Thursday, September 08, 2011

9/8/11 Homework load

Anyone think their 9-year-old could -- more importantly, would -- finish this in 60 minutes?

- Write 12 definitions related to magnetism, some not in the dictionary (e.g. "temporary magnet.").

Draw an illustration for each.
- Make up 10 sentences for each of 10 spelling/definition words (e.g. "chrysalis").
- Two pages of cursive practice.
- 22 math problems.

This is all one night's homework at the not super-academic school in the district, with a principal who's working on reducing homework load, and a conscientious teacher!

Ironically, the only thing that goes quickly is the math, because if you understand it (and most kids at our school do), it's often (not always) a lot less writing.

An example of tonight's math homework problems: Round each number to the place of the underlined digit. 1) 589,932. Gabriel's answer was "580,000 or 590,000" and he'd circled 590,000.

Another problem: Write these numbers in order from least to greatest: 690,172, 349 699,074,213 69,010,342. Answering that involves a fair amount of writing, though at least he didn't have to copy the numbers out of order first.

(Any other 4th-grade parents there have any input? I think this is in line with 4th-grade difficulty -- actually this is pretty easy, but it's the quantity I'm griping about.)

But making up sentences with words like "synonymous" and "crystalline" and "inaugeration" takes at least 3 minutes per sentence, if the kid is concentrating. 10 sentences, about 3 minutes a sentence -- do the math. With everything else, there's no way this all takes 60 minutes.

This is crushing. All we do the entire evening home with Gabriel is deal with homework. At some point, he just gets burnt out and putzes around, plays, writes things in a goofy font, reads the dictionary instead of copying definitions out of it. I absolutely hate that my entire interaction with him in a day revolves around motivating him and focusing him on this work, and that it hangs over his head the entire night.

He actually did most of tonight's homework, minus 7 of the 10 sentences, but I cut him off at 8:30 upon threat of losing a playdate this weekend and said he had to go to bed. He doesn't believe me, but I know he'll have an easier time finishing this in the morning.

I blame the other parents. I have to blame someone. They complain privately, and to other parents, but they don't even tell the teacher. They let their kids stay up later, their kids get home from school earlier, they are generally just fewer of them (kids that is), and many just think piling on homework will improve test scores.

This can't go on. I have to start working with Julian on his book report -- something that I've learned is brutal for parents, especially the first 2nd-grade report, but that has far more value. I wasn't expecting to have to spend so much time and attention keeping Gabriel motivated. He's never blown anyone away with his work ethic -- so many friends have kids who finish their homework on their own -- but he's no excuse factory like Julian. (Julian has also discovered that math homework is much easier and faster than language, and often I have to fight with him to get him to do his definitions or sentences instead of the math.)

On another note...

One of many great things about having a geeky husband is that when your computer dies and you just don't have time or energy to figure out what you need for the next one, you say, "sic'em!" Dave is closing in on a new computer for me -- a laptop this time -- and I'm thrilled and grateful for this huge investment in time and energy he's put into it. I know he likes doing it, even if it isn't a Mac -- the only thing better will be when I need a new car!


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

9/7/2011 Job news

It's official! I resigned from my position as a Member Technical Staff III yesterday. My last day is September 16. I'm still reeling from the changes, but it's totally a good thing. It's not what I wanted originally or set out to do, but as regular readers of this blog know, I had serious issues with my management. Though that's been rectified recently with a new manager, the problems were just too pervasive. I wrote a pretty strong resignation letter, which I later felt sheepish about, but I had a good talk with the CTO today and left it on good terms. Now I just have to get over short-timer's attitude, and try to get a few last things done. But, it doesn't end there. I'm starting a new job Oct. 3! It was just too good an opportunity to pass up. It's a wonderful, successful small, healthy company with relaxed, happy people all around. I'll have lots of challenges, I have a lot to learn, but that's GREAT. Now that I'm past the big hurdle of resigning my current job, I'm really excited about the new job. I'm not excited about saying goodbye to some coworkers at my current job, many of whom have become really good friends, that will be hard. But the new job has some old friends there too -- I'll be the 5th person there (out of about 50) who came from my current company. One of those other 4 people is one of my first coworkers at my current company back from 1997, and we're now old friends. Juggling school and family life is never easy, but this past year and a half I think we've pretty much figured it out. We've figured out that it's never easy, for starters. It'll be harder for me, coming up to speed at a new job, but heck, we did it once before. And this time it will be without the intense stress of a tyrannical evil manager. I'll have two weeks off between jobs, a good thing because I have lots of big tasks to catch up on. Which,of course, I won't -- so I need to pick two or three and make sure those happen. I'm thinking of doing something I thought of a long time ago: a road trip to Southern CA to visit long-lost family, including two cousins of my Dad's who I've never met, my first cousin who I haven't seen since he was 12, my college roommate, and of course my beloved in-laws. Deep breath -- this is a huge change. My current company is the only place I've worked for 14 years -- time to be knocked out of my comfort zone! But then, sometimes ones' comfort zone isn't so comfortable anyway. 9/7/2011

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

9/6/11 Childproof

Katrina announced this morning that she "didn't know where we were" last night, so she decided to medicate her cough herself. Somehow she got the childproof cap off the child's Robitussin, and administered most of the bottle to herself. I think it was maybe 1/3 full, and she didn't quite finish it, but still, this was alarming information this morning. We put the bottle truly out of reach and gave a stern lecture to all the kids about self-medicating, and she seems to have suffered no ill effects.

I suffered some ill effects of Gabriel's homework though. Good heavens, just his math was about 26 problems, and most of them involved a whole lot of copying and writing. For example, a problem is to write three numbers in order from least to greatest. Not so bad if you can just write the numbers in order, but he's supposed to write them out of order first, show how many digits each has, assign them an A, B and C order, then copy them again in least-to-greatest order, and draw a box around the answer. Some of these numbers are in the hundred millions, so if you have to write 225,541,226 and 241,541,226 and 226,541,220 twice, in different orders AND with other markings around it, that can take a while. And those were the shorter questions!!

Gabriel had trouble finishing schoolwork today and lost recess for not transitioning, so I talked to him about that but also sent a note to his teacher to let him know that 26 math problems of that sort will take a 9-year-old over an hour with no breaks. Gabriel still has to learn how to get his schoolwork and homework done quickly, but I do understand why he'd frustrated with the homework -- lots of copying and busywork without any real advancement or reinforcement in learning -- he knows the content part just fine so far.

Seems homework is childproof too. 9/6/11

Monday, September 05, 2011

The neighborhood

Computer troubles -- meaning, no new computer yet, have really limited my ability and willingness to blog. At least I finally put my photo-browsing program on our little Netbook, only to discover that it's really lame at editing. Today, Labor Day, started out a slow and lazy day. Katrina spent a lot of time listening to "Clifford" tunes, this time with Clifford listening with her!
Our neighborhood had a Street Fair today, a very small affair that included a demo by firefighters, and an inflatable water slide. To my surprise, Katrina went up the slide, and down, though she had some help the first time.
For some reason, the compressor for the slide turned off, and it very slowly started to deflate -- while Gabriel and Katrina were up top! I could hear her crying out in fear, then screaming, even though I knew Gabriel was up there with her. She wasn't in any danger, since it was deflating very very slowly, but something freaked her out to where she wouldn't just slide down. I started to climb up after her, and then I heard people saying "there they are," referring to Gabriel and Katrina coming down.

Gabriel told me later that the platform they'd been on at the top had sunk down, and he had a hard time pulling her out, partly because she resisted his help, but he managed to pull her out and get her to slide down anyway. What a terrific big brother!

I was lucky he was up there with her, because he met up with a friend from school at the street fair, a kid he'd been asking for a playdate with, and who happens to live in our strange little neighborhood enclave. Most of his time was spent running around like crazy with his friend, and in fact I left Gabriel at the fair with his friend after the slide deflation incident to take Katrina home. I met his friend's mother, and she was happy to have Gabriel over for a playdate during/after the fair. So I told Gabriel to come home at 5:00, and knew it'd take him maybe 5 minutes to walk home.

Julian spent the day at The Tech Museum with our neighbors across the street, who have a 3rd-grade boy that he's made friends with. Julian had gone over to see if his friend could play, and they were on their way to the museum and invited Julian. He didn't get back until 6pm, so he was entertained unexpectedly all day.

Katrina has a classmate who I think I've seen walking with her parents not far from our house, which also suggests they're neighbors. It'll be a while before I'll tell Katrina to just go to a kid's house and ask if they can play, but in two years, sure.

Can it be? Do we actually have signs of a neighborhood here? Kids knocking on each other's doors and asking if a friend can play? It seems so .... well, suburban -- but it's a really, really good thing. I was so happy to see the boys playing with friends today, and without any work or coordination on my part -- perfect. Is that what a neighborhood is about?! 9/5/11