Friday, September 27, 2013

Another one

Another one from wy guy during our 1:15 pm calls

“What are you doing Mommy?”

I’m just writing.

“Ok. Like in a notebook?”

No, like on a computer.

“Hmm. That is funny!”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Daily Calls

Every day at 1:15 Wyeth calls me. He usually cracks me up.


Me: Hey there buddy! How was your day?

W: Good. I had a lot of fun with Daddy.

Me: great! What did you do?

W: I don’t know.

Me: Ok…did you go apple picking?

W: No.

Me: Did you go scuba diving?

W: I don’t think so. Maybe?

Me: ?

W: Daddy!! What did we do today? I can’t remember!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

First Day of Second Grade

Seren woke up at 7:00 SO excited! "TODAY is my first day!" She requested braids, two of them, with pink hairbands up top and purple hairbands below. And she really wanted to get dressed in her new 'uniform' dress code dress and wear her monkey underwear. "Did you notice? The teacher had a theme with monkeys! I'm going to wear my monkey underwear!"

We all were nervous and anxious about the day. It was a rushed decision but we hoped a good one. We had her on the black top by 8:20. First pictures taken. She knew no one. And that feeling on being lonely and alone made me feel such anxiety FOR her. She said "Mom, I think I'm going to have to hold your hand."

But she was excited, poised and brave. And off she went!

And mom cried all of the way to work. Oh my heart. Away from me. My preemie child. Off to second grade.

I was on pins and needles all day. I got an email from the teacher reporting that she was having a great day at 2 pm. Relief.

And seeing her at night? She couldn't stop talking. About everything! How different it was! "When I held up my hand for silence and gave eveyone the zero, no one knew what I was doing!" (This refers to the 'voice' chart that they had at the other school. Zero meant silence.)

Seren had an amazing first day! She was thrilled and so were we. She talked about how cool art class was ("did you know there were two dimensions to art, mom? Positive and negative?"), how fun music was ("wanna hear my song about the Apple? ready?") and the new friends she made (" I made friends with Olivia on the way down to lunch.")

The principal emailed at 10 pm at night to check in with us about the first day.

She has BOOKs. And a planner! And structure! And Spanish! And music and art and SCIENCE! This is a breath of fresh air.

Point A to Point B: Plan C

I have too much to say. Too many stories to try to tell. Too many events un-blogged. And that is ok, these are the stories that will be in my heart. There are no promises that this blog entry hangs together but here it goes.

June: Sell the house: month 1. On June 7th we put our house on the market. That is such a simple statement. And a short sentence. It doesn't convey the hours spent painting, the drama of the carpet installation (short version: hairy men cursing and swearing in our house that did a crap job and left behind a half eaten sandwich in my daughter's bedroom), the many conversations with realtors, the anxiety. Oh the anxiety! Our realtor said "It will got in 7 days! You have to find a house to move to. Start looking stat!"  So our weekends and our weeknights were spent scouring communities and homes. We saw so many homes! Upwards of 30. We looked on line everynight. And we packed up about 1/3 of our home. The process of getting the house on the market started in earnest in January and culminated on June 7th. We were ready to sell our house to get out of our school district.

The school year ended. Sam and I breathed a sigh of relief. Come what may, we weren't sending her back there. We were tired of the 2 pages of homework, the boring and monotonous  lessons, the lack of planning at the school level, the lack of awareness of her skills, the lack of thoughtfulness, the subs, the music class where they watched videos, the library classes where they watched videos, indoor recess where she watched videos, and the over emphasis on testing. We met some wonderful families. And some great kids. The breaking point was when Seren came home one day SO excited about a new song she learned. It was a cheer about the PSSA (the state testing). "Horray! Horrray! For the PSSA! Do your best on the test but please don't stress! You can do it! But your mind to it! Just do it! Just do it! Yay!" Or "SUPERTESTER" S is for Special, U is for Unique, P is for Perfection, you know you can't be beat! E is for Excellent..." I get it. I get standardized testing. I study standardized tests for a living. But children need so much more.

Anyway, for those of us who know us well, we had "issues" with the school. Seren, however, did NOT have issues with the school. She loved it! She was bored on most days but she loved it.  So we had to sell this house this summer and get her placed in the 'other district' by September.

July: Sell the house month 2. No bites. Lower the house price. More showings. No bites. But the house was clean. Hold on! It is going to happen! We went on vacation. We had some great times.

August: Sell the house month 3. No bites. No offers. Some showings but they slowed. This house wasn't going anywhere. And neither were we. Plan B: Homeschooling. We had looked into homeschooling. We had met with the homschool group in our area. It was all very organized. We liked the people. We considered homeschooling and decided that was what we'd do. Sam and the kids  were in Michigan for two weeks. I joined them the second week. We got mad at our realtors. Really mad. They don't communicate. At all. And when I gave them critical feedback, they flipped out. When I apologized, they didn't write back. So I had to remind them about the email that I wrote asking them to write us back. Disaster. They told us to get rid of our cat because the cat was preventing us from selling the house. 

While we had a blast on our second vacation, there was this looming deadline of September. What the hell were we going to do? Send her back to school? Maybe it wasn't that bad. She was safe. We were being overly critical. She qualified for special services this year which may help a bit towards enrichment. But we had vowed we wouldn't send her back. Could we really do homeschooling?

August 28th: Heart to heart about homeschooling. How would Wyeth fare? Would Seren be too distracted by Wyeth? Daddy is one of the most skilled 'educators' I know but would Seren thrive? Would our family? How could we pull together the curriculum?

August 29th: Plan C: Call two private schools. Arrange for 11th hour tours. One school we had visited several times before and applied for kindergarten schooling. The other was new to us. August 30th, visit one of the schools, a private Catholic school. This past weekend we shopped for BOTH schools. We got necessary clothes for the non catholic school, we got a uniform for the Catholic school, we bought school supplies for BOTH schools at Target.  RIDICULOUS. 

September 3rd: Visit the non Catholic School. Meet the teacher. Meet her entire class as part of the 'Meet your teacher day'. Leave at 10:30. Seren very quietly asks us on the way home, "Mom? Dad? Where am I going to school this week?". (Cue knife to heart). Sam and I put Seren in front of the TV for 15 minutes and talked. The non Catholic school won out.

September 4th. With contract and enrollment forms in hand, we sent her off to her first day of school.

I cried tears of joy and relief all of the way to work. I'm so so happy.

This whole experience has taught me a lot about middle class education in America. I study education policy. My parents are teachers. But this was real life experience. And a big part of me feels that by sending her to private, we gave up on our current local school. And there is lot to be learned about how that feels and what we can learn from it.  It is an underfunded school. They ran out of paper in April so had to come up with creative solutions like sending us notices on legal paper. The community doesn't support the school. The emphasis was on 'attendance' because it was an issue for the students, and in, some cases, the teachers. The second year was better than the first year and our teacher was skilled. But what are we emphasizing in school? If schools teach to the test, when do students LEARN to think? Teachers are becoming people they didn't set out to be:  creativity isn't encouraged. Teachers are being asked to just teach to the test. It is startling. And so disappointing. I know that this post may make me sound like just another person bashing public schools and public teachers. And that our family is part of the problem. I'm going to have to let that fear go because those readers who know me know that isn't true. But I'm sensitive to this perception. We have a big problem to fix!

That is the long winded story of how we got from Point A to Point B. This is a short term solution. The house is still on the market (for now).  Big decisions still loom.

But happy? Oh yes. And blessed that we can make this happen? Oh very much yes.