Oh, that’s right! I have a blog! August 29, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in family, grad school, older son, personal, work, younger son.
Tags: dissertation, older son, school, work, younger son
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Summer, at least the social construct of summer, officially comes to a close this weekend for most people. The younger son has been in school for a week, and I’m scratching my head, wondering where the time went. It was the summer of “the best laid plans of mice and men,” if you get my drift.
I did accomplish a lot at work. However, shifting deadlines there required I push off other stuff. In response to that, I decided to take some time off and get caught up on some of those other things, which will be easier now that the younger offspring is busy plodding through the halls of a reputable educational institution rather than ones created in Minecraft. I have a couple weeks of crunching numbers at home before going back to work to do it.
The other thing that will help is that the older offspring has decided that his odd work schedule really isn’t doable, despite a serious effort on his part. I am relieved because I seem to be getting more sleep again, which has made me a saner, kinder, and more productive human being. Also, I appreciate being able to form a coherent sentence…
I hate to say it, but I’m glad school has started again. I usually love summer, but I’m very glad to have a routine and time to work on my own stuff back.
How was your summer?
If you send your kid to public school, you’re a dunce September 1, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in education, homeschooling, societal commentary.
Tags: education, homeschooling, public schools, school, stupid
That’s a strong statement, calling someone a dunce because they allow their children to go to a school that’s provided for free and, in most cases, even required by law. Why would anyone say that? I’m not sure, but it was about as useful as the title of an article on Slate: “If you send your kid to private school, you are a bad person.” Generalizations are, in general, pointless things, and they aren’t much better as titles.
The article itself, however, was downright appalling. The author, Allison Benedikt, starts out by saying:
I am not an education policy wonk: I’m just judgmental.
That’s probably the only point in the whole article I can agree with. The whole thing was a judgemental screed against people who don’t send their kids to public schools. None of it was backed up with evidence or even anything remotely resembling solid reasoning. She discusses the fact that she attended public schools, and after reading her complete inability to form a cohesive argument, I dare say she made me even more convinced that our public schools have gone down the tubes.
She did have some reasons for her premise that those of us who send our kids to private schools are bad people. She starts by saying that if everyone would send their kids to public school, they would improve…it would just take ‘a generation or two’. You see, those of us who have the means to send our kids to private school are just supposed to sacrifice our kids’ and grandkids’ educational needs to meet some utopian goal that has a small likelihood of occurring. It apparently never occurred to her that she has made exactly the wrong argument to these people: people who send their kids to private schools may have several reasons for doing so, but I would guess that the main three are going to be that they strongly value education, they strongly value the ethical systems taught at some of these schools, and they are worried about what I would generally call ‘status issues’ (things like who their kids hang out with and perception of their families). Does she really think that parents who are that concerned about one or more of these three things is really willing to ‘sacrifice’ their kids? That’s the whole reason they’ve elected to go with private schools to begin with: the sacrifice of large sums of money is less important than the sacrifice of their kids’ education (and the things that go along with it). However, Benedikt wipes these issues away and says they’re not compelling. She started her whole argument by finding the most compelling way to isolate her audience.
In fact, she starts belittling education and claiming that you really don’t need those things. She is a perfect example, apparently, because her parents sent her to school and really didn’t care about those things. That is quite obvious given her line of reasoning…and, as I said above, compels me to want to send my kid to private school even more.
Benedikt says school is really about is interaction with other people. I won’t disagree that a large part of school is socialization, but I, of course, don’t buy this argument as I’ve written before about how public school is actually generally worse than options like homeschool when it comes to socialization. Throwing together a lot of immature people to learn socialization from each other results in, surprise surprise, lots of immature people. More adult interaction with those adults role-modeling mature behavior is a far better socialization system than the one present in most public schools. Again, this is actually an argument against the public schools, in my opinion.
Finally, Benedikt says that if only we redirected our private school endeavors to public schools, that would make everything better. Here, I can only assume she is incredibly naive on so many levels.
I will start by saying that I don’t hate the public schools. The notion of free education available for everyone is most definitely a public good and vital to maintaining democracy. However, I think that our public schools have some major problems. As the political right wing says, they don’t work to educate children. The structure is set up for teachers, not for students. As the left wing says, they are underfunded and undervalued. I think both sides have very valid arguments. Schools have, for generations, taught children using the least effective methods, mostly by people who aren’t well-educated themselves (particularly in the grade school years). They have a better handle on crowd control than educational psychology. On the other hand, they have to because of they way the public school system ties the hands of teachers.
There are so many educational reforms that would make the schools *work* but people are not interested in trying them out or are scared that it may affect their job security. Or they are just apathetic about education. I’m not talking about things like vouchers or charter schools. I mean things like making grade levels fluid, getting rid of grades, making the classroom a place where students are leading their learning and teachers are facilitators. The notion of allowing children to excel in areas of interest and take more time in areas of difficulty is almost heresy. In other words, what schools ought to be are places where kids really learn, where interaction provides useful feedback about knowledge and behavior, and where you’re not locked into doing something simply because of how old you are. Education needs to be tailored to the individual student because teaching to the average is useless for everyone.
These are the kinds of reforms that would bring parents back from the private schools. Simply saying that the schools would be better if all parents sent their kids to public school is naive, at best. It is as blind a solution to the problem as just shoving more money to the schools, privatizing schools, or forcing kids to pray in school. Almost every reform out there is completely blind to the fact that we are using teaching methods that actually fail to education children. If you don’t change our fundamental assumptions about how to educate students, you’re not going to get any different results.
I will say that I agree that it’s sad not more people take an interest in seeing public education thrive. However, part of the reason is that the way public education is conducted is virtually set in stone. It takes a divine act for most places to change even the smallest things. Too often, school teachers don’t have the time or knowledge to deal with individual students’ issues and the parent of such children is viewed as an enemy combatant. My choice as a parent then becomes whether I want to devote my time to change the outcome for my individual child through whatever means I have (for instance, by homeschooling or sending to private school) or continuously shoving an immovable object. If I had left either of my kids in public school, I wouldn’t have fought harder…I would have quit because of the futility in trying to work with most teachers and administrators who have no interest in seeing the system change.
Stupid school year August 20, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in education, Fargo, personal, teaching.
Tags: celiacs, health, running, school, teaching
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I may be in the minority, but I really, really hate the fact that school starts here this week. I’m of the opinion that school should not start before Labor Day and should not go past Memorial Day.
Part of me would like to say that this dampens my productivity, but I’m not entirely convinced of that. I think it just lowers my stress-level to not have to worry about running kids around while teaching and trying to get some research done. I just hate being tired all the time.
Another reason I’m tired is that I’m still not running. I apparently had tendonitis in my foot, and most likely there was no sprain. I’m getting lots of ultrasound and massage treatment. It seems to have improved a lot, and in a couple weeks, I’ll have some new custom orthotics for my running shoes. Then I’ll get to start running again. This is good because aside from helping me from feeling so run down all the time, it does a lot to keep my mood up. I’ve been grumpy for about two months now.
I’m also getting used to being gluten free. It’s not all that bad, but I still can’t eat things with lots of fructose or lactose. Those problems should hopefully disappear as my insides heal up. I just wish I weren’t so hungry all the time.
But in the meantime, I better get finished with tomorrow’s class prep.
I. Don’t. Have. Aspergers. April 8, 2012Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, older son, personal, societal commentary.
Tags: Aspergers, Aspie, diagnosis, education, school
Today, I came across this post talking about expression of Asperger’s in women.
I have to admit that I’m understanding how my son felt in school. When he was in 6th grade, the school decided to do an evaluation and said he was Aspie. The whole thing was rather traumatizing for him. He talked about how the school psychologist talked to him like he was a toddler, using small words in a loud voice. It was very patronizing. He started calling her the psychopath-ologist. The next year, the ‘diagnosis’ followed him to the gifted school he attended. I talked him into going along with it because there was help with social skills and things that he really did need some help with. He said he was okay with getting the help. However, he did keep insisting he wasn’t Aspie, and the teachers kept saying that his refusal to accept would make it hard for him to adjust.
Here’s the problem: he’s not Aspie. When he was 4, this first came up. I took him to out of town to two researchers who specialize in Asperger’s to have him examined. Nope, not Aspie, they both said. However, it’s obvious he’s probably gifted. It was at this point that giftedness could probably be problematic in a normal classroom.
Given my history with the public schools as a child, this had never been a blip on my radar. I constantly had problems, but very often I and my parents chalked this up to the fact that we were pretty much considered ‘poor white trash’. Now I can look back and see how that perception along with my very visual approach to things confluenced to make school hell for me.
But as an adult, I keep seeing things about Aspergers. And people keep saying my son is Aspie. And I suspect people think I’m Aspie. And I’m not. I simply am not. I am amazed at how many traits of Asperger’s are also present in the gifted, and given my experience with my son, I’m sure that there are a ton of kids out there who are being misdiagnosed as Aspie when, in reality, they’re perfectly normal…for gifted kids.
I know people who have kids who are Aspie, and I understand it’s hard to deal with. However, I am getting really tired of this ‘medicalization’ of a gift or a personality type or whatever you want to call it. The problem with calling gifted kids Aspies because they may show some of the same traits is that those labels become a capsule to describe the student. So-and-so is an Aspie, and so every thing they do that seems off or quirky or different becomes a sign of their disability: there is something WRONG with them. How many times do people look at these kids and say it’s a sign they’re brilliant? In my experience, almost never. By the time older son was finished with sixth grade, the fact that he had a college-level vocabulary was being used as a sign that he had a disability, and the psychopath-ologist was claiming he was actually hyperlexic. His English teacher, who at the beginning of the year was saying she thought he was a very bright boy, suddenly said he didn’t seem gifted when asked by the psychologist.
I don’t have any issues with parents of Aspie kids, or even Aspies themselves. However, I am really sick of how society seems to have taken a hold of this ‘diagnosis’ and turned it into a way to categorize anyone who is socially awkward, shy, or quirky. For a lot of kids, all of their gifts and abilities are now being viewed as some sort of dysfunction that falls under the category of Aspie.
And it’s not just kids. I’ve seen this and experienced it as an adult. Maybe I tend to fixate on things, but I need to do that to solve difficult problems. Maybe I feel things more strongly, but why is that a sign of Asperger’s instead of Dabrowski’s Excitabilities? Why are all these things viewed as a problem rather than a sign of uniqueness and intelligence? I know a lot of people view the label as a way to better understand those who are different, but it also seems like a way to write them and their gifts off as an oddity.
Completely stunned August 24, 2011Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, math, younger son.
Tags: gifted, math, school, younger son
We were anticipating some issues with the younger boy starting school this year. Primarily, we have a problem: he’s already 2 years ahead in math. He’s been working through Stanford’s EPGY math program, somewhat irregularly over the summer, and he’s managed to move that far ahead. This has been kind of a surprise because he initially didn’t seem to be that gifted in math.
We decided to sit down with the principal and his new teacher and talk to them about alternatives. At first, it was fairly obvious they wanted him to be doing math with the other kids but then to add enrichment or even to go to another class. The problem is that he’s doing well with the EPGY program, so we’re very reluctant to end that. He also seems to be going at a much faster pace than we expected. Even now that he’s nearly two years ahead, he’s still only spent about 3 months to do about a year’s worth of math. Putting him in an advanced classroom that still moves at a slower pace is probably not going to be good for him.
We went in, hoping that they’d be okay with us giving him other things to do during math time. They didn’t seem real keen on the idea, and we were really reluctant to try to have him do two sets of math each day…one at a lower level or slower pace and then an additional one that’s right for him.
When it was obvious they didn’t like the ideas we suggested, I just sat there and waited for them to come up with something. Finally, the principal said he’d be willing to help supervise him in doing some sort of independent study project of his choosing during math time.
I just about keeled over.
We went from them not wanting to pull him of math to do something else to them being willing to let him do his own independent study project?!
The principal apparently used to supervise kids where they did this type of project-based learning, and I get the feeling he misses it. And I think this would be something the younger boy would love to do.
So, despite the fact that I was feeling very uneasy about what was going to happen, I think we hit the jackpot.
The silver lining August 22, 2011Posted by mareserinitatis in family, teaching.
Tags: school, summer
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It’s the first day of school, and I’ve already seen the NDSU shuttle moving around campus. Classes don’t start until this afternoon here, and the local elementary and high schools start at various points later in the week. Unless, of course, you go across the river to Minnesota, where they start the day after Labor Day.
I really don’t like it when school starts. Primarily, I don’t like dealing with homework for the kids. The older one doesn’t like to do homework, which means I have to
nag remind him, which also means he doesn’t do it until I get home. The younger one has typically been in daycare during the afternoons, so that means he doesn’t do his until I get home (with him). In either case, this means I spend evenings helping kids with homework while Mike is trying to do housework (or vice versa).
I’m changing my schedule so that we can get this stuff done earlier in the day and kids (and myself) get to bed at a reasonable time. In that way, I’m glad that school is starting. While there’s no homework in summer, there is a bit of difficulty keeping a schedule…especially when the sun is coming up around 5 a.m. and not going down until nearly 10 p.m. I think being on a schedule keeps life a bit more in balance and helps with productivity. On the other hand, I hate having every moment of my life down on a calendar, which is what I have to do to keep track of my own activities as well as that of three other people and a few fuzzy creatures.
Another event of mixed happiness and sadness is that we’ll be returning PicoPig this week. While I really think she’s cute and wonderful, I also discovered that I have a serious allergy to timothy hay. I’ll be glad not to have to do any more cage cleaning, but I’ll miss her burbling and, especially, her purring trill when I pet her.
The math critic June 9, 2011Posted by mareserinitatis in education, math, teaching, younger son.
Tags: curriculum, EPGY, everyday mathematics, math, school
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The private school that my younger son attends uses the same math program as the Fargo Public Schools. It’s a program called Everyday Math. During the last few months, after my son switched to the school, he was actually using two math programs: the one at school as well as Stanford’s EPGY online math program.
In discussing how to move forward with the boy’s academics, my husband and I have been very impressed with the EPGY program as well as the younger son’s attitude toward it.
The school, of course, would really rather he stay in the classroom and maybe go to an upper-level classroom for his math instruction. When we were looking at options, I told the principal that I didn’t really like Everyday Math. Admittedly, I haven’t seen a lot of the program, but what I have seen bugs me.
About the time Fargo adopted the program, I was starting to homeschool the older boy. I didn’t look into the program because I’d heard it wasn’t the best. Instead, I chose to use Singapore math for the math component of his homeschooling education. That was a few years ago, so I knew that I didn’t particularly like the program, but I didn’t have any specific objections.
Before school ended, the school principal handed me a copy of the state math standards. I’m guessing he is worried I think the program doesn’t teach to the standards or that I think they aren’t following the standards – or maybe even that I don’t realize there are standards.
Since this conversation took place, I’ve spent some time researching Everyday Mathematics, and I’m now even more convinced that this is not a program I want my son using. (A good starting point is this page.)
Unlike a lot of the objections, I don’t think constructivist math is bad. The fact that they teach alternative algorithms is great. (I personally am a huge fan of lattice multiplication, and even though I don’t use it myself, my older son uses it unfailingly.) I think that learning to explore and play with math is a good thing. My objection is that it doesn’t have the kind of implementation that Singapore has. There doesn’t seem to be a logical flow, there is no textbook, and it does omit teaching some things that I DO think are important (like that pesky long division).
Let’s face it: my objection is that any math program, no matter how well written, will suffer if the person teaching it doesn’t have a decent background in math, and most elementary school teachers do not. Making a student rely solely on a teacher presentation because there is no textbook will certainly spell disaster for some students. If a student doesn’t understand during the presentation, they don’t have much recourse…and the methods used are not ones that most parents have grown up with, leaving them unable to help much.
Second, Singapore has a great progression, allowing kids to see how the concepts are connected, building from previous material. This isn’t strictly going from one concept to another, but within a concept, moving from concrete examples to abstract application. It also teaches the use of mental math – which basically means one uses shortcuts or handy rules that can be used once there is already an understanding of the concepts. This is how I view long division, and that’s why it’s a shame it isn’t taught. The algorithms presented in Everyday Mathematics may be useful as teaching the concept, but they’re, in many cases, very impractical for everyday use.
Finally, there is the jumping around. Repetition and cycling are not inherently bad things, but they can be done without a seemingly random approach. In fact, it’s much better if they’re not done randomly. The best way to retain knowledge is to attach it to something you’ve learned before. That is, it’s best to have a point of reference. By randomly approaching the topics that need to be addressed, they’re removing the foundation and sense of connectedness that should be present in a well-taught mathematics curriculum.
Those are my objections, at least. I’m not sure how to approach this with the school, or whether I even should. I am considering seeing if they have some sort of curriculum committee where I could be involved. I’m also contemplating letting the principal know that there is a lot of controversy surrounding this curriculum, including extremely poor evaluations in other states like California and Texas. I feel fortunate that we have good reason to keep my son on the EPGY program, but I feel bad for the other kids who are learning math in such a haphazard way.
He’s not as smart as his brother… March 4, 2011Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, older son, younger son.
Tags: emotional sensitivity, gifted, perfectionism, school
I’ve been living with an illusion for the past six years that was pretty much shattered recently. Having an illusion or misconception shatter is both good and terrifying.
Older boy and younger boy are, in terms of personality, like night and day. The older boy likes to say he broke the mold. The younger boy once was very puzzled by this, responding, “There’s no mold inside MY body!”
The older boy is the quiet, isolated, brilliant, and frustrated type. I think he’s an artist at heart, and though we try, there’s so much depth, I doubt I’ll ever understand entirely how he’s feeling or what he’s thinking. The younger boy is the social, loving, empathetic, athletic type. He wears his heart on his sleeve, and usually that heart is joyful.
Both were IQ tested. The older boy showed up at a level I call “scary smart”, but at least he wasn’t “terrifyingly smart”. These terms are not supposed to mean the kids are scary, but that parenting a kid like this can be scary. And it’s worse when you throw learning disabilities into the mix.
Given the huge number of difficulties we had with the older boy even before school, I was so relieved to get the younger boy’s IQ test back. One of my first thoughts was, “Thank goodness he’s not as smart as his brother.”
It was pretty naive of me to think this. But there were other differences. He had never really had serious problems getting along with other kids. His daycare and preschool providers always talked about him as a sweet, sensitive boy. This was a huge contrast to what his brother went through, so I kept thinking that he was going to be my “easy kid”.
Maybe even normal.
And he is my easy kid, but even easy kids have problems. I shouldn’t have been so complacent: starting elementary school caused all of the difficulties to start coming to the surface. How many stories have I read about gifted children starting school, and *BAM!* the formerly pleasant, bright child turns into a puddle of tears?
To be fair, I was aware it was happening. When you wake up a child in the morning, and the first thing he does is cry because he has to go to school, you know there’s a problem. Or when he says his teachers don’t like him. Or that school is too hard.
I kept trying to discuss the issue with the school principal and the oft unavailable teacher. When my husband hit his breaking point, she finally told us that he had shut down and was pretty much refusing to talk with her.
I’m sitting here, puzzled why she didn’t tell us this when it first started. I got comments like, “He’s wandering around the room, not working.” I was never told that he was flat out refusing. And I can’t figure out why she would wait weeks or months until teacher conferences to tell us that.
The breaking point was the comment: “Your son probably needs special ed or to be diagnosed with something.” There is nothing that will make a parent see red faster than that statement, especially when they know their kid inside and out, when one of them is an educator, when they’ve dealt with a whole slew of doctors and diagnoses because of a previous child. And when they are absolutely certain that the one and only thing that is wrong is the child’s very low self-concept.
It has been obvious that the younger child was a perfectionist from day one. We have tried very hard to reassure him that we really just want him to try. At four years old, he would fly into howling fits because he couldn’t manipulate Legos the same way his significantly older brother could. He sometimes dreads going to his favorite athletic activity because there is one single exercise he couldn’t do well. He refused to read books to anyone but me because, in his words, “I can’t read.”
It’s typical for a kid who suffers from asynchronous development. A kid whose mind is, even at this young age, a few years ahead of his body is going to be easily frustrated because of his awareness of what he can’t do. The fact that he is very capable for his age isn’t even on his radar. It’s even worse that he idolizes his brother, who is nearly a decade older than him. He thinks he should be able to do everything as well as his brother, which is completely unrealistic but which he’s too young to really understand.
A child like this needs encouragement to just try, to be recognized for effort, not for achievement. Unfortunately, his teacher apparently didn’t understand that. She would complain about half-finished work, wouldn’t accept anything unless it was done, would seldom give him positive comments unless it was…you guessed it…perfect.
Putting him with that teacher was like water on an electrical fire.
So I’m facing that fact that my “easy kid” may still be easy relative to his brother at this age, but that he’s still different enough to have problems that the average or even average gifted kid will not. He’s going to be a handful for a teacher who is not used to dealing with his issues. I think that he will still be easier than his brother because the biggest issue will be finding a teacher who has the right kind of nurturing personality. But, like his brother, he broke the mold.
Fed up with homework January 30, 2011Posted by mareserinitatis in education, societal commentary, teaching, younger son.
Tags: homework, school
I’m not fed up with my own homework. (I’m pretty much past that stage, thank goodness.) I’m fed up with the fact that the younger boy, who in first grade, is being given homework.
You know, that stuff that has shown to be absolutely useless for elementary age children?
Every weekend, we get a packet of homework. I’ve had to come up with reverse psychology measures to induce him to complete these. One of the most sure-fire ways is to start doing it for him, but make sure I’m reading aloud the problems because he’s probably hiding somewhere near by. I also read the wrong answers that I’m putting down.
I know he hates it when things are wrong, so he eventually feels the need to come over and correct my erroneous answers. He laughs at me because I can’t figure out his homework when it’s so easy. Then he whips through it in about 15 minutes or so.
That’s the thing that gets me: it’s easy for him. But he hates doing it with a passion. In the past year, I’ve been seeing my fun, easy-going boy turn into a stress bomb.
The kids are also supposed to be doing book reports – two a month. The handbook says that parents are supposed to be helping and that they need to be either neatly written or done on a word processor. However, on the last one, the teacher said that he needed to hand write his book reports now because she wants him to practice his handwriting. (And believe me, it’s really not that bad.)
A six-year-old is now supposed to spend time writing out paragraphs by hand?
As you may have guessed based on what I’ve already written, this caused a horrid reaction. After spending the afternoon attempting to coax him, listen to him crying, seeing him scared to come near me lest I force him to sit down with a pen and paper, I’ve given up. For the rest of the year. Maybe the next one, too. I’ve wasted too many weekends coercing my child to do something I thought was ridiculous rather than enjoying our time together doing something fun.
I am not going to make a first-grader hand write a book report. My husband didn’t even know how to read or write when he entered first grade. Neither of us recalls doing anything as extensive as a book report until at least third grade. And when we did them, we were given papers that prompted us to fill in particular information. We had to write one or two sentences at most.
And you know what? It obviously didn’t hurt either one of us to wait that long.
I’m in favor of challenging children…when it’s developmentally appropriate. I know that my son is physically and mentally able to perform these tasks. However, he’s not emotionally ready, and I think pushing this on a kid this young is doing more damage than good. There are so many other ways to learn at this age that are fun and just as educational.