Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

January Books

Yay!  I've been getting to read a bit more, again, finally.

I've been on a list serve that Tamora Pierce is on for years, and finally thought, maybe I should read her stuff.  Yes.  Yes I should.  This was a rolicking good read, with a nice strong female character who didn't need to be a pretty little thing to be noticed.

Robin McKinley is always worth reading.  Chalice immediately drops us into an entirely different world, sucks us in, and sweetly keeps us hooked.

Heinlein is a classic, and it's nice rediscovering all his stuff.

vN was not only a good read, but had some provocative ideas that I look forward to investigating in the rest of the series.

And, Connie Willis.... can't believe I didn't discover her until last year.  Bellweather is sci-fi, but barely, mostly it's a thoughtful and enjoyable piece about serendipity, or fate (depending on your perspective) and how discovery is generally messy and chaotic, except when it isn't.

Monday, January 23, 2017

November/December Books

I need to read more Margaret Atwood.  I read A Handmaiden's Tale a long time ago.  It struck too close to home, I was so traumatized I decided I didn't like the author.  Another case of blaming the messenger I suppose.  Anyway, this summer NPR's Science Friday picked Oryx and Crake for it's book group, and got on my library hold list.  :-)

Mythago Wood took a while for me to get into, but once I did, it was immersive.  Lovely fantasy, dark and light all at once.

Sometimes Magic... was ok, but I barely remember it.  I don't know if that's a commentary of my state of the mind during the holiday season, or just the book.

Building a Movement... is a dense book.  I'll have to read it again to fully digest it.  For anyone interested in the need for a new civil rights movement, it's a must read.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Martha and Mary

We all know Jesus loved Mary best, but if we thought about it we'd know it was because Martha did all the work that Mary was free to be lovable.

Mary gets all the glory, washing his feet and all.  But who was it that made sure the disciples had food for dinner and a decent place to sleep at night?  Martha, that's who.

There are the Mary's of the world, pretty, well spoken, knowing what to say and do at just the right time.  The then there are the Martha's.  Martha's can be short tempered, mostly because they're over worked and underpaid.  But without a Martha, doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, Marys wouldn't have their chance to shine.  They'd be all like "Here my Lord, let me wash your feet with the expensive oil...oh.  Out of oil.  How about some tears?  I've got those."

So, give the glory to the Marys of the world.  But now and then, give some thanks to the Marthas.

P.S.  If  at first you thought I was talking about Martha Stewart, you're not alone, but you do make me shake my head.  Even this heathen knows the bible.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Monopoly Sucks

Our family loves playing table top games.  I'm pretty sure we have a game for every occasion.  I honestly credit games with helping our family stay connected.

I learned early on, when my oldest was 12 and our first exchange student was with us, that teens have little to no interest in hanging with the family.  If I let him, our 17 year old exchange student would skip family activities at every opportunity.  After a couple of months, I learned not to let him.  As part of that we instituted Mandatory Family Game.  The traditions lives on, even now years after that student left our family.  Not only have I not regretted it, but now that they are older our former exchange sons and my oldest have said they were glad for the family time we've had.  So, you should play games not just because they're fun, not just because they're educational, but because they can literally help hold a family together.

Have I also mentioned that it's affordable?  While most games are quite affordable, some can cost as much as $50 or even more, but when you amortize it across the number of times it's played, and number of people who play it, it's cheaper than water.  Think about it.  How much does it cost to entertain your family?  For my family of 5 we're lucky to get a meal out for $40 (and that's at a fast food joint).  A movie?  That will set us back more than $50 just for the tickets, plus the cost of the requisite popcorn and soda. Now we're entertained for what,  2 hours?   A game can be played many times, by many people.   $50 bucks (most are cheaper) plus a bowl of popcorn can be not just one family game night, but many, for years to come.  Pennies for hours, years, of fun - and way cheaper than family therapy too.

You can tell we love games here.  Lots of different games.  Games of chance, strategy games, bluffing games, all sorts of games.  But, not all games.

For instance, Monopoly sucks, more than a vacuum.

There I said it.  I hate playing Monopoly.  It lasts F.O.R.E.V.E.R.  and it's boring, anddddddddddddddddd ugh.

So when a friend said her family had tried family game night and it always ended in a fight, and her husband didn't like to play games, I wasn't sympathetic the way a friend should be.  No, jerk that I am, I said "Then you're playing the wrong games.  What games are you playing?"  Because I'm that awful person who means well, thinks they can help, and doesn't wait to be asked their opinion.

The old standbys that most of us grew up gaming are... old.  Some are still great, but honestly there's a lot more out there than many folks know about.

For my friends with the bored husband and fighting kids I suggested Coup and Bang Dice.  Both are bluffing games, involving lying, killing, and winning by being the last one standing.  These games are fun for both adults and kids.  You don't need to be a great reader to play them. They work for 4 or more players.  We joke sarcastically about these games' great family values - but the kids not only love killing each other (and Mom and Dad), they seem to get along just a little bit better after working out some of their aggression in a game.

We probably have a game for just about any occasion, and a wide variety of player ages, numbers, and interest.  I love to review them for you, but I hardly know where to start.  Help me out?

What is your family like?  What are you looking for in a game?

If you let me know, I'll write up a post with some ideas that just might fit the bill.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Finding a good-enough school

It's that time of year again.

No, I'm not talking about the holiday season.
(Although, it is the holiday season.  Happy Holidays and all that.)

I'm talking about school choice. Our local school district offers school choice, if the local school has any room after taking all the kids in its' designated area.  There are also several charter schools in the area.  This means that signing up for school isn't as simple was walking to the neighborhood school and filling out a form.  For most of us it means we have to make an active choice.   At PSD registration deadline for school of choice is in January 27 for secondary schools, February 10 for elementary.  Dates on applications to the charter schools vary, so check out each school directly to be safe.

I've been asked (sometimes with voices tinged with desperation) "HOW?  How do we choose?  How do we find the perfect school for our child?"

My answer? 
You don't.  There is no perfect school.  If you're lucky there might be a good-enough school.  If you're super-duper-extra lucky, that school will be your local school.  Actually, for lots of folks, especially those people whose kids fall into the "normal" category, your local school may be an excellent choice, but wouldn't it be nice to feel confident that it was?

So, given that, and a recent question that showed up on FB,  I thought I'd share our process with you, in the hopes that it might help you think about your own process and what your priorities are.

Basically, we visited all the schools that seemed like they might be a good fit. We sat down w/ councilors at each school, did a peer tour, etc... made a spread sheet with pro and cons of each school and compared it to our kids' list of priorities. We supported them as they did this, they didn't do it alone. If we thought they'd missed a category we ask them to consider it, if we'd picked up on a nuance during the school visit we'd ask them about it... etc.

Things you might want to consider as you ponder schools:

Location - there's a lot to be said for being able to walk to school.  If you can't walk, is there a school bus?  A public bus? What is the schedule like?  How far is it to bike and/or drive and is it on the way to other places (like your work, another child's school, etc.)  Is a carpool possible?  What are your limits around driving time?  Consider that if your child does after-school activities the school bus probably won't bring them home.

Why is your kid going to school?  
Academics?  Social outlet?  Sports?  Music or art?  Some schools are better at somethings than others.  Some have a specific culture, or some special teachers and/or programs that really stand out.  What does your kid need?  What do they want?  What are you seeing at the school?

How much does inclusivity  matter to you?  A higher rate of free/reduced lunch likely means that there's more racial and socio-economic diversity, which can be of value.  It might (not necessarily, but might) also mean a school is overwhelmed with higher need students.  Think about your values, your child's needs, and compare it to the actual school.
Here's a list of questions we asked during our visits:
(pick and choose freely)

Can you describe your school culture?
How do you think you are perceived in the community?
How is that perception accurate?  How is it inaccurate?
How would you describe the relationship between the staff and faculty with the students?
How would you describe the relationship between the school and parents/families?

How many students attend this school? (ask for break down of grade levels, free/reduced lunch, number involved in extra-curriculars, graduation rate, attend college rate...)
What is the student/teacher ratio?
How do you handle special needs kids?
What kind of gifted programs do you offer?
Do you have experience with profoundly gifted students (ask more if they say "yes", PG applies to 1/10,000 or fewer students, so they might not realize what you're talking about)
What kind of support for students with learning differences/disabilities?
What kind of differentiation?
Does your school offer co-enrollment (college credit during high school)  Under what circumstances and how to access that?
What other special programs (IB, AP, experiential learning...?)

What enrichment programs do you offer?
What kind of music program do you offer?  Classes vs. before or after school?  Marching band required for all band instruments?  Different instructors for band, orchestra, and choir (for bigger schools, not realistic for small schools to have many music teachers) Ask to meet the instructor if this is an important area for your kiddo.
 What kind of art classes are available? (If you have an artist kid, ask to meet the teacher)

What clubs are on campus?  Which are student run?  Which are supported by school/teacher/coaches?
Can students from a different schools or homeschooling join your clubs/teams/extra-curriculars?

What programs do you have set up to help students make connections, fit in, "find a home" in a large school?

 Is part-time school an option?
Is this an inordinate amount of work?  

If your kid is comfortable where they are, then you probably don't need to change anything.  If, however, your kid is struggling, is not feeling challenged, is acting out, etc... then it might be worth thinking about what is working and what isn't, and what you can do about it.

For us, all that work paid off with our oldest when he was picking his college. After his high school experience he had a strong sense of his priorities, what he could and could not put up with. He's in his first year of university and really enjoying it.  Woot!  
Let's celebrate the victories when they happen, eh?