Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Coffenberry Rocks!

          Jenna had once told me that she thought it would be fun to be in junior high.  I personally never believed that - especially while attending.  I think my brother, Corey, hated junior high even more than I did.  He has been a substitute teacher in both high school and elementary but has chosen not to deal with the misfits of junior high.  Too many bad memories.

          I did not choose to share my feelings about junior high - or middle school as some districts call it.  She'd find out soon enough - or hopefully not at all.  I would just smile and say, "That's great honey." while thinking, "I really hope it works out for you."

          Before school started, Jenna was apprehensive about going.  Of course I understand.  I was always apprehensive about the start of school - especially one I had not attended the year prior.
          If we were living in Salt Lake, Jenna would still be attending her last year elementary school. But here, in Oregon, she is attending her first year of middle school.  I actually hadn't heard too many positive things about the school she currently attends.  One neighbor drives her children to Canyonville, and I heard of another who makes the drive to Riddle.  But Coffenberry has a music program not offered in Canyonville.

          Jenna has made many friends and loves middle school.  She enjoys most of her classes - especially band.  I love her enthusiasm.  I have not seen her this excited since she was in kindergarten. 

          Of course the youth center helps - though she really doesn't care for the bus ride out there.  She does enjoy being active after school.  And I am happy that she gets her homework done and gets to enjoy arts and crafts and learning skills.  It's so great to have her happy again.

          Last night I took her to the middle school for a family fun night.  The theme was "Finding Nemo" and there was a scavenger hunt, a passport map, jeopardy, crafts, decorating a cookie, the book fair, playing games.  I met a few of her friends as we went from room to room and building to building and she would point to certain areas where she had this class or that.  I met a few of her teachers.  I can't wait for parent/teacher's conference. 

keep on reading

          My impression of Coffenberry has been a good one.  I am also grateful for the opportunities that Jenna has had since we have moved to Oregon.  As a whole, I am so much happier here than I was in Utah.  But then I look at pictures of family members - two that I haven't even met in person, and I get a bit homesick for my family members.  But overall I really am happy here.  I'm especially happy that Jenna is happy.  I'm so happy that she likes school. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Opportunities, Pros & Cons

            We all make decisions.  Each choice we make has consequences whether good or bad as mentioned in this post

            When we were living in Utah, Jenna had the opportunity of learning Spanish through the dual immersion program.  While some parts of Oregon offer this same program, the particular county we live in doesn’t offer any foreign language until high school.  I really did not wish to pull her out of the program.  She’s no longer learning Spanish at school, but she does have other opportunities here that she did not have in Utah.

            She would not have been enrolled in band while in the sixth grade.  We may not have been able to afford the instrument.  We have the opportunity to do so here. 

            There is only one elective at her school.  We had to do away with crafts in order to keep her in band.  She loves crafts.  She has an opportunity to do crafts at the youth center she attends after school.  In Utah we couldn’t afford the after school activities.  The state of Oregon pays for her after school activity here in Douglas County.  For that, I am very grateful.

            When I post this to my blog, Jenna and her classmates (entire school really) will be at the Memorial Pool for their first-week-of-school celebration.  Can you imagine?  We never did that in Utah.  There was an activity at the end of the year. Certainly not a kick off for Labor Day weekend – which for her starts in less than 20 minutes.  She will then have the next four days off.  So what was the point of starting just four days before?

            There are certainly things that I’ll miss about the opportunities she had in education while we were living in the Granite School District.  I am grateful for the new opportunities that she will have here. 

            It rained yesterday, and though we really do need the rain and it is greatly appreciated, I’m happy that there is enough sunshine for the children to enjoy the pool right now.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

We All Have Obstacles to Overcome

The Monument:

Before He sent his children to earth
Gave each of them
A very carefully selected package
Of problems,
He promised, smiling,
Are yours alone, No one
Else may have the blessings
These problems will bring you.
And only you
Have the special talents and abilities
That will be needed
To make these problems
Your servants.
Now go down to your birth
And to your forgetfulness, Know that
I love you beyond measure.
These problems that I give you
Are a symbol of that love.
These monuments you make of your life
With the help of your problems
Will be a symbol of your
Love for me.
Your Father

                               intro thought to Charlie's Monument by Blaine Yorgensen

How many of us know 11-year-olds who willingly place themselves in front of the learning channel?  and enjoy it?  Jenna has always enjoyed learning.  Always.  From the time she was three and could pick out her own books from the library, we did check out picture books and easy reading like the “Frog and Toad” series.  

But we would also check out a lot of non-fiction to answer her questions about bees and honey, or why certain dances are performed in different countries and why the sun doesn’t fall from the sky.  She has always loved non-fiction books.  She would play games of “Let’s pretend” to understand how it would be to be without sight or limbs.  She never questioned why there were differences in humans.  She just accepted them and has always tried to learn from them. Today she loves the learning channel.  

Each morning after she gets up (which is actually quite early for a youth – I have never known Jenna to sleep past 7:30) she will turn to the learning channel to watch “Cake Boss” 

 it is because of advertisements of other programs that has held her interest in watching other shows – like “Born Without Limbs” featuring NickVujicic.

It’s fascinating to learn of others who have overcome what many of us consider physical challenges or obstacles and have often embraced their uniqueness and use it to help others. We all have choices after all.  We can be bitter, or we can be thankful.

I, myself, have always enjoyed watching even a portion to the lives of “The Little Couple” – saddened that their lives may not be as private as perhaps each of us would hope, but happy that they have been willing to share so much of their lives with an audience – that we might learn.

Everyone has their challenges.  I just think having a physical challenge seems to be more obvious in appearance than say an alcoholic or a mentally disturbed individual.  On average, I don’t think we, as a whole, consider a floor plan and living quarters that works for us may not work or even be practical to someone who is an obvious different height or is blind or walks with a limp.

I have known overly tall people.  My brother, Patrick (who really isn’t overly tall – just tall) could unscrew and screw in ceiling light bulbs without having to stand on something in order to reach – whereas my daughter-in-law seems to need a foot stool just to reach into the back of the freezer that may be placed above the fridge.  I'm not overly short, but there was one side of the kitchen in which the cabinets were not within my reach unless I used a footstool to stand on or long handled spoon to push cans out.

I’ve known small people who have struggled at reaching to the “average height” world around them – perhaps not knowing better.  It’s how they were born. It’s how they did things all of their lives.  Nick Vujicici didn’t have limbs to begin with.  I think it’s easier for a person to learn without than to adjust with what’s missing.  I don’t know – I’m just thinking that.

I have known a wide variety of people from all walks of life.  Some have physical challenges. Some are misguided and struggle to fit in.  Some have struggled with balance. I don't think I've met anyone who hasn't had at least one challenge to either overcome or embrace.

We programmed our cable to record “I am Jazz” and “My Giant Life” as Jenna is genuinely interested in those – but they don’t start until after she’s gone to bed.  I am grateful that she is learning and understanding and seeing differences and doesn’t judge but accepts and tries to embrace as well.  I wish we would all have her understanding and eagerness to learn. 

(I’m not saying she enjoys learning all things.  She struggles with the clarinet.  But Roland has purchased another (second hand, of course) and is planning to learn along side of her.  That makes it easier for her.  And I admire him for doing that.  Learning the clarinet: their special bonding time together) 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dear Mr. President

Winslow Press started the creation of a series called “Dear Mr. President” – I think a wonderful introduction.  I love the five books that were made.  I wish there was more.  I don’t know why it was discontinued – or so it seems.  Winslow Press doesn’t seem to offer publication later than 2002 (that I could see) and it doesn’t appear the site has been updated since May 2009.    Perhaps Winslow Press is one of many businesses that has had to file bankruptcy in the last decade and a half.

The three books I will focus on most are:

Though the Letters are fictionalized, information provided in the correspondence is based upon meticulous research.  I like how Winslow press refers reader to “learn more” though I personally did not find the useful, I like the concept of getting readers interest and encouraging research.

Presidents may have opened their mail at one time, but somewhere along the way the mail was handled by the secretary and now an entire team, I would imagine.  I don’t imagine the correspondence would have existed any other way but through our minds.

The poor coal miner wouldn’t have been able to send as many letters to Roosevelt as he did, as he would not have had the means for postage.  Nor would a slave have been able to correspond as they had even less means than did the coal miner.

All letters are start out with the twelve-year-old’s point of view.  Lettie has been taught by her mistress how to read and write.  Her mistress is the only child of a widower who most likely teaches Lettie out of boredom.  She encourages Lettie to write to Abraham Lincoln who responds. 

Knowing that the correspondence will put her in harms way should others learn that a slave has been taught to read and write. The letters are addressed to her mistress.  Correspondence allows the reader to understand the purpose of the Civil War and President Lincoln’s position and a thin view of what some slaves had to go through.

I think I found the miner story the most interesting.  To be certain that he received all of the young miner’s letters and weren’t open by his secretary, Pres. “Teddy” Roosevelt had the young miner address the letters to his son.  I do think I read a small error when Teddy expressed that Kermit was 13 in one letter and then 12 in the next. 

Besides reading about the conditions that the miners had to face, I enjoyed discovering trivial things that took place during Theodore Roosevelt’s reign.  He spoke with affection about all of the animals that belonged to his children – and baby-sitting the guinea pigs – which he really did do. 

And then there was Franklin D. Roosevelt who had some good ideas.  Some did not work out to his expectations.  His correspondence is with a girl of Italian decent.  She talks about different family members having to go on strike and about the hobos jumping freight lines.  That was interesting.

I also like how each of them use big words (which are capped and bolded) to describe things and use of contractions (which are underlined) to peak reader's interest not only in history, but grammar and vocabulary as well.

Winslow Press made it a point to caption each page with the words: “To learn more about specific mines, go to”, “to learn more about unions, go to”,  “to learn more abut Christmas during the civil war, go to”, “to learn more about the Dredge Scott Act, go to”

As previously mentioned, I actually didn’t find the winslowpress site at all useful, but I do like the idea of suggesting to readers to research mentioned subjects.  Wikipedia is always helpful for me, personally. 

Once the correspondence ends, there is a time line and brief history about said president.  A snapshot of a letter in his actual handwriting and then a letter the way it may have appeared by said 12 year- old.

Another interesting thing after the letters and time line is a synopsis of how the mail was delivered at that time and how much postage costs.  For more information on the post office it gives the Winslow site.  But there are so many sources that one can go to for more information.

The “Dear Mr. President” series is beautiful.  I think it needs to be continued. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

One Time Was Plenty

         A couple of weeks ago, Jenna came home with a form for parents interested in volunteering for an upcoming field trip.  She begged me to please fill it out and I did. The next morning, after returning home from leaving her at school, I thought better of it.  The volunteers needed to be downtown at 8:15.  Even if we caught an earlier bus, I wouldn’t be able to get downtown at the allotted time.

         At first I tried to make arrangements to car pool with another student in her class.  But that didn’t pan out, and we actually ended up having Roland drop us off at her school at 6:30 in the morning, but I had to leave for the bus stop while it was still dark.  I felt bad about leaving her.  I felt worse when I arrived and discovered that there appeared to be more children than adults.  I should have taken Jenna downtown with me – but she wanted to go to school first.

         As it turned out, I think I could have taken Jenna on our regular route and arrived minutes before the class did and still felt as prepared as I had having arrived an hour before the class so that I could receive “training”.  I don’t think I was adequately trained until an hour after the students arrived.  I think the minimum amount of volunteers needed is 20.  I don't even think we had 16.

         JA City and Biztown are programs designed to help students experience real life.  In this case it was fifth graders given the opportunity to run businesses and balance checkbooks and make purchases.  It was our job as volunteers to see that they were doing it correctly.

         Fortunately, Linda, who was assigned to be CEO of Alphagraphics (where I was assigned to assist) took charge and really tackled her assignment.  The two who were assigned to be salesman failed in listening skills and tried to tackle raising money themselves rather than working as a team.

         Jenna had been assigned as a Chief Financial Officer, which gave her the experience of cutting checks for paying bills and printing employee paychecks.  The CFO on my team was absent and another girl was pulled out of one store and placed in ours.  She wasn’t given a choice in the matter and the change had been quite stressful for her.  I credit our CEO for taking our newly positioned didn’t-want-to-be CFO under her wing and actually changing Kelli’s tears into smiles and enjoyment.  

         In addition to the banks and business of product, the JA city also had a mayor (one of Jenna’s classmates) and a city council.  There were screens on every wall to watch broadcast news and advertisement (also represented by the students.  Even the camera crew were 5th grade students)

         I know I’m not getting out all the words I need to explain this program accurately and here are a couple of videos that may give my reader more insight.  This one also a cartoon map of the city – a rough estimate anyway.

         Jenna and I had not gone downtown together, but we got permission for me to take her directly home instead of having to return to the school.  Good thing.  I would have not made it to the school when the bell rang to dismiss.
         I think it’s an awesome thing that this program exists and that children are given the opportunity to experience a small piece of adulthood – or responsibility.  Some actually not pleasant, unfortunately.

         My poor Jenna could shop at the cash only store (there was only one) but had to hurry as she had spent most of her break in line at the bank.  The deposit was always less than eight dollars and the most cash they could keep was 2.00 – the only amount she could spend as her account was somehow screwed up showing a zero balance – which was actually not the case, as she hadn’t spent anything.  Unfortunately there are many adults who have to deal with that in real life.

         I think overall it was a good experience for all involved, but it’s not something I wish to do again.  I am happy for it’s existence however.  I think it’s a neat program.  I just personally don’t wish to do it again.

         Neither one of us was able to get an ID card that was on promotion at Alphagraphic (the business where I had been assigned) and so I came home and made my own.  I actually like mine better.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

My latest book review is Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath.  

Everything on a Waffle is a Newberry Honor.  I didn't used to like Newberry books.  But I really like this one. I suppose one reason why I choose juvenile over adult or young adult is the font size. 

Recently I had placed holds on one of each.  For the latter two, I am able to see the words better with a magnifying glass.  I prefer not reading with a book in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other.  And with the mornings having become darker, small fonts require more light if my eyes must read them.

 Everything on a Waffle is told in first person from Primrose’s point of view.  Primrose is an eleven year old that lives in a Coal Harbor, a small town in town in Canada (though it doesn’t specify which providence.) in the custody of three different guardians.

Initially she’s left with Miss Perfidy who often sits for Primrose – though, as the book starts out, becomes for an extended time and not just while mom and dad are out for the night.

Primrose’s father is a fisherman who is out during a storm.  Her mother, worried about the conditions of the weather, leaves Primrose to go in search of him to bring him home.  Both are lost at sea.

Primrose takes us on an adventure from the persnickety old lady to her Uncle Jack to a couple who live in city not as near to Coal Harbor as she would like.

I love the wit and humor in this book.  In one chapter she tells about being hit by a car and then waking up in the noisy hospital wondering if she might be dead.  She shares this thought: “This must be hell, I thought, because in heaven surely they try to keep the noise down.”

She also describes her last foster couple (who are short, plump and round as “look[ing] like a couple of kindly old hard boiled eggs”

At the end of each chapter, she shares a recipe – though most without exact measurements.  There is one she shares with two alternatives: The correct way, which is good, and the kind that you might choke down just to be polite:          “If you prefer Miss Perfidy’s tea biscuits, double the baking soda and leave out the vanilla.”

I also liked reading her profound thoughts:

“I was [grateful;] not just for their return but for their absence too, and where it had taken me and who I had met there.  I would never go home again in quite the same way, but that was okay, too.

“. . . I left parts of myself some places and found others unexpectedly . . .”

I wish all books could touch me in such a positive way.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why Learn Algebra?

            I get needing to know the basics of math.  I have multiplied or divided fractions when I doubled or halved a recipe.  I used addition and subtraction (mostly subtraction) when dealing with finances.  I have even measured things accurately. I get the basics and I do and have used them in real life.  Anything beyond the basics have been useless except for two times since graduating high school.

            The two situations in which I’ve been required to understand beyond basic (Algebra comes to mind) came when my children were taking math courses in school.  Tony used to milk his sessions.  It would take hours just to do one problem.  He didn’t get that if he would just do it instead of trying to get me to re-learn and do his assignments, he could have been done so much quicker.

Actually I have had hang-ups with algebra my entire life.  I think I would have been okay doing year round school.  With three months of summer vacation and no homework, I never did retain what dad had explained to me the year before.

Dad was a math nerd, actually.  He thrived on it.  Oh, yuck!!!  None of his kids had it in their genes to love math the way he did.  We all use the basics – but I doubt that any of us have ever dealt with algebra except to assist with homework so that our children in turn can help their children and so forth.

            When Jenna was too young to know any better, I had convinced her that math was/is fun and that she would love it – which she did.  From 2nd- 4th grade she basically did her math homework without my assistance – which was great for me.  By third grade I was at a loss just looking at her papers.

Multiplication has given her problems.  And she absolutely hates division.  Division, on the other hand, had always been my favorite (I mean if I absolutely have to pick a math favorite) and hated multiplication the most (which is ironic as you need to know how to multiply in order to divide) and so for the last two weeks I have been explaining the technique – which I’m sure that she gets but seems to experience ADD each time she does it – though it still doesn’t take near as long to do her entire paper as it did for Tony to do just one problem)

Unlike Tony, Jenna LOVES algebra.  She thinks it’s fun to create and do problems.  (I was hoping my father’s genes would skip a generation - perhaps they have)

Not long ago, Randy was taking a monster algebra class through the college.  At least Jenna’s problems don’t require as much paper as his did.  He must have gone through one notebook per class assignment.  That’s gross.

In order to better understand what it was that he was doing, he felt the need to explain, making Jenna and me his pupils.  She thrived on it.  He didn’t think she totally got the concept, but said she was getting the right answers.  I was, too.  I just wasn’t enjoying it.  But actually, neither was Randy.

There seems to be only a handful of people who not only get algebra and trigonometry and calculus, etc. but thrive on it like it is the most awesome thing ever.  Great for those people.  Kudos to them for having that desire.  But leave me out of it.  I don’t wish to rack my brain with symbols and results that are basically meaningless to me just so I can relearn it to teach my own children.

I have a friend who majored in math (who does that?  What do you even do with a math degree?) and had all four of his boys memorize their times tables before they were six.  All smart.  All knowledgeable – not just about math but politics and current events and are basically brilliant people.  Surprisingly they’re not boring – often times their topic of subject doesn’t interest me, but I have enjoyed hanging out with them on occasion.

Anyway, my own personal philosophy is that all most real people really need is the basics and the rest is there for those who truly want to learn it, but no one should be forced just to keep those math majors in the business of teaching math or whatever detailed jobs may be offered to the mathematical minded.  I just don’t get it.  I certainly don’t thrive on it.  Even the game of Monopoly is not fun.  Too much math involved.  I’m grateful that Jenna believes it’s fun.  She likes math.  She also enjoys going to the dentist.  I honestly can’t decide which I think is more painful.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Two Different Art Classes

Jenna has so many interests.  She enjoys dancing, singing, telling stories, arts & crafts, drawing pictures, coloring . . .

Butterfly on a sunflower
my Mothers’ Day gift this year

         When I was younger, my mom had me enrolled in dance lessons, piano lessons, swim lessons . . . I wanted that for Jenna.  But we could never seem to afford much.

         I did find an inexpensive dance class and tumbling class through the school district.  She saw it as an opportunity to socialize and didn’t take her dance seriously but did enjoy the tumbling part. 

         I had her in an inferior swim class.  She learned more about swimming when she was only a year old and the two of us took a class together.  I had also enrolled her in a theatre class as I figured there was dancing and singing and I didn’t expect that theatre would go overboard with expensive costumes as many dance classes do.

Both my cousin Michelle and my sister-in-law Sunny have offered Art classes and children’s workshops for several years.  I don’t know that I paid much attention except for the past five years.  We couldn’t even afford those – but this year they both had some good deals. 

The first class I took her to was located at an art studio downtown.  Michelle introduced her class to self-portraits. She told each child to lie in a position that represented his or her personality.  

Jenna chose a position that represented jumping.  She placed her feet one behind the other and held her hands in the air.  Her head was facing forward when I drew her.  Her body appeared much thinner than she actually is and there wasn’t a line to separate her feet.

On the first day the child painted their hair and skin parts.  Some started on the face, but not many.  I can’t remember if Jenna started her shirt that first or second day.  She decided to make her head face the side instead of the front.  What she had painted to be hair become mud “that had hit her in the face – and her arms had been up to stop it.” Okay, whatever.

Michelle helped Jenna with her face.  I think the reason that Jenna made her face on the side was so she would only have to do one eye.

On the third day the children added yarn to the hair in their paintings.  Jenna’s few hair strands were the same exact color as the paint.  The next day Michelle reminded the kids that all the strands of hair in their actual heads were not the same color and suggested they use yarns of different tones – which Jenna did.  Her head hair actually does look all of one color to me.  Some hairs may be darker.  I haven’t noticed any highlights.

Michelle also encouraged students to find pictures or decorations that might match their personalities.  Jenna – who felt she had messed up on the green shirt she had been wearing the first day – decided that she would turn her green shirt into a camouflage shirt.  She hadn’t quite grasped the collage thing that Michelle had mentioned and stuck to her camouflage theme gluing leaves and mossy looking yarn. 

I asked her what the camouflage had to do with her personality.  She said she would like to be and is interested in chameleons.  That is true.  But she has much stronger interests.  If I had been successful in explaining what Michelle had suggested, her collage may have come across more like this:

Instead she changed her self-portrait again.  The pointed foot on top of the flat foot made it appear as though she had a really big toe in comparison to the rest.  Michelle suggested that she retrace her other leg.  When I had traced Jenna, she was barefoot; when Michelle traced her, she had a shoe on. 

It worked.  One shoe off, one shoe one.  That fits her personality.  And the two shades of blue make it look more like pants and her size rather than the skinny deformity that I had pathetically traced.  

The children also painted plaster molds that the instructors had made of each of their hands.  Jenna and the youngest girl were the only two in the class who had their palms up.  Everybody else had them down.  I am happy that Jenna had hers different from the norm.

Michelle took pictures of all of her students next to their art work (plaster hands excluded as most were still drying).  Jenna did not have her hair in pigtails the first day.  She really had been wearing a green top and denim shorts that first day.  Her pose is still different from her self-portrait and definitely different from what I had traced.

         I wasn’t looking forward to taking her cardboard self home on the train and bus.  I had brought two large plastic bags so as pieces didn’t fall off along the way.  But as it turned out I didn’t have the opportunity to take it home that day.  The entire class will have their portraits on display in the Kindred Spirit Exhibit at Art Access July 18 – Aug 8. 

         Jenna’s second class was the following week.  Sunny gave Jenna some personal instruction as we were often early and had each child paint a picture of a photo or other small picture they had that they wished to be on canvas.

         Sunny’s method of teaching is so different from Michelle’s.  She taught the children that they could create backgrounds and eyes with different strokes and different brushes.  They painted around the table whereas most of Michelle’s class time was spent on the floor (or standing up)

         Sunny likes crafts and Jenna LOVES crafts.  When the children were through painting and waiting for the final touches to dry, Sunny had another surprise for them (which had nothing to do with their paintings) Each child got to make something out of pipe cleaners and beads.  Jenna made two ladybugs:

And this was her final project from Sunny’s class:

We had the painting when we boarded the bus.  We had it when we arrived in Kearns to watch my niece and nephew.  We left the painting at Kayla’s house when we took the bus home, as I didn’t wish to carry it in the rain.  It’s still at Kayla’s because we forgot to get it when we had gone out yesterday and actually had a car. 

Roland has not yet seen either painting.

I feel so blessed to have diversity and to be able to expose Jenna to different methods and styles.  She had fun in both classes.  Thank you Sunny and Michelle!