Saturday, March 26, 2011

Ski Trip!

Took me forever to write this up -- mostly to make it shorter, but also because it was so fun to relive, warts and all: March 11-14 Sugarbowl!

3/26/2011 Belt Test

Julian had his Kung Fu "belt test" today. In Kung Fu, they start off with "no belt" and then take a belt test -- that we pay for -- to move up. The belt test started with a warmup, then each group of current belts (or no belts) went through exercises they do in class on a regular basis. Another "no belt" kid older than Julian was crying and wouldn't join the big group of mostly more advanced kids warming up. We sure have our issues with our boys, but crying and being intimidated isn't among them.

This place's communication is quite poor, so I couldn't figure out if Julian passed or not. "Oh just pick up his belt next week" was the best information I got. I think he passed, bringing him up to a white belt.

Julian still seems to like kung fu, and I really really like it. I wish I could do it myself!

And it's a great way to split the boys up for some of the day. They have really, really been awful together, constantly fighting and causing problems, provoking and pestering each other, always blaming the other. Last night they were at sleepover, and Tonya, who can handle anything, also said they were horrible, and had to put Julian on timeout many times. I'm starting to wish there were a way for them to have separate rooms, but I know they'd still fight bitterly.

Today I got to experience "following through" with an instruction to an extreme. The CDC had a "summer kickoff" party today, to which I brought all 3 kids. Katrina went straight for the snow-cones, but refused to say thank you after being handed a yummy-looking green one. She even dared to say "I'm too young to say thank you!" I insisted, she refused, then I told her that I'd take her home if she didn't say thank you. I never thought I'd have to follow through so far as to taking her home, but I did. Once I've made the threat, I have to execute, annoying as it is. I left Julian and took her home, screaming her head off, and sent her to her room where she screamed at the top of her lungs and threw things for 20 minutes, until I went back to get Julian.

After the boys had lunch at the CDC, I had a great time playing foosball with them on the CDC's foosball table -- and Gabriel beat me! I'm off my game. We need a foosball table, I think it's a blast.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

3/23/2011 A new family??

"Mommy, I want to go to a NEW HOUSE!" Katrina exclaimed on the way home from school today. After some probing, I found that this NEW HOUSE would also come with NEW DINNER and a NEW MOM.

"A new Mom?!" I asked her, feigning horror. "What's wrong with me?" "Nothing," she answered, "but I want a sister!"


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

3/22/2011 Math Learning

Yesterday I was talking with my sister on the phone, and she educated me that "Singapore Math" is not a crunchy-granola math approach at all, where did I get that idea?

Though most home-schoolers do so for religious reasons, perhaps I was fooled by the Web sites and other things I read that indicated that the non-uber-religious homeschool set (the crunchy 10%) liked Singapore Math because of its alternative, visual, non-"rote" approach. My sister explained that it does certainly include some memorization and repetitive learning, which I guess all math learning has to have some of.

Today I ran into one of my favorites Dads that I've met through this crazy parenting journey. His son and Julian were pals in preschool, and now this Dad is back at TLC preschool for his daughter. He told me today that he's homeschooling (yes, you read that right, he is homeschooling -- first Dad I've ever heard of who homeschools!) his 1st-grader, because he felt that his local school was teaching at too low a level, especially in math. He said in kindergarten, they did practically no math at all, like addition and subtraction. Personally I'm fine with that, though it can set you behind for first grade. Then he added that his family is considering moving into the Cupertino school district, and I briefed him on my opinions on that.

Moments later, I ran into a mom who works at an elementary school, but isn't a teacher, and doesn't have a kid in school yet. Her oldest is Katrina's age and entering kindergarten. She told me about an online math curriculum ("GG math" or something??) that she seemed to think was great. It also promotes visual learning, demonstrating concepts through colorful blocks and such, and that the kids don't need parents to read instructions since it guides them through the exercises.

She was probably taken aback by my reaction, which wasn't supportive at all. Any homework that demands computer time from elementary kids would irritate me to no end. Why can't that visual conceptual learning be done without the bright screen and colors? It also doesn't scale up to 3 kids. She said it was just 20 minutes, but that's assuming they're focused for that whole 20 minutes and don't wander off and Web-surf for Nerf guns. With all 3 in school, they're all 3 supposed to take turns for 20 minutes on the computer? NO THANKS!! Or get their own? NO WAY!! We're talking little kids here!

I'm no teacher, so what the heck do I know, but I hate the idea that you have to resort to screens to get kids to pay attention and learn. Even if it works, my gut says it's a net loss with a major long-term downside. Sure, typing and Powerpoint are handy tools (just like the Basic simulator "Quite Basic" that Gabriel was using yesterday), but they should never be the centerpiece of any curriculum. If there really is no other way to teach something -- who wants to do Powerpoint on paper? -- then teach it, but "visual conceptual" math learning doesn't need a computer application, and the computer can easily distract from the point. Computer science is different -- teach that, fine. But that starts on paper, with binary arithmetic.

I sure wish my home-schooling Dad friend had been there to hear the Mom's description of this online visual math learning program. I think he comes more from the Tiger-Mom school of thought than the "visual conceptual learning" place, though it seems most parents light up at the idea of "online learning." Dave and I, both Silicon Valley engineers by trade, lean heavily Luddite on this.

To calibrate, here's a sample of Julian's first-grade homework from last week.

And a sample of Gabriel's math homework from last week. He also does word problems and filling in charts and boxes, the visual abstract stuff, which he hates.

This was all so much easier 40 years ago when I was learning it! Or was it??


Monday, March 21, 2011

3/21/2011 Quite Basic

There are Web sites for everything these days, including computer programming. Anyone remember that? In my day, being "tech savvy" meant that you understood how to write programs, not download apps.

This Web site Quite Basic is a Basic language simulator, mostly for nostalgia. Turns out, it's decent for teaching kids too.

For some reason, Gabriel spent his rainy-day indoor time at the CDC this afternoon writing a Basic program.

He was very motivated to test it out on the Quite Basic Web site, so we had a rare night in which he did everything asked after being told only once. He'd already done his homework at the CDC, so I had him work on his March book report, then he had dinner with no fuss, took his bath and got ready for bed. Computer time around here has to be earned, and he earned it, so he spent the rest of the night on the computer testing his program. (He didn't want me to scan it because it has mistakes, but I did anyway, sorry dude.)

One could make a strong argument that a decades-long obsolete computer language has no practical application as compared to setting up a ring tone on an iPhone or drawing in Powerpoint, but you won't convince me. This is "tech-savvy," and this is the basis of actual computer science -- not Web-surfing or drawing in Powerpoint.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

3/20/2011 Waste of a day

Another wonderful rainy day -- perfect to stay inside and catch up on things around the office (taxes, scrapbooking, blogging, taxes...).

Instead, I slept late for the first time in weeks, made breakfast, and then got Julian gathered to go to Kung Fu. He's really been a pain lately. Anything we ask him to do turns into a major ordeal, having to repeat ourselves or having him answer in a screaming shout: "WHAAAAAAAAAT!" So getting him out of the house was a good thing.

When we got home, despite my sleep-in this morning, I was overwhelmed with intense fatigue. I couldn't even stand for long without starting to rock and feel like I was going to keel over. Somehow I managed to stabilize the boys by setting Julian up with some activity downstairs, and Gabriel was absorbed in Bey Blades upstairs, and Katrina is never a problem if her brothers aren't pestering her, and took a long nap while Dave did yardwork. Yet I'm still groggy and lethargic and out of it. It feels like a migraine without the intense pain (yet) because of all the sleep, but all the other symptoms are there.

The IRS won't accept that as an excuse though. I've got to get my business taxes, our personal taxes, and Dad's taxes done, migraine symptoms or not. But not today, apparently.