31 August 2010

Back-to-School Night

I have two older children in public school and while I can't say I'm always happy with the teachers, I CAN tell you that I at least try to set aside my own attitude aside for a few hours and focus on what my older children need.  THEY are the ones who have decided to go to school, so it's my job to be supportive.  Teachers probably can't stand some of the children and their parents who are going to back-to-school night either, but since they're the PROFESSIONALS, I'm thinking they can behave themselves better than this:

“So you can see I am very qualified. So, do I know more than you do about the curriculum? Yes I do. Do I know more about [student] placement? Yes I do. Do I want your opinion? No I don’t.”

The article goes on to talk about how while perhaps this isn't the BEST way to greet parents (ya think?), that parents shouldn't ask specifically about how their child's allergies will be handled, or talk about the curriculum or... well, anything "specific."  I've been dealing with these folks for a loooong time and I can tell you that the reason parents are sometimes a bit pushy is that THERE IS NO GOOD TIME to ask specifics. 

What I've found, particularly in the younger grades, is that parents aren't even told which class their child would be in until about five days before school. Then it is impossible to get in touch with anyone with any sort of authority for about two weeks. I've seen some VERY pushy parents who literally have strolled to the front of the line and butted in to accost a teacher about this or that grade/method of dealing with the class, but I've come to the conclusion that MOST parents are driven to be pushy by the circumstance of not being able to have their legitimate questions answered in a timely manner.


Try it.  Your question gets routed to this person, or that, or whatever, and the person in charge of that department is sure to leave a message on your answering machine when you're unable to get to the phone.  And at the beginning of the year, let's be honest, YOUR "specific" question might just be the same question several other people have.  Or at the very least, wouldn't it save time in the long run just to stay an extra hour or two on back-to-school night specifically to take personal questions, such as the ones about the allergies or student placement?  The article seems to poo-poo the allergy concern.  It isn't a trivial issue for some children!

In other back-to-school news, what do you think about "reading logs" and this idea that children must read x number or books or spend x amount of time reading?   I'm not sure myself.  Here, I've just directed my homeschoolers to write a paper on "Ancient Egypt," and they're looking over all the books.  I don't think they're intentionally trying to avoid the assignment.  I think they're a little lost/absorbed in the reading, and that's ok.  We can do the assignment later because after all, I did NOT give a time limit on it (if I had, that would be a different matter entirely).

Yet G's middle school, with the best of intentions, set up a "reading time" at the beginning of the day.  I think it's an excellent idea.  It helps children have a set time to read what they want AND helps latecomers get into school without disrupting everyone's class.  I don't think it encourages lateness as there is a detention system set up after a certain number of "unexcused" absences (I have mixed feelings about this, but another post). 

Still, this rather unstructured time doesn't MAKE a good reader.  G is able to read very basic things with much effort.  He would bring picture books (comics, really) for his own reading time but he COULD be GUIDED through something more difficult.  I think much depends upon the student and his ability and educational needs, whether this approach works.

This website is an interesting sort of a take on things.  It seems to be run by "FedUpMom," and she's fed up, but not quite ready to call for an end to public education.  Many ideas on the LA Times article and other tidbits, but the link above directs you to a post on the reading log idea.

30 August 2010

Bearing Medical Burdens

Isn't it a beautiful thing when Christians bear one another's burdens, so fulfilling the law of Christ?  One great way to do this is to join a medical expense "ministry."  You send in your monthly "sharing" obligation and PRESTO!  Your medical expenses are paid in return.

And never fear, you won't have to pay for anyone else's immoral lifestyle ever again.  Thankfully, in addition to not having to pay for anyone's abortions as you might expect, you also won't have to pay for mental illness. 

I know, I know.  "Why mental illness?" you're thinking.  "I could see abortion, because most Christians think that's murder.  But I thought that mental illness as we understand it today is the result of some sort of natural chemical imbalance in the brain."

Oh, no, no.  Mental illness, you see, is not a Christian thing to have.  Our pre-Copernican and extremely scientific minds have reasonably theorized that you must have a demon that needs prayer (cheaper that way).  That, or, as I could attest from listening to the radio last week, depression is caused by, and can be completely alleviated by, being more grateful.  That's right!  Make up those "gratitude lists" and get off the couch and do stuff for others.  Stop being such a loser!  (It's cheaper that way, as well.)  NOW you've got that joy, joy, joy, joy down in your heart.  If you don't, you're not living Biblically.  Repent.

And rest your conscience, good and loving Christian.  Under this "ministry" plan (we are careful never to use the term "insurance," mind you) you will never have to pay for bastard children to be delivered into this world. (That'll teach that mom not to go have sex outside marriage again!  Loving 'em into the Kingdom, we are.)  Requests for "sharing" medical expenses if the parents haven't been married and sending in their "sharing" money for the full nine months will be denied.  We also deny all help for STD treatments unless you can prove rape documented at the police station.  So lady, better marry well because if your husband cheats on you, YOU are out of luck with our little Christian community.

I know you're really excited about this Christian health option and want to join.  You need a medical exam certifying that you're healthy already.  Your BMI must be within the healthy range, and your waist less than 35 inches around.  You cannot have ANY pre-existing conditions.  Jesus doesn't want to "share" his medical money with all you defective people, so go away if you have any of those.  For plan members, though, we want you to know that if you just pray hard enough and eat your vegetables, the disease reversal plan in the upper right corner of our website may just work for you!

Oh, and finally:  the Christian testimony.  You have to have documentable evidence that you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  We reserve the right to send investigators out to interview your pastor to make sure that you're for real.

Sign up today!!

29 August 2010

God Stuff

I DO try to teach these little children a little theology.  I do.  I've just stopped going to church (long story) and imagine it's not going to get any easier.

Woodjie is almost four, and he can say a few words.  He can indicate that he sees a difference between Charizard and Charmelon, but he still doesn't have that God thing down yet.  He's come a long way, though.  Used to be a big struggle to get him to sit at the table.  Then to be silent for a minute during *tiny* prayers.  We solved that one with much, much training and PECS.  Now, I'm trying to get him to repeat, "Thank you" (Shee-shoo!) "Jesus" (E-dus!) "Amen." (Ay-nen.) before his meals.  He seems to be directing the prayer to a particular light bulb.  Ok.  Progress.

Elf and Emperor, though, have had a little chat here and there about what it means to be a Christian and the like.  They seem to take those Old Testament verses about talking of God when you're walking and sitting down (etc.) very seriously.  Rose can't even play with her baby toys without some kid butting in.

"HI, I'm Farmer Ted," the matching magnet game tells Rose.  "Listen to my banjo!"  (twang, twang...)

"HI, I'm Farmer GOD!" Emperor chimes in.  "Listen to my Holy Spirit guitar!"  NEEER NEEER NEEERRRRRR (jump, jump)

Ok, quit it.

Emperor and Elf also like to play "puppet shows" with their small stuffed animals.  One day, in English class, the 'teacher' assigned a 500-page essay on "how the world began."

"But I wasn't there!" protested the Anpanman stuffed toy.  "How am I going to write this paper if I wasn't there?"

"IT IS WRITTEN," boomed another voice.  Then little *hee hee* boys laughing.  Yes, God was in the class and has turned in his paper just then.  Bet he got an A, too.  They're not sure what was in his paper when I asked.  Or why He was in English class to begin with.

28 August 2010

Mom's Mathy Girl

"Wa... two... fie... fee!"

Not quite, Rose. I take the markers out of the container and count slowly, putting them away. "One... two... three... four... five... six!" Now it's her turn. This child understands what is expected of her, and picks up a marker.

"Wa... feee... fouwa.. fie!" And she claps for herself.

Awww. Great job, Rose! Try putting more than ONE marker away, though, next time. Counting sorta goes that way.  See this one? That's "one." Then you add this one and it's "two." Rose holds out her hands and nods as if to say, yep. I've got it. Hand over the markers and watch how it's done.

She picks up the second marker I gave her and says, "Two!"   Yes... but... can you start with "one?" I put a marker away before THIS marker became "two."

"Ee-le-le-lowwww." Yes, it's YELLOW, but it's ONE. One yellow marker.

"Ah-ah-ahhhh," Rose says, Count-style. Getting off track here.  Well, I will give you three markers. Can you count them?

"I doe knowww," she says, with a ditzy shake of her piggy tails and her little hands out in a "no clue" stance. "Ah just a gooowl."  And she gives me a sneaky, chubby-faced smile.

I had no clue girls were that bad at mathematics by their very nature.

26 August 2010

Quiet Afternoon

Elf and Emperor are learning to play Senet, an ancient Egyptian game, while Woodjie is away at preschool.  That's also when I have time to do strange things like eat lunch, organize my materials for the next day, and play with a strange little creature in my living room.  Isn't she cute?  She gets into some things and needs some reminders, but isn't constantly pinball-running, climbing, screeching and throwing stuff.  Yes... when Woodjie is out at preschool, the house is (relatively) quiet.  He goes for a few hours four times a week.  He comes home smelling sweaty and his shoes are full of playground sand, but he does look forward to seeing the "zus."

24 August 2010

Thanks, Blondee!

Blondee and I have only "known" each other for a few weeks now, but already she has shared an award with me!  Isn't that cool?  Don't you love getting to know new friends?  I'm supposed to pass this on to other bloggers... but I'm really hoping something different will happen.  I'm hoping that I can convince some of my lurkers to de-lurk for just a sec, post this award on their blog and leave a comment inviting me to come by and say howdy.

Promise I won't act all normal at first, and later try to convert you to Wicca and talk about my "revirginization miracle" or anything like that.  (Yes... public high school acquaintance.  I was in the remedial English classes - public school teachers recognized my lack of ability - and was assigned the seat next to hers. It was... interesting.)

So annnnyway... here are the rules:  Copy the flower to your hard drive to re-award it in your own blog. Mrs. C adds:  if you're a guy and want to accept this award but need to balance the "look" of your acceptance post by surrounding the picture with flaming death skull or medieval sword pictures, that is ok, too.  In fact, it would make the flower look really tuff to stand up to all that.

Rule 1- Post a link back to the person who awarded the Sunshine to your blog giving them thanks.  Ok.  Did that.  Oh, wait.  THANKS!

Rule-2 Pass the award onto blogs you love. No more than 15 blogs, please!  Ok.  Did that.  Should I worry that more than 15 people will copy/paste this award?  I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Rule-3 Share 7 things about yourself.  Oh, boy.  Here goes: 

1.  I am traumatized by Cheetos.  A few years back, my husband thought it would be *really* funny to eat a bunch of these and follow me around the kitchen, burping because it grosses me out and makes me feel sick to hear BIG, loud, horrid wet burps.  I kept telling him to quit it.  But did he stop?  Ohhh, no.  He kept snorting with laughter, following me around and burping.  I was finally on my way out of the kitchen in a huff when he burped SO BIG that he threw up allll over me.  Cheetos are evil.

2. I can read and write well, but cannot seem to follow verbal directions.  I worked at McDonald's for a whopping six weeks.  More than once I was asked incredulously if I really were a college student, home on break.  I also get lost easily.  My mom once said I couldn't find my way out of a wet paper bag.  I'm not sure if that meant I would drown in a wet paper bag, or what.  And whyyy would I be in a wet paper bag?  Yep.  Verbal directions.  Can't do 'em.

3.  I am an absolute YoVille nut.  I have a beautiful yacht, Moroccan castle, Hollywood apartment, Gothic home, Cape Cod home and American-themed trailer.  I also am VERY well-put together, with matching clothes.  I have over $35,000.  Well... in YoVille.  In real life, I pair old green sweatpants that have BROWN paint on the butt (I backed into it when I was painting the kitchen; I'm sure it's a conversation starter when I leave places lol).  And flip-flops.  And a red purse.  And I go out like that.  I don't care about what I look like in REAL life, but my YoVille character gets new outfits and hairstyles pretty frequently.

4.  My house has a giant painted elephant in the living room.  D HATED it when I first painted it.  Now he says that he is so attached to it that I may NEVER paint over it.  No matter what.  It's his favourite picture in the house.  So maybe he will grow to love the Polish pottery I got earlier this year and think it's the greatest stuff ever.  Maybe he will get me a new set of matching plates and cups for Christmas because he LOVES IT SO MUCH by then.  You never know.  :)

5.  I am VERY SCARED of sunflowers.  Sunflowers look like giant eyeballs, and they are terrifying.  I can pretend not to be scared of them or even say, "My! What pretty sunflowers!" if I'm trying to be polite to someone who has these... things... in her garden.  But I can't get too close to them. 

 My uncle used to be very afraid of tulips.  They look like giant mouths that will come and eat him.  Many of my children have struggled with fear of dandelions.  I suppose if you have to have a phobia, these are the sorts you're going to want to have.  Most children don't think it's funny to try to scare others with *flowers.*  Just think of all the teasing we avoided by having odd fears...

6.  I used to be awful at mathematics until I had to teach it to Elf.  Now that I am learning mathematics, I can go step by step and it's not so terrible.  I can even do some math problems in my head.  Before, I'd start to get a headache just looking at papers that would require addition and subtraction.    YAY for homeschooling!

7.  I never go to a hairdresser. I wouldn't know how to do the small talk or how much to leave for a tip. I have also heard stories about people getting their um... people having hair removed in weird ways and I don't want to see that.  (WHO thought of that???  And who tried that first?  And they don't go to their family doctor for that?  Just whoever has an appointment open??) 

Carnival of Homeschooling

Dave the Homeschool Dad did an excellent job hosting the carnival this week!  Check it out here.  I hope it encourages you and brings a smile to your face today.

23 August 2010

Is This a REAL Product??

I'm not getting why someone wouldn't just carry a baby blanket and throw it on. The lamb applique is pretty cute, though.

22 August 2010

News Roundup!

Rainbow Flag Academy is a top-scoring private school in Farleyville, California.  That's why Becca and Tracey Meekum sought to enroll their daughter, Bailey, for the fall session.

"We wanted a lower student-teacher ratio than Bailey would be getting in our local public school," said Becca, a homemaker and former public schoolteacher.  "We knew that the Rainbow Flag Academy would ensure that rigorous education we were looking for."

The Meekums filled out the application to the Academy, but failed to specify that they were Christians to the admissions board.  The Academy is a "pro-gay, pro-tolerance, extremely left-leaning liberal, liberal, liberal arts school," according to the school website.

The school accepted Bailey, and she was slated to begin next week.  But there was a mix-up. 

School officials claim that the Meekums were less than forthright on the application, which has spaces only for two fathers or two mothers under the "parent or guardian" blanks.  The school assumed that Tracey was a second mother to Bailey, when in fact he is her biological father.  Staff figured that out during the "back-to-school" night the school held last week.

The school then sent notice to the Meekum family that Bailey was, in fact, not a good candidate for the school.  It refunded the $4,000 deposit and informed them that "what we teach at Rainbow Flag Academy is going to be inconsistent with your worldview."

Tracey Meekum stated that the family is, in fact, Christian, but is trying to hide its light under a bushel during school hours so that Bailey can go to the school with the really high test scores.  "What would it profit me," he said despondently, "if I were to raise a child who knew the Lord and walked in His Truth, but she couldn't gain the 'whole world' because her test scores were too low?  What then?"

Ok, that isn't quite how the real story went... but I have to wonder about the family in this article's REAL motivation for causing a stink about this in the news.  I honestly don't get it.Whyyy would you want to send your child to a school that DIRECTLY teaches children that YOUR family's lifestyle is wrong?  Actually, that's probably unfair of me to say.  I send some of my children to public school, you know.  :)

In other news, and good grief, I couldn't make this stuff up...

In other news, Wal-Mart is gonna be able to track its merchandise for years after it leaves the store.  That's right.  It's going to put RFID chips into about everything.  You'd have to cut the tags off before you brought ANYTHING home if you didn't want the guys back in corporate to know you've been drinking again.  Or that your wife wears a 3x.  Or that bag of chips?  That DVD?  That can of formula?  They could track everything you bought and where you brought it after you left the store.

Which is AWESOME, on the off chance that you are a murder suspect and are somehow able to use this odd evidence to clear your name... but how often does that happen to you?  How else could this "data" be used?

Seriously, I never would have believed it if you'd have shown me this news story 10 years ago.  I'm not a paranoid type... I *still* am not sure whether I believe this story or not. 

Ok.  One more story I want to share.  I know you do this all the time so that you can post videos on YouTube, but the cops want you to know that speeding at hugely reckless speeds so that you can conjure up a ghost that will chase you on the highway?  Is a dangerous thing to do.  And they want you to know that they have pretty lights, too.

Umm...

NO, that's not me meditating... that's me not knowing what to say, sometimes.

Emperor is NINE, and yet he is still quite insistent that he will marry his sister someday.  It doesn't matter what Mom says about it.  He really loves her.  He thinks she's really, really cute.  Plus, she's already PROMISED to marry him!  No matter what the Bible says, you can't go back on a promise.

Guy, I think that God's going to overlook Rose's "promise" to marry you, especially since she has no idea what she is saying when she repeats words after you.  She just wanted your praise and attention; that's why she's vowing to be your wife, be your best friend forever, and why she lets you borrow her Hello Kitty items.  (She wants those back, by the way, even if she "promised" you could keep them.)

Yep, we have to discuss the Bible and its mandates on marriage.  So some ground rules.  Even if most everyone around you starts to say that boys can marry boys, that's not true according to God.  You also can't marry your cat or your donkey.

Emperor is perplexed.  "So how do you know if someone is an ass or not?"

??

"All those people you say, 'You stupid ass!' about when you are driving," he clarified.  "How am I going to be sure not to marry one of them?  I can't tell the difference between them and the regular people!"

"Ummm..."

This would be hilarious, if only Emperor were kidding with me.  But no.  He's serious.  He's really THAT literal of a person.

Yet again, Mom wishes she had headphones for the little kids and one of those special OnStarSuperDeluxe TVs that would enrapture the children on our little forays into the outside world.  That... and that people who do stupid things on the road would do them in slow motion.  I'm good at censoring myself if I have enough time to think before the words come out and can think of appropriate alternatives such as "doo-doo-Mcpoopsie head" in time. 

Of course, the BEST alternative would be to thank the LORD for putting this driver into my life so that I can pray for her.  And ponder aloud at how blessed I am that God had "ordered my steps" and my driving, even as He obviously didn't do such a hot job at ordering the other person's.

Arg.  WHY can't I seem to be more spiritual "on the spot" like that? 

21 August 2010

Test Results = Teacher Rating

Edited for clarity, my response on an educator blog after I was told that the LA Times is muddying the individual reputations of teachers, that it's unfair, and that if this "abuse" continues,  NO ONE would want to teach in public schools:

Ordinarily one takes a test for oneself, for a grade or to demonstrate mastery. But under NCLB entire DISTRICTS are penalized for students' poor performance on a test... but not individual teachers? The rationale being...?

I mean... I agree this destroys reputations. Standardized testing has already destroyed the reputations of entire school districts. It has destroyed the self-esteem of I don't know how many children who have done their best work and still received poor scores. How could teachers possibly escape the same pain these tests inflict?

But do I see teachers refusing to administer said tests? Um... no.

I'm really, really, really confused, Name. Because on a personal level, I think the tests should be pitched into a bin and all schools should figure out what they want to teach locally, and NEVERMIND what they are doing in the next town or even the next classroom over. Give the teacher power. But if teachers know they're entering into the testing factory when they sign up, it seems odd to complain that someone gets hold of the numbers.

I GET that real people and their "reputations" are hurt by this. I submit to you that it is only because they have bought into the lie that the test truly, truly means anything. And I can feel sad for them that they are undergoing such public scrutiny, but did they not sign up for this "testing?"


Obviously the unions are not fighting for local administrative control and the obliteration of the standardized test. I'm not seeing teachers fighting it, either.

I guess I'm flabbergasted. I could have told you a million times over how evil these tests were. How they should never rank students by race or income level (how demeaning!).

But apply it to an individual teacher, and only THEN it's wrong?

I know I don't get a vote in any of these processes (call me disenfranchized), but it seems a rather inconsistent viewpoint. Maybe mine is too in that I disagree with the testing process, but understand that since EVERYONE ELSE seems to like it or at least tolerate it (as in, not FIGHT it, not FIGHT any and all standardized tests in public schools), that it ought be perceived as a fair evaluation.

I myself took no standardized tests except those crazy "gifted" tests and the SAT during my public school education. And I am not that old.

Can we go back to those days yet? Has anyone else had enough?

20 August 2010

Your Back-to-School Shopping List, Part II

Part I here.

I'm curious as to what you're spending on education stuff, if you'd like to share.  Would you like to see my list?

Clothes $0
I'm not counting these.  Really.  My middle boys are entirely on the hand-me-down system, except for a few items such as new sneakers here and there.  It is an absolute hoarder sty at my house, as I've saved every scrap of clothing from Patrick and G, the oldest two (16 and 15), for my middle children, Elf and Emperor (ages 10 and 9) .  Then I save Elf and Emperor's old stuff for my tiny boy Woodjie.  Big bags, tied up and thrown into an old playpen in the basement, and I dig for the sizes I want when seasons change based on the label I penned on masking tape when it went into storage.  Well, not too fashionable, but I'm sure this system has saved us gobs of money.  Did I mention we're working on paying down our mortgage whilst we dress our children in rags and they use thrift store walkmans?  Remember... the ones with cassette tapes? $3, yo.

Electronics/Mathematics $400

We got a little laptop so that Elf and Emperor can do their maths stuff separately.  We spent about $200 on the laptop and $200 on the math curriculum once you factor in extra workbooks.  Really.  So... $400 total there.

Pencils/Pens/Paper/Supplies and Art $200

Um, pencils and paper and markers run me practically nothing.  But I admit that I keep buying "sticker books," craft kits and that sort of thing.  I also like the 3-ring binders that are only one inch thick.  They're expensive if you want 'em to last, but sometimes we just splurge and live life a little.

English  $300

$40 for the Landmark Freedom literature curriculum (McGuffey readers)
$60 for Rod and Staff English (including extra workbook for Woodjie and Rose to use later)
$150 for BJU Press Spelling and Bible curriculum (Bible manual I bought used, or I'd be logging an even $200 here). 
Assorted reading book purchases, retail and otherwise, runs me about $50.

Science $45

$28 for our chemistry curriculum, and a bit more money thrown into the total for incidentals.  We still have plenty of Lifepacs from last year to finish and review this school year, not to mention the 4,000 books we'll be checking out from the public library when we're done with all that.

Chess $60

I haven't spent it yet, but I'm thinking there will be a tournament for them to go to at some point.  Maybe two.

History/Geography  $100

This includes colouring  and sticker books, a Lifepac on Greece and Rome, History Pockets on Egypt, Greece and Rome, and the Mary Pope Osborne Odyssey, Rome, Greece and Egypt books.  We also have quite a number of very good thrift store finds on Greece and Egypt.  I think I hit the place right after a teacher decided to do a different curriculum next year and pitch her current *good* stuff into the donation bin.  Otherwise I fear I would have spent quite a bit more.  Am slightly overestimating here for round-number purposes.

Printer ink $250

I'm thinking that deserves its own category.  Yowch.

Grand total $1355 or about $675 per child this year. 

Am I the only one who spends MORE as I find more neat things that I "have to have" each year?  I'm looking at this and thinking perhaps the DVD curriculum in a box isn't as expensive as I first thought... the sticker shock of seeing that they want so much money for the teaching lessons you must return in a year, and knowing I'd have to get another book kit for the other homeschooler AND rent the DVD later if I want to homeschool Woodjie and Rose... wow.  Sticker shock.  It might just be easier that way, though I couldn't see giving up our math.

Though it's different to homeschool a first-grader.  Paper, paper, paper, some simple books and a lot of reteaching.  I think I spent about $200 that first year with Elf at home.  I also think that if I *really* needed to, that I could pare back on some of the fun things I enjoy teaching.  I look at it more as an expensive hobby.

Your Back-to-School Shopping List, Part I

The National Retail Federation estimates that the average family spends just over $600 on back-to-school stuff.  I'm not entirely sure that this is accurate.  I feel it grossly underestimates the purchases of most families, especially if they have more than two children, and especially if these were purchases the families would have made anyway, but waited for "back-to-school time."   Certainly you'll buy that laptop during tax-free weekend when the stores are competing for your business as well.

If you homeschool year-round, you know exactly what I mean.  No sane person is going to buy the same notebook for $2.49 that she can get during the August sales for a nickel, or maybe even four cents with the free OfficeMax teacher card.  Was your purchase inspired by "back-to-school," or did you just do a little planning and/or "impulse buy" that whopping four-penny notebook? 

And really, there's no point buying a new T-shirt for the summer barbeque cookout or berry-picking spree.  For the most part, summer clothes are more than casual, at least in my family.  They're downright grubby-looking.  The Federation (live long and prosper) includes back-to-school clothes purchases AND electronics in its estimate of school supply spending.  I don't live in a rich neighbourhood, and I've seen what the teens are wearing to the high school, and $600 isn't even going to cover their shoes and cell phones for the year.

I bought new sneakers for Elf and Emperor, as well as socks and underwear for all the children during the sales.  At least for my homeschoolers, these purchases weren't inspired by my wanting children to look kewl at the bus stop.  The simple fact of the matter is that once you get up around men's size 8, the sneakers and other shoes get soooo nasty by the time they're outgrown (Patrick and G are now size 13/14 depending on brand) that they can no longer truly be passed down or even given away to the local thrift store.  We have a few pairs of grubby sandals from the older boys, and a few pairs of winter boots in the larger sizes.  The other stuff, including socks, just doesn't make it.  Somewhere between the sweltering heat of summer and the snowdrifts of winter, the middle guys need to wear shoes on occasion.

But my point being, the Federation is likely including my recent purchase in its "back-to-school spending" tally.

What do we really actually SPEND on the "back-to-school" stuff?  We'll address that in Part II.

Reading Detective

Heeeeere's a handy-dandy copy of the Reading Detective for absolutely free from AHermitt.  You can enter her contest, too!  Just follow my link, follow her on Twitter or do a tweet or blog post and there you go.  Even if you decide not to enter the contest (thus enabling me to win lol), you should pop by, scroll around and find a comment to post on so you can say howdy. :)

19 August 2010

Help Your Local Hormonal Man

Support the right of women to "GoTopless."  It really is good for the environment.  Think of all the extra water and detergent that won't have to be used in the laundering process of shirts and brasierres. 

It's natural. 

And it's sexy.  Not every woman should even think of wandering around with her old rumply, saggy raisins in full view of the world.  But robustly round and beautiful but oppressed young women ought to have equal rights with men to um... show whatever it is that God gave 'em. 

And most young men are so, sooo supportive.  Some "take pictures at first, but then they get used to seeing women's bodies and return to normal within an hour," one advocate reported.

An hour.  Do these reporters have editors who know what this um, implies?  And men being "supportive?"  And um... the trend started because of space aliens?

I know, I know.  You're saying, "Mrs. C.  You realllly are quoting some way-off source with all this.  Because no mainstream semi-almost-normal publication is going to show people with 'strategically-placed stickers' and men wearing bras to show the (ahem) restrictions these busty ladies undergo each day."

Do you really want to click the link?  You've been warned.  But it's a pretty mainstream publication, and even allowing for the fact that I got the article from the "weird news" section... it's pretty weird...

18 August 2010

17 August 2010

Value-Added Teachers

I want to say first off that I object to mandatory testing. And I CERTAINLY object to people being classified by their race and free-lunch status. Shame on George Bush for allowing that pidgeonholing crap to get into the federal NCLB standards... and shame on a lot of other people. People ought not "represent" their race or income status when they pull out a number 2 pencil. They are themselves, and who cares what the "trends" show? Soft bigotry of low expectations notwithstanding, teachers and parents (um, not the government) should track the individual student's progress.  Can we quit the constant race and class comparison thing?

But I do think the LA Times is to be commended for trying to tackle the issue of teacher effectiveness with some hard numbers and some fair dealing.  It's accessed public information on students' test scores and used "value-added" scoring to assess the teachers themselves.  I'd highly recommend you read the whole article, because for once it escapes my ability to offer a snarky synopsis.  It has some real meat to it.

The writers openly declare the standardized tests certainly aren't everything, but they're the only reasonably objective measure of a student's performance across time.  They've tracked *individual* students across time, so there are no excuses for minority group and class-bashing we've seen in the past.  (Should I add here that I object to that data being available to anyone but the school and the parents?? I just did anyway.)   The article compares how children as a *group* (but based on individual scores) do on the test from one classroom to the next over the period of seven years.  It's at least a START that gives parents some information when they're comparing one teacher with another.

And yes, we know the tests are really not that objective in and of themselves if the tests keep getting tweaked.  And that a teacher or student can have an "off" year.  But it's more objective than saying someone is a "good" or "bad" teacher based on a couple class observations, as administrators are sometimes wont to do in the tenuring process. 

And yes, we know the tests are NOT everything.  But we also know that the teachers are pretty well roped into teaching as though it WERE everything.  So if a group of children in a given classwere to do more crap-tacularly on the test this year than last, what does that say to you about the quality of the instruction in that class? Here's more of what we SHOULD be seeing... more people who are at least willing to admit that their job performance needs improvement, like John Smith:

"On average, Smith's students slide under his instruction, losing 14 percentile points in math during the school year relative to their peers districtwide, The Times found. Overall, he ranked among the least effective of the district's elementary school teachers.

"Told of The Times' findings, Smith expressed mild surprise. (Not shock?  Dismay?  Ho-hum... I'm 63 and retire in a couple years?  Siiigh)

"'Obviously what I need to do is to look at what I'm doing and take some steps to make sure something changes,' he said."

If he means it, he's well on his way to being the best teacher he can be.  I think that's the mark of a true professional.  Not doing a good job at your workplace?  Make sure something changes.  Change what you are doing or find a new job.  But is Smith LIKELY to be given extra helps and supports, or other reinforcement to make sure good habits and mentoring would stick?  And did the school district care enough about the students to help "ineffective" teachers improve before the story?  Did they know which teachers were consistent underperformers and did nothing?

Hey.  We can't all be the BEST teacher or the BEST housewife or the BEST babysitter or whatever.  But I think it's reasonable for schools and parents to define what a good standard of *competence* would be.  Right now, the union has a stranglehold on this puppy.  They're even boycotting the Times for daring to publish the article! OH, and calling on ALL other unions to do the same.

Actually, I'd like to see some real articles... REAL ARTICLES... with more data on bullying, violence, school climate, college graduation rates and parent/student satisfaction with schools.  I don't just want to read about the testing because hellooo, that's only one measureable assurance of quality.  Um, did you know homeschoolers in some states either have to show measureable improvement or score in the top 40% or they are forced into public school?  What's the recourse for the lowest 60% of public school scorers on a given state test?  Because these are the kids who ARE taught to the test, who aren't exploring, say, medieval infantry for a whole year and waiting to do more intensive science NEXT year.

Oh.  That's right.  There isn't a recourse for the kids in public school.  But there are plenty of avenues that a teacher can use to keep her job over several years, even after it's been proven that she's remained ineffective. 

I'm not a "fire all the teachers because of a bad test score" kind of person.  But what has all this testing gotten us?  We have plenty of weird data (tests change) and really?  I'm sure a good plenty of districts shuffle kids around annually like ours does so that they can even out their test scores and mess up that whole "go to the school closest to your house" mentality cretins like me ascribe to when it comes to public education.  :)

16 August 2010

Guide to Dinner Manners

I wish I could record Patrick for just ten random minutes and play it back here so you can see what life is really like with this kid. 

About half the dinnertime conversation is my having to tell Emperor and Elf to quit giggling and remind Patrick - yet again! - that what he said was not appropriate. (Well, why?) and having to go into WHY it is not appropriate and arguing with him about the propriety of discussing this or that.  Then I'm never quite sure if his remarks are "smartie" remarks or, "Mom, I really don't get it..." types of questions.  He's just too deadpan.  And he's so, so smart that he can spin the sarcastic remark in such a way that you're never quite sure if he's serious about what's flying out of his mouth at any given moment.  Sometimes he genuinely has no clue.  It doesn't matter how smart he is; sometimes the guy doesn't see why you're so offended...  Or why saying *this* statement is just a joke but *THIS* gets Mom mad?

It just does!  Arg.

So in an effort to prevent further misunderstandings, here's a guide to dinner manners for dear Patrick and other teens who happen to be reading:

Juuuust because I discussed "salvation" at the table once doesn't mean you can say you don't want people to be saved any more.  That is truly shocking.  Even if you're kidding, don't say that.  What do you mean about only 144,000 people getting into heaven and you don't want too much competition for YOUR slot so you won't tell them about Jesus?   Good grief.

And your, "In the old days, people spoke in tongues.  I speak with mouth," comment.  How could you NOT get why Mom doesn't like that one?   You should also know that statements like, "I'm a latter-day saint.  I'm so much brighter than the saints from the former days," are somewhat inflammatory to most Christians and Mormons alike.

And you may not start a sentence with, "In the beginning, Chuck Norris..."  It just won't end well for you.  Soon I will be printing up a script for you to use at dinner.  I love you, and some of your jokes are funny, but you really need to review Psalm 1.  Again.

You were such a fiery little preacher when you were three.  What happened?? 

14 August 2010

Mrs. C's Pet Business.

If it weren't for a little reluctance about the whole "practicing witchcraft" thing, I'd be very tempted to go into a line of work like this. That's right: for $90 an hour, I could "channel" the spirit of your beloved departed puppy and through lots of hard, hard work that took me ohhhh... about 500 hours, I'd be able to locate your reincarnated dog at the local pet shelter for $50.

Nevermind that the reincarnated dog looks nothing like the dog you lost. They have similar personalities! They both wag their tails when they are happy and pant when they're hot. And somehow they both have the same quirks after you've owned them a while. I'm going to claim that any differences between the dogs can be attributed to the reincarnation process and the dispersal of psychic energy and the fact that your dog is now in a new body that may respond differently to his spirit.  (That was goood.  I might make up more stuff like that and print it on my brochures.) You might offset some of those negative effects of reincarnation if you purchase special quartz-crystal dog collars from me. At $150 each, your pet will thank you. Here's my card; be sure to refer me to other rich and distraught people who have lost their pets recently. Thanks.

13 August 2010

Hair Bugs!

"Other cultures do not see lice as a problem, and don't understand why we've asked them to get rid of it. Some families have their own remedies from their countries, which never seem to work. Can you tell this battle has just exhausted us? We spend more time communicating to parents about lice than about their children's reading."

What would you say to this public school teacher?

Apparently, schools shouldn't be bothering with the "check for lice and send kids home" thing so much any more.  I guess that if your child is assigned a seat next to another kid with bugs and ickiness, it's just your tough.  Further, educators are celebrating this recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics because (yayy!) that means they can get back to their real job, which is teaching.

Um.  Am I the only one who has a problem with this?

Even in the old days when Patrick was in kindergarten,  the school would not tell you which kids had lice. I just happened to be able to be the involved parent and notice that (Name) was not in school for four days following the "a student in your child's class..." note that was sent home.  This girl sat next to Patrick!  Yuck.

I was grossed out.  It was the first day of KINDERGARTEN, folks.  What kind of trashy family sends their kid to school with head lice SO BAD that a rookie teacher would notice it on the first day of kindergarten??  I knew where this family lived, and they weren't in the homeless shelter or any sort of extreme situation like that.  They drove nice cars and lived in a nicer house than mine!  They just lived with bugs while they wore designer clothes??!  What is up with that?

The school can't control these people and what they do at home, but they SHOULD forbid them from walking in and sharing hairbrushes with all the other students.  They SHOULD bother to check for head lice occasionally, at least in the younger grades when kids are huggy and seated close together.   And if you've been sent home with the bugs, the school shouldn't let you back in until you are bug (and egg!) free.   Have to miss work to deal with this?  Tough nits.  There is no excuse for sending your kids to school to infect mine.  I know YOU wouldn't appreciate it if the situation were reversed.

And you know what?  I've never had lice, and neither have my children.  But that's just fortune and chance.  There is no shame in HAVING lice, just in KEEPING them.  We all know that little girl could have passed on those bugs to Patrick in a matter of seconds. I feel the same way about roaches.  Anyone can get roaches, and sometimes they are hard to get rid of.  But there is NO reason just to live with the problem and do nothing.  Eew.

From the post:

"The worst thing about lice is that your head itches. That, and knowing that you have insects crawling around on your scalp. Other than that, it doesn't get any worse. Strep throat, on the other hand, can get really bad. So can influenza, measles, chicken pox and the mumps. And unlike those afflictions, lice aren't terribly contagious. They can be controlled with reasonable precautions."


"So all in all, there's no compelling medical reason to keep a kid home from school just because she has head lice. The cost of a missed day of school is more than the benefit of a day of quarantine."

Oh, realllly?  The benefit of a day of quarantine is for the UNINFECTED children, not the kid with the nits.  Or the pink eye.  Or the flu.  Or whatever.  I keep my children home when they are sick or buggy.  So should you.

11 August 2010

Raising an Only Child

Good grief.  An entire how-to on not making your kid a spoiled tyrant.  But did you note there wasn't any question about "is it legal?" or "what about socialization?" as there would be with homeschoolers.  Homeschoolers, the stereotype goes, have around 18 children each, but we need to worry about their socialization.  But the only child's socialization can be taken care of by inviting two friends over every Friday night for a sleepover.  According to the story, anyway. 

Homeschoolers, I guess, need to have about seven co-ops for everything so they see other children exist besides the other kids at the compound and even then?  Welll, they're not being socialized with people of beliefs that are radically different from the parents', so it doesn't count.  But publicly-educated children can somehow NEVER be exposed to the different worldview of Christianity, lest they start foaming at the mouth and writhing on the floor and we all have to start speaking Latin prayers.  (That, or their parents might get offended and sue. Pick one.)  Only Christian homeschoolers should make sure to get their kid indoctrinated by people with a "different" viewpoint.

I'm juuust not getting the mainstream media thing. 

I could understand a stereotype being explored with some sort of reasonable attempt at objectivity, but this article interviewed people who let their only child be an equal decision-making partner who then wonders why teachers and coaches don't fully implement her suggestions.  Woww. 

I'm a little odd myself, though, and find myself wondering why the article seemed to brush off having an only as a mostly economic thing.  Especially as the interviewed couples actually consider "going on vacation" and that sort of thing... I'm sure I could raise a kid or two for a year for the same amount of cash they're spending at the resort.  Which is fine if that's what they want to do, but let's not fool ourselves.  It isn't an economic thing.  They just want to live the luxurious lifestyle and not have to go through diapers twice.  How 'bout some honesty?  I figure readers can be ok with honesty.  I'm not too keen on changing diapers myself, what with having a 42-pound kid wearing them and all.

And the suggestion that the parents ignore their only child for two hours a day so he can explore activities and friendships on his own is just AWFUL.  When Patrick was a baby, he went everywhere I did except the shower and he was an awesome little friend.  He played with other children, too, in the apartment swimming pool.  I went to mommy groups and met other parents with tiny kids.  It was soo much fun.  Right now, I am *very* isolated.  I see people at church twice a week and say "hi."  The few times I've come out about my struggles, I've been told that so and so knew someone with SEVEN children, so...

Oh, yeah.  I'm sure it's the exact same thing, and they had the same struggles I do right now, nevermind that so and so raised her seven kids in the 1940's. *Whatever.*  My point being that people are all different and when we explore social trends, we really need to be careful about balancing insight into the trend and respect for the fact that people who are living the "trend" are all different.  I read this article thinking the people I know with only children are a much more balanced bunch and don't go out of their way apologizing for it or trying to somehow "make up for" the fact that their child is an only kid.  It is what it is, and I'm not seeing why somehow having one child is weird, two is normal, three is pushing it, but four or more children is classified as breeding like an animal and why don't they quit doing that.  Just saying. :)

10 August 2010

Emperor is NINE.

Happy Birthday, Emperor!  Emperor has received some books, the replica One Ring on a chain (chain already broken... three hours into birthday time... siiiigh) and his choice of where to eat out.   I haven't bought him any toys because I think he has enough broken ones on hand to last him until Christmas.  Now Emperor is officially halfway grown up. :)

09 August 2010

Overheard

Two little boys are playing with their small stuffed animals.  They call this their "puppet show" time and do all kinds of crazy things.  One week, they pretended their ship was sinking and had the "puppets" do a song and dance complete with Rockette-style kicking titled "Beautiful S-O-S."  I'm sure any Coast Guard ship within radio range woulda realllly taken that call seriously.  This time, the theme seems to be bricklaying:

"Now, pick up those bricks and start running!!" 

(Why do I have to do that?) 

"Well, because we own you now, Joseph.  So get moving!" 

(Am I a slave or something?) 

"No.  We prefer the term 'servant.'  Now go move those bricks!" 

(I *am* getting paid for this, right, Potiphar?) 

"Sorry... no."

(But... wouldn't that make me a slave?)

"We prefer the term 'servant.'  Now get moving or I'll pop you on the head with my idol!"

(Oh, well... I can't do idols.  So how much are you paying me?)

*scuffling ensues* and old Mom has to intervene after the silly head-popping gets out of control.  I'm comforting myself that at least they have forgotten about their resolve to read Genesis 38 after I forbade them.  They were wondering whyyyy their curriculum would skip that chapter.  Well... howcome, Mom?

Nevermind.  That part of the Bible is... not for you.  Thanks.

08 August 2010

More Special Than YOUR Kid.

(An article by a parent.  Summarized by Mrs. C for your consideration.)

"My daughter has Down's Syndrome, so she's more special than your dyslexic child.  I'm a self-proclaimed expert and I have declared that nine times out of ten, your kid's label is a sham.  He should go to a 'normal' school.  Oh, yeah, I know they've been evaluated by a doctor and all... but I know better.  And I know for a fact that the schools are colluding with the physicians so that the schools can get a lot of money.  I also make sure to use the word 'normal' many times in my article because I know how well that goes over in the disability community, being so knowledgeable and all.

You just nevermind that MY kid costs a lot of money to educate.  I'm upset that it costs a lot of money to send YOUR kid to a special school and give your child special help.  That means less cash for the people I'VE decided are truly disabled to get the help they need.

I've also, through my not-acquired-in-medical-school but still somehow godlike knowledge, been gracious enough to tell you that dyslexia, ADHD, conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder?  It's all stuff that's pretty well made up.  Or I would have thought so until I started reading about it last week.  Because I'm ignorant and have never heard of these terms before, it must all be some sort of scam between the school and your physician.  I'll even say that your little Suzie might not be the brightest button in the box, but so what, go deal with it and quit asking for special help for your stupid kid.  Just don't say that back to me about MY kid or you'd be dissing people with real special needs and that wouldn't be nice.

Oh, well, anyway... I have enough knowledge to be featured in the Mail Online.  With a picture and a byline, thankyouverymuch.  I am awwwwesommme."

WOWWWW.  Did you click that link?  Could you almost feel the hate?  Do you think there might be other ways to convey the thought that more severe needs ought be funded at a higher level than less severe special needs?  I think we all understand that, say, a more severely autistic child like Woodjie is going to cost WAY more to educate than a child who just needs a little extra reading practice.  Do you have to totally rake the families of the "extra reading" kids over the coals like that to make your point?

And does seething disgust like that make a real point in the marketplace of ideas, or does this article come off as jealous and snippy?

07 August 2010

Woodjie

Woodjie woke up with a fever and a horrible cough.  He'd wet through everything.  I took him potty (he didn't go... sigh) and instead of wandering into the girl's room to get a Pull-Up and waking her, I wiped the kid down with a soapy washcloth and popped some toddler underwear on him.  Then I took him into my bed for warm blondie snuggles.  I'm ok with waking up at 5:30 or 6 if I have to, but not on a Saturday.  I would like to at least rest in the bed until 7 on the weekends.

Poor guy held me, but kept coughing and coughing.  Finally he looked at me, all concerned and pointed to his forehead.  "Ee urt!"  Aww... he has a headache, too.  He was so nice and soft and STILL, though, this morning.  No jumping down the stairs and yelling, "CHAR!" to tell me that he is the Pokemon Charmeleon.  No throwing stuff and screaming, "I choose YOU, Onix!"  Just snuggles.  I felt sorry for him, but I liked the snuggles. He even closed his eyes for a few minutes.

Woodjie is also much more talkative when he's not feeling well.  Today, he let me know that the owl andirons we have near the stove are "Hoothoot" and that he wanted to play with the little people "ouse" with his sister.  The house has a "door" and a "ee-dull" (table) and the Daddy needs to "sit down."  Hey, not nearly the vocabulary one would expect at this age, but for Woodjie, every word is a miracle.  Maybe the fever slowed him down so that he had to talk with boring old Mom.

I've been noticing he no longer draws his letters or talks about them.  Everything is Pokemon.  "Okie-non!" he'll demand after breakfast.  Oh, and you'd beeeeetter let him watch it, too.  He likes to pretend that he is Onix or Charmeleon.  I made the mistake of asking him if he were Charmander and he was quite insulted. 

"Sha-eeen-EN!" he corrected me.  Man, how could I have mixed up Charmander and Charmeleon?  I mean, they're sooo totally different, right?  Really... I can't tell them apart on the Pokemon cards, but all the boys (um, including Woodjie) can.  It's apparently a pretty important distinction.

05 August 2010

Social Skills Practice

Poor ol' Emperor.  He got into big trouble at church on Wednesday and the pastor's wife had to bring him out of the children's area and in with the adults near the back.  When I got a chance to talk to him, he was very upset.  He was making noises, he said, but no one ever asked him to stop.  They just suddenly sent him out of the room and he doesn't know why they're so mad all of a sudden.

Hmm... Now...  I'm not going to call my autistic child a liar like some people just might.  Instead of assuming ill motive, I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt and do a little investigating if I can.  There are enough people -even well-meaning ones at that- who can totally misconstrue a situation.  (I wonder what the real truth is behind this post?  Another matter... but I wonder what the other family would blog. I didn't comment because the post struck me as one of those "I shouldn't have to give a 'free pass' to those autistic brats and the world is neurotypical so deal with it" kinds of posts... and usually this poster is pretty level-headed.  Arg.) 

I will say, though, that I doubt that Emperor wasn't asked to stop the noises.  I like this teacher.  I don't think she'd suddenly kick him out with NO warning.  She doesn't cackle with evil glee at upsetting eight-year-olds, at least so far as I'm aware.  But I'm just going to say I doubt he THINKS he was asked to stop the noises.  See the difference?  On to play detective.  What *exactly* did the teacher say?

*sniffle*

"She said that, 'We're waiting for the noise to stop!'... like that," he told me. 

So... you thought she was ok with your making noise?  (Fer real??)

"Yeah, she SAID she was WAITING," he said, exasperated.  "She never TOLD ME to stop!  She just kept saying she was waiting."

Ohhhh... she'd have had to wait a mighty long time if she thought she'd hang out until he *felt* like he was all done with the silly sounds.  The teacher's story, obviously, is that she told him several times to stop.  I let her know that Emperor didn't see it that way because he's so stinkin' literal.  Just tell him straight up to quit it.  Sometimes, trying to be polite means that Emperor will misunderstand you.  I'm sorry that this happened... etc. etc.

You know the routine if you've been a parent - of any sort of kid (pick one) -  long enough.  You feel sorry for the child, the teacher, yourself and the other students.  Probably in that order.

Happy Elf Homeschool Room

Maybe I should file this under "keeping it real." This is our school room in actual use. Ok... it isn't even really a school room. It's our living room. We're up first thing this morning, plotting model electrons into their little orbitals. They're really the popcorn kernels you see on the table. (Easier than it sounds.) Elf's math gets done on the little laptop on the table and Emperor's is done on the computer at the desk. This way, they each have their own grades in the computer's grade book. Can you see all the curriculum stuff in the shelf at the far end of the room? The Clementine box behind the chair near the fake plant on the desk contains markers, a small American flag, post-it notes, my bills and a timer. Frequently, Emperor can be found lounging on the floor with his AlphaSmart during writing assignment time.  Edited to add:  I've included this post in the Not Back to School blog hop.  Check it out!

04 August 2010

Voting in Missouri

I voted yesterday in the primaries.

One of our neighbours convinced Patrick to stand outside the polling place and greet people yesterday for several hours, handing out fliers and trying to convince them that they NEEDED to vote YES on Proposition C. It was one of the hottest days of the summer, too. Patrick said that he was expecting a big debate with argumentative voters... or something. Most people just take the paper and nod at him on their way in, he told me.

Ok.

When I went in to vote, I had to literally pass THREE OTHER POLLING STATIONS to get where I needed to be. This is all kinds of wrong, for them to redistrict me like that. They do that so that all the icky rich transients who live on the Kansas City side in the new McMansions can vote at the megachurch with the airconditioning and lush carpet. Eew. (**I** want to be an icky rich transient, but not having enough money, I'm going to sit here and eew at the icky rich transients and their granite countertops and nickel drawer pulls, and the fact that they get to vote at the megachurch while I'm at the "smelling like musty basement mini-church 20 minutes away," mmkay?)

Poor folks like me must drive forever to vote. Sure, if I were a crow, I could make the flight about a mile away. Not being a crow, I had to use these things called STREETS. Streets go all sorts of weird directions, and sometimes you literally "can't get there from here" unless you want to go all the way across town and circle back. I think some dude at the election office just took a compass and drew circles around polling places and redistricted that way, and nevermind about how the ROADS go or how long it will take people to get there.

Blehh.

I took the VOTE YES ON PROP C paper they were handing out and nodded at the worker on my way in. But once you open the door, the voting place makes you PUT AWAY your papers. You can't even wear a shirt with a candidate's name on it in to vote. They call that "electioneering," and they make you leave or cover it up.

Every voting place has a Democrat and a Republican worker specially hired to sign every paper ballot and check your ID. No one, I guess, is worried about the interests of Libertarians or other parties. (They don't count, I suppose.) I had to tell them my name and address and show them my ID. Then they look up my name in the Book. If you are not in the Book, you do not get to vote.

I had to sign the Book in two places and get my ballot. Oh! "Getting your ballot" is not an easy process. There are five to choose from. Several different parties, and one "independent" ballot, which really means "you don't get to vote for ANY candidates at all, just the propositions." I usually ask for a Democratic ballot and try to mess up the other party by picking a real loo-ser. The scary thing is is that sometimes, these loo-sers go on to win the election.

I decided on a Republican one this time. You can decide what party you are right at the voting place, and change it every time you vote. Maybe next time I will ask about one of the miscellaneous party ballots for fun. You can choose only ONE ballot, though. You don't get to vote for more than one party's candidate, EVEN THOUGH obviously the guys in the other party might just be representing you later on.

It's confusing, but they explained that each person only gets to vote ONCE. (Yeahh, I knoww, but it's still confusing.)

So. I have to have my ballot signed by the Republican AND Democratic people there and my ballot number is no doubt entered into a system somewhere. They are marking down every time a ballot leaves their hands, both of them signing everything.

Some young fella then came in with a spiked hairdo and a bunch of piercings. He got directed to a "touch screen." It was explained to everyone in the room (the workers, me, some random businessman in a suit, and the young guy) that those machines are for people under 25 because they are the only ones who know how to work it. (I guess the workers don't? Because they were both pushing 70.) I sorta felt discriminated against, standing there at the voting table where everyone could see what I was filling in with my Ebony (tm) pencil. But the old fellow at the table assured me that if I knew how to use it, I could vote that way next time.

Once again... I suspected the workers didn't know how to use it, or they'd have offered it to me and shown me how. Or maybe they don't like people over 25? Or... oh. They couldn't be bothered explaining it to me, and it's easier just to let the older folks do things the way they've always been done. That's probably it. Laziness... not discrimination. Well, I guess I'm ok with that.

I voted on the Republican candidates, and many of these are just not choices at all. Only one circle to fill in as many are unopposed in the primaries. I filled the circles in anyway so that my ballot wouldn't be invalidated. You never know. I also voted on this Proposition C thing, for all the good it will do.

I don't see where it's all that revolutionary as they're making it out to be in the press. All the proposition says is that the government shall not penalize citizens who choose not to buy health insurance. I have chosen not to buy suspenders for years and face no penalties from my government. I mean, if my pants fall down because I'm so thin and didn't plan ahead and use suspenders (HA!), then that is all my fault, my poor planning and my bad.

Seriously, I do think it is a good idea to purchase health insurance. And a bad idea for my government to force me to do it.

01 August 2010

Chemistry for Elementary Students

Imagine all the elements as the "kitchen cupboard of the universe." It starts out easy enough... but then there is MATH involved toward the end. Patrick's question was whether they made you calculate "moles" in this curriculum. Nope. But we will do valence numbers and Lewis dot diagrams, learn about the Periodic table and memorize the names of many elements. We'll play games, make models and do experiments. I'm going to be learning A LOT with the children this year. Edited to add: I've added this post to the Not Back to School Blog Hop. Check it out! :)

Star Trek Roller Skating!

Woodjie LOVES the audience.  I made these little outfits for the children and they danced to the Star Trek: Next Generation theme...