More On That School Thing

I can't let it go, apparently. Inefficiency is a thorn in my side, paper is my arch nemesis, and websites with information that hasn't been updated in years make me twitchy. 

I get that schools are short on funds, but when you're asking for volunteers, and money (a lot of money), passing around STACKS of clipboards for volunteer signups, and having me register my child online three (yes THREE) times, before the TWO in-person registrations, separate orientations in the spring AND fall, and annual in-person residency verification process that lasts for a week prior to school starting, all staffed by school personnel and volunteers, I have to question the logic. 

Not one of those volunteer requests was for someone to update the school or classroom websites.

Not one of those volunteer requests was for someone to get rid of the paper that's sent home every Wednesday that is also duplicated online, a process easily done away with by asking parents if they prefer online vs. hard copy versions.

Instead, we were asked to donate two reams of paper per student.

And volunteer to staff the multiple days of registration.

For one student, in the spring, we spent 3+ hours attending registration activities, orientations, counseling appointments, and completing online registration for fall classes. In the fall, for the same student, we spent another 5 hours attending to orientations, registrations (in person and online), and verifying our residency. And this was considered efficiently run—a marked improvement over past years. 

I haven't even factored in the hours spent acquiring school supplies which were purchased both prior to and after the start of the school year. I'm not even sure we're done on that front as the teachers still seem to be adding to the list.

Oh, and the calendars. What. The. Hell.

Why create a school calendar for export if you can't be bothered to have it contain accurate times? Noting that it's a shortened school day, but having the times noted as 12am-12am? Not real helpful. Failing to even include the daily bell schedule on the calendar? Or your website? Worse still, having last year's bell schedule on the site when this year's schedule is different? Total fail. Or, ya know, just not having an exportable calendar at all. That stinks, too.

While I'm listing peeves:

Don't ask me to follow your school on Facebook or Twitter if you don't actively maintain either of those social media channels. It's just downright annoying. I don't want to know what was going on in 2010. Take the link down.

Likewise with your links to teacher's classroom info. If the teacher info isn't up-to-date or in use, don't post it. It's frustrating as a parent to try to find out what's going on in your child's class and have the site be wrong. We live in the Bay Area, people. I shouldn't have to read Lorem ipsum under the class description for two years running.

Okay, taking off my cranky pants now and getting ready for date night. Enjoy your weekend, folks.

 

 

 

 

Middish Week Review: I'm Making It A Thing

POLITICS

Rape. Yeah. The news is chock full of rape, but guess what, so is the world. Get your heads out of the sand if you think this is just about Akin, folks. And keep in mind that since this is my personal blog, I'm expressing my personal opinions. If you don't know by now that I have some opinions, we probably haven't met. Here are some of the articles that really spoke to me over the past couple of days:

An Appeal to Rep. Todd Akin by Maureen Herman, former bassist of Babes in Toyland, founder Project Noise, and a mother of a daughter born as a result of rape. 

Using the Right Words About Rape by Kelly Wickman, an educator, mother of four, and all-around amazing person who has very important things to say on this subject, with perspective that speaks to me and might speak to you.

The Official Guide to Legitimate Rape by Katie J. M. Baker, Editor at Jezebel. This article is one of the most comprehensive I read on the concept of what is defined as rape and how legislators continue to undermine the good that would come from a zero-tolerance approach to rape by playing the game of trying to define "types of rape as if they were different flavors in an ice cream shop."

DEATH

If you're more comfortable with your head in the sand, we can talk about death. Phyllis Diller died this week. I loved her. I spent part of today listening to this tribute on NPR, which included an interview she did with Terry Gross in 1986. It was every bit of the awesome I expected, with a slice of gold on top. 

SCHOOL

We're also sending a big kid off to high school this week and a little one off to kindergarten. A time for transitions. And questions about why school districts can't seem to get their calendars to actually reflect meaningful information like start and end times to the day or truly import to the apps we all use with some sort of ease-of-use. Or maybe updated websites with links that aren't broken, less paper—hell no paper—especially when you're asking us to donate paper, which will presumably be used to produce copies of things to be sent home, just as easily made available online or also available online already—redundancy you are my nemesis. Silly things, I suppose, but they irk me every year and seem to be an issue across the country, so I don't feel alone. And who are these parents who can take off from work for hours, day after day, to attend registrations, open houses during the workday, and orientations, for varying grade-levels all held on different days and times, AFTER we've registered online multiple times in the spring and again in the fall? What an assumption of privilege, I think, to require parents to do these things, and make them feel less-than if they don't. It is wholly unnecessary that inefficiency or poor planning should result in longer hours for staff, volunteers, and parents. It doesn't show that anybody cares more or is more important. It is a waste of time and resources. It doesn't build community. It builds burnout and resentment.

And now, I'll be stepping off my little soapbox so I can get my house in order for back-to-school and daily life.

Enjoy the rest of your week, folks.

Drink something cool and fruity if you're able.

 

Milestoning: Graduations And Birthdays And Such

In the coming days, Peanut will finish her first year of public school, graduate from eighth grade, and turn fourteen.

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Peanut and her 'fro at the hairdresser

She is so ready for all of these milestones, and I am so very proud of all of the goals she has set for herself in this past year and all she has accomplished. I cannot wait to see how she continues to grow and change in the coming years. I know her father would have been very proud of her, just as we all are. She is a truly beautiful person. 

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Peanut, almost 14, a little taller in the hairdresser's chair

 

Don't Know Where To Start: Here's A Picture

So much weird stuff, good stuff, busy stuff, I don't even know where to begin. 

My monkeys.

Until the dust settles, and I can put it all into some sort of cohesive order for your reading pleasure, here's a picture of those two humans I created. This was an evening out to celebrate Peanut's academic achievements for the year and the boyfriend's birthday. Bug was trying, somewhat unsuccessfully, to frown. 

My Son Is Quite Able: Riding BART

When my son was in fifth grade he was asked to leave his private school because of his disabilities. In the middle of a school day. With no warning. With no plan. Some of you will find this deplorable. Some of you will think they had a right to ask him to leave because they were a private school.

After an investigation by the Department of Justice into whether or not the school violated my son's civil rights under Title III of the American's with Disabilities Act, the case was closed without a finding.

What I do know is that today, on his first day at a school he selected, my fifteen-year-old son, is a better person for having been asked to leave that school.

Why?

That day was a turning point for our family. From the day the school sent my son home he started homeschooling.

We didn't know if it would be a temporary situation or not, but we knew it was the right thing to do for him at that time. It turned out to be the best thing we could have done to lessen the stress he was experiencing there—stress we didn't fully appreciate until he was outside the situation.

Toward the end of the lengthy and often ugly legal process with the school, before the ruling came from the DOJ, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. Since we were homeschooling, my son had the gift of spending my husband's final year of life at home with him. We had no way of knowing that was how life was going to play out, but it worked out that way, and it was a blessing. I am thankful every day that somebody perceived my son's disabilities the way they did or he would have missed that time with his father. And I am so glad his father got that time to see his son happy.

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Making the choice to defend our son's rights was a process that brought us closer together as a family. We regularly checked in with each other and with our son to make sure we wanted to continue the legal process. As soon as one person wanted to stop, we agreed we were done. Fortunately, the DOJ took over the case, and it was out of our hands. We never intended to pursue a civil case. Our goal was to make things right for other children for the future. We didn't see a civil case achieving that goal. Our daughter was an amazing witness when the DOJ came to our home to interview us. She was fiercely protective of the truth and her brother, which hasn't always been the case in their relationship—having a sibling with special needs can be stressful sometimes, but she wanted to make sure it was clear to the attorney just what had and had not happened since she was actually present in his classroom.

And today, on his first day of school, my son rode BART by himself. He also packed his own lunch, got himself dressed in the clothes that he washed, and ready for school on time. He attended his brand new school for seven and a half hours. He was calm. He was confident. He had a great day at school, and he can't wait to go back tomorrow.

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If you didn't know he had Tourette's, you'd be hard-pressed to tell. In fact, even the people who live with him have trouble spotting his very rare tics. As for the Asperger's, well, I just think of that as who he is. I don't even know that I'd be able to separate him from the things that would define his position on the spectrum, nor would I want to. After fifteen years of him being him, I am so accustomed to who he is and how he works, that I rather like his wiring. Our world needs him. Somebody else's oversight of his awesomeness on that day in October of his tenth year was so very clearly a lucky day for the rest of us. They missed out on having the opportunity to watch him grow and learn these past five years. We didn't.

Guess what, world: he is able! Very, very able. Don't let that slip past you this time or y'all might miss out on another five years of watching him in action.

 

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I love you, Bug. I wish Daddy were here to see this. He'd be so incredibly proud of you.

Do We Expect Or Allow Too Little?

The Wall Street Journal published a provocative piece this week on the state of middle-class children in the U.S. It was prompted by research done by UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives of Families. I urge you to read the article. Shirley Wang does an excellent job of summarizing the research and bringing up some key concerns about what the research might indicate for our children.

For me personally, with kids who had an academic start in Montessori and then moved to unschooling, I have serious concerns about the dumbing-down of our children. As parents, we are have been conditioned to be so quick to do for our children that I wonder if we are raising them to become incapable of doing for themselves.

Is it unreasonable to teach a preschooler how to make toast? Or fold laundry? Maria Montessori didn't think so. Neither do I.

Is there any reason why a child can't use a proper glass or silverware when eating rather than cartoonish plastic dishes? Our children do, and they manage just fine. In fact, we've found glass drinkware is more stable than the plastic cups. They're also learning to clear their dishes, load the dishwasher, and put away their clean clothes. The older kids learned to do their own laundry around the second grade. They each got a laundry basket and instructions on how to do laundry. Why? It's a life skill. Just like learning to read, do math, and all of those other important subjects we focus on in school, why do we then assume our children are incapable of such basic life skills in the home?

As they've gotten older, I've involved them in other life skills as they've become physically and mentally capable. I want children who can make decisions and understand natural consequences long before they leave my home. If I helicopter overhead, that will never happen.

When my daughter decided to start public school for the first time in her life this year, I supported her decision. I do not ask her to do her homework. Ever. She does it because she choses to. She gets it done. She gets an A average in school. Why? Because she wants to get those grades. She earns them, not me. All of the pride associated with that achievement is hers to own. I can be proud because she is a responsible person who makes good choices, and I feel like I helped foster that within her.

There's not only a sense of pride when children are responsible for taking care of their family and their environment, but also a realization that things don't just magically happen. Clean clothes don't magically appear (so, you might not want to toss every little thing into the hamper). Food tastes better when you participate in cooking it. It takes a family—all of us, working together, to make a household run well. We are each important members who have something special to offer, each with unique strengths, complementary skills, and working together, we can be successful.

On Being Proud: It's Not About The Grades

Peanut brought home her first letter-grade report card today. It's her first traditional report card, period. When she attended Montessori school, we had conferences and received written feedback from the teachers, and as the students got older, they participated in the process, as well. But, there were no traditional report cards. She got a 3.86 GPA. She is very proud. She did it all herself.

First grades. First report card. 8th grade.

As a child who unschooled for most of the last three years, you might think I was concerned about how she would handle the academics of her 8th-grade year of school. I wasn't. I don't think she was either. My children have never lost their love of learning. They had excellent teachers in their early years of education, enjoyed an environment where they were free to learn what they desired when the home schooled, and as she entered middle school, she did so with that same self-directed passion she's always had for gaining knowledge.

Now, that doesn't mean there aren't times where she asks for help with a writing assignment, wanting her mother to proofread what she's written or assist her in outlining a paper, but that's mostly died down to minimal assistance the further she's gotten into the school year. The same thing goes for math. She asks for help when she's stuck, but all of the initiative to get her work done comes from her. Nobody nags her. Nobody asks her if she's turned in her assignments. She owns her success 100%. That's why she's proud, and that's why I'm proud of her.

My Girl and Her Kitty Cat

There's more, though. Peanut doesn't just go to school and get good grades. She has found a great group of friends who "make good choices." She volunteers to help kids in our community, something she spearheaded on her own. She doesn't do it because she gets points at school. She doesn't do it because she has to or because it makes her popular. She just does it because she enjoys it.

Even though she leaves her laundry on her bathroom floor, her dishes in places they shouldn't be, and her dog needs a bath right now, she really is a good kid, and I am seriously proud of her.