28 March 2015


I woke up this morning and left my bedroom...

Pinkleberry:  I threw up last night mom.

(Stomach sinking feeling.  I enter her bedroom prepared for the worst, but find that she...uh...had it all contained in a big bowl.)

Me:  How come you didn't come get me?
Pink:  I didn't want to disturb your sleep.
Me:  How did you get the bowl?
Pink:  It was already in my room.  When I knew I was going to throw up, I just dumped out the crayons.

*I feel conflicted.  On one hand I'm super proud of Pink being able to take care of things on her own.  This is one of my favorite aspects of her personality when she just takes charge and gets things done and is responsible and it's no big deal.  On the other hand, my poor baby was sick last night and she didn't even come get me.  I didn't even have a chance to comfort or help.

27 March 2015

Recycled School Rant

On February 12, I wrote a humongous rant about school.  I published it for about ten minutes and then thought better of it and left it as a draft.  I copied and pasted it in an email to a friend I knew would commiserate with me and that was that.

Until yesterday when I knew I had to resurrect a part of that post.  Here it is:

In December I was sent home a note telling me that one child was struggling in math and falling very far behind.  Because my child was not the only one struggling (which also tells me, if so many people in a class are having a hard time with the material, maybe it's not the child's problem), they were offering some kind of after school remedial math program.  It was free.  I didn't have a problem with free math class to help my child who is not understanding.  However, it could not have been at a more inconvenient time.  It would have required herculean efforts of scheduling and transportation to make it work.  So I told the child that they would not be participating and mentally I was thinking of ways that we could help out at home and give the added assistance that was needed.
But what happened next completely changed my mind.   
Over the next few days the child kept coming back to me with what I interpreted was pressure from the teacher to enroll the child in this math program.  And for a couple of days in a row my child was screaming at me that they were the dumbest in their class and didn't understand math and never would without the help of this class.  And all I could think was "Who told you you were dumb?  How do you know that everyone else in the class is getting it and you're not?"  Which was obviously false since they had set up this class to help the MANY students who were struggling. 
That just cinched it for me.  Whatever was happening at school was not empowering my child.  It was belittling them.  It was making them feel bad about themselves.  There was no way that I was feeding into the idea that this child couldn't do math by having them take that math class. I wasn't even going to spend any extra time working on things at home.  I was going to COMPLETELY IGNORE anything and everything having to do with math.  And you know what happened? 
Nothing really.  The tears at homework time stopped.  The child started enjoying math and gaining confidence.  It stopped being a big deal at all.  It completely stopped being remarkable. 
Conclusion.  In the most amazing turn around ever, this child that they wanted to take supplemental math classes is suddenly getting great grades in math, understands everything and scored well-above average on the standardized math testing.  The teachers have no complaints or suggestions for improvement.  TWO MONTHS ago it was recommended that the child was so far behind that learning new skills and concepts that built on the old would be almost impossible.  And we did absolutely NOTHING in the meantime.  I just want to tell everybody to sit back and CHILL.  Kids learn at different paces and if you are stressing the child out, that's not conducive to learning.
We were at a doctor's appointment about a week or so ago and the doctor asked this child what their favorite subject was at school.  Their eyes lit up and they sat upright and practically shouted "Math!"  And every morning for the past week, they get ready early and then sit at the table making up hard math problems for themselves to do.  One particular morning this child had made a math problem and not solved it correctly.  So I helped get the correct solution and pointed out the error.  Then they started wondering if you switched some of the order of the digits around, if you'd get the same answer.  I honestly didn't know and told them to work out the problem and figure it out.  They did.  And once it was finished, it was obvious why it was the same answer and so I explained it to them.  So then they started hypothesizing about a different way of arranging the digits and whether that would also have the same answer or not.  I knew it would be different, but told them to do it and see.  Once they realized the answer was different we had a discussion about why.  They were so excited and you could almost see the gears turning and light bulbs flashing.

And all I know is that I'm so very glad we ignored the professional advice and turned down the free remedial help and just let math go at home for a while.  It was maybe the best academic decision we made all year.  We don't have tears and frustration any more.  We have excitement and experimentation and self-challenging and for heaven's sake we have CONVERSATION about math principles at the breakfast table.  It doesn't get much better than that.

24 March 2015


While getting breakfast...

Mack:  Kelvinator, I can blame everything in the world on you.
Kelvinator:  Psh. Yeah.  You could.  But no one would believe you.
Mack:  I bet I could convince some people.
Kelvinator: I'd like to see you try.
Mack:  You want an angry mob coming to kill you?

22 March 2015


Mack and Pink were eating chocolate milk and croissants.  But their chocolate milk was in tall glasses...

Me:  Are you guys going to be dipping the croissants in there?
Them:  Yeah.
Me:  You should use smaller cups.  It's going to be difficult to dip in such a tall glass.
(Mack got up to go get two mugs for them.  But there was only one mug in the cabinet.)
Mack:  There's only one clean cup.
Me:  You'll have to wash another one.
Mack:  Here, Pink.  (handing her the clean mug)  You can have this one.

I was dropping the elementaries off at home.  Baboo and I were then going to leave to go run an errand.  Pink and Mack had jumped out of the van saying "Last one in's a rotten egg!"  But Winkleberry was having a hard time getting out of the van, carrying all her stuff.  Some of it was getting caught on seat belts and she was starting to cry.  It was taking her a long time to get out of the van.  Then Mack came back out to the van...

Mack:  Last one in's a cutie-pie!

I loved my primary class today. Again.

We started out in jr. sharing time and one of my kids walked in late, crying.  I immediately switched seats so I could be by him.  I could tell he was embarassed and not really comfortable with me being there.  When I first asked him what was wrong, he just kind of ducked his head and kind of shrugged away from me.  But a moment later, I noticed he was holding his head so I asked if he had bumped it.  He nodded it.  I asked if it had happened on a door.  He said yes.  I gave him a little side hug and told him how much I hated it when I bonked my head and how it hurts so much.  It hurts much more on your head than when you bonk an arm or a leg or something.  He agreed and I sat there just rubbing his back.  After a few minutes his crying subsided and I asked if he was feeling a little better.  He was, but I kept rubbing his back until he was acting like normal again.

When we got to class, I immediately told everyone to go to the bathroom.  Sometimes the primary makes a big deal about parents making sure kids go to the bathroom because it's disruptive when the kids have to leave primary to go.  I can see how it could be disruptive in sharing time.  But it's just part of our schedule now that before we do anything in class, I send them all to the bathroom.  It's just part of the routine and it works great.

Then when they got back, I asked who had remembered their challenge that week.  (It's the same challenge every week:  to study at least one verse of scripture on their own that week.  Most of them are already reading in their families daily, but none of them are reading on their own and I told them that was one of the things they were going to have to do when they got baptized and so they should start now.  In order to make it not overwhelming, I just challenged them to do it once a week instead of daily.)  One had read  on her own.  One boy said he didn't have his own scriptures but that he had recited the articles of faith he had memorize.  I told him that was perfect and a really good way to study your scriptures because it's a good, safe place to keep the scriptures in your head and your heart!  So we take five or so minutes at the beginning of class that is just a quiet few minutes where they each read their scriptures on their own.  Most of them read from the articles of faith.  But some try to find their spots in the Book of Mormon or ask me to find a story about Jesus for them to read, etc...

Then, we started with telling each other what had happened to us this week. I got to hear about three kids who had visiting relatives this week and two kids who went to birthday parties yesterday.  One girl went to a dodge ball party and was saying that she was picked on a team last because she was the shortest but then described to us why short people were actually better dodgeball players!  I hadn't thought she was short so we had everyone in the class line up from shortest to tallest.  After we got everyone in order, some of the kids noticed that everybody had different thickness of soles on their shoes, so we had everyone take their shoes off and re-measured.  A couple kids changed places, but this girl was definitely not the shortest in the class.  When it was my turn I told them about how JJ just got his suits for his mission yesterday and that I got a special message in sacrament meeting.  I asked them to guess when I got it.  And I got to hear them retell in their own words what they remembered from sacrament meeting.  They all were guessing the different talks.  But then I told them that it happened  while one of the girls' dad  was singing a musical number.  He has a really wonderful voice and I had never heard the song before, but the lyric went something like "I have delighted in His word."  And I just knew that this man was someone who really did delight in the word of the Lord and I knew he loved reading his scriptures.  Not because I know that about him but because the spirit testified to me that it was true.  I explained that I just felt in my heart happy, warm feelings that made me want to study my scriptures better to be able to say that I, too, delight in the Word of the Lord.  Last week, during this time where they tell me something about their lives, one of the girls told about how her aunt was diagnosed with cancer.  I asked her if she was praying for her aunt and she said, "not really."  I told her she should because it sounded like her aunt could use as many blessings as she could get!  And then 30 minutes later during the closing prayer, one sweet little prayed for this girl's aunt.  So this week I asked how her aunt was doing and she said she was doing better and that little boy said, "It's because of my prayer!"  Just so sweet!

I reminded the kids that we were saying the opening prayer so that we could invite the spirit so that we would get Heavenly Father's special message for us and we would get those answers in our minds with thoughts and/or in our hearts with feelings.  We still go over that every Sunday before the prayer.

Then I started my lesson on baptism.  The first thing I wanted to do was read some scriptures.  So I had scriptures for all the kids and I wanted them to take a turn reading.  It was really hard getting them to find the scriptures, though.  And I remembered when I had done this a couple of weeks ago that it had been difficult, too.  Basically they have no idea what a scripture reference is or what the numbers mean or how to find it.  So instead of plowing through with the lesson on baptism we stopped and talked about the order that the books of scriptures are in and what a chapter (or section) and verse is and how to find it.  We practiced looking up scriptures for a little bit and then we started talking about the purpose of the tabs.  The scriptures they were using didn't have many tabs, but I had lots of tabs on my scriptures and so I showed them my tabs and how I use them.

So it's time to get back, to talking about baptism.  We read the scriptures and had some discussion about them.  Then I asked a question and someone gave me an answer I wasn't looking for and didn't expect.  It was about fasting.  Then someone else made a comment about how hard fasting was and how hungry they got.  They all seemed to think of it as something unsavory.  So I stopped my baptism lesson to talk about fasting.  I told them that they weren't required to fast until they were baptized.  But when they made that covenant to obey ALL of God's commandments, one of those was going to be the law of the fast.  So we talked about how fasting lets your spirit grow in strength to be stronger than your body so that spiritual things win out over physical things.  And I told them that whenever they felt REALLY hungry when they were fasting, they could focus that energy for how much they wanted food and instead focus on how much MORE they wanted the blessing they were fasting for.  And use that same energy to get the blessing through prayer and scripture study.  They were listening.

By the time I got back to my lesson, I looked at the clock.  I had 18 minutes left of class and still really hadn't even talked about baptism yet!  And with the last ten minutes of class dedicated to memorizing articles of faith, I only had 8 minutes for the whole lesson.  So I basically threw everything else out the window and just basically reminded them of the covenants they would be making at baptism (1.  keep all commandments, 2.  always remember Jesus Christ and 3.  Take up on them His name).  We talked about the symbolism of total immersion  and tied that "rebirth" into getting a name (the name of Christ).  Then I briefly mentioned that because we would not be perfect in keeping the commandments, Heavenly Father was going to then give them the gift of the Holy Ghost to help them.  At that point, I was ready to end the lesson and move on to the articles of faith.

But one boy started talking about an experience he had with the Holy Ghost.  And all the kids were quiet and totally rapt as he explained his experience.  Then another boy raised his hand and said he had an experience to share.  He told about an experience of warning he had with the Holy Ghost.  He said, "The Holy Ghost said, 'Don't do it.'"  So I asked him if he actually heard those words in his mind or if it was more of a feeling.  He thought about it for a minute and said, "Kind of both."  Still the kids were so quiet and listening.  And then I remembered that I had planned on sharing a story about my own baptism that seemed to fit in this point of the lesson.  So I told my story and the kids were just sitting on the edge of their seats.  It had been quiet in our classroom for a long time and all the kids were listening and it was just meaningful.  That's how I would describe what happened in those last few minutes.  Meaningful testimonies were shared and the spirit was there.

So I ended the lesson and we did our articles of faith.  They have 1, 2, 3, and 13 memorized.  So I just had them recite them to me and then we marked them off on the new cards we had just received from the Primary presidency to keep track.
I also loved last week's lesson on Priesthood blessings.  I basically started the lesson by asking the kids if they had ever received a priesthood blessing and to tell us about it.  Most of the kids talked about father's blessings.  So I talked about that and tied in information from the lesson.  But one kid talked about a blessing when he was sick and then the other kids remembered those as well so we talked about consecrated oil and what consecrated meant and how blessings were given and other things from the manual.  And we had just had a baby blessed in sacrament meeting the week before so I brought that up and we talked about that.  That was the whole lesson, basically.  I used their own stories to point out the information from the manual.  It was pretty cool.  It was a lot of them doing the teaching and not very much of me talking.


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