So… how to donate to DC2’s classrooms this year?

In Kindergarten and First Grade, we donated $1K anonymously to DC2’s classroom teachers for “differentiation, independent learning, and/or enrichment”.  We would like to do that again this year.

The problem is that DC2 skipped second grade.  And DC2 is the *only* kid who skipped second grade.  If the third grade teachers get the same gift cards that the K and 1st grade teachers got last year and the second grade teachers don’t, it will be pretty obvious who the anonymous donor is.  And we really don’t want to seem like we’re buying favors from the school.

So here’s my crazy thought.

Give the second grade teachers the same gift cards for “differentiation, independent learning, and/or enrichment”, and give the third grade teachers slightly different cards (or maybe just one card to share) with no such restrictions.  After all, DC2 is more on-level this year and they’re doing a pretty good job with differentiation in math (though there’s a very real chance that they will run out of packets for DC2 sometime after winter break, even assuming a slow-down in the rate zie is going).

Then next year, only give the unrestricted donation to the fourth grade teachers.

DH was initially confused by this idea– DC2 isn’t in the second grade class.  Why donate?  But then he decided he didn’t like the idea of it seeming like we’re bribing them for DC2 skipping a grade and has warmed up to the idea.

The alternative is to not give at all.  Or to give something less useful than cash gift cards.

What do you think?

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Link Love

ICE moved 700 women out of a detention center and won’t tell their lawyers where they are.

43 new claims of sexual assault against Trump (Esquire article came out on Thursday… didn’t get much media because Guiliani’s associates were busy getting arrested and he was trying to go to Vienna. Also Trump was letting Kurdish civilians die despite the protests of the US Military.  Oh, and PG&E was shutting power off in large swatches of California (I would have preferred they fix their grid to the outsized dividends I used to get).  And probably some other stuff I missed because I have to work.)

A sophisticated phishing attack.

Note to self:  Next time you buy vanguard bonds, get VWESX, not VBTLX.  (I just bought some VBTLX but think we could handle a little more risk, or perhaps a different kind of risk.)

Ask the grumpies: What is your favorite card game?

Leah asks:

What is your favorite card game?

The Great Dalmuti.  Also, three person spades.

I really like the kinds of card games that are fast and allow for lots of revolutions of who is in charge in repeated games.  So everyone wins a bunch.  (Though I also like the person who is winning gets an advantage… until the Revolution, of course.)

My family is really into the Werewolf games.

Skipping Second Grade?

This summer we planned for DC2 to take the tests to skip second grade. Zie obviously knew all the English material in second grade and was constantly complaining about not learning anything last year in first.  The one problem being that hir Spanish was not yet that great and could probably use another year of immersion in dual language before having to start doing things like writing paragraphs in Spanish.  (We also determined that the Kindergarten teacher who was so deadset against us skipping first grade blatantly lied about what would be required in second grade– paragraphs in Spanish did not happen at the end of first grade or beginning of second.  Zie could have skipped first grade with no problem.)

10 people had tried to skip the previous summer and none of them passed, and we read comments online that the tests for skipping first and second were bizarre and harder than the tests for skipping later grades because for the later grades they just use something based heavily on the state exams, where as the K-2 exams are all from a private company.  This is borne out in the passing rates for the district– almost nobody skips 1st and 2nd and a higher percentage of the people who try skip later grades (5th grade skipping being most prevalent).  So we didn’t necessarily think that DC2 would pass the tests this summer, but we thought it would be good to see what happened and maybe good practice for next summer’s tests.

But then zie did pass, even the social studies test that they made people take first because it had such a low passing rate (Robert Fulton showed up on the exam– he was on the study guide as well and I’m afraid I gave DC2 a rather impassioned economic history lecture on his importance as well as the difference between invention and innovation… I have to wonder how many adults who didn’t take economic history in college hear Robert Fulton and automatically think steam engine).  Zie passed two of the tests on the first try and was borderline on the next two, so we set up to retake them a month later and zie got high passing marks the second time around (our district allows two tries).

So we set up a meeting with the school counselor and the third grade teachers.  Unlike DC2’s K teacher, hir first grade teachers and school counselor were very supportive about DC2 skipping.  They’d spent much of last year assuming zie would skip and gave hir 2nd grade’s math homework in Spanish each week with hir first grade assignments.  At the meeting with the counselor and new teachers, the counselor read off a statement from them about DC2’s grit (also hir intelligence, but the emphasis was on grit).  The third grade teachers told us to be sure to warn hir that zie might not know everything and would have to work harder in Spanish, but they seemed to have no other concerns.

We were still concerned about Spanish, and also DC2 was concerned about leaving hir little group of 3 friends.  Hir best friend, the only other GT kid going into dual-language 2nd grade in our school, was especially broken up about DC2 not being in the same class.  This wasn’t a problem when DC1 skipped a grade because the school skipped both hir and hir best friend at the same time.  But there are a few things that mitigate this concern– first, most playtime happens in after school club, where all three kids are still going (along with an inconceivably immature fourth kid in their playgroup who hates and perpetually bullies (and thankfully perpetually gets in trouble for bullying, unlike when I grew up) DC2 but has been good friends with one of the other kids in their group since preschool); second there’s no guarantee that zie would be in the same class with both hir friends anyway since there are two dual-language classes (zie would be with the other G/T kids because they cluster-group); and third… DC2’s friends are all of the opposite gender, zie never really hit it off with any of the kids hir same gender in 2nd grade, but did occasionally play in after school with older kids the same gender.  While it is possible that zie will stay friends with them throughout K-12, it’s equally possible that they’ll hit the age in which kids segregate by gender and in that case it would be helpful for DC2 to be around more kids zie enjoys being with.

Because of these concerns, we asked if we could do a one month trial in third grade to see how it worked out.

It has been working out beautifully.  DC2 comes back super happy every day, talking about things zie has learned (starting the second week, the first week no learning occurred and zie kept saying zie wanted to go back to 2nd because zie heard the teachers were nicer).  The math homework is still below hir level, but still at the stage where it is good practice rather than pointless.  In class, they independently do math packets that go through third grade work, and by the end of the first month DC2 was on #8 out of 15.  Zie is also the only kid who has gotten a speed certificate for addition so far and is 84% of the way to getting a speed certificate for subtraction according to their online testing program.  (The teachers told the class that only two kids got all four addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division by the end of the year last year.)  (They have a points system for these extra things, and each cluster of four tables combines their points in order to get prizes– the teacher moved DC2 to a table with only 2 other kids and they still have the most points because of hir math stuff– DC1 has 320 points and the other two kids at the table have 80 combined.)

We have, unfortunately, gotten a couple of calls from the “nice” teacher about DC2 crying when asked to predict things in English Language Arts.  Zie will get the prediction correct but then would burst into tears when asked to explain why.  This is unusual for DC2, but very much the norm for DC1 who is much older and gets silent and sullen rather than crying these days when asked to have an opinion or to support an opinion, so DH doesn’t think it’s age-related.  I’m still a bit confused because this is not like DC2 at all (who is more likely to get frustrated than sad when challenged), and when questioned DC2 did not think it was anywhere near as big a deal as the teacher did.  The “strict” teacher has had no such problems with DC2, so my suspicion is that DC2 just needed some time to hirself to calm down rather than being asked about hir feelings etc.  Since they’ve moved onto inferences (which are somehow different from predictions?), apparently this poor behavior has stopped.  DH has also started working with DC2 on the ambiguity kind of stuff using the Once Upon a Time game (sponsored amazon link, though we actually have the black and white 1st edition which was a birthday gift I bought for teenage DH but he didn’t actually appreciate until some years after DC1 was born) for some Improv lessons and using a 3rd grade ELA workbook to work on predictions specifically.

We didn’t realize a month was over until 6 weeks had actually passed.  By that point, it seemed like we might as well wait another couple of weeks for the parent/teacher conferences.  The first report card came, and zie earned in the upper 90s for all the graded subjects and Meets Expectations for all the ungraded subjects.  So… we’ll see what happens.

Woooo! I got paid!!!!

We start work in August but don’t get our first paychecks until October.  I don’t know why this is, but we do get a full paycheck in June for a partial month in May, so it kind of balances out.

It’s been a long unpaid summer and a number of summer reimbursements have not come in for months.  Usually I get a little burst of summer travel reimbursements near the end of August to repad the cushion, but not this year.  I even have some summer salary that has gone completely MIA despite its being requested for July in early August.  Ugh.  Stupid red tape and having to follow up.  (I did finally get a research reimbursement I had requested in MARCH deposited this summer, and of course daycare reimbursements, but those were early summer.)

/end grumbling

I love getting paid!

Fellow academics, do you take 9 or 12 month paychecks?  Everyone else, do you love paydays?

Late Link Love

No good reason for late links this week, just didn’t do it.

What’s going on with impeachment? Dan Sinker with daily summaries.

Days of Awe: Jewish Protests

Black women’s experiences in economics.

Here’s a very brief synopsis of Wednesday’s Trump meltdown.  I swear every single time I check twitter at my 3pm internet is available break there’s new trump just melted down on television hashtag, but usually they lead to whatever or whoever he was melting down about.  Wednesday’s was just #TrumpMeltdown… and was surreal.  But then so have all the prior ones.  The unreality of it all (THIS IS NOT NORMAL) makes it really difficult to focus after my break.  I may have to stop looking at twitter.

Elephants can count by smell?

Ask the Grumpies: Is there any reason not to put money in a Roth IRA if you can pull out the principal at any time?

Beth asks:

Short version of this question: if I have some money saved that I don’t expect to use in the next year or so, and I don’t have any non-mortgage debt to pay off – is there any reason NOT to put that savings into a Roth account?

Longer version:
I feel I am in okay shape in terms of retirement savings (far better than most Americans, not doing as well as the FIRE community), with 10-20 more years to go (preferably 10 years from now, depending on the market & health care). Because I”m in okay shape and max out my 401(k), I haven’t been saving in a Roth. Instead I’ve been focusing on paying down my mortgage (still about 10 years out) and enjoying my life in the moment.

I have been putting aside money in hopes of self-funding a sabbatical at some point. My vision is I’d arrange a leave of absence for up to 3 months; I’m not at all sure my employer will go for it so it’s all quite hypothetical. I’m too conservative/aware of age bias to quit my job without another lined up and I would really really like a chunk of time off. Words cannot express how I envy friends who work in academia and get summers off! (future post? brainstorming jobs that get summers off but don’t require being a teacher?)

I realized that I could set the hypothetical-sabbatical money aside into a Roth account, and pull out the contribution to use if I DO have a sabbatical, and if I don’t, then I’m that much closer to being in even-better retirement shape.

Is there any reason to NOT put my savings into a Roth? My usual tendency is to go VTSAX but I might be more conservative with this money since I would like to use it in the shorter term. Or, by putting it into a Roth, am I going to mentally classify it as untouchable?

I’ve got other money sitting in an emergency fund (combo of money market and VTSAX) and am now wondering why I haven’t put it in a Roth all along. Please advise!

 

If you qualify to do a regular Roth IRA without having to convert from a traditional IRA, the only reason not to would be having to deal with figuring out how to take out the principal and any other paperwork costs. For that reason it’s good to have some cash in an emergency fund (the money market in your case) in case you need money immediately without paperwork hassle (because short-term emergencies often come with mental and emotional angst and the last thing you need is a month delay because of some sort of paperwork snafu). So… I guess laziness is the main reason not to? If you’re planning on using Vanguard I doubt it will be that difficult to get your principal out (some other providers make taking any money out more of a hassle).

You can put money in VTSAX within the Roth! Though yes, within the shorter term you might want to stick it in a bond fund or something similar. The heuristic is generally to put money you think you’ll need in more than 5 years into stocks and to be more conservative with money you’ll need sooner.

If you can only do Roth IRAs through a traditional conversion (a Backdoor Roth) because you’re too high income to contribute to a Roth directly, you have to wait 5 years to access the Roth funds, at least according to this random website I found. So if you need the principal sooner than that, you might want to avoid doing a Backdoor Roth and instead save the money as taxable.

Here are some reasons you could withdraw distributions (not just principal) from a Roth without penalty.  (They include things like disability, first time house purchases, educational expenses, etc.)

Grumpy Nation, is there anything I haven’t thought of?  Have you ever withdrawn the principal from a Roth IRA before age 59.5?