Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My hodge-podge of thoughts for this lovely Tuesday

This is a 2-fer-1 deal, or something like that. Instead of one big blog, here are a few smaller ones I have been constructing in my head over the past 24 hours or so.

Mary Had It Easy

Suffice it to say, yesterday was a VERY challenging day with my lovely eldest child. I love that boy so much, but there are days when he and I just don't mesh, and he is all drama. Some days, there is just something that gets him into this wierd mode where every little thing he does pushes my patience to the brink.

It all started out with the fact that he had as many math papers to do as there are letters in the alphabet. He was out sick 3 days last week, plus last week's homework got neglected since I wasn't going to make a kid with a 103-degree fever do homework. I'm mean, but not THAT mean! He has been having some serious struggles with math this year, which always gets homework off to a bad start to begin with. Couple that with the fact there was sooo much of it, and yeah, it kind of set the tone for the entire day. Arguing, convincing, trying to build his confidence in his own math abilities, bribing, punishing....so went most of my day. When he is upset, he whines. And whines. And whines. And ignores me. And whines. And whines. And lays on the floor crying. And whines. And whines. And....you get the point. After about 4 hours, any parent would be wearing thin. I tried to be reasonable and give him a half-hour break for every 3 pages he finished, but even that didn't help much. The day started at an okay pace, but the arguements became greater and the pace got slower as the day wore on. We were both getting frustrated and tired of the whole thing.

I had to take Joy to dance class in the afternoon, then decided while I was out, I would run a few errands. We got to the dance studio, and the first thing I said to the kids was, "There is a huge puddle. Please walk around it, not through it." Joy complied, but Seth "accidentally stepped in it because he was trying to jump over it and couldn't make it." Yeah, uh huh....riiiight. I saw the whole thing, and wasn't born yesterday. I know accidental puddle stepping from purposeful. But I wasn't going to make a huge deal out of it in the dance studio parking lot.

After dance, we drove up to drop some things off at the Goodwill truck. That went fine because the kids stayed in the car.

The Goodwill truck is parked in the grocery store parking lot, so I decided I would pick up a few groceries while I was there and save Jeremy the trip later in the evening (which he appreciated). I don't know what came over them, but pretty much the second they both were out of the car, the two older kids were at eachothers' throats, arguing and yelling at eachother. I tried to keep my cool and help them work it out, but the bickering kept up pretty much the entire shopping trip. We got to the cracker/snack aisle toward the end, and Seth noticed there were some Fig Newtons. While I have trained him well to only look at things with sale stickers, they were still 2/$7...so, $3.50 a box. Graham crackers and Cheez-Its were both on sale for $2.49 a box, and you got more quantity. So I asked the kids to pick whether they wanted Cheez-Its or graham crackers. At this point, Seth throws a box of Newtons into the cart and says, "No. We're getting Newtons!" I told him that, no we're not, and to put them back. He refused, so I had to resort to counting. Reluctantly, he put them back. I then told him that because of his defiant outburst, Joy got to choose which snack they were getting. She chose grahams. But he wanted Cheez-Its, so he proceeded to lay down in the middle of the aisle and glare at me. Unfortunately, in the day and age of "no public spanking or harsh raising of voice in supermarkets or any other public place without fear of it being construed as abuse and therefore having CPS called," I just ignored it, and pushed the cart on toward the check-out lane. Eventually, he got up and followed us, but when we got to the lane and I started unloading groceries, he sat on the floor again and glared at me, then started dramatically hitting his head on the drink cooler next to the aisle. (For some reason, he likes to hit his head on stuff when he's really worked up. I have no idea why.) At this point, I was mortified, and frustrated, trying to just get the heck out of the store, and trying to pretend like he was just "some kid," and not my kid. When we got to the car, he got a talking to. Then, he and Joy started up again, and I spent most of the ride home playing negotiator, trying to get them to agree to get along.

When we got home, the whining, arguing, and ignoring about homework started up again. At 5:00, I was on the phone with Jeremy, telling him I needed reinforcement. He is usually better with our son when he gets like that than I am. But of course, as Murphy's Law would have it, he had mountains of paperwork to do before he could come home. So I had to endure another hour and a half of it! By the time Jeremy got home, I had a stress headache, and knots in probably every muscle in my back.

To top it all off, Seth spent the entire dinnertime complaining that he didn't like chicken salad. Which on top of everything else, was sort of the last straw for me. Fortunately, Jeremy could see my frustration, so he took over with Seth for the rest of the evening.

Once the kids were in bed, I was able to objectively reflect on the day, and I realized something. Mary had it sooo easy!!!!

Can you imagine having a kid that never argued with his siblings? Who always did his chores and studies without arguing? Who never laid in the middle of the supermarket aisles or banged his head on a drink cooler when he was told no? Who didn't complain about food he wasn't fond of? I love my son dearly, but yesterday, it would have been nice to trade places with Mary for the day. Give me a sinless, obedient-in-all-things child, just for one day!

No Child Left Behind - Can we pull the plug yet???

All this struggling with Seth with his homework has just reinforced how much I HATE NCLB. WHAT A JOKE!!!!!!! I was talking to Seth's teacher the other day when I went to pick up his work to do over the weekend, and she told me that he isn't the only kid struggling with math, and that she wishes she could slow down and let all the kids catch up, but that state mandates require that she just push through. So, this so-called "No Child Left Behind," in reality is turning into, "Push the cream of the crop forward, and let the rest be left behind." HOW is having mandates that push our kids too hard too fast helping?!?!? If teachers themselves hate the system, and its failing our kids, then why are we still doing it???? WHY are we following a system that is hurting our kids more than its helping, and burning out the teachers and the students???

I have a friend who is a teacher and has been out of work for about two years, aside from a few subbing jobs here and there. Crummy economy aside, she said that had she known then what she knows now, she would have chosen a different career path, because teaching is no longer about the kids, its all politics.

With such an awful program in place, that turns teaching kids into politics, and pushes kids too hard too fast, its no wonder that the vast majority of teenagers can't spell or use proper grammar! If we are pushing them so fast that they don't have adequate time to fully learn things before moving on to the next phase, then how do we expect them to perform? We went at a much slower pace when I was in school, and yet, just about everyone I graduated with has excellent spelling and grammar, and most have decent enough math skills that they can get by in the real world.

In a nutshell, this NCLB thing is a joke!!!! In theory, "on paper," it may have seemed like a good idea at the time. But its not working!!! Its taking a lot of the joy of teaching out of teachers, and failing our kids by leaving the vast majority in over their heads without a paddle! I believe in public schools, I believe they can produce intelligent, well-equipped kids, BUT with this current system in place, our kids aren't getting what they need: adequate teacher-child ratios, the help they need, the ability to learn at their own paces, and teachers who love and are passionate about what they do.

Ol' Bushy may not have been able to swallow his pride and pull the plug on this thing, but maybe with new administration, the plug will get pulled. I'm certainly not counting on it, but hey, I can hope, right?!

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