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11 Alternative Ways to Learn Your ABCs

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Most teachers use the typical associations to teach the alphabet: A is for apple, B is for bear, C is for cat, and so on. (Z is usually Zebra.) But if you prefer walking off the beaten path, there is a wealth of alternative alphabets available to teach your children the ABCs.

1. The Hidden Alphabet by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

In her lift-the-flap picture book (and book trailer, above), Seeger not only uses less traditional associations, but she also hides the items within the shapes of the letters. A is for Arrowhead, the triangle in the A; P is for Partridge, the hollow in the P; and Q is for Quotation Mark, the center of the Q.

2. The Muppet Alphabet by Mike Boon


Boon, a graphic designer, created an alphabet in which the letters are formed from The Muppet Show characters. B is for Bunsen and Beaker, F is for Fozzie, and X is for Xomfey (a "Pink Stalk" from the show's pilot episode, "Sex and Violence"). You can purchase a T-shirt (from Threadless) or a poster (mini through gallery size at society6) featuring the alphabet.

3. SuperHero ABC by Bob McLeod



As an illustrator and artist for both Marvel Comics and DC Comics, McLeod has his fair share of experience with superheroes. His children's picture book, SuperHero ABC, was named one of School Library Journal's "Best Books of the Year." It features Astro-Man, who's "always alert for an alien attack;" Bubble-Man, who "blows big bubbles at bullies" (as well as being a bald man who wears boots); and The Volcano, who "vomits on villains." His web site features SuperHero ABC activity pages as well as links to purchase T-shirts, posters, and other related merch.

4. The Alphabet of Geekdom by Nana Leonti


The "geekdom" alphabet by artist Nana Leonti features letters from the logos of popular geek brands/franchises, which Leonti hand-drew. M is for Magic: The Gathering, V is for V for Vendetta, and W is for Wonder Woman. You can purchase T-shirts and prints through redbubble.

5. The ABCs of Rock by Melissa Duke Mooney and Print Mafia



If you're too cool for the Alphabet of Geekdom, perhaps The ABCs of Rock is more your style. When Mooney, whose husband is in a band, couldn't find a suitable rock 'n' roll alphabet book for her daughters, she decided to create one herself. Near the end of the process, Mooney passed away unexpectedly from meningitis, but her husband and others finished the project in her honor. Associations from the rockin' picture book include B for Bowie (David, that is), F for Fleetwood Mac, and W for White Stripes.

6. The Official Fart Alphabet by Ralph Masiello and Stephanie Brockway


Masiello and Brockway's fart-centric alphabet features such gems as "Left Cheek Squeak," "Noxious," and "Silent But Deadly," and the letters are green gassy clouds.

7. Nerdy Baby ABCs by Tiffany Ard


The Nerdy Baby ABC flash cards feature associations such as A for Atom, B for Binary Code, and C for Cell Membrane, all beautifully drawn by children's artist Tiffany Ard. You can pick up a set in the mental_floss store.

8. My Foodie ABC by Puck and Violet Lemay



Puck's board book for "gastronomes in training" teaches both the alphabet as well as the foodie terms, with pronunciation guides and descriptions for all the terms and colorful illustrations by Lemay. P is for Pomegranate, Q is for Quinoa, and R is for Radicchio.

9. A is for Ackbar by Emma & Brandon Peat


The Peats initially designed this Star Wars-themed alphabet as wall hangings for their baby's bedroom. They later printed it up in book form to show family members and distribute as a thank you to those who contributed to their baby's college fund. Now, it just lives on Brandon's web site. C is for Chewie and C-3PO, E is for Ewoks, and L is for Luke and Leia. (There's also an official Star Wars ABC board book, but it's not nearly as adorable.)

10. The Alphabet 2 by n9ve

Independent design studio n9ve created this alphabet video experiment in which each letter visually represents the meaning of its word. B is a B-shaped biscuit, C is for Cell Animation, and the D, which explodes, is for Destruction. Check out their behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot, as well as their first alphabet video, in which each letter correlates to a font.

11. XYZ Blocks by Christian Northeast



These fun wooden alphabet blocks from Fred are "the alternative to ABC," with non-boring associations like K for Karate, T for Trailer, and U for Underpants. You can pick up a set in the mental_floss store.

11 alternative alphabets not enough for you? Don't worry, we're not stopping the fun. Head over to our "Alternative ABCs" board on Pinterest for more alphabety goodness. And if you've seen a good one, let us know in the comments and we'll add it to the board.

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Kyle Ely
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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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The Facts Behind That $5 Billion in 'Forgiven' Student Loan Debt
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The New York Times created a considerable stir on July 17 by detailing a widespread student loan repayment crisis. According to the paper, one of the largest holders of private loans, National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts, has been struggling to provide documentation that proves it owns the $5 billion in delinquent accounts that it’s been attempting to collect. Without that paperwork, dozens of lawsuits brought against defaulting borrowers are being dismissed.

A lack of a paper trail is never a good thing for the plaintiff in attempting to collect a debt. But it’s not exactly great news for the borrower, either. 

Here’s why: First, it’s helpful to understand how a typical chain of custody works for private student loans. (Federal loans, which typically have more forgiving terms, are a separate issue entirely.) Banks and other lenders offer loans to applicants, then turn around and sell bundles of those loans to a depositor. That depositor will offer the loans to an umbrella organization like National Collegiate, which is comprised of 15 private trusts holding the paper on more than 800,000 loans.

This lengthy chain of custody is where the problems begin. Because loans pass through several hands, it’s not always clear who has retained the documentation needed by courts to prove that National Collegiate is the owner of the debt they’re attempting to collect from a borrower in default. As a result, judges tasked with these cases often have no choice but to dismiss them.

That’s led to a series of headlines about $5 billion in “forgiven” debt, which may sound comforting to someone burdened with a towering student loan at exorbitant interest rates. However, as several attorneys speaking to the media have pointed out, it’s not that simple. The cases that have been dismissed were in court because the borrower was already in default. In situations where National Collegiate can prove ownership of the debt, those debtors are facing wage garnishment and a negative impact on their credit score. Simply defaulting on a loan and hoping you happen to be one of the people whose paperwork is incomplete is a dangerous form of wishful thinking.

In the event you had no choice but to default and might benefit from National Collegiate's poor record-keeping, you may not walk away unscathed. According to debt relief attorney Daniel Gamez, a student borrower who sees his or her case dismissed is not facing a clean slate. National Collegiate is fighting so many defaulted loans that they may choose to drop cases based on logistical issues like witness scheduling. Still, even if the lawsuit is dropped, National Collegiate may have the option to refile it at a later date—this time armed with the documentation and resources they need. And any debt, even if it’s been declared unenforceable, may still affect your credit score.

Ultimately, whether or not National Collegiate can produce paperwork doesn’t change the fact that a borrower has a student loan that they’ve agreed to repay. As a creditor, National Collegiate is likely to take every legal measure available in order to collect on that debt. While those amounts may be “forgiven” in court, they’re not likely to be forgotten.

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