Category Archives: education/enrichment/career

Common Core math makes no sense! Common Core is stupid! Or, maybe not.

Give yourself a random, fairly complex subtraction problem in your head… say, 430 – 282 = ? Pay attention to how you do it. No cheating, no using scratch paper. You have to do it in your head. Got your answer? OK, read on… we’ll talk about the answer in a minute.

This image has been making its rounds on Facebook and the interwebs. It’s reportedly an assignment given to a second or third grader teaching some crazy, newfangled, nonsensical math that is dictated by the Common Core. Isn’t the Common Core horrible? This makes no sense! Not even the kid’s engineer parent can understand it!!


Wow, that parent really let the educational system have it! I mean, if he or she can’t understand the way they’re teaching basic math on a grade 2 or 3 level even though s/he’s an engineer and can do differential equations, it must be worthless and just make no sense, right? Why are they screwing up our kids’ brains?! OH THE EVIL COMMON CORE HAS DONE THIS TO US!

Or…. maybe not.

See, there are very solid educational foundations to the approach pictured. We were never taught this way in school, because our curriculum focused entirely on ‘the way we’ve always done it’ and solely on ‘math we can build on to teach things like differential equations later’. So this is new, and it has a purpose. This fosters the ability to do this sort of math problem in our heads. That’s what us educator types like to call “critical thinking” – it’s teaching a kid to be able to do the math entirely in her head. Isn’t that kind of awesome? That way she doesn’t have to take out a piece of paper and write out the problem as the engineer did in this photo. Some of us have taught that to ourselves on our own, not really realizing that we did it. But often it didn’t click until way later – high school or college, and until then we fumble with those sorts of numbers unless we can write the problem down. Sometimes the skill to compute in our brains doesn’t click at all, and you’ve seen that, any time you confuse a cashier with a weird amount. This sort of math lesson teaches more hands-on and everyday skills. All of this so that hopefully in 10-15 years, when kids exposed to this ‘new math’ are old enough to hold jobs, when you hand a cashier $21.26 to pay a $16.16 total, you don’t get that blank deer in headlights stare. This sort of math, and various other strategies our kids will learn, are much more appropriate than sticking ONLY to the approach we were taught as kids… which is still taught as a foundation. That good-ol’-way of doing it hasn’t been abandoned, for goodness sake. But for a kid who might not go to college, let alone need to do differential equations, this is a much more useful tool to take into the workforce.

And as for blaming Common Core…

Common Core does not dictate any specific curriculum or approach. For grade 3, for example, Common Core standards simply say: “Fluently add and subtract within 1000 using strategies and algorithms based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction.”  This builds on “Add and subtract within 1000, using concrete models or drawings and strategies based on place value, properties of operations, and/or the relationship between addition and subtraction; relate the strategy to a written method. Understand that in adding or subtracting three-digit numbers, one adds or subtracts hundreds and hundreds, tens and tens, ones and ones; and sometimes it is necessary to compose or decompose tens or hundreds.” from the grade 2 learning standards. Common Core, as you may be aware – or maybe not – is ONLY a broad list of learning standards that students are expected to meet by the end of each grade level. It does not dictate curriculum, it does not dictate specific content. It did not make this teacher use this specific worksheet.

Too bad this engineer doesn’t have a degree in education or he might appreciate all that.

(That math problem I gave… did you do it? When you do it in your head you’re not borrowing, are you? And I’ll bet you don’t start at the ones place and work your way up. You were never taught to do it like that in school, I’ll bet. You taught that to yourself, or perhaps a crafty parent taught you. There’s no logical reason why kids can’t be taught those strategies in school. They can look weird on paper but they make a lot of sense in your head.)


Short term plans – school and glasses

Wednesday is my first day of classes.  As you may recall, I’m going back to school to get certified to teach high school business.  I have class just one day a week, for like 5.5 hours.  It should be fun, and interesting, and ok, maybe a little scary to be going back to school after a decade. 

My in-laws are going on vacation for a month soon.  For the last, oh, three years, my mother in-law has bitched and complained that she hates her drinking glasses.  However, because she is frugal and resistant to change and maybe just a little bit crazy, she refuses to get rid of the glasses she hates because “there’s nothing WRONG with them.”  I bought them a set of nice glasses at Macy’s the Christmas before last, and while they have yet to make an appearance, they also weren’t returned, as I discovered the box at the back of their hall closet recently.  I assume this means they like the glasses, but since the ones they hate are still “fine” they simply haven’t put them into commission yet.  Well.  I have a plan.  While they are on vacation I am going to kidnap all the glasses they hate, and populate their drinking glass cabinet with the new glasses from Macy’s.  Maybe I’ll even leave a note from the old glasses, saying they’ve gone on to better things and they will miss their old home.

In other news, my garden is a pretty decent success this year, which for me is saying a LOT.  I had built raised beds in the spring, and almost everything in them is doing fairly well.  I had a little patch of corn that all came down with a fungus called “corn smut” which sounds way more fun than it really is.  All my corn kernels got crazy huge and popcorn-looking, but greyish black.  The intertubes tell me this fungus is a delicacy in Mexico, where they cook it into quesadillas, but like many so-called “delicacies” I will leave it to the natives.  My corn smut got cut down and dumped into our back woods for the groundhogs to feast upon.  Besides the corn failure, however, the garden has been productive.  I’ve made a couple batches of salsa and pasta sauce from my tomatoes, my peppers are actually giving me peppers, my herbs are mostly thriving, and I even have a few watermelon and butternut squash that have set and are getting visibly bigger on a daily basis. 

I have one bed dedicated to scallions, carrots, and radishes, and those are…. OK.  The carrots aren’t getting much bigger than babies, but they are sweet and yummy if not prolific.  The scallions are fine, but the radishes haven’t done much except grow lots of leaves.   A few gave me a decent bulb, but whatever.  I don’t particularly like radishes, I only grow them because they are fun and quick.  Oh, I added a couple rows of broccoli in place of some radishes but that’s just at the seedling stage right now.

And still pregnant.  🙂  I’m in my 20th week, which means I’m halfway through the pregnancy right now.

These balls, they are in the air

Lots going on, but what else is new?

Got consulting work to do, which will have me camped out in front of the computer for a good week.  I also have a wedding to shoot tomorrow, which is always fun, but I always get a case of the butterflies before that.

I’m also coaching my daughter’s tee ball team!  This is my first foray into head coaching — I did some assistant coaching for a boys’ youth basketball team in college.  So far it’s been fun.  The parents have all been great, and VERY complimentary (most express disbelief at my patience and energy).  Our team is the Sea Lions, so I’ve found whenever I feel a bit annoyed, I yell to the team “What’s our name?”  and they all yell “THE SEA LIONS!!”  Then I yell, “What sound does a sea lion make?”  and they all go “ARR ARR ARRR!” in that sea-liony sort of way.  It’s hilarious.  I’ve also taken on a mission to make after-practice treats a new experience for them.  Yesterday, I gave out candy buttons.  Remember those — the little dry dots of candy stuck to paper?  Most kids had never seen them, and were wide-eyed at the idea of it.  (Even a couple parents asked to have some!!)

And a big bit of news is that I was accepted to grad school to get my teaching certification, so that’s exciting!  Frank’s on board with the pursuit, so I have to send in my intent-to-enter paperwork.  I also have a couple undergrad courses I have to take to round out my general education requirements (part of the state’s certification requirements, not the school’s) – just a couple basic English courses – one literature, one composition.  I’d taken one lit class in college but I need 9 total English credits, at least 3 being comp.  Not a big deal, and they’ll be fun to take, I hope.  And I can do them at the local community college, for which I’ve maintained a continual state of acceptance in case I ever wanted to take a course or two.  No rush to get them done, as I have until my graduate program is complete (which going part time may take 2-3 years; I want to time it so that I’m not student teaching until Jake’s in kindergarten, so that gives me two school years to do the course work part.  Hopefully it will all work out exactly as I have it planned in my fat noggin).

I’m feeling good this week, though.  Mostly because the kids and I have established a new routine.  Lane and I had been sort of in a bad cycle of staying up too late, and waking up too late.  So we talked and agreed on an earlier bedtime, so that we could get up earlier, eat a leisurely breakfast first thing, and take our time getting dressed and to the bus stop.  This week it’s worked out great.  No yelling in the mornings, no rushing… it’s been setting a good template for the rest of our respective days, I think.  Must keep it up!

As for the whole pregnancy thing, still nothing happening there, but my body seems to behaving better (periods acting a bit more normal and all) so it could happen, maybe.  If it did, it would mess with the upcoming plans for school a bit, but oh well.  🙂

That which was no fun at all

I went through that crazy period of time where I just wasn’t feeling very well.  My doctor had put me on one course of antibiotics, which helped a great deal but didn’t get me to 100% awesomeness.  After a while, I paid her another visit.  She was sympathetic, and gave me a prescription for a super-duper antibiotic, with instructions that I didn’t need it.  Now.  But if, without really getting 100% better, I got worse, I would have it to fill and wouldn’t have to visit her again.

Well, I got mostly better.  Never really shook a sniffle, but I felt better than I had for quite a while.

Then Friday…. I woke up with a touch of a sore throat.  Kinda like you get if you sleep in a weird position with your mouth open.  But then by mid-afternoon, I was definitely not feeling well.  Took a rest on the couch for awhile, woke up with a bit of a temperature.  Took it easy the rest of the day, took some Tylenol and went to bed early.

Woke up Saturday (at like 1:00 pm !!!) and swore someone must have shoved glass down my throat while I was sleeping.  Managed to look at my tonsils and they were coated in white puss.  Fever got up near 102.  I was alternating between violent chills and sweating spells.  Lightheaded, nauseated, and slightly delirious, I called my doctor, to sort of realize she’s a one-doctor office, and she’s not there on Saturday afternoons.  Explored options for urgent care clinics in my area.  There’s a good pediatric one, but they only take patients up to 21 years old.  Called the two they mentioned, but neither was open, which seemed odd and made me realize they were less of “urgent care” and more of “walk-in because you don’t have insurance and a regular general practitioner”.  Waiting until Monday wasn’t an option, and the very thorough symptom checker at the Mayo Clinic web site left me convinced that since I could check off just about every strep throat symptom, plus lacking normal signs of a cold or the flu, that strep was a reasonable conclusion, and I sent Frank to fill that prescription that had laid in wait in my purse for three weeks.  He also got me lots of yogurt and probiotic supplements to counteract any antibiotic-related digestive ills, sweet man.

Saturday evening I thought I was going to die.  Not only was my throat completely raw, but I felt like every time I dozed off that I stopped breathing, and I would jerk awake in a panic.  My breathing was labored, or so I felt… I asked Frank to pay close attention and he said it didn’t seem like I was working very hard to breathe (meaning I didn’t seem to be having trouble) and that when I did doze off, I was breathing then, too.  I wanted to go to the bathroom but felt too lightheaded to walk and made Frank walk with me.  I was convinced my lips would be blue from lack of oxygen, but they looked fine.  I looked quite flush and healthy right then, actually, which just wigged me out more.  I decided I was more delirious and just went to bed.  For 12 hours.

Sunday, more general miserableness, but I actually ate (but only motivated by taking antibiotics and needing to take them on a full stomach).

Monday, more humanness returned, but going up the stairs in our house made me want to take a nap. I cooked a simple dinner (something my mom made all the time when I was a kid… I obviously was in need of some comfort!)

Today, finally, almost normal.  Still pretty tired and worn-out feeling, but my throat has only a smidge of a hint of hurting.

I do NOT want to do that again, thank you very much.

In other, more interesting and less grody news, my application for school is complete, and is part-way through the review process.  My contact at the admissions department is super cool and is keeping me apprised.  My coursework has all been reviewed for proper content (I don’t have the results yet — don’t know if I have any catch-up to do in the general education area, but I’m very confident I have enough business coursework for the content area) and is now just awaiting the final review to decide if I’m “in”.  So that’s cool, and nerve-wracking.

Just too much

Do you ever get to the point where you’re not sure how much more you can take?

It’s not all bad, just stress-inducing.  But some of it’s bad.

I’ve been sick for the last month.  It started while we were at Disney in February (did I even mention that here?  Well, we went, it was awesome, had a great time.)  Got worst on the trip home, and went to the doctor’s and was put on antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection.  They helped, but I’ve been in various states of general unwell since then.  Never quite enough for another course of antibiotics (though I was given a prescription to hold onto just in case) but lots of coughing and trouble sleeping until finally a few days ago I slept 11 hours one night, plus took a 4 hour nap the next day, and then slept 9 hours the next two nights, and I’m finally feeling mostly human.

Just as I got what I hope is permanently better, Lane came down with a bug and had a 101-degree fever yesterday.

There’s the whole hopefully going back to school and waiting to find out if I am accepted mini-drama, upon which I decided to pile the mini-drama of maybe getting a job.

And, the whole question of will I get pregnant, how much do I want to, and how much am I willing to go through to make it happen if it doesn’t on its own?

Frank’s studying is gearing up because he has an exam in about six weeks.

And, the biggest and worst news of all, my friend Kate is sick.  Really sick.  She came to visit me in early February, during which I took pregnancy portraits of her, which came out just lovely and we had a very nice visit… it was so nice to see her and our kids all got along great.  Then a couple weeks ago she had her baby, and it went downhill for Kate… bad infection, surgeries to remove the infection (which has been characterized as flesh-eating) and currently she’s still not “out of the woods” as they say.  She is almost fully sedated in the ICU on a ventilator, while her baby is in another hospital in the NICU with jaundice.  They are far enough away, and I think have enough help on hand that there’s really little I can do.  My heart is just aching for Kate and her whole family.  I simply can’t imagine a world with Kate not in it, she is witty and kind and thoughtful beyond belief, and a great friend to everyone lucky enough to have her in their life.  She better pull through.  She has to.

Am I brain-damaged?!

Still not pregnant.  Slightly frustrated, not sure I want to throw in the towel.  Really would love to have another baby, not sure if it would crush me if I didn’t.  We’ll see what happens.

Pretty settled to go back to school.  The application to my school of choice is nearly complete, and hopefully I won’t have to fulfill too many gen ed requirements in addition to the education coursework.  And, hopefully I’ll get accepted!!  One of my photography clients is actually also a certified business teacher and she thinks the certification is a good move… that the business teachers out there are largely not certified to teach business, so to have that certification is a definite asset in job hunting.  Cool.

So why, when CareerBuilder shot me an email from an old notification I’d set up, of a company looking for an HRIS & HR Metrics Manager (what I did when I worked full-time), did I decide to update and submit my résumé?   Why did I do the phone interview?  And why, when that went really well, did I accept the offer of an in-person interview on Thursday?

It’s a job right in the city, which means a long commute (but at least, one I could do via public transit) but the job sounds interesting, it’s for an interesting company (media & broadcasting type stuff) and I know from the phone interview it would be pretty lucrative — like perhaps making-more-than-my-husband lucrative.

But… I’m pretty set on this going-back-to-school-for-teaching thing.

Ugh, I am my own worst enemy!

At the very least, I’ll go to the interview, and see what happens.  Perhaps I won’t get an offer.   Perhaps the benefits and vacation time won’t be adequate.  Or perhaps I take it, and only work a few months… though I dislike the idea of that, in terms of general honorableness and stuff.


I’m getting really bad at this, aren’t I?

Anyway, here are my general goings-on:

My photography business is going well.  My last two jobs – a sweet sixteen party and a portrait session with five kids under five – both mentioned wanting me to work for them again in the future.  That makes me so happy, that these people are happy enough with my work (and with me) that they want to give me more of their money to have fun taking pictures.  I can dig it!  I have a wedding to photograph tomorrow, which should be fun and is in a lovely location.  It’s just a touch less pressure because the couple actually is already married – they tied the knot about a month ago for technical reasons.  So tomorrow’s just for fun and show for their friends and family.  The bride and groom are both older, and most of his family won’t be there (he’s from very very far away) so the posed formals of the whole thing (by far my least favorite part of weddings) will be very low-key and relaxed and focused mostly on the bride and groom.  The only thing I’m really not looking forward to is that I’m sick right now.  Not crazy feverish or anything, but feeling kinda stuffy and with a tickly throat and feeling very, very run down.  I foresee fueling myself with cold medicine and coffee tomorrow.

Lane’s doing really well in kindergarten.  We had our first parent-teacher conference and we heard how her skills are all really far along, and (more importantly to me) that she is a real pleasure to have in class.  I can officially say she’s reading.  We laid all the building blocks for her, and something about school just helped her put it all together and she can read straight through some of the simpler Dr. Seuss books now.  She’s started taking *very* informal piano lessons and likes them. 

Jake is just such a boy now.  He was watching Little Bear on Noggin today and just laughing in a very amused way at very appropriate parts and it just struck me that he’s a kid now.  Not my baby anymore!  Though I wish someone would tell that to him when he insists on nursing.  I still mostly don’t mind but where Lane was more laid-back about scaling back or shortening sessions, Jake will have none of it.  Oh well, he’s only little like this once.

Frank and I are talking about another baby.  Gluttons for punishment, no?  😀  It’s funny though… for a long time I’d bring up the subject and he was very noncommittal about talking about a baby.  Very recently though, something’s changed.  He’s more into it now.  I wish he’d be more forthcoming with his affirmation, rather than me having to infer it from his intense concern that I get the H1N1 vaccine in case I get pregnant.  Though it may be a while in coming, as I and my (new, feels like a great fit!) midwife are both pretty sure I’m not ovulating, and we’re trying to figure out why through myriad tests, including an ultrasound of my lady parts that I have to schedule.

Frank, in actuarial matters, took one of the FSA exams a couple weeks ago, and he’ll find out if he passed in January.  In the meantime, he got ahold of the syllabus for the other FSA exam and he’s started studying for that one.  Each of the FSA exams is only offered once a year, but not at the same time.  So the first one was offered in October, and the other one will be offered end of April.  So… you either focus on one and only take an exam once a year (and have to wait a whole year if you don’t pass the first time) or you split your focus on both of them so you’re always working toward an exam that isn’t more than a few months away.  Not to say Frank’s definitely chosen one approach over the other, he’s just in limbo right now, not knowing if he passed, with an exam coming up in April.  So I think he’s optimistically going to start studying for that one, hoping he passed the exam he just took.  If he finds out he failed the exam, I imagine he’ll switch back to studying for that one.  I know this seems a sort of weird subject to dedicate a big ol’ blog paragraph towards, but our lives sort of revolve around exams and the time Frank needs to study for them.  Plans are put on hold in favor of studying.  Our friends have largely forgotten what we look like.  However, we ARE taking two vactions in the next few months!  In addition to the week we’ll spend in Buffalo for the holidays, we are going to Disney world in mid-February, and Aruba in April.   I kind of hope I can make those trips pregnant.  🙂