Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My jaded view on gifting

I have become jaded about gift giving ( and truth be told, receiving). I used to love the idea of looking for a creative, thoughtful gift, hopefully at a bargain. When my kids started asking to get their friends Game Stop cards I resisted. With growing kids and the economy, I now embrace the gift list and the gift card. I don't try to be creative. I don't buy clothes for them because I *think* they will like them, I don't buy books I think they ought to read... I buy stuff on their wish lists and for my older two, Tracphone cards. The clothes get rejected and the books go unread. Same with my husband.
For years he wanted the board game Rune Wars. I finally got it for him last Christmas, despite the fact that it's $100 and I had no clue who he would play it with (in other words, I had no interest).  He got it out, and  played part of one game. Then he bought an Xbox, and for our anniversary I got him Skyrim. He IS enjoying it. He asked for a $100 Star Trek Xbox game for his birthday, but I don't see myself getting it ( especially since his birthday is Saturday and I refuse to pay extra to have things shipped faster ) . Given how the last $100 game went over, and that he is still so enamoured of Skyrim that he doesn't even bother to watch the DVDs he asked me to put on my Netflix queue for him, I'll wait until Christmas. (and drop"The Six Billion Dollar Man" to the bottom of my queue ).
I know that some people will think this makes me a bad person, because "it's the thought that counts". But I like neither to waste money on a gift- I want people to USE what I get them- nor to feel guilty if I don't enjoy the gift someone got me.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Speaking my father in law's funeral.

As I write this post, the funeral for my father in law has started. For those of you who know me only via the blogosphere, a few weeks ago my father in law had a stroke in his home. At 89 years old, he had been living in his house in the mountains since retirement.  Most of his contact with the outside world was the Sunday visit from my brother-in-law Mike, so we have no real way of knowing how long he lay there.
He also had very high prostrate cancer numbers. He was very clear about not wanting to linger in a broken body, and two weeks to the day after being admitted to the hospital, he died.
Making the decision about whether or not to go to his funeral was a struggle. My husband had gone and spent one of the two weeks he survived with him- he was there when it mattered. Two of our three kids said it would  "make them too sad" to go. And, the important thing to me, the funeral did not seem like a true memorial event.
My father in law lived a very isolated life. After his wife's death ( about 16 years ago) he pretty much stayed in his little hand built home in Sierra Nevada national Forest. For some manner of years he went down to town once a week for bowling, but eventually even that fell by the wayside. Then leaving to visit family, even. He belonged to no faith or fraternal organisation. He didn't get together with old work buddies.
His funeral is a short graveside service, performed by a total stranger from the funeral home, with no one but immediate family in attendance. As far as I know, there will be no reception.
My husband chose, as he did with his aunt's funeral, so send flowers. I also hope that I don't have to tell people not to send flowers to my funeral or grave. I would consider that a waste and would want them to spend that money fighting hunger and homelessness. Myself, I would have rather donated money to a charity. But I cannot think of one my father in law supported- I don't know, but this may be the flip side of his "make your own way" mindset. If my husband is any indication it probably is.
While I did not offer my husband my opinion and would have supported 100% and decision he made regarding going or not going, I find no meaning and only sadness in this. My father in law was beloved by his family, took care of his own, paid his own way, and lived and died om his own terms. Yet...I cannot imagine living my life in such a way that I gave so few people the opportunity to celebrate my life when it had passed. I know- or am quite sure- this level of isolation was his choice. Yet I hope when my end comes that the church is full, and loud, and there are wonderful chocolate things to eat afterwards. (I've also wished for years to have my memorial service end with a rousing sing-a-long to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" , but that may not work with the whole church service thing). I hope that when the time comes that someone speaks my death, that person will say I was well loved by many.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What's wrong with "substantially similar"

Quick recap, for those not familiar with me: I have been home  educating  my kids- 9th grade, 7th grade, and 4th grade- since day one, embracing the neo-classical schooling style. 5 years ago, when the youngest was in Kindergarten, I signed up with what is referred to as an ALE- Alternate Learning Environment; in our case, Columbia Virtual Academy . We've been with them since, and I have had a great relationship them. I have always felt supported in my educational choices and they have facilitated ME doing what I know works with MY kids, rather then telling me what to do.
Here's how it has worked; parents are connected to an advisory teacher, who works with parents to set educational goals that meet the family's needs while meeting state standards. parents can order curriculum that applies to those goals and is secular. They can also arrange payment for outside classes, usually in the areas of fine arts and PE. It's a great set up for the parent who is doing a schooly, non religious homeschooling experience, especially if they would like a break on karate or ballet.
Like many ALE parents I know, I signed up not so much to get books paid for, but classes (not paying for books IS great). Over the past couple of years, as the state has worked to balance the budget on the backs of our state's schoolchildren, the benefits to ALE parents have been cut. I'm really not at all worried about being able to keep ordering the curriculum I have been ordering all along. I teach in an academically rigorous, secular (except for Greek) fashion. The phrase that is going to hurt children in the end is "substantially similar".

This will mainly apply to outside classes; fine arts, PE, enrichment. Parents cannot apply to the ALE for payment of classes that are not substantially similar to those offered in public schools. This may sound great on the surface to those who envision ALE parents as free wheeling radical unschoolers who want the state to pay for their kids horseback riding lessons. This is an inaccurate stereotype, as  unschoolers  *generally* find ALE programmes are not compatible with their style, and most parents use more mundane classes. But what I want to address, and this is only my opinion, is the idea that ALE  students should have classes substantially similar to those in public schools.
They've got it backwards.
The state seems completely oblivious to the fact that in ALE s, they have a perfect opportunity to conduct research into improving education, not with models and predictions, but with real students. They can see what works small scale before trying it large scale. They can do it without paying analysts exorbitant amounts of money that should be going to the classrooms.
Do students who take piano lessons get higher math scores?
Do children who take ballet classes have better attention spans?
What about the test scores of students who have art classes?

What we really need is for public school students to start getting experiences substantially similar to the one independent  homeschooling  and ALE families provide their children.

I'd like to point out that this also applies to academics. It boggles my mind that our school district seems to spend thousands of dollars every few years trying to figure out why the test scores are so low, and what they can do to fix it.  Do they ever think to look at what the children who are not in public schools are taught? Just as an example: many homeschools and private schools use Saxon math. They tend to have higher test scores. Why don't more public schools use Saxon?
Some people think ALE parents want  special privileges for their kids; staying home while expecting the state to pay for whatever fun they want their kids to be able to do. For me, that couldn't be further from the truth. I believe every kid deserves access to the arts, dance, physical education that enriches their lives, and proven academics.