Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Still Snowing...

Yesterday, as our house was waking for the start of the day, it started to snow.

90 minutes later I white knuckled my 6 mile drive to school on a single cleared (a term I'm using loosely here) east bound path on the divided highway I drive each day.

At 1:00 school dismissed early, I drove home (on wet, but clear roads), and spent an hour clearing the walks and drive of our corner lot. The girls built tunnels, forts, and threw snowballs.

30 minutes later, the snow resumed.

Last night I cancelled yoga to encourage people to stay home once there. Sporting events, classes, and meetings were cancelled or postponed all across the state due to the weather.

At 10:30(ish) I went to bed. It was still snowing.

At 6:02 am this morning my phone rang with the notice that school would be on a 2 hour delay.

At 6:18 my phone rang again, this time to notify us that school had been cancelled for the day. Scott crawled out of bed to re-shovel his side of the driveway so he could start to make his way to the office. His drive today, thankfully, took 1/2 as long as yesterday's drive. I made and drank coffee.

The girls have had breakfast, have been out to play in the new layer of white, and are already back inside warming up while watching a movie.

It is still snowing.

Not bad for a storm that 3 days ago was predicted to bring us maybe 1-2 inches of snow. Our 24-hour total is currently at around 10 inches.

Did I is still snowing.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Spring Cleaning...

Yep, it's that time of year. That time of year when I start to feel the depression of winter's hibernation melting. That time of year when I get restless for a little bit of change and reorganization. This spring I'm sweeping up the annoying cobwebs in my life according to the internet. Email, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Linked-In, Words with can all get so over whelming. I feel like at times it sucks the life (and hours of time) from my being. So I've made a plan:
  • This past week I finally sat down and cleaned out my email inbox, which had grown to over 200 emails, and unsubscribed from the daily deal offers and newsletter bits that always came in faster than I could clear them out. Sorry Groupon, you're just not worth that much of my time. I'm happy to say I'm now receiving a reasonable 3-5 emails a day. I can deal with that!
  • Our #1 social networking choice should be time spent face to face with friends and family. I've been in too many social settings over the past year where, at times, people have spent more time staring at the little screens of their smart phones checking their social networks than networking socially with those in their presence. It annoys me. As a result, I'm cutting down on both the number of social network accounts I have active and the amount of time I spend scrolling through my news feeds. Linked-In is out. Twitter is close to being out. I'm seriously considering a March Facebook fast. I haven't played a word in months. I'm still standing firm against signing up for a Pinterest account, which baffles people to no end given my love of crafting. (It simply boils down to the fact I'd rather spend time crafting than browsing for stuff I won't make because I'm spending my time browsing for things to make.) Ravelry gets a pass because, well, it's Ravelry. 
  • Time spent online generally leaves me feeling 1 of 2 ways. Sometimes I log off feeling energized and inspired. Sometimes not so much. I'm choosing to spend my time online from this point forward only (okay, mostly only) in ways that leave me with a smile on my face and inspiration in my heart. My RSS reader is filled with blog feeds that do just that and I look forward to reading them each night. Writing also brings joy to my soul, which means I want to make blogging more of a priority when it come to my limited online presence.
  • This spot, my beloved first blog, will continue to be dedicated to sharing our family's life and my personal thoughts with loved ones near and far. I've decided that sooner, rather than later, I will be changing the privacy settings of this blog so that it is only available to those who I have approved. Part of my decision to head in this direction is due to the face we have a pre-teen in the house. She, and her friends, have an ever increasing presence online, much to my dismay. I'm not sure that the girls are going to want just any of their acquaintances to stumble across Mom's online diary someday. I'm not sure I want that either. Their stories are mine to tell and share for now, but that will not always be the case. I feel like I need to start to think about honoring their right to write the next chapters of their own stories...if they chose.
  • I miss being a part of the greater blogger/blogging world, which was much more a part of my online presence at one point and time. Since I'm planning to limit readership of this site a bit in the coming days, and since I've not got much to say about yoga lately, I've decided to start a new blog adventure. Crafty goodness...that's what I will be sharing over on my new blog, Creative Exhalations! I hope if you've ever enjoyed one of my crafty posts here you'll join me over at my new creative home!
I've been thinking about voicing these changes for a few weeks now. It feels good to air them out. I'm excited to see how life might shift with a little more attention spent on my intentions for virtually connecting to the world around me.

Spring...always a good season for change!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

First Grade Homework...

I had this random thought the other day walking the hall at a school...

Sometimes the current workings of the educational process feel a little like a manufacturing factory. Raw product in, standardized product out.

I've been thinking about this random thought for a couple of weeks now and wonder why it crossed my mind. Is it because I'm not an educator by training? Or because I work in that system with kids who don't learn the way we traditionally expect them too? Or because as a parent I want my kids to not only excel academically, but to follow their hearts doing what makes them happy in life even if that means thinking outside the box from the path society expects them to follow?

I've found I really enjoy working with some of the kids at school who struggle to understand concepts the way they are presented by the chosen curriculum product. I enjoy the challenge of helping them find a way to make sense of it all through their own best learning style. For some kids it simply a change in wording that helps them understand. Some just need consistent repetition so they can see the patterns that evolve through the process. Some are more visual/spacial learners than concept/auditory learners.

I know for a fact I am a hands on, involved in the conversation, hear it said rather than read it in print kind of learner. When I was in college, I rarely skipped a class because I found if I attended class and was engaged in the lesson and discussion, I really didn't need to read the text book or study for hours on end before a big test. If I skipped class, or we were expected to learn a portion of our information simply from studying the text, I was much less successful with regurgitating information for exams. I know this about myself which is why I taught myself to knit using YouTube videos and hands on trial and error. It's also why I sometimes get half way through reading a book I've pulled off our home library selves before I realize I've already read it.

I dream of a public educational system that allows for us as a society to honor our differences as learners rather than try to fit everyone into the mold we've created with our focus on standardized tests and performance dependent funding. Our kids are not raw product simply waiting to be molded via assembly line into a standardized product. Which brings me to an observation I've made this year about my 1st grader's opportunity to do some advanced learning activities in both math and reading.

Brea started going to an advanced level math class and an ELP reading group about a month ago. We were excited to get word that she had qualified for these programs, and were not at all surprised given her quick math skills and ability to read, and comprehend, books in the 3rd-4th grade reading level. She has been just as excited to attend these classes and is so proud to come home each day to show us what new concept she learned that day. The one aspect of these new classes I am not as thrilled with is the amount of homework that has become a regular part of her week. Homework that often feels like little more than busy work. Tuesday's homework, for example, included 3 math worksheets: a practice worksheet from the regular lesson, a page of 50 addition fact problems using the number 4, and  a challenge skill sheet of 24 addition problems each adding 3, single digit numbers. The last of these required some addition with regrouping (what we used to call carrying back in the day), a skill she has not yet learned. So I taught her how to do so to help make her job a little easier. These are in addition to the expectation she will read a minimum of 20 minutes each night at home (a variety of reading packets come home that are to be read as part of that time) and her nightly spelling practice worksheet to prepare her for Friday's spelling test.

When it's all said and done, Brea spent over and hour doing homeqork Tueaday. Thankfully she's a kid who easily stays on task or it could have been longer.

As a first grader.

I'm kinda not okay with that.

I'm kinda not okay with that because it's started to take some of the fun out of learning for her. Making sure she gets her homework done before any evening activities has become a bit of a chore. There are days she just wants (and I'm sure her brain NEEDS) to come home and play. To get out her play-doh to create, or her baby dolls to mother. With the coming of spring there will be days I will just want her to come home and play OUTSIDE. I believe our kids need unstructured time to explore life just as much as structured time to help them make sense of it. Slowly I feel our unstructured time slipping away.

I'm lucky that, for the most part, I have very self sufficient, responsible children who know their father and I's expectations when it comes to getting homework done, and they take the necessary steps to meet those expectations. Having to discuss possible consequences for homework not completed "on time" is not a conversation I ever expected to have with my 6 year old. At the same time, I feel like if we don't stress the importance of taking responsibility for her homework NOW, it will be that much harder to get her to do so further down her academic road.

And so, even as I question the process, we continue to feed the system that is set up to take our raw child in through its doors to be spit back out as standardized educational product.

Education....just another example of the concerns you face as a parent that you can't fully appreciate until you are in the midst of the storm.


*** P.S. This is by NO MEANS meant to reflect poorly on the job teachers do each and every day in classrooms throughout our country, especially the great group of teachers I have the honor of working with here in our district. I do believe that most teachers do the best they can within the confines set by the bureaucracy of our current educational system. The teachers I know love kids. They love learning. They want nothing more than to make learning fun and to help those who struggle. But they are spread too thin. they are tired, and they know, at least in part, that their continued employment is dependent upon being able to work within the system set before them. I'm sorry for what our society had done to their profession.