Sunday, August 21, 2005

Sunday Musings-
Today, I took the kids to church. M and T were servers. They yawned, but at least T did bow at appropriate times. Of course, I wasn't looking too carefully because we sat next to D and her family of 4 kids, the youngest being less than a month old, then a 2 yr old, a 6 yr old and a 11 yr old, DD#1 good friend. The 2 yr old is a wild child. He's not verbal yet, due to severe infections, a trach for a year, and so on, he's just now able to begin to learn to speak. He can, however, make noises and does so during services. I got to hold the new baby during most of the service, which was great fun for me and, I hope, gave D. A break and the ability to cuddle the other ones a bit. I feel like her life has so much chaos in it, I'd be nuts by now if it were me.
When we got home, it was time to organize the kids for their chores. I have a chore chart (wheel) that we follow. They have certain chores they are responsible for each week. The wheel changes on Sunday. I am working hard at letting them do the work, so they learn how to do these things. I do not want to have an 18 year old that doesn't know how to do dishes or laundry or clean. It's not coming along easily. My 14 yr old is the hardest one to get going., but I'm determined.
I worked a bit on the postcards to donate for cancer at the Houston International Quilt Festival.
I have about 4 done. Since these aren't going to be mailed individually, I'm not concerned about making them mail worthy. Lately, there's been some discussion about restrictions of the PO about these sorts of things. I don't really foresee anyone trying to mail these. I believe people are going to buy them because they are supporting a worthy cause and because they are small works of art.
Working small is difficult for me. Not that I like working huge, but the size that is comfortable to me is in the 2-4 Ft range. Working in the 4x6 inch size is hard. I want to make them interesting and special, but not too overdone, nor too plain. A fine balance that I can't seem to be satisfied with. I tried doing the journal quilts (8x11) and ended up thinking mine were just too boring to send. I tried working in the 2x3 trading card size, and , again, too boring.
I'm not sure if they really are or not. I just don't feel good about working in the smaller sizes and I end up being too critical. I'll scan some of these soon and see what you think.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

getting into the swing of things-
Trying to get back into the swing of school is difficult. There's all the supplies (that just keep coming) and then getting up in the mornings at 5:30 again. Trying to make sure my son takes his pill for both his ADHD and the antibiotic. Making sure DD#2 doesn't go out of the house in some outlandish outfit.
But, along with that, getting used to the time I can be alone in the house again (at least until DH comes back from his trips) and the endless opportunity to fill the hours previously filled with kids bickering and begging for something as all kids tend to do at the end of summer.
Then, too, all the other activities that start again along with school. Like the PSR classes and 4-H meetings.
My new calendar (based on the school year, not actual year) is beginning to fill with dates I must remember. I have a potential job in the middle of Sept down, always hoping my background check is done by then. The craft show in Nov. And all my art classes. We must attend the Crane Broiler festival and work the 4-H booth. I'm meeting with the leader to hand off gift certificates and get 4-H materials for my kids on Monday.
My son brought home the "freshman reading list" and I have issues.
First of all, the books are listed by author, title, Point values and reading levels. There are books listed that have a reading level of 4.1! (that's 4th grade people!) My son's level is 7.0 and above, which knocks out most of the reading list not to mention most of the adult novels in the world.
For those of you who might not know what AR reading is... It was created by a company who assigns a reading level and a point value for several books. The children take a test on a computer about the book. They are awarded with points. They have to collect a certain amount each quarter. This way, they are reading what they want to read from a vast library of titles and improving their reading while still being accountable for comprehension. Check out the books available here:

Makes sense when they are little kids. At the HS level, if they can't read at a 6th grade level, they need to be in a reading program! There's a point where it doesn't matter what level the book is written on, the content is more important. Most of Steven King's novels are written too low for my son to read for example and when my BIL was writing manuals for IBM he was told to keep them at a 6th gr. Reading level. So, clearly, we are past the need for a level.
For the past two years, the kids my son's age have not taken AR tests because they found the kids cheating. Since the tests tend to be from 10-20 questions, one kid would write the answers (a,b,c,d,) and share among the others. The computers were in the library and the librarian wasn't watching them. Anyway, no AR tests. They had a list of books from the teacher that the teacher had made up a test for and that's what they read. When my son wanted to read something else, I offered to make up a test for it. The teacher was fine with it as long as he didn't have to do it. It's so much easier to keep working with the same books because the teachers don't have time to read the newer books and make new tests.
So, what's stopping them from doing that cheating again? Also, while the company might list that they have a test for a book, that doesn't mean the school does. If our middle school buys the test, the intermediate school can't use it. Each school has to buy their own copy of the test. Since our district decided to build more buildings rather than a larger one, we have 3 elementary graded buildings. (k-1,2-4,5-6) Each one of those schools have to buy their own copy of the test. Seeing that even at HS you have a reading level of 4.1 still, you can see the problem.
I had that issue when DD#1 was in 4th grade. I ended up taking her to the middle school to do tests on books she was enjoying but her school couldn't buy tests for. (The series of unfortunate events. Reading level 6.2-7.3 depending on the book) When you have a school 2-4, very few students will have a reading level that high, therefore you need to spend your money on books the majority of kids would be reading. I can't blame the librarian at all.
What I do fault is that there's no exceptions to the rules, no allowances for those out of the nor. I was able to do it just because I subbed at the MS and the librarian there overheard me talking and offered to give her the tests. Her teacher went along with it but the PRINCIPAL told me I'd have to do it when there was no instruction time going on!!!! I took her on field day. But why would I have to do that? It was their stupid rules that made it necessary anyway.
It was their reading program that set her that high and their lack of tests that made us pursue other options.
This whole thing needs to be addressed in our school system.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

School meetings-round 2
So tonight, BOTH the 3rd grade and Intermediate building's open house is scheduled at the same time. I'm supposed to attend both, which begin with meetings in the gym for the parents.
How can I?
I have to choose which is more important? Meeting my 3rd grader's new teacher who is also new to the district OR to find out what the Hell the Intermediate Principal has in store for us this year. We are talking about 5 and 6th grades here.
She has done away with general music classes deciding, instead, that if the kids are involved in band or Choir, that's good enough. I'm not clear on what the kids who don't do either one will be doing or when the choir will occur. "exploratory" is all that's listed in the letter. What exactly they are exploring, I haven't a clue, but I'm guessing dodgeball will be involved.
Her latest letter involved the ACES classes. I received it yesterday in the mail.(school begins tomorrow) She has , once again, decided to play around with it. According to the letter, my daughter will be attending the ACES class on Friday afternoons. If she's involved in choir or band, she'll leave ACES to go to those classes. So, instead of having ACES one whole day a week or 2 hours a day, she's going to be getting it (roughly) one hour a week.
What? My daughter can't be gifted AND musical?
There's a real misconception about the need or purpose of the ACES program. It's not an extra class or if it is, then so is the classes for the slower kids. We are born with the intelligent levels we are. If someone has an IQ of 80, it's not their fault and they'll need help to get through a school program set up to teach to the average. ACES is set up to accommodate those at the other end of the spectrum. Just because, for the most part, these kids are well behaved, doesn't mean their needs are met in the classroom. Education is all about meeting the needs of our children.
Gifted kids are different from the average. A friend explained it to me once like this:
If you look at a classroom full of kids, you will see that the kids who are slower, less intelligent are not readily accepted by the average. I'm not saying the kids are mean to them, there's just a barrier because there's a difference in how they interact with the world. If a kid doesn't understand the joke, then it's not much fun telling it to him. The same thing happens at the other end of the spectrum as well. Gifted kids perceive the world in a vastly different way from the average students. They are expected to sit in a class with those who are much slower and don't get THEIR jokes. A good ACES program addresses this issue. It is a place where they can all be together and get each other's jokes.
Now, ACES kids have things in common with other kids, afterall, they ARE kids. They are interested in having friends, being popular, fashion and what's in. They do need instruction. I's not that they know everything, it's that they learn it faster. But my daughter also counted all the overpasses from where we live in Mo. To Cleveland, Oh. This summer. She also has to be precise about time. It's not, "8:30" it's "8:32". I don't know what she gets out of it, I just know it's important to her. She just perceives the world differently.
Now, if there is an issue with HOW the ACES program is being done, then the Special Ed coordinator needs to take up the issue with the teacher of the classes. I do have some issues with how it went last year. How much of that was the Principal's failed experiment and how much was the teacher's personal issues, I can't know. I do know that it was not the program it had been, nor what the principal hoped it to be.
Anyway, I am thinking here about how best to address this issue. I'll need to be able to state my thoughts as non-emotionally as possible, yet, firmly stating my displeasure with the tinkering again.

First round of school meetings-
Last night I took my son to the HS "open house" so we could get his schedule, books, and walk him through the halls to the classes. I was so totally frustrated!
First, we sat through this welcoming message from the new principal, assist. Principal, the coach, and so on. They said nothing of any importance.
Then, we stood in this horrible, long line to get the schedule, but it wasn't there. We were told to go to the counselor's office. So we stood in another long line with people who, apparently, can't hear, because half of them were there for things they were told how and when to fix in the useless meeting. Finally, we get to the secretary who tells us that my son's shot record is the problem and I have to go to the nurse.
The poor nurse caught all my anger and frustration with this whole set up. Luckily, I had the records with me. She made a copy, and we got his schedule.
Now, part of what made me angry was the issue with the shots. At the end of school last year, we got a notice that he needed a tetanus shot before he'd be allowed to attend HS, but it never said anything about how and when to tell THEM about it. Of course, we took him for the shot this summer.
Last night, the nurse said it was something that was supposed to have been done earlier. How am I supposed to know that? Of course, the kids who are in sports already had theirs prior to playing them, but my son isn't playing sports.
I do, however take my son to his DR. Every three months. You'd think somewhere along the line last year he would have mentioned it.
Maybe they mentioned it last year in the meeting they forgot to include my son in. (the announcement was made, but those in PE never heard it and no one thought to tell them)
Maybe they mentioned it in the ONE meeting they scheduled last year for the parents when we had a prior engagement and could not attend. But, you'd think they could have mentioned it when I met with both the HS and middle school counselors about him not being part of the meeting last year.
I have lingering issues with all that went on last year on this subject.
I hear the kids talking about making up schedules, but my son isn't one of them. I ask him about it. He has no idea what I'm talking about. I ask the MS counselor about it. " the HS C had a meeting about it. I don't have any schedules here, I've run out." I ask my son again. He said he didn't go to a meeting. I drop by the HS C office. I ask about it. She told me she had the meeting. I said my son wasn't there. She CALLED the MS to find out if he was there that day! He was. She has no explanation... And no schedules. She's run out. I gave up. What else was I to do?
Last night, I was sure all the trouble I was having had to do with him not filling out a schedule. Turns out, it was the shots instead.
My son is not a stand-out student, in fact, he works very hard not to stand out. He's not interested in band,singing, or sports. He doesn't want to stand up in front of people. He's gone through school being utterly forgettable. I hope he finds his niche in HS. Until they take a good look at him, he won't.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Final school shopping-
I took my kids today for the final round of school supplies shopping. Roughly, $240.00 spent today, not counting what was done before which amounts to about the same. I want to say, first of all, that I understand the frustrations of teachers when children come ill prepared for class. I've seen some creative solutions for teachers "lending" supplies to students, mostly at the middle school age. One teacher I know makes the student take off one shoe in exchange for a pencil. There's no way they can say they "forgot" to give it back at the end of class. Anyway, I really do understand that it is frustrating and expensive for the teachers to keep providing supplies.
BUT- All that said, there's just no reason why the school supply list has to be for the entire year. There's no reason why my 3rd grader needs to have 24 pencils at the moment, or 8 folders, when they are used strictly for bringing home school work. I think she used 4 or 5 last year.
It get's crazy. I have 3 boxes of 24 count crayons, 2 boxes of markers, highlighters, red marking pens, dry erase pens, glue, scissors, rubber cement, 48 pencils, black pens, mechanical pencils, 2 binders, 3 backpacks, 16 folders, pink erasers, rulers, notebook paper in two line sizes, and then I'm expected to buy tissues, babywipes, ziplock bags. Some of it, I'm guessing at, because my son hasn't met with his teachers to know what specific items he'll need in HS.
I had to buy his Adderall today. He also has an infection in his eye, so he has antibiotics to take too. But, for now, he's all set for school.
In discussing his meds with the DR., there's been a shift in what ADD/ ADHD is all about.
Back when my son was in 2nd grade and we began this journey, We never got a good explanation on what was going on in his head and why a medicine that would make me hyper, would settle him down. "It just works opposite on these people" is what we got.
Now, there's been a shift in the idea of what's going on inside there people's brains. Now they think that parts of their brain are actually trying to go to sleep and the people act out and their brain acts out, trying to keep itself awake. The meds actually keep the "sleepy" brain more alert, so the kids don't have to go to extremes to wake it up.
My son was never aggressive towards others, never acted out in class, fidgeted quite a bit in his seat, wiggled and squirmed. In the summer, we take him off his meds so he can gain weight and not build up a tolerance to the meds. I deal with a lot of irritating behavior. Most often he actually yells, "bla,bla,bla,bla !" or some other nonsense sounds. It's wearing on you. It's irritating, it's noisy, it's childish. But, he's gained almost 10 lbs. And worth it.
He's on a very low dose, only raised once since 2nd grade and, since he's grown, we are tapering him off it slowly. I can see a difference when he's on his meds besides the lack of weird noises. He's quieter, less animated, there's less sparkle to him. He's less likely to show any humor, which is something teachers notice when he's not on meds, like this summer in his art class.
Speaking of him and art classes, I can not give his Middle school art teacher, Mrs. Alexander, enough praise. She single-handedly turned his whole attitude about art around. He was never considered successful before, therefore, he did not like art. It was painful to be artistic and have a son who didn't believe he could be. She made a difference.
I plan on having a quiet day tomorrow and staying home. I may get talked into walking down to the lake for a swim, but not anything more than that. It was miserable driving today, but there's some sort of antique car show going on in Branson, because we saw tons of them driving around. There didn't seem to be a theme to it. All ages, restored to original, or not. A bit confusing actually, but nice eye candy.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Substitute Meeting-
Today was the official start of the school year sub meeting for our district. Even though I've done all my paperwork and am waiting for it to go through, I attended anyway. I saw a lot of familiar faces among the subs.
We have a new Superintendent. She introduced herself to me before the meeting and seemed nice. She actually looks like a elementary school teacher, less official looking than our last one.
We have a new elementary principal, but she's not really new, just has moved up from being a teacher, to assistant, to official principal. I've known her for several years, but she's taken on a more firm look these days.
We have a new assistant Principal that will bounce between the Intermediate and Middle school buildings. He'll need to be tough there. The HS leaders have totally been re-tooled. A strong looking woman as Principal and a very timid looking man (who never spoke) as her assistant. He'll need to step up, but she looked like she had a good idea of what she was about.
All of these are just visual impressions based on a few mins. so it will be interesting to see if I'm right or wrong. Other than checking to see if the calling policies have changed (they haven't) the only other difference is that we'll be filling out forms about how our day went and the teachers will be filling our forms about what kind of job we did.
Well, to be honest, there have been days I wish I could take back and do a better job with them.
I've yet to truly understand that I sacrifice quite a bit for allowing certain kids to remain in the room. There are a few places I never want to sub again.
Iit was reassuring to know I'm not the only one with fingerprint issues. In fact, somewhere in Springfield, there's a place you can apply electronically. It costs more, but you are certain everything is right when you walk out of there. Too bad they didn't tell me about it at the beginning of this process. Those of us stuck in the middle of it are just stuck.
Of course, it does call into question just how well our police departments take fingerprints. Here we are, (hopefully) non-criminals willingly walking into their stations, sober and smiling, asking for them to take our fingerprints, just so we can prove we are safe to be around children.
I've got to wonder how they ever match up partial prints from a crime scene. I've had my prints taken before, so the FBI has mine on file, there shouldn't be any question that these match up as well as any crime scene prints.
Of course, there's always a sub that seems to get all the jobs in a building. When you are beginning, it's hard to break into the biz. Better the sub you know than the one you don't. So, Mr. G (I'll call him) was at the meeting and everyone was pleased to see him and of course, HIS paperwork is all in order because HE just happened to get the local police chief (the office that I found was closed twice) to take the prints and apparently, he knew how to do it. It's just a charmed life, the likes I don't seem to have. ( It's not nice being snotty, I know. )
There's a sub that works mainly at the HS. I met him once last year and all he could talk to me about was wanting a raise for subs. Darned if he didn't talk about that in the meeting today too. It did come up with a few interesting ideas from the Super. She wasn't aware that it's been 4 years since we had a raise. She needed to see what the other schools in the area paid. Some schools have different pay structure for different levels of subs. So much for x amount of education, x amount for less. (so, you can pay someone $65 for the day, or $75, which sub will you pick?) Oh, then she said the principals might come up with creative compensation. Let's see.... How about some lunch? Oh, nevermind.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Volunteer rant-
I try to balance my time between my job, my art, and being involved in volunteering. I take all three of them seriously, because I think each one of them are important. I recognize that if I want people to be there to make my community function, I have to do my part.
I have volunteered in different capacities, depending what else is going on in my life. At one point, I was involved in the art guild. Now, I find that my job makes it difficult to make those meetings, so I volunteer with 4-H now.
I got a call from our Church's religion education coordinator. She wanted me to volunteer to help with the VBS. I told her I could not, the family was scheduled to go on a trip that week. She asked me if that was the truth or an excuse. I stumbled over an answer, telling her that we were going on a trip and where we were going and why. But, it made me very angry. She was, in fact, asking me if I was a liar. If I had been a bit more aggressive, I might have told her that not only was I NOT volunteering for VBS, but I was UN-volunteering for the other things I do as well.
Instead, I said nothing. Later, I received an email from her asking if I was teaching again this year in the children's classes. I said I would. (still smarting) I wrote back that there was a conflict with the scheduling for my son's classes. Because they are at a later time, I had to choose to keep my 8 year old and 11 yr old out very late on a school night so he could attend the classes, or make sure they got home in a timely manner and he NOT attend classes. Why did she have it set up so the HS kids attended at a later time?
She wrote back saying because the school scheduled sports practices on that night, having classes start later allowed these kids to attend. She added that she's spoken to the schools every year to no avail and that I should run to be on the school board. (oh yes! The only substitute teacher on the school board!)
I wrote her asking if there was any way my son could continue the classes at home? She wrote back saying that she had developed the classwork herself(with the teacher, her daughter) and that being there in class with his peers would be a good thing for him. I should encourage him to attend.
Ok, what am I missing here? Is she paying any attention at all? I said the problem with my son attending is because of HER schedule, yet I'm supposed to "encourage" him to attend?
Yes, I could encourage him to attend, but then I'd also be making certain my 8 and 11 yr. olds were going to school sleep deprived.
It's enough to make me throw up my hands and give up.


Last night, it rained and I hoped that today the temperatures would have dropped to a comfortable zone. I was wrong. It was still a bit too hot to be outside soldering, but I did stick it out until I finished making three leaves. The photo above is one of them. I have one more leaf set up to do and then 4 Christmas ornaments. I used my lower watt soldering iron today. While it's only 30 watts, it does the job fine. Much better than the 100 watt one I thought I had to have, then discovered it got too hot. The trick, I've learned since, is to get one with a temperature control. Well, I guess that will go on my Christmas list if I keep going with this, otherwise, I'll keep working with my 30 watt.

We had another rain storm this afternoon, luckily, I had time to gather everything back inside (and it had time to cool down) before the rain hit. We desperately need the rain so I am not complaining a bit. I enjoyed watching the wildness of the storm to tell you the truth. It's been so hot and still for so long here. As long as I am safely tucked inside and don't have to go anywhere, I enjoy a good storm.

I noticed someone talking about signs predicting a bad winter. I don't live anywhere near that person and I don't know what the signs around here would be, but I've noticed a few things around here. We have no squirrels around. Our neighbor's huge oak tree usually hosts several of them and they are noticeably absent. In addition, his tree is dropping un-formed acorns. There are tons of miniature caps littering the ground, but none of them have the nut to them and they are very small. That might have to do with the drought we are having, and may excuse why the squirrels are gone as well, come to think of it. It certainly won't be an easy winter for animals if this is any indication of how their food sources are faring. We had a very tame winter last year. One snow day called and the storm that was expected tracked to the south and missed us. I'm wondering if this year will be like our first year in Missouri? That was a year when everyone we met said, "this is a very unusual year..." They said that about the 18" snow storm and the 2' thick ice storm. Coming from Orlando, FL., It was quite an adventure. The exciting thing about winter here is the unpredictability. It's not guaranteed, like it is in Chicago, that we'll be getting any snow, let alone how much of it or how long it will last.

Some people laugh at me, but I think a snow storm here is a lot like a hurricane coming to Florida. You aren't sure it will be tracking to hit you. You must listen to the forecasts and prepare for the worst. If it is a bad storm, you might not be able to get out for a few days, you might lose power. There might be damage. While it's going on, there's nothing you can do but ride it out. Normal pursuits are suspended and you might find yourself playing games as a family by candlelight, and sleeping in the Living room by the woodstove. There's that same giddy anticipation of what the world will be like when it's over. Of course, it's a lot more fun to go sledding and making snowmen than it is cleaning up tree branches and repairing your house.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Top finished-

I finished working on the top this morning and took a photo of how it looks now, before quilting. I know it's not a scientific answer to the question, nor is it a depiction of the sky itself. I chose to depict a child as they ponder the question. Luckily, I have a handy model in the form of my 8 yr old, Delaney. We took a walk down to Tablerock Lake and I just took several photos of her as she did what came naturally.

Beyond the obvious, I like to think this quilt deals with the issue of overscheduling our children. So many of the kids nowadays are spending time in organized activities, watching TV and playing on the computer (when they aren't in school) that they rarely have the quiet moments in their lives to sit and wonder about anything. Kids just don't ask "why is the sky blue?" or look at clouds or watch ants.

If you think my home is any different, think again. I have three kids and they are involved in some activities outside of school, my son can sit for hours playing computer games but won't crack a book and my 11 year old jumps from watching teen TV, playing teen computer games and singing kareoke in her room. My youngest spends the most time in active motion outside (when she's not bugging her siblings)

Cartoons, when I was young, were only on Saturday mornings and (sinfully-some on sundays we never saw) an event.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a right of passage to most 13-14 year olds. It was a great story and an accomplishment to say, "yeah, I read the trilogy". Now, all of us who loved the books rejoiced when the movies came out so well. Finally, someone could do justice to the books that held our imaginations for so many years. But, my son says, "I saw the movie, why read the books?" It feels to me that children's imaginations are taking a hit these days. Not a lot of original stories happening in their minds. Maybe it's because they are never still enough to listen to the inside questions. Maybe it's because there's just too many easy options for entertainment.

Today, my youngest received a letter from her New principal in the mail. She liked getting the letter (but was a bit confused about why there was a feather in the envelope until I pointed out that the Principal had written she was "tickled" to start a new year. ) it just reminded me that school is around the corner and it meant I still needed to buy some school supplies for the kids, I have a meeting on Monday for Subs, and those 5:30 am alarms will be coming soon.