Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Kicking off the school year

Our school's logo

The last of our books for the 2014-2015 school year arrived at the beginning of August and the kids were EXCITED!  So excited that I was quite frankly shocked.  They kept asking me when they could start and what they could do.  In an effort to delay them, I suggested that perhaps they could name the school, come up with a mascot, pick out some school colors, etc.  

They got right to it and even designed a logo with my help:Tom Thumb suggested that the mascot be a cat.  Red then drew a picture with two cats with intertwining tails with the letter N floating between them (N is the first letter of our last name).  We found the clipart online and I did some finagling to get the N to be purple and yellow, the school colors that they chose.  Guess who chose which color!  Ha ha!  They named our school N_____ Academy, even though Tom Thumb was still pushing hard for it to be named Cat Academy.  

Red even picked the school motto.  She selected it on her own from the Dr. Seuss book "Oh the Places You'll Go!"  The quotation is:
I think it is a brilliant motto and very fitting with what our goals are.

Then, they suggested they wanted a school grand opening party---complete with snacks and balloons.  We ended up at Party City where they each got a balloon with their grade number on it and a whistle (I'm already regretting the whistles).

We also baked cupcakes and frosted them purple and yellow in celebration of the school colors.

We're off to a great start with a lot of joy!  Hopefully we can maintain that spark and momentum as the year goes on.

How did you kick off your school year?  Do you have any family traditions that start it off on a good foot?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I'm back...


After a year and a half hiatus, here's a blog post to update you as to where I've been.  A lot has changed since I posted Tom Thumb's birthday cake from when he turned 5 in September 2012.
     First, the Cobbler got a promotion and we were able to get away to Europe sans kids while he was on a two week assignment for work (thanks Mom and Dad!) in December 2012.  We traveled to London (that's the Tower Bridge behind us in the above photo), Cologne, and Paris.  Can't wait to get back there when the kids are a little older.  Red really is motivated to learn German after me forcing the kids to listen to language CDs in the car for weeks before the trip.  I've tried to explain to her that pretty much everyone speaks English in Germany (even when I tried to speak German to people they would say "Oh!  You're American!  Let me practice my English on you."), but she doesn't care.
     Then, I got a job.  Nearly two years ago now, I got a job as a substitute teacher.  What started off as one or two days a week quickly became a full time job.  I did two three month long term jobs in the last year...so six months of working full time.  One was in a class for severely cognitively impaired 6 to 12 year olds and the other was for a K-5th grade autism spectrum disorder class.  I found I have a knack with special ed students (who knew?) and that I really enjoy teaching them.  I've now found my groove and I'm subbing for special ed classes at Red and Tom Thumb's school one or two days a week.
    I also became president of the PTA.  I know...I'm nuts.  I kind of got sucked into it because the outgoing president actually said just before the election "Well if no one wants to be president, I know some guy who might do it."  I know some guy!?!?  I couldn't have "some guy" I didn't even know telling me, as a PTA member, what to do.  We actually made a ton of progress this past year at the kids' school.  We designed a new PTA website and a new website for the school, launched a new school logo, made $7,500 at the first fundraiser of the year (our whole annual budget was about $7,000 so we were done with fundraising right away), we had a great Halloween party, increased our membership to 85 from 65, and made another $1,600 for the school library through a Scholastic book fair.  We were really on a roll.  I was feeling amazing about the PTA's growth.  Then, the rug got pulled out from under me.
    In December, a note went home from the office of the school district's superintendent saying that he was considering moving the school to a different location.  The principal gave me one day advance notice before the letter dropped.  There would be meetings in January at the building that they were proposing that we move to.  He assured me that it was "bigger and better."  I told him that I would keep an open mind.
     I attended the meeting at the proposed location in January.  It was neither bigger nor better.  Even though I had been assured otherwise, the classrooms appeared smaller than the ones we had (I later found out that they are 200-500 square feet smaller).  The building was in pretty rough shape.  Evidence of water damage was on the ceiling tiles and the gym floor was significantly damaged.  When asked where the playground would be, I was directed to a narrow patch lawn that was sloping toward a major intersection.  Not to mention it was a teeny fraction of the size of green space compared to our current school.   I met with the principal the following week with my concerns about the location---specifically the number of bathrooms (about 1/3 of the number at the current location and no handicapped accessibility), the fact that adults were taking classes in the adjacent hall to where they wanted to locate our program, and my concern about the significantly higher crime rate in the area surrounding the proposed location (i.e. 150+ crimes in the last 6 months vs. 5 crimes near our current location).  We had a PTA meeting a couple weeks later when I presented the benefits and concerns about the proposed location to parents.  The superintendent was in attendance and still could not address our many issues with the building and said that whether or not we moved was his decision to make.  His disdain for our concerns and his arrogance was evident.  Even though the new location had been presented as a possible choice in the beginning, I knew in that moment that it was not a choice.  It was going to happen.  This was about saving money and had nothing to do with what was best for our children.  Other parents and myself emailed our district's board of education about why we thought the new spot was inferior.  They ignored our emails.  We literally got no response until a month later when the vice president of the PTA and I cornered the president of the school board at a city wide PTA dinner about why he doesn't answer emails.  He listened, but I could tell it was falling on deaf ears.  The superintendent came to our March PTA meeting and announced that the move was going forward.  The PTA vice president, the PTA treasurer, and myself announced that we were resigning at the end of the school year because we couldn't have our children attend school at a location where the crime is high, the classrooms are small, there aren't enough bathrooms, and the playground is postage stamp.  I lost a lot of sleep over it, and I'm still upset.  The local newspaper called me yesterday for a quote for their article on the move.  I could only describe my demeanor as frustrated and disappointed...and that was being nice.
      So where does that leave our family...  After much discussion, we have opted to return to the path we were led to originally----homeschooling.  I think we're in a much different place now than we were in 2010 when Red entered school.  The two kids are more mature and self motivated.  I have a great relationship with both of them, and I think we're all looking forward to the flexibility that homeschooling will give us.  They are going to finish the school year out where they are so that they can enjoy the next couple of months with their friends, and I'll have time to tie up loose ends with work and projects around the house (oy!  Too many house projects!).  We're going to get going with math over the summer to keep their skills up, and then we'll start school in earnest in the fall.  I'm looking forward to this new adventure and I'm hoping to occasionally share the fun things that we do on the blog.  I don't know how often I'll be blogging, but I'll try to share if something cool comes up.  Blessings to you and yours in 2014!