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Once Upon a School

Voice of GenX (sorry, Douglas Coupland) McSweeney’s genius and 826Valencia founder Dave Eggers talks (for nearly half an hour) about engaging with the public school system. Lengthy, but worthwhile.

Somehow, it just seemed topical. For some reason.

Some Lessons Stick

The Editorial Eye

Ah, teachers. Who’d be one? Like nursing, it’s a career path of critical importance to society, yet vastly undervalued both in public prestige and in the critical area of renumeration. That’s how you spell it, right? “Renumeration.”

What can I say? I was homeschooled as a toddler. Then public schools. Then hippie boarding school where they told my mother “Raincoaster doesn’t come to class. She sits in the hall and reads books. But they are very good books, so we’re giving her an A.” So there’s lots of blame to go around.

In any case, I’d like to share with you the case of United States District Judge Samuel B. Kent, a man who obviously paid attention in school. It should warm the very cockles of any underappreciated teacher’s neglected heart to know that out there, somewhere, perhaps in the back of class, perhaps hidden behind that big Samoan kid in the third row, there may be a Samuel B. Kent of her own, a student who not only listened in class, but who learned, and that profoundly.

Watch the master at work (via Metroblog):

Both attorneys have obviously entered into a secret pact — complete with hats, handshakes and cryptic words — to draft their pleadings entirely in crayon on the back sides of gravy-stained paper place mats, in the hope that the Court would be so charmed by their child-like efforts that their utter dearth of legal authorities in their briefing would go unnoticed. Whatever actually occurred, the Court is now faced with the daunting task of deciphering their submissions.

With Big Chief tablet readied, thick black pencil in hand, and a devil-may-care laugh in the face of death, life on the razor’s edge sense of exhilaration, the Court begins…

And concludes:

At this juncture, Plaintiff retains, albeit seemingly to his befuddlement and/or consternation, a maritime law cause of action versus his alleged Jones Act employer, Defendant Unity Marine Corporation, Inc. However, it is well known around these parts that Unity Marine’s lawyer is equally likable and has been writing crisply in ink since the second grade. Some old-timers even spin yarns of an ability to type. The Court cannot speak to the veracity of such loose talk, but out of caution, the Court suggests that Plaintiff’s lovable counsel had best upgrade to a nice shiny No. 2 pencil or at least sharpen what’s left of the stubs of his crayons for what remains of this heart-stopping, spine-tingling action.

In either case, the Court cautions Plaintiff’s counsel not to run with a sharpened writing utensil in hand — he could put his eye out.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

Selah.

Monday Teeny Poll

Homeschooling

Last week’s poll regarding organic food found 35 percent of you buying organic as often as you could fit it into your budget, while 27 percent bought it as often as possible, depending on what type of food.   A total of 19 percent eschew buying organic altogether.  Altogether a fascinating little snapshot of people’s food-buying habits, if I do say so myself.   And I do, so there.

Since there was quite a big dust up last week over my homeschooling post, I thought I would address the topic in today’s poll. There were wide-ranging opinions regarding why people choose to homeschool, and I really wanted to find out perceptions about homeschooling from a larger portion of the population.  Not that my polls are huge, but I have a feeling they reach a fairly good cross-section of people. 

Code Word: Pedagogue

Is your neighbor a criminal?

Recently a California judge stunned the estimated 200,000 or so homeschoolers in California by ruling that it is illegal to homeschool in that state.  The only way that a parent can educate their child outside of a school, whether private or public, is to have a valid teaching credential.

Huh.

So medical marijuana is cool, but don’t you dare think that you can teach your child outside of the school system!   You lawbreaker you!  Criminal prosecution was also implied as a possibility for those who are so brazen as to think they could do a better job than underpaid, overworked teachers in a spotty school system that allows as many as 34 students per class.

Because we all know that children get a fabulous education when the teacher has to deal with 30+ students in one small space all day.  Talk about trying to herd a bunch of cats, especially a set of cats who would rather be anywhere than the classroom.

I know that homeschooling has a rep for being a refuge for those who have their own deeply held religious beliefs and the like.  However, there are many other reasons that parents homeschool and I’m not sure I agree with the ruling.   Parents who cannot afford private school and yet reside in sub-par public school districts should be able to have some other option.  Also, parents of children with certain disabilities might find it easier to school at home. 

On the other hand, I do think it might be a good idea for homeschooling parents to undergo some sort of training, because teaching is not an easy job.  I’m not sure a full-blown credential is necessary, however.   Perhaps some sort of test? Just to make sure the parent themselves know what they are doing?  Devising a curriculum is not for the weak of heart.

There are many school districts that have programs available to parents where they assist with the curriculum, but the actual teaching is done by a parent at home. I think that is a nice compromise that allows some oversight into the education, but gives flexibility to the parent.

And to think, the particular case which brought about the brouhaha wasn’t even really about homeschooling, but about possible child abuse.

I can see it now, moms developing secret codes and handshakes to communicate with one another.  Neighborhood watches set up to get a whiff of a possible police raid, with the ability to transform mini classrooms to innocent dining rooms in an instant, a la the speakeasies of the 1920’s.  Payrolls, hush money, and “enforcers” would ensure the proliferation of homeschooling.

Yup, apprehending those scofflaw moms would be right up there with robbery suspects as a top priority for law enforcement. 

I call that tax money well spent!

At What Price Education?

I might as well be doing this!

In my world order prior to having kids, I had always envisioned my child going to private school.  I went to private schools, and I think I turned out none too shabby. The Munchkin currently attends a private preschool, and I like it just fine.  The natural progression was going to be private kindergarten and so on and so forth.

Until I looked at tuition.

Now, his preschool is pricey enough and I sometimes wonder if I am being overcharged.  Not that they don’t do a good job, but I find myself thinking blasphemous thoughts such as, hmmmm, exactly how expensive is that construction paper? And why is it that I am asked to make playdoh for the class when I am paying upwards of three hundred dollars a month?  Don’t even get me started on the fundraisers.

Some people argue that a good education is priceless.  That no amount of money is too much to ensure that your child is taught solid fundamentals, which can do nothing but contribute towards success later in life.

Well, private schools have heard those people loud and clear.

When I checked into how much it would be for my son to continue at his current school for kindergarten, the price jumped to a whopping $550.  A month.  My heart seemed to stop when the secretary told me the amount, and I bet they have a defibrillator in the office ready for people like me.  You know, cheap-asses who don’t give a crap about their child’s education.  I tried to hide my shock, but I could see the pitying look in her eyes.

I do care about the education my son receives.  I care a lot.  But do I care 55o dollars a month care?  I’m not sure.

Over the course of nine years at that school, I would be spending over $45,000 for an elementary school education!  That is equal to the tuition to some four year universities!  And in a lot of cases, such as the excellent UC Berkeley, a heck of a lot more.  That isn’t even taking into account the tuition for four years at the high school level, which I shudder to even think about. 

The public school district we live in happens to be well above average, with test scores that place most of them in the top 10 percent of all schools in our state.   If they weren’t so fabulous, I don’t think I would have a choice in the matter.  If the schools were no good then I would almost feel forced to send the Munchkin to private.

But I do have a choice, and I am seriously leaning towards saving that five hundred bucks or so a month and saving part of it towards his college education, part of it towards extracurricular classes and activities, and perhaps the tiniest bit towards a couple of new pair of shoes. 

For me.

Because with the stress of all this potentially life-altering decision making, I deserve them, don’t you think?

Listmania! Ten Best Educational Shows for Kids

With this list, I am attempting not to use the word “education” too loosely.  Oddly enough, in doing research for this post, I noticed that educational shows have become a bigger trend in the past decade or so. 

Drumroll please…

10. CyberChase

A show that teaches children about discrete mathematics, but in a fun way! Well, if math could ever be described as fun… With the voice talents of Gilbert Gottfried and Christopher Lloyd. This is an actual full episode of the series, which debuted in 2002, and has won several awards, including an Emmy.

9. Between the Lions

This show features a family of lions who run a library. It emphasizes phonics and reading, through both songs and stories. This segment is entitled “Gawain’s Word” which is a take-off on “Wayne’s Word.” And then… well, you’ll see.

8. The Electric Company

Aimed at kids who had “graduated” from Sesame Street, The Electric Company focused primarily on reading and phonetics. Wanna see a Super Fly version of Morgan Freeman? Here’s your chance!

7. 3-2-1 Contact!

3-2-1 Contact! taught scientific principles. And listen, this show is what made education in the 70’s totally awesome. This is a segment where a KISS concert is used to explain the principles of light. Genius.

6. Bill Nye the Science Guy

That wacky Bill made science accessible and non-intimidating. And, he had cool experiments. If you were to watch only one of the YouTubes I have on here, this segment about optical illusions is it. The circles! The boiling clouds!

To see my top five picks…

(more…)

For Safety’s Sake

Read and learn, people. Read and learn.

In the vast spectrum of parenting books available, a handful stand out as classics.

Safe Baby Handling Tips is one of them.

How to Nurse Safely

Seriously, seriously. You do not want to get that wrong!

Includes the wonderful “responsibility spinner,” sure to see a great deal of use at three in the morning. See also: Safe Baby Pregnancy Tips! I can’t wait for the Safe Teenager Handling Tips edition to come out. What would you use to handle a teenager safely? Tongs? Forklift? The Jaws of Life? Pentagram?

Safe Pregnancy Tips!

Monday Teeny Poll

Letter Grades go bye bye?

Last week’s question “Do you think that all children have the potential to be “A” students?” sparked many comments that generally seemed dissatisfied with the educational system.  A whopping 86% of respondents answered “no,” leaving only 13% to answer yes.  Quite a few of the comments implied that letter grades were unfair, or failed to quantify certain types of intelligence, which is certainly true.

So, to continue on a theme:

(My apologies, apparently the twiigs site was down for maintenance this morning, and thus their polling is experiencing problems.)

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