Ask the readers: How can a student remember to turn in hir completed homework?

We’ve tried a bunch of things so far, even talking to one of the teachers, but DC1 cannot always remember to turn in hir homework.  Homework has different deadlines for different classes– math, for example, unlike previous math classes, only wants one big homework packet on the day of the exam.  English has daily bellwork that is only due on Fridays.  Biology is due randomly.  And so on.

DC1 is oblivious to the teacher reminding in class and to other kids putting homework in homework baskets. Things came to a head last week when we got an auto-notification that DC1 had gotten zeroes on three (completed) assignments (two major, one minor) on the same day.  Zie had just not turned them in.  Of course, one of these classes was English, and for the same not turning bellwork in on Friday as has happened before that we literally discussed with hir about this exact assignment this past week.  The other two classes are ones where zie does not have a whole lot of wiggle room, including a math packet on exam day.  This is the second time DC1 has failed to turn in a completed math packet on exam day.  None of these teachers accept late work.

Keeping an assignment notebook hasn’t worked.  Punching holes into papers and putting them in a 3 ring binder hasn’t worked.  Having a folder for random papers hasn’t worked.  For a while there I was going through papers with DC1 every night but got sick of it, and DH said he’d take over and he did for a few days but then he stopped.

The current thing we’re trying is to take a page from DC2’s elementary school.  I have repurposed one of DC2’s old homework folders.  DC1 is going to cross out hir younger sibling’s name and put HOMEWORK FOLDER on it in sharpie.  And it is only going to have homework that is due in it.  And then maybe if it still has stuff in it at the end of the day, zie can run and try to turn it in before getting on the bus?  Of course, this still requires going through those damn papers every night and making sure they get filed instead of just stuffing them in hir backpack in a crumpled mess.  I suspect any system would work if zie would just go through things without a parent assisting.

One of my friends complains that her kid doesn’t do the homework, or forgets about it and does it at the last minute.  But her kid turns things in!  And a 70 or 80% is better than a 0%!  Our kid remembers assignments, does the homework, and then just… never turns them in.  It has been happening all year, and we’re at a complete loss.

Any suggestions?

Honors English and ponderings about the importance of AP tests

At the beginning of the year, DC1 was signed up for all the hardest classes zie could be signed up for as a Freshman.  AP World History instead of Human Geography.  Algebra II pre-AP honors.  Biology pre-AP honors.  JV Orchestra.  Honors Computer Programming… And Pre-AP honors English.

This English class quickly had a detrimental effect on our entire family.  After four years of zero homework (other than the Year of Crafts) and taking half a year to read a simple YA novel in middle-school English, zie was suddenly getting nightly essays, heavy reading assignments, and lots of things zie had never been trained how to do.  Instructions were vague and confusing.  Grades were low and seemed capricious.  English was taking all of DC1’s time and all of our time too trying to figure out what the teacher wanted.  (This is in heavy contrast to AP History in which the teacher is scaffolding essays and giving clear instructions about what she is looking for in every assignment– there’s a lot of work but it doesn’t seem so random.)  One of my work friends had a kid in AP English I with the same teacher the previous year and said it never got any better in terms of time, though hir kid did eventually figure out how to earn As in the class.  She spent all last year complaining about the class and is not really sure what was gotten out of it (other than the ability to do assignments quickly at the last minute and to use tiny words and very simple sentences so as not to get points taken off for spelling/grammar/usage).  So it’s not DC1!

The final straw was an essay on why DC1 wanted to take English Pre-AP.   What zie came up with was that zie wanted to get into a good college and taking an AP English class and getting a high grade on the AP English tests would help.  And… as an educator, I kind of think that’s a piss-poor reason to be spending all this time in such a terrible class.  In fact, if it lowers DC1’s grades in other classes more related to hir interests, or keeps hir from inventing something or exploring extra-curriculars or even just getting enough sleep, then it might hinder DC1 from getting into a good college.

So, we found out that there was a second level of English class that is still honors English, so still on the 5 point scale.  Sadly, it had had fewer assignments and they had all been easy 100s (ex. sign up for turnitin.com), but DC1’s low grades transferred over instead of allowing hir to do those assignments for credit, AND the weighting was different so DC1’s grades dropped even lower. But it’s been slowly moving up, though not to an A.  This English class also seems to be equally capricious on subjective things and there have been several quiz questions in which DC1 picked the correct multiple choice or T/F question but the teacher said it was incorrect even when DC1 backed it up hir answer with textual evidence.  So DC1 is still getting a B, though the B is now higher than it was in the previous class (and hir grade is literally 10 percentage points higher than the class average, which is a C).  I have resigned myself to the more and more likely possibility of not having to pay for MIT or Harvey Mudd.  DH’s alma mater and my sister’s alma mater both have very good computer science/engineering programs and if DC1 keeps up As in all hir other classes, never getting an A in English might still be ok.

Although the grading is still capricious, the instruction is much better.  They’re taught things before they’re asked to do them in an assignment.  They spend a week on things that the other class would do in a day before moving on to something completely different, so there’s time to review and reflect and apply feedback.  There’s also more choice in assignments and MUCH more literature written by people who aren’t dead white dudes, and the literature for the non-pre-AP class has been updated since 1970 (I’m looking at you A Separate Peace).  They’re still cramming what seems like all of Midwestern 7th and 8th grade English into a single semester along with Freshman English (minus the two Shakespeare plays– they only do Romeo and Juliet this year, which we also did as Freshmen), but it’s not at quite such an insane pace.

My friend says English Pre-AP II is almost but not quite as bad as I, so we’re not sure if we’re going to have DC1 switch back in the future.  Non-Pre-AP English II sounds pretty good– they do a big section on modern World Literature that I think could broaden DC1’s horizons a lot.  It is true that getting 3s or higher on the English AP exams would allow DC1 to waive English requirements if zie went to a state school, but they’re pretty useless most of the places zie is looking at applying.  Or if they are useful, zie would need 5s for them to help at all.  I did take one of the AP English exams despite not having AP English (it was an accident– I’d meant to cancel the exam for a refund but somehow didn’t when I cancelled the other AP tests that the college I was going to didn’t accept), and somehow managed to get a 4 even though I guessed most of the multiple choice answers since they were full of terminology I had never heard before in my life.  (This is what I was supposed to be learning all those years, I thought.)

In the mean time, we will keep trusting the AP history classes to teach DC1 how to write.  We’ve heard amazing things about AP US History which zie will be taking next year.  I have to say, I learned a lot more about how to write clear and concise essays in my history classes than I ever did in an English class.  Probably because I never had a deconstructionist history teacher.

Did you take AP exams?  Do you think they’re useful?

Ask the grumpies: Do you ration Halloween candy or do you let your kids eat as much as they want all at once?

Melva asks:

For Halloween candy, do you let your kids eat as much as they want or do you put limits on how much they can eat at a time?

My colleagues and I were just discussing this before a meeting earlier this week.  The answers ranged from one person only allowing hir kids to have one piece a day and a couple of us (including me) without any rules on how much can be consumed Halloween night.

The conversation included whether it was better to have a little sugar every day for most of the year or to have a couple/few heavy sugary days and then have entirely candy-free days (we’re social scientists, not nutritionists, so this was solely speculative).  Candy quality over time was also discussed.  But the main argument seemed to be that if you let kids eat as much candy as they want, they’ll get sick.

To which I replied, quite truthfully, “Oh, that only happens once.”

Which I guess illustrates how DH and I are very much natural consequences parents.  It’s not like we didn’t tell them that too much candy will give them a tummy ache, but sometimes one doesn’t know what too much is until one has experienced it.  (My learning experience was Easter, First Grade, in case you’re wondering.)

We don’t buy any candy other than extra super dark chocolate that’s mine and they have to ask permission to have, so the only way they get candy is via Halloween, Christmas, Easter, and what they spend their own money on (also the occasional school/party treat and the weekly dumdum from the piano teacher).  They almost never spend their own money on candy (though that’s where all my money went when I was growing up).  So unless they decide to ration out holiday candy themselves, most days will be candy-free.

There are rules on *when* candy can be consumed in my house, but not how much. They can generally only eat it after meals, mostly after dinner.  That’s because they’re still growing and allowing natural consequences doesn’t extend to missing important vitamins that could contribute to their growth because they’re overfull on sugar.

Is this the right thing to do?  Who knows.  It’s the lazy thing to do, which basically means it’s what works for us.  (We also let our kids nap whenever they were sleepy, while the one piece a day colleague had rigid nap schedules– I don’t think it actually matters.)  Last night our kids only ate a few pieces right after they got back, then noted they were full and put their remaining candy back in their bags.  I would like to say they then moved their bags to the kitchen pantry to their candy shelf, but in truth they left them on the dining room floor.  (Because all their bad habits come from me and I leave my bag on the floor whenever I’m not using it.)

Did you have rules growing up about how much Halloween candy you could eat at a time?  If applicable, do you have rules for your kids?

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.

Simple meals for kids to cook

We feel like it is important for our kids to be able to cook a few meals on their own before they leave our house for good.  Ideally they will also know how to follow a cookbook, but being able to do a few simple meals from scratch (or with a box) without needing access to the internet or an actual cookbook is a helpful skill that should be useful in all sorts of situations.

What are some of these meals they can and should be able to do?

Our kids can both do:
1. scrambled eggs
2. quesadillas/tacos
3. grilled cheese
4. macaroni and cheese from a box with tuna and peas
5. cold cereal
6. salad

I really ought to teach them how to do spaghetti with meat sauce and onions sometime soon.  If either of them liked chili, that would also be on my list.

My memorized repertoire when I left home also included (along with all of the above): fry-ups, swiss steak, chicken cacciatore, salad dressing baked chicken, and leek and potato soup.  I could also do random things with lipton onions soup packets and cans of various campbells soups.  I haven’t made most of these in years either because they’re not healthy with my PCOS or because the children aren’t crazy about them.

DC1 has been preferring to make desserts from cookbooks.  Along with that, most kids seem to like making cookies.  Although I have some desserts memorized (ex. dump cake), I don’t really have any worth making memorized, so we use recipes.

What simple meals did you make as a kid?  What do your kids make, if applicable?  What other meals do you recommend kids learn how to do before they leave home?

 

RBOC

  • This summer has not been great for a number of reasons, which has led to increased anxiety.
  • My anxiety has started affecting my teeth!  For the first time I’m showing evidence of grinding!
  • DC1 is in an AP class this year, but cannot sign up for an online account which is required for class because zie is 12 years old and the FTCs COPPA rule prohibits them from collecting information.  (If you’re in this situation, this FAQ says what to do:  https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/join-your-class-online. This is incorrect, as we found out.)  This whole AP class as a freshman thing is bizarre to me– in my day you did no AP courses until junior and senior year and then you drowned in testing.  So… maybe this is better.
  • After being told that DC1 is 12 (because we needed the form), DC1’s AP teacher cornered hir in the hallway and asked if zie was absolutely sure zie was ready for an AP class.  It being only the second day of class, DC1 did not know what to say.
  • The AP director called the College Board and they said that FAQ was incorrect and we have to call to get the form.  Which… they could have sent to us when we called to ask why DC1 couldn’t register(!)  SIGH.
  • After being put on hold 6 or 7 times, they said they would email the form to us in 2-3 days.  I suspect they do not know where said form is.  We have a case number in case we need to call day 3 to ask where the form is.
  • We did have to call on day 5 to ask.  It came on day 6.  Then we got an incomprehensible email response after we sent the form in and after not getting clarification when we questioned, we ended up having to call again.  Now we are on day 7 of the 7 days that we were supposed to wait before calling about the account not actually being created.
  • the account was not created in day 7 and now we have a new case number to check on the account creation case.
  • There are 42 students in DC1’s Algebra II class.  That seems like a lot.
  • There are 18 students in DC2’s third grade dual language section.  That seems like not many!  Last year there were 21 in hir first grade section which seems more normal.  I guess more dual language kids move out of district than move in (generally only Spanish-speakers can move into dual language)?  Or maybe there are demographic differences by year in the number of Spanish-speaking kids in the district (which determines how many sections of dual language there are).  DC2 says there are two new kids in hir class besides hir, which is nice so that zie isn’t the only one.
  • DC1 has been watching an old Standard Deviants Spanish dvd, and it has a very young Kerry Washington in it!