Friday, August 29, 2014

A Report on School

The twins have completed one full week of public education. So far, it has lived up to my expectations of being a major disappointment.

The school spent six entire days reviewing rules, policies, procedures, rules, and more rules. In terms of a percentage, I would gather to say this ate up more than 80% of the time for those six days. I actually talked to the principal about it. No, I am not, at all. I asked him why and he told me that it is a really large school (1500 students) and the rules take time to teach and implement. I am just going to let this fact speak for itself, but it would be an understatement to say that I am more than a little bit ticked off.

And it did not take a week for Zach to get called a name by a punk in one of his classes. Let's just say, he came home this week and asked me what the word F-A-G meant. That's right. This is the wonderful socialization my kids have missed out on for the first seven years of their schooling lives.

Last week the Deseret News had a front page story titled "Back to (Home) School". I eagerly read it and then rolled my eyes a lot. First of all, it is the same tired story the media runs repeatedly. Same facts, same format, just insert a new family into the mix. It is another example of the drive-by media at its best. They have a formula they have already created in their socially-constructed newsroom and then they just fill in the blanks, kind of like Mad-Libs, but dumber and not as funny.

And of course to be a well-balanced, impartial story they include the nay-sayers. This time it was the president of the Utah teacher's union.

Professional educators counter that truly effective teaching is difficult. Utah Education Association President Sharon Gallagher-Fishbaugh even described the profession as being "rocket science."
"Those who feel that they are able to do this job without any training, I think don’t have a big picture or a complete understanding of the complexity of teaching," she said. "There is definitely a science to teaching and there is an art to teaching, and you really can’t have one without the other and be a good teacher."
She said the role of parents, in any form of education, cannot be understated and that any good teacher recognizes that parents know their child's needs better than anyone.
But she added that teachers are trained to look at student learning from pedagogical and developmental viewpoints, which goes beyond simply presenting children with information about a subject.
There is also a benefit to having an objective teacher involved in the education of a child, Gallagher-Fishbaugh said. In her own experience, she believed her children "walked on water" but was often surprised by the insight she gained from parent teacher conferences.
"It was something that I, as a parent, couldn’t see through the fog of my love and my adoration for my angelic child," she said.
This statement is insulting on so many levels.

First of all, teaching is like rocket science?!? Really? She's joking, right? Do you remember all of those "rocket scientist" teachers that taught you when you were in school?  I can't seem to recall any.  I can list a ton of my teachers who were barely average at best. There were a few absolute gems, of course. But to equate teaching to this level of sophistication is beyond hubris, it is down right silly. Yes, she recognizes that parental input is important but then in almost the same breath completely disregards it.

Truly effective teaching is NOT difficult. Ridiculous! Absurd!! When I take the time, sit down with my child in a learning environment, crack open a book, read it, discuss it, research more, do a project, etc, etc, learning prospers and it is amazing. And I have the benefit of doing it one-on-one. I don't have to manage 35 children. And the resources are googol on Google. There is no ending to where we can go with it.

And yes, I think I have a perfect grasp of the big picture. And I have the luxury of not wasting six, count it...1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 entire days going over rules. Wouldn't you say that is really missing the BIG picture?

I also understand the complexity of it, as I understand that teaching the facts, presenting accurate information and making sure it is mastered is grasping the 'complexity' of what education is all about. I remember taking an education class in college and being absolutely appalled at the expert 'training' future teachers were receiving. The most absurd moment came when the professor asked what was more important to teach, facts or self-esteem. The most disturbing part was that a lot of these future teachers said self-esteem. How do you teach that, exactly? It seems to me in my untrained, non-rocket scientist mind that self-esteem is a product of hard work, accomplishment, knowledge, and actions. It is not something you attain in and of itself. Kids know when they are not fabulous and know when you are lying to them. Just like you can't feel love for someone just by existing. Love takes work and is a consequence of that work.

Hence, in my simple, backwoods, ignorant way I actually open up books and delve into subjects with my kids and engage their minds in new, unexplored areas.  In the end, I know that the big picture is to teach my kids HOW to think and not what to think. I believe it is exactly the opposite in the public schools.

And news flash, lady. I have met a whole lot of homeschool moms, and I can bet my exposure to different homeschoolers outweighs hers by about a killion. I have never, not once, thought my kids walked on water and I can certainly attest to the fact the majority, minus a few, were the same. We would sit for hours talking about what to do with this problem or that, trying to think of a new way to reach out and engage our children in dynamic learning. This is truth!  This is Realville. Because, and only because, we are on the front-lines of education day after day after day, we know intimately what is going on and where are kids are at physically, mentally, and emotionally. We don't come from a place where we send our kids off 35 hours a week and never see them and have not a clue what is going on. I think that is where a parent can get delusional about how fabulous their kid is. I know my kids are fabulous, absolutely, but they are very flawed, just like every other human being that walks the earth.

And this gets me to my next point that really annoys me. Why is that homeschoolers are held to this ridiculous standard when it comes to socialization?  Why do we even talk about this, like, ever?  Why don't we just turn the finger around and point it at the public schools for a minute? It is as if for some reason society has held this public institution up as the gold standard for a place of perfect socialization training. Seriously? You mean to tell me you never met any weird, awkward, strange, outcast type person who came out of high school? I seem to remember at my high school there being tables and tables of them in the lunchroom. In addition, there were tables and tables of mean, clickish, snobby kids as well. And tables and tables of drug-addicts and bimbos. You were not liked unless you wore the right shoes, had the right haircut, and stylish, over-priced clothes, or owned the latest electronic gadget. You were made fun of if you enjoyed answering the teachers questions in class, ala Hermoine Granger, or did extra to excel and reach your fullest potential or had a desire to actually learn 'information' at school. Has it really changed since I was there? Or maybe, has gotten even worse?

The successfully socialized student ends up like everyone else. Sounds pretty boring to me!

On the flip side, when my kids went to the playground with a horribly matched outfit they put together themselves, dirty face, and ratty, bed head hair, there was a smiling, genuine face there to greet them. There was no name-calling, and if it did happen rarely, punishment was swift and severe. My kids were able to see other kids for the glorious, wonderful, unique individuals that they were. My kids are comfortable speaking to adults and younger kids alike. Are there awkward homeschoolers who live up to the stereotype? Of course, but compared to what comes out of public schools...are you kidding me?

With all of this said, here I am with my twins in public school. Like I mentioned before, I am only human and putting them is school is for me and not them. I need a break to regroup and get my little kids on the homeschooling path.

Eli is now reading on a second-grade level, his math skills are stupendous, his comprehension is top-notch. However, handwriting is more difficult for him and he is going to have to work on improving it. Harry is doing well also, but he does have a hard time pronouncing his R's, L's, and C's clearly. I have thought about speech therapy but I don't want to be hasty. Julia is great with handwriting and drawing but math is going to be a struggle for her. I will just have to take it slowly to make sure she masters each step before she moves on.

See, they are all fabulous, but they certainly do not walk on water.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Public School

Yes, my twins are now in public school, 7th grade to be exact.

It was not a decision I came to lightly. It has been building for a while. This past school year was rather difficult. We had just moved from Reno, I was pregnant and gave birth at the end of September. Then I found myself being stretched thin by the demands of six children of such varying ages. It was not easy. Somehow, I managed to make it through fairly unscathed with Raef and Zach still progressing in their studies. They did a homeschool charter school, which did give them more accountability, especially when it came to science.

However, as the school year progressed I found that I could not be my best for everyone. And in order for this to be successful, Raef and Zach had to do more work independently, which was feasible for both of them. Yet I found myself constantly at war with them, trying to keep them on track. And when I would stick my head into the room to make sure they were working, they rarely ever were. They were always monkeying around. Grrrr....

Something had to give. When I informed them both that I was seriously contemplating putting them in public school, the reaction was polar opposite. Raef was relieved and Zach was fearful. I allayed his fears by pointing out that it was a temporary arrangement and not a life sentence. I needed a break from them to regroup and focus on Eli, Harry, and Julia. I felt it was essential to get the little ones going on a school schedule and create a 'school' mentality for them. With Zach, I assured him that he could always come back home after I got the break I needed.

I took Zach to tour the school in March and we poked our heads around to see this beautiful, state-of-the-art facility that was in its inaugural year. The building was very impressive. Zach seemed to warm to the idea. Raef also did the tour with Rinar, so they could both see what it would be like.

After much prayer and fasting, I felt it would be the right thing for our family. And frankly, in the whole scheme of things, 7th grade does not matter. Last Tuesday was the open house for the school. There were a ton of people there. Wowzers! The school seemed alright. There are some definite pluses to sending them, but the negatives are equally present. For right now, I think I can deal with the negatives. At least I hope I can.

The kids woke up insanely early on Wednesday. They were very anxious to get to school on time. They packed their lunches, took their book bags, and hit the road at about 6:55am. They are fortunate to be able to ride their bikes to school. It is really close. And when they got home, they both seemed positive about it.

The second was not as positive for one of them. Any guesses?  Yep, Zach informed me that he did not want to do this whole public school thing anymore.  Nothing dramatic happened. He is okay. He is just a homeschooler at heart, I think. I told him that he absolutely was staying in school until Christmas, barring any unforeseen disasters. About an hour after our conversation, Zach wanted to know what day Christmas was on. Hmmm...

Raef, on the other hand, absolutely loves it. And he even gets a bit defensive defending his school. I have not been happy with the fact that they have gone for three days and not done a darn thing, besides rules explanations, getting-to-know-you games and paperwork. It is ridiculous. All this wasted time when they could be learning something. But Raef did not want to hear me complain about it.  Sheesh. I have a feeling homeschooling is in the rear view mirror for him. As long as he continues to be a nice person and he progresses academically, I am okay with that. But mostly, as long as he is a nice person. That is the most important thing of all.

This week should start the academics. I hope they do well.  Zach is going to struggle with being organized, but we will work on it together and I think he will learn quickly.

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Senior Moment

Oh boy, this week I experienced my first major senior moment. I needed to purchase some groceries and spent the time looking at the ads, price-matching, and clipping some coupons. I was going to the store with a plan! I pulled into the parking lot, grabbed my stuff, and then headed into the my neighborhood Walmart. I actually did not take too long, probably only 30 to 40 minutes or so. For me, that is pretty darn good.

When I went back to my car, I grabbed for my keys and they were not in pants. Then I rummaged around in my purse. Nope, not there either. Hmmm, where did I put the darn keys?  It then occurred to me that the keys might still be in the car. I was not worried about this because I can just punch a code into the door to open it if it is locked. But when I tried to open the door, it was fine. The door was open and not locked. However, the radio was on!

And so was the car!

Oh my gosh. I left my car running the entire time I was in the store. Hence, I was grateful that there was a car in the parking lot when I was done shopping.

And then I was grateful that I used coupons to pay for the gas I used for my idling car while I was shopping.

You see, it all balances out in the end, right?

Donut Falls

The last gasp of summer...I decided to take my kids on a little hike on Monday. We went to Donut Falls, which is up Big Cottonwood Canyon. The very beginning of the trail has a steep ascent and I started to hear the whining kick in to high gear. In order to thwart the murmuring, I offered to take the kids to lunch if they had a good attitude for the duration of our little adventure. Plus, I put them to the task of making wildflower bouquets. It seemed to do the trick. They kept walking and whined minimally. Plus, the bouquets were very pretty. And Harry really enjoyed the challenge of finding bugs. He lives for that.

We were able to make it to the falls after crossing a mild stream. Of course, Raef had to climb up the rocks as much as possible. It is his thing. I carried Noelle on my back in my sweet hiking backpack. I am so thrilled to have it back in my possession. Noelle didn't make a peep, so I think she must have had fun looking around as we wended our way through the trail. 

The day was magnificent, absolutely perfect for a hike. I am so glad we were not sitting at home rotting away. After the hike, we drove over the pass to Park City and then ate lunch at Panda Express. The kids were really excited about that for some reason.

It was a successful little adventure for my kids. I am grateful that we all got to go and that the drama stayed home.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Helaman Triathlon

Saturday was a big day for Zach. He competed in another triathlon sponsored by the church in this area. It was free and is called the Helaman Triathlon. This is the fifth year they have done this, but our first chance to participate. The kid did great. I wasn't able to see the beginning because I had to take Raef to Summit High School to do his final weigh-in for football. But miraculously, I made it for the end and actually got to see him run a bit.

Zach finished fourth in his age group and had a lot of fun competing. Rinar also competed. He did well, finishing second in his age group to his best buddy Bart W. And amazingly enough, he won a trophy for the Master's division. Neither of us are sure why, but it was still pretty darn cool.

We had a pretty good turn out from our ward. 

Rinar, McKinley P., Emily M., Zach, Zach M., and Lindsey M.
 It was also sweet to see Rinar's triathlon buddies compete with their kids as well. Scott won his age group and his daughter won hers also. Bart beat Rinar and was able to get his daughter Natalie to participate. She finished strong with Bart and Monica running with her to help her to the finish line.

Next year I hope that I can compete also. I just have to remember how to swim and maybe actually ride my bike once in a while. Oh, but it will be fine. I have all year to practice, right?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Highlights

 Here is a highlight of some of my kids amazing accomplishments this past week or so...

Stylist super-hero.

Fine diner.

Culinary explorer.

Future farmer of America.



Tuesday, August 19, 2014


Football season is in full swing and the older my kid gets, the more we get submerged in the football scene. Raef just loves to play football. It really brings him joy. I love it that he can play but I do have a slight bit of anxiety thinking about him getting hurt. Well, I am just worried about his hands and arms mostly. It would absolutely derail viola. That would suck. But I am just going to trust in my Heavenly Father and let this kid be who he is, even if there is a risk.

Since the end of July, he has been practicing hard five days a week, two hours a day. Unlike last year where he played a skill position (tight end), this year he is on the line grinding it out. He actually made it on to a much better team, Chad E.'s team.  This is the third best team in the league. There is A, B, and then Raef's team. I am proud of him for the improvements that he has made.  

Fortunately, Chad is a very calm coach who doesn't yell and certainly does not swear. His teammates all seem to be top-notch. He has really become buddies with his fellow linemen. And now that he is going to school this year, he will instantly have 20 friends. This is such a blessing because friends are important to him.

Last week, the coach brought in a special guest speaker to talk to the boys about tackling. This is Bryan Kehl, who plays for the Washington Redskins. He is injured this year, but is still an active player. He was super nice and had some good things to say to the boys.

I am really looking forward to seeing these kids play some games. They have been working hard. It should be a great season.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Surprise Evening

I love it when something spontaneous happens. We experienced this last week when we decided to go to the park in the evening. I was outside putting away some projects I was working on and Dawson and his mom Heather walked by. They were going to the park. I thought, hey, why not? Let's go with them to the park. Rinar had gotten all the little kids ready for bed, but an hour at the park wasn't going to hurt anything. 

When we got there, to our sheer delight, there was a huge water slide and a whole bunch of friends already there having a great time sliding down this thing. Darcy and Jason were the masterminds. So naturally, with my kids in their jammies, I let them slide down the slide. It was great.

I mean, look at that face. Pure joy!

Then on the way home, I ended up visiting with some neighbors and the kids went in the house. Unfortunately, Rinar didn't get to see the cool slide and the impromptu fun all the kids got to experience. All he saw was five sopping wet, grass-covered kids who needed to get bathed and ready for bed AGAIN. Poor Rinar.

Still, dad was a good sport and it ended up being a very nice surprise evening.

The End of Summer is Near

I was at the store and on a whim bought Noelle and Julia a matching outfit. It is their first one. I found that it was hard to get the right sizes when Noelle was small, but now that she is easing into 12  month stuff, it will be a lot easier. I think I am going to look forward to many more matching clothes. It is just too cute.  

We had Breken stay at our house last week and it was a lot of fun. He is just the best kid and fits right in with the rest of us. By Thursday, the house was so trashed. I finally told everyone, including Breken, that if we cleaned it up really well I would take everyone to Leatherby's for some ice cream. Bingo!  They all pitched in and helped get our place tidy again. And the ice cream wasn't too bad, either.

Right after ice cream, I took the little kids over to Katie C.'s house. Her daughter Molly was having her 4 year-old birthday bash. Katie rented a bouncy water slide and the kids had a blast playing on it for a few hours. It was hard to get them to leave.

Then on Saturday, I dropped Raef and Zach off at the Carolina Hills trailhead to help build a trail for their merit badge. The volunteer coordinator Mike sent me this picture of my boys working hard. He said they did a great job. And like a mentioned before, they now have their merit badge for this one. Thank goodness.

Things are starting to fill up on the calendar for this fall. I guess that is what happens when you have 5 kids doing five different things. Life is about to get crazy for a few months. Raef and Zach will be heading off to Draper Park Middle School this fall. We are going to try out public school this year because I need a break and a chance to really focus on my little kids and get them going academically. I just can't see myself doing it well if Raef and Zach are home and I am pulled in a million different directions. It is just too  much for me right now. I know my limits.

Eli is finishing up the 100 Easy Lessons book and he is becoming quite a good reader. I am very pleased. I would like to have that done before the end of next week. I also ordered his school books and they should be here soon. My plan is to send the boys off to school early every day, then get the little ones up, do a few chores, practice violin, and then head off on an adventure every morning to get all of the wiggles out. Then we will come home and put Noelle down for a nap and do school work. This time I plan on doing most things separate. That means I am going to set up little stations and rotate them through each one. One will be with me and then there will be an electronics station for educational games and then a hands-on puzzle/game type station. I hope that I can keep all three of them intellectually engaged for a few hours every afternoon.

This is totally going to work...right?!?!?

The bottom line is that all of my kids are ready to have some mental stimulation and challenges to help them grow. My school room and play rooms are all cleaned out and I think I am about ready to go. I sure hope it works out even somewhat close to what I am thinking. But I guess the most important thing with homeschooling is the ability to be flexible.

We shall see.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

More Merit Badge Stuff

It was the summer of merit badge craziness. After talking with the merit badge counselor at the zoo, she said that Zach would be able to sign off his Mammal Study badge if he built a bat habitat. Apparently, bats are good to have around because they eat rodents and pesky insects like mosquitoes. This sounded like a job for dad. I am happy to report that the bat habitat got built and painted and passed off. He has now completed Mammal Study. Thank goodness!

They also finished Soil and Water Conservation and have Bird Study about 98% done. But they also have to do a big project in order to complete Fish and Wildlife. I think it is something like build an aquarium and watch it for three months. It is something along those lines. My brilliant idea is to try to coordinate it with their science project for school and kill two birds with one stone. I will find out next week when I talk to their counselor.

When they have a Court of Honor again, my boys will be getting a whole lot of badges. I think they are more than halfway to Eagle. That is going to feel real good to have it done.

Lacey's Wedding Reception

After our camping trip, Rinar and I headed back down south to go to my cousin Lacey's wedding reception. Her reception was in Orem at my Uncle Barry's house. It was an absolutely beautiful day for an outside reception. And I am really grateful that I was able to go. I have not been able to make any of the wedding things for Uncle Barry's family. But finally, I made it.  

And my grandma was there!  She was able to make it up for this special day. It was really nice to see her again. 

This is a picture of her with her great grand-daughter Sophie, Julie's daughter.

The colors for the wedding were orange and turquoise. Here is my Aunt Sue with Devi and Julie. I took this picture right after we waved goodbye to Lacey and her husband, who were on their way to the honeymoon.

As is the case with pretty much every wedding, there was a ton of cake left over. So we went home with a box of chocolate cake. It came in handy on Sunday. The choir was very grateful.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Payson Lakes with Friends

July 24th weekend was the perfect time to do a little camping trip. Amazingly enough, we were able to fit all of our kids and all of our camping equipment into and on top of our Ford Expedition. Let me clarify by saying that no kids were put on top of the Ford!

After getting all packed up, we had to get our supplies at Walmart. Of course, every other Utah family went camping the same day we did, so there were some things that were out of stock. But we managed to get by with what we could.

As soon as we got to Payson Lakes, a fellow camper informed us of a moose in another area of the camp. I didn't want to miss a moose, so I quickly gathered all the kids in the car and we headed over to see her.  She was very busy eating the leaves on that plant. Everyone got a good look at the moose. It was a fun little surprise to welcome us on Thursday.

We set up camp quickly and then found Lindsey, Ryan, and all of their kids down at the lake. They had gotten there several hours before us. We decided to share dinner. They dined on my gourmet chili I made and then we had some delicious dutch oven peach cobbler over at their campsite.  I have to say that it was a lot more fun this year being able to go with another family. The kids had someone else to play with and everyone got along very well.

We have a huge tent. It has three rooms and it barely fit in our campsite. Rinar thought it was a good idea not to put the fly on, so that we could see the stars. Seeing stars is great, except he did not bring enough warm clothes and blankets for himself. Hence, he pretty much didn't sleep all night. And for some reason, I had a difficult time falling asleep as well.

I was happy to get up the next day and go do stuff. In the morning I took Raef and Zach on a bird watching expedition in order to help them get a merit badge done.  I really stunk at identifying birds. I bet there were probably 40 different kinds of birds, but I was only sure on 6 of them. But I guess 6 is better than nothing.

Then we headed down to the lake with the family to hang out and have some fun. We were able to bring our large inflatable boat and a slew of life jackets. I can't believe it fit in our car, but it did. It was a lot of fun. They went out many times on the water. I hung out on the shore because I forgot my darn swimming suit. And Noelle couldn't just crawl around because it was super rocky and dusty. She sat in her stroller or we all took turns holding her. Surprisingly, she just fell asleep at some point and took a solid nap after lunch. But I did end up taking her on a little hike with my backpack and Rinar also strolled her around the lake once.

We were there for about 7 hours and Ryan took advantage of the calm and had a siesta right there in the brush. Must be nice Ryan.


Besides swimming, exploring, and sand castles, the kids played Scum together, the new favorite card game the boys brought back from Scout Camp.

In the evening two other families came to join us: Cassie and Zach W., and Brett and Kristen M. It was just a bummer that they weren't able to come sooner. But we did do desserts together...smores, of course! I brought my guitar and made sure to print off some current music. Everyone had a blast singing Imagine Dragons songs. We did those many times and then we also sang "Let It Go" from Frozen. That was adorable, as all the little girls joined in joyfully. Campfires and guitars seem to go together really well.

We had to leave pretty early in the morning because it was the official start for the football season. Raef had try-outs and he couldn't miss. But it was a great to be able to go camping again this year... and this time with friends. I hope we can do it again next year. Fun times.
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