Category Archives: School

Now.

13925349_10154008702583860_4145260599955505736_nMy kids started school two months ago. As per usual, they surprise me. I figured my little guy would mostly sail into kindergarten but it’s been a really hard adjustment for him. The long days are tough (8:15am – 2:45pm) but mostly he misses me terribly. The first month, he cried almost every day in class. I tried to make it better by joining him for lunch one day but it only made things worse. No fun for anyone, I’m afraid. We had long talks, mega snuggles, and once he was familiar with the extensive routine, he  settled down a lot. At first, they were covering shapes, but now they’re onto numbers. He’s a numbers kid, has always loved them, so this makes him happy and he now really likes his teacher.

I expected my daughter to push back some with a new teacher, since she adored her teacher last year, but she’s settled really, really well. Her new teacher is very light on homework which is in stark contrast to last’s year’s hell. This makes us all happy. There’s a calmness in her classroom, a peaceful atmosphere which I truly appreciate. I love her teacher something fierce. She understands that school is for school and home is for play/family/relaxation and not grinding out ridiculous hours of homework (can you tell I’m traumatized from last year??).

Me? I’m stupidly happy. I’m frigging Mary Poppins happy. Now that I actually have time to myself, my nerve endings have had time to repair themselves. I can breathe, eat, go to the bathroom, all at a leisurely pace. I have immersed myself back into my writing & drawing and it’s great to have the time to devote to that. I can pop over to the grocery store and it takes 10 minutes rather than two hours after a NATO negotiation. I feel awesome. I do actually miss my kids when they are at school. I find myself going to the carpool line a little early so that I’m somehow in the first set of 20’ish cars for pickup. I love picking them up and chatting to them about their days.

The most extraordinary thing happened once they started school – they’ve now become best buddies. They’ve been at each other’s throats for two solid years. I could frequently be found curled up under the couch, rocking back and forth, for the arguments that went on between them. But from day 1 of school, suddenly a new tolerance, nay, a new enjoyment, of each other surfaced. I then realized something that I’d completely not seen. The anger and frustration my daughter had towards her brother was a direct result of her going to school and he got to stay home with me. Even when he did VPK last year, it was only 3 hours a day, and then he was still home with me.  I had never factored in that she would be jealous of him for that. But apparently she was. Now, they’re both in the same boat. They are dropped off to school together, their classrooms are just across the hall from one another. Both have homework now, both have uniforms now (love those!) – there’s nothing for her to be jealous of or feel slighted from.

I figured the peace would only last a day or two but they’re still going strong, joining forces to play games or read to one another. It all feels so very surreal but I’m loving the hell out of it. The harmony has made me a much nicer and more patient mother too. The most significant thing for me is I have to the time to stop and look around. Stop and enjoy. Stop and appreciate. I find myself living more in the now than I ever have before. I listen to the laughter of my children and it sounds like music. I see them cooperating and I am grateful for all those years of struggling to stay sane because they now have each other. I snuggle my boy in bed every night, stroking his face, his hair, his back, and look down at the marvel of a little human being he is. I recognize very strongly that he’ll be all grown up in 10 minutes, and he’ll tower over me. So I try to gaze at his tiny, round face and kiss the heck out of it. I tell him how much I love snuggles, and in that contented moment, he murmurs back, “I love snuggles too, it’s my favorite thing,” or “I love you too, Mommy.” It just doesn’t get better than that.

My daughter is entering a new phase of life, more aware of things around her and her feelings. We talk about people, reactions, how she’s feeling. She told me the other day while we were driving home that she has a boyfriend. He’s a lovely boy from her school. Before I crashed the car, I had the foresight to ask her had she told this boy he was her boyfriend and she said no. 🙂  All that is coming down the line, like a train blaring. I hear it off in the distance and know eventually, it will catch up to me. I will deal with that then. For now, I glow in this morning’s conversation on the way to school where she told me her fairy, Pearl, sits on her ear and whispers to her. That Pearl loves PE because it’s like a roller coaster to her. Her eyes light up that her fairy watches over her, and because we have four fairy doors in the house, she told me this morning that she’d witnessed a meeting of the four fairies. I guess someone in school told her fairies don’t exist but she informed me this morning that those people can’t see the fairies because they don’t believe. Only people who believe in them can see them. She turns 8 next week, inching ever so close to exiting that precious child stage but I feel so much more ready for whatever is coming.

I will lap up that innocence now. I recognize my appreciation of their amazing selves now and I’m grateful I can live it. I look in awe at those tiny, wonderful humans now.

I’m happy now.

red-heart

 

A little like a kid in a candy shop.

Excited. I’m excited.

The clock is ticking. The beginning is near. I feel like shouting out, channeling Braveheart, “freeeeeeeedom!!!” at the top of my lungs. Because it’s coming. It’s so close. It’s .  .  .  school!!!!!

12805753_10153612783538860_2237067384010573543_nOnly two more weeks until our school year begins and thus will begin the yearly onslaught. Getting up early, getting the kids to school, packing lunches, homework, earlier bedtimes. All massive pains in the ass. But this year is different because it’s the first time that my youngest is entering the formal public school system. He did morning preschool last year and those 2.5hrs to myself every day were magnificent. But short. Now, it’ll be a full-on school day all to myself where I can focus on finding my sanity, tidying up the house which has invariably fallen apart over summer, working on my Magic Forest books. I can even go to a doctor’s appointment without dragging a child along with me, calculating with the precision of a scientist, the likelihood of making it out alive, without meltdowns, based on food intake, time of the day, and dealing with waiting room curve balls. It’s the first time in 8.5 years (yes, I’m including pregnancy here!!) that I will have some alone time. Some adult, do-the-hell-whatever-I-want time. I’m positively giddy.

I admit sending my little escaped mental patient off to kindergarten will break my heart in two and may be quite challenging for my little 5-year-old introvert. He adored preschool, but those 3 hours a day were a lot of effort for him. Most days required a sort of grounding for him once we got home. He needed to snuggle his touchstone (me) until he could find balance again. So I expect a challenge there.  I had to deliver a crushing blow to him yesterday. He knows school is coming up and that he’ll be starting Kindergarten. I discovered yesterday that he thought his teacher would be Ms. Alisha, one of his teachers from last year, and I had to inform him that it wasn’t. Uh-oh. I don’t know who his teacher is yet but I’m confident in the abilities of our school’s teachers.

My dynamo is entering 2nd grade and I’ve heard good things about her assigned teacher so I am hopeful for a good year. I know, as always, homework will be a battle. I was getting good at honing our skills towards the end of last year, so if I can nail that routine down quickly, I’m hoping it wont’ be so bad.

I’ll miss my duo a little bit. However, I’ve really, really missed a level of autonomy that most adults enjoy. I’ve missed my sanity and my patience (haven’t seen that in years!!). Society says I should be embarrassed that I’m so joyful about the upcoming absences. After all, the myth of the perfect parent says I should be in a puddle of tears, pining after my children every minute that they are in school, and that I will only feel whole once they are in my presence.   The societal pressure of parenthood, especially motherhood, is ever crushing because it’s simply a myth, an unrealistic hole you are meant to dive into and never come out of. And what’s worse, this legendary myth that you are supposed to achieve also says you pretty much must carry the burden alone. That’s not how we, as humans, behave. We are mammals, animals, that thrive best in packs. I love my children with my heart and soul but I’ve pretty much forgotten who *I* am. What I’m like as a person when children aren’t around. That was one of the greatest things I took away from my time in South Africa. I had so much fun, and was quite a nice person to be around, when I wasn’t constantly worrying/watching/refereeing/feeding/negotiating/monitoring my children.

So no. I don’t feel bad for looking forward to school. I’ll get to be me again. And I cannot wait.

 

Back to School and Alcohol.

I know I’m not alone here. I just know it.

It’s back to school week after Christmas break. The kids relaxed for a full two weeks, even my 7-yr old began sleeping in. I could see that she needed the break badly. By the last week of school she was d.o.n.e!!! So she loved every minute of the break and then headed back to school. She’ll still declare that she loves her school however there was a definite shift from enjoying Christmas vacation to not wanting to go back to school. And so began hell week. You may think I’m kidding. I’m not. From the moment of every pickup, she’s been a tornado of anger and frustration. If I didn’t know any better, I’d downgrade her back to an escaped mental patient but I know what’s going on so I handle it differently (and much more calmly, I proudly add).  However the schedule of the week was different for me.

Monday: I know she’s tired. I dragged her out of bed. A full day of school. She’s pissed. We’ll get through this.
Tuesday: OK, I know she’s tired, she doesn’t want to do homework, but dear Jesus, this attitude better change.
Wednesday: OMFG, I’m going to kill her. I keep it together (mostly) as she drags out homework over the course of two hours simply because she just doesn’t want to do it. As soon as she goes to bed, I make Baileys & decaf tea. Yes, that feels good!
Thursday: It’s the exorcist. It’s reincarnated and that’s just on the car ride home. Upon entering the house, she bee-lines for Legos and I pop open a Strawberry Ale. It’s only 4.30pm but I figure this might be her best chance at staying alive.
Friday: I don’t know yet but I’m scared. I may have an IV of alcohol attached to me during the carpool lane. At the very least, when I get home from picking her up, it’s PARTY time!! Ice cream for all and beers for Momma!

I remember this struggle the first week of the school year. The mega adjustment is hard to cope with for the little ones and she specifically takes it out on me because I’m her safe place. I get it. But as I bob and weave my way through the house looking for hiding places, praying for it to be bedtime, I can’t help but wish this week were over.

I swear to you, alcohol sales must spike more after Christmas than during it because I’ve decided that that’s the only way I’m getting through this. Am I alone? Oh I bet not!!!!

Excuse me while I pop open #2.

 

What Do I Expect from Elementary School? Not this.

Love this piece. “The children that I get off of the bus are exhausted. They are frustrated. They are over worked. They are burned out. I feel as if I should make them a weak whiskey on the rocks, hand them their pipe and slippers, and leave them alone for an hour to decompress.”

How school is going to kill me.

code is funHomework. Oh how I hate thee. My awesome hurricane turned 7 last week!! I’ve really been enjoying being with her. Until homework, and then the devil comes out of both of us. What used to take 2 hours now takes 1 hour (still waaaay too much). Each night we have to practice spelling words and this week’s selection were particularly tough and confusing – circus, cell, circle, pencil, silent, palace all were consistently spelled by her as she hears it – circis, sel, circil, pencel, silint, palis. It didn’t matter how many times I went over it with her, it wasn’t clicking with her. We were both equally frustrated, and the tension was building. Soon, I’m yelling that I don’t understand what’s wrong and that I’m done. What an awesome example of motherhood I am (input complete sarcasm there). I walk into the kitchen, trying to take deep breaths and it dawns on me. Dawns how bloody ridiculous this all is. This is ONE damn test out of who knows how many she has, and who the hell cares if she fails this one. It’s not worth me yelling at her, making us both feel bad, and consequently, making her feel like a failure.

So I returned to the table and before I got to say anything, she asked me for a hug. I squeezed her tight and told her we were done with the spelling words. Just done. They were super tricky words, because they go against a lot of the spelling rules she’s been learning so it’s super easy to get them wrong. That I didn’t want silly, tricky words to end up with us both angry and exhausted. That it just wasn’t worth it and that I didn’t care what grade she got. She asked if that meant she was going to fail it. I told her to just do her best, and whatever grade comes home, I don’t care, because it’s only one out of soooooooo many. She asked me why we do homework at all, and I told her she should ask her teacher, because I don’t like homework either and I don’t think it’s effective.

What I’ve seen with homework is that I often have to explain what should have been covered in class. Sometimes I’m merely reinforcing what she has learned, but other times, I’m the one introducing new concepts to her that she’s expected to know, because they are on her homework sheet. I have no doubt her teacher is worked to the damn bone. It’s not her fault either. It’s the system. So much emphasis is put on testing and grades, that every single thing has to be entered into the computer as a grade. I can see these grades in her school portal online, and for every grade on every sheet of paper, I can see when it was entered. Her teacher is working Saturdays & Sundays just to enter in this ridiculous information. I see time-stamps of 6:30am during the week, mornings and afternoons on the weekends. It can be 9 pm at night and her teacher is responding to emails. It’s no wonder teachers are leaving in droves. There’s barely any actual teaching involved. At this point, each teacher should have their own secretary to handle the paperwork alone.

Capture2Having to explain things first hand to my daughter is part of why I started the book series. I needed to learn what the rules of reading and writing are, so that I can help her. The Magic Forest Alphabet: Introducing Letter Sounds came out last week and you people knocked me to the floor with your support and well wishes. You shot me into Amazon’s top three of their “Hot New Releases” category. The books are just as much for parents as they are for children. I had planned on just doing the basic alphabet book then moving onto the stories of The Magic Forest but I’ve realized how much I don’t know and need to know if I’m to help my kids through this important journey. I’ve already begun book two which will focus on common consonant blends & digraphs, and then I’ll round the trilogy off with tackling those bloody vowels. I blame them for everything! Lots more information over at Little Gem Publishing. There’s a free giveaway going on right now too.

rick roachA few days ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Rick Roach who is running for FL Senate in 2016. I don’t normally bring up politics here, but he used to be a teacher. He took the FCAT as an adult and failed it. He was on the school board at OCPS so he knows how that beast works. He’s watched the school system get dirty, begin to crumble, and the fall out is becoming apparent. He has a solid understanding and knowledge of the educational issues we face, and just as important, he has solid plans to fix them, and they definitely involve changing this testing ridiculousness. He also happens to be a very nice guy too. Give him a look.

Is it summer yet?

Teach your child to read!

The big announcement . . . (drum roll, please) . . .  

The Magic Forest Alphabet: Introducing Letter Sounds Welcome to the first ever book in The Magic Forest series. The Magic Forest Alphabet: Introducing Letter Sounds focuses on correct individual letter sounds. Yes, yes, I know alphabet books are everywhere, but sit down with a few preschool and kindergarten teachers, and ask them what their pet peeves are. I guarantee you one of them will be a child whom comes into their classroom at the beginning of the year, parent proudly announcing he/she knows all their letter sounds, and then a bunch of them are incorrect. (Yes, I hear what’s in your head. . .) How can one possibly get these sounds wrong? Because very often, us well-meaning parents don’t isolate the letter sound. Even when we think we are isolating a letter sound, most times we don’t. Go on – how do you pronounce the sound of the letter r? It’s not ‘ruh’ or ‘re’ or ‘er’.  I know because I’ve made these very same mistakes too. After you talk to a teacher, you realize that not only do they have to teach their classroom the basics, they have to undo what the parents have created.

So I felt it was appropriate to begin at the beginning. Here, I focus entirely on individual letter sounds and putting the basic sounds together. I know it sounds silly, but my goal is to teach a parent as much as a child. The reason being, as I navigate preschool and 1st grade with my own two children, I am confronted with these obstacles daily. It was quite staggering what I didn’t know and in order to support my kids through their school learning, I needed to get up to speed. I’ve got a note at the beginning of the book to show parents how to work through it.

So there you have it! The Introduction to Letter Sounds is now available at Amazon (paperback or ebook), iTunes, Kobo and more! I’ve also created a website just for The Magic Forest Series where you can sign up for my newsletter, which I will use to only announce new releases – http://www.littlegempublishing.org. And in case you prefer to just stay on Facebook, The Magic Forest has its own page there too!!

I’d love to have your feedback so please feel free to leave a review or contact me directly. Happy reading! <3

Well hello there!

lillyThe summer zipped by and we’ve all entered new territory. My soon-to-be 7 year old (seriously, wtf!!! How is that happening?) is in 1st grade and loving it. My 4-year-old mental patient began preschool for the very first time, and adores it. It’s only for three hours a day but he’s in the same place, with the same teacher that my daughter had at that stage. So I couldn’t be happier. I loved her preschool and her teacher so much (I did the ugly cry on her last day of preschool), so I had absolutely zero qualms about sending him on his merry way. In fact, my velco-boy ran into the classroom on the first day and jumped right in. Pretty extraordinary for an introvert. Our goodbyes still take ten minutes but you know, how hard is it to kiss and hug a little pint-sized human when they’re begging for “infinity kisses and hugs,” right?

I began a new venture in April and in July, decided to teach myself how to draw. This is seriously funny because I couldn’t draw a straight line to save my life but I’ve written a bunch of children’s books and wanted to illustrate them (control freak, what can you do!?!) This chomped up every moment since then, and I discovered that while I really can’t draw at all, I enjoy the process. It’s relaxing, fun, incredibly complex, and I find I can immerse myself in it for hours without even realizing it.  Given that my audience are young kids, I’m not getting too fussy with the traditional details. I focus more on the fun parts, the colors, the smiles, etc.  The big announcement should be next week. I’m waiting on my proof copy before I allow worldwide distribution (get me, that just sounds so fancy!!!). My first book gets down to the basics and you’d be fairly astounded how wrong many people & books get those wrong.  I actually have 11 other books written in this series but for now, I’m going to stick with expanding on the first book. Anyway, stay tuned! Aside from the normal craziness of motherhood, now you know why I’ve been MIA.

My paroled  mental patient has graduated completely. She is no longer part of the asylum, and it’s so much fun to be around her, talk to her, listen to her, teach her. The other lunatic still has his moments and while I was close to upgrading him there for a while, I think a growth spurt hit him and I’ve learned that growth spurts are the devil when it comes to kid behavior. Their poor little bodies and brains are shifting in ways they can’t understand, and for my two, it’s always meant they turn into Tasmanian devils for a few weeks.

Another huge shift among all this is that with my mental patient in preschool, I have three hours a day to myself. To breathe, to write, to draw, to watch tv. It’s up to me. Given my own certifiable ambition and determination, I’ve spent every minute on the books. Every single piece of research, every single part of this process from words, to drawings, to Amazon was done by me and there’s an enormous sense of accomplishment in that. I realized how much I needed that independent venture, because for over 7 years now (including pregnancy), I’ve been wrapped up in one single thing and that’s motherhood. It’s taken every piece of me, and now I’m slowly taking parts of me back. I’m noticing that I’m becoming a nicer mother, for one. Since I get that break to myself, I’m less ready to climb the walls and more able to take a deep breath. It’s funny how just simple things will shift your perspective completely.

I’m still a stressed out ball of nonsense. That’s something I’m going to have to work out because I do overreact with stress too much and frankly, I’m so bloody bored of it. I’m tired of envisioning the ten thousand variants that one scenario can bring, stressing about it intensely, only to have none of those realizations actually take place. For example, the tire pressure on our back left tire kept on going down. I’d fill it up and the next day, it’s down 10 PSI. Ugh. This goes on for weeks until I can’t take it anymore because now I’m seeing it go down to 20PSI (should be 36) and imagining myself stranded somewhere with a flat tire. To negate this possibility, I decide I’m going to get “new” tires for the back two wheels. I can go to several used tire places and get both tires for $80 out the door. But it’s an unexpected expenditure and I’m freaking stressed about controlling the household money and  . . . .  you get my point. This crap goes on in my head for days and days, putting me in a bad mood, snappy and irritable. I drive over to get the tires and the dude’s tires don’t look much better than what’s already on the car. So I tell him what’s going on. Within 10 minutes, he’s found the tiniest little pinhole you’ve ever seen in the tire and fixes it, all for $8 out the door.

So you see, I was a wreck over something that didn’t even bloody happen and I am sick to death of it. It’s annoying for me, it’s annoying for my family. So I’m trying out a new “whateva!” attitude. So far, it’s working just fine for us and the kids are definitely much happier! 😀 They’ve had ice cream three days in a row. What’s not to love!!!!

So stay tuned, darlings. Big news coming soon!!!

Last day of Kindergarten. Dammit.

11391315_10153023568608860_5113429978822799082_nMy oh my! How did that happen? Don’t get me wrong – I’m thrilled to be rid of the early-morning wake-up. The constant alert as to whether lunch is made or the uniform is ready. The homework battles. Oh God, those killed me.

11392781_10153023568658860_3927141128059346054_nI blearily dressed myself this morning. We hopped in the car, discussing why some birds have a bracelet on one foot. As we walked from the car to the school door, she hopped and skipped in her rainbow outfit (no uniform today), holding my hand, excited for the fun day they have planned ahead. No school work, just fun times to be had. I kneeled down to give her the usual kisses and hugs goodbye.  Even a passing teacher happily commented “boy, that’s some hug there,” because we do the kind of hug that lifts her off the ground. It is unlikely that she’ll be the same in even just a couple years. Unlikely she’ll be holding my hand, skipping her way inside wearing unicorn t-shirts and rainbow skirts. I am again struck down by the milestone she has just leaped over.

Kindergarten. Done.

I watched her little “graduation” last Friday where the kids performed two songs and it took everything in me not to burst into tears, watching her shyly perform, trying to remember the words and actions together, along with every other kid. What stood out most is that she stared at me the whole time. Making sure I was seeing her, watching her, and that let me know how important it was to her. I smiled at her, I blew kisses, I waved. I looked like an idiot. But when it’s your little girl . . . all decorum flies out the window. I remember last year when she did the end-of-year performance for VPK and I couldn’t hold it together. I sobbed practically through the whole thing. I was better this year, but again I was slapped across the face by time. That time is going by, that in only two months, my 4-year-old escaped mental patient will begin VPK. It’ll only be three hours every morning, but it’s the beginning.

I know. I hear myself and realize how ridiculous it is to be lamenting the end of kindergarten. But that’s how it starts. It creeps up on you, and I need to be sure to live in the present and be aware of what I’ve got right now. Especially after the year we’ve had in 2015 so far, living for now is important. I can’t promise that I won’t cry when I pick her up this afternoon though. That’s just taking it too far.

Damn, man. This growing up shit is getting real.

Standardized Testing, EOC & My Child.

While the “Opt-Out” movement is growing and education reform is slowly taking place, it’s my turn to stand up (see here for why). The FSA’s are almost done. Now it’s time for the EOC (End Of Course) exams. This is the first year that they have been required and implemented for kids as young as 5. Little kindergartners having to sit through over 1.5hrs of testing on Math, then over another 1.5 hrs of testing on English.

I’m fully behind opting out of the FSA. Now the discussion starts on opting out of EOC and I must admit to getting nervous. I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize my kids’ spot in her school. We love her school. She loves her school. But this testing nonsense is ridiculous. Teachers are not allowed to have any visual aids available to the children, so many teachers have to cover the entire walls of their classrooms to prohibit any “cheating.” I believe that each subject has around 150-180 questions (again, for a FIVE YEAR OLD!!). Earlier this year, the kids were supposed to have EOC’s for 7 subjects but it was dropped down by the state to just two. Thank goodness. But even just the two is pressure.

“What’s wrong with a test?” you ask?

testing
Tiny sample of her weekly testing.

Don’t believe for a second that the kids aren’t getting tested every week throughout the year. My daughter has spelling tests every week, she has homework, she has online assignments that are automatically graded. So we can see exactly how she is performing throughout the whole year. In fact, the EOC has absolutely nothing to do with the child’s grade. It is administered solely to determine an evaluation of the teacher. I, for one, am not using my child as a guinea pig. In my eyes, the teacher’s value is already available in how my child does throughout the year. Not based on this one loooooong test per subject, in such a formal setting that children are often severely stressed out.

Just this week, John Oliver produced a segment on standardized testing which does a pretty good job of showing the ridiculousness of it all.

It’s worth looking at the whole thing.

However, the theory of all this rebellion is great. Now had come my time to stand up and I will admit to being nervous. I began emailing her wonderful teacher just yesterday. I didn’t want come off as all guns blazing, ready for battle. I simply asked her what does the EOC mean for my child’s grade and the response was that it doesn’t affect her grade whatsoever. I expressed my concern for the pressure and stress this puts on the little students, and her teacher, her wonderful, kick-ass teacher offered that my child not do the test, even though she believes my child would score very well on it. I confirmed that I would like my child to not take the test and she let me know that my daughter will be brought to an alternate location for the duration of the tests. Her school is not testing the kids in their normal classrooms. To save the teachers having to cover every bit of their walls, the kids are completing the tests in the cafeteria. I’m grateful that the administration is considerate enough to not put their teachers through the added crap of having to cover their walls. Man, I love our school.

I spoke to my daughter this morning. I told here there were some big tests coming up next week and without saying another word, she got teary-eyed. I immediately told her she wasn’t taking those tests, that her teacher and I had already talked to one another and her teacher cares for her, doesn’t want her to be put under any stress. Visibly, my child’s stature changed back to a relaxed little kid and she expressed how much she loves her teacher. Ditto from me, honey!

Thank you so much, Ms. Y. We love you.