Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Outliers and the Athletes

QT takes a once a week class through a charter school.  One week his teacher told me he knows everything, but he is gracious about his knowledge.

Last week the teacher told me that QT is an outlier. She spoke of his math abilities. Both of my kiddies have spectacular math minds. QT, thinks in math and loves to connect conversations with math.

In middle school I realized I loved math. Math challenged me and I wanted to understand it.  In 7th grade I had pre-algebra. I went to my counselor and asked for general math and he told me that my testing showed I was ready for pre-algebra.

I stayed in the class and passed with a C but had little understanding.  I remember a 9th grade boy who got to leave school after lunch to take a bus to the nearby high school to take geometry.  Back then schools accommodated high ability.  When I got to high school a few of my friends had trigonometry.  I would carry their book because I wanted people to think it was mine.

One year in high school, I eliminated an elective and took 2 math classes.  I was determined.   I was so determined that I demanded to be put in remedial math.  My counselor required that I sign to confirm I knew what I was doing.  Since I had gotten a C in pre-algebra and algebra the counselor didn't think I needed remedial math.  That class was the best thing because the teacher was great and I got a foundation, I had missed because I tested well and skipped general math.  After a semester I moved back to Algebra and got strong B.  Then I began advancing in math. Then I got an awful math teacher and got an A but learned nothing.

I decided then that I would  marry a man who was good at math so my kids would have a chance.

My kids have a good chance. They can add, subtract, round numbers, multiply and divide in their head and they understand the idea of fractions. They love math!


My kiddies are strong athletes and competitive.  QT started track last week. He joined one of the best track clubs in the area and so far he is enjoying it.  He's 5 so he hasn't yet figured out that he should compete against himself.  His goal is to be faster than his competition.  He puts in the work to be ahead of the kids in his group.  Our goal is to teach him to how to seek, find and exceed his own personal best.   He has to train to compete against the  kids he doesn't know.

I enjoy watching my little guy train and enjoy a sport.  TR has been in gymnastics since she was 1.  She has grown into a gymnastics schedule.  QT has done gymnastics and karate but he was hesitant to embark upon a sport of his own.  He was concerned about his loss of free time.

If boys had a sport they could enter at a young age, he would be used to that routine. He started gymnastics at 6 months old and karate at 5, but both were at times 45 minute and other times 1 hour classes and I think he has known it was an activity, not a sport that requires a time commitment. Track is now 2 days a week for 2 hours and will increase after the new year.

The other thing I enjoy about tracking is walking the track with the other moms.  I get to have exercise and connect with other parents.  I'm enjoying the childhood days of my kiddies.


QT has really taken to reading.  Sometimes he will get a book and get comfy in a chair or the couch and read.  He had been a little resistant to reading and didn't consider himself as a being able to read.  I gave him a pre-primer Reader and he was able to read the entire 100+ page book in a couple of weeks.

Then we moved to the 1st grade Reader and he began reading that.

 I think those books which were at his ability level, boosted his confidence and made him feel like he could read.

We went to the library this week and the wonderful librarian helped him select books.  She asked him his reading level and he said 1st grade.  He completed one of the 32 page books in two days and tomorrow we move to a new book.  He's been reading the library book to me and I'm watching as he quickly learns to identify, remember and sound out bigger and longer words.  I'm glad I got the beginning reader because once he got his confidence up,  it changed everything.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fakeness and Struggle

Maybe it's because I live in the expensive bay area but I struggle with the African-Americans who consider themselves bougie.  My bias is hard to reign in and I view most snooty Af-Am's through my skeptical sense.

I don't see how bougie people in 2015 think they are bougie when they work a non-managerial government job or non-managerial quasi government job.  That might have been an accomplishment when we were just exiting slavery and Jim Crow but now, we know that the government is pretty much the safest place for colored people.

Even in my great-grandfather's day self-employment meant success in the community but in modern times, people think working for some caucasian run company is success.  How is quota filling success?   I know I'm not the best Af-Am in the region but when I'm one of 2 Af-Am's in a building I know, I'm a quota.

I look at the local bougie childrens' groups and realize that maybe 1% of the families are financially secure.  The others have nice clothes and bills.  I also look at the many people I grew up around who were in those organizations and 98% of them have not been as successful or stable as their middle class parents.

By the time my grandparents were my age, they owned a house without a mortgage and were on their way to purchasing a home in an upper middle class part of the city.   The price they paid in the 60's would be the equivalent of a million in today's dollars.  People still stop and say how much my grandparents did for them, by giving them jobs and an ability to help their family or buy school clothes. They left a legacy.

I'm not as successful financially as my grandparents and my grandparents did not view themselves as bougie (though they could have), so I certainly don't.   I do intend to leave a legacy and that will be my success.

It thoroughly confuses me why some people think they are bougie, they don't have money, they don't have a network of people to help them progress, they can't give anyone a job or long term position, they don't have a business, they aren't making social movements that help communities.  Is the new black bougie all about consumerism, and having stuff and being able to go the places that caucasians didn't let us go in the past? I see so called bougie folks posting photos at Wineries, Martha's Vineyard, the Hamptons, ski trips, or at airports.  How is spending money the mark of success?  It's all so odd.

I miss the old bougie folks. The ones who got together and developed businesses and communities, the people who had a purpose beyond trying to spend their way into lifestyles as seen on t.v..  Where is their legacy?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


The government is banning so much and making so many things mandatory.   The state has banned smokeless tobacco at Baseball games under the claim that kids see it.  I don't use tobacco but the nanny state bugs me.

Our little homeschool group likes freedom for our kids. As the government rapidly removes freedom, the value in offering freedom to kids becomes more apparent.

It's quite dry but the parkland is such a relaxing atmosphere. Today was not my day to volunteer but I took the kids their lunch and relaxed on the blanket and watched them explore.

I watched them walk the terrain and make assessments on whether they could climb or descend hills, which way they should go to get up or down.  Watching them learn and observe and figure things out is a beautiful process.  I watch them grow in their independence and grow in confidence as they explore unknown terrain without me near. I'm nervous but they go forward feeling self assured.

  One of the home school parents is Russian and lived in Germany and in her prior countries, kids didn't start school until 7 or 8 years old.  She said she could not get used to the idea of sending a 5 year old to school so she began homeschool.  Her daughter just turned 7.  She told me she knew her daughter could sit quietly in a class, but she also knew the good kids get ignored.  I told her about QT's kindergarten class and his teacher telling me he was "moveable".  He got along with everyone and when other kids had conflicts and she needed to move those student's seats, she could move QT to different seats and into different groups because he would not have the conflict.

It's unfortunate that the good kids get ignored and the disruptive kids (who probably need the attention) get the bulk of a teacher's time.

 As I watched the kids brave the various elements in nature, I thought of the scene in Stand By Me when those kids were walking in park settings.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fractions and Length Check

Mr. A introduced fractions today.  The kids used counters to figure out what fractions look like. The kids cook and count money so they have familiarity with the concept.

After fractions I read The Life of Fred- Apples.  The book is great.  I look forward to reading it each day to see what trouble Fred will get into that day and what math he will use.

The kids have readers, so after I read Fred, the kids took turns reading their books aloud. We also did memory verses this morning.  

I made a length check t-shirt for TR.  Leaving her hair alone has been successful.  The photo on the left is July 22 , 2015, middle is August 23, 2015 and the photo on the right is October 9, 2015.

The nice thing about a length check t-shirt is if the length is not being maintained I know right away that changes in hair care must occur.

Play is still the work of children

One of the parents in our co-op is a teacher who left teaching to homeschool.

I think teaching destroyed her ability to believe children don't need minute by minute micromanagement to learn. The rest of the parents set up a schedule that was 1 hour of instruction and 2 hours of play. Now the teacher-parent wants to hire a second teacher for a second hour because the kids are just running around playing.

The plan was to allow them to run around and free play.

California requires 280 minutes of school for 175 days.  I imagine 280 is necessary because a teacher has 20-30 students and 280 minutes each day, each student can get about 11 minutes of individual instruction per day.  In homeschool,  I have two kids so it doesn't take me as long to explain a concept and work with my two students for mastery of content.

If we didn't stop and play, we'd be done with a school year in a few months.  It's not surprising that many homeschool kids go to college at 13 because when you are teaching 1 or 2 kids, things go very fast.

TR told me she wants to go to college at 13.  I'm sure she can do it. She is 7 so we've got 6 years.  She'll probably be able to start 5th grade curriculum in the Spring and maybe we'll try a college course at 10, to see.  If she does begin college at 13, one of us will go with her everyday.  I went to college at 16 and I remember going on a "date" with a 21-year old classmate.  I put date in quotations because I wasn't allowed to date. The guy met me and 5 of my friends at a restaurant. He sat and we had ice cream with the group. I didn't realize that 21-year olds were adults and I didn't realize I was 16 and still a kid.

I remember the pre-cell phone days and how people would arrange things and manage meet ups. Those were fun times.  Anyway,  13 is quite young to go to school with adults, so I'll sign up too.  Although if she gets in Stanford I'll just do drop off and pick up.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Just the zipcode

The kids do a few different classes each week.  Spanish, art, general interest, science. These classes give me time to just think or sometimes work.  Today I was thinking how odd it is to make a good amount of money and still have to live regular.  I believe we live regular because we're the equivalent of a single income family. We both work part time for the most part.  Our primary income comes for our educational advocacy firm so one business currently funds everything.  We're working on diversifying.

"I'd rather have 1% of the effort of 100 men than 100% of my own effort." J. Paul Getty

I don't mind paying people well because I'd rather have 1% of their effort than 100% of mine. My difficulty is increasing staff and maintaining motivated staff.  I keep having people tell me I make it look easy, then they get into their job and realize it isn't easy.  

I was thinking that the amount we pay should put us in a larger home.  It occurred to me that we live in an expensive part of an expensive state and the primary difference in homes is the zip code and the amenities in close proximity of that zip code. More money doesn't really get size, it gets location. 

I wonder if the cost relates to be further away from the hood or simply housing scarcity.  Some people pay $1million and don't have views or space.

It's frustrating because in the early 2000's I would look at and see homes in Bel Air for $1 million. Then when I could maybe swing that mortgage, the same homes are $5 and $6 million and the same type of house I could have afforded in 2000 is now a million.  I call that economic stagnation. I guess it's better than decline but it is rough when the things that were out of reach remain out of reach.

On a happier note, I took photos of the kids during a math lesson. QT added 3 digit numbers and TR used 5 digit numbers.  My kids love math! I am happy about their ease with math. In my youth I told myself I would marry a man who had math ability so my kids could have a chance. QT and TR are math minds. They think in numbers and calculate in their heads. Last night before bath they were giving each other math problems.

Monday, October 5, 2015

School Today

Today the kids did their Spanish co-op.  It was my day to work. I did a couple of hours and Mr. A came at lunch time and took the group to the park.  He had planned a game of soccer.  An hour prior to the teacher's arrival the kids arrive, play and have a snack. As I watched them play before school, I was thinking how wonderful the day felt to me. I watched my kids and all of the kids be happy.  I would like to add 'calm' but there are 2 boys who are not at all calm, but the rest of the kids are.  QT is very active, he is loud, boisterous, he needs a lot of space and puts 100% if his focus on play but when its time to pay attention, he gives that 100% to the task at hand.
The home-school coop is held at the home of a homeschooling family. That family lives next door to another homeschool family and the kids can walk between the houses and play in both backyards. Next door to those two homes is another home school family, but their yards don't connect.  This group of people met and intentionally put themselves in the same block. They built their community.   Mr. A and I want to do that.  We want to live in an area with kids, so that our kids can go outside, knock on a door and play. The challenge to this are manifold. One huge one is finding kids who come home after school. So many families have two working parents which means, little kids aren't home.          

TR has described to me the house she wants. I think we'll need a few million to get the type of house she wants.  She's been watching HGTV with me and seeing the different types of homes and the different features inside of a home.