What follows is a series of pieces I've written which relate to our decision to homeschool Missy.  Some of them also deal with the public school system (in our case, Beavercreek Schools in Greene County, Ohio).  One of them only peripherally deals with schooling, but it's about educating your kids and parental responsibilities, so I added it.  Most (but not all) of these entries are culled from my blog, The Original Musings.  I stopped updating this page in 2005, if you want to read the homeschool archives of my blog, you will find a whole lot more! 

Here's a dated table of contents ...  

2003:  April 2003     September 2003
2004:  April 2004     April 2004 (2)     August 2004     August 2004 (2)     September 2004     November 2004
2005:  April 2005     July 2005     July 2005 (2)     July 2005 (3)     July 2005 (4)     August 2005     October/November 2005

You can also view an ongoing homeschool assignment of Missy's -- a United States map showing things she's learned about places she's visited.  Missy hopes to see Ireland added to the project in the next few years!


As I write this in late April 2003:

I've brought five children into this world.  Four daughters and a son.  My son, Sam, unfortunately, is deceased.  He died of SIDS when he was 76 days old.  So, I have four remaining (surviving?) children and two adorable grandbabies.  My children cover a rather large spectrum, age-wise. 

My oldest, Anna, the mother of my first two grandbabies, is 23.  She lives in Brunswick, GA with her husband, Peter and their children, Andy (André Logan) and Josh (Joshua Kyle).  Andy is 4, and Josh is a month old as I write this. 

Next, is Maggie.  Maggie is 20.  She's back at home, after 8 months of living on her own in Indiana.  She works full-time in a deli and bakery. 

Then we have Amanda, who is two weeks shy of 15 as I write this.  She's the last of the three "S" children.  That is, children born to me and my ex-husband.  That's kind of an important detail to this subject so keep it in mind. 

My first child with Darin is Missy, who is now 8.  And then there was Sammy, who would be 4 on April 25, 2003.  Sometimes I find myself looking for him ... wondering why I haven't heard him in a while.  Not as often any more.  I'm not sure if that's a blessing or not.  Sometimes I sit and contemplate his life.  His death.  The small container that what remains of his physical form stays in now.  Not as often any more.  I'm not sure if that's a blessing or not.

Anyhow.

With Anna ... I watched her go from a little girl who loved learning, loved school, and just really soaked up everything she could, knowledge-wise, to a child who simply hated school and had to be forced to go more often than not.  Her change started in fourth grade, and it was pretty much a straight shot downhill from there.  She still loved learning.  Still thirsted for knowledge.  Still a voracious reader and a child of uncommon intelligence with an amazing vocabulary.  (Not bad when you consider that for the first year and a half of her life, her vocabulary consisted of precisely one word <besides mama and daddy> which was "yees" ... everything was "yees."  Do you want this?  "Yees."  Do you want to go to bed?  "Yees" accompanied by a shake of the head.  But I digress.)  School became dreaded and resisted and eventually outright hated.  At the time, I wanted to intervene.  Put her in Montessori school.  (Couldn't afford it.)  Move her to a private school.  (Ditto.)  Homeschool her.  (NO WAY, said her father.)  Divorce didn't help, because he still interfered.  Till she was 13 and finally quit seeing him.  Then he continued to interfere, just not with her directly.  He had to go around her.  Like to the school.  She wound up dropping out in 11th grade, got her GED and never looked back.  She's now the proud holder of a BA in early childhood education and is working on her master's. 

With Maggie ... I realized fairly early on that Maggie had some problems.  A bit of a learning disability, especially in areas like math.  Absolutely every bit as voracious a reader as her older sister, and blessed with an exceptional vocabulary and grasp of the English language.  Here's one of those times when it's important to remember she's not Darin's.  Fate conspired to make her my ex's child, and this matters because that gave him a right to have input into her upbringing, even after our divorce.  Even after she quit seeing him when she was 12.  And believe you me, the man exercised his right to have input with anyone who'd listen.  Schools.  Children's Services.  Even his Congressman, once.  Loudly.  Vigorously.  Harmfully.  Maggie loved school till second grade.  She started disliking it then -- a bad teacher soured her on it, and she never really recovered.  This was exacerbated by the fact that every single time I tried to get Maggie tested for learning disabilities, her father raised hell.  First, HIS daughter couldn't be less than perfect.  If she was, well, that somehow made *him* less than perfect and that's not possible.  Furthermore, it wasn't a learning disability.  It was laziness.  It was her refusing to learn and my refusing to make her.  It was her goofing off, resisting, ignoring, running the streets, whatever ... and whatever it was, it was my fault.  She'd probably be dead in a gutter somewhere by the time she was 15, if not, she'd surely be pregnant out of wedlock and addicted to drugs.  (Can you imagine?  Saying this crap about his own daughter!!)  By the time we got someone to listen to us and to understand that her father was wrong, that he was, in fact, either outright lying or dreadfully misinformed, it was too late for Maggie.  You can't undo 5 years of bad habits with a child who's been thru a wringer.  Especially not when the high school starts encouraging her to just drop out.  (Yes, truly.  It's why we moved out of that school district.  I didn't want Amanda and Missy facing this same type of attitude.)  So, Maggie was "lost" education-wise too.  She too dropped out. 

Public Schools 0 for 2. 

Amanda liked school at first ... hated it for a while ... then had a great third grade teacher, one of the rare, special ones who makes learning something magical and exciting and who inspires a lifetime of fond memories.  This was followed up with a horrible, horrible teacher who believed every word her father said and disregarded everything we tried to say.  Amanda was lazy, undisciplined, running the streets, going to turn out like her worthless sisters and it was all her mother's fault.  The next year, they believed that too ... and the year after that, they finally started realizing they were being misled.  She quit seeing him when she was 13.  The schools finally realized that she actually was a good kid, who never has given us any real problems, and who is perfectly capable of doing the work required of her.  She simply doesn't wish to do so.  Between a couple bad teachers and an interfering father on a mission, she lost her motivation in fourth grade, and she's never really recovered it.  Darin and I have tried everything.  Nothing works.  Until she wants to do it for herself, it's not going to happen.  She doesn't want to flunk 8th grade, so she'll do just enough to pass and advance with her classmates.  She's doing pretty much the minimum of what's required of her.  She's doing "okay."  Not great.  Not horrible.  Just okay.  Like her sisters, she is a heavy reader, she's got a tremendous vocabulary (though lately she's testing her bounds with those of the 4-letter variety) and she's exceptionally bright.  Like her sisters, she is also polite, well-mannered, and somewhat mature for her age.  Like her sisters, when she started having problems in fourth grade, I wanted to pull her out of public schools.  I couldn't afford private, but homeschooling was an attractive option.  Except for that one little problem, the one she shares with her older sisters: her father.

Public Schools 0 for 3 ... but this one's at least still up for grabs.  Maybe things will turn around for her in high school.

Which brings us to Missy.  She's in second grade this year.  She's already hating school.  With a passion.  Mind you, though, she too loves learning.  She's very very bright.  She's got a vocabulary superior to many middle school students (hell some adults).  She's a voracious reader who regularly reads at a sixth grade level and higher.  She's computer savvy, creative and diligent.  She can amuse herself for hours with a good book; something to color; a stack of scraps and odds and ends out of which she can make things; a doll house with small people to animate; or Legos or Lincoln logs with which to build.  Let her get on the computer to use a program or just to surf the internet seeking information on whatever subject happens to have crossed her mind.  (She's a huge fan of Google searches!)  Give her the remote control, let her push the coffee table out of the way and let her pop in a dance DVD so she can practice her dancing.  Let her go ride her bike, or take one of the two-way radios and trot off to one of her myriad friend's houses.  You get the drift.  She can entertain herself given the right tools.

She's got double rations of determination and when she sets out to learn something, she does it.  She set out to become potty trained on her second birthday.  She wanted "big girl" panties.  I told her she could get them, but if she had an accident, it was right back to the pull-ups.  She had no accidents.  That was it, she was potty trained.  She set out to ride a two wheeler without training wheels.  She let Daddy try to help her for about ten minutes, then told him to get lost and let her figure it out herself.  Twenty minutes later, she had it down.  An hour later she was flying up the street as fast as the wind, leaning into curves and steering around the occasional car sticking onto the sidewalk.  She decided she needed to learn how to tie her ghillies (Irish Dance [reel] Shoes) and it took her about fifteen minutes to figure out the lacing order and about ten or twelve attempts.  It would have been quicker, I'd wager, if she at least knew how to tie regular tennis shoes before she learned the ghillies, but heck, once you master those puppies, you can tie anything! 

The point, of course, is that she's a bright, intelligent little girl who thrives on learning.  Yet she hates school.  Enough is enough.  I've watched three children lose their enthusiasm for school when left to the public school system.  I refuse to let another one fall thru the cracks. 

Beavercreek Public Schools, incidentally, are very good.  I wish we'd moved here years ago.  I wish all of my children had gone to Beavercreek Schools.  Perhaps things wouldn't have soured as quickly for them if they had.  Who's to say?  The reality, of course, is that we moved here in mid-April of 2002, from Fairborn Schools, which are pretty dismal.  So, Amanda will have half of 7th grade thru 12th grade here in Beavercreek Schools.  Given that, I can't sit here and criticize Beavercreek Schools.   I moved to this school district by choice and would do so again. 

About Beavercreek Public Schools.  They passed all 22 of the standardized tests.  They have a respectable drop-out ratio and mostly acceptable student to teacher ratios.  If one is seeking a good public school system in which to place their children, I would recommend Beavercreek. There's nothing inherently wrong with even the average public school system for the average child.  And I don't think Beavercreek is "average" -- I think they're well above average.  Perhaps even excellent.  I don't think you can beat the education in any other public school system locally.  Mind what I said there -- in any other public school system

Mind the other statement I made a moment ago.  Nothing inherently wrong -- for the average child

Missy is not an average child.  I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, I simply know it to be an indisputable fact.  Because of this simple fact, the school system is not perfect for Missy, and it's these incidental imperfections that trouble me.  In time, I expect she may come to a point where she will elect to return to the public school system.  If she does, that's fine.  If she does not, well, that's fine too.  I'm in this for the long haul. 

About those "for Missy" imperfections: 

For instance, elementary school students go to school first in Beavercreek.  Most systems, its the high school students who go first.  Missy therefore is at school at 7:45.  She gets out at 2:00.  This means she has to be up no later than 7:00.  Missy is not a morning person.  She's also a child who simply cannot get up and eat breakfast.  She just can't do it.  She has to be up and about at least a couple hours before she's able to sit down and eat.  When she has to be on a bus at 7:15 (or as we've been doing the bulk of this school year now, in the car at 7:30), to give her that couple of hours would require her rising at 5:00 each morning.  Which would require her going to bed about 7:00 at the latest.  An hour (tops) after dinner  (and no, we can't move dinner back any earlier when you consider that Amanda doesn't even get home till 4:30 and has just had lunch at 2:00.  6:00-6:30 is the goal we aim for).  This is ludicrous.  So she gets up at 7:00, gets dressed, has a very small glass of milk or juice and takes off at 7:30 for school.  Thankfully, about the time she's finally getting hungry at school, it's her lunch time.  In her case, though, this is her breakfast.  And after I pick her up at 2:00, we have lunch together around 2:30.  She's simply not a morning person.  And school can't take that into consideration, obviously.

Schools are filled with children.  (Duh!)  This is fine and dandy.  There are many different personality types.  Some kids are loud and boisterous.  Others are quiet and reserved.  Some can never seem to sit still, others can sit quietly for hours.  Some can block out the world around them.  Some can't.  Some can concentrate in a crowded place with lots going on.  Others need a quiet place to hear themselves think.  Unfortunately, in a public school setting, you will have children who can't sit still and who won't be quiet.  These kids will require extra attention from the teacher, and will (hopefully) eventually mature, settle down and learn there's a time to play and a time to buckle down and work.  This is fine, except when you have a child like Missy. 

Missy is a very serious, studious person.  When it's time to sit down and learn, she wants to do just that.  When it's time to go out on the playground, blow steam and go nuts, she wants to do just that (with a vengeance!).  Her dance teachers see this as a plus.  Her school teacher sees it as a negative.  Being goal-oriented, knowing when to settle down and do the task ahead of you is a good thing, say the dance teachers.  They enjoy watching her when class/performance/competition is over, when she seemingly flips a switch and becomes a giggling eight year old again.  The school teacher, however, feels that Missy needs to lighten up and cut loose.  Its not normal for an eight year old to be so focused and able to control herself.  The teacher has come to a couple of Missy's dance performances and has seen her away from school a few times and can't get over what a difference there is in her personality.  She wishes Missy would be more rambunctious at school, and not be such a quiet little church-mouse. 

And here I thought self-discipline was a good thing.  Silly me.  I thought it was a good thing that I can take my daughter into a fine restaurant with top of the line 5-star service and a dignified atmosphere and know that my daughter will sit down, speak quietly, use the proper flatware and behave herself.  She won't get up and run around and behave like an uncultured swine or a resident out on a day-pass.  (And it's particularly funny when we're in a restaurant and someone's child is acting like a banshee and our little Missy says something pithy like "can't they shut that kid up?"  I'm telling you, sometimes, I think I have a 30 year old trapped in an eight-year-old's body!) 

Missy is very organized (where other children are typically neglectful of their things at this age) and very routine and order minded.  There's a time and a place for everything, and it's especially nice when you can count on things following a schedule or routine.  Monday, Show and Tell.  Tuesday, art.  Wednesday, pizza for lunch.  So on.  Yes, sometimes schedules get off kilter for one reason or another, but you can get them back on when the special instance is over.  Folders get stacked here on the left side of the desk drawer.  Crayons go in this box.  She's not obsessive -- for instance, they don't all have to face the same direction or be placed back in the original container in spectrum order.  She just wants to know where things are when she needs them.   When the little boy next to you is constantly swiping your crayons and snapping your pencils, it distresses her.  She can't tell anyone about this, though, because that's tattling and the teacher says you must worry only about yourself and not tattle on others unless someone is in danger of getting hurt.  Well, stealing a crayon is not imminent  harm time, so you can't tell.  You just lose your crayon and hope you'll see a chance to swipe it back. 

Is this really what I want my daughter learning?  I don't want her running around telling every time a child looks cross-eyed at her.  At the same time, however, I certainly don't think it fair that she can't say "hey, Joey here just snapped four of my pencils in half, do you think you could make him stop?" without being told to mind her own business.  If they're her pencils, it's her business, no?  I don't want her appointing herself the boss and arbiter over other's behavior.  But I don't see the harm in her expecting that everyone will demonstrate basic respect and consideration for others.  We used to call that the Golden Rule.

She's also very conscientious and fair minded.  If the teacher says "sit down and do this" then Missy feels she (and everyone around her) should sit down and do this.  No giggling, no talking, no delaying, no goofing off.  Sit down and do as instructed.  When there's 23 other kids in the class who aren't quite so conscientious ... it leaves a child like Missy with three immediate problems.  First, she can't concentrate with all the nonsense going on around her.  Second, her sense of fair play says "hey, this isn't right, why should I sit down and behave if they're not?"  And third, because she's innately a rule-follower, she won't join them in the pandemonium.  She'll tell the teacher and expect that the teacher (authority figure that she is) will do something.  The teacher, of course, interprets this as tattling.  Which, I suppose, it is.  Though, I remember when I was in school, the teacher said "sit down and be quiet" you sat down and were quiet.  You didn't ignore instructions.  Nowadays, however, the teachers feel you need to get used to the idea that not everyone is going to play by the rules.  See, it would be harming little Jimmy's self-esteem if you sent him to the office for a lecture for failure to follow class rules.  It would humiliate him if you stood him in the hallway for the rest of the period because he wouldn't settle down.  Can't have that.

There's other problems, for instance, Missy's way ahead of her classmates in reading, comprehension, etc.  And a bit behind in math, which is the nemesis of all her siblings as well.  You'd think math would appeal to her, with her desire for order and routine.  It should be a comfort to know that 4 + 4 will always equal 8.  The truth of the matter for Missy is, if you give her a handful of money and tell her to make change, she can do it.  If you tell her to add fractions, forget it.  2/8 + 3/5?  Who knows?  Who cares?   She obviously can't read 6th grade books, do 4th grade history, 2nd grade science, and 1st grade math while in the 2nd grade.  The teacher, the curriculum, the class materials, the students, et.al., are not equipped to deal with this sort of individualized learning -- and certainly not on such a broad range.  Not a bad thing for the average child.  The average child is going to be right around a 2nd grade level on everything while he's in the 2nd grade.  2nd grade math won't overly challenge him any more than 2nd grade reading will overly bore him.

Another problem is that in our house, we try to accept everyone equally.  We don't call a man a "nigger" because he's black.  We don't call an Italian person a "wop" and we don't poke fun at the guy up the street with lives with another man in a monogamous relationship.  We don't think girls are better than boys (even if we are!) and we don't think domestic chores are beneath anyone in the house regardless of gender or age.  Why can't Daddy cook dinner?  In our house, he can.  Why can't Mommy mow the lawn?  In our house, she does.  I don't want Missy learning bias and prejudice before she's old enough to fully understand that it's wrong.  Right now, she can barely comprehend it.  Hating someone because they're black is an utterly ridiculous concept to her.  Why are you hating him because he's black?  What kind of difference does that make?    Obviously, she is beginning to learn that not everyone feels the same way as she does.  She can't figure out why, just yet.  I'd like to give her some more time to think about it, so that when she comes to an ultimate decision on it, she'll realize that those people who feel that way are simply flat-out wrong

I don't want her having to learn "tolerance" when I'd rather she had a firm foundation in acceptance without judgment first.  I want my daughter to have more years of being a child without having to worry about things like "Jared's a rich yuppie, Mitch is a redneck, Gordon is a nigger and Robert is a queer."  I'd rather hear "Jared's a nice boy but he's kind of stuffy, Mitch is silly and talks with an accent, Gordon's a nice boy and so is Robert, who's fun to play dress-up with." 

I don't want her hearing that religious differences are to be tolerated, and there's separation of church and state (which means you can't pray in school or say "one nation under god" in the pledge of allegiance any more, never mind that every religion save atheist can agree upon there being a God) but we'll do everything according to the Christian calendar because there's more of us than there are of them.

Perhaps I'm guilty of trying to shelter her, but I feel its my responsibility as a parent to raise my children to be good, decent people who will judge a man on his actions and not on his skin tone.  And who won't consider themselves superior because they happen to be WASPs.   In fact, they're not all WASPs anymore.  I have a child who's converted to Judaism, one who considers herself a pagan, and a pair of protestants (one leaning Lutheran, one leaning Presbyterian). 

This whole nation is a melting pot of religions, races, heritages, lifestyles, incomes, educations, etc.  Our family is a melting pot.  I have a nephew of mixed race.  I have a father with a great deal of Cherokee heritage, coupled with my mom's Irish-Scottish-Welsh heritage.  I have a sibling who would be living below the poverty level without familial assistance in the way of room and board for his family.  I have an in-law who's handicapped.  I have another who's been in prison and paid a debt to society, something that I hope my children will never have to experience, but also something which mustn't be held against him because he's paid his debt and demonstrated he's risen above his past and is now a positive role model to others.  I have a relative who drives a Ford.  (Okay, okay, it's late, I'm getting silly.  But I really do forgive him for it.)  We're none of us any better than any other of us based on any of that stuff.  What makes any of  us better (read: different) is our values, and the way we conduct our lives. 

I know I can't shelter her for life, and I certainly don't even want to try.  I just want her to have a good start, on every level possible.  So that she will see the person, not the packaging.  See the deeds, not the life "choices."  See the personality, not the income.  Recognize the differences and celebrate the fellowship -- differences and similarities alike.  I guess mostly, I just want to be the one to teach her values, not listen to her come home telling me what Susie's mom's values are, cause Susie said this.  If the whole world learned politically correct from the ideal standpoint, there wouldn't be any such thing as "politically correct" would there?

Anyhow.

So, I started looking at options about six to seven months ago and the one that kept rising above all others was to simply take her out of public schools and homeschool her.  Only *her* father is fully behind me on this.  Hell, beside me, to be more accurate.  I've thus spent the last four months planning, researching and preparing for homeschooling a third grader. 

One of the big things I kept reading was to not let people talk us out of this.  They warned us that most everyone we talk to who doesn't homeschool their own children will try to discourage us or at least disapprove of our plan.  I spent months preparing myself and learning all the "standard" arguments so I could rebut them successfully.  I was armed for bear when I finally broached the subject with family and friends.  To date, there's been one 'you are sure you'll have the time to do this?' from her present teacher -- who herself admits that (at least in Missy's case) homeschooling is probably best (or if not "best" certainly not substandard).   Everyone else has been extremely supportive and expressed no reservations.  Even some of the people we were convinced would argue.  Color me surprised.  <G>

Another argument they told us to expect was the "socialization" argument.  I had a wonderful little speech all lined up for that one too.  I haven't had a chance to use it yet, because the only person who's even mentioned the subject was (again!) her present teacher, who brought it up almost half-heartedly.  I didn't even get to use my big rebuttal on her, because she brought it up half-heartedly and was immediately dissuaded.  She practically dissuaded herself.  Color me almost disappointed -- this is a really good argument.   <G>

Then I was advised that the cost can be prohibitive.  Well, I sat down and drew up the curriculum (and went ahead and shipped it off to the superintendent of schools together with the obligatory book/software list and letter of intent so they have plenty of notice -- already got my return receipt back thankyouverymuch, though I am awaiting receipt of my official "excuse from compulsory attendance for the purpose of home education" certificate).  And so I went shopping.  Thanks to careful planning and diligent comparison shopping, I've managed to obtain exactly what I set out to get -- and got it all for less than $250.00.  Have plenty of the essentials (pens, pencils, paper, ruler, glue, crayons, markers, all that lot).  We already have library cards, museum and zoo memberships, we've been to (and will be to more) musicals, shows and performances.   We have the latest computers and software, all the things she'll need for a well rounded academic day. 

I realized as I planned all of this, she's already home educated.  She learns far more here than she does at school.  And I haven't been doing anything other than the typical mom things.  Perhaps that means she's actually self educated and I happen to be one of the vehicles she uses on her knowledge quest.  Regardless, I realized that this child will benefit from a far more full and diverse education at home than would be possible at school.  And she'll do it in an environment where she feels safe and comfortable.  A place where she is loved and knows that love is unconditional.  With people who can focus on her and no one around to interrupt or annoy or bully her on the playground.  (We won't count sisterly spats as bullying!) 

So, we wait out the remaining 33 school days in this academic year and then prepare to embark on a new adventure.  Homeschooling.  Homeschoolers R Us.  I'll update as the year starts and we get busy.  I expect I'm apt to learn as much as I'm teaching.  <G> 

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Late September 2003:

Uhh ... Ooops?

Well, I was sitting down going over the first part of the school year.

Amanda's doing reasonably well -- couple classes with missing assignments (go Mandy) and others without a hint of a problem.

Missy, being homeschooled, was another story. (Go here to read why I'm homeschooling.) No one's sending home progress reports for me! So I went and got the requirements for third graders.

Uhh ... Oooops? She's umm ... well ... doing stuff she shouldn't learn in third grade.

Oh well.

She can be an overachiever.

Here's her progress report:

She's still having some problems with math, but we're still in review stage and I knew going in that math was her nemesis. It has been for all of my children. She's also doing reasonably better than I anticipated at this point so I consider that a victory.

English, reading, sentence structure, all that? Jeez. The kid and I both are learning (okay, maybe relearning in my case) here. Two months ago I couldn't have accurately identified the compound predicate in a sentence.

We learned we're not supposed to be learning about the United States yet. We're supposed to be focussed on Ohio. Ooops. Well, we can name ALL the capitals, not just Ohio's. Sue me. We're trying to learn the states in order by least to greatest population.

We're preparing for our first field trip. Friday to Saturday, October 3 and 4. We have a field trip to Monroesville (Pittsburgh) Pennsylvania. Capital of Pennsylvania is Harrisburg. While there, we'll learn more about the state of Pennsylvania. And, we'll have lessons in sportsmanship, history, social studies, math, economics, steel and industry, state government revenue (toll road). On the way there, we'll learn US Geography and we'll play the Alphabet Game to sharpen our observation skills.

I'm sure given sufficient time, I can make a pretty good case for a Feis is a field trip.

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Early April 2004:

What a day!!

Well, as if today wasn't already a stellar day, Missy has just had a breakthrough!

Math is her nemesis. She is usually boggled by anything more complicated than addition or subtraction.

Because she slept in so late and didn't get her school day accomplished (god bless homeschooling!) I made her do her work tonite. When we'd gotten through to the final page of today's work, I groaned inwardly as I handed her yet another blank multiplication table and told her let's see how you can do this week.

She's gotten the 0's, 1's and 2's before. Its anything beyond that which was stumping her. Well, she just walked over to me and handed me a completed table. Done all by herself. 0x0 thru 9x9. All of 'em, done. All of 'em right.

Now if we can just find the key to unlock division before the end of this school year (third grade), she'll be working almost at her grade level. And way ahead in everything else except penmanship (which looks like pretty much any other 3rd or 4th grade kid's handwriting).

(You have to understand, the kid came into this year doing about late first grade level math -- I don't think she learned a thing in math in public schools in second grade. Their "new" and "exciting" series sucked like a Hoover™. Our goal was to pass the fourth grade proficiencies at the end of third grade in everything but math. Math, we set a goal of catching up to third grade by the end of the year. At the rate she's going, she will be close to completing third grade math by the end of the year instead of just catching up to it!)

What a great day this has turned out to be! Hell, what a great week!

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Mid-April 2004:

(not really homeschooling, but child related nevertheless, so here it is!)

Have you considered ...

... maybe paying a little attention to your child and what he's doing?

Someone I know who shall remain nameless recently was complaining to me that her son, aged 12-going-on-13, had downloaded some two thousand nudie pics onto his computer. He had them in directories based on their hair color -- and almost all of them had large breasts. I guess I was supposed to be outraged. And I think she expected sympathy.

I pointed out that he's a growing boy. He's curious. He acted impulsively and he downloaded some naughty pictures. I added that there are probably scores of 12-going-on-13 year old boys around the world hiding copies of Playboy under their mattress. It wasn't the end of the world. It wasn't as if he was downloading hardcore porn and he didn't have anything weird like beastiality. I suggested she might perhaps surprise him with a pinup calendar for his birthday and monitor his computer habits more closely.

I guess that was the wrong thing to say.

First, I got a lecture about how this is definitely not "normal" for a 12 year old boy to want to see things like this. There are times I'm grateful for the online medium, which prevented her seeing or hearing me when I burst into laughter. I thought it best not to mention that she was most assuredly mistaken.

Instead, I told her that if it were me, I'd be far more upset about my child having been stupid enough to sign up for *anything* that asked for identifying information without first consulting me. She thought about that for a moment and actually admitted I had a point. She didn't even tack on "and if you wore a hat it wouldn't show!"

Emboldened, I added that I would be way more mad at myself for the incident than at my child. Well, that brought her up short. She (rather foolishly) asked me to elaborate. I explained that I would be angry at myself for having not been paying periodic attention to my child, so that my child had enough unsupervised computer time to gather (and organize) such a collection.

She said you can't tell me you sit around and watch Missy on the computer. Well, actually, yes, I can, I replied. No, I don't stand over her watching her every movement, but I do stroll by periodically and we do monitor server traffic on a regular basis. She then complained that she could not do this because her son's computer is in his bedroom. I said, well there's your first mistake.

She brought me up short by asking "why?" Why? I thought that rather obvious. So your kid isn't downloading 2,000 nudie pics without your knowledge. And as a bonus, if your computers are in the same room, you'll be spending more time with your kid. That encourages conversation, and hey, you might get to know your kid a little better.

She explained that this was really not a good idea. At his age, he needs his space and private time away from his mom. I replied I wasn't saying make him share a bedroom with her, I was saying put the computers all in the same room. Makes it easier to network, and gives her an easy way to casually monitor (or vigilantly, if they've let you down).

The responding rant was really quite lengthy, but I will paraphrase and distill her objections:

1. It would violate his privacy and deprive him of his "space"
2. It would allow HIM to violate HER privacy and deprive her of her "space"
3. It would drive her nuts having him across the room all the time

Apparently I was speaking Sanskrit as I tried to explain just what was wrong with each of those arguments, because she never understood a word of it.

I know we're damned lucky. We have a huge house and our basement is finished off in such a way that we can have private-feeling niches and yet we're all right here, together. We also have a sofa and a recliner in the basement, and it's not uncommon for someone to be sitting on the sofa reading while others are on the computers. But you know, two years ago, we lived in a house on a slab with no extra room. We gave up one end of the family room to make a dining room so that we could turn the dining room into an "office." It was a 15 x 18 room crammed with desks and computers. You'd be surprised how much you can fit in a room if you really want to make it work!

When any of the kids are on the computer -- yes, even 21 year old Maggie -- they're right here where any of us can monitor. We're all together. TV is not much watched in this house (movies only slightly more) but we spend a lot of time on our computers -- and it's a family thing cause we're all together while we're doing it. When someone gets a silly email or finds a funny web page, they laugh and say "look at this!" and everyone comes to look. If someone is super busy and just can't look, we email or IM it to them. If someone wants to say something privately to someone else in the basement, they can instant message them or go upstairs to talk.

When Missy once was playing browser routlette (you type in www.[some word].com and see where it takes you) and suddenly found herself faced with some very graphic images at daddy.com, she had a roomfull of people there who heard her exclamation and were able to immediately respond.

If someone wants private time, they get up and go upstairs. They can go to their bedroom or the family room and watch a movie. They can read a book, go for a walk, sit on the back deck or the front porch, or whatever captures their fancy. Each one's bedroom is their private space.

It all makes perfect sense to me. I spend a lot of hours with my kids each day, and I don't get nasty surprises like porno downloads or worse. After talking to my friend, though, I must admit I briefly wondered if I was off my rocker or something (well, more than usual).

So, I asked each of my kids how they felt about their computer being right here, where we're all together. Do they feel like we're spying on them? Do they feel like they have no privacy? Do they feel uncomfortable with us right there?

Apparently my kids speak Sanskrit too. ;) None of them wants anything to change (although Missy has again expressed the desire to have a laptop so she can sit on the sofa while doing her thing). None of them feel that our being near their computer is invading their privacy and none of them feel they don't get enough private time.

People are constantly bitching about "right to privacy" and I agree, it's vitally important that each of us have it. But that doesn't mean you just turn your kid loose with a computer and an internet connection. In today's instant access world, that's like sending your child downtown alone and leaving them there for the day.

Furthermore, children need adult guidance, to help them learn to guide themselves. As a parent, you have a responsibility to prepare your child for the real world. That means you have to teach them to be a productive member of society, to take personal responsibility for their actions and decisions. You have to teach them about cause and effect. You can't just expect your child to self-regulate themselves, they're not miniature adults with fully formed values and ideals and morals. And believe me, if you don't instill YOUR values, someone else will instill THEIRS.

Parents are meant to be role models. How can you be a mentor or a role model to someone you never spend any significant time with? How can you even know (really know) a person you rarely really interact with? If you were handed a questionnaire asking you about your child and his tastes, opinions, friends, hobbies, favorite authors, singers, artists, color, etc., how many of those questions could you answer without having to ask your child? (Would your child even be nearby for you to ask?)

I just flat don't understand where she's coming from. She doesn't want him doing (a) but she won't monitor him because that would invade his privacy. So how's he supposed to know this is wrong? (Ignore the fact that all the kid did was download some nudie pics which in itself is just not reason for such hysteria in my not so humble opinion.)

Ahh well. It's late. I'm tired.

I don't think my friend reads my blog -- our relationship is work-oriented [then again, we work together online] -- but if she does happen to wind up here and see this, I just want to say: I hope you finally figured out what I was saying. Or that maybe this helped you figure it out.

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mid-August 2004:

Catching Up

So, let's see.

The infection is mostly gone. I say mostly, because you can still feel the lump, and if I don't pop a Zyrtec-D twice a day, I can't breathe. The other nite, I was so tired, I fell into bed and totally forgot to take the second one. I woke up in the early morning feeling like someone was suffocating me. They don't call the Miami Valley "Sinus Valley" for nothin'.

~~

Missy had a performance today, at the Mountain Days Festival. As they did the last two years, they were both preceded and followed by cloggers. It's always quite an experience and today was no exception.

When we were leaving, Missy asked to stop at a booth where you could do sand art or make candles for a fee. She made two sandart necklaces and then two candles as well. I watched them sealing the sandart and now know a new way to prevent the sand from shifting in the ones you buy at the store and make at home. I knew all about stuffing it as full as possible and putting glue on top before you close it. What I never thought of was using a hot glue-gun to do it.

Learn something new every day.

~~

Tomorrow Missy has Oireachtas (o-rock-tus) tryouts and interview. Last year, they chose students from among those whose parents said they were interested. This year, they're talking to the kids to be sure the kids themselves really want to do it, I guess a couple of them weren't really wanting to be on a Ceili (kay-lee) team last year but their parents made them.

Missy looks forward to the Ceili team as an opportunity to dance with partners -- usually she's performing or competing solo (or may as well be, as she's dancing independently of the other dancer[s] not as a part of a team). She really enjoyed Oireachtas last year, and she's worked very hard this year to meet the requirements so that she can be on a team this year. I hope she makes it.

She's even been talking about asking one of the other girls in her group if she'd like to do a figure dance with her at next year's Dayton Feis, as she thinks it would be fun and a new challenge.

~~

Tuesday, Missy has her first class as a newly-promoted Novice. She's excited.

She's been taking one class and two private dance lessons each week. (Plus a pennywhistle lesson as well.) Novice classes are twice weekly. She doesn't want to quit taking private lessons however -- one lesson each week is with Claire, the other one is with Becky. She wants to continue working with each of them because she says they help her in different ways. I don't know how well two classes and two lessons will work out though. We'll have to see.

As far as Feis'ing goes, she's placed in all of them, so she'll be competing at Novice level next year. She's actually been qualified in all of them since June (at the latest -- she had most of them qualified before then) but you don't have to move them up till the start of the next Feis season if you don't want to. We decided to let her finish the year as an advanced beginner, and next year she can at least start the year all on the same level.

As of next year, though, she'll have to take a first in each dance to move up in that dance -- and when she takes a first, she'll move up at the next Feis in that dance. So, she's likely to have some dances in Novice and some in Open and have to flop back and forth between skill levels. It's going to make Feis'ing interesting!

And when she's into Open, she's eligible for a solo dress. My checkbook is already crying!

~~

I've gotten the official approval to homeschool Missy again -- she's already started her school year early, because we're doing a math refresher. Math is still her nemesis. She's great with money, making change and so on. But put anything at all complex in front of her and she gets frustrated.

One of the fourth grade software packages I found has really captured her attention, though, and it's loaded with math and logical deduction type problems. She's consistently acing the logic problems, and she's doing noticeably better at math, but she's still not up where she should be.

Her reading is still every bit as voracious as ever. Good grief. The kid reads more books in a week than most kids read in a month.

She's still heavy into the espionage type stuff, too. Stories about spies fascinate her, particularly those told from the vantage of the agents and officials doing the captures. She loves reading about how they track them down and what gave them away and so on. She wrote a letter last year to the former FBI agent she learned about, but she didn't get a reply.

She's been having a lot of fun doing research lately. Something will capture her attention and she'll set out to learn everything she can about it. And then she looks for the next interesting something. She sometimes surprises me, the things that grab her attention are eclectic.

I've noticed an evolution of ideas and how her grasp of concepts is maturing. I guess maybe because I didn't homeschool any of her sisters, I missed some of the things I'm seeing in Missy. It's exciting to watch.

~~

Moving along, Amanda starts back to school Tuesday. She's a sophomore. Or will be, on Tuesday.

So, it's time for back to school shopping. And then after payday, I have to take her for new clothes for school too. How many pairs of jeans can a teenager need anyhow? Jesus. I'm hoping for some sales.

She's wanting to get contacts this year. She's due for her eye exam in a couple months, so I guess that's when we'll do that. She also wants a car (I tell her people in hell want ice water). Like I said, my checkbook is crying!

I keep looking at her and wondering where my little girl went. She's all grown up! She's turned out to be a real beauty, too. Thankfully, though, Darin has finally stopped threatening to lock her up. Hell, he even promised not to break John's legs.

So far.

~~

Speaking of eye exams, I'm overdue for mine. I keep procrastinating. I know I need to just give in and get the damn bifocals. My near-vision is nearly perfect. It's seeing things far off that I need the corrective lenses for. Having to remove my glasses every time I try to see something close up is a pain. I just hate the thought of bifocals. I'm too young for bifocals, dammit.

~~

Maggie's still digging her new job. Well, not quite new any more.

Speaking of Maggie, she got an email from her ex-boyfriend today and I almost fell out of my chair when she read it to me. God, what a bitter young man. I'm actually very surprised at him. I thought he had enough integrity he'd at least be decent about his part in it. Instead, he's blaming her for everything, and accusing her of running from her problems by breaking up with him. He even told her that she deserves some guy who will be abusive to her. What a swell guy.

Four months ago she tried to talk to him about some of the things that were bothering her, and he flat out told her "this is how it's gonna be, take it or leave it." At the time, she backed down entirely. We told her she was making a mistake, that a relationship is about compromise, not about one person making all the important decisions for the both of them. But she wanted to stay with him, so we dropped it. And I guess once he realized she would back down, that was a license to do things his way all the time.

In this letter, he told her that "my life is 100% a party" -- he couldn't understand that there comes a time when the party stops, and you have to grow up.

It's a shame, they could have had something special.

~~

Anna and Peter and the boys are on their way home from New Hampshire. I don't know if they're going to take the transfer or not, but Anna was very excited and animated about how much they'd liked everything. So I won't be surprised if they take it.

It'll actually wind up putting them about 30 or 40 miles further away if they do, which will suck, they're already too far away. The trip to Brunswick takes 14 hours; depending on where they wind up in New Hampshire, it'd be around 14½. Only good thing is, we wouldn't have to go thru the mountains and Atlanta traffic to get to them.

And maybe it would give us an excuse to try out some of the New England Feisianna. (If you hear a loud explosion, Darin's just read that line and his head blew up. After the 8½ hour drive to Wisconsin this past January, I have had specific instructions that we stay closer to home. Nashville is about the limit of his one-day driving patience, at 5½ hours.)

~~

Oh, yeah, the stupid contrived British accent "click on the ad" commercial is back on Launch. I still wonder what the hell was up with that the other day.

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late August 2004:

One more Feis and an Oireachtas for 2004 (And some homeschooling stuff on the side)

Well, we're down to the wire. Oireachtas preparations have begun. Missy has only one more Feis (Pittsburgh, September 25) this year.

Pittsburgh will be her final hurrah as an "advanced beginner" -- and she'll start off next year with all of her dances at Novice. This is a Good Thing™.

I've seen the juggling that goes on with a kid who has some of her dances at novice and some of them still at advanced beginner. I even saw one who had both hard shoe dances at advanced beginner, her jig and her slip jig at novice and her reel in open. Not only was the dad running ragged to make sure his daughter didn't miss stage calls, the mom was going nuts helping coordinate shoe and dress changes.

I hated telling Missy she wasn't getting an open dress till she had at least two of her dances (or three if one of them was the jig) up into open. Of course depending on when she reaches that goal, she may not have an open dress then either. I don't seem to have that bottomless wallet some of these people must have!

So, next year she'll start with all of her dances at Novice. As she takes first places, she'll move up to Open in that dance. (Except the jig, which is eliminated after Novice level -- to make room for the set dance and the treble reel they'll eventually have to do!) Once she makes Open it goes back to first-second-third to move out -- however, to move to Prelim, they have to have placed in all of their core dances. It's all very confusing (blame the NAFC!) -- it definitely motivates the dancers to do better. And it eliminates any of the kids who don't really want to do Irish dancing, too. No one would stick with it unless it was important enough to them to foster the dedication and discipline necessary to succeed.

She's finally moved up to Novice in her classes too. This is good for her -- she's all pumped up and excited to finally be at her goal for this year and as a result, she's doing some tremendous work and everyone is commenting on the pace of her progress. Missy does best with goals. She needs enough structure to set milestones for herself, but enough freedom to adjust those milestones on the fly. She loves it when the adjudicator leaves comments about her -- she likes seeing what they're looking for, so she knows what to work on. She's her own motivator, too. I've never told her to go practice -- she does it on her own, when she wants to.

She's got her schooling goals this year too. Plus a long term goal, maybe not by the end of this school year, but maybe a little closer to it so she can meet it at the end of the next school year. She wants to skip a grade. She was a November baby, so she started school a year later than most kids. She wants to get that year back.

She's already busting her chops on schoolwork and the year's barely started. We're still working third grade level on the math, but we're taking that slowly. Math is not her forte. (Nemesis is more like it.)

This school year, we're doing a lot of reports, and a lot of research. Missy's really getting into research. One of the books we added to the curriculum this year is "Internet Quest: 101 Adventures Around the World Wide Web." Another is the Evan-Moor "Guided Report Writing."

And reading. Lots of reading. Many of those reports are book reports. The new Junie B. Jones book (Shipwrecked) came out and we bought that at Barnes & Nobles today. That's going to be her first book report of the school year.

Anyhow, where was I before I sidetracked myself? Ahh, yes. Self-Motivation:

I've also never insisted she take private lessons in addition to her classes -- in fact, she's kind of irked at me that I won't let her have three private lessons per week. We're now at the dance academy at least five days out of the week. Monday, she has her private lesson with Becky followed by her pennywhistle lesson with John. Then Tuesday she has her first hour long class of the week. Wednesday, private lesson with Claire. Thursday, her second hour long class. Friday and Saturday belong to us (for now anyhow) and then on Sunday, we're back at the academy for Ceili practice to prepare for Oireachtas. 88 more days! (Missy has a countdown on the bottom of her blog!)

I got the hotel reservations for Oireachtas last nite -- the Hyatt Regency O'Hare is booked solid and has a waiting list for cancellations so I located the nearby Radisson O'Hare and got a room there. They tell us we're 2.80 miles driving distance from the venue. I can live with that. We're staying in the Radisson Monroeville for the Pittsburgh Feis. I'm starting to like Radissons. They're usually no more expensive than a Holiday Inn or Ramada, etc. but they're generally about two or three levels nicer. That hotel in Nashville was plush too -- it was the Millennium Maxwell House Nashville. Felt like royalty there!

Trying to prepare for the Feis schedule next year already -- everyone's moving registrations back earlier and earlier, so I have to have a plan and be prepared to register the minute they open up. We need to attend as many as possible -- unfortunately, our budget won't permit us to do as many as she'd like -- so that she can get the maximum benefit from the Feis season. On the surface, you'd think the kids do it for the medals and the sense of accomplishment. That's a huge motivator, but it's not the primary reason for some of them. Some of them have self-imposed goals to meet, and the more Feisianna they can attend, the better chance they have of meeting those goals.

Missy's goal for 2005 is to get at least two (or three if you count the jig) dances out of Novice and into Open. She wants to attend Oireachtas 2005 as a soloist as well as on a Ceili team, so she's going to have to do a lot of hard work to get ready for it. There's no requirement that she have x number of dances out of Novice or anything of the sort -- it's her own personal goal. She wants to be prepared in all ways possible before she goes. Feis'ing gives her opportunities to practice her skills in front of Adjudicators, and a chance to see the competition. It gives her chances to bring home more medals (and what kid doesn't like that?!) and it helps keep her skills in top shape. She said "if I go to Oireachtas without really being ready they'll slaughter me. I don't mind losing because someone's better, but I don't want to be out-danced by everybody."

Sometimes, practice really does make perfect -- and it's so exciting to watch these girls when that practice all pays off and they're staring up at that results board where their number is posted for all the world to see. (And doubly exciting when the girl in question is your very own!)

I am so proud of her -- and so thankful we're in a position to give her this opportunity when it means so much to her. It makes me wonder what her older sisters may have accomplished if their father and I had been able to help them to make their dreams come true. And it makes me wonder what Sam might be doing. I'm reminded of the old song about wishes and horses.

And on I ride.

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early September 2004:

Junie B., Zoombinis and 4-Leaf Clovers

It's Wednesday.

So far this week, Missy has begun reading the newest Junie B. Jones book, Shipwrecked. She's been waiting for this one to come out. She'll be doing a book report on it. Note to Barbara Park: Shouldn't Junie be hitting second grade soon? Your audience is already in fourth and fifth grade, let's speed ol' Junie up a little bit, shall we?

We're exploring growing plants at present. Missy's got a spider plant shoot taking root on the kitchen window ledge, and has now created a makeshift terrarium to grow clover seeds, in the hopes of growing her own four-leaf clover. What else for our Irish Miss?

The packaging tells us that although everyone will grow clovers, you're not guaranteed to grow a four-leaf clover. I've promised Missy that if she does get a four-leaf clover, we'll laminate it. She keeps insisting she likes the "dip it in 14k gold" option better. Like I said, we'll laminate it.

The terrarium is officially in the "germination" stage at present. It must be kept warm and covered until the first seedling sprouts, after which we can uncover it and put it on a sunny window ledge.

And we've discovered Zoombinis, thanks to a $10 spur of the moment software purchase I made while browsing one day. Missy's really been getting into logic and reasoning type challenges, and this software (Zoombinis Logical Adventure) proclaimed itself an epic adventure of math and logic for kids 8 and older.

I consider it ten bucks well spent. She's been glued to it since we installed it. In fact, the first time she fired it up, she wound up sitting there working on it till her behind was sore! I had to make her get up from the computer and stretch her legs.

Zoombinis are little creatures who feature a huge head and a set of feet. They have no arms. They also have no mouths. They do have eyes, noses and hair. Some of them even wear glasses and some wear hats. Some only have one eye. Some of them have feet in shoes. Some are wearing skates or springs.

There are 12 puzzles which must be completed with at least 16 Zoombinis in tow (Missy's already beaten the game at "easy" level and is trying it again on "very hard" (there are four levels of difficulty, very hard is not the most difficult). Completion results in the Zoombinis escaping the evil Bloats, presumably to live happily ever after. Until the next adventure, no doubt!

There are supposed to be a couple other adventures available. I'm going to have to track them down for her.

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early November 2004:

Ahh. Bach.

Okay, remember that episode of M*A*S*H* where Radar has a date with this chick he wants to impress and he keeps saying "ahh, Bach" when he hasn't the slightest clue what the hell to say?

Right about now, I can relate.

In the state of Ohio, if you homeschool your child, you have to follow certain guidelines and meet various requirements. At the end of the school year, your child's advancement for the year is determined based on either:

NARRATIVE - a portfolio of the child's work for the year is given to a certified teacher, who will then evaluate the child's progress over the course of the school year. This was, in our case, accompanied by a series of interviews -- me, Missy alone, Missy and me together, and finally, the three of us. The teacher then prepared a narrative attesting to Missy's work and interviews being in keeping with what they should be for her to advance to the fourth grade.

TESTING: an approved proctor can administer the state's approved standardized test for that grade to the child. In Missy's case, she was completing third grade, so she would take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills if she was actually in school.

So we did both.

For purposes of advancement, we provided the school district with the narrative prepared by a certified teacher, a parent from the dance academy who knows Missy and sees her multiple times each week.

For ourselves, we also had her tested. We thought she was doing great, the evaluation said she was doing great, but we wanted something a bit more subjective and specific. So, we had her tested. The same lady who did the evaluation proctored the tests. Missy went to her house over a period of four days and completed the series.

Since we hadn't originally intended to test her, I hadn't ordered the testing materials in time to test before the end of third grade. The teacher proctoring the test recommended against testing in the middle of the summer vacation, so testing commenced on September 4, a few days after the start of the new school year. That way she had the benefit of a few days' refreshers, but she hadn't actually begun any fourth grade work. (In school, they spend a couple weeks preparing for the tests, doing practice tests, etc. and Missy didn't have this intense preparation.)

So, anyhow. Flash forward.

Yesterday, as we were heading for the doctor's office (Missy has an ear infection), the postman dropped off the test results.

Wow. She's doing even better than we thought. The results are very comprehensive, and her numbers are very encouraging. It'd be really nice if I could look at them and say "okay, she's doing [insert adjective] in [insert subject]" with absolute certainty. The problem is that approximately 1/4 of the "Guidelines for Test Interpretation" booklet is written in what appears to be ancient Sanskrit.

From what I've been able to figure out thus far ... there are two different scoring systems on the same series of test results. Overall, there were nearly 800 questions, spread out among a total of 12 main tests (vocabulary, reading comprehension, spelling, capitalization, punctuation, usage and expression, concepts and estimation, problems and data interpretation, social stuides, science, maps and diagrams, reference materials). Each main test consisted of varying numbers of subtests, there were a total of 76 timed subtests. There is also a 13th test category, "Thinking Skills," which are derived from questions interwoven throughout the other 12 tests.

~~

One scoring system shows a "scaled score" (which shows her scores on a continuum), a "grade equivalent" (which we are cautioned must not be considered an indication of grade placement, it is merely a representation of her mastery of the tested material), a "National Sta 9" (not a freaking clue) and a "National Percentile Rank" (how she compares to the norm for children in her grade across the nation) for various categories of tests from the series of tests she took.

I still am unable to determine what the hell the NS9 score means, but I've managed to decipher the others. The "grade equivalent" one was throwing me -- for instance it gives her an overall math total of 7.6 which it defines as the 6th month of 7th grade. I knew there was no way in hell Missy was doing math equal to that of a kid halfway thru 7th grade. I was right. She's not. What she's doing is answering the third grade math questions on her test as well as the average child in the 6th month of 7th grade would answer them.

~~

The other scoring system is a breakdown of each individual test she took as well as a composite of "thinking skills" which is graded after all the other tests have been graded. The scores show the total number of questions on each test, the number she attempted to answer, the percentage of her answers which were correct and the percentage of correct answers for the average third grader across the nation.

Side note: The number of tests (49/76) on which she scored 100% amazed me. I wholeheartedly believe all of my children walk on water. What's cool is when someone else seems to indicate I might be right!

This section was very easy to decipher as far as what the scores meant ... however, some of the test categories are less than illuminating. I'd like to work with her on the four subtest areas on which her scores fell under the national average.

Two of the four I can figure out just fine:

Usage and Expression: Pronouns. That's easy. Work on pronouns.

Punctuation: Other Punctuation. Looking at the other categories under punctuation, I can pretty much figure out "other punctuation." She did just fine on "terminal punctuation" and "commas," for instance. So, we're talking apostrophes, quotation marks, so on.

Capitalization: Overcap/Correct Cap. I'm assuming this one means she wasn't as good at spotting the overuse of capital letters? Not sure. At least it's not horribly vague, I can work with it.

Capitalization: Literary Conventions. Literary conventions? Can we be a bit more informative here? Once more in blonde? Anybody? Bueller?

The bottom line, though, is she's doing fine. Damned fine, from what these test scores seem to demonstrate. Take a look.

All in all, I'd have to say our first year of homeschooling was a success. Now, if someone can tell me what the hell an NS9 number is ... ahh, Bach ...

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mid-April 2005:

That's art?!

Quoth The Missy

Missy and I decided it was about time we had a field trip this year, so we went to the Dayton Art Institute this afternoon and spent several hours enjoying the various exhibits. I would have enjoyed the trip anyhow, but it was especially exciting to share it with Missy. I'm constantly amazed at the things she picks up, and it's so neat to experience things with her and get to sort of see it thru her eyes.

We took the digital camera with us, and as expected, more of them sucked than were good. I think next time we'll play with the lens settings a bit, and control the flash manually, rather than leave everything on "auto."

~~~~~

We learned that medieval, renaissance and baroque art all seem to feature a lot of female breasts. In a couple of the galleries, Missy was actually embarassed when the boob count was especially high among the collected works. As she pointed out -- "if they're nursing a baby or something, that's one thing, but half of these women are just sitting around with their boobies hanging out for no reason!"

The ancient art gallery just blew us both away, and in front of one piece, she looked up at me with these huge eyes and said "this is from 1500 BC! That's BEFORE Jesus!" I nodded, but she'd turned back to the piece and hadn't seen me, so she turned around and grabbed my hand a moment later, insisting "mommy! This thing was on earth when Jesus was here! He might have seen it!"

We also learned that "contemporary" art largely sucks. In front of one piece (which the placard assured us was the most highly acclaimed of the artist's entire career) she looked up at me and said "okay, it's purple." I agreed that it was, indeed very purple. As a woman who worked at the museum was cutting thru the modern art gallery, Missy declared "hmmph. Well, get back to me when you learn how to use more than one color." The gal cutting thru covered her mouth and made a muffled noise that we're pretty sure was laughter, and not choking to death.

Not all of the contemporary art was crap, incidentally. Some of it was even kind of neat. Some of it was decidedly odd. Some was oddly captivating. Some of it was a lot of fun. And some of it was ... well ... really just crap.

All in all, the field trip was a great success. We had a lot of fun. And Missy restrained herself admirably in the gift shop -- I escaped for less than $30! (She got me back later at Payless Shoes.)

You can find more pictures from our field trip here.

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mid-July 2005:

OGTs ...

Amanda's Results

In March, all tenth graders in Ohio were made to take the "Ohio Graduation Tests" which measure whether or not the student is meeting Ohio's new (higher) academic standards.

I was so pleased this past fall, when I got Missy's test results that I put up an entry about them. (Missy's proficiency testing for fourth grade starts this coming Monday, in fact!) At the time, I said something to Amanda about putting HERS up if she did well, and got informed that I was (a) not permitted to post her test results and (b) the results would suck anyhow, so don't bother worrying about it.

Well. Amanda's results arrived in the mail today. And I am posting them. And they don't suck. In fact, I swear I'm going to knock her upside the head next time she brings home a crappy report card. The results are actually contained in a multi-page booklet, so I won't put up a scan of it, but I've scanned the summary page.

I am SO glad we got her into a better school district before High School. It's not where I really wish I could send her, but as my mom always says, "wish in one hand ..."!

My kids rock, man.

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late July 2005:

Finished ... Done ... Complete ... Over with ...

... for a year, anyhow!

Missy's proficiencies are done, finally! Results in about a month. Now to write the letter to the school with next year's curriculum and everything ...

I seriously can't wait to see her results. I hope they're as good as last year's. Which, incidentally, were MUCH better than her results while she was in the public school system -- she's really making fantastic progress since I started homeschooling her. She's blossoming under the one on one attention and she's able to satisfy her desire to learn more about subjects that catch her fancy, which has made a tremendous difference all by itself.

She also managed to complete all of the tests this year -- last year, she had eight or nine questions that went unanswered because she ran out of time. (The test consists of something like 750 questions overall.) They only grade you based on the questions you attempt to answer, so if you skip over one or don't finish each segment in the allotted time, you aren't penalized as long as you've answered at least a certain percentage of the questions.

Now, we wait for results and I get the packet together for the superintendent so everything's ready to go when the results get here. She's all excited about 5th grade because we're trying out a new system which sounds very challenging. She always winds up so far ahead of schedule, we went with the accelerated courses for this coming year, and she's chomping at the bit wanting to get busy on it. I actually had to remind her that she IS entitled to a summer break. She's spending half of hers doing research on foxes and reading -- it's so cool to see her getting into it this much. If the truth is told, I think I'm having as much fun as she is!

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late July 2005:

Okay, so today should do it, for sure

We were overly optimistic, I guess!

Missy's fourth grade proficiency testing should be done later today (Friday). She's got four segments of it left. Guess they'll be having that dvd party one day next week -- everybody's weekend is already packed!

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late July 2005:

Today should be it ...

Proficiencies should be done later today

And thank goodness for that! Maybe life can get back to a normal level of chaotic.

Missy began proficiencies this week, along with three other home schooled children who attend the dance academy. Everyone congregated in our dining room this year, rather than at the proctor's home -- our house has central air and this summer has been a real scorcher. (My global-warming-touting friend is hyperventilating over the polar ice caps or some crap.) Later this afternoon they should all be finishing their remaining tests -- and if so, on Friday they're gathering in the family room to have a dvd party in celebration of the official end of their school year. I cannot wait to see her test results!

Missy had a performance at a retirement community in Miamisburg this evening -- and while she was getting ready, we discovered that her leotards have suddenly become just right on the edge of too short for her. I swear, if the kid doesn't slow down on the upward mobility, she's going to be taller than me. (Like Maggie.) Anyhow, I thought I'd be slick and hit the dance store afterwards. Hah. We got there at 7:46 and they closed at 7:00. She's performing at the Celtic Festival at the end of the month and then back to Feis'ing in August, so I guess I'm going to have to make another trip back down there anyhow. Drat.

Oh well, it's an excuse to visit our favorite restaurant

In around all of this, I'm making significant updates and revisions to the Dulahan website, and there's a festival in game, and Amanda's got a life and I've got her wheels, and there's the dance academy and Darin's got work ... blogging should be back to normal soon! (And sometime soon, I want to change the way things look around here -- I have an idea I'm dying to try out. I've decided that CSS and photoshop are an awesome combination and there's some people I wanna recognize around here ... I need about 30 hours in a day ... )

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mid-August 2005:

Missy's Iowas are back!

And we're off!

Well, okay ... we're frequently "off" -- but this time we're also on our way to Windsor!

Here's the official scan of her results. One of these days I'm going to figure out what all of these numbers mean and then I'll probably be even more impressed!

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late-October/early November 2005:

In early 2003, I wrote "Public Schools 0 for 3 ... but this one's at least still up for grabs.  Maybe things will turn around for her in high school."  I wrote those words right after deciding to homeschool Missy.  The child I hoped things would turn around for, was Amanda, my third daughter. 

Well, things turned around for her all right ...

When my daughter needed them the most, the school decided it was easier to turn their back on her than to make any kind of special adjustments to help her out.  To make a very long story short, Amanda is pregnant.  I'd say it's not quite what you'll think, because it isn't ... but it hardly matters at this point.  If you're interested, ask me.  The bottom line is, she's pregnant.  Her baby is due March 15, 2006.  She wanted to stay in school up until the start of third quarter, when she would then revert to home study until the start of the fourth quarter (after the baby was born), whereupon she would return to school. In the meantime, she needed a bit of consideration over the morning sickness she is experiencing. If she missed school, she promised she would make the work up within two days, so as to not fall behind.  Sounded like a hell of a plan.  I thought it was great that the school was willing to help her to stay in school and graduate.  It renewed my faith in the public school system.

And then one of the vice principals, one who has had a problem with Amanda for reasons unknown (honestly, we have no idea what his problem is) since we moved into the school system, got wind of it when Amanda's dad wrote an email to the school asking about how things were going to work out.  Yes, he could (should) have just asked us, but in fairness to him, what the hell should it have hurt?  Anyhow, apparently this Vice Principal decided that Amanda didn't need to be in his school any longer.  So he did everything in his power to make her life miserable.  And he succeeded.  He threatened her with juvenile detention.  He began demanding notes not only from me, but from the doctor.  In fact, notes from me were no longer good enough.  No doctor's note?  Then she must be in school.  (Never mind that no one visits a doctor for morning sickness.)  Doctor's appointment?  He wanted a note from the doctor BEFORE the appointment proving that she had an upcoming appointment.  AND a note from the doctor AFTER the appointment, proving that she really attended it.  No taking off the third quarter and reverting to home study.  No home study at all.  She would be dismissed from school two weeks before the due date and she was due back in school precisely two weeks later.  If the baby was born a week late, oh well, she would only have a week off after the birth.  He threatened me, too.  Truancy charges.  $500 bonds assuring my daughter would be in school.  Forcing me to attend classes about why my daughter should attend school.  Amanda would be subjected to Saturday schools and detentions for infractions, and she already had one of each accrued.  He warned that she would be expelled if she had too many infractions. 

Meanwhile, the attendance officer at the school and her guidance counselor were trying to work things out so that she could remain in school -- and this Vice Principal didn't even tell them that he had contacted me or hauled her into his office or anything else.  It was too much.  She's pregnant without having planned it, she's got a whole lot going on in her life at the moment as a result.  The last thing she needed was to be treated like this.  She caved.  We caved. 

The child who wanted nothing more than to graduate with her class has now dropped out of school.  She has completed her GED pre-tests and has passed with an average score of 676 (her highest score was 800, her lowest was 630).  She needed a minimum of 410 on each individual test and an overall average of no less than 450 to pass.  Once the paperwork has made its way to Columbus and been processed, she will be signing up to take the GED test itself.  After she obtains her GED, she will begin attending classes at Sinclair College.  Her guidance counselor, the attendance officer and one of her teachers helped us set everything up for her, reaffirming my faith in a few people in the school system.  (Of course I'm still getting letters and voice mails from the school, and Amanda's still being ordered to attend Saturday school this Saturday -- never mind that she's no longer a student.  I sincerely hope that the Vice Principal in question has a special seat reserved for him in hell when he gets there.)  

Despite his efforts, in the long run, things will work out better for Amanda.  Due to being held back a year after her dad and I divorced (she was 5) and having an April birthday, she's already six months from turning 18.  She was going to graduate with the class of 2007 instead of 2006.  This way, she can begin her college classes early and get her degree sooner.  When she needs time off due to the pregnancy, she can take it, and no one will be calling the truancy officers or hauling her into juvenile court.  And the college offers many of their courses via online -- it's called "College Without Walls."

One other thing he's accomplished -- Missy will definitely not ever set foot in Beavercreek Schools again.  If she ever decides she no longer wishes to be homsechooled, she will not go to public school, she will be enrolled in a parochial school or something.  I flat out refuse to lose another child to the system and Missy flat out refuses to step foot in the school herself.  The little girl that needed to have less self-control (!), and  be made to "slow down" because she shouldn't read so well -- and who should be held back a year because she wasn't grasping math to the teacher's liking, is thriving in her home schooling.  Including in math.  Her test scores are fantastic.  Beavercreek schools can go piss up a rope. 

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