Friday, September 24, 2010

What's Good About Public School?

After I did my "Thank You Public School" post, it occurred to me [after reading my friend Michelle's comment] that I wasn't being fair and balanced in sharing about public school.

So, this post is about what I LIKE about public school. There ARE some things.

The first positive thing I have to say about our local public school is that we have had *fantastic* teachers. While we did have problems with two teachers last year in the beginning when we first started [specifically with their attitude that my children were somehow socially deprived mentally retarded morons because they had been homeschooled], over all, my children have been blessed with amazing teachers. My son's second grade teacher from last year qualifies for Sainthood as far as I'm concerned - she went so far above and beyond to help my "late reader" boy that I just love her. If I ever win the lottery I'm sending her a million dollars just in thanks for her sheer awesome-ness. :)

And ALL of the teachers we've had have been good. With four kids in school and this being our second year of public school, you'd think we'd have had at least one stinker in the bunch - but so far no. I've been amazed and very gratified at the quality of teachers my children have had. They are wonderful. [OK, not including the PE teachers in this... we know I have issues with those guys.... :) ]

Second, the principal at my children's elementary school has been amazing. We have had two incidents of bullying, and she has been INCREDIBLY and IMMEDIATELY responsive - and has nipped the behavior in the bud both times. In fact, as my grandma would say "she snatched them bullies up and jerked a knot in their tails so fast it made my head spin!". When schools say "zero tolerance" these days, they MEAN it. I am very impressed with my children's principal.

Third, I LOVE how many "extra curricular" things my children have access to through the schools. My children all have art and music and computer science and the list goes on. Most of the teachers in these classes have been outstanding too - my children's music teacher in particular I adore. In middle school, my oldest child has the opportunity to play many different varieties of sports as well as participating in competitive chorus and all manner of other things - the opportunities have abounded. These are, frankly, the kind of extensive opportunities that I could NOT have provided for my children in a homeschool environment - it would have been too expensive.

Fourth, I LOVE the way the Gifted Program is handled at the Middle school level. My oldest child is in an "all gifted" track - meaning all of her academic classes are gifted classes and she is in class only with other gifted kids. This keeps her motivated to learn in a way that I could never do at home - she is challenged by her gifted peers to always do her best. In her case, competition has been very good for her academic growth. I like her gifted teachers and I think the whole program has been excellent. I'm very happy with it.

Fifth, I will end by saying that I love the fact that I don't have to teach math any more. This is not so much a strength of public school as it is an admission of weakness on my part - I just flat hated teaching math. ALL of my children, thus far, have been excellent at math - which is alien to me. LOL! But my oldest, while being gifted at math, HATES it. We would spend HOURS sometimes with her whining and complaining over a single math assignment for her homeschool day - it drove me NUTS. Oddly enough, in public school, she does not whine and cry when they give her very difficult math assignments. :) This is better for all of us I believe. :)

So, there you have it. My BALANCED report on the "other side" of our journey from homeschooling to public schooling.

Would I go back to homeschooling if I had the financial means and the social support to do so? Yes, I would. I do believe it is superior, and I miss it.

But in my actual situation, public school has really not been that bad - and some parts of it have been very good.

God bless you!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Happy Birthday Monkey1!!!!

Wow, my first baby is now TWELVE!

Monkey1 had her birthday this past weekend. I think she had a great time.

She asked me to bring the Baby Monkey to her school to have lunch with her, which I did. That was very fun! [And Baby Monkey loved it!].

Then after school she got to go shopping with her grandparents - nothing like going to the Mall and being told "get whatever you want" when you are twelve. She got LOTS of cute tween stuff. Then her grandparents took her out to her favorite Chinese restaurant.

The next day she had a party at a local place that has Laser tag [courtesy of her grandparents who paid for that too!]. It was really a lot of fun - all of the kids had a blast.

Over all a wonderful birthday I think!

She has grown into such a lovely, interesting young lady - I just LOVE the person she is.

Thank you God for Monkey1!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Crisis Averted

The Victim:

The Hero:

Tonight at dinner, Monkey5, the 3yo, suddenly started crying and screaming hysterically. She was screaming "I'm bleeding! I'M BLEEDING!" at the top of her little lungs.

I looked at her and could not see what the problem was, nor figure out how she had mangled herself while simply eating dinner quietly at the table.

My son, however, being wiser than I, realized immediately what the problem was.

He reached over, grabbed her arm, LICKED the spaghetti sauce off her forearm and then said "There, see, all better!"

Monkey5 laughed hysterically through her tears and hugged her brother in thanks - much relieved that her gaping wound turned out only to be tomato sauce after all...

My kids are weird. I'm just saying.

So This Is What They Mean By Mid Life Crisis?

I guess I’ve gotten around to having my mid-life crisis recently.

Fortunately, my personal crisis will not involve abandoning my family or buying an expensive sports car or a motorcycle. [Although I do recently have a strange longing for one of those awesome new Mustangs… ;) ].

But I’ve been very contemplative lately. I’ve sort of come through all the crisis surrounding the divorce and things have stabilized [as much as they ever do anyway]. And lately I’ve found myself pondering many things – like where I am in life and how different it is from where I thought I’d be.

If someone had told me 20 years ago that I would be the single mother of 6 children in 20 years, I would have laughed, hysterically.

At the age of 21, I was a “Feminist”. I had no plans [nor desire] to marry. I definitely did not want children. I planned to be a single, childless career woman academic.

And here I am, weeks before my 41st birthday, and I am everything I never planned to be. My head spins at the sheer irony of it all!

In many ways, I turned out to be the “Poster Child” for the Feminist movement's admonition that a woman should NEVER count on a man. That she should put herself and her career first. That she should not give her "all" to a man and children. That it will go badly if she does. That men abandon wives and children all the time, and that a woman who has not paid close attention to her career [instead of investing her time in raising children and caring for her husband] will be left with children she can’t support.

And you know what? The Feminists were kind of right. [Yeah, it chaps my hide to admit that. LOL!]

But I wouldn’t change a thing – because had I followed the advice of the Feminists, I would have missed out on all of the best things in my life.

True, I would not be living in poverty with 6 children. I would not be 40 years old and abandoned by the man I gave up everything to love and care for.

But I would have missed out on my children. Without a doubt, my children have been the greatest thing to ever happen to me. Watching them grow and develop their own little personalities and shaping them into truly excellent people who will make this world a better place… well, it has been a privilege. And a joy.

And I would not be the person I am today had I stuck to my original path – I am a better human being for the things I have suffered. I am kinder, more humble, more giving, more understanding, more loving, and more gentle than I ever would have been if I had followed my original plan. I am less judgmental and more self sacrificing. I am wiser and a harder worker.

My character has been formed by the pain I have lived through, and I think it is a good thing. I think it benefits the world around me, and certainly the people who know me.

Looking back… I can’t say I would change any of my choices.

I look forward to the second half of my life – with a little fear [after all, God or Karma or whatever you believe in hasn’t exactly been gentle with me]; but also with great anticipation and expectation as well.

And I know I am up to the challenge of whatever comes my way – I lived through this first 40 years. And it wasn’t easy. I am one of the strongest people I know. And while I don’t have faith that things are going to necessarily get better [though I certainly hope so], I DO have faith that I am strong enough to take on whatever does come my way.

But I AM still eyeing that mustang... LOL!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thalassemia update

I spoke to our Pediatrician today about my many questions about her diagnosis of thalassemia for my 2yo.

In speaking to her tonight, I found out that the lab tests they did were NOT conclusive and did not actually show thalassemia. They only showed a "persistence of hemoglobin f" - which, from what I can tell, CAN be associated with thalassemia but also with other things.

The Pediatrician told me tonight that thalassemia was her "best guess" but in no way was it a sure diagnosis. She wants to do more testing in a few weeks.

Monkey6's actual blood work came back showing that her iron levels were *fine*, but that her hemoglobin was low.

Given our complete lack of family history and us being of the entirely wrong ethnic origins, I'm just not believing that Monkey6 has thalassemia.

And, given her complete lack of *any* symptoms at all - I'm just not convinced that this lively, intelligent, and ENERGETIC child has anything seriously wrong at all.

The Pediatrician closed by telling me to "make sure she takes her iron supplements". Aside from the fact that Monkey6 hates the supplement and isn't really willing to take it, I don't understand WHY I should give her an iron supplement if her iron levels are *good* [as the doctor said herself two minutes before she told me I had to supplement].

In fact, at this point, I don't think I trust this doctor at all.

I am pretty upset that she told me my daughter had a life threatening disease without being *absolutely certain* it was true - that was really kind of mean actually.

And this all makes me sad, because up to this point I have absolutely LOVED this doctor and trusted her completely. It is just such a weird situation. I have no idea where to go from here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thank You, Public School

For those who don't know, I homeschooled my children for 5 years and then last year, after my husband abandoned us, I enrolled them in public school for the first time.

Public school has been both better and worse than I expected. Some parts of public school have actually been good, and maybe some day I'll post about that. But I've come through this experience with a firm conviction that homeschooling IS the best option if one can manage it and if one has the social support to do it without going crazy or keeping the children isolated.

To come to the point here, my subject line is entirely sarcastic. There are many things I do thank the public school for, but this post is tongue in cheek.

So, here are the things I'm "thanking" public school for this week:

1. My darling boy, my just turned 9yo Christian Gentleman son, walked up to me this weekend and said "Hey mom, what is a F*cker?". Now, I TRULY almost dropped into a dead faint at even hearing the word come out of his mouth.

[I will confess to being a potty mouth at times - you can take the girl outta the Corps, but you can't take the Corps outta the girl you know. But the extent of my cursing is "Hell" and "Damn" and that's about it. Oh yeah, there was that one time I let "Ass" slip out [and heard it repeated by one of my adorable children less than 2 hours later]. But the "F" Bomb? No way man.]

So, AFTER I picked my jaw back up off the floor, I said, pretty calmly "Son, where did you hear a word like that?" and he said "Oh, that's written on the wall in the bathroom at school. It says 'Tommy is a F*cker'. What does that mean mom?" [For the record, "Tommy" is one of his best friends]. I decided against a full anatomical description of exactly what a F*cker was and instead went with "that is a very bad thing to say about someone. I don't want you to ever repeat that word, OK son? I'm sorry someone wrote that about your friend. That was a terrible thing to do."

2. My lovely 7yo daughter informed me today that all of the boys in second grade had decided that they were "Gangsters" and they spend recess fighting each other. The teachers have been told and threats have been made. But my 7yo is upset because apparently these fights are getting very violent and some of the boys are being harmed and there is lots of talk along the lines of "We are gangsters and you better not mess with us! We'll kill you!"

3. My sweet 5yo is becoming completely neurotic because she keeps getting extra homework. She's in speech therapy 3 days a week and keeps missing important parts of class. She's becoming obsessed with what she is missing and is certain she's going to fail Kindergarten because she's getting behind. There seems to be some sort of disapproval from her teacher or something that is worrying her - she feels like she's being "punished" for going to speech. As far as I can tell she's doing well, but she's extremely anxious about going to speech now. Do I pull her or leave her in? I have no idea what the right thing to do is....

4. Thank you public school - all 3 of my elementary age kids have already [4.5 weeks into the school year], spent SIGNIFICANT time watching television. SOME of this TV has actually been educational - "The Magic School Bus" and such. But much of it has been just junk - stuff I wouldn't even let them watch at home. When I ask "Why are you watching TV at school?" I am told "The teacher was busy and needed to get some work done." or "The teacher had to do Dibbles testing so we watched TV all afternoon while she did it." Great.

Our Tax Dollars at work.

5. Speaking of dollars - we've already, in 4.5 weeks, been subject to THREE fundraisers between the elementary school and the middle school. Yes sir-ee, THREE. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. *sigh*

6. Thank you public school PE coaches for totally ruining physical exercise for my children. I spent 5 years of homeschooling them, teaching them that exercise is fun and worth doing. When I brought them to you last year, I had kids who LOVED to run, loved the challenge of physical exercise, and would do crunches and push ups for fun.

In less than a year you've convinced them that anything other than lying on the couch with a Wii remote in hand is torture and to be avoided at all costs. Did you really NEED to make them run till they puked? You couldn't come up with an interesting game that would have kept them running AND having fun? What exactly did they teach you in college?

And seriously, 6th grade PE coaches - do you NEED to tell the 6th grade girls that if they can't run a 5 minute mile they are doomed to be fat and unhealthy and die an early death? Cause, you know, 6th grade girls don't have enough body image worries as it is... yeah, thanks a bunch for that one.

I applaud your success in creating yet another generation of exercise-phobic couch potatoes. OH - and women with eating disorders, let's not forget that. Bravo.


I had one of those "I should pull them all out and homeschool them" moments today. And then that tiny shrill voice in the back of my head [you know, the voice of my last shred of sanity] shrieked "Are you nuts?!! What, you don't have enough on your plate?!!!"

In an alternate universe I'm still homeschooling these children and they are doing great. Everybody loves to run and nobody says the "F" word or even knows what a "gangster" is.

But here, in my universe, I know that I can't do that - not here in a place where I have no friends close by, no homeschool contacts, no homeschool groups to join and no homeschool resources to use... and how the heck would I even buy curriculum? It is not even possible. It just isn't.

So, I'm taking a deep breath and praying a lot. I'm working hard at home on their faith formation and their morality - and I pray that I can counteract whatever damage may be done.

God brought me here and I have to Trust Him to get us where He wants us to go.

God bless you!

Update on Monkey6 - The Decision Is Made

Thanks to all of you who gave me advice and input last week when I was trying to decide what to do with Monkey6 - my 2yo.

The decision is made: I have taken her out of preschool.

I am definitely "ambivalent" about it. I believe it is the best thing for her [and I was seeing other personality changes in her besides just crying at preschool - she has become very fearful of ALL other adults and of any new situation. Which is sad because she was always so fearless before].

I have re-set my goals and my goal now is to finish rewriting one chapter per day, and hopefully 4 chapters on the days that my dad watches her. This is going to set me back by months and that means it will be that much longer before I can seek out a publisher and that much longer before I can even hope for a book deal.

I have been recently given the possibility of getting my old job back - teaching childbirth at the hospital where I taught for 10 years prior to 2009. I have applied for it but won't know for sure I've got it for a while - maybe a few weeks even. This job would help us financially [and it would help me psychologically - to be working & earning guaranteed income again would mean a LOT to me]. I LOVED teaching childbirth, so it is something I would enjoy. Childcare may be an issue though - I am going to trust that if God puts this job before me that He will also provide a way for me to get my children cared for while I work. We will see how it all works out.

Monkey6 is settled at home - she seems to like it. She misses her sister [my 3yo] a lot, but she's adjusting to it just being she and I. She's enjoying being an "only child" for a while. [I'm enjoying it too. :) ]

More news on Monkey6 - last week at her 2yo check up, she had extremely low iron. The doctor wanted to do more testing, so we went through harrowing IV blood draw [from her teeny little arm]. On Thursday the nurse called me to say all the test results were back and she was fine, she "just had low iron". Then Friday at 6pm the Pediatrician called to tell me that she actually has a genetic blood disorder called "Thalassemia". The doc said she does not have the most severe kind [which is usually fatal by 20-30 years of age], but that she has a case that is serious enough that any significant blood loss could be dangerous for her. The doctor said she may need transfusions during her periods when she is older and that childbirth could be extremely dangerous for her.

Aside from the obvious panic, I am also a bit skeptical. This diagnosis does not make any sense to me at all. We have NO family history on either side of this disease [and from what I understand, this is the kind of thing that you would know about if a family carried it]. We also are not of Mediterranean, Asian, or African descent. Monkey6's father has some Italian blood, but he is of pervasively German ancestry. I am an English/German/Irish mutt with a teeny bit of French thrown in.

In addition, this also should have shown up on her newborn screen [commonly called "PKU" test, but this is one of the things it specifically tests for] and I was told at the time she was a newborn that her tests were all fine.

So, I am not convinced that Monkey6 actually HAS this disease - at all.

But, regardless, SOMETHING is causing her to have severely low iron, so if you would not mind praying for her, and for my wisdom in seeking answers, I would appreciate it.

I'll update when I have a more satisfying answer about the medical issue.

God Bless you!