Sunday, January 28, 2007

Being a Good Role Model (or Not!)

All the parenting books and teaching methods books stress the importance of modeling behaviors for kids, i.e. if you want the kids to be kind and gentle, you have to be kind and gentle yourself. If you want the kid to not be such a perfectionist, you need to demonstrate laughing at and/or learning from your mistakes. This is all well and good, until it comes to procrastination.

Klaus's college app is due February 1. That's Thursday. Four days (or less, depending on how we send it). With much nagging and browbeating, he is finished with his essays, the letters of recommendations have been requested, Dad is mostly finished with the financial aid forms, but I have not even started the "parent's recommendation" essay yet. Bad Mommy.

Bad role model! It's not much use for me to give him the "you have to stop waiting 'til the last minute" speech when I'm sitting here blogging about what a procrastinator I am instead of just writing the stupid essay. ;-)

Sure, I have lots of reasons for not having done it yet (we don't even know if we're going to let him go to college in the fall so why bother?) and a long history of avoiding writing college app essays (my mother had to confine me to my room for a week to get me to apply to college.) Plus he's sitting here looking at me and who can be expected to think in such an environment?!?!?!


I guess I'd better start writing now...

Friday, January 26, 2007

Thinking and Sledding

It's been a weird winter. We finally got a good snow last week--the first since November. Klaus had even given up on winter. "It took so long, winter lost it's chance. No do-overs!" Anyway, since we've had about five inches on the ground for more than a week the boys have been doing a lot of sledding and I've been giving them school time to do it, since they hardly get any other exercise during the winter.

Meanwhile, Wolfie had a lot of writing for his EPGY class this week, something he would normally stew about. This week's assignment was three to five paragraphs each, on a character with an internal conflict, one with an external conflict and the relationship between the two conflicts, if any. He stared at the blank page/screen for about 45 minutes before I took pity on him and let him sled with Xavier for a half-hour. Wonder of wonders, when he came back in, he'd figured out what he wanted to write about!

Whether you call it kinesthetic learning or simply the fact that exercise sends more oxygen to your brain, this situation is one that homeschooling is made for. Had he been at school, he would have stared at a blank page for an entire class period, then gone on to a completely different subject with a whole new set of problems to consider. Then, at homework time, he would have had to start the process all over again. What does that teach him? Writing is hard and he hates it.

This week, not so much. He wrote what he could, then took a break. Wrote some more, got stuck, went sledding, had another idea and wrote yet more. Yesterday, he told me that even though he doesn't like the class, he recognized that he was a better, faster writer now than in September when he started. Granted, the EPGY program does an excellent job of teaching writing. But the workload is huge and I think if it were taught the same way in the schools, it would be overwhelming. It's the flexibility of homeschooling that makes it possible for him to produce the quantity and quality work that he is producing.

The class lasts until the middle of March. I hope the snow hasn't melted by then.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I Don't Like 12-Year-Old Boys

Xavier (ds11.75) has really been feeling his oats lately. I knew I was in trouble when he grew a full inch in less than two weeks. Now my sweet, compliant, hard-working, might-as-well-get-it-over-with boy has turned into a whiny, demanding, foot-dragging grumbler who thinks he's funny when he annoying other people--specifically his mother. Oy! At lunch today I had to threaten to send him to his room if he said, "Did the dingo eat your baby?" one more time, despite his excellent approximation of a British accent. (I managed the first 450 times quite gracefully, I thought.)

Tonight he wanted me to stand in his room for an indeterminant amount of time while he leaned on me. Then he complained about the order in which I put the blankets on his bed, how I tucked him in and whether his arms were in or out of the blankets. I don't like to be rude to my children, but I finally had to just close the door and walk away. I know he was just playing, but mein Gott!

The good news is that Wolfie (ds12.75) has really grown up in the last few months, so I know there's hope for Xavier. If he lives that long.

Monday, January 22, 2007

No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Die

Klaus just showed me this web comic he's been following called XKCD. Velociraptors and Vanilla Ice are recurrent themes. Just thought I'd share. LOL

It's Crunch Time!

Klaus's application to Simon's Rock is due February 1 and, after six weeks of intensive work, it looks like he will have it done in time. Whether he'll be ready to go to college in the fall, he's not so sure. I don't blame him. It's a huge life transition and he's never done well with transitions.

He's also terrified of rejection. Been there, done that. Applying to college, particularly a competitive college like Simon's Rock, is horrible for a sensitive perfectionist. My mother had to lock me in my room (okay, the door wasn't literally locked) so I would apply to Northwestern, and even after I'd been accepted, I wasn't sure I wanted to go. I remember waking her up in the middle of the night a month before I left to get permission to put college off a year so I could backpack around Europe. At least Klaus comes by it honestly. ;-)

College isn't the be-all and end-all, particularly since some of the state schools are little more than very expensive, glorified high schools. Klaus' career plans require a PhD in psychology, which does require college, though. And I couldn't help thinking, while watching The Pursuit of Happyness that while Chris Gardner is clearly intelligent and driven to succeed, he'd have been in much better shape if he'd left the Navy with more than a high school diploma and radar certification. I don't know if Dean Witter would even accept a non-college-graduate these days.

I'm sure Klaus can handle college-level work. If I had him home for the next semester, I could guarantee he'd do well on his AP tests and know how to write a college-level paper. I know a college-type schedule suits him better than the more regimented high school schedule does. I believe he will find some true peers there. Now if I can only convince him of all that.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

If Only Learning Wasn't So Loud

So I'm trying to watch the second half of the premiere of the new season on 24 last Monday night, when Wolfie comes down with the Van de Graff generator he made as part of his science fair project last year. Which would have be fine except it's really loud, he set it up in the same room where I was watching tv and he keeps saying,"Mom, look! Watch this! Come here and pick up the salt for me."

Okay, that last sounded like a non sequitur. Turns out he had figured out that if he put the salt-substitute canister (cardboard with a metal bottom) at a certain distance from the generator and waited a bit for the charge to build up, he could generate a shock from the cardboard--suprising, no? Definitely not what I would have predicted. "I made iodized salt into ionized salt!" he says. A two-fer--a science experiment and a pun at the same time. LOL

And right in the middle of 24, of course. Thank goodness for our DVR.

[Speaking of loud, as I write this, Wolfie and Xavier at sitting at the table with me, meowing the "Ode to Joy" in two different keys. Yes, I said "meowing." Sigh.]

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

70% Gifted at Bannockburn Elementary!

From the Jan. 3 Washington Post article Schools Seek and Find 'Gifted' Students:

"Most of Alexis Peterson's students are third-graders in name only. A recent morning found Dorothy Neher, 8, reading "Charlotte's Web," a book most teachers save for fifth grade, in breathless preparation to see the new movie at the megaplex. A group at the back of the class discussed the back-cover blurb of a fifth-grade tome they were about to read. Jack Herscovitz, also 8, sat at his desk, attempting to draw a picture illustrating the idiom "catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

Bannockburn Elementary School in Bethesda is suburban Washington's Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor's fictional hamlet where every child is above average.

Not every student at Bannockburn is above average. But 70 percent of the third-grade class has been identified as gifted, based on tests and other academic indicators."

Call me reactionary, but this does not indicate to me that Bannockburn has an unusually high number of gifted kids. I think the issue here is more one of "what is grade level"? In our local school, Charlotte's Web is a third grade book, not a fifth grade book. So according to Wisconsin, these gifted kids are working right at grade level, not two grades ahead. But I digress...

"Program officials contend that the gifted label buys virtually nothing, on its own, in terms of additional goods or services to the student. It serves mostly as a flag to teachers, parents and students that children should be considered for advanced study at various points in their academic careers. Being gifted does not qualify a student for admission to a highly gifted magnet program or to an AP class, but students so labeled might be more apt to apply."

So what's the point, exactly? Helping kids feel good about themselves by being positively labeled? Yippee! Not all kids are gifted but more than 2/3rds of them are--we must have really good schools! Bravo to us!

And in the meantime, the expectations creep lower and lower, so more and more kids can be "gifted" and more and more kids with few, if any, academic skills can still come out "at grade level" on NCLB. And that's the more insidious result. The story quotes parents indignant at the underrepresentation of gifted minority students. They should be indignant, not that their child does or does not get a label, but that the expectations of academic rigor as early as fifth grade are equivalent to that of third graders elsewhere in the country. These kids are starting out two years behind. And when they accomplish something an 8 year old should be able to do, the school calls them gifted and then does "virtually nothing" about continuing to challenge them. I see no cause for celebration here.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Have a Horrible New Year!

It's Horrible Books time again. Ray at Del Sol Books is readying another bulk order from the UK of Horrible Histories/Science/The Knowledge and the other Terry Deary books. For those who don't know, these books are short chapterish books that cover lots of "educational" topics in all their gory (and don't stint on the human sacrifice) details. These books aren't available in the US and they can run $20 a piece on ebay, but Ray gets them for ~$7.50 a piece with a flat rate for shipping ($7).

These books are appropriate for gifted elementary aged kids and particularly appeal to 9-12 year old boys, who are terribly difficult to find books for. Last day to order for this round in January 28, for delivery in mid-February. For all the horrible details, see

And so it begins...

Or maybe ends would be a better word. We were a little concerned at Christmas because Xavier seemed to have fallen off his growth curve. But we just measured him and he's grown an inch in the last two weeks. Way! Along with the sudden burst of cleverness and the fact that I had to play full out to beat him at Khet over the weekend (and even then I got lucky), I guess he's officially having his growth spurt. I'm the only one who is sad that he's not a little boy, though. He's been feeling left out of the puberty pool, I know. (We had the same problem with potty-training--sharp demarcation between the big boys and the little boys.)

So good for you, Xavier! We're very proud of you!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Feelin' Pargly

We all went out for dinner the other night and Klaus came up with a new word game. Take the obligatory word search on the kids' menu and take turns circling words--any words except the ones you're supposed to circle. Preferably words that you've just made up. Then, as in Scrabble, you have to define the word. This is how we found out about "Tukh," the Egyptian basilisk god of tubas; the "sloa," a snakelike creature who fed on giant sloths; and "lolic," that state of annoyance with your little brother so extreme that you are moved to violence. My best one was "pargly," which is how you feel when you're trying to think of something clever and your mind goes completely blank. Lame attempts at cleverness have since been greeted with, "That was very pargly of you."

So, the reason I haven't posted in awhile is because I've been feeling pargly. ;-)