Ask the readers: How do I teach my middle-schooler writing?

While we have been impressed with the math and orchestra teaching in public schools where we are, we have been less so with the humanities.  DC1 is not learning how to write.  Zie is not getting many writing assignments, and the one that zie gets are completed in-class with minimal feedback and are mostly creative writing or opinion.  (Add to that the ELA teacher doesn’t exactly show great writing skills in hir own written communications… though I suppose my blog writing doesn’t show the same level of quality as my professional writing so I shouldn’t throw stones.  Still…)

Looking online most of the recommendations seem to be “let them read a lot and write a lot”… well, DC1 already reads a lot.  And, having looked into the “research” that claims that writing cannot be taught, I am less than impressed with the methodology.  I can believe that writing cannot be taught in a single semester, and that grammar instruction without  combined writing instruction doesn’t transfer, but I have a bright 10 year old with a growth mindset for at least another 6 years of instruction, not a fixed-mindset college student for a semester of remediation.   I have to believe that there’s something more systematic that can be done than just having DC1 write about a wedding zie has attended.

I am most interested in teaching DC1 technical writing, especially given that technical writing seems to be completely neglected in hir classes thus far.  As I’m grading my college students’ policy briefs, I find I worry that DC1 doesn’t know how to use topic sentences or craft a paragraph that supports such sentences.  I want hir to learn outlining.  And have the ability to skim an article that has been written with topic sentences and an outline.

I vaguely remember learning in 3rd grade about topic sentences, diagramming sentences in 4th grade, and outlining in 5th grade.  (My juvenilia is actually pretty good… at least compared to the writings of many of my college students…)  A high school history teacher taught the art of transitions (though in college I learned that not all disciplines appreciate them, so I have stopped doing that final step except when writing in more historical sub-fields).  My mom did a lot of teaching me how to fix my grammar, clarity, and so on.  #2 also helped form my writing (her mom is a professional editor).  One of my grad advisors taught me discipline-specific tricks for writing in my main field.

Students at elite private schools get a lot of technical instruction in writing.  The results are impressive.  And I can’t believe it’s just their socioeconomic status or a greater propensity to read that’s the cause of it.  My sister got actual technical writing instruction at the private school she went to for high school and her writing ability and writing enjoyment improved tremendously (despite heavy amounts of constructive feedback).  There are rules that can be taught.

So I’m asking you:  How do I teach writing to my kids?  Is there a curriculum that would be good?  A workbook series or set of prompts that would guide them through the basics of technical writing? A Kumon-style academy that does a particularly good job?  How did you learn how to write?

What kinds of exercise do people like?

#2 is going through a lot of situational depression right now (bad things keep happening, starting with her FIL’s death several months ago).  Back when she lived in a hellhole, one of the things that kept her sane (along with increased meds) was weekly horseback riding.  In graduate school, it was fencing.

Horseback riding is too expensive and doesn’t work with her work schedule now that she has a day job.  She had to fire her fencing master when she found out he voted for Trump and the other fencing options are too far away.

Paradise has every single kind of exercise in the world, but you have to know what you’re looking for to find it.  She hates sweating.  She hates exercise.  But she’s thinking about maybe looking into something else even though she hates exercise and she hates sweat (so do I!).   So I said I’d ask Grumpy Nation what’s out there.

So, don’t tell her what she should do or what she should try.  Yes, she knows that John Green started liking exercise after doing it a few months in a row (we’re both watching 100 days).  Don’t lecture her about exercise etc.  That’s not going to help.  [update:  And will be deleted.]

Instead, answer these:  What kinds of exercise do you enjoy or did you used to enjoy?  What kinds of exercise do you know that other people enjoy?  What kind of exercise would you like to try?  What’s out there?

For me, I like swimming and hiking.  I used to like field hockey and gymnastics.  My sister is into ballet and yoga and modern dance.  My mom loves kickboxing.  DH used to do fencing and kendo.  How about you?

What would your the bachelorette/bachelor season look like?

I’ve never watched the bachelor/ette franchise or really any reality shows, though I did enjoy the first season of a reality show spoof where everybody but one dude was an actor.  However, as you may know, I have really gotten into this bachelorette podcast.

From what I gather, at the start you have 25 members of the opposite sex vying for your attention.  I don’t think they get to pick the 25 guys, though they do get to send a certain number home each week.  Then each episode has two group dates and one one-on-one date.  Apparently one of the things bachelor/bachelorettes get to do is to choose kinds of dates to go on.  So if they like “manly men” this could include boxing and sumo wrestling and so on.

Watching guys beat each other up doesn’t sound very entertaining to me.

If you had 25 guys (and/or women) vying for your hand, what kinds of dates would you want to go on?  Keep in mind you choose group dates as well as individual.  There are also competitions and the person who wins the competition doesn’t get eliminated that week.

I would definitely want a cooking contest.  (A quick google shows they’ve done this for the Bachelor, but not for the Bachelorette.  Sexist.)  I might also want something where they have to work at a daycare or after school tutoring or something (not teaching sex ed though, as they did in one season of the Bachelorette).  Also maybe a housecleaning contest.  And volunteering at an animal shelter. Pretty sure those would make great tv, because hunky guys doing housework and volunteer work is hawt. Hunky men with kittens, no brainer.

Single dates could include the opera or bookstores or cheese tasting… all sorts of other things that are quiet and boring for TV.  Hm.  Gosh.  I’m not sure how I would want to spend one-on-one time with someone that would make for good tv.  Oh wait, this is a big tv franchise so I should think big.  Like, let’s go to La Scala.  Sight-seeing in London.  On a food tour of Italy.  Bread making in Germany.  Hiking in Muir Woods.  Behind the scenes at a Hank Green concert.

Also there’s a chance to meet celebrities. So like one time they had a stand-up comedy contest coached by Amy Schumer. So you could, for example, have an erotica writing contest judged by John Scalzi. Or Alton Brown could judge their cooking. Or you could have Adam Savage or Grant Imohara just a rube goldberg contest. Whoever you want to meet.

You can get publicity for your causes.

#1: Maybe we should have our bachelors come up with ways to make the public aware of violence against women
#2: Maybe we should have them come up with a way to STOP it. A true challenge.

Should I buy this?

Long-time readers may recall that one of us has PCOS (that would be me).

One of the lovely things that comes with PCOS is dark hair growing places women are not supposed to have hair.  In me, that results in sort of a Fu Manchu facial hair thing going if I don’t pay attention.

Lately my facial hair has started to become a huge hassle.  Even with my tweezerman I’m spending more and more time plucking and/or shaving.

I paid for professional laser treatment on my legs once but even though I paid in advance, when an appointment had to be rescheduled I just sort of didn’t finish going to my sessions.  My leg hair is a lot thinner than it was prior to treatment and during some follicle cycles I have kind of weird bald spots.  I’m sure I would have more of those bald spots if I had finished the treatments.

My skin, btw, is super pale and my unwanted hair is super dark, making me the perfect candidate for laser.

In the best of all possible worlds, I would do laser again, this time on my face and I would go to all the treatments and I would be happy.  I don’t trust myself to actually go to appointments.  I can’t even get my hair cut more than once a year (and then only if I have free time during business hours when I’m in Boston).

So I was watching a youtube video and the commercial suggested I get a Tria home hair removal laser machine.  They are $450, or IIRC, about the cost of two-four professional laser treatments (it takes about 6 treatments done with the right timing for permanent hair removal).

$450 is a lot.  We will have money leftover from our year in Paradise and other expenses.  So we can afford it.  But should we?

It’s got 4 amazon stars on average, with 45% giving 5 star and 23% giving 1 star.

So… what should I do?  Buy this?  Laser?  Electrolysis?  Nothing?

This totally came without attribution from some random pinterest page. I don't know where it originally came from!

What would you do to avoid [the above] beard?

How do you watch videos?

Netflix?  Amazon?  Hulu?  CBS?  TV?  Redbox?  Youtube? Your local library?  Cable?

Do you use your mobile or laptop or tablet or full-screen projector or giant tv?

These days I’m mostly entirely watching 4 min Youtube videos on the ipad.  The kids watch 20 min videos on the ipad or with the full-screen projector from Amazon and Netflix.  In paradise they get dvds from the library once a week but once we get back home we’ll probably start using our netflix subscription again.  Ah paradise, we will miss you.

#2 uses her computer and a large screen tv.  Old school cable, baby.

What should we listen to during a long upcoming road trip?

So far our best listening experience has been To Say Nothing of the Dog.  It’s unlikely we’ll find something else as amazing as that.  We also enjoy Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and The Splendid Table, but in short doses.  DH listened to Lincoln: Team of Rivals during one trip, but I found it mildly annoying.  DC1 liked Alcatraz books by Brandon Sanderson, and they’re ok, but not that compelling.  The first Iron Druid was pretty interesting, but they’re getting too dark for me and also there’s way too much sex for comfortable listening with the kids in the back.

Rules:

  1. It doesn’t have to be interesting to children, but it does have to be appropriate for children listening (age 4 and age 9).
  2. We don’t really want tragedy or senseless violence etc.  Something upbeat or uplifting or funny would be better.

Any recommendations?  What do you listen to on long drives?

We got iphones, now what?

[Scroll down to the bottom for ask the readers question in bold and italics]

DH finally got DC1 signed up for piano, so the next thing on his list was  smart phones.  He presented me with a bunch of choices and after some discussion and a lot more waiting I chose the following somewhat randomly:

Carrier:  Ting* using the Sprint network.

Phone:  Iphone 6.  (Not 6s, not 6 plus, not 6s plus).   Purchased, not rented.

Memory:  64 mb.

Protection:  iPhone 6 Case, Spigen [HEAVY DUTY] Tough Armor Case for iPhone 6 (4.7-Inch) – Gunmetal (SGP11022)

iPhone 6s Screen Protector, JETech® 2-Pack Premium Tempered Glass Screen Protector Film for Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s Newest Model 4.7

24 month applecare plan

If you want more deets on the decision-process, here’s what DH presented me with:

Summary: Ting could be $53/month on the 3rd/4th-best network. Or Verizon could be $70-$85/month for the best network.  Plus taxes on each.  Each iPhone 6s (not the Plus-size) will cost $650 (+ $100 for 64Gb) .  Still to consider: cases and insurance.

Current network performance: http://www.rootmetrics.com/us/rsr/united-states/2015/1H

In general, Verizon is best, followed by AT&T.  Sprint and T-Mobile are 3rd/4th, with Sprint having more coverage and with better calls, and T-Mobile being faster.

I’m only looking at carriers that take the iPhone, so Republic Wireless is out.

These prices do not include taxes and fees.  Ordered by http://cell-phone-providers-review.toptenreviews.com/
Verizon is $70/month for 2 lines with 1GB shared, $85/month with 3GB shared, or $100/month with 6GB shared. http://www.verizonwireless.com/landingpages/verizon-plan/

T-Mobile: 2 lines are $80/month with 1GB each, $100/month with 3GB each, $120/month 5GB each, or $140/month for “unlimited” data each. http://www.t-mobile.com/cell-phone-plans/family.html

Sprint: $105/month for 2 lines with 2GB shared, $120/month with 4GB shared.  https://www.sprint.com/shop/plan-wall/#!/

AT&T: $80/month for 2 lines with 2GB shared, $100/month with 5GB shared. https://www.att.com/shop/wireless/data-plans.html

Cricket Wireless: $70/month (taxes and fees included) for 2 lines with 2.5GB each.  Uses AT&T’s network.  https://www.cricketwireless.com/cell-phone-planshttps://www.cricketwireless.com/5for100

Ting: $53/month for 2 lines with 2GB shared, $83 for 2 lines with 4GB shared.  Ting uses either of the T-Mobile or Sprint networks, depending on the phone.

Consumer Cellular: $70/month for 2 lines with 4GB shared, up to 750 minutes of talk. Uses AT&T’s network.

Boost Mobile: $60/month for 2 lines with 2GB each.  I can’t figure out if this also has a per-line charge.  Uses Sprint’s network.

MetroPCS does not support iPhones.

Average data usage is 1.8GB per month, mostly video, according to http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/01/24/the-average-american-uses-this-much-wireless-data.aspx

Looking at IPhone models, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_iOS_devices#iPhone
We have to get at least a 4S for iOS 9, and a 5+ will be significantly faster. The more recent the model, the more data bands it can use, so the better data signal it will get. More recent models also get better wifi connectability. Also, the more recent the base model (4/5/6), the larger the phone.
The 6 has a better camera, and the 6S is better yet again.le’s 24-month plan because it includes accidental damage insurance. http://www.theverge.com/2015/9/9/9277775/new-apple-iphone-6s-price-cost-carriers
We can get (assuming minimum Gb): a refurbished 5 or 5c from Ting for $277;
5S from Apple for $500, or refurbished from Ting for $383;
6 from Apple for $550;
6 Plus (almost 1″ longer diagonal) from Apple for $650;
6s from Apple for $650;
6s Plus (almost 1″ longer diagonal) from Apple for $750.

*This link is a referral code.  I can’t actually recommend Ting yet because I haven’t really used it, but, “Refer a friend to Ting by offering $25 off a device or $25 in Ting credit. You get $50 for your first successful referral and $25 for each one after that,” means that if you were going to get Ting anyway, here’s $25 off for you (and money for us too).  I will say their customer service has been good so far.

Now what? What apps should I get (if any?)? What should I avoid? What’s been life-saving? What’s been horrific?