How we spent Earth Hour

So, all day we’d planned on how we’d spend Earth Hour tonight, starting at 8 pm. Golfer and Hubby had tickets to the Nuggets game, so Naturalist and I decided to read by candlelight (with Sassy hopefully sound asleep for the night).

We ate lunch, had friends over, cleaned up, ate dinner, blah blah blah, it’s now 8:45 and when I booted up the computer it hit me that WE TOTALLY MISSED Earth Hour. Or, half of it. We have lights on, TV on (Battle of the Bulge on Military Channel), we just blended up some chocolate shakes using our electric blender, and I’m surfing the Net. Oops.

Naturalist looked out the window and saw that one of our neighbors still had their lights on, too…but many others had candles flickering.

To make up for our oversight, we are planning another Blackout day like the one I blogged about in December. Golfer will be thrilled.


I am currently in talks with my soap partner in crime to take all our kids, pack up my minivan, and head to Moab, Ut, down to Four Corners, over to Durango, and then back home. Starting date: this monday. !!!

The last time I was in Moab, it was as a newleywed with hubby and another couple. We brought our bikes along to ride on the slickrock trail. Before getting to the trail, you had to go through a 2 mile ‘practice area’, and before getting to the ‘practice area’ you had to go down a ‘pre practice area’ entrance rock ramp. I got halfway down the ‘pre practice rock ramp’, before I became very afraid and started crying. For good reason!

This trail is VERY difficult and dangerous. Do not ride alone, but do not bring along you family, your girlfriend, or anyone that you love who is not an advanced rider. At times it is like riding on the outside edge of a 300-foot high basketball.

So, I found a nice warm rock and got a tan while everyone else rode slickrock.

In any case, I love that part of the country. The geology is unbelievable, and we drive through it everytime we go down to So. Cal. Many of the overlooks off of I-70 in the San Rafael Swell are pretty impressive:

And that’s not even in any of the National Parks like Arches or Canyonlands.

If anyone reading this has been to Moab with your family, I’d love a few ‘must do with kids’ suggestions. I don’t think sitting on a rock and crying is up their alley.

Feeding the Elephant.

I recently read an excellent article in Edutopia that got me thinking more about the current culture of testing and grades in public schools. I’d already been thinking about it because many of Naturalist’s friends and my friends’ kids are knee deep in the state NCLB testing. This week long (WEEK LONG!!! My SAT & ACT tests in high school were only an afternoon!) extravaganza is what has shaped and formed their entire years curriculum at the expense of free play, art, music, fun science exploration, and extemporaneous and valuable ‘learning in the moment’.

I was at a meeting recently when a colleague told a story of being in India, where an educator there asked her, somewhat skeptically, “In America, you test your students a lot, don’t you?” She replied, “Well, indeed, the United States has a national policy that requires testing of all students in certain grades.” The Indian educator said, “Here, when we want the elephant to grow, we feed the elephant. We don’t weigh the elephant.”

Now, I’ve never been to India, and I’ve never tried to weigh an elephant. But this strikes me as the most concise and sound educational policy advice I’ve heard: Concentrate on what we should be doing intellectually (and physically) — feeding our children, and not just measuring their weight. But our nation, burdened by NCLB testing, is finding it’s incredibly difficult to weigh an elephant accurately. The obsession with testing is slowing down an already lumbering educational system, at a time when we need to be speeding up.

These state tests serve no other purpose than making sure the school & teachers are following a completely irrelevant minimum standard of education. I say ‘irrelevant’ because each state has a different standard…what one state deems important, another completely disregards. Our Government can’t officially create this standard, and so leaves it up to each state. But, the Government can dangle the carrot of ‘funding’ to make sure everyone tows the line and teachers are told what to teach, or else funding will be cut off.

Our children are tested to an extent that is unprecedented in our history and unparalleled anywhere else in the world. While previous generations of American students have had to sit through tests, never have the tests been given so frequently, and never have they played such a prominent role in schooling. The current situation is also unusual from an international perspective: Few countries use standardized tests for children below high school age—or multiple-choice tests for students of any age.

(quote from ‘Standardized Testing and It’s Victims‘)

I find it ridiculous that a test to quantify how well a teacher is teaching is given to students. That ultimately the people suffering when a standard isn’t met and funding is cut, are these same children, rather than the administrators and/or teachers. But the biggest farce is the belief that funding has anything to do with educational performance. There are poorer nations spending far less on their public education that are outperforming our students.

Finland whose students come out top as far as performance in problem solving and near the top in nearly every category has rejected the whole idea of standardized testing for all ages except school-leavers. New Zealand students who also out-perform those of the USA also does not test pre-high school children at all. The Czech Republic where education per capita spending is about one-third of the US yet whose students outperformed US students regarding mathematical problem solving, does not test students at elementary level.

(quote from ‘Improving Education in California’)

The tail is wagging the dog, in the case of NCLB and state testing. If learning and education is the goal, then we could be doing no worse than to do what we are doing currently in our public schools.

Standardized-test scores often measure superficial thinking. In a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, elementary school students were classified as “actively” engaged in learning if they asked questions of themselves while they read and tried to connect what they were doing to past learning; and as “superficially” engaged if they just copied down answers, guessed a lot, and skipped the hard parts. It turned out that high scores on both the CTBS and the MAT were more likely to be found among students who exhibited the superficial approach to learning. Similar findings have emerged from studies of middle school students (also using the CTBS) and high school students (using the other SAT, the college-admission exam). To be sure, there are plenty of students who think deeply and score well on tests—and plenty of students who do neither. But, as a rule, it appears that standardized-test results are positively correlated with a shallow approach to learning.

The time, energy, and money that are being devoted to preparing students for standardized tests have to come from somewhere. Schools across the country are cutting back or even eliminating programs in the arts, recess for young children, electives for high schoolers, class meetings (and other activities intended to promote social and moral learning), discussions about current events (since that material will not appear on the test), the use of literature in the early grades (if the tests are focused narrowly on decoding skills), and entire subject areas such as science (if the tests cover only language arts and math). Anyone who doubts the scope and significance of what is being sacrificed in the desperate quest to raise scores has not been inside a school lately.

(quote from ‘Standardized Testing and It’s Victims‘)

And yet, the most common question I am asked when people find I am homeschooling is “You still have to take tests to make sure they are on the same level as other kids in their grade, right?!?” (usually with a sense of desperation.) In fact, this was one of my key points when I first started homeschooling 3 years ago…how could I make sure they were learning what everyone else their age was learning in school.

How things change in 3 years. Now, I would be horrified if it were proved that they were on track with ‘grade level’ public school.

Other Articles:
U.S. falls in education rank compared to other countries
To Test Or Not To Test

Not Wordless Wednesday–Self.

Because really, who am I kidding? I couldn’t be wordless if someone gagged me. I love to talk. In very roundabout ways…eventually getting to a point, but taking my sweet time getting there. I could never write a comic strip…it would be all words with a tiny little picture down at the bottom.

Anyway, back to the topic. (see?)

Mama P put up another photo challenge, with the theme ‘Self’. I love her photo challenges, because it gives me a chance to look through my expansive iphoto archive and relive memories. For this one, I had to go waaaay back, simply because I am the official picture taker chez Child’s Play. I hope I show up through the pictures I take, but I rarely am actually IN the pictures.

So mostly, I view my ‘self’ in the first person, looking out. Rather than a whole, I see my ‘self’ in snippets…as a cheek to snuggle up to, a leg to climb on, a waist to wrap around, an ear to whisper into.

A hand to hold.

I see my ‘self’ as a part of the places I’ve gone. The best thing about traveling is that you’re never the same person coming back home that you were when you left.

I really tried to find one with me in it, but I’m the only one who ever would pick up a camera to catch a view with it!

I see my ‘self’ as what I create. Babies. Home. Friendships. Soap. I’ve found that the more things I build up around me, the happier I feel inside of me. Such a change from my earlier years, when I thought the exact opposite was true. The days of 45 minute makeup applications with an added 45 minute hair session getting ready in front of the mirror. The days of obsessing over my clothes, my body, my everything! Now, I’m lucky if i get a daily shower. My clothes are whatever is on sale. My makeup routine is pared down to whatever I can do in 5 minutes, and my hair is subject to the same 5 minute rule. I don’t have time to sit in front of a mirror and obsess. And now that my focus is on other things, I’m much more comfortable in my own skin, and much happier with my life.

Doing someone else’s nails for a change.

Occasionally, someone (usually The Golfer) will pick up the camera and snap a picture of me. I’m always surprised when I see myself from the outside looking in, as my kids see me. Here are three from the last couple years, each taken by the Golfer who likes to work the camera.

Me, on a mommy/son date at a miniature golf course in Virginia.

What Sassy sees when I ride on the Merry Go Round at the Zoo with her.

Our attempt at a self portrait on a Lake in North Carolina. As my hat says, “Life is Good!”

It’s funny. For so long I worried about “Who AM I?” and could never figure it out. Now, I worry less about who I am, and more about what I’m putting out in the world, and I know better who I am because of it. I am simply what I focus energy on. Joy or sadness. Anger or peace. Conflict or friendship. Criticism or understanding. Now I spend the most energy on being as good a mom as I can and having a family that we all want to be a part of. So for now I see my ‘self’ as a mom, woman, creator…and I am happy.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Kevin Garnett

What better way to wish you all a happy and lucky day than by sharing a pic. I took of Kevin Garnett when he came in to town to play the Nuggets. Get it? Boston Celtics…clover on the back…green uniform…

My love for KG deserves it’s own post, but has origins back in 2002 when hubby invited me to participate in his Fantasy Basketball League. Anyone with him on their Fantasy League has to fall in love, because he’s got mad skillz.

Anyway, this isn’t about KG, it’s about St. Patrick’s Day, and we all here chez Child’s Play can’t wait to see what the Leprechaun does while we’re sleeping.

Usually he creates havoc by overturning chairs, turning anything liquidy-ish green (milk, sour cream, yogurt, the mashed potatoes we’ve already made for our traditional shepherd’s pie), sticking crepe paper on everyone’s doors so they have to break through in the morning, and leaving behind a video game and a box of Lucky Charms cereal.

This year he’s also bringing about 8 inches of snow with him. Thanks for that!

Before the snow covered everything over with a blanket of white, I noticed that my tulips were starting to push through the ground. Pretty soon we’ll be doing more of this:

But for now we’ll celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by eating green, wearing green and thinking green…but seeing white.

Blog? What Blog?

Two words: March Madness.
Two more words: American Idol.
Two additional words: Nice Weather! (Yeah!)
And a final two words: Other Blog.

So many things, so little time!

Here are two things that the kids are having fun with…Tiger and Calypso, the best hamsters in the world.

“Hey Dude, how’s your dinner?”

“Not bad!”

No More Skittles!

Article about what happens when you buy skittles from another student in New Haven, Connecticut.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Contraband candy has led to big trouble for an eighth-grade honors student in Connecticut.

Michael Sheridan was stripped of his title as class vice president, barred from attending an honors student dinner and suspended for a day after buying a bag of Skittles from a classmate.

School spokeswoman Catherine Sullivan-DeCarlo says the New Haven school system banned candy sales in 2003 as part of a districtwide school wellness policy.

I’m really glad to know that there are schools out there willing to penalize hard working, ambitious, honors students in this manner. I mean, really. Today, skittles; tomorrow, crack cocaine.

So, the school has banned candy as part of a school wellness program. I wonder if this wellness program extends to their federally funded School Lunch Program?

The National School Lunch Program that is a large racket, serving an oversupply of meat and dairy at the expense of children’s health? The same program that is underserving fruits and veggies and only spending about $1 per lunch per kid per day?

Chef Ann, the renegade lunch lady, has a lot to say about school lunches on her blog, in articles like this: Are School Lunches Killing America’s Kids?, Bad Beef in Schools, Lean funds keep school food fatty.

I’m guessing that the same people in charge of publicly shaming an 8th grader for buying Skittles are the same people turning a blind eye to the overfatty, undernutritious lunches they are serving every day in the school cafeteria.


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