Why Are We Not Considered Smart Enough To Choose Our Child’s School?

School Choice
I never understood what the big deal was about being able to choose in so many areas of our life, but not the future of our children?

I can choose whether or not to continue my pregnancy. The country is finally moving toward allowing me to decide who I will marry. I can choose to work a minimum wage job until my knowledge, skills and abilities prepare me for a higher paying one.  I can choose who to vote for or what faith fills the aching in my soul. There are certain limitations on some of these choices, but people have fought for our ability to choose.

Why is it then, unless I have a lot of money, I don’t have a choice in where to send my children to school? We all pay for public education and it has been a system that served us well over the years, but it’s time to reconsider the options. We are  falling behind other countries in the education of our children.

I’ve heard the concerns about private schools being unwilling or unable to accommodate children with special needs or those coming from families with severe economic challenges. Separation of church and state has always been part of the argument since “the government” should not financially support religious organizations.

However, what we are doing, in many cases, is not working. As a parent, I should be able to choose where I send my child to school and have a voucher to make that happen. Schools that are part of the voucher program should be required to have programs available for students with special challenges. Wouldn’t parents of special needs children like options, too? If I, as a parent, want my child to attend a faith based school, I should have that choice. Not all children learn the same way and we need to have the ability to select the school that best fits the individual needs of our child, not only those that meet the needs of the majority, leaving others behind.

We can make this option work for ourselves, our children and our dedicated educational professionals. It’s not about preserving the status quo, it’s about giving our children a solid foundation for their future. It’s a BIG DEAL and we should get over the politics and put the needs of our children first.

Sisters’ Trip Update – Planning our Trip to New England

Camden, Maine
Planning for our trip to New England is moving along at a fast pace. 
Once you helped us select the amazing destination two weeks ago, Wendy and I began our research. Our excitement level is high and we’ve discovered that there is simply too much to see in such a short time. It’s been difficult to narrow our choices. I anticipate this is the first of many trips to the area. All of you have great taste!!

The budget for our five day trip is $500 each, not including airfare. I’ve run the numbers for either three or four travelers since we may have one additional family friend (adopted sister) traveling with us. The travel dates have been modified to better fit our collective schedules, so we will be traveling in late September, a perfect time for the area.

Airfare:

We are flying from Denver to Boston on Southwest Airlines at $314 each roundtrip, including the early check-in fee.

Car Rental:

The rental car (full size) from Advantage is $275, including taxes.

Lodging:

After spending an hour or two on HomeAway, we were delighted to find a mother-in-law style apartment near Camden, Maine. It sleeps four people and is a real bargain at $425 for four nights. The ratings are exceptional and the owners are very friendly. We debated staying in two different places during our travel, but after reviewing the options, decided to find one location more central to all the places we are planning to visit. We’ve never used Homeaway before or stayed in a home style rental, so this will be a new experience.

Attractions:

So far, it looks like we will be seeing parts of Acadia National Park, the White Mountains in New Hampshire and the coastline between Bar Harbor, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough time for the Ben and Jerry’s tour in Vermont, so I’ll just be buying a pint or three of Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream and eating along the way.

Preparing our own breakfast and packing lunches and other snacks will help us stay within budget. However, dinner will be out on the town at fabulous restaurants. We plan to take advantage of all the amazing seafood options. I’m not sure how we are going to decide where to eat. Any suggestions?

At this point, it looks like we’re on track and have a little extra money to spare for park entrance fees and unexpected costs.  It has really helped to split the expenses between more than two people. Here is our budget so far.

DRAFT BUDGET

  Three Travelers Four Travelers
Airfare $942 $1,256
Budget $1,500 $2,000
Rental Car $275 $275
Lodging $425 $425
Gas $150 $150
Meals Out $300 $400
Meals In $150 $200
Balance $200 $550

It’s amazing that we can visit so many states in five days. I love planning a trip, don’t you?

Can We Be Truly Objective – Travel Writing

Travel WritingWe had an interesting discussion in my new writing class yesterday. The instructor is a travel writer, previously working for Outside Magazine and then as an independent with articles appearing in the New York Times and National Geographic, among other major publications. So, he’s a pro.

“What is the future of travel writing?”

The question he asked hung in the air for a moment before he began talking about how the internet has changed writing. In the past, writers proposed stories to editors and, if interested, they would be sent out to complete the piece. Travel costs were covered and the writer would be paid for his/her time. Articles may have paid a writer up to $10,000. At that time, writers could get by with 6-8 published articles a year, depending upon their lifestyle.

With the advent of the internet, magazines and newspapers have shrunk in size, some even going out of business. Online reporting is at an all time high. Frankly, that’s where I get my news. Where writers were paid for content before, many bloggers submit articles or posts for free for the “exposure”. The Huffington Post comes to mind, but I’m sure there are others.

Then the discussion moved specifically to travel blogging. There are successful travel bloggers who earn a good living, not many, but there are some. Our instructor believes that blogging may be the future of travel writing, with bloggers earning money from ads on their sites. That brought up another questions to ponder.

“Can you truly be objective if you receive free accommodations, access to activities, meals, flights or other subsidies for your travel?”

In order to be “objective”, magazine publishers would not allow writers to accept “gifts” from businesses they were going to be reporting on. In comparison, travel bloggers may receive free “gifts” that essentially discount their travel in exchange for those businesses being included in the final review.

Most bloggers disclose receiving discounts and free products or services to their readers and mention that their opinions are their own. What happens, however, if the accommodations are horrible and that information is reported in a post? Would other businesses still want that same blogger to write about their product knowing that the writer is brutally honest? And, if you enjoyed your time, could it be because you were treated differently than a regular traveler because the business knew they were being evaluated?

I certainly don’t have the answers to these tough questions. If you are a travel blogger, how else do you get “paid” for your work? It’s definitely a dilemma. As someone who wants to include travel reporting in my blog, I’d love to be as objective as possible, but does that mean I can never be paid for my time?

What do you think?

New Mexico Road Trip Part 3 – Sunrise at the White Sands National Monument

The alarm went off early and in that last daze of sleep, we packed our gear into the truck. It was still dark when we pulled up to the entrance of White Sands National Monument. This was the moment we’d all been waiting for, the sunrise photo shoot.

The ranger reviewed our permit and opened the gate, allowing nine of us full access to the park without another person in sight. I was excited, quickly going over the list in my head. Tripod…memory cards…lenses…and the location I had picked out the night before when we’d made our first visit. I wished I had remembered a head lamp or flashlight. But, it was a bit late for that, so I planned to make do with what I had.

I stepped out of the truck to unload my gear. It was COLD! What was I thinking wearing capri pants for a sunrise shoot? BRRRR! We climbed back in and waited for the blue light to come. Now I was worried. How long could I stay out in the frigid weather?

Then things slowly began to come into focus. The early light that comes before the sun peeks over the horizon had arrived. It was as if the starting gun went off. Everyone was quickly out of the cars and moving in different directions. I grabbed my gear and walked out beyond the first dune. I left the world behind as I forged on alone. The footprints in the sand from the previous day had been wiped away by the overnight winds and the new canvas was just asking to be painted by the morning light.

 

Yucca Moon
For a brief moment I tensed up and wondered, “Are there snakes?” Then I thought about how cool it was and decided that if there were, they wouldn’t be out yet, so I relaxed and moved on.

Planning my route carefully, I walked in areas that wouldn’t show up in the pictures that were forming in my head. I sat down in the sand as I positioned my tripod. I was surprised by how soft and fine the sand was. I scooped a handful and let it run through my fingers. It was quiet and peaceful. I took a deep breath, letting it out slowly as I looked around at the incredible scenery of sand, grasses and yuccas. There was no sound, but a light breeze ruffled my hair. Saying a quick “thank you” out loud, I started trying to capture on my camera, the beauty I was seeing with my own eyes.

 

Sunrise Yucca
The cold didn’t exist as I quickly worked, moving to seek different perspectives. I would stop every few minutes to look around. In the past, I have been known to view my world through a camera lens and to miss the bigger picture. Making it a priority on my travels, I now stop to see, listen and appreciate my surroundings. It’s not all about capturing the “shot” but being aware and experiencing special moments. There is always a second when I can’t believe I’m here and then a feeling of gratitude for the opportunities I have to visit amazing places.

 

dawn grasses
Getting up to reposition my shot, I looked back and saw the imprint of the back of my jeans in the sand. It was so perfect that I’m sure if I looked closely, I would have seen the brand name on the impression left by the snaps on my back pockets. I wondered if visitors later in the day would notice the print of my backside. The thought made me laugh out loud.

 

dawn grass shadows

 

Then the sun made it’s appearance, slowly climbing over the edge of the horizon casting long shadows across the waves of sand. Yucca plants creating shadows five times their length. After a few minutes I removed my camera from the tripod and composed more shots, clicking the shutter until my memory card was full, quickly changing it out so I could begin again.

 

yucca shadows
Before I knew it, my friend Janet was calling my name and the trance I’d been in from the moment I’d stepped out of the truck was broken. Sunrise was over and the group was headed to another area of the park. I stretched, picked up my tripod and walked back to where the vehicles were parked, taking a few last pictures along the way.

 

Sand Dune Shadows
Staying around for a few more hours, this time in more of a group, we wandered around with our cameras. The scenery was still spectacular and it was fun to be with my fellow photographers. We laughed and experimented with different shots, this time adding people into the landscapes.

 

Photographers White Sands
Then, satisfied with a job well done, we climbed back into the vehicles and returned to town for breakfast. It was a magical morning on the white sands.

Related Posts:

New Mexico Road Trip Part 1 – White Sands National Monument

New Mexico Road Trip Part 2- Found Treasures 

Music on the Red Rocks

Red Rocks Park
I went to a concert once…actually more times than once, at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado. If you’ve never been to a concert at Red Rocks…say it together…you’ve never been to a concert. Not only is it a fan’s delight, the bands love it too.

Red Rocks is just west of Denver at 6400 feet above sea level and seats about 9,500 people. It’s an intimate setting for some of the world’s greatest musicians. The website describes it best: “Red Rocks Amphitheatre is a geological phenomenon – the only naturally-occurring, acoustically perfect amphitheatre in the world.”

When I was in my late teens, I went with friends to Red Rocks. We arrived really early in the day. At that time, there were no reserved seats and you could take a cooler and spend all day. The early birds got the best seats. We could have been in the first two rows, but we decided seven rows up was the perfect spot. John Denver, our Colorado artist, was playing.

It was a beautiful Colorado day. Mid morning John Denver and his band came out for sound checks. I could have walked down and shook his hand. The concert that night was amazing. Where else in the world would “Rocky Mountain High” resonate better? This video is actually from a concert in Australia, but you get the idea.

John Denver is only one of a number of concerts I’ve seen at Red Rocks. There are many more that I’ve missed, from the Beatles to John Mayer. This summer we have lots of concerts scheduled, among them, One Republic, The Fray, James Taylor and Sarah McLachian. It’s not only about concerts. Red Rocks hosts a spectacular Easter Sunrise Service and you can find exercise fanatics running the steps on a daily basis.

Red Rocks is one of the sought after places for artists to play. Somehow the music just sounds better bounced off the rocks under an incredible star filled sky. One of the greatest concerts ever hosted at Red Rocks was U-2 in 1983, over thirty years ago. I’m sorry to say, I missed it.

My favorite Red Rocks concert was John Denver. His music was a perfect fit to the incredible beauty of the amphitheater located at the base of our beautiful Rocky Mountains. That’s my favorite concert. What’s yours?

New Mexico Road Trip Part 2 – Found Treasures

Road trips bring me up close and personal with the many treasures that I would  otherwise miss looking down from an airplane at 35,000 feet, like…

local wildlife.

Deer

stepping over the state line.
Welcome to New Mexico

unusual art that makes me smile.

Metal Giraffes

places with a lot to say.

Hollywood Rejects

a sight for sore eyes.

Eyes Graffiti

“moo”ving moments.

Lone Cow

We even saw a road runner, but it was too quick to capture on camera. What’s better than a road trip? A road trip with plenty of time to stop to appreciate those magical moments.

Enjoy!

New Mexico Road Trip Part 1 – White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument

It was still dark on Saturday morning when I picked up my friend Emelyn and all her photography equipment and started the long drive. We were meeting a small group of photographers down in Alamogordo, New Mexico to visit White Sands National Monument.

I love road trips.

We started in Denver, which is a large and very busy city. The metropolitan area stretches almost twenty miles and after that there are very few sections of Interstate 25 where you won’t see at least one house or in the distance for the next hour and a half drive. It’s a beautiful area of the country and we have the Rocky Mountains that stand as sentinels overlooking the front range.

After the almost constant presence of people in Colorado along I-25, it was fascinating drive for hours without seeing any indication of people except for fences on the long stretch of roadway. The countryside is arid and filled with the shorter piñon pines, yucca plants and grasses moving in the wind. New Mexico has its own unique beauty of simplicity and shadow.

After a brief stop in Sante Fe, we finished the long drive and checked into the White Sands Motel. Sunset was still more than an hour away and we didn’t waste time headed to the White Sands National Monument. One word…INCREDIBLE!

I’ll be adding more updates and photos over the next week.

A World Full of Teachers

Asian woman with chalk globe drawn on blackboard.
Here’s where I show my age…again.
I graduated from high school in 1977. I know many of you weren’t even born yet. I loved my high school years. No, I wasn’t the most popular kid, but I had wonderful friends and teachers who inspired me.

I went to college, on and off, over the next twenty-five years and finally got my B.A. in Organizational Management. Most of the teachers were wonderful, but there were a few that pushed their own political agendas or berated students. There are a number of advantages to attending college as a working adult, my favorite was calling BS when needed. After all those years, I happily received my degree and moved on.

While I’m done with formal school, the best part of my education happens everyday. Aren’t we lucky to learn from a world of teachers?

  • This week I met with an estate attorney to get my will in order. He took the time to thoroughly educate me about my options and to help me select the best plan for me and my family.
  • I spoke with my investment advisor just this morning who answered all my questions and helped me confirm my investments are in order.
  • I’ve finished two writing classes since the beginning of the year and start my next one, Travel Writing, in two weeks. The instructors have been amazing.
  • I learn from several of my coworkers, but one, in particular, has such a wonderful attention to detail that results in large complex plans working in difficult situations. She cares about all the moving parts and each person who plays a role. It’s an inspiration.
  • Over the years, I’ve taken classes in stained glass, drawing, history, photography, software, exercise, diet and may even take some video classes soon.
  • I’ve traveled to wonderful places and learned about other areas of the country and the world.
  • Even things as simple as the man showing incredible patience as we wait in line to get served and the next door neighbor watering my flowers during the summer when I’m out of town, teach me something.
  • I’m also learning a lot from my fellow bloggers who help me improve my writing and my blog. They encourage, inspire and push me to play harder.

There are so many people, adults and children alike, who teach me something new nearly every day. And, I hope that in turn, people learn something positive from me, too. So while the formal education is over, at least for now, my life education will never be complete while I live and breathe.

Let’s face it…I LOVE LEARNING!

What have you learned in the last few days?

Within Walking Distance

Closeup of movement of people
It was like an explosion.
As soon as my hand hit the leashes, the fur went flying and my dogs ran around in circles, jumping, running, while still keeping eagle eyes on my every movement. A WALK…A WALK…A WALK…

The sky was a beautiful blue spotted with an occasional puffy cloud. The wind over the last few days had cleared out any haze in the sky so the view was crystal clear as I walked up the path to the top of the hill. It still takes my breath away after living in my neighborhood for almost fifteen years. I’m so lucky.

I’ve walked the path a number of times, but clearly not often enough. An occasional jogger, girlfriends out catching up while they walk, families with strollers and other dog walkers enjoying a spring afternoon. I guess it’s not officially spring until tomorrow, but the weather screamed spring.

The hill is actually a wall of dirt that functions as a dam, surrounding an incredible wetlands area where the geese and ducks enjoy the solitude of ponds surrounded by grasses. It’s a hidden treasure only found by those taking the time to climb. In the distance is downtown Denver with an incredible backdrop of snow covered mountains. In the foreground, a group of adults kick the ball around the soccer field and an expanse of open grass awaits the beginning of spring team sports.

I bypassed the usual route, skipping the first trail down and the stairs that have been installed in the side of the hill and continued walking. Then, I came to the end of the path which was a large, level circle of dirt overlooking the nearby golf course. The grass isn’t green yet, but it was beautiful in it’s curves and sand traps. I’ve lived here fifteen years and never walked the extra three hundred yards that rewarded me with a view I’d never seen before.

Isn’t it funny how I’m planning to travel to some incredible destinations this year and such an amazing place is within dog walk distance of my house? I stood there and breathed in the air while I took in the moment. I wonder what else I’ve been missing?

This morning, the sky is still dark and my dogs are both asleep. The house is quiet while I keep an eye on the clock so I have time to get ready for work. But I’m already anticipating another long walk, perhaps later today. I clearly have more places to explore. I can’t wait for this afternoon’s explosion of excitement when I grab the leashes.

What wonderful surprises are within walking distance of your house?

Sisters’ Trip Update – New England It Is

New England  Lighthouse
The results are in!

Thank you for all of your input and votes. My sisters and I are headed to the New England area for our sisters’ trip. Now we just need to decide on our itinerary and what areas we will be traveling.

The initial plan is to fly into Boston or Bangor, rent a car and then drive through a number of states. Each one of us is going to pick two places we want to see and then we’ll set up the schedule. From lighthouses, to specific towns, covered bridges and a Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory Tour, we’ve already received some great suggestions from those who recommended New England.

Being landlocked in Colorado, the a visit to the Atlantic Ocean is a definite. The rest will develop as we select our must sees. We are still intending to try to keep to our budget of $500 each, not including airfare. I’m finding that renting a car at one airport and dropping it off at another adds to the expense, so we’ll see what discounts are available.

Travel Budget Plan

  1. Do our research on places to stay and book in advance
  2. Select B&B’s, motels or hotels that serve breakfast and are not in the costly city centers
  3. Buy a cheap cooler when we arrive and fill it with snacks so we can limit our eating out
  4. Select and budget in the key places we want to see and then fill in with low cost or free places to visit
  5. Rent a small car that gets better gas mileage, but is still comfortable enough for three people and luggage
  6. Utilize discounts that may be available to us: senior discounts, AAA, online booking

If there is anyone who can spot a discount, it’s Wendy. I know she is already on the hunt. Do you have any tips that you use to stay on a travel budget?

In Other Travel News:

I’m headed to White Sands National Monument  in New Mexico this weekend with a small group of my photographer friends. When they say “white sands” they mean it. What a beautiful place. I can’t wait to share the pictures.

With my trip to Namibia less than two months away, I visited the Global Travel Clinic and recieved one shot in each arm yesterday afternoon. One to prevent Typhoid and the other Hepatitis A. Ouch! I have a couple prescriptions to fill, including anti-malaria pills, Cipro and motion sickness prevention patches. Planning continues…