Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Strip search?!!! I think not!

When my sons were in Kindergarten, they had quite the absentee record because of sickness, and I was constantly pressured to send them to school unless they had a fever. One day after my son had been home for a couple of days, I sent him to school with cough drops. Halls, to be exact. I mentioned to his teacher to remind him to take them in case he started coughing, which he was doing frequently. She had a minor fit, and informed me that I had to take them to the school nurse for dispensing. I thought that was pretty silly and made the use of cough drops a moot point, but I did as she directed.

I never got the cough drops back, and my son didn't get any. Maybe the school nurse had a party and served them as refreshments? For the record, I still don't consider cough drops to be medicine.

Did anyone else ever take Ibuprofen to school and keep it in their locker? Midol? According to today's rules, we would have been breaking school rules. I kept them in my hall locker AND PE locker. Double jeopardy! We all did it though. Most girls that I knew had something on hand for cramps, maybe in a locker, maybe in a purse.

I cannot imagine having to undergo a strip search to be sure I didn't have Ibuprofen on my person like this girl in Arizona (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/04/19/ST2009041902665.html).

Normally, the conclusions that school officials must have the leeway to make sure the school was a safe facility is reasonable. But a strip search because of another girl's accusation? The "drugs" they were searching for was Ibuprofen, people. Not what most people would call contraband. Even if it was contraband, there are certain legal procedures that should be followed. If schools are exempt from the law, what can't they do?!

Here's is another homeschooler's take on this situation (http://www.justenoughblog.com/?p=1460).

I remember dreading jr. high PE because of my sister's tales of having to take group showers. What degradation to have to shower with at least 10 other girls at a time. I have serious issues with that, and that was before the gay and lesbian culture came to the forefront. That was a contributing reason to why we weren't required to shower when I got to the same school. That issue wasn't taken into consideration for the 8th grader either. The sheer intimidation and degradation present by requiring the girl to strip in front of two fully-clothed women who were standing and watching her closely is uncalled for in a civilized society. It takes the girl's humanity down to that of an animal's. My dog will take a dump in front of you with nary a thought of it; is that where we want our society to go?

To think that this came from a "friend's" accusation that she had such a horrible, addicting drug and was sharing it with a friend. (heavy on the sarcasm here, folks) They found Ibuprofen in her notebook but none elsewhere. There was no cause for the strip search. Have you ever shared Ibuprofen with a friend? I have. Shame on me for wanting to help a friend. But the concern named is nuts (see the second paragraph specifically):

The law has long given school officials special leeway to search lockers and backpacks to enable them to better protect students in their care. Instead of "probable cause" -- the standard law enforcement officers must abide by when conducting criminal searches -- schools need only show "reasonable suspicion" that a student has violated the law or the rules of the school to justify a search. A more intrusive search, the Supreme Court has ruled, requires that schools show that it was "justified at its inception" and "reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place." In rebuking Savana's school, the 9th Circuit departed from this sensible Supreme Court standard and issued a decision that would make it much harder for school employees to justify searches. The court also gave its blessing for Savana to go forward with her lawsuit against the vice principal.

The Supreme Court should strike down the lower-court ruling. School officials must have the flexibility to act quickly and decisively to avert all manner of danger. Fear of being sued for making reasonable if controversial judgment calls will only chill these efforts.

This is fear run amock. Heaven help us if our court system does not protect our children.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Computer-aided learning from A&O

We did it. We took the leap to computer-based education. I purchased Alpha and Omega's Switched on Schoolhouse, at least for Language Arts, History and Geography (which will wait until we finish the Middle Ages), and Science. That brings our total of computer subjects up to four with Teaching Textbooks' math curriculum, which I love!

It has gotten harder and harder to sync up all the kids' schedules for each subject so I've stopped trying. The good part, though, is that other subjects that I have ignored because it was too much work will get picked up. They don't have to be done all together. Things like copywork and memorization. My next purchase will be a Reading Journal for me to record sayings, poems, and the like that would make good memorization pieces. I think a glitzy looking notebook should stand out tolerably well so my boys don't use it!

Another big, huge, gigantic plus is that it keeps track of time---wonderful because Missouri tracks by hours, not days. I absolutely hate the record keeping requirements here. They are miserable. It also gives the kids immediate feedback on their work---essential for optimal learning but so difficult to achieve even for homeschoolers. Last, it grades most of the work for me. I procrastinated grading papers even when I taught at Logan High so that's obviously a toughie for me. What's not to like?!

To make it even better, the software has been upgraded to Windows Vista, and is on 20 percent sale right now. Check out this supplier at http://www.agdistribution.com/Defaulthome.aspx. Their customer service is excellent. I had several questions before buying, and they were answered within the hour.

For more detailed information about the topics studied in a given year, you will need to go to Alpha and Omega's website where they have full listings. (AG Distribution sent me the link.) They also have a diagnostic exam if you aren't sure what grade to use. You can purchase a full battery of exams for each grade and course from AG Distribution or you can use the free ones from A & O for Language Arts and Math. I almost skipped a grade based on the test, but another mom advised me not to because the coursework builds on what was covered the previous year. She also told me there are some Yahoo support groups that are invaluable.

So now we wait for delivery, free as long as ground was acceptable. (It was.)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Web-based learning software review

I just signed up one of my boys for Time4Learning.com. I'm interested in the Language Arts program, but I'm not sure this is the right fit. He has given the thumbs up on it (based on 15 minutes usage), and it seems to be a good fit for him but I am still unsure. They give a 14-day trial period, and we'll probably use about half that before I decide for sure.

Pros and cons:

Pro: This program offers Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and Science. It also keeps track of the child's progress, alleviating the need for the parent to keep track of it.

Pro: It is colorful and fun looking, appealing to kids, hopefully attracting them to do their work without argument. :-)

Pro: You have access to all grades at once so if your child moves quickly or if you picked the wrong level, you can change the level without further cost.

Pro: We can easily take schoolwork with us on vacation as long as we have internet access. Built in con: We'll need to take a wireless router with us=more expense.

Pro: My son likes it.

Con: I think it is an expensive program. You pay a monthly fee to access the web-based program rather than buying it outright. The first child is $20 a month, and additional children are $16 apiece each month. You also have to buy into the whole thing rather than picking just one subject. Compare that to Alpha and Omega Publications, where you pay just $62 for each subject area/grade or $300 for all five subjects (Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Math, and Bible).

Con: I have already selected Teaching Textbooks for our Math studies and am very happy with it. Another pricey program (although less if you don't opt to buy the workbooks, which are unnecessary IMO in the elementary grades.) Mitigates the benefit of Time4Learning. Since I'm not looking to replace our history studies, that leaves Science, but I am looking at using Janice VanCleave's books for that---so that's a lot of $$$ for just one subject.

Con: Less face-to-face time and more competition for the computer. I'm not sure that is a good thing. Scratch that. I don't think that is a good thing. It also means we need to buy more seats on NetNanny to cover multiple computers so I can relax about accidental exposure to things better done without (and eliminate the competition for one computer.) How's that for a never-ending sentence?

Decision: I'm going to drop the subscription. The interface is friendly, but I need to have more face time with my kids since that's a big reason I homeschool. Cost is also a big issue right now, and this program doesn't fit our budgetary concerns.