Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Creative Cousins

"Can I have dessert?" queried my six year old nephew.

I told him he absolutely could, after he wrote or selected a poem for Tuesday Teatime.  It may be Spring Break, but there is always a time and place for stealth schooling.

The 13 year old cousins decided they wanted to compose their own poems, but weren't sure what to write about.  "Tap dancing spiders!" "Cousins being eaten by a dragon!" commanded the eldest girl cousin in that way of first-borns everywhere who are accustomed to getting younger siblings to do all manner of ridiculous or impossible task merely because the primogenitarily favored demand it.

And in the manner of second borns everywhere who are accustomed to performing all manner of ridiculous or impossible task without pausing to wonder, "Why?" and without so much as a "You aren't the boss of me," the two 13 year old cousins turned out the following in under ten minutes:

Allison's poem

Every night when I go to sleep
All the creatures come out and creep.
The spiders, they tap dance with flair;
The rats make nests upon my long hair.
The roaches play with the flies and bugs;
The mice crawl under the purple rugs.
And when the rooster crows in the morn,
The animals scatter as the sun is born.

Nathan's poem

Once there was the day
 my thoughts ran away.
  My cousins were
   eaten by a dragon.
    With golden scales
     like large hay bales,
      and teeth like fire and
       sharp as barbed wire.
Once there was a day
 when my thoughts ran away.
  My cousins were
   eaten by a dragon.
    So I set a trap in the
     depths of my mind to
      trap the gleaming evil.
       But alas, I had not the
        time, and came the golden
         dragon prime.  I tried to save
          but no chance he gave, and
           and ate them up in no time.
Once there was a day
 my thoughts ran away.
  My cousins were
    eaten by a dragon.

First borns may set the agenda.  But second borns get bonus cookies for originality and execution.



Sunday, March 20, 2011

Invisible Mom

I am 43.  I drive a mini-van.  I worry about the 20 extra pounds accumulated in the 50 pound, five time yoyo ride up and down the kid-bearing roller coaster.  I am invisible; I am every mom.

I found myself suddenly conspicuous last night when my 15 year old invited a group of friends over.  These are all kids he's gotten to know at church and several were on the week long missions trip with him last summer.  But still, they are not kids I know well.  And there were girls invited. (!!??)  And none of them are home schoolers.

I don't know in what nanosecond the sippy cups and arranged play dates stopped and my kid began selecting his own friends and asking them to come hang out.  Wasn't it just yesterday that no self respecting boy would sit on the "girl" side of the Sunday School room, let alone talk to one?

What is an invisible mom to do in times such as these?   If it were just a group of guys hanging out, I would have chucked them all in the basement with a bag of chips and been done with it.

As mom of one princess myself and extrapolating a decade into her future, I decided chucking into the basement with a bag of chips probably wasn't the way to go.  How to be omnipresent without seeming as if one is omnipresent?

I dispatched Mr. Wonderful to the basement to supervise the opening Nerf War and I bopped in and out a few times collecting the younger kids for bed.

After an opening warm-up war, the kids moved on to Risk, the ostensible purpose of the gathering.  I know, I know; if you have a group of kids willing to gather on a Saturday night to eat snacks and play Risk, they are probably not the rabble rousing variety needing constant, vigilant watch.  I recused myself to the front living room to read and listen to every word of their conversation without being seen.

Mr. Wonderful took up sentry at the kitchen computer.  The teens laughed and ate and played in the adjoining family room.  They seemed not to notice us a whole lot as we tried to thread the needle of being friendly and available without being an embarrassment to our offspring.

It's hard work being conspicuously invisible.  Being a parent of teens is a lot like being a good butler.  Anticipating needs, serving without drawing attention to one's self, aware of everything, revealing nothing.  Maybe invisibility is God's super power gift to the middle aged parent.  It sure is more kind to the midsection than donning a Wonder Woman suit.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Math Counts

Hi, all:

Regardless of whether or not your kid is involved in the middle school Math Counts competition, I hope you might take a moment to drop Math Counts program coordinator Chris Bright a note. Indications are that the Math Counts board is reviewing their rules for next year.

Prior to this year, homeschool teams were allowed to compete as both individuals and in the team competition. Math Counts then made a ruling banning all homeschool teams from the team portion of the competition. After great outcry and some HSLDA involvement, they partially rescinded that ruling. They grandfathered in teams in existence prior to 2010-2011 and banned only new homeschool teams. After that, pressure on the Math Counts organization greatly decreased as the older teams were happy and stopped calling and writing letters.

The time is now, I believe, to once again ask Math Counts to fully rescind their discriminatory ruling and allow all homeschool teams back in to team competition. Interestingly, there are some parallels in the rationale that MathCounts gave for their ruling and the rationale we saw from Senator Maloney for his IL homeschool registration efforts. Both parties brought up those who were not really home schoolers masquerading as such and causing problems. Obviously, the solution is not to punish/regulate the true home schoolers.

Even if you don't have a pony in this race, please consider writing a letter. This type of thinking is spreading--my sister reports similar rationale now being used by the Science Olympiad competition in NC to attempt to ban homeschool teams there.

My letter and Chris Bright's email address is below. I am not certain whether Chris is a man or a woman, which is why I used the first name.


To: chris@mathcounts.org
Subject: Homeschool MathCounts Teams
Date: Tue, 1 Mar 2011 19:58:47 +0000

Dear Chris:

Richard S, our IL chapter coordinator, passed along to you my concern about banning new homeschool teams from MathCounts team competition. You may remember I also wrote to you about this issue this past summer/fall.
You indicated to Richard that the policy is still under review for next year.

As Richard told you, our team posed no administrative challenge or headache to him. He said MathCounts told him this was the reason for banning new homeschool teams. I told him that the original reason we were given was a concern over homeschool teams forming super teams from a wide geographic area. MathCounts allows science & math magnets and private gifted schools to compete, although these are by nature super teams pulling from a wide geographic area.

By contrast, our new team was formed purely within the spirit of MathCounts' intent--to encourage more kids to love math. Our "parent team" moved further north and our new team formed several suburbs and an hour's drive away. We knew this would make both teams less competitive, but we felt it would offer more home educated kids the chance to get involved in a club close to their neighborhood. Indeed, all of our kids live within a mile east-west radius and within an 18 block north-south radius. Our geographic pull this year was much more narrow than the local middle school team that advanced to states.

Our team won the team portion of the competition and finished second overall. Unfortunately, our team was the only ones who knew that because our scores had to be "unofficial" and hence, unannounced.

May I ask you to put yourself in the place of our students for a moment? They worked just as hard as any other team, meeting once weekly for two hours faithfully since the previous September. They applauded politely for every other announced team and individual award.

Does MathCounts really think that is a fair way to treat students based solely on how they receive their primary math education? I think it is entirely the wrong message to be sending to a group of youngsters--that no matter how well you do, you will be discriminated against because of the type of school you attend and you will be overlooked.

I urge MathCounts to rescind this practice that denigrates the efforts of home educated students and to return to the pre-2010 rule of allowing homeschool teams to compete as both individuals and as teams. It is the right thing to do.

Holly R