Life. Love. Family. Our Perfect Imperfection. Living life as a Catholic, homeschooling family with three amazing, unique boys, a too-oft serious, frustrated and anxious but also loving momma, and a fun-loving, hardworking dad.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Why we are choosing to opt out

Paraphrasing one of our favorite teachers, "I'm a tester, not a teacher."

My sentiments exactly.

Mind you, the truth behind this statement is not by choice but by necessity, forced by the state and federal governments due to the near-constant standardized, or otherwise, testing.

My sons do have *some* amazing teachers, who are unable to do what they should be able to do (truly TEACH our kids) because they have to focus so much on testing, whether it be 30-day/monthly assessments in multiple subjects, or the THREE (I believe it was even 4 when the state of Michigan was still using MEAP) yearly standardized tests they have to give, and our kids have to take - Scantron in the Fall and Spring, and the replacement for the MEAP test, M-Step.

My boys will not be taking this new test for numerous reasons, that many others have written about in ways better than I can - just do a quick internet search and I'm sure you'll find many such articles which I won't link to here for my own reasons. However, my number 2 reason is the above: too many "tests" and not enough learning.

That brings me to my number one reason. My oldest child, you know my Aspie who has anxiety and is constantly worried about getting it trouble and what not? Well, about a month ago, one of his teacher's said something to the class in a "discussion" about the M-step. He just told me earlier this week, and while he couldn't recall which teacher it was, he very adamantly remembered what was said. I can see why he remembers, because of the fear it made him feel.

"If a student is out for the test, it's basically illegal, because it is technically stealing from the school, because the state won't give money to the school then." In other words, if a student doesn't take the test, they won't be counted for funding, and the school will receive less money from the state of Michigan. While the part about the school receiving money depending on student count is true, it does NOT mean my (or any child) is 'basically stealing' from anyone, and it's not illegal to opt out or not ensure the school gets funding because of it.

Let me restate that: My child was told, along with classmates, that if they opt out of the test, they ARE DOING SOMETHING ILLEGAL AND STEALING FROM THE SCHOOL. For all intents and purposes, this is what my TWELVE YEAR OLD son was told and understood it to mean. Indeed, he was so upset, that he at first didn't tell me, but planned to just take the test. When I told him and his brother that their dad and I would be opting them out, and they didn't need to worry too much about the test, he became upset and told me what he was told. He became visibly upset, on the verge of tears, telling me how he would be screwing up his entire life and go to jail then. Seriously??

He will, of course, not be stealing, nor doing anything illegal (nor go to jail) for NOT TAKING A TEST. He will also not be taking the test, and neither will his brother.

I have to go into the school with the opt-out form, and am unsure of the response I will be given. I also don't know what alternative activities they will be doing the days of the test - which may be as many as 5 days!! - but I am prepared to find out. If I am told that there is no plan, or they will be stuck in the office all day, some other action may be taken.

We are in the process of determining our course of action for next school year, as we may be moving, and if not, probably won't be continuing at our current school. Jason and I are considering every option, and about 80/20 on what that decision will be. This particular issue is only one of many that are causing us to make a change.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: 3/2 - 3/8

It's a no-frills kind of week around here. Lots of simple meals that (mostly) everyone will eat with no complaints. The only ones I'm a bit hesitant about are Wednesday and Saturday. Jackson (our 3 year old) doesn't really like creamy or cheesy sauces, so I will probably keep some chicken breast separate before mixing in the alfredo sauce on Wednesday. He's never had steak florentine, but loves cheeseburgers - on or off the bun - so he will probably try it, but without macaroni and cheese on the side.

It's a funny thing actually. None of my boys liked mac and cheese for years. I think E and A might have both been 5 before they liked it. Of course, now, they LOVE it, at 12 and 9, especially the homemade baked version we usually have. This week, though, I am cheating. I actually bought the 24oz box of the blue box creamy mac and cheese (not the powdered stuff. Blech! None of us like any brand's take on that, even Annie's) instead of homemade or our usual "quick" choice of Annie's. The way my nearly teenage son - he'll be 13 in 5 months - Ethan can pack away food lately, I've got to make sure we have enough to serve him! ;) And Alex, our tween (10 in just 3 short months!) is right behind him on that. Just waiting for the growth spurts!

A couple of notes:
Our favorite store-bought spaghetti sauce is Muir Glen Organic garlic roasted garlic and it's actually reasonable in comparison to other national brands. Honestly I think it may be the best jarred pasta sauce I've ever eaten. *I say store-bought and jarred, because my dad still makes THE best spaghetti sauce I've ever had. I need to make some soon. That, his chili and his bean soup. MMMMM! Too bad it would only be Jason and I enjoying the chili and the bean soup. Or maybe the boys not digging soup is a good thing, more for me ;) *
Also Monday is usually our leftover night, to clean out the fridge before Tuesday morning trash pickup, but we don't have much in there!

Monday: Spaghetti with meat

Tuesday: Pizza buffet at a local restaurant (school fundraiser)

Wednesday: Chicken alfredo with broccoli, applesauce

Thursday: Leftovers - if there are any - otherwise, pancakes or other easy make-on-the-fly food.

Friday: (It's Lent) Broiled Salmon for us, fish stick for the boys, roasted sweet potatoes

Saturday: Steak Florentine, macaroni and cheese, carrots

Sunday: ? We will be out of town most of the day, so may eat dinner at a restaurant there or something quick and light once we get home depending on the time we leave.

Check out more menu ideas at I'm an organizing junkie.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Words, words and more words

In honor of March being National Reading Month and Dr. Suess' birthday tomorrow, we plan to do a lot of reading this month. Usually the boys' school has some type of reading program or activity for the month of March. Alex always has a set amount of days and minutes to read each month (minimum of 20 mins a day for 20+ days, and he has to fill in a calendar with book and pages read with a parent initialing each day).

Our goal is to each spend at least 30 minutes a day reading, with no set amount of books. I'd also like to go to the library to find some new books to check out. The school also has their Spring Scholastic Book Fair this month, and I'm volunteering just like every year.

  1. Read 60 minutes of my own book plus 20 minutes to Jackson each day.
  2. Spend at least 1 hour deep-cleaning the house M-F (not just straightening up).
  3. Write a daily blog post
  4. 64oz of water.
  5. 2 episodes from my list of DVR'd shows max M-F and 3 hours TV Saturday and Sunday.
  6. Take (or have Jason take) all the boxes/bags to donation center.
  7. Box up and deliver all baby stuff to A & J, before baby shower.
  1. Read 30 minutes every day of the month.
  2. 2 hours maximum "screen time" (TV shows and videos on the Kindle) each day M-F after homework and reading.
  3. Play video games only on Saturdays and Sundays.
  4. Write a blog post about any topic he's interested in.
  5. Read an autobiography or biography and write a report.
  6. Do own laundry with minimal assistance from Mom.
  7. Bake cookies.
  8. Plan a dinner menu and cook it with help from Mom or Dad.
  1. Cub Scout goals.
    • Traveler badge
      • Geography belt loop
      • Map & Compass belt loop
    • Family Member badge
    • Aquanaut badge? This is a possibility if we can sign up for a local activity.
    • Finish Pinewood Derby Car
    • Nutrition belt loop
    • Family travel belt loop
  2. Read 30 minutes every day of the month.
  3. 2 hours maximum of "screen time" (TV shows or videos on the Kindle) each day M-F after homework and reading.
  4. Play video games only on Saturday and Sunday.
  5. Write a blog post.
  6. Do own laundry with minimal assistance from Mom.
  7. Plan a dinner and cook it with help from Mom and Dad.
  1. Potty training. Progress, not perfection.
  2. Coloring activity.
  3. Paint a picture.
  4. Choi classes 3 days a week (his classes are 30 minutes long, and with how much he loves it, we are continuing at least through May.)
  1. 30-60 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week - the older boys decided to take off a month or two from Choi.
  2. 2 family outings.
  3. Four new recipes.
  4. Go to a museum.
  5. Go to the library twice.
  6. Visit a new park (weather permitting).
  7. Tech-free days at least bi-weekly.