Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Common Core State Standards

If you haven't heard yet of "Common Core" then you need to dig yourself out from under that rock. Even as a homeschooler, I have learned about this on Facebook, as well as it being printed on the new Singapore math textbooks. Aren't you SO glad that the math curriculum meets Common Core standards?! Because, what you were teaching before was just rubbish, right?

If you go to "the website" (which I'm not going to link) you will find their mission statement:

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

Then it goes on...
Building on the excellent foundation of standards states have laid, the Common Core State Standards are the first step in providing our young people with a high-quality education. It should be clear to every student, parent, and teacher what the standards of success are in every school.

Now, I don't believe that it matters AT ALL what the standards actually are. Because the truth is, there have always been standards. You can tweak this or that; you can totally revamp something, but it will not make ONE DENT in the outcome of American students. The "system" is still missing the point.

First, did you catch this, "The Common Core State Standards are the first step in providing our young people with a high-quality education." Really? This is the FIRST step? What have you people been doing for decades, then? What are WE paying you for, to use our kids as guinea pigs?!

If that wasn't bad enough, it seems that the "system" thinks that we are stupid enough to believe that changing this or that in "standards" is the solution to our poor educational outcomes. "If we can just fix THIS, all our problems are solved!"

Well, I hate to tell you this America, but the crappy teachers who hand out worksheets every day and text on their phones 24/7 aren't the problem. The math teachers who can't do fractions aren't the problem. The administrators who act like tyrants aren't the problem. The problem is ACCOUNTABILITY. It should not come from the top down, it should come from the parents up. The problem is that the schools have convinced the parents that their input is not necessary or wanted, and they have told them, "We are the professionals; we know what we are doing. Trust us."

TRUST US. Trust our mountains of paperwork, hours of testing and test prep; trust that we know when your child should eat, or run, or urinate... Trust that your child is learning what he should. Trust us when we feed your kids these GMOs and crappy food, and reward them with colorful candy. Oh, and trust the fluoridated water in our fountains, probably laced with lead from old pipes. And trust that we got a great education in our crappy school systems and know everything we need to know to teach your child.

The problem, parents, is you. Start using your voice and paying attention to what your kid needs to learn. Stop complaining about all the testing and stop sending your kid to be tested! Stop believing the fallacy that you are not integral to your child's success and WAKE UP and make it your priority. Go to your kid's school. See what's going on. If something is going on that you need changed and you can't get through the red tape or political nightmare known as the school board, then GET YOUR CHILD OUT.

Do not hand your child over to the system and cheer because they have discovered this wonderful new toy known as the Common Core. It means absolutely nothing except that the system is taking control of our states and our children, and they "know" what's best for them. Better than the parents. TRUST THEM.

God bless those teachers who work themselves to the core, who care for the children in their care, and who love what they do despite the lack of appreciation from the kids AND parents. It's time to work together instead of against one another. I know some amazing teachers. I also know some who aren't. Do you know which one your child has?

More about Common Core and how the Feds are involved...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Growing Veggies

I blogged in January about starting a garden. It is now April, and I know what you are thinking. I flopped, right?

Wrong!! Sometimes I blog to hold myself accountable, and sometimes I do it because I know I will do what I say I am going to do. This is one of those times that I needed accountability. It helped that my neighbor started this journey with me, but I have to admit, it's hard to learn something knew and stay motivated knowing in the end, everything could die. Here is what I've got so far:
I've got three tomato plants, three bell peppers, and six banana peppers. Many did not "take" because I learned too late that they did not receive enough water. It's not too late for others, and I can always buy starter plants from the farmer's market to plant in my garden. For a first time, I feel like I'm doing all right. Here's the best part, though. My son and I built our own Garden Rack. Lowe's cut all the pieces for us, but we put all the pieces together using the plans, and it was actually not too bad! It was a great starter project for us. My son is almost 12, and got his own drill for Christmas. I enjoyed working on this project with him. We learned how to read plans as well as use tools.
Now if only the weather would cooperate and we could get our veggies planted outside. Yesterday was below freezing with freezing rain, and I'm glad my plants are still inside. Although, with the Garden Rack, I could always bring them back in, I suppose! I will keep you updated on our gardening adventure. Why don't you start your own?

Subway at Home

I love Subway. Well, I loved it more before getting a reminder recently about their inferior meats and pesticide-laden veggies. I mean, I never really thought a truly healthy sandwich could be made that cheaply, but figured they were making the real dough on sodas and chips, so... Anyway, I decided to save the gas money AND make a better sandwich at home!
This is how I do it. I use these awesome plastic "lunch" containers and fill them up with all our toppings. (You can see I need to get more lettuce!) Meat, cheese, and mayos/mustards are separate, but I could easily do a meat/cheese container. I keep ham and turkey on hand, as well as cheese, and numerous "sauces" such as Miracle Whip, mustard, dijon mustard, and chipotle mayo. I get the meat from the deli, fresh cut, and replace everything as necessary. This makes sandwich making much easier for kids who are too lazy to get out everything themselves. I replenish the veggies as they get low, usually as I'm making my own sub. These are super healthy foods for kids to eat daily. Not everything pictured is organic, but the cucumber, tomato, and bell pepper is.

Since I follow a "mostly no bread allowed" diet, I use a wrap for my sub instead and it is just as yummy. Think about setting up your own system before summer arrives and you will have well-fed kids and spouses all summer long!

Examples of Horrible Coaches

We've had our share of bad experiences over the years, in numerous sports and different towns. Bad coaches are everywhere. It is sad, really, and being a coach myself, I know how the parents who are often unequipped, or let's face it, LAZY, will judge every move we make with their kids. Nobody is perfect, but I respect the coaches who try. Here are some who just don't make the cut...

1. The screamer. They scream at the kids, call boys "girls" or "sissies", and obviously aren't happy until someone is crying. They believe they are coaching future pro sport athletes and if they don't scream at them, the kids will never reach their potential! Kids quit playing sports when they get tired of getting yelled at. True story. Ask a few kids who gave up a sport...

2. The cheater. Or the Liar. They are usually one and the same, and will not only cheat whenever possible, but will lie to cover it. They will lie to cover just about anything they need to in order to make themselves look good. The rules don't apply to them and they will bend them whenever possible. This teaches kids situational ethics. It only applies when it works in their favor. As parents, these coaches should not be tolerated.

3. The griper. During quarter or half-time breaks, instead of being constructive and moving forward with a plan, this coach complains about all the bad calls made previously, and how the referee must be out to get them. They dwell on the injustices and give nothing positive to the athletes about to take the field or court.

4. The pro. This coach expects everyone coming to him or her to have all necessary skills required for the sport and they are not about to teach any fundamentals to your child. If s/he doesn't have them already, too bad. On the first day of practice, kids are segregated into "starters" and "the rest" and often, not correctly. The "starters" get the "coaching" while "the rest" are turned over to the assistant coach who does "whatever" with them. But it's not skills. Just shoot the ball, it doesn't matter how...

5. The blind. These coaches are usually the ones who play their child (or other relatives) over other, more talented players. As a matter of fact, they usually don't see the talent that other players have because they are more concerned with building the team around "their" child and not taking stock of the many talents of the rest of the team. I literally watched one of the best players sit the bench for half of a game so that the two relatives of one coach could play almost the whole game. The blind coach also doesn't take stock of the strengths of their weaker players. If an athlete can't do "X," they write him off, even though he can do "Y" exceptionally well. This often happens at the team's peril. It does nothing for the child's self esteem.
The blind also fails to see the positive because he is too busy seeing the negative. He is mad at the rest of the team for letting that player get so far down field.  He grimaces at the one who stopped him, instead of recognizing that child's accomplishment. This coach is often a screamer as well.

Well, there you have it. I'm glad I got that off my chest. Now you may be wondering, what DO parents expect? As a coach, my goal is to teach as much as my team can handle. But individual children have different starting points and you have to adjust. It's okay to get frustrated without yelling. And kids want to have fun, but they would also like to win some games. My attitude is this: I don't care if we lose every single game, as long as we get better each time. Coming down on kids because they lost a game does nothing. Building the skills and helping them gain confidence is much more positive for the kids and the team as a whole. I've coached four sports now and some really awesome kids. I can't imagine being a miserable coach who only cares about winning. What do the children really learn?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Single Parent Homeschooling

“How do you do what you do?”

The question took me aback. I didn’t know what he meant… “Oh…you mean how do I homeschool?”

“Yes,” he said, as he looked at me in amazement.

My chiropractor had just commented on how I should sleep at night, and when he mentioned my “husband” I had to tell him I wasn’t married. I had forgotten I had told him that my son, who had been a patient of his for a month, was homeschooled. I also had forgotten how strange my life must seem to others.

I told him that I work from home and have an internet business. He was impressed. I left that day with the memories of our seven years of homeschooling swimming around in my head and began wondering myself how I do what I do.

It’s pretty simple, really. I take one day at a time. But of course, what people really want to know is how I can afford to. After all, married couples with two incomes “can’t do it,” so how could a single mom?

I’m very fortunate to have started an internet business when I really didn’t need to. As a matter of fact, at the time I did not know why I was doing it. I just knew I should, and so I did. So by the time I needed it for income, the income was there. It now supports us, but God provides. Sometimes I receive child support, but when I don’t, God increases my business. It all just works out, just as it always has, as far as I can think back.

If I had not started my internet business, I would still find a way. There are so many things you can do, such as tutoring, cleaning houses, babysitting, or if you have a career skill like programming, accounting, or copywriting; these are all things you can do from home.  For a time, I took in two other homeschoolers and received a small amount of money for teaching them, and I also babysat two others daily in order to make ends meet. For one year, we lived in a two bedroom duplex that looked like it would collapse with the next heavy rain. Strangely, that was one of my favorite years!

Since we do not have any family in the area, it is also my responsibility to drive two children to activities almost daily. We have participated in swim team, baseball/softball, basketball, football, cheerleading, dance, gymnastics, Taekwondo, musical theatre, soccer, and don’t forget the homeschool co-op! Our schedule is crazy, and it’s all on me to get kids SOMEwhere, sometimes at the same time. (Did I mention I also coach soccer and softball?)

In about ten years, both of my children will be on their own career paths. They may be out of my home. Those ten years are going to fly by even faster than my past forty-one have. So while I have them in my care, I feel it is my job to allow them to spread their wings, try new things, and explore God’s world and all it has to offer. They are hindered from this if they are in school all day.

How do I do it? I just do.

I’ll have time to rest later.

This composition was sitting on my desktop, waiting to be edited for over a week. I read it over and laughed and cried at the same time. A few days after writing this, my children's father called to say he had quit his job. In one fell swoop my income dropped tremendously. I had been here before, but I had gotten comfortable at our income level and forgot to watch the pennies and nickels for just this scenario. I have been in a panic for the past week. Will things work out? How will they? What will we have to give up? All I know is that we will carry on and God will sustain us UNTIL. And that's all I really need to know...