Friday, April 30, 2010

Taking Stock in this Texas School

So this is the week that Texas public schools have been taking stock....via the TAKS test. I know you're thinking this is just an intro for a rant on standardized testing but it isn't. (I'll give you 1 try to figure out what my take on that is, by the way....) The whole "Oh my God it's TAKS week!!!" panic that has been spreading like wildfire among my friends and acquaintances and relatives who are teachers and/or parents has seeped over to me and I'm like, "Oh my God it's TAKS week and there is nobody who has a clue or who is attempting to have a clue as to what my kids possibly know or don't know...which can't be much because holy crap LOOK AT THEM they're just sitting here playing video games and watching horrible stuff on You smart could they possibly be? Just call Child Protective Services right now and get it over with!!"
Actually, if CPS were to come by this would be a good week to do it (as long as they stay out of 2, possibly 3, rooms and as long as they don't ask jasper any questions). This week our unschool-house has been rather school-ish, if I do say so myself. And I do.

What led to this, you ask? Well, first of all - we've had NO ODYSSEY this week. Woot! This has opened up loads and loads of time. Also? Joel is going through more testing for his learning disabilities (he hasn't been tested since he was 7 and it is recommended that we have recent test results if he's going to ask for any special assistance for things like the SAT, etc) and I realized that I really need to at least get the kid somewhat familiar with structure if he really is going to try to get into college yada yada....and sometimes I just like to play school. Also also? Camille has been in the mood to play school so I wanted to jump on that while it lasted.

So. As far as school goes - we didn't participate in a co-op this year. And Ellie didn't take any dual-credit classes this semester. So basically, she hasn't been doing much but piano and studying for the SAT. She's already scored high enough on the SAT to get into every school she's interested in, but she's very competitive and wants to do better and better and she's been studying. She's also learning to crochet and has produced a variety of scarves and hats. Her little hats are perfect, her stitches are all perfect and tight and uniform and her teacher was like, "Wow! These are so uniform and perfect and.....well, wow." I'm not entirely sure she meant it as a compliment, I think she might have seen it as an indication of constipation or of something being psychologically askew but Ellie practically saluted and said, "Thank you, comrade." OK. She didn't call Lodi her comrade. But she did say thank you like a Russian would say thank you to a coach after having performed a perfect vault in the Olympics. So yeah, the kid has been perfectly crocheting. She's still on Spring Break from Spanish, but she's already way past where the average high school kid gets in Spanish...(thanks, Michi!). Biology has been on hold since her Grandpa broke his leg but he needs to get back in the teaching saddle because honestly, how long is an 81-year-old supposed to lie around whining about his broken arm and broken leg? Tough love, baby.

So Ellie is my little slacker this semester and I think it is funny. She is a "by the book" kid, though. So she's already comprised a list of what she needs to "take" in order to "graduate" next year. When I point out that she already knows a lot about World History and Economics she's like, "but I haven't TAKEN them!" So she shall take them. Through community college. And she shall learn nothing that she doesn't already know and she shall get all A's and she shall be very happy.

I made a schedule for Joel, Jules, and Camille. We say schedule like "shedule," by the way. Because we like to talk fancy. Anyway, so this week I got everyone up at 7:30 which is very early for us. We did grammar (Easy Grammar - I love it) and math. We use Teaching Textbooks for math. I have discovered that I need to sit with Joel while he does his algebra, which is a bummer. But otherwise, he misses problems and just keeps going until it snowballs into a "let's go back to THE VERY FIRST FREAKING CHAPTER and see what you don't understand, shall we?" and it is really hard for me to keep my voice pleasant when I have to say that so close to the end of the school year.

As far as history, mythology, and the classics go....the boys know everything. Everything! Every time I try to teach them something or read them something they spout off with, "I've heard of this...." and then they tell me everything I was just about to "teach" them. I'm not kidding, by the way. They know some crazy stuff. Sometimes they correct me or fill me in on the latest theory. Joel loves Greek Mythology and we are doing some Great Books work in it but it is nothing but a review for him. Where do they learn this stuff? Well, they see it on NOVA and on PBS specials and when watching the History Channel or Discovery at my Dad's (we don't have any extra channels). I'm also quite ashamed to say that listed among their sources of information are Sponge Bob and for Joel...don't judge me.....Family Guy and Southpark....I know enough to be embarrassed by this but you'd be surprised how often joel says, "Peter was talking about this with Brian and then......laugh laugh laugh....." So there you have it. But honestly, the talking dog named Brian can't do any worse with my kid than the Texas State Board of Education, right? RIGHT??

Jules pulled out his science book, recently. It is some grade-appropriate schoolish book and we made it through about 2 chapters before he said, "This is dumb. I know all of this stuff already." I didn't give up, though. Because we are doing school this week. So I said, "No way, dude. You are going to get in here and do this pointless crossword puzzle on reptiles even if it takes all day, okay?" The problem is that I said it out loud and heard myself. He'd been counting on that. I did the crossword puzzle, though. It was fun. And Jules does know way more than the little science book chapters touched on. And he learned it when it was relevant and interesting and so he'll probably retain it. Like his brother, he is a history and classics geek - can tell you the Greek or Latin root word and meaning of almost anything. Oh and btw? God help me, the kid found out about the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. He is sick over it. Talking about it. Worried about how it is going to affect the turtle population. Did I mention talking about it? Poor baby. This is one of the less fun quirks of Asperger's. Jules is having a hard time putting it in perspective...well, actually maybe he's not. It is a HUGE TRAGEDY. I guess I should say he's having a hard time living with it from his particular position, from where he can do practically nothing about it. But talk about it. And worry about the turtles and the effect the spill might have on local sushi selections. I did say he's talking about it, right? 'Cause he is.

Camille is now an independent reader! She goes everywhere with a little paperback in her hands. Nothing too advanced, but she likes having a book in her possession and that will always be a good thing. The deal in our house is that Jeff reads her junk (they love Nancy Drew) and I read her the good stuff (classics). She asked me to read her the Iliad because Jules had been telling her all of the stories. So I started to read the book we have and after each paragraph I stop and do a little recap so she knows what's happening. She knows what's happening. She's like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah....this is the part where Athene shows up as an old guy and fools Telemachus....keep reading we're getting to a good part." Also? Jules's renewed, although short-lived, interest in his science book made Camille want to do science. Now we "did" science last year in co-op with the Little Scientist series (which is great by the way). But Camille wanted a "real" book so I ordered one. It is called Read and Understand Science Grades 2-3. It came in today. She ripped it open and said, "What? I KNOW ALL THIS STUFF!!" And I looked inside and yes indeedie....she knows all that stuff. How seeds we revolve around the sun (the State of Texas hasn't denied that one yet....YET)....metamorphisis....magnets....gravity...yada, yada, yada. All I could say was, "Oooh, look! Crossword puzzles and word searches, too! Quick, what's an 8-letter word for a person who invents something?" Answer: Roll eyes and stomp off saying, "I thought this was going to be a REAL science book." I'm not sure what she wants as a second-grader....astro-physics, maybe?

Jasper, you will be thrilled to know (especially if you are tiring of reading all of this) is still my kindergarten dropout. Not interested in any of this nonsense in the slightest.

So I guess, on the surface, we look pretty much like any other school. We're a building full of know-it-all kids who way outnumber the adults, reading the occasional book with too many words and too little substance. But when you look beneath the surface, well, that's when you'll see what really matters and what makes us different. It isn't what we don't do (so we don't do a lot of textbooks, we don't take tests, we don't have set schedules...) that matters. It is what we DO do....during the quiet times and the busy times and the endless times spent waiting. Because we spend a lot of time talking, sharing, and laughing. We notice stuff. We consider stuff. We argue about stuff. We have goals, we have dreams, and we have TIME. We have time to really investigate the things that interest us. We have time to figure out what it is we want to do (or not do). We have time to experience the outdoors on beautiful days instead of being stuck in a classroom. In short, we have time to be together.

If that was all we got out of homeschooling....time to be would be enough to justify it all for me. Most of the time, anyway. Because sometimes? That yellow bus presents me with a mighty fine temptation.

Signing Off as Headmistress Sardine Mama


  1. I'm impressed! I think you and I have our season's reversed. We are so not doing much around here..We get this way Octoberish.

  2. Thank you for explaining why it's OK for my kids (mostly Austin) to watch Family Guy, which I worry about on a regular basis. It's definitely no worse than the State Board of Education! And it's a lot smarter.

  3. OMG it takes me forever to read one of your posts. I'm googling like a mad woman over here. Great Books, Read and Understand Science... Love your work!

  4. Brendy - maybe it takes so long to get through it because I (cough cough) use TOO MANY WORDS. I know - you have to be ready to invest some time in following my blog :). Anyway - as a reward I went back and linked all of the book stuff!! Cool, huh?

  5. Sardine Mama, you are my hero! I'm up late trying to plan next weeks school lessons... maybe we'll just hang out instead. I need some hand-holding and reminding that it's okay to relax... I'm just not that good at it :)

  6. Enjoy reading about your families life with schooling. As each year passes I find us relaxing more and more about what we do for school. Your blog is very encouraging in that aspect.

  7. Sounds like a fantastic week! And wasn't the weather wonderful???