22 March 2009

my babies

i think my baby is growing up...
but at least she's safe in her daddy's arms
lynzee's life revolves around her social network. texting on my phone. calling on the real phone. chatting on gmail. passing notes. friday playdates. and the hope of a sleepover. there is a 5th grade boy that has the power to make or break her entire day....her entire life. it's drama.

my little emi revolves her life around her upcoming 7th birthday and the constant revolving invite list...i think she has the biggest parties ever. last year there was like 50 people at her HSM party...and the year before every single person came to her disneyland party...all dressed up. i think every child in the world is ready to party in april...spring! this year...pixie & pirates party!
and the invite list is over 30 kids. oh dear.

20 March 2009

need to say...

i just need to say...i've really appreciated the support.
i feel it.

i also need to say...this charter school has a lot of pros.
i'm not going to list them all right now...i'm tired.
but it's a good school. a great school.
i could be complaining about a lot worse things than too much homework and pushing my child to fast. in lynz last school we had issues with sex education and inappropriate touching. heavens that is not an issue in this school....lots of respect.
the experience has been so growing.
i love mrs.s and i've learned this is her first year teaching. bless her heart. i remember my first year teaching dance and i wanted to implement everything...i've been able to filter what really works now.

anyways. i just needed to say that.
i'm grateful for the school. it's been a gift.
{with a big tangled up bow...but a gift nonetheless}

a little long trip to the school

{math homework...a few weeks ago}

here we go...
a bit detailed for those of you who want it...and for my own clarity

i get up yesterday and i absolutely must order costumes for my upcoming dance performance of the wizard of oz. i'm on the phone with denise in virginia when i start getting beeps...check the caller id...it's the school. hum. so after the fifth one denise goes on hold.
hey mom.
who's this? (cuz i can never tell)
it's emi.
is everything ok?
what's the matter?
i need my unfinished work because we are doing it all afternoon and it all has to be done and there is a special treat for if we finish and i don't have any of it here so mom i need you to bring it to school right now.
[oh this is funny. the unfinished work.]
well...i'm coming in at 12:30 can i bring it then?
hurry mom cuz that is all we are doing today.
k. see you soon. love you bye.
i flash back over to denise and finish up my costume order. before i head over to the school i shake reu awake and he has one suggestion "take a fire extinguisher"...love that man.
i told him i was only taking matches.

here comes mama bear. not so much a tiger today. not confrontational at all. not here to fix it all, just here it tell you how i feel and what i'm willing to do and how i don't care about how that affects my child's grades. this is my nightly agreement: i will do 2 math worksheets. study 10 spelling words. read 30 min with my child. and write the monthly story. that's it. if there is more worksheets i will be throwing it away. and i don't really care about the grade repercussions. i'm all set.

i arrive at the school and check in at the front desk. two of emi's classmates that i know really well are sitting in the office, the little girl says "hi miss emi's mom" but she is quickly silenced by the secretary, "you don't get to talk when you are in here, you are in trouble and we have work to do so you need to be quiet." oh heavens. i speak up.."oh i don't think she was talking to you and i feel it would be very rude for her not to say hi to me. hi katrina. i hope your day gets better. and you too a.j." the secretary realizes she was rude and apologizes...and off i go to the classroom. it's lunchtime. perfect.

i walk in and hold up the yellow folder...i'm not mad. i'm almost apathetic. "now, i'm confused...why did we send this home for the weekend if it's all they are working on today." she smiles at my joke. "i know i know. we just wanted them to get as much done as they could, get a headstart for today."

i have a seat and say "you know i have a big problem with this unfinished work." she knows. i begin to tell her about emi's day yesterday. how she came home drained and couldn't even play at the fairy party. how she fell asleep at 5 and didn't get up until this morning at 7:30. how she feels like it is never done. i hold up the folder and tell her emi obviously did not do any of it last night. i pull out her math folder and show her emi's unfinished math work. (she is not the math teacher) and then i tell her emi was also unable to study her spelling words for the pre-test. Then i tell her how my daughter woke up this morning out of her mind stressed because all of this was suppose to be done. she was paying the price for sleeping. her day was started and she was half buried. and now, worst of all to a 6 year old, she was not going to get the treat for having it done.

we talked. she listened. she shared my absolute disgust for grading these kids. she agreed that it was teaching them to focus on what they did not complete rather than dwelling on all they did. they didn't look at the twenty 100% but rather the four 0% that powered their grade. she agreed. but it is the school's policy. we talked about the school's 'underlying principles' and how she is required to have a specific curriculum with shurley spelling, spalding english and of course our saxon math. it was a lot...but required. i turned it a bit...she is doing the same thing with unfinished work. they never get to dwell on what they've done because there is always so much more to do. (i'm not sure if she got it)

it was then that i realized she has two agendas. she is a very creative teacher who wants to do all these fun projects with the kids...and this is a priority of course. but the school's curriculum leaves her little time. so really...the kids are getting two curriculums. she is trying to fit in the fun stuff between the academic worksheets and constant testing. I'm confused at why it can't be swapped...why the worksheets can't be lowered on the priority and fit in between the fun stuff. at any rate, shurley, spalding and saxon get top seat. this is tough on her and the kids. so i see her dilemma. she is not willing to cut out her fun stuff (i would hope not) but she is unable to limit the academics. after all...it's very important for my 1st grader to be diagramming sentences. true story. diagramming. go figure. so i venture to say perhaps there is a creative fun way of implementing the academics. maybe. just maybe. shurley and spalding don't have to be done in worksheets. ya think?

so i bring up the 30 spelling sentences. i understand it is implementing lots of skills. punctuation. capitalization. penmenship. spelling. but those words are old. and it takes my 3rd grader almost two hours to complete her five sentences including two spelling words (if i don't offer any help). the point of the assigment is over. why the need to finish it? why not ten sentences? "Well they had a whole week to complete that, i gave them almost an hour every day to work on those sentences." {that sounds like a fun creative hour.} that's not true. i know it. she knows it. but i play along. so you don't have one hour to devote to a fun planet poster project...but every day they can write sentences. let's see that's six sentences each time. seems like there would definitely be a funner way to implement those skills...punctuation. spelling. capitalization. she seems proud of her 30 sentence idea and i leave it be. but she knows i find it ridiculous.
just then!
here comes another mama bear.
oh! but she is angry...like me yesterday
spitting mad. locked jaw. handful of unfinished work.
seems the aid didn't separate hers into busy and graded. yikes!
seems more than one kid had to call mom today.
i'm almost laughing at what the teacher has brought on herself.
in my humor i speak up first.
"so this must be your pile of unfinished work," i smile with a bit of sarcasm, "and tell me dear, how do you feel about it?"
she shakes her head and honestly tries not to smile, this is not a laughing matter, "i don't think you want to ask me that right now?"
"oh i know, cuz i'm right with you." i sympathize...and turning to mrs.s i say "we know how i feel about this unfinished work." and i hand the flaming baton over to the tiger and get my butt out of there. no need to let myself get all fired up again. can't think clear when your mind is in a rage. i find emi in the lunchroom and sit and chat with the kids. i know all of them from kindergarten and they beg me to stay for the day...i feel more confident to speak up for them.

soon, mrs.s comes to get the kids and we head back to class. i ask her teacher how it went with the other angry parent and she says "oh i told her i had to get the kids from lunch and didn't give her much time to vent."
is that what she was doing with me? hearing me out.
no real change. just another venting mom.

but when we got back in the classroom she had her aid take over and asked me if i wouldn't mind continuing our conversation. sure. i told her how i've been trying to understand her teaching methods and although i appreciate that she uses so many approaches [ie:worksheets] to teach a skill or concept...it can be overkill once they've learned it. perhaps she could simplify. she stops me there and said that she and the aid had talked about this. simplifying. that it was too much for them as teachers and they knew the kids were overwhelmed. so i asked her what she was going to simplify. she seemed at a loss.

i offered my own suggestion. when i come help out in class you have at least four things going on, groups of kids doing different things, but then you call out different children to leave their 'assignment' and come test for something...or finish something else. then the child returns to that assignment but can't quite pick up right where they left off...they have to settle into it again. every assignment or project becomes longer with every interruption. for example, last thursday the kids were asked to finish their planet poster in 15 min. but i was asked to pull out the children that hadn't finished their secret animal story and make sure they finished that. that was overwhelming. you tell the children "this is the last 15 min you have to finish the planets, i want them all done today." but i have different instructions, and those six kids that need to also finish another project are suddenly faced with 2 assignments at once. plus, there is a group of kids that need to take a reading test on the computer so they have double duty too. AND we all have to be quiet, absolutely silent, while they test. i just think it makes more sense to do it all together...and whatever doesn't get finished they can work on at home and bring it back...i would actually love to help my daughter tear little pieces of paper into a saturn and look online for three planet facts. now that's fun.

i'm not sure she got my point. but i'm glad i at least offered a suggestion. it bugs me when people rant about something without an idea of making it better.

so here are my papers in the suggestion box:

repetition does not need to be incessant.
1 daily worksheet done well can teach the same concept
as 12 different ones done frantically.
commit to the project.
start it and finish it together.
if a group is testing,
have the other kids in quiet groups too...
not making funny shamrock people, it's too hard to be quiet while doing something silly.
it's Not ever, Never ever, about the finished project.
it's about the experience.

18 March 2009

a bit pressurized

today i was raging mad
hostile. ready to burn down the village.
i think it's mama tiger syndrome.

some of you know my kids attend this nazi charter school and for the most part i've just loved being a part of it. but this year they had to replace their art, music, foreign language and choir teachers and i'm starting to wonder why they left. it's a fabulous school for the science/math minded. but that's not me. and it's not balanced even if it were. i keep thinking the pros outweigh the cons...and it's a good opportunity for me to have more structure.
now i'm thinking not so much.
emi has yet to NOT get an F on a report card...because a missing assignment counts as a zero. i know! first grade...what is the point in teaching them that this young. if you miss one you're screwed. it feels like college. i'm constantly behind. so last semester i ask the teacher...what is she missing...oh 'turkey scramble'...what the hell?

i was mad today...because this is what happened...

i come in from teaching dance at noon and reu tells me emi's teacher aid called. oh. ok. what's up? well...she just wanted to inform us that she is sending a folder home of emi's missing work to make up so she can get passing grades (it's all about the grades...which they shouldn't even get in first grade) reu says, thanks for letting us know.
but that's not all.
she's calling because emi was "very overwhelmed" when she saw the folder so the aid, so kindly of her, divided the work into two parts...graded and busy work. about 25% of the work in the folder is for grades and we should complete that first. oh ok...is reuben's reaction. me? i'm instantly fuming. for the past year i have watched my 6 year old drag herself home and smack her forehead with a pencil trying to complete her homework in less than two hours...thinking she is not smart. she is not fast. she is not a good student.

if you do not understand why i would be upset with this folder coming home...then forgo reading on

i'm instantly fuming, over the edge, anger as in rage!
i wrote (but did not send) the most hostile email to emi's teacher. then i think, wait, i should see how much work this is and see what emi says. don't overreact. so i wait.

here comes the kids from school...lynz hops out and runs over to help me decorate the studio for a little fairy tea bithday party for some of my tiniest dancers. (it was a busy day) and reu picks emi out of the car...she doesn't lift her head from his shoulder. honey?...emi?...look at these fairy houses...emi...emi? nothing. ok. reu takes her inside...eventually she comes out in her fairy dress and i ask her if she had a good day at school...she shrugs and says "it's the same." oh.

well, let's party. for the next two hours there is a magic party at my house, outside in the glorious 65' weather, in the studio full of so much sparkle dust we are slipping on the floor. we make these little fairies. cake. ice cream. where is emi? for the most part my child is silent. she is watching. at clean up i find her curled in a blanket on the lawn...asleep. she is sleeping now in my bed. and i've just looked at her yellow folder of 'make-up work' and i'm wondering where it came from because we have not been absent this term. and then i pull out her math. two worksheets. both sides. 200 math fact problems to do. and a story problem sheet with another 20 math facts. what the hell?! she has 12 missing assignments! from writing all 30 spelling words in sentences to writing a story about teeth. i'm done. fail out of this damn school. it's crushed my child. emi use to wear stripey tights with rain boots every day and flower clips. now she's nervous if she doesn't tuck in every shirt and it's the end of the world if she can't find her belt. i don't care if the kids are capable of doing this much work...it should not be asked of them.
i help out in emi's class tomorrow.
watch out...here comes one mad mama.

in all honesty...i'm not sure what i'll do...
maybe i will pack up her desk and just leave.
here's just a little proof if you needed it. the thing is, none of it is too difficult it's just that there is so much of it for one little girl in one little night...and you cannot really spread it out over too much time because you lose points for being late and there is always tomorrows work.

16 March 2009

no meat!

so emi is officially a vegetarian
she won't eat animals.
they give us their eggs, their milk to make yogurt and ice cream...why would we eat them too? how very unkind I feel.

she even made a sign "NO MEAT!"

reu is worried about her future protein intake and is grateful he has strawberry protein shake powder. hum...
well, this isn't a surprise...she is very aware of stuff like this.
saving the planet and standing up for the animals.
she wants to be a "koala keeper...in the wild"
i guess i better stop throwing away
the stuff in her recycling bin...
i wonder if she'll eat seafood? hum...probably not.
lynz was telling her at the table today that green beans have
moods & i heard emi say she was going to live on medicine.
her diet is not about nutrition, it's about principle.
her own beliefs.
this is going to be tricky.

05 March 2009

oh lucky day!

My dearest goddess Shauna
is doing a little pay-it-forward game on her blog
and I'm one of the lucky recipients.

Sooooo...here's the idea. Be one of the first 3 people to leave a comment on my blog and you will be the lucky recipient of a handmade gift from me some time this year...and we know how amazingly magic that can be :)
When you receive your gift will be a surprise!

Now here is the catch, you have to post the same thing on your blog and do the same for 3 lucky people. GOOD LUCK! This is going to be fun!
what a perfect month for friendship & luck.
love you all!