Monday, September 9, 2013

Photo Projects

Kids are equipped with some crazy talents these days!

Two of my MiaMaids do photography and wanted to use my kids as subjects. Preslie was the only one who happily agreed- although Aubrey was able to snag a few of the boys. 

They both did a fantastic job! Grateful for them to share there talents with me.

And then Hanna's....

Mother knows best..

Aggressive, loud mouthed, overly opinionated, strong willed, and persistent- yes. I claim all of these things. But I also claim that for now, I know what's best for my kids. 

Public education is so much more complex, that I cant even begin to understand- and I've even made some attempts to really "get" it. Politics and policies, acts that were passed by congress, testing scores and the system used, budgets, grants, teachers unions, school boards, salaries, taxes, public vs private, common core.. I could really just go on and on. Some of it I really do comprehend, some of it I am a lost soul. 
Here's what I do know. In all of the above - CHIlDREN seem to be lost in the multitude of all the crap. Children- the very subjects of the policies and discussions in place, seem to be off on the sidelines, waiting to be thrown back into whatever decision was made- and then expected to adapt, and perform and make these decisions and acts and techniques all become realities in "their" perfectly executed and expensive plans. 
But did anyone remember that these are children?? Tiny people with big ideas and imaginations and sensitive souls, all coming from different backgrounds, languages,upbringings, home life, social life, economic situations and religious beliefs..- again I could go on forever. Then what happens?  they get thrown into an over generalized education system where the end goal is all the same- with the expectation that they make it out alive and with all the same "common core" information to be successful, productive and responsible citizens. 

 We are fortunate (in comparison to a lot of other states) to live in Wyoming. Our state legislature is more generous with education funding, we have a smaller population (stay away! We like it like this!! :) teachers get paid more in comparison, and overall I think Wyoming has a good public education system. Im not a teacher, or a principal- but I have a feeling that those are hard jobs these days. I worked in sales for a while, and I remember the stress of having to hit quotas and numbers- and if they weren't hit you would meet with the union and your boss and come up with a plan of action, and how to recover and improve those numbers- you were given a timeline to fix it, and if you couldn't, you were out of a job. Just like that. I feel like our teachers may be in similar situations. With our children being the "products" sold or pushed to hit numbers and requirements. Stressful. Yes. More then I realize. I am compassionate and empathetic to these educators and administrators. Thats a hard role, and I think those expectations are unrealistic to achieve for everyone. But here is my thing- these little "products" that are being pushed to preform, are my children. I am their mother, and I will do anything to make sure they are safe, respected, happy.. And learning. 

Education and happiness can co-exist.

Two years ago I went on a crusade to make change. The school Brody attended kindergarten only had ONE recess. Morning bell rang at 9:05 and ended at 3:40- my little five year old had one 15 minute recess in his entire day. It ate at me and made me sick with frustration and sadness for those little kids to be cooped up- their restless bodies expected to sit still for that long and their little minds to stay focused. I fought for change- petitions and meetings- research and reports on importance of recess, doctors contacted who then spent their time and efforts to help make change. I contacted the governor, his wife, Carol Mead, was in full support and offered her assistance. I lost anyways. Reasons given that PE was enough physical movement and that in order to hit academic requirements, additional recess time was not an option. 
I surrendered. And learned that this school had tunnel vision. There was nothing else to be considered outside the parameters of NWEA and PAWS. 

First grade had similar frustrations- Halloween was not allowed to be celebrated on Halloween because it disrupted the day, instead the kids were allowed to dress up the week before on a half day of school- lame. Sad. Pointless. Yes! 
I would go to meet Brody for lunch, the tables were set up one sided, meaning that yes, you could sit beside other people, but not across. Why?? To help reduce lunchroom noise. Oh- and if the noise did get to be too much, the kids were demanded to dump trays, return to tables and put their heads down in silence. I cannot put into words how sad and frustrated this made me.
So again- I crusaded for change. PTO meetings, principal meetings- things would improve sporadically and then out of no where we were back to square one. No talking in the halls, the one lone recess was constantly being taken away from students- it broke my mother heart to see kids consistently staying in. At the end of the year, other schools in the district would be planning multiple field trips and parties, having fun events, not ours. The PTO would push for events and then be denied because of the time it would take away from academics. Last year we were given time to do some bouncy houses for an hour for each grade at the end of the year. For us it was a total victory. I have yet to understand why, but this school has somehow come to believe that there isn't room for anything if it is not strictly educational- in the basic sense of classroom learning. 

Brody has had phenomenal teachers. He has progressed academically in impressive strides. Those accomplishments seemed to off set my frustrations with the schools attitude- their refusal to really see beyond the test scores and numbers. You walk into that school and its silent. It's strict and regimented. It's dull and unfriendly, it lacks imagination. 
It is pretty much the opposite of every ideal I have when it comes to children and education. 

I couldn't take it anymore. 
The battle started back up again on day one about lunch. Kids dumping trays early and having to sit with heads down in silence. Punished for socializing. It was addressed with the principal and defenses were up- justifying why it was done the way it was.No compassion for the child and then a reluctance to address the issue with faculty.A total lack of understanding that children are indeed people. They are social beings and have things to say. We push and push push respect- teach children respect. Well guess what, respect, like anything- is best learned when experienced and observed. I felt there was a severe lack of respect for children. 

Dev and I talked long and hard about what to do. Endure another year and push for change? Go in ALL the time for lunch to be an advocate for the kids? But what about Zane and Preslie? They haven't even started school. Did I have it in me to battle these things for years to come?? 
 we talked to Brody about switching schools, he was on board FAST- excited for the change. So we pulled the plug. Brody started his new school today. He was a bit nervous but quickly that went away- his teacher eager to have him. She told him about incubating and hatching chicken eggs in class, walks to the cemetery, multiple field trips, TWO recesses, talking is ok at lunch. The school felt happier. Full of people who liked children, understood children and were patient and kind. 

Yanking my kid out of school, 2
Weeks into a new school year sounds nuts. But for us, keeping him in that school for another day was nuts! And sending our other kids there was unbearable. 
No regrets... Except that we didn't do it sooner. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Canada!! Of course :)

The older the kids get, the busier we get, and the harder it becomes to just do what we please. Sad reality. So a nice long Canada visit is mandatory in the summer. We also had a mini Miller reunion- so great! 

All Of us!!!

Giant balloon!!!!! Super fun for 3 minutes until it pops. 

Fort McLeod Museum
Historical Musical Ride
Really amazing!

Mecham Reunion 2013

I married into a truly fantastic family. it is really so fun to be all together. This year we reunited in Caldwell Idaho and the Ryan and Lisa Mecham Resort :) 

Great times and memories! 

If you ever end up with a broken limb- snag a dry pro cast cover! Worth every penny. And works 100%. Amazing! Saved our summer.