Monday, January 25, 2010

The Education of Miss B

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.

-Mark Twain

Mr. Twain had the right of it. There is so much more to our education than what we learn in a classroom. The classroom should provide a solid base for us to build a lifelong education. But what if your child's schooling did interfere with his or her education?

Our school system, like so many others across the country, is facing economic turmoil. Classrooms are currently packed to the gills in most buildings. Extra programs are being cut. And now buildings are being closed and structures are being dramatically altered. Previously our grades were grouped as follows: elementary schools containing K-5, middle schools containing 6-8, and high schools containing 9-12. As of next year however the structure will change as follows: K-3 in elementary schools, 4-6 in intermediate schools, 7-9 in middle school, and 10-12 in high school.

We are from a city that once boasted three thriving high schools. One high school closed several years ago, and this restructuring signals the closing of another high school. Several elementary schools have closed over the years as well as one of the middle schools. Money does need to be cut from the budget...

But the real question for me is how long do you gamble with your child's education before you take action?

It's so easy to jump in and say that you never take a chance with their education. This is too important to do anything less than the best. But if we step off our soapboxes, we will see that it's not so black and white as all that.

This school system is the same one from which I graduated. I feel that I got a very strong education, one that prepared me well for college. But lately, I have worried that Miss B isn't getting that same quality of experience. Class sizes have grown and teachers today have to be able to handle a more diverse group of students. I feel that this most affects those students at the top and bottom of the class.

Teachers must spend so much time making sure students are caught up, that sometimes there's not much left for those either far ahead or woefully behind. How do you give so many kids individual time and attention? Most frustrating to me is that the school system apparently lacks any sort of gifted program for elementary students.

Back in olden times, when I was in grade school, they started a program where gifted students were pulled from class once or twice a week to work on different projects. We learned things like brainstorming and critical thinking. We did real research. They don't offer anything like this anymore. Nothing extra for high achievers.

But what happens when you leave a bright student to their own devices? Sometimes that brightness can dim a bit. There is no stimulation beyond the everyday work that they finished a long time ago.

I want to be clear that I don't think Miss B has had any bad teachers. She has generally liked them all and has indeed learned each year. I also want to be clear that I don't think Miss B is a genius or a special case. But that's the problem. She is clearly above average, but nothing else is offered to her beyond puzzles in her spare time.

So what's a good parent to do?

Our school system is restructuring. This may help the quality of education. I really don't know though, as our school board is well known for not sharing information with the public until a vote is taken. Our superintendent started at the beginning of this month. A lot needs to fall into place before next fall. In our town there has been the kind of devotion to tradition normally reserved for professional sports teams. This distracts from the more important issues. While the town waits to find out which mascot and colors will be kept, I want to know what opportunities my daughters will have next year. Full day kindergarten for Sister Goldenhair? Gifted and talented magnet classes for Miss B? These are the real issues.

And this is why we have applied to another school district for admission. It will cost us, though not as much as private school tuition would. I would love for both girls to attend the church-backed private school where Sister Goldenhair currently attends pre-school, but we cannot afford this option as we have grown fond of things like food and shelter.

If all goes well, the girls will attend schools that are actually closer to our home than their current school system. And they will also hopefully benefit from a school system that carries one of the highest average test scores in the area (our current system falls below the state average, and that sure doesn't say much).

And I am still on the prowl for opportunities to improve this situation. This is my job for at least the next 13 years.

It's one of the most important responsibilities I have. They deserve my best.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Anyone got a bar of soap handy?

Last week Miss B used the f-word.

No, no... Not that f-word. The other f-word. The f-word I never want to hear from either of my girls: FAT.

Cyberspace allows us a certain level of anonymity. If you've never met me, you probably never gave much thought to what I look like. Before I had kids I was tall and slender. While I am still tall, I'm not exactly slender. I think I have a pretty average build (thanks in part to my height). I have wanted to lose some weight and eat healthier, but I have always been careful how I talk about this around my girls. I never talk about being fat or big. We don't call people fat.

So when my firstborn child came into my room in tears and proclaimed, "I'm fat!" My heart both broke and stopped.

I tried not to overreact. The first words out of my mouth were, "You are not fat!" Then I asked, "What's going on? Why do you say that?"

"These pants won't fit! They won't even zip!" Her school uniform pants clung guiltily to her frame.

I must admit that Miss B has filled out a bit this summer. Her appetite has picked up. Her face is rounder and her body, while still young, is showing signs of maturity (that's discreet speak for "she's getting a chest"). I have watched these changes with relative dismay. Where's my baby going? And why must her replacement have an attitude? I would not be surprised if Miss B suddenly shot up a few inches.

So the reality is that she is bigger around the waist than she is used to being. But even if she were truly overweight, I never want to hear my young daughter reduce herself to a one-word definition involving her size. I never want to hear my daughter do this, regardless of her age.

But I digress...

"What size are those pants?" I ask after following her to her room.

"10. Those others are 10's too. They don't fit either."

Sigh. "Honey, you don't wear a size 10. You wear a 12. You've worn 12's all summer. Remember when I told you to go through your uniforms to take out the stuff that didn't fit? I asked you to try things on and weed out the stuff that's too small. You haven't grown that much in the last month. You must have missed these."

Miss B was greatly relieved. So was I.

I made sure to follow up, treading lightly all the while.

"So Honey, you certainly are not fat. If you are concerned about how your correctly sized clothes fit or about your energy level, then we can try to make some healthier choices. Like maybe your first choice after school shouldn't be watching TV. And maybe you don't sneak snacks* that you think no one will see. We can all do better and then we'll all feel better and have more energy."

I think she felt better. I'm now convinced that she doesn't really think she's fat. I don't want to delude her by any means. If she really needed to lose weight, I wouldn't tell her everything was fine and offer her a cookie (to make her feel better). But if that were the case, I don't think that telling her she's fat would be the way to help. I have to take responsibility. I buy the food. I cook the meals. I try to walk a fine line between having some treats on hand and not having too much temptation. I worry about my caloric intake, but I make sure I don't mention it. I will say that something is "bad for you," but I always try to relate it to health not size.

And folks, Miss B is only 8. 8!! I had hoped that this wouldn't be an issue at all (and if it was it would be a lot later). I don't remember this kind of stuff until I was in 5th or 6th grade. Miss B is in 3rd.

Does this mean I'll qualify for early retirement?

* Miss B was caught sneaking swiss cake rolls last week. These are packaged in pairs, but I separate them to pack in lunches. She ate a whole package and didn't ask first. As we do not starve our children, we do not like for them to sneak food without asking.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sew Cute Shop Amy Butler Birdie Sling GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Sew Cute Shop Amy Butler Birdie Sling GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Stop by Grosgrain for some fabu giveaways! The link above offers you a chance to win a lovely bag in fabrics chosen by you! If only it were always so easy to get a new purse...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Button, button, who's got the button?

Sew, Mama, Sew! has been featuring posts pertaining to all things sewing machine related. I thought I'd get in on the excitement and post a simple tutorial on making a buttonhole. This tute features the Janome sewing machine. This is my mom's machine, but sometimes I like to spend quality time with a great sewing machine. :)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the tute and feel confident to go out and try it for yourself. Most machines work in a fairly similar manner, so give it a whirl!

Mouse over "Notes" in the frame below to view more detailed information.

Any questions?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A letter to my first born child...

Dear Miss B-

You are 8 years old now, and old enough to know something that breaks my heart to admit: I don't have all the answers. Yes, I do know when you haven't brushed your teeth. I also know that you didn't brush the bottom layers of you hair. How do I know this? Because neither thing happens until I ask you about it. So if I didn't ask, I'm pretty sure you haven't done it yet.

But there are times, many times in fact, when I don't know what answer to give you. When we hear a story about someone hurting a child, I cannot tell you why it happened. Sure, I can say that someone was angry, hurt, confused, crazy, or just plain bad, but I cannot explain why one person will react with such an extreme, violent reaction.

When you tell me about someone not being kind to you, I can try to look at the situation from that person's point of view. "Maybe MeanKid was having a bad day today and took it out on you." "Perhaps MeanKid was jealous that you were able to do that so easily." But the truth is, even if those excuses are true, I cannot explain why anyone would ever not love you.

This is the biggest mystery to most mothers. Sure, I know that my kids have their moments, but how could anyone not adore you? Someday soon, a boy will break your heart. And mine will break as well. I can see what a great person you already are, but I can also see the wonderful potential your future holds. It hurts this mother's heart to even think about you being rejected or unappreciated.

You are the complete package. You are beautiful inside and out. You were an adorable baby, and now you are growing into a lovely young lady. You wish you were blond and had blue eyes, but your light brown hair and gray eyes are more striking. Those freckles you hate, they are just the perfect addition to your sweet face. And more importantly, let's talk about your heart. You are so tenderhearted that you try to please everyone, rather than disappointing them. While I love your willing spirit, I worry that you will be hurt more easily. But you are smart. And I love that you are outgoing and friendly. You are that lucky mix of bookworm and social butterfly. You are intelligent, but not awkward because of it.

And yet someday, some seemingly nice boy will make you doubt all that I know is true. You will think you are ugly and awkward, dumb and selfish. You will believe these things, and I will never be able to understand why. Sure, I will know that this boy or best friend has hurt you, but I will never be able to figure out why you believe them. You, who is so special and lovable. You, who is so giving and gentle. You will cry and hurt and wonder who will ever love someone like you. But just turn around... I will always be there with my hand raised to volunteer for such an opportunity. And while you may tell yourself that Mom's love doesn't count, just know that not only do I love you... I like you too. I'm the lucky one here.

My love may not make everything easier for you, but it will never be something you have to doubt.

Love always,


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An awesome giveaway...

If you are the sentimental sort, you should think about entering the current giveaway at The Benner Daily. Shealynn, who makes some beautiful camera strap covers herself, is giving away a custom inscribed necklace from The Vintage Pearl. You could choose to add your kids' names or a favorite quote to the beautiful heart-shaped design. D0 yourself a favor and follow the link to see for yourself (but do come back and check in... don't be a stranger!).