In which we are not hired as writers of small talk

#1:  here is a note to the universe: don’t ask me how wedding planning is coming. I realize you’re trying to make small talk, but it’s boring to me and it’s even my own wedding. Also? Not a lot has happened since we last had this conversation 2-3 weeks ago. Meh.

#2:  oh, I forgot to ask
how is your wedding planning coming?

#1:  rrrr

#2:  (except I know– you have a venue and you have a date to look for dresses)

#1:  rrrrrright

#2:  If things were going poorly, I’m sure you could use the question as an excuse to vent. so the fact that you find such questions dull is a good thing!

Maybe you could respond that wedding planning is dull, but do you know how big a toddler’s poop can get? (as big as an adult’s, according to [redacted] and my own recent personal experience with toddler poop)

#1: hahahah
I can talk about horse poop….

#2:  I bet horse poop is more interesting than toddler poop
but not as interesting as owl poop
owl poop is the best
well, owl pellets are the best

#1:  yes, that is owl barf

#2:  which is sort of like poop
but you know, different

#1:  owl barf is fascinating

#2:  it serves a similar purpose to poop without actually being poop

#1:  “ugghhh, I ate too much bones.”

#2:  but the actual response is probably, “It’s going fine. Nothing exciting happening, which is a good thing. How’s that toddler of yours?”
“Any interesting poops lately?”
“I hear that toddler poo is just fascinating.”
“mmm hmm.”
“Is that so?”
“riveting”

#1:  have you ever compared toddler poop and horse poop? how do you feel about owls? we should be hired as small talk writers
Here’s my answer: the toddler grows up, and the horse needs its poop picked up for life

#2:  horse poop probably smells better

#1:  quite possibly. They’re all vegetarians.

#2:  do vegetarians have better smelling poop?

#1:  I’m not sure. But at least you can get used to the smell of horses — they eat only a few things, all horses all the time, eat the same few things.

What are your deep thoughts on poop?  (Also, I know I should have put a poo-related pun there instead of “deep”… any suggestions?  pressing thoughts?)

Ask the grumpies: Best school environments for gifted children?

Sarah asks:

What does the research say about the best school environment for gifted children?  We are looking at kindergarten options for the 2015-2016 school year for our child and I cannot find any conclusive research about what would be best for him – we feel paralyzed.

Back story: At 4.5 our child tested at a highly gifted level in math (~4th grade level) and simply above average in reading kindergarten-1st grade level).  He responds the best in the classroom setting when there is structure and order, but needs to be constantly challenged, otherwise there are some minor behavioral issues.   We have the ability and time to supplement at home, but our preference is to minimize that in order to allow him as much time to be a kid. The three options are all public schools and within the same district:

1. Skip kindergarten and send him directly into 1st grade at a solid school.  This school also has a system of individual differentiation that allows children to “walk” up grade levels for specific subjects; up to two grade levels ahead, I believe.  This is the only chance we have within the district to skip a grade, so it is now or never.

2. Attend the excellent “gifted” school.  This school doesn’t cater to gifted children specifically, but rather works at an advanced pace, ~ 1.5 years ahead.  The class moves together as a cohort, with some differentiation within that specific class, mostly in reading.  My impression is that  the school benefits bright children, but that outliers get left behind – my child being an outlier in both reading (low end) and math (high end).

3. Start kindergarten at a solid school that specializes in math and science. This school has one of the better math programs in the district and does a decent job allowing for differentiation within the classroom.

The district makes it incredibly difficult for children to change schools once they commit in kindergarten, so the pressure is on to make the right decision the first time

This one is easy… from a research perspective.  A Nation Deceived (soon to be updated with A Nation Empowered!) talks about the research base for the different options.  Also the Iowa Acceleration Scale that you can take discusses things that make acceleration a better or worse option (parents caring about sports being a big negative, for example).  (This post talks about my favorite books from the endless # I read when we were originally facing these problems: https://nicoleandmaggie.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/reading-books-on-giftedness/ )

From a practical perspective, not as simple.

IIRC, research would say that a gifted school with like-ability peers is best for the average gifted kid, followed by acceleration and/or single-subject acceleration, followed by I think differentiation and then pull-out.  But that’s on average.  Individual situations are rarely average.

What we’ve been doing is we’ve been looking at all of our options and making decisions on things like teacher quality, how well the schools understand basic concepts of gifted education/are willing to work with people, etc.  Teacher quality and administration with a positive attitude can be far more important than school type.

If you haven’t visited these three schools, visit them.  Ask them what they would do for your son in his situation.  Ask them what they do when children have already mastered the material.  Ask them how they handle squiggly kids.  Ask them any and all of your concerns and listen to not just their specific answers, but how they deal with the questions.  Do you feel that these are people you could work with if you needed to?

Also, as you’ve done, think about ability to make changes if you decide your decision was the wrong one.  Even if you can’t change schools easily, you can undo acceleration if necessary.

Honestly, all your choices sound like promising choices on the surface.  One full skip plus individual subject skipping is great.  Gifted schools can be great (and a gifted public boarding school could be a really great choice a decade from now, or one of the fantastic magnets in your city).  Math and science schools can also be good targets for gifted kids both because of their focus and because they often attract like-minded kids.

But the devil is in the details– how good are the teachers, how accommodating is the administration?  For example, our local math and science charter has enormous K-3 classes… it does not give a good education for those years.  Some gifted schools really just function to be white oases in minority-majority cities and thus get heavily watered down and end up not serving gifted kids at all; others are. as you note, more inflexible with outliers than non-gifted options.  Being accelerated has benefits (academically and socially), but there’s something amazing about being able to be with other gifted kids your own age if your city has a large enough population to support that.

I will note that a lot of kids will not be reading at all in kindergarten and will not be at quite 1st grade level in first.  Unless you suspect a learning disability (which I wouldn’t at this point, but I’m not an expert), then I would guess that that reading ability is going to shoot up over the course of the next year.  I strongly recommending getting a pile of Cam Jansens (possibly a few Nate the Greats and similar books– the librarian can help you) and as many Magic Treehouse books as you can get your hands on soon after.  Non-fiction books are also really popular at this age (Magic School bus is a good series, but really anything by Scholastic at this reading level is fascinating depending on the kids’ interest.  Dinosaurs?  Planets?).  Reading for fun is still being a kid!  So I wouldn’t be too worried at this point about the difference between math and reading skills– the reading will really just skyrocket once your kid finds something worth reading.

With luck, all of these will be as wonderful choices in reality as they sound and it will be impossible to make a bad decision.  If it were my kid (or if your kid were my kid…), I wouldn’t be able to decide based on these descriptions and DH and I would visit and go with our gut instinct.

Good luck!

Grumpy Nation:  What are your thoughts?  For those of you with choices, how did you make schooling decisions for your kids?

Adventures in ending cosleeping: Part 2: The DC2ening

It is amazing how different our kids are sometimes.

We’ve ended cosleeping with DC2 a bit earlier than with DC1, mainly because DC2 is bigger so we’ve run out of room earlier.

Here’s what we did with DC2:  Several weeks before ending cosleeping (which we planned to try over winter break), we turned the nursery (adjoining our master bedroom) back into an office and turned the office (near DC1’s room) into DC2’s room, complete with bed (though right now we’re just using the mattress because we don’t have bedrails and DC2 tends to roll off).  We talked up about how this was DC2’s room and DC2 would get to sleep in it.  DC2 didn’t bite right away.  There was some giggly pretending to sleep in hir bed or in DC1’s bed, but never for long.

During this time, we also started enforcing a bedtime routine.  Snack, bath, teeth brushing, some play time, two books, lights out.  Walking or nursing to sleep if ze asked for it, but not encouraged.  A complete nix on hir attempts to stay up later by asking for 2nd or 3rd snack (which would be demanded, but uneaten, and followed by tearful 2nd and/or 3rd teeth brushing) after lights out.

Then we visited relatives over Christmas.  When we came back we decided it was time to try out the bed.

And DC2 was totally on board with it.  First night, after plugging the nightlight back in, we did the routine, put hir in hir bed, and ze fell asleep with DH beside hir.  Second night, ze snuggled right down while I read hir two books and wasn’t yet asleep when I turned out the lights and left, but then fell asleep.  No effort at all for this part, unlike the week of Super-Nanny technique we used with DC1.

HOWEVER, unlike DC1, DC2 doesn’t sleep the entire night.  Getting DC1 to bed in the first place was the hard part, but after that we were fine until morning.  DC2 has nightmares (DC1 had night terrors, but they were mostly over by age 2).  DC2 gets thirsty.  DC2 wakes up screaming regularly at 2am and at 5am.  When ze is cosleeping, this isn’t that big a deal because one of us will hand over the water bottle or explain that it’s all just a dream and mommy and daddy are here and 5 min later everyone is back asleep.  We can do the same thing without cosleeping, but it involves a long cold walk to the other side of the house.

The water thing is easily solvable– there’s no reason DC2 can’t get hir own water.  But we’re not so sure what to do about the nightmares.  Maybe the new daycare will decrease hir anxiety about people taking hir stuff…[Update:  ze has learned how to come back to our bed at 5am… this is infinitely preferable.  The 2am waking time has been jumping around… that part is not so good.]

Anyway, we still subscribe to the Grumpy Rumblings do whatever is easiest (so long as it isn’t actually harmful) philosophy of how to raise your kids.

I doubt this post will generate the 68 comments that our first post on ending co-sleeping did (Is baby sleeping still one of those topics that generates huge wars?), but feel free to chime in!  I can’t think of any good questions though…

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 36 Comments »

Updates

Because everybody cares about my life as much as I do.  (Not really!)

Daycare:

After one week at the new daycare, DC2 decided ze loved it.  Ze proudly proclaimed that ze had friends and named some.  Dropping off only took a little lingering.  After two weeks, ze stopped having nightmares.  Dropoffs became, “Yeah mom, bye, whatever” (though more in body language than words) and instead of clinging and crying ze complained about getting hugged if my coat was wet from rain.  Ze informed us that ze loves hir teachers.  Every day when we pick hir up ze says, “I had a good day.”  Since starting, hir eczema has also been entirely gone, which makes me suspect that they’re a lot better about making sure that ze doesn’t accidentally eat wheat.  Either that or there’s some topical allergen ze isn’t being exposed to in the new place (that just happened to not always be present at the old place).

High quality daycare is amazing and awesome.  What a difference!  I am a bit worried about next year though… I feel like we haven’t quite been fair with DC2 compared to DC1 who never had to experience a bad schooling experience.

Nice kitty who sometimes pees on cloth:

So far we’ve tried having 4 litterboxes for 2 kittens (6 litterboxes for 3 cats, but the other two are in the utility room instead of the master bathroom the kittens use as home base).  One covered litterbox (formerly 2 covered litterboxes), 3 uncovered.  3 with standard litter, 1 with special pine litter.  Different depths of litter.  Scooped every single night whether they need it or not.

They stay in the master bathroom (~100 sq feet, lots of windows, cupboards, scratching posts, a cat house, etc.) overnight until the late afternoon.  This keeps our older kitty from feeling overwhelmed and has allowed us to minimize pee damage.  They’re used to it and willingly go back to their home-base at night when it’s time to go.  If we let them out earlier they often just stay in the room.

We’ve tried not leaving cloth out, for example, putting our bedsheets away before letting the kittens out.

We’ve tried litter retraining (not letting the kittens out of the master bathroom while we’re out of town for a few days).

All of these have worked to decrease the amount of peeing on things, but none eliminated it.

The most recent thing that we still have our fingers crossed for was Prozac.  Nice kitty did not like being pilled at all, and while on Prozac she would hide from us and mostly stay under our bed or in the master bath during their family time.  The vet said to try it for two weeks.  During those two weeks she didn’t pee on anything (other than the litter, presumably), even though it seemed to make her more anxious rather than less anxious!

After the two weeks, we stopped the Prozac, because nice kitty really hated being pilled, and the vet said it was possible that even after stopping Prozac after the two weeks her peeing on cloth habit might also be gone.  So far so good.  But we keep waiting to find something peed on.

So those are my updates.  Fun times.

Ponderings on college costs

We have saved $74,000 for DC1’s college so far.  That’s $500/mo for 8 years in a Utah Vanguard 529 account.

Is it enough?

I don’t know.

This basic calculator says we need to increase our contributions another $470/month if we want to pay full tuition for both kids at a four-year private school.

Will we need to pay the full amount for school, or will we be eligible for financial aid in 9 years (give or take)?

I don’t know.

Whether or not we have to save more for say, Harvard (easy-to-use calculator) depends a lot on assumptions– (using this year’s numbers and pretending inflation cancels out) DH loses his job, we’re eligible for mondo financial aid.  We get a combined raise of 40K (not that that’s going to happen given my salary hasn’t been matching inflation, but DH does work in tech!), we lose any eligibility.  I haven’t figured out how they treat retirement funds– if we include them as savings, we’re not eligible, if we exclude them we’re quite eligible.  Oh, and don’t leave 50K in your savings account when it can be hidden away elsewhere.

MIT (ironically painful to use calculator) says no financial aid at all unless DH loses his job.  Financial aid is pretty good on just my income alone.

I want to throw in an elite SLAC or two there, but I think it’s safe to assume they’re probably between Harvard (known for being giving at relatively high levels of income/savings) and MIT (known for its stinginess) in generosity and costs.  (Actually, I checked Wellesley from a Phil Levine link and it says we get no aid based on annual income alone, similar to MIT.)

74K is already more than ze would need to go to the state school I teach at.  But I know what it’s like here, and ze won’t be going.

Btw, in terms of the cost of education inflation, my underlying assumption is that tuition costs will rise about the same rate as the stock market, but more than inflation.  So if I had my eye on a local state college for DC1, I should stop now.  If I have my eye on private school, then we should probably increase our contributions each year along with our salary increases (if any…) to match inflation.  But who knows.

I guess we’re just going to keep on doing what we’ve been doing.  Even if it’s not enough.  Even if it might be too much.  Because I don’t know what else to do.  And it’s not that painful, really,  because we’ve been doing it for so long and it’s automated so we don’t even notice it.

Update:  related:  Another blogger looks at Stanford costs.  Almost everyone we know who went to Stanford is now a multi-millionaire (the one exception being our classmate who is now an international bum after getting an engineering PhD at an absurdly young age and burning out).  Oh, and one of us knows a guy who decided to get an English PhD after Stanford.  He’s also not a millionaire, to our knowledge.

[tiny rant warning]

I also have a serious problem feeling sorry for people like us [in the over 100K/under obviously-rich range] who complain about not getting financial aid at elite schools, as in this Tenured Radical post.  If your family makes a lot of money, even if it’s not Obama definitions of rich, you can still start early and save.  And there’s still plenty of places to hide money in order to keep eligibility at most private schools at those income levels (ex. retirement and your mortgage, also you may time your car replacement to decrease your cash savings).  This acting like you shouldn’t have to pay large amounts of money as if you didn’t know college was coming and so it’s all coming out of your annual paycheck is ridiculous.  And even if it *is* coming out of your annual paycheck, you’re still doing better than well over 75% of Americans.

In other words, I have trouble feeling sorry for the top 10% even if I’m one of them.  Even if things aren’t anywhere near as nice for us as they are for the top 1% or top 0.01%.  Even if I think that the government should subsidize public education more.  I still don’t see that as something that people like me need (except, of course, as a state university employee where I worry about the long-term viability of my employer, but you know, as a parent I’m doing fine).  It’s the other 90% that I care about.

[/end rant]

How do you decide how much to save for your kids’ college?  Do you feel sorry for the upper-middle class who might have to pay full-freight for their kids’ school, even though their ability to spend will still be pretty darn high?

Do you feel any pressure to be a “super mom”?

whatever that is

I don’t.  The only time I even come across this concept is when I accidentally click on the NYTimes or spend too much time on blogrolls full of professional mommy-bloggers making their money pretending to be SAHM.  (Oops, hear that sound?  that’s the sound of us losing readership because we’re terrible horrible people who could never make it on BlogHer. Whoops!)

From what I can tell it has something to do with being Martha Stewart + Sheryl Sandberg put together.  Not 100% sure there.  And not having an equal partner in parenting and taking care of the homestead, despite living with an adult husband.  Having a sparkly clean house definitely fits in there as a measure as your worth as a person.  Thank goodness nobody I know IRL ever talks about that kind of thing.  We would have to get a house-cleaner or something.

Maybe this is why people get weird about how much responsibility we’ve piled on our elementary schooler.  Maybe I’m supposed to be taking care of all that stuff under the super-mom rubric.  Meh.

This is kind of like that post where we asked if baking was a *thing* in reality or just on the internet.

I was flipping through mommy blogs recently and felt like I’d seen every single topic before and had already posted a reaction post, like 2-4 years ago.  Some of my reaction posts though aren’t very polite to post on people’s sites who are clearly hurting because the patriarchy is making them believe stupid things.  Still, I kind of wish I could.  WTF is up with people’s entire feelings of value and worth being wrapped up in whether or not their house is clean?  Oh wait, we already asked that two years ago.  Oh and Choice feminism, we’ve addressed you (we’re pro-, but not for the standard, why can’t we all get along reasons).  Women feeling like they have to say they’re not perfect, check.  Why we can thank our mothers for not feeling guilty for working…  And what is UP with all that guilt in parenting nonsense in the first place?  If you believe the internet, all women hate each other, are neurotic about the state of their houses, and are wracked with extreme guilt about their parenting choices (or are super defensive about not being parents).  That just doesn’t mesh with our reality AT ALL.  The internet is a super weird place.

Am I just oblivious and is this super-mom pressure really a thing?  Or is it yet another way the patriarchy introduces anxieties to women in order to make money off them?

December Mortgage Update: And money and school zones

Last month (November):
Balance:$37,254.58
Years left: 2.75
P =$1,054.86, I =$159.55, Escrow =$788.73

This month (December):
Balance:$34,190.77
Years left: 2.5
P =$1,066.94, I =$147.47, Escrow =$788.73

One month’s prepayment savings: $7.90

DC1 currently goes to private school.  Ze goes to private school because ze needed to start K early and the public schools wouldn’t talk to us about that.

The public schools have now changed their tune.  They have a district webpage on how to start K early, how to skip individual classes, and how to skip grades.  They note that enough people have taken these options that they now offer 7th grade algebra and 8th grade geometry at the middle schools.

At the same time, while we’ve been living in this transition neighborhood (the last frontier not changed into student housing, though I’m fairly sure there’s a houseful on our block), our school zones have changed twice.  And each time they’ve gotten worse.  We are now in the worst elementary school zone, and the “athletic” middle school.  Note that neither of these schools are the closest to our house… no, we’re the “rich” neighborhood that gets moved every 5 years to even out the “poor” districts, instead of the actually rich neighborhoods that never get touched.

If DC2 doesn’t need acceleration, then we have a chance at lotterying into a bilingual program at one of the better elementary schools.  That still wouldn’t have been enough for DC1 (and hasn’t been enough acceleration for some of our collegues’ kids, though it did work out until said kids became fluent in Spanish, at which point the lessons became much too slow).  Of course, DC2 has been, if anything, hitting milestones earlier.  Hir birthdate means that maybe only one year of acceleration would be needed instead of two (ze just makes rather than misses a cutoff), but that’s still one year too many to be eligible for the bilingual program even if ze did get in.

So that leaves us with choices.  1.  We could move before DC2 needs to start kindergarten, which could happen sooner than we think.  If we’re going to do this, it might make sense to sell the house before sabbatical/unpaid leave so we don’t have to deal with renters, just storage.  (Untold moving costs, though we’d probably buy a smaller house if we bought again, but I’d probably also get a longer commute which would suck.)  2.  We could send DC2 to the same private school that DC1 goes to ($9K/year).  3.  We could not try to accelerate and see what happens with the bilingual program lottery.  (Free, except in potential future therapy bills)  4.  We could accelerate as fast as possible through the elementary school and just cope and deal. (Free, except in time spent in conferences with the school.)  We could also rent an apartment in a better school zone, but the quality differential isn’t enough for that to be a feasible option like it might be in a large city– none of the elementary schools are all that great.

And who knows, the school zones might change again.

I’m guessing we’ll probably just stick with the same private school if it’s still in business.  Who knows.

Why is this all so hard?

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