Sunday, September 29, 2013

Insert Post Title Here...

Holy crap... has it really been that long?  Yea... lots of changes since my last post.  For one, we had another baby!  Yep... February of this year, another girl... the Punk.  Sounds like a weird nickname for a baby girl, but it suits her.  She's as mellow as mellow can be... seriously, such an easy baby.  Just cut too teeth and didn't peep about it at all.  I keep telling people if I had her first, I would have had a dozen right after her!  A few introductory pictures...

The Punk

Five Months Old!

...and her most recent shot...

Crying Stamped

Proof that she's not all sunshine and giggles?

While pregnancy and parenting is less taxing physically in your early twenties... there is definite something to be said about having babies when you're in your mid thirties.  Lots of things done differently... cloth diapers, attempted baby wearing, less anxiety...  Anyway... she's awesome but what parent doesn't say that about their kids.  Speaking of the other two...

Handmade Christmas

Yes it's an old picture... I plan on doing new ones soon... really... I'll get to it eventually...

We're homeschooling them both now.  The Nerd is in 8th grade (third year home), thriving, excelling, and generally doing well.  He's eagerly awaiting high school... we've found a nice local charter school that is perfect for him.  More on that later?  The Little Bird is in 2nd grade and homeschooling is proving to be an adjustment for her (this is her first year home) and me as well.  Where the Nerd is ├╝ber independent and self propeled... she is not.  She is the very opposite of my firstborn... whom happens to be a lot like me.  Not that I'm criticizing her... there are days when I'm genuinely envious and wish I could be more like her.

Homeschooling her is forcing me outside of my comfort zone... making me think outside the box... and be a hell of a lot more organized (I clean off my desk at least twice a week!)!  All of these are good things... for everyone involved.  After a month we've fallen into a good rhythm... waking around 8am, having breakfast, sometimes getting dressed (sometimes not), sitting down for our dailies... journal entry, spelling, math, and reading... then we just kind of pick and choose from our weekly lesson plan what we want to tackle next (usually after lunch)... Social Studies, Science, more Math or Reading.  Some days are just dailies and then errands and afternoon activities (karate, music, and dance for her; karate, soccer, and band for him). I feel she should get the opportunity to decompress and unschool for a bit (We aren't really unschooling... I know that works for a lot of homeschooling families, but I don't think I'm capable of that... it would hurt.. a lot).  The very first thing I noticed about her work habits was the never ending need to rush... assignments done a warp speed, pictures quickly scribbled, papers carelessly hacked apart with scissors... it was maddening!  So I pulled back a bit... slowed down... did less... and it's working.  =)  More attention is being paid, care being taken, time being spent.  Less is getting done, but that's quite alright.

As October approaches and I compile our curriculum (I outline and adjust it on a monthly basis... goals are nice to keep me on track, but if we get sidetracked, distracted, behind, stuck, lost on a deserted island... it's nice to be able to set new goals every month... it's essentially a clean slate, no?) I'm feeling pretty good about it all.  Wondering what compelled me to start blogging again... maybe it's a way to not only vent a bit (venting doesn't have to be negative/bad, right?), but a way to help keep track of it all... keep it in perspective?  At any rate... we'll see if I stick with it.  Writing has never been a favorite activity of mine.. and knitting time (definitely a fave... if not life saving) isn't exactly abundant as of late either.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Cupcakes

Watching your firstborn make his own birthday cupcakes... Priceless!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mobile Blogging

Well, I've finally traded up... I've got my smart phone and I love it! Then, I discovered apps! They weren't kidding when they said "there's an app for that." So here's to blogging on the run... cause I always am (not from the law though, that would be bad).

And a side note: Gummi Bears = Happiness.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Is there no happy medium?

Over the summer I have been exploring a few local home schooling groups with vigor and excitement.  Both my son and I are... wait... were excited to immerse ourselves in the home schooling community.  What I've found are groups that are exclusive... almost to the point where they consider themselves to be elite.  Seriously?  Really?  Umm... just relax a bit, will you please.  


We've come across events that I can bring my son to, but I'm not allowed to bring my daughter... is she less of a person... perhaps not as good as the rest?  And to the adults organizing these events, you seem a bit uptight when you provide a list of rules three pages long.  Have you never heard the sayings "Less is more" and "It's not what you say, but how you say it?"  
"Please keep the sandbox sand in the sandbox, the rocks in the rock area, and the mulch in the playset area."
I can see it now... "You got sand the grass, and tracked mulch into the sand box... and why did you bring rocks in here?  I don't care that you're using them to build a rock wall around your sand castle... put them back." 
"Please reserve the preschool toys for the preschoolers."
Because a ten year old will get no enjoyment or enrichment out of a set of blocks, toy truck, baby doll, or puzzle.  I personally still enjoy playing with blocks.
"I am a very protective mother - No drop offs allowed, parents  must be on the grounds for the entire session. Kids must be over 8 years old and must have been home schooled for over 4 months." 
Way to welcome new home schoolers and make new friends!  Not to mention that I'm not about to drop my kid off with a bunch of strangers. 
 "I am a home school mother - Looking for other home schooled  kids for my son to have fun with. Only home school families are  welcome to join. Nothing against traditionally schooled children, because I have one that went all the way through the system. I just feel it is important for home schoolers to have activities that are exclusively with other home schoolers sometime, for so many reasons.
This is a CLUB for our kids, and not just a "drop in  when you get  the urge", activity. I want to get to know the kids  who are playing  and have them get to know each other. I don't  want to have "strange":) families coming in for one month and then  not showing up again. Of course it will happen if the club isn't  for them, but the goal is to make a club for kids, that has a  consistent membership, that comes each month.  That way we know  the kids, and the kids know us, and our expectations for behavior, as well.  Everyone in the club will receive a roster, so that  friendships can be made more easily."
 
"Sorry, your daughter will have to go sit in the car... she's a public school kid."  "Where were you last month?  I don't care that your schedule was crazy..."   What about teaching your children to be open minded and welcoming to ALL people?  Enjoying the variety the world has to offer?    Are we even considered a "home school family" seeing how not all of my children are home schooled? 


Now I realize I find myself in the unique position of having one home schooled child and one traditionally schooled (aka public school... seemingly a four letter word within the land of home schooling)... so what?  My son is no better than my daughter, he's just a different child with different needs and wants.  Home schooling isn't some exclusive country club that only the elite can join... it's a choice based on the individual needs of my child!  We'll be home schooling, that's for sure... but we will not be joining any prejudiced home school clubs.  To hell with the elite and exclusive... it tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth.   

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Laundry

Recently our dryer decided it was too good for our clothes.  Seeing how finances are extremely tight right now, we're constantly looking for ways to save money, and being a little more Earth friendly certainly can't hurt... we didn't repair or replace it.  Yep, no dryer here!  Instead we've been hanging our laundry indoors (fortunate enough to have a large laundry room).  Why not outside?  Well, my laundry room is on the second floor and I'm all set with hoofing basket after basket up and down the narrow back staircase (wet laundry is heavy!).  And... I don't do bugs... at all... no way... no how...  Seeing pictures like this:


totally ruined outdoor laundry lines for me.  This picture was taken by a friend of  mine on Ravelry.  She hung her laundry outside only to have a nasty little earwig defile each and ever bit!  She ended up scraping the eggs off, but after rewashing everything, some stains remained.  No Thank You!

eye rolling shudder

Anyway... so I've been hanging our laundry... yay me.  Big deal, I know.  But, I've discovered that this actually keeps me honest and more efficient about it all.  Maybe it's because it takes longer to do a complete load, or because more work goes into, or simply because I can't do another load until the first one is folded and put away.  No more pulling the clothes out of the dryer and dumping them onto the futon... sitting there until we just paw through the pile looking for something to wear.  What ever the case may be, it works!  And, I kind of enjoy it.  Yes the skritchy towels leave a bit to be desired, but it's all in how you look at it.  They're not skritchy, they're exfoliating!

Insert the excessively-cheerful-and-encouraging-smile-with-a-double-thumbs-up here.

Besides, we reuse our bath towels (Why not?  They were used once to dry a CLEAN body... just hang them on the back of the bathroom door for the next shower... saving even more money!) and the second use finds them much more soft.  Our jeans soften up after about twenty minutes of wear.  I no longer have to worry about shrinking... well... anything!  Yep, there's a positive to everything!  

I think my teeth hurt from excessive sweetness...

I also made my first batch of Laundry Detergent.  Sooooooo much cheaper than the made for you name brand stuff at the store... and holy crap it works better too!  Seriously!  Example?  Proof?  Fine...  A few weeks ago the kids and I spent the afternoon tie-dying some T-shirts with Kool-Aid.  Seeing how I didn't have a dryer to heat set the dye, I ironed each shirt once it was dry... front and back... and washed them separately with a bit of vinegar before letting them dry again in the sun. They were very cool looking... yep I said were.  Behold, the fruits of our labor:




Kool Aid Tie Dyed Cami


I washed them with the new laundry soap.  No bleach, no oxy-clean, just the new soap.  Magic Soap?  Nope, just four simple ingredients...  

1 bar of Dial Basics Hypoallergenic Soap (grated) 
1/2 C Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
1/2 C 20 Mule Team Borax
enough water to make 10 quarts  

I dissolved/melted the first three ingredients in 2-3 quarts of water in a large pot on the stove over med-high heat.  Then I divided that evenly between 10 1 quart mason jars.  I topped off each jar with water, leaving a little head room.  The mixture will separate so there needs to be room to shake.  It will be clumpy and goopy and slimey... a regular science project!  After the fact I added a non essential fifth ingredient... a few drops of lemon essential oil.  I love the smell of lemons, and truthfully, lemon has a lot of natural cleaning qualities all it own.  Viola!  The only bit of color left is the bow.  Needless to say while I was amazed and thrilled at how well the soap worked, the kids were um... not.  Promises of Sharpie Markers and a revisit to the T-shirts made them happy.  =)  

Hooray for enjoying laundry!  Yippee for more efficient laundry!  Yee-haw for less expensive laundry!

Going to do laundry now... Happy Sunday! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Progress

All sorts of progress these days!

Progress on the homeschooling front...  The Small Boy has completed his first online course with flying colors!!!  His final grade for the class was 100%... I don't know who was prouder, him or me.  =)  It was a great class, gave him the tools he'll need for more online learning next year.  We've gone ahead and registered him for fall classes... English, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  And, I'm pretty sure I've been able to locate a few good local homeschooling families/support groups.  It's all falling into place so nicely, just proves that this is indeed the right path for us.

Progress on the kindergarten front...  The Little Bird has begun the registration progress, skipping merrily down the hall without me to check out her future classroom.  Seeing her go so happily, willingly, and confidently just reaffirms that I've done something right and she's ready.  Hubbs and I have a few reservations... given the combining of schools (see previous posts for details) and budget issues.  But, despite all that, this particular school has always left a good impression on me.  The administration is good, the teachers are teaching for the right reasons... so she'll go to kindergarten, with Mummy and Daddy watching closely.  By then I think we'll have our feet comfortably planted in the land of homeschool, so if it's necessary we'll go that route with her too.  In the mean time, she's so excited I think she may explode a little each day until she finally gets to ride the big yellow bus!

Progress on the medical front...  after losing our beloved family doctor (very long story and I don't care to get into it... there have been a lot of incredibly judgmental comments thrown about... all I know is I've never, ever seen a doctor so willing to invest herself personally in her patients like she did... we miss her dearly!) we scrambled to find another one in time for med checks and school physical forms.  We found an office not far from home that is affiliated with our hospital of choice... but u-g-h!  We've been there for three of my son's med checks and seen three different doctors/ARNPs.  Prescriptions have been inaccurately written and forgotten altogether.  Doctors do not give their patients their undivided attention, and are usually running very late.  Hell, one doctor (one that delivers babies mind you) commented on my nephew's "great looking circumcision"... yea, my nephew isn't circumcised.  Way to go Doc!  So now I'm looking for a new doctor... again.... but this go around I have time on my side.  I'll tough it out here while properly looking into a doctor that suits my family.  I guess I've been spoiled a bit...

More progress on the medical front...  It seems that we may finally have answers regarding most, if not all, of the small boys medical issues.  Bacterial Overgrowth In His Stomach  Who knew, right?  The bacteria in your intestines is good and supposed to be there.  But, all good things in moderation...  he has so much that it's filling his stomach, which decreases his appetite and blocks absorption and digestion, causing slow growth and poor dental health and maybe even the hypoglycemic episodes/blood sugar issues... FUN!  Hooray for answers!!!  Solution?  Antibiotics... his very first one.  =(  But if this solves his growth and digestion and sugar issues, it'll be well worth it!!!

And now I think I've prattled on enough... Hubbs is waiting for me for some quiet time.  Good night all and happy reading!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Whoo Boy!

So it seems that the local school district feels the need to reaffirm my decision to homeschool the Small Boy... and maybe even the Little Bird.  The school budget is, simply put, one big hot mess... aka a 1.3 - 1.6  million gap (different sources give different numbers).  So their solution is to close down one of the five schools in the SAU.  Brief explanation of the schools and some background information:  PSS: K-2, BRS: 3-4, FMS: 5-8, FHS: 9-12, JBS K-6.  Our SAU serves the city I live in and our neighboring town.  JBS is for our neighbors... after that they bus their students to our schools.  Our SAU has three school boards; one for the entire SAU, one for my city's schools, and one for our neighbor's town school.

Now I'm sure we'd all like to believe that ALL of the administration, teachers, and staff at our local school are there, busting their asses at our local public schools because they:  A. love what they do,  B. feel passionate about everyone's right to a free and appropriate education, and C. are willing to invest themselves in the future of our children and community  Recent events have woken me right the hell up... apparently that was just a dream.  Well, maybe I'm being a bit harsh here...  I'm sure there are some that do feel that way... I know there are, I've seen them.  But it's obvious that someone does not agree.  The school board has voted to close BRS, move all the students to PSS, and terminate 25 jobs across the SAU.  Seriously people.. there has got to be a better way!  And rather than just sit here and complain, I took the time last night to look at the school budgets... see exactly what was being spent where...  see if things were as bleak as they appeared to be... was there really no other way?  After an hour or so I had a headache, was nauseous, and was officially shocked, awed, and seriously disappointed.  In my opinion, there most certainly is another way to solve this problem.

First, why I think merging these two particular schools is a bad idea.  PSS currently houses approximately 280 students, next year when they add in all the BRS students, that will bring the count up to almost 450!  How is this in the best interest of our children and the teachers that serve them?  Crowding classrooms and over working our teachers...  there's a great solution!  Higher student to teacher ratios will result in: less one on one individualized instruction, more children "slipping through the cracks," teachers that are stressed and worn and aren't able to do their job as well as they should.  I mean, this one is just a no brainer here folks.

They also propose cutting the Kindergarten program back to half days, but offering full day only to those students that "need" the extra instruction.  This will put a strain on working parents, one that they were not planning on for next year.  Time to scramble for childcare, and then scrape up the money for it!  Remembering back to my son's Kindergarten days... this is how they did the classes then too and because he was prepared for Kindergarten he was only there for a half day.  They somehow got an entire curriculum into that half day, including a daily snack time and "specials" classes (music, art, PE, library, and guidance).  I was sad to learn that as a result of this daily cram session there wasn't often time for outdoor play (aka recess).  They're Kindergarteners for Pete's Sake!  It was the following year that they switched all the classes to full day, and what a difference!  =)

I could go on and on, but I'm sure you get the idea.  Instead, let's now explore the school budget.

Last night while pouring over the SAU budget (this is for the SAU office only, not teachers or principals) I discovered that they intend to increase their Administration Salaries budget by over 100,000!  WOW!  That pretty fricking nifty!  We don't have the funds to operate all our schools or for the salaries paid to those that are "in the trenches" working with our kids, but let's toss a large chunk of change to The Powers That Be.  There's a great show of team spirit right there.  I've also discovered that just last year the district hired a new Superintendent and Principal for one of the schools, at a higher rate of pay than their predecessors.  And, from what I've heard, they proceeded to hand out raises across the district.  How could they justify this?

Now I'm all for paying teachers their weight in gold, truly I am.  Teaching is one of those professions that in order to be exceptional it's all but necessary to pour yourself, heart and soul, into what you do.  Any teacher will tell you tales of paper grading until 2am when they finally fell asleep with their pen still in hand, stories of how they were late to or had to reschedule their personal appointments so they could spend extra time with a child that was in distress (educationally or emotionally), or about an evening spent consoling (and maybe even crying with) a parent struggling with some aspect of their family life.  I get it...  really I do.  But, the fact still remains... teachers do what they do because their students come first.  Period.  So when I see a situation like this and then I look at the school budgets and find that they're spending a fair amount of those hard to come by dollars on stipends for teachers that are taking charge of extra activities like Yearbook, Math Club, Team Leaders, and Sports Coaches... wouldn't it be worth it to forgo those stipends (they really aren't that much individually, but when you add them all up, it would make a difference).  Our high school students are required to have community service hours to graduate (an excellent addition to their curriculum!).  What a fantastic example it would be, not just for our students, but also for the community that looks up to them (yes, like it or not, anyone that works in education is a role model for their community), to see our teachers willingly and happily give up those stipends for the good of the students!  Even better, let's see those educators... each and every person that is employed in our school district, because whether they are the custodian, grounds keeper, teacher, or administrator, they are an educator... let's see them take a small cut in pay so that so many of their coworkers, dare I say friends, don't end up sacrificing their entire paycheck, permanently.  I really want proof from my school district that the education of our kids really does come first.  That they are all willing to pull together, support each other, and set the bar so that others will step up too!

What about our neighbor, JBS.  Their school is home to less than 100 students (compared to BRS, they have almost 200).  Why not close that school, if one must be closed.  It would make much more sense to try to blend a smaller group of students across seven grades (not impacting class sizes in a huge way) into the already existing schools here.  There are already daily buses coming for the older kids, so that wouldn't be an added expense.  I'm sure they have less staff members, making it a little easier to possibly offer them positions here as well.

I've also wondered if the city has taken the time to evaluate what's going on here...  and if so, have they scoured their budget to see if they can contribute a bit more?  Pretty landscaping and nice new light posts are a great investment... they make our city look and feel better.  But should such things come before educating our kids?  What about the state?  Has anyone explored whether or not we can get more funding from them?  Sadly, I know very little about politics (just in case you hadn't figured that one out already)... I haven't the first clue how to explore these avenues.

There are all sorts of rumors flying around town...  the football field is getting a new set of lights for the field, despite the school districts financial constraints; the new superintendent that the district spent so much money on has searched, applied for, and is a finalist for a new job in another state, as well as other sneaky practices...  I've been racking my brain, trying to make heads or tails of all of it.  I will be attending the upcoming meetings, hopefully getting the nerve to speak my opinions (it's soooo much easier here in the comfort of my chair with no visible audience), as well as hear what everyone else has to say.  There is no easy solution.  But I just want to be sure that we, as a community, have done everything in our power to keep the kids from being the ones that suffer here.