Friday, September 25, 2009

The best laid plans

Okay, so remember how excited I was for tomorrow's 10K day (wherein I attempt to write ten thousand words in one. single. day.) and the amazingly wonderful time I was going to have writing all day while the children spent some quality time with the dad figure?

Well, it turns out that dear old dad has a coaching gig out of town (he coaches men's volleyball for the local college in his "spare time").

*SIGH*

Don't feel too sorry for me - it's par for the course around here, and I'm used to having to write with kids squealing in the background. Maybe if I bribe the kids with taking them out for supper, they'll be extra good. Anything that cuts down on me taking time out to play referee...

Oh, 10K day, I will conquer you yet!

Besos!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reading to write

It may seem counterproductive, but whenever I find myself lagging, I pick up a book. Any book will do. A poorly written book will make me feel like I can write something better, and a well-written book has a way of inspiring me to improve. It's a not-so-fancy trick to get me in the mood to write, but it works!

What do you do for inspiration?

Besos!

Monday, September 21, 2009

So much to do, so little time...

To write, that is. And yet here I sit blogging about it...

I only have a couple of minutes before I have to drag my tired backside to bed*, so that's how I justify it. Not that this is any less difficult than working on my story. Um, yeah, so that's a pretty obvious lie, but whatever, I'm tired.

In any case, there's another 10K day on Saturday. I've been looking forward to it all month, and I plan on hiding out in my bedroom as soon as I've got the kids (and their father) out of my hair. No phone calls, no laundry, dishes or cleaning (er, not that there was much danger of that happening in the first place...). Just me, my computer and my story until bedtime. And I'm so excited!

This month has been even busier than usual, and slightly more stressful what with all the administrative junk I've had to deal with for homeschooling. I haven't really had much of an outlet - but Saturday is all MINE (or as close as it's going to get). I did participate in the last 10K day on Thursday, but it wasn't as productive as it should've been thanks to a noon pick-up from school for sickly #3 and a last minute mid-day piano lesson rescheduling for #1.

Oh well, sometimes you've got to just roll with it, right? That's just one of the many reasons why writing is the perfect fit for me. It's got that built in flexibility. Love it!

And now if you don't mind, I'm off to flex some of those sleeping muscles.

Besos!

*I should be zonked out in 15 minutes tops, thanks to a wonderful sleep aid :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A little breathing room

I had #1 do the cumulative review for the first 4 chapters of Math, and she got 122/130. Not bad for just jumping right back into the swing of things. I was in a bit of a panic that she wouldn't remember anything from over a year ago, but it's coming back to her. The biggest challenge will definitely be getting her used to the language they use, because she had to ask for clarification on what the book was asking her to do (and I had to look it up...gotta love confusing directions...).

I just hope the school will provide a teacher/translator for her during the test. It's been such a struggle to get this far, that I hate to push my luck.

I'll probably do it anyways.

Besos!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Rejuvenation

Thanks for all the comments, emails and messages regarding the last post/rant. I appreciate all of the support! The fact that you managed to slog through the darn thing is enough to earn my friendship for eternity. It's there if you want it :)

I've had a fun weekend, and I'm looking forward to a good sleep tonight so I can tackle the new week and get started on that Math review with #1 so she can challenge the final asap.

The sad thing is, I'm sure I'll stress about it way more than she will. I generally don't care about grades with any of my kids, but I totally want her to kick butt on that exam! Hopefully I've done a thorough enough job of teaching her...but I'm trying not to think about it.

Well, not too much anyway. :)

Besos

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Homeschooling Rant

*This ended up being loooong* sorry

I need to vent. You don't have to read on, and it might be incredibly boring, but after talking with the Superintendant of Home School (hereby known as SHS) this morning I've gotta get this off my chest.

A little background information is in order.

I began homeschooling #1 a year and a half ago after she started coming home in tears every day from boredom. To watch this wonderful girl, who loves school, loves her teachers, come home every single day and cry was devastating. When her assignments began to suffer because she was burnt out and didn't care about school, I pulled her out (but not before making polite suggestions and offering alternatives to what was going on).

I suggested letting her work ahead in Math and Language arts, but that was rejected. I offered to get another Math program for her to work on, and they just about had a conniption fit. They didn't offer a single alternative so I decided to keep her at home. Within days of home schooling, my girl was back to her lovely, happy, healthy self. That alone makes this whole thing worth it. But there's much more to the story.

We'd had this problem for 2 years (since we moved here), so it was only a matter of time before she exploded. I tried to address the problem, talking to her teachers several times a year at every conference, but nobody would do anything. I got the same thing every time. She's wonderful, helpful, bright, kind, and she makes a great teacher's assistant. Nevermind the fact that she's done her work before everyone else and sits and reads all day long. Nevermind the fact that she's bored out of her mind and hasn't really learned anything new. As long as she was good, it didn't matter.

Not once in the 2 years we'd lived here did they suggest she undergo any kind of testing. Not until I wrote up my year end home-school evaluation (I had pulled her out midway through the school year) and suggested it may benefit her to be placed into the next grade. I had a call from the Superintendent of Special Education that very day chastising me because it was not my place to suggest such a thing. I calmly replied that I would obviously go through the proper channels to see a positive outcome, and scheduled testing (finally there's testing) for the very next day.

Well, four and a half hours of testing later (I kid you not), we finally had a decent profile of her academic/social/emotional standing. The results were fascinating. Not surprising, she excelled in many things, with her math skills being borderline genius level. However, in all things socio-emotional, she was a normal kid for her age, and her ability to process information quickly and effectively is what made her excel in all her other (non-genius) subjects.

As a result, the recommendation was to keep her at the same grade level as her peers, regardless of the fact that she took school much more seriously than the rest of the kids, regardless of the fact that she was ready for a more mature approach to schooling. She's a no-nonsense kind of kid who is at school to get the job done, plain and simple.

The recommendation (and this is from a school psychologist that I happen to know personally, and think he's wonderful and insightful) included the words "we'd like to see her assisting her peers" and "we wouldn't want her moved ahead, because what would she do when all her friends were getting their license and she couldn't drive for another year". It was concluded that she ought to have a personalized progress plan that would be re-evaluated every couple of months (by her group of 4-5 teachers) with a statement that the idea was not to make her do more work on top of the regular school work, it was to give her work more at her level (which was 2-3 years ahead in Math), BUT not have her complete any higher level of schooling.

In truth, it was basically the equivalent of auditing a university course as opposed to getting actual credit for it. As a result she would still have to take the same classes when she was older (more age-appropriate, as they would say), even though she'd already learned more complicated stuff. So, in the end, it would basically be giving her harder work to keep her from being bored just to pretty much get her through to high school.

I didn't go to the school board with a "give me what I want or I'm keeping her home" kind of attitude, but knew in my heart that although putting her ahead a grade (with modifications for her advanced language arts and way advanced math) was the best-case scenario, keeping her home was really the only acceptable alternative. Going back to the same kids, in the same grade, and dealing with all the same things while being pulled out of class and set apart as "the smart kid" wasn't going to do her any favours.

I could do her own personalized program at home, without the added stress. I also hoped we'd be able to get her ahead in an accredited sort of way with the intention of putting her in high school (grade9) when she was old enough (next fall). That's what brings me to today.

I had been directed to talk to the principal at the high school about placing her in the appropriate math class. She's technically in grade 8 this fall, but we pretty much completed the grade 10 Math curriculum last year. I figured taking gr.10 math would be a great way to assimilate her back into a classroom environment (she knows the material, so it wouldn't be overwhelming), and that it would really solidify the curriculum content before moving on to the more advanced math. The principal was very nice, but had never dealt with this type of situation. After stating that she'd end up with much older kids if she was allowed to move ahead (again with that darned peer group thing), he thought it best to get direction from the new SHS.

Well, this morning I talked with the SHS to see if something could be worked out. Our school division offers distance education courses, so I asked if that would be a possibility if everyone was so concerned about her being in a classroom full of older kids. That idea wouldn't be considered because she would have to be registered as a student at the high school (which apparently is impossible).

After much frustration at trying to get our mutual points across (and yes, I cried, but that's what I do when I'm frustrated - lame, I know, but I'm sure my mom and sisters are laughing right now - it's so me, haha), he decided to direct the principal of the high school to let her challenge the grade 9 final exam to see where she's at, and to challenge the grade 10 final instead of allowing her into the class (after expressing concern that she's been out of school for so long that it would be bad to move too far ahead, even though he knows we plan on placing her in school next fall). And he only allowed this much because he acknowledged that it would open up extra credits for her to take later in school, which "might be beneficial to her".

He did suggest that she get involved with robotics or something to use her math skills. While that would definitely be right up my 10 year old son's alley (oh, and how!), I told him that she doesn't care about using the skills, she just wants them to get her to where she needs to go. Just because it comes so easily doesn't mean it actually interests her that much. I don't even care if she pursues the AP math once the regular stuff is out of the way. He seemed genuinely surprised to hear that.

So, anyway, rant aside, I'm hoping that this "compromise" leads to something good. I plan on writing the SHS a letter to better explain my views of the situation (he phoned me out of the blue this morning, so I didn't have any notes prepared or anything). Besides, I do much better if I can put it in writing - big surprise there. :)

You know, I wonder sometimes why I put myself through all of this. I'm not a pushy parent. I don't much like confrontation, and I don't enjoy adding stress to my life*. But if I don't do it, nobody else will, and I've got an amazing young woman here that deserves to be her own happy self while getting the education she needs. I know all too well that the current system is hard on lots of students, but for someone like her who enjoys it, and loves to learn, there should be no reason for her to have to go through all of this.

All I've heard since the beginning of this long process are professions of "we want to do what's best for her". When I got off the phone with the SHS this morning, she said "I'm starting to feel like it's a crime to be smart". She didn't think anything bad when she said that (if you knew her, you'd understand). It was just an observation, a statement of fact - and she's not wrong.

It's never been seen as a good thing. Nobody at school (nor the school division) has ever encouraged her to move forward, and they certainly haven't facilitated it. Is that what's best for her? Makes a person wonder what book they're taking a page out of when you give them a perfectly happy, wonderfully eager, intelligent child - and they break them.

I don't regret taking her out of school. Not for a second. It might be a bit of a headache for me to deal with the bureaucracy, and it might be hard to fight for a positive outcome, and it might make me cry (so embarrassing) - who knows but that I was put on earth for such a time as this?

I may not be saving the world, but I can certainly try to keep hers from crashing down.

After all, what else is a mother for?

Besos.

*Says the woman who is trying to write books and get them published in a tough market...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Maybe it'll help to complain

It seems like forever since I've complained about those crickets in my inbox. And yes, my mother has taught me that it's not nice to whine, but here I am, doing it anyway. Sorry mom. :) I mean, I know people are busy and sometimes even like to take holidays, and I totally understand - I do! I'd just love to hear from someone...anyone! I don't even mind so much if it's a no, just give me something!

Okay, so I mind a teensy bit if it's a no, but it's sooo much harder when I hear nothing! Particularly on those partials that are so very exciting to send out, and yet so much harder to wait to hear back on.

But, I'm trying to look at the bright side. I mean, at least I'm getting requests. That's really something to be thankful for. Besides, it's not like I don't have anything else going on right now. There's the the home schooling outline I've still need to hand in for #1 (oops - note to self: finish the darn thing already and take it in!), and the kitchen to clean because I didn't have enough energy to do it yesterday (recovering from a throat infection - yay, me!). Oh, and of course there's the yet to be conquered mountain of summer laundry*; though truthfully, that thing never dies.

And what about my super top sekrit work-in-progress? Yeah...slow going with school starting up, but hopefully I'll be back at it on a more consistent basis in another week or so. Last night I actually came up with the perfect way to tell the story, resolved a major plot issue, AND I wrote the query letter so I'm pretty excited to get back at it.

Yeah, that's right. I have the letter all ready to send off to agents for when I finish the actual book. For those of you that have written a query letter, you know how hard it can be to make it good...and this one is VERY. GOOD. (Well, I can't exactly test it out on agents until I've got the book ready, but I think it's awesomely awesome.)

Okay, so now that I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at the stuff that's on my plate, maybe it's not so bad that those agents haven't had time to get back to me yet...

Well, I'm off to tackle the kitchen before it mutates into something really scary.

Besos.

*But hey, at least I finally got the suitcases unpacked from my cousin's wedding in June. That's something, right?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Plotting vs. Pantsing...and National Lampoon

Fiction Groupie added another category to the plotter-pantser debate. The Clark Griswold. Her post is funny and informative. Go check it out here.

Besos!

Oh, and my method of writing is totally Clark Griswold. I thought I was just a pantser, since I had nothing else to choose, but his way of best-intention planning is so me. Er, in writing only. I like to think I've got it a bit more together in real life*. You know, where it really matters if a car blows up or whatever.

*I hope.

We hold these truths to be self-evident...

That naps are very, very good.

Very.

Besos!

*I mean no disrespect to the Declaration of Independence. This is just the first thing that popped into my head. Honest.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

I really, really love my kids

What else are you supposed to tell yourself when you're cleaning out the throw-up bucket and you want nothing more than to fall into bed because you're dead tired but you know it's going to be a really, really long night?

I sure wish I had gotten that nap in earlier. I tried, but it just wasn't happening. Why is it that whenever I actually feel like I can fall asleep, something usually gets in the way?

Not that #4 is trying to interfere with my rem cycle, but still. Is it too much to ask for some cooperation from lame-o Evil Body Clock? Sheesh. Of all the nights for it to function properly.

It's so not fair.

Besos...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chaos Theory

Ever have one of those days? You know, the kind where you feel like you've been on the go from the second your feet hit the floor? And then you sit down and see that your living room is a complete disaster...and every other room looks like a tornado must've surely hit while you were out running errands or throwing in yet another load of laundry - and you wonder just what you did all day long?

Not to mention the loving husband who works so hard out in the "real world", who comes home to said disaster-stricken area and assumes you must've been lounging on the couch eating bonbons whilst watching wrappers, paper, clothes and dishes multiply and replenish...

Can I just say that I very strongly dislike those kinds of days? Nothing makes me feel like more of a failure as an at-home mom. I mean, sure, I have good days too, but they're sooo much harder to remember when staring at the aftermath of busy family life!

I was thinking how that's a lot like writing a novel. Some days it comes together, with everything in its proper place. But there are days (oh, and how!) when bits and pieces of character and plot are strewn across the pages, and you wonder how it all got to be that way (and how in the world you can possibly fix the mess).

You feel like a failure as a writer, because if you were any good, the story wouldn't be in such disarray!

But...once you start to shift things a little this way, or that, you quite often find that it starts to make sense. You get a clearer picture of what's working and what's not. That's when you find hidden gems in the story.

I have a theory. I shall call it my Chaos Theory*. These messes are a necessity (I can sense my husband smacking his forehead and shaking his head right about now). Without them, we would never devise new and exciting ways of solving our problems. Whether the problem requires new shelving or a new sub-plot, the chaos often breeds something very good.

Unless it's an old piece of fruit under the couch. That just breeds mould. Which is, um, the opposite of good.

Besos!

*Hmm, sounds familiar...sure hope there's no copyright on that.