Welcome to my little ol' blog. I'll be upfront about it: I don't blog very often any more. If you found your way here because you read my book "Trailer Life," have a gander! But it's easier to keep up with me on Instagram or on my Facebook page. I have this long, drawn out theory on why I'm a terrible blogger, but that is a story for another day. Enjoy the ramblings of my life from the last 8 years or so.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Norma Wright Mayhall- My grandma.

This is my grandma. My kids call her Granny. She passed away yesterday after a brief spell of health problems...three days! That's pretty good, considering her hope was always that she would go quickly, and not need to burden anyone with care. Two weeks ago today, I sat with her in the ER. She was retaining a lot of fluid and couldn't move herself around. We went to the dr. first, and then across the street to the ER. She was good, as long as she didn't have to move. We talked about the interesting people there. And oh boy, were they interesting. We had a really great nurse named Cayli who let us wait in the ER hallway instead of the crazy waiting room. We had Rosie the phlebotomist take her bloodwork...and she was the best I've ever seen. Except for the one guy who no longer works at PAL on Calloway...they were equal in skill. We sat there waiting for a bed so she could get faster working meds to drain out the fluid, and we watched a scary looking guy (who we thought only had one eye) walk in and out of his room, asking for more pain meds. I secretly nicknamed him "The Leprechaun," but don't tell him that. He looked like a very tall leprechaun with flaming red hair that was bald on top, and a red beard...and a squinty eye. He made me a little nervous, but I'm all paranoid that way. We observed all the different types of shoes people wear. I told her not to worry about her bed not being made, because she was worried about that. She stayed in the hospital a week, getting her electrolytes all balanced, and her excess fluid gone. She came home on Monday, was at her house on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday my mom called her and asked her if she needed anything from the store. When my mom got there with her milk and candy bar, she was having a stroke. Off to the ER she went, where the kids and I went down to visit her that night. She looked good! Tired, but good. Michael and I talked to her about taking care of the genealogy records, how we would digitize them and pass copies out to everyone. I told her another Ed story (her favorite stories...she just laughs and laughs). She ate a ton of food for dinner. We left. Kacy didn't get to see her though because she was at Camp Keep. The next day, she went home, and April texted me and told me when she went to see her that she didn't expect to see a zombie. Our granny was fading fast! She lasted three days after. My mom texted me at 10:46 that she had died. I was playing the piano for our primary program and didn't have my phone with me until about an hour later. I am happy for her, though. My grandma had quite the adventurous life, and she had a particularly rough go of things awhile back. You see, in the course of a year, her sister, brother, husband, and BFF from high school all passed away. She struggled with that a bit for a few years, and then resolved herself to referring to them as ignorant for leaving her behind. She was funny that way. She had a firm sense of the gospel and what was to come after death, and she wasn't at all scared to go. There really is nothing to be sad about...unless I am selfish. Which I am. Today I will take the time to mourn for myself, because I will miss her until I see her again.

I hate crying, but I get all teary eyed and snot faced when I think I won't see her again for a long time. I became very close to her over the last decade of my life. My kids are upset...I know that if they cry for her, I will join right in with them. (I hate that!) Anyways, I think we are going to have a celebration of her life. We are having a graveside service, which is what she wanted. But I think the kids and I are going to go grab some candy corn, circus peanuts, Eggo waffles, and some diet pepsi. 

Things I will always remember about my grandma:
*her love of sugar was unequaled by many. Until she had to monitor her blood sugar, lost weight, and then ate in in "moderation." Lol- moderation. That's funny. She switched from regular pepsi to diet. Problem solved!

*Candy corn, sugar wafers, circus peanuts, freezer jam.

*wearing colanders on her head on her way out to the raspberry patch.

*saying things like, "It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick," "If it was a snake it would've bit you," and "This too, shall pass."

*calling people ignorant. Except it sounded like "Ignernt."

*saying "carn" instead of "corn", and "Rut beer" instead of "root beer"

*her calm demeanor at all times, only showing some anxiety in the last month or so of her life. 

*her love of travelling and her family.

*her love of the city of San Francisco. (She hasn't been there in a really long time...and she lived there in the 1940's. Met my grandpa there. [In a bar.])

*her storied of riding her friends horse to 4-H and being bucked off every time you touched his flank...and having to walk home.

*she was bit by a rattlesnake on the knee once as a little girl, and she stayed at the doctors house for three weeks, making friends with the dog.

*her love of small, bugged eyed dogs. Like Chihuahuas and Wienie dogs. She liked all dogs, actually. She would always ask about the kids and then about my dogs.

*crossword puzzles...the more the better!

*playing cards.

*See's candy Bridge mix. (more sugar and chocolate!)

*Her love of Cadillacs. 

*She taught me the basics of sewing.

*She had a weird sense of color matching. Yes, it was weird. Like, legendary weird.

*She liked to gather the family together and play board games...but really I think the card games and board games were used as an excuse to bring out the crazies in all of us, and we would just end up laughing WAY TOO HARD at ourselves (and each other).

*her love of trinkets. Shopping with her killed me...because we were so opposite. She loved to look at EVERYTHING and loved to shop. I hate shopping. We still did it, though! 

*she was a good secret keeper.

*she knew when to say something, and when not to. Something I need to work on.

*she loved music. Even when I played her a new song from my iPhone, she loved it, and thought is was the funniest song. I'll admit I hand chose it for her: it is "Family Reunion" by Corb Lund. I knew she would get it. And she totally did.

*her love of Ed. She loved all her family, but she got a real kick out of Ed. Jessie reminded her of herself, I think, being the youngest girls with two older brothers and an older sister. While her brother would put her on top of the chicken coop and then leave her, Jessie's older brothers put her on top of the cement mixer and left her. Ed makes for really great stories, and she always loved to hear his antics. She thought Kacy was so beautiful and smart, and that Will was smarter than us all (bad grades and all) and loved his curly hair.

*I will remember some good road trips I took with my grandpa and her. 

*she loved her genealogy work, and could tell you all you needed to know about every fifth cousin you ever had. Which is awesome, by the way. Sometimes overwhelming, but awesome. 

She is the most awesome grandma ever...so funny. I'm glad my kids were old enough to know her. I hope that by writing these things down, they will also remember her. 

Norma Wright Mayhall
09-07-1923 to 10-27-3013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Awesome Night's Sleep

Alright. So I'm not all daisies in the spring time, documenting only the insanely brilliant things my kids do. I am going to share that last night, I hit a stress high point, brought on by the fact that my two boys do not listen to what I say. I told them to pick up their Lego mess and they BOTH gave me attitude and started chucking Lego's around with a scowl. Really?!? This was the last straw on the "I have to constantly monitor you anytime I ask you to do ANYTHING because you don't do it when I ask" camel's back. This camel can't take anymore of my boys' supposed disrespect and laziness. That's how I perceive it. Sure, they have some "shiny things" attention problems. Me: Clean up your Lego mess. Them: Let's lay on the floor as soon as she leaves and play with Legos instead! Me: Hang up your bath towel. Them: Let's not remember to do that this year either. Me: Why are these dirty clothes shoved into the corner of the closet? Them: Someone else did that.

I tell the girls to do the same thing, and they at least attempt it. The boys don't even make the effort. Rude.

So I told the boys I am no longer their mother. No hugs, no kisses, no meals, no clean clothes, nothing. If they can't treat me with respect and do what I ask them to do to help make their room habitable, then they don't need me for anything. I turned off their light right after I packed up the Lego mess myself and put the tub in the attic.

This morning I did not forget. Ed didn't either. Will appeared like he didn't care. They asked what was for breakfast, and I told them they would have to ask their mom, who wasn't me. The meltdown ensued. They were sent back to their room, where they were told that I would return in an hour, and that if it was cleaned the right way, and the clothes I washed for them were put away the right way, and they apologized, I would let them pack into my pack. They cleaned while I put myself into time out for an hour. After the hour was up, we had another little chat. I fed them breakfast. I told them that I loved them, but that they cannot be disrespectful when I tell them to do something.

And all night long, maybe because I had a carb filled dinner, or maybe because of the boys, or maybe because of everything else, I slept horribly. Every worry and concern I have right now visited me in some twisted way in my dreams. Everything. Which makes me think I worry too much, have too many too many things going on, or that ice cream and waffles are not a good dinner to eat.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Crazy Days

In the past of my blogging life, "Crazy Days" usually meant I was going crazy. Like, almost literally. The mental insanity has eased up quite a bit (yay for a real house and four children who are a little older now!). But man, these past few months have been crazy busy, and I'm ready to just chill. But I am afraid that I may never get to chill, and that I should just embrace it! Actually, there a few things I'm doing that will go away soon.

You see, for a whole year (like exactly) I was the Stake Young Women's Secretary, taught relief society, and was Will's Den leader. (I was two of those things, and the program maker for the year before that.) Anyway, being "just the secretary" was a lot of work, which was fine. But in July we had Girl's Camp stuff. And in August and September we had Tri-Stake Youth Conference. I was in charge of the work shops, communications between stakes, keeping everyone organized, scheduling, etc. I totally slept for two hours the night before...I was that stressed. It was all good, though. The next day, I was released from that calling and was asked to be the Primary President. Well, hello kick in the pants with no rest for YOU! Lol. We all know what happens in our ward in October: Primary program, Halloween party (primary in charge), we had a baptism right off the bat, stake leadership training meeting, start up of scouts, a pack meeting with the arrow of light ceremony (with no cubmaster, by the way)... and it's been a whirlwind and I'm beat. We are getting some calls made though, because as much as I want to say, "I can be the scout committee chairperson, cubmaster, den leader, pianist, and Primary President!" I found out I can't. Not very well, anyway. The Bishopric is aware though, and they are being so good about it. In the mean time, I feel like it's been a little bit of a "Karrie Show" and I'm ready to bow out for a few minutes.

That, and the normal school board, music program, curriculum writing project, other secret project, laundry, dishes, grocery shopping miles away, a sick granny...my desire to exercise a bit to ward off the winter fatties...

That, and the normal husband and kid stuff... my brain is not very quiet.

Am I feeling burnt out? No.

Out of balance? No.

Like I have a full plate and can't take on any more? Yes. I have hit my max and have to now say "no" to extra stuff.

So, thank-you for reading to the end of my "dumping it all out there" post about these crazy days. Hopefully when my kids read this later (like in their teens/adult like) they will feel like I put them second. SECOND YOU SAY? Yes...Ryan actually comes first, even if it doesn't seem like it all the time. (Hello, child interruptions into the middle of my conversations!) Ryan and I have to live together for a long time, so I'm all about making that a priority. Even when it's hard. Like last night, when I got back from the hospital from visiting my grandma who had another stroke. It was 8:00pm and I was EXHAUSTED, so I went to bed. He stayed up watching TV or something. But guess what? I feel great today, doing that reverse sleeping in thing I did...you see, if you go to bed early enough, and still wake up at 6:00am, it's almost like sleeping in! Tonight we have plans to put the kids to bed and then stay up and watch Red Dawn. One of his favorites from his youth.

Okay, enough of this stuff. I have exactly 2.5 hours before I go and get the kids from school. It's an early release day and parent teacher conferences.

*Question of the day: Why do I not blog/take photos anymore?
*Answers of the day: I do not have a photo editing program anymore, I never remember to haul my camera around, I am lazy, I have too many other things to do... I have some real and made up excuses!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Legend of the Wild Circus Pony

Once upon a time, about two and a half years ago, all four Bunting children were outside playing on and around the slide. As Ma recalls it, the older two were making a tire swing from an old bike tire and some ratchet straps, while the younger two were sliding down the slide. The parents were in their RV, enjoying the relative quiet time of having all the kids outside for a bit. The TV may have been on...that was back in the olden days when the Bunting family had TV.

After just a short time of this blissful peace, Ma Bunting notices the pitch of her children's voices change in that unnatural manner that bespeaks of panic. She starts to get up, and two things happen simultaneously: the youngest Bunting child issues a blood curdling scream, whilst the eldest Bunting child comes running up the three steps into the trailer and yell, "There's a horse outside!"

Now, remember that the Buntings live on open land, and are used to seeing many wild (and not so wild) creatures: mountain lions, bobcats, cows, raccoons, snakes, birds, bats, foxes, bears, skunks, and whatever else happens to wander between our desert mountains and our high country mountains. A wild horse? Never have seen one of those, but that's because most horses are taken care of very well by their owners.

The information of the horse and the blood curdling scream motivates Ma to jump outside the trailer and over to her small children just in time to see the ugliest looking pony jigging it's way across the property not 15 feet from the kids. It's head was held high, and off it went without a second look.

At the time the Bunting's thought it must have escaped some one's yard (from somewhere...they don't have neighbors), and that someone would find it eventually.

Now, they Bunting family is not so sure. You see, just two days ago, small hoof prints were found in the dirt. They were close together, and Pa Bunting deduced they were indeed from a horse. Small in stature. (Pa would know. Being an expert tracker and cowhand and all.)

The legend of the mysterious circus pony continues. Will it jig on by another day, sneaking up on unsuspecting children as they build a fort in the country? Does Pearl the cow dog keep it at bay with her ever vigilant watch? Will Ma ever have her camera at the ready when it does high step by for proof of this legend?

Only time will tell.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Common Core State Standards- What I Think I Know

First, my background. Just so you know I'm not talking out of my...own head. I have worked with children in an educational capacity of some sort for almost 20 years. (I can't be that old!) I have a B.A. degree in Child Development. I have a California Clear Multi-subject teaching credential. I have taught pre-K through 8th grade for pay. I currently volunteer teach music at my kids' school. I am also on the school board. Other than the music thing, I have not formally taught in 10 years. That is my weakness in this post: I have been somewhat out of the loop, even though I have been in and around schools since I quit. I am not getting the first hand training and information on CCSS. Also, I am a Libertarian at heart, with a conservative bend. This will show up and taint my opinion... because it is who I am. I acknowledge it and recognize it. Just as I recognize a conservative and liberal bend in other articles. Not that this is even close to an article. I am not a writer. Here we go anyway:

California has had educational standards very similar to the CCSS for over a decade.(Those standards were adopted in 1997.)  Doing a quick comparison, there is really no difference in the standards addressed. The other 44 states that have adopted them might be in for a bigger change than we are. This is to our advantage as Californians... we rank pretty low in state to state standardized testing comparisons (anywhere from 46-49th in the nation... depending on which report you read. Which happens to correlate with our per pupil spending rank. But before you think, "We need more money then!" please be aware that the National Assessment of Educational Progress Problem ranks Texas as being ranked 44th in spending, has a very similar demographic make-up, but ranks 10th in the nation for mathematics. Go figure. See THIS ARTICLE.).

Here's the catch though: not every state takes the same test. Now, 45 states will be using the same test. I have heard it said that since the Common Core Standards aren't that different than the old CA state standards, our ranking within states should go up. Yay us. I have seen alarm over Kentucky's drop in test scores the first year they took it compared to their old tests. This has lead to some saying, "It won't work! They can't even pass the test!" But think about it: when has a group of people ever switched what they did and done extremely well the first time? Maybe you can think of a few...but they do not involve children. Or the array of teachers and their different backgrounds of training.

The new Smarter Balanced Test is lame. Okay, so I say that because I have a love/hate relationship with tests. I see the need for state boards: you want to manicure nails, be a nurse, dental hygienist, teacher, lawyer, or doctor? Build houses as a contractor? Welcome to the world of tests, where if you don't pass, you can't do your job. I kind of like that. A standard to be met, that says, "Hey, I'm minimally competent...because at least I know this much." Kids should be the same way... there should be some minimal competency stuff going on, much like the CAHSEE (CA High School Exit Exam). But to test our kids every year, as if it means ANYTHING AT ALL, is lame. I know of zero teachers who go through last year's results and then design a course of study for the failing students in their new grade. WHY? Because teachers have to teach each standard for their grade level. Sure, you try and remediate the to the student's level, in hopes of bringing them up to their current grade. Do that, times 30 kids (minus the 2-3 who passed the test with flying colors), and your job just became impossible. So, the state test means NOTHING, because a student who gets a whole 2-3 years time in seats with no testing gets a whole 2-3 years in seats getting behind. True story: The first day I taught second grade I had three students who could not READ or WRITE their FIRST NAMES. Why were they in 2nd grade? Why were they not held back? There was no special ed stuff going on. They took the test at the end of the year (as well as all the quarterly benchmark tests), and guess what? They failed. Surprise, surprise, right? With after school tutoring (by me, for free...) one of those kids improved a ton. The other two made incremental progress...but they started third grade an additional year behind. It looks like tests aren't going away, and if I was in charge of the world, students would be tested in three grades: 4th, 8th, and 11th. And then put in differentiated classrooms based on results. But I'm not in charge of the world, so I will continue to watch teachers frustrated by losing a week of teaching time, and students bored with a week of taking tests. The tests as they stand mean NOTHING. Until tests are used for a purpose (other than threatening teachers with their jobs...) they will mean nothing.

The tests will be better because they are online! No more filling in bubbles!  Of course I had to check out the new tests, because remember I love/hate tests. Love to hate? Hate to love? Go HERE to check out some samples yourselves. Just click "sign in" without having to actually sign in. The information fields are auto-filled with "guest" for you. Make sure you choose which grade you want to see.
My opinion: sure, we aren't using number two pencils to fill in bubbles, but there is still a whole lot of bubble filling going on. It's just a click now. I don't think this is good or bad, but I don't like when people start by saying, "No more bubble tests! So much better for kids!" Really?  How about you say something like, "Our multiple choice assessments are also paired with a critical thinking assessment so that students can explain their answers." Which is weird to me, to be honest. Here you are, Mr. Testmaker, giving me four choices to choose from...and I need to explain why one of your answers is right?  On the positive side, there is a shift away from this, as the computer testing allows for entry of numerical digits manually, for math problems anyways. There are a LOT more interactive problem solving techniques on the computer, which I love for my kinesthetic learners. Moving things around on the screen to represent math problems is interesting! And on the English Language Arts (ELA) side of things, more writing is necessary for explanations. Yay, writing! A lost art. I think the testing will be a move in the right direction. Even though the old fashioned girl in me says, "What happens when the power goes off and no one knows what to do without a computer?" I see the move towards this style of testing as beneficial. (If the test meant anything for the child.) Personal Soapbox Moment: Now is where I would like to remind everyone to pay close attention to our politicians who always attempt to correlate test scores with teacher performance. Ask yourselves, "Why aren't parents ever mentioned in the performance equation?" Have you noticed that? Where the heck are the parents? It's super hard to expect a village to help raise a child if NO ONE is really raising the child. Can't discipline, can't have too high expectations, look for excuses, etc...the village has its hands tied, and a lot of parents are to blame. "Not my kid." "The teacher is horrible." "He doesn't act that way at home." "You can't suspend him for that. I have to work." Anyways, I would like to make a call to all parents to spend some time with their kids talking to them once in awhile, reading to them, and making sure they treat their teachers and peers with respect. Test scores would skyrocket.

The new CCSS means there is a federal curriculum.  Yah...not so fast there. I am super excited that the state of CA has suspended it's curriculum adoption process and has (for now) allowed more local control over the choosing of curriculum. Curriculum is two fold in my mind. First, understand that before CCSS, major curriculum publishers catered to their largest markets, tweaking their books (and sometimes straight up customizing) for their largest markets. Think about it: if you are in the business of selling curriculum, and you know if California and Texas together make up 40% of your yearly sales, you will make books specifically for those two states. Other states can use them, too, and you will tell them how great these ones already are. These two states, while different, consume the majority of curriculum per state based solely on their populations. We are large states, it goes with the territory. (Get it? Territory...large states...ha.) Now that 45 states have the same curriculum, other states won't be getting the leftovers, so to speak. Curriculum companies might be free to experiment a little, and they will have to with the shift of technology in the classroom. I am excited to see more local control in approving curriculum. (For now...I hope it stays that way.) In CA, when a school is purchasing new curriculum, it is customary for the options considered to be in the district office for a period of time, allowing parents, teachers, and the public to look over the options and weigh in before adoption takes place. I can't find any Ed Code that says that open to the public part is legally required, although I was under the impression it was. IT IS required at the state adoption level. My only advice on the topic is this: know what your kids are being taught. Ask the school. It is your right. (Ed Code 51101 (a) 8)  Remember that if you don't like something, squeaky wheels get the grease. (They also get dirty looks sometimes. And nicknames. Talk with other parents and become squeaky wheels together.)

On the down side, if you are not from CA, you very well might be getting our stuff anyways. States were allowed to adopt up to 15% more standards than what is in the CCSS, and CA did. They used all 15%. Our "liberal social agenda" will most likely show up in your curriculum. That's how companies will save money: they know that CA will buy a ton, and they will not tweak it for the other states because you aren't worth the money it takes. Sad, but true under the old way. Maybe with the shift towards technology, it will be different.

Another CURRICULUM ISSUE: California adopted the CCSS... the standards. But they have't yet completed the curriculum frameworks. So, we only kind of know what this will look like. Frameworks are the map of how standards will be used. They guide curriculum choices. Math will be done by the end of November of this year, ELA will be done in the Spring. So really, it comes down to "We aren't sure what it will look like yet." They have an idea, and a starting point, but they, like their state's students, are coming in under the wire and NOT getting anything turned in early.

LIBERAL CURRICULUM AGENDAS: I am not going to throw this one under the bus right away. There is a bit of truth to that idea. Not a lot of truth, but a bit. This isn't exactly CCSS stuff, but it may bleed over if you are not in California. It's no secret that in California, some "liberal" curriculum reforms have been passed. SB48, called the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act recognizes everybody under the sun as being a minority (let's all put people in these teeny tiny boxes of "Irish-American" and "Asian-Americans" with the emphasis being on the LGBT population, as stated from the bill's author Mark Leno). Oh yes, please. Please explain to my second grader why a person's personal bedroom behavior is so important as to warrant a focus on how that made him or her a great citizen of our society. And enough with the "dash Americans" already. So I'm an "Irish-German-Native-American-American?" Oops, I forgot my great-great grandpa who was born in Denmark and moved to California before the Civil War even started. If the state thinks defining people by their ancestor's native land (because truly, an immigrant might be considered by his native country for a generation), or by their bedroom behaviors (Oh, so that's why he was so awesome! He had sex with other men! Ummm...really?) let us discuss this with kids who have at least reached puberty. Telling a child that a lesbian is a woman who loves another woman is a lie: because women love other women all the time. Mothers, daughters, cousins, friends... same with men. And sex and love are not equivalent...we've known that for years! (Hello, one night stands and shallow, empty relationships!) And in CA, you can't talk about sex ed unless you, as a teacher, are trained (51933 CA Ed Code) with a 14 day notice with materials available for review (51938 CA Ed Code). Now, the state of CA does not equate being LGBT with sex. I disagree. Because heteroSEXuality is based on nothing but...SEX. Sure, there are some lifestyle things that go with whoever you have SEX with, but mostly we are all people, who work, love, read, cook, eat, socialize, and our bedroom choices do not define us as being great or evil. Honestly, how limiting. Talk about fighting for rights for all, or something you believe in, actions that made a person great... however you want to do that, but do not tell me or my child that a person is memorable because of what they do in the bedroom. And from a social studies stand point, children don't even get that detailed with facts until they hit junior high...the same time real sex ed kicks in. Or should kick in. Why the government wants to get involved in dictating personal moral behaviors between two (or more!) individuals is beyond me. Yes we should be tolerant and love everyone. Duh, right? Respect! But is this the way to do it? Empty curriculum instead of meeting real people? Anyways, rant about this "good idea in theory, crappy practical application" is over. 

So, depending on how curriculum companies interpret and present the CCSS to CA standards, an out of stater may have to put up with CA stuff. Still. No change for me. BUT MAYBE THERE WILL BE! The thing is, right now, there is so much speculation out there that even the state doesn't know what it will look like.

ANOTHER "LIBERAL" CONCERN: We all recognize there is a distinct difference in news reporting, depending on whether you are a "liberal" or a "conservative." In fact, you can read a report on the same subject and be totally surprised at how each side of the political aisle spins it. The CCSS puts greater emphasis on expository reading of articles. These articles will always be tinged with a political leaning. Always. But guess what? I don't know if you've noticed, but the childhood literature that has been coming out in the last decade or so is too. Gone are the days of "Green Eggs and Ham" and Beverly Cleary. So this is not really a change. Lost art of interpreting great works of literature? Absolutely. Better get some family reading going on. Join book clubs. Make your own. While the emphasis on "real world reading" (informational/expository texts) is practical from a grown-up standpoint, literature is a most excellent way to teach CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS...those same skills that are supposed to be tested by the standardized tests. In case you wonder how lit teaches critical thinking, consider this simple exercise: you read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (it is CLASSIC, I tell you!) and you posit this question to your class: What do you think about the revelation that Snape was capable of and motivated by the characteristic of love? How does this compare to his previous actions? Now that you know of his love, how does that change your opinion of his actions or of him? Why? And you can discuss the shades of grey that exist in all of us, and judgments, and force the kids to think about WHY they think that way. Studying PEOPLE makes people better. Literature is a great way to do this. But note, literature is not banned. It is diminished in importance. Don't you think for a second that teachers are not going to read stories, or have their students read great books. It's in an English teachers blood to do so.

This might be the perfect time for some out of the box thinking by districts to make curriculum choices based on local customs and need. Still learning about commas and exponents, but in a way that makes sense to the kids in the area.

And, I will argue for days with anyone who says that standards are curriculum. I know that is not the typical conservative thing to say, but it is true. Example: Kindergartners will be able to recite the alphabet by the end of the year. That is a standard. Any home school parent will tell you, knowing this objective, there are a thousand different ways to teach the ABC's! And the more ways you can cover them, the better. Math and ELA standards shouldn't present ANYONE with a problem. Multiply! Write! Read! These are pretty apolitical. It is the social content standards that CA has adopted that might concern you. And for that, that was coming way before CCSS. It was. If you are in CA, you are still on the same road you were on before CCSS. NO DIFFERENCE.

Technology will rule the day. I am still investigating this. I think it is fairly unrelated to CCSS, and just a sign of the times. And I have mixed feelings about that.

Teachers get to teach again! This totally bugs me...because what have they been doing the last ten years? Apparently, this is in reference to having less scripted curriculum.  I HATE THOSE. You know what they are: where you open to page 42 and in italics it says, "Tell the class....." That is not teaching. From what I can tell from my teacher friends going to CCSS training, the state of CA is asking them to do more teaching in the critical thinking areas, spending more time on that. And they are excited about that. They are all perceiving this change as a positive in their day to day work. They cite more freedom, more creative hands-on projects. We will see how that pans out.

 Data Collection! Yikes! If you are in CA, your data has been collected since 2009 anyway. And just keep in mind the IRS and state tax people know a ton about you already... Okay, so in California there is this thing called CalPads. Secretaries fill it out at various times of the year, and each kid in the state of California that has ever enrolled in public school (over the last decade or so) has an individual number attached to her name. Just look at your kids STAR test results sheet: it's right there on the front. This number and corresponding information goes into a data base accessed by the state and other schools, and say a kid moves from one district to the next, the new school enters in the kid's name, and within a short time (a day or two) the system kicks back some possible matches. Each school district already has their own software for keeping track of everything, and then the state makes the schools use their system, too. The real concern here is not the tracking of child data (for me) because every kid has a "permanent record," right? Lol...permanent... back in the day when everything was done on paper, and papers get lost, and shredded. The system makes it easier for school officials to get information they need quickly concerning academic success, helps needed, etc. What concerns me most is this: Who exactly has access to this information? I am so over the whole, "Well, while we don't want to call it spying, exactly, yes actually we have been monitoring your emails, internet searches, and phone calls for the last 15 years."  Right? Now, I trust most people, and I can't see any real harm in collecting my child's grades in a database. Or her birthday. Or whatever. What I have trouble with is a disregard for humanness. The fact that almost everything we do in the educational field is "data driven" and this is considered an awesome thing. Data will not tell you that 80% of the children in your school are starving for attention and love from absent parents who are busy doing whatever it is they are doing: anything from illegal activities to just plain old working too many hours to afford that new car. Data will work when you want to buy inanimate objects, or sell them to a certain market. We shouldn't be selling our education to our children and staff. It should be natural interactions, and human based. And, I fear that a technological record will become permanent, and that while the current hiring generation might chuckle at a mark on your record that said you peed on the playground in second grade and got in school suspension for it, in 20 years the next generation will lose the humanness and be so driven by "what the record says," that the critical thinking the state wants to instill will be for naught.

So, in a nutshell out of this mess I attempted, it is my opinion that CCSS, in California, will look very similar to what we've had for the last 15 years or so. No real change. Not to say that's good, but it is what it is. I am positive my opinion will morph as I see how it all actually works out. The teachers I know have the attitude of "Here we go again," because California "revolutionizes" education about every decade. Someday we may get this right. But I'm not entirely convinced we are doing it all wrong to begin with.

It is easy to point fingers at our education system, while not pointing fingers at ourselves as stewards of our children. Barring true special education needs, those families that place importance on their child's education, are able to feed, clothe, and keep their kids clean and healthy have children who do well under multiple educational models.

 What it all boils down to is this: be involved in your child's education. Just do it. Ask questions. Make a fuss. Praise a teacher or school. Inspect books. Inspect homework. Be far more concerned with a culture of focusing on differences, and those differences being right or wrong, and take back your parental obligations of being your child's first teacher. It's okay to have a family culture. Get one. It'll probably be different than my family culture. (We have taco eating contests...among other things.) Don't believe everything you read. Question it all. That's called critical thinking. It's what our government says our kids need to do. If you don't like the government telling you what your kids will learn, you have options: get involved and try to change what you don't like, or just pull your kids out. The myth that home school families and private schools have to follow CCSS is just that: a myth. It doesn't apply to California. (51210 and 51220 CA Ed Code).

(Made it this far? I'm impressed. I'm sorry for the mess. I'm sure my liberal friends will be all, "She is SO right winged and closed minded," and my conservative friends will be all, "She's turning into a liberal!"

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Kern County Fair

The kids were so bored in this picture. Within a minute of this picture they were all hanging on the bar. We went to the Kern County Fair and Ryan ran into a ton of people he knew. Long time friend and ag teacher Clay was there, and we had to get caught up a bit. We checked out the entries, the animals, and avoided the midway. A Tuesday evening is a great time to go: no one scary was there! Probably one of my favorite run-ins was with Lindsey and David...who I ran into last year in the same spot. (Hello, pigs!) Also, we ran into a Sheriff's officer undercover that is good friend with Ryan. Not to mention Uncle Karl, Aunt Gaye, Shannon R., and others from life. The kids experienced Dippin' Dots for the first time ever. I had part of a funnel cake (YUM). I think we might enter something next year. I don't know what, but I know the kids were all like, "We should enter something!" And they were so serious. 

Beaver Bum Smells Like...Vanilla?!?

So, I came across this news article about castoreum, a chemical compound secreted by these glands on the bums of beavers. It's used as a vanilla flavor, and the FDA only requires that if it is used, it is labeled as "natural flavorings" because it is NATURAL. My favorite parts of the article: "Only 292 pounds of castoreum are harvested annually because the milking process is uncomfortable for all parties involved."

And this one, which is paraphrased: "I lift the beaver's tail and tell people to smell it. They are grossed out, but I'm like, 'No, it's a beaver! It's different!'" Lol...who lifts a beaver bum and sniffs it?

Good question from my friend Dawne: who was the first person and under what circumstance did they decided this slimy brown substance near the rear of the beaver was awesome like vanilla? I suspect it was from someone who harvested a beaver for either felt, meat, or both...and was all, "Hey, that smells tasty!" Still gross. But I will continue eating vanilla and all vanilla products, castoreum and all. We eat plenty of gross stuff if you think too much about it. So I don't.

Stinky Feet

The kids feet STINK so badly when their summer sandals get a little ripe. The stench was so bad ("What's that smell?!?") on Sunday while we were watching conference at their grandma's house that I marched them into the bathroom and ordered them into the tub. Anti-bacterial soap, warm water, and then a later soaking of the shoes themselves solved the problem...for the next few days anyway. Fall is here, and it's about time to wear socks and shoes. And pants.

Aye. Fall shopping. Now I understand what my grandma Sorensen meant when she was all, "How can you afford four kids? Kids are so expensive." Yes, especially when there are no hand me downs, and they all grow out of their clothes every season. Thrift stores, here I come!

Weird Family

Love my weird family. LOVE THEM. And here they are, in all their weirdness. 

Piano Lessons

The kids started piano lessons last week...and we made it through our first week! Yay us. No, seriously...this is like a big deal in the area of follow through and patience. I am teaching the kids, one a day, and they practice whenever. They all seem to like it, and it totally helps that they pay attention in music and already know what quarter notes and half notes are. They are LEARNING TO READ MUSIC NOTES and it trips me out. Even a 5 year old can identify a C. And D. And B. Amazing. Will gets the most easily frustrated, and Kacy sails through the fastest right now. Probably helps that she's the oldest and most patient with learning. I always thought I would start them out, but I also always kind of thought that we wouldn't love it. You know...when your mom teaches you stuff sometime it's not fun because you get impatient with each other. So far, so good! I think teaching music at the school totally helps me keep things real. Like, it took several months for those kids to even just sort of sing on key. But they do now! Progress.