I am not ok

I have not dreaded a school year starting this much since grad school.  Or maybe even middle school.

My state government wants to kill my family and me and everyone else too in some kind of political power move.  It is unpleasant knowing that super villains are both real and in charge.  And most of the parents I know are too burned out to fight anymore.  (The irritating “liberal” White Doods, though, are still happy to tell us that everything is pointless and also anything we do is wrong.)

Last year’s thing with the associate dean really killed my desire to get up in front of a required core class, especially one where I have all the people who signed up late because it’s an 8am class and the later sections are full.  The previous year’s cheating scandal also still lingers.  And the year before the insane and potentially dangerous student who started threatening me because on the first day of class I asked him to move up a few rows (and my chair just sat there after forcing a meeting with him and listened to him accuse me of things until I left)– he did get moved to the online version of the class and went on to threaten other female faculty members and students in his other classes… nothing was done about him.

I don’t want to go into the office, and one of the reasons is because the anti-masker pro-gun faculty member who encouraged last year’s student to go to the associate dean now has an office directly next to mine.  And of course he goes in every day.  I assume he’s gotten vaccinated, but if he keeps up what he’s been doing (meeting with crazy right-wing students unmasked in his office and classroom) eventually he’ll probably get a breakthrough infection.  Who knows.  Maybe he’ll take horse dewormer and get super sick.  One can always hope.

I worry that I can’t protect my kids.  DC2 is homeschooling but DC1 or I could easily bring the virus home.  And probably zie would be ok.  But there’s also a chance zie wouldn’t. Or that there would be long-term consequences that affect hir entire life.  I will do a lot to protect my kids that I will not do to protect myself because they don’t have the power to make these decisions yet.

One of my colleagues quit this summer without another job lined up because he and his wife couldn’t stand living here anymore.  Last night I dreamed he got a last minute position at Delagar’s school where masks are required.

I wish I were taking this semester off as unpaid leave.  And indeed, if I get called into the associate dean’s office again this year, that’s what I’m going to do.  Take leave without pay for the rest of the semester.  The students can have the monotone adjunct for the rest of the semester while I do more job applications.

Maybe it won’t be as bad as I’m worrying.  But now that I think on it, this class has been wildly problematic for the last 3 years.  And this year I have nothing to protect me from the rabid Trump loving anti-masking anti-vaxxers like I did last year.  It’s not irrational to be dreading this semester.

But I do have an escape plan.  I can leave.  Heck, I could even quit my career at this point and Barista FI (though being an actual Barista sounds pretty awful).

Link love

At orientation for my department maybe 30% of students were masked the first day.  That dropped to ~10% the second day.  I kept having phantom covid symptoms that completely cleared up when my required covid test a few days later came up clean.

This week the high school and middle school buckled down to pressure to inform the public of which classes had covid exposures (recall that last week they finally started informing elementary school classes of exposure).  What they’re doing is posting a spreadsheet with teacher names on the left side and class period on the top.  They delete it each day around 4:30pm so you have to check it every day.  So far middle school dual language is unaffected so DC2 would not have been exposed yet, at least on the days I checked.  DC1 has been exposed in hir only non-AP class (no exposure in orchestra either, but zie says most of varsity orchestra is masked).  Zie says that period is in a very small classroom and DC1 one of like 3 kids who stays masked.  The kid with covid was both coughing on his last day and completely unmasked.  His close friend told DC1 that maybe there was something to this masking thing so I gave DC1 more disposable masks and said that next time someone says that you tell them that your mom gave you lots of extra masks to give away.  Then I ordered another 100 cheap disposable masks from amazon.

DC2 continues to love home schooling.

delagar on how racists believe that minorities simply existing is “woke garbage”  (Racists are wrong, and the new Sandra Oh series is the opposite of woke, at least in terms of storyline.)

So, I had thought this whole horse dewormer thing was being spread by “the internet”… but no, actual Fox News hosts are telling people to take it (the drug that horse dewormers are made of, not horse dewormers by name).  A lot of the mainstream news stories are completely missing that part.  I don’t understand why nobody has sued Fox News over this.  Do we need stronger regulations?  They say that a lot of research studies have shown that invermectin works to disrupt covid, but upon further research, it appears that the Indian studies they refer to show that it does *not* work on people— so far the only showing that it works is that it works kind of like bleach, which you should also not ingest.  Apparently there are a lot of things that don’t work to disrupt covid in the body but do work in a petri dish (including time!).

Here’s a little more information.

Ask the grumpies: Can we talk about masks?

Lisa asks:

Since you mentioned masks, can we talk about that for a minute? I’ll be teaching a class full of students tomorrow – they should be masked and I will be masked. I’ve been reading about which masks are “best” (for me and for my kids who are at school). But I feel like the “best” masks don’t work so well for a few reasons.

If I were to fly on an airplane or something, I’d wear a KN95. Best protection, fairly easy to wear. However, when I’m talking, the KN95s and surgical masks move all over on my face and I’m constantly adjusting them, so I can’t really wear either of those options to class. The Old Navy masks fit me really well and stay on well while I talk, so that’s what I’ll be wearing, even though cloth masks are not as efficient at filtering things out. The ON masks are triple layer, though, which is not nothing…

Same issue for my kids – the two oldest can wear KN95s although one of them prefers the ON masks. I feel like either is OK since they’re vaccinated and the vast majority of the school is masked as well (for now). The little one doesn’t have any KN95s that fit well (we’ve ordered a few to try), likes the ON masks pretty well, but is wearing some double layer minecraft character masks I got as a special back to school surprise (which is clearly my fault, I should have made them stick with the triple layer ON). I’m wondering how much of a difference it really makes. As long as the mask fits well and the kids will wear it, and as long as everyone is wearing a mask and the ventilation is good, I’m hoping our cloth masks are protective enough. If we were in the situation your DC1 is (few classmates masked or vaccinated), I’d go for as much protection as possible. But I’m hoping that with near-universal masking the stringency doesn’t have to be as high. What do people think?

I am not a medical professional and I don’t study the effects of masking or modern virus transmission.

From what I’ve read and from what natural scientist has said, the #1 thing (after will your kids keep them on) is fit.  Filtration particle size is a distant second after that.

If everyone else is masked, then yes, it is safer!  It is such a simple solution, and yet evil evil people have made this a political issue such that I will “get in trouble” if I ask my students to wear masks.  I had a really cute anonymous survey planned at the beginning of class where I was going to compare people who got Moderna to people who got Pfizer across another characteristic, but I have to scrap that because we got a lengthy email from general counsel about not asking people if they’ve been vaccinated, even anonymously.

DC1 likes cambridge masks and primalwear masks.  They are thick and hot and expensive.  DC2 is a HUGE fan of enro. They are light, washable, fit really well, and are cute(!) but they are likely sold out.  We have been unable to find KN95 that actually fit DC2, though that’s moot now that zie is homeschooling, at least until DC1 or I bring covid home. DC1 also likes the Old Navy masks, but they don’t fit completely around hir face–there’s gaps, so that’s out of the question for now.

The last two days at student orientation I’ve been rethinking my mask choices because so few of our students were masked (like 30% the first day and maybe 10% the second day). Day 1 I double masked with a crappy “Vote” mask and a KN95 construction style and it would just not stay put (though to be fair to n95maskco.com, I’m not sure if I used one of theirs or one of the KN95 from the grocery store– I had better luck double masking with them and a cloth mask back last February). So day 2 I double masked with a really nice (and very expensive!) disposable N95 (Respokare® NIOSH N95 Respirator Mask) that works way better. I’m trying to decide whether to steal one of DC1’s fancy masks or to just use N95 or to double mask with an N95 and a cute but useless redbubble mask. My initial plan of loosely and comfortably masking is completely out the window.

Double masking was hard on my ears last spring and I had some trouble keeping both sets on my ears at all times.  N95 are nice because they’re head straps, not ear straps, though they are incompatible with me wearing a pony tail.  DC1 has added the head straps to the ear straps on all hir Cambridge masks.  We’ve been doing a lot of experimentation.

Jenny F Scientist adds:

I did a post on this (http://naturalscientist.blogspot.com/2021/07/masks-yet-again.html) and the answer is… ??? Everyone wearing a mask is definitely more effective than any non-N95 mask you could wear (and even those, if the fit is not PERFECT, are generally no better than a surgical mask, no really, they fit test them for medical professionals annually with hoods and a bittering agent and really and truly the fit is no longer okay after 3-5 on/off cycles). If you look at Figure 5 there, the *source* wearing a surgical mask captures 90% of particles and the receiver also wearing one will capture another 50%(ish). And also, yes, fit, i.e. sealing, makes a difference (SMNat vs. SF data points; N95 with vaseline or without).

I have worn N95s and KN95s in both medical and scientific settings, everyone hates it and they are super uncomfortable and sweaty no matter what. I tried to wear a really fancy Cambridge Mask in the airport last week and I was so hot I nearly fainted and had to take it off. “Objectively the best but unwearable” is, as you say, perhaps not ideal.

Honestly the next best thing you can do in a classroom is more air exchanges: tape a 22″ square filter to a box fan, mask off the edges with cardboard if you want, and set it running in the doorway…. (like this but you can do it with one filter: https://www.texairfilters.com/how-to-improve-the-efficiency-of-the-box-fan-and-merv-13-filter-air-cleaner/)

SP says:

I’m interested in this topic. In the toddler classes mask use among kids was pretty spotty, but they seem to be more consistent in the preschool so we are trying to upgrade our masks. By the time I went to google to see what was recommended for kids (Enro, but probably not a fit for toddlers, and happy masks), they were completely sold out with months long wait list. OK, fine. I am starting with a better fitting set of masks with low cost, which is better than some of her others – but still shopping around for something I’m happier with.

On the flip side, it all feels a bit futile because LO is not yet 3, so even best case use seems to be marginally useful with a room full of little ones. (Teachers are masked/vaccinated too.) And I’m happy to take ANY margin I can get, I just don’t know how much difference the mask choice will make in the long run. And they also must remove masks for nap time (indoors, 1-2 hrs). But, this presumably is not going to go away any time soon, and her proper mask usage will likely improve over time, especially with comfortable/good masks.

Alice adds:

I tried to get a better quality of mask (happy masks, others) for my 5-year-old, and got too frustrated by the Not In Stock situations everywhere I looked. It doesn’t matter what’s best if you can’t get it anywhere. We’re still using basic cloth masks with a filter pocket, and I’m using the PM2.5 filters that you get from Amazon. She at least loves the patterns. (Space! Favorite colors!) Based on what I see at pick-up, she’s on the middle-to-high end of standard for her class. Everyone is wearing masks (thank goodness for the mandate), but there are definitely kids wearing single-layer no-pocket masks. They do all have them on, though.



  • Scalzi said we weren’t allowed to talk about which anti-vaxxers we wanted to die in his thread on whether or not we should feel sorry for anti-vaxxers.  But this is not Scalzi’s thread.  Right now there’s a Trolley problem in which there are a bunch of innocent kids on the track.  We don’t know which ones will get hit by the train, but some of them will.  And if we flip the switch only a few evil Republican governors will die.  I can’t flip the switch for many many reasons and I don’t want their blood to be on anybody’s hands because killing people is a terrible thing.  But, I think I’m allowed to hope that Covid will strike them down instead of striking down those kids they’re willfully putting at risk.  If lives have to be traded… I would make that trade.
  • I bought DC1 ~$200 worth of fancy masks from Cambridge mask and Primalwear because I don’t think Old Navy will be enough even though DC1 is vaccinated and I’m not sure how comfortable the N95s we have (from last Februrary?) will be.  Enro didn’t have any designs DC1 liked in stock in medium, but DC1 seems ok with heavier fabrics.  As natural scientist recommended, we have put a box next to the door for DC1 to drop hir mask in when zie gets home.
  • I had a lump in my leg sort of deep in my mid-thigh.  When I first noticed it, there was a large bruise next to it.  Dr. Google suggested to leave it alone for two weeks and if it didn’t go away on its own or got bigger to see a doctor.  Two weeks later it was gone.
  • But then it came back a couple days later.
  •  I called the nurse hotline to ask what kind of doctor I should see and the nurse said go to the emergency room within the hour!  And I said no thank you.
  •  I did call the health system I’ve moved to after my GP/OB went into a private practice that doesn’t take insurance and asked them who I should see and they said to start with a GP and found me a nice family practitioner.
  • DH also used his U/s to look at it and determined it’s between skin and muscle, denser than the surrounding tissue, and not near any major blood vessels, but couldn’t figure out much else because he’s an engineer not a medical professional.
  • The doctor said it’s probably a hematoma I reinjured but could be a sebaceous cyst and I could have an u/s right away or I could wait 3 weeks putting heat on it occasionally but otherwise not touching it.  So I chose that.
  • I am STILL sick of white men who don’t do any activism but tell people who ARE doing things that what they’re doing is pointless.  Are they Russian agents?  Do they think cynicism makes them look smart?  Or do they just want an excuse to continue being lazy about something that doesn’t affect them as much as it affects the people who are actually doing the fighting?  Just shut up, doods.  Nobody wants to hear your self-fulfilling punditry.  Lazy jerks.
  • I got an apology email from a job candidate several years back who got extremely drunk and started shouting obscenities at the restaurant we were at (this makes for a pretty funny story because after I fled the restaurant, I’d accidentally left the lights on in the car so the battery died and I’d left my cellphone at home and I had to get jumped from some nice students passing by).  I told one of my friends about getting the email and she was like, “I just got an apology email yesterday from this guy I used to date 20 years ago.”  What is going on?!?  Did Oprah suggest this?  Or is it some kind of religious thing?
  • I got an apology email once like a decade ago from a former friend in college who more than 10 years prior to that out of the blue decided to give me the silent treatment over the summer when we were the only 3 people living on our hall, forcing me to branch out and meet not-crazy people in another dorm who introduced me to Buffy.  But that was a long time ago.  (She then noted she’d moved to a city two hours away from me and invited me to drive two hours to see her, which I said, as one does with people from LA, maybe next time I’m in the city, not meaning a word of it, as one does.  She’s also an author and kept adding me to her book list-servs and I had to keep unsubscribing or blocking.  People are strange.)
  • I was thinking, “gee I don’t have any referee reports right now oh no I’d better not even think that because every time I do I end up…” and then I got an email request for another referee report mid-thought.  Which I’m going to have to do because it’s on racism and if I don’t do it some racist White dude will.  Econ needs more papers on race by not racist white men so there are more not racist reviewers so that more papers by not racist white men can be published.  (The White Doods in econ gatekeep race publications like CRAZY.  It’s so cringy.)
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Ode to our air filter

This post is from 2011 (hanging out in unfinished drafts)– Our Austin air filter is still going strong, though we’ve had to replace the actual filters several times.  Austin Air has no idea that we exist.  Also, 2011 was 10 years ago– there are a lot more good options for air filters than there used to be.  Here are wirecutter’s recommendations (their upgrade pick is only $300 and is a Blueair purifier, which they like better than the Austin filter because it is less expensive, prettier, and quieter).

I am allergic to almost everything that grows– grasses, most trees, and all the stuff that normal people are allergic to like ragweed and goldenrod and mold spores.  I’m also highly allergic to a lot of crawly things like dust-mites and *shudder* cockroaches and so on.  (Also mildly allergic to cats, though I’m more allergic to some cats than others.)  I can’t do much about the things that give me hives, but I can do something about the allergens that make my nose drip or that clog up my sinuses.

Back in 2011 I bought an Austin Air Filter for around $500.  There are now more options and they range from $750-$1000.  Not cheap!  The replacement filters are also not cheap– you could get a new Blueair purifier for about the same price these days.

For me, it was Worth Every Penny.  Having a good air filter on high in a room is better than most anti-histamines (though Zyrtec is still my new best friend).  It just clears everything up.

Here’s a post from Schlock Mercenary describing the experience of filtering out a room for the first time (back in 2007).  It’s what convinced me to get a super expensive air filter instead of the cheap small walmart/target ones we’d had before.

*heart emojis*

Do you have an air filter?  What kind do you use?  How much do allergies suck?  How do you deal with allergies? 

Link love

Not a lot of links this week. Our university official sent out an email telling us not to advertise the whereabouts of people in Afghanistan on social media as that is being used by the Taliban. They’re trying to get alumni out in conjunction with the US military. Here’s a Time article on how to help.

Updates to the covid schooling situation:  They are now putting up total number of cases at each school on the school website each day.  The first day of school had 2 new cases.  The second day of school had 10 new cases.

On the second day of school, the district decided that the elementary school classrooms will alert parents when an elementary school has been exposed (I assume because the first two cases were at elementary schools and they were inundated with phone calls from parents asking if their kid was exposed).  DH went to a school board meeting and they stood firm on refusing to do the same at the middle schools or high school because “that would be 7 emails per kid”… which no, you could just send out ONE email every day with which classes were exposed to everybody.  In about a week it won’t be possible to figure out which kid is out by class schedule because multiple kids will be out!  Or they could just note which classes are still within 10 days of exposure.  They have also decided, without reason given, to not mandate masks on busses even though the other town is mandating them because busses are covered under federal, not state, law.  They refuse to collect even voluntary information on how many staff/faculty are vaccinated.  They do not have a threshhold/cutoff for when the school should be shut down even though they had one last year (and never shut the school down).

On the first day of school, DC1’s principal sent an email talking about how great it was to see all the kids’ shining faces, and DC1 says she isn’t wearing a mask at school.  So… that’s the leadership at the high school.

Speaking of leadership, all our work meetings have been hybrid and nobody in person has been masked. Our (maskless) department head went on a thing about how our students are likely to mask because they care about people and one of our adjuncts asked if he should mask when teaching because he hates it and I started shaking and lost my cool. Oh, did I mention our uni President has told all department heads to inform the faculty that the expectation is that we are in our offices from 8-5 M-F? I spent a good portion of Friday working on a job application and the rest hiding in my closet (it’s an anxiety thing—-all these weird coping mechanisms I haven’t used since grad school are resurfacing).

Young fire knight notes that it is easier to save money when you make a lot of money.

A gai shan life contemplates how she should/will stop putting herself down (and why she has done it in the past)

Ask the grumpies: Thoughts on tattoos?

Leah asks:

What are your thoughts on tattoos?

#1:  I don’t have tattoos but I think lots of tattoos are really cool.  I watch art shows about tattoos.

#2:  I guess now is my time to talk about whatever undiagnosed psychological problem it is that I have about body ornamentation.  I have never had pierced ears or any other piercings.  I do not have tattoos.  I’m fine with other people’s tattoos and earrings.  I get feelings of revulsion thinking about permanent or even semi-permanent body modification of my own body.  I don’t wear jewelry except my wedding ring and watch and then only when I’m out and about.  I take things off as soon as I can.  I think I would be pretty comfortable in a nudist colony assuming my allergy problems didn’t keep me permanently covered in hives.

When I was little I always assumed I’d eventually get pierced ears, probably around age 14 which was when one of my friend’s moms said she could get them.  But then in middle school when other girls started getting pierced ears, one of the girls in my gym class had a dangly earring torn out of her ear (thankfully not in my gym class– possibly at home, possibly as child abuse) and it never healed up right.  Then a couple years later in middle school a bunch of other girls got horrific infections and… just… no.

And on top of that when I was younger, tattoo inks weren’t as good as they are now and there were so many older people at the grocery store with sagging skin and ugly blue tattoos that no longer fit their bodies because they’d been different shapes decades before when they first got them.  And I just … didn’t want to get something as a teen or 20 year old that would look terrible when I turned 70.

And then I went to the field museum and saw an exhibit on body modification…possibly set up to thrill and disgust, but it made me realize that in the Western world we do the exact same things– if you find the neck lengthening necklaces problematic or the bumpy tattoos like they showed in Black Panther, well, it’s not really different in the US.  What’s culturally accepted seems normal while something only slightly different elsewhere seems bizarre.  But really, body modification is kind of bizarre no matter what or where it is.  (See also: circumcision– most men in our generation in the US are circumcized.)

That said, I was in support of my other high school roommate when she got her first tattoo– it was a pretty cool rose (on her breast) and the inks were good and could be updated.  Lots of millennials have fascinating or adorable tattoos these days and more power to them.  And it’s easier to get them removed if one has second thoughts or one’s body type changes.  I can appreciate other people’s adorable earrings.  But… not for me.  Do Not Want.  No piercings, no tattoos.

Our first attempt at a plan to homeschool 5th grade

I made this.  It’s hard to see but I can’t get wordpress to allow anything bigger.  Sorry!

Weekly home schooling schedule (described in more detail in the text below).

As always, all Amazon links are affiliate links.

DC1 did 5th grade in a different state so we don’t have anything leftover from hir experiences that would translate here.  Some subjects we’re fine with following the state standards.  Some subjects we really need to know what is being taught this semester compared to next semester when presumably DC2 will be vaccinated and back in school.  And some subjects I am just fine throwing away whatever garbage is being required by an evil state legislature that cares more about propaganda than educating or protecting.

While DC1 did not do 5th grade here, zie did do 6th grade and it was a total waste of a year with the exception of math and orchestra.

So here’s what we’re planning:

PE:  On M/W/F, DC2 will join DH in the morning for calisthenics.  On Saturday and Sunday we will do something outside in the neighborhood (ex. bike riding, basketball, scootering, roller skating, tennis, etc.  Probably not swimming because there’s more risk there given our neighborhood.)  T/Th are free choices for DC2– 15 min of exercycling, ringfit, YouTube videos, whatever.

Music:  As always, DC2 has 15 min of piano practicing every day and a 30 min less on Thursdays.  New this year is the violin.  DH and I were both brass players so we have no idea what to do here and you can’t really teach the first semester of violin virtually.  Fortunately, DC1 has gotten really good at violin (including tuning!) and remembers learning it and is on board with helping us out.  DC2 got the violin a few days ago and they are ADORABLE.  So far they’ve just been practicing how to hold a bow and hold the violin.  DC1 told me I needed to order fingering tape, so I have done that but it hasn’t gotten here yet.  We’ve also still got Suzuki book 1 and DC2 has been listening to the cd that came with it (DC1 runs away or starts practicing piano or hir own violin which this happens as zie is thoroughly sick of twinkle twinkle little star and all its iterations.) These lessons are for 15 min a day, which isn’t very long and even so I’m concerned about them fitting into DC1’s schedule once school heats up.  But in the worst case scenario, DC1 played trumpet in 5th grade switching to violin in 6th and started placing at regionals in high school so all is not lost.

Math:  This one is easiest for us.  DC2 is in 6th grade math.  Zie is going to continue working through Singapore Math (Not affiliate) and Brainquest Math.  In addition zie will work through Khan academy 6th grade math.  We’re not sure if we should do Khan academy by time or by topic, but we’re trying by time first.  I’m not worried about losing number sense from missing some of the new new math because the new Brainquest has some of that and Singapore math has some of it, and zie has gone through Hard Math for Elementary School at least once and will probably be doing virtual Math Circle this year.

Spanish is a hard one.  DC2 is in dual language and in theory half of hir classes would be in Spanish.  My Spanish is just not good enough to support that.  Based on a commenter’s recommendation, we’ve hired a tutor from Overcome the Barrier (not affiliate), which is ridiculously inexpensive.  The first few lessons have been great but also pretty remedial and the teacher uses too much English (saying, “What color is” instead of “Que color es” for example), but DC2 had some embarrassing summer slide this summer and forgot some pretty standard words (though zie still understands them) so perhaps understandable on the teacher’s part.  (DH says we should wait and see before addressing it with the teacher.)  We figure even if nothing else, this will add someone else to talk to besides us.  DC2 has been doing 15 min of duolinguo all summer, but that’s obviously not been enough.  So M/W/F zie is going to watch a video of hir choice in Spanish (this could be anything from Harry Potter dubbed to Pocoyo), and on T/Th zie will spend 30 min reading books in Spanish.  I have started hir with little kids’ picture books, but the hope is to graduate to chapter books (of which we have many interesting looking ones!)  We also have an unused 3rd grade biology textbook in Spanish along with solutions that zie will do (but that’s listed under Science).

Science:  We’re going to completely ignore what the state is doing and just watch a Sci Show or Crash Course Science video each day, starting with earth science.  On M/W/F when zie is not reading Spanish books for Spanish, zie will do a section of the science textbook and answer questions at the end of it.  Weekends we will try to do experiments.  We still have a few leftover from a virtual summer camp on weather that got cancelled that should be fun!  (We already did a couple that were, but needed to get hairspray and alka-seltzer and freeze ice cubes to do the remaining experiments.)

Social Studies:  Other than acknowledging that this is a US history year rather than a state history year, we are going to throw out whatever the school/state is doing and just watch Crash Course US History.  After that Crash Course US Black History.  Then if we’re still going, Lies my Teacher Told me (which DC1 told DC2 was very interesting, but DC2 tried to read it and said it was sooo boring, which suggests to me that it’s still too advanced for DC2… maybe we should get the younger kids’ version…).  We may also supplement with historical novels sort of as a History/English crossover (lots of Jean Fritz and Mildred Taylor out there… though I find Jean Fritz too “from the perspective of the plucky White boy” so maybe not her).  But that’s going to depend on English.

ELA:  I have no idea what this class is going to cover when.  We emailed the ELA teacher to ask, and she said she’d get back to us but hasn’t yet.  My sister also asked one of her friends who is taking the year off from teaching because she has a newborn and doesn’t want to be exposed to covid, but we haven’t heard back from her yet either.  So… we have Brainquest and DC2’s Spectrum Spelling (6th grade) workbooks.  The spelling workbook is almost done, and I am planning to replace it with a workbook of Latin and Greek roots when it’s finished.  In the mean time, I stole a list of 5th grade novels off a random California teacher’s website and we’re starting with From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, for which I have stolen another random teacher’s questions.  It is shocking to me, but DC2 has never had to read a novel for school before, much less one with comprehension and discussion questions.  DC1 didn’t do that in 6th grade either– all they did was crafts.  DC2 is going to read and fill out questions for 2 chapters a day, and then after work, DH (who is reading the book perhaps for the first time, which also seems crazy to me) will do a little book club discussion with her (questions for which I found online) each day.  This will be very much like my 4th-8th grade ELA experiences back in the day.  In theory, next week the book of children’s poetry I ordered will be here and I plan to have DC2 practice cursive by copying one of the poems nicely and then we’ll have some discussion questions for whatever poem it is.  By then I’m hoping that we’ll have heard back from the 5th grade English teacher to get more direction.  If we hear back affirmatively from my sister’s friend we will just dump all of this on her.

We have a few more rules that we’re hoping will help everybody get work done:

  1.  Hold questions and do not interrupt a parent to ask.
  2.  Mom will stop by to check on you every couple hours when she needs a break, ask her questions then.
  3.  Dad will have a dedicated time to meet with you after his lunch meeting every day and at the end of his work day.
  4.  If you’re stuck, try to figure out how to get unstuck (Google is your friend!) or move on to the next task.
  5.  If you run out of tasks and are still stuck on something, try to figure out how to get unstuck or do more Khan academy or more Duolinguo
  6.  After you’re done with everything you can have free time to read or play or whatever (no screens unless they’re Spanish language only), but if you’re stuck on something you cannot move to free time until you get unstuck.  See 5.

We’re open to suggestions!  Especially for getting DC2 to have virtual human interaction.

Why we decided at the last minute to home school DC2

We were not planning on homeschooling DC2.  We’d bought all the school supplies and scheduled the bus and the after school care.  We even had submitted a grocery order full of easy to pack and quick to eat DC-approved lunch foods.

If our schools had the same protections in place that they had last year, we would not be homeschooling.  We were even still planning on sending hir to school with no mask mandate, though we were uneasy about it.  What happened?  Well, first, at schedule pickup, less than 40% of everyone there was masked (it was waaay less at high school schedule pickup, maybe 15%?, though presumably all of the kids in high school have the option to get vaccinated, though in reality they don’t because they need parental permission).  Second:  we found out some really horrifying things about lack of parental notification and how they are discouraging quarantining, in exact opposition to CDC recommendations.  A kid could sit next to an unmasked covid positive person every class period and lunch and the parents would NEVER KNOW.  Additionally, quarantining will only be allowed for covid positive children, not children who have been merely exposed.  Since people can be contagious before they show symptoms or get the results of a positive covid test, this spells disaster.

I think what happened was they saw headlines from other states that had already opened without mask mandates and thought, well, we can’t have 800 kids quarantined for exposure if we don’t allow quarantines for exposure!

We started looking into virtual schooling options a few weeks ago when it became clear that no masking would stay the rule.  But it seems like it was too late and all of the highly rated virtual options were full while the ones remaining got poor reviews or looked scammy.

We are also going to have to be careful with DC1 since vaccinated kids can get Covid too.  We’ve upgraded DC1’s masks. When the weather cools down a bit we’re going to keep windows and doors open and the fans will be on all winter.  We bought an extra air filter for the mystery of the musty cupboard though I’m not sure whether to put it in DC1’s room (as the most likely carrier) or DC2’s (as the most vulnerable).  Possibly we should buy a third filter and do both.

I know there are naysayers who probably don’t read this blog (or who hate-read it) who think we’re being too risk averse.  But the thing is, we do not know what covid is like in a situation where someone without 100% working protective gear is constantly exposed to the virus.  (Healthcare workers wear protective equipment that fits AND they can eat lunch away from the covid ward.)  If nothing changes, these schools will become seas of virus particulate.  And no, I don’t think this is fear-mongering– it is just logic.  There’s a reason we have quarantines!  And we know that there are breakthrough infections and we know that covid infections are worse the more exposure to the virus someone has had.  On top of that, our hospitals are full and the children’s hospitals in our surrounding towns have been turning people away.  Any non-covid emergency is going to be more dangerous because of these problems.  And I’ve seen the full gamut of what can happen to covid-positive previously healthy young adults… there is no way of predicting who will be asymptomatic and who will have a brief hospital stay.  Or who will recover after a few days and who will still have massive brain-fog for the rest of the semester, possibly longer.  And DC2 is a foodie– losing taste and smell would be awful.  Not to mention that we have no idea what the long-run outcomes will be.

I’m a little worried about DC2 although zie assures us we shouldn’t be.  But this summer and last year zie had virtual classes with a teacher and other kids and had regular minecraft playdates with hir friends 2x/week.  The playdates are ending since hir friends are returning to after school care (we’d signed DC2 up too, but that was before our state and school district decided to go crazy).  There’s no virtual teacher to ask questions, no virtual class to socialize with.  And DC1 won’t be home during the day.  We did hire a Spanish tutor and are considering an English tutor, but that may not be enough.

I am also worried about how this is going to affect our careers.  We’re both working full-time.  During the school year I’m already frazzled trying to get all the parts of my job done plus just seeing day-to-day things with the kids.  There’s just too much going on.  This year will be especially bad because we are hiring for 3 open positions and we have several third year reviews happening.  DC2 has been given strict instructions on when we will have time for hir and hopefully that will be enough.  And zie has sworn zie won’t whine or tantrum, which I find extremely draining.  Hopefully zie will stick to that.  If I were planning on staying here forever, not getting stuff out this year might be ok, but I am desperate to leave this state, so I need to be active.

We hope to return DC2 to regular schooling just as soon as it is safer.  Right now we think that means mask mandates + actual quarantining + lower community transmission rates OR DC2 getting fully vaccinated + quarantining or parental notification or something.  But there might be some combination of the above that would encourage us to send hir earlier.  We were told that school returning from homeschool should only occur at the beginning of grading periods, so every 6 weeks we will look at what is currently happening.

I guess I’m going to split this into two posts.  This one explains our reasoning.  Wednesday’s will be a less emotional “what we’re actually doing” post.  Maybe there will even be some dollar values in it, who knows!

Link love

It has been a really rough week at Casa Grumpy.  We got more information about the start of school and the information we got was bad.  And all the children’s hospitals in surrounding cities are turning away patients.  So we’re withdrawing DC2 from school and home schooling until it is safer.  More on that and actual homeschooling plans on Monday or Wednesday I guess.  Is homeschooling a money thing?  This is not what I wanted and I am stunned and shocked about how a major political party is wiling to sacrifice public health including children for political gain, and that doing so will actually benefit them because we are rapidly becoming ruled by a vocal minority through propaganda, voter suppression, and gerrymandering.  I probably shouldn’t be shocked though… not after Sandy Hook.  And more people will die.  In fact, a third secretary in our department lost a family member this week.  Two fathers and a brother claimed by this pandemic.  I could go on, but instead you can just read some news headlines.

Our situation is pretty similar to the one in this propublica article, though some parts are worse for us and some parts are worse for her.  But yeah, going to the schedule pick-up for dual language… pretty frightening.

This doctor went to a party with 14 other vaccinated people.  11 of them got covid.  And covid is still not pleasant even if you’re vaccinated.

Texas politics are dangerously broken.

1000 kids in Mississippi test positive for covid after schools reopen.

Thread of one Mississippi school’s  experience (contrasted with a nearby school that had a mask mandate).

Why Massachusetts is not seeing huge spikes in kids covid cases yet.

Analogies for vaccines.

if you have a democratic senator read this thread.  The future of the US could depend on what happens in Texas, and they need your help.