Reminder: If you have kids, you need a will

If you don’t care about what happens to your assets after you die, you probably don’t need a will.  Your stuff will be apportioned out in accordance to state laws and people will get what they get, including the government.

But if you have kids, you need to make sure they’re taken care of.  Even if you don’t have much of an estate you need to make sure that if you die unexpectedly that the powers that be know where your kids are going to go.  So they don’t have to enter the foster care system.

You may be thinking, but I have a spouse, if I die or if they die then it’s obvious that the kids will just go with the other spouse.

That’s fine, but what happens if you both die at the same time?  Say you’re in a car accident together.

You need a will.

The will needs to say who is going to take care of your kids and who is going to take care of your kids’ money.  (Which they will presumably get because you and your spouse had life insurance, right?  If you have kids, you probably need life insurance!)

If you have pets, you may also need a will depending on what the people in charge of your estate would do if you died without a will.  At the very least, stick a note in their vet records saying who will take care of your pets should you be gone (and make sure that person agrees!), especially if said person is not your next of kin.  If you don’t have people you can trust, this random website says that a will may not be enough.

Do you have a will?  

What we’re doing for summer: update

The other week we asked you all what to do with our kids for summer and you had some great ideas.

DC2 recently had spring break while I didn’t.  This reminded us that zie reallllly needs more mental stimulation and interaction than what we can provide.  Basically by Wednesday DC2 starting talking and didn’t stop until school started again on Monday.  School has been online all year and it has been great– it keeps DC2 entertained, talking with classmates, and mentally stimulated so we can get normal amounts of interaction at lunch and after 5pm when I stop working for the night.

Meanwhile, we’ve been getting ads for online college credit classes for DC1.  I was irritated to find out that my uni lets high school students take classes during the school year but not during the summers!  What is UP with that?

But there are plenty of programs willing to charge $4K-$6K per 3-4 credit hour class to take either their own special classes for high schoolers, or in the case of Wisconsin-Madison, anything that they’re offering over the summer.  Right now we’re leaning towards C++ at Georgetown, though it is tempting just to do the C++ Coursera not for credit.  We’ve also been considering Intermediate Spanish courses and academic writing.  Vanderbilt has an interesting mentorship program that isn’t for course credit that DC1 may apply to, but zie hasn’t decided yet.  Even though there are a bunch of schools DC1 can’t go to because they require people to be 16 (and zie is only 15), we’re no longer super worried that zie will be doing nothing over the summer.

But, back to DC2 because while DC1 may need to do something this summer for hir own needs *I* need DC2 to do something for *my* needs.  I looked up online summer camps and was a bit overwhelmed.  It’s hard to tell what is any good and what is a for-profit scam.  I did see that the science museum in the nearest city has something, but it is only an hour per day so I wasn’t sure that was going to be enough.  The descriptions for that camp also sounded a bit like they needed more parental involvement than we really want to give.

Then one of our friends who grew up in the midwest recommended NIU– that’s one of the regional universities in Illinois.  Apparently they run some really great summer camps for kids each summer and this year they’re all online this summer, unlike all southern camps that are mostly back in person this year.  An actual university and a personal recommendation?  I will take that.  And it looks like each one is around 4 hours online, with some being 4 hours straight and some having a break in between for projects, which is pretty similar to DC1’s online schooling this past year. They also seem to know what our rising 5th grader will enjoy.  The only thing that sucks is that there’s no creative writing week for 5th graders.  (DC1 has moved on from Bad Kitty fan-fiction to epic fantasy.)

So we did the jigsaw puzzle work with the different options (5th graders are eligible for both elementary school and middle school camps and several camps conflict and several repeat) and signed DC2 up for most of the summer.  There’s about 2 weeks on either end and two weeks sometime in the middle of summer that are unaccounted for, but we can figure that out later or take an actual vacation.  All told it will cost ~$1000 give or take.  But well worth it if it means I can finish an email without being interrupted 5 times.

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I guess I will front-load DC2’s 529 too?

Previously we decided to stop contributing monthly to DC1’s 529 and instead invest a lump sum equal to what we would have invested each month in the time before zie graduated high school.  Once we knew more about hir college plans, we could adjust.

DC2’s 529 we kept investing in monthly as before.  I guess we’d decided not to because we were expecting to pay for DH’s relative’s son’s college.  But he didn’t go to college in the end.  And I was completely wrong about the stock market– I always am!  The stock market is unpredictable.  It’s irrational!  Especially when we have such huge income inequality.  (We will be paying for 2 years of DH’s relative’s daughter’s college though, tuition and fees but not living expenses– she’s recovering from being sick taking this semester off and plans to finish her remaining two community college courses in the fall, then transfer to a state school as an English major.  Hopefully that will actually happen.)

Right now we have too much in cash savings.  Even with the 12K gone for our annual IRA Backdoor Roth conversion.

We could also use a little bit more monthly cash flow to help me with accounting given DH’s continued unemployment.  Another $750/month wouldn’t go amiss, especially since my health insurance costs have gone up $300/month putting DH on the plan and switching from the  the Traditional 403(b) to Roth 403(b) (now that Trump is gone, I’m more willing to pay taxes now) is taking more money out of my take-home pay.

So we could do a lump sum in DC2’s 529 equivalent to what we would put in between now and when DC1 graduates from high school (or some other target date) and then stop contributing until we know what DC1’s college plans are going to cost.  DC1 is currently a second-semester sophomore so two full years would be $750*12*2 = $18,000 and then $750 a month additional for however many months more we want to add.  If we do that, our savings account will drop to a more reasonable level– a standard academic emergency fund (3 months summer salary + 1 month for emergencies) and a little bit more.

Now I just need to get around to actually doing this.  (Which is why this post has sat in drafts for a while.)

If DH suddenly gets employed before I get around to doing this, I might not?  But I don’t know if that is going to happen or not.  After the four interviews last week I’m not sure that there’s anything obvious to set in motion unless we are willing to move.

 

Ask the readers: What should I do with my kids this summer?

My oldest is 14 and will be a rising junior (there were 2 grade skips).

My youngest is 8/9 (summer birthday) and will be a rising 5th grader.

I’m not sure how wide-spread vaccines will be this summer, but it is very likely that they will not have been vaccinated yet.  That means we’re leery of sending them to in-person or away camps.  Especially since our area has rampant covid-denialism (a recent faculty/staff survey at the UNIVERSITY showed that only 60% are planning to take the vaccine when offered(!)).

In the past, DC1 has gone to a bazillion engineering and coding camps of varying qualities.  DC1 has done sciencey day-camps.  Last summer we had been planning on sending them to less academic camps– DC1 was going to go to magic camp and orchestra camps. DC2 was going to do a lot of camp run by the after school program.  I also looked into sending them together away to a fancy Spanish camp (Concordia), but couldn’t get the dates to work out.  Then the pandemic cancelled all of those.

Our primary need with DC2 (age 8) is that zie have something to keep her busy and out of our hair during the work day.  Virtual school days have been so much better than school holidays.  Ideally we would not be providing the tasks and instructions and feedback and so on.  As far as I can tell, none of the usual camps in our town for middle-schoolers or elementary schoolers are offering virtual options, only in-person.

Our primary need with DC1 (rising junior) is that zie have something that either helps hir with a skill that needs work (Spanish, actual English instead of the crafts and feelings zie gets at school) or a skill zie wants to increase (computer science, magic).  Ideally, zie would also do something that looks good on a college application.

DC1 has taken 2 years of computer science in high school and has learned Java and Python and will have taken one of the AP CS exams.  There are no more computer science classes in high school after this (they had offered a video game design class in conjunction with the arts department, but starting in 2021 it will no longer be offered to people coming in from the computer science track).  There might be computer science courses at my Uni, but I can’t figure out how an at-will high school student can take them during the summer (there are ways during the school year) and zie would probably need to take the intro class (which is not Java or Python at our uni) but I don’t think that is usually offered over the summer.  There’s also a community college, but I don’t know if their summer course offerings would be worthwhile or online.  Also, zie is taking BC Calc next year, so zie can’t just take the next math class in the sequence because the timing doesn’t work out (summer would only let hir take differential calculus, not both semesters), and zie hasn’t had the prereq for Calc 3 or Linear Algebra.

There are a lot of very expensive summer camps at extension programs of fancy universities sending us paraphernalia, and some of those deadlines have passed but some haven’t.  I’m not sure if any of these would be at all worthwhile.  They are certainly expensive!  And DC1 has gone to versions of some of these that our Uni puts on and we haven’t been all that impressed.

Usually I have this all figured out in January, but with not knowing what is going on with Covid, I just didn’t.

So… I have no idea what to do.

What are you guys doing with your kids?  What recommendations do you have?

 

Ask the grumpies: How much workbooking should your child do each day?

Katie asks:

When you say your kid does a page of Singapore math each day, would that be the Primary Math textbook and/or workbook? Is that generally math they understand already, are they figuring it out themselves based on the textbook, or are you teaching it? If you teach it, how long do you usually spend on it each day.

I also have a kindergartner at home. She’s enrolled in virtual public school, but I’ve also been doing a homeschool kindergarten math curriculum with her since she aged out of preschool in mid-August, just because we both like math and we needed something to do. I’m starting her on Singapore 1A soon (probably Dimensions, maybe Primary Math though). I’m wondering whether we’d be able to transition that to an after-school enrichment activity once she’s back at in-person school, dependent on her interest level and my time. (Though I’d be surprised if her district goes in-person before spring, if at all…)

That depends on the kid and what else is going on. DC1 usually did an “exercise” a day in the workbook. DC2 usually does just a single page (DC2 is a bit more rebellious). BUT when DC2 isn’t getting enough mental activity or when DC1 was overwhelmed with other stuff, we’d do the opposite (or if really overwhelmed, Singapore math would switch to just weekends during the school year).

Early on, we would go through the textbook each day they had a new exercise. Right now with DC2 we only do that when it’s something that DC2 doesn’t already know (this is because DC2 is a bit rebellious and doesn’t want to spend time on the textbook if the workbook is clear enough). But in the early years there is quite a bit of difference in how Singapore math approaches things and how school approached things so we did do the textbook every day. Now (4b/5a) that’s less of an issue with a few exceptions.

Similarly, the number of homework books and which ones depend on the kids’ individual needs at the time.  With virtual schooling, DC2 is doing a page of Singapore math and 15 min of DuoLinguo on school days, and two pages of Brainquest (reading + math), one page of spelling, Singapore math, and DuoLinguo on weekend days and holidays.  In the summer we’re probably going to add a science workbook in Spanish unless zie has daycamp.  Zie also has 15 min of piano practicing each day and has been agitating for violin, but that’s not going to happen until it is safe to get fitted for a violin.

So… we’ve played it by ear with both kids. It depends on where they are, what else is going on in their lives, and how tractable they’re being. Early on, there was a lot more new stuff in new ways that we taught with the textbook, as it got later, they would be able to figure things out just from the workbook or from reading the text themselves, though we would sometimes still need to explain things.

 

What are we doing to deal with the huge post-holiday Covid surge

The students are still gone, but our daily rates are higher than they have ever been, with new deaths every day and not just people ages 70+.  One of our admin just lost her father to Covid in town. Rates will only spike in mid-January when the students return.

I am teaching one section in person next semester.  This is going to be dangerous.  The course is limited to 15 students and there’s a wait list.  My two covid deniers from last semester are not in it, thankfully. (My other section is online.  I do not have a choice about either.)

Other than that, we are blessed that we do not have to do anything that puts us or our children at additional risk.  Most people are in situations where their jobs require them to be out with the public more than once a week and they don’t have full power to tell people to pull up their masks like I will.  Most people don’t have the ability to get all groceries delivered or done by curbside pickup.  These folks are at risk of getting covid themselves and spreading covid to others.  Those of us who can reduce the spread should because not everybody can.

SO, what are we doing?  (Bolding the things that are fun substitutes rather than sacrifices)

  1. DH and I are working from home when possible.  (Technically DH isn’t working anymore, but hey.)  This means that I go to work and then come home.  I also requested an 8am course so that there’s nobody before me and there’s a big gap after me (since usually classes start at 9:15).  Even so, I wipe everything I touch down with clorox wipes that I had to buy myself (and it is not easy buying clorox wipes!)  Students sit only in chairs that are 6 feet apart, which are actually 6 feet apart after I complained last summer to the department that the original dots on the chairs where only 1 foot apart on one dimension (they now skip rows, including the first row).  I do not let them touch each other.  When they share items I make them wipe them down with a wipe before if I catch them and squirt them hand sanitizer after.  Doing in-class activities has been a pain in the rear and I collected a lot of suggestions from students last semester about what to do and what not– it seems like pairs are doable 6 feet apart but triplets are not unless one person is zooming from home.  Some students liked sharing screens through zoom while still in the same room and some didn’t– one suggestion was for them to share a google doc which I think will work well.  I tell students that if they are the least bit sick they have to zoom in.  I enforce masking.  I don’t let them eat.  If I drink, I do it from behind the plexiglass (which doesn’t cover the entire board area, which is annoying).  If they drink, I tell them to use a straw if they can and keep the mask on as best they can.
  2. We’re only shopping curbside.  In the few rare cases in which we’ve had to go inside the store in the past (ex. the noodle place and the bibimbap place), we’ve made sure to order ahead so that we can just do a pickup rather than having to wait.  Basically I go to work and do curbside library stuff and DH does grocery, target, and home depot curbside (and takeout about once every two months which is not enough, but we do give big tips when we go).  DH and I do doctors visits.  I did a dentist thing this summer because I needed a crown and a root canal.
  3. We’re keeping our kids home (our school district allows us to choose).  This is definitely the safe decision for DC1 whose high school has at least one new case a day and was getting more like 4 new cases per day just before winter break.  Adding to that that mask enforcement and social distancing wasn’t happening in at least one of DC1’s classes (and the teacher caught covid right after we complained to the principal) and the principal sent out pictures of sports team pictures with only maybe 3 people masked… Now that they’re no longer sending out daily emails there’s a dashboard where we can see all the positive cases at each school (only a point in time info, but it does have the cumulative number), and our high school has about 4x as many cases as the other same-size high school.  For DC2 it would probably be fine to go to school– there have only been 8 cases so far and they’ve been drawn out across the semester.  But the virtual 4th grade teacher is amazeballs so we’re hoping to keep her as long as possible.  (It is really interesting looking at the elementary school data– one would think the numbers would map with SES and ability to not work or to work from home, but while the lowest number of covid cases is the richest college professor zone and the highest number of covid cases is the lowest income most working class zone, the rest of the numbers don’t map at *all* which makes me suspect that school leadership is important when it comes to covid spread.)
  4. We are not having in-person playdates.  I am not at all opposed to outdoor masked playdates, but DC2’s friends only want to do unmasked, so we said no and they stopped asking.  Two of them do have such playdates with each other.  Naturally these are the least safe members of the group– the third friend’s mom is more risk averse and would be safer, but of course, not doing in-person playdates correlates with all those other safe behaviors.  Update:  Just said no to a zoo birthday party after looking at the yelp page for the zoo and seeing lots of maskless selfies (or chin-mask selfies) and people complaining that masking isn’t being enforced.
  5. We have two regular weekly minecraft after-school playdates set up for DC2 and lots of other popup minecraft playdates.
  6. We didn’t visit extended family at Christmas.  Once the second wave hit and especially after the vaccine started coming out, MIL stopped suggesting it.  We now have hopes for summer.
  7. For Thanksgiving we had a socially distanced backyard meal with my sister and her boyfriend.  I was super careful and made sure we had separate tables that were 6 feet apart.  We kept masks on all times we weren’t eating.  I had separate paths set for bathroom use– they went through the garage to the guest bathroom and I had hand sanitizers taped to the door to the house on both sides.  We went through the patio and used the master bathroom or the kids’ bathroom.  For many of the food items (including all the appetizers and desserts), I made sure their table had its own bowls to serve themselves from.  For bigger things like the turkey, they went through first and hand sanitized before and after.  Then I had us use different serving spoons.  I also gave them a separate serving spoon for second helpings but they didn’t end up using it (I’m a bit less concerned about this because it seems like the virus is fragile on surfaces, but still…).  It was a bit tiring having to police the distance between my kids and my sister and I can see how easily if you’re not vigilant “safe” meetings can become unsafe.  Especially if not everybody attending is as careful as you are.  It’s easier to just not, which is why although we talked about doing Christmas at my sister’s patio in the end we just let that conversation not happen in time.  (The next day my kids went in the car for the first time since … last March?-we had to adjust the booster seat-for DC2- and August schedule pickup for DC1… to get flu shots.)
  8. We’ve done a couple of sessions of Crafting with Grandma on zoom, where DC2 and MIL just quietly work on crafts together punctuated by random conversations with DH and DC1 and FIL.  DC1 also did a Crafting with younger cousins on zoom.  (As the oldest by 6 years and very good with kids, DC1 is extremely popular with the younger cousins.)
  9. I’ve started buying a lot more fancy stuff online since we can’t go to the City.  I’ve already gotten a number of you hooked on nuts.com and we’ve spent some time talking about places other than amazon where we’re buying things.  Something remarkable has as well.
  10. Ringfit, exercycle, console dancing games, bicycling, unicyling (DC1 and DH), scootering (DC2), roller skating (DC2), all around the neighborhood, both masked (when outside and there are a lot of people out) and unmasked (indoors or outdoors when there’s few enough people that the road can be crossed if we see someone; this generally correlates with the weather).  I’ve also done a lot of walking around the house watching youtube videos while the kids are out exercising because I don’t want to have to put on pants (if I’m wearing pajama shorts and it’s cold out) or socks.

Something I want to highlight is that after 3/4 of a year of trial and error:  Zoom calls that are just straight-up conversations aren’t as good for the kids as are zoom activities. Having something that allows comfortable silences is way better than something that forces kids to keep talking.  And with kids, zoom is better than FaceTime, at least for the adult in question, because FaceTime involves lots of running around the house and flipping the screen and playing with filters and basically things that are too frenetic for anyone but the cool auntie (aka, my sister, who is just as bad as my kids with FaceTime).  There are a lot of crazy things they can play with on zoom, but there isn’t as much movement of the camera itself.

Playing minecraft with friends with zoom on in the background is better than just zooming (which was what we did last Spring and Summer until DC2’s birthday got us to research safe ways zie could have a party).  Playing Among Us with DH’s brother’s kids didn’t work out so well, though part of that was they couldn’t get audio to work so everything was chat-based which isn’t as fun.

Doing crafts at the same time with Grandma works better than just talking with Grandma.  It’s almost like actually being at Grandma and Grandpa’s.  We’ve done this twice so far and it’s just really nice.  DH and DC1 stop by and chat while DC2 and Grandma work on their own things.

We also set up an origami teaching demonstration with DC1 and the two older kids of DH’s sister because Nana had all four kids and suggested we try that while she looked after the babies.  So DC1 taught the 7 year old and the 5 year old to make fortune tellers and then did a few coin tricks.

Here’s an ask the grumpies from this summer about things to look forward to in the summer (also has a list of stuff we’ve been buying online).  Here’s a “what are you doing for fun?

What safe(r) things have you been doing?  (Note:  any bragging about doing unsafe things will be deleted.  Keep your secret shame secret and try not to hurt people.)

Ask the readers: What edition of the complete works of Shakespeare should I get?

Dear Grumpy Nation:

DC1 hasn’t been getting enough Shakespeare.  I would like to ameliorate that.  I, myself, had a lovely hardback version of the complete works of Shakespeare that was beautifully annotated so that I could easily figure out what was going on while still seeing the natural beauty of the words themselves.  I would read it on days I was home sick from school and had nothing else to do (also how I read Ivanhoe and several other classics my mother placed strategically in the small bookcase next to my bed).  Sadly, all I remember about it is that it had a navy blue hard cover– it appears to have disappeared from my parents’ house in the 20 years I have been away from it.

I have gone to Amazon to seek a new anthology and I am overwhelmed by the options.  I do not want a kindle version– I want something nicely edited and easy to read the annotations/explanations along-side the original words.  Hardback would be nice, but that’s not a deal-breaker.

There are so many choices and so many different price points I don’t even know where to start.  I’m willing to pay for the $75 Norton edition if it is, indeed, the best for our purposes.  But if the $30 Oxford Works is better, by all means I’ll go with that!

I know we have experts on this topic in our readership, so help a lay-person out!  What would you recommend?

Thanks in advance!

An email DH sent DC1’s English teacher

Subject: Poetry extra credit

[English teacher’s name],

My [child, Child’s Name], is in your English class.

I appreciate that there is an extra credit opportunity, and I like the way it is structured, but I am concerned by one of the websites that was suggested.

This site: [not sending any blog traffic its way]

Its first recommended theme is “The negative effects of communism and socialism on the West.” It makes propagandistic claims about communism, as though the Cold War is ongoing, and it makes incorrect statements about socialism.

Unsurprisingly, the “trending poems” appear to also be full of propaganda, e.g., ‘Poem for the Second Inauguration of President Donald J. Trump,’ and ‘On the Main Stream Media’s Fake News.’

I would prefer that what seems to be a far-right, inaccurate, propagandistic website not be presented to my [child] as part of [their] education.

Respectfully,
[DH’s name]

No response.

RBOSchooling- Virtual Covid edition

  • DC2 says there are ~60 kids in hir online 4th grade class (20 in hir “small group” meetings) and that number can change every grading period.  There are only 36 slots for parent teacher conferences so… I’m guessing the actual number is closer to 40.
  • They started with only a little bit of synchronous learning, but that has increased recently.  Now there are 5 days of 8am meetings.  Then new meetings every day for math and for language arts.  There are “small group” meetings 2x/week, one for math and one for English.  GT (gifted and talented pullout) has also increased from 2x/week to 3x/week (including Enrichment which just started).

  • Right now in math DC2 is doing multiple-step word problems. They’re doing the thing where they have to draw boxes and put a little ? where the answer they’re trying to get is. (So like, the total adds up to the boxes on the top row, then you fill in the boxes on the bottom row and put an ? in the one you can’t fill in, then you know what to add or multiply and what to subtract.)
  • They started the year with place value which seems pretty standard to me.
  • DC2 had to pick a tribe that was native to our state before the settlers came and make a powerpoint about them for Social Studies (in Spanish).  They had to answer specific questions about where in the state they lived, what they ate, what they wore, etc.
  • For science they’ve been exploring states of matter and learning about density– they watch videos the teacher has made doing things to various objects and fill out a form about whether they float, how much they weigh, etc.
  • For English they have been exploring the elements of a short story, the different kinds of short stories, and they’ve been taking short stories and fables and changing them up.  So they watched an oscar winning cartoon about a piper bird and had to write a comic strip changing it to being set in the Rain Forest.  Then they took a fairy tale and changed 3 things about it (DC2 had all three wolves being eaten by a bear…) Then they took a fable about a wolf and a goat and changed it to being set in the arctic.
  • Zie has a separate art teacher once a week and music teacher once a week and PE teacher once a week.  Also “computers”.
  • The PE teacher is basically just giving a set of 9 optional activities and announcing what the “sport” is for the week.  No videos or anything.  So this week is Soccer and last week was basketball and so on, and if you don’t have the specific kind of ball, use a balloon or balled up socks.  There’s nothing to turn in.
  • Computers is similar to PE– there will be a video to watch on password safety or typing practice to do, but not much more.
  • The music teacher has been doing these fantastic 20-25 min videos where there’s learning, interaction, and listening, all around a theme.  So they did a rhythm week and played a rhythm game.  Then she asks a specific question in chat for everyone to listen to.  I believe she’s working from home for ADA reasons.  Apparently at the next break she’ll just be doing 4th grade and she’ll have an additional teacher working with her.  I’m not sure what is going on there.
  • The GT teacher has 2 GT pullouts and one enrichment pullout (which DC2 says is like GT but easier and has more kids).  She’s doing all of this from home, so the kids in school are pulled out and sit in a classroom with laptops and an aide.  At the beginning of the semester the GT teacher was very focused on behavior and being able to see everyone and DC2 was disappointed because they weren’t doing anything hard, but a month in they started getting back to normal.  Zie is still disappointed that there’s no chocolate involved with GT this year… one of the benefits of pullout in years prior was they often did projects involving mnms or oreos.
  • The art teacher has mostly been doing powerpoints with (well-chosen) videos from youtube embedded in them, but there’s also assignments each week.  There’s no way to upload them, but DC2 has been really enjoying doing the projects.  Each week they focus on something specific like lines or dots and she talks about how lines can generate movement or make you feel calm or make someone seem imposing depending on if they are diagonal/horizontal/vertical.  The week before last was about space.  This week was about bringing everything together to make a city-scape in the style of one of her favorite painters.  Then she talks about an artist (usually modern) who did a lot of art with whatever the focus is that week.  Way better than my elementary school art classes where we mostly just did crafts… more like my high school art history class.
  • DC2’s Spanish has gotten WAY better this year… like so much better.  Which I do not understand at all because there were 3 years of what was supposed to be complete immersion, and now via virtual schooling zie is able to be chatty in Spanish?
  • DC2 is still able to handle most of English week stuff on hir own, but needs more help on Spanish weeks.
  • DC2 is really enjoying prodigy.  Not enjoying the typing program for computers so much.  Though maybe as zie is getting better… Tuesday night zie stayed up late with the prospecting game.
  • We had our parent teacher conference for DC2 earlier this week, which was a well-deserved mutual admiration society (because she is great and DC2 is great).  Of note, DC2 tested at 7th grade math.  I’m not sure how impressive that actually is, but we’ll definitely need to have hir test out of 5th grade math this summer (testing out of 5th grade math is pretty standard for kids planning to do Calculus in high school).  I’m not sure the teacher knows that DC2 is grade-skipped, but I guess she doesn’t need to know?
  • DC1 has been having to do ridiculous art projects again.  It’s like we’re back in middle-school!  Even worse, they have to be dropped off at the high school.  We can’t just take a picture and upload it.

Ask the grumpies: Computer educational programs that DC2 (grade 4) loves (and others zie’s ok with)

Parent to two virtual learners asks:

“Have you or your readers been using any computer programs to supplement virtual learning at home? I need to work full-time and my kids (elementary schoolers) seem to get done with their work in 2-3 hours each day. They don’t want to spend all their time reading books and I don’t want them to spend all their time playing video games or fighting with each other. Do you have any educational games and similar things to recommend? Anything non-electronic that doesn’t create too much of a mess?”

DC2 loves Prodigy to pieces. It’s basically an RPG-ish game where your choices don’t matter much, but in order to fight monsters you have to get a math problem correct. The math problems are very similar to going through Khan Academy– they get harder and you master a specific skill and then they give you a new skill. I think it’s free and they make their money with in-game purchases that DC2 would really like to have but we have not been doing.

DC2 loves Epic! though sadly we have to pay for it now because this year’s teacher didn’t sign up for it like last year’s did. (Technically zie can sign in as guest with hir class from last year, but that seems wrong somehow.) Epic has a lot of fun books, including a TON of comicbooks to read. All the Big Nates, even some that are so old or new that DC1 doesn’t own them. (There are Bill Clinton jokes(!))

DC2 likes DuoLingo just fine. Zie is doing Spanish with it, mostly on weekends. There isn’t much playing with it if it’s not required like there is with Prodigy.

We’ve recommended DragonBox before– DC2 did a spin through again before school started this past summer.

Similarly to DuoLingo, DC2 is fine with Khan Academy. Zie is mostly going through the math part.

DC2 is supposed to go through a math thing called xtramath, but finished last year, so after zooming through addition and subtraction, hir teacher asked hir to play Kakooma instead. DC2 is not a fan of the timed aspect of it, but did enjoy it at first.

Instead of Epic!, DC2’s teacher is doing Reading A-Z, which has more educational stuff than does Epic and has step readers in both English and Spanish. One not so great thing is that it tested DC2 in English and is now only allowing hir to read within a few levels of hir tested level in Spanish. Hir Spanish level is not as high as hir English level! There’s no Phoebe and Unicorn here, but there’s lots of non-fiction.

With all the additional laptop stuff, DC2’s computer class has a lot of typing. They use Typing Agent through Clever. This is not as much fun as typing of the dead, but it’s more focused for if you don’t know how to touch type (as opposed to just needing practice to get your speed up).

In terms of exercise, we have two games for the Switch right now that DC2 has been using. Ring Fit Adventure is a good exercise game, much like Prodigy except you do exercises to complete an attack. Zie has also been doing Just Dance 2020 and now I have Baby Shark stuck in my head for all eternity even though I’m fairly sure I’ve only heard it twice.

DC2 is also getting into Minecraft Coding Academy, though that occasionally requires assists from DH. Similarly DC1 (in high school) is working on USACO coding projects (zie isn’t actually signed up, just going through the problems)

I’m probably forgetting something, but these are the things that have been popular enough (or required enough by class) to come to mind.

In terms of non-electronic stuff:

DC2’s art teacher requires them to draw daily in a composition book. We’ve gotten some calligraphy pens and so on to make that a little more interesting. They’re both also into origami, but that makes a mess.

DC2 does a page of Singapore Math each day.

We’ve downloaded a bazillion children’s classics from Gutenberg to DC2’s kindle (Oz is very popular with both kids, also E. Nesbitt).

We’ve increased the chores they have to do– doing laundry has been added to their list which previously only had laundry folding and removing things from the dishwasher. Now there’s 15 min of cleaning their rooms each day, though sometimes we add an additional 15 min to DC2 because zie is so talented at making messes. DC1 cooks a meal a week (usually on Sundays) and DC2 helps. They also pick out one meal each week for menu planning (DC1 makes hirs).

DC2 also has regular minecraft playdates with friends which isn’t exactly educational but is social at least. DC2 and hir frenemy are actually much more mature playing on minecraft together than playing on the playground. Now that it’s cooler outside they’re getting kicked out for exercise again. Oh, and they’ve started teaching themselves contact juggling (using a weighted rubber ball, not one of DH’s actual clear contact juggling balls because there’s a lot of dropping). I’ve been trying to get DC1 to pick up pencil twirling because zie fidgets by worrying things until they break off and zie needs to stop doing that, but so far no luck (zie is also uninterested in fidget spinners). DC2 has been working on juggling one club, but that somehow morphs into all the juggling clubs being all over the floor of the living room.

Grumpy Nation: What educational stuff do you recommend for when you have to work but your kids are out of schoolwork?