Archive for November, 2007

Fascinating look at edu-political double-speak.

So, I went to check the mail a few minutes ago, and wrapped around the stack of weekly coupon circulars was the weekly free paper sent out by the local news agency. They send this thing out every week and they try to make it look like a real newspaper, but it’s really just a bunch of advertisements jazzed up with a semi-serious-looking news article or two. You know: your basic junk mail designed to get you to run on out and rack up more debt on the credit cards. It’s the American way, baby. Spend spend spend! I usually just toss the thing out without even looking at it. But today, the top headline was:

“IN PRAISE OF PRE-KINDERGARTEN”

Gave me a bit of a double-take. I actually gasped out loud. Then I sat down and read the article, and it doesn’t really say anything new. It’s the usual bullshit that people are tossing around at expensive luncheons these days, in support of the new drive towards state-regulated, mandatory public or private preschool.

I live in Pennsylvania where the mandatory schooling age is actually 8. People that send their kids to regular school don’t wait until 8, of course. They start ’em at kindergarten just like everyone else. But for us homeschoolers, it’s kinda nice to have that high mandatory starting age, because that means we don’t have to report until our kids are 8 years old. And since Pennsylvania has one of the strictest homeschooling regulation processes in the nation, it’s kinda nice not to have to start jumping through all those hoops until the kids are older.

But for those devoted to profiting from mass public education, that high mandatory age is quite a detriment, especially when espousing the benefits of mandatory preschool. So, there’s this nearly constant battle these days to lower that age, so as to get a hold of the kids and start processing them through the system as early as possible. And the system is designed to do only two very special things: 1. classify your kid into a pre-approved social construct (preferably into some sort of special-education-required group that needs expensive medication and lots of IEPs) and 2. turn them into a docile workforce that wants only to spend their hard-earned minimal wage on useless crap from Wal-Mart.

Okay. Just don’t get me started on Wal-Mart. Seriously.

So, here’s a fascinating quote from the guy who gave the speech at the expensive luncheon:

At a time of global competition, workers rely on “brain over brawn” in using technology and pre-kindergarten is a proven way to ensure an educated workforce.

Now, let’s just stop and look at this sentence a second time. Read it again, and ask yourself, what is this guy actually trying to say? If I deconstruct it, I come up with this:

“Because we like cheap stuff, we have to farm out the making of cheap toys to places like China where it’s not against the law to exploit people, so American workers really can’t count on getting jobs that require physical strength or mindless repetitive factory assembly work, so we need to put all the kids in preschool and teach them all how to use computers so that they will be educated.”

That’s the best I can come up with. And I’m sure I’ve flubbed it somehow. But I just don’t think it’s possible to really make sense out of that sentence. Because the problem is that our system of mass public education was designed to output large quantities of people who could work in factories doing mindless repetitive assembly work, or people whose primary work was manual labor.

Starting the kids earlier in the same flawed system and preparing them for an industry that just doesn’t exist in this country anymore isn’t going to fix anything.

Sounds to me like this guy is a product of our public education system.

Doesn’t that just make you feel great?

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Things are good, but busy.

Usually after we take a week off from school work, like for Thanksgiving, the week that we start back up again is a little stint in Homeschooling Hell. Usually.

For whatever reason, this time around, re-entry has gone smoothly. The announcement that it’s time to come to the table and open up some books is met with a sing-songy “Ok-ay…be right there….”

And then, we simply breeze through the work. And my 4-year-old either finds something interesting to play in the living room, or she sits with us in the kitchen, scribbling away in her own little “workbooks” or playing with the math manipulatives just as happy as can be. The only hitch comes right at the end of grammar when my 7-year-old asks: is there any copywork today? and starts to fuss. But it’s a pretty minimal fuss, so I commiserate with her and give her the shortest sentence possible, or tell her gleefully: nope, no copywork today. And then she cheers and runs off to play.

It’s totally freaking me out.

Of course, now that I’ve blogged about it, tomorrow will be Completely Insane.

Other than that, not much to report. Things are good. But busy. I accidentally picked up some freelance web work. Whoops. But the cash might come in handy as Christmas approaches, and also as we get closer to moving into the new house and I find myself drooling in the kitchen appliance aisles at Home Depot. So, posting may be a bit lighter than usual. I’ll be spending some time dusting off my design skills and putting together a website for another homeschooling mama. Ordinarily, I avoid telling people I can design websites, because either one of two things happen:

1) they ask you to teach them DHTML… in like 10 minutes, or

2) they say they also are web designers and then immediately pull out a laptop they’ve got hidden under their denim jumper shirt and show you their one and only website they’ve ever done, and it’s drenched in cheesy animation and rainbow colors and at least 15 different font faces and you’re forced to discuss its merits when all you really want to do is bitch slap them into another profession.

But this mama is a friend, and she really could use the help. And it’s a smallish site with no commerce or databasing required, so it’s not such a big deal. And when I saw the site that’s sitting out there right now (that her brother-in-law did for her, and I’m thinking there’s not a whole lotta love there between the in-laws) I just about cried because really…anything I design will be an improvement. So, I said yes.

We’ll see how it goes.

I haven’t done freelance in almost a year. I’ve enjoyed the break, actually. But maybe it’ll be good for me.

A day for hot cocoa, warm tea and good books.

mist-tree.jpg

She knows what she wants.

Hmmm…she wants something here. I’m sure of it. It’s a bit hard to make out exactly what she’s asking for. But I’m pretty sure she wants something.

Worth all the hassle.

thanksgiving.jpg

Yeah, moving across the country was hard. And crazy. And something I wouldn’t ever do again with a 3-year-old in tow. And living in this little country cottage with it’s tiny kitchen, no dishwasher, questionable water, and a GIANT FROG HEAD out in the yard has given me quite a few headaches these past ten months.

But Thanksgiving with RegularSis and the family for the first time in over ten years?

Worth. every. hassle.

Pictures of the new house, part 2: needs a bit of work.

So, I’m trying to upload pictures for you, but, for some reason, Wordpress isn’t cooperating tonight. So, I can’t upload everything I wanted to show you. But, here’s a bit of the living room.

living-room.jpg

The dining room (also used as the school room)  is off to the left. There are 3 bedrooms up the stairs, and a hall bath. The master bedroom is smallish and painted a nice, delicate shade of pink, but it does have it’s own bathroom, which is nice. Here’s a shot of that:

master-bath2.jpg

Yep. That’s a hot pink toilet seat. Even the guy doing the inspection got the giggles when he saw it. RegularDad promised me that the first thing we’re going to do to this house once we close is install a dishwasher. But that was before we saw this toilet seat cover.

How much do you want to bet that installing the dishwasher is the second thing we do?

Anyway. Here’s a shot of the finished attic that makes for a fourth bedroom. office.jpg

Ideally this would be a better size for a master bedroom, but since there’s no adjoining bathroom, it’s going to be my study. Oh, we’ll put the futon up here too, for when Grandma comes to visit, but that’ll only be a couple times a year. For the rest of the time, this will be My Private Space. This is a good thing to have if you’re a homeschoolin’ mama like me. This, along with the large yard, and various other little details I can’t show you because WordPress is having some sort of cyber-PMS moment, makes that kitchen and all the upgrading required worth every penny.

I’ll try uploading some more shots of the outside tomorrow, once WordPress is finished having its little tantrum or whatever it is.

Pictures of the new house, part one: the kitchen.

It’s like when someone says to you, I’ve got good news and bad news. What do you want first? And unless you lived your entire childhood in a sealed plastic bubble with no cultural input whatsoever, you always say, Gimmee the bad news first.

We’ll start with the bad news, then. THE KITCHEN:

kitchen1.jpg

Somebody cue the theme from Psycho. Even the Brady Bunch had a nicer kitchen than this. Look at that tile backsplash. Just look at it. Here, have a closer look:

kitchen2.jpg

It’s an HGTV wet dream, is what it is.

I guess at this point I should confess that I now spend every free waking moment watching whatever happens to be on HGTV. I even put the channel on when the kids are around. What the hell, I figure. It’s G-rated. The two of them are getting all into it with me. They particularly love to watch House Hunters. Whenever that one’s on they snuggle in with me, and when it’s time for the buyers to Make Their Decision, the girls are all like: PICK THE SECOND ONE!! THE SECOND ONE!!! And then when the utter schleppos pick House #1 because it’s got a finished basement, the kids are all: Oh man! No Way!!! House #2 was so much closer to work! And what about the price? That’s way more than you wanted to spend! Oh well. Can we watch Dragon Tales now? And I’m all like: No way! Deserving Design is coming up next! Who wants popcorn?

But I digress.

So, the inspection went quite well. Except for the fact that the people that lived there were color-blind and sheltered enough not to realize that as the years passed more modern conveniences were invented to Make One’s Home More Efficient and Entertaining, the house is in remarkably good shape. It’s got good, sturdy bones, as they say. All we have to do is completely hollow it out and start over.

During the inspection, the owner’s daughter showed up just to check in and say hello. The actual owner has reached that point in life where she needs to move into a nursing home, and that’s why this house is for sale. The daughter is acting as power of attorney. The good news here is that no one actually up and died in the house recently. So I won’t need to call Ghost Busters. But the bad news is that this will be an EMOTIONAL SALE. This woman could not stop talking about how she grew up in that house. How wonderful it was. What a great neighborhood it was. How it had the BEST SCHOOLS EVER. I just nodded and smiled and kept moving into different rooms whenever she started to mist over.

It’s not that I wasn’t sympathetic. I was. Really I was. But I only had a few tissues left in my purse, and I needed them just in case my 4-year-old (who’s just about over that little cold, but not quite) started hacking up vast quantities of phlegm. I just couldn’t handle it when this woman would get all emotional about things like this kitchen that needs to be put out of its misery remodeled as quickly as possible.

“We even replaced the stove!” she moaned at one point, her eyes watering ominously.
“Oh,” I said. “REALLY?”
“Yes,” she breathed. “Isn’t it great?”
“Why…yes…,” I stammered. “It is.” And then I escaped into the dining area only to be ambushed by my realtor, who immediately asked: “Homeschooling, huh? Like…how does that work? Do you do…like…math…and stuff….?”

Here’s the stove, by the way. It’s not even digital, for God’s sake.

kitchen3.jpg

Now don’t get me wrong. I do love this house. It’s got a lot of great things about it. Like separate bedrooms for the kids. And three working toilets. All I am saying, is that the kitchen (including that fossil of an oven) is not exactly a Primary Selling Feature. I’ll post out more pictures of different rooms tomorrow. I’d do it now, but it’s almost time for Design on a Dime. And after that, Decorating Cents is coming on.

I am so into Decorating Cents right now.

In the end, it’ll be a great house. We’ll paint. Rip up carpets. Add some chair rails and crown moulding. And next summer, we’ll Deal With That Kitchen In The Proper Manner. I’ll let RegularDad buy some new power saws. He’ll love that. It’ll be fabulous.

And after we’re done remodeling, we’ll look back on these days and laugh gently as we reminisce about the owner’s daughter and how after she told me the beautiful-family-moment story of How They Replaced Their Oven in 1973, she wandered over to RegularDad and told him what a great place the neighborhood was. How some of her happiest childhood memories were of those lazy summer afternoons when she and her brothers would sneak off to the nearby park and light up a bowl and pass it around. Those were some good fucking times, my friends. Absolutely the best.

Man…I just so totally love you guys right now.

Really.


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