Tag Archives: homework

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

 

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?

Education Reform – Why am I involved?

PARCC Test Prep
PARCC Test Prep given on the third week of Kindergarten.

After the debacle of my first child starting kindergarten last August, she was a shadow of her happy, bouncy self. She was exhausted and weary by mid-September. All this because she started kindergarten in the wrong school. What’s worse though is, while I know I won the lottery with her new school, her old school is only following orders from up high. The district school board and the state of Florida have their hands, pockets (and asses) deep in the system, a system that is crumbling while simultaneously shattering children’s self-esteem, burning out students of every grade, and materials being taught only to suit the answers on a specific test.  Just those 5 weeks in her old school made me so sick to my stomach with stress and anxiety that I was barely able to function. What she was exposed to in her old public school is what every student has to face across the state and it’s unacceptable. Her first week of kindergarten, she came home with an hour of homework every night, photo copies of the PARCC test  for her to fill out, and an ad nauseum regurgitation of letters that rendered homework a complete nightmare every single night. After three weeks of this, I timed her homework. It took one hour and fifteen minutes. I was done. DONE. The next morning, I told her teacher to expect her homework to routinely be returned incomplete. I was not going to subject my child to this at aged 5. The teacher, whose hands are tied thanks to the system, agreed wholeheartedly. Began talking about retiring after she warned me that the homework would only get worse after Christmas due to the EOC (End-of-Course) tests they’ll all face at the end of the year. What? The EOC for kindergarten is another set of tests – yes, I said ‘set’. The EOC for kindergarten comprises of 186 questions over the course of two weeks in May. So kindies all over the state in a public school are working solely towards this test. That’s just for math and english. Doesn’t include the tests for the other subjects!!!! Not only is this bad enough, but the tests counts for nothing for the students. It’s meant as a means of benchmarking the teachers. I happened to talk to my girl’s school principal early this week. He told me that he’s not even sure they’ll bother with the kindie EOC. He knows what his teachers are like. While the final decision hasn’t been made yet for her school (hers is a charter, so they are allowed more freedom than the standard public school), I’m going to have my ear to the ground just in case. Two weeks of testing is bad enough. Two weeks of testing that has zero merit for the child is downright ridiculous.

FSA
What time is this?

And this is just the beginning. Currently, all grades have EOC tests, and when you get to 3rd grade, you get to take the FSA (Florida Standards Assessment). Detailed info here. Initially, it doesn’t sound so bad. But then practice tests were sent home and the questions defy logic. For example, take a look at the clock. How are the hands positioned? Which is the hour and which is the minute hand?

FSA2
Answer this!

Maybe this question is better? What’s the answer??? Anyone? Anyone?  I’ll give you the answer below. When I say “answer,” I really mean I’m giving you the correct answer as designated by the test and by which the students are compared to. Expectations are that 70% of the students will fail this year. Who the hell approves and administers a testing system where 70% are expected to fail?? My hurricane is three years away from having to do the FSA but when the time comes, we know she’ll be opting out. We in no way wish to damage the school’s rating so we will follow very specific guidelines to achieve an NR2 score which will meet the minimum requirement of participation without any repercussions to the school from the district school board. There are so many examples of this test. It’s wrong. Just plainly wrong. So my obligation as a parent is to get involved. I am guilty of prior ignorance on this matter but now that I have a child in the education system, I’m listening. I really don’t like  what I am hearing. No more. I am writing this post because others may also not know about it and the more informed we are, the more we can become active, let voices be heard and stand up for our children. School isn’t school anymore, it’s a testing prep factory. And it’s time for that to end. Oh, and the answer to the question above is B. Did you get it right?

Adjusting to Kindergarten.

Our first week was rough. Rough on the teacher, rough on me and mostly rough on my 5-yr old hurricane.  If I could do over the week again, here’s one thing I would do.

Prepare: Prepare her and prepare me. I know that sounds like a no-brainer and I thought I was prepared, but I actually wasn’t.  I never realized that she would be moving throughout the school during the day or have different teachers (art, music, physical education, computer lab, as well as her main classroom teacher). I have no idea why I never thought to ask when we met Mrs.V. It’s no wonder my paroled mental patient became a nightmare when she had absolutely no idea what was going on. I knew there would be a new routine to learn, but I didn’t realize how varied it would be, and thus, didn’t tell her to expect different teachers. I’m positive they have different approaches or rules to add to her confusion, and when in doubt, defense is the best offense. So she rebelled. For three days.

Every day when I picked her up, I asked her how her day went. Last week’s verdicts:
Monday – “bad”
Tuesday – “bad”
Wednesday – “Ugh”
Thursday – “not too bad”
Friday – “a little good”

Today, she declared “tiring” and she looks tired. There was a struggle when it came time for homework (really, do kindergarteners need damn homework every single night???).

So here’s what I’d say to you – ask exactly what happens during the day. I asked and was told they would be doing art, music, etc, but I didn’t even imagine in my wildest dreams that they would move these little beings around the school as they do. Ask for a rough hourly schedule, even just for one day.  Do this before school starts so you don’t piss off the teacher when she’s wrestling a pack of wolves on the first week. That way, everyone is a little more prepared than we were.