Tuesday, May 29, 2012

29 May 2012

We had a restful Memorial Day weekend here, but cold. Friday it was sleeting and raining, Saturday was more of the same. Sunday warmed into the 60's, and the children were able to swim in the pool we had been heating. Monday morning, the youngest was ready to go out swimming right away. I went down and worked on weeding the Virginia Creeper that is taking over, and all the little cottonwood and popular saplings trying to grow in the worst places. I also hacked down a remarkable flowering weed that started showing up a few years ago, but is so close to the bricked edge that it just overflows to the next terrace. It's tall and green right now, but dries to yellow sticks in the fall. I laid those tender vines over top my arugula plants, that are just barely showing up in the soil. I also repotted my tomatoes into the larger, outdoor pots.

In addition, I read two books this weekend: Dragonsong and Dragonsinger. I also practiced my viola, and then at night after the kids were in bed, I started watching the Revenge series which John purchased from iTunes for me. I can get through quite a few episodes when there are no commercial interruptions. It's amazing how fast it can be.

This morning I was talking to a mom at the elementary school. Apparently two of the teachers from the Immersion program have had enough, and got jobs elsewhere in the county. The older daughter's 5th grade teacher is one of these, and it's a shame, as she is one of the best teachers my daughter has ever had. This teacher had moved to the Immersion class two years ago, but there is a lot of criticism from the 3rd grade parents who don't believe their children are actually learning Spanish, so they are leaving the headaches behind. They would have had to deal with the same parents for another 3 years, unfortunately.

My friend mentioned how the parents don't really value homework, they don't volunteer in the class, and the children have a lot of athletic practices that can get in the way of schoolwork. I don't always value homework either, I must admit. Sometimes it just feels like it's meant to drill and keep you in practice, so can become like drudgery after awhile, although I do sort of feel the more you do, the easier it is. When I was in fifth grade, I remember doing pages of multiplying two 3 digit numbers, and the whole thing seemed interminable. I understood the principles, but I hated it. There is a certain amount of math I can do easily now, but I'd still be hard pressed to find any joy out of multiplying or dividing multi-digit numbers just to keep in practice. Still, I recognize it hasn't become rote with my second grader yet.

With the older one, homework was always necessary, so that her father or I could actually teach her the math principles she wasn't grasping. At one point, maybe around 3rd grade, I found myself trying to break down the explanation into as simple a one as possible, but she still wasn't getting it. I found myself resorting to yelling, "But it's base 10, it's base 10" because she didn't seem to grasp the simple concept of doing things in tens. Finally her father sat down with her and told her the story of Gorp, the caveman, who needed to figure out how to count berries, or some such thing. He broke it down farther than I had even thought was necessary, I guess, but it worked. Now, with Algebra, he can spend several hours working with her on that during the week. She tried going to algebra tutoring, but it was her working alone and having to ask questions of the teacher, and she didn't feel comfortable doing that, so she decided to stick with working with her dad.

I've noticed, though, that went it comes to athletics, they seem to trump all. They can get in the way of church, of family meals, of weekends together, of other rehearsals, of homework, of play. They are serious. You can't just go to school and try out for an athletic team; you need to have already been playing on the various community leagues and teams. So my kids will probably never play any sport at this point in their life in school, unless it's in a school gym setting. It would be nice if there was a way just to play for fun and exercise, however, just as you can sing in a community group mainly for fun. The children's choir only rehearses once a week, and even that can be too much for some people. During the time they were preparing for the World Choir Games in Shaoxing, the kids started rehearsing together twice a week. When I played in a symphony orchestra, we rehearsed twice a week, and then had a Friday night rehearsal before a concert weekend that had two concerts. The Sacramento Children's Chorus rehearses twice a week. To get serious about the music, I think we'd have to rehearse more, but everyone seems too divided with all the activities they have to do.

I wonder is it possible to have some community sports teams that are more about having fun together, and some community choirs that can take it to a new level of artistry.

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