Here’s to You, Little Red Hen

I’m so busy right now with a wide selection of seemingly random affairs–things related to gardening, harvesting, homeschooling, book editing, education advocacy, as well as other small tasks. The last thing I should be doing is writing a blog post. But here I go, putting it all aside to tell you that I just ate the most delicious slice of bread, freshly baked and still warm from the oven. This isn’t just any slice of bread. This is bread from the flour of hard red spring wheat that my family grew, harvested, threshed, and ground ourselves! The feeling I have is satisfying. No, it’s exhilarating!

from plant to wheat berries to ground flour

from plant to wheat berries to ground flour

Growing small grains has been on our to-do list for some time. We bake all our own bread, and have for the past four or five years. For about a year, we’ve been buying whole wheat berries and grinding our own flour. My gift for Christmas was a Nutrimill. I gave my husband five pounds each of hard red spring wheat seed and hard red winter wheat seed, to start our first plots of each.

Spring wheat means you plant it in the spring and it is ready for harvest by the end of the summer, and that’s what we started with. This was a trial plot (we didn’t even know if it would grow here!), and it was filled with some success (I’m eating bread, aren’t I?) and a lot of failures. Not knowing if growing wheat would suit us long term and our plot too small to necessitate special equipment, we decided to broadcast the seed and rake it in, one method recommended for small scale grain growers. Keep in mind, we’d never done this before and were really experimenting, learning through the entire process. I calculated the viability rate of the seed and took into account average loss, and we prepared a plot just the right size for five pounds of seed. We made two mistakes: First, I don’t think we seeded the plot densely enough; and second, I don’t think we raked it in deep enough. As a result, when the wheat finally germinated and began to grow, we noticed right away that our wheat field was a bit on the sparse side. Because of this, weeds had plenty of space to grow up around the wheat. I tried to weed in the beginning, but it quickly became apparent that come harvest time, we would be searching for our wheat amongst the towering undesirables–so much for our dreams of casually scything down large swaths of golden wheat swaying gently in the breeze.

Harvesting the weed infested field was a nightmare and a challenge, but one my husband luckily took on whole-heartedly. Pushing aside the weeds, we (mostly he) located the wheat and harvested it. We found the easiest way in our situation was to cut off the wheat just under the heads. Painstakingly, we did this while imagining that our neighboring farmers were watching from their barn, laughing all the while.

Our next challenge was to remove the wheat berries from the seed head and separate them from the surrounding chaff. We anticipated that this task would be yet another obstacle that would put another check mark on the side of harvesting your own wheat is not worth it. But it turned out to be quite easy! The chaff came right off with just a little friction or beating. Then my husband devised a DIY wheat threshing system based on something he found online: a bucket with a bearing attached to a rod that ran down through the center of the lid.  Attached to the rod were several lengths of chain. Using a drill attached to the visible end of the rod, the rod turned threshing the wheat inside the bucket with the chains. It was brilliant. The wheat berries were free. Farmers of old used to separate their just threshed wheat berries from its chaff by tossing it in the air on a windy day.  The heavy wheat berries would fall back down while the light chaff would blow away. We replicated this with a box fan and shortened the job drastically.

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Today, I ground several pounds of our spring wheat and baked my first bread with it. The Little Red Hen would be very proud of me, but unlike her, I had help. I couldn’t have done this without my husband’s support (especially the back breaking kind) and his own excitement to see this project through. Furthermore, even the kids are proud to have produced. My 6 1/2 year old son and my almost 3 year old daughter helped harvest the wheat and took it upon themselves to thresh their own small supply of wheat berries (These have become very sacred and I am not yet allowed to grind them–maybe we’ll save those for seed next year!). My reward from the hard work and dedication it takes to produce what society normally takes for granted as something packaged at the end of a processing line is knowing that my food is safe, natural, nutritious, and sustainable. More importantly, my entire family has a connection to their food, a characteristic that I feel will one day benefit my children greatly as the world continues to change. When I asked my children, “who wants a slice of freshly baked bread made from our wheat that we grew?” They responded with a immediate and exuberant “Me, me, me!”

risen loaves, just before being popped into the oven

risen loaves, just before being popped into the oven

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Just out of the oven

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loaves cooling

I’d say the success outweighs the failure. Learning from one’s mistakes is an important part of improvement. Our real goal is to grow hard red winter wheat, which is sown in the early fall to begin growing. It requires a cold period as part of its growing cycle, and in the spring will continue to grow to be harvested at the end of summer. Because of its longer growing period, winter wheat tends to produce higher yields than spring wheat; and the gluten content of hard red winter wheat is the highest of all wheats (spring v. winter, soft v. hard), which is ideal for bread baking. We have already seeded a small plot of winter wheat, this time sowing the seeds more densely. We did a better job raking them in as well. We intend to seed a second small plot in a few weeks to compare the different sowing times. Growing winter wheat will again be an experiment (will it overwinter alright?), but we have learned much and are confident that the process the second time around will be much easier. That will be a post in another year’s time.

Peach Madness

It’s Friday. If you were to drop by, I’d be embarrassed, and I’d ask you to keep your shoes on! My kitchen is a disgusting mess of sticky peach residue. Every bowl, every surface, every button on the microwave is affected (I use it as a timer). Thirty half pints of peach jam stand sealed in my island. What will amount to seven pints of peach chutney currently simmers on the stovetop. I spent my morning peeling, pitting, and chopping half of the bushel of peaches I bought from a farmers market the other day. Although I haven’t the energy to deal with the remaining half bushel today, it will be destined for jarring in light syrup in the coming day or so.

just made peach jam

just made peach jam

If you’re not accustomed to making your own food on this scale, you undoubtedly think I’m nuts. But in my defense, once you endeavor to make food from scratch and avoid the over-processed, chemical laden products that have been mass produced for our convenience, you can never go back! You’re probably thinking, Ok, I get that. But who needs thirty jars of jam? You’re right, I don’t– I actually need much more than that. Several weeks ago, I made about thirty half pints of jam from freshly picked blueberries. And several small batches of strawberry and raspberry jam line the shelves in my basement. I make jam with whatever fruit is fresh and in season.

We eat it on toast and on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but most of our jam usage goes into flavoring and sweetening fresh homemade yogurt, made from raw milk from local farmers. With homemade jam containing little sugar and made from fresh fruit, and fresh yogurt, I know that my food is natural and that it contains nothing unnecessary.

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homemade yogurt with homemade peach jam

Making jam is easy, and it’s a wonderful first project for anyone wanting to dip their toes into the world of food preservation. Some fruit, jars, some basic kitchen equipment that you probably already have, some pectin (and the recipe on the box/ jar!), and some common sense hygiene is all you need. You could add sugar to that list, but it isn’t necessary if you’re using a low/no sugar pectin. These types of pectins will set without sugar, and also allow the user to sweeten with honey, or another type of sugar alternative.

If you’re like me, you’ll start with a few batches of jam, perhaps move on to tomatoes (which are also very easy), and then experiment with other recipes such as salsas and chutneys, which like jam, do not require the use of a pressure canner to seal food safely. All of these foods can be processed in a boiling water bath!

Go ahead, make your own jam! You won’t be disappointed! The results yielded will be immeasurably tasty, and the satisfying feeling of achievement priceless. Whether you cook from scratch, grow a garden, purchase locally from neighborhood farms or farmers markets, preserve food on a small scale as a hobby, or are the verge of a complete do-it-yourselfer like me, we are participating in a culture of real food. We share an understanding of the true value of knowing where our food comes from and that it doesn’t have to contain an infinite list of unpronounceable ingredients or come in fancy, individually wrapped packages.

I invite you to get involved in the food revolution. Know your farmers, keep your money local. At the same time, you’ll be playing a role in sustainable agriculture, and avoiding participation in an industrialized food system driven by corporate interests and a heavy reliance on fossil fuels.

In his 2013 article, “Beyond the Barcode: The Local Food Revolution,” well-known food author Michael Pollan (author of bestselling book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma) describes the benefits of a local food economy citing reasons both political and sentimental for the values of a local farmers market. Not only is a local food economy safer and less prone to contamination, but we start to eliminate the vast amounts of fossil fuels that are used to grow large monocultures of cash crops and the fuel it takes to transport these food products thousands of miles. Beyond that, Pollan says, farmers markets are vibrant spaces where people come together to connect to their food.

We like what happens socially at the farmer’s market, which is quickly emerging as the new public square in this country. If you compare what happens in the aisles at the grocery store with the farmer’s market, think about what a world of difference that is. At the farmer’s market country meets city. Children are introduced to where their food comes from. They learn often for the first time that a carrot is not a glossy orange bullet that comes in a plastic bag, but is actually a root. How amazing!

I’ve grown my own garden for the past fifteen years, there was always a garden when I was growing up. I remember my first garden when my husband and I first moved to Buffalo, NY from the Netherlands.  It was a narrow patch of ground between the driveway and our side of the duplex we were renting. I grew only peppers and tomatoes. Across the driveway, in another duplex a mother lived with her three young children. I remember the oldest loved peppers, and he loved them raw! I remember even more his mothers reaction to this characteristic: She thought it was beyond strange, and commented that she didn’t know where he got that from. Anyway, this boy was fascinated with my pepper plants once the green fruits started growing. He was mesmerized. This was the first time he had seen a pepper growing, and had no concept of their origin beyond the grocery store produce shelf.

More recently, only a couple of months ago, friends of mine were visiting and I was showing them my (now much larger) garden at my home in Morris, NY. I saw the same fascination, the awe as one of them saw, for the first time, vegetables still growing on their plants. It reminded me of my neighbor boy in Buffalo. At the time, I had long let my asparagus grow for the summer, and she was amazed to see the plants in their non-spear state. She was so intrigued by the idea of where asparagus comes from that I was forced to search on my hands and knees through the tall plants to find an asparagus spear to show her.

We now grow all kinds of vegetables besides peppers and tomatoes, including a variety of summer squash, green beans and shell beans, greens that include different lettuces and mesclun, spinach, Swiss chard, bok choy, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, melons, sweet corn and dent corn, fennel, leeks, carrots, beets, eggplants, potatoes, and various other things depending on the year and/or the season. Recently, we experimented with growing hull-less oats and spring wheat (a post for another day!). In a few weeks we will plant winter wheat for the first time. Our gardens are thriving diversities of vegetables, flowers, blueberries, strawberries, fruit trees, and hops. I love to grow things and there isn’t anything I won’t try once! I hope to instill this love of growing in my children, as well as the wisdom of knowing where their food comes from.

Eating fresh yogurt

Eating fresh yogurt

Is an “Opt Out” Letter on Your Back-To-School List?

Is an “Opt Out” Letter on Your Back-To-School List?

 

With less than a month before a new academic year begins, it is time for parents to start preparing their children for a new classroom, a new teacher, and new learning opportunities. The back-to-school list might differ between grades, but there is one thing that should not be missing: A letter to your district opting your child out of reform-driven tests, (or at the very least a letter inquiring as to the tests your child will be facing).

Refusing to participate in state- or district-mandated testing has become a phenomenon across the United States, as more and more parents understand the harmful effects of education reform, Race to the Top mandates, and the new Common Core curriculum. This is an interrelated corporate takeover of public education that relies heavily on data and accountability. It aims to accomplish this with the use of standardized, often high-stakes, tests. Last year, record numbers of students in New York State, with the guidance of their parents, refused to participate in the grades 3-8 state tests, with opt out numbers topping 40,000. But the testing does not stop here.

Your child will most likely be tested the first week of school. These “pre-tests” are part of a system of accountability and so-called “progress-monitoring” where children are tested on materials they have yet to learn, so that they can be retested later on in the year to see how much academic growth they exhibit. Children may face “benchmark” testing throughout the year, particularly if they tested poorly on a previous assessment, or if they are special education students or students with learning disabilities. These assessments affect every grade level from prekindergarten children, who are as young as four years old, through twelfth grade. Last year, children came home after just one week in a new classroom feeling like failures because they didn’t do well on the pre-test. One mother reported that her kindergartner came home crying and said, “I guess I’m just not a good reader, Mama.”

Many parents are not aware of the intricacies of this testing culture, and by the time they realize the pointless nature of these tests, their children have already taken several. Assessments tied to teacher evaluations are being given in all subject areas including English Language Arts and math, as well as in subjects such as art, music, and physical education. NOW is the time to opt out, before your child even takes that first pre-test!

Unlike the state tests, which are given at the same time each year, to all students in grades three through eight across New York State, other tests might vary from district to district, depending on the details of a district’s APPR (Annual Professional Performance Review) plan and the particular state-mandated and state-approved third-party assessment tool they’ve chosen to purchase. Many of these tests are computer-adaptive tests under names like Aimsweb, Star, Dibels, or Terra Nova.

As a parent, you have the right to know what tests your child will be facing and what those tests are used for. Many have nothing to do with a child’s grade, and do nothing to inform instruction. Many of these tests are corporate products that cost districts money, and drive instruction in a one-size-fits-all data-centric manner that reduce children to numbers, and unfairly judge teachers. With the use of computer-based testing on the increase, the cost associated with updating and maintaining computer labs alone can be staggering for many districts.

There are many questions you can ask your district such as:

  • What assessments are being used, and for what purpose?
  • Are these assessments listed as part of the district APPR plan? (You can find your district’s approved APPR plan here: http://usny.nysed.gov/rttt/teachers-leaders/plans/home.html.)
  • If there were no APPR, would you give this test?
  • How often are the assessments administered and what are the scheduled dates for administration?
  • What is the cost to the district of these assessments?
  • Does the district have a protocol for refusal of local assessments?
  • Are there any plans in place for eliminating k-2 local assessments?  Eliminating k-8 local assessments.

Be aware that some districts will require that parents FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) much of this information. Because the information has to be collected via various sources and analyzed, some districts will prompt parents to FOIL it to justify the man hours and, of course, will charge for copying fees for the records. This information is important, however, and parents have a right to know and need this information to make informed decisions about test refusal. Details on FOIL can be found here: http://www.dos.ny.gov/coog/freedomfaq.html.

Parents can also approach their Board of Education to express their concerns and to request that the BOE retrieve this information from the superintendent and building principals to be shared with the public. In this manner, one can avoid a FOIL. Board members should be made aware how important this information is and that it should be shared with stakeholder parents, whose decision-making regarding testing will benefit from all available information. These issues concern budget, curriculum, and instruction and assessment, and are clearly under the purview of a Board of Education. Parents can encourage their BOEs to become actively engaged in this discussion and actively involved wherever appropriate.

Other questions you can ask your child’s teacher (although many may not be completely truthful due to fear of potential ramifications for speaking out):

  • Do these assessments give you useful feedback to inform instruction for my child?
  • Are the assessments teacher-created?
  • Are there alternate methods you can use to evaluate my child?
  • If it were up to you, how would you choose to monitor the academic progress of your students?
  • If there were no APPR, would you give this test?

More good questions for schools, superintendents, principals, school board attorneys, and BOE members can be found here: https://optoutorlando.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/questions-every-public-school-parent-should-be-asking-now/.

The decision to opt out of local assessments can be confusing, and should not be entertained lightly. There are many factors to consider. Some assessments are integral to the course, and end of year assessments might be considered as part of your child’s grade for that course, especially at the upper grade levels. Many of these are teacher created, and not inherently bad (although they might still be used as part of your district’s APPR to evaluate your child’s teacher). Some assessments might be state-mandated progress-monitoring assessments, but not be used for APPR. Parents of young children must ask themselves how comfortable they are with their children being formally tested in the lower grade levels, where these assessments are not used for grades or promotion.

To be clear, much of the insidious nature of this testing culture is found in the elementary grades. Much of the time, in middle school and high school, the tests chosen to fulfill APPR are chosen appropriately and do indeed benefit students and their teachers. We encourage parents to become informed and ask questions. Listen to what your district administrators have to say. Administrators who are open and honest will tell you why they think a particular test is beneficial. Don’t be afraid to ask how it benefits students or how it informs instruction. Be wary of any rhetoric that cannot be backed up in plain language and confirmed by both administration and your child’s teacher.

Teachers assess their students all the time, for the benefit of the student and to inform instruction. Some tests are useful tools that help a teacher gauge the progress of both individual students and the class as a whole. Some tests are useful diagnostic tools that help to determine if your child has a learning disability or if they require extra help. Some tests are mandated for graduation, such as the Regents exams. And some tests are simply end-of-course exams that are part of your child’s grade. You should not opt out of these.

What is becoming more and more pervasive is the use of standardized forms of assessment, including the various computer-adaptive assessment tools that are not teacher-created, and provide a narrow form of assessment based on data, not your individual child’s strengths and weaknesses. Parents must be aware that the new ban on “standardized tests” in grades k-2 involves a very narrow definition of the word “standardized” and does nothing to alleviate the testing being carried out through computer administered assessments. There have been many cases where students who test poorly are automatically put in AIS (Academic Intervention Services), even if they don’t need it. Conversely, students who need the extra help might not get it if they happen to test well. Teachers are the best-equipped and most knowledgeable persons able to assess students. When a system of high-stakes testing and accountability removes teacher autonomy and decision making from the process, we must be hesitant to blindly accept the overuse and so-called merit of standardized assessments in our children’s classrooms.

Parents have been opting out of local assessments for several years, but there is no “how to” guide and the variables are too great to discuss any one approach to this decision. Many parents decide that they cannot support APPR, and refuse to participate in local assessments that are not part of an end-of-course grade. Some parents disapprove of their children being subjected to computer-adaptive corporate tests in the early elementary grades, and may opt out even though the tests have nothing to do with APPR. Parents share many of the same concerns when it comes to the proliferation of various forms of assessment that are not solely used by the classroom teacher to provide individualized instruction to their children. Their concerns include the collection of data, the age inappropriateness, the heavy-handed interference by the state, and the unreliability of standardized tests. Many parents wonder if there is anything these assessments can tell their children’s teachers that the teachers don’t already know. They also worry about the reliance on data and how that might interfere with any individualized instruction their child might need.

The best course of action that any parent can take is to ask questions, and insist on answers. Becoming informed is your best weapon when it comes to making decisions about testing and opting out. Above all else, parents must fulfill their role as their child’s greatest advocate. If something seems wrong, it most likely is. Armed with information, you will be able to make an informed decision that is in your child’s best interests, regardless of the opinion of others or the rhetoric regarding the “usefulness” of all this testing.

Parents who question testing, both state and local, are not against authentic forms of assessment that truly benefit both student and teacher. Be polite and respectful when engaging in dialogue with schools and teachers, but be resolute in your insistence on real answers to your questions. And, if you still feel that the tests your child will face are not in their best interests, you have the right to discuss an alternative.

 

Contributors:

Danielle Boudet, Oneonta Area for Public Education

Jeanette Brunelle Deutermann, Opt Out Long Island

Chris Cerrone, NYStopTesting.com

From Plant to Plate: The Delicacies of Summer Enchant Us

 

 

 

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It’s that time of summer, when the bounties from the garden start rolling in. It is a satisfying feeling to know that the food on my table is so fresh, only hours or sometimes minutes since it went from plant to plate. It is this time of year that I start using my surplus vegetables to create delicious recipes that I preserve so that I can bring my family the fresh taste of summer throughout the dead of winter.

Today I made this year’s first double batch of homemade salsa. I had been looking forward to this day all week. Tomatoes had been ripening. Peppers had been growing bigger. The garlic had been curing. And the onions, still dirty from their garden row, had been filling the mudroom with a particular aroma that older onions just don’t have have.

Salsa has been among my repertoire of food preservation recipes for several years now, but this year was different. This was the first year that I was able to create the recipe using 100% ingredients that I had grown myself. In prior years, there was always something missing: cilantro that had already gone to seed, with a new crop not rightly planned; a pepper crop that had failed; or garlic that was not quite ready. This year, everything was perfect.

 

 

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I love hearing that sound of jars cooling on the counter, that one-by-one clicking pop when the lids spontaneously concave as the pressure difference between the jar environment and that of the room create a vacuum seal. I love that feeling of success when the jars audibly seal in the distinct taste of natural, fresh food. It’s a signal. It’s a voice that says, “You did it. Be proud.”

DSC_0642This year’s tomatoes are beautiful, with no cracks or blemishes, and oh so delicious. Eating the summer’s first tomato sparks a memory of how tomatoes are supposed to taste, and one that gradually fades as winter deepens and you’re forced to consume the mealy red hothouse globes utterly void of zest. Garden tomatoes provide the base for much of our winter eating. With their high acidity, they are very easy to put by. We choose from a variety of salsa recipes, delicious tomato-based chutneys, sauces with different spice combinations, or just jarring them whole, they carry us through the cold season when the concept of growth seems at times forever incomprehensible in upstate New York.

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DSC_0650I start all of my vegetables from seed, including a variety of hot pepper plants that have been generously producing a gorgeous palette of vividly colored fruits.  It doesn’t take much to give a dish a kick. While I like my salsa on the spicy side, my children do not and I am forced to halve the called for amount of these little gems.

DSC_0653The growing season has been good. My herb garden is a treasury of abundance. Each day we choose our particular palate from herbs such as parsley, basil, sage, mint, thyme, rosemary, oregano, and marjoram. My salsa recipe calls for cilantro and I was happy to oblige. I love the flavor of cilantro and I cherish the bouquet of  it freshly chopped.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I grew a variety of onions this year: white, yellow, and red. They too did well… that is until two specific mother hens and their brood of chicks kept escaping and decided it was quite lovely to scratch around the organic mulch of the onion patch for insects and worms. Unfortunately, this disturbance damaged the delicate green part of the onion above ground and stunted the growth of the bulbs under the earth. These onions never reached the full potential of size, but none the less made a delectable homegrown addition to my salsa.

 

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We harvested beautiful garlic this year. After enjoying delicious garlic scapes while they were in season, the bulbs themselves continued to grow in their furrows, producing extra large cloves on some of the hardneck varieties. Most of the bulbs are still drying for longterm storage, but the fresh cloves were a delightfully spicy inclusion in this year’s salsa.

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This double batch of salsa used 20 cups of chopped tomatoes, 10 cups of chopped green peppers, 10 cups of chopped onions, 8 cloves of minced garlic, about 1 1/2 cups of chopped hot peppers, and about 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro. With the required addition of cider vinegar and some salt, we produced 16 pints of storable food. This is just the beginning! We await many more happy returns from our vegetable garden before the end of summer arrives. There are plenty of small peppers still growing. The tomatoes are really just starting. And summer squash, green beans, corn, eggplants, and more grow presently in our gardens.

Solidarity above All Else

While I hate bringing politics into our discussions, this year’s run for NY Governor is going to be hot with educational issues. I want to urge you not to allow political differences to divide you.

Yesterday Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the candidate for governor of New York State for the Republican and Conservative parties, announced the beginning of the Stop Common Core independent nominating petitions to be circulated around the State of New York.

Astorino makes some good sound bytes in regards to his opposition to Common Core.  The Green Party’s Howie Hawkins is also opposed, as is Zephyr Teachout in her run against Cuomo in the Democratic primaries. But there is more to this debate than simply a myopic dislike of Common Core (by the way, I hate it too). As these candidates develop their platform and their detailed positions on education (some are already well on their way), we need to be critical and ask tough questions. How do they view charters? What is their position on teacher tenure and do they really understand what tenure is and why it is in place? If not Common Core, then what? How will they relieve our children of the burden of overtesting–both Common Core tests and other standardized forms of assessment. How do they plan to provide the funding so desperately needed by our public schools? What is their view on the rights of parents to opt out of testing? What is their position on the business-as-usual mentality of the NY Board of Regents? The issues are heavily nuanced and there are many questions to be asked. All we know for sure right now as that incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo has not been listening to the pleas of parents and educators across the Empire state when it comes to issues in education.

There are other things to consider as well. Many do not have the luxury of voting based on one issue. Regardless of the candidate that you believe will perform best as governor of our great state, I urge you to maintain respect for and open discourse with one another regarding educational issues. My fear is that an election, especially one loaded with a Common Core ballot line is going to open up wounds between advocates that have nothing to do with education. Vote with your mind, your moral conscience, and your philosophical beliefs in the forefront, and be respectful to those with different views. They may not vote the way you want them to or use the ballot line you believe in, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re on the reformer’s side. Let us not reduce these issues to something simplistic. They are complex, and I believe that regardless of the man or woman in office, the real power will always lie in the hands of parents and teachers who are acutely aware of their roles in education and their rights to act in the best interests of children.

A Conversation With My Oldest Child

dbpigtail:

A beautifully written and very thoughtful post on early education and the value of unstructured free play for our early learners. I wrote about this topic recently. I am very concerned with the direction of education, but with the earliest years of school in particular. A time of celebration and memory-making is being replaced with a push for supposed higher standards, all at the expense of our children. It affects our children at school, and as the author of this post explains, it affects our children even after they’ve arrived home. How much is too much?

Originally posted on Daniel Katz, Ph.D.:

The older of our two children initiated this conversation with me last week.  As a follow up to Father’s Day, it seemed appropriate:

“I never really understood the purpose of homework.”

“Well, sweetie, some people think that it helps you practice what you’ve learned.”

“Well, why can’t we practice in school?”

“Some people think it helps you remember better if you do it at home.”

“That’s so not true.”

“Maybe, but it is true that when you are older you will have to do some things on your own in order to be ready for school and the next lessons.”

“So why can’t we wait until high school?”

“Some people think that’s when homework should begin. I think it probably makes sense to wait until at least 5th grade.”

“Yeah. You should tell Ms. H*** that.”

“I think I should probably let your principal do her job herself.”

I have…

View original 1,077 more words

Da Best Baby Girl Evah!

My daughter, Mara, is two and a half. She melts my heart every day and has since before she was born. Yesterday I posted about Oscar’s loving gift to me. Mara, too, gives her love to me in ways that fulfill my being.

Like when she does something new and yells, “You pwoud o’ me, mom?”

Or when I take care of her boo boo and she tells me, “You da best doctah evah.”

She’s a hugger and a kisser, and she has refused to sleep anywhere else but by my side since her first day outside of the womb. Sometimes she will wrap her arms tightly around my neck and hold me close saying, “I not letting you go.”

The other day, she hugged me tightly as I placed her on the changing table and she said, “I have da best Mama at my home. I yuv you.” This ended in a long sigh of “Awe,” and an even longer hug.

I can’t imagine my life without her. I love you too, Mara. You da best baby girl evah!

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