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.)