Find Joy. Seek Truth. Be Kind.

Friday, December 20, 2013

What's that word?

I need to know the name for a word that may or may not exist.  It's not schadenfreud, but means something close...

What's the word for people who show their jealously when you explain something you've lost and they say "Well, I never had that so you shouldn't miss it?"  or "Now you know how I feel"  or "Now you're just like the rest of us"  ?

I've seen this in more than one circumstance, but the most memorable was when I was sick last year.  When I went bald I had healthy bald men say "Now you know how I feel".
Really?  You're comparing a bald woman on chemotherapy with a healthy bald man?
Wow - well, I guess we both need hats in the winter.

When my hair did come back, but thinner, curly, fragile I heard comments like "At least you had good hair once"  "Didn't you always want curly hair?  Guess you should be careful what you wish for". 
Because you think I had something good before, I don't deserve to have it back, or mourn its' loss?

During chemo and now, after, I have memory and cognitive issues (called "chemo-brain" in cancer circles).  I've heard comments like "Guess you're not so smart now, eh?"  "You were too smart for your own good before anyway" and  "Lucky you had some brains to spare". 
I don't even have a response to that.

Now that I have kids in school, I'm finding something similar at an institutional level. 
I've got a kid with a 2+ sigma difference between his IQ and certain types academic achievement.  Before 2008 this would be diagnosed as an official "learning disability" and we could have (relatively) easily gotten an IEP and some accommodations for this student.  Because of a change in the laws that define learning disabilities, that isn't the case.  Even though this kid isn't able to work at the level indicated by his ability, because he is able to perform  at or above "average for grade or age" level, it isn't considered a disability.  Despite the fact that they prevent him from showing some of his abilities, his disabilities don't count because they only bring him down to the "average".  His difficulties, although very real and frustrating in a school setting, don't merit consideration by the powers that be.

As I write this I know that many will interpret it as whining.
"You're alive right?  You should be grateful."
I am grateful to be alive.  That doesn't mean I don't miss the parts of my life that are gone or changed by cancer treatment.

"What's wrong with average?"
There's nothing wrong with being average.
There's nothing wrong with being NOT average either, and it needs to be acknowledged that people who are not average in ways that are usually perceived as positive still have problems and need support just like "average" people.

I'll leave you by talking about my geese.
We got domestic geese at the end of last summer.  They seem pretty happy waddling along in our back field eating grass, and tucking into their pen at night with their grain.  We love our geese, their antics and beauty are a joy to watch.

Here in Colorado we also have lots of wild Canada geese.  They are beautiful.  This time of year they migrate, they fly high and free.  At the city park we have some resident Canada geese, some of which are permanently injured and can not migrate anymore.  They have a relatively good life, people feed them and there's a little island they can retreat to if they want to avoid the dogs and kids.

City Park Canada goose

George and Gracie

What is the difference between a domestic goose who can't fly and a wild goose who can't fly?  Is it a comfort to the wild goose to know that now it's "just like" a domestic goose?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Liberty Commons High School

Our Brazilian exchange student is going to Liberty Commons High School.  It was the only school left with room for an exchange student, and I'm glad he was able to get a spot.  It seems like a reasonable fit for him, and it gives me a change to get to know  a high school I was interested in for Bit Boy, but didn't get a chance to see.

Liberty Commons High School (commonly called "Liberty") is a parent run public charter school.  It has  420 students, grades 7-12.  It grew from the Liberty Commons Elementary school.  Although they share the same campus, the 7th and 8th graders have a different lunch than the 9-12th grades.    I was amused to learn that Liberty has "houses" for the 9-12th grades (and "orders" for the 7-8).  Each house has it's own name (using the cardinal virtues), motto, and student president. The houses and orders are a bit like "home room" or "advising" period in other schools, allowing the students to have a smaller group of individuals to become familiar with and work with across grades.

Liberty is billed as a classical education with a common core foundation, but has a growing reputation as a good engineering prep school.  My first exposure to Liberty was when Firelord came home from volunteering at High School Days at our local university, where high school students are introduced to basic engineering concepts and given application opportunities.  He was most impressed with the Liberty students.  As a whole their diligence, insight, and demeanor set them well above the other students.  A friend who works in the Engineering College at CSU told me that department is actively recruiting from Liberty Commons High School because their  admitted students have been outstanding.

LCHS has some drawbacks.  The first thing most parents and students notice is the dress code.  Our exchange student had to go shopping in his first days here because his standard teenage wardrobe of t-shirts and jeans was not acceptable.  The most important thing families should know going in is that the course work and homework load are considerable.  Our student is exceptional academically and has been quite capable of getting his work done (despite working in his second language), however it leaves little time for other activities.   It was refreshing, if telling, when the soccer coach told us directly "We know Liberty has a lot of homework.  If you need to miss practice to keep up with school, just send us an email or give us a call to let us know."

LCHS is not for every family.  The majority of families and teachers there seem to be fundamentalist Christians, something that was demonstrated in the fall soccer banquet when the head coach repeatedly commented on "God's plan for this young man".   There are a few liberal families there, but they keep their heads down and their mouths shut.  If, like me, you have out spoken tie-dye wearing hippie kids, they're probably not going to feel at home here.  Also, LCHS's budget is well above that allocated by the state so their fund raising is non stop.  If regular requests for donations of time and money are going to get your goat, this probably isn't the place for you.  There is a strong expectation of volunteering and financial contribution at this school.

If you have a diligent student who is wanted an academically  rigorous high school experience, and you are willing to give up the time it takes to support that student and this school, then Liberty might be an excellent fit for you.  If you have a student who is more interested in the arts, outside projects, or just isn't willing or able to keep up with the difficult course load, you might want to keep looking.