Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Reading Around the Kids Always Helps

Tonight as I sat with my 3 year old and she "read" me a series of books, I realized how vital seeing people read is. Having 5 kids there are tons of books and magazines in our house. I enjoy reading and often do so, but I had to stop and think when my kids have seen me read (besides on my iPad or iPhone). I am sure it had been awhile!
Then I got to thinking about the literacy exposure that my oldest two children received. Yes, I read books with them here and there. They had their favorites which were read over and over. Some nights we read 3 or 4 books and others none. I thought I was doing pretty good. Sadly, I can honestly say that I am not sure they saw me read much of anything.(Ok, the mail and the cake mix or frozen dinner directions.)
I now sit here feeling guilt for their lack of exposure. Especially when I see my youngest three children spend many hours a week reading and telling stories from pictures. They ask their siblings what their books are about and are very excited to "write" their own stories. I know without a doubt that their interest in language/ reading/ telling/ writing is drastically impacted by what they observe happening around them, most notably by their older siblings. 
So what can I do about it? Instead of hiding my stack of "I want to read" books and dozens of magazines in my office, I am going to put them on display. I can also make sure that during "quiet time" that I take a a few minutes to read with them or next to them. Finally, I can take interest in what they are reading (even if I can't stand the genre). 
The love of literacy can be built at any age and with my family we start to build/ enhance that love tomorrow! 
Happy Reading! 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Married to the Farm

When I met my husband about 15 years ago, I had no idea the ride I was about to encounter. I did not know the time farming required, the training and learning that were needed, the amount of planning and investment it took to run a business, let alone a farm as a business. We are a business, but we are family farm too. Each year, I learn more about our farm and agriculture as a whole, I appreciate more, and I realize over and over that my husband is the rock in our family. He keeps me grounded, keeps us all going and makes sure that we are working as a team. He is my prince and treats me like his princess.... I wrote this in a Facebook post the other day, but wanted to share it in another way too! Love ya Steven! Thanks for all you do!

Married to the farmer, Married to the land,
Living a life many don't understand.
These hands hold out future, from here until the end,
with The Lord's Blessing, Mother Nature will be our friend.
From endless work that is done day to day,
to sleepless night and lack of play.
My Farmer is the strength of our home,
making sure we are a team and never stand alone.
This life has its ups and downs,
but to the Farmer,
thank you for your smile, making me your princess without a crown!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Kid is Not a Number

I preface this post by saying that when you are done reading, I want you to ask yourself,what kinds of interactions you have had with a school? How did they make you feel and what did you walk away knowing? Can you draw a vivid picture of your child while they are at school or do you simply know how they rank among other kids in the nation or their class. As a parent, I feel that we need to be involved and let schools know that although the national education system forces teachers to chase and figure out new expectations and requirements and pushes for our kids to be identified by numbers, that we want then described in adjectives and verbs.... And now to my post!

Have you ever walked away from a parent teacher conference, a school meeting, an appointment and felt like your child was simply a number? Well, I have decided that it has to change for my family.

When I sit down at a parent teacher conference and get "Your child scored_____ on the state assessment, NWEA MAP test, DIBELS test, I vow to say," And what does that show? or "And how does this score tell me about who my child is and what happens behind these doors from 8:25-3:15?"
When they show me their grades, I don't really care. Tell me, "What you know about my child. Describe my child, his/her attitude, energy, interactions etc." 

When I get slammed in the face with " I need to get _____ Accellerated Reader points as my kids walk in the house." I vow to say, " Read, and if you meet the goal set for your grade level- wonderful, but what is your goal? What do you want to read? "

When I sit in an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting and hear this score and that score on an assessment I vow to say, " What does that mean or how does that impact PE, Music, lunch, recess, multi-step problems, group work, comprehension, etc." Or a goal written as" He will display proper stress management skills on 8 of 10 occurances as tallied by _____ on 4 out of 5 days" I will call, " Bull Sh**". No one knows exactly when my children are stressed or anxious. No one is actually tallying the number of occurances. I really don't care what the number is, I will say, "How will that look, what is the plan to get to reduced stress and anxiety."

When I am told that so and so was not aware of this need or that, or that they don't rememebr that being discussed at a meeting, I will call out, " My kid is not a number! S/he is entrusted to you for 7 hours a day. It is your responsibility!"

When I want to know how much lunch money is left in the lunch account, what my students grades are, how many days they have been tardy or absent or to send an email to their teacher, I have to pull up one more number to log into a system.  I will send notes and expect responses.

When I call the school and get sent to so and so's voicemail extension, I understand, they have minutes to teach and have to count all of them. They can't be interrupted ( I really do understand not interrupting) but how many minutes, hours days do I and my child need to wait to get an answer? Teaching comes first.. oh, wait, or is it testing or teaching to a test?

In a world where a number or a collection of numbers define who our kids are and what they can and cannot do, I ask, is there really any meaning, are we teaching, learning, or just trying to jump through a hoop. I am tired of impersonal education. What happened to a note, a call.... I'd even take an email or a text. 

We teach English, perhaps we should go back and be descriptive, paint a picture with words as to who each child is, make it vivid, colorful, meaningful and exciting. Start with an opening statement and elaborate. Then wrap it up with a conclusion summarizing what was discussed/ shared using just as explicit vocabulary as in the conversation. Then, maybe just then, parents will start the journey back to the school. Maybe then they will want to be active, attend meetings, conferences, events. May then, school will become a welcome friendly place to be for kids as well as families.