Day to Day Stuff

It’s that time of year when I have to start hounding the kids for Christmas ideas.  Their grandmothers like to shop early.  My oldest has almost no ideas for me, and the few I have are those which I’ve stashed away as they come up.  My mother has learned to love, and DH’s mom doesn’t shop on line at all.  One has Michael’s and Target, the other does not.  My youngest two are the easiest to prod into ideas.  My son has started to fill a hiking bag with useful equipment, my middle daughter is interested in numerous hobbies.  I’ve tried reminding my eldest to think about living at college next year, but I guess IB has driven her imagination far away.

I scooped up some more bargains for said college adventures.  I found twin xl fleece blankets marked down to $5.25, and sheets to the same.  Of course I got a blanket for DD2 as well, and may even get one for DS.  He’s got a couple years to go, but I may kick myself if I let this price slip away.  The trick is keeping track of what I’ve purchased.  I’ve got an index card for each girl tucked in my purse with their color preferences, and what has been purchased.  DD1 is now set in her linens except for the quilt I’m making for her.

I just finished reading my son’s set of Percy Jackson books.  It’s easy to see why it appeals to him.  We are a family who loves a good fantasy story, the main character is close to his age, and Percy has ADHD while my son has struggled with his speech and spelling.  Not that I voiced all of this to DS.  Before this I read the Matched/Crossed/Reached series that my girls love.  Next up, I need to catch up on the Michael Vey series (I only read the first book), and then there’s the Selection books which my oldest is in love with.  I don’t know if I’ll go beyond those as there are books which I want to read for myself as well.  This started after I asked the girls to do some summer reading.  I figured it was a fair exchange.

Today my middle finished her school work before anyone else got home.  I was happy for her as she’s been doing lots of homework since school began and hasn’t complained.  I expected some pushback as she’s not a big fan of homework, but she’s risen to meet the challenge.

I’m a little worried that my son will feel lost in the shuffle this year with DD1 graduating and swamped with school and DD2 in her vet class, which gets attention and interest.  He’s a quiet guy, so I’ll have to keep an eye open and look for opportunities for him to step in the sun.

My house needs a thorough cleaning and it feels as if I can’t get beyond laundry, groceries, and dishes.  Home school needs a lot of planning done.  The sewing stack is ready to bury me if I don’t get at it soon.

Whine, whine, whine.  Time to sign out.

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Just the Girls

This morning, my girls and I headed to the craft stores.  We started at Michael’s and got canvases (70% off!) for DD1 to use for the IB art series.  She couldn’t believe the huge one she found for $10 – it might be five feet long by two feet.  She’s excited over those.  DD2 found coloring books – the adult calm color ones – for a little less than half price, so we tucked two away for Christmas.

The we stopped at Hobby Lobby where DD1 purchased wire (chain mail) and pearl beads.  DD2 was going to purchase quilling supplies, but found a sequin pillow on our way out and switched her plan.  What a sensory find.

I shopped for items for decorating the front porch at Christmas.  DH wants the house done up this year so we don’t look like “the Grinch house” again.  I have put lights out in past years, but am not a fan of the extension cord becoming encased in ice as we often get some rain or melt during the time the lights are up.  I put lights on the swing set for several years so that we could enjoy them, not just the neighbors (our living room is in the back of the house).  So, to avoid the cord issue I plan to do the front porch this year.

My star lights will go across the front of the porch with a regular string running across the top.  The stars each hang down from the main cord.  Then I’m going to create trees with bamboo garden stakes in my flower pots and spiral lights up those.  For daytime interest, I purchased plastic ornaments for the bamboo “trees”, and am hoping the dollar store has acryllic snowflakes again this year.

While at Hobby Lobby we found they actually have a small section of tatting supplies and put together a set of things for DD2 for Christmas.  DD1 found disco ball ornaments that are now set aside for her.  DH commented that it takes the surprise out, but the kids actually like getting to pick some of their gifts out.  For me, it’s a way to say yes to some of their wants that I might otherwise say no to.  Sometimes I say no, but go back later to stash the item unbeknownst.

The guys were starting to wonder if we were ever coming home, but it was nice to putz through the stores without wondering how bored they might be.  It was a good day.

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DD2 is being hit with several challenges this school year (junior in high school).  She’s home schooled, but this year is spending half of her day in a veterinary science class.  Top it all off with sensory processing disorder.  At her vet class, she’s needed to start getting into the pace of her teacher.  For home school, she teaches herself.  I’m her facilitator, planner, and administrator.  She needs to be ready to do for herself in college, so this is one way in which I’m (hopefully) preparing her.

School is loud – especially when the speaker for the fire alarm is behind your head and you haven’t had a fire drill in six years.

This class has the kids do oral presentations.  That’s the pinnacle of fear for her.  Thankfully the first was in a group and she warned the group that she may not be able to speak, so a teammate jumped in after DD couldn’t make a sound.  If she hadn’t warned them, they would have been ticked off.

Today brought in the lap tops, and she’s never used one.  They are just different enough from a desk top to really mess with my girl.  Change is the enemy, remember.

In home school, the new math book has brought tears from day one.  I knew it was risky buying a book I couldn’t go through, but I really wanted the lesson presentations on CD, and figured I could use a different book if needed.  We made the switch yesterday, and I’ll have to go through the CD and match up lesson numbers to DD’s assignments as the books don’t follow the same order.  It may seem soon to give up on the new book, but there’s a slim chance of making it through the whole book as it is, so I don’t want to waste time.  I also don’t want math to be a stress which will only grow and expand every day.  My job is to help her learn successfully, not to tear down any self-esteem she has and burn all chance of learning.

DD really does best in math when one concept is presented then you go practice it.  The next lesson then builds on the previous.  Today’s math world is presenting more than one concept in a lesson and keeps reviewing the previous.  That is not her style.  Personally, I don’t care which book she uses as long as she’s learning the Algebra.  My concern is that terminology may have shifted (because every few years some hot shot feels the need to put their spin on things) and she’ll be lost at sea when taking the PSAT, SAT, or in college classes.  College is too close to hope that things will swing back in time for my daughter.  After all, the PSAT is in October.

I understand that teaching methods can improve and evolve.  Math stays pretty constant in its functions, however, and I wish the compulsion to change things would calm down.  Anyone who’s been around education for twenty years or more can see the circles in which “new” concepts move.  They all swing back around at some point with a new name or mask, but at the core it’s the same thing which has been done before.

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And They’re Off

DD1 was already hit with a pile of homework last night, and the other two had none.  That doesn’t always sit well with DD1, but she chose the International Baccalaureate route.  She told me that she’s the only one in her school doing IB by her own choice…not that she’s shared that fact with her fellow students.  The others were either flat out told to do it by their parents, or had heavy expectations to do so because an older sibling did.  DH and I tried to talk our daughter out of it.  We ask that the kids take the hardest classes that they are capable of, but the IB degree is full of stuff I don’t truly see as a benefit to a high school degree unless you know you’re headed for international business.

For one thing, I don’t agree with requiring a student to do volunteer work.  That’s artificial and false.  A desire to volunteer should come out of an individual’s heart unless the work is assigned to make amends for wrong doing.  It’s also not the school’s place to shape my child’s moral standards.  That is my job as their parent, and even for those parents who don’t give a crap about their kids (and some parents don’t), it’s still not the school’s job.  Diversity is supposed to be what the schools are all about these days, and I’d like to see kids shaped by their own parents, which will have the influence of a variety of different cultures, belief systems, etc.  I don’t want to see every student be a carbon copy of their neighbor.

Also, there’s a dump truck full of extra work involved with attaining an IB degree.  My daughter spent time more days than not working on her big paper over the summer, and she’s doing an art focus, so she worked on her sketchbook a lot as well.  That doesn’t mean simply drawing – there is citing of sources and all kinds of rigamarole that goes along with each sketch.

As I said earlier, DH and I tried to talk her out of this route, but it was her choice.

DD2 is settling into her vet science class.  She’s getting to know a couple of the girls, which had given her a bit of trepidation.  The teacher moves at a good pace, which is difficult for DD2 to catch up to, but I pointed out that with her driver ed class she had the same complaint and adjusted to the teacher’s pace within a few days.  They discussed several projects which will be completed through the year, which overwhelmed her.  I pointed out that they’ll come one at a time and all of the details will be discussed as each project is assigned.  She’s nervous about their current project as they need to present it to the class.  One day at a time.

My plan had been to sit in the school’s lobby while waiting for her, but apparently that isn’t going to happen due to school insurance or some such reason.  So today I checked out the grocery store I’ll be using for the next nine months, and then found a hotel lobby to sit in.  I’ll need to get a bit creative and may end up driving home now and then.  It just seems such a waste of time and gas to spend an extra hour on the road in order to have an hour and a half at home.

My youngest was bugging his sisters again yesterday.  They are ready for him to get some homework!  It will likely begin tonight.  Math doesn’t give a lot of days off of homework, but it probably won’t take long to complete.

Life could be a lot worse.

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Beginnings and Continuations

The new school year begins in two days.  My oldest is champing at the bit to get going – it’s her senior year, she has one college acceptance under her belt and an IB degree to finish.  My middle is nervous about making friends and excited about being in a class all about being a veterinarian.  The afternoon will still be home schooled, so there’s no mystery there. Hopefully she’ll remember that she’s a junior.  She forgets what year she is as it’s not brought up every other day.  My youngest doesn’t think he’s ready for school, but the ‘bug-the-sister’ meter is reading off the charts and that tells me he’s bored silly.

I’m not ready for school to begin.  Summer went by too quickly.  The first two weeks of school are fully planned for DD2, but only literature is planned for the year.  History is planned for the first semester, but only one test and two test review packets are written.  That’s what I’ll be working on while DD2 is in vet class.  We have to drive a half hour each direction and the class only lasts two and a half hours, so I’m going to park my keester in the lobby and do work.  I also plan to find a route both inside and one outside the building to walk.  I’ll be throwing a couple of insulated bags into the trunk for grocery shopping as the store is around the corner from the school.  I need to use the waiting time wisely.

We were so good about family walks during May, June, and July.  Then the weather got hot and we came down with colds.  I found out after we began our walking that my knee cap has arthritis and almost no cartilage and that walking is one of the best things I can do for it.  This summer has had a lot of pain with the knee, but I turned down a shot because I wasn’t told what it was, what it would do, or how long the effects would last.  I figured those things out doing web research after the appointment.  I was also a bit miffed that I had had so many appointments with so many different people and was sent to a surgeon to hear that it was arthritis.  It was an expensive and time consuming route for something I would hope my regular doctor could have told me, only I never got to see him.  Anyway, I need to get back to walking and I figure that it will be a good way to spend some of the waiting time.  We can take family walks on the weekends through the fall.

The other day I got inspired to dig into the home school cupboard and clean out/reorganize.  Many books have come from library sales on the ‘fill a bag for $6’ day, and the plan has always been to donate those books back when we’re finished with them.  Over time, I’ve acquired multiples on different subjects so I whittled some of those down and weeded out some books which turned out to be less helpful than they looked at first glance.  I ended up with three bags of books to take in and was glad of my children’s hands to help carry them.  I just need to keep cleaning out cabinets/drawers/closets/rooms/etc. on a regular basis.  Tomorrow I’ll dive into my son’s dresser and get rid of a bunch of socks that are a bit scary to touch.

This morning I offered to take DD2 to the mall with me so she could pick out a freebie from Bath and Body Works.  (DD1 got the previous one.)  It turned out that she was feeling a need to get out of the house, which is unusual for her.  We did our small errands, stopped into the book store to window shop, then ended in Yankee Candle Store.  She loves to smell the candles, and I let her take a good amount of time.  There were a couple of fuzzy sweaters on our way out of the mall to round out the sensory needs, and she was feeling pretty decent when we left.  She doesn’t always voice her needs, so the timing of that freebie worked out wonderfully (lots of smelling in Bath and Body Works, too!).


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Another Curriculum Night Over

I remember when my parents had to endure these events.  Oh wait.  They didn’t.  We just went to school.

Fortunately, this was the last curriculum night for my oldest, and thus it is also the last time I will ever have back-to-back curriculum nights.  The past three years have had me rushing from the high school to the middle school, spending the entire evening (three and a half to four hours straight) walking through my child’s classes.  It’s exhausting.

Yes, some important information is given out in these events.  I lost track of just how many different web sites – and an instagram – I need to check to keep tabs on what my children are supposed to be doing.  If anyone doubts the reality of Big Brother, just come visit our school district.  This teacher takes pictures of the assignment board each day, that one makes them number their assignments and handouts to be checked by a parent every few weeks.  This one takes the children’s temperature, and that one cuts up their food at lunch time.

My nephew in a different district had the school dictate what color folders/binders must be purchased for each subject.  Are you kidding me?

I will admit that I was already wiped out before arriving at the first school tonight.  We spent yesterday at an amusement park with the kids.  I get sick on almost everything now, so I sat waiting the entire day.  With the vast amount of walking taking place from this ride to that one, I have three painful blisters on my feet.  The girls had a blast – they love roller coasters and rode many of them.  Our son rode a couple and regretted them all.  He didn’t enjoy much of the day, unfortunately.  When we got home this afternoon there was laundry to be done (the bird poop needed to be washed off of my shirt), and groceries to purchase and put away.  By the time I got the cold groceries put away and freezer food in the oven for my crew to dine upon, it was time to grab the kids’ schedules and fly out the door.  We had our hotel reservations for the amusement park getaway before we knew when schedule pick up (the morning we left) and curriculum night would be.

The fight this year will be over the computers which the school will be issuing to all students.  DH gets to fight that one, as he is our computer man.  He’s had several conversations with the school over the years concerning computer security.  He’s worked computer security in some pretty important places and the school doesn’t want to hear that it isn’t secure to plug a flash drive into a school computer then bring it home to plug into the home network.  They surely won’t want to hear that no computer will be going back and forth between these same networks.  The teachers will be using these laptops as part of class, so DD1 has to have one, but DH added amendments to the agreement we had to sign.

One thing he added was that we will be covering the camera and microphone with black electrical tape, which they state you cannot do.  Sorry.  It’s coming into our home and we’ve seen the stories out of other school systems.  We didn’t vote for this technology to come into the schools in the first place.  Students need to learn how to use technology, but they also need to know how to function without it.

An example from my father the high school math teacher.  Toward the end of his career, he saw kids coming in who could punch out equations on the calculators, but had no idea what was going on in the process.  They didn’t know what they were actually doing or why it worked.   What then, is the point?

Our high school has put a ‘docking station’ into every classroom for students to park their cell phones at the beginning of class because they have become so problematic.  The phones aren’t even supposed to be out during class.  Why the teachers don’t just take them away as policy states will happen, I can’t begin to guess.  My daughter has a cell phone, but it doesn’t go to school unless she has a specific reason to have it with her, and then it stays out of sight all day.

I know we’re an abnormal family, but I see more every day that demonstrates what a blessing that is.  We actually talk to each other at meals.  (Yes, we actually eat meals together!)  Our kids don’t even get a cell phone until they start driving, and there are limits set on its usage (it doesn’t go to their room at night, for one thing).  The kids have limits on computer/Wii game time, and they can’t watch tv from morning to bedtime.  They actually read books.

We value learning the whys and wherefores.  I don’t have a problem with using calculators – after you’ve learned how to do the functions without it and have been taught the workings of the processes taking place.

Let’s spend less time on discussing what size binder is required for a class and more time on teaching the kids why that subject is important to study.

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A Fun Family Day Out

Yesterday was awesome.  We’ve been trying to get to a state park’s annual event for three years now, and something keeps coming up to block us from going.  One year it was a horrible migraine, one year it was working our shift at the fair, and this time rain tried to stop us.  Radar did not look good, and there was a strong chance of thunderstorms.  DH called the park and found out the the events had tents, so we rolled the dice and went.

We were in rain a good share of the time, but not overly heavy rain.  My son got to see a number of blacksmiths in action and used a two man saw with his sisters.  My middle daughter learned how to tat, and I saw a demonstration on how to use my drop spindle.  My oldest got excited about a booth filled with fabric (over cording) bowls.  She spent a lot of time there, and eventually bought one for herself and convinced us to get one for her DH’s mom.  DD2 also became very interested in weaving.  The tradespeople were more than willing to teach as well as demonstrate, which increased the enjoyment for us.

We got home early enough for me to run to JoAnn Fabric to purchase a tatting shuttle and thread for DD2 to practice her new skill while it was fresh in her mind.  This morning I pulled out a very old craft book that my grandmother had owned for her to learn the terminology and new stitches.  I think it was printed in the 1930’s, and I’ve had to tape the cover together.  Maybe I’ll photocopy the pertinent pages for her to help preserve the original.

The day turned out so well that it really was a fresh reminder that sometimes you just need to take a chance.  The radar had been solid green with rain, and it was steady through the morning, but we knew that heading out and made up our minds to have a good time, even in the rain.

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