My Love/Hate Relationship with STEM Education for Girls

STEM Girls

 

As a girl who grew up loving science and math, but eventually moved away from it, I have a love/hate relationship with the recent STEM and coding movements. I know math and science are important, especially for girls. Then again, the only female math or science teacher I had was my 10th grade Biology teacher, Mrs. Head. Even then, it wasn’t like it was so special because she was my aunt’s sister so I already knew her.

I always look back and say that I probably had one of the best STEM experiences in high school because almost all my classes were filled with other girls. If my memory serves me correctly, I’d say that the top 25 of my class (of which I was one!), half were girls. This is out of over 400 kids. Back then – 30 years ago, Class of ’87!! – it was unheard of for so many girls to be at the top of the class.

I’d say, for the most part, my teachers didn’t have issues with ‘the girls’. There was one (male) science teacher who would often put us in boy vs. girl teams, but I never saw it as a gender issue. For the most part the girls were equal to the boys, and we usually won, so I saw it as a way to tap down the testosterone surge of awkward high school boys. Maybe I was naive. And, if so, I’ll just keep it that way. Sure, that teacher had favorites – all of them boys. While  he made it very clear to me that he was never going to accept that I was as smart as the smartest boys, he had to pretend when every time he asked me to prove my worth I did. As a matter of fact, he didn’t want me to go to a state science competition because I was the only girl selected and we’d need a female chaperone. I was required to ask the female teachers if one would like to be my chaperone. Luckily I wasn’t asked to pay more to have my own hotel room, but he make it known that ‘his boys’ had to share a room while I got my own. At the end of the day, I won! None of ‘his boys’ won their divisions. I did. Not only did I win my division, my project and presentation were selected as one of the top three overall. Boom! Oh, and he had to present my award at the school assembly even though he didn’t want to.

I’ve looked back on that one incident and how, despite my hundreds of hours of work between 11pm and 3am having my mom drive me to the university two days a week for several months so I could work with a professor and his team of Ph.D. and Masters students, for me it was never trying to prove I was good enough. At that time, I didn’t see that he didn’t want any girls on his science teams and did everything he could to keep us off. Part of that was teen cockiness. But part of it was because my mom always told me that I if I did the work she’s make sure I had the same opportunities.

Then I went away to college. And the teen cockiness was knocked down quickly. I selected my program – constructional engineering – because it’s something I was really interested in learning and doing. I was one of about 6 girls in the program, and that included the graduate students and office staff. That should give you an idea of where I found myself. The professors were openly sexist. The teaching assistants had no time for me. In my advance physics class I was one of a few girls. I was the only girl in my physics lab. I was one of 3 girls in my Advanced Differential Calculus class, but the only freshman. I looked around, day after day, and saw few women. The women I saw were so busy keeping their place at the table there was no time left to make sure I even had a place in the room.

Now, as a mom to a girl who excels in math and science in a world where STEM education for girls has become a focus of education I’m not the advocate I once thought I would be. Yes, BabyGirl has been involved in robotics and science camps, often being the only girl. Yes, BabyGirl spent a summer in the NASAGirls program and has attended girl-only summer STEM camp at the local universities.

The push for STEM-everything, which is really coding-focused for the elementary and middle school ages, doesn’t seem genuine when it comes to girls, though. Sure, there are amazing organizations like Girls Who Code, but their local programs are connected to a school and if you don’t happen to go to that school you’re on your own. And what if you don’t want to code?

What if you don’t want to code? Can you tell me what’s out there for girls who don’t want to code but love science and technology and engineering and math? I can tell you. Not much. With all the great programs that use STEM as their basis, there is such a predominance of coding that kids are learning that STEM is coding. Girls are being taught that STEM equals coding.

So when they don’t like coding, they don’t like STEM. If they’re not good at coding they start to think they’re not good at STEM. They’re not good at science or math. And that’s where I have a problem.

I was fortunate. Up until about 10 years ago, education was about the various types of science – biology, botany, zoology, chemistry, physics, and so many others – and math. It wasn’t about coding. I hated coding. It’s one of the reason I left my engineering program in college. It’s not that I wasn’t good at it, it’s that I hated staring at a screen with a bunch of nonsense to try and make some stupid design or have a series of number print out on a card. Science and math weren’t fun any more.

And that’s where I am today as a mom, trying to convince my daughter that math and science are fun. That they are used in real life. That there’s more to STEM than coding.

I believe that coding has its place in STEM. But it would be great if schools and the STEM movement would move beyond that focus and create programs that actually try to keep girls interested in science and math beyond elementary school. I say this because I know that there are awesome science and math programs and careers out there for girls, but they have to stay interested long enough to be able to see them as viable college and career options.

What are your thoughts about STEM education for girls? Has your experience been different?

Sara

3 Stargazing Apps For Every Smartphone

VZW DisclosureStargazing App

Summer is a time to relax and put the schedule aside. It doesn’t always work that way, though. And at the end of the day your mind goes over the 872 things you did that day and the odometer on the car that seems to spin like you’re looking for the $1.00 space at The Price Is Right showcase. And then night falls. And the quiet settles in and you’re thinking of heading outside to just sit and look at the stars.

Here in Phoenix, being out during the day is the last thing we want to do in the summer. We all do our best to manage it, but it’s just the reality here. Come nightfall though, we’re ready to go. Even though it doesn’t get dark until well after many kids’ bed time, sometimes you just need to stay up late and look up at the sky. With days upon days of cloudless skies and no school the next day, why not see what’s going on up in the dark sky?

Having spent time with professional stargazers and their expensive equipment, it spoils you. But we all can’t run out and buy a $10,000 telescope. What we can do, though, is download a few apps, look up at the stars and see what people have been look at for thousands of years.

1. Star Chart

What’s better than point and go when it comes to looking at stars that look like a bunch of little white dots in the sky? This augmented reality app is a top educational resource and will wow kids and adults alike. You can look at the sky visible to you or anywhere in the world as you turn your phone.

Available FREE on: iOS | Android | WindowsPhone

2. Sky Map

Another “point and look” app, Sky Map has over 11,000 star points and can pinpoint your location using GPS. While this app has the same name on all three mobile platforms, each is made by a different developer. Nonetheless, it’s a top app that works anywhere in the world day or night.

Available FREE on: iOS | Android | WindowsPhone

3. ISS Locator

Have you ever seen the International Space Station zip by? During an astronomy lesson I chaperoned for my daughter’s class we not only got to see the ISS fly by, but it was releasing a cargo pack and we should see that trailing behind as well. No fancy equipment was needed to see these. If you knew what you were looking for. Luckily, there are apps for all mobile platforms that will help you spot it no matter where you are in the world. Depending on where you live you may be able to see the ISS several times a week!

Available FREE on: iOS | Android | WindowsPhone | Web

So, get your phone, download these apps, and head outside after the sun goes down and re-live those times at camp when you’d stare up at the sky and wonder if the man in the moon really existed. Doesn’t matter if you have kids, if you’re a kid at heart, or just love checking out what’s up there in the dark of night these apps will surely make you popular at home or even at those summer evening garden parties.

Disclosure: I am a member of the Verizon Insider team. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Sara

If You Give A Girl An Android Phone …

GS4 Image

You should have seen the look on my face when I received (free of cost to me from Verizon Wireless) the Samsung Galaxy S4 phone. It was probably pretty obvious from my stunned look I had no clue what I was really holding. I’m an iPhone user. Look around me and you will find I’m surrounded by Apple tech. CycleGuy had a Blackberry for work but somehow convinced the IT team to test out their wireless security system by giving him an iPhone5, that’s how much of an iOS family we are.

VZWBuzzI was among a group of bloggers invited to the Verizon Wireless headquarters in southern California, and we were all given a Galaxy S4. I sat there holding the Samsung Galaxy box like it was a newborn baby. Several at the table had already exchanged their SIM cards before I could even get “WOW” out of my mouth. As one of the newest members of the Verizon Insider team, I was unaware we’d get anything. I was secretly hoping to get an upgrade to my Verizon MiFi (which I have had for over 10 years), and never imagined I’d walk away with one of the hottest phones on the market.

Mention Android and my mind immediately thinks of those commercials a few years ago where the phone was turned on and said “Droid” in a very robotish voice, and I laughed because they made me think of R2D2 and C3PO.

When I got the phone I knew nothing about Android phones. I had to read the manual to figure out how to turn the thing on (the button is on the right side of the phone compared to the top for iPhones. In my mind they should all be in the same place). If I had been on a deserted island and came across this phone I’d probably still be on the island trying to figure out how to do some of the most basic things.

At dinner I was speaking with one of the women who works at Verizon Wireless and she mentioned I should take a class at the Verizon Wireless store near my house, which happens to be the first new concept store in the western part of the US. Having been in it now, it is pretty cool.

Anyway, she convinced me I should take a Verizon Wireless Workshop. They’re free to the public (and who doesn’t like that?), regardless of your carrier. Sure, they’d like you to be a Verizon Wireless customer but if you’re not they’ll still help you. My iPhone is with a different carrier, but my carrier was not willing to help me figure out my new phone because I did not buy it from them. So I went to the workshop website and found a class.

Signing up for the workshop was easy. I just went online, entered my zip code and chose the workshop that was most convenient for me. I chose the “Getting Started” with Android class. By time I went to the workshop I had been using the phone for about 2 weeks. And by using I mean taking photos and videos, using Instagram and HootSuite, and admiring the large, colorful screen.

Admittedly, I knew very little about my phone. Justin taught the class, and there were 4 of us there at that time. One of the ladies had a phone Verizon does not carry and she said she is with another carrier but her son signed her up. Justin helped her just like he did the rest of us. The class was about the basics, most of which I figured out from reading the manual. However, by the end of the class I knew how to do much more than I when I arrived. Basic things like removing an app, reconfiguring my home screen, and deleting (turning off) apps that are running in the background eating up my battery.

Having figured out the basics, I now had more questions, so I signed up for the “Doing More” with Android workshop for the next day. This time there were only 2 of us and rather than following a set script, Justin (a different one, how confusing is that?) focused on helping us with learning how to use the device the best way to benefit us.

I consider myself tech savvy. I’m often an early adopter of new technology. But when smartphones came out, I went with Apple’s iPhone and never imagined switching. I did envy my friends with the Galaxy S3 because their phones had bigger screens (ugh, being 40-something had sure done a number on my vision), but for the most part I figured the phones were pretty much the same. I’ve learned they are not. And for someone whose only smartphone experience has been an iPhone, I didn’t want to have this super cool phone that everyone oooh’d and ahhhh’d over and only be able to take photos and post them to Instagram.

I often believe I can just watch a few tutorials online and I’ll figure out what I need. With the Verizon Wireless Workshop, I didn’t have to sit through a lot of extraneous talking. In a matter of 3 hours I was able to figure out most things I would use on my new phone. Between the two classes I have learned how to:

1. Use the gestures feature (but I don’t because I look like a dork waving my hand over my phone)

2. Add apps and widgets and configure pages the way I want

3. Use the Notifications pull down screen (which doesn’t exist on iPhone) for easy access to settings and notifications

4. Use the type swype feature. This is very cool but I’m still trying to get used to it since I switch between the GS4 and iPhone.

5. Not get freaked out by Google Now since it’s like stalking yourself.

6. Use the picture-in-picture feature as well as the side by side image capture of using the front and rear cameras at the same time.

Sure, these are all pretty basic things. But for this iPhone gal none of these were very intuitive. The face-to-face learning worked well for me. I was able to ask questions and have someone show me and let me try it. I’ve watched a lot of tutorials and videos about the S4 features but for an Android newbie it’s just not the same.

If you get a new mobile device, sign up for a free workshop at a Verizon Wireless store near you. It will prevent frustration and you’ll feel more comfortable using it to its full potential. There are things I miss from my iPhone (like touching the time at the top of the screen and it automatically scrolling all the way back to the top), but I’m learning it’s not a bad thing. Just different. And different can be good.

Have you taken a workshop to learn how to use your device? Was it helpful? 

Disclosure: As stated above, Verizon Wireless provided me with a Samsung Galaxy S4. I was also provided travel and accommodations to attend a workshop at the Verizon Wireless offices in California. This is not a sponsored post and no compensation was provided for this post. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I do, however, have a business relationship with Verizon Wireless and thus I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

 

Sara

Whose Responsibility Is It To Teach Our Children … About Sexual Abuse Prevention

Sexual Assault Education

Whether you homeschool or send your child(ren) to a public or private school, at some point your children will learn what to do in case of a fire, how to be safe around water, who to talk to if they’re being bullied. Depending on where you live there also may be tornado, earthquake, or hurricane safety talks. And all of these will be discussed at different levels beginning at a very young age.

I feel confident in saying that NO PARENT ever actively goes about teaching their toddler about sexual abuse or how to “prevent” it. Even if you are a survivor of child sexual assault, you’re not going to think “Hey, I should tell my 4-year old what to do in case of sexual assault.”. Who in their right mind thinks that way? Maybe there are people who do, but I know that it wasn’t something I thought about. I’m pretty sure it’s not something you thought about either.

Here’s the thing, though. I did teach BabyGirl the parts of her body. Just like I taught her colors and cloud formations and fruits and shapes. We all have a body and I thought it’s important for a little girl to know what the parts you can see are called. I gave them real names. The same names that if she went to the doctor and he asked her if her body hurt somewhere she could tell him.

But how did I teach BabyGirl to tell me if someone touched her body? How did I teach a 4 year old that if someone touched her that she should tell me. Immediately. Without worry that she’ll get in trouble. Without concern that if she was told she’d get in trouble that they’re lying. And knowing that I would protect her.

I just did. At 4, my job is to protect her. She’s not old enough to solve these issues herself. And while as kids grow up we need to teach them how to deal with certain situations such as a fire or medical emergency, we can only empower them so much when it comes to their body. Just like a child may be able to escape a burning building, knowing where to meet is equally as important.

There is a lot of focus on bullying and it’s prevention and reporting. But when it comes to teaching about sexual assault, the silence has a deafening hum. Statistics show that 15% of children under the age of 12 have been sexually assaulted or raped¹ and 93% of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker², yet sexual assault is such a taboo subject. And the question I have is

Whose responsibility is it to teach our children about sexual assault/abuse prevention?

School – there are many fantastic organizations, like ChildHelp USA, that have programs and speakers who will go to schools and share an age-appropriate presentation. Something to consider, though, is that there are parents who don’t think school is where they should be learning about “this“. And given some of the recent news stories of sexual assault of students by teachers, it’s easy to see why parents might not want schools to take on this role. It’s also a lot of responsibility to give a child – that they can actually prevent what’s happening to them.

Church – Bring up church and sexual assault and for many you’re opening up a can of worms. I do think if your children attend a church or church program that there is a place to incorporate the messages of reporting sexual assault or rape. Just like with educating the kids about bullying and drugs, there is an appropriate way to talk about sexual assault. Again, though, we’re often looking at older kids when, in fact, sexual assault reporting and body safety discussions need to begin earlier.

Camps and Classes – maybe it’s the summer or day camp that should have a program, or at karate or dance or swim lessons. Are these appropriate places? Would the message be one that parents supported? Should they even broach the subject of appropriate touch? This isn’t an easy one for parents to gravitate to. There are so many variables that having someone ill-equipped to have such an important discussion may actually do more harm than good.

Parents – of course I believe parents should be teaching their children, in an age appropriate manner, about their body and the rules related to their body. Bringing up the topic of sexual assault, specifically, is something that needs to be considered based on age-appropriateness. Many parents just don’t feel equipped to broach the subject. For parents who, themselves, are survivors it’s not an easy conversation. I’ve also found that for many parents, sexual assault isn’t even on the radar of things that could happen to their children. The problem, based on many of the statistics, becomes that our children could be sexually assaulted or raped long before we have the discussion with them. Ultimately, it is important that young children know that if anyone touches their body they need to tell someone. CycleGuy and I have been very clear to BabyGirl, from a very young age, of who safe adults are. We can’t just say “tell mommy” or “tell daddy”. Children need to know who a variety of safe adults are. And along these lines, we’ve taught BabyGirl that we don’t keep secrets. I dont’ think we should teach our kids how to prevent sexual assault/abuse. We don’t teach them how to prevent bullying, so why should we put such a huge responsibility on their shoulder when it comes to sexual assault and abuse.

So whose responsibility is it to teach about sexual abuse prevention? I don’t think we should be teaching about “prevention”. It’s putting the responsibility on the child. Second, our children should not be taught that if they can’t stop this then it is somehow their fault. WRONG, WRONG, and more WRONG!

We need to move the discussion away from “prevention” and not put the responsibility on our kids to stop the abuse. Abuse that is often forced upon them in physically and emotionally violent ways. When 93% of sexual assaults are by an assailant known to the victim or family, we need to remove the requirement that the child somehow must stop what’s happening to them.

I believe Body safety, sexual assault reporting and self-defense discussions have to start early. And they need to be reinforced throughout the entire village that is helping to raise our children. It’s not something that should be pushed off to one pillar. Our children can’t stand on one leg. It takes many people supporting them to help them succeed.

The question I get, a lot, is how I did it. How did I teach BabyGirl to tell me. How did I teach BabyGirl to know that what was happening was wrong, despite what the perpetrator was telling her. How did BabyGirl know that I wouldn’t be mad at her and I would believe she was telling the truth even though her assailant told her otherwise.

I can’t tell you I followed some plan and taught certain things at certain times. What she did know was that no matter what happened to her she could tell me and I’d help her. There was never a discussion about sex or strangers or anything graphic. She was 2 and 3 and 4. But we talked. And each and every time someone touched her, whether it was a push or a hug, on purpose or accident, and she told me and expressed some concern I was there. Sometimes to solve the problem, other times to give solutions so she knows what to do if there is a next time.

Now that she is almost 10, the discussion still focuses on the same basics but new information is added. The types of safe people expand as she attends school and camp. Ways to protect yourself. But the underlying message is there and it comes from me and CycleGuy.

Unfortunately, there are many parents who don’t want or don’t think “this” can happen to them. That it will scare their kids. That their kids are smart and will know what to do. That their kids know they can come to them for anything.

But just like bullying and drug education, we need to take body safety and reporting education more seriously. Maybe if the words were changed and rather than focusing on the after – the sexual assault – and focus on the safety and reporting parents would be more willing to buy in to this type of education.

I know I wouldn’t be all too happy if I got a flyer from the school touting sexual assault prevention education. Let’s be realistic and focus on empowering our children and giving them the tools that will help then. I’m not talking about pretending sexual assault doesn’t happen or sugar coating anything. Body safety and reporting is something we ALL need our children to understand.

Do you think we should teach our children about sexual assault prevention or focus the discussion around body safety, self-defense and abuse reporting education?

Sources:

1 – U.S. Department of Justice. 2004 National Crime Victimization Survey. 2004.

2 – U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2000 Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement. 2000.

Image: © Sara Hawkins 2011

Sara

Can Teaching Excellence Become The Norm Again?

I have friends who are teachers in the K-12 levels. I think we all do. One of my best friends when I was a tween/teen is a teacher (getting her Ph.D. now!) and administrator. I admire teachers a great deal for many reasons. One of which is that they do something I could never do. Sure, I homeschooled BabyGirl. And, still do for some things. But as I spent time in the classroom last year helping BabyGirl’s teacher, there was never a sense of “I could do this!”.

We all had at least one great teacher that we can probably still recall quite a few details about. But sadly, we don’t have a list of men and women, with whom we spent hours each day, who made a difference. I graduated from high school 25 years ago. And, sadly, not much has changed in how teachers are treated. I think The 1980s was a big turning point in the teaching profession.

As the economy boomed, schools began to burst at the seams. Classes got bigger. Arts programs got cut. Teachers were expected to teach larger and larger classes. All while teachers kept getting the same pay.

And something else seemed to happen. Kids were no longer the mindful pupils of yesteryear. There were gangs, and violence. More high schoolers were driving to school. Parents were both working and kids of all ages were often home without supervision. Society changed. People changed. Teachers changed.

Teaching was more work. In some schools, a lot more work. And the societal expectations of how kids were supposed to perform was increasing. The teachers who wanted to make a difference kept at it. Those teachers who believed that kids, no matter their background, could succeed, pushed.

But many teachers just gave up. And with that, our expectations and the reality of the educational system began to diverge in many areas. Teaching is a business, but it’s not run like one. Employee morale is often never considered. For some teachers, the only thing getting them to the school each day are their students. But when the administration is pushing an agenda that teachers don’t buy in to, there are likely going to be problem. And when your co-workers are no more than babysitting a room full of children, it’s easy to get frustrated at not getting a raise or promotion.

Most jobs give promotions and raises for good work. Good work on the individual and corporate level. Teachers? Sure there are evaluation criteria, but for the most part the incentives to do a good job don’t come from the employer. From what I’ve heard from my friends who teach in K-12, the incentive to be a great teacher comes from a personal drive to be the best as well as from the kids (and parents) who show appreciation.

I recently read a book by Eva Moskowitz, the founder of the Success Academies charter school that began in Harlem. In Mission Possible, Ms. Moskowitz talks about why she started the school – because she believed kids deserved better – and how she and her staff have brought back the passion for learning. Not only is learning important for the kids, but one of the major touch points I got from the book was that if the teachers loved their job there’s no limit to the heights the kids could strive for.

I am where I am partly because I’m smart. But a big part of why I’m smart is also because I had teacher who believed I was smart. Why can’t that be the norm for every child today? Why can’t teaching excellence be rewarded from the top down. The status quo can change, and kids and parents and teachers and our society deserve better than what we have now.

If you are interested in reading Mission Possible by Eva Moskowitz and Arin Lavinia, let me know in the comments and I’ll choose one of you to receive a copy of the book.

If you’re on Twitter, you can also follow Eva Moskowitz for information about education excellence. If Facebook is your choice, you can connect with Eva Moskowitz on Facebook to help you encourage success with your kids’ teachers.

Do you think your kid’s school is doing it right? Are their teachers treated like valued employees?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. I was provided compensation for my time and provided a complimentary book. This post reflects my views and opinions and was not reviewed or edited by a third party. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Public Domain Image

Sara

Traveling To Italy

Leaning Tower of Pisa image

In spring 2012, I am taking BabyGirl on her first trip to Italy! I’m so excited because it will also be my first time to Italy. We will be traveling with a homeschool group and the trip is primarily educational.

I was thrilled to join the group for this experience that will take us to to Rome, Naples, Florence, Pisa and Venice. We’ll not only see marvelous sites but we’ll also get to eat traditional foods and visit locations not usually on the traditional traveler’s itinerary.

I’m excited and nervous. Excited to visit Italy and see history come to life. Nervous because I’ll be traveling across the world with a 9 year old. Sure it’s not like she’s incapable of helping or taking care of herself. But, still, she’s my baby and I worry. All the what-if scenarios are playing out in my head. That’s normal, right?

As I mentioned, we’re going with a homeschool group. People who are like us. Who won’t think we’re weird because we want to take time to read every. single. word. Families like mine who will spend the next several months learning Italian, knowing our kids will really be our translators. Moms like me who will scrimp and save at every turn to make this trip possible.

I was 14 when I first left the United States. OK, that’s not really true. I lived in El Paso and would go to Juarez, Mexico on any given weekend with my Grandmother. But that really wasn’t the same. At 14 I boarded a plane and set out for Israel. I don’t remember what I thought back then. However, when I told BabyGirl we need to update her passport because we will be going to Italy next year she was as nonchalant as can be.

As if going to Italy is just like a trip to Disney. For her, though, it may be. I will spend the next several months preparing her for this trip. Italy will be woven into our curriculum at every turn. I want to be prepared as much as she is. I want to get the most out of seeing history come to life.

After a discussion of how we’ll get there, things we’ll see, places we’ll go, the real questions came. She needed to satisfy her 8 year old curiosities. She had to know what kind of hotel we were staying at. The all important, do they have wi-fi and can we bring the iPad. And the ever-importnat kid question, “Do they have normal food?”

Fortunately we have over 9 months to get all our questions answered and prepare ourselves for what is sure to be a wonderful trip. My concerns, though, are much different. Well, except for the wi-fi questions which is actually very important. International travel presents a number of issues, the least of which is the who plug situation. Is it two prong or three. Do we need an inverter or converter? How do I best protect my laptop and phone? You know, important stuff!

I know I have plenty of time to figure this all out. It’s an 11-day trip and I am already thinking about extending it a few days and going up to France. I mean, really, I would be very close to Disneyland Paris. *wink, wink*

So if I start getting obsessive about travel-related stuff you know why! And, if you’ve ever been to Italy, please tell me all the details and secrets. Please!

 

Sara

Mamavation Monday: I’m working on a Ph.D in Life

The word School spelled in blocks photo

I have 3 degrees already, and I’ve joked with CycleGuy that I want to go back to school to get a Ph.D. But because I already have more degrees than he does, he says he gets first crack at the next graduate degree. That has always sounded fair. But I’m still hungry to learn. And to learn all the things I want won’t take me getting a Ph.D in one thing.

I’m a big believer in lifelong learning. My grandparents often took classes. My aunt and uncle traveled every year through the Elderhostel program, learning about new places and focusing on a new topic of interest. Seeing them continue learning throughout their ‘golden years’ impressed upon me not only the ability to pursue new things regardless of age, but also that learning can be fun.

One of my learning projects this year is photography. I’ve always admired people who could wield one of those fancy cameras. So this year I am learning to become a photographer. Maybe you’ve seen some of my photos? I’m participating in the 365 Project and documenting each day with a photograph (although I’m behind in posting them) as a way to practice daily. I help BabyGirl practice violin every day and I know the importance of doing this. It only makes sense that I do the same with my learning.

When I was in college I got a shirt that say “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” It’s a saying that always stuck with me. Learning may not always take a ton of money, but it always take time. Learning is an investment. An investment of time, always. Time I don’t always seem to have, although I know I need to make.

I could spend all day reading about new and cool things. I’ve cut down my magazine and journal subscriptions significantly. Although I still get more than 10 every month. BabyGirl once called me an information hound. I couldn’t really argue with her.

When I start to think I don’t have time for learning, I know I’m kidding myself. There is always time to learn, it’s just a matter of priorities. One of the great things about learning, too, is that there are opportunities to meet new people. It’s through learning how to blog that I’ve met you!

If you ever hear yourself saying you don’t have time to learn, stop for a moment as say it again. The second time be more in the moment. Do you really have so much going on that you can’t learn something you want? Maybe it’s a matter of prioritizing. If you’re like me, there is an ongoing “Things I Want To Learn” list.

Again, it comes back to the ‘Someday’. Sure, someday I’ll get around to learning all the things I want. In the meantime, though, I need to start somewhere. There are times I dive in to multiple points of learning. Unlike college though, when signing up for 6 classes seemed normal, I need to pace myself with just a very few things at a time.

Come, join me on this journey for a Ph.D. in Life! What will you learn next?

This post is linked to Mamavation Monday. I am a member of the Mamavation Sistahood!

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Sara

Waiting For Superman

On Tuesday, BabyGirl and I attended a special screening of the documentary Waiting For Superman. WOW! What an amazing film. I’ve been following the buzz about it for several months and watched the trailer back in May some time. I’d heard the buzz from Sundance. I had high expectations and I was not disappointed.

The other day I wrote about two teachers that made a difference in my life. When I wrote that post I didn’t know I’d be seeing this film. I wrote it because I’d heard about Waiting for Superman and wanted to put my perspective on what good teachers can do.

The documentary by Davis Guggenheim, the Academy Award®-winning director of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, is a first hand glimpse into the public education system in the U.S. and how it is affecting our children. Guggenheim profiles five beautiful children and the educational dreams they and their families have for the future. He also talks to change-makers in the educational system. People who are so passionate about good education that they left ‘the system’ to make radical changes in the charter school segment of the public schools.

I cried. Not only for all the kids who get the short end of the stick year after year, but also because one person truly can make a difference. People like Geoffrey Canada, Bill Strickland, and Michelle Rhee. People who are strange in their belief that kids deserve quality teachers.

I was angry, mad and frustrated. Not only because I know how ridiculous the school district/central office setup is but at the power the teachers unions wield in keeping our kids down. I’m not a fan of unions and I’m not here to debate their value and place. But when a collective bargaining group has so much power that horrible teachers can’t be terminated EVER, there’s a problem. The dollar costs of their ineptitude are staggering but the long-term impact on our children, our economy, our justice system and our education system are unacceptable!

I was overjoyed. And I felt their sadness. I had a lump in my throat at the end of the film. I won’t tell you why because I don’t want to give anything away. Suffice it to say, it was very moving and I felt very invested in what was going to happen to these kids.

So why would I want to see this movie if I am a homeschooler? Why would I speak out and support public education? Because I was a product of it. Because I’ve sat through classes with teachers who shouldn’t be teaching pet training, much less kids! And because I pay taxes and I deserve to know the truth and speak up for the reform I think should happen.

I just so happen to live in a state with an abysmal educational record. That’s not saying much given the craptastic state of most public schools in the US. I also have a choice. I can choose to homeschool. CycleGuy and I made the decision for me to homeschool BabyGirl. Like those who choose private school, homeschooling can be a huge financial sacrifice. But I guarantee you, I can do more with $9,000 (the average expenditure per child in public school) than any school district. Most of us could. Yet year after year, we give carte blanche to total strangers to teach our youth. And daily we secretly pray that they don’t screw these kids up.

If public education was a business, it would be bankrupt. Well, actually it is. Maybe not financial, but on nearly every other front it is. But it’s like most things when human capital is the key factor. Customer service is non-existent in the public school system. And we’ve accepted the kick in the teeth year after year.

We’ve accepted, as the norm, that kids won’t graduate from high school, that reading significantly below grade level is OK, that math knowledge is optional if it’s too hard. We stopped asking questions of the educational leadership long ago. And we’ve looked the other way and made and/or accepted excuses of poor teachers.

Maybe this film with be a wake up call. Education is not only for the privileged. Education is important not only for the individua but also for our country. We can’t continue to fall behind.

What can you do?

1. Go see the film – Waiting For Superman is in limited release so check their site for a theater near you.

2. Buy your movie ticket online and get at $15 Gift Code to give to a classroom of your choice on Donors Choose.

3. Don’t settle – your kids may be getting a good education but these are still YOUR tax dollars. Speak up and demand better. Take Action!

Disclosure: BabyGirl and I were provided admission to the screening courtesy of Savvy Source. We were also each given a $15 Gift Card to donate to the project of our choosing at Donors Choose. The views and opinions contained herein are mine and I was not required to blog or state any position or opinion in exchange for attending the screening. I’m writing about it because every child is worth it!

Sara