Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ezra growing up - haircuts and chewing

Little 14.5 month old Ezra only liked to eat pureed foods once we finally got him started eating cereal. It was just so easy for me to blend up whatever we were eating and feed him that instead of chopping and cutting and fighting. So I pureed. And Ezra got to the point where he wouldn't even eat mashed potatoes because they were too firm for him. Little punk. 

So on Monday, August 11 I had made this yummy chicken thigh, potato and carrot crock pot meal for dinner thinking that for sure he would be able to handle the incredibly soft and yummy carrots and potatoes. He would not handle them and did not think they were yummy. He threw an Ezra fit. And mommy felt super guilty for letting it get to this. I enabled him. This is him after he had some force feeding that night and I reached out to facebook for help.

But the good thing about all of it was that his reaction also furthered my resolve and I dug in my heels. It was time for battle. Little Ez was going to learn to chew or he wasn't going to eat. Little punk. So that next day wasn't so fun. And I thought since I was insisting he eat like a big boy, he should look like a big boy too. That first haircut is always so hard when you have a boy because it grows them up immediately. But it was time for him to grow up! So that Tuesday night he donned the haircut cape.

He squirmed and cried a bit until we got started. But funny enough, he calmed down once I got out the razor! Noah and Samuel have both freaked out about the razor, but somehow Ezra didn't mind it. Or he was fascinated by it.

Boom baby! 

He's a big boy now. No more baby. Well, kind of. He'll always be my baby. Though I'll try harder from now on not to spoil him...or myself.

The next day he still wasn't into solid foods. 

But a week later he was! Now he eats old fashioned oats and cut up bananas at breakfast, cut up peanut butter sandwiches for lunch and whatever we are eating for dinner. It's so great!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Common Core presentation

I was interested in learning more about Common Core (CC) since I've heard many conflicting stories. "It's a government takeover." "No, it's just standards. It will improve critical thinking skills." "But Common Core is being put into all the available curriculums, even private and homeschool ones" (which is true - I looked up our math curriculum, Math-U-See, which advertises that it aligns with Common Core standards). "No, they don't want to create a monopoly."

Where was the truth in all of this? Terry and I attended this presentation to find out more. 

Dr. Duke Pesta is a Conservative Catholic, but all of the sources he uses to describe, define and reject Common Core came from the liberal left. He did not use a single source from the conservative right. So don't reject this before you even read it.

My objection in writing this post is to share what we learned, to post our notes. Since this is taken from our notes, it might be a little disjointed. It was difficult to keep up and write everything down.

Myth #1: Common Core is a State-led effort.
This is false. It comes from the top down.

The full name of Common Core is "Common Core State Standards." Dr. Pesta showed us from their website who these people are and a simple google search informed me too. Turns out the the CCSS has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the states.

 The states never saw this curriculum. In fact, no one did until it arrived at the schools. 

It's language manipulation. If they put "State Standards" in there, it appears legitimate and makes the public think their state was involved in it's creation.

When Dr. Pesta discusses CC with pro-CC folks, they have no backing. All they do is call him a right wing lunatic. They cannot provide evidence to back themselves up. So they name call. 

Myth #2: Copyright owned by the government
This is very purposeful. If elected members wrote the curriculum and voters didn't like it, the elected can by voted out. But if an outside source writes the material the blame can be shifted. The creators of CC cannot be voted out. Also, it is much harder to change since the government does not own the copyright.

Again from CCSS's website, it states that:
"NGA Center/CCSSO shall be acknowledged as the sole owners and developers of the Common Core State Standards, and no claims to the contrary shall be made.
Any publication or public display shall include the following notice: “© Copyright 2010. National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers. All rights reserved.”
It says right there who made the Common Core: The National Governor's Association and Council of Chief State School Officers." Who are the NGA and the CCSSO? Lobbyist groups.

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallen has just this summer pulled her state out of Common Core. That linked article states that South Carolina did as well and that Florida was considering it. 

Dr. Pesta showed us the money trail of Common Core. The Gates Foundation spent 4 billion of Common Core. 

Joy Pullman traced the authorship of Common Core to only 5 authors. David Coleman, a psychologist, was one of the writers and contributed to it. He has NO teaching education and has never taught. He was the friend of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. I found this article which expounds where our notes couldn't keep up, "standards’ lead writers: David Coleman and Susan Pimentel in English, and Jason Zimba, Phil Daro, and William McCallum in math. Coleman and Zimba did not have previous experience writing standards." In fact, Coleman is busily rewriting college SATs to conform to the "standards." This means the tests are written first, and then the curriculum. Common Core is Test-driven. Dr. Pesta told how teachers initially try to teach outside of the CC curriculum to balance out what they think is lacking, or methods they don't agree with, but come test time, students do poorly on the tests, forcing teachers to teach only the CC curriculum. 

That's another myth that you hear all the time: "They're just standards." If you don't like CC people may ask "what do you have against standards?" Nothing. But it's word trickery. The "standards" phrasing makes it sound like we've never had educational standards before CC> We've had standards before CC. We want standards. But CC is more than just "standards."

They are standards that require you to use the CC curriculum to achieve the standards.

The government wants CC there.

The U.S. Dept. of Education created a program called "Race to the Top" giving away 6 billion dollars to any state willing to use CC. The catch was the money was given before CC was written or reviewed by states or schools. So it was like bribe money. Once CC arrives, states who refuse to use it will then lose Federal finances, which is like blackmail. So for a state to step away would mean a loss of income.

CC was described to us as a 3-legged stool:

leg 1-  CC creators/writers/financial investors (investors because Bill Gates, a main financial contributor, will likely sell to all school the computers/software for all of the tests).
leg 2 - Fed government (who handed off the task of creating national standards to someone else, because in 1965 legislation was passed prohibiting the government from creating national standards)
leg 3 - Publishers (who get paid to write the tests and curriculum, and then get paid again when they sell newly created curriculum and tests to states/schools).

Pearson Publishing is the publisher of Common Core. And they are a monopoly. They are the largest publisher in the world, publishing 80% of the textbooks in the U.S. Reminds me of The Lego Movie and how President Business had a monopoly on everything (including history books :). Also, Pearson has been purchasing many smaller publishers, though continuing to print with the original publisher name - meaning, even if the publisher isn't Pearson, they may very well own the publisher listed.

Myth #3: Nature of how the standards were written.
Our notes are definitely incomplete under this myth, but basically when it came to the group that reviewed and basically gave their "stamp of approval" to the standards, there were only 2 that had experience and expertise in creating standards, a math professor who had done most of the calculations in an Apollo mission and one other female professional. They both rejected the new standards staying it would set our country back 2 years behind the 2 years we were already behind. Their comments were ignored and they were removed or at least written out of the group and the minutes. 

As far as teacher training to implement the new curriculum, there is not training except for the textbooks. 

2 democrats (can't remember if they were involved in legislation is passing it or creating it or what) resigned after the implementation of CC saying it was a "complete takeover of American education." The federal government owns the tests. And he who controls the tests controls everything - what each individual state MUST teach, what each principal and school and teacher must teach. The states become administrative agents of the federal government. States don't create, control, or have a say in their educational standards, they simply administer curriculum given by the Federal government.

CC is high stakes for teachers and principals. They are under a gag order to not say anything bad about Common Core (ok, they can talk about it, but can't talk about it). If principals don't implement it, they lose funding. If teachers don't have enough students perform well on the tests, they can lose their funding (jobs). 

2 large teachers' unions, the AFT (American Federation of Teachers) and Chicago Teachers Union, are opposed to CC. Karen Lewis, the President of CTU, states CC is about ranking and sorting. 

Michael Mazenko from Salon.com, a leftist writer opposes Common Core essentially saying the standards are the curriculum.

40% now oppose Common Core, whereas 12% did in 2013.
46% now back Common Core, whereas 70% did in 2013.

Dr. Pesta cited this article by T. Rees Shapiro dated August 20, 2014.

Joshua Katz, a high school teacher from Orange County, FL likens the toxic corporate interests to a The Incredibles super villan Syndrome. First he creates a monster that only he can control. The Common Core is the monster that only their curriculum can handle. Dr. Pesta says this teacher only gets it partly right when he comes down on the textbook companies. The fact is that the feds want this to happen. They are the ones behind it and enabling it. The government wants more/total control of education because if you teach/indoctrinate the children, you reshape a society in a short amount of time. A generation or two. The publishers are all for new standards because that means new curriculum and tests which means more $. (It's not good if students are doing "well," because the "standards" have been achieved which is bad business for a textbook publisher. They want new standards that will take time to be met so they can sell new materials.)

CC is more than just "standards" (which again, we've had standards before CC). CC is a complete change of how education is done. These standards are written, and then a whole new way of how the government wants children to learn is implemented. So teachers can no longer teach, but simply administer a "one-size-fits-all" curriculum to conform students to a national set of standards.
Bill Gates said in 2009 that "identifying common standards is not enough. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when the curriculum and the tests are aligned to these standards." 

Dr. Pesta said we here in SD have not hardly experienced the effects of CC, but the spring tests will wake us up. That is when we will get a fuller taste of what they really dictate.

We don't remember why, but we had the Brown Center report on American Education inserted here.

CC is No Child Left Behind on steroids.

Steven Colbert and two other comedians even make fun of Common Core, describing it as fitting for teaching about adulthood, how it's pointless stress and confusion.

Michael Mulgrew said standards belong to teachers, and I would add PARENTS.

ELA's new and controversial requirements contain more informational texts (only 450) with more indoctrination within those texts. There is less classic literature (such as Huckleberry Finn b/c it's too racist since it uses the N word) and less discussion of a character's morals and ethics.

Washington Post Sept 13 Gates Interview where he states it would be 10 years until we know the outcome of Common Core. There is no benchmark. We won't know if we achieved a goal, because there ins't a goal. The main goal is government control. And honestly, in 10 years we'll forget life before CC because we just go with the flow so easily.

Only 450 books approved for reading, including Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye with graphic sex descriptions.

Why is there so much sex in Common Core? Why is it so politically one-sided?

Math is dumbed down so all kids can feel good about doing a little math. A kid answered 6x7=42 and got it wrong because his other two classmates in his group agreed on a different, wrong answer. So they are being graded on whether they can all come to the same conclusion, even if it is a wrong conclusion. It is much more of being a lemming than being a "critical" thinker. It may not be popular to go against the flow now, to stand up for what is right when no one else will, but any kind of "divergent" thinking will be punished with a failing grade. (With CC to "think critically" means you have to agree with them on all issues or be failed/punished).

We watched this video of a girl having to teach her math professor mother how to add 3 numbers together using cubes of 1000s and squares of 100s and rows of 10s and dots for 1s. Ridiculous. The point of it is to keep the parents in the dark. Only teachers know how to do this stuff. Only teachers can help with math problems, not mom and dad, hence, government control. Thanks for your kid/future product of the State mom and dad. We were encouraged to Google "Goofy Common Core Examples."

Dr. Pesta mentioned Irvine United School District but we can't remember what he was referring to.

Math is not meant to advance you. It's meant to hold you back. Also, to make students "successfully" reach the new CC standards, upper levels of math are removed from high school so more kids, those who struggle with advanced math, can tackle any math available in high school. I don't remember who's quote this is, but it was basically: "CC, standards so high anyone can get under them." When they say it prepares you for college, they mean some 2 year schools.

Concerning math, this clip with Jason Zimba and Sandi Stotski captures part of the problem with CC math.

This is Statism (socialism, communism). Kids belong to the State.

Data mining. Dr. Pesta talked about a huge data center in UT that is very "green," only using 1.7 million gallons of water per day to keep the servers cool. We found an article about it here. The states must report their kids information to the Fed where it is to be stored forever - permanently. Future employers could see everything from grade school up.

Come critical factors for success in 21st century by CC proponents include: Grit, tenacity, perseverance. No joy of learning. Just grit your teeth and get through it.

We also learned about Student Affective sensors, devices to monitor students reactions through facial expressions, body positioning, blood pressure, etc (easy to tell when a student is lying). Also, all of this technology benefits Bill Gates. The schools need his laptops, software, etc. Every time the kid opens a laptop, the webcam records the student's face and what's in the background, which goes into their permanent record.

Dr. Pesta told a story of a student who came home with a bruise on her wrist from where they had placed the blood pressure cuff while they asked her questions about her family. Questions such as who her parents voted for, if there were guns in her house, etc. And this information is to be stored permanently...

Back to the question, "Why is there so much sex in Common Core?"
This the worst part...

The National Sexuality Education Standard Tests, which the Fed owns, require the teaching of core content and skills to K-12th grade students. This includes teaching masturbation to kindergardeners.
This poster resides in the hallway of a middle school because it is part of the curriculum. When parents complained school administration responded that they could not take it down because it was required curriculum (this is in states where CC is further along than it is here in SD).

Sex is spread throughout all aspects of CC (Math, English, etc). It's pure sociology that passes as science.

Dr. May Calamia, a New York State Assembly Forum on Common Core (New York-who's one of like 5 states who's had CC the longest, wants out) made me ready to cry. Her practice is to help kids struggling in school and since CC came out, kids are so stressed they are cutting and throwing tantrums, refusing to go to school. They can't take the pressure. If the students don't perform well, the teachers and principles will look bad and lose funding.

Dr. Pesta's website is Freedom Project Education: www.FPEUSA.org

In order to remove CC from SD we must work on state and local guys because the federal level cannot help. The state legislator must fix this.

Our take away is we need to get out of it! Remove school board members who want to keep CC. Get new school board members who oppose it. We need to be vilagent (even if CC is removed, it will return repackaged as "Happy Happy, Joy Joy" in 5-10 years...how could anyone not like "standards?" or "Joy?") We need to keep things simmering (keep the discussion going, bring in more speakers)  until spring tests arrive - those will ignite the issue, and hopefully the opposition to CC.

Audience Questions:

Information for which curriculums are common core: Tina Hollenbeck from Greenbay, WI, surveyed over 2000 curriculum.

"Would CC result in the banning of homeschooling?" Absolutely. If students are all to attain to the same standard then they need the same curriculum. There has to be control. Concerning colleges, Obama has stated in the past he'd like to make 28 elite schools where kids are not accepted based on merit. They are chosen based on towing the line ideologically.

Critical thinking = "correct" ideological thinking.

"Next Generation" is the name of the new Science Common Core. They've realized the name is a turn off so they changed it (cause Star Trek is cool!).

Teachers are meant to be facilitators, equals. Abandon letter grades because it makes some kids feel too bad for failing.

Terry and I were talking this morning about how all this control is like The Matrix, Swing Kids and The Lego Movie.

The matrix is about control. So is Common Core.

They want us to spy on our own parents!

And even Hollywood understand it's bad for one company to make all the books, from the epically awesome Lego Movie:
Bad Cop: I believe you too. You see the quotations I'm making with my claw hands? It means I don't believe you! Why else would you show up with that thing on your back just three days before President Business is going to use the Kragle to end the world?
Emmet Brickowoski: President Business is gonna end the world? But he's such a good guy! And Octan, they make good stuff; music, dairy products, coffee, TV shows, surveillance systems, all history books, voting machines... Wait a minute.

Pretty much!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

another school room project: lamp shades

I guess I lied yesterday when I said I had finished the "final" school room project - curtains and a bookshelf... 

But I had this great idea yesterday - making over two school room lamp shades. The first lamp shade was this pendant lamp hanging next to the old fireplace. "Lovely" forest green. The hall walls used to painted that color too...
this photo is from when Terry began constructing the boys wall for their bedroom. during Atlas no less!

And the other one was this white lamp on the school table. We've had it and another upstairs forever, and the shade is quite beat up, as I discovered yesterday while dusting it. 

So (sew - haha), my idea was to sew new fabric onto the two lamp shades. I thought it would be so fun if the school table lamp shade matched the new curtains! I had only 11 inches by about three or four feet, which was not ideal for the shape of the shade. And the other gray fabric was actually a free baby sling I ordered and used only once because it was too small. I'd been wanting to use it for something and this was my opportunity.

I did a little research last night and found someone who had just peeled off the pleated part of the shade, and sure enough, it worked for me too! Yay! 

And as a bonus, it works as a tube top for Evie or to be jumped on by Ezra and Samuel. 

I considered hanging the pendant shade just like this because it already looked so incredibly improved. 

So then the hard part began - figuring out how to cover this curved lamp shade with straight fabric. My first attempt was to tape the bottom down and fold over the top. Ick.

Then I tried more organized pleats. It was too difficult. 

So I thought I'd imitate one video I watched where the lady made a pattern of the lamp shade and then cut the fabric to match... 

You're probably smarter than me and could see sooner how that wouldn't solve my original problem. Still had all those folds/pleats. I had been thinking that perhaps I could cut those pleats off easier this way and sew the remaining fabric together. There was no way I'd get it to come together nicely.

I had about lost hope when I looked at the picture I had taken with my phone last night to show my mom my plan. All I had done was lay the fabric over the shade, starting at the top and flowing around the sides. So that's what I ended up doing. Once the fabric was draped around the thing, I cut it. Then I turned the shade around and wrapped the remaining fabric around it again, starting at the top and overlapping the front. Finally I had only two small areas uncovered at the top, so I cut some patches to fit and pinned everything down. 

Then I removed the fabric from the shade and sewed the seams. The sewing is done and it fits great, but the seams don't look so hot. So my plan is to cover them, and the top and bottom of the shade, with some orange ribbon. Hobby Lobby here we come (tomorrow)!

Ta-dah! Matchy matching! 

The pendant lamp shade was so (sew - haha) much easier.  The larger end of the sling fit perfectly around the bottom of the lamp shade. I considered cutting fabric out to smooth it out, but decided rather quickly just to sew it around the top of the shade to hold it in place. Then I just cut off the excess and was done!

Boom baby! I am so pleased with those these both turned out. If there was anything lacking in the school room, it was some light for this corner. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

school room complete!

So. In my last post about the school room, I left off with a shot like this. Now it's time to go down the stairs and see what it all looks like now that it's put together and done. Yay! It's done! It feels so good. Writing this post feels so good too because it makes it seem more done. Overall, it's good to be done. ;)

This is what you saw when you came down the stairs before - a huge brick fireplace facade and freezing cold kids.

And this is what you see now :) No bricks and no fire and hopefully no freezing kids.

When we first moved in to this house two years ago, when the dungeon was unfinished and there was no boys bedroom next to the school room, this is what it looked like. Cramped much!

When we finished the dungeon and put our company couch, TV and toys down there, this is what our school room looked like (from  the last day of school in May). Also notice, there are no curtains and only green shades.

And now from the same vantage point :D 

The table my brother made all ready to go for school to start next week. 

I've been wanting an art caddy for a long time. After a failed purchase at Michael's last week, I scored this Pampered Chef tool-turn-around for much cheaper. I got a sweet deal. Another thing to make me smile.  

Here's the view from the corner of the room that used to be next to the fireplace. 

Looking west.  

I even organized my school closet today. I went through everything, took out and moved all the games downstairs (probably like 20-30 games) and put everything in it's place. This is also where I sew.

Looking towards where the fireplace was. We got that couch on clearance. Another score!

And here's just a parting shot of Ezra headed down to the dungeon to play. He'll have to get good at that while we're doing school in here :)

final school room projects: bookshelf and curtains

When we lived in Gburg in 2009, I picked up that little black book shelf for $10 at a garage sale. Except it was really ugly. It was dirty and poorly painted off white. I spray painted it black and it's been a very useful little thing. But after we painted the school room car siding white, I didn't think the black shelf would look good at all. And since I had all the white paint out still, I went ahead and painted the thing white...

I LOVE it. I wish I had painted it white before! I even put some polyurethane on the top to keep it from   showing wear and chipping.

My final project to tackle for the school room was curtains. We have never had curtains in this room before - only some icky forest green shades left over from the previous owners.  

I really wanted these ones from urban outfitters but they were pretty expensive.

But Nathan and Ana found me this beautiful fabric at IKEA while they were going through on their way home from a trip to Michigan. It was kind of difficult to figure out how much I needed, but with my mom, Nathan and Ana's willing help, we figured it out:  4.5 yards. 

I really, really like it. It's just what I wanted - a white background with a minimal colored pattern that included some orange. Plus is was only $20!!! SCORE!!!

I spent several hours yesterday making two panels - one for each window. I used this other downstairs curtain to compare for a hemline length and then left it pinned until I could get it on the rod and make sure it was right. I didn't want to make the same mistake I did on the kid's curtains (make them too short).

I was SO excited to hang up the curtains last night. Right after dinner Terry and I got to work. But despite all my care, I didn't like how they hung! I was SO disappointed! The rods and pullbacks were too high for the size of the curtain. They made the curtain look too small for the window - they weren't able to cover enough. Luckily my husband is the nice sort and let us move the rods and pullbacks. I was the most mad about having to do that and leave big holes in the wall. But we can fix that. So this is before we moved everything down.

And here the rods and pull backs are down. Much much better. I like them so much. 

How pretty right?!  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Ezra, a pinwheel and a swing

Terry took these photos of the kids swinging one evening last weekend. The pictures were so cute that I had to use all of three of them. Where's Ezra?

Peek a boo! There he is. 

Face scrunch :) 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

passing down dresses

The last thing my mom made for me was a sweater for Ezra. But she used to make a lot of clothes for my sister and I when we were little. I visited my folks a couple weeks ago after they had returned from a long trip to the east coast with my sister and my mom pulled out all these old dresses from our childhood. Apparently I was a brat and didn't want baby boy stuff when Noah was a baby but now I've gotten over myself and think it's great to see Evie in old stuff of mine and my sister's.

Here is the first dress she chose to wear. Originally I thought this dress was mine, but my sister corrected me. She has a better memory about these things I guess. It was hers!

Here's Steph in 1st grade :)

Here is my kindergarden school picture in this mom-made red dress...

And here is six year old Evie in it this last Sunday. She's starting first grade this year.

This must have been around that same time, perhaps even the same year or next. My sister and I have on coordinating mom-made dresses (and as a side note, Nathan looks particularly like Samuel here).

Evie wearing my same dress! I might have to pull this one out again for Christmas.

This mom-made dress was again Stephanie's and now Evie has it. I really like it (another Samuel-face from Nathan. or perhaps it is be a Nathan-face that Samuel does...). 

How pretty!