Spring: Time for Something New

Spring has sprung!  At least in New York.  I don’t know if winter will show his ugly face again, but I’m not even going to give it a second thought.  I’m too busy with something new. You see, after a prompting by Stacey, the editor and fearless leader of An Army of Ermas, to try […]

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77kids in Utah

I kind of feel like I should start the post saying something that a 7 year old would say like…. “Nah nah nah nah nah nah I knew about 77kids before all ya’ll!”  I did, it’s true. We have been buying clothes online from them since Abby was 2! I recommend the brand to lots
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My Mission: Organization

For some reason, I’ve had the urge to organize.  It’s almost a nesting instinct, but it’s coming ten years after my last pregnancy.  What can I say?  My hormones must be slow to catch up with my life. I actually walked into my closet with every intention of reorganizing the space to make it more […]

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Kids? Events for this Easter Week of April 2 in Savannah & Hilton Head Is.

Oodles of Easter family activities happening in Savannah & Hilton Head Is. this upcoming week of April 2 including the Oglethorpe Mall Chick Hatchery where kids can watch chicks emerge from their shells; Easter Egg hunts galore; SCAD International Festival; Opening of Sand Gnats Minor League ball; Easter Blast @ Skidaway Is. State Park; outdoor […]

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Crossroads

Okay, so you’ve heard me gripe from time to time about schools. In the back of mind there has always been the nagging thought, “So why don’t you stop complaining and actually do something about it??” So I’m here to report (go ahead and laugh at me if you wish) that I’m getting ready to make a big jump.

I’m considering home schooling.

Of course I should be more specific–I don’t typically “approve” (my, doesn’t that sound so condescending?) of homeschooling.  It’s a fine idea in principle but my completely unscientific anecdotal studies have shown me that most people who attempt this amazing feat tend to produce inferior results.  Don’t get me wrong–I’m not condemning it outright, it’s just that among all the billions of people I know who have tried to homeschool their kids I’ve only seen three–count them three–cases where I thought the experience a success.

More often I seen children who have a hard time socializing (though that’s a horribly worn-out argument against homeschooling and I don’t know that I buy it) who have a hard time with the basic educational requirements. In other words, they can’t read. I have the occasional family that takes the money and runs, leaving junior to be the unpaid help in the family business rather than actually making the huge commitment that proper homeschooling takes.

Sigh.  So I’ve been terribly suspicious of the whole idea.  Then, on top of that I’m actually quite happy with the school system (speaking in broad generalities). The teachers my kids have had in elementary and middle school have been great–hats off to them.  But ever since Grace hit high school there have been issues.  She watches more tv at school than she does at home, she’s had teachers openly flirting with female students, teachers who consistently show up 10-30 minutes late for class (and by “consistently” I mean pretty much every day), not to mention those that just don’t bother to teach.

Then there’s the curriculum.  When I was in high school we read Shakespeare, Chaucer, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Steinbeck, Dickens, you name it.  And then we wrote about it. Today she reads things like Jodi Picoult’s 19 Minutes (about a Columbine-style school shooting).  Her junior year she finally, actually and for the first time picked up anything close to a “classic” (Macbeth) and then instead of reading it they watched a graphic movie version. Don’t get me wrong, Shakespeare it meant to be seen rather than read so I don’t have a gripe with that per se, it’s just the lack of discussion and analysis, the falling back on television as an entertainment rather than using it to actually teach.

There’s nothing wrong with modern literature as long as you can prove to me that it can teach as well as that which was produced by the masters. And I’m just not thinking that Picoult can rival the greats at any level. Not in characterization, theme, literary tools or depth. Dumb English department.

So what does this mean folks? Well I’ve come to a parting of the ways, a crossroad if you will.  Forget Grace, there’s no hope for salvaging her senior year in the liberal arts, she’s only taking a half-day next year anyway and she reads and studies enough on the side that she’s doing fine with her own interest in education but Spencer? He’ll be hitting ninth grade this fall and he’s not someone who will pick up a book on his own to see what he’s been missing in English class. I could supplement it all with my own reading requirements but his schedule doesn’t permit extra work, we need to find ways to replace what isn’t working with stuff that will meet his needs.

The plan is to sign him up with a homeschool program here in town then go back and sign up for the maximum number of three high school classes he’s allowed to take.  That will be his biology, geometry and Spanish and I should mention that I’ve had no gripes with the math and science teachers there; on the contrary, I’ve been impressed with their quality and strength of teaching, plus I don’t feel I’m competent to teach those subjects anyway.

For his PE credits he can take extra curricular sports (which he’d do anyway) and then as he’s interested in studying graphic design we’ll get him local art lessons and from what I’ve been able to deduce, they’re superior in every way to the classes at the school, especially in the areas he needs (drawing).  That leaves history and English for me and between my own abilities and the online resources such as Williamsburg Academy I think we can get the job done.  He could even take classes at the University here or BYU homestudy online.  He’s already proved to us that he can handle the discipline of online courses because he’s just finished a series of online classes in Adobe Illustrator and has plans to next tackle Photoshop.

So what do you think? Am I crazy?  My biggest concern is making sure he’s getting what he needs to be able to test at the needed levels. I don’t want him to get a year or two into things and then realize he’s way behind and has no chance on the SAT or ACT.  Boy that would be bad, wouldn’t it?

Do you see any holes in this plan? Give it your best shot before we do something I’ll later regret and irrevocably ruin my son’s chances at an education.

 ***

And in related news–our friend Treg Taylor is running for the school board which I find gives me a great deal of hope.  It’s not that the whole system needs to be thrown out and remade but I think he’s someone who can make some crucial changes to get things back on track. Good luck Treg!

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Someone Sent Me This Link . . .

After reading my post yesterday on the frustrations of flaky teachers my sister sent me this link along with an explanation: Williamsburg Academy is an online, accredited high school that offers video classes and mentoring for a fee.

Now as I said yesterday, I’m not ready to throw the towl in on our neighborhood high school (yet).  If you are careful as to which teachers you request you can have a good experience–but there are times, such as this semester, when getting a dud is unavoidable.  Grace loves the humanities but instead of learning about arts and letters she’s cutting numbers and walking like a sloth.  According to my sister, Carinne, Williamsburg is great for those who are homeschooling and want the benefits of a classroom setting but what I’m thinking is that it would also be a great tool for supplementing in situations such as Grace is facing.

At this point Grace is close enough to her entrance exams and final semester that it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for us but for Spencer or David I may very well use it.  It’s not cheap–live classes where you can interact with other students and with the teacher are $200 and recorded classes $100 but they study real things and don’t get mired in touchy-feely, off-beat activities. If you have a child that is self-motivated and you’ve got the computer/internet capabilities then it might be a good option.

Anyway, Carinne says her friends who have used the site have all had good things to say about it so right there it’s got a better track record than many of our local schools and bears looking into.

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World’s Easiest Dessert, I Promise.

Long time, no see? Thanks again for the emails–it’s really nice to know that if I ever went truly missing that you’d all send out the Navy Seals to come find me. Makes me feel appreciated!

I have another post in the works for later this week but for now I thought I’d share with you the excitement I’m feeling over discovering the world’s easiest dessert. I know that’s so hyperbolic but truly it is the easiest–just you wait and see.

It comes from Apartment Therapy’s Kitchn Blog which I faithfully follow and it’s banana ice cream with only one–count it one–ingredient. Bananas. Yup, bananas and only bananas.

All you do is freeze some bananas (they were on sale this week so I grabbed a dozen or so and popped them directly into the freezer) then peel them (that’s important).  Then puree them into ice cream in your food processor until they’re the proper consistency–something similar to soft serve ice cream which you can then let ripen in the freezer if you want it more like the hard packed stuff.

A couple of tips:
1. I froze mine with the skins on which worked fined, it kept them from tasting like freezer, but it’s hard to peel a frozen banana the way you would an unfrozen one. Just clip off the top and tail a bit, slice it crosswise in half, then slice each remaining half again lengthwise. They’re pretty easy to peel that way, you’ll just freeze your fingers a bit.

2. It’s particularly good with homemade hot fudge sauce and a dab of whipped cream on top–it’s so creamy and fresh tasting. And did I mention healthy? So healthy. Your mouths will rejoice.

And lest you think I’ve been doing nothing at all around here, this is my proof that I haven’t been a complete slacker. My garden is coming up nicely in front as you can see–love those columbine and daffodils. I’m afraid I haven’t been as diligent on the computer as I used to be, there have been so many other things that have seemed to occupy my attentions lately–more on those later.

I’ve been reading–The Night Attila Died by Michael Babcock which was completely fascinating.  Of course it went into the history of Attila but from a completely different angle. Babcock is a philologist, or one who studies the history, forms and meaning of language and while the common thought is that Attila died of a hemorrhage on his wedding night (one of many wedding nights I’d add), Babcock reconstructs the historical records linguistically to put up a case for his murder. It’s Sherlock Holmes meets Henry Higgins meets CSI.  Only without any singing or dancing of course.

Then I followed that up with Round the Bend by Nevil Shute who is one of my favorite authors. If you haven’t read A Town Like Alice drop everything and go read it–though honestly, I do think Requiem for a Wren (also published as The Breaking Wave) is even better. It’s a novel about a British man after World War II who goes to the Persian Gulf to start up an airfreight business and his relationship with the man he’s known since his teen years who is the zen-master of airplane maintenance. 

Hard to describe but Shute’s characters and stories are always wonderful and this one has a bit of religion and philosophy that get you thinking. It’s not what you’d call a churchy book–not at all–but it’s a book about religion and what that means in relation to our lives and livelihoods and place in the world.  Five stars.

And finally, next week I’ll be a guest on the local radio program “Kids These Days” with Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids talking about helicopter parenting. At least we’re taping the show next week, I’m not sure when it will air–I’ll have to update this when I learn more. It ought to be fun, I’m sure I’m bound to shock a least a few with my dangerous parenting antics like letting my children play with chainsaws and all that (you know I’m kidding, right?) See you there!

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