retin-a, the pill and moving on…

My foxling is 13, precious and full of life, 13 going on 29. =) One minute she can be curled into a blanket with me on my bed, begging me to read her “baby books” to her and make spaghetti and meatballs for dinner. The next she will scoff any attention I attempt to lavish on her, retreat to her room and write pages for novels in which her parents are dead, emerging hours later a vegetarian. She is exploring, discovering herself, and deciding who she wants to be, on any given day. She is hot and cold, fire and ice, brilliant and plain-ass dumb. In short, she is a teen. Welcome to my world, I am hoping I will be one of the millions of mothers who survive the teen years and do not have to give up nursing school to check myself into a “facility”. * =)

One of the marvelous things about genetics is the small chance we passed all our best qualities onto this amazing child. Of course, reality intervenes and along with her stellar sense of humor and astronomical IQ, she got the spots. I was lucky to not have had acne badly, but my brother was an absolute mess for a decade and The Professor was on every script available for years as well. So my poor little foxling never stood a chance. She was fine as a child, but the second she hit puberty all hell broke loose. I finally found a DR who takes it seriously, and have an insurance plan that will pay, even if I have to call and throw fits regularly to motivate them.

She has a sulfur wash and lotion for the day, and a retina-a micro treatment that goes on at night. The spots are clearing up and the redness is dissipating as well. Most sunscreen makes her break out, so that was an added bonus to the situation, but it looks like we are making real progress. Last week, her DR also prescribed The Pill, to regulate her cycle and cut down on the breakouts. Yes, THAT pill. Yikes, cannot tell you what that did to my tender mother’s psyche… she is only 13 after all.

I will admit to having some misgivings about the regimen, even before The Pill was thrown into the mix. She is young, and needs reminding, and who would be the one to remind her on a daily basis ? Yours truly… and she feels like I nag her enough, thank you very much. But the more I considered, the more sense it made to let her have complete control over the process. After all, she was so compliant with her Invisalign that the braces were on for only a year instead of 2 ! She also is responsible with her cleaning, school work and online time, so why should this be any different ? I only had reservations because if she does not use the products properly, she could end up with chemical burns, and that is not an option. So for the past month, I have been doling out the products, one at a time. Instructed her as to the procedure, let her read the packaging inserts and let her manage. Last week she began the retina-a without any problems. I was expecting a lot more redness and dryness, but I think that spacing the products a bit helped. She now uses all 3 products every day and is careful to take the time to properly apply each one. She said she feels like she is doing something good for herself, and does not want to rush since that could screw with the results. =) I am glad she came to this on her own, rather than me telling her repeatedly. Means more to her.

So… we as parents are preparing our children to ultimately make every decision for themselves. To understand right and wrong, as it applies to them and their ideals and world. To do their best, to feel comfortable and happy with their decisions and how to deal when things go awry. Some children mature faster than others, but no matter their age when we begin, we MUST begin to let them do for themselves. To fall and break occasionally, and to get back up, brush off the dust, assess and move on. If only there was a gentler way to ease them into adulthood… but if we are too protective and gentle, they end up crippled and unable to fend for themselves. Who knew, 13 years ago as I lay looking at that darling blueberry-eyed baby with the pug nose and silky brown hair, that is would be so hard ?! So we do our best, and with reservation, let them take the reins and hope they don’t plow us all into a brick wall. =)

She has had a lot of growing up to do in the past year. She felt immense guilt for a long while, like her opinion of our situation was what allowed her father to move out. It took me months of constant talking and reassurance to help her see that he made the decision separately from his love for her, and to talk to me when he told her things that made her feel uncomfortable. Our relationship is strong, and she is all good so even thru pain, she has been able to see one can create beauty and happiness out of the rubble left by another’s choices.

She also now sleeps at 2 different houses, with 2 sets of rules. There are not many at The Apartment, as she calls his place. We are more structured, mostly because in our home is where the schooling takes place, and we need the routine to accomplish everything she wishes to do. She has more freedom there, more free time with which to fill in many ways. She is learning how much is too much, and how little sleep she can function on without being a raging witch. =) She is getting more in control of her days, and I allow her as much freedom here was possible, as well. Too much disparity between homes is the hardest thing for a child to deal with, so I have adjusted as much as I can here to make the transition easier for her.

So she is 13, creeping up to 14, and is about to start high school. Those years that are so important for now, but after earning a Bachelor’s become completely inconsequential. I had a real heart to heart with her recently and decided to allow her to choose who she lives with, and if she transitions into a public high school. I think that regular high school will not showcase her talents the way that a tailor-made education in a private, online school would. But I also see the draw of moving to Ca with her dad and his new family. The fun and excitement of it, the beach access, her granddad and uncle being right there… it is everything I could want for my darling girl, other than the school and the fact that I will not be able to participate. Oh, I know, she was leaving eventually anyway, but the shock that came with the possibility of this scenario playing out in 2 years was hard to shake off. Now that I have had weeks to become accustomed to the idea, I am thrilled for her, in every sense of the word. She is exactly like me in that aspect; the belief that the best things in life come from making an educated guess then racing off a cliff to jump into the unknown… =) I want her to live a life of possibility, of nerve and calculated risk, not one of fear and wondering what might have been. So I have turned the kaleidoscope so to speak, and am looking at this as a chance of a lifetime, which it is. These may very well be the last years she has her granddad, and I want her to be able to build a relationship with him, just like she was able to do with my dad. And seriously, a chance to be in sunny CA surrounded by people who love you ?! What on earth would prompt YOU to say no ?! =) =)

So now, the only stress I am feeling is about how to best prepare her for the move. CA is notoriously unaccommodating to home schoolers, especially those from another state. According to the administrator of the school district in question that I spoke to recently, the chance is minuscule that any of these high school credits that she has already earned will transfer to their system. Let me be clear, according to the colleges I spoke to, backed up with ISBN numbers and test scores, along with work samples, these are indeed high school credits, with more work accomplished than the average Honors courses here. I am nothing if not thorough in her education. But CA is very hard to please, and if the classes were regionally accredited, than this would not be an issue. National accreditation is sticky as well, but not as much as good old fashioned home school work, no matter what you can back it up with. As an aside did you know that over 23% of all high schools in the US are not accredited ?!

My foxling has been working on high school honors level since grade 6. She has even had some classes that are college level. Now to find out that if she moves, and we continue doing what we have been, she may have to begin over and attend sumer school for 3 years just to graduate on time… fucking absurd. But I will leave my thoughts on state control of national education requirements for another day. Another aside, Brown and Bard think she is being well-prepared, as does the medical school at UConn… AND SHE HAS NOT EVEN BEGUN HIGH SCHOOL YET ! =) But what matters right now is not my indignation, or the insanity of a cross-country move with an eclectically-educated child. What matters is getting the most out of the next 2 years with her, making her look as good as possible on paper, for the powers that be. While I am confident I can usher her into any selective college in the nation, the public high school system in CA is going to be a challenge. So I need to figure out a way to give her the interesting and quirky classes she wants, while fitting her requisites into the obscenely run-of-the-mill packaging that the school system demands. While my first instinct may be to scream FUCK YOU, MORONS… this is HER dream, HER goal and I, as her mother, educator and administrator, have her best interests at heart. So I begin to play the game that I have avoided like the plague for the past 14 years… gods help me.

I will keep you posted as to what we decide to do… the deadline for applying to the large, local high school for AP and honors classes passed in May, and we are not in the new house yet so cannot legally even apply for regular attendance yet. As, the plot thickens.

 

* Again, take my words in the spirit with which they are thrown on the page… humor, not judgement or cruelty. =)

bits and pieces…

A long, productive week… a sunny day filled with conversation, a winding drive and lunch for two girls… tests made, administered and passed with flying colors… salads eaten in a rush before walking in the gloaming… Life, simple, sweet.

I went to Webster Lake last weekend, with a handful of new friends. They were a rowdy bunch; full of laughter, themselves and ample quantities of cold beer. I met a friend of an acquaintance of the best friend of the cousin of a man that I used to love… and yes, it was as weird as it sounds. One of the wives asked me, her MA twang spiced with a buzzy slur “So, why in the hell would you want to homeschool, I’d kill myself if I had to be around my kids all day?!”… Luckily, the sun was shining, the cooler was full and everyone was more interested in maintaining their BAC than having any real conversations about life choices. I was invited on a camping trip, to a hockey game and a 23rd anniversary party, all within half an hour of shaking their hands for the first time. Did I mention they are a friendly group ? Sensory overload does not begin to describe the insanity that followed… you would think people in their late 40’s would be past the drinking incessantly stage. What is it about men with boats and motorcycles and their own businesses, with money to spare ? When I said I was going back to school, I was advised to simply marry someone with more money, and then I can just play. No matter HOW much money a guy has, I am not interested in spending the next 20 years picking up dirty laundry and baking cookies that I do not eat… I am so weird, I know.=)

Seems our brief foray into sunlit days has come to an end for the time being. I have 4 lamps turned on, and still shadows fall across my foxling’s papers. Overcast sky filled with thready clouds ushers in cooler air and random droplets of rain. I am glad we cut our day short yesterday and were able to take advantage of the nice weather. Spring in New England is a fickle thing, and you never know how long the sun is going to shine.

In wrapping up our semester, I have been organizing her completed school work, and filing away a representation of her year. She has accomplished so much, and come so far this year… I laugh to think that we were not going to put her into 9th grade this September… She has earned 4 high school credits and is asking for more structure and responsibility! Her writing has become more polished and she is beginning to be more independent as far as her individual subjects go. I am so proud of her, the commitment and effort are really paying off. =) We had our yearly discussion about a good, local high school, and realized once again that there is no way the school could support her desires or needs. It is not a bad place, excellent test scores and great college acceptance rates, but they cannot serve the needs of every child attending, and my foxling has not worked this hard to simply become a number, a cog in the works. While I am always keeping an open mind, my real goal as her mother, teacher and facilitator is to make sure she has the education she needs, has her interests met, and that she is well-prepared to enter the college of her choice. For the time being, that is best accomplished by continuing her studies at home, with the help of online honors classes, taught by teachers who hold a PhD in their fields. I do not know what the future holds for her, but I know I will never stop advocating for her best interests. =)

Time for science class, and yet another cup of coffee… enjoy your day, be it sunny or drenched with rain. Have a lovely… =)

learning inside the box…

I awoke this morning to sunlight trying to stream past my curtains. It was peeping around the corners of the window, bright and happy-making. At first I was so thrilled to see the sun again, I missed the other obvious cause for celebration… I had SLEPT ! Nope, it was not Melatonin, a glass of wine, or a hot bath that did the trick. I simply downloaded free games onto the iPad and played until past 12:30 am, until my eyes closed repeatedly and I dropped the tablet on my face several times. Hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do, right ? =) I usually have a pretty rigid sleep schedule that includes lights out at 10:40 every night, so this was very late for me. It worked, and while I know it was a one-time deal, I am in such a good mood from rest that I have no worries about tonight.

I was reading articles on NPR last evening, and was focusing my attention on education related information. Hey, it’s what I do… One piece in particular caught my eye, and after reading carefully, I thought to myself “No shit…!” The gist of it was that if politicians throw too much decontextualized content into the K-12 standards, they become bogged down and ineffective.

A hundred years ago, our children who went to high school were learning Latin or Greek, Rhetoric, and advanced mathematics. This applied even to most rural schools, as a portion of the students were being groomed to become teachers themselves, in a few short years. Not everyone had the opportunity to take advantage of such an education, but it is something our nation prided itself on. Now, colleges are teaching remedial classes, for no credit, and many students who need this service enroll in more than one subject area. What caused this shift, and can we get back to a more rigorous content ?

Part of the problem is that in years past, students were not studying in so many different content areas. History was in depth, but also included writing, studying the relevant speeches of the era, grammatical instruction as found in the words of leaders and political science. Mathematics was the only stand alone course, and this inter-connectedness allowed students to more fully grasp their studies as a whole, rather than separate parts.

Today, we are throwing topics at students, rather than teaching them. A set of defined points to cover, pass out a worksheet, read and take a multiple choice quiz. Ok, everyone got that… let’s move on. There is no coherent instruction, and each year begins with a 3 month review for the children who did not pick up the concept in the previous year. What about the children who know these concepts like the back of their hand, and are merely sitting, doodling and bored, day after day until the new materials are presented ? Nothing about this system makes sense for any child, nor does it prepare them for their life after school and college. How can you live up to your potential if you are merely following regulations and regurgitating pablum ? Where is the original thought, the critical thinking skills that allow successful adults to make well-informed decisions ? We are removing a child’s innate ability to process information, and form ideas on their own.

On to the Common Core Standards. They were created, like most innovations, with the best of intentions. A way for all children in all states to be better prepared for the rigors of college. A way of ensuring that all children get an equitable education, rather than those who are economically advantaged being given the best. Sounds so good in theory… But we have taken this ideal and created lists, rote memorization of separated facts, and there is no interflow of ideas. Learning can come only from connections, and when we remove any connection, we are once again left with a list to memorize. Is this what 12 years in school should be producing ?

I do not pretend to know what standards should be in place, or the way we can implement such standards. But in a time when over a dozen states are proposing the removal of the Common Core Standards, it is clear that we need to step up and be decisive about where our children are headed. Why we teach the way we do, and who exactly we are serving with the current system. I realize I am passionately idealistic when it comes to education. But this is what I do. I know not everyone has the resources or ability to home educate. But the fact that my child has such an edge over the majority of her peers is heartbreaking. Does my foxing deserve so much more than is offered to others ? I do not believe so, I am just fortunate enough to be able to give it to her.

wtf…

Hmmm… want to know what is even more fun than being forced to end the fallacy formerly known as your marriage in the middle of the sucktastic holiday season ? Having friends, acquaintances or family members tell you they saw it coming, they could tell, they just KNEW it…

Mark, that was for you… my 30 second Bitch party, and I am happy to report it was followed last night by 30 second dance party with my foxling. I may get angry, but I do not stay that way for long ! And I burned a few calories to boot, acting like an idiot with my daughter, laughing her fool head off at my antics. =)

Yesterday was a beautiful day, against all odds. The Professor and The Historian spent a large portion of the day in the kitchen, cooking up a storm, and enjoying one anthers undivided attention. She told me it was the best Thanksgiving she can remember ! We ate gorgeous food, were respectful to one another, and I did not feel the presence of anyone else as his phone was not vibrating with texts every 1.4 seconds.  We watched a movie, listened to good music, ate heartily, talked and it felt so good, so NORMAL… We are strong, committed and very intelligent, I think we can actually pull this off. This new relationship, whatever it is. Labels aside, it is my life, our life, and it will be as colorful and rich as I can make it. The real victory came at bedtime, when my foxling told me this was the best start to the holiday season, and she was excited, not dreading the coming time off. =) We gave her carte blanche to decide our plans, and we will be walking on the campus today in the sun, and picking up a christmas tree tomorrow. Perfect end to a few calm days spent together.

As I plan The Historians next semester, happily filling in the open spaces with advanced science and more literary analysis, I am reminded of the things that are so important to me. As she moves into her high school years, her education is my top priority and my work is deeply fulfilling to me. She is happily growing by leaps and bounds, and I cannot tell you how wonderful The Professor has been about the resources we need. He has ALWAYS put her educational needs first, and when I come to him with a price list, he smiles and tells me to purchase whatever she needs. The support I get from him, coupled with his belief that I am doing an amazing job, is heady stuff, and gets me thru the occasional bad days.

I know not every child has it so good. In Washington, DC, for instance, the schools are so crowded that over 2,000 portable buildings are in use simply to have room to put the children. These portable buildings, meant for very short term solutions, are trailers. Some parents and administrators feel that students are isolated in them, and there are conflicting opinions about the situation. Some fourth graders, for instance, when needing to use the bathroom, have to bundle up in coats be out of the classroom for 10-15 minutes, wandering between the structures on campus to get back to the main building. Fairfax County alone has over 1,100 trailers, meant to ease crowding for a year or two, and district officials believe they will be in use for a much longer stretch of time. On the Rockville campus of the Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary school, every fourth grader spends most of their days in said trailers. Strained budgets are responsible for placing these boxes near ball fields, and parking lots. Couple these “learning shacks” with fewer textbooks, photocopied drill pages instead of an actual curriculum, and less resources, and you can see that our children are being shortchanged.

My life is not without its struggles, but there has never been day in my foxling’s life when I needed some school item and could not get it. We have had the time, resources, and a safe and comfortable environment in which she can thrive. I have been her main teacher, dedicated to her best possible outcome, putting her needs well before any monetary issue. I love what I do, what we do, and am well aware how fortunate we really are. My child is being given the chance to succeed. By simple accident of birth, she can have everything she needs, as well as a good portion of what she wants. She will be competing for a spot in several very selective college programs, and I have no doubt that she will be well prepared when the time comes. Knowing that over half of our nation’s high school graduates are not even ready for a community college shows me that we need to level the playing field a bit.

the long and winding road…

It is now October… where did this year go ?! I feel as though we are in the Enterprise, racing at warp-speed toward distant unknowns… Beam me up, Scotty, I am not ready for this… Dammit Jim, I am a teacher, not an astrophysicist ! Must take a deep breath, focus, and realize we have plenty of time left in the year to accomplish our goals. Must get The Profesor to kill the bug on the bedroom curtains… but I digress. =)

The changing of the seasons come with unique challenges, which tend to change each year as WE change… notice a key term here.. CHANGE ?! The Historian is getting older, more focused and more sure of her plans for the future. She is capable, organized and hard-working, which; when combined with her intellect, is a strong indicator of her chance of success, in high school as well as college. I realize I have nothing to fear, per se, but do have a lot of planning, record-keeping and hard work ahead of me to help her achieve her goals. She is my inspiration, she is doing her best to make her dreams come true, and it makes me work all the harder for her, and with her. Her education is a full time job, and one I am enjoying immensely !

That being said, I am feeling a bit of a time crunch on my own goals. I am going back to college full time when she graduates, but until then, I have decisions to make. I am leaning toward taking intensive summer classes, to bang out some requirements ahead of time, and shave a few years off the process. I do not know how I am going to swing this, and hope with careful planning and familial support, I will be able to make it happen. We are approaching a season of great importance for my foxling, and I do not want to be inaccessible to her now. =) Ah, the joys of juggling motherhood, home education and life !

Have a wonderful day, take time to breath deeply of that cooling, autumnal air and enjoy the fruits of your labors. This is a time of bounty, of harvest and reaping what we have sown. Our years in the orchard are beginning to bear fruit, and it is a heady feeling, all this possibility…

rainy days and Thursdays…

As I sit on the couch with a hot coffee in hand, my foxling is upstairs finishing her math work for the day. She loves being in her space, working the afternoon away. She lays on the bed with pillows surrounding her legs, propping up books with blankets, humming quietly. She will be so pleased with the desk she is getting for her birthday !

We walked again before lessons this morning, amidst the cool rain. The soft pattering sound it made on the bushes and trees was so soothing, we were fairly quiet and introspective for the duration. Changing into dry clothes, we spent a quiet morning exploring curriculum, talking about high school plans and generally enjoying ourselves. There are days when I could cry the time away in a hot shower, and then there are days like this; when we connect, but calmly and there is a peace in the air that comes with the change of season and knowing you are well ahead of the game.

One rule of homeschooling I find to be true is that no matter what you plan, fate has a way of stepping in and stirring the pot gleefully. I am organized by nature and necessity, but even my plans can be dashed against the rocks at times. The Historian has been “invited” to skip a grade next year and start high school with a small, private umbrella school. =) I am so proud of her hard work, and all the time she invests in her future. I want her to be able to work toward her goals and dreams, and know she can put in the required effort. She has other irons in the fire, too soon to speak of, but in the early stages. These next few years will be filled with new experiences and possibilities for her. I have decided to take a leap of faith, in my teaching skills over the past years, as well as her inherent giftedness and ability to choose what is best for herself. This is a hard thing for any parent to do, but at her tender age, I feel like I should be holding her close, not encouraging her to fly just yet.

She now needs more than I can provide, and while I am teaching her this year, in 2014 I will teach only 2 classes and facilitate for her in the endeavors she has chosen. I am thrilled for her, and interested to see what she makes of these opportunities.  My foxling has decided to take her future into her own hands. As she looks up at me with those bottomless baby-blues, I know I have no choice but to let her jump, and I simply grab her hand and we race together, toward the edge of the cliff…

fav authors…

I am a bit tired as of late, our summer session is winding down and planning for the next year has kept me busy. We have had LOTS of time to explore and play this summer, and I think my foxling is almost ready to get back to the relative quiet of our insanely-paced regularly scheduled programming. =) That being said, I am not taking as many photos as I was at the change of season, and we are doing more things with friends and less flashy outings. I am at a loss some days for substantial writing material, and decided I have subjected you too often lately to mere musings. I think I will do a few lists, and will post zoo and beach photos later in the week. Bear with me, once school starts in earnest again, I am SURE I will be back to my opinionated, worrisome self. =)

OUR FAV AUTHORS (for the time being)

1.  Henry Thoreau… of course, he tops our list. The Historian loves his style, and ability to capture whole worlds in a mere sentence. He is smooth, passionate and brilliant, who could ask for anything more ?!

2.  Edward Dolnick… we have read several books by this gentleman, and they just keep getting better… The Clockwork universe is about famous mathematicians, scientists and the birth of the modern era.  The Forger’s Spell is about how a mediocre forger convinced the world he was Vermeer. The plot is thick with Nazi’s, intrigue and art history, SWOON ! =) As an aside; Ed’s mother let her kids choose their own middle names, and at the age of 15, Ed decided on “Ishmael”… because Moby Dick was his fav book. How could we not love this guy ?!

3.  Thomas French… he won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism, and his book, “Zoo Stories” is one of the most powerful accounts of a zoo and its inhabitants and struggles ever written. There is no black and white answer, just many shades of deeply personal grey. Fantastic read, very informative and really details our desire to both lift up nature, and control it.

4.  Thomas Wolff… “Old School”, enough said. Perfect in its simplicity and depth of character.

5.  Cory Doctorow… new find, “Little Brother”, was an instant hit with my foxling. As I read thru the book, I am happily surprised at the maturity of the novel, and the scope of characters’ emotions.  Discusses the aftermath of a terrorist attack on San Fran, and how the Dept of Homeland Security attacks the Bill of Rights. Dystopian, action-packed and relevant. Perhaps YA, but a good read for adults, nonetheless.

6.  Patricia McCormick… her novel, “Never Fall Down” literally brought us to tears. Detailing the Khmer Rouge’s destruction of Cambodia thru the eyes of a young boy, this historical fiction is more of a history lesson about this terrible genocide.  It is written for teens, but I believe many an adult could learn something from this account, which is true story of one child’s experiences.

There are many books we have read and enjoyed this summer, and this is a small sampling of those which moved us, or made us think, or even change on some fundamental level. I am thrilled to be reading such powerful literature with my foxling, and as she matures and grows, it is exciting to see what she brings to the table for us to share. What have you been reading lately ? We are always open to suggestion ! =)

Previous Older Entries

to irrigate the desert...

watering the future, one mind at a time

Zipf's Law

A blog about the implications of the statistical properties of language for second language learners

Sincerely Reine

Beauty, lifestyle & everything in between

Behind the White Coat

Beats a real human heart...

No Blog Intended

But the pun is

The Bumble Files

The truth is in here

Bluefish Way

The life of Ralph and his cats

coffee and a blank page

a feminist writes, rants, remembers

rarasaur

frightfully wondrous things happen here.

Power Plant Men

True Power Plant Stories

Mad Tea Party in My Head

Clean Cup! Move Down!

The Virtual Statesman

The Independent & Engaging Political Commentator

CombatBabe

somewhat witty, often combative.

A Tramp in the Woods

A nature diary from the Forest of Dean.

Mollytopia

Fabulously Refined/Wildy Inappropriate

talinorfali

Don't ever change yourself to impress someone, cause they should be impressed that you don't change to please others -- When you are going through something hard and wonder where God is, always remember that the teacher is always quiet during a test --- Unknown

Be Like Water

Music, Film and Life

Dream, Play, Write!

Today, make a commitment to your writing.

Storyshucker

A blog full of humorous and poignant observations.