Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thoughts on Education

"We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today." - Stacia Tauscher

I have been thinking a lot about schools and why they just don't seem to work anymore. America has thrown so much money at schools over the last few decades, and the quality of education has declined, seemingly, in proportion. Here are a few of my ideas about why this is so.

First, and I know this is completely politically incorrect to say, but mainstreaming has to go. When there are 20-30 kids in a classroom, all of varying abilities, no one gets to really do any quality learning. The kids who are at the top have to wait and sacrifice. The kids who are the bottom try their best to keep up and, more often than not, get lost in the shuffle. If mainstreaming were really to work, class size would need to be kept very, very small so that everyone could get the attention he or she needs. Before anyone gets bunched undies, I know of which I speak. I have a child with "special needs" (I hate that term, because every child has special needs). There is no way he would survive in a "normal" classroom. But, that doesn't mean he is unable to learn. He is doing beautifully with me working with him one-on-one. If he were in a classroom where he had to fend for himself, he would have curled into a ball and quit ages ago.

Second, this business of testing, hanging the world on test scores, and teacher "performance" is ruining education. Kids aren't really learning anything. They memorize stuff that they will need to spit back onto a bubble form and then they forget it. There is no imagination in schools anymore. There is no discussion or play - just this crazy teaching to the test. Don't even get me started on this crazy new math the kids are doing! For God's sake! Math has been around for thousands of years; just teach it the way it's supposed to be taught!

Third, there seems to be an expectation in America that the Japanese or Finnish models of education should work in the United States, but for some reason, they are not. No, and they never will. The US has too many cultural differences in its population to allow that to work. Also, because our social systems are so differently structured, education is just not a priority in many areas. Getting food, keeping warm and staying alive are definitely higher priorities in many parts of the US. Education is expendable.

I don't know how to fix any of this, it's just something I am very interested in. I will probably return to this topic occasionally. Feel free to comment.

Monday, March 21, 2011

One Kooky Day

Today, Jim was supposed to have an eye appointment at the VA to get new glasses. So, we all packed into the car at 9 this morning and drove to the VA Medical Center in Bath, NY. I dropped him off and went to the huge Salvation Army store in Bath. I love that store! I got several shirts for me, a pair of pants for me, a pair of pants for Jacob, and several t-shirts for Noah, all for under $25! Then, we ate the M&Ms that we got BOGO at Rite Aid and went to pick up Jim. He was waiting out in front of the building, so I apologized for being late. He said, "Oh, the appointment wasn't for here, it was in Buffalo." Oh. My. God!

He was told a while ago that he isn't even supposed to go to Buffalo anymore because Bath is closer. In addition, his eye appointments have always been in Bath. So, the woman at the desk says, "Would you like to make an appointment here?" Jim replied, "Well, since my glasses have been broken for a month, and I was really eager to have this appointment so that I could get some new glasses, yes, I would like to make an appointment for here." We are going back on Thursday.

I just did some general, normal housekeeping things when we got home. I made the worst loaf of pumpkin bread I have ever made in my life today, too. It wasn't baked all the way through - I think that's why God invented toothpicks. I normally test it, but I just didn't this time, so it's really bad. I might just feed it to the chickens.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Lots of Days Together

Busy, busy, busy. There is always something to do, but it's still not looking like much is getting done. Yesterday I put more yarn into a new bin and consolidated a bunch of stuff on the front porch. I can't wait to get that area cleaned! That way, the kids can stretch out a little bit and not be in each others hair all the time.

Today, the weather was beautiful, so I did a lot of work outside. I picked up two full garbage bags of junk in the back yard. Then, I raked the front yard to get the sawdust, bark, and wood chunks picked up. I had seven heaping wheelbarrows full of stuff! And, yes the front yard does look much better. There is still a lot of work to do out there. I have to micro-rake it, fill in the holes that the dogs made and get the rest of the wood in one place. It didn't do a thing for the inside mess, but the outside stuff needed doing, and the weather was perfect for it.

I have a lovely pork roast in the oven, and the potatoes are cooking. I am so hungry I could eat the whole thing! I want to get supper into Henry so that he can get a bath and go to bed fairly early. I'm pretty sure that he is completely wiped out. He was such a busy little critter today. Now, he's kind of cranky and evil. An early bedtime is going to be most welcome.

So, I'm off to finish food and find some other sort of abject busy-ness to engage in until it's acceptable for me to collapse into a heap and read my book.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Days 7 and 8

Yesterday was pretty busy. I got the kitchen sink so clean I would now be willing to eat out of it, and I did some more counter de-cluttering. I am really getting the kitchen into shape. It is helping that I am keeping up with what I've already done. It's easier to do that than to have to start from square one all the time. I also made a pot of turkey and white bean chili, which gave me leftovers for lunch today.

Today is going to be crazy busy. First, today is Noah's 11th birthday. I can't believe it! He's such a big boy. He's doing so well and I'm eager to see how he progresses over the next few years.

As for the list of things to do, it will be easier to enumerate it:

1. Burn the papers. Yes, it's probably horrible environmentally, but it's what we do. It can either sit in a landfill or be burned here. Either way, it's bad.

2. Vacuum and dust the house.

3. Take out the trash.

4. Make a birthday cake and decorate it.

5. Make spaghetti and meatballs.

6. Do school.

7. Do laundry and hang it out. It's supposed to be kind of cloudy today, but it's also supposed to be around 50 degrees and breezy. It should work.

8. Clean up the dining room because we have a friend coming over for supper.

I'm sure I'll manage to squeeze some knitting in there, too. A girl has to have her priorities.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Day 6

Today was a day that would have been better if I hadn't had plans. I didn't get anything done that I wanted to. Oh, I did start a couple of things, but getting them finished was another matter. I washed my comforter today and was so looking forward to sleeping under a yummy-smelling blanket. But, while I was cooking supper, I looked out and it was raining! Aaaargh! The comforter is now drying on the rack by the stove. It just won't be the same.

I think most of the reason I was out of sorts and cranky today is that I stayed up until midnight last night and got up at 5 this morning. Five hours of sleep just isn't enough to have to function properly all day. I don't know how I did it when Henry was a baby. Of course, I don't remember most of his first year, either!

He was cranky and irritable today, too. He looked like he could have gone to sleep at any point all afternoon, but then put up a horrible fight at bedtime. First, his jammies had a hole in the toe, and it was making him crazy. Then, he wanted to brush his teeth. Then, he wanted some water. He got the water, but I know he's going to wake up (and wake me up) soaking wet at about 12:30 or 1. I'll just have a new pull-up and jammies ready for him. The less disruption I have the better it is.

So, for now, I am going to clean up the kitchen and get the coffee pot set up for tomorrow. Hopefully I will get a few things accomplished!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Days 4 and 5

I missed writing yesterday because I was thoroughly exhausted from cleaning, cooking, etc. I did manage to get the school bookshelf cleaned and organized. I did not do the portfolios, but the papers are organized and can be put into the sleeves at another time. I threw away two wastebaskets full of junk! I thought the best bit of stuff that I threw away were the two year old magazines. For God's sake, why do I keep this stuff?

I also made a fantastic (if I do say so myself) turkey dinner. Home grown turkeys are just the bomb. I can't even imagine eating a store-bought turkey again;, with all the injected solution and junk? Ick! Since it was an absolutely enormous bird, there are plenty of leftovers. We had turkey salad for lunch, and I will be making white bean and turkey chili later in the week. I may even make enchiladas!

I got school stuff all printed out and ready to go, too. Monday mornings go so much better if everything is in order. This is probably why I conked out at 10 and slept like a stone until 6:30 a.m.!

Today, I bought a bin to put more yarn in. That should go a long way to getting the front porch organized. If we get the shelves put up, that will help a lot, too.

I also made a big pot of minestrone soup for supper. I have been craving it for the last couple of weeks. I used two quarts of tomatoes that were canned last August, beet greens and squash from the garden that I froze sometime last summer, and our garlic. I had to use store-bought onions, carrots and celery. It was very good. There is enough left to freeze some, and to have it for lunch for the rest of the week.

Tomorrow is vacuuming, dusting and bathroom day. The weather is supposed to be nice, so I will also do at least two loads of laundry. Slowly, slowly, it's coming together.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Day 3

I did get the kitchen counter mostly cleaned off today. That was nice. I really don't know why I let the mess creep up on me so much. I honestly don't know how people have perfectly neat and tidy houses all the time. I wonder what the chink in their armor is. One of my problems is that I don't have a lot of room for storage. I know there are people who have closets packed full of stuff so that no one sees their junk. We don't have closets in this house. Therefore, all of our junk is out for full view and assessment. I suppose it a way, it keeps us honest.

I also got the unique pleasure of cleaning up the mess after the toilet overflowed. I usually stand right there and make sure the five uses and subsequent TP go down without incident, but this time I got distracted. YUCK! Cleaning that mess led to another load of laundry, bringing today's total to 3 loads.

So, I didn't get to the school bookshelf, but that is on the list for tomorrow. We are having turkey and the works for supper, so I will have that delicious smell to work to tomorrow afternoon.