Ask the grumpies: Should I homeschool this year?

Lisa asks:

The more I read about experiences reopening K-12 schools around the world, the more it becomes clear that things will be chaotic and unpredictable with openings and closings on a dime. I’d love to solicit the wisdom of the Grumpy Nation about whether it is going to be better to stick with local schools this year and expose parents and kids to all of the stress, uncertainty, risk, etc. or to commit to full-on homeschooling and expose parents and kids to the stress and challenges that not-so-voluntary homeschooling will cause. I’m starting to lean toward creating my own curriculum so that I can be in control of what’s happening and not have to worry about what the school district is doing. But although I have plenty of experience with college-level curriculum development and teaching, I have no experience at the K-12 levels.

This is a really great question.

For me, I have too much work of my own to do to fully home-school and when I’m making trade-offs, a year of my career is more important than DC2 missing out on some stuff in fourth grade.  This may seem ironic given that both of my kids have skipped grades and they have a full complement of workbooks to do (well, DC2 does… DC1 only has a Spanish grammar along with piano and violin, but zie USED to have a full complement of workbooks) during the summer.  But we don’t give them workbooks or have them skip grades in order to optimize them so much as to keep them from bouncing off the walls.  Ideally they’d be getting more challenge in school without the skipping or extra work, but they don’t, so we supplement.  (An exception being the Spanish grammar which really is for remediation since Spanish III is supposed to be tough and DC1 barely scraped an A in Spanish II.)

So, having decided on having the kids at home, we’re going to be following our district’s online curriculum and will supplement DC2 as necessary.  (DH isn’t as steeped in K-12 stuff as I am, so although he could do day-to-day stuff, I would be the one in charge of the curriculum.)  We’re in a state where the K-8 curriculum is light so we don’t have any worries about DC2 being overburdened– we would likely supplement, not change.  (DC1 is taking a bunch of AP classes, so there’s some potential for difficulty there, but DC1 will just have to lump it– we have no plans for supplementation other than music unless zie needs tutoring.)

But it sounds like you’re in a situation where there isn’t an online option.  You either deal with the unpredictability of opening and closing and opening and potentially getting sick or not

Most kids from stable home environments can handle a surprising amount of instability.  I wouldn’t worry too much about the stress of popping in and out– unless you have a specific reason to believe otherwise (like your specific kid has difficulty with change), they will probably handle it better than you do with the uncertainty.  But the stress to parents and the risk of illness is real.

Plenty of people do homeschooling and many of those who do say it’s only a couple of hours of work each day.  This is probably true.  There are many pre-made curricula you can follow (be careful though, they lean towards fundamentalist religious/stratified gender roles/anti-some kinds of science– make sure you get a good set aimed at more secular audiences).  The trick is that you have to get your kids to be able to work independently.  They have to be able to figure things out from reading or from whatever electronic source you’re using.  They need to be able to sit down and work on things without asking for help or getting distracted every 30 seconds.  This works well with some kids, and less well with others.  (Nobody in our family is looking forward to DC2’s constant plaintive and non-specific, “I neeeeeed hellllllllp,” whine when school starts.)

Another caution:  One of the things I really hate about one homeschooling blogger is how she almost brags about how she’s passed on her hate and fear of math to her kids (especially her daughters) via home schooling.  She doesn’t say it like that.  She thinks it’s genetic or something.  It’s not.  It is 100% taught.  If you hate or fear a subject and can’t pretend not to, just don’t even start.  Especially if it’s math.  If they’re lucky, I end up having to pick up the pieces when they get to college and it’s so sad.  If they’re not lucky, then they’re trapped following less lucrative career paths with a lot of competition.

From what I understand all the rich people are hiring nanny-tutors or getting together with other rich people to hire laid off teachers to do “pods” or “mini-schools”.  If you’ve got money you could do that or you could buy an online version of whatever grade your kids are in (I don’t have links, but I’ve seen people talking about such things on the internet… I know Stanford Online High School has some stuff for gifted middle and high school students, but I don’t know any details… here’s a list of high schools).  We’re not doing that because our main problem won’t be solved with DC2 having an online tutor and I just don’t trust people in my town not to catch Covid at church or a bar enough to let them in my house.

I give you permission (if you need it) to be selfish about your life and your career and being a good role model to your daughters and any future daughters-in-law if you decide not to put a huge amount of effort into home-schooling.  I also give you permission (if you need it) to try out home schooling and see how much time it takes and if it takes too much time or causes too much distress at home to try something completely different.  Just Khan Academy and SciShow.  Just Unschooling.  Just whatever keeps them safe and out of your hair.  Kids can be suboptimized in order for you to get your things done.  We’re talking at most a year here, not a lifetime.  And they will be learning many important things even if they spend the year unschooling.  You will have books and the internet (though be careful about its potential for misuse) and video games and so on.  They will learn a lot of the things we did back in a less enlightened latch-key time about how to entertain oneself so mommy can get some work done.

In terms of online K-8 supplementation:  Khan academy is awesome.  BrainQuest workbooks are great (not a substitute for K-8, but they do hit many of the major points for K-8).  Having lots of books to read around the house both fiction and non-fiction is important.  Epic! has access to a ton of great comic books.  Youtube has neat educational channels like SciShow and CrashCourse.  Minecraft, especially creative mode, is fantastic in terms of developing spatial skills and doing digital art.  I cannot say enough good things about the Dragonbox suite of math games (even for your high schooler!  even for your kindergartner!).  We got DC1 a year subscription to the complete Adobe suites so zie can teach hirself video editing–there’s a student discount for it.  Not cheap, but cheaper than a week of away summer camp would have been. There’s a world of educational activities that your kids can do independently of you–even if they’re not getting precisely what they’d be getting in K-12.

Good luck with your decisions, and remember that you can change your mind (and that you’re still a great mom even if you don’t sacrifice yourself for small improvements in your kids’ education)!

Grumpy Nation:  What are your thoughts on home schooling?  How about supplementation?  If you have K-12 kids, how are you dealing with the uncertainty of the fall?  Or how are you creating certainty?

What can we do to combat fascism?

I don’t know if you noticed this, but so far July has been hard-core this week in Fascism every week.  I think Trump’s people are getting worried that he’s going to lose the election and they’ve been testing the ground they’ve been laying these past three years to see how far they can push.

The first major thing is that secret Federal police have been grabbing protesters off the streets in Portland, Oregon.  They’ve been doing standard other police stuff too like throwing tear gas at peaceful protesters, and randomly beating on people including those with press passes… though unlike the usual police MO, they’ve even been attacking middle-aged white women and white dudes in Navy sweatshirts.  Which is to say, they’re not just attacking the most vulnerable– they’re pushing the limits to attack people who are normally protected.  I suspect they’ve started this in Portland rather than say, Dallas, because they can blame it on Antifa and Liberals rather than risking an actual shootout when some white conservative counter-protester gets hit in cross-fire.  Most recently they’ve backed off of Portland and protests are peaceful again, but he’s been spreading these troops to other cities as well.

Here’s a five calls script to protest authoritarian police practices.  Here’s one to block Trump’s secret police force.

The second major thing is the post office slow-down.  They don’t want us to vote by mail.  It’s that simple.  They want black and brown communities to have to stand in line for hours in unsafe conditions at even slower and more limited than usual polling sites so that many never end up being able to vote while white rural and suburban Trump supporters breeze through.  So the new head of the post office has been instituting postal slow-downs.  The senate has been refusing to give the post office relief for the extra expenses caused by corona even as they bail out large private companies.  The following two threads have more information on current Post office struggles (Celeste_Pewter also has small things you can do for your local post office to make their lives easier and safer.)  But definitely make a phone call about this– it’s nearly free.  Yes, it’s more fun to provide gifts to postal employees (they would like caddies with cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, masks, Gatorade, etc. according to celeste P)  or to buy one of their cool pieces of merchandise (their magic kit is top notch and they have jigsaw puzzles among many other cool things), and you can definitely do that, but sometimes resistance means doing the unpleasant things too.

Here’s a 5-calls script for getting the post office help.

The third major thing is that Trump has been attacking the census.  In addition to earlier defunding and citizenship questions etc., he just signed an executive order prohibiting undocumented immigrants from being and he’s trying to get the census to end early (or technically, not allowing an extension when covid has delayed normal counting activities).

Here’s a message from ipums:

We are writing to urge you to contact your Senators to approve a necessary extension of the 2020 Census.

The Census Bureau requested an extension in April to allow for non-response follow-up and delivering the data amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The White House’s abrupt request for additional funding without an extension is at odds with a full, fair, and accurate Census. This move omits historically undercounted and hard-to-count populations from the data, which will have lasting effects through congressional representation and allocation of federal funds. Read more about the Census Bureau’s plans for the extended timeline and coverage from NPR and the New York Times about the risks of an inaccurate count if the process is rushed.

Revisions to the 2020 Census timeline and budget are slated for inclusion with legislation that provides additional COVID-19 relief. The latest proposal in the Senate allocates additional 2020 Census funding, but not the extended timeline. In contrast, the House of Representative’s HR6800 bill (the HEROES Act) allows for the necessary extension.

Please contact your Senators and ask them to take up and approve HR6800 to give the Census Bureau the necessary time to do their vital work of counting everyone.

Oh, also Trump wants to delay the November election.

I googled “how to fight fascism” and limited to the last month… and there’s not really a whole lot out there.  But there are things we can do on the above issues.

  1.  Use these fivecalls scripts to protest police and secret police using violence to limit our rights to free speech and assembly.   Five calls script to protest authoritarian police practicesFive calls script to block Trump’s secret police force.
  2. Call your senator about saving the post office.  5-calls script for getting the post office help.  There are lots of other small things you can do as well, like asking your local office what they need, providing your post office worker with hand sanitizer and gatorade, buying stuff from the post office store, but while these are warm and fuzzy making and definitely worthwhile, they won’t help as much as government action will.
  3. Call your senators and ask them to take up and approve HR6800 to give the Census Bureau time to count everyone.

What suggestions do you have for fighting Fascism in the US? 

How much does a root canal cost? How about a crown?

I am feeling very sorry for myself!

Last year one of my back molars cracked a little.  This summer, probably because Trump is making me grind my teeth in my sleep, a bigger chunk broke out.  So the Dentist got it ready for a crown ($1600).  But when it came time to put the permanent crown on it HURT when I bit down.

So I had to go see an endodontist ($300).  The endodontist took pictures and tapped my teeth and then put cold on my tooth and it hurt SO MUCH.  So very much.  And it didn’t stop hurting.  (On the other teeth that weren’t having problems it hurt a little and then stopped hurting as soon as he took the cold off.)  He said that it was irreversible damage because if it had been reversible, it would have fixed itself already given how long it took to get the appointment from when they put the temporary crown on.

So now I’m getting a root canal ($1300) before I can get my permanent crown back on.

Link Love

I can’t believe this. Tom Cotton is running unopposed. WTF is wrong with you, DNC? (Apparently they had one, but he dropped out AFTER the deadline. Jerk.)

Things you can to do support the black community and promote anti-racist efforts in Portland.

Here’s information on an amendment in congress that you can call to support regarding the federal crackdown on protests (it takes away their funding).

Here is detailed information on mask policies and the ADA.  Well worth the read if you’ve been following the right wing attempt to pretend to be disabled to somehow cheat the system into not wearing a mask at Costco or whatever.  Or if you own a store etc. Just good information all around.

Here is information from IPUMS on how to protest ending the 2020 Census early.

If you are unemployed or otherwise struggling, Ipickuppennies has concrete suggestions for what to do and where to get help.

Remember this crazy story?  It gets crazier.

Alternatives to wrapping paper.  (We pretty much just use gift bags and tissue paper that we’ve been gifted or really nice ones from shopping at fancy places.  I keep them in a cupboard in the great room.)

Ask the grumpies: Can I Retire Early?

Middle class revolution asks

By the time you post this, I may already be out of a job. However, i can always use your money wisdom and that of your readers. I may also ask Frugalwoods but they want so many details.

Here is some background info about me and my family:

– Family = me (50), my husband (poor health), 2 young kids – one with special health issues and low functioning autism. We don’t plan to pay for college but want to support spec needs kid with a trust (from home sale?).
– My parents live nearby and currently offer babysitting help.
– We own a single family home in a high cost west coast state. It is safe, blue collar, ethnic neighborhood with so-so schools. Valued at $500,000 to 600,000. We are 2 years away from paying off mortgage. May do this sooner if possible.
–  I have a 401k, rollover IRA, Roth IRA totaling . My husband has no retirement savings. Total value of approx. $470,000 depending on stock market.
– I will get social security but don’t know amount.
– Husband earns approx $5k per month from state as our kid’s caregiver. I will take over this role. He can get health insurance thru this job but I don’t know how good it is.
– My income was $3k per month after taxes, 401k contributions and health care premiums.
– Currently spend about $4k per month. Want to reduce this.
– We own 2 cars and will sell one.
– We have no debts.
– We don’t have a will or life insurance (very bad, I know)
– Both sets of our parents are financially fine. His parents already gifted us to help buy our house. No inheritance expected.

I am resigning due to a bad work situation (horrible boss). I do not expect to find a similar job since I won’t have my boss as reference and I’m 50.

Did I make a horrible mistake? Will I end up eating cat food or worse?

Please advise!

With a low functioning disabled child, you need to get a will AND life insurance NOW.  This will probably be pricey if you’re thinking about a trust.  Along with the thinking about a trust, the law office will likely be able to recommend someone to think about the financial aspects of your plan for your child.  How much will they need after you are gone?

I always think that the FrugalWoods are overly optimistic about retiring.  I mean, I guess that’s their brand but also they haven’t lived it (since Mr. FW has never stopped working for an employer and Mrs. FW has her own business), so…

Looking at your numbers, with half your wealth locked up in your house and a low functioning child and spouse with health issues… I would not personally retire early.  If my job were terrible, I might leave that job, but I would definitely keep looking for another opportunity or get more education to switch fields or *something*.  I don’t think you have enough to safely retire because your life right now is highly dependent on the whims of a state government.  And we just can’t count on governments.

You should figure out social security amounts for you and your DH.  We used to get printouts from social security on a regular basis, but I think they’ve stopped doing that (possibly because they know the social security trust fund will be running out sooner than it should).  They have a retirement estimator on their webpage but the interface is not great.  I think you may be able to get it to do what you want by choosing “add a new estimate” after it gives you the stupid initial estimate that assumes you will work until 62/6?/70 and then telling it you want to work 0 at your current age.  I ran through it that way and if I stop working today (or age age 50), I will get about $900 less per month than if I keep working until 62, and 1900 less than if I keep working until age 67 (I’m guessing my big salary years are still replacing low income years in my work history).  Keep in mind that you will need more future dollars than you do now because of inflation.  (Low estimate:  2%, high estimate: 7%… any more than that and Social Security will have worse worries than keeping up with inflation because we’ve turned into a Banana Republic and nothing is safe.)

A big worry is that $5K/month won’t last.  That is extremely generous and it is likely that when your state hits financial difficulties in the future or gets a Conservative governor that this program will get trimmed if not cut entirely.  Even if it doesn’t get trimmed it could not keep up with inflation.  You cannot count on it as safe income.  Also, looking up the program, the amount you get depends on where you live, so it will be dangerous to tap into your house or to move someplace less expensive.

You’ll need to find out the costs of health insurance and what it doesn’t cover and what the copays are and so on and if the people your husband and child have been seeing take it.  Along with property taxes, that’s a big necessary expense.

I like this Nerd Wallet calculator.  Be sure to click on the “optional” so you can put in spending and retirement age and so on.  It’s not going to be perfect because social security will be hard to figure in there.

Yes, age discrimination exists.  Fortunately although it happens sooner for women than for men, there’s also a bump up in hiring for women at older ages, so you shouldn’t give up on finding a new job.  I don’t know if resigning your current job without a new one lined up is a mistake– if it’s affecting your health etc. sometimes just quitting is the best thing you can do.  But if you haven’t quit yet, I would like to encourage you to sweeten up your boss so you can get a good reference, explore other options within the company if possible (can you cut to part time?  are there other units within the company?), and so on.  Think strategically– knowing that you will likely quit, how can you put yourself in the best position possible for finding new work (possibly after the pandemic is over).  When you quit or get fired with cause you don’t get unemployment insurance unless the government steps in because it’s an emergency.  It might make sense to wait until the Heroes act has been passed (and call your senator to get it passed) to see if it covers unemployment for your situation.

Or you can hope to get laid off or negotiate a voluntary separation package with your company, since it’s difficult to fire people from middle-class jobs in those west coast states.  It might be worth talking to your management about this possibility.  Be strategic.  Or if they don’t actually want to lose you, they might be willing to fix some of the problems you’ve been having with your immediate boss.  Who knows!

So… bottom line, no I don’t think you can retire early in this situation.  If everything goes well, then you might be able to do it… a 60K/year income with a paid off house and health insurance might be fine even in an expensive city given savings and Social Security kicking in in 12-20 years.  But you can’t really count on the income increasing with inflation or not being cut, you can’t necessarily count on your property taxes staying put (and you need to stay where you are for the benefits), you can’t count on health insurance not bankrupting you, you can’t count on getting more than 70% of your anticipated Social Security claim, etc.  And your responsibilities (husband with health problems, low functioning child who will need lifetime help) are much too high to allow for you to cut expenses to the bone should things go wrong.

Update from Middleclassrevolution:

Family

– Me Middle Class: 50, good health, the one quitting her job ASAP.
– Husband: 60, declining health, home caregiver
– Kid 1: 10 years
– Kid 2:  9 yrs, Special health issues and low functioning autism.
– My parents: 80s, fairly good health but I am not counting on their babysitting help for much longer.

Assets (conservative estimate)

– Single family home valued at $500,000 to 600,000.
– $470,000 in various retirement accounts.
– $30k emergency fund
– Two cars (both owned 100%)

Income

– Me: $60k per year. Much of it goes toward insurance premiums and 401k contributions. Take home pay is closer to $2k per month.
– Husband: $4.5k per month income from state as caregiver. Income is not taxed.

Future Income

– Social Security: amounts unknown.
– No inheritance expected.

Liabilities

– Mortgage : We are 2 years away from paying this off but may do this sooner if possible.
– No debt
– No will, no will, no life insurance. (Bad I know!)
– Both sets of parents are financially sound and will not need our help.

Health insurance

– Three of us are covered by my employer’s high deductible plan.
– Special needs kid is covered by state programs due to health issues.

Career

– I plan to quit and take over the Caregiver role. This job does offer health insurance but I don’t know copays or premiums.
– Unlikely to find another job due to ageism and inability to get a reference from current boss

Spending

– Currently spend about $4k per month. Want to reduce this.
– We plan to sell one of the cars ASAP.

Other factors

– My husband is very impatient with special needs kid. He is good at stepping in when needed to get kid to change clothes, brush teeth, etc.. However on a daily basis, he tends to ignore him, [ed. deleted by request]. I never understood why my mom felt the need to help every other day (alternating with part time nanny). I thought my husband was capable of being sole caregiver. Now that I WFH, I am not so sure he can manage much longer.
– Without school for months and re-opening unlikely, special needs kid will continue to regress.

So… some of the numbers are different compared to when we gave our first advice and the husband [doesn’t sound as good].  If you really do need to stay at home with your child during the pandemic (a common story for many women, and not indicative of their underlying quality of workers), then maybe paint the leaving your job narrative that way and make sure that everyone else is on board with that narrative at the company because it is likely when you do try to return to the labor force (and you will likely have to) your former boss will likely be elsewhere and somebody else at the company will be providing a reference for you.  Hopefully your DH has some redeeming qualities or will be bringing home Social Security in a couple of years, [ed. deleted].  Though since he is close to 62, if he has Social Security benefits, it is unlikely that those will drop (though they may not keep up with inflation) and you may be able to transition to retirement with them, so figure out what they are.  He’s got to be useful for something once he’s no longer being paid to ignore your kid.

Also given your husband’s age and health, it’s probably not cost-effective to get life insurance for him, even term, so just get it for you.  But you can still look into costs.  You do need it for you.

Update:

No honestly he has good points too. He does most of the cooking and a lot around the house and yard. I am often impatient with my special needs kids too. The situation has taken a toll on us. I cannot manage both kids alone.

I realized that I changed 5k to 4.5k…I am not sure of exact amount so I lowered it. I guess that 500/mo makes a difference..

$6000/year when you’re not bringing in a lot does matter (as does knowing if your current take-home pay is 24K/year or 36K/year).  But more importantly, before you make your next move at work, you need to figure out the values of all of these numbers (including Social Security) so that you can make an informed decision.  30K in cash emergency fund does buy you some time, but will schools be reopened in 7.5 months?  It does sound very likely that you will quit this job, but before you do, get all of your ducks in a row.  It might be worthwhile getting all those numbers that the FrugalWoods want even if you don’t actually email them for advice.

Update:

I checked my husband’s monthly income and it is 5k , not 4.5k if that makes a difference.

Finally my son is already stronger than my me, my mom, and nanny. When he gets angry, he hits hard, scratches, twists our fingers and sometimes bites. It is probably when not if he will do more serious harm. Yes we are looking unto meds. Bottom line: I can’t physically manage him without my husband. I would like to keep my son home with us as long as possible.

Grumpy Nation:  Would you retire early in MCR’s situation?  What things should she be thinking about?  What questions would you ask?  Do you have any suggestions for how to best separate from a bad job when you’re in your 50s (especially a state with employer protections)?  Any other advice?

RBOC

  • Few of the women I most admire are people pleasers.  As I head through middle-age, I should remember that.
  • So… they’ve updated teaching schedules and I am one of the few teachers listed as teaching in person.  The other people teaching sections of stats this semester are all teaching online, even though they’ve added another section (from a guy whose elective didn’t make).  All of a sudden people want to get into my 8am class instead of avoiding it.  I am not particularly happy about this.  I mean, is it worth risking my and my family’s life?  (Plus the new section only has 3 people in it, though I imagine he’ll just teach it the same way he does the online asynchronous section he teaches in the summer.)
  • Looking at who is teaching online and in-person doesn’t seem to correlate with anything that would be health related or helpful to students.  The (childless) people who hate being on campus are all teaching online.  The people who care most about the students, even those in the at-risk age categories, probably did what I did and said, “Whatever is best for the department,” which, maybe I’m regretting? If I get Covid from a toilet plume I am going to be so unhappy about all of this.  Especially if I get DH sick.  [Update:  some of the over 60 folks did switch to online, which I’m happy about because I like these colleagues! and also even if I didn’t it’s not worth that much risk.]
  • How is it that cheese puffs are always good even when they’re not actual cheetos?
  • I feel like I’m turning into a Los Angelean (though I think I have to lose 50 lb to *actually* be accepted)– I keep trying various vitamin cocktails to try to fight this fatigue that I seem to keep getting.  And… the vitamins seem to work.  I HAVE to take vit D (doctors orders), but even though my B12 levels were fine the last time I had bloodwork, sometimes a little B12 pill will pick me right up (especially during certain points of my cycle).  I seem to be able to take iron without throwing up, but it doesn’t tend to help any more than the B12.  Sometimes I really crave B-complex (usually the smell of the pill nauseates me), and that seems to help with my thinking, though not the fatigue.  Finally, when all else fails, magnesium seems to help.  And when I get leg cramps, I always eat a banana right after which makes  me wonder if I should get a little potassium.
  • I DO take a multivitamin many days… alternating with a Rainbow One prenatal and a Centrum, but I sometimes seem to need more than that.
  • I would also have to start drinking kombucha without wanting to spit it out if I became an Angelean.
  • Vitamin-induced fatigue is scary during a pandemic.  So are allergies.
  • I wonder if I’ve always had this many allergies over the summer or if it’s the extra wet we’ve been having keeping things alive.  Or maybe it’s more dust mites.  Whatever it is, I tend to freak out a little bit and then take a Zyrtec and 20 min later I’m completely fine.  [My sister suggests I’m allergic to the Saharan desert.]
  • Zyrtec is my second best friend.
  • I have nothing under review which SUCKS.  I have several papers that are close to a completed first draft that have to get done before school starts, but I don’t know how it is going to happen.
  • OMG so many people are sending so many papers this summer.  Everybody who does reviews seems to perpetually have 5 papers to referee, including me on top of my editing responsibilities. This is SO HARD.  I need to go through the new crops of graduate students at schools whose training I trust before the semester starts and I get completely overwhelmed again.  [What I do is I have a drive document called “Victims-Journal Name” and then I have a Graduate Students section and then I put the name of a school and then the name and (if I’m being good) email of their further along students and a few brief words about what they study as they relate to the journal(s) I’m editing for.  They tend to make excellent referee #3s (I try to get the other two to be experts who have published on the topic, but the third can be more of a generalist who does related work or who is working but hasn’t published yet)]
  • I’m one month into my first month of editing the journal I said I could only handle 1 paper a month for and the editor in chief just tired to send me a fourth paper.  I was like, no.
  • Why does Gen Z say Weary when they mean Wary?  I mean, I’m tired too, but it’s a different word.  (Also tail end of Millennials do this AND I caught my Millennial sister who should know better doing this, though she claimed she was also weary.)  I’m not ready for language to change this definition because I need both words!  Tired isn’t descriptive enough!
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 38 Comments »

We decided on Virtual Schooling

In the end we decided not to send the kids to in-person school in the fall.

In our last post, we’d already decided not to send DC1.  The risks are larger at the high school level and all but one of hir chosen classes is going to be offered online (Programming II will have to be swapped out with either AP Physics 1 or AP Statistics).  DC1 was also on board with this, as zie is an introvert and while sociable enough in person doesn’t even know some of hir friend’s last names and certainly doesn’t have any contact information.

DC2 ended up being a harder decision, but we finally brought the question to hir.  Zie asked what virtual schooling was going to be like, so we showed hir the district webpage.

While there, Zie also looked at how in-person schooling was going to be different while zie was there, which we hadn’t really thought about.  Zie didn’t like that zie wouldn’t be allowed to play on the playground with friends from other classes.  Zie didn’t like having to wear a mask all the time.  Zie was a little weirded out by the going to the restroom as a group rather than when zie had to go.  Zie also didn’t see much point if zie couldn’t go to after-school with hir main friends.  Zie pointed out that in-person school didn’t sound as fun as usual.

Then zie added up the amount of time spent doing school virtually (90+90, that’s 3 hours, right?) and liked that it was low.  Zie liked the flexibility.  Zie liked being able to eat whenever and not wear a mask and use the restroom whenever.    Zie also found out that at least one of hir good friends is going virtual and had hopes for zoom and maybe even Minecraft realms on a regular basis like we’ve been doing this summer.  (The four of them piloted out Minecraft Realms for DC2’s birthday party with a couple weeks of one-on-one playing in anticipation so that hir two friends who weren’t already immersed in Minecraft could learn how to play the computer version.  One amazing thing is that zie can even play Minecraft nicely with her frenemy(!)  They’re a little snippy at each other but nowhere near as much as usual.)

Adding that DC2 will still be considered Dual Language (meaning instructions and lectures will be in Spanish alternating weeks) and will still have GT (zie promises not to be a jerk on zoom like last year), it seems like virtual will be the best option.  We’re going to have to figure out how to make it work with our work schedules, which is always the problem, but at least there will be less worry about illness.  And DC1 will likely be getting more sleep than last year during in-person high school (hopefully).

And as the weather gets less hot we’ll be able to kick them out of the house again.  Other online people are setting up beautiful welcoming home offices for their kids.  Maybe we can set something up in the backyard instead.  I wonder how far out the wifi reaches…

Link Love

I’m not entirely sure what to do about this new wave of fascism– does anybody have thoughts on action items?  I did call one of my senators and complained about his saying fascist things, but what is the best thing to do (other than donating to protesters in Portland– can’t find the thread I was going to link to here, anybody have it?) to combat secret police and Trump’s interference in the Census and USPS?  No matter what happens, getting people to register to vote and to vote is still going to be incredibly important, so postcards to voters and votefwd are ways to do SOMETHING while trying to figure out what phonecalls to make.  Also donating to your favorite senate, house, or state-level government candidate.  (Or just swingleft if you’re not sure who to pick.)  Also I’ve bought so many stamps I regularly get the post office’s stamp catalog and they have some really fun new stuff.  (Also did you know they sell stuff that’s not stamps?  Like jigsaw puzzles and magic kits and halloween costumes and toy cars.)

This thread from Portland is eye-opening and horrifying.

Ignore this article, but look at the charts(!)

More details on the value of different kinds of masks.

A difference in differences primer with some of the newer stuff.

 

Ask the grumpies: Reader Sabbatical Update

Susan says:

here’s a really long update [to this post] …. I’ll happily answer any other questions.

— How do taxes work – did you change states and file in new state? For us, home state 3%, new state 9%, yikes.

This is an issue a bit particular to us, but — because we spent less than 183 days per year in New State, and because my pay and DH’s pay did not change in location or structure, we did nothing different with taxes, we’re filing in Home State. We did nothing to trigger reporting to New State, so hopefully this will work out. We were a bit concerned about some possibly eventful things happening with DH’s tech options that could be impactful on taxes, but that turned out not to happen because of the pandemic.

— Did you change drivers’ license? Car registration and insurance?

We did not.

— Did you need to switch health insurance? I’m on a local-base HMO plan, which won’t work in new state.

DH was already on a PPO. I was not, but was able to switch during open enrollment, and at least I was covered for emergency stuff before that. I did have to change the address the XPress Scripts sends things to, because having our housemate send drugs was illegal, turns out.

— How did you find tenants? Did you rent out your house furnished? Full year lease? Utilities? Yard work? Our home area is small college town. I have landlorded a condo before, but this part is still giving me apprehension.

We had a neighbor’s relative, who had recently moved here and needed a place of her own but wanted to still be close to neighbors and their baby, house-sit for minimal rent. No lease. We cleared out space for her in drawers and closets, but otherwise left everything here. We did not change utilities. She did yard work, well enough. In the end, we really just wanted a responsible adult here more than the $$, but we’re a bit privileged on that.

— Did you fully move, or send a Pod of things, or …? Did you rent a furnished place, or spend a bunch at IKEA? How did you approach that choice?

We drove a car full of clothes and outdoor gear, but did not send more than that. We rented a furnished AirBnB in one location for 2 months, then when we went to Main Location we rented an apartment from a private LL who was willing to be flexible, altho there were buildings that would do leases of varying length (for varyingly more money, of course). We rented furniture. We spent $n00 at IKEA to outfit a basic kitchen setup + linens, and gave it all away at the end. We ended up shipping some stuff home at the end.

— What was your supervising plan for the year away?

I Zoomed a lot — regular one-on-ones, and group meetings. Both students had a Plan for the year already or were writing a grant that became a plan. It went well overall.

— Did you pay yourself from grants? I have opted for the half pay for a year away, and have a grant that I could use. However, we’re fortunate enough that I think we can swing this without taking extra grant money, and I … feel like the grant should go to my lab, not me. I’ll need to spend some on supplies anyway.

I did not pay myself for the semester, but did for summer salary.

— How did it go departmentally being away for a year, any resentment or sidelining or other professional issues?

In my department, sabbaticals are regular and expected, so nothing seems different, and I’m as involved as ever (it seemed). But now that it’s dovetailed into pandemic, it’s hard to tell!

Thanks for the update, Susan!

Are we going to send the kids to school in the fall?

The answer is:  I don’t know but we have to decide by July 30th.  We have the option to send the kids to school or have them virtual school at home.  We don’t know what either will look like but it also sounds like we’re not going to know until the school knows how many kids they’re dealing with.

I do think we will be sending DC2 [update:  things have gotten worse in the South– now we’re not sure].  Zie is still in the age range where there’s not a lot of transmission and cases tend to be mild, with a few exceptions [update:  some new articles have come out suggesting transmission rates may be higher than previous articles suggested, but it is still unclear].  Hir pediatrician is very good and we trust him to be on top of things and the nearest city has a top rate children’s hospital should it come to that.  And zie has been a handful this summer.  I suspect we won’t be using after-care like we usually do and I’m not sure if we will be using the bus.

It’s harder to decide for DC1 [update:  we’ve pretty much decided DC1 will virtual school for at least the first grading period].  Zie is 13 and in high school.  Kids these ages are much more like adults in terms of transmission and effects.  Plus, DC1 doesn’t get sick very often (zie has perfect attendance awards almost every year of schooling), but when zie does get sick and it’s something zie didn’t contract back in daycare many years ago, zie gets really sick.  Hir tonsils and adenoids have also become less protective overtime (which is good because it means hir teeth straightened out and zie doesn’t need to have surgery to remove them, but also means they’re not as protective.)

Plus, DC1 is young for hir grade and could take a gap year and still be early for college.  I don’t want to have hir skip a year of math, but precalc is one of the less useful years, and we could in theory get it somewhere else and waive it somehow.  And… DC1 has been pretty good at entertaining hirself and doing schoolwork hirself without interaction.

The big thing is that no matter what we do with the kids, I am still going in to teach two days a week.  I will still have classes of college students, and these classes are going to be bigger than usual because the other people teaching the section are all teaching online, so suddenly my 8am section looks attractive.  Even though they’ve added another section so there are more teachers than usual.  So… I’m fairly sure I am going to get it even if I opt out of all of the conference travel I currently have planned.

If I get it, it is likely my family will too.  I suppose I could quarantine myself in the house and not see my family for the duration.  But even so it’s likely I will transmit it to my kids.  And if they get it from me, does it matter if they get it from school?  Should I be worried about them transmitting it to their classmates (again, less concerned about DC2)?  These are really hard questions.  I don’t have an answer yet.  I do promise that we will be very good about not sending kids to school with the slightest fever or drippy nose, but that doesn’t help with pre-symptomatic spreading.  Maybe we keep them home if/when I get sick?

The NYTimes recently posted a survey they did back in May in which they asked a bunch of epidemiologists if they planned to send their kids to school.  Most of the ones who had kids said that they would.  Most of the ones without kids said they would not recommend it.  Having had DC2 home for months, I empathize with the epidemiologists willing to take the risk.

Update:  This more recent article from NPR suggests numbers you should look at while making the decision.  The numbers for our county suggest that we should be keeping both kids home.

We’ve also gotten some more information about the way that Virtual learning will work at the high school.  It looks like DC1 will be able to take all but one of the classes zie has requested.  Ironically the class not offered online is computer programming.  We may see if we can work something out for that class since DH can easily teach any lesson if DC1 is allowed to just do the work.  The alternative would be to take AP Physics 1 which wouldn’t be so bad if zie wasn’t already taking AP US History (which is a lot of work) and Pre-AP Chemistry (hard and a lot of work).  Another alternative would be to take AP Statistics , but then zie doesn’t have a math class for senior year.

Right now (as of last Friday) I think there’s a 98% chance DC1 will be staying home at least for the first part of the year.  I give DC2 an even 50%… I want to check the numbers again before July 30th and I would like to know how dual language will be addressed.

We’re also allowed to switch from virtual to in-person at the end of a grading period, so that may be the right thing to do– see what happens in the first 6 weeks of school and then send them in.  There’s a non-negative possibility that all of school will be shut down by then.

Grumpeteers with school-age children:  How are you making the decision about sending your kids back to school in the fall?  Has your school district made that decision for you already?