29 September 2014

Weston Red Barn Field Trip!

We had a great time at Weston Red Barn in Weston, Missouri.  We arrived just after 2 pm, when the school tours are wrapping up and free admission hours begin.

We picked apples at the orchard.  There were a large number of bees around, but they never stung us.  They seemed very content to hop about the apple trees and didn't bother us at all.  If you're still and quiet in the middle of the orchard, you can hear the hum of their hive.  So bring an epi-pen if need be... but I don't think you'll need it.

There are several different sorts of animals about including rabbits, cows and a tiny mini-pony.  He's pictured here.  I would be surprised if he measures much taller than three feet.

There's also a pumpkin patch and a hay ride, but we'd expended a fair bit of energy looking around and ferrying little buckets of apples to fill our bag at the gift shop.  It was hot today!

The apples are quite good, but they're not as perfect and polished-looking as the shiny ones you see at the store.  They're much duller and have small dings and things like that.  But they're good.  They taste just like the air smells near the trees, just a little sweet and like fall.

If Women Catcalled...

25 September 2014

It's Hammer-Time.

Unrelated photo of my grandfather.
As you may remember, Pony Boy had a problem calling our house for a while.  I've been suspicious of him bullying Emperor ever since they became "friends."  Emperor is plenty smart, but he doesn't always catch the social cues.

It seems the calls would happen for a while and then suddenly stop.  Every few months, Emperor would be the target again.  I know it's Pony Boy and one other kid with a different voice.  But we never knew who.

Lately the calls have escalated in their disrespect and the level of crudeness displayed.  You know, I try to give a lot of leeway to children because that's what they are.  They make mistakes.  I kept telling them that this was really not in their best interest to continue doing this.

Yesterday, we got a couple of very disgusting phone calls.  One happened when I answered the phone and apparently?  Someone else was calling in at the same time and leaving a horrid message on the machine.  They are very crude gay sex, masturbation and drug-related phone calls.  Screaming phone calls.  It was just too much at that point.

Unfortunately, we found out our local police would do nothing unless I handed them the suspect's name and phone number.  And even then, they're juveniles so good luck with that.  It was very disheartening to hear.  What the policewoman said was that often, the best thing to do is to involve the school's "resource officer."

Well, I'm mighty disinclined to involve the police in school when it concerns an after-school problem, but the point was made that the kids all go to school together, so... at least they can be made aware of the situation.

Sigh.  So I went to see Officer "Hammer-Time" at the school first thing in the morning at a friend's suggestion.  (Yes, I have to have a nickname for everyone, ok?)  He is a very nice person and took my tip about Pony Boy.  He called the kid in to "chat," and of course kids are all overwhelmed by the badge, spill everything, and now the cops/school know who did this.  It was him and some kid I will call Twig Boy.  If you knew their names?  You'd say the nicknames fit. 


BETTER than anything I could have asked for? Is the fact that it turns out this happened on the school bus. Which means the bullying counts as taking place "on school grounds." Which means school consequences, sports team consequences, and home consequences are gonna happen. The triad.

Just imagine getting that phone call, and learning your kid has just bullied a disabled child.  For months.  And wouldn't stop when his parents asked him to.  Wouldn't want to be those kids this weekend. 

21 September 2014

Another Assorted Post.

I'm Not Arrogant.  I'm Just Better Than You.

Analyze Words will take your twitter handle and spit out some sort of psychological gobbledygook.  Instead of pegging me as an over-friendly extrovert (which I most certainly am online, folks), it says that I'm arrogant, angry, worried, distant and analytic.

I was expecting "you're so nice!" or something like that.  Well.  Go try it and see what it says.  It has pegged everyone else I entered into the system pretty well except me, so it might just be a quirk.  It uses word combinations to psychologize you... somehow.

That's Not The Book Title.  

Anyway.  I had to put a buuunch of stickers on this book after I took the picture you see here.  Patrick would sometimes do reading time with Rose and would giggle about the book title.  It's SUPPOSED to be "Happiness Hill," but I reinforced the binding with Super Mario tape.  Take off the ha- and I guess it isn't the same word any more. 

He also really ruint the marketing scheme for one particular granola bar I USED to enjoy by pointing out what the giant and em, somewhat engorged-looking sidewise peanut on their package looked exactly like.  Thanks, Patrick.  I do think that someone should hire him as "Juvenile and Crude Hilarity Prevention Specialist."  You know.  Sort of like how some places hire hackers to try to test their systems.

He recently got a job at a local thrift store and he gets a 50% discount!  I want his next job to be at a grocery store... if that's the sort of employee discount they are offering these days, I could save some serious money.

Leaving You With... 

This cute picture of Rose.  Her first big trophy.  She had lost every game at the tournament on Saturday.  I think they gave her the trophy because it was already engraved with the event name and date, and they had an extra.  She's so proud of it, though.  She works very hard at notating her game and playing her best.

18 September 2014

A Letter From the School

(School Name) Families-

This week and next week your child might be talking about taking a test called I-Ready. This is a test we give in both our ELA classes and Math classes to gauge how are students are progressing in their skills. It is an online assessment that they will take on their laptop. It gives us great feedback that we will share with the students to see where their strengths are and skills we can work on.

In previous years this test was called Performance Series. Since the elementaries also use I-Ready, we can now see how are students are growing from 3rd grade through 8th grade.

If you would like more information about I-Ready, you can visit www.i-ready.com or email me your questions.

Thank you,
(Principal's Name)

Yipes!  The I-Ready website details how this magical program will tell teachers what they need to review and track kids' answers to every question.  It is some sort of "interactive" test designed specifically for the Common Core and bla bla bla.  What a bunch of sellouts our school district employs.  

Not to mention, they're talking of "are students" progressing?  Is proofreading a lost art that this was missed twice in one short note?

My reply:

Mr. Principal Name:

I just received your email.  I did look through the I-Ready website.   Based on what I saw there, I'm opting Emperor out of that testing. 

I would prefer my child's personal data not be tracked so minutely - and not even only by the school district, but by some national corporation that will do God-knows-what with that data (especially in light of data breaches we've seen in the news).  I'm also unhappy to see, based on information given on the website, that some computer test will not only tell teachers which topics need more careful review, but will also sort students by what it perceives to be their ability level.  Thanks but no.

I hope that Emperor is not penalised in any way for his refusal to participate in the I-Ready program, including any opportunity to qualify for advanced classes. I do appreciate all you do for the children at (School Name), but on this issue we part ways.  Thanks!

(My Name)

Answer:  they are allowing Emperor to opt out.  Isn't that nice of them?  I have to wonder how many of these things are happening without parental consent, though.  Unfortunately, the only way to keep children completely off the grid in this regard is to homeschool them.  And in some states?  Not even then.

13 September 2014

Is This a Regional Thing? Informal Poll.

Let's hear your opinion about this.

Say you're checking out somewhere and the cashier asks if you want to buy this or that or donate to a particular cause.  You say, "That's okay, thanks."

What did you just mean?

1.  That's okay, you would love to donate/buy stuff.  (Yes!)

2.  That's okay, you do not want to donate/buy stuff today.  (In other words, no.  But you want to be polite and not say that word.)

3.  It's okay that you are holding this promotion.  Thanks for doing that!  (Haven't answered your question yet, but I'm making chit-chat.)

And in your comment, let me know where you grew up and if this is a saying you've ever used.  I'm curious!  Thanks!  :)

11 September 2014

Do Fundie Homeschoolers Destroy Children?

I began homeschooling nearly eight years ago because of abuse in public schools.  Emperor has now been placed two years ahead in mathematics, taking an honours high school class as a seventh-grader in public school.  Elf is now a full-time high schooler in two advanced classes as well as German II.  By all accounts, my children are doing well.

So I find reports of homeschool "neglect" or "abuse" somewhat ironic.  And it really chaps my hide when I read articles like this one from Salon, accusing most fundamentalists of being crappy homeschoolers, and of not even bothering to teach their children to read!  The article quotes a parent who did a crappy job with her own children as an authority on the subject.  Salon figures she's able to put together a serious blog about homeschoolers despite her admitted ditziness as a teacher because... well... because her opinion happens to mesh with their preconceived notions of fundie homeschooling.   Bet that's the only reason.  Because it makes no sense otherwise.
Some of my Polish pottery collection.  Because it's my blog.

 I do have to wonder how many of these tales are exaggerated, how many are the result of a genuine disability (hello - my autistic child will always be a bit behind in language!), and how many are "I know this guy's cousin" type reports that are extrapolated to cover the whole group of so-called fundamentalists.

I thought we were done with these sorts of arguments around the year 2000, along with such bugaboos as, "But what about socialization?" and, "Do your children ever leave the house?"

The article even admits that there are no hard and fast figures on bad homeschoolers but advocates for Nazi-style registration of homeschoolers just in case there MIGHT be a bunch teaching who aren't "qualified" or doing a good job by their standards.  Um... no. The article also (correctly) says fundamentalists often homeschool under the radar for fear of state intrusion.  Since the article calls for the very state intrusion they'd freak out about, I'm sorta thinking paranoia isn't really what's going on here. 

So much mud-slinging.  A better article would have explored how to help a struggling homeschooler in real life.  I would like to see one with some real data on what works.  Articles like this will NOT help a struggling homeschooler trust "the system" and get help.  I think they are counter-productive and if anything, make people with problems feel they must be more insular, not less.

10 September 2014

The School Lunch.

Elf buys lunch at school about once a week.  At nearly $3 a lunch, I can't afford for my children to eat in the cafeteria every day.  I noticed he didn't pack a lunch for tomorrow and asked if anything good were being served at school.

"No," he tells me.  "But I already have a lunch."

No, he doesn't, so far as I can see.  He presumably ate the lunch he packed for today, and he isn't making a lunch for tomorrow... so...?

"Oh!  Well."  Here he stopped and put his hands together in the "I have a long explanation to go through" position.  "They have this thing where you have to pay extra not to buy any fruit with lunch?  But no one eats it.  So everyone gives me their fruit.  And my backpack is full.  So I don't need lunch tomorrow."

Yeah.  The kid is eating everyone else's apples, and has about three pounds of apples in his bookbag.  Hope they have a generous bathroom break policy. 

09 September 2014

Do You Give Rewards to Children?

I'm so bad.  I don't have a sticker-laden chore chart, or activity cards, or any such thing.  I'm so haphazard.  Just do what I say, ok?  When the laundry needs doing, it's just plain old laundry time.  You just feeeeel when it needs to be done.  (You get that feeling when there are only two clean pairs of underwear in your drawer, btw.)

Rose sorting laundry.
Some chores, I suppose, are more regular.  Every day, dinner happens.  But I'm not paying you if I ask you to help out.  I'm reasoning that "you get to eat," so it isn't even a fair trade when I ask you to help prepare your own food or clean up after yourself.

I suppose I should have a philosophy about chores.  I've been on some of the big-family websites and there is almost a theology to how chores ought to operate.  Well.  In some ways, there really is, as one person shouldn't always be the "taker" and so on.  But am I the only one who is too lazy to write up the chart and tally work hours and so forth? 

I also suppose I oughtta do the allowance thing... but I don't.  I do pay a little for vacuuming and other chores which rightfully ought to be mine, but I can no longer do.  I also pay for yardwork.

One thing I do shell out for?  Is little kids doing their schoolwork each week.  Woodjie gets about seven Pokemon cards each week and ohh... does he look forward to Friday afternoons!  He has an entire plastic ice cream bucket full of his earnings that he carries about with him to sort through and look at during his free time.

How about your family?  Do you give rewards for chores or for other great jobs?  

04 September 2014

Get a Warrant

Okay, so... the police are looking for a fellow who beat up his girlfriend.  This isn't a criminal mastermind capable of blowing up a whole city or anything extreme like that.  I don't see where knocking on someone's door in the middle of the night and demanding entrance is necessary.  This is America.  The fellow who answered the door is an American.  Go get a warrant.

I have a feeling if the camera weren't running that this story might have had a very different outcome.  Notice the cops always tend to say "turn off the camera?"  God forbid there be video evidence of them bullying a private citizen.

You know, I highly doubt this Michael Brown fellow is anything like a martyr, but one thing is certain:  police are supposed to "protect and serve."  Not bully.  In this case, however, the white cop was far more polite than his partner.

I find it incredible.  Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to this.

03 September 2014

NOT Back to School Week.

It seems every homeschool family just started a new school year.  The internet is filled with "not back to school" posts.  It is the BEST time to go out and socialize with other homeschoolers, or just to spend time with your family.  The public school children are not crowding the bowling alleys, restaurants, movie theatres and so on.  Ahhhh.  We have the world to ourselves again. Contrary to stereotype, we do a lot of "socialization." Tina Hollenbeck, homeschool mom and creator of The Homeschool Resource Roadmap, recently summed the "socialization" issue well:  "When you ask a homeschooling parent about 'socialization,' what you're really saying to her is, 'I don't trust you.' Is that what you really want to communicate to your friend or family member?"  Do please trust that every parent imaginable will ensure Junior moves out of Mom's basement by the time he is 40.  Thanks.  So anyway... here's our "NOT back to school" post: 

Emperor at work.  You know how football games last hours and hours and take up a whole weekend with lots of snack foods and yelling at the screen?  Chess is wayyy beyond that.  Over a week-long game.  Hours a day.  The kid is glued to the ICC all the time to watch the Sinquefield Cup.  Just as in any other game, they have sportscasters and play-by-play analysis.  The only thing they do NOT do?  Is that slow-motion replay of moves they do in other sports.  And.  No screaming fans.  Sorry.

Because Woodjie has a bit of trouble with the socialization thing (let's be honest, autism does that a little), I am very intentional about playing games and doing other turn-taking activities.  I'm counting this toward math as children need to know how to plot coordinates, read maps, and so on.

Rose learned that this is NOT a great strategy for hiding her ships.

Now you know where we live.  Woodjie has helpfully provided you with a map showing our home in relation to the doctor's office, grocery store, and local Pizza hut.  Traffic lights are even included.  We are going out several times a week and working very hard with Woodjie especially on his "community expectations."  Be kind to the moms out there bringing their autistic children around town.  Because, do you know that the only way these kids will do a better job and learn?  Is by practicing.  We are doing a lot of practicing.  :)

Woodjie's Roller Dance Routine!

Only a few people were selected to perform their routines at a recent club fundraiser.  I went to upload this video and was pretty shocked...