Saturday, April 26, 2008

Who Is This Kid?

Okay, who stole my son and replaced him with a weird doppelganger? I have told everyone who will stand still long enough to listen that my son isn't interested in workbooks at all. He barely draws or colors, doesn't want to write (except occasionally) and balks at the idea of reading.

Lately, I have bribed him to do some dot to dots and a lesson of Singapore math, just to attempt to slowly build up his motor skills.

Anyway, one day this week, totally out of the blue, he did lessons 2-11 in Singapore Math 1a. Yes, 2-11. He did a little over half the book, which is supposed to last half a year. In fact, he cried when I said we should probably stop after he "did" a page by not following the directions at all. I didn't want him to keep going and ruin the pages without learning, or get used to not doing what was expected on the page. It seemed reasonable to me! But he cried. Apparently he was intending to finish the book!

Now, granted, some exercises he chose to do his own way. The directions might say circle, and he made an X. Or he was supposed to fill a while block and he just make a scribble. In fact, quite a few of the drawings are now scribbled purple and have been involved in stories involving zombies. On another page, he did the first exercise right. Then the second right. Then on the third he did it right, until his answer started looking sort of like a bow, so he filled in two extra boxes ("Mom, that doesn't count, it's just a line!") so he could have a bow and arrow there. Unless you were there watching him do the exercises, and obviously understood what he was doing, you'd think some toddler had just decided to scribble purple all over the book.

Now, first of all, this all shocks me. Sort of. I mean, I sort of put him in the "doesn't do workbooks" box in my mind. But he obviously doesn't hate them. Or at least, he doesn't hate them every day. In other ways, I'm not shocked. I loved little books like that. I know why he's driven to finish the whole book in one sitting. Heck, dh and I would do that on things we don't even like! It's a compulsion.

And I learned three important things:

The first is that I should never label my son and expect to predict his behavior. He's not going to be the same every day. No one is! But he's less predictable than average. So I should always be prepared (mentally, and with books and activities!) for him to want to do things I don't expect.

The second is that I really need to keep an eye on his perfectionist, completionist tendencies, and make sure whatever I pick isn't going to frustrate him. I can imagine what would have happened if the Singapore folks decided to make a book covering a whole year. Or even two years! He'd still probably try to complete it. I mean, I even told him he could skip some specific pages that I thought he didn't need to do, because it was so redundant (under my authority as the teacher), but he rebelled, and did them all, no skipping. So I'd better make sure to get thin books, I suppose!

The last is that I know this would be a problem in school. How many stories have I heard about boys who hated school because their teacher didn't understand that they knew the concept, and after demonstrating it twice, decided to draw a picture instead? Or wants to discuss how all his people (and fruit) turned into zombies? I don't think that would go over so well at school. So it's just another way I'm glad I decided to homeschool.

All in all, the whole thing made me slightly humbled, but very proud of my son, and very satisfied with my choices. It's been a golden week, even with the bronchitis and sinus problems.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pseudo-Science, Quackery, and Snake Oil

I'm a scientist. My degree is in Molecular Biology. Those two things are somewhat related, but there's nothing that says I could have a degree, but not the heart of a scientis... and no reason that non-degreed folks can't understand, follow and practice science. I was a scientist before I ever had my degree. (I'm rather anti-credential, as I find most of them are about as valuable as your standard high school diploma.) I'm also a skeptic.

I adore the Junk Food Science blog, and today there's an amazing (caution: long!) post today outlining some of the history of "alternative medicine" and it's current growth and how some of us feel about it.

On Copywork

Today. Sometimes I'm Actually Coherant has an excellent post on, of all things, copy work! Now I wasn't sure I was going to include this in our lessons, because my son hates writing. He wants nothing to do with it right now. I thought copy work seemed a little old fashioned, and I wasn't sure what it was really good for. I supposed that it was nice to be able to practice writing without also having to compose a sentence, but he has no trouble thinking up thoughts to write!

Anyway, maybe copy work isn't such a bad idea. Gorgeous poem at the end.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Carnival of Homeschooling 121st Edition is Up

Well, I Had a great post with it about me and my bags, but blogger ate it.

Hmm. I've already come clean to my family about my homeschooling (well, at least the grandparents). I'm thinking of actually moving everything to my blog under my "real" name. Is that crazy?

I mention this because my blog under my real name is WordPress, on a box in my living room. So I wouldn't have to worry about the internet eating my posts. Foolish me. I knew I should have composed in Notepad and copied and pasted...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Work at Home and Homeschooling?

I know there are people who can do it all. They stay home and take care of the family. They homeschool. And they have a business or a part time job or contracts. How do they do it??? I need to make some extra money, at the very least until our lease is up and we can move some place cheaper.

We picked this house with this ridiculous rent because we were desperate. The baby had serious asthma and I wanted hardwood floors so, well, she could breathe! I wanted somewhere closer to their grandparents, for emergencies (ours OR theirs -- my dad's diabetic and has a bad back), and because I want my kids to know them. We lived right down the street from a recycling plant, and I don't think that black dust that kept getting stuck to everything was healthy for anyone. The house was not well-maintained, and my infant was starting to eat everything. We knew the house had lead paint, but I didn't trust the owners enough to think they had taken care of it. And my son was going to be Kindergarten aged soon, so we needed to be in the right neighborhood with the right school before registration time.

Well, things have changed. Thanks to leaving the old place and pulling them out of daycare, the baby's health is perfect now, even if she is super cranky with teething (she getting her four canines and four molars all at once! Oh the joy we have here, folks). The neighborhood is gorgeous. We can walk to two parks, the library, a few restaurants, a sewing store, Michaels', and the grandparent's house! We have a small yard, big enough that we can get some energy out without having to leave home. But one tiny thing is wrong -- the rent is so high, my husband's paycheck barely covers it, and there's still the rising costs of gas, food, and electricity to think about!

We knew we were going to be losing money (even with my paycheck too) for a few months, until our son was out of daycare and in Kindergarten. I figured it was okay, our savings were good, and it was more important to get a good school. There are no "medium" schools. Around here, it's basically a very good school or a school where most of the classes are ESL because the majority of the kids do not speak english well. It's not hyperbole, either, you can see it all on

Anyway, I've told my story already of deciding to homeschool, quitting my job, pulling them from daycare and so forth. But the one problem is, I never had a plan for how to pay for it. Now, in a combination of luck and quite honestly my abilitty to save money away in places where we forget it is so we don't spend it, plus all my stock options from eight years in Silicon Valley, all my vacation time I never could take because work was too busy (I think I had six weeks?!) plus our savings, and various other things, we've been able to hold out for eight months already! But I think the magic money I pull out of nowhere is going to end soon, and I need a plan. Plus it would be nice to eventually buy a house, and all the money we've been living on was being saved for a down payment. Oh well, I guess some things are more important than a house. But I do understand it's going to make our future all that much harder.

I don't know where to find the time. I have a very hyper five year old who is very social and needs to talk and move non-stop. My daughter is one, and I don't think you can do much with a one year old around. After they are asleep at night, I'm exhausted. I've been working through my own health issues that I ignored for so long because there wasn't time for me -- it's actually another reason I gave up and quit. I didn't think I could last much longer. I've had my wisdom teeth out, at 31, and finally I feel some relief there. But it's been six more months of horrible, draining (figuratively, and unfortunately not literally!) sinus pain, and migranes. I think they may finally be worked out! I'm feeling better!

But I still have no time.

Also, I feel like I'm out of touch already. Now, my job wasn't that glamorous, but in a lot of ways my skills were, for the job, pretty cutting edge. And that edge dies quickly if you don't do the constant work to sharpen them. But I don't have time to keep them up! I don't even have time to use the skills I have much less get new ones! So it has me paniced. What if I need to get a job and I have nothing to offer anyone? I actually gave up an amazing job offer that came looking for me, once people heard I'd left my old job. But I love my family more.

Sorry I'm rambling. I guess I have a lot to let out. I think I'm partly feeling the same sadness I felt leaving grad school. I did that for my family too. But it's hard not to just feel like a failure. I feel like grad school, and work, just asked for too much of me. They wanted me to sacrifice everything for them. Even if it meant being in the lab all night, or leaving my kids in daycare all day. And I'm not willing to do it! But a little part of me has died each time. Leaving grad school, even though it was nine years ago, it still hurts. I still have trouble reading about science, because I feel the pain of a lost love. A lost passion. And now I feel the same way about writing, about coding.

I would never choose anything over my family, though. I won't be a scientist if it means losing my husband. (And no, he made no demands of me, it was my own choice, because of the conflict in me). And I will not neglect my kids to make some stupid thing for a corporation that doesn't even know who I am. But they are still parts of me, and I've had to cast them off.

I just wish I could find a tiny, tiny, tiny job to make the money we need to get by, to keep my skills at least somewhat up to date, and to make me feel like those little tiny parts of me are kindled like tiny pilot lights, waiting for the chance to burst out again, even if they have to wait another 9 years.

But I don't have the time, or the energy. And I will not sacrifice my family.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spending Tax Money to Beg for More Money

Why Homeschool has an excellent post pointing out a story right here in California.

Apparently a school was going to send 12 busloads of students off to Sacremento just to protest some budget cuts. For those of you outside CA, half of the state budget goes to schools. Yes, half the budget, which is bigger than the budget of most other countries.

I'm posting about this, instead of just leaving a comment, because this issues is what finally gave me the last push to decide to homeschool. I was on the fence in March, and I was planning on going to Kindergarten orientation and so forth as the local school in order to make up my mind. I joined some local mailing lists to find other parents of five year old who were setting up park dates to meet each other before school started.

And then it happened.

The highly political pleas and demands for help fighting the education budget cut started. And it make me irritated, angry, and upset. I realized that if we embarked on school, we'd be tied up in that world of PTA meetings and constant fights, and beurocracy, and all the things my poor sainted mom had to deal with just to get her kids a decent shake.

And that did it. I don't want to be associated with any of that. So I gave up on even going to the meeting, and I finally told my mom (when she asked about kindergarten registration in passing) that I wasn't sending him in the fall. And that's when I mentioned homeschooling, and she grinned and teased me about the crazy teacher's certification stuff that came up in the recent court case.