Saturday, October 30, 2010

Did I just read that?

From today: "The first and most devastating fire was reported around 3:30 a.m. at an LDS meetinghouse at 3219 S. 300 East. South Salt Lake Fire Battalion Chief Terry Addison said a brick was found thrown through a window in the chapel, where the fire began. "Right now it's looking like it is a suspicious fire," he said."

You think?

They go on: "The second fire was reported at 6:48 a.m. at an LDS church building at 2702 S. Main Street. South Salt Lake Police confirmed there was forced entry at that building as well. "Right now, they all appear to be arson and they are suspicious in nature," said Gary Keller, spokesman for the South Salt Lake Police Department. "It's premature to say that they would all be connected.""

Is there such a thing as non-suspicious arson?
And is it premature?

Makes me wonder about the investigative skills of the SLC police!

Did I just read that?

From today: "Legend has it he captured the residents of an enemy town and forced them to build the castle as punishment."

Punishment for being captured? By the captor? Huh?


Caleb was up sick from 3:00 am until 7:45 am this morning.  So we all slept until after noon.

With someone throwing up at night, we didn't feel like we could go out and do all the activities on our list (Day of the Dead Festival at the museum, helping put together a museum-quality dinosaur skeleton replica down in Boulder, Halloween party with friends, trick or treating at the church.).  But I didn't feel like I could let the kids down, either. I really feel strongly that Mom's job is to be the safe place, the anchor, and the stability in the family, regardless of what troubles are swirling around. It's my job to make the home, and make it feel stable and safe and happy. And getting sick for the week of Halloween doesn't excuse me from making good memories for the kids.

So, some quick thinking and we came up with an alternate plan. The kids had wanted to do jack-o-lanterns, and they'd saved their own money to buy the pumpkins, so we went to the store and let them buy their own pumpkins. Then we came home, let them draw faces on the pumpkins, and dressed for Trick-or-treating.

Instead of the traditional trick-or-treating, we joined up with our ward and the other ward who meets in our church building, and everyone lined their cars up in the parking lot and opened the trunks, and we went "trunk-or-treating." It's  fast way to trick or treat the houses of all the people you know all at once. Less tiring, less dangerous, more fun. This was the first year in Colorado that we had a nice, warm evening--no snow for once. We didn't even need coats, and I was warm wearing a long-sleeved shirt! So the kids went 'round to two wards, got to hang out with their friends from church, and got TONS of candy.

Then we came home and let them eat candy while Tim and I rested, not so much from the walking as from the  costuming and shepherding kids the whole way through.

We let the kids eat all their candy at once and get it over with. A sugar hit from half the candy is about the same as a sugar hit from all the candy or from three pieces, so we might as well just have ONE sugar hit, right? So we don't ration or take it away or anything like that. Our dentist approves, too--less sugar on their teeth overall. And if the rare child shows up who can ration their own candy, then they have the self-control to also handle it carefully, and I'm okay with that. So the kids went into the TV room to play nintendo, and Tim and I rested, and then we did a "Pumpkin Fest" (as Anda called it).

We gave each of the big kids a "sharp" (Benji's word for the kind of knife he can't use) and taught them how to carve pumpkins. I was amazed that these kids who willingly dig mud canals in the yard and maintain them all summer were disgusted by pumpkin guts. Daniel, who loves to cook and play with dough and loves to play in the mud and dirt, refused categorically to even touch the stuff. Anda, who usually still prefers to eat with her hands (even pudding), also hesitated (although she eventually got the job done, and done well).  Caleb did some and then quit because he didn't like his hands to be so slimy.   Eventually we got 5 pumpkins carved anyway. We cut off the bottoms, too, so we could just set them over the candles. Nathanael joyfully said, "OH! Can sing Happy Birthday now!"

The kids lined the carved, lit Jack-o-Lanterns up on the long side of the table and then lined up chairs in front of them and sat there, happily eating candy at their Pumpkin Fest, for a long time while they talked and just enjoyed themselves.

Everyone seems happy enough, so I think we survived Halloween.

I told the kids that Sunday might officially be Halloween, but we don't do these kinds of parties on Sunday, so they were okay with doing it all today.  We had planned to have some friends come visit tomorrow, but I don't think they want to take the risk of having the pukey sickness go through their 4 kids, too. So tomorrow might be really quiet around here. And that's okay, too.

Princess Peach

I'm usually not this kind of feminist, but I just had to ask my kids today why Princess Peach is always getting kidnapped in all the Mario Brothers games. While I don't mind men learning to defend and protect women (since that is part of their duty in the family), shouldn't she learn how to defend herself?

No, the kids said. That's not what princesses do. (And that from Anda!). And besides, then there would be no plot left to any of the Mario games.

Well, I said, Princesses SHOULD learn how to defend themselves. It would be wise.

Then I had to know: are there any powerful women in the Mario games?

Sure, they said. The final boss. The worst of the worst bad guys who masterminded the whole plot is a woman.


So good girls are helpless, but bad girls are the most powerful of all--even more than the men?

Not sure I like that plan.....

But I see it everywhere in the media--even (perhaps especially) in things produced with a feminist sensibility in mind. (Like "Grease". I HATE "Grease" because of how they treat women in that show.)

I just don't understand why good girls can never be portrayed as powerful without also portraying them as masculine or wicked. The most common theme I see for women is that their power comes from rejecting their femininity or embracing pure sexualization (either one), and from choosing wrong. It's like Freud has taken control of all things feminine!

What are we teaching the women nowaday?  AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Poetry, by Isaiah

They skipped this passage in Sunday School last week, so it's been on my  mind. This just might be my all-time favorite passage of scripture, as well as possibly my favorite piece of poetry. I couldn't figure out how they could just pass over it in Sunday School (to talk about the last half of the chapter, which is also gorgeous, but to focus on "pleased the Lord to bruise him" and that's ALL, from the whole chapter, they talked about!). Even in translation, this is wonderful.

Who hath believed our report? and
to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of a dry ground:
he hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see him,
there is no beauty that we should desire him.

He is despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were our faces from him;
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;

and with his stripes we are healed.

I could spend time tearing it apart like English majors do poetry ("surely" as in a sure-footed donkey, not "surely you don't mean that"; borne our griefs and sorrows, not just sins; "chastisement of our peace" is a fantastic phrase.....etc.).  But I think this one stands so beautifully on its own.

It's in Isaiah 53, in case you want to read the rest. Or you can discover it the way I first did, quoted by another great prophet here: Mosiah 14. (My favorite phrase from the last half: "...when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin he shall see his seed...")

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Overheard from the tub tonight:

Benji, "I threw up."
Nathanael: "No, I threw up."
Benji: "No. I threw up."
Nathanael: "No! I threw up."

In fact, they both did.  Benji came to me this evening, when Nathanael finally seemed to be on the mend, and said, "Mom, I threw up all over the bed."

"Whose bed?" I asked.

"Yours," he said. "But don't worry. It was an accident."

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sick kids

Nathanael threw up every hour all night last night, and then at least 3 more times today. It got so he didn't even wake up, and after 3:00 am I stopped bathing him and just threw down another blanket and wiped him off with a towel (by then there wasn't anything left in him to puke out anyway), and then cleaned him and the bed up thoroughly in the morning. And that's when the diarrhea hit. 

So I didn't get everything done today--I was too busy rocking a baby.

Still, I managed to turn in some paperwork I needed to finish, and during a small break in the puking, I ran down and voted while there was no line. This is the first midterm election where there were enough major issues on  the ballot, and enough going on in national politics, that I not only remembered to go vote, I felt strongly that my voice actually mattered and needed to be heard. I even researched the issues. 

And I did finish sorting and folding the heap of clean clothes (not linens yet, though).  With all the clothes we've been given, I discovered we had much-needed entirely new wardrobes for all six of my kids plus the two daughters of a good friend! Now I can throw away all the clothes we got used 9 years ago that have been through 3-5 kids just in my family. Thank-you everyone who shared with us!

I managed dinner, which mostly nobody ate (I like cabbage, but the kids won't give it a chance). I didn't get to dishes, though, and none of the throwuppy blankets and towels would be washed if Tim hadn't done it.  Fortunately, school is one of the few things that are easy to do when I have a sick kid, so that all got done.

I also had a doctor's appointment. Baby is fine and approved to come any time after next Monday, although we'll probably have to wait until December--mine don't seem to come early. He's very busy and for some reason I can feel and see his movements much more than any of my other kids'. Even the doctor was surprised how visible the baby's movements are, especially when he very visibly rolled over and then deliberately kicked her doppler heartbeat monitor off my tummy, and then kept kicking the same place until she wiped the gel off, too. I guess he's as opinionated as my other 5!

So now I just got thrown up on again, and everyone is not staying in bed (I just hate that!). So I'm off to clean up and put everyone back in bed. Again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kazutorial from Mister Tim : How NOT 2Kazoo

Did I just read that?

The message my computer sent me this evening:  "HP Support Assistant has determined that your notebook PC's battery has started to loose it's full charge capacity. A notebook PC battery's charge capacity will normally deteriorate over time. Purchasing a second battery can extend the time you use your notebook PC on battery power."

Is loosing it's charge akin to unleashing it?

Statistics I Wish I Had

America's Got Talent seems to exist because it plays on people's dreams that someday, something will snatch them out of obscurity and give them the attention they've always wanted for their talents. Most people have no idea what that actually entails--they just have this vague idea that being famous for their talents is desirable and means lots of money (neither of which is actually necessarily true).

Without people's dreams, and the idea that it might be them on TV next year, the show would fall flat. So a huge part of what they do is open the door to let anyone come in and audition--and make sure that everyone knows they are welcome to come wait in line and take a shot at escaping their mundane (or downright miserable) life to whatever dream they have of fame and fortune. So they show lots of shots of Middle America waiting in line, and talk a lot about who they discovered at what open audition.

What they don't mention is that they also actively seek out and invite people to audition for the show--perhaps thousands. What they also don't mention is that many of the people who make it onto TV and then through to the next rounds are already professional performers who have "paid their dues" (been working their acts publicly on stage for 10 years or more). Many of the acts we see on TV are people Tim knows from Vegas, where they've been performing on the Strip successfully for many years.  At least one winner had been working with an agent who does Talent Development for many years before he hit America's Got Talent (I know that because it was the agent moosebutter was working with for a while).

And many of these people--the already-semi-famous and the invited-to-audition--don't stand in line all day and wait. They don't sing with 10 other people in the room. They get a special scheduled private audition time.

The statistics I know they keep that I wish I had are how many people get on TV who come from the cattle call audition, and how many were of the other categories--the professionals who just haven't broken from the regional into the national market.  I am so curious--how many people who get through to the final rounds were invited to audition? How many have already performed in Vegas? How many have over 10 years of experience? I'm thinking the answers would be close to 100% on all questions, but I don't know. All I do know is that most of the  people who make it into the later rounds handle both the microphone and the stage in a way that says, "Lots of experience."

In other words, I'm not sure the average American Dreamer has any chance at all. I've begun to wonder if that's all just part of the show--a really fancy marketing device, rather than a real, legit audition. I mean, if they're selling dreams, they have to let people dream to sell the product, right?

Nobody's ever going to show me those numbers, though.

I just wish I could see them.

Sunday, October 24, 2010 has math problems again.

From the beginning of an article: "An Ohio National Guard soldier died four days after being injured in a parachuting accident during an airborne training exercise, officials said. Herbert Mills, 59, of Groveport, died early Sunday morning at a hospital in Columbus, Franklin County Coroner Jan Gorniak said. Mills' rank was not released."

and the end: "One of the men landed on the airport tarmac, while the other three came down on the grass. The soldiers were ages 26 to 45."

So what was that age range again?

Did I just read that?'s home page sometimes shortens headlines in amusing ways: "Body Found in Park Believed to Be Ill. Student"

I'd say that student was ill--can't be more ill than dead!

Nathanael says....

Part of Tim's rehearsals always involve making funny noises and playing with various sounds, most of which don't come across as musical out of context. Today Nathanael heard those sounds and came running in to the laundry room: "Mommy! I hear a dinosaur! It's going to get me!"

More of America's Got Talent

Several people have asked, so I'm just making the announcement here so I don't have to keep answering the same question over and over:

Yes, Tim did audition for America's Got Talent this year. He was invited to audition by a lower-level producer, who scheduled a private audition time where he got to skip the long, all-day lines and where he got to audition by himself instead of in a group of 10-15 other singers.

They seemed to like it (but they've liked his stuff every year--he's made it quite far in the process over and over but never been on TV). They sent him on to the second audition of the day (a call back--a sign that he's not cut yet), and then to the interview segment (a sign he's not cut yet, still). The producers had nice things to say about his act.

And the audition ended with, "We'll call you--in March."

Yeah. March.

By the time they call, we will have forgotten what he auditioned for (and they said, "Remember what you're wearing, okay?"  Really? For  6 months?).

So now you know everything I know.

Nathanael says....

Nathanael was all excited today because the kids decided we ought to actually celebrate my birthday that was last week. We made a cake, and put candles on it, and Nathanael was bouncing around the kitchen talking about "Singing happy birthday to the candles!"

So THAT's what a birthday party is about!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Did I just read that?

From home page today: "Obama Urges Gay Kids to Persevere In Bullying"

I'm not sure that's going to solve the bullying problem....encourage the victims to bully other people? Sounds fishy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Us, lately

So, with the curricula all done, I had a list of things I was going to get to next. Apples, laundry, dishes, floors (as in re-doing the flooring in two spaces, not as in cleaning them), the baby's room needs to be created (right now it's a TV room).  Boxes need sorting and unpacking.

The spirit is willing.

Unfortunately, I have a rather large, rather heavy belly that sets into serious contractions if I stand up for more than 10 minutes or sit in a hard chair for more than half an hour. I also have been having a bad spell of fibro for the last 8 months, so I can't hold my arms up or out (even long enough to wipe the table), or stand up long, or sit in one position long, and I have to get extra sleep or I fall apart completely (I even dreamed last night that I was throwing a fit and yelling at everyone because someone told me I had to do an activity that required me to reach out and work on something, and they wouldn't let me sit to do it and didn't understand that I'm in constant pain, even in my dreams). With all the appointments and schooling we've had lately, enough sleep is not a reliable thing.

So I discovered yesterday that the apples HAD to be dealt with immediately. So the kids got an apple cake for dinner. And I did four trays of dried apples and a crockpot of applesauce. Plus we put 3 grocery bags FULL in the fridge (the fridge wouldn't fit any more) and have two boxfuls left that I still need to deal with. I did most of the work sitting down and still had to take almost an hour in my rocking chair to recover afterward (and then dreamed I was in pain last night).  The results of all the work were very yummy, though. I love apples.

I started on the laundry problem this week. I made diagrams of all the shelves and cubbies we have in the clothes room and decided where everyone's clothes will be put to make them easy to find (last time I put pants and shirts not together, and the kids never could remember where their pants were). I also printed labels for all the cubbies, so the kids can find their stuff (since all 5 recognize the letters of the alphabet, that works even for Nathanael) and so Tim can put things away, too, and not have me go back and wonder where the socks all went. It helps when we're all on the same system. Notice, though, I didn't actually touch the laundry. I did all the sit-down work! I'll have to have the kids help me with the laundry itself, I think. If I can sit, and they can do the running and moving of things, we might get that room in order.

I intended to fix the dryer today, which works but is making an awful racket, but I can't even pull it out from the wall, and sitting on the floor is painful, and I'm not sure I'm actually capable of fixing a dryer when my belly is this huge.

I have managed to get all the kids to the dentist for checkups. That's 5 appointments, with two of them going to toddlers (one of whom has a phobia of all things medical). So far, 5/5 need a lot of work, which means MORE appointments. For all of them. Daniel had his teeth all fixed at once while under general anaethesia at the Children's Hospital in Denver (They're REALLY good with kids--no tearing them away from their parents to put them under, for example. No needles that they are aware of. No forcing them into hospital gowns. No making them wake up before parents can come in.). Daniel had all but four teeth crowned, and two pulled out. Anda is scheduled to have one pulled and all the rest filled (her teeth are crowded, so they have cavities between them) in a series of 5 more appointments--and if the first doesn't go well, she'll be going to Children's Hospital, too. Benji wouldn't open his mouth, so he has to come to everyone else's appointments to get used to the dentist, and then we'll try again in six weeks--and if that doesn't work, the dentist will send him to a psychologist for therapy first and we'll try again. I'm pretty sure he'll have to go to Children's hospital--I can see decay between his front teeth and in his upper molars. Nathanael's teeth came in with brown bars on them, and the dentist said all of our children's teeth have been attacked by "the Arnold Swarzenegger of dental bacteria"--a superbug that eats enamel like candy--and that's why their teeth are so bad. She said they probably got it from me, since Tim didn't have any cavities until he married me (shoot....I gave it to him, too?). Since Nathanael's teeth aren't even fully formed yet, but are decayed severely front and back, he has to have most of them pulled. He's not even 2 years old yet! So down to Children's Hospital with him, too. Oh, and Caleb, who had his teeth done at Children's Hospital when he was four, has a crowded mouth that is going to require a space maintainer and then probably orthodontic work (when his teeth all come in) AND his teeth have malformed enamel (his adult teeth) that require immediate treatment before they develop decay (apparently they have special sealants for that problem. Phew).  So we have dental appointments scheduled out to January and then some.

I still need to get the three big kids to the eye doctor and Daniel to the allergist and Caleb to a neuropsychologist (to get a formal diagnosis on his tic disorder--I think it's Tourettes--so we get accommodations at places like the dentist when he tics in the chair and can't keep his mouth open because of it). Not to mention I have to see the doctor every week or two myself until mid-December, and prepare Thanksgiving and Christmas early as  much as possible just in case.

In other words, getting to my to-do list isn't happening.

Instead, I find myself sitting in my rocking chair reading the news. Out of the blue I surprised myself and started contacting literary agents again for my novel that I haven't looked at in two months. I watch the kids do school. Stuff I can do sitting down.

Maybe I need a new to-do list, all of things I can do in my rocking chair.

Musician Pay

I mentioned once before that sometimes Tim gets paid in the form of stuffed animals, free admission to things, meals, etc.

Lately he's been getting a lot of T-shirts.

And the last job he did, he got paid cash plus 66 gallons of water.

That was a first.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Last words on my curriculum adventures...maybe

I know I keep talking about this, but it was a major major accomplishment. I realize almost nobody will really understand that because, really, who writes their own curriculum for their kids--ever? Nobody. My mom will probably understand and appreciate it all because she's an instructional designer--she's done this before for multiple companies.  Mostly everyone else I talk to says, "Oh, I just buy my curriculum."  Yeah--that's easier, for sure. But I had two problems with that--I can't afford a curriculum, and I found that most of them were not really academically challenging and interesting to my kids (because they don't make stuff on the 8th grade level with a 2nd grade sense of humor). I figured, given my rather unique children, I could do better than I could buy, and free.

(My basic philosophy, which I call "freeschooling" is that there is BETTER stuff online, for free, than you can get for any price through any traditional curriculum that you buy or that the schools provide--if you know where to find it. I've been "finding it" for Learning Lynx for over a year now, but this time I set out to organize what I found into cohesive, academically sound lessons for my own kids).

So here's what I did:  I dug through the internet, searching for age- and intellect-appropriate lessons that were student-ready. There are thousands (and probably millions) of free lesson plans posted online, but I couldn't use those because the setup around here is that the kids turn on the computer and log in to school, and they each do a set amount of online lessons per day that have to be ready for them when they click the link. So no lesson plans, which I would have to prepare in advance and then sit down and formally teach and manage activities and stuff--I can't do that because I'm not organized enough and because I'm schooling FIVE kids each day in five different grades. It takes too much time. So the lessons have to be online links, student-ready, and only take a short amount of time to complete (2-3 minutes each for Nathanael, less than 20 minutes each--and preferably 5 minutes or less each--for the biggest kids because we still have to deal with the ADD issues) with tutoring and coaching from me, but nothing extensive or lengthy, but still be solidly educational and (here was the kicker) superior to what they would get on the same subject in a public school, most private schools, AND most homeschool curriculums that you might purchase.  Oh, and they had to be free. 100% free and also accessible as individual links without logging in and using their system to access it (so, for example, SAS curriculum was off-limits because I couldn't share the link for that and have anyone on earth access it, and most of the sample lessons from Time4Learning were out because all the links take you to the same menu page, not the individual lessons; Head of the Class only was allowed because if you do log in, even as a guest, you can then access individual lessons from a regular browser window--you don't have to use their interface if you don't want to). Oh, and they had to be on the right academic level for my gifted kids, but also interesting to their social/emotional/ developmental stage.

So the rules were rather strict, and that sometimes made it hard to find materials. Sometimes, though, there were too many (like on electrical circuits, of all things!), and I was left sorting through them to pick the ones that were highest quality and most applicable to the child learning the lesson.

What I ended up with was 5 complete years of schooling. I gathered, collected, arranged, etc. 7861 individual, student-ready, free online lessons covering 8 subjects.

A summary:

Playschool ( toward my gifted 1-year-old, 800+ lessons on reading, music, spelling, art, math, science, social studies, and "fun" (a catchall category for miscellaneous stuff). Math covers shapes, numbers and counting, Reading covers the ABCs and nursery rhymes; writing consists of coloring pages; Spelling covers the ABCs and the letter-sound correlations as well as introduction to the concept of words; science consists of body parts, computer use, animals;  Social studies covers family; music covers children's and primary songs; art covers drawing, colors, and shapes, and includes art instructional videos, "fun" covers opposites and more about animals. This is pretty heavy on the videos and light on the interactives because when I started it, my 1 year old didn't know how to use a computer mouse (he does now). It covers a lot of the same materials as the preschool lessons do.

Preschool ( toward my gifted 3-year-old, 900+ lessons on reading, spelling, writing, math, art, science, social studies, and "fun". Math consists of numbers and counting, shapes, sorting, and other kindergarten math skills; reading covers ABCs, letter-sound correlation, sounding out words, nursery rhymes and folktales, Mercer Mayer stories, Maurice Sendak stories, and miscellaneous fun tales; Writing consists of learning to write the uppercase and lowercase letters; science consists of animals and nature; social studies covers family and a little bit the community; Music covers nursery rhymes and other traditional children's songs; and Art covers drawing, shapes, colors, and how-to art videos. Fun is, as above, a catchall category for more animals movies, etc. This is really really similar to the Kindergarten curricula I've found, so if your child is in K and not learning reading already, you'd want to use this first before you started the actual K curriculum I wrote.

Kindergarten ( toward my gifted 5-year-old, 1400+ lessons on reading, spelling, writing, math, art, science, social studies, and "fun."  Math consists of numbers and counting, odd and even, addition, subtraction, sorting, and a LOT of practice on math facts; Reading consists of learning to read using phonics, and literature lessons covering nursery rhymes, stories, and an extensive unit on Dr. Seuss stories; writing consists of learning to write letters and words, handwriting practice, playing make-believe games, and verbally telling stories; Spelling covers the phonics spelling lists from Spelling City; Science covers temperature, weather, animals, plants, bugs, cooking, materials science, machines, and building; Social Studies covers communities, jobs, places, and life necessities around the world (food, clothing, and houses); music covers the musical instruments and instrument families; art includes how-to art videos, art projects, and drawing lessons. "Fun lessons" cover more of the above and focus a lot on cooking lessons. This is really more akin to most of the first grade curricula I see around, so I'm sure it could easily be adapted to use in 1st or even 2nd grade, depending on the kid.

Second grade ( toward my gifted 7-year-old who loves Biology, 2100+ lessons on reading, spelling, writing, math, art, science, social studies, Spanish, and "Fun". Math consists mostly of addition, subtraction, and multiplication facts practice (because she's doing Saxon Math 54 for her "real" math lessons); Reading covers parody/fractured fairytales, Shel Silverstein, "The Wizard of Oz," "Alice in Wonderland," "The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and a smattering of language things like homophones and similes; writing covers basic grammar and punctuation, cursive and print handwriting, and telling stories; Science consists of Biology; History covers how we learn about history, historical objects as evidence of the past, "history detectives," and family and personal history; music covers and introduction to the musical instruments, an introduction to reading music, and a basic introduction to musical concepts like pitch, timbre, tempo and also a few famous composers;  and art covers the elements of art, how to look at art, and introduction to design, and lots of playing with art. "Fun" covers animals, mostly, to complement the biology lessons. Oh, and she's learning Spanish and doing 2nd Grade Spelling lists from Spelling City. Actually, this could be used by anyone 3rd-8th grade.

Fourth Grade ( toward my gifted 9-year-old who loves history and all language arts, it includes 2400 lessons that cover the same subjects as second grade. Because we're using Saxon 54 as the primary math curriculum, the online stuff I collected is mostly facts practice (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division); Reading covers the history of the English language, word roots, "Stories from Shakespeare," "The Hobbit," "Around the World in 80 Days," and "A Christmas Carol"; Spelling covers word roots, spelling rules, 4th grade advances lists from Spelling City, and fun language things like puns, autoantonyms, palindromes, simile, metaphor, etc; Writing covers writing effective paragraphs, both print and cursive handwriting practice, various kinds of figurative language, an intro to editing, and an intro to descriptive writing; Science covers health and middle school level physical science (physics, mostly); History covers US history (extensively); music covers the elements of music, instruments, note-reading, etc; Art includes paper craft and origami, and brief intro to American Art, design, math in art, optical illusions, and MC Escher; "fun" covers introductions to MANY different sports. And he's learning Spanish.  Actually, as written, this curriculum could be easily used by anyone 3rd-8th grade, depending on the kid.

It took me 6 weeks, and in the process I also finished big swaths of first grade (which might be almost completely done; I haven't looked back at it yet), 3rd grade, 5th grade, 6th grade, and 7th grade, and started on 8th grade in addition to what I completely finished for my kids.

It was tedious copying bazillions of links (okay, only 7861 links), and even more tedious formatting them into google docs to make them accessible to anyone on earth who wants to take advantage of all the work I just did and do some completely free homeschooling.  But it was also fun, satisfying work. I feel like I managed to make something that is really sound educationally, really fun, and enjoyable for the kids. Nobody complains that they have to do school anymore--they all willingly sit down and do the lessons, which are challenging, fun, and interesting. And, unlike most free curricula out there, it covers a LOT of subjects thoroughly.  I'm especially pleased with the language arts and humanities stuff--those have always been my specialty, and those are what I taught for 6 years before having children, and they came out really good. WAY better than most of the stuff out there. The social studies curricula are pretty nice, too. Science I'm feeling my way through. I love to read science, but I've never taught it, so it's getting edited as we go (since it turns out that even a gifted 7 year old needs a little background in order to really "get" things like organic chemistry. She didn't even know what an atom was!)

Still, I feel like I accomplished something MAJOR--like a Master's Thesis in Curriculum Design with an emphasis in Free Online Homeschooling. Only nobody will ever give me a degree for what I just did.

But they should.

Now on to the apples (we picked 5 boxes of apples off our tree out front, and there are at least 5 more boxes' worth out there that we can't reach because we have no ladder), the laundry (we've been given so many new clothes in the past month--dozens of boxes and bags from at least 4 different families) that EVERYTHING has to be sorted and put away, and the baby's room (which needs serious work before a baby can sleep in there!). Oh, and I have novel to finish and start querying to agents. Can't forget that.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Writing Curricula

So I created 5 complete full-year, 7-8 subject curricula this year. It took a lot of work and I'm very tired of copying and pasting links.

I realized, as I finished the last one, that I am still very much a middle school teacher. Both the 2nd grade and the 4th grade curricula, save for the spelling lists, are 100% usable as written for junior high. I guess I can't escape what I am! I wrote a 7th and an 8th. Again.

Next year, I have to do 1, 3, and 5th grades. The three years after that I only have to write one new one each year, and then I'll have a complete set of pre-k through 8th grade freeschooling curricula.


Nathanael and Benji and talking.

Yesterday a friend commented on how verbal Nathanael is for his age. I hadn't thought about it (all my kids are verbal). But I looked around and she's right--most under-2s don't speak full sentences or say that many different words. Or practice their pronunciation deliberately  until it's just right.

We got home and Nathanael climbed up on a chair and woke the computer from its sleep and said, "I want to watch Thomas." Then he turned on Hulu.  All by himself. Unfortunately, Hulu doesn't work very smoothly on the 10-year-old iMacs, so I came over and turned on for him (his favorite site).  He said, "I want the ABCs song." So I loaded that and sat down in my rocking chair and started working on stuff.

He looked at it for a minute and then said, "I don't want the ABCs song."

Without hesitating, I glanced over and said, "Then don't watch it. Turn it off and choose something else. Click the X to go back or click the sparkles to play the song."

He said, "Okay," thought for a minute, watched the song and then went back to the main menu and chose a different activity, telling me what letter he had chosen before he clicked on it.  All of that all by himself.

Only then did I glance back over and realize I had just told my less-than-2-year-old to use the internet with out help--and he did it! I guess he's verbally talented in both expressing himself AND in understanding.

This week, I also read a snippet from "What to expect from the Toddler Years." It explained clearly and unequivocally that ALL children learn language at different paces, but going through the exact same steps in the exact same order. And they listed the order, which I don't remember all of but that emphasized that kids learn words first and then sentences.

And it finally dawned on me why Benji had so much trouble learning to talk. He didn't learn words first. He learned sentences first.  And it's taken him a couple of years to learn words to plug into the sentences he's been speaking since he was 7 months old. (His first English utterance was the complete sentence, "I do," which he said, often and always correctly and in the right context, starting at 7 months. After that, though, he didn't have words to make other sentences, but he didn't let that stop him. He just spoke complete, LONG sentences and paragraphs, with perfect inflection patterns and facial expressions to match, made up entirely of nonsense words and gibberish.)

I guess not ALL children learn language the same way. I think, rather, we adults understand it the same way--until the kids plug in words, we don't get what they're saying.

Did I just read that?

I picked up an old Wired magazine and a subscription card fell out. One one side are the standard "Business reply mail" and "no postage necessary if mailed in the United States" messages.

On the other is a place to write in your name, address, and email to order the magazine. At the bottom of the info section are two checkboxes: "Bill me later" and "Payment enclosed."

I turned that card over and over and still can't see where you can enclose the payment.....


Friday, October 15, 2010

Fourth Grade is done

This is the last one I'm doing this year. Takes too much work, and I don't have anyone in any other grades right now!

Fourth Grade, Caleb style, can be accessed here:

It's heavy on the History, drawing from a college-level US History course, because Caleb loves history. It's light on the math because we're using Saxon Math 54 this year because I trust Saxon and because Caleb can't stand to do a whole worksheet all of one kind of problem--drives him nuts with boredom.

I'm still polishing it up and fixing a few broken links, but most of it is accessible right away.

Nathanael says.....

Nathanael is just 21 1/2 months old, and he's something of a chatterbox and loves to hang around while the other kids are doing their schooling. He's an incredible mimic, too.

I knew he was absorbing things, but figured, hey, he's just 21 months old, right?

So tonight at dinner I nearly fell off my chair when he interrupted Benji, who was trying to learn to identify the initial sounds in words, with this sentence, "'Whoops' starts the sound of doubles-you."

Why, yes, it does. And no, Benji hadn't been working on "Whoops" as a word the whole evening.

I think it might have been a fluke, though. Later Nathanael informed me, "Doubles-you says mmmmmm."

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I told the kids to "wrap it up so we can go to bed."

So they're all in the other room rapping at the top of their lungs.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Raising boys

Despite the fact that I'm very much NOT a girly-girl, some things about raising boys still startle me.

Today, Benji was in the bath while I was putting on my makeup. He said, "Look, Mom! A Geyser!"  

Yeah. Peeing in the tub in creative ways.  

The next time I turned around, he was drinking the water so he could do it again!

I can't decide if that's better or worse than the day I found him peeing off the balcony to see how far it could go.

Or the couple of weeks he spend peeing down the stairs INSIDE the house.

Who knew bodily functions could be so entertaining to a 3 year old?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Nathanael says, "

Nathanael just learned how to jump with two  feet off the ground. Just now he walked up to me and said, "I fell off the ground."


Monday, October 11, 2010

Did I just read that?

No humor here--just shock that the AP would make such a glaring error: "The paramedics then radioed that they're ambulance had been stolen with them inside."

Yet another explanation of why we homeschool

This pretty much sums up what I see coming out of public education.

Orson Scott Card Teaches you How to Write in 2 minutes flat

Orson Scott Card has been one of my most influential writing teachers. I went to every lecture he gave in Utah when I was in college, and they had an enormous influence on me even though I have read exactly ONE of his books and just a handful of his articles.

This: (about half-way down) pretty much sums up what I think about writing, English teachers, editing, etc.

It's a short must-read for writers.\


Skip to the middle if you don't want to read the whole thing (although it's all fast-paced and interesting), right to "The main advice is:...." and read from there.

Wow. The man is brilliant.

Why I believe in quitting

Everyone tells me that it's important to learn to fall and get back up again, to struggle and not give up, to climb the mountains and conquer the challenges and face the fears and never quit.

I believe that to a certain extent.

And not so much in a lot of ways.

It's one thing to never try again and sell  yourself short when some little thing goes wrong or something is more challenging or difficult than you anticipated, or when you face persecution or trial. That's a mistake. And it's a mistake to say, "I'll never be pro at this so I'm not going to try."

But it's another to persist in something you really aren't good at and don't enjoy because you don't want to be a quitter or don't want to be embarrassed or can't see an easy way out. That's a waste of time.

And I firmly believe there is a time and season for things to happen, and pushing them out of season is as foolhardy as trying to make the apples ripen in the summer. It's just not time. So it would be wise to quit.

Watching my kids this week, that has really been driven home for me.  Daniel has been a WRECK since he started kindergarten. He cries or whines all the time, won't let me out of his sight--and preferably he wants to be touching me all day, which drives me nuts (I'm not a touchy person). He fights with the other kids, picks on them, and has suddenly developed a penchant for exercise unrighteous dominion over the other kids. And bullying. And competing. The joy of exploration and childhood is gone. The sense of peace and security he needs is lost. And it's been driving me crazy.

Obviously, the conclusion I came to was that Kindergarten is not good for Daniel, but he kept insisting he wanted to stick with it, like he was trying to prove something. But I'm not having any fun, and neither is he. So what were we holding on to?

Time to quit. There is no glory in pushing through it, in holding on, in forcing adjustments, in not giving up at the expense of all else. Would we really be glad we did that? Would it really be worth it?

No. Sometimes the very best option is to just quit. There is joy and rightness in being a quitter when it saves your soul, gives you peace, and frees you to pursue things that are right and good. If you waste all your time playing basketball mediocrely and never develop your real talents, what have you gained? NOTHING.

So today I sat Dan down and said, "You have to make a choice. Either you learn how to go to school by yourself in the next few weeks, or you have to stop going altogether. Maybe you are just too young this year and can try again next year."

He's insisted for almost 2 months now that he wasn't going to quit, but telling him he was too young put a new light into his eyes. "I'm too young," he said almost immediately.

Anda, listening in, said, "He's not too young. He's five."

"He's the youngest kindergartner this year," I explained. "Many of them are just turning six, and he just barely turned five. He can do kindergarten next year and be the oldest in the class by a few weeks instead of the youngest by 11 1/2 months."

"I'm the smartest kid in my class," Dan said. "But I'm too young." (He might not be THE smartest--I hesitate ever to claim that about anyone because in my entire experience of everything there has always been someone smarter, but he is one of the first in his current class to finish every assignment and he is bored out of his mind by the academics.).

The change in him was visible. Suddenly that old, unstressed smile appeared. He started bouncing around the house. He actually went to bed and right to sleep without harassing me for three hours like he has every  night for a month.

I guess he just needed an "out"--some excuse to quit that made it okay for him, that wasn't a blow to his self image or his understanding of what was going on. And being too young was sufficient excuse for him.

And what a relief for me.

So I believe in quitting.

Not every time.

But some times it's the very best decision you could ever make.

Update on the curriculum adventure.

Today I went through over 200 American History for Kids pages. TWO HUNDRED. And that was just today. I went through a bunch yesterday and the day before, too. I have about 30 left open on my computer to check. Most of them were boring, text-intensive, poorly written. One was sensationalized beyond being educational. Some were legitimately interesting. Some were good but not fourth-grade appropriate (I don't think I want Caleb learning about the sexual liberation of teenagers between 1950 and 1990). Many, many, many of them were legitimately educational but heavily slanted toward social causes. There are far far more sites on black and/or female historical figures than white males, even though white males actually were dominant in the primary events in US history for 200 years. So in 200 sites on US history, I found dozens and dozens on slavery and how mistreated African-Americans and Native Americans and immigrants were (and these were all the slickest, most media-savvy, nicest looking and most interesting sites), and only one or two that had any sort of information on Benjamin Franklin. There were more sites on Franklin and Edison in the science sites than the history sites. That's fine, except Franklin really did play a rather significant role in getting France on our side in the Revolution, and we wouldn't have won without him. Not to mention everything else he did in his lifetime. I am totally good with making it clear that people oppressed and abused each other historically and we need to not repeat those mistakes. But I don't think I want Caleb learning a history of victimization and how evil white men are. He's going to grow up to be a white man, after all. I want him to learn about how great men can be--all men--minus the color-coding. The more we focus on racial issues, the more they become issues. (Interestingly, US courses mostly don't cover white Americans who have been victimized, like the Acadians or Mormons). I prefer the Sesame Street approach--everyone interacts as humans, and we get to forget that we are all varying shades of brown. But I was surprised how many interactives are tainted by victim culture or feminism.

So history today and tomorrow.

Last week I went through at least 500 Physical Science links.

I'm getting a little bored. Also pretty good at telling right away if a website has viable content presented in an engaging way.

Unfortunately, Caleb's 4th grade curriculum has nearly 3000 activities in it, and I was kind of aiming for 2100 or less--12 per day.  So now I have to go through and sort everything out and choose the best links for each topic (because really, he doesn't need to explore Colonial Clothing three times) and eliminate any duplicates and get them in order. Good thing I enjoy that kind of work!

The goal for each subject is to have a core curriculum that is legitimately educational and created by someone else (like the Hippocampus AP History curriculum Caleb has for his history). Preferably, this is something that includes lessons, texts, worksheets, tests, and activities. Then I fill in the gaps with cool, interesting enrichments stuff from all over the web. The curriculum should be slightly challenging intellectually (but only slightly), while the enrichment stuff MUST be easy, fun, engaging for that age. In subjects I'm extremely confident in (mostly the arts--so writing, literature, music, art, etc.), I create the core concept myself and fill in the gaps. For the more "academic" subjects (history, science, math), I find a complete curriculum and use it and fill in the gaps.

I have finished two years of preschool, all of kindergarten, all of second grade, and nearly all of 4th grade this way, and it's been fun.  When I'm done with Caleb's curriculum (hopefully by tomorrow night), I will quit for the year and move on to sorting all the clothes in the house because that's the next biggest disaster that must be dealt with. Not as fun as making online "Freeschooling" for the kids, but necessary at this point.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

More writing education woes

So I wrote the last post on writing after I did Anda's English/writing curriculum (for English this year, she's learning about parody/fractured fairytales, Shel Silverstein, Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, plus a little on grammar, punctuation, homophones, synonyms/antonyms, storytelling, touch-typing. cursive writing, and spelling).

Today I did Caleb's English curriculum (word roots and origins, The Hobbit, Around the World in 80 Days, A Christmas Carol, Stories from Shakespeare, writing effective paragraphs, figurative writing and other fun language stuff like puns and palindromes, descriptive writing and a smattering of grammar, punctuation, spelling, handwriting, touch typing, and editing skills).

As a writer and as a teacher, I find the writing curricula out there absolutely agonizing to dig through. I can't find good materials to save my life! I think I mostly resorted to college writing lab materials for some of the stuff I needed because the materials written for elementary school were so unbelievably awful I couldn't use them.

Biggest flaw I found: examples that clearly illustrated only that the person who wrote the material didn't understand the concept themselves. (Take this worksheet as an example:  Their example simile is "The tree was as tall as a house."  It IS a sentence comparing two things using like or as. It is NOT a simile because it is an actual measurement. The tree really was probably as tall as a house. That's a legit quantitative comparison, not an example of figurative language. So now how are the kids supposed to figure it out?). The teaching materials out there are rife with non-examples of personification (just having an object do something uncharacteristic is NOT personification), simile, metaphor, puns that really aren't (these were the worst! Like this non-pun from Buzzle's pun page: "A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumor." -- It's a nice play on words. Not a pun, though. Not even by their definition.)

Second biggest flaw (and probably more damaging): Using examples that are so poorly written that they are almost unreadable. How are we supposed to be enticing children to write and read if the stuff we feed them is unpalatable? The very worst of these examples were on the "show, don't tell" lessons. They would give an example of "telling" and then an example of "showing" that was more descriptive and much much worse writing than the "telling" example, leaving me saying, "But why would I want to write like that?!" (like here: "Squeezed into the corner of the room at the foot of the bed was a chest of drawers. On top of the drawers was a single electric hotplate. Opposite this was a sink piled high with dirty pots with a toothbrush just visible, peeking out through the handle of a mug. Facing the bed was a small table with a fold up-chair. On top of the table was an overflowing ashtray and yesterday's newspaper. Behind the door stood a mouldy wicker waste bin full of ash and cigarette ends."  Might be descriptive, but it's choppy, unimaginative writing that has no beauty, no life, and no character in the words or the images. Plus the images are strung together in a way that doesn't really paint a picture for the reader....)

One of the ways teachers manage to accomplish these two awful mistakes is by following the ongoing trend of using student writing as examples. I can see what they're thinking, sort of, but student writing is rarely good writing. Even good student writing is not usually good writing in the broader sense. Writing teachers are taught that this is good pedagogy, but it's not if you want your students to a) like writing and b) get good at it. They need examples of good writing from the best writers. 

Another flaw is the teachers, being poor writers themselves, are too prescriptive in their writing education. That's funny coming from my mouth, because I am a HUGE fan of teaching people the skills they need to write, rather than making them read a lot of mediocre writing and expecting them to learn by osmosis, which is how the majority of writing is taught K-12.  The trouble is, when elementary teachers aren't expecting people to learn writing by osmosis from bad examples written by other children, they are out there laying down laws that are so restrictive they take all the life out of writing. Take any lesson on "The five-sentence paragraph" and you'll see what I mean. No space for expression. It's awful. There is absolutely a place to for teaching structure in writing. Good writing DOES have a structure and even bad writers can learn to adequately express themselves given the right guidelines, but teaching all students at such a young age that there is only one way to do it right is a mistake! The focus should be on, in this order: 1) having something to say, 2) expressing it convincingly, and 3) making it clear to the reader. The "5-sentence paragraph" lessons aren't completely wrong. They're just too restrictive in saying there is ONLY ONE WAY to do it right.

Yet another thing that absolutely grates on me is poetry education. Anyone who has children write acrostics as "poetry" education has no idea what poetry is.  I have spent years successfully teaching poetry to kids who've been taught to HATE poetry by the elementary curricula. How do you do it? Number one biggest thing is to have them read a BUNCH of REALLY GOOD poetry in different styles, expressing different things, from different poets.  You cannot teach children about poetry by having them write pseudo-poetry that always comes out bad. The kids know it sounds bad. They know it doesn't make sense and doesn't express any of their own thoughts or feelings. How is that teaching them anything except that poetry is dull and they can't write it anyway?  Poetry education should not include assignments to write poetry except for extra credit. Good poetry should inspire those who can write poetry to write it, and there's no use forcing people who don't have the interest or gift to try, especially since writing poetry is not a vital life skill (and I say that as a person who loves to both read and write poetry).   

So, to teach poetry, children should read and have read to them (even up to college age) good poetry. They should have a chance to examine the techniques poets use (which, when skillfully used, are amazing!). They should be exposed to the inner workings of poetry, like rhyme, meter, figurative language, repetition, etc., in great poetry. They should be told that they are expected to not like every poem and that THAT is okay. 

That said, it hasn't been a total waste of time searching for resources, and I didn't end up writing all my own materials for the kids.

There are a few really really good resources out there for teaching English. For example, Scholastic has writing lessons by some of the best writers out there. You can access them free here:
With even more great stuff here:

There are a lot of GREAT activities here:

Some good stuff here: (but some of it is only in Welsh!).

Also TONS of great stuff here: and at its sister site:

I've also found fantastic resources coming out of museums, libraries, middle schools, and individual author websites. So there is hope out there.

But I do feel sorry for all the millions of kids who are expected to somehow learn to write using the trash the teachers are giving them!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Second Grade...Finished.

If you find any broken links, let me know:

Elementary School Writing lessons....grrrrr

I've been painstakingly collecting lessons for each of my children on each topic they're studying this year (reading, writing, spelling, art, music, history/social studies, science, Spanish, and a few miscellaneous things), and I keep coming across writing lessons that teach downright WRONG writing ideas---ideas editors and agents in the professional sphere are constantly harping on writers to get right. (Right being exactly what the elementary schools worldwide are teaching is WRONG.  So confusing!).

Some things I keep finding that are well-established in all the reading and writing English curricula I've found around the world:

--"You need to cut back on the use of the word 'said.'"  They have whole lessons on synonyms for "said" because they say you are not supposed to use it. Guess what? Agents constantly are begging authors to just go with "said." Why? Two reasons: a) it's relatively invisible, putting the focus on WHAT was said instead of the words you're using to express yourself. It's straightforward and tells you who said what without drawing attention out of the text.  And b) most of the time, people really do just say it. They don't exclaim, proclaim, declaim, shout, sigh, declare, state, announce, or any of those other supposed "synonyms" teachers tell you to use. Most people just talk. For the sake of accuracy and clarity of writing, it's best to use the right word, which is usually "said."  And, since it is so invisible, most people skip over it. They don't sit there and think, "Gee, the author used that word an awful lot of times in a row...."  If your characters really are shouting, then by all means use that word. But don't just use it for variety--it both muddies the writing and reveals you lack both imagination and a firm grasp of English. Good writers use words precisely, and all those "synonyms" for 'said' really have their own meaning and should be used when they are called for, not for variety. Words for "said" are like words for colors: azure, turquoise, and aquamarine are all words for blue, but nobody who has SEEN those colors is going to think they are synonyms.

"Synonyms" itself is another of those things that gets taught and is wrong. There are no true synonyms by the English teachers' definition: two words that mean the same thing. People who really "get" language know that every word has a different, precise meaning that is not identical to any other. Even if the denotation is the same, the connotations are very different. Two words, while very similar in meaning, are NOT interchangeable in a carefully written sentence. It would behoove teachers to teach writers to choose the most descriptive, accurate word that best expresses the meaning, not just a "synonym for variety." Likewise, it would benefit students to choose the simplest way to say something---often the more complex "synonym" actually means something slightly different than the writer thinks it does, and it makes the writer look stupid. Likewise, what is the benefit of confusing the reader if there is a simpler way to express what you mean?

Another thing I keep running across is "There are three ways to begin a story."  What? Who made that up? Not a writer, editor, or agent. Especially since one of the ways is dialogue. While it can be appropriate to begin a tale with dialogue, agents all over BEG young writers not to use dialogue to begin a story. It's confusing, weak, and generally speaking boring. It does happen effectively sometimes, but it shouldn't be done as a matter of course.

"Begin at the beginning." This might be true, but teachers invariably fail to properly teach what the beginning IS. They're so busy teaching exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution...when in real books, you'll find they don't really start with exposition. They start with action. The thing is, English teachers tend to like "literary fiction," which most of the rest of us don't like, and THOSE books tend to be heavy on the exposition and light on the action. In fact, they often are all exposition with very little action, a barely justifiable "climax" and an unsettling resolution. English teachers like to read those. Most of the rest of the country doesn't. And most books aren't actually written that way. (English teachers live in their own little wacky world that they define the parameters for and then try to force everything to fit or declare it trashy.)

See, the beginning of a story is where the STORY starts, not the stuff that happened before the story started. It's where the plot begins, and the plot isn't really E, R, C, F, R--it's really a problem that is solved. Problem--solution. That's a plot. Plot often includes character growth, a quest, and mystery. It involves a conflict and its resolution.  And where that conflict starts, where that quest or mystery becomes an issue to the character--that's the beginning of the story. NOT an exposition telling you how the character got to the point where the story might matter to them, not an exposition telling you who the character is or where they came from or why they're working in the forge or castle or library.  You only need enough before the "beginning" that the reader cares about the protagonist. And that is often less than a page.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Just like ME!

Every teacher knows that, to a great extent, the whole setup is a bluff. Any thinking teacher has realized that the kids really could just stand up and walk out and what could you REALLY do about it, anyway? It's only indoctrination and expectation that keeps schools running at all.

So guess whose kid called the teacher's bluff today?

Yeah. Mine.

Part of me is mortified. Part of me, secretly, is pleased.

I had sent the teacher a note saying Caleb could sit out of PE today and watch if he wanted. So when he was struggling and wanted to sit out and watch, she didn't let him (erg?). She said he needed to learn "life lessons." (I, as parent, say that THAT is not her job. Her job is to teach physical education. Not life lessons. That's my job. I'm the mom.)

The rest of this I'm getting from the teacher, not from Caleb, who just reported, "I hate it."

Teacher said she told him he needed to participate. He said, "Why?"

She said, "You need to learn life lessons about getting up and moving on when things don't go well, and about not giving up" (I think parents should deal with quitting issues, not PE teachers).

Caleb said, "I'm not going to learn it here because I hate this class." (He had a good point, you know? He was aware that he was closed to learning anything at that point, so why try to force him? Waste of everyone's time.)

She said, "I can't give you points if you don't participate...."

Caleb replied, "Why would I care about that?" (GO CALEB! I so agree. Plus he totally called her bluff. Now what's she supposed to say?) (I know, I know. I should be ashamed of him instead of proud of him. But he made it clear that he doesn't buy into a stupid, broken system. Points? Really? That's supposed to be a motivation? Is there anything more artificial? Plus he was inviting her--okay challenging her--to give him a good reason why staying in a game of dead chicken tag was important, and she really couldn't. So why would he go with that? I could probably have found a reason he could accept, but when she didn't, he wasn't interested in negotiating anymore.)

She resorted to guarding the door so he wouldn't walk out again (after the site supervisor caught him and took him back to class.).

Anyway, I just listened to her. I'm not big on confrontation. But I wanted to say, "Well, if you had done what my note said, you would have been spared all of that, now, wouldn't you? Guarding the door, indeed....."  If she had listened to me, they both would have had a better day. And more dignity. And more likelihood that Caleb would try again.

Unfortunately, fighting with the teacher kind of makes it hard to go back to class. And we missed the deadline for switching him to another class. What do I do now?

All the while, I'm listening to all of this and trying to be a good, grown-up mommy about it, and in the back of my mind, I can see the little blond girl storm off the running field and shout at her teacher, "I will not do this any more. You can't reasonably ask me to do something that you couldn't do yourself!"

Yeah, I was in fourth grade then, too.