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Cross-posted at MotherTalkers.

Good morning fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

I am back with your weekly parenting news update. Thank you for reading and participating in this diary, which is in its sixth week of existence.

Here are some topics we recently discussed at MotherTalkers:

First, we had quite the discussion about "absentee grandmas" or as the New York Times crassly called them, "glam-mas." In this shallow "trend" story, the glam-mas are the grandmothers who are too involved with their careers and their own lives to help out with grandchildren. Not surprisingly, this story rubbed a lot of us the wrong way because it rarely mentioned grandpas and seemed to be another dig at women's choices like the media-concocted "mommy wars."

At the same time, many women at MotherTalkers, including myself, did recall our own relationships with our grandmothers and mourned that, due to jobs, distance and other factors, our children do not have the same bond with their grandparents. Are any of you grandparents? How do you strike a balance between living your own life and getting to know your grandchildren?

We also talked about homework as in does your child's teacher give too much of it or just the right amount? Thankfully, I am not in the homework phase yet because I keep hearing nightmare stories about kindergartners bringing home worksheets and elementary school kids with hours worth of work at night.

There was a lot of media coverage this week on President Obama's education speech before the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The media spin was that he emphasized merit pay for teachers and charter schools, which is at odds with the teachers union. As many moms on our site pointed out, the money the administration has promised to fund even the programs in place today may be a little too late. California has already laid off 26,000 teachers, according to a diary by MotherTalker "Jenyum." Also, some states like Illinois are receiving too many applications for teaching positions, according to the Chicago Tribune. A Chicago public school teacher lamented the pressure and lack of support for teachers in the classroom at Open Salon.

I don't need to tell you, but it is nasty out there. How are your schools dealing with the budget cuts?

In a quirky, must-read diary, one of our moms wrote about how much grief she received from a conservative-leaning online moms group for not teaching her preschool-aged daughter the "Pledge of Allegiance." Oy vey. My five-year-old still doesn't know his phone number. I have got to get cracking! That said, at MotherTalkers we got into a discussion on how much nationalistic pride to instill in our children.

Another one of our moms offered food shopping tips and even a recipe to weather this recession.

In related news, I know of three people who are in danger of losing their homes. You could say I was bummed this week. Anyways, they were considering "loan modification" and I found out that some of these private companies have sprung up in the last year to prey on desperate homeowners. Usually, they demand money upfront -- in my family member's case, the loan officer wanted $2,000 -- and then disappear. Please tell your loved ones to talk to their mortgage lenders for a lower interest rate or contact this organization instead: 1-888-995-HOPE or http://www.hopenow.com/... What other ideas do you have for people who may face foreclosure?

What else is in the news? What's up with you?

Originally posted to Elisa on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 07:56 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hello, (this is not the tip jar) (3+ / 0-)

    fellow Kossack Parents.  The 2 y.o. is Nemo obsessed these days.  Do you guys have any suggestions of favorite movies/videos for the little ones?  Our other favorite is Here Come The 123's (they Might Be Giants). Recommendations?  I have tried to keep the videos and such to a minimum, but I'm home alone with the boy quite a lot.  I've decided that in order to preserve my sanity (and get anything done around the house) I need to relax my standards a little.  

    "Intelligent minds believe only in lost causes, realizing that all others are merely effects." -e.e. cummings

    by Super Grover on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 08:09:33 AM PDT

  •  In case anyone missed it (4+ / 0-)

    Lou Dobbs take on Obama's education speech:

  •  On homework (4+ / 0-)

    I never thought it was too bad for my kids. For the most part it was almost none in grade school, around an hour a day (at the most) through middle school, but in high school there were the projects that required more time, and the AP classes often had an hour or so of work individually, which could add up to some marathons. To me the biggest thing was getting into the habit early of doing it right after school.

    •  Okay, I have a real beef about homework. In our (4+ / 0-)

      school district (which is a very good one), they have a policy beginning in 5th grade of giving 50% credit (which still translates as an "F") for late homework  (Not turning it in at all gets a zero).  My son (now in 7th grade) has ADHD and is profoundly disorganized, so while his homework is always done on time, about half the time it gets handed in late because he loses it or forgets to hand it in on the day it is due.  This means that he has between a C and D average (not that grades matter yet, but it makes him feel stupid) for work that is consistently A work in content.  

      We found out from a friend who teaches in Canada that there is a law in Ontario that requires academic assessment be graded separately from organization so that parents can see whether their child is actually having problems with the academic material or whether they are having problems with turning homework in on time and other issues of organization.  I'm not sure if this law extends all the way through high school, but it applies at least through middle school.  It frustrates me no end that our district does not have a policy like this as I know so many parents whose kids do the work but are not yet responsible enough to always get it in on time.  It seems to me that these problems should be graded and treated separately so kids get a more precise understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

      Am I over reacting?  Or, as the school seems to feel, would such a policy fail to teach kids the importance of deadlines and getting their work in on time (which I agree kids do, eventually, have to learn).

      Nothing amuses me more than the easy manner with which everybody settles the abundance of those who have a great deal less than themselves. --Jane Austen

      by feeny on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 09:42:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  How much have you asked the school for? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        feeny

        Shouldn't you be able to negotiate some exceptions because of his ADHD?  My parents were able to get that for my brother - mind you this was over a decade ago so I think the budget was better, etc...  Anyways, I like the idea of the two types of grades and perhaps they could do this for your son?

        •  I have been debating whether to ask them to write (0+ / 0-)

          this into his IEP, but I don't know whether it is possible and I just haven't been sure if it will make his disorganization even worse.   But I really don't like the current system.  It makes him feel like a failure when he is actually doing wonderfully on the academic work.  Thanks for confirming my sense that this might be worth asking for.  

          Now I have to brag--he just came home an hour ago with three second place medals from the regional Science Olympiad.  But what is his current grade in Science?  A "D+" from late work.

          Nothing amuses me more than the easy manner with which everybody settles the abundance of those who have a great deal less than themselves. --Jane Austen

          by feeny on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 04:34:09 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  We've had homework since first grade (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      thankgodforairamerica, dotalbon

      Even though it was "easy", the mechanics of getting it done often meant 2-3 hours that had to be shoehorned in between Monday night and Thursday night.

      It's a lot to ask of a six year old.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 10:37:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Kids in 1st grade (public school) and 5th/6th (3+ / 0-)

    (special ed)

    They both get HW, and it seems pretty appropriate to their levels.

    Our younger one got very lucky with his teacher this year - she's been doing it for 23 years and is still full of bounce and enthusiasm.

  •  A grandma here. (4+ / 0-)

    Three grandsons, all in different states.  Makes having any type of relationship very difficult, to say the least.

    I've lived in 20+ states, so my kids get the wanderlust honestly.  Eventually I hope to live near to at least one of them, but who knows.  I find I am not alone in this, either, amongst my circle of friends.

    I do manage a senior apartment building and several of my tenants have ended up here after age 70, to be closer to their children.  They are forming a relationship with grandchildren who are grown, but better late than never, I suppose.

    "But your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore"--Prine 4240+ dead Americans. Bring them home.

    by Miss Blue on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 08:24:45 AM PDT

    •  on grandchildren... (5+ / 0-)

      "better late than never." I completely agree.

      When my children were first born I would freak out that they didn't know their grandparents that well. But now that the fogginess and overwhelming feelings from the newborn phase is over, I know that they have the rest of their lives to get to know abuelo and abuela.

      I was very close to my paternal grandparents who were like another set of parents to me. And I really didn't get close to my maternal grandparents -- who lived in Puerto Rico -- until I was a teenager. We have an excellent relationship today and they even got to know my son when he was first born.

      But, yes, we live far from our parents so we have had to get creative so they can see their grandchildren. Video iChat is great, by the way.

    •  Not a grandma yet (3+ / 0-)

      but my girls (in their late 20s) say they will not have babies unless I live close by so I can help raise them.

      Growing up in Chicago, we lived in the upstairs of a two-flat and my grandparents lived downstairs. I would not have survived without them close by.

      Funny, after moving around the country, my girls are both now in Chicago and pressuring us to move there and buy a three-flat so we can all live together. I guess the multi-generational house is an idea that is coming back around. I wholeheartedly support it.

      They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself. - Andy Warhol

      by 1864 House on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 09:02:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  TV (4+ / 0-)

    I have a 15 month old and so far she doesn't just sit around and watch TV, even in the winter in chicago.  It has been very trying to keep her busy some days and TV would be easier.  TVe don't watch a lot ourselves except for keith and rachel and Bears and White Sox games so not much chance I guess.  I did put on Sesame Street last week while she was eating breakfast and she was immediately happy and interested.  Mostly with elmo.  How much or how little do you let your child watch?  Just wondering what is normal.  I feel guilty if I let her watch even 10 minutes so just looking for more info.

    •  Five kids here (4+ / 0-)

      When mine were little, the only shows I encouraged them to watch were Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers.

      It's really odd to see the appeal of Mr. Rogers to little kids.  As an adult, he seems so bland, boring.  But the little ones just are enraptured with him.  I found my kids more attentive to his show than even SS.  

      The kids also enjoyed Fraggle Rock and the Muppet Show.  I have purchased DVDs of all these shows for my grandkids.

      "But your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore"--Prine 4240+ dead Americans. Bring them home.

      by Miss Blue on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 08:34:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I hate to admit this (3+ / 0-)

        but I really got into Mr. Rogers, especially the puppets (King Friday the XIIIth, etc.).  

        When my kids got older we fell on the floor laughing at Pee-Wee's Playhouse.  I netflixed a couple of Pee-Wee DVD's recently and the show holds up really well.  Heartily recommended when your kids want to enjoy silly, rebellious comedy (and when they are a tad older, Marx Brothers movies fill the bill admirably).    

        Their cause, if they had one, is nothing to them now. They hate for hate's sake. (W.H. Auden)

        by dotalbon on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 09:03:07 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  i LOVE pee wee's playhouse (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dotalbon

          i used to tape it

          also that guy "hey vern!" had a kids show on saturday mornings, too.

          i taped it and brought it over to my then fiance's house and watched it w/ him and his brother.  i was crying i was laughing so hard, but they didn't think it was the least bit funny.

    •  My children have watched TV... (3+ / 0-)

      since they were babies or as soon as they showed interest. But initially, they would watch 10 minutes and then walk away.

      We definitely limit TV to no more than an hour a day, which comes out to two cartoon/Sesame Street episodes. Very rarely will they sit through a whole movie, although my 5-year-old has definitely watched the Star Wars trilogy more times than I'd like to admit.

      For him especially -- the two year old still doesn't watch a whole lot of TV -- we limit to an hour of screen time, which could be just TV or a combination of TV and video games. On Friday and Saturday nights, he is allowed to stay up and watch a whole movie or hours of TV. Usually, no more than three hours.

      Some days, when my husband and I are super busy, we do rely on the TV as babysitter. But if it feels like a lot, we'll turn it off and make him play outside instead. Or, pop in a CD and tell the kids to dance/play in their room.

    •  I have felt terribly (3+ / 0-)

      conflicted about this.  I wasn't planning to let my son watch TV at all until he was at least three.  But then reality got the better of me.  I'm home alone with him all weekend, and most nights. I now allow him to watch, at most, one movie (video) per day.  And generally that's more like every other day.  Most of the time that means he might watch something for 20-30 min. in the morning while I try to get something done, and maybe the rest of it in the evening.  I definitely have some guilt about it, but I'm trying to not be too hard on myself, and have realistic expectations of how much energy I have to be a good parent.  

      "Intelligent minds believe only in lost causes, realizing that all others are merely effects." -e.e. cummings

      by Super Grover on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 08:41:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yup... (5+ / 0-)

        This was one area I found myself eating my words after I had kids. I swore up and down my kids would not watch TV or I wouldn't use the TV as a babysitter. The reality is parenting also includes making dinner, washing the dishes, folding laundry, etc.. Someone or something has to watch the kids while you do those things.

      •  Don't feel bad (5+ / 0-)

        I was a horse trainer, so my kids were sitting in a playpen, in the middle of the arena, while I rode a horse seven days a week, lol.

        I never worried about how much time they watched tv, as we were outside doing things the vast majority of the time.

        All of the kids ended up being "jocks".  To this day, they are far more physically active then sedentary, and they are now 25-37 years old.  

        A couple of the boys went through serious D&D obsessions, then Atari and the rest of the video game things.  Now it's computers, Rock Band, and XBox.  But they are all still involved in sports.

        I truly think if we focus on encouraging as much physical activity as possible we don't have to worry about the TV/video game thing.

        "But your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore"--Prine 4240+ dead Americans. Bring them home.

        by Miss Blue on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 08:54:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  There is a big difference (3+ / 0-)

        between a young child watching TV for 20 or 30 minutes as part of an active, varied day, and being parked in front of it for 8-10 hours at a time.

        Any activity that a kid pursues to the exclusion of other healthy ones can be harmful.  But TV is especially pernicious because it puts brains into a totally passive state.  That's not a good place for any minds to be.    

        Their cause, if they had one, is nothing to them now. They hate for hate's sake. (W.H. Auden)

        by dotalbon on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 09:07:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  does your daughter watch keith too? (4+ / 0-)

      my daughter used to put on a tie and throw crumpled up paper and say she was keith olbermann- good night and good luck.

  •  Homework (5+ / 0-)

    We live in Toronto and our 4yo is in junior kindergarten, which lasts about 2.5 hours each school day.

    They have "homework," but it's based on getting them to read and draw a little picture.  It's also a nudge to parents/caregivers to read to/with their kid since part of the activity is to have the kid give a brief summary and say what they liked or didn't like, which involves the parent/caregiver scribing since they really can't write much at this age.

    It takes maybe five minutes to write what she says and, depending on how much she wants to color, another five or ten to make the picture.

    I know this is sig-line is too short, but I just wanted to get it out there

    by Michael James on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 08:38:46 AM PDT

  •  Wish me luck (7+ / 0-)

    Fellow parents. I am on my way to Disney on Ice with my daughter.

    Thanks for the parenting diary. My daughter will be 4 in May, and I have her in preschool now. She gets homework 2 x week and says the Pledge. I'm sorta ok with that, though it feels a little much. But she is the personality type that really seems to be thriving with it. Loves to "play school" even when she is home. I don't know if I'm doing it completely right, but I'm going off her cues at this point.

    President Obama. Yes We Did.

    by alkalinesky on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 08:44:48 AM PDT

  •  "Other." (6+ / 0-)

    No babies for me, but I love coming here on Saturdays and listening to stories of other people's family life with children -- and feeling grateful that all you good people are raising more Future Good People.  :)

  •  From equivalence to points to roots (4+ / 0-)

    I explain the math every eighth-grader is supposed to know while registering for high school.

    Starting this-coming Wednesday in The Tutoring Room.  Posted somewhere between 5:30 and 6:00 am Pacific time.

    The math every eighth-grader is supposed to know while registering for high school- this coming Wednesday's Tutoring Room.

    by algebrateacher on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 08:58:08 AM PDT

  •  Wow. (4+ / 0-)

    Your diary describes a full plate of issues.  I am a former high school science teacher who has "retired" from regular classroom work.  I have some messages for you.  They are friendly suggestions, but if you are an activist, there are some issues that you guys really need to push on.

    Get rid of local school boards and have your supers. report to the mayor or city manager.  Getting two-bit political wannabes out of the education business will do nothing but improve the situation.

    When all the data points to large classes being the major cause for below-average learning, why the heck do states and communities lay off teachers FIRST?  Shouldn't that be the last thing they do?  After all, how much is your child's education worth to you?  Can you and your friends afford private school for all eternity?  I didn't think so.  Neither did Thomas Jefferson.

    Push your kids' teachers to push them harder.  There is almost no such thing as too much homework - especially when the overcrowded classroom is spending so much time regulating behavior rather than hitting the curriculum.

    I have other diaries dedicated to public education.  You may find some items useful in your blog.

    "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

    by dolfin66 on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 09:39:39 AM PDT

    •  If you don't mind... (4+ / 0-)

      Could you cross-post your diaries at MotherTalkers? Education is a big topic for discussion at our site. Your insight as a teacher would be great.

      Also, do you have a blog? I can put you in my blogroll and regularly check you out that way. Thanks!

      •  I don't know how to do that... (0+ / 0-)

        cross-posting you ask for.  I only blog on DailyKos, but I wouldn't be against a group e-mailing discussion group.  Can you help me do what you want?  Can you find my old diaries under dolfin66?

        "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

        by dolfin66 on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 11:32:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I'm not sure how (3+ / 0-)

      having superintendents report to a mayor would make them less political. Perhaps you can explain that a bit more.

      (That said, there is no locally appropriate mayor for our school district.)

      Within California, I can only speak for the most local school districts, but here, our budgets two years ago were about 88% for staff. Thus,  a 10% and then 8% cut two years in a row inevitably mean that classroom people have to be laid off. There's literally no other way.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 10:13:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Perhaps (0+ / 0-)

        the superintendent would report to the governor's office, or a regional supervisor for rural districts.  The "other way" is for funding public education outside of the property tax miasma that afflicts most states.  I have some other thoughts about curriculum development on a larger scale than we currently perform.

        "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

        by dolfin66 on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 11:34:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh my (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dolfin66

          That would be far, far worse.

          For one thing, even though we are in Northern California, at about the same latitude as Sacramento, it is a three hour drive each way.

          For another thing, if anything, the Governator is our sworn enemy (if only he knew we existed), with little interest and/or understanding of the issues facing our tiny rural district. And certainly there would be no way to meet with him twice a month for a few hours each time to educate him, nor would he go off and do pro bono research projects, nor would he spend time meeting with the community or donate funds.

          Our local school board is really quite good, dedicated, and invested in the school, the community, and the kids. I would not change it, not at all.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 01:19:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Good for you. (0+ / 0-)

            It's too bad that:  (a) you have Terminator for a governor and (b) you have this tax problem that doesn't pay for all the services your children require.

            It is good that you live in this wonderful island in a sea of incompetence everywhere else.  Don't judge the rest of the country on your idyllic setup.  Go visit Colorado Springs or Austin or San Francisco or San Diego city schools.  Then venture into the dark miasma of the rust belt inner city schools.  Those are the places we are losing our country to the vagaries of neglect.  When you investigate those things, let's talk...

            "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

            by dolfin66 on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 04:04:06 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I have seen those (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dolfin66

              But similarly, don't assume that the miasma of incompetence extends everywhere as well. The reality is that within the public system are both the nation's worst schools and also some of the world's best schools, and we can learn from the good ones.

              The problems you have are not the problems everyone has. The problems we have are not the problems everyone has.

              I want to clarify something, which is that I don't mean to imply that the school itself is perfect - just that its governance is quite satisfactory, and that centralizing it would not be an improvement. Indeed, I think the true genius of American government isn't just the separation of powers into three federal branches, but the vertical separation as well, that leaves most people covered by local, state, and then federal government. It is this separation that gives the citizenry somewhere to seek redress always, even when a particular section becomes crazy or corrupt or difficult. Indeed, if someday our local entity became problematic, we could appeal to the state to bring it back into line. Combining those two pieces into one, would, IMHO, have a very negative effect for districts in California.

              The first thing we have to agree upon is that there isn't a one size fits all solution. Indeed, that's the reason I believe in public school choice - that local schools should have a chance to try different programs - even if it means a deviation from a national standard.

              For example, in our area we have a Waldorf charter school. I don't think it's the school for everyone, but the parents there quite like it, the kids seem to do well. It is also a haven for kids who for whatever reason are late readers. We also have dual immersion, independent study, and other options within the public system. It might be as simple as "my kid needs to be elsewhere" because she doesn't get along with a particular teacher or a particular group of kids.

              At the high school level, our local high school is very small - which gives the kids individual attention, but it also limits their opportunities for some kinds of activities or classes. I think it is valuable that people can choose between the small school - with its more family environment - and the larger school - with its array of AP classes, band, art, etc opportunities. Dividing the two schools in half and making them exactly alike would not be an improvement.

              I went to a large public school in Southern California, and I am from a family of teachers, so I've seen a pretty broad range of the educational experience, but it's also become apparent to me that there is a great deal of difference, state by state, city by city. Some of that difference is bad, but not all of it.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 10:15:48 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  We are getting to a talking point. (0+ / 0-)

                O.K.  We're getting to it.  I'm suggesting that we have national standards for ALL schools in the subjects everyone needs:  language, science, math and social understanding.  Kids need to be able to communicate so that someone from Mississippi can understand someone from Maine and vice-versa.  Kids need to understand the sciences such that they know where all the energy comes from and why it's important to all living things to mind the Earth's ability to sustain life.  Kids need to be able to make change, balance a checkbook and do simple value analysis.  Kids need to know how government works and the struggles we've endured as a nation to give them the opportunities they want.  I'm not talking about a cookie cutter society.  I'm actually talking about making our society as flexible as possible because our children are sufficiently educated such they can choose whatever specialty they want and do something with it.  This idea will also ensure something of a level playing field for idea and job competition to say nothing of competing with the rest of the world.  The student choice of electives remains the domain of local control.

                We are doing such a lousy job, irrespective of the "best" schools, at teaching that basic knowledge base that even our best and brightest are not that competitive with the rest of the world.  It's a relative thing, here.  Our standards our so wildly variable from one place to another, that a kid who gets "As" in Alabama doesn't understand why they're flunking out of Penn State.

                Let's keep this going.  we're making progress.

                "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

                by dolfin66 on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 11:07:48 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  As I said in TK's diary today (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  dolfin66

                  I think national standards can work, but I would want them to be terminal standards, mostly, measuring but with less emphasis on the lower grades: let the local teachers work out the paths to get their students to the final end point rather than micromanaging where they should be in second grade.

                  And stop using the test scores as a club. If your test scores are lower because you're teaching math or language or science or music or art earlier, that's good with me.

                  I think on many things, we quite agree as to where we want the kids to end up, but we're relating our different experiences to each other, which will only make both of us stronger advocates for better end results. :-)

                  Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                  by elfling on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 01:01:00 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  That can't be bad. (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    elfling

                    I don't like standardized testing either as a club.  I think we, as a nation, have been quite careless in assessing our childrens' learning and progress.  

                    A parallel topic:  After teaching 9th grade science for a couple years here in Texas, I was appalled at the lack of basic science understanding most of the kids had - even the good students.  The kids told me that their middle school science teachers were mostly coaches and offered no preparation for labs or activities.  When they showed videos, there were no notes required and no follow-up application or discussion of what the video showed.  It was basically a teacher's day off.  Then I interviewed some elementary school teachers and was told that they barely teach any science at all.  Why?  "Well.  You only have to have one, 3-hour, non-lab science class on your transcript to earn your elementary teaching degree in Texas.  So, most of us just turn our science requirements into an art project."  After I picked myself up off the floor I had this hollow, hopeless feeling that I still carry.

                    The fact was that the state of Texas just plain didn't care about science education.  I fight that bias constantly in my writing and thinking.

                    "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

                    by dolfin66 on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 04:03:44 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  We are very fortunate (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      dolfin66

                      and it's apparent to me that many years of hiring committees have made strong science and math a priority for the elementary school hires. Our most mathy teacher is (surprisingly) the first grade teacher, and she is quite mathy and a lovely lady. She gets the kids off to a strong start.

                      Even in science, I've been pleasantly surprised. My daughter's kindergarten class did a science project with plants, drawing them every few days and measuring the projects. I know I didn't do anything that sophisticated when I was in elementary school, and the kids had a lot of fun with it.

                      That said, my elementary school experience was much like you describe, and extremely weak in science especially. I really value the staff we have, and I know how bloody rare it is to find someone with the patience and interest to teach 6 and 7 year olds who also loves math and science and who is willing to work for table scraps. I do everything I can to help support them.

                      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

                      by elfling on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 06:36:19 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Indeed you are. (0+ / 0-)

                        I've learned that every operating philosophy here in the south stems from the ultra-conservative wing of evangelical Christianity.  The majority of the people here believe as truth anything the preachers tell them and turn it into policy.  Science, of course, scare the daylights out of these folks because, I think, they're terrified that they might be wrong.

                        That said, I want you to know that I don't have a beef with religion, but with churches and their leaders who make stuff up as they go and try to consolidate power using the fear/guilt trip.  That stuff simply destroys intellect and pure thought.

                        I had great elementary teachers also; I also had the best math teachers one could imagine...and they were all women!  Maybe that's why I got more out of my golf lessons from women pros than I did from the men.

                        Have a great week.

                        "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

                        by dolfin66 on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 06:58:08 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

    •  I also disagree (4+ / 0-)

      on the homework.

      Some homework is time consuming and dulling, like rewriting sentences with the correct punctuation. There's value in it, in developing handwriting and in getting a chance to see the punctuation, but it would take her a lot of time and not necessarily be the best use of that time. And, since it's dull and we're talking first-second grade, she needed me hovering over her to complete it.

      For example, instead she could be doing gymnastics, which has developed her work ethic. We could read a book. We could do a jigsaw puzzle of a map of Europe. We could make origami. She could draw pictures.

      I like the more creative homework, like writing a story or making up sentences with spelling words. That provides more opportunities for our homework help to be interactive ("Let's make up the silliest sentences we can think of!")  while still developing many of the same skills. But even then, the amount needs to be calibrated so that the child can complete it successfully each week, even if that week relatives were visiting, or the child was sick (and came home and fell right asleep), or the parents went to a school board meeting, and still participate in an after school activity.

      What you don't want to teach the kids is that homework is boring and that you can't possibly complete it all, so why bother.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 10:22:22 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We don't disagree. (0+ / 0-)

        I just didn't know that the quality of the homework you were talking about was so poorly crafted.  What you describe as interactive homework is part of the art of teaching.  There often isn't enough "collegial" discussion between teacher and parent.  After all, you're both raising the child, aren't you?  Maybe parents like you could help shape what your teachers do and have your kids enjoy learning more.  Any teacher worth their salt will know exactly what to do withing the context of a flexibly designed lesson to accommodate every kids' needs.  That's TEACHING 101.

        "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

        by dolfin66 on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 11:38:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I quite like our teachers (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dolfin66

          I think they feel pressured to provide more homework by people who say "HIGHER STANDARDS MORE HOMEWORK" and I think it's not always obvious to the teacher how it goes at home.

          You may not have meant it this way, but words like "There is almost no such thing as too much homework" are part of what I see creating the problem - the wrong people hear it much louder than the people who need to hear it do. (Also, I would say that the academic research disputes that it has much positive effect, particularly for the younger kids.)

          It's a challenge to provide the right balance of what each kid needs, what's fair, giving enough practice to kids who need practice, enough challenge to kids who need challenge, and figuring out how that should fit into the rest of their lives.

          If you look at a very typical family schedule, with parents home at 6, dinner, and bedtime at 8:30, the window for doing homework is vanishingly small on a typical weeknight. And, the time might be better spent developing more practical knowledge (which also ties back to academic skills), like feeding the animals, or tending the garden, or learning to cook.

          Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

          by elfling on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 01:34:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I understand all that... (0+ / 0-)

            and the homework statement was predicated on the dilution of good classroom time for high stakes testing and other distractions.  We teachers all understand what your working day is about.  We are the only industrialized nation that puts their children in school for less than 200 days per year.  Yet we cover them up with extra-curricular demands, a way too wide series of "choices" and not nearly enough time in the books.

            How would you like to be a history teacher for the last 30 years.  What would you leave out today?  How would you think that would alter the student's view of our history since 1979?  Has anything happened since then of note?  It's the same with science.  Science is leaping forward in great bounds, yet we continue to overpopulate our classrooms, remain behind the competitive curve of class time and pay our teachers crap wages.  

            My points pertain to a paradigm shift of significant magnitude to actually prepare our children for this world market that the financial geniuses of the last 20 years have put upon us.  Do we adapt, or do we go the way of the Roman empire?  You might think this is hyperbole, but look again.

            I love this dialogue.  It's a long time overdue.

            "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

            by dolfin66 on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 04:00:01 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I had a great example of the history issue (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              dolfin66

              about a year ago, when I went to testify before the Assembly with the school principal about some legislation.

              #1 on their agenda was a bill about adding the history of the Hmong and their role in the Vietnam war to the curriculum. (The room was packed with Hmong in their old uniforms.)

              Now, I'm sympathetic, but as I said to our HS principal, when I took history in the '80s, we didn't even COVER the Vietnam war. We ran out of time at about 1950. Today's teachers have to cover 50 more years - out of about 250 - that's 20% more history in the same amount of  time. How do they do that?

              The principal just shrugged and said they do the best they can.

              One of the people on the committee essentially said, "I have much respect for the Hmong, but I am reluctant to micromanage the curriculum. If I vote for you, what will I say to the next group who comes in here wanting to have their story told?"

              I thought he was speaking rhetorically.

              Nope, on that very day's agenda were three more similar requests, just as worthy.

              Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

              by elfling on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 09:31:28 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It's a far-reaching problem. (0+ / 0-)

                If each American history teacher, faced with this dilemma, left out certain parts of our history based on that teacher's bias, some kids will end up not knowing that there was slavery, a war between the states, world wars, a civil rights movement, a depression, etc.  Each district must be struggling mightily with what to omit.  I don't know how you would do that.  We talked about homework before.  Could homework possibly supplement this information gap?  I don't think so.  We MUST have our children in school for more than 180 days per year.  It's that simple.  When I taught biology, the entire first semester was committed to cell biology and genetics.  With that, I barely had time to cover it all.  We just have to keep up with the rest of the world.

                "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

                by dolfin66 on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 10:56:44 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

    •  Replacing one group of "two bit polical wannabes" (4+ / 0-)

      with another is not going to solve any problems. When my daughter started school I got involved, ran for the Board of our pre K-12 district and won. I have successfully encouraged more parents to run. As a result, 4 of our 5 board members have children attending school in our district.

      Unlike many districts in California, we did not send any pink slips out on Friday. Part of the reason was our creation of an emergency fund to cover short falls.

      The current trend of blaming educations woes on bad teachers is one that I find alarming and wrong headed. The problem, I believe, is high stakes testing and state developed curriculum.

      If you buy a car that is a lemon that can't be fixed, it's not bad mechanics, it's bad designers.

      The narrower a man's mind, the broader his statements. - Charles Dickens

      by hideinplainsight on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 10:36:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  today's teachers (3+ / 0-)

        Are being asked to deliver a car with a flat tire from Sacramento to San Diego... and when, 15 hours later, they manage to arrive, we yell at them for being late, and tell them that as punishment, next year they'll have to do it with two flat tires, until they can make the trip in 8 hours. Oh, and no speeding.

        Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

        by elfling on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 10:51:54 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well,... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hideinplainsight

          if we just keep laying off teachers, we won't have to worry about that, will we?  We can just let those idealistic, Beaver Cleaver mommies and daddies teach their children everything they'll need to know at home or send them to a private school where our fellow republicans will teach them everything they should know to become good, lockstep republicans.  

          I hope you see this as an obvious ironic rant.  I've been on this blog too long today.

          "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

          by dolfin66 on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 11:47:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I see you've met (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            hideinplainsight, dolfin66

            The republican delegation in California.

            (Or maybe you have their doppelgangers in Texas.)

            One reason we like having local control is that it gives us some ability to fight back, though in the end they can starve us out if they really try.

            Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

            by elfling on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 01:37:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  What a sorrowful mess. (0+ / 0-)

              We continue to do everything we can, it seems, to deprive our children of their future.  It makes me sick.

              "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

              by dolfin66 on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 03:52:02 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

      •  I respectfully... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        hideinplainsight

        disagree with a couple of your points, though I sympathize with your situation in California.  On the other hand, high stakes testing is a disaster and nothing more than a politically motivated waste of time, money and resources.

        I also agree that state developed curriculum isn't a high enough organizational level.  We should have NATIONAL standards so that our entire nation can produce children from EVERY state that are competitive with one another.  I live in Texas and our children are being denied a competitive education by politicians who, for reasons known only to themselves, do everything to thwart educational excellence.  You name it:  high stakes testing that costs $100 million per year and shows no real improvements in knowledge.  Evangelically sponsored movements against science including textbook selection are just a couple issues here.  

        Anyway, I hope you'll read some of my other diaries on public education.

        "Have a beginner's mind at all times, for a beginner knows nothing and learns all while a sophisticate knows all and learns nothing." - Suzuki

        by dolfin66 on Sat Mar 14, 2009 at 11:44:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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