Thursday, October 17, 2019

Choice is important

Most parents feel they do not have any choice about educating their sprogs.  But there are choices, and they do have their pros and cons. 

Public School

Let's start with public school.  Government funded and run education.  Most of my readers already know the cons: the teachers don't know the subjects they're supposed to teach; they indoctrinate rather than teach; there's no discipline in the classroom; the environment is chaotic, and bullies thrive on that; and smarter, more advanced students are, at best, ignored, and at worst sabotaged. 

Still.  That said.  There are still pros to public school.  They're few and getting fewer for parents of normal kids, but they are there.  And for parents of heavily disabled kids, they're a blessing.  First of all, due to several different sets of laws, public schools are required to bring in any kind of specialists needed to educate kids that are non-verbal through autism or other disability, kids who are bound to motorized wheelchairs through physical disability and need physical therapy as well as several interventions to allow them to acquire an education, and the speed better suits kids who just aren't as bright as normal.  Or kids who have difficulty with a home life that doesn't support fast learning (irresponsible parents who don't fucking feed their kids a decent--or any--breakfast is a big one).

Here's the biggest pro that makes most parents think that public school is their only choice: it's free.*

Private School

Next: private schools.  This choice can be broken down further by whether the school is secular or religious, and by duration (i.e., is it elementary, elementary and middle, or all the way?).  

First con: it's expensive.  How expensive can depend.  First, is it secular or religious?  Second, are there discounts, or scholarships, or financial aid that families can get?  Third, are their discounts for more than one child?

Our local secular school costs more than twice per year what the local university does per two semesters plus summer.  There are discounts for university professors' kids, but that still didn't put it into my family's reach.  I think they also had scholarships for need and for academics, but...they also, from what I noted, produced Greta Thunbergs that tended to wilt at the first sign that nobody was taking them seriously. 

We have several religious schools.  I can't speak to all of their cost schedules, because many of them are only K-3, or K-8, and I didn't investigate closely.  The Catholics have a K-12, and there's an evangelical protestant Pre-K3 through 12. 

The Catholic schools produce incredibly excellent students.  They coast through college, because they can.  They also cost quite a bit.  If you're Catholic, they charge less, but I'm not sure what they do for families having more than one kid in school at the same time.  If you're not Catholic, you pay the full amount, and I don't think there are discounts for siblings.  (It's been a few years since I investigated.) 

And the evangelical protestants...this is the school I put the kids in.  They do cost, and quite a bit, but less than either of the other full-duration options.  They cost about half again what a full year at the university does...but that's for both my sprogs, not just one of them, like the secular school.  There are discounts--parents pay full cost for the oldest, next oldest has a $500 discount, next one down has another $250 from the second kid's discount, and more than three?  The rest don't pay tuition.**  There are also hardship scholarships for families in a financial bind.  We had to take advantage of that one year.  They have payment plans where you can pay in one chunk (cheapest), two chunks (that one charges a little for processing both payments), or monthly during the school year (each payment includes a processing fee). 

 For the second con: bullying can be a problem.  However, unlike with public schools, the private schools' bullies tend toward the psychological: mocking the victim, or simply pointed exclusion.  Physical bullying is not tolerated.  And, if it gets to be too much, there's always another school or another option (see the last category). 

Third con: depending on the school, the curriculum is challenging.  The kids are working through the Abeka Books curriculum.  I, personally, really like the full curriculum.  It's fast paced, and isn't easy.  They blend similar concepts--especially in math, where they teach addition with subtraction, and multiplication with division.  They start with the broad strokes in history, then go back and add more and more details year by year.  Spelling is taught and tested from Kindergarten on, and cursive is taught starting in 1st grade.  I'd say about a third of my high school classmates would have been unable to keep up (the bottom third of my class).  There isn't a whole lot of support for disabled students, either--they brought in a speech therapist for my imp to get him up to speed when he was little, and they'll bring in occupational therapists on a part time basis, but the goal is to get the kid to not need them rather than support the child. 

As for the pros: in pretty much all private schools, the teachers are closely vetted for whether they're safe to be around children (as opposed to what you're seeing all the time in the news with teachers literally fucking the kids in public school), and they're also closely vetted for competence in both teaching and in their subject areas (unlike public school teachers that, when asked for help, tell the students to Google it because they don't know how, either).  Private schools use good curricula, not the frankly dumbed down and horrid Common Core (which public schools aren't even doing well with).  Class sizes are smaller--most people aren't willing to pay for what they think ought to be free, and that shows up best in class size. 

Best of all, the kids aren't crammed in a classroom with troublemakers that prevent them from learning.  Troublemakers are disciplined, and chronic troublemakers are expelled, unlike how public schools handle things.

However, there is a third option if your kid is being bullied past what they can deal with. 

Homeschool

This is the option I'd initially planned for before I even had kids. Yeah, I'd have to choose or create a curriculum and pay for the materials (and the curriculum), but it fit the budget a lot better.  Also, my experiences in teaching echoed this writer's.  I wanted to homeschool my kids because I wanted to give them every advantage and chance at success.

And then...then, my son refused to let me teach him or help him learn. Not anything. Nothing. He hid while he learned to crawl, pull up, walk, ride a tricycle, etc.  He simply will not learn when I am the teacher...or when his dad tries to teach him something...or his grandparents, or aunt. 

And then my daughter started wilting and only perking up when she was at the park with a lot of other kids.  She perked right up into a bubbly, happy little girl when we enrolled her in preschool, and only wilts during the summer, now. 

So. Both of my kids are in a private, religious PreK-3 through 12 just up the road from our house. And they're thriving, and a couple of years academic development ahead of their publicly educated peers. My daughter is about a year ahead of the neighbor's grandson...who's two grades ahead of her in public school.

Homeschooling is still an option if bullying becomes a problem. But right now, they're happy, and doing well enough. 
 
Funny thing is, there are politicians that would remove those choices.  There are places in the country where homeschooling is frowned on, heavily regulated, and parents risk jail if every i isn't dotted and every t crossed in the official paperwork required.  There are places where regulations placed on private school are so onerous that it prices it out of the reach of even the upper middle classes.  Places where, traditionally, school choice was supported by vouchers for students to attend the schools of their parents' choice (wildly successful in Washington, D.C., in particular) until the politicians demolished the program, dumping the poorest back into the worst districts.    
 
Choice is important.  Not every parent will choose wisely, but having the choices available is important.  Because not even every public school is equal.  
 
And this country was based on that right to choose: for families to choose which version of faith to follow (or none at all); for individuals to choose their own path, rather than have it pressed upon them by what class they were born into.   

Choosing your child's education is, perhaps, one of the most important choices a parent can have.  It's important that the choices be there, and not be regulated out of existence by pretentious snobs that want only their (substandard) children to have the advantage of a decent education. 

*Actually, it isn't free.  It's paid for out of property and other taxes.  State monies apportioned to specific public school districts come directly from that district's property taxes.  It's one of the main reasons why better, higher class income neighborhoods have better schools.  Well, one of the reasons, anyway.  There are others.  But all property taxes partially pay for the local school districts, whether you have kids or not, and whether your kids go to those schools or not.  Yes, that's theft.  No, there's not a lot we can do about it.

**When we were enrolling the kids initially, there was a family going through the formalities of getting their youngest school age kid started in the preschool class for the three year olds.  They already had four kids in older grades, and had two more too little for school.  There would be no way they'd be able to give all their kids the same school experience without that policy, and how do you choose?  Which kids do you leave out?  This family size may not be the norm over all the population, but larger families sort of are the norm at the school the kids attend.  

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The homeless problem

It isn't recent. And it isn't just a lack of housing, or a lack of money for housing that makes it a problem. 

Actually, it wasn't nearly as much of a problem before the de-institutionalization movements in the '60s, which both halves of government (left and right) jumped on for different, short-sighted reasons. The left believed institutionalization of the severely mentally ill (schizophrenia, etc) was inhumane, especially when they were perfectly functional when they took their pills.*  The right looked at the monetary cost in tax dollar spending and flipped.**

More on that in a bit.

The homeless camps, worst on the west coast thanks to bleeding heart, utterly impractical leftists (but still bad on the east coast), are incredibly dangerous.  They're a pestilent, disease-ridden shit hole, bleeding out into civilization.  They're fecalized environments that aren't safe either for their denizens, nor for the functional, civilized individuals that are forced into contact with them. 

They also play host to the violent.  Sometimes, that violence is planned, sometimes it isn't.

The homeless camps, and the homeless within them--often feral, often incapable of function in society, often simply fucking useless and lazy--are a flat-out danger to the rest of us, both civilized and those of us who only pretend to be.***

One third of the homeless population are mentally ill to the point of inability to function in society.  To the point that they don't even see a need to try to function.  And why not, when they get all their base needs met by government programs designed to feed the homeless, funded by money stolen from taxpayers by a government that does not care about the taxpayers it's supposed to serve. 

Before the de-institutionalization movement, these people would have been housed.  They'd have been warm, fed, cared for.  Borderline functional.   Now? 

Now, they're the people on the street, mumbling to themselves and avoiding eye contact--if they're the non-violent types.  Or they're the types randomly attacking people because they see something pretty that they want...or because the voices in their heads tell them to bash the six year old on the sidewalk because it's Tuesday. 

Now, they're the ones dropping like flies in the heat, freezing to death in the cold.  Because there are no beds where they can be cared for long terms. 

Now, they're the ones spreading typhus, typhoid fever, leprosy, bubonic plague, and drug-resistant contagious infections like tuberculosis.  Granted, a few of those have been re-imported through our porous southern border, but the homeless camps are breeding grounds for the diseases.  Because they have no sanitation.  And because about a third of the people living in them have no clue why sanitation should even be a consideration. 

We, quite honestly, need--badly need--to bring back the asylums.  Even with the reputation of abuse and experimentation on the inmates (mostly false, but often enough true to smear all), we need to bring back the asylums. 

Because not all families are physically or emotionally capable of taking care of their relatives with mental/psychiatric impairment. 




*The problem is that the pills--which are only a treatment--work so well that those with the issue being treated think they're cured.  And. Stop. Taking. Them.  These people need a keeper that forces them to take their meds every damn day at the right fucking time.  And often, their families either can't or won't do that.  So they end up on the streets.  Where the family is willing and able to supervise their relative, I don't have an issue with the crazy not being warehoused.  However.  If/when that changes, the institutions should be available.  And aren't.

**Governments--local, state, and federal--spend a fuck-ton more on trying to serve the homeless than they ever did on the institutions, which kept so many of those who would have been homeless off the streets. 

***A lot people attacked do not see the danger coming at them until they're bleeding on the ground, or in the process of being raped.  Civilized to the point of being domesticated animals.  The rest of us simply are so wary of being prosecuted for protecting ourselves that sometimes we don't react in time to put the threat down. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Musings upon parenting

I've recently been thinking about it a lot.  Parenting.  Whether I'm doing a good job at it. 

Truth is, I don't know.  I won't know until my children are adults. 

The proof is in whether or not they leave home.  I'm trying to give them all the skills they need to do exactly that.  I'm also trying my hardest to not cripple them. 

Currently, I'm trying to instill habits: study habits, household maintenance habits,* a work ethic...it's really hard, especially with really smart, strong willed children with cognitive abnormalities.** 

I will know I'm successful when they leave home, and have the skills to take care of themselves.

And that's take care of themselves.  Not take care of me.  Not take care of my siblings.  Take care of themselves.

I've got a whole host of examples of what not to do in pursuit of this.  I have the hardest part coming up: I have to let go.  I have to be willing to let them fail. 

Yes.  Exactly.

I have seen, recently, a teen repudiate parents who were trying to protect her.   Honestly?  I think the parents approached a lot of the issue in exactly the wrong manner for positive results, even if they were right. 

They are in the right by not allowing her to have "her" stuff.  Stuff that they bought for her.  She's denied her father and refused her name--in "public" on the book of faces.  Left the house with nothing but the clothes on her back, and the phone in her pocket.  No meds, nothing else she needed (her mistake).  Fine.  Her decision.  Her right. 

However, her parents have the right and responsibility to refuse to enable her in her stupidity. 

They do not have the right to cripple her with fear and guilt to keep baby right there under their wings, never to fly, but maybe to sing.  And they're not trying. 

Another family...ever hear of an enmeshed family?  It's codependence taken to a whole new level.  It's something that takes a healthy level of "selfishness" (i.e., self-preservation) to escape.  Yeah.  That's where I came from. 

When I managed to get out, I got out despite sabotage, tears, guilt trips, "but I worry about you because I love you!"  Among other mess.  At that time, my mother lived at the bottom of the driveway in a converted garage/machine shop, and my grandmother (suffering the mid-late stages of dementia) lived at the top of the driveway with an aunt that worked full time.  I did not have a photo ID, much less a drivers' license (and I was nineteen).  I managed to, in spite of the demands on me to help "take care of grandma," get the hell out, go to college, and meet my other half.  It was hard.  But I made it. 

Fast forward 21 years.  I'm still away.  My sister.  Isn't.  My grandma passed eleven years ago this coming Thanksgiving.  But now, that place is taken by my youngest aunt.  Who has brain-damage induced dementia, due to spousal abuse.  The other aunt?  Isn't just working full-time.  She's living with the middle aunt, who's got cancer.***

My aunt, the only one that worked full time, owns the property my mother still lives on.  She swears she's going to will it to my sister and one of our cousins.****

The result?  My sister is going crazy.  But.  Won't.  LEAVE.  Because "Isn't it the least I can do to help, since she's doing this for me?"

I...no.  Just...no. 

I've explained why I think this is a bad idea.  No, a BAD IDEA.  All caps. 

But they have her brainwashed and guilted into thinking that this is her duty. 

She has never left home.  She's never succeeded--she's been sabotaged, and worse.  Because where I was pushed and not permitted to give up by the woman who kept sabotaging me?  She learned.  She learned that, pushing me to get my high school diploma instead of letting me get out of school where the bullies tried frequently to get a reaction (they failed), she instead made it possible for me to find a way out. 

My sister?  Yeah, she let her be "homebound" with a district not willing to work with a homebound student.  She dropped out.  She never got her GED.  Yes, I have crippling social anxiety, too, but I managed.  I think she could, too, if our mother would push her into it. 

She has, after all, succeeded in driving.  But that's only because Mom pushed her because Mom has cataracts. 

I honestly do not think my family deserves to have my sister picking up all the slack and taking care of all of them.  They've failed her in a massively huge way. 

I quit enabling them long ago.  I do not give them money, I don't help them with bills.  I'll take food if they're that close to the edge, but...yeah.  I don't owe them anything, either, no matter the hinting, attempts at guilt trips, and wailing.  I just wish I could convince my sister that she's not helping them, and is only harming herself.  I wish I could convince her that they've failed her in almost every way possible. 

I really don't want to be that parent.  I don't want to be the parent that sabotages my kids in the name of keeping them my babies.  That's failure.  No, not on the kids' part. 

On mine.  As a parent.

So I push my kids.  They're in a damn good school that's moving at least two years faster than the better local public schools (and light years ahead of the bad ones).  I don't let them give up.  I don't let them half-ass the work.  They hate the homework, and they hate me for making them do it. 

But they'll have the advantage of having a habit of hard work when they get


*I never learned how to keep house.  It's only been recently that I've begun learning.  And I'm trying to teach the kids as I'm learning...which is really, really hard.  Especially while I'm still building my own habits.

**I don't count ADHD as a disability.  Nor even a handicap.  He's so very hyper-capable...of things he cares about.  The problem is the things he doesn't care about.  And in getting started on stuff he needs to do and wants to get done.  He's not, however, incapable.  

***Breast cancer.  And cancer in the lymph nodes behind her stomach.  Inoperable, that last.  And untreatable, because treatment will kill her with the state of health she's in.  So.  Really, it's sort of hospice.  

****Yeah, bad, bad, bad idea.  Sharing a property is a horrible idea, and is not going to work.  The way this is going to end up is with my sister homeless and helpless, after all is said and done--because she's got no options, and she's on SSI-Disability.  What's going to happen is that the place is going to have to be sold--at a massive loss, since there've been no repairs done for decades--and the money split...which is going to kick her cleanly off government assistance, with absolutely nothing to fall back on. 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

I need to experiment more often, if this is the result

So, this morning, I pulled out some chicken leg quarters to thaw and bake.  And then changed my mind and decided to do chicken breasts, instead. 

I decided to use the chicken leg quarters and experiment in my instant pot, because we're headed into soup weather, it's hard to find soup that tastes good that I can eat, and chicken leg quarters are cheap to experiment with.  I dunno what to call it other than yummy. 

2 chicken leg quarters*
1 can enchilada sauce**
 2 cans Ro-Tel
1/2 c white rice
1 can corn
1-2 cans black beans
2 c chicken broth or stock

1. Toss the chicken, rice, enchilada sauce, broth, and Ro-Tel in the instant pot, select for meat/chicken, and set it to go for 30 minutes (set the time manually, if you have to).  Let off the pressure when it's done, and remove the chicken (careful--don't grab the drum stick, or you'll come up with nothing but bone: the chicken just falls apart).  Shred, then add back, and add your corn and black beans.

Delicious soup.  I'll see how it is tomorrow for lunch, all warmed up.  With cheese.   



*Chicken breasts can likely be subbed in, but probably won't turn out as rich and flavorful.

**I used hot; you use what you want.

Monday, September 30, 2019

New experiences

We did a first for us, this past weekend.  The kids were out for a teacher in-service training day on Friday, so Odysseus took the day (and today) off, and we went on vacation.* 

We went to a former state teachers' union resort that Odysseus's mom took him and his family to a couple times a year throughout his childhood.  There was no phone service, no internet, no TV, no radio...nothing.  Nothing but a lot of acres of woods, with lots of places to explore; simple cabins (ours had one room plus a bathroom and a screened in porch); home cooked, family style meals; games; and a river to play near (or in, with a parent close by). 

It was a LONG drive to get there.  Something like 3.5 hours (even if it was 4 lane the whole way, 2/3 of it was 65 mph or slower). 

I got a bit of reading done.  Got a bit of writing done.  The kids weren't in the cabin most of the time--they were out playing, exploring, making friends, and discovering new foods.  The imp discovered it's not biscuits he doesn't like, but biscuits made with hard wheat flour (I got some southern style biscuits, today).  Both discovered that fried chicken's pretty darn good, and that beef stroganoff is delicious (even if they don't like egg noodles...but that can be adapted).

They got to see things like minnows, river snails, skinks, turtles, paw-paw trees (and fruits).  And water coming out of a rock on the side of a hill (a spring). 

*I have not wanted to drive long distances with both kids in the car up to now.  This was a test, and it went quite well.  And the kids have asked to go back to this little resort next year.  And at this point, that looks likely. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

I have been seething.

I have been seething since last November. 

As fast as our current POTUS is working to undo the last fuck-up's policies, there are a few he can't undo as easily. 

Eighty thousand Muslims settled in one place.  To the point where they elected two adders into the House of Representatives. 

Today, it kind of boiled over for me.  Because some people did something.

And the whore who said this now has citizenship.  So does the slut who wrapped herself in the Palestinian flag (whatever Palestine is supposed to be--it isn't, and never was, a country).  That can't easily be undone.

Honestly, at this point, I'm thankful--to the bottom of my soul--I'm no longer teaching.  I no longer have to pretend I'm not watching the middle easterners more carefully while giving them A's to get them the hell out of my classroom without wasting the effort to grade plagiarized papers.  It was really hard, especially at this point in every fall semester, to keep smiling and pretend that I'd forgotten.

I haven't.

 How can anybody forget?  How can any real American forget what that ideology did?  How can any real American forget that Tlaib's people (and likely she, herself) danced in the street in celebration of the towers going from whole and beautiful to burnt, blood-stained debris?  How can any American forget that most of the Muslim world joined her in celebrating the loss of lives from eight-some-odd countries on those four flights? 

Real Americans haven't forgotten. 

Traitors, on the other hand...

...we seem to have an overabundance of those in Washington, DC, in the State Department, and in university faculty and administrations. 

I won't forget.  I can't forget.  I have a grudge.

Monday, September 2, 2019

What a cock-up.

So.  The kids' school started a 3rd through 5th (or was it 6th?  I forget, now) soccer league.  I asked both kids if they were interested.

The boy, who went into 4th grade this year, was.  So, I signed him up and paid the fee. 

Got contacted by the 4th grade coach, got practice days/times set up, and wrote everything down.  I thought I could hand it off to Odysseus, let it be a father/son thing.  They kind of need one, and haven't really found one, yet.

And then.

Then.

I got another email. 

Since the imp had to redo kindergarten (he wasn't really ready, the first time, but made a spectacular attempt that had him go from a year or two's worth of development behind his classmates to almost ready for 1st grade), he was...booted up.  Not doing the program with his grade group, but with his age group.

On a different day and time.

Which we weren't ready for.  We hadn't gotten him his cleats or shin guards, because he'd been sick.

So, Odysseus took off a few minutes from work, ran to the local sporting goods store, and got the imp his cleats, and a pair of shin guards.  But.  Imp was still too sick (wheezy) for the first practice.  I let him make the decision.  He came home because he wasn't breathing well.  And we tried his equipment on.  The cleats fit, but the guards...really didn't. 

We've got a handle on it, now.  He went to his first practice last week.  They're supposed to be on Mondays and Wednesdays, from just after school to 4:30.  This week, since Monday was Labor Day, he's got practice tomorrow and Wednesday...first game Saturday. 

Yes, this coming Saturday.

No, I haven't heard what time. 

No, I don't know where they're playing. 

No, I don't yet know who they're playing. 

It's the school's first year doing soccer at these grade levels.  I'm cutting them a little slack. 

But damn.  For a first rate school, this is one hell of a cock-up.