February 21, 2009

Please excuse my neglect.

Posted in Education, Mundanities at 11:22 am by the Green-Eyed Siren

First of all, I would like to thank all of my kind commenters for attempting to talk me down off of the ledge following the Sandals Resorts ad disturbance. I very much appreciate your patience, understanding, and support through such a difficult time.

Second, I apologize for being so behind in my posting, and I am particularly regretful that I have been unable to do much commenting on the blogs of my lovely new internet crowd. I promise to try to get back to my enthusiastic online participation as soon as possible. My volunteer commitments with the kids’ schools have reached a fever pitch. The Annual Gala for Unfocused Girl’s school is now two weeks away, and I’ve been working on aspects of the auction booklet. I am more heavily involved in Unfocused Junior’s school, where I’ve been working on things ranging from helping the office with form layouts and participating in a lot of meetings of different committees to getting ready for their Annual Benefit, which is in late April (shameless solicitation: if you happen to have any brilliant silent auction items laying around, just looking for a Benefit to call home, I will be delighted to find them a place to shine).

My kids go to private schools, which is a luxury, I know, but we are so grateful that they can be in places that are able to meet their educational needs. There is a perception out there that independent elementary schools are places of great excess for the fabulously wealthy, but I think most schools are not like that—and ours most definitely are not. My son’s school in particular serves a demographic that is heavy on cops and firefighters and a lot of other regular folks who are just looking for an alternative to the assembly-line education system. The school (a Montessori-based pre-K through 8th grade program) is very grounded in teaching kids how to be participants in a community, and as such it’s a place where volunteering is really important. And because it’s not swimming in money like some of those fabled places where you have to have a Lexus just to get into the parking lot, the fundraising component is also very important. (When you get no help from the tax base, absolutely everything has to be paid for through tuition and fundraising. You can take nothing for granted.)

So lately I’ve been putting in most of my extra hours between drop-off and pick-up doing something for one or the other of the schools we pay a ton of money to in the first place; thought of that way, there’s not a lot of sense to it. But I sincerely believe that having strong independent options in the marketplace has real value, not just for us as a family but also for what can be learned when you’re not beholden to the rules of public education, and I look at my support as part of the agreement I entered into when I enrolled my children. My kids are gaining so much from this experience that I have to do my part beyond just writing the check every month.

At any rate, that’s the long excuse for my neglect. I’m really very sorry that my participation lately has been limited to Tweets.

The other problem is that I’ve created a brand-new Time Suck for myself: testing out new possibilities for my blog’s appearance. It started when I created a post built around a graphic that I’d really, really like to load, but the space available is compressing it to the point that you won’t be able to read it. (I don’t want to load it onto an image-sharing site if I can avoid it.) So I’ve been cycling through the WordPress themes available, and nothing seems right; I’m trying to figure out which one is closest to being right so I can learn the minimum amount of CSS and still make it look like me. Anyway, I’m probably going to start throwing things up here in a horrible live testing kind of situation in which you will all be forced to be my beta viewers. Don’t worry when you see something that looks alarming—it doesn’t mean it’s permanent. It just means I’m having a visually spastic moment.

We’re currently in the middle of a big snowstorm here in the Windy City (astonishing!), so of course I need to go take Unfocused Junior to a birthday party in the suburbs. Awesome. And there has been some talk about the possibility of Mr. Unfocused taking me out to dinner, but I’m pretty skeptical about the prospects of that working out in reality. And I confess that part of me doesn’t even want to go. My inner panic level re: global economy is still high enough that I’m anxious about doing anything as wasteful as that when there’s two nights of leftovers in the fridge and half a bottle of wine waiting to be finished. Plus it’s been so long since we’ve been out together in a non-work situation that I have to wonder two things: one, what will we possibly talk about, when our favorite topic of conversation (politics) is now completely tied to the bad economic situation, which I could not possibly discuss at a nice dinner out without developing a very painful stomachache; and two, how will I break the now firmly established habit of inhaling my meal in about ten minutes, a habit necessitated by the demands of parenthood? I guess we’ll find out in our next exciting episode!



  1. LSM said,

    It’s so important to support all our schools. I know that my public school system benefits greatly both from the fundraising of our Foundation and through the passage of bond issues that fund things we’d never be able to affort by depending on the low level of state funding where I live. And, though I work for a public school system, I’m not at all scared by charter schools or private schools. We can all learn from each other, and families should have options for how they educate their children. I can’t resist pointing out, though, that there are lots of great public school options out there which are far, far from assembly-line-like.

  2. LSM, I apologize. I was not at all trying to suggest that there are no good public schools. I know that there are many children being served well by their public schools.

    However, our local public school is not a realistic option for us. We live in the city of Chicago, whose public schools are the stuff of commentary across the nation. Before Unfocused Girl was old enough for school we had a neighbor across the street who sent her son to our local public elementary school for 1st grade, having homeschooled him for Kindergarten. He was gifted and an early reader; in first grade, these kids were literally just starting the ABCs. There were 40 different languages spoken by children in that building; of course they had to start with the basics. It was an utter disaster for him, and the thought of sending our daughter there was simply laughable.

    The “assembly-line” reference is actually to a few of the “best” neighborhood schools in our city, where kindergarteners come home with 2 hours of mandatory homework, recess has been eliminated, and every single thing that is taught is directly related to a question on the achievement tests. Now, there are also the gifted schools here, and when the school/kid fit works they are great, but good luck getting in; their testing method is questionable and admissions are subject to racial quotas. There are also good “magnet” programs where admission is by lottery, subject to racial quotas, although political influence plays a part as well. I have friends with children in the gifted and magnet programs and they are very happy. But even if you are in one of the better Chicago public schools you still have to deal with extremely short school days and loads of vacation days.

    I often feel a little defensive about sending our kids to private schools, and I wanted to offer an explanation of why we’re there. I also get frustrated with the consistent difficulty that independent schools face in explaining their fundraising efforts. I was just making an excuse for why I try to put in so much time. But I am sincerely sorry for having given any offense in the course of offering my explanations.

  3. LSM said,

    Oh, please don’t apologize. I understand that I’m very fortunate to work in a good system and to have the option to send my kids there. Nothing grates on my nerves more than schools that are simply drilling kids to perform well on the mandated tests. Our philosophy is that if kids are receiving high-quality instruction all through the year, they’ll do just fine on the tests with a brief amount of prep work on the “test-taking genre,” right before the test date. No need to spend weeks in test-prep mode. That’s probably what made the assembly-line comment bother me. But, offended would be much too strong a description of my reaction. Plus, the cool thing about having a blog is you get to say whatever you think. :)

  4. The Lass said,

    Re: the themes – I’ve been trying to find a new one as well – have you looked through the extended theme directory? http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/

  5. Jeanne said,

    I’m glad you got to go out to dinner (according to Mr. Unfocused) and that you’re reading The Eyre Affair!

  6. chel said,

    Siren, don’t apologize. I’m another dedicated private school volunteer. Sometimes the public school is just not a good fit for your child. My middle daughter attended kindergarten and first grade at our local public school where my eldest had attended. It is a good school with a caring and dedicated staff. Unfortunately first grade was a very tough year for her. By the middle of the year she was hiding under desks during indoor recess and coming home walking in circles flapping her hands for extended periods of time. When I got the pediatrician involved, she assessed that the school environment was a poor fit. A few changes in our parenting and a change to a very small parochial school made all the difference. No counseling, no meds. needed. It was just the wrong environment for her.
    From the volunteering perspective, I believe that my time and talent are as valuable as a financial contribution and many other parents don’t have the time. I also find a joy in being involved in the learning environment in a very hands on way.
    Celebrate the gift you are giving your children by being part of their school community.

  7. I am getting a CRAZY number of hits on this post, one of my most unbelievably dull. Would love to know why, if anyone would care to enlighten me.

  8. LSM said,

    Do you see anything new on your incoming links stats? Or certain key words that pop up? It’s weird which of my posts get the most traffic too–mostly new mom meals and the “this is just to say” spoof post.

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