Monday, September 8, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

Okay, so I'm a little late with the Weekend Wrap-Up...and certainly behind on my Reader as well.

What can I say? It's been that kind of month.

It wasn't all terrible. I took the girls to see Wicked on Friday night. Sylvia had seen it twice before, but this was Riley's first time, and she loved it. She's heard the cast recording at least a hundred times, so she enjoyed seeing what happens during those numbers, and how they all connect. She got a little tired and restless towards the end of the first act (which is kinda long), so I got them both buzzed with soda and candy at intermission and their sugar high got us through the rest of the show.

The show is still great. I'd still see it again. Sylvia enjoyed it just as much this time as the previous.

Riley may be turning a corner. Maybe. She had a good cry tonight, and that may be just what she needed to get all those icky feelings out once and for all.

We talked over the weekend about the waves of an emotion. We talked about things they might like to do to help them reach the shore when they're feeling the wave at its peak. Then they started fighting, and calming down was the last thing they wanted to do. We still need to work on how to get over that peak.

I've also been reading Yardsticks, a recommendation made by the former principal at KIPP (still a dear friend of ours). It is helping me understand their development a bit more so that I can know just where it is they're coming from. Yet another example of knowledge really being powerful.

I'm still in my own funk these days. A combination of nothing really going right, but I'm not beating myself over it anymore. I'm not fighting it, I'm not letting it take complete control. It's just there. It will pass. I've been through it enough to know that. And I know my own emotions/depression/general funkiness is probably not helping matters with the girls any. Riley is especially sympathetic, and is feeding off of me. But I cannot beat myself over it anymore as it'll just make things worse. I just have to let it be to a certain degree.

As I told a colleague this morning, "I got the girls to school on time. That, in itself, is an accomplishment. One thing at a time."

The only place I really do feel okay these days is in my work. Not like I'm perfect at my job yet, but I'm pleased with my progress thus far, and my colleagues seem to be pleased with it as well. Also, I've always loved to learn and there's still so much to learn that it keeps me stimulated.

Speaking of "love of learning," I just sent an email to Riley's teacher (which came back as undeliverable because she's not really an email person so didn't give me the right address, but which I've printed and will send with Riley to school tomorrow) about the homework and my concerns. I'll copy and paste the pertinent paragraphs:

I'm concerned about the amount of homework being given. Riley does as much as she can at the Boys & Girls Club after school, but still does not have enough time to finish while she's there. After work, dinner and baths, there's only so much time left for homework, and still allow for a good night's sleep.

I've read from numerous sources that the appropriate amount of homework should be 10 minutes per grade level. The reading alone is that much. I'm concerned that the true value being lost by piling on the homework is our children's love of learning.

I also have seen, from my older daughter, that more active homework for spelling/vocabulary - such as word searches, finding the proper word to go in a sentence, rhyming exercises - better prepares them to spell and use the words correctly than rote memorization or copying the word 10 - 50 times per week.

It's been a constant struggle for Riley to get her homework done, which wasn't the case in years past. While I realize that some of this is due to the transition period, I also fear that it's the homework itself that may be the problem.

I hope it's not too bitchy, but it's a battle worth fighting, I think. I've even seen studies (sorry, can't remember the links) that say that homework has no positive effect whatsoever, and can even have negative consequences. I don't know if I would go that far, but it seems to me that the homework should reinforce learning and give the teachers a chance to see where they are, and what they're understanding, rather than just writing ten spelling words five times, and 10 vocabulary words plus their definitions.

I'm sure my educator commenters will have much to say about this, and I look forward to reading it. As I said, I love to learn, and I'm anxious to hear varying points of view on this subject.

One last Riley note: she was on TV again - but just in passing. Michael Phelps went to visit the Burbank Boys & Girls Club today, and spoke to the kids. It made the news. Sylvia, poor thing, got there too late to see him. She was the one most looking forward to it (and the one that had my camera - so no pics either).

And one very last note: you may have noticed my new Obama avatar. I realize a few of you may disagree, and some of you agree wholeheartedly. It's not an attempt to change your vote, but I do want to say proudly where I stand. And I encourage everyone to do your own research. Please do not let conventions or pundits decide this campaign for you. Their voting records are readily available on the Senate website. Another great non-partisan resource (cited by Republicans and Dems alike) is FactCheck. It's easier and easier to get information these days, and really, it's the least we can do.

Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now. Your turn! Your comments always inspire and enlighten me - I could use that about now!


Loth said...

I think you are doing pretty well. I myself am patting myself on the back for every day I get up, get dressed, get the kids to school and myself to work. Bonus points if I manage to stay in work the whole day. And over here in Britain we are watching your election with fascination. I'm kind of glad I don't have to make a choice in some ways, but can just wait to see which way your country goes.

FreedomFirst said...

I thought your letter was spot on. Hopefully the teacher will listen; if not I'd take it up with the school hierarchy. Be sure to point out how much trouble you go to in order to place her where she can learn better, and all that homework is counterproductive.

Me. Here. Right now. said...

My son has about 3 hours per night. Each teacher giving out something that requires about 30 minutes - sometimes more. Weekends are full of homework.

For all the kids, it's been like this since we moved to California. My thought is, if you don't have control of your classroom and you can't teach because of it, the kids have to learn the material somehow. Don't get me started.

Glad Riley is turning a corner.

Anonymous said...

NOpe, not bitchy at all. Polite, to the point, courteous and clear. You are speaking out for what YOU feel is in the best interest for your daughter...if you don't do it, who will!

Just a sidenote to you to honey...when things just don't seem to be going right for a little while, stay focused, stay positive and soon, even the smallest thing can turn the whole situation around. Trust me....;)

Kori said...

I have no inspiration. I liked your email/letter and I agree with you, and I wish that I had more energy to get worked up about things right now. I still haven't talked to the principal about the whole violin incident with Sam-I am with you though on one step at a time, and am so proud of you for seeing it that way. :)

hugabug1 said...

I thought your letter was very polite and clear about your concerns. That is one huge plus to homework. :)

I love Although, it is slightly depressing to realize the extent to which you can't trust what anyone says anymore. Half-truths and flat-out lies are the norm instead of the rarity. If there was ever a candidate that would actually be completely honest, I believe I would vote for them simply based on that fact.

Anonymous said...

You know I'm taking pointers from you when my child enters school, don't you? I am already annoyed with the amount of homework his PRESCHOOL teacher has been sending home. Because it is not a requirement, there are some nights it just doesn't get done and there are some things that she sends home that I'm left scratching my head because I have no clue what he's supposed to do with it. But she always asks and I'm like "LOOK LADY, I am a single mother, he still visits his dad's on the weekdays because HE CAN and he is in PRESCHOOL." It's EVERY NIGHT. Obviously, I've changed my tune about this homework BEFORE HE'S EVEN IN SCHOOL, thing.

ANYWAY. Onto a different subject. Could you email be with details about Wicked? That's something I might be interested in while we are in So. Cal. in November. My mom is going to be with us too and I think it would be a blast to see a play! I have never seen a play of that caliber and I would love it (loved the book even though I know the play is quite a bit different.)

Anonymous said...

A concerned parent is better than one who doesn't give a f***. Hopefully when Obama is president and kicks the NCLB Act to the curb, teachers will stop being forced to give out homework that serves no purpose other than preparing a kid for YET ANOTHER standardized test, and focus on actually making a difference in kid's lives.
Ugh I hate my job.

Shiona said...

That was a great email. And I'd love to see the Wicked. Obama all the way! Fact check is a great website. It would be even greater if people could just tell the truth every now and again.

Anonymous said...

April -- Your email to the teacher was spot on. Very nicely written. I'll be interested to see what she says back.

I love me some Obama! I want one of those Obama Mama shirts!!! No disagreement here on that one!

Jen said...

Great letter, April. I can't believe she's having them copy spelling lists - yikes!

30 minutes is plenty for third graders - in total. Personally, I'd be for not giving any homework at that age other than maybe some free reading and the occasional "go to the library and research x or y".

We haven't seen Wicked yet, and we're going in December. I'm SO excited!!!!

janey jay said...

Great letter -- very tactful.

And a fab yet open-minded Obama plug. You know how I feel about this ;-)

Must share another good "fact" site:

It's from my hometown paper and they do a terrific job with the whole truth/fiction thing.

Anonymous said...

I think your letter to the teacher was spot on - well written and to the point. :-)

Homework, how I despise thee . . .

Tara R. said...

It's great that you are proactive regarding the girls' schools. We have our first mega conference next week. Things are going too well to be real, I'm anxious about what we will find out about how THE BOY is really doing. Keep up the good work and fight the good fight.