Facts and Opinions are not the same thing: Part 2

Part one from five years ago at the private school where they do not teach untruths about the civil war but still do not understand the difference between objective statements and opinions.

As promised, DC1 ended the semester being tested on the idea that the cause of the civil war was not reaaaaalllly slavery, but state rights.

I read out the reasons for the civil war given by the southerners who withdrew from the union.  They are PRETTY CLEAR that it was about slavery.  On top of that, South Carolina was pretty pissed off about NY getting to keep its state right of not allowing people to be property in its borders so that Southerners couldn’t take slaves with them to do business in NY.

Then DC1 said, “people have a lot of different opinions”.

And that led to a really lengthy discussion about what is an opinion and what is an untrue statement of fact.  DH and I threw around a lot of terms like “subjective” and “objective”.  Also “hypothesis”.  We talked about climate change.

It drives me nuts that people label incorrect statements as “opinions” and don’t seem to understand the difference between objective truths (which are true no matter what we believe, but sadly cannot always be tested) and subjective opinions.  (“Can an opinion ever be wrong?” DC1 asked. “Sure,” I said, “Saying ‘Eggnog is the best drink in the world’ is an example of a wrong opinion.”)  And this is codified in the South through the K-12 system and reinforced by Fox News.  It is in the airwaves.  I hate it.  And I don’t want to have to add it to my stats class, but maybe I should.

Last year I asked my grad students if we should spend some time on what is “fake news” and they all said no, they understood.  This year they’re not as sure.  Last year “fake news” really was fake– spewed out by what we now know were Russian bots.  This year Republicans have labeled reputable news organizations as “fake news” so it’s more confusing.  On top of that, even formerly reputable news organizations like WSJ have been taken over by ideologues so there’s a lot of crud coming out.  (NYTimes has always had a contingent of crud, and NPR started to kind of suck a couple of years ago.)

How do you all deal with the difference?

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Another internet post on what to do if your elementary schooler keeps chewing on hir clothes

DC2 has always liked putting things in hir mouth.  As a baby we had to keep chokable stuff away from the floor for much longer than we did with DC1.  And there was the whole biting thing.  But zie outgrew it and we thought we were in the clear.

Then sometime in November or December, we noticed that DC2 had started chewing on hir shirt sleeves (if wearing long sleeves) and collar.  Zie didn’t want to chew on clothing.  Hir teacher didn’t want hir to chew on clothing.  We didn’t want hir to chew on clothing.

As an experiment, DC2 and I put cayenne on the top of hir (already wet) shirt to see if that would help.  Like most remedies involving cayenne, it did not.  Basically DC2’s chin started hurting from resting on it, so we aborted, rinsed off, and got a new shirt.

Next, we went TO THE INTERNET!  And found a bunch of blogposts, some sponsored, some not, from professional “mommy bloggers” talking about various silicon necklaces and singing their praises.  It turns out there’s a whole cottage industry of silicone teething necklaces (for mom), bracelets, toys, and even rings.  DC2 picked one out from amazon (note:  as always, buying stuff from amazon links gives us a little bit of money, so we’re just like those other “mommy bloggers”) that is meant for moms to keep from being chewed on by their babies.  But they had some pretty cool other shapes– I’m surprised zie didn’t go for one of the bat shapes given how popular batman is in this household.

Also the internet suggested that it might be anxiety (DC2 denied this), sensory processing disorder, autism, oral fixation and so on.  Or it might just be a phase.  I used to chew on my hair at this age but DC2 doesn’t have enough hair to be capable of doing that.  I may have had anxiety or sensory processing disorder or oral fixation (I do like kissing DH!) or who knows.  But eventually I stopped.  So if it is still happening in August at the annual checkup we might bring it up, but we don’t think it’s worth taking a doctor’s trip for given that DC2 doesn’t seem to have any other problems (other than the occasional hives).

One of the teachers at DC2’s school (who isn’t DC2’s actual teacher) told hir such things were for babies.  But DC2’s actual teacher was really happy and literally clapped her hands with happiness.  So far, no more wet shirts with pulled collars.  So yay internet!

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Ask the grumpies: Apps for 3-5 year olds

The frugal ecologist asks:

You did a toddler app post I think, but any other apps that your little one is into? Thinking for the 3-5 set….

Ooh, we need to know the answer to this question too.

We did like endless words, but boy was it an ipad memory hog.  I had to delete it eventually.  Starfall was another favorite, though we’ve just let it lapse since DC2 has really outgrown it.  ABCMouse seems pretty similar to Starfall– I don’t know if it is worth the cost, but we just got it free for the year with DC2’s kindergarten.  It’s fun, but too easy for DC2 right now– but it would have been good when DC2 was 3!

DC2 now spends a lot of time on the PBS Kids website on DC1’s computer on weekends after zie has done hir chores.  Zie wants to play games just like DC1 does.

Dragon Box has been pretty fun, both the algebra version and the geometry (elements) version, though DC2 hasn’t been able to complete them yet because the difficulty seems to hit frustration level after a while (but zie had fun during the first parts!).  We haven’t tried the numbers apps because they came out after DC2 had seemingly mastered numbers, but maybe it’s worth trying them anyway.  Update:  After typing this up we got Big Numbers and DC2 is hooked (some knowledge of addition and subtraction makes this game more fun).  (Right now, I admit I wish I were picking apples and gathering stones and turning fish into gold coins.)

A free one if you do it on the computer instead of an app is Teach your monster to read.   DC2 is also doing this one in school (even though zie knows how to read) and is enjoying it, but I must say after listening to hir play it this weekend, some poor princess keeps getting kidnapped over and over again and one would think would have better security by now.  Or maybe a weapon of her own or something.  They should mix it up and have the crown prince get kidnapped or something.  The narrator has a pleasant Britishy accent.  Update:  Level 2 does much better on gender–DC2 repeatedly feeds a female monster cookies and helps another find her lost words instead of rescuing a newly captured princess.  (Again, this is too easy for where DC2 is right now, but gee it would have been nice to have had a year or two ago!)

But yes, we really would like to have more suggestions on this one as DC2 has really outgrown most of what is on the ipad.  Extra points for stuff in Spanish!

Update on the gift card donation thing

So we asked you all for suggestions on how to get a cash-value gift card to DC2’s teachers.

Becca noted:

To actually address your preferred option-it looks like Gift Card Mall will sell you a $500 Visa card for a fee of $5.95, probably with a $2 shipping fee. It just looks like getting large denomination gift cards is getting more challenging- maybe it’s fraud related.

We had originally tried an AmEx card because I had found a code for free shipping, bringing the cost down to ~$8.  But they emailed and said it would take 1-3 days to approve and send.  When I called on day 4, they said, no, it was 1-3 business days and it would be shipped out “tomorrow”.  When I called on business day 3, they said that was a lie, it was actually 2-4 business days and it would be shipped “tomorrow”.  When I called on business day 4, they said no, day 1 didn’t count because we’d ordered after 11am, and it would be shipped “tomorrow” at which point I cancelled and said screw it, I’ll pay the additional $4 and go with Visa.  It didn’t help that when I googled AmEx gift cards there were lots and lots of complaints about people’s card-money suddenly disappearing and customer service being no help in retrieving it.

Gift card mall turned out to be extremely easy to deal with.  They gave a date that our cards would be shipped and they were indeed shipped on that day (no shipping fee) and came well within the 5-10 days they said it would take with shipping.  The other neat thing was that we were able to customize the cards by picking out teacher related card pictures, putting the teacher’s actual names on the cards, and getting greeting cards, envelopes, and a message typed out in the greeting card.  Almost worth the $11.90 we paid over the cost of the cards themselves.  Definitely less hassle than “tomorrow never comes” AmEx.

So DH dropped the cards off with DC2’s teachers’ principal.  The next day, DC2 excitedly told DH that someone had given hir teachers each a $500 giftcard for the class and they’d asked the kids what to do with them.  50 guinea pigs!  A swimming bag pool (we’re not entirely sure what that is)!

Hopefully they’ll use it for differentiation/enrichment/independent learning, though I suppose 50 guinea pigs could count as enrichment.   We will probably never know what they get spent on in the end, but we did feel a bit of a warm fuzzy knowing that the teachers had gotten them.

What would you spend a $500 giftcard on?

Brag about your kids/pets/loved ones/etc. here!

It’s been a while since we’ve had one of these threads, but the internet is not always a safe place to be proud of your loved ones (that is, for anything other than sports).  We say F-that.

We love hearing about how proud you are of the people and creatures in your sphere.  This might be because we feel the same way about our own kids/kittens/partners/etc. and aren’t threatened by you being surrounded by greatness.  Or it might be something to do with fighting the patriarchy.  We’re not sure.

In any case, don’t feel silenced.  We will never get upset at you for thinking well of someone who is genuinely awesome and broadcasting those thoughts.  (We will get upset if you support say, neo-Nazis.)

One rule, don’t start with a disclaimer like, “She may not be potty-trained yet, but…” or “I usually dislike X about him, but…” and don’t end with the disclaimer, “even though zie…”  These brags should be 100% positive with no apologies included.  Own your pride.

I know this is difficult in a society that cuts down tall poppies, but we’re commanding it so you have no choice.

I’ll start:

I love the way DC2 is really getting numbers right now.  Something has clicked so that Singapore addition and regular multiplication just make sense to hir and zie is getting really good at mental arithmetic (mostly with fingers, but increasingly without!).  I love seeing hir get “aha!” moments.  It’s the BEST.

DC1 has been doing a great job of not giving up and working hard at violin even though zie [note, this is an example of an “even though zie” that is an explanation, not a disclaimer] started a year behind all the other kids.

How about you and yours?  Add a little brightness to our day!

It is harder to give directed donations to a public school than to a non-profit

This year, we want to give money to DC2’s classes (English and Spanish) to help them purchase items for “differentiation, independent learning, and/or enrichment”.  This is mainly because DC2 needs them, at least on English days.  (“Mommy, I’m in the green group which means that we have the trickiest problems, but they’re still way too easy.  I already know all the sight words from preschool.”)  We want this to be anonymous because it’s just weird giving money to public school when DC2 is a member of the class.  (We know the Spanish teacher already incorporates differentiation, at least in second semester from our class observation last Spring.  The English teacher does a little bit according to DC2, but maybe not enough for DC2 right now.)

When we did this back when DC1 was in Kindergarten in private school, it was super easy, we just wrote a check along with a little note outlining the particulars of the gift.  Since we were already paying tuition to the private school we were also able to talk to the teacher about what her ideas were and make sure the money would be of interest even given the strings attached (that it be for differentiation/independent learning activities).

This time DH called up the front desk and they said they couldn’t take directed donations of money, only general donations for the entire grade, but to contact the PTO president to see if she could help.  After some back and forth with her, the PTO president reiterated that she could only take donations for the entire grade and they would go towards defraying the cost of field trips, but she’d get in contact with the Assistant Principal on our behalf.  After a couple of weeks of not hearing from her, DH emailed the school Principal directly.   A couple days later the school principal emailed back and offered the following options:

  1. Write a check to the school and the teachers would be told they could use that money, but only through the district’s preferred vendors.  The vendors are not actually that great, so their ability to make purchases would be pretty limited.
  2. Provide several gift cards for Amazon/Walmart/Target so they have more options for what to purchase (though this also is limiting, and we might not get the amounts right).
  3. Provide gift cards for cash from Visa/Amex/Mastercard.  This would be the least limiting of the choices.

Oh gentle grumpy nation, I have been trying so hard to get #3 to work.  But we want to get two $500 gift cards (one for each class) and Target/Walmart only carry Visa in $200 or less denominations, and it costs $6-7 to get one.  You can’t order Visa gift cards directly from Visa and we don’t belong to one of their participating banks that waives fees.  AmEx looked really promising with a flat $4 fee per $500 card until I tried to check out and realized there was an additional $8.95 shipping charge on top of that*.  But maybe it’s worth it since to get Visa cards at Target or Walmart we’d be paying $24 just to get $800 in gift cards.  (Mastercard is not an option because they start making the money disappear once there’s inactivity.)

I might be able to waive some fees if I wait for October’s promotion codes to show up somewhere– September’s AmEx promo code got rid of shipping costs but they’ve since expired.

Or we could just write a check and they’d be limited to the list of preferred vendors, none of which I’ve heard of.  (I have to wonder what kind of grift is going on there…)

Anyway, I’m leaning towards paying the exorbitant fees for turning plastic credit money into anonymous plastic gift money so that they can use the money wherever they want (albeit, maybe only places that take AmEx…).  Though with a minimum of $17 in fees, it’s tempting to go with Amazon cards since you can buy most things on Amazon.  Except, you can’t buy everything on Amazon.

We have our first (15 min) parent teacher conference uh… today.

*Looks like they regularly have online discounts for things like shipping fees, but October’s wasn’t up yet when I wrote this post.

What would you do, Grumpeteers?

A homemade language arts plan for school

One of the irritating things about being in a backwards part of the country is that the Language Arts classes in the public schools are pretty much garbage.*  We thought last year that it was just that DC1 wasn’t in advanced language arts, but no, it’s a thing.  K-4 was at a private school and they used standard texts and read novels and it seemed pretty much like what we had growing up in the midwest.  5th grade we did in Paradise and while it wasn’t as hard-core as 5th grade would have been in the Midwest it wasn’t so bad.  We have no idea what DC1 did in language arts last year, but they didn’t read any books as a class.

This year, in 7th grade, most of their assignments, which are done in class, are just drawing pictures and doing crafts, but it’s not like an art class where they’re getting instruction on arts and crafts, they’re just asked to do them.  At the first open house, the teacher spent her entire time talking about the rules of the course (no talking for the first 10 min when doing the bellwork, then talking with a neighbor for the next 15, etc. etc. etc.) but did not talk about the curriculum at all.  DH asked what books they’d be reading as a class.  She said they wouldn’t be reading anything as a class but they would be picking out books that they could bring from home or check out from the school library to read individually.

Later we found out that the 2#$23ing reading log is back.  We had a lot of trouble with the @#$@3ing reading log back in 5th grade.  It is @#$23ing hard for a reader who loves reading to track every minute read.

This time there are additional wrinkles.  They have to finish one book that they have chosen for this purpose each month.  That book has to be the one that they read in class during their reading time.  But they also have to read this book for at least 20 min per day, and they don’t get a full 20 min in class to read it.  So that means that they need to take the book home and definitely not leave it at home next to the bed where they’ve fallen asleep reading it.  It has to be a book they’ve never read and it has to be one that wasn’t meant for kids in 4th grade or below.  The first month, DC1 picked The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett.

It boggles my mind that they don’t read a Shakespeare play each year starting now.  That their junior year is the first year they start reading books together as a class AND it’s the same @$#@43ing terrible list of whiny male protagonists that we had back 25+ years ago when we were FRESHMEN (I guess at least they’re reading Fahrenheit 451?).  Their senior year is a subset of what our school’s sophomore list changed to being after I complained about the lack of women.  There has been no change in their reading lists in 2+ decades, and they’re two years behind what we had back at our small middle-income midwestern farming towns.

Anyhow, it came to me that although we can’t add to the experience of reading a book as a class and learning way too much about symbolism and foreshadowing and plot and character development and all those other things we spent so long on, maybe we could get DC1 to read some important books that we would probably never have read if they hadn’t been part of the curriculum.

We’re going to start with October and DC1 will be reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which was part of our language arts curriculum in 5th grade, but an important book.  November we’re going to do As You Like It (I’m getting hir the Folger version that comes with explanations on every page) which we read as our first Shakespeare play in 7th grade.  At the very least, DC will have to figure out what’s going on in order to draw illustrations for their class assignments.  I’ll have to decide if we add books that I didn’t personally like but might(?) be important like The Pearl (8th grade) or The Red Badge of Courage (8th grade).

What other recommendations do you have for must-read middle school reading lists that are important but aren’t as fun as what a kid would generally choose on hir own?  Note that it has to be something finishable in a month, so Tree Grows in Brooklyn isn’t going to make the list even though I spent most of my 6th grade “super sustained silent reading” time on it.  What are kids in blue states reading in school these days?

*#notallbackwards But they certainly do want to minimize parent complaints from crazy racist religious zealots as well as parents who aren’t crazy racist religious zealots.  That’s my best guess of why there’s so little humanities learning.  There’s no problem with the math curriculum!