Tuesday, January 30, 2007

ej oo KEY shuh n

I'm struggling to put my thoughts into coherent phrasing. What is in my head are things like:


lots of "NO"s

"This can't be happening"


What has produced such a strong reaction and the paralyization of my ability to use language to express thoughts? I visited my daughter's new classroom for the first time today. It wasn't good. I'm still in shock to tell you the truth.

One of the reasons I had such a hard time agreeing to move here and leave our old town is because the school that OC attended is fantastic. The curriculum is comprehensive, rigorous, and each year was integrated with the previous in order to create cohesion and context for the material. The atmosphere is disciplined but always positive. The kids know the rules and the rules are always - or at worst, nearly always - enforced, which created a calm place for kids to *gasp!* learn things. Parents are encouraged to be a part of the classroom or other activities. The kids are respectful. Even the highschool boys were polite. It is a great place to send your kid to school, and I did NOT want to take that away from OC.

Now I know why.

She now attends the local public elementary school which is within walking distance of our home. You don't get to choose the public school your child attends, it is solely based on your address. I thought we'd move here, check it out and see how things went, and maybe choose a private school if things were terrible. Or something.

To be fair, maybe today was an off day for the teacher. Maybe. But if it wasn't, then I shudder to think how those kids not lucky enough to already have a strong love of learning and ability to pay attention amidst loud non-pay-attentioners are going to find it in that kind of atmosphere. Let me elaborate.

If you asked me to describe in a word my impression of the classroom I would say, bordering on chaos. That is more than a word. It was not complete chaos, but it lived very near the border to it. It got close enough to Chaos to swap spit, but not close enough to procreate.

I purposefully haven't gone to spend a day at her school because of that whole difficult leaving process. I knew that anything else just wasn't going to measure up to what we had. Was this a preconceived judgment on my part? Yes. I think it is also a fair one, and one that turned out to be proven true. It has taken me all this time to be ready to face the truth of What Is Now. I know that's quite childish, but it's true.

I went to the school today in order to lend a hand, but my intention also included seeing the class in action and finding out what a typical day was like. I had questions in mind like, What was the curriculum? What were the other kids like? What was the atmosphere like?

The teacher did not speak to me at all before class started to give me an idea about what we'd be doing or what I could do to help. I sat in the back of the room and waited. She began the day by going over the date, the months of the year, singing and signing the alphabet and singing a cute song, reading a couple of quick books, and counting by 10's. All this took 15 minutes, and during this time about 3 or 4 kids sitting in the back talked, hit, and pushed each other, ignoring the teacher's repeated request to participate. One girl kept moving around to sit by different people, over and over again after being asked not to move around.

The first project of the day was for the kids to each create a pattern by cutting out photocopied images of quarters, dimes, and pennies and arranging them in a line on a sheet of paper. Next, they were to write the value of each coin above the correct image, and to write the letter that forms the sound of the word for each coin beneath each image.

It was crazy. Many kids needed help. They didn't know what the coins were, didn't know how to write numbers, didn't know how to write the letters. One girl in particular had a terrible time with it all, asking me for help. I helped her, and quickly realized she needed to be in a smaller group setting. The big group thing was freaking her right out. She couldn't pay attention to me. Here is what it was like:

Girl: Would you help me?

Me: Sure. Okay, cut out the coins and arrange them in a repeating pattern, like this.

Girl: Would you help me?

Me: Um, okay. Which coins would you like to use? Okay, good. Cut those out. No need to cut a circle, just cut them out and paste them on. Any that you'd like. Cut them out. Make a pattern. See the example? Do something like that. No, cut them out. Keep cutting...

Girl: Would you help me?

Meanwhile, other kids are asking for help.

Me: *ahhhhh!* Yes, sure. Keep cutting. I'll be right back.

(a few minutes later, after I've made my way back to her table...)

Girl: Would you help me? I can't do it.

Me: Sure. Now let's see, look up on the board. The teacher has an example of a quarter, dime and penny. She has written the value of each above it, like you are to do. Copy that down. See? A quarter is worth 25 cents, so that's a "2" a "5" and a cents symbol, which is a little "c" with a line through it. It's on the board, just copy it above every quarter you have in your pattern.

Girl: Can you help me? I can't do it.

Me: *what else can I say to help her?* Okay, I'll write it for you to copy, then you can do it over again for every quarter you have.

Sidebar: That girl obviously couldn't identify a quarter to save her life. She was totally guessing. It was apparent to me by the way she was helpless and by her anxiety that she needed a different kind of help. She wasn't doing well in the classroom such as it was. I could tell she was anxious, as she looked around at what the other kids were doing and immediately abandoned her unfinished coin pattern to do what the other kids had moved on to do, which was their journals. Only, the other kids had finished their work. At that time she immediately asked me for help again. I felt sorry for her. She needed somebody who could help her, which was not me, and needed out of that classroom full of kids which made her nervous. She was totally overwhelmed and not learning anything.

And then there's the kid who is the teacher's son. Ooooooh yeah, you can just smell all the opportunities for nuttiness in that sentence, can't you? Well, he is a little nut, allright. He went back to his mom's desk repeatedly to get things he wasn't supposed to be into. He liked to get under her desk and just hang out. He also liked to sit at his desk with his coat over his head.

I watched a girl put glue on her chair and then sit down on it. I watched a girl talk - be warned not to - then talk again - be warned not to - again and again and again with no real consequences.

The math lesson was a disaster. The project was for them to write their name at the top of an odd-dimensioned piece of paper. It was a long strip about four inches wide by 12 inches long or so. Half of them wrote it on the wrong side and so missed the instructions of what to do while they erased their names, talked to their neighbors, goofed around, and rewrote their names.

The idea was to copy the math problems, simple addition, onto the paper. Then the candy was passed out. Yes, the math was done with the visual aid assistance provided by little candies, and after doing nothing of value and learning nothing at all, the kids got to eat the candy! After it had spent time being rolled in their hands, having been handled by their neighbor, dropped on the floor and maybe stepped on, into their mouths it went. The tables nearest the teacher got some of the instruction. The tables farthest away, where I was, saw kids not getting it AT ALL, and no one except for me was there to try to get them through it. The teacher was distracted with each individual kid, and at no point did she have them all quiet at once and listening to her instructions.

Kids were up and all over the place, all day long. I applauded - in my head - each and every attempt by the teacher to have order, and there were times when I thought she would prevail but then she would give up. She would get their attention, get distracted, and then by the time she came back to say what she needed to say she only had the attention of three or four kids.

I know that Kindergarteners are squirmy, attention-deficit by nature of their age. I didn't expect to see a tomb-like classroom with robotic, silent children taking in every word. What I would have liked to see is a room full of children who may have tried to goof off but were quickly put back in line. I wanted to see a teacher who had the attention of every child before she spoke, especially when it was important like teaching math or the like. That teacher needs an assistant, and she also needs to follow through to get the kids to act more appropriately. If she had that then I think it would improve things immensely. I know it can be done, because that is exactly what it was like at OC's old school. The teacher was always, ALWAYS polite and positive, but she could get them to listen and do what they were told. It wasn't perfect, but it was way more ordered than what I saw today and way more quiet.

I know what you're thinking. I'm thinking it, too. Get your ass in there, girl! Be her assistant, talk to her about what I saw (in some tactful way) and work with her to get the kids' attention and discipline those little turkeys so they know what is expected of them. Kids will exhibit good behavior if you prove to them that you're serious about expecting it, especially at this age.

I'm not a teacher. I am not good working with large groups of children. I'm much better at small groups, or better yet, one-on-one. I can see quite plainly that there is a need, but what exactly can I do about it? I can get involved but it's really up to the teacher to set the tone. We've come here mid-year. Can I really expect her to be open to my suggestions? What if she takes it badly and thinks I'm just a jerk looking in from the outside with a lot of criticism, and so does nothing to change the kids' behavior and is then pissed off at me? And, who am I? What do I know, anyway?

A lot of what-ifs there. I think there has to be a better way. I know I can't fix it alone, or maybe at all. I'm quite clear that I'm the amateur here.

It sounds like I'm a public school hater. I'm not. I am a product of it.

(And look at the result! I end sentences with prepositions. Then you might say, at least you know what a preposition is, and that the rules for English say Thou Shant Do That. I know.)

I don't think all public schools are bad and all private schools are good. Or vice versa. Or anything close to that. I believe that each school is unique depending on the philosophy and ideas of the people running it. There are plenty of examples of great schools of either genre, which is why I wanted to wait until we moved here to really check them out because I knew it would take personally visiting the school to get to know that particular school.

OC's old school was based on the classical education style. That is, things were taught based on the trivium model of grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The first stage is grammar, done from Kindergarten through about fourth grade. Grammar in this case doesn't mean that the only thing taught is the grammar of language, what it means is that the facts - the grammar - of all subjects are taught at this stage. Children absorb them even before they can put them into context. It is building the foundation upon which they will put their knowledge into a bigger context and relate it to other subjects. Logic is the stage (fifth to eighth grade or so) where the facts make sense in part due to the child's stage of development where they can understand abstract thoughts, and in part that this is the time where it is shown how the facts interrelate to one another. After the logic stage comes the rhetoric stage, high school, where the student is taught to effectively communicate their ideas to others. This includes asking questions and much debate.

Emphasis is placed on learning things in chronological order as well, beginning with the ancients at the grammar stage and working up through to modern times in the rhetoric stage.

Language is considered the basis of all learning, because you can't learn math if you can't read. You can't understand history if you can't read, etc. Phonics instruction is practically the first thing taught.

A better outline of this style of education is here.

So many things about it make sense to me: the way learning is structured, how it is comprehensive, how one subject is shown to correspond to another. Learning about art is one thing, but learning about art in the context of what was going on at the time with regard to science, astronomy, religion makes for a much richer experience! It makes much more sense to learn about Copernicus' discoveries when you know what the Church was doing, where society was at while all this was going on. It seems to me such a solid foundation in order to foster a love of learning for a lifetime. That is an incredible gift to give a child. I want OC to have all those benefits.

That being said, I know what I'm looking for for my daughter and that I can't rely on this public school to provide that for her because that is not the way it is set up. I'm grateful for the choice and the resources to find what I am looking for, but still kinda pissed that we had to leave the old place and that there is no place like that here.

Now all I need to figure out is, how am I going to provide this? There are no classically-based private schools in this area. Not even in Bend. Homeschool has always seemed like an odd route to me. As though the only reason to homeschool is that you don't like society at large and your religion restricts girls to the home and the only product of homeschooling would be a socially-inept megalobrainiac who will never experience a prom or play in a basketball game. Sure, they're smart, but they can't put a cute outfit together! Obviously, this is not accurate but this route scares me a little.

Luckily I live in the day and age of the internet, which allows me to have access to plenty of resources. At this point, I know I want to supplement OC's school day with instruction in phonics, math, reading aloud, writing, history, audio books, and easy readers. Just this week we have begun to have "lessons" in the morning before she goes to school - or to what I now will think of as "Rum Amok Time" in the afternoon, and she has so far been excited about them.

But what about next year? That is the big question.

Taking a Beating

While unpacking a box last week, I reached in and received a puncture from a vase that had broken in transit. This time, it was on my right thumb and not a reinjury of the first cut from before.

What is the message here? You want me to stop unpacking? I'll stop unpacking! Just tell me what you want and I'll do it! Please!!! I just want to stop getting maimed.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Quotable Kid

A while ago I was telling OC about how proud I was of her. I was going on and on, and she responded in her usual pragmatic way:

"I'm so proud of you! Gymnastics, reading, drawing....blah blah blah."

"I know," said OC. "I was born to be that way."

In other words, WHATEVER, MOM.

* * * * *

And then there was the time we watched "Between the Lions". The song from the segment called Vowel Boot Camp was stuck in my head. I was singing, (to the tune of 'Sound Off')"When two vowels stand side by side, the first one says its name with pride"!

To which OC pipes up, "It's okay mama, it won't give me a headache!"

Well. That's good.

* * * * *

A case where pop culture comes back and smacks you in the head with the reality of it:

OC: "I want one of those lollipops where if you get an indian you can punch someone."

Oh, she wants a Tootsie Pop. As kids, my siblings and I played the game where you looked at the Tootsie Pop wrapper for the 1950's-era boy dressed as a Native American Indian, and if he was there, we'd yell, "I got an indian!" and haul off and hit the nearest sibling in the shoulder.

It was a game.


It never seemed a bad thing to say, but now do I need to change it to ameliorate any problems by yelling 'I've got an indian?' Is that even a problematic statement? Would people wonder if we were talking Native American or Indian-subcontinent Indian?

Am I reading too much into this??? Maybe?

Ok, probably yes.

* * * * *


"If I was your mommy I'd let you have all the candy you wanted."


"I think it's good. I wouldn't let you have too much in one day. I would let you have one per day."

"What if I wanted more?"

"I would say, 'Go sit in your room and think about it.' And, 'no playing. Try to get it out of your mind. Then you can come out.'"

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Which Gay Childhood Icon Are You?

You Are the Very Gay Tinky Winky!

Purple with a gay pride symbol... how could he not be gay?
And that red purse is divalicious!

I don't know, this character is so very recent and was only pronounced gay by the likes of Bill O'Reilly or something, not by any actual references.

Ah well, I enjoy being gay. And purple. With a red purse.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Bad Karma

While unpacking a box of kitchen items, I reached in and found one of my wine glasses had broken. I found that out when I felt a sharp stabbing pain and when I withdrew my hand it had a bloody cut. A cut, I might add, on the SAME THUMB in roughly the same place as the time not too long ago I tried to cut the damn thing off. You know what? That really f-ing hurt!

We've lived here a total of 20 days and so far I continue to run into the sharp points of open cabinet doors, hit my head on low ceilings, and find fun little 'presents' from the furry ones in places other than the appointed lavatational space.

Bastards. And, what have I done to deserve it? Can a bad attitude coupled with ongoing general bitterness at life in general really be the cause of all this misery?

Oh. My. You are lining up in droves to come visit me now, I know.

This morning, I got soap in my eye and actually couldn't see for a few seconds. It was fun! I got to ponder thoughts like, was I going to get my vision back...or not??? My vision returned in seconds and so that was really the only thought I had time to ponder.

That eye still kinda stings.

Later, my daughter found me lying on the bed with eye drops poised over my eye while talking myself into putting the drops in. I am scared to the point of ridiculousness of putting drops in my eye, generally putting them into my closed eye as I never quite manage to keep it open. I mean, my god, the drop is just sitting there waiting to fall into my opened, vulnerable eyeball! How can one sit still for that? Aaaaaahh!!

I'm going to have to watch my actions because with karma like that I don't need to put anything bad out there lest it come flying back my way. Actions are like boomerangs, and the karma gods know how to throw boomerangs. Unlike myself, which is a good thing I guess.

If I were in charge of karma and it were, indeed, a boomerang-type instrument I'd be hitting people (and trees, cars, the random passerby) with bad karma who didn't deserve it at all while the people who did deserve it wouldn't get their fair share and the whole system would be thrown off all because I never went to Australia as a child and learned to throw a boomerang. Talk about misspent youth.

I'm going to try and not disturb a soul today; to get through the rest of it without incident. I guess I do have something to look forward to. I ran into one of OC's classmates mom who asked me if OC would like a playdate. Woo hoo!

Maybe my karma is about to change.*

*Edited, because I need to watch that karma thing.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Where We Live Now and What We Have Been Baking

Here's our new house:

Want another angle? Sure, here you go:

How about yet another?

I didn't think to take a photo of the back of the house. Want to smack me yet? Allright. Moving on.

I like our house. It was built in 1945 in the what, Tudor style? I guess? I feel really comfortable in this house, unlike how I felt in the previous house, and I think maybe that's because this is the first house my husband and I have purchased together. The previous house was purchased by him and I moved in later, and it really always felt like "his" house. Not that he made me feel that way, it's just the way it was. Now, it feels like our house, and I'm making design and decorating decisions from the start.

OC wanted to make cupcakes for Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, so we did:

That girl can frost and sprinkle like nobody's business. Allright, so if you come over, we'll make you cupcakes! Would you like chocolate or vanilla? Either flavor will feature a thick layer of buttercream frosting and enough sprinkles to choke a horse. Which is of course the way cupcakes were meant to be.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Where In the World Is Central Oregon?

When we went to Ireland last spring, we met all kinds of people: Irish people obviously, people from Northern Ireland, and Germans there for a fishing competition. The first questions were almost always to establish where one another was from. Instead of saying "Portland" we said "Oregon", figuring that saying the name of the state instead of one city might orient people to the west coast because it's a big state, and then we could avoid the whole Portland-Oregon-not-Portland-Maine thing. Turns out people in Europe don't give a fiddler's fart about Portland at all because they don't know where it is. They also didn't really know where Oregon was, which was a first for us because it's a big state and easier to place than say, Rhode Island. (Unless you're from Rhode Island, of course. Or live near it. But I digress.)

Why should the Irish know where Oregon is, anyway? I don't blame them. It takes hours to fly to the States from Ireland, and to get to the west coast is another 6 or 7. I can see why most visit New York and Boston on their vacations. Who wants to eat up another two days of vacation just getting there? Well, besides my husband and I?

Anyway, I'm not harping on the geographical knowledge of the Irish. They're smart, hospitable people. What I'm getting at is that Oregon is a big place. Most people when they think of Oregon tend to think first of Portland, the Willamette Valley, Salem, and Eugene. But there is this whole other part of the state, and that is where I live now.

I knew that moving to Central Oregon would be a big change. Not only is it 126 miles (or 3.5 hours) away from where we lived previously, but it is over the Cascade mountains. We used to live in the Willamette Valley. In wine country, to be exact. Now we live in the high desert. A whole 'nother ecosystem.

I have never spent much time in the high desert. The occasional camping trip or visit to Sunriver, but that was about it. I would say I have been here probably a dozen times or so in my entire life. Now I live here. I still cannot believe it.

It is cold here. Very, very cold. And dry. The shock of it has worn off somewhat, but I still tend to watch the weather report in disbelief. It's going to be a high of 22 degrees? Really? Can it do that??? It can, it can; oh yes, it can! And low temperatures? Forget about it. Single digits! This week, the mornings have started at six degrees. SIX DEGREES. I don't know what to think of that.

The bad thing is, I haven't found my hats and gloves yet. I have warm jackets, but you really need to have all your exposed skin covered. And you need lotion: face lotion, hand lotion, and body lotion.

I'm ready for someone to visit. Bring your cold weather wear - all of it - and your lotion. Oh, forget it, I'll give you some of my lotion. Just come see me!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Snowy Day

As I walked along the snow-covered sidewalk, I noticed another set of footprints had been left before mine: feline.

Yes, walking. You know what that means, right? If you said, "You're walking because after you took your daughter to school you walked to the library to use the internet because you still don't have it at home," you would be absolutely correct.

Internet Connection Gods, what did I do to make you mad at me? Qwest sent me a kit, I hooked it up according to the directions, but it's not working. I have a feeling it's the phone line.

Our house was built in 1945. Sometimes lights work, sometimes they don't. Actually, the light in the hall is the only one that's sketchy. I don't have a regular phone, so I can't plug it in to test and see if the line is even on or if anything comes out of there. What am I expecting to come out of there? Oh, I don't know, email? That would be nice. I called up the automated technical support because that is all that is left to do, but was informed that they were experiencing a significant call volume and that my wait time would be fifteen hundred and one thousand years, and that they appreciated my business. I hung up. I am so alone without the internet. Somebody come and visit me! Please!

Anyway. The library is nice. There are many computers and it is within six block of home so it's an easy walk. I feel so much pressure to produce while I'm here, though, what with the one hour limit. The only thing I will say about being here is that it's awkward because I notice that I tend to talk out loud to the computer screen as I read or type things. It is more obvious when you are in a public place, and a little embarrassing at times. Note to self: stop talking to computer screens in public. Check.

Speaking of which, I have to go read your blogs and check email now. I only have one hour! Bye bye.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Still Not Online

Local Wireless Internet Company came by the other day to look for the tower. "Can't see Grey Butte," says nice LWIC guy, "which is the radio I brought to test, but Cline Butte is right over there. I don't have the radio to test for that one, but those trees across the street are gonna leaf out this summer and mess with your connection and then you'll be calling us to complain. Do you want me to go get the other radio to test it, though? We do this rating blah blah techie speak blah blah..."

Um, no. I will sit here and feel what it was like back in the damn 19-oughts because I can't read freaking Amalah.com, or post to my blawg, oh my gawd. No big deal, I called Qwest and they can have it going by next week. The only weird thing was that during the call they asked me which of their switches I thought would be the closest. Um, hi, I don't work for Qwest? Nor do I have access to your mega databases, internet, or maps which contain that information so could, um, YOU figure it out? WTF?

Anyway. Back at the library with 12 minutes 39 seconds left.


There are boxes, boxes everywhere. Still.

Spent last weekend at the old house fixing and cleaning. It sucked. SUCKED, I TELL YOU! To be working on a place that is not going to be yours, to still be dealing with your old crap. Oh yes. There is more.

It's sunny and snowy here. Oh, it's snowing right now.

OC is in school, and I'll have to write more about that later. I cried on her first day. It is so hard to leave her at a place I know nothing about.

More later. Library clock sez you in the red sweater, you're time is over!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Moving Day!

Let's get this over with, shall we? Then I can get on to complaining about things other than moving. Ha. Ha. Ha.

We'll be driving over this pass today:

The pass is clear! Oh my god! I'm glad about that because I will have two mewling kitties in the car with me for three and a half hours or so, and I was hoping not to have to stop and put on chains which would make the listening time that much longer.

I looked for the kind of chains that you just kind of throw at the car and they attach themselves to your tires. Either they don't make them or they don't sell them at GI Joe's. We have all kinds of technological wonders: dishwashers, automatic garage door openers, self-cleaning ovens....why not self-installing tire chains?

Anyway. Happy new year, and the next time I post it will be from Central Oregon.

(Oh my god!)