Friday, February 25, 2011

Mommy Must Haves

What a whirlwind! So Baby Baker #2 has arrived and I have been submersed in the world of all things little. It has struck me that there are a few things I couldn't live without at this point. In particular, I wish I would have had these things with Kellen. In no particular order:

The Happiest Baby on the Block Book- we are true believers in the 5 s's (again, majorly wish I had this with Kellen!)

Next up- The Fisher Price Rock and Play Sleeper. Easy to keep next to the bed, keeps baby propped, especially after eating. When I think of how many nights we slept sitting up with Kellen's reflux and ear issues I could cry all over only now it would be a cry of joy that the Rock and Play is here!

And last but not least- the Miracle Blanket! Swaddling made easy! It is like my own drug. We go from crying to quiet in about 10 seconds flat. And my sanity stays in tact!

I'm reminded even in the haze of infant life just how fast this will all go. And I am desperately trying to remind myself to breathe and enjoy every squirm, cry, coo, poo, and grab. I know they'll soon be replaced by walking, talking, playing, and independence from Mommy.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why I Will Homeschool My Child

There has been a lot of debate lately, especially among evangelicals, about the best education options for our children. I am adding my voice to the debate as a teacher who has worked in the public schools for the past six years. Let me also state that these viewpoints come from my time at teaching at the HIGHEST performing high school in my county, a state School of Distinction. These are my reasons why, God willing, I will homeschool my child, no doubt!

1. Schools are not designed to serve all students.

If you have not been in a public school in the past 5 years, you have no idea what the schools are being asked/told to do. Under the current No Child Left Behind law, schools are rewarded for moving 4-5 kids in a class up an academic level. If your student is a high achiever, the schools are not rewarded for his or her progress. What does this mean? This means that discussions of merit pay, school rankings, etc are based on the performance of 25% of the kids. If your child is in the other 75%, they will NOT be the focus of the school. It also means all the money being poured into education is not going to ALL schools, it is going to the lowest performing. Your child attends a medium to high performing school? No money for his school or its programs- only the poorest, worst performing schools see real money.

2. Teachers are asked to do more and more that has less and less to do with actual teaching.

One of my pet peeves is to hear people complain that teachers are overpaid, or say that “Well at least you get summers off”. Here is a run down of the things I am asked to do on a daily to weekly basis:

· Keep a data notebook with grades, student samples, parent contacts and rationales of my teaching methods
· Participate in 1-2 weekly staff meetings lasting 1-2 hours each
· Contact parents for any absences, low grades, etc. When dealing with 75 kids, this means I easily have 5-10 contacts to make each week. A contact doesn’t count if I leave a message, get a bad #, etc. I have to track down the parent and speak with them. This can mean 5 contacts equals 15 phone calls around.
· Keep an updated webpage for each class I teach with lesson plans, resources, announcements, etc
· Get progress reports and report cards ready every three weeks- this means papers are graded right away and entered into a complicated computer system for all to see
· Participate in 5 scheduled observations, each with its own pre and post conference. That means 10 conferences with my principal. This does not include all the “unofficial” walk through reviews I get that I must look over. All of this is done to fill out my 10 page, yes 10 page, individual evaluation for the year. And I am only evaluated to the level of my weakest subpoint. I can be distinguished in 20 things, and proficient in 1 and I am, you guessed it, proficient.
·Incorporate the “Big 6” into my lesson plans- it is no longer enough to teach, I must use writing to learn, questioning, groupwork, literature circles, scaffolding, and class talk in my lessons. Your child doesn’t do well with groupwork? Too bad because I have to use it.
· Participate in staff development. Just this summer, my “time off” I spent 3 unpaid weeks at various conferences and trainings. 3 weeks away from my family, while students relaxed and never looked at a book.
· Meet with a central office instructional coach and a state instructional coach. Our state coach is only here 30 days a year- only one/sixth of the year. As part of those visits, we have more observations, more pre and post conferences, and more data to collect

And after all this, I get to actually plan my daily lessons!

3. Society as a whole doesn’t care about your child, they want their child handed every opportunity, even if that means your child is left in the dust.

Education used to be a three way partnership between parents, students, and teachers. No longer. In fact, I recently was told by a well paid “expert” that student success was 13% due to school administration and 87% due to teachers. Really???? Wow! Glad to know students and parents play no role in their own education. In fact, students today are well trained by the parents to argue over grades, ask for extra credit and hand-outs, and when all else fails, to complain about the teacher to administration. Your child worked hard to turn a project in on time? The students who turned it in 3 days late wants the same grade and momma will get you if you “deny” her child. There is no reward for doing what you should, rather there are rewards for doing nothing then complaining about it.

4. Curriculum is all over the map with no rhyme or reason.

In the six years I have been teaching, there have been two major changes to the high school curriculum. This means that just when teachers are learning what they are to teach, what they are to teach changes. There is no real reason, just more money being poured out to companies that develop the “rigorous” state tests. Rigorous in that you must make a 50-60% to pass. That is not a standard I hold for my child.

This is just a snippet of education today. And this is a snippet of why I will homeschool my child- one teacher/parent to another.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Disney on the Brain

So we are about a month and a half out from our big Disney trip. As I have planned, replanned, and planned some more I have been reflecting on why this trip is so big on my brain. I've realized that this trip represents a lot more to me than a week in Orlando with a big stuffed mouse. It represents family, it represents the priority we are placing on our time together, it represents a time to celebrate the past few years, it represents rest, and it represents these final few months as a family of 3. It's hard for me to look at Kellen and believe he's really 3 1/2.

Sometimes in my mind, I still think of him as the little 1 or 2 year old who needs his mommy, but more and more that is not the case. He is independent, smart, active, funny, and loving. He no longer needs mommy to carry him into daycare, to kiss his boo-boos, or to help him in the tub. What a big boy! I think this trip is a perfect way to celebrate his growing independence and I can't wait to have fun with him at Disney. We've planned a few things just for him to celebrate our time together- dinner at Chef Mickey's, Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, and pool time. And really that's what it's all about- planning time away that our family will enjoy.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Mad Props

My son has a posse. This posse invades my house daily, even working its way into the car. My son loves his posse and so do I. Who does a 3 year old boy posse up with? The Imagination Movers!

If you haven't experienced the TV show, The Imagination Movers, or heard their music- you must! This is the one children's show I don't mind Kellen watching over and over. The Movers is a group of four fun guys who came together to make wholesome, educational, fun music for kids. Their music led to a TV show on Disney, and if my son is any indication, they are tearing up the kiddie scene, as they well should. Their show focuses on themes such as creativity, kindness, responsibility, and team work. You won't find violence, dirty jokes, or bad attitudes here.

Besides loving the show, we rock two Mover's CD's in the car- Juice Box Heroes and For Those About to Hop. How can you not love songs that have tones of the Beastie Boys, Devo, big bands, or dance/hip-hop? Any kids band that can work in "The rooster, the rooster, the rooster is tired" is a friend of mine. Some of their songs include titles like Please and Thank You, I Love my Mommy, Seven Days a Week, In the Fridge, and My Favorite Snack.

A kid's show that is wholesome, music mommy doesn't mind listening to- it doesn't get better than the Imagination Movers!

Saturday, May 22, 2010


The sounds of kids playing outside, long days by the pool, afternoon storms. Is there anything better than summer time? One of the things I love most about being a teacher is having the summer months off (or at least mostly off). No matter how old you are, you never outgrow the anticipation and delights of summer. My favorites include:

* seeing lightening bugs light up the yard
* grilling
* eating ice cream of all sorts- sandwiches, cones, blizzards
* sitting by the pool with a good book
* watching my son ride his bike around the driveway
* feeling the breeze of a fan
* the sound of a lawn mower and the smell of fresh cut grass
* the smell of suntan lotion on a 3 year old
* the sound of thunder
* the way the air smells after it storms
* afternoon naps- thanks to my summers off!
* preschool field trips
* playing baseball until dusk falls
* seeing my flowers bloom
* dreaming of day trips to the beach
* spending a weekday at Marbles
* going to a movie
* just being home with my family!

Summer, my friend, I am glad you're here!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Debate Worth Having

I have been following with much interest the recent debates regarding the current state of illegal immigration in America. In particular, I have been intrigued by the arguments surrounding the recent law passed in Arizona. As I try to process out my own thoughts and beliefs regarding illegal immigration I have come across the following facts. I do not profess to label either side as right or wrong but I think data has a place in the debate.

Here's where we are as far as illegal immigration in NC goes:

FAIR estimates in 2004 that the taxpayers of North Carolina spent $771.1 million per year on illegal aliens and their children in public schools.
As a school teacher being confronted daily with budget cuts and the utter poverty that many American citizens are living in, this one is hard for me. I find we fall further and further behind in serving students because our resources are spread too thin. Many school systems have resorted to begging their taxpayers for more money, but many families simply cannot afford more property taxes. We have to take a hard look at what we CAN reasonably offer people without putting all people and citizens at risk. It bothers me to think that my child will suffer in our public school system because of the resources being siphoned off in such large numbers.

FAIR’s projected annual fiscal costs to North Carolina taxpayers for emergency medical care, education and incarceration resulting if an amnesty plan is adopted for illegal residents:
Can the taxes brought in by legalizing immigrants really cover this gap? What jobs will these immigrants be taking- probably the same ones they are now, low paying jobs that will result in little to no tax responsibility. How many immigrants will be working highly skilled professional jobs, thus leading to a higher tax responsibility? I think the argument that legalizing immigrants will lead to more tax payers is flawed and simplistic.

In 2005 21.8 percent of immigrants in North Carolina had incomes below the poverty level, an increase of 50.7 percent since 2000
The saddest part of this statistic is that those most affected are often the children. I have a hard time punishing children for their parents deeds and so many of our illegal student base had no choice in coming to the US. Many are working hard to obtain their citizenship and I applaud that. I think perhaps our place for ministry is not to overturn or rebel against the laws put forth in this case, but to assist and support immigrants in their quest to go through the proper channels to become citizens. I think our ministry role-as the church, not the government- is also to watch over the basic human dignities of these "aliens in a foreign land" by feeding them when they are hungry, clothing them when they are poor, teaching them English so that they can operate within the larger societal systems, and showing them that God is bigger than any situation. What message to we send as Christians when we put such a large emphasis on the need to overthrow laws rather than rely on God's sovereignty and the daily physical ministry we as the church are called to do? Many people (Christian and non-christian) are up in arms over the "civil rights" of our illegal immigrants but what are they really doing to help make the situations so many illegals are in bearable? How many churches are reaching out to serve these groups? How many of us are in the schools helping these students adapt to the academics expected? How many of us are working at community centers to help these immigrants adjust to the US in a positive way, rather than going down the fast money path of drug dealing or gang banging?

I think as Christians it's time for us to STOP looking to the extremes and instead to focus on putting the rubber to the road when it comes to serving others as Christ has called us to. And in the meantime, I will support the rule of law in this country and the public officials who for good or bad, are under the sovereignty of God.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ode to New York Part 2

Here are some pics from Summer in the City NYC 2001. More to come!

1. Team Photo- note the twin towers
2. The graffiti says it all
3. My action group
4. Waiting for the train
5. Some kids we tutored
6. St. Paul's church- now a spot to remember the victims of 9/11