Friday, October 28, 2011

The Final Countdown

We start homeschooling on Monday. The first week will be just Bean and I, and the week after it will be all of us. I have so many emotions surrounding this transition and I'm not good enough a wordsmith to articulate it.

I have no doubt in my mind that this is the best option for us right now. As each day passes I am more and more convinced of it. I have some regret that we should have made this decision sooner. Then there is the guilt for that, for putting my own aspirations first, for trying to fit my square kid (namely Bean) into the round peg of his preschool, even for taking a couple weeks to get the house and my mind in order before plunging in head first into homeschooling. Now that our first day is soon upon us, I am growing more nervous about it too. I am an extremely impatient person. I'm afraid I might lose my mind. Thankfully, I have the most amazing MIL in the world who offered to swoop in to take care of the kids when needed. Whew! I also worry a little bit about having outlets for hobbies, grown-up conversation, etc. I'm hoping that my volunteer stuff at church, Bible study, taking some crafting classes, etc. will help. If not, I might need to look into some new hobbies or work like teaching. As for the positives, I thank God daily for the most supportive husband I could ever dream of and an extremely supportive social network. I can't wait to see our children learn from me, but more importantly learn for themselves. I'm thrilled to able to have more time with each of my children individually and as a group. And, I'm so excited about our family drawing closer together and really just slowing down to enjoy all that life has to offer.

Ok, now I'm getting pumped! Cue the count down music! Anyone else remember this video on MTV from the mid 80's?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Baby Will Always be My Baby

Mei Mei turned 1 this week. Let's be clear. She is not a toddler. She is not even walking yet. She is now and ever will be MY BABY!  

Here's a little bit about her:
Favorite Book: Charlie Parker Plays Be Bop (she brings me the book and rocks side to side so we can sing/read it)
Favorite Song: Bringing Home a Baby Bumble Bee (she puts her hands together and swings them from side to side)
First Words: "More" (especially when eating), "Thank you" (when we play a giving game), "Uh-oh" (when she drops toys out of the bathtub).
Favorite Food: Anything with meat in it, anything with a lot of flavor (especially grandma's cooking).
Dislikes: Getting my nose wiped, when people take toys out of my mouth
Favorites: Splashing in the bath, hugging and laughing with my big brothers
What calms me: sucking my thumb (at night time I do that and rub the ribbons of my dolly too)
Aspirations for the next year of life: walking, switching to a toddler bed, and having my first taste of chocolate (my parents are kinda health-freaks)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Christopher Columbus Would Have Put Me in Track 2

I spent my first nine years of my formal education at a Catholic grade school, in a fairly well-to-do neighborhood, where I was the only student of color in my class until 5th grade. That was when my school absorbed students from three other  parochial schools in the area while their schools of smaller enrollment closed their doors. I remember that a big stink was raised by some in our school about bringing in these other students and part of me now wonders if it was because of the diversity that they represented. 

That year, we welcomed about five new students into my class, 3 of which were tracked into "Track 2," almost doubling its size. This track, which included myself, had lower expectations for academic achievement and also set students on a trajectory for more technical education and then skilled labor. I was not being challenged academically nor was I applying myself. I remember Track 2 not being a good fit, especially once I realized what the difference was between the two groups. I wanted to be in the more challenging track and began actually applying myself academically. By 6th grade, my school allowed me to move into Track 1. My situation, however, was a rare case because generally students stayed in their track through junior high, which then followed them into high school and beyond.

Critically looking back at the situation, Track 1 and 2 were almost completely demarcated along racial and economic lines (based on my knowledge of students' residence in certain parts of certain neighborhoods, my proxy for family income). Students of color and/or those of limited means were in Track 2. I can't think of anyone from these groups who was in Track 1. Whether or not this was intentional by my school is a minor question I have, but more importantly that trend is yet another example to me of the systematic prejudice that exists about abilities of certain groups of people. And for that, it's harder to point a finger of responsibility. 

At least in the States, many prejudices that exist today can be traced back Octotber 12th, 1492.
"...they [Natives] are the color of the Canarians, neither black nor white...They should be good servants and intelligent, for I observed that they quickly took in what was said to them, and I believe that they would easily be made Christians, as it appeared to me that they had no religion. I, our Lord being pleased, will take hence, at the time of my departure, six natives for your Highnesses." (Recorded in Columbus' journal on October 12th, 1492)
The day Christopher Columbus first meets the indigenous people of this land, his first thoughts are of their value as servants and his immediate plans are to take six of them back with him to give to the King. Just imagine how things in the States would have been different if the Americas were "rediscovered" by someone who did not believe in the intrinsic supremacy of wealthy, educated, White, male Catholics (and Christians).

There is a clear link between Columbus' interactions with Native Americans and how I was tracked in grammar school. Tracking doesn't exist to address students' individual learning needs for their own self-betterment through education. If it were for that reason, we'd see more fluidity among the tracks and greater diversity within the tracks. Tracking would be based on assessment and not prescription. Students would also be educated about the implications of being in certain tracks and would have more freedom to chose a track for themselves (even if it meant demonstrating their fit in that identified track).

No, to me it seems that much of the inequality that exists in education is necessary to sustain a hierarchy for the powerful to remain in power. The lower classes are therefore educated only so much as to make them intelligent servants to those in power. In this country that hierarchy began the day that Cristobal Colon set foot on this land.

So, I encourage you to "Reconsider Columbus Day."

There are many Columbus critics out there, and this in example of a fairly reputable one, but nothing can beat one's own deep investigation of primary sources. Eventually with the kids at homeschool, I plan to read through more of Columbus' journal to better understand his thoughts and feelings from his own words and to contextualize it in history. One of the major attractions of homeschooling is teaching history from a more culturally relevant perspective. This weekend we got a bunch a free books from a local library and I purposefully avoided any history or social studies books because as the saying goes "history is written by the victors." I want to make sure my kids are learning a more balanced account of history. I want to place more emphasis on the struggles and the resilience of those who were and are marginalized because in some situations (like with my tracking), I'd count myself as part of that group. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Too Quick to Judge

"Are these clean?," Tey asked as he reached for a spoon from the dishwasher at one breakfast last week. After placing it at his spot at the table, I saw him headed back to the dishwasher and grabbing for more silverware. I assumed the worse. He's getting his grubby hands all over on my clean dishes! He's gonna try to get a fork to see how that works for eating cereal! He's gonna make a mess! He should just be sitting and eating! "Tey, what are you doing?" I asked in an accusatory tone. "Putting away the clean dishes," he replied innocently. I proceeded to lay on the appreciation for taking initiative in helping to keep our house clean.

by Neilochka
Why did I not expect better from him? Why did I assume he was going to inconvenience me with a mess? Would that have been such an inconvenience I couldn't have just asked him to help clean up the mess later? That too would have been a great teachable moment, and lately I seem to be trying to avoid those instead of taking advantage of them.

This morning I was helping Bean cut his nails in the bathroom while Tey and Mei Mei were in her room playing. Right when I finish cutting the last toe, Bean asked me read a book to him and then I heard Mei Mei starting to fuss. "Not just yet," I said, "it sounds like your sister needs some rescuing from Tey." I walked into the room ready to talk Tey about taking toys from his sister, remind him to use gentle touches, etc. I saw him holding her head with one hand, his other hand in her face as, and she was wiggling to get free while growing more and more frustrated. After closer examination, I realized he was wiping her snotty nose with a tissue. Again, I thank Tey for taking initiative and helping his little sister.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I am too quick to judge my kids' behaviors for the worst. It's so discouraging when the tables are turned and someone does that to me. It really, really, REALLY bothers me. So, I feel awful that I do that with my own kids who, more often than not, are just trying to help. I don't even know how that has become my assumption. But no more!

With this post, I'm promising to change my perspective. I believe our kids will eventually fulfill our communicated expectations, whatever positive or negative. If we are quick to accuse, to blame, to assume, then we're setting them up for failure. I'm going to assume the best of their intentions and I think it will make a huge difference in the long run for them, but mostly for my own attitude. I know I need to lighten up a bit going into this homeschooling thing, and this is a good first step.