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The Child Care Dilemma

As some of you may have read, the annual cost of child care in some states exceeds that of tuition for a four year degree.

Let’s think about that for a second.

I am all for paying childcare workers a fair and living wage, as well as treating their positions with respect.  But is the high cost of a full-time daycare truly reflective of a highly trained staff and a safe, stimulating setting, or  is it a business just trying to take advantage of a situation where both parents feel they need/want to work?

When I became pregnant with the Munchkin, my husband and I sat down and discussed what I was going to do with myself once our son was born.  My husband was all for me continuing to work, as he likes having money.  I too, like having money, but I pointed out to him that the cost of childcare would negate much of my earnings (although not all) but the net gain we would make from my salary wasn’t worth it to me.

This was a point of contention for a while, with him pointing out that we could hire some aging grandmother off the street who would come in for cheap.  Well, that might have been true, but I still felt that my son was best off with me as his caregiver, period.

So, as in many of our disagreements, I came out the winner.

If good, reliable childcare that didn’t break the bank in my area was obtainable, I might have considered staying at work, or at least scaling back to half or part time.

But it wasn’t.

And so here I sit, stay at home mother to a 4th grader and a toddler with speech and developmental delays.

Yeah, not looking good for a return to the workforce any time soon.

Is childcare in your area reasonable, or a big ripoff?  And how did it influence your decision to stay/not stay at home?

Oh, the Places I’ve Gone

My dears, I have been out and about for the past few days, leaving me tired and exhausted at the end of the day instead of chipper and full of cheer, ready to write something that I daily pray is even mildly entertaining.  We have also had an extended heat wave here in Glinda-land, which has tried the patience of even the most optimistic of my loved ones.  Oh yeah, and out-of-town relatives coming in to visit, which will always be more attractive to me than sitting at the computer.

So, to make a long story short, sorry about the unexplained and unanticipated absence.

I suppose though, that many of you are beginning to gear up for the start of the new school year and are just as busy as me.

One of the things that I don’t miss from our formal schooling days are the damned supply lists that the school would email two weeks before the beginning of the semester.

I was buying everything from Kleenex to dry erase markers and everything in between.

Of course, it is technically not legal to send this list out, as public schools are supposed to provide students with everything except perhaps writing utensils.  Is it better to have the families pay for it than the teachers?  I guess so, except that I am sure there are some people who cannot afford everything on the list, which totals to about twenty-five items.

In my state, the idea that the state would actually pay for all needed supplies is a large joke which would have every parent doubling over with laughter.  Hysterical laughter, most likely, but laughter all the same.

Does your school send out a list as well?

The Time I Fought the School District. And Won.

I’ve been meaning to tell this story for a while, but I’ve been so buried under stuff that my mind has been unable thus far to tell the tale in a fairly truncated manner.

Because man, the whole thing was just stupid.   And get ready with some coffee and scones, because this is one loooong story.

In my state, some 2nd graders are tested for the gifted program. In some schools, every single child is tested, in others, only ones that have been recommended by teachers.  In my particular district, a test called the Naglieri is used.  The Naglieri is often used in many school districts with a large population of students that speak a second language or are economically disadvantaged, or both.  Essentially, it doesn’t have any words and uses pictures instead.

So the Munchkin was recommended to take the test, but upon doing some research and speaking with my sister, who is a GATE teacher, I found out that some students with verbal giftedness can do badly on the Naglieri.  Because duh, no words.  I asked that very question of the district GATE coordinator at a parent information meeting, and she did indeed admit that some verbally gifted students could be overlooked with that specific test.

Cut to my son receiving a HORRIBLE score on that test. I mean, according to the Naglieri, he wasn’t even performing up to grade level standards.  Which of course was not true.

I wrote a nice and polite email to the GATE coordinator stating that I didn’t think my son’s performance was reflective of his abilities, as we all could tell from his grades that he was obviously performing at or above grade level.

She replies that fine, if I would like, she could have a broader-scale IQ test administered, called the WISC-IV.  This is a two hour test conducted by a trained school psychologist that spans a larger set of skills than the Naglieri, which is mostly focused on logic.

So the Munchkin takes the test, and when he gets in the car afterwards, he tells me his brain is “on fire.”

Which I sort of took to be a good sign.

His test scores come back, and there are four subsets of results dealing with specific areas of skill.  His verbal is fantastic, definitely in the highly gifted range.  He has some good scores in two other subsets, but only in the moderately gifted range.  Then comes a low-ish score in the last subset.

I’m told that oh, too bad.  That low-ish score means my son isn’t good enough to qualify for the GATE program.  OKTHXBAI.

Wait, what?

(more…)

Top Ten Things I Dislike About Homeschooling

I promised, and here are my personal downsides to homeschooling.  Click here for the Top Ten Things I DO like.

10.  Oh, the weight of responsibility!  If he can’t get into an Ivy League, I’ve got no one to blame but me.  Kidding. Sorta.

9. Storing all of the various and sundry items needed to pursue school at home.  Had to purchase a small bookcase just for all the stuff.

8. I’m sure this is different for most people, but I personally dislike being a stern taskmaster.

7.  Which brings us to the fact that nine year old boys can be ah, a bit averse to learning. Let alone one who would never speak to a teacher the way he speaks to me when he doesn’t want to do something.

6. The fact that I am probably more critical of him to his face than a teacher would be.

5. Having to do school work when my toddler has pretty much tired me out for the day.

4.  Feeling like I have very little time to relax.

3. Having a gnawing feeling that I could be doing any or all of this better than I currently am.

2. Not being able to drop my kid off and have him be someone else’s problem for 6 1/2 hours a day.

1.  Trying to balance everything, and somehow coming up short.

Top Ten Reasons I Love Homeschooling

10. The amount of depth we can go into on a particular subject at any given time. For example, we do current events, and I will tell him about something important that has happened somewhere in the world, and he will grab his globe and go find it. I think he has a better grasp of world geography than me at this point.

9. The fact that I know where my son is all the time (which may not be such a bonus for him, eh?)

8. No bullies! Not that it was an issue with my son, but I have heard some stories that would make your toes curl, and I am just glad that my son will not have to deal with that type of crap. I am not of the opinion that dealing with bullying is a “normal” part of growing up.

7. Not having to pack lunch and snack every single damn day. AND knowing what he eats every day as opposed to what is traded away/thrown away.

6. Being able to really control what my son is learning, and how. Not that I am doing some sort of free-form schooling, but empahsizing the things I think are important versus what someone else might think. Also, being able to introduce a critical thinking element to pretty much every subject.

5. The definite downturn in illnesses. Some people might see that as potentially bad, but I’m not one of them.

4. No more endless fundraising appeals. While I totally understand the need, they are still exhausting and annoying.

3. Field trips! Field trips! Field trips!

2. No drop off or pick up lines! Yay!

1. Waking up whenever we want. And then doing whatever we want during the day instead of planning our days around when school gets out.

 

I never really knew how much of a nonconformist I truly am until we started this.

 

Tomorrow, the flip side!

Homeschooling- Free Your Mind

After a months-long battle with the school district, I finally got them to admit my son into the GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) program.  I won’t bore you with all of the frustrating details, but suffice it to say a bunch of stuff happened wherein a comprehensive IQ test was administered to the Munchkin, and wherein the district failed to interpret the results correctly for many moons, despite my prolific (yet always polite) emails describing to them EXACTLY how to fix the problem.

They kept putting me off and putting me off until the week before traditional school was about to start.  After being told that my son’s scores were not satisfactory and he would not be a good candidate, they finally did what they should have done from the beginning and lo and behold!  Wait, your son IS really smart! Sorry we didn’t listen to you ALL SPRING  AND SUMMER  and ignored your emails and treated you with condescension when you visited us in person.  Ooops, he’s in the 95th percentile, we actually DO want him in the program!  Did we say we didn’t? We didn’t really mean that.

And my husband and I, for many reasons, pique being a small part of it, decided against enrolling him at the GATE magnet school and chose to continue homeschooling instead.

I dunno, I’m a rebel, I guess.

But really, I’m probably one of the most normal people you will ever meet.  I just happen to think that given the opportunity, nothing beats a one-on-one teaching ratio.  There is also a big difference in what I do, which is called “school at home” versus “homeschooling.” Mine equals state-approved curriculum and credentialed teacher visits, whereas the other is a bit more free form.

I will admit that it is quite intoxicating to be free of the entire school rut.  I watch as my neighbors rush off in the morning to drop the kids off in time, and then six hours later go to pick them up.  And while I certainly don’t feel sorry for them, I don’t envy them, either.  I don’t miss all of the “stuff” that comes with going to traditional school, from the begging for money school fundraisers to the annoying class projects to having the principal call my home every week with a pre-recorded message, to having to buy all the clothes and supplies at a certain time.   It is all very freeing.

And yet intimidating at the same time.

But I think we’ll get through it just fine.

 

Homeschooling: Not Just for Nutjobs Anymore

Of course I don’t mean that only nutjobs homeschool, because then of course, I would be implying that I myself am one.

Well, maybe I am and I just don’t know it.

Making the decision to homeschool was one of the most difficult I’ve yet to make as a parent.  There is such a stigma surrounding the whole process, and in talking to people, I found that many had the impression that people who homeschooled were sort of odd, or anarchist-leaning,  or crazy, or religious, or some sort of combination of all four. 

But the reality is that there are as many types of families who homeschool as there are in any school setting.  It would be nice and easy to label homeschooling families as nuts or weirdos, but I’ve found in my dealings with the homeschooling community that there aren’t really many of those around.  It is entirely possible that I haven’t been looking hard enough, though.

For whatever reason, the formal school system wasn’t working for their children and their families, and so they decided to be proactive about it.   Say what you will about homeschoolers, but they are obviously not an apathetic bunch.

I cannot even begin to tell you how our lives are different now that we are homeschooling the Munchkin.  The freedom that this type of situation brings to a family is amazing.  To say that I am stress-free would not be true, as I have a toddler after all, but I am actually much less stressed than when he was attending school.  

I must admit that I am fortunate to have a student who “gets it” on the first try.  There is not a whole lot of explaining to do when it comes to math or reading, and when we hit a bump in the road we quickly address it, conquer it, and move on.  I have a newfound appreciation for how special and unique my son is, and even if he decides to go back to regular school next year, it will have been worth it just for that alone.

So if you are on the fence about homeschooling, I would seriously advise you to give it a try.  You just might like it.

Heaven Help Me

Last Friday was the Munchkin’s last day of “real” school.

Yes, I did the unthinkable.  At least, based on the reactions of almost everyone around me, I did the unthinkable.

What I really did was enroll the Munchkin in a school-at-home program run by the education department in my county.  So he still uses state-approved textbooks and a state-approved curriculum, it is just that he no longer attends a public school and I am his teacher.

I want to talk about  the way everyone acted when I told them he would no longer be attending public school and instead schooling at home.  I got everything from a “Good for you” (the tiny minority) to a long and dramatic “Ooooooooooh-kaaaaay” (the vast majority).  When my husband went to pick him up early one day during his last week, the secretaries, unaware of who my husband was, were actually gossiping about it at the front desk as he walked up! 

This was not a decision made lightly.  My husband and I have actually been pondering the idea for at least two years now.  I can’t tell you how many people have such a negative view of schooling at home, which I think in large part comes from a vision of a brood of children hunched over Bible verses instead of math books, but that is a story for another time.  A large part of our putting it off was based on how much people told us that it was a horrible thing to do, both to our son and to our sanity as parents.

But then it finally came to a point where I knew the Munchkin was losing interest in school. It was a fight every morning to get him out the door.  He was bored. He’s eight!  He has no business being uninterested in learning.  I figured I could never forgive myself if there was something I could have done to reginite that love of learning he used to have and used social conventions as my excuse to not do it.  We have done it at this point in the year on purpose, as the bulk of the year is over, and if for some reason the whole thing is an unmitigated disaster, he will not have lost much in the way of curriculum. 

I found the county-run program we are enrolled in almost by accident, but now I’m pretty sure there are no such things as accidents.  If you are considering taking the leap into schooling at home, but are intimidatd by thinking you have to do it on your own, it is well worth to check if your school district or county runs their own programs.  We meet with a teacher once every three weeks to check his progress, they gave me almost a thousand dollars worth of textbooks, and they have tons of field trips (much more than regular school) as well as computer, language, and music classes!  He will still take the state standards test, and he is given a report card, just like “real” school!

He always has the option to go back to public school if he wants to.  This is not something we are mandating, but a family decision that is flexible and committed to the best outcome for all involved.

We are only in day two of schooling at home, and I am still sort of getting the hang of it, as is the Munchkin.  But suffice to say that when we complete three day’s worth of work in one hour, I can’t help but feel vindicated.