Monday, January 18, 2010

Applause for Hiring the Best Qualified Person!

I wasn't paying attention, I often don't. But while spending some time surfing Facebook I saw that Amanda Simpson has become the first transgendered person to be appointed to a high-level position by Obama. Of course, the right wing contingent is all upset about this, saying really stupid things.

What really blows my mind is this, "Matt Barber, associate dean at Jerry Fallwell's Liberty University, said the appointment "boggles the mind" and said that while African-Americans might deserve special treatment, transgender people don't." I just don't get how hiring this incredibly qualified woman is "special treatment"!

But I'm really excited that the Obama administration has been able to overlook all the crap and just hire the person who is most qualified for the job. They haven't been as speedy as most of us would like on gay rights, but at least they aren't pandering to the right by disqualifying deserving candidates.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Steffi’s Anthropology Project – SCHOOL!

Steffi’s been curious about school for a while now. Last spring she was talking about starting school – that would be eighth grade – in September. “But what about Not Back to School Camp?” I’d ask. “Do you want to miss the two-week Girl Scout trip the second half of September?” “You are planning on being gone all of November, I think they frown on that.” She just didn’t have TIME for school!

In October she went on the Beach Retreat with her church group and the kids there told her how great school was and how much they thought she would like it. Of course, they haven’t ever questioned bigger people telling them what to do all the time - Steffi HATES having anyone else tell her what to do. This seemed to me like a real problem that I wasn’t sure she would deal well with!

The Monday after Thanksgiving she and I stopped by the school, thinking she would try it out in January. The school registrar walked us around the school, pointing out everything relevant to eighth grade. While on tour, she mentioned that they had just started a new term. Hmm, I just figured that they would be starting a new term in January like the Washington schools did back in the day.

Since they had just started, it seemed reasonable for her to try it out as soon as she could rather than waiting until after Christmas with the added bonus that she would have a nice break right away. We spent the rest of the day doing about three years worth of math, then the rest of the week was pretty busy, so we didn’t get back to it until Sunday, the day before she was going to start. I think we ended up getting through about 5/6th grade math. It was so fun for me – to finally understand it. Steffi’s cousins were over on that Sunday and we all sat around working on math – lots of “ah-ha’s” around!

The other thing I did to get her ready to go to school was to talk to her about the possibility of bullies and kids who just aren’t as nice as she is used to. Her response, “Mom, I can be a total bitch if I have to – I’m actually really good at it!” Said with all seriousness. I couldn’t help but laugh!

Oh, and of course supply shopping – that was interesting. It was kind of hard to find everything she was supposed to have in December – the stores just don’t stock it all all year long.

So Steffi went to school two Mondays before Christmas break. After the second day, while working on math homework she said, “this class is really making me lose my love of math.” :-( But she also said that everyone was really nice, teachers, staff, kids. In fact, she said that the kids were just like the kids at camp (Not Back to School Camp), hugging each other and really supportive.

By Thursday, she was wanting a change and said that she would like to go through Monday just to see what coming back from the weekend was like. On Friday she decided to go to Homeschool Central, our homeschool group that meets next door to the school at the Boys & Girls Club, so I walked over to pick her up and signed her out early. As we were talking she asked if she could keep going, but leave after lunch. We stopped in at the registrar’s office and the registrar was just so accommodating. Steffi had an art class second period that she didn’t like (the teacher is the owner at New Morning Bakery, so I’m not too surprised!) and a math class in the afternoon that was too hard, so we were able to move math to second period and she leaves after lunch, just as she wanted! Her schedule is now PE, Algebra, Humanities (two periods), and lunch.

The classes aren’t even close to being as kill and drill as I suspected they would be. In the curriculum guide for the school they talk about incorporating as much hands-on stuff as possible and they do seem to be doing just that. It is definitely NOT real-life, but it sounds like it is a pretty positive environment for what it is.

Steffi is really enjoying it, although she has already decided that she won’t continue after the summer break. Good thing too, I wouldn’t want her to miss NBTSC or anything!

During this whole process, and totally unrelated to the process, I was reading John Taylor Gatto’s “Weapons of Mass Instruction” – great book, but oh so ironic considering Steffi’s current choice of attending school.