Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

This is it, New Year's Eve, the time of self-reflection and promises to do better.

And I'm sick.

I'm really too sick to care right now.

Tomorrow I'm going to start 30 days of blogging, perhaps, we'll see. I'll try to do most of the list, anyway. Found it linked on my friend's tumblr and stole it. I'm going to share!

There are a few I may change, as this is one of many 30 day challenges and there are no real rules. So ha!

Or maybe I'll do this one:

day 1 - your favorite picture of yourself and one interesting fact for every year you’ve been alive

day 2 - your thoughts on death

day 3 - your thoughts on religon

day 4 - your most significant childhood memory

day 5 - discuss your feelings on the word “love” and the way it’s used in today

day 6 - your all time favorite movie

day 7- talk about your idol and how they influence you

day 8 - ten things you’d like to say to ten different people, without using names

day 9 - your favorite blog

day 10 - a picture of your favorite relitave

day 11 - your biggest fear

day 12 - a picture of the place where you were born

day 13 - discuss your first kiss

day 14 - your thoughts on drugs and alcohol

day 15 - your celebrity crush

day 16 - ten things that make you smile and a picture of yourself smiling

day 17 - discuss your greatest fear and your greatest dream

day 18 - a picture of your best friend

day 19 - a picture of yourself and someone you don’t actually like

day 20 - talk about where you go/went to high school

day 21 - a picture of your first boyfriend/girlfriend

day 22 - a time you felt like ending your own life

day 23 - your biggest regret

day 24 - a picture of you when you were younger

day 25 - a picture of your all time favorite band.

you know what I'm gonna do? I'm gonna teach my son how to do an art project because all I feel like doing is coloring one of those intricate patterns like you see on 70s floor tile. yeah.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This Year I Was A Giver

When I broke down this fall and beat my head against the wall and ranted about my feelings to a friend of mine via AIM chat, he told me something that was as obvious, and yet as revelatory as when I interpret the dreams of another chat buddy. He said, "You mother everyone else so much, you forget to take time to do something for yourself."

I do take time each day to do some little thing for myself, like after the kids and hubby go to bed, I sit up and watch hulu or play facebook games to unwind. I listen to my favorite songs while I fold laundry. I write out plans. because I know this simple truth.

But that's not what I needed. I needed a vacation from myself. I needed to break the routine.

The fact is, I'm a giver. If I had the money to give tangible gifts, I would, but as it is, I don't. I give of myself and my time instead. As much as I can.

Here's my Christmas example:
An anonymous person gave me a hundred dollars before Christmas and I used some of it to buy ink for my printer to print off a gift of a letter and copies of my published work for my grandma, who at 92 and living alone in a facility, really appreciated it.
I also bought my mother and hubby's step-mom fuzzy socks, my son's diapers, and a t-shirt and a pair of black dress pants on clearance at WalMart. The rest is still saved up for the next need.

My sister and her husband said "We don't want anything, we aren't buying anyone anything." That's the boat I thought I was going to be in this year myself! I gave her pictures, a christmas card, a pewter visor clip thing of an angel I had, because one time she said she liked that kind of thing. Then I learned she needs shoes and you better believe I desire to help her acquire them!

Hubby and I did not exchange gifts this year between each other, just like last year. We know that when we want something, we will eventually fill that need. We get things all year for ourselves from yard sales, tax season, and auctions. We also cherish just being together.

The biggest thing was to make Christmas great for the boys. At Thanksgiving, we weren't sure how it was going to work out, but it did.

In reflection, I spent half of the year's Sundays volunteering my time in either the nursery or the preschool age children's rooms during church. I enrolled my oldest in soccer to let him try new things. I gave a home to one of the puppies who would have gone homeless. I counseled a friend, encouraging her to get out of an abusive situation and stay in school. I worked on myself to learn to love and not to judge.

I think I have found the right path, the right motivation, and the right direction for me for the New Year. I have found my passion, and within my passion, there is a career. One that will be fruitful, one that will not cause me anguish, and one that will let me give.

I am a giver.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December is about the Children

I'm taking this month to really focus on my kids.

November was more about me and my writing and extended family, what with Thanksgiving family feasting in there. I was also working on a wild idea to go back to college and had a heated discussion with hubby. I was rather self-focused.

But I don't want to focus on me right now. If I was supposed to have a job, I'd have one. One of the millions of applications would have been fruitful.

I am left thinking that my role is supposed to be Mom. Why didn't this dawn on me sooner?? It's the ONE thing I excel at! Ask my internet chat buddies, they will tell you. :)

My focus therefore, should be on my kids. Not just because it is a holiday season and we all want our kids to have the best Christmas, etc. EVER!! No, but because they are an investment for the future, just like your house, or your education.

The way they act in public is a reflection on you. It's a warped mirror, I know, "I swear I didn't teach them to fight in the cart! I promise they don't crawl under the table at home!"

My son learned two lessons yesterday.

First, he came in from school and YELLED at me. "Why is the door locked?! You know I always have to pee really bad!!" Granted, a full and painful bladder is enough to make me yell, too, but that behavior toward his mother was uncalled for.

I yelled back, "I lock the door to keep strangers out and your brother IN! I got up as quickly as I could when I heard you! Don't you yell at me! Now go pee!" I made the angry face and went nose to nose with him. He ran to pee and then started to cry. I called him over and held him.

"Why are you crying?" I wanted to hear him admit his feelings.
"I am sad."
"You yelled at m-me."
"Do you like being yelled at?"
"Neither do I."
"I'm sor-r-ry!"
"I'm sorry too."

I know I used a few more words than that, but he learned a little bit about who is the boss around here. Mom. Yelling is not polite.

Then later I hear a painful cry from the little one. It doesn't stop after 5 seconds. I have to go investigate. Previous to the howl were the sounds of arguing. This raises a red flag. There are complaints about a video game. The easiest way to deal with this is to shut off the game. I take the howling banshee to his bed. He then tells me his brother hit him on the head. Oh! So now we have to dig deeper.

Brother is brought in for interrogation. He admits to hitting Little bro on the head. Little bro gets picked up from his bed by daddy so I can deal with Big bro. Lesson number 2 of the day results in tears and banishment to his bed. 'Your Brother Is Littler Than You And Will Not Play The Video Game With 100% Accuracy. Do Not Hit Him, You Might Damage His Brain.' The thought that he might have seriously injured his brother cut him to the quick. He bawled.

This is one day after the Big Collision whence the two boys received matching cuts on their heads. Little Bro cut his right eyebrow and it swelled up, Big bro cut the left side of his forehead. They bashed heads with Little bro's glasses between them and have matching arc shaped cuts from the frame. In the tub later, Big bro hit the little one's eyebrow again, making it worse and causing Little bro to scream bloody murder.

Two days of head injuries for Little bro were enough for Mama Bear to go ballistic on Big bro, but I didn't. He was stressed enough with the head injury speech. I let him stew in bed in his own tears. It was only an hour before bedtime. He came sneaking out, eyes dry, about 20 minutes later. "How long are you gonna make me stay in there?"


So my goal now is to remember to set parameters for discipline. Even if it's 'Stay there until I come back!'
And don't think daddy didn't also give him a lecture. After placating Little bro and inspecting for damage, he also gave Big bro a talk. I know I always hated it when I had to hear the lesson twice! I hope it sinks in!

In addition to the discipline, I am also taking time to sit with my kids when they watch a movie, rather than slip off and do other things. Not every lesson is about punishment. We still love them and need to show it.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Thoughts on Education, Child Development, Homeschooling, and the Future

Having watched various RSA Animate videos on youtube recently about education, motivation, and empathy, I have been thinking about my own children and their future. It started with Ken Robinson, whom I have heard speak before. I like what he has to say and this video is awesome! From there you can watch the other videos.

The point is this: it got me thinking about my children, especially my oldest son and his heartfelt desire to be homeschooled.
Now, take this desire with a grain of salt; the grain that he thinks if he stays home, he will be closer to his video games and legos and that the proximity carries the promise of opportunity to play with them.

So I ask myself the big question: What is he getting out of school?

Based on the videos, which are extremely accurate, kids today have short attention spans and spend most of their time in games where they are active participants in the world. Kids play. They WANT to be ACTIVE.

Real life example in my own life: My youngest loves to use the vacuum. He likes to push the big red button and use the hose to suck up the cereal he spilled on my carpet. He is learning to cleanup after himself and enjoy doing it. I reward him with hugs and attention and I get a clean floor! Win, win!

My son comes home with his brain fried. He wants to play. He doesn't want to do his homework, all pen and paper work by the way, he wants a snack and a game. All day he has been told to sit down and be quiet. Don't fidget. Speak when I tell you to. Stay in your seat. Pay attention to me talking at the front. Answer my questions. Write this down. It's passive learning.

And I substitute! I KNOW his curriculum as well as how hard it is to get 25 students to all do what you want them to do! 80% of my subbing days are spent talking, just like a regular teacher. 80% of the day the children are expected to listen to me. They are also mostly in a large group setting. They are asked to perform individually. With pencil and paper. Quietly.

Is there anything wrong with this? Yes and no.

No, it's not wrong to ask children to learn to sit quietly and pay attention. But some jobs in the future will not ask the worker to simply sit and fill out papers. Some do, sure, but what do we want in our workers of the future? Ingenuity, cooperation, responsibility, communication skills. Ingenuity is frowned upon the most in schools unless they are doing a project. Ingenuity takes divergent thinking. It is coming up more and more as the most important skill.

From the video, kindergarteners are geniuses at divergent thinking. That is something we grow out of in the school system, but is highly valued in characters like Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison. My little guy is closer to Ben Franklin at his young age than my older son and certainly closer than I am!

Yes, it is wrong to ONLY ask that they learn to regurgitate information for 12 years. It's all 'teaching to the test'. I think about my own education, and think about yours; raise your hand if you memorized information for the test that day and later forgot it?
Certainly we cannot all remember EVERYTHING of every day, we NEED to forget some things. And we all have strengths in certain areas, intelligences they are called. But most kids, some as young as 9 or 10, already understand and ask this question: "Why do I need to know this? I will never use this in my life!" True also, we cannot know what we will need to know for the future, BUT we re-learn things all the time. "Oh yeah, I forgot that arsenic and phosphorous were chemical cousins." (Lake Mono in recent news)

Many students feel pushed ahead through school, too. What if they were allowed to learn at their own pace? Some would be in accelerated maths and low reading. Is that a crime? (I teach special ed classes too, and this is indeed made into a way to ostracize the peer in the current system. We do a LOT of damage control. It is beginning to be seen as a help instead of a mark of stupidity.) They would feel comfortable and progress at a rate that makes them feel competent. Hey, isn't this what a one-room school house used to do?

What would happen if you graduated with a transcript at 18 instead of a diploma?
I'm not talking special ed where you get a certificate of completion, no, I'm talking revolutionize the system. What if you still needed to pass certain criteria, no matter what age, to get a level of a diploma? Level 1, Core 40 basic skills, Level 2, Advanced Skills, etc. With that transcript-style or leveled style diploma, you could get into levels of college, or jobs, or still take the SAT if you wanted. (*ideas swarm my head*)

Does my son feel pushed ahead? Well, he is succeeding academically, but he is not flourishing. There is no smile on his face when he gets an A. He shrugs it off. He did it, it was easy, let's move on, can he play a video game now? When he is reprimanded for a careless error, "you forgot your s on shows!" he feels stupid and the lecture about going back to ensure quality work is lost on him. He has already shut down. Punishing his mistakes with a big red X doesn't teach him anything positive. Yes, we can learn from our failures, but you never repeat the same test over in school so you can never fix the errors and learn from them! My son has learned this. So I made a mistake, I can't fix it, it's in the past, why look at it again? Then we expect them to build on these skills! (I had innovative teachers in high school that let you fix your errors and re-submit a test, and yes they were favorite teachers of the students.)

Why is tutoring such a big money maker? It's on their level, uses small groups, and gives extra practice for failed questions. It's focused on the individual. Skills are mastered, not learned to pass a test and move on. I have worked for 2 different tutoring companies. I know what I'm talking about.

Homeschooling is basically tutoring your own kids. I could do that. Special Ed teaching is basically meeting the child where he or she is and building the skills up. And doing it by creating your own resources!

On a basic level, it's all about reward and punishment: Life, what motivates us to live it, what motivates us to learn and to excel.

What does school reward?

  • Photographic memory
  • Passivity
  • Regurgitation
  • Pen and Paper work
  • Individual success
  • Obedience
  • Conformity
  • Responsibility
  • Being average or above your 'grade level'

What does school punish?

  • Creativity (to a point, i mean it puts creativity in a box, a playpen)
  • Inattention
  • Learning by moving or talking
  • Low Comprehension, and if you don't get it the first time..

What Does Job Industry Want in Workers?

  • Ingenuity (new ideas make money)
  • Cooperation (even our robots need to be courteous)
  • Obedience (until you are your own boss)
  • Basic Skills (math and reading)
  • Grasp of Language/Grammar for communication
  • Responsibility
  • Being on time
  • Technical skills (these are changing too)
(Can you think of more?)

Future jobs will be more computerized, or more people will become self-employed or open small businesses in unique areas to fill unique markets and niches. If we have cookie-cutter kids with cookie-cutter educations, and CUT cookie-cutter jobs like manufacturing and offices and banking and teaching, where will they go? Our kids know this. Give them credit. Our schools are training them for jobs that aren't there.

Oh, college you say? Inflated prices, needing more training and education to stand above the crowd carrying the same degree, and they have to want to go to college and incur that debt. Many kids hate school, you think they want to go to college? It doesn't look so glamorous these days.

Many jobs don't require a degree, just passion.

Can I do better at home? Probably not. I was educated in this system and I was trained in an evolutionary cooperative-learning based system in college that I have yet to see encouraged in public schools. That's why I was so frustrated when I graduated. Schools were not like the college classes said they would be!! Nothing had changed, but me. Homeschooling, however, is the only option to combat the forces that be. (Some areas have charter schools or trade schools or arts schools, where you can enroll your kid in the school they are best intellectually suited to, but not here.)

I'll have to learn how to teach TO my kids instead of AT my kids if I homeschool. I have to get back into that tutor mode and be creative. (Creative? did I just say creative? doesn't that take ingenuity? Where did I learn that? I didn't. I was born with it.)

Teaching is like throwing a ball at the class. It bounces off the heads of some kids, some catch it and hold it and look at it and some throw it back. Some throw it back because they saw others throw it and think that's what they should do, too. And a few take that ball and make it into something new.

We reward those that throw it back, and frown on those that changed the ball, because they aren't supposed to do that until they have earned their own ball. We punish those that never catch it. Sometimes we help them, but it takes so long that we both give up.

Public school is cheaper (especially if you get free lunch and textbooks) and provides children field trips and guest speakers and social stimulus. But it's also the easy way and the lazy way.
Homeschooling is hard and expensive. There are no set lessons pre-made for you for the whole year (unless you buy workbooks $$$), nor group discounts and big school buses to take you places for a few dollars (unless you find or create a group in your area, but it will still cost more than school prices). Books are only free at the library (even lessons, but there's gas cost to drive there). And your children only socially interact with each other, unless you find out where homeschool groups meet in your area or enroll your kids in sports ($$$). Plus you have to have one income, but if you can swing it, and your child will thrive, flourish, and excel as a human being, then the dividends outweigh the cost of investment.

Don't we say to invest in ourselves, in our future?

So will I be homeschooling my kids or will I be lazy and assume a broken system can do it just fine for me?

I don't know. I hope things change. Perhaps I homeschool until my children need high school courses taught in Trades or some area I can't teach them nor find a viable source to do it for me (apprenticeships or skilled family or friends). Perhaps I leave them in school and see what happens.

I will be keeping a close eye on education, my children, my job situation, and our lives. The choice is what's best for our family, ultimately.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

4 Confessions

Confessions from the Island of Misfit Toys

Recently I said that I felt like I belonged on the
Island of Misfit Toys (I'm a misfit). I felt obliged to share with you a few more confessions. I mean, confession is good for the soul, right?

#1 I love shows that make me cry, BUT only when no one is watching.

#2 I sing the car...LOUDLY. See, I used to sing loudly in my own house, back when I had one all to myself. One day I left my stereo up loud and went outside of that house for some errand my mom wanted me to do right now. I realized that I could still hear it quite well outside, and that meant when I thought I was singing to myself, I could still be heard outside. oops. At least there weren't any neighbors. My siblings came over some evenings when the music was up loud. But they know I sing loudly. All that practice made me halfway decent. But since I started living with others; college roommates, hubby, kids, I have not been in practice. I'm not so good now. :)
#3 I want to learn to dance. I had a best friend in middle school who taught me to dance, which was important to not feel AS awkward at the monthly middle school mixers we attended for fun. But I have not updated my moves since then. ..yeah. I want to BE the zumba girl, Confessions 2 and 3 are why I love the show Glee and watching musicals. I also used to dream of producing a stage show at my church with the youth and a selection of my favorite Christian songs.. too creepy? Sorry, I digress.

#4 I can't wear makeup. I never learned how! [Insert list of excuses here.] Thank you Covergirl for your step by step eyeshadow instructions on the box! I have a big ******* event (censored for secrecy) and I need to go practice now. I haven't gone through so much primping since prom! I had help for prom AND my wedding. Both times I felt like I was TOO made up. I can't even look at my prom pictures without shuddering. No offense to my friends, they were just excited to give me a make-over and inexperienced with my skin tone and color. They had to use what was available, as I do not come with my own make-up kit.

So I am off to preen and pluck and slather and brush and create and wash it all off and do it all over again.

Wish me

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