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Folk songs left behind as culture moves on

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Chances are kids will never learn — or even hear — American folk songs unless parents teach them.

Folks songs often detail the origins of the American experience:

“I’ve been working on the railroad”

“Oh My Darling Clementine”

“Oh Susanna”

“Michael, Row the Boat Ashore”

“This Land Is Your Land”

“John Henry”

Although these songs are widely available on recordings, schools, with declining musical offerings, don’t use many any more.

In 2003, University of Florida doctoral student Marilyn Ward discovered in her thesis work that American folk songs were already gone from school curriculum and precious few teachers wanted them back.

When Ward surveyed music teachers about the songs, she encountered frequent objections.

Among the objections:

* Multicultural curriculums don’t include American culture.

* Low socio-economic schools need to teach pop songs.

* Folk songs might have racist backgrounds.

* Some songs have a Christian basis.

Although the songs like “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” notably did have verses tied to racist minstrel shows, these verses were typically not taught in public schools.

Other songs, like “Wade in the Water,” were Christian gospel songs with a secret message: How slaves could escape dog tracking.

Christmas carols typically are not taught in school curriculum because of modern constitutional issues. Churches might keep these alive and, in fact, churches have produced many musicians and singers popular in today’s music scene. Still, church attendance is declining, according to recent research from Pew.

Musical instruction itself is often lagging in public education as support for all arts decreases. In 2015, the US Department of Education found that 40 percent of high schools don’t require any coursework in the arts for graduation. In 2010, more than 8,000 public schools were without any music programs. About 1.3 million elementary school students didn’t have access to learning music.

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What type of fruit should you grow?

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Fruit-bearing trees, shrubs, and plants are easy to grow and can add visual interest to your yard with their vibrant foliage and flowers. Here’s what to plant based on various preferences.

If you want a harvest this summer
To enjoy your fruit within a few months, opt for fast-growing plants. A few examples include strawberries, raspberries, ground cherries, cantaloupes, and watermelons.

If you want long-lasting producers

If you’re willing to be patient, plant a perennial tree or shrub that has a long life but only bears fruit after a few years. Apricot trees and blackberry bushes take about two years to produce fruit. For blueberries, pears, and apples, you’ll need to wait three years. Plum trees take six years.

If you want unique but delicious berries
If you want to plant fruit that’s a little out of the ordinary, try black currants, Arctic kiwis, or Saskatoon berries. These berries are great for making mouth-watering jams.

Keep in mind that some trees and shrubs only bear fruit if there’s a second plant nearby to pollinate it. If you want to grow apples, for example, you’ll need to plant two trees.

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The advantages of permeable paving

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Permeable pavers, such as interlocking sto¬nes, can be used to build driveways, walk¬ways, and patios. Here’s why they’re a great choice.

They reduce runoff
Permeable paving allows water to seep into the ground. This means runoff is less likely to pool on the surface or end up in the sewer system. Consequently, you’ll have fewer puddles when it rains and less ice buildup when it’s cold. Permeable pavers also reduce the risk of flooding and erosion.

They keep cities cooler

Permeable pavers remain cooler than asphalt because they’re paler and absorb less sunlight. This makes them particularly suited for cities where large amounts of asphalt create urban heat islands. In fact, some cities are beginning to make permeable paving a requirement for certain projects.

They’re a good investment
Permeable pavers are easy to install because they don’t require the ground to be compacted beforehand. They’re also more durable than asphalt so they cost less in the long run. Plus, they can increase the value of your home.

Lastly, permeable pavers can help filter out pollutants and replenish the water table with clean water. This makes them a particularly great choice for eco-conscious consumers.

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One option for some seniors: Roth IRA

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Some investors could make a big move in this crisis-driven market by converting their retirement accounts to a Roth IRA.

One caution: It might be smart for you, and it might not.

Naturally, with all things about investing, it all depends.

Roth IRAs are great investments when the stock market is down, according to Leon LaBrecque of the Sequoia Financial Group. That’s because, as the market recovers, you make money tax free.

Roths are also good when taxes are low. You hope to pay low taxes on a Roth when you invest and avoid higher taxes when you take distributions. If you are looking at the recent $2 trillion relief bill, with promises of more to come, who would blame you if you thought taxes were going to rise?

Finally, Roths are best for optimists. Do you think it is a bear market that won’t recover for a decade? Or do you think it is a short-term crisis market that will recover swiftly?

A down market that is poised to recover, is an optimum time for converting to a Roth, according to LaBrecque.

To actually decide whether this would be beneficial to your situation, you have to speak to an investment professional. Depending on your financial situation, there are several ways to create a Roth, but also serious pitfalls.

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Robot companions for your pet

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If you’re worried about leaving your cat or dog alone while you’re at work, you may want to invest in a robot pet companion. These battery-operated devices are designed to amuse, feed, and otherwise occupy your furry friend while you’re not home.

There are different models available, such as ones that regularly feed your animal and others that periodically eject treats. The best robot companions, how¬ever, truly interact with your pet. They connect to your smartphone and can be set to either operate automatically or be controlled through an app. The best part is they give your pet something to play with when you’re not around, ensuring that Fido or Mittens isn’t bored in your absence.

Robot pet companions are water-resistant and strong enough to withstand bites. Most of them include a camera, microphone, and speaker. This al¬lows you to see and talk to your pet when you’re not home and ensure they’re safe and happy.

Part pet-sitter and part toy, these robots are set to change the way we take care of our cats and dogs.

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3 reasons to use a smart speaker

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Smart speakers are no longer novel, and an estimated one in four adults in North America now owns at least one. This type of product (whether it’s made by Google, Apple, or Amazon) may be particularly useful for seniors. Here’s why.

1. It can simplify tasks. If you connect a smart speaker to other smart devices in your home, you’ll be able to turn on the lights, adjust the thermostat, and close the curtains simply by uttering a command. This can be invaluable if you have arthritis or reduced mobility.

2. It can issue reminders. Whether you want to remember to take your medication or call a loved one on their birthday, a smart speaker can help. This device can function as a to-do list, a calendar, and an address book all in one.

3. It can improve your safety. Most smart speakers can be programmed to initiate a conversation at a set time each day. If you don’t respond, the device is able to automatically send a message to one of your family members advising them to check up on you.

A smart speaker can make your life easier and help you maintain your independence.

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5 ways to protect your bike from thieves

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If you regularly use your bike to commute or run errands, you should take steps to protect it from getting stolen. Here are five ways you can reduce the risk.

1. Lock it. Invest in a sturdy U-lock and use it when you leave your bike unattended. The best way to secure your bike is to weave the lock through the frame and front spokes.

2. Secure the wheels. Although they make it easier to transport your bike, wheels with a quick-release mechanism are easy to steal. Opt for nuts and bolts instead.

3. Use a bike rack. Avoid fastening your bike to street signs and fence posts as they may not be properly lodged into the ground. A thief might be able to lift or unscrew the pole.

4. Move it around. Don’t park your bike in the same place every time, as this could make it an easy target. If you have to leave your bike outside all day, move it at least once.

5. Get it engraved. If someone steals your bike, an engraving makes it easier to identify and harder to resell. Some police departments offer this service.

Finally, keep a record of your bike’s make, model and serial number at home. This information will be useful if your bike gets stolen and you need to file a police report.

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