Sunday, December 20, 2009

1 Semester Down....

It's interesting to talk to Alyssa about her thoughts on homeschooling vs. high school. As usual, she doesn't see things as black or white. The other day, I asked her what she thought about comparing the two. And I reminded her how people were always concerned that homeschoolers weren't getting enough socialization. So, after a semester at school, what did she think now?

First, she didn't think they are using the right word. Socialization. And she's not sure what the "right word" actually is. "But this is the deal..." in her opinion:

Both have learning opportunities that you can either take advantage of or daydream through.

But homeschoolers are out in the real world. They are interacting with all kinds of people, in all walks of life. School kids are not. Homeschoolers are living life, while school kids are reading about it in a classroom. But what school kids get to do that homeschoolers don't, is they get to have TONS of interactions with other kids. They fight, they reconcile, they lie, they play around, they laugh, they watch....but it's all about interacting. And that happens all day long - not just between classes like it shows on T.V. Each class period (or at least the ones she took this semester) allots a certain amount of the class period to the lesson and the rest is spent however the kids choose. Some choose to study the material. Some do the homework before they go home. While some pass notes, meet each other in the bathrooms, or goof around in the classroom.

In school, there are no paintings to discuss, or Barton Springs to swim in, or skating rinks to skate. No hangout afternoons wandering down to Sonic.

So which is best? It depends on what you want. If you are the type who  really enjoys interacting with people, school is the place to be. If you are not that interested in people but you want to see and do things in the world, then being trapped in a school all day for 5 days a week, is not a good plan for you.

Alyssa felt like her situation was ideal. She had done a lot out in the world. So she had that under her belt. But she had felt that interacting with a handful of kids every other day just wasn't enough for her. School gives her plenty of people to talk with - and her past as a homeschooler actually gives her a lot to talk about!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Lady Panthers!

It's Texas, so we have Drill Teams. I know other states have drill teams too - but not the way Texans do it! Football is King, and Drill Teams are the female part of that equation.

When Alyssa first thought about going to High School, joining the drill team was huge on her Wish List. She watched football games and half-time activities. She knew that her years of dance and competitive cheer would help her if she ever were to try out for the drill/dance team.

So, last month, she came home with the forms. Dance/drill team tryouts would take place over three days after school. They would be taught a routine, work on their splits and their turns, and learn all they could for the 3rd day - the actual tryout.

Alyssa's P.E. coach is also the Dance/Drill Team Coordinator. Early on, she told Alyssa that she had a good shot at making the team.  She would let the girls who were interested in trying out go to another room and practice their splits and turns.  She and four or five of her friends were excited about trying out. Coach MacDonald emailed me telling me more about dance team, how she liked Alyssa, and how she hoped she would do well. She felt that Alyssa needed a core group of well-supervised young ladies as friends, and thought the drill team could provide that.

So off too Target we go to buy the obligatory black dance pants and tank top.

Monday, Day One, rolls around and Alyssa and her friends run off to the gym. They are all given the routine and allowed to practice. They're put in groups of about 15 each. The officers of the drill team then are supposed to pick the top 4 in each group. (There were 55 trying out.) Alyssa was one of those 4 from her group of 15. Having been in Competitive Cheer certainly helped her with "Showmanship." She could smile, and look happy, regardless of how she really felt about her performance. This really made her feel great, being pulled out from the group.

Then a few new groups comprised from the top four of each original group performed together while the others watched. Then from each of THESE groups, the top four were chosen. In the end, Alyssa was one of the Top Four chosen from the entire group. That was pretty exciting. She said she couldn't really even look at the other girls, it made her nervous. They weren't all that thrilled for her. Still she pressed on.

After Day 1, Parent Meeting time. Discussion of costs and expectations. Cost is about $700 with the possibility of an additional $1000 if they take a trip to Los Angeles or somewhere like that. The team has done this in the past. When the parents winced at the money, the coach reminded them that nearby schools charge as much as $1500 and there are several extra expenses and trips along the way.

So Day 2 goes by well. No singling out, just performing and performing.

Day 3 - we have to get a Sports Physical and then she makes it back just in time for try outs. Alyssa doesn't know the other three girls in her group. But they head on into the private audition room with the judges. Alyssa asked the Coach to make faces at her so she keeps smiling. She thought it would help her with her nerves. She is good in groups, but when she is performing by herself or with small groups, she gets nervous.
Her kicks are high, her splits are low, but when she does her turn she loses her balance. The coach asks, "Alyssa, would you like to try that again." "Yes, ma'am."  She can't even remember if she did it right the second time, but she thinks she did not. It didn't matter, she didn't lose her balance, and even if she turned wrong, she planted her feet and didn't budge.

So that turn issue worried her all night.

The next day at school, she and her friends went to look at the list of who made it. Her friend covered up her name. Alyssa pushed her hands away and sure enough! There was her name on the list. She made the Lady Panther Dance Team!

Next semester, her schedule will have to change around so that all new Lady Panthers - called Lady Cubs - are together in 2nd period. This will be fun!

Shhhh! Is that "Sexting?"

Sexting is making the news a lot these days. You know what that means, right?  When someone sends naked or semi-naked pictures through their cell phones?  Anyway, because I look at my daughter’s text messages from time to time, I’ve seen this first-hand.  Boys often are asking girls to “Send me a pic.” When I asked her, “Would just a cute picture of you be what he’s wanting?” She laughed. No, that was not what he was hoping for. He would possibly SETTLE for that, but in her words, “His phone is probably FULL of naked pics from girls.”

 In fact, Alyssa and a boy her age, were looking at each others’ phones. He had at least 10 pictures of girls - even though he wanted to be exclusively her boyfriend.  The pics ranged from pretty shots of the girl’s face, to full body shots, to girls in cut-off’s with the zipper open, revealing a thong.  He immediately deleted all the pics, but he reminded her, “Girls just send them! I don’t even have to ask.”

So that’s their dilemma. While we tell them, you know if you send something it could get spread all around, they are up against girls who do not hesitate to send them.   That’s not a new dilemma though, it’s just taken this exponential turn.  As women, we can remember girls who were willing to do more with guys than we were. That has been around forever. But now, with the internet and texting, you are not limited to the girls in your neighborhood. Nor are you limited to how a person looks in real life. Girls can look like fashion models in their photos but not in reality. This just seems to take the competition in their minds to a new level.

Have you seen the new MTV commercial campaign, A Thin Line? With regard to sexting, their point is that a thin line exists between sending something to your boyfriend, and sharing it with the whole school. Odds are, relationships will end, someone will get mad. And then what was sent in privacy can live on and be used against you forever.  They have a variety of GREAT 30 second clips about sexting and cyber-bullying. You should watch them with your kids!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Pirate Ships, Archaelogy, and Belize!

That's what Michael's future holds for him! We've been looking around for internships for Michael as he's in his Junior year at Texas State University. We considered one in Spain, since he's studied Spanish for years now. That internship was at a large hotel in Barcelona with pay! But how can that even compare that to an opportunity to be in an Indiana Jones adventure of his own! When his Anthropology professor told him they were excavating artifacts from 3 pirate ships off Belize - and it could count for 6 hours of Anthropology courses, there was no stopping him. He found out 3 days before the deadline. Those three days happened to be his heaviest class days. Did that stop him? No way. He picked up the paperwork from the secretary, who tried to be empathizing with the fact that he could probably not get it all completed by Friday. Did he listen? Nope. When she said he'd need references from professors and international health insurance, was he deterred? HA! Did I mention that when we went to Disneyland all he wanted was an Indiana Jones leather hat?? So, start the music for the Indiana Jones theme song....So he raced between classes to drop off paperwork for the professors. He schmoozed with the secretaries emphasizing the fast-approaching deadline. He called home to see what it takes to bump up his regular insurance to international. In between studying for exams, he completed the paperwork. Friday rolled around.....DONE! He got all the paperwork together in time to meet the deadline. He was in!

So that's what Michael's July is going to look like. He'll be going to Belize. He might need to get scuba certification as two of the ships are still submerged. But there's a chance that they're not going to risk having the interns underwater. We'll see.

And we'll keep you posted!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A "Hands On" Approach to Parenting

For years, we've heard other parents say, "A house full of teens? Good luck!" And they wander away shaking their head, as if you've already lost some battle. True, the teenage years are full of heightened emotions, raging hormones, self-esteem issues, and basically trying to figure out who they are in this world. These are tough issues! So, why, as a society, would we think we need to take a more hands-off approach to raising teens? These years seem to be much more difficult to figure out than those pre-school years, when we were so incredibly involved. But we try to deal with it in all black or white. Either we look away and hope for the best. Or we tighten the screws to keep them safe. Neither really works.

Sometimes, a lot of times really, parents are simply too tired to go head-to-head with our teen in angst. And, it's true that if you come back to it in a day or so, lots of the emotion will have blown away and it's easier to get through the day. But the issues are still just under the surface. This is a missed opportunity on so many levels.

Your teen could learn to face their problems head on. They could see that you are not afraid to go into these treacherous waters WITH them.  They could see you're not afraid to stand by them and face the scary stuff that they are facing each day. You could show them that you think their problems are important, even if they seem petty and small to you. They are obviously causing your teen some difficulties. You can let them know that they are important to you and helping them solve problems is part of the job of parenting.

You might have to bite your tongue. Teens want to be heard - who doesn't? They really want to come to the conclusion on their own. So asking questions is better than telling them what should be done. Even if you think you know. Helping them learn to problem-solve is the key. Not doing it for them.

Relating stories from when you had similar situations as a teen might help. Watch their expressions though. You might be really "getting into" your story of your own teen years, and they are tuning out. Not because your story is dull (I'm sure it's not!) but because the shift of the focus went from them to you. They are the one who is in the middle of a struggle. Keep your story brief. ;-)

So often, they think we cannot relate. Or they're afraid we're going to judge them. Or point out their mistakes. These are the pitfalls to avoid in these parent-teen interactions. While it may sound hokey, they need to know that you are coming from a place of love not worry - because worry implies you think they cannot handle themselves. But from love. You want them to be happy. You want to be their safe place they can run to when their friends stab them in the back. You want to be the one who will not betray them. They will come to trust you, share more with you, and value your input. Win-win.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Relationship with Your Teen

For me, it's all about the relationships. Remember that poem that floated around when the kids were little? About ignoring the messy handprints on the wall because someday, they'd all be grown and gone? We maybe need to write a poem that has more to do with teens. Because we need to realize that our kids will not be adolescents forever. But the relationships that we form with them now, will be carried long into adulthood. A ripple effect will occur - how they treat other people, their own children, people that will work with them. And on a more selfish note, how much they want to interact with us as aging parents will be a direct result of the relationship we formed with them as children growing.

So, we agree, it's important. Right?

But often, we hear parents say, "I'm not your friend! I'm your mother!" What does that really mean? Is it impossible to be both? Do we really want both?

For the friend side, we want:
  • Trust
  • To know what's happening in their life
  • To have them feel like they can share their problems
  • To have them enjoy being around us
From the mom side, we want:
  • To have them know our suggestions are best
  • To have them follow our suggestions
  • To have compliance
  • To have respect
I'm sure there are more "wishes" on each front. It's just a matter of looking at them. Maybe it's an issue about labels. Maybe there is some other being - the best of both the friend and the mom world.

So how do we gain their trust? We listen. We try not to judge. We try to help them see situations from a variety of perspectives, so they can choose what's best for them. By not bulldozing our way onto them, they learn that they can trust us to hear them - to really listen to what they want to get across. We have to let them make mistakes without any look of "told ya so." We have to simply be there to help them when they need to regroup and try again. These are ways of building trust.

Friends know what's happening in their lives. And by knowing, we can offer advice and guidance before mistakes are made. Or we can offer help once the mistakes happen, as they undoubtedly will. And by knowing what's going on, we will feel less parental anxiety. So often, we assume the worst. They may be doing things we wish they wouldn't, but if we build up walls, there's no way they will let us know what's going on.

Friends share problems. I think this is where, for me, the "friendship" label doesn't fit. I don't want a two-way street with them sharing their problems and me sharing mine. I want them to be able to share ANY problem they have. But I don't want to burden them with all of my own. That's what MY friends are for. And there will be things that they only want to share with their peers. But if they have your trust, they will come to you when their peers' advice simply isn't good enough. They will be open with you about what they want to do or have already done. How we react to it will be the deciding factor on whether they continue.

Friends enjoy being around each other. Are you fun? Do you find things that you AND your child like to do together? This will strengthen your relationship with them. Whether it's watching certain T.V. shows together, or singing in the car on the way to Sonic for a late night snack, these are the building blocks for a solid relationship.  [HaHa! Just noticing the two options that sprung to mind for me were very couch-potato-ish! Maybe you and your teen like to ride bikes, or run, or walk the dogs, or play paintball, or....something more active. It just has to fit you. And it looks like now you know what fits us! ]

Now let's look at the Mom Side. What parts of being able to the play the Mom card help or hinder relationship building?

Mother knows best, right? Sometimes. But not always. And sometimes learning it yourself is necessary. Have you ever moved to a new city? People can tell you where things are, print out maps for you, but the best way to learn is to actually get lost. You have to find your way out. You have to find the familiar and go from there. So, it's nice to be the one who is always right, but is it realistic? And is it healthy? What happens if they have you on some pedestal where you can do no wrong. It's really hard to come to that perfect mom and report in that you are less than perfect. And our goal is to make it as easy as possible for them to come to us.

Follow our Advice. There is no doubt in my mind that many of us have a lot of VERY good suggestions for our teens. Simply by virtue of having been on this planet longer than them, means that we've had more interactions - good and bad - struggled with decisions, made choices that worked and choices that didn't. If we have a good relationship with our teen, they are much more likely to hear what we have to say - to actually learn from our mistakes and our triumphs. But not if we come at them with a "do as I say" attitude. They know that they will soon be adults themselves. They want to test their own wings. Let them do it with your love instead of your criticism. They have their own inner critic working against them. They may actually be able to do something that we didn't think they could do - or that we couldn't accomplish when we were their age. Nevertheless, they deserve the right to try.

Having a Compliant Teen. This is about obedience, right? Having them do what you tell them to do without any guff? There are situations when you, as the mom, need them to do things they don't feel like doing. It's best to work that out before the heat of the situation. Who is going to be in charge of cleaning up after the dogs? Not a fun job. But someone has to do it. Probably should be the person that wants the dog to stay. Is it fair to have mom clear all the stuff off the table, cook the dinner, and then do all the dishes? Maybe sometimes. But dividing what needs to be done with everyone in the house, taking into consideration what is going on in their lives might make compliance more likely. Compliance implies always yielding to the other person's wishes. No one likes that. That's why getting everyone on board with what needs to be done - and maybe even reevaluating what really needs to be done - will help.

Lastly, Respect. In this context, we're talking about respect for the Mom because she is the mom. But that's not how life really works. People respect people because they deserve it. They might fake a little respect for smoother sailing, but that's more like fear or manipulation, neither of which we really want to encourage! The best way to have your teens respect is to show them respect. Respect when you talk to them. Respect when they ask for things. Respecting them as you would any friend. There we go again with the blurring lines between Friend/Mom. Sometimes it takes articulating what you are doing for them. Not in a whiny, why-don't-you-appreciate-me way. But simply a here's-how-I-see-it way. This can't be done when everyone's emotions are on the brink. Some families have regular family meetings. Some have pow-wows when it's clear someone is feeling taken advantage of. Respect is a two-way street. People who feel respected are much more likely to respect others.

All of these are building blocks for relationships. And, maybe Friend and Mom are not mutually exclusive terms. I think there might be a reason there is no one handbook for how to parent. You have to take into consideration the needs of both the parent and the teen. What do they have to offer each other? What would each of them want from the other? This is why people choose to have relationships. Good relationships make your life better - not harder. That's the goal for everyone involved.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wedding Anniversary

This weekend was our anniversary: October 10th.
A morning wedding and then trip to Jamaica...22 years ago.

Since my mom was having a meltdown getting ready for the upcoming move, Ron and I decided to postpone our "date" and go out to dinner later next week. I needed to get up to Dallas. Oh so romantic, right? But as usual, practical wins out...stuff has to be done, blah blah blah.

So, Saturday morning rolls around and we text each other Happy Anniversary. I was thinking, "this really is pretty pathetic." But life just goes like that sometimes.

I'm getting ready for another Home Depot run, Alyssa is napping because she's getting sick, and Grandma is repeating herself for the 5th time, when the door bell rings.

It's Ron.

He rode his motorcycle in the rain from Austin to Dallas to take me out to dinner on our actual anniversary. Alyssa had been "in the loop", Grandma was even more confused, and we hopped on out the door for Mexican food! He couldn't stay, but he just didn't want the day to go by without having our date!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

My 30th Reunion. wow.

How many times have people older than you told you that time flies by? And as you got older... you realized they were right.  I noticed it when I had kids. Suddenly they were older. Time was flying. I noticed it when I looked around the Thanksgiving table and there were more relatives YOUNGER than me than OLDER. Time was flying. Then last October, the Class of '79 spent a weekend together - many of us hadn't even seen each other in 30 years! Time had definitely flown.

Back up to June of the same year. Our typically apathetic classmates had done nothing to prepare for any kind of Reunion. Quite a few went to the 10 year reunion. Less to the 20. Now here we were at the 30 year marker. Were we really going to let it go by without even a nod?

A few of us called each other. We thought that IF we could make this really casual... IF we could make sure all of us knew that THIS is the one we're going to all try to make it to... IF we could keep it really inexpensive...WE could make this happen.

My friend Leslie and I started our party planning. She contacted the Alumni office and they gave us the list that they had for our classmates. Truth is, most of us didn't even make sure we had given accurate contact info to the Alumni office. It just wasn't that big of a deal for us. They told us that our classmate since grade school, Chuck, had asked about it recently so we recruited him into the conversation of what to plan.  When I suggested we simply have the get together at my mom's house in the old neighborhood, Chuck thought differently. His home was actually not far from my mom's and was significantly bigger. Diane, his wife, told me later that our reunion plans really helped light a fire for getting all kinds of renovations. She got her fabulous covered patio with kitchen and Chuck got his garage "man cave."

So I set up a Facebook account for the Class of '79. We called for volunteers to start making calls and try to find each other. Most people were initially hesitant, but our enthusiasm could not be dismissed.  Most of us were not big alumni types. If  that makes any sense. But in the end, people agreed to come from all over the country. We simply decided that THIS would be the year we'd all attend. Several people said it just took that personal call to say, "Hey, I'm going. You should come too!"

A few of my closer friends met at my mom's house before the "official" reunion at the BL Homecoming game. We saw quite a few people from other classes there that we knew.  They had heard that this was the year the Class of 79 was really going to show up. (We usually didn't! haha). It was amazing how much different the school looked!  Someone was definitely sending in some alumni money! Who knew?

But our big party would be the next night at Chuck and Diane's house.  It was a perfect setting to a wonderful party.  Even the rain couldn't dampen our spirits. Over 70 classmates plus a few brave spouses attended. We drank and chatted into the wee hours of the night. 

A lot has happened to us over 30 years.  We've lost quite a few classmates over these years. They were missed.   But for those of us that saw each other that weekend in October, it felt so good.  The more pretentious layers seemed to have fallen away. We were genuinely excited to see each other. We were less concerned with what career path anyone had chosen, and more interested in just seeing each other and hearing what was going on in each others lives!

Facebook has allowed us to stay connected. Small spinoff get together have been happening.  I have no idea if we'll plan another big reunion like that. But I'm so glad we did this time.

There's just something good about knowing so many people for over 30 years.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Parent Teacher Conferences

Parents packed into the Fine Arts Center at Pflugerville High School. Alyssa quickly found friends and our 3 families sat together. Because she didn't have credits to transfer, she would have to start as a Freshman. She would be taking some CBE's (Credit By Exam), add that to her summer school classes, and she'd have enough credits to start Junior Year with her age group.

So for now, she's kind of in No Man's Land. She refers to herself as a Sophomore with credits that didn't transfer.

Back to the Fine Arts Center... we are introduced to all the Counselors. One is assigned to each grade. And there are actually 5 principals: one for each grade level and one overall. I've already met both of Alyssa's.

The bell rings and everyone goes to their 1st Period class. We'll stay in each room for about 15 minutes. The teacher will give a little explanation about the class and we'll have the opportunity to ask questions.

There are a couple things I've noticed:
  • Only about 20% of the parents show up. Only half of them bring their kids.
  • Alyssa has "befriended" all of her teachers. They all gush about her. 
  • White people are definitely the minority.
  • Her classes are spread all over the place - I won't be surprised if she ends up tardy to some!
Each of the teachers made an extra effort to pull me aside. They wanted to tell me what a pleasure it was to have Alyssa in their class. They said she asks questions, is interested in what the teacher is saying, offers to help her classmates. They say all of this as if this is a rarity. None of them know that this is the first time she's set foot in a classroom, let alone a High School. And it's ironic to me that my little homeschooler's SOCIAL SKILLS are what all these teachers are commenting on.  But it is really no surprise. She has interacted with adults all her life. She has no reason to fear them or expect them to act badly toward her. She deals with them like she deals with her peers - as human beings.

Not so common, I guess.
They like her. Of course. ;-)

Academically, they think she's doing fine. Her English teacher apologized to her and to me, saying that she wished she could be in a better classroom situation. Her English class has a discipline problem, to say the least.  Her P.E. Coach pulled me aside and asked if she'd be trying out for Drill Team. She wishes there was room to move her into her 2nd period Pre-Drill Team class, but alas, it's overcrowded as it is.  She thinks Alyssa would be GREAT on the Lady Panthers!  And of all of them, her favorite teacher is her Algebra teacher. For some reason, that strikes me as funny.

It's going to be an interesting year...

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Alyssa's choice to go to school has brought about a new set of questions and quandries.
She comes in with a slight disadvantage. She never really developed any study skills. For instance, she was sick and needed to go to the doctor. She decided to bring her homework along and do it in the waiting room. She wanted to go to a friend's volleyball game and be online to talk to friends when she got home, so it seemed like a good idea. She even continued to do the work -basically filling in the blanks from the history chapters - as she sat on the examination table. At one point, she burst into tears - tired and completely overwhelmed. I've already told her that her grades don't really matter to me. But she wants to do well. And she really doesn't want me to tell her that she'll have to study to do well.
So,she completed the work but didn't really read the chapters. And so when the test rolled around, she considered that she *had* studied. She recognized the words, but she didn't KNOW evidenced by the 49 she got on the test.

This has a huge impact on her self esteem. She starts talking about not being ABLE to do this work. But the truth is simply that she doesn't have any study skills.

So, currently, the plan:
  • Study 2 hours per night - no texting, no computer, no T.V. during this time
  • Bring Algebra home every day. Review the work, even if it's completed in class
  • Read the History chapters that go with the vocab/homework
  • Work on Geography for Test
  • When we get the English, study it as well
This is a VERY foreign-looking life for us. And if her self-esteem wasn't so tied into her test results, we'd opt for something way more relaxed. But for now, this is where we're heading.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"SPONTANEOUS" Pillow Fight at the Bat Bridge!

Every night in the summer, tourists and flying mammal aficionados gather at the Congress Avenue bridge to watch the nightly emergence of the bats. Everyone sits on the banks of Town Lake between the Austin American Statesman building and the bridge.  This time, we joined Flash Mob Austin on an undercover mission. The plan was that secret agents would intermingle with the others there and on cue, erupt into a giant pillow fight. Then as quickly as it started, it ended. Everyone sat back down as if nothing happened. Non-agents sat back amused and completely bewildered!

This video is a good explanation of it all from last year.

This video has less explanation but shows how it grew. This is the one where the kids participated:

Friday, July 31, 2009

New Unschooling Chapter

How can unschooling include schooling? It seems the two would never meet.

Yet, here I sit.

Alyssa, the youngest of 5 and always unschoooled, has decided that she wants to go to school. It's not that she feels she doesn't learn. It's not that she thinks her lifestyle is not what she wants. But she wants more people - boys and girls. Dates that wouldn't require complicated family coordination. And girlfriends that she could run over to their house and hang out for a few hours and vice versa. She has tried making friends online, and they always live far away. She longed for friends in the neighborhood.

As we were driving across Austin, we started talking about friends who left homeschooling for high school. We talked about some of their experiences.

Then suddenly, Alyssa said, "well, I'm not smart enough to go."
"Why would you think that?"
"I just think that there are some things I didn't learn, and they already know."

This is partly true. We didn't spend years drilling on times tables or labeling sentence structure. We had always unschooled, so learning didn't happen in a linear fashion. While every day was filled with learning, it hadn't been compartmentalized by grade level.  She hadn't been taking achievement tests or TAC tests, or whatever was the latest fad in standardized testing.  Our experience had been that they learn what they need by adulthood. And Alyssa wanting to try high school would be interrupting this process. But, "the process" wasn't nearly as important as Alyssa choosing her own path. She was having some doubts and wanted to see what I would say.

And kids her age did. There were times, over the years, that other children or even their parents, would quiz Alyssa on what she knew and didn't know. And evidently, that stuck with her.

So I had no choice but to take a deep breath and respond, "I think that if you really WANT to go to High School, you could go and you'd be successful. And after you're there, you would see that you are every bit as smart as the others there."

She just looked at me. She never imagined that I would agree to let her go. We talked a little more about her reservations and what we could do to remedy them. I remembered times in the past when other schooled kids - and sometimes even their parents - and quizzed her on what she knew and didn't know. Evidently, that had stuck with her.

I agreed to call the school counselor when we got home. She was nervous but excited. I KNEW she would be successful if she went to school - but I needed her to know it.

So, now we're considering this, her newest adventure!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

This is the most famous picture of Earth, taken in 1968. And this article talks about what it was like for the astronauts on Apollo 8 who were supposed to be studying the moon, but just couldn't take their eyes off the Earth, as it rose on the moon's horizon. They've included a lot of pictures and video in this article. Check it out!

From the Big Bang article:

And Anders came to the realization, even during the flight, you know,
"My God, we've come all this way to study the moon
and its really the sight of the Earth that has had the most impact.
It's almost as if we're discovering the Earth for the first time."

Sunday, March 1, 2009


I really love Valentine's Day. But it is barely given a nod at our house. We are too busy planning for the upcoming week of birthdays! And this year is no different!  Mine's first. I had a lovely evening with friends. Low scale. Just the way I like it.

Alyssa's 15th Birthday was a Surprise Party. We enlisted 4 other parents and took 40 teens on a Scavenger Hunt all over Pflugerville! Here are some of the things they had to do:
  • Each group had a digital camera and they were to record everything that happened. (We have TONS of photos - mainly on Alyssa' Facebook page, but I'll probably put them all at PhotoBucket as well.)
  • Each group got a $10 gift card to WalMart. They were given specifics they had to buy - Party Food! Chips, sodas, etc.
  • Each group had a feather boa, 2 obnoxious hats, a sequined Prom dress, an 8 x 10 of Alyssa (so she could be in all the pics with her friends!). Everyone had to take turns wearing/holding these items for the photo. Boys too. (They actually LOVED it!)
Then around town they had to:
  • Go to Cheddar's. Someone in the group had to hold a menu. Someone had to borrow a jacket from a stranger and wear it. Get the hostess in the pic with you.
  • Find a tractor and sit on it. (there was one in front of one of the local restaurants)
  • Shake hands with a stranger.
  • Pump gas for a stranger wearing the prom dress.
  • Go to Popeye's Chicken and do the Chicken dance in the restaurant.
  • Go to McDonald's and buy a small order of French Fries.
  • Find James Bond. (there was a poster in Blockbuster.)
  • Cartwheel in the park.
  • Play with Toys in WalMart.
The drivers all knew how to find these different places/things to do. But so did the kids. They ran around for a couple of hours and then came back to the house for gifts, cake and dancing!

Katie's 18th Birthday was as untraditional as she is! She had a BATMAN PARTY! She gave all her guests ample time to work on. They were all instructed to come as their favorite Batman character.  Katie made her costume and went as Harley Quinn.

They stayed up all night with a Batman marathon. We even found the 60's T.V. series on DVD for a little more humorous versions of the Caped Crusaders! POW!   Kids were coming and going all night with cake and snacks and movies - my poor neighbors!

Friday, January 23, 2009

A DIfferent Kind of Parenting

I've always known that I raise my kids differently from most parents. I wasn't allowed to join "The Mean Moms Club." in our local moms group. It just didn't really fit me.

My parenting style grew from prioritizing communication. I wasn't interested in establishing my authority or trying to catch them doing the wrong thing. I was interested in being a guide. Someone who had been there before. Someone who only wanted the best for them. But most importantly, someone who would listen to them.

The root of all communication is getting your point across. But it's not a one way street. Parents have to learn to let their teens say what they think. Even if it might change in an hour. Even if it might scare the crud out of you. "Not Being heard" is the lament of teens, generation after generation. What prevents us from remembering that? What prevents us from trying to fix that situation?

I was a child of the 60's and 70's. I did a lot of things wrong. I hope my children never have to live through some of the experiences I chose. But I'm going to be there with them - no matter what they choose to do.