen to literature lovers and you get one of two reactions: love her or loathe her. Mark Twain was perhaps her harshest critic.  He said, “Every time I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” I...

Politically Correct Fractions – 5th Grade Math Today

My daughter was frustrated doing her 5th grade math homework. She had to add fractions with different denominators. She was confused for several days on this topic so I asked how her teacher showed her to solve them. She couldn’t say.  I asked if she used Least Common...

Literary Analysis or Amateur Psychology?

A friend shared her son’s 7th grade English assignment.   This worksheet makes my stomach churn.  It entirely misses the point of this often referenced, much misunderstood passage. In it, Tom Sawyer must white wash the fence but instead, convinced his peers to do it...

How to Homeschool & Travel

We’re back on the bus.  Or at least David and Laura are anyway, and I’m quite thankful for it.  I should be clear about my gratitude here, which has more to do with reclaiming my time back than it has to do with the school part of it.  I’ve given some thought to last...