Thursday, May 29, 2008

So they're up to snuff?

After being tortured earlier this month, the kids received the results of their annual testing.

Straight ridiculousness.

Both are in the highest percentiles, with N actually placing 99th percentile in both math and reading. We chose to let G develop her reading skills on her own; when this "school year" started she wasn't a strong reader at all, and she tested 89th. She was 95th percentile in math.

I am happy for them and relieved that we don't have to do any damage control in reaction to this. But I remain doubtful that these tests, given what they actually tested, could show any real merit.

Still, the percentiles are compared to children being educated in all sort of schools from across the country, as I understand it, so the kids are more than competently "holding their own,"even if I think they didn't need a very odd test to prove that.

Happy Diffendoofer Day indeed!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

No Home Schools Accepted

That didn't last long. Wow. Subway now has my ban. Not like I really enjoyed them anyway, but they've stepped into it now.

"But how did Subway get into this mess? Subway's "Every Sandwich Tells a Story" essay contest, conducted in cooperation with the quickly repentant Scholastic News Service -- which sells strongly into the homeschool market and which immediately and publicly apologized when this issue came to their attention -- specifically bans homeschooled kids from the contest. The remarkably poorly-spelled rules read:
open only to legal residents of the Untied (sic) States who are currently over
the age of 18 and have children who attend elementary, private or parochial
schools that serve grades PreK-6. No home schools will be accepted. "

You can read a much better post about this here:

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Broken Puter

It's probably something very minor but my computer is down, and as a result so is my blog.

Besides, Morag closed her blog and forgot to invite me so now I must weep, disconsolate, in the corner. Which is no longer leafy. Sawb.

See you soon!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Beach Bubbles

How do they look on a hat?

Apparently they look tasty, too.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Tomorrow is the day we leave here:

and arrive here:
We're very imaginative in our choice of domiciles, are we not?

Among other good news is that our van is back in our garage, snoring happily. Pashca and I have a working theory that I inadvertently broke it by keeping it clean for too long. It had some form of reactive seizure, which sent the transmission sensor to automotive heaven. After a 261.00 repair, it is happy as a clam. While the
van did eat the 1000.00 we wanted to put into savings this month, it is still much nicer than paying for a 2061.00 transmission, like last time. It is far better to have a broken van not on my mind while we travel.

We're staying with very well net-connected people, so I hope to be able to update with pix and such as we go, if the opportunity arises. Children or not, I intend to relax, so there should be time for that. I want to enjoy my people and show the kids where we come from-- those will be the primary goals of this trip.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

It's a Birthday Party, Little Man!

Yesterday we had a surprise party for little N. It was our final homeschool Camp Seymour on Friday, and while I was disappointed to miss it, P-daddy was home and got to take them on all the fun things as they had a recap day. The kids shot arrows, rowed boats, handled snakes and swam in their heated outdoor pool while I stayed home to finish the cleaning and prepared the food. Technically N-man knew about the party, but with all the planning we've been doing for the trip, I think it was lost on him. Focused on Camp Seymour, he forgot completely. So it was a surprise, and a sweet, happy little smile on his face to greet us when he came home to people in his house.

The bedlam that ensued, however, made me happy it was an outside party. It was after all, the celebration for a 6 year old BOY. The Big Girls pretty much bailed and hung out with Treebeard, while everyone else ran around and played played played. At one point, the kids sandwiched themselves into a luge-line on the sliding board, 7 kids deep. We kept the hot dogs and popsicles flowing, then enjoyed an ice cream cake. It was really so pleasant, and I enjoyed spending time with the Moms while the kids enjoyed the bedlam.

He may be big for our little family but he is turning 6 on Monday. Six! How did he get six? The little linebacker baby has slimmed out and turned into a colt-legged, super-hero lovin' science boy.

Happy Birthday, Little Man. We love you!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

You won't believe this

The van-- which had no error codes two weeks ago-- now read five at the local (free testing) Schucks, all tranny related. I took it in because it has been slipping in odd ways, stalling, intermittently being weird.
We call the transmission people from when we purchased a rebuilt tranny in OCTOBER, only to find that he's not there. He sold the business. Good Guy Bob now pilots a tugboat on the Sound somewhere, and the new owner won't warranty anything. We're simply new customers to him.
I wasn't too perturbed at this news initially-- just more proof that you're on your own in the wild west in some ways-- but then, surprisingly, the van stayed in second gear the entire way home (about 10 miles). Thank God for coasting down hills because otherwise that transmission would be on fire right now. Miss M is coming with a loaner van right now cause she loves us.

This van is seriously damaging my calm.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Annual Tests

In the state of Washington, homeschoolers are required to test annually. That sounds fine to me, actually, but for even the most strident, privacy-loving homeschoolers, the WA state law is pretty relaxed about it. You do not have to test until your child is 8 and entering third grade, the test can be a test of your choosing as long as it is proctored by someone approved by the state, and the results are sent to you the parent, alone. You do not have to provide scores to the state, just the evidence that you did take the test.

At this point, though, neither of my school-aged children fall into that category. As young as they are, they don't have to sit for testing yet. However, we submitted to it anyway this year-- for both of them-- because we are participating in a virtual academy. Up until this point I have been perfectly happy to sit that fence. I have no qualms at all identifying myself as a homeschooler, because what we do and how we do it has not been altered one iota since accepting this new arrangement. However, I do enjoy the increased funding--that has been a boon to say the least. In fact, the funding has allowed me to experiment with different things that I would not have even tried before having the disposable cash to purchase materials new. As a result the children have benefited and there is no denying that in my house.

But we sat for these tests this morning and I regret it. I regret it to my core. Because they are the straight-up, ridiculous, teaching-for-the-test kind of bullshit that happens when you get too many education experts in a room and they have to justify their higher degrees. The tests were a test of the education system, not of the students. Even the teachers can't score them, they have to wait for the results to go through an algorithm on an off-site computer before they can even tell you what is going on. And for the first time in my children's lives, they felt like they failed something. It was ridiculous.

Why? Because apparently the MAP test is scored based on how the student information looks after she has missed 50 percent of the questions. What that means to a kid who is getting the stuff right is that your "20 minute" test takes a hell of a lot longer. And the kid KNOWS she's screwing it up. How is that possibly conducive to a pleasant and affirming educational experience?

I hesitated posting this here in my blog because even I am thinking "you should have known better than to trust them, this is what public schools do." From Montessori to Unschooling, tests and placing any stock in them is well outside my worldview, and my children's. Yet, it is part of our journey and I want it out there so maybe someone else can benefit from the experience. What follows is my dialog with our contact teacher at the virtual academy.

Dear Teacherperson,
When we began the school year, I had no intention of having my children test. We were going to drop down to homeschool enrollment and handle it that way. As we progressed, and as per CVA guidelines I began to pay attention to the children's progress, I found myself looking forward to the testing process. "Bring it ON!" I thought. The kids have grown and changed so much this year; their confidence and skills have really come to light. I was and remain proud of them and the work we have done here.
My children sat for the MAP this morning and I have to say, we're all a bit deflated. The tests for K and 2 focused on some odd things, I thought. I've been teaching my daughter to read, not to count syllables. I am not kidding, her personal test seemed to focus intensively on counting syllables. I know what books she is reading, because I listen to her while she does it, or we talk about their content when she's done reading alone. The girl can read and write, but this test won't display that.
My kindy son's went from simple kindy math to "here's a math 'sentence,' now which would be the wrong way to solve it?" That alone irritated me, but then the samples for him to choose from had little or nothing to do with math. It was testing him not on calculation or even on reasoning, but on methods other teachers / school use to teach children math. He felt bowled over and distressed. He felt like he couldn't do math, and I know that is so not the case. I felt gut-punched and a little betrayed. My child has never cried over "school" work, ever. And he cried today because I felt I had to make him sit and finish this thing out. By the end, my 5 year old was just throwing it; He went from sobbing because he so wanted to "get it right" to just clicking on random pictures to just have it be over.
Not one question on either test asked about culture, history, music, art or science. There was nothing of any substance. No reading comprehension (past a few advertisements), spelling or sequencing at all.
I have been mollified by CVA for months that this is just a "marker" and a "place to begin tracking progress." I bought it and even sold it to my kids, that it would be fun and to not worry about it, that this would be just a little longer version of the things they already do. But what exactly are they supposed to be progressing in? This didn't actually test their math or language skills, and it surely didn't allow for any demonstration of knowledge or skill beyond that.
If we don't have an alternate method of demonstrating the children's knowledge next year, (and don't even mention WASL), then I don't know that we will be staying on board with CVA.

She replied very quickly, which I appreciated, and cc'd the principals of the academy:

Hi ~L~,
I really appreciate you talking with me first before going to the Beta site. My heart goes out to your kids and to you. Remember, this is just a snapshot and one style of assessment that does not work for all students. Next year we can look at some different types of assessment so this experience is not repeated for G and N.

The unique aspect of the MAP is kids get 50% of the questions correct and 50% incorrect which can be hard for little ones to deal with. This is supposed to help the test align with the kids skills so that we get an accurate reading of where they are. I should have your test results by next Monday. Regardless of what the results show, we both know how much your children have progressed and grown this year. I'm so happy you are proud of your kids, I am too! Please give G and N a great BIG hug from me and tell the how proud I am of them for getting through the MAP and that they are such smart cookies!!

What does your Wednesday look like? I have meetings from 2:30 until the end of the day tomorrow but at this point Wednesday is wide open.

Sorry to keep this short but please know that I am on your side and will do everything I can to help you and the kids.

So that's where I am. As usual, I have no problem with our contact teacher, as she truly has worked with us to translate our eclectic style into public school acceptability. I have taken many tests over the years as a student, and I was one of the children who test very well. I relished finding the "tricks" in the questions, and rarely wore of it. Today, however, I saw a test unlike anything I'd ever seen. It was sucky for my daughter, who gave it the college try and was rewarded with an hour and a half test for her troubles, and it was sucky for my son, who may as well not have taken the thing. He's the one I feel so bad for. He's the one I feel I have failed. He's so, so little, and to hear him say "I just can't do math," about killed me when that is really something he's so enjoyed. They just didn't bother testing him on it, and said they did.

A number of other parents are objecting to the MAP:

May 2008

The children's advisory teacher called us while we were on vacation in Charleston. Both children scored as "very high" on the tests, both in the 90s, with Nick scoring in the 99th percentiles on both math and language. I am unmoved to feel any differently about the test.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

This is our last normal week.

Well, our last normal week of the "new" normal anyway. Next week, we depart on a plane for Charleston, the children and I, leaving P-daddy to putter in our absence. He will LOVE it for exactly 36 hours, and then will start having hallucinations of some sort. We complain about each other, but I don't know any couple more bonded than we are. It's sweet, but in an embarrassing sort of way.

This year, my Great Self Work has been to remove the seat of anger. It's been hard, and to my great shock, the work is paying off. Because when I sense the anger, I just sort it out immediately (is this anger? or is it something else? is it habit?), I don't stay at a low simmer all the time. Because I am not already angry when something disturbs me or annoys me, I don't automatically snap or blow. It's been helpful in each of my relationships, but perhaps best in my relationship with my husband. He's learning to trust me again, I think, in the sense that I am not going to just bite at him. We've been working well together again, like "us" and I have to admit I like it a lot. Why wouldn't I, you know?

And now we will be apart for weeks. I will be gone for nearly two weeks, and then he will leave as soon as we get back for a week of his own. We've never done that, not since the second year we were dating. The kids are going to not deal so well, and I know it. My curiosity is to see how well P-daddy and I deal.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I didn't see this one coming....

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Possessing a rare combination of wisdom and humility, while serenely dominating your environment you selflessly use your powers to care for others.

Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.

Galadriel is a character in the Middle-Earth universe. You can read more about her at the Galadriel Worshippers Army.