Monday, August 27, 2012

In Which I Go Off the Rails or Seven Essays with No Theme

We should call this post: In Which I Go Off the Rails or Seven Essays with No Theme

Trip sleeps in a car seat. Or I should say used to sleep in his car seat. His first month or so home from the hospital he slept in his crib (just like his brothers before him), but he spit up so often and awakened himself coughing and choking (and soaking wet about the neck and head) that we quickly (Is a month really quick? – Ed.) realized he needed to sleep in a more upright position.

After his rough start with issues breathing, I wasn’t taking any chances with his breathing. So, enter the car seat. I put some sheets over it to protect it from any errant expulsions from Trip and we all lived happily ever after getting as much sleep as one can hope with a baby in the house. Until last night.

Trip has been rolling and commando crawling during floor time. He does baby-crunches and he has been doing his Pilates 100s every day for a week now. Just last night before bed (Monday), I told my husband that we should put Trip to bed in the crib. At the last minute, we decided to start tonight (Tuesday) because I am not going to work on Wednesday and if the sleep is not forthcoming, I would prefer not to be operating heavy machinery. And at 3:45 this morning, Trip wiggled out of the car seat (and onto the bedroom floor but really once his legs were out, he only went down about an inch, so I am not worried (much) about that). And so, into the crib he went after that feeding. The best laid plans….

Updated: Oh what a disaster…in the crib lasted 3 days. I’m now putting him into the car seat (buckled) to sleep because I cannot handle the vomiting in his sleep at the 45 minutes of sleep at a time all night long, and oh my, how awful. Will be asking the pediatrician about the reflux at the 6 month visit.


My husband is scheduling a baptism for Trip. If you have been reading the blog for a while, you know I am deeply conflicted by this. I fall somewhere between an agnostic and an atheist on the belief spectrum, but I am socially Protestant. I have read the children the Bible cover-to-cover (actually it’s the children’s bible) a couple of times just so that have a basis of reference (it was my first time reading it too). But if they ask if the stories really happened, I pretty much just shrug and tell them to ask their father, or I say that no one really knows or that some of the things probably happened and others didn’t (and so on). They have never asked me if I believed, and I have never offered an opinion on deities. I will not be involved in the baptism, per se, but I can plan a heck of a party for afterward. The End.


Chuckles started 2nd grade. He has 5 adults in his classroom of 24 students. There is the teacher (the only male 2nd grade teacher and Chuckles is very happy to have him), a student teacher (who is friends with our nanny), an instructional aide, and two one-on-one aides for students with special needs, but they are adults in the classroom (more eyes and ears).

Due to funding cuts (and some stupid state property tax caps that the voters put into the state constitution), the budgets at the school have been slashed by millions of dollars. The teachers’ union (not affiliated with one of the national unions) has been really good about working with the district to make non-instructional cuts. And the local taxing unit voters have approved property taxes in excess of the cap for our schools, but the budgets keep getting slashed. The PTO has taken over a lot of the extras to keep classroom budget money in the classroom.

But still, cuts are necessary as the state funding formula looks at demographics and says that economically depressed areas are going to get more funding, so our district keeps sending more money to the state and getting nothing back in return. And now, it’s personal. They’ve cut recess aides. The kids will still have some recess, but the afternoon recess will be canceled unless the classroom teachers want to take the kids out themselves. That used to be when they had their planning periods and when the instructional aides had their breaks. But the district tried to PC-doublespeak it when they sent out the notice: “This change will actually add flexibility to the teachers’ schedules because they will be able to provide breaks as needed, rather than at scheduled times.” Ugh, emphasis mine. I have a PTO meeting tomorrow, where I am sure we will discuss paying the salary for recess aides.


Speaking of school…studies have shown that literacy is important, but that students who have a strong foundation in math have better outcomes (in what, I don’t know and I can’t find the study citation). For some reason, our school is using ThinkMath, which my husband and I find maddening. I guess there are people who are actually afraid of math. I have never heard of anyone being afraid of reading, but somehow math has been elevated to some kind of bogeyman status by people. So, ThinkMath and Everyday Math are supposed to be good for people who are afraid of math (and afraid of teaching math, I guess.

I would prefer they just taught math (here is how you add, subtract, carry, borrow, etc). But I am sure some curriculum specialists have decided that kids need to know how to “estimate” and “break problems down”. It’s not that I don’t do those things (I do…all the time), but that I first learned how to do the problems the “right” way, and then as I got better, I figured out how to do the math faster and easier. I can add, subtract, multiply, and divide quickly now by breaking problems up into smaller parts, but I feel that you need to learn the longhand ways first before you can learn the cheats. And I don’t think the cheats make any sense to you as to why you’re doing them until you learn the regular way. As an example, they are doing addition of two-digit numbers. So, 47+38. Now, I would like those up vertically, and say 8+7 is 15, write the 5, carry the one, 4+3+1 is 8 and the answer is 85. But they teach it this way:

40+7 = 47
30+8 = 38

It’s not that this is wrong…it’s that it’s slow and since the kids haven’t learned carrying yet, they don’t even know why they’re doing it this way. Also, the ThinkMath lessons are so time-consuming, many teachers don’t teach math every day (which is ridiculous). They don’t have time for math every day because Indiana mandates a 90-minute reading/phonics block.  I don’t have a problem with the protected block, in theory. But in practice, it’s a disaster for fluent readers. In the early grades, the focus is on the 6 core competencies (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension).

If you have a student who is in a lower grade, but already reading fluently for content, the time is essentially wasted. Yes, teachers should differentiate instructions, but I have found this is very hard to do in a standard single-grade classroom when the state standard says that all children must be fluent by 3rd grade. If the student is already fluent, are you going to put your limited resources there? Probably not. I don’t really have a problem with standardized testing. You need to know where you are to know where you need to go. But, at a certain point, there are students who are not well-served in this kind of classroom.

We have tried pull-out reading for Chuckles, enrichment in the classroom, etc. However, all of that enrichment is in addition to the regular classwork, so he felt punished by having to do extra (and the lessons he was working on were not put up on the smart board in the classroom so he never got a turn to use the smart pen…which felt like punishment as well). I thought they should replace the regular reading program with another program altogether (not just for him but for the other fluent readers as well….with about a hundred kids per grade, they could put 5 of them in a reading group together).

Apparently, there are certain lessons, tests, worksheets that must be done by every student regardless of reading level. It was a little….anger-inducing or stabby-making. I am trying to advocate for my kid but the state standards (which I now say with disdain in my voice) are inflexible (the rage-maker). In 3rd grade, there will be an entire class of advanced reading and math, so I am just waiting for 2nd grade to end to usher in the new golden era of 3rd grade. (If 3rd grade does not live up to my expectations, I do not know what I am going to do so I am not entertaining that right now. We don’t have a ton of options in the suburbs. The local private schools are all religiously-affiliated (which would be OK) and they all advertise that they adhere to state standards (ack!)).

Bad Mom, Good Mom does more justice to this topic than I ever could.  Go there to read up on topics related to G&T and HA education.

Updated:  We went to Back to School Night and met the teacher.  He seems energetic, nice, and young (Only 34!).  Cautiously optimistic.  He wants the kids to take responsibility for themselves.  That is one area that Chuckles sure could use some advancing.  So, if he gets nothing else out of this year than personal responsibility, I am happy.  Plus they're doing timed tests.  I love timed tests and have used that successfully at home with Chuckles so he can have a goal and work toward meeting it.  Yippee.  Timed tests.  Personal responsibility!  And secret challenge words on the spelling test that earn candy!  Woo Hoo.  Challenges!  Consider me happy until proven otherwise.


Bobo starts preschool in two weeks. My baby! All grown up! He is not the best listener and direction-taker ever so this ought to be interesting. Plus he is not cooperative at the potty, which will now need to be independent. This ought to be…fun?


So, about this Akin fellow. I don’t want to address his dumbing down of rape, because really…that’s just asinine. However, he is basically saying that he does not believe in abortion, ever, under any circumstances. That is not a position I support or want legislated (as a libertarian, I don’t want much legislated), but I can see the position on abortion (not the one on rape because like I said, asinine) and realize that it is a legitimate position for someone to have. If a person thinks abortion is murder and that murder is wrong, then abortion is wrong. I get that. I don’t agree with it, but I get it.

I guess I saved my hot-button topics for the end…the Boy Scouts. I said the following on AskMoxie:
“My 7yo just finished up his Tiger Cub, and I truly hope he sticks it out and makes his Eagle Scout. There may be other organizations that offer things for the youth, but there is nothing else out there with the name recognition of the Eagle Scout. There might be other scouting organizations out there that have an equivalent, but it won't be instantly recognizable as the EAGLE SCOUT is. If my son wants to go to a service academy some day, he needs to have the Eagle Scout.

I'm an atheist (though societally Judeo-Christian) and I can see myself agitating for change from within (when my kids are older and I have time to assume a leadership role in the scouts). I don't want to discriminate against any family who would want to join to perform acts of service for the community.”
That was me on July 19th. Well, over the weekend, merely a month later, I signed up to be the den leader with my husband because waiting for my kids to get older is not an option any more. I’ve decided to put my butt where my mouth is (or something like that). Our first act was to get the other leaders on board. We have decided that we are not going to exclude any families/children based on the sexual orientation (LGBTI - I just learned that there is now an I on the end of that…new to me…stands for intersex in case you are not in the know, as I wasn’t) of the parent(s) or child(ren). Now, we can begin agitating for change from within. First our den, then our pack, then our council, then the WORLD.

Pinky, are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Gee, Brain, where are we going to get lederhosen at this time of night?

********* Peace, out.


  1. H had that same sort of ThinkMath and let me tell you, it is FUCKED. UP. We couldn't help him (because HELLO WE DIDN'T LEARN THAT WAY) and he was so frustrated that he just went, "Screw it. I'm bad at math." And he has had that mindset for years. YEARS. He also had the mandated reading time (our school called it Sustained Silent Reading) and I begged BEGGED the teacher and principal to let him be pulled out during SSR to have math help and nope. He had to read. Which he loved, btw, because he was freaking good at the reading. I was so pissed.

  2. What a mess on the school front. I hope you get it sorted out. We're one week away from starting our great school adventure. I'm sure I'll post on how it goes.

    On the sleep/reflux thing: 1. Do you have a bouncy chair? That has a less constricting strap, so might be easier to use for sleeping. Pumpkin slept in her bouncy chair from time to time, whenever we thought it would help to have her head elevated (her sleep was so... disordered, I guess, is the way to say it, that we really had no idea what helped or not).

    2. They give really refluxy kids meds (heartburn meds, basically) and my friends and family who have had kids that needed this speak of miraculous improvements in sleep. I wouldn't wait for that 6 month check up if I were you!