Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Best Homeschool Lessons: Silly Sentences with Rigorous Research

I have a confession to make.

It was a sin. A wicked indulgence. I wish I had never seen that llama. But the illegal tweezer shipment was totally not my fault!

Actually, I never learned to diagram sentences.

I had a good grammar course in eighth grade. And it was at Pine View, which counts for much.

Still, though it emphasized recognizing parts of speech, it never covered graphical representations thereof.

Sad that I made from grade school through a decent university--with a BA in English!--without once diagramming a sentence in my native tongue.

This sad deficiency I have determined not to inflict upon my own children.

Today Eric wanted a "really tricksy" sentence. I decided to challenge both of us by writing the sentence first and figuring out how to diagram it later.

Part of the fun was that Eric got to make suggestions about words to add. In the end, I mostly wrote the subject and verb, while he constructed the rest of the predicate.

Left: A sentence growing progressively more complicated and silly. Right: the final result, "Mommy, who is very surprised, nevertheless placidly observes rogue undead arrows with tattoos attacking her."

We both learned a lot.

For my part, I learned how to show a relative clause. Also, I discovered some fantastic reference websites.

For Eric, it was doubtless salutary to watch Mom, who is supposed to be The Expert, saying things like "I think 'nevertheless' is a subordinating conjunction. But it's not acting like one here. 'However' can be both an adverb and a conjunction, right? Let me look it up....

It unsettled him a little, but he got through it. Aspie anxiety practice!

('However,' by the way, can, indeed, function as either an adverb or a conjunction. According to, though, 'nevertheless' is only ever an adverb. It seems like the sentence "I appreciate your concerns; nevertheless I must insist" uses it as a subordinating conjunction. Grandma Homer? Help?)

Speaking of Aspie anxiety, imagine how it will upset him tomorrow when I mention, "Oops. I just realized something. I think there should either be a comma between "rogue" and "undead," or we should have charted them differently. Sorry."

I also think a "sentence contest" would be fun. I write a hard sentence for Eric to diagram; he reciprocates. (*Shudder*) Grandma Homer could grade our results.

Or y'all could submit sentences which Eric and I could tackle together. Perhaps a complex/compound sentence full of silliness? Suggestions?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"This orange juice is REVOLTING!...More?"

Do you recall the Star Trek movie where Data finally turns on his emotion chip, tries a drink, makes a face, decides he HATES it, and then asks for more?

I have a rival clip!

Behold, Sammy trying orange juice for the first time:

Well, actually, this was his third or fourth time. Jon claims his first two faces were even better.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Best Homeschool Lessons: Repentance Tenses

Last week, I needed to run an errand. Loathe to lose homeschool time, I put Eric and Sammy in the car and taught a grammar lesson en route.

Before you remonstrate against my cruelty, let me point out that grammar lessons in our family are not tortuous. My children are spoiled by having a creative mom who invents interesting sentences to diagram. Of course, I am also spoiled by having superlatively intelligent children.

(When Ronald was in seventh grade, I recall explaining independent and dependent clauses to him by using Star Trek examples. Know your audience, I say. Ronald might now deny ever having liked Star Trek, but it worked at the time. Ah, nostalgia.)

In this case, I invented stories about Bear repenting. (He does that a lot, I note. I fear that, in a few months, both Daniel and Bear will need separate baptismal interviews with the Bishop. I also worry that Bear is so naughty, he might not get a recommend.)

Present, past, and future tenses were easy review. Eric also quickly caught on to the idea of "progressive," or "ongoing" tenses, as when Bear stole Danny's screwdriver with the intention of replacing it later. "I will start repenting next week," Bear justified to himself. ("Future progressive!" said Eric. Smart lad.)

(Though tempted, I refrained from a discursive lecture about how that attitude made a mockery of the atonement, deeming it more important to stay focused on the lesson. This required great willpower on my part, as I am rather prone to digressive tangents.)

Eric, further, did fine with past, present, and future perfect, once I had explained them to him.

"Perfect" implies the action has been completed. For instance, ' "I had just repented for the candy when I fell to the fish's blandishments!" wailed Bear.'

With minimal practice, Eric could correctly identify examples such as the one above. (Past perfect, by the way.)

Once we hit the perfect progressives, though, we had a problem.

It had never struck me before that there is a potential conflict between the perfect (i.e., completed) and progressive (i.e., ongoing) tenses. "But by the time I hit college," protested Bear, "I will have already been repenting for a decade! I SAID I was sorry for wrecking the van!!!" The previous sentence is an admirable example of the future perfect progressive, or an action which 1) begins in the future, 2) takes place over time and, 3) finishes in the future.

The problem came when we hit the present perfect progressive. With most actions, the "end" is easy to define. "We have been swimming for an hour," argued Char (who, as a fire-breathing dragon, naturally preferred non-water-based activities), "Now let's do something else." Even if the group consensus is to remain in the water another hour before breaking for lunch, you can argue that the swimming before Char's protest and after are two separate actions. Perhaps the poor dragon, bedraggled and disgruntled, leaves the pool early even if his friends remain. If nothing else, his sentence references the past and brings us up to the present moment.

The difficulty arose when Bear appeared before the Bishop, tearful and penitent, and gave a full confession of all his misdeeds over the past week. "I have been repenting for days," he sobbed, "But I'm not certain whether or not I'm done!"

Now, grammatically, this qualifies as the present perfect progressive. But the uncertainty of the situation struck me at once. "What if," I wondered, "Bishop Loderup counseled him to refrain from taking the Sacrament for two more weeks, read his scriptures, and then report for a follow-up interview?"

--(Of course, I doubt that an unbaptized child under the age of eight is even eligible to be disciplined in that way. Let alone a talking stuffed animal of indeterminate spiritual status. Yet another problem to consider. Or punt to my own mom. But I digress, again.)--

Repentance is a long process, and it can be a bit ambiguous. Sometimes people honestly think they're done, but a wise bishop says "I don't think you have fully forgiven your partner in crime yet." Or, sometimes people continue to beat themselves up unnecessarily, only to be told "You are fully forgiven. Let it go now."

I understand the Protestant reluctance to have a priest intercede between the individual and God. I also know that people are frequently not objective and do, sometimes, need an outside perspective in figuring out exactly how much is enough.

But philosophical questions of clergy aside, some actions really are vague in their completion. "I'm in love?" she asked herself. "But...when did that happen? I don't even remember starting to fall for him..."

To solve this dilemma, I have decided to invent, not a new creative sentence, but a brand-new tense. Thus, Bear's despondent cry, "I have been repenting for days" is an example of the Present Probably-Perfect Progressive.

In situations of more ambiguity, you could have the Past Possibly-Perfect Progressive. As in Bear's confession at a recent Addicts Anonymous meeting, "I had been repenting for weeks and thought I had conquered my problem, but then I almost succumbed to the temptation of a Studebaker..."

"Ambiguous Perfect Progressive" is more pronounceable, but not as much fun.

(In another random aside -- I've got to stop doing that -- this reminds me of my eighth-grade masterpiece "A Pathetically Perfect Parody of Pointless Perverse Poetry." Ah, those were the days...)

Now, you may claim this exercise was silly, or pointless, or was tortuous after all, either to Eric or to the hapless English language.

Any or all of those may be true.

Nothing I do could possibly be worse than Douglas Adams' "Future semi-conditionally modified sub-inverted plagal past subjunctive."

Still, I will-on have been likely starts repenting sometime by next Tuesday ago.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sammy's Cheyenne Star Gate Escapade

I did, indeed, run a three-part series about Berry's Brave Band of Babies infiltrating Cheyenne Mountain. Using one baby as a diversion, Sam and another little girl penetrated deep into the bowels of the base, hid themselves in the backpacks of an SG team, were carried through the Star Gate and onto an alien planet (where babies were not allowed because they could do magic), used their new powers to play with an alien airship (and thus save the SG team), and were evacuated back through the Star Gate. Back on Earth, they were interrogated (unsuccessfully) by military intelligence, then eventually remanded to the custody of their parents.

Sammy calculated he had circumvented at least ten layers of security and was thrilled about having set the new world record. ("This totally beats that toddler who snuck onto a nuclear submarine!" he gloated.) Alas, he then realized that this was all so top-secret classified, his feat would never be made public. Even his parents were told only "Your baby was caught trying to sneak into Cheyenne Mountain," with no mention of how far he'd actually gotten.

Mommy, tired of her little Houdini's antics, announced that from now on, he would sleep in a padlocked steel cage rather than a crib. (She charitably supplied a mattress.) "If you're a really good boy," Mommy told him, "We will re-evaluate your status in a year."

Not my best bedtime story, but I thought it very sweet how Eric insisted that we leave the door to Sammy's room open so his little brother could hear the story. I was afraid this would give Sam ideas, or, worse, keep him awake at night, but I complied.

--[Naturally we would not use a prison cage crib in real life, but the policy is tempting because then we, his beleaguered parents, would no longer be required to pick up his toys several times a day.

Jon's theory is that Sammy falls asleep with his mongoose. When he wakes up in the morning, he plays with Mr. Mongoose for a while, then, despairing about parents coming to rescue him in the next three minutes, cries  "Save yourself!" or  "Get help!" and jettisons the animal overboard. He then does target practice with any other toys still in the crib, trying for a symmetrical distribution of scattered plastic.

My theory is that Sam throws his toys overboard to punish us for not getting him within twenty seconds of his first piteous mewling. Fortunately, his terrorist policy of tossing one toy per minute has minimal effect, since we don't let him sleep with more than two in the first place.]

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Youse boy!

For each of our babies, Jon and I have chosen a letter to represent the unborn child.

Back when I was pregnant with Eric, I hated calling my pregnancy "it". "The baby has a gender," I argued, "We just don't yet know which."

We decided to call the baby "B" (for Baby) in the interim. As with many of my linguistic ideas, this quickly morphed into its own jargon, with pronouns and puns. "He, him, his" became "be/bee, bit, bits". Even after we knew the gender, we still didn't have a name and continued using them for fun. Examples:
  • "B, baby, be!" [A growth mantra.]
  • "If B would let me eat a byte, be would get a bit. But NO, bee's making me queasy. Never did like honey, anyway...and there's the fear of botulism..."
  • "B has been hyperactive all day. Busy as a swarm of bees. It's like be's banging on a professional drumset in there. Tell me this isn't a prophecy...?" (Note: It was. I wonder what would happen if a pregnant lady took Ritalin...?)

Daniel was "C" for "Child." Pronouns: see/cee/sea, sit, and sits.
  • "Peekaboo! I see you, C!" [when we could see him kicking]
  • "C! Sit!" [When he was too active]
  • "When this is over, I will need a Sitz bath..." [That was also prophetic, given the involuntary natural childbirth.]
  • "See C sit! Sit, C, sit! Is C a she? Soon we'll see.."
  • "C likes to swim in the amniotic sea. I wonder what degree cee is?"
Naturally, outsiders were utterly confused when they heard sentences like "It's not sit's fault!"

Marian was "I" for "Infant." Pronouns: eye/aye, ite, and ites. Or sometimes eye's or aye's. Whatever made the pun work best.

It was fun saying stuff like
  • "Threw up AGAIN. I is mad at me."
  • "Aye, aye, I!" 
  • "I can't see eye's eyes. Aye, I think eye's playing boo times 10 to the negative twelfth." (Picaboo.)

My favorite pun there was "There were no -ites among them," but that, too, proved sadly prophetic.

Sammy was "Q" for "Query" or "Question". Pronouns: cue/queue, quit/quite, and quit's/cue's. Again, whatever worked best.
  • "Q, quit being impatient. Back to the end of the queue for you."
  • "Quit it, Q! I've had quite enough!" [When he, too, was kicking me in super-hyperactive mode.]
  • "I wish cue'd give me a cue. A clue. Anything!"
It was further inevitable that we would make comparisons to Q, the mostly-omnipotent but highly immature being from Star Trek.

Well, this pregnancy, we held a family council to decide on a letter. Eventually we came up with "U" for "Unknown." Pronouns: you/yew, and some barbaric, unpredictable mixture of "you" "you's" "use" and "youse" for the objective and possessive case.

Daniel took particular delight in making sentences which sounded ungrammatical but weren't, like "You is so cute!" Jon and I encouraged him to try some of them out on his first grade teacher. Cackle. Danny also deliberately misunderstood me when I said things like "You need to clear the table now." He would look blank and exclaim, innocently, "Huh? But how could U possibly clear the table?"

Note on Usage. (Heh, heh, couldn't help myself, sorry.) "Youse" can be used as possessive (like "Hey, that's you's/youse toy!" Or as a contraction for "you is" or "you is a" As in...

"Youse boy!"

Also, it helps to pretend you're a gangster. More fun in character.

Further, during one particularly boring church meeting, I set a horrible example for my children by playing with anagrams.
  • BQUIC (be quick) [Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack, jump over the candlestick...Jack, join your brothers abusing the couch with crazy gymnastics. At least you don't slouch...]
  • BUICQ (buick) [rather unoriginal, though]
  • CQUIB (squib) [from Harry Potter universe; means a non-magical child born to a magical family. OUR family would never produce a Mundane, though. OUR babies are all exceptional.]
  • CUBIQ (cubic) [Very mathematical]
  • IQ CUB (Smart baby) [my favorite]

Now, I am not promising anything. But, theoretically, if --IF-- there were any more babies, I am leaning toward the letter "L" for "Lottery." After which I could make the word QUIBLC, or "quibbles." Then maybe "R" for "arcane" or "recondite," from which we could form "QUIBLRC" (quibblers) or CQUIBLR (squibbler). That it is a nonsense word does not detract from it's charm, I think. We could invent a definition, like children who post ninety-five scribbles on the church door and set off huge, lawyerly debates. (The more I think about it, the more I love the image of my children all having deep philosophical debates in shaky crayon drawings.)

As for U (still no name, sorry), I'm just glad to have a final answer. All the physical evidence -- a new over-the-counter gender predictor test, lack of nausea, and a fourteen-week ultrasound where the doctor said "I wouldn't go shopping yet, but that looks like a boy to me" -- pointed to a boy. After some particularly awful nightmares, which I'm delighted were not prophetic, I'm happy that everything looks normal developmentally.

My friend Mark pointed out I wouldn't have to pay for weddings. I responded with the approximate cost of four missions. (Probably over $50,000, depending on inflation.)

I have seen the future, and it is full of Ramen noodles and dormitory-style bunkbeds, even before Eric leaves for college.

I'm particularly looking forward to the day I tell him, "Hey, you! Quit trespassing!" Similar to when I poked baby B (on my due date) and said "That's it. Move out, or start paying rent."

Had U been a girl, we could have made more puns about "the wee ewe lamb," but one can't have everything.

Every baby is a blessing. I'll be thrilled if this one turns out as cute, sweet, and smart as his brothers. I'll settle for "Not a gansta'."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Cat and Mouse War

Eric likes epic, multi-part bedtime stories.

He provides me with a prompt, and then I resist his efforts to micromanage the details.

This month has been pleasant because he has let me go my own way with minimal interference. Artistic control!

The prompt was "I want a story about some mice and cats having a war and there's an arms race where each side keeps getting more complicated."

"Ah," I said. "A war of escalation. Yes, I could manage that..."

I won't inflict all the details on you, but I do have some favorite excerpts from the fifteen-night story:

[Plot summary: a colony of mice who live in the exterior wall of an old farmhouse, realizing the kitchen cat is about to give birth to a new kitten, decide to better organize their food acquisition. Some strategic household raids yield a pile of paperclips, string, yarn, cloth, sewing needles, popsicle sticks, and other paraphernalia. Engineers work to design innovative technologies which will be tested while the cat is most exhausted in the immediate post-partum phase. They hope to become so expert at scavenging that they will continue to thrive even after two adult cats are on patrol. Finally, the kitten is born and they launch the second phase of their cunning plan...]

"Ladies and gentlemice, welcome to this historic event. The cat is asleep and it's a beautiful afternoon for a raid on the pantry. Our team look fresh and organized in their new gear, but will this innovative "paperclip armor" really work? The engineers swear -- Oh, and they're off! I must say, I had my doubts about those rag "sock skates," but they really seem to be working! The mice have reached the cheese and -- Oh no! The cat's awake! She's chasing after number three, but he passes the cheese to number five. It looks like the carpenters may need to adjust the stick shape; the shot looked wide and number five is having trouble handling the cheese. The cat sees his difficulty and is pursuing! Number five is concentrating too hard to notice the danger...The captain calls out an order...Aha! Numbers two and three are teasing the cat. Great interference there by number three, I love the faces he's making...and it looks like number five has things back under control and is heading for the mousehole...the cat realizes her mistake and sprints after him...number five lines up his shot and...score!!! The cheese is in the goal! I repeat, the cheese is in the goal!!! [The mouse spectators erupt in cheers.]

"What a success that was, ladies and gentlemen, enough food for two days, by the looks of it, but it remains to be seen how our brave team will fare...the team captain has called the evacuation order, but the cat is blocking the hole...And the Team Captain sacrifices himself to let his men escape! He's running in circles...he's taunting the cat like crazy! What courage! What skill! He takes off running...will the cat...yes, she does! She's chasing him across the kitchen!!! Oh MY, those skates are fast on the polished hardwood floor! But the cat's legs are longer...she's gaining on him...the rest of the team are home free!...[The crowd cheers again]...and now the cat has pounced the captain! [Gasps] She takes a bite...[Breathless silence]...I can't see much...and SHE SPITS HIM OUT!! He's moving! He's ALIVE!!!! The armor worked!! [Cat calls] Let's hear it for our dedicated engineers and craftsmice! [Applause] He'll have a nasty bruise...hopefully nothing is broken...the cat looks furious, but is holding her mouth. Could one of her teeth have broken?...She's still distracted...he's limping away...and our captain is home! A TOTAL SUCCESS!!! DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES...???" [The mice roar.]

[Soon the cat retaliates with a large magnet and captures a hostage. The mice stage a daring raid wherein they rescue the hostage and capture the kitten instead. The exchange of ransom notes is complicated by the lack of a shared language. The mouse linguist does her best to translate, but her limited data set led to numorous errors in the subsequent negotiations...]

#1 Mice to cat, actual message:
"During communion argue beneath a flag of truancy, zombify the suitcase shall."

Intended message: "While we're debating your conditions of surrender, we'd like to come under a flag of truce to feed the hostage."

#2 Mice to cat, actual message:
"We plinkle your vocabulary! Craven flea-vermin books! Was undead vampire cargo resussitated! Sock, sock. Small boy goddess former cash time very fat annoying we crooked ate."

Intended message: We reject your terms. Mouse liberty! We rescued our hostage. (Taunt, taunt, mock, mock.) If you want to see your kitten alive again, you must agree to allow us perpetual access to the larder."

#4 Mouse linguist to cat, actual message:
"You-pejorative goddess, bad sin possess. I your network-count learn lightning. More romantic courtship-outings assist it I. Send us dictators! We your Tom own. Dance/assumption prey we always and it back you purchase. Empty it."

Intended message: You, cat, have a bad temper. I am trying to learn your language as quickly as possible. It would help if I had more data. Could you send us a dictionary? We have your small boy cat/Tom/Rice wine. Promise us food forever and then you can have him back. He's getting hungry.

[Alas, the linguist was reasonably competent. As her data set grew, she made fewer errors. The final peace treaty was mostly readable. To give you an idea of how she suffered, though, I share her raw translation notes from a reply message the cat sent...]

#3 Mouse linguist's very raw notes:
"You-form mod'd mice are modifier(?) very(?) bad. I-form mod'd hate [three emphasis modifiers] you(?)! [Untranslateable cat onamotopeia.] You(?) are so hunchbacked(?) [idiom evil?] I-form owe(?) you future form fair/equitable two paw beneath. [Idiom??? Work on this.] Conj.(?)/but(?) I-form mod'd own try conj(?)  for ??? [suffix] rice wine?? You-form mod'd possessive final messy? Create-past no smell. Try again to insult. [Primitive anthropological territorial marking.]"

Cat's actual message: "You (pejorative, plural) craven flea-vermin are very, very bad. I HATE you! Hiss! You are so stupid, I doubt you will even understand this, but I have to try for Tom's sake. Your last message made no sense. Try again, idiots." [Smelly urine stain/signature marking]

[The council of elders, who had been breathing down her neck demanding real-time translation, glared at her, appalled when she tried reading her first-pass notes aloud to them. (Bad as it is to read them, imagine only hearing "You form modded mice are modifier.") "That's complete gibberish!" they complained, after which she snapped. "Yes! I know! Go away and let me do some real translation in peace!" Subsequent attempts to nag her resulted in her meeowing fiercely at them, apparently so absorbed in "cat" she didn't realize she was speaking it. Taken aback, they decided to give her some space and wait patiently, lest she start clawing at them as well...]

Other highlights from the epic conflict:

*The mice had a "Ransom of Redchief" moment when they realized the kitten would only drink milk and also needed his diapers changed frequently. Rather dangerous when the "baby" is larger than you are, hungry, tired, cranky, yowling so loudly no one can hear, and keeps trying to disembowl his caregivers.

*A bunch of mice tried desperately (and unsuccessfully) to milk a cow. Part of the problem was they approached her from the right, not left, side. A lashing tail, well-aimed kick, and strategic stomp dislodged the mice, knocked over the stool, and broke the milk bottle. The children loved the image of a mouse hanging on the cow's teat for dear life, first trying to squeeze milk out frantically, and then slipping inexorably to his doom...(the other mice broke his fall before they all scrambled away)...

*A three-person mouse commando team raided the garage, hoping to steal back the magnet which had rendered their armor unusable. The farmer's wife, who had a phobia for mice, saw them and attacked them insanely with a live chainsaw. In the subsequent melee, she scratched the hood of her car, hacked the leg off the workbench, shattered the overhead light, knocked over a can of bright green paint (which covered and temporarily blinded her), chopped down an overhead storage shelf, and did a few thousand dollars worth of damage to the tractor.

--This inspired the mice to write a war ditty called "Three Commando Mice," in which they terrorize the poor blind farmer's wife. Hardly great poetry, but the kids loved the parody.

The final peace treaty was signed a few nights ago. Eric keeps asking for sequel "hockey games," but I insist that a wise author knows when to let the story end.

He has accepted that and moved on. Last night he asked for a story about Sammy leading a bunch of babies on a daring raid to sneak inside an unspecified but secure facility. I had Sammy and two other Leander Ward babies infiltrate the Library of Congress.

When Brother Woodbury heard this, he asked first if Sammy had gotten in trouble. ("Of course not," I answered. "He flirted with the librarian who found him and she melted completely, then reluctantly remanded him to the custody of his concerned mama.") Then he said, very generously, that he would bail Sammy out of jail any time.

For tonight, Eric is muttering about having the same team get into a really top-secret secure facility. I foolishly suggested Cheyenne Mountain. Oy. How does a nice Mama like me end up in crazy situations like this? Still, I think bedtime stories are one of the very best parts of Mommyhood. I wouldn't trade it for anything. :)

*A minor linguistic note: Cat language has many minute gradations of importance. Imagine the subtleties of Japanese bows and you'll get the idea. The cat keeps using the most pejorative form of "you" while using a very superior form of "I" when writing to the mice. The distinction is much more obvious in spoken cat, where higher and lower pitches indicate the level of respect intended. Anyway, the mice, only seeing the "you" and "I" sent by the cat, have no way of knowing what other forms of the pronouns exist, so they keep sending back very insulting messages wherein they unintentionally claim status akin to godhood and address the cat as though she were the lowest possible life form on the pronoun ladder. This drives the cat CRAZY, since, to her, she honored the mice just by elevating them from "ignore completely" onto the pronoun ladder in the first place.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Silly Poems in Fifteen Minutes

Yesterday, I was in charge of Family Night.

Though I was sorely tempted to play a version of Simon Says called "Let's clean up the library!" I refrained.

Instead, I gave everyone fifteen minutes to write a silly poem. (One person claims he didn't hear the "silly" part of the assignment.)

And no, I did not cheat and plan my topic in advance. My original intent was for everyone to write a prompt and then exchange. That got voted down, so I picked my own subject, but without warning.

The kids wanted a reprise of a ditty I wrote last month while sick with, ah, digestive issues, but I pointed out that Grandma Homer might actually read this, so I'll be classy and not post it.

Bonus points if you can figure out who authored which verse.

And remember: this isn't Great Literature. We only had fifteen minutes!

Entry the First:

Sammy likes lots of spikes and as he chews he has some news "I am you you are me who wants to swich she and he"!? Gargleblaster at your serves sir and I am a pooper!

Entry the Second:

Pretty Mommy
How I love her
I want to be with her for eternity

Entry the Third:

I have a pet turtle,
A megaboss too,
The former is purple,
The latter is blue.

The turtle is sleeping
For nieghbors inside,
The megaboss wanted
Himself zombified.

A megaboss turtle
Is coming to you,
But I am now worried
Of megaboss flu.

Entry the Fourth:

We have a very messy house
'Cause no one likes to clean,
So on the floor stuff piles up
and stacks begin to lean.

It's getting hard to navigate;
I cannot see the floor;
Ahoy! Avast! I cannot see
the shore, nor find the door.

The other day, I dug around
and saw some lice, and scabies.
Tomorrow, I will mount a search
and try to find the babies.

If people don't start doing chores,
I'll do something extreme,
like leave and join a different team,
or -- Oh! 'Twas just a dream!

--[Editorial note: the house, while genuinely messy, is not bad enough to warrant calling child services.]

Monday, May 2, 2011

Notes and Commentary on the Meridian Charter School Meeting

Warning: Very dry content. If you don't have a personal interest in either the school or my beliefs about education, skip the whole thing. Trust me.

Several people asked me, “Are you going to that information session? I can't make it. Please, take good notes!” I took eight pages of handwritten scrawls. I'll do my best to translate them now, put into paragraph form and re-organized slightly by category.

I also try to make it clear what is mostly unfiltered fact, and what is my own opinionated commentary.

Some helpful acronyms:
PYP = primary years program. Refers to grades K-6.
MYP = middle years program. Refers to grades 6 or 7-10. (The website says 6-10; the sixth-graders, however, are being classed with the primary years in terms of schedule next year.)
UL = upper level. Refers to grades 11 & 12, when students work on acquiring an IB diploma and also, frequently, receiving college credit for their work. Similar to the AP program, which I always liked.

Parent Association Plea

So, first up, the board member in charge of the parent association gave a brief presentation.

She said the parent association needs to raise $100K for musical instruments, playground equipment, furniture, and other supplies. She recommended parents check to see if their employers offered matching fund donations. I know Intel does; Jon and I will look into that. She explained they received a federal grant of $450K for start up costs, but that's not enough for everything.

"If we could raise $150 per student," she added earnestly, "We would be set."

Principal's Presentation

Mr. Rick Fernandez, the new overall “Head of School” introduced himself.

He says he graduated from UT and did graduate work in gifted education and educational administration, also at UT. He has been an IB consultant for over a decade. (I assume that means he worked with schools to help them become IB-compliant and -certified.) He also has administrative experience. For a more detailed resume, see his page at the school website.

He has been working on preparing the application for IB PYP. This application means the elementary years ought to be official candidates for IB certification starting in the fall. From a previous information session, I interpret this to mean that starting this fall, they will be in the queue for recognition from a national or international IB governing body. It takes at least two years (as I recall) to get certified, so its good they are beginning the process now. Right now they cannot claim to be an official IB school, they can only say they are following an IB-style curriculum with the intention of receiving formal IB designation as soon as possible. They hope to have the PYP be a certified, recognized, licensed/bonded/insured, IB-accredited primary years program starting in the fall of 2013.

Their goal is that 8th-graders starting this year will be able to earn an official IB diploma when they graduate from 12th grade. I assume they are on currently on track for that.

Mr. Fernandez said he had hired about half the staff necessary for PYP and interviews are still ongoing. All teachers either have PYP experience or will get the training in July. He looked primarily, not for PYP/IB experience, but for teachers who are qualified, enthusiastic, and love kids.

They have hired a “Primary head of school” (which I take to mean a principal over the elementary portion, kind of a vice-principal), but won't announce his name until the end of May because s/he insists on finishing this school year without distracting his/her current community. Mr. Fernandez made a big point of saying this person would be g-r-r-eat!!! and that he would stake his professional reputation on it. I thought this a trifle overdone, but whatever.

There should be another information session in June or July in which parents should be able to meet this mystery person.

In terms of curriculum, he said that K-6 should not get additional stress, just more enrichment. Grades 7-8 will get a more challenging curriculum, and that the high-school-aged kids will have to choose to commit to very high, demanding standards.

Handbook Notes

Another board member – sorry, I didn't catch the names – then went over the handbook and code of conduct, which can be found here: and here:

I like the mission statement: "Meridian School’s mission is to provide an invigorating educational environment that develops responsible citizens who can artfully navigate our complex world and enjoy a good life with others. Each student will engage in diverse investigations, disciplined inquiry, and integrated service learning to cultivate intercultural awareness, creativity and mental acuity."

They want to teach students how to learn, how to teach themselves, how to re-tool in a changing world, and how to be open to new experiences and cultures. They believe progress reports should be regular and thorough. They will administer the TAKS test (in accordance with state law) and see it and other standardized tests as helpful tools, but will not let the test dictate their classroom time or curriculum. Homework should be thoughtful, age-appropriate, and purposeful, not merely busy work.

As with most things at this charter school, I love the philosophy, and hope that the implementation measures up.

Many things were already explained in the two documents above; I won't necessarily repeat all of them.

I do note they said that nine unexcused absences constitute a serious discipline offense, and students might be “sent back” to their regular campus after such an infraction. They also asked parents to try super hard to have students in class between 10:00 to 10:15, since that is when attendance is taken, and attendance determines the funds they get from the state. “Schedule the dentist appointment around that,” they pleaded.

Wednesdays have early release at 1:00 p.m. because that allows time for teacher training and collaboration. It makes sense that if they want a highly integrated curriculum, with history and English and math teachers all working together, inter- and even intra-grade, they would need time to plan together. Personally, I would rather see a regular half-day off than random teacher development days scattered through the calendar. Of course, I'm not employed. The school does have an after-school program for Wednesdays so that parents can pick the kids up later than 1:00. The few extra hours of supervision on Wednesday afternoons should cost only a modest fee.

The enrollment package is due May 9th. (I think that means it must be postmarked by then.)

They encourage parent involvement and hope each family will volunteer 20 hours per school year. (That's per family, not per student.)

After School, Interpreted. (I think...)

Their various after-school programs are very complicated. I think I understand everything they said, but they haven't worked out many details yet. In principle, though, I believe they are divided into these major categories:

  1. Early drop-off/late release is for students who have siblings on a different schedule. (Grades 7+ arrive and leave campus an hour later than K-6). It will probably consist of supervised study time, and should not cost extra money.
  2. The complete after-school package, which will cost approximately $200 per month per student, is for students whose parents must work and cannot pick them up earlier than around 6:00 p.m. Students of working parents will be given priority placement in this program, which will consist of a variety of extra-curricular classes (like group music lessons), clubs (like chess or robots), and sports (like soccer). Baseball and swimming would be off-site but transportation would be provided by the school.
  3. Any remaining availabilities (like a slot in a special Spanish class) may be filled by kids who could be picked up at the regular dismissal time but whose family decides to pursue extra-curriculars voluntarily. Thus, some kids might opt into one or two activities, staying after school only some days each week. The fees would adjust to a pay-per-activity accordingly.
  4. The school is also looking into offering some private lessons (like violin). Those would be much more expensive than group lessons, of course, and would also be a completely separate program.
  5. For children who can't leave at 1:00 on Wednesdays, there will be a modest fee for supervision until 3:00.

    Note: They still do not have a specific schedule worked out, so at this time, it's impossible for a parent to know if chess club will run from, say, 4:30 to 5:15 or from 5:15 to 6:00. Obviously, this has great impact on the stay-at-home moms most likely to be reading this.


They then opened the floor for questions. Behold my notes on the answers, in no particular order:

Foreign Language. Spanish will be taught at every grade level. Later on, they hope to add more language options.

Medical Staff. There will NOT be a registered nurse on-site. Office staff will be specially trained to dispense medications, but the principal said, quite honestly, that if there are students with particular health needs (life-threatening allergies, perhaps, or diabetes), this school might not be the best fit for them yet. They hope to hire a nurse in a few years.

Note: They hope to do a great many things “in a few years” “when they have more funding.” Though I believe they are sincere, I have no idea how long it might actually take to 1) become fully IB accredited, 2) create school-fielded baseball, basketball, swimming, or soccer teams, 3) form a band and orchestra, 4) hire a nurse, 5) expand the foreign language options, 6) guarantee uber-healthy cafeteria food, etc.

They have acquired a site in Round Rock which used to be a light-industrial building. It requires extensive renovation. The contractor's plan of work indicates it will be done by the middle of August; they are tentatively planning on a start date of Sept. 6, just in case things (*gasp*) run over. In a dire emergency, they could apply for a waiver from the state to start school even later, but hopefully that won't be necessary. There is no real back-up plan if a) the work isn't completed and b) the waiver is denied. (If that should happen, the local public schools would suddenly find themselves placing an extra 750 students. Imagine their joy.)

Because the building won't be ready, there won't be an open house on-site. They will try to have opportunities for children to meet the staff in a different venue over the summer.

They have allocated a classroom size of 700 square feet per 25 students. There will also be a science lab for MYP, and a library with limited selection at first, though they do have a small book-buying budget. They also solicited donations. There will be offices for extra staff and special education classrooms.

Recess. They agree that recess is important. Children need a break in which to exercise and wiggle. They promised not to cut into recess time for more instruction. (As, apparently, some public schools are doing due to test-score desperation.) Repeated plea for donations of money and manpower to build playground equipment.

Food. They have space in the building set aside for a cafeteria. They agree in principle that lunches should be healthy, and that cafeterias should not try to generate extra revenue by selling ice cream. The board member answering this question admitted that they've been focused on other things and hadn't really addressed the issue yet, but were planning to tackle that next, and invited concerned parents to join the committee on food services. They don't want a huge industrial catering service, but they don't have a specific contractor in mind, and, as always, they must bow to budget constraints. In theory, I'll try to have Danny bring a sack lunch. In practice, with two babies...well, it can't be any worse than Whitestone's cafeteria, right?

Technology. They would love to have a large computer lab, smart boards in every classroom, and ipads for each student; again, fiscal reality makes that unlikely. They do intend each teacher to have a laptop with projection capability.

Skipping grades. Students wishing to double-promote are out of luck for this coming school year, since all slots for each grade have been filled, plus waiting lists. They intend to implement a program wherein a student may take a test at the end of the school year for possible placement two grades higher the next.

In MYP and above, PE is a requirement.
There will be “specials” – music, art, PE, and Spanish – in the primary grades.

Special Education (NOT including gifted): They are required by law to provide special education, such as in cases of Autism or learning disabilities like dyslexia. They will also provide ELL (English Language Learning, i.e., special language instruction for non-native speakers), services for learning disabilities such as dyslexia, and ELL (English Language Learning). These services might include pull-out and group classes. If I were the parent of an autistic kid who required a full-time aide, though, I would hesitate for budget reasons. I find it quite likely the charter school will go to even greater lengths to avoid hiring a full-time assistant than the public schools regularly do.

When asked, the Meridian administration emphasize that they are required by law to provide those services; however, it does not seem truly intrinsic to their mission. The original vision of the school, as I interpolate it, is for involved, educated parents of above-average kids to find a challenging environment for their children which avoids many of the problems of the traditional schools. Thus, my prediction is that they will do the bare minimum necessary to avoid a lawsuit when it comes to children with learning disabilities and behavior problems. Though I am thrilled about the emphasis on giftedness and creativity, this is definitely an important point for people in other circumstances to consider.

Mr. Fernandez explicitly said “Special education will be limited for the first few years,” adding that it is his plan to hire a special education coordinator to help manage cases and train other staff.

Note: At a previous meeting, a board member said Meridian would likely join a special education co-op. For example, school A would employ a speech therapist, school B would employ an occupational therapist, and school C would employ a teacher with special dyslexia training. The schools would then pool their resources, with each person rotating among the campuses, spending one or two days per week at each. I heard no mention of this idea Sunday night. Perhaps it has been scrapped; perhaps they're planning simply to contract the requisite specialists as needed; probably they are hoping they'll be able to have a special education coordinator handle everything in house but don't know for certain yet if that will be feasible. I don't know. Each parent only got one question, and I spent mine elsewhere.

A Charitable Explanation

Many people have been frustrated by the lack of specificity. It does seem like they are making progress in deciding some issues, like uniforms. Other things, like the cafeteria, remain unaddressed. I worry about them getting everything sorted by the start of school. Again, they are making progress, but they still seem disorganized in many ways.

On issues regarding special services (like dyslexia, gifted differentiation, and academic advancement), they have some excuse for lacking specifics: they don't have student profiles yet. Part of the paperwork parents must file by May 9th includes a description of each child's strengths, weaknesses, and special needs. It is reasonable for them to make a decision like “We'll offer a pull-out dyslexia class” or “We'll train a few individual teachers” or “We'll hire an extra Special Education Coordinator” based on whether they have thirty LD kids or three.

Understanding their reasons for vagueness does not make the immediate decision less frustrating. My personal prediction is that special ed will struggle the next two years, since they will be focusing primarily on the main IB curriculum and certification. Given budget constraints, it would be much easier for them to offer a few hours of training to some teachers and release 'em back into the wild to differentiate within the classroom. 

Regarding Gifted and Accelerated Differentiation 

“Differentiate in the classroom” seems their constant refrain. In response to questions about special education, giftedness, and, especially, academic acceleration like “My fourth-grader is doing algebra” or “My daughter is already fluent in Spanish,” the principal offered very vague reassurances that 1) they believe in gifted/advanced education, 2) they won't do any kind of gifted/advanced pull-out, 3) teachers will differentiate within the classroom, and 4) “Your kid will be taken care of.” While I believe the principal is sincere in his intentions, I cannot help but worry that the implementation will be uncertain.

I further agree that, in principle, IB integration would better meet the needs of gifted kids than a traditional classroom. Real-world applications, cross-disciplinary projects, and creativity are all much more engaging than rote drills. The board and Mr. Fernandez repeatedly stated that research shows IB is great for gifted kids. In theory, I agree.

Eric's Unique Issues

I'm not trying to brag obnoxiously about my kid, but people do keep asking about him. Feel free to skip this section if you think it does not pertain.

Other teachers have given lip service to classroom differentiation for Eric, but in practice it has been a disaster. Whitestone's solution to the problem was to send a high-school kid in to play Monopoly with him. They also tried PACE which meant he was doing third-grade math instead of second-grade. Woo woo. Another problem was that they insisted he had to do his regular work before he could do extras, like algebra worksheets or reading. This was before his ADD medication, and that policy was a nightmare. Plus he had to show his work to an insulting degree. I am all in favor of making kids show reasonable intermediate steps, but they took it to ridiculous extremes, mainly because it's important on the TAKS test. My reassurances that Eric would never, ever, fail the math section of a standardized test fell on the deaf ears of a lock-stepped administration.

(A friend in Raleigh once told me, regarding the administration at a public school, "It's like they want to care, but they can't." Yep.)

The problem, as I see it, is that most elementary school teachers probably don't know algebra themselves, let alone have certification to teach it. Here I will likely upset many people with my political incorrectness, but I tried taking some education classes in college, and I was appalled at my fellow students. Vapid airheads who “loved children,” but couldn't properly use “their” vs. “there” or “its” vs. “it's,” let alone grasp even the most rudimentary statistical concepts like “this is a standard deviation, and why it's important” or “it's much, much harder to move from the 97th percentile to the 98th percentile than from the 49th to the 50.” I walked out of there shaken to the core. “I never want her to teach my kid English,” I told Jon repeatedly, “Or him to teach my kids math, or her to teach my kids anything.”

Now, in fairness, there are some fine elementary school teachers out there. I am not trying to say they are all idiots. I do think it unlikely, though, that a person certified only to teach primary-level math (up to fractions and percentages) could possibly handle the differentiation requirements of algebra or above.

My mother had a very bad experience like that in eighth grade, where the school promised differentiation, but really only assigned her worksheets in a vacuum. Without any feedback, she never knew if she had gotten the answers correct, lacked confidence, and was upset when the “teacher” blindly gave her an A and passed her on to Algebra II. The school system then refused to allow her to repeat Algebra I because she was listed as having credit. She is super smart and would have done great with adequate instruction; sadly, this system failure meant she spent years feeling she'd never properly mastered the material.

It's all well and good for me to send in algebra worksheets for Eric, but if the teachers aren't qualified to assist him or to grade his work, what has it accomplished? Now, I would hopefully be more successful about negotiating with the charter school, some deal like “Fine, just don't assign him any math homework and I'll supplement at home,” but my question “Please walk me through the specifics of your IED/ARD* process – which typically involves a meeting of the parents, classroom teacher, special staff (like a school psychologist, speech therapist, social skills leader, special education coordinator) (or, in Eric's case, all of the above), plus a representative from the administration -- got only the repetitive refrain, “Your child will be taken care of.”

*IED stands for “individual education plan.” ARD is what they call the process in Texas. It stands for “admission, recovery, and dismissal,” but amounts to the same thing.

Mr. Fernandez did explain the reason they don't do gifted pull-out. Because IB is such an integrated curriculum, where a project might involve science, art, and foreign language, they can't swear a kid got the entire curriculum if the kid leaves his primary years classroom to attend 8th-grade math.

While I appreciated the blunt honesty of the explanation and the flat answer that they would “absolutely not” let kids go to a different grade for instruction, I am not convinced they can meet Eric's math needs in fourth grade.

Granted, we have only covered five chapters of Algebra I this year. At that rate, it will take him two years to complete the course instead of one. That will still put him well ahead of other fifth-graders.

I foresee a community college in his future...but not for a few more years. I also acknowledge that it will be difficult for me to teach him algebra at home next year when I have two babies. Still, two or three hours a week from me is still likely much better than what he'd be getting at the charter school, and definitely better than anything he'd get at Whitestone.

Another reason for not sending Eric next year is that he needs predictability and structure. Granted, a homeschool co-op is not the most rigid environment, but it's also small, and flexible enough to allow Eric to disappear into a corner for ten minutes if he becomes upset. From a social perspective, a group of eight to ten (most of whom he already knows from church) is much easier for him to navigate than twenty-five complete strangers.


I've already explained their approach to special needs and gifted education. It's worth noting, though, something that was mentioned casually towards the end of the meeting. A parent asked about “whole grade acceleration” (which I'm guessing means trying to get all the third-graders reading at fourth-grade level). They answered that they do not currently have any actual curricula. They have an IB framework, but they intend that the teachers will create a specific curriculum after they're hired.

I'm not sure how I feel about this. Sure, it's great to have the teachers involved in writing the curricula – but that's one more thing for them to iron out between now and September. Given that only half their staff is hired, and that many of them won't have any IB training until July, that makes me nervous. Again, a shakedown year or two might be in order.

They added that there is no specific IB method for acceleration; that's the school's responsibility.


One concern is that with each year, it will be harder to get a spot. I am finessing that one by sending Daniel this year, so that Eric will be given priority in later years if he applies. I gather the charter school expects to seat 750 students this year. Though they will add a grade each year until they reach 12th, the lower grades will already be mostly filled.

In Principle, in Practice

For me, so much of this comes down to a single problem. “I love their philosophy,” I told Jon repeatedly. “I love their attitude and their intentions. I worry, though, about the implementation of practical details.”

Joseph Smith was a visionary. He was rotten at specifics like money management. It took someone like Brigham Young to administer daily details.

I worry about this school transitioning to the nitty-gritty. Further, I worry about the example they will set for their students.

Gifted Philosophy: Balance Epiphanies with Tedium

Some people see Gifted education as elitist. When I attended a magnet school in the early nineties, people kept writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper. "Why are we wasting money on the smart kids," they asked, "When the smart kids are already doing fine? They should be in regular classes, helping to tutor the disadvantaged."

Asking "the smart kids" to help tutor struggling classmates is reasonable up to a very limited point, but it quickly becomes what I call "intellectual socialism." Don't get me started about the afterward of The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. Imagine Mozart, Isaac Newton, or Da Vinci beaten down to the lowest common denominator.

If you want the U.S. to stay ahead in technology, if you want us to produce scientists and engineers who solve the world's problems, you should support gifted education.

High-Q children do need to learn how to interact with more typical peers. But they also need to be around other smart kids. Everyone has gifts: some people are smarter, some are stronger, some are good at woodwork and others at being charming hostesses. I am rotten at athletics and drawing, but I have many other talents. A smart kid should not be taught that she is "better" or more important than anyone else. God loves everyone. It's wonderful to develop gifts; it's bad form to brag obnoxiously about them. A truly smart kid, however, cannot possibly help but notice that she is smarter than all the other kids in her class. (Plus, in all likelihood, her teacher. In fifth grade, my teacher was a very sweet idiot, and I learned to correct her gently by asking very tactful questions.) 

Being around other smart kids helps a child in several ways: one, he can find friends with common interests (like hacking into the FBI servers!), and two, it actually keeps him humble, since he is no longer a giant genius fish in an backwater intellectual pond.

Gifted kids, who frequently learn intuitively and by leaps, do, however, need a practical grounding in things like “basic study skills” and “daily homework.”

I had many friends in school who argued “I have a D in that class because its sooo boring. I'm so smart, I can't stand to pay attention.” That excuse never impressed me. “I get horribly bored, too,” I reminded them, “But I still get good grades because I know exactly how much effort is necessary. If you can sleep through class but ace the tests and maintain a B, I will accept your argument. Otherwise, grit your teeth and do your homework.” (I note that I ended up with an excellent scholarship, where they had to take out student loans. Go figure.)

--(Another side note. Jon actually did sleep through Calculus, but got an A. Plus a 5 on the AP. Disgusting man. He did do his homework, though. It still drove me crazy when I heard that his habit had been to meander into class, ask "Oh, do we have a test today?" quickly read the chapter summary, and then set the curve. [grrrr] When I think of the bullets I sweated in Calculus, and for a less favorable outcome...)--

Despite exceptions like above, ultimately, work ethic is a much better predictor of success than raw I.Q. So, how do we feed the intellect and instill values like self-discipline?

Part of educating a gifted kid is figuring out how much “boring effort” to require. Too much mindless repetition is torture. And inefficient, even futile. Too little makes them lazy. I hate mere “busy work,” but it is reasonable to expect them to practice conjugating verbs. That's something they really do need to drill--icky word, ugh!--until it becomes automatic.

Kids today expect to be entertained all the time, this induced ADD being one of the many side effects of constant TV and video game saturation. Even without the electronic bombardment, they still get easily alienated. Once, when I was ten or eleven, I whined to my mother that Primary was soooo excruciatingly boring, I couldn't stand it. “I wish I were in Relief Society,” I complained, “Where the lesson level would be more interesting.”

“Honey,” she answered, “You'll be bored in church for the rest of your life. Get used to it.”

Harsh, but true.

--(As an aside, I noticed during the royal wedding that Prince William twiddled his thumbs, stared vacantly at the ceiling, and even whispered to Kate during the Bishop of London's excellent sermon. I know Christianity is mostly dead in Europe, but surely a protocol-trained prince ought to know better than to tune out so obviously in front of sixty world-wide television cameras. Ten minutes is a reasonable length of time to expect someone, especially an adult, to behave.)--

In other words, smart children, like everyone else in the world, need to self-manage. They need to learn how to be bored graciously for short periods. They need to do homework, even if it isn't always fun. When they join the adult workforce, they won't be able to tell their new employers, “Oh, the daily reports are grunt work. I'll just work on strategic vision.”

I think housework is inane, but I still force myself to do it. Sometimes. (Okay, not nearly often enough, but at least the house functions at a basic level, even if it's never immaculate. I suspect I have some ADD which never manifested in school since I actually liked school. But I digress.)

If the people at Meridian are all visionaries who are weak on details, what will that teach the gifted kids who need structure?

My sister Cheryl says presidential candidates often run excellent campaigns and then have trouble transitioning to the white house. “The skill set necessary to get your candidate elected,” she says “Has very little to do with actual governance.” That's why presidents tend to appoint their top campaign aides as chiefs of staff, only to fire them one to two years later.

I'm curious to see what Meridian will look like in two years.

I suspect they will weather the start-up problems, work out the kinks, and settle into a routine. They are dedicated, sincere people who believe in their vision. Inevitably, there will be political backstabbing at some point, but I'm not concerned about that right now.


I attended a magnet school for grades 6-9. It was fantastic in many ways; in particular, I loved having smart friends, and only 100 kids in the entire grade. Everyone knew everyone else. The competition was tight, but the friendships were tighter. (The clique politics were complicated, but that's just middle school for you.) I remain in contact with many of my buddies from that time.

One especially nice thing was the lack of turnover. The school ran from grades 2-12, and many kids stayed there a decade. I attended three different high schools. My little brother and sister changed schools almost every year between K and 6th grades. (There was a move, and a very rapidly growing school district.) Such disruptions are really hard on small people. I love the idea that Danny can get to know the same kids for ten years. Talk about a community.

One reason I hesitate to put Eric in this coming year is the fear that I'd have to pull him out again. If I'm going to put him in, I want a reasonable assurance that he'll manage, not just to stay, but to flourish.


For parents making this difficult decision, I can only suggest you research and pray about it.

Last night, the family decided that Daniel would attend the charter school in the fall, and Eric would join a co-op.

I think Daniel, who is highly creative, both at applied engineering and imaginative writing, will fit in beautifully. He is also much better at starting and finishing independent projects. Hopefully this will be a perfect fit for him.

Juggling two different school situations, plus two babies, plus Jon finishing his last semester of his Master's degree, will be brutal. (Forget what I said about cleaning the house; I resign myself to its being a complete disaster September through December.) Still, anything we tried would be grueling, and I really think this will be the best thing for the kids. We'll revisit Meridian for Eric in a year or two.

I'm eager to hear what other parents decide. And, if you decide to enroll your kids, let's talk about carpooling.

I hope you found my notes helpful.

Gail Homer Berry