Sunday, May 15, 2011

Homeschooling parents do not care about the community...

Oh my! It’s been a while since I last wrote on here – life has just been too busy! :-) Just a very quick recap on what has kept us so busy: We are in the middle of baseball season, and between both boys we are at the fields MANY days each week. Abriella is getting ready for her very first dance recital – she is soooo excited! The boys and I have started the “Couch to 5K” running program – we LOVE it! We can’t wait for our first 5k at the end of July. And then there is the karate tournament coming up next weekend! Whew, no wonder I feel like we are ALWAYS on the go – and that’s just our sports, LOL. 


Earlier today I was joking around with a few people, and made a joke about homeschooling (something along the lines of, “If everyone homeschooled, we’d all have more time to let our kids play sports.”). One guy turned to me and said, “I couldn’t do that because I support our local schools.” Before I could make a (probably equally as rude) comment back to him, someone else quieted down the conversation, preventing it from taking a very bad turn (thankfully, because we were actually in a meeting – not the place to argue about homeschooling, LOL). 


It got me thinking, though – why is it assumed that homeschoolers do not care about the community/local schools/children in those schools? That couldn’t be further from the truth – most homeschoolers I know want to see improvements in their local schools because they know that it could provide better opportunities for the children in their neighborhood – kids who probably play with their own kids, you know? Homeschoolers do care about what happens to those kids, but they also know that they can’t sacrifice their own children “for the greater good.” They have to make the right decisions for their own children.


I think it is rather presumptuous to assume that you know best for someone else’s kids or the community as a whole – I fully support a parents’ right to choose the best education for their child. This could be public, private, charter, or homeschool. Homeschooling is not right for everyone (though, I do FIRMLY believe that EVERY parent who WANTS to homeschool CAN homeschool successfully), but neither is public school. The reasons for choosing homeschooling are greatly varied – off the top of my head I can think of local friends who homeschool for religious reasons, some who homeschool because the school couldn’t meet the academic needs of their child, others who want more time with their children, some whose children who were bullied in public school, and so on… there are as many different reasons for homeschooling as there are families who homeschool.
Homeschooling parents still pay taxes to the public school, they buy the fundraisers that kids go door to door selling (to raise money for class trips or anything else), they tutor kids in the public school, they invite them to church, they try to set a positive example for these kids whenever they get a chance – in short, they act like every other member of the community. They simply chose a different educational route for their own children. 


What has been your experience with this type of situation? Do you find that most public school parents/teachers/etc feel hostile towards homeschoolers, believing that they are taking away from the kids in public school? Or do most understand that it is nothing personal against the kids and teachers in the school – that the school just wasn’t the right fit for their child?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Waiting for Superman - Issues in the public school system...

I just finished watching “Waiting for Superman,” (been meaning to watch it for ages, and just never found the time) and had a few thoughts on this documentary (and education, in general).
The filmmaker follows 5 children (all across the US) through the course of a school year. These children, and their parents, see problems in the education they are currently receiving in public schools, and are hoping for a change. The parents have all selected charter schools that they hope the kids will get into. The problem with that is that charter schools have very few openings, with hundreds of kids applying. One little guy only has a 5% chance of escaping his public school and making it into a charter school.
The parents know that their children stand a better chance of success in life if they get out of the public schools (most live in very urban areas with high rates of high school dropouts, and high rates of crime), and they pin all of their hopes into a lottery system. Can you imagine telling your 6 or 7 year old child that their only hope for getting a decent education comes in the form of a BINGO ball – the *right* BINGO ball – being pulled out of the big cage of bouncing balls? Most of the kids went with their parents on their lottery day and sat by, waiting and hoping with fingers crossed, as their future was determined by luck. The tension was so high during the drawing, with kids looking as stressed as their parents. Of the 5, only 2 actually got into the charter schools they had hoped for. Parents and kids were crying over their loss, and left feeling hopeless.
All of these parents clearly care about their children and the education they receive. I know a lot of people think that parents in urban areas don’t care about education, in general, but I don’t think that’s the truth. I think the parents want better, they just don’t have the resources to obtain better for their kids. How can the achievement gap be closed when the education system we currently have is broken? All of the “teaching to the tests,” fighting with unions, money issues, and other problems distract the teachers from being able to do their jobs and “teach.” We keep hearing how schools need more money, but in reality they are spending more than 2x the amount per student now than they were in the 70’s – and the education has gotten no better. What can solve the problems?
The charter schools showcased in this film did things that public schools can’t – or won’t – and with less money. Some had more hours in the school day; others had more days in school, home visits were made to get to know the families on a better level, strict standards were enforced, and the charter schools had more freedom to try innovative methods for reaching kids once thought unreachable. The results were amazing – the same demographic who were 15%-30% proficient in reading and math in the public schools were 60%-90% proficient in the charter school. There was a charter who didn’t see the huge increase in test scores (they had only been opened a year or so), but they saw an enormous reduction in the number of dropouts in their school. High standards were set, and the kids lived up to them. I think kids understand the expectations around them, and will live up – or down – to what people think they are capable of.
I would love to see the parents in this film homeschooling their children – each of these parents could have done a far better job than the public schools – but I know it’s not realistic to think that all parents would choose to homeschool. That being said, parents like these need better options, but how do they get them? I say get rid of NCLB, and the unions, and return the power to educate back over to the local levels. One-size-fits-all education just does not work with children, and schools can do a better job of offering what their children need if they didn’t have to worry about jumping through so many hoops to please the government.
Also, schools need to be able to actually do something about the discipline problems within their schools. This is one area the charter schools have a clear advantage – you can be kicked out of a charter if you do not obey the rules. How would you solve the discipline in the public schools? Or, better yet, how would you solve the education issue in general? Or, is American public education pretty much hopeless at this point?
Education should not depend on a system of "chance."

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The ABC's of me...

My friend, Kim W., had this on her blog, and so I wanted to play along too. :-)

A. Age: almost 30
B. Bed size: Queen  
C. Chore you dislike: hmmm… my most hated chore is dishes
D. Dogs: Alice – our lab mix  
E. Essential start to your day: I like coffee, but prefer it at the end of the day, not the start.  
F. Favorite color: purple. no other color matters, LOL.
G. Gold or silver: I don’t care for jewelry. I guess I would choose gold, though.  
H. Height: 5' 10"
I. Instruments you play(ed): the trumpet – only for 4th and 5th grades, though.
J. Job title: Wife and mom – are those jobs? Writer.
K. Kids: 3 Deuce, Dakota, and Abriella.  
L. Live: In a farmhouse… out in the country…
M. Mom’s name: Carolyn
N. Nicknames: Steph. When I was younger, it was “Teff.” Kids can’t help what their families call them, I suppose. My kids are lucky – I gave them cool names and nicknames, LOL.
O. Overnight hospital stays: having babies
P. Pet peeves: People who cannot follow logic... really irritates me.
Q. Quote from a movie: "There's no crying in baseball!" ~ A League of Their Own.
R. Righty or lefty: Righty
S. Siblings: 3 older sisters and an older brother.
T. Time you wake up: too early.  
U. Underwear: nothing interesting, I promise.  
V. Vegetables you don't like: brussel sprouts - ICK
W. What makes you run late: kids.  my own absent-mindedness
X. X-rays you've had: dental, neck (chiropractor)
Y. Yummy food you make: Chocolate chip cookies, cheeseburger pie,
Z. Zoo animal favorites: penguins. they are too cute. :-)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ranting and raving...

Ok, not really, LOL, but I do need to respond to a few things. Someone involved in the vaccine debate went on her blog and misconstrued some of the things I said, and her blog will not allow me to post my response, so I am posting it here - simply because I cannot stand untruths. This will be the last post I write on this subject, because I do not want an ongoing debate. I have my reasons for not vaccinating, and they are all perfectly okay, and others have their reasons for vaccinating, and they are okay too.

Here is what she posted (if this screen shot is hard to read, you can read her full blogpost at http://craftykta.blogspot.com/2011/03/making-exception.html)

And here is my reply to her:

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I should reply to you or not, but I think I will since I am being erroneously misrepresented on your blog. After my first blog post, in which I was not very clear in who I was calling irresponsible (people who make decisions as parents without knowing the risks – on either side of any argument), you wrote me a very “strongly worded” comment. I immediately wrote you an apology for me not being very clear. I wasn’t “name-calling” all people who vaccinate. I then explained that I included MYSELF in that “irresponsible” category because I did not know much of anything with my first child and I let the doctors pretty much dictate what would happen – and he was possibly harmed because of it.  
I have read all of the links you provided – I read them years ago when making my decision. I spoke to my pediatrician, read her pamphlets, and made the best decision that I can for my kids. There are many things to consider – including the known risks that come from vaccines. Kids can be harmed by them, and we cannot be na├»ve enough to think that vaccines are 100% safe.  
We don’t know if autism is caused by vaccines – in science, you cannot prove a negative. That’s like saying something can NEVER be done, because it hasn’t been done yet – but in time, it might. For me, for my children, there are too many chemicals in vaccines and I won’t risk it – let me be clear, it is the chemicals that are my biggest concern with vaccinations, not autism. Autism gave me a reason to pause and think about what was being injected into my children, but the chemicals themselves are what caused me to stop allowing my children to be vaccinated.
 I think, genetically, some people can be more susceptible to certain things (including autism) and our environmental factors can push them over the edge. I am not sure why you say that I cannot accept that your kids are vaccinated – I stated several times that it is a difficult decision, and that there are positives and negatives on both sides. We each have risks to weigh in deciding what is best for our kids, and your risks have you leaning to vaccines, while mine have me leaning away from them. There’s not a problem with that on my end – again, I said I have issues with people who do something without thinking about the why’s of what they are doing. It seems to me that you actually take the bigger issue with the fact that my kids don’t receive vaccines.
As far as the Juice Plus, I am confused by you saying that I wanted you to appease me? I never tried pushing JP on you – I simply stated (mom-to-mom) that it has worked wonders for my kids – same as I would have done with anyone who might have cause to be concerned over health issues. If I had been trying to push you to use it, I would have pointed to studies (my own kids are involved in one), or other personal experiences, and I would have pointed out that they come in chewables, since your son can’t swallow pills. I simply said, “To each his own when it comes to supplements.”
Tone can be very hard to read in writing – there is much to be said about face-to-face conversations – and so I understood where you might have thought that I was being too harsh in my first post – hence the apology from me. I do wish that you wouldn’t be so harsh in all of your replies – we all have our rights as parents to do what we feel is best. We should be able to have rational, mature conversations without resorting to sarcasm and snarky words. I have to wonder, with the tone you have taken with me, what would have happened if my son was still in the same class as your daughter? Would you have made problems for him?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What do you use to teach a child to read?

What do you use to teach reading to a 3 yr old? Ella can read a little – she has taught herself some sight words… and then other words that aren’t official “sight words,” but they are her favorite things. I don’t want her to just memorize words, though, and she is begging to be taught to read. I need a good phonics program. 

For Deuce, we tried 100 Easy Lessons at the age of 5. Cody was 2 at the time, and (just by being in the room while Deuce was working) caught on quickly – I had to send him out of the room during language arts, because he was reading and Deuce couldn’t, and it drove Deuce nuts. I then switched to Sonlight’s language arts (we were already using their Core K), and that didn’t work either. Eventually I stepped back and left Deuce alone, and he just taught himself – typical Deuce… too hardheaded to allow any help, LOL. (The week after he started reading, at age 6, he had to be tested for his IEP through the local school, and he was reading at a 4th grade level… late readers catch on VERY quickly, it seems).

Because of the ways that the boys learned, I am really not sure what to do for Ella. I have been looking at Sing, Spell, Read, and Write – anybody have any experience with that program? There’s also the Explode the Code series – I have heard lots of good things about that. I can tell that she will be easy to teach, with the right program – I just don’t want to waste money going from program to program. Opinions? Thoughts? Advice? Come on – give me your 2 cents, LOL. :-) 


Monday, March 14, 2011

How do we protect our kids?

Have you seen this news story? Apparently a psychology teacher at a high school decided to give students a sexually suggestive quiz, supposedly to prove that words that are seemingly innocent to children are considered sexual innuendo to adults. Ugh.

Who gets to decide what our children are exposed to each day? This is a tough question for any parent who has their children in a traditional school setting – trust me, I have BTDT. When children cross the threshold of the school, parents do not always know what they will encounter as they go about their day. Hopefully, it’s a day of learning and innocent fun – creative experiments in science, interesting stories in reading, and friendships on the playground.

 This isn’t always the case, though. Actually, more often than not, children will be exposed to adult themes far sooner than we are ready for. Sometimes it’s from their friends, whose families might not share the same morals as your family. That can be a hard blow to a parent, to find out at dinner that little Suzy knows about topics usually reserved for late-night television.

What if it’s not only other children sharing such grown-up thoughts? Some teachers, for some reason, think that it is their duty to expose children to ideas that might not line up with parents beliefs. Is that their right? Is it their duty, to “enlighten” children? Should sex ed be taught by the parent, or by the school? Should schools be allowed topass out condoms at will, without a parent knowing what’s going on? What if they are passing out those same condoms to 1st and 2nd graders? Is that “looking out” for the kids? They grow up fast enough without it being encouraged by the teachers, you know?

Most anyone who knows me knows that my children have been homeschooled, unschooled, charter schooled, and public schooled. I am not against traditional school settings – I think each choice is another chance for a parent to make an informed educational decision for their child, and not every option will work for every family. With that said, my personal preference is for homeschooling (most who know me, know that, also). I think that protecting the innocence of our children is becoming a losing battle these days – they are exposed to so much more than we were as kids, at very early ages. 

When we send our kids to school, teachers and classmates are getting their attention for most of their waking hours. How much time do parents really spend talking to their kids? Up and out the door by 7:15 for school to start at 7:45 – no time to talk. After-school activities last until 4:00 or later, then they head home, grab some food, do homework, play video games/watch tv/text with their friends, get a bath and go to bed. How do we combat the negative messages they are bombarded with every day? 

Personally, I have found it much easier to do when mine are homeschooled. It seems that my kids have better attitudes, their thoughts are more innocent, and they are better behaved when they do not have the constant influence of 20-30 same-aged peers. What has your experience been? Do you notice a change when school has been out for the summer, and you have more time with your kids – away from the influences at school?  Not only away from the constant influence of their peers, but being able to spend more time with their parents. What are your opinions on the best ways to protect our kids from growing up too fast?
Baseball season has FINALLY arrived! :-) I love many sports, but two have a very special place in my heart – martial arts and baseball. I have been waiting all winter for baseball season to arrive, and now I do not have to wait any longer. We had the draft this weekend, and I am pleased as punch because my kids have great coaches and some of their best friends on their teams. I know – that’s not a huge accomplishment when you live in a tiny village because you are almost certain to have friends on your team, but still, it makes me happy. :-)
Anybody want to see some baseball pics of my kids through the years? I have a fun new camera for this baseball season, with better features, so hopefully I will get nicer pics this year. :-) Like it or not, here are the old pics:
This is Cody's opening day the first year he played G-Ball (coach pitch)


Getting ready to make a run from first to second when he was 6 years old.

This was opening day of that same year. Deuce pitched to Cody that morning - to practice before the games - and hit him in the head (WITH a batting helmet on). Notice the baseball stitches on Cody's head? :-)


Ella the cheerleader.
 Deuce and Ella up in Sidney last year.
Mohawks of last year. :-)
Deuce pitching "Opening Day" when he was 9 years old.
Cody in T-Ball at age 5. I cannot get over how tiny he looks, LOL.
Deuce and part of his Sidney team during the horrific storm that popped up on us last year during a game. Note to self - the picnic shelters do not make good storm shelters when you have near-hurricane force winds. Just sayin',
Deuce in 2009.
Cody getting his 1st place trophy last year. :-)
Cody and his team in 2009 - he's number 2.
Deuce in his first year of coach pitch - he was 7.
                                                 
Ella and Shannon playing together during the games.


And now, to look forward to games starting for this year. Deuce's Sidney league games will be starting in just a couple of weeks - yay! Then the regular season for both boys starts at the beginning of May. Now to get off of here and go accomplish something in my day, LOL.