Two Comments on Homeschooling: And my response

The negative comments:

“I think that it takes a great person to homeschool their kids, althouh some problems is that the kids dont get to socilize the way most kids do and i think that that is a very important thing but most homeschooled kids are very talented and smart. Overall I think that the decision should me made by the child that you are going to homeschool, because it would be very hard for a child to miss important events in their life as a child by being homeschooled and i think that that choice should be made by the child itself.”

“I have to say that you are doing a totally wrong thing to homeschool your kids, Your kids will become totally unsocial and will not be able to cope with anyone, what are you going to do about that, miss. knowitall, come on, you are permanetley damaging your frikin kids, you are being a very bad bad bad mother to your children. You are so ssefish trying to manage this on your own so you can see your kids more, i mean come on i would get so so so frikin tiredof seeing you that much, you are so so so selfish i think that you should reconsider what you are taking from your childs lives. Please stp being a bitch.”

To commenter number one:

I doubt that most children know much about what their options are when they are young. If they've only met homeschooled children, than why would they consider public school? If all their friends are going to public school, why are they going to choose homeschooling? I went out once with a guy who sold marijuana to elementary kids so that they could make their own decisions about illegal drugs. I never went out with him again. Some decisions are too important to leave to a child. Should I let my child decide if they will run out in the street? Should I let them decide if they will eat healthy food? Should I let them decide if they are going to wear clean clothes, get their teeth cleaned, wear their glasses? It is part of my job as a parent to make decisions for my child. I want to make the best decisions I can.

What important events will a child miss by being homeschooled? I did not go to prom. (The drug seller asked me to. I said no.) My school did not have homecoming at the time. 20+ years later it does, but not then. They'll miss their 20th reunion. But they'll see their classmates at every family get together.

To commenter number two:

You are rude. However, I will assume there is a modicum of thought behind your diatribe and respond despite the abusive language.

People often mention the socialization of children as a major lack in homeschooling. However, it is very seldom mentioned by anyone who knows homeschoolers well. Homeschoolers participate in sports, have clubs, go to the Y, have organizations, go to church. They are socialized often and by diverse groups of people. Often more diverse than can be found in a public school in their area. But a better question might be–what kind of socialization is best for children? Public schools were started to keep children off the streets so their parents could work. Not exactly a high bar. And the socialization the school provides is one of socialization of peers. Peers who do drugs, drink, can't speak without profanity, find schoolwork a useless exercise, despise authority. Do I want my children socialized by those people? Or do I want my children socialized among people of all ages who have had diverse life experiences and have come to define their lives by positives?

I am not saying there are not hardworking, responsible, kind children in public schools. (After all I went there once and I must be, or think I am, a paragon of virtue.) I am saying that they are not the only children. There are others who think it is great fun to pick on someone because they are different, who hit and kick and place the blame elsewhere. I've seen the adults in the public school world dodge responsibility as well. In eighth grade a girl slugged me across the face. I was sent to the principal's office. “We're afraid to send her and someone has to go.”

Yes, my sons will have to learn to deal with the “real world.” But for right now, the “real world” can bedoing soccer at the Y, taking tutoring classes, going to church, and hanging out at home. It's their real world.

And who is better able to deal with the world of bullies and liars and creeps, someone who has a solid foundation and is sure of their parents' concern for their wellbeing or a child who goes to school to be picked on by students and ignored by teachers?

Homeschooling: Comments and teachers

I have found that most negative homeschooling comments are written by people who haven't ever interacted with homeschoolers. But it isn't always true.

My parents still feel that my sons, though brilliant and well-educated, should be in public school so they won't miss the experience. Yes, the experience of a first grade teacher who is drunk most of the year and marks all your answers correct, when they aren't. (Like my sister Jeanna's.) The experience of a seventh grade math teacher who doesn't like you and so, despite high grades in math, won't approve you to take the algebra pre-test and you end up spending a year in math doing art projects, because you've done all the work by the second week. (Mine.) The experience of a first grade teacher who makes fun of you for your accent and won't allow you to ask questions in class. (My son's one venture out of homeschooling.)

I had some great teachers. An eighth grade history teacher who made American history come alive. A seventh grade science teacher who got me interested in almost all facets of science. A ninth grade social studies teacher who taught me poetry, working hard, and making a difference. A ninth and eleventh grade English teacher who nurtured my talents even when we didn't agree with each other.

But most of my teachers were neither awful nor inspiring.

My sons' teacher, however, can be both. Ask them. “It's fun.” “It's easy.” “It's hard.” “It's too much work.” From the same kids about the same classes.

This originally started out to be a post about the comments. It got off track. I'll do better in the next one.

Blogging Comments

I read all the comments on my site. Recently a few people decided to use the comments feature as an “ichat” forum. Apparently they don't have instant messaging, so they commented back and forth to each other. I removed 33 such comments from a single blog.

I do not mind if you disagree with me, as long as you are polite. But my blog is here to talk about things I want to talk about.

Vacation

Have you ever wanted to get away from it all? Just head out on a cruise, or a drive, or hide in a hotel without giving anyone your phone number?

I've felt that way recently. Unfortunately, like most of us, I can't simply run away. I have responsibilities, work and family, and I have neither the time nor the money for a cruise or a hotel. Even a drive is out, unless it is short.

Today I got a drive and felt like I got away from it all. I taught this morning. Big shock. I teach every Saturday morning. However, my Saturday morning classes are starting to feel more like time off than work (see earlier rants on HS teaching for why). Then I went home. Tried to get the family moving, but we have a new XBox. Eventually, though, we went to lunch at Chili's.

After that we took a 45 minute drive north, through scenic piney woods Texas (no, that is not sarcasm), and went to Huntsville. While Huntsville is known for its prisons, it is also home to Sam Houston State University and was once the home of Sam Houston, Hero of the Battle of San Jacinto. My youngest is doing a report on him. We went to the Steamboat, the home where he died, and saw his “law office” where he kept his books and thought about what laws he should vote for as a US Senator.

My husband did an amazing job filming M's comments in front of various buildings. Then we came home. Instead of playing Halo all night, R went up and worked on editing the film. It looks good, but I know this teacher is picky. When she said 5 minutes, she meant she wanted 5 minutes of him talking. R's going to have to do a voice over or something, because he edited out the whole interview on San Jacinto.

I did not work on the film. I read six magazines from the last two months, four Houston Chronicles from this week, and watched four HGTV shows that I hadn't seen yet.

I feel like I have had a break. No responsibilities and lots of fun. Thanks, R, for my holiday.

Happy, happy birthday darling

Today is my youngest's 11th birthday. I remember his birth like it was 11 years ago and very traumatic.

Graphic description follows.

Star Trek TNG was on and I didn't want to watch it. I was in the hospital, for the fifth week, because he kept trying to show up early. (It was five weeks before his due date, by this point.) I told my husband, “I think my water's fixing to break.” Hubby said, “You can't know that.” Two minutes later it did. But it didn't dribble or drip, it exploded all over the wall, along with about four pints of blood.

Hubby ran to get the nurse who started wiping the blood of my toes. (Very strange.) They gave me a sedative. I was asking, “Are you sure you want me to take this?” (I'm thinking emergency C-section with a sedative in my blood stream.) They say yes. I take it. Ten minutes later I throw it and the three french fries I've managed to eat up. Thank God. Because they couldn't get the contractions stopped.

My MD was out of town for the first and only time in a year. So her partner showed up. Well and good but we lived in a very small town and I'm supposed to have two doctors. The only other one available is the one I chose not to be my OBGyn. (Thankfully he's still good.)

I feel bad. I'm hurting. I thought I was trying to crawl out of bed, but apparently that was a pain induced hallucination. My husband said I did everything they told me.

I did keep saying, “You are going to tie my tubes, aren't you?”

I lost one third of my blood. (Less than the previous pregnancy/emergency C-section.) But when they cut me open, they couldn't get the baby out. His head was lodged up between my ribs. So one doctor is leaning on my chest while the other is sticking his hand as far inside my body as it will go, trying to get around the baby's head so they can pull him down.

He's without oxygen for 11 minutes. He's black. He's not breathing. He's five weeks early and last time they tested (five days earlier on Monday), his lungs were insufficiently developed to breathe on his own anyway. The nearest children's hospital is three hours away by car.

They resucitate him. He's such an interesting case they have all the med students and nurses come in to watch.

When they show me a picture of him, to let me know he is all right, he is orange with bruises, covered in bandages and vaseline. That doesn't look all right to me.

But he is 11 now. He's sweet, cute, and smart. I'm waiting for the soon-to-come day when he changes into a preteen, but right now he's mostly still an enjoyable kid. I'm so glad we didn't lose him. He's made life much more interesting, from before his birth.

Black truck drivers

By that I mean drivers of black trucks… My hubby always said it costs you 10 IQ points to drive a truck. I'm thinking it must cost a lot more to drive a black truck.

Today, in less than a mile, I saw three drivers of black trucks do the stupid. #1 turned on a left protected green. Then he decided he wanted to go straight, so he stopped in the middle of the intersection until the light turned yellow. Then he pulled into the straight lane.

#2 went up to a red light, turned left onto a two-way road and then turned left again. I think the second left actually had a green light, but the first one didn't.

#3 was when I was leaving a store, less than half a mile up the road from #2. I should have pulled out behind a black truck, but I thought 'No way, not today.' Black truck drivers are being idiots. So I went to the next opening to pull out. I watched the driver pull out in front of two cars and then “whip” into the other lane at less than half the speed limit, while the people in both lanes applied their brakes. Then he turned left. I'm surprised someone didn't get rear-ended.

Saw the driver of a black car pull a stupid later on, much farther away. My kids decided that black must be a cursed color. Glad I never owned a black vehicle. But my older son came up with a better idea. He says all drivers of black vehicles are really aliens who have kidnapped the original drivers and haven't yet learned our driving rules. I told him I liked that idea. Better stupid aliens than stupid people.

Exams

Midterms are next week. I had my students take home short answer or essay questions. I've already had people say they did them. One guy said it took him three hours. I wasn't expecting it to take that long!!! E- took it and spent less than an hour on it. Maybe if the students do well I should count it as homework and as midterm.

In class they will be taking grammar and vocab tests in both classes. My older classes will also have lecture note tests. I think overall they will do okay on them. I would like them to be done early so we could grade them in class, but I am not expecting that. Actually, I have planned the younger class will finish, so I guess I could have them grade their own. Then they would know what they made.

I am thinking that for their midterm report card the only thing they will get is a letter grade. I'll have to find out what everyone else is doing. The head really likes consistency between/among the teachers. It would be easier to just write A, rather than 91 or 97 or whatever. But, a B (80 or 89) might matter to someone. Actually, it probably matters to all of them. I'll just go with what I have to do.

Working

In high school classes I have to teach literature and writing, on top of vocabulary and grammar. They are mostly doing the vocab work themselves. And I will confess that my explanations of grammar are not the best. I have never needed to figure out all those things and it's been thirty years almost since I studied them myself. I know them, but it's more of an intuitive knowledge. Of course, I have a lot to say about writing, but I have to teach the curriculum I have been given. I am slowly figuring out how to adapt it to what I want to be able to do with it, but it is a very slow process. The curriculum teaches writing as a product, with a minimal process. That's not how to get good papers, though. You need a much more developed process.

I am still dealing with the fall out from the poorly prepared literature project. One of the better students has decided it is not worth her effort to even attempt to finish the work. It's twenty percent of the grade and will bring her down to a B, even if she aces the midterm. She says she doesn't care. Not only does she not plan on working on it, she doesn't intend to do the next project either. You know, I can see not wanting to do something because you don't like it or disagree with it or whatever. But just deciding to skip 20% of your grade on a whim is a bit immature.

The grading for those classes is heavy. I grade in class and out of class work. They grade their quizzes and I record the grades, but overall I am doing a lot of grading.

I am really enjoying my younger class. In that class I have five students that I already knew and loved. But I have a bunch of new kids who are a lot of fun, too. There is one student in that class with whom I am often exasperated. She sits through the whole class sighing about how she didn't get the information written down. Even when she did. And she doesn't believe me when I tell her she did. I understand her perfectionism, but her whininess is annoying. I think I need to talk to her personally outside of class. (joy.)

I've spent four hours today grading papers from my older classes. They had some good work, but they didn't follow directions or they didn't follow through with the same quality. There were lots of B's, three C's, and a D. I guess that means there were 14 B's. No, I had one A. So 13 B's.

When I look at their papers, at first glance, they look very good. Some of them have a very mature writing style, well-developed with a rich vocabulary. But they misspell words, don't put quotations around story titles, forgot part of the assignment… The writing curriculum has two major stylistic components. Most people missed at least one of them in the paper. I am going to ask them to re-write them. The problem with that is that I won't have all their grades then for that section. They will do better if they re-write it before the mid-term, but I didn't put that in their homework assignments. If I add it, they aren't going to be too happy. Plus it makes me look even more scatter brained than I am.

I think I will offer it as an alternative. “You don't have to rewrite these, but some of them were so good, with just a few easily fixed problems, that I will re-grade them if you decide you want to re-write them.” That should make both my perfectionists happy, because they can fix their papers, and my lazy kids happy, because they don't have to.

Testing

Today I did an hour and a half prep for the PSAT and SAT. I covered critical reading, which is half the verbal test for SAT and more than a third of the PSAT. Next Friday I have the same amount of time to cover analogies and sentence completions. I am going to have to speed it up somehow.

I have 15 students in the class and we are going over this material very quickly.

I wish I could have them go take practice tests, but I don't have the time or authority. So we are going to have to go with what I can do.

I have a total of three hours to cover all this stuff and let them take practice sections. I guess I will just have to divide sentence completions and analogies and cover them in half an hour each and then let them take a practice section.

High school reunion

First off, it's not mine. It is my husband's. He's been very nervous about it, even having a few mild nightmares. I decided that it didn't matter if I didn't know anyone. I was going to meet people and talk to them. Make it my job for the evening. I had to make a choice to do that, though, because I am not a party girl. I like being in charge and in control, so public speaking is fine. But parties have too many random elements and I tend to freeze up when I don't know what to do.

Last night was a get together at a blues bar in the area. We've never been but have thought about going since we bought a book that gives discounts for restaurants and there is one with the same name. I don't think we realized the bar and the cafe were different.

The party was supposed to start at 7 so we arrived about 7:15, not wanting to be first. We were. We weren't the first there, but we were the first to actually go in the building. It was weird. I thought if something started at 7 that's when you're supposed to be there. But church here and in Austin is like that. Maybe I missed the part where they tell you in middle school that you aren't supposed to show up on time to parties.

There were three women outside when we got there who were part of the reunion. One of them looked nice. Upon perusal, she looked REALLY nice. She was showing off her belly and arms and had a nice tan. When you're almost 40 you can't do that without looking good. She did.

There were two guys who came in right after we did. One of them looked at me as if they were trying to decide if they knew me, so I figured they were part of the High School reunion. Sure enough they were.

I was surprised how far some people came from. There were several folks from California, including one of LA's finest. There was a guy from Oregon. Several from Louisiana. (Which is about two hours away, and then however long to their cities.) One couple came from Dallas, but I know they came just to escape the kids for the weekend! They have three under 4 years old. Ouch.

I heard some of those stories you expect from high school, pimento cheese sandwiches and 42 beers throwing up on people. But mostly people were doing the general intro of “who you are, where are you now, what are you doing there.”

My hubby's best bud was there. He just would go out of his way not to tell people he was a doctor. I think that's silly. It's not bragging if it's what you do.

R-s work buddy had said there were a lot of divorcees on the prowl at his 20th. If they were at this party, they weren't obvious. Of course, I'm an old lady, so we left about 10:30. Maybe they came after that.

I did see one guy who was scouting. But he was very personable and didn't come on too strongly. Of course, I did mention my husband fairly quickly in the discussion.

There was one woman who kept backing away from the guy talking to her. He was trying to get close enough to hear, because she is very quiet. But she would take a step back everytime he leaned forward. Eventually she ended up backed up to a table and he could get close enough to hear her. He was still about 18 inches from her, so I'm wondering if she had some trauma that she was trying to make it farther apart.

I met a guy who wanted to impress people. He lives next door to the pool, has a 3000 square foot house, and his own company. That's okay. I could tell he was a bit nervous. But mostly I was thrilled to meet people who still live here or who live here again.

More later.

Second Reunion party: Saturday

Last night we had the second party for my husband's 20th High school reunion. It was held at the Houston Club. There was a great Ferrari with a US Navy tag in the parking lot.

There were 125 graduates, most with spouses, some with babies.

Tonight's festivities included name tags with black and white copies of senior photos and a book with “what you been doing” info and more recent pictures. That was cool. You could talk to someone and then go read their bio, or vice versa.

About an hour after we got there I was bored. I didn't know anyone and I hadn't geared up for R- wandering off to take pictures of everyone. I wanted to just go hide, or go to sleep, but I didn't. I sat at the table for a while and then I got up and started looking for couples who were standing by themselves. Then I would go introduce myself and chat with them for a while.

The highlight of my husband's night was when K- told him that she remembered him that he had been “smart and nice.” (He's still smart and nice, in case you wondered.) He was floored/thrilled. Someone remembered him! And remembered him positively! He did not remember her. He said he might have had a crush on her though. Being nice was as forward as he got when he liked someone. But I also know that he has always been fairly polite, so even if he didn't have a crush on her, he would have been nice.

We were talking with D- when my husband said S- had been very nice. “But she was always nice. Even in high school.” I asked who S- was. He pointed her out. “She was a cheerleader.”

R- went to do something else and I went looking for S-. “Are you S-?” I asked, because she was NOT wearing a nametag. She said yes. I said, “You don't know me, but I wanted to tell you…” Then I told her that R- said she was nice to him that evening, but that she had always been nice. “I remember R-,” she said. “He was a gentleman.” (R- swears she only remembers him from Saturday night. I tend to agree. He was not one of the in crowd by any stretch of the imagination.) Anyway, I told her and she said thank you. She hugged me. She said thank you. She hugged me again. “Everyone always assumes you're a bitch (if you're a cheerleader). You made my night.” She hugged me again. “You have a pretty special husband.” (She's right about that.)

I met L- because she had a great purse she'd made for the reunion. It said, “Retired and loving it.” She said I was the only person to notice the purse and she thanked me for noticing. She and her husband are living in New York now. That's a long travel distance for a reunion in Texas. They like it, she said, but it's not Texas and they would like to come home, but the work is there, not here.

Several couples have been trying to have kids and haven't managed it. Some are still trying. Some have given up. One woman has 22 and 27 year old stepchildren.

I don't think anyone else was homeschooling, but some had thought about it.

Interesting factoids:

Average marriage length = 13 years

Percentage in first marriage = 73%

Largest number of children = 6

Longest marriage = 17 years

Newlyweds in class= 2

The bar started running out of beer at 11. At 11:30 they stopped the music and told us to get lost. No one was really ready to go. Twenty years and we only had about four hours.

Dressing the part

I am wearing my emeralds, a carat and half ring, and a carat each earrings and necklace. While no where near as flashy as the jewelry from last night, they are nice. (Not the jewelry I wore. The other people's jewelry.)

I am wearing a classic black sheath with three inch heels and wrap around straps. My make-up is well done. My husband says my hair is “more poofy” than it was last night. Considering my hair is almost straight I think that's a bit funny. I'm wearing some very exotic undies, but those won't be on public display.

We're on our way out the door.

Homework

I teach an 8/9 grade class and a 10/11/12 grade class. As the year started out, they were getting about half an hour of homework twice a week. (We only meet twice a week.) Of course, the slower students are probably spending an hour doing the work each time. But my class is a tutoring session. They're supposed to be doing some work at home. I have stepped up the homework assignments and am now told my homework may be too much. (Three hours a week total.)

According to this Plastic article, with some very interesting comments, my students should be getting between 80 minutes and 2 hours a week of homework. Originally when I was hired, the head said the students should do one hour out of class for each hour in class. But when I spoke to her on Tuesday she said it was too much.

I guess I should work on getting somewhere between what I was doing and what I am requiring now.

Of course, next weekend my students have two essays, take home mid-term. If I was them I'd spend eight hours on each of them. But I'm figuring at the most they'll spend two hours. (Some of my students will spend too much time on them, but not most.) Probably a good amount of time would be an hour and a half to two hours for each essay. So next weekend I am planning on them doing MORE homework, not less.

Here's a student's view of teachers and homework.

This article from Cinncinnati, Ohio gives the parent's view. I will say, for my case, that I am NOT supposed to be teaching them everything they need to know. I have tried to introduce everything and have been told I am “doing too much in class.”

The UK recommendations say 30 minutes of homework a day. Is that per class? If so, then they're basically recommending 30 minutes per week per class. Forget that. Most students can take that long to find the assignment and get out a writing utensil.

This Juneau, Alaska blog is an interesting one. Especially since I was talking with a woman whose friend is married, with a baby, and is 19. The girl's husband is 16. His mother says she is NOT going to push her younger children through school quickly. Look what happened to her older son.

Presently Reading

I have not been reading much besides school stuff for the last seven weeks since school was getting started. I almost thought I was sick, but then I remembered how busy I am.

However, I have made my bed for the last four days in a row (something that hadn't happened since August 25) and I am reading.

I am reading The Book of Heroic Failures by Stephen Pile.

I am also reading The Silver Gryphon a sci fi anthology by Golden Gryphon Press celebrating their 25th book, I think. Has some fascinating stuff and some boring stuff. If you liked the lady who writes about Dr. Seuss's company in the future (can't recall her name), she has a story in there. It's pretty lame, but it is a story.

And I began reading and finished reading, both today, Jean Fritz's Make Way for Sam Houston. I enjoyed hearing about how he ended up married three times. I was worrying about that for a while. It was interesting to read that a minister refused to baptize him because he was a sinner. (Guess Jesus only came to seek and save the saved or something.)

My son has to do a report, including an AV presentation, on Sam Houston. The whole thing is due on October 13. But there was a book report due at the same time, so he started on that first. Turns out she changed the date for that. Now we really need to get on the ball and get working on his report. Since we don't live too far from Huntsville I am hoping that we can go up to the steamboat house and do video footage there. Even if we wrote a script and my son read over the footage, it could be really fun. For all of us, I think. Work for my husband, to edit the tape, though.

Friday Post a picture of your cat day

I have no cat. I don't know how to post pictures. But tomorrow is post a picture of your cat day in the blogo-sphere. I'll be looking for cats tomorrow.

Accordion Guy decided it should be and I'm not opposed. I will probably bug my geek husband to help me. I want a cat just like the cat that we named Flower after the skunk on Bambi. Long hair, gray and white. I'll have to look.