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Planet Smarty Pants



Playful Literature-based Activities, Nurturing Enthusiastic Thinkers through science, mart, art, and games. Resources for parents of gifted learners and parents and caregivers interested in STEM education.



Updated: 2017-12-14T13:37:18.186-08:00

 



School Choices for the Next Year

2017-12-12T17:07:38.377-08:00

Smarty dropped the "B-bomb" on us the other day. When we cuddled before bed, she said, "I really wish I didn't have to go to school. I like Maker's Lab and PE, but most subjects are boring. They are too easy for me." And just like that, the discussions on what we want to do for the next year came back on.What Options Are Out There?Obviously, there is an obvious path to stick with our magnet middle school for another year and move to a local public high school. It's not an awful school, and our neighbors are mostly happy with it. But... after 7 years of public schools I am so tired and disillusioned - tired of practically begging for what my daughter needs and disillusioned that she will get what she needs without us having to ask for it. Also, our high school district is happily joining the race to the bottom by eliminating honors programs and having AP classes available only to juniors and seniors. Ostensibly, this is done to "reduce stress". In reality, it is mostly done to "close the achievement gap", keep everyone in the same "track" and eliminate the need for higher track classes and teachers. This is why we are also looking at other options.Our area certainly has some competitive college prep private schools, and even a gifted school. However, the price tag of a gifted school is $40K a year, which makes it unacceptable to us. Many other schools are religious, and Smarty is dead set against going to a religious school (lately, she concedes that she might consider it if there are no better choices available). Yesterday, we went to see the only school that was on our "short list" for a possible switch in the 8th grade - a very small secular school within 10 minutes drive from our home.There are pros and cons about this school and its size. The pro is that with less than 100 students between grades 6 to 12, each student can get personalized attention and a fairly personalized education. Students are grouped by ability and not by grade, which can be wonderful for Smarty. The school prides itself on everyone going to college and working with each student individually on college preparation. Each class is specifically designed to have no more than 12 students in it and conducted in a seminar manner. The concern is that the teachers "double teach" several classes and, if Smarty does not connect to someone, there is no escape except leaving school altogether. The same applies to friends - she might have more academically minded kids in this school, but it does not mean that she will "click" with them and the pool to choose from will be significantly smaller.Despite this concern, yesterday we were very excited about this option and wanted Smarty to come to this school come for shadowing. But today our friend shared some negative reviews from a recent graduate - mostly related to the school climate. Basically, the school makes money by accepting international students and organizing visas for them. According to this graduate, these international kids are not treated fairly and live in fear of losing their visa status. This is a big red flag to us, but most likely we will still send Smarty over to shadow students in January and get her impression. Then we might have another frank discussion with a headmaster about how this school operates before we decide whether it remains on our shortlist. Shopping for schools is both exciting and scary. Our first commitment is to Smarty's mental health. Interestingly, unlike many other kids, she craves challenge and competition to stay engaged in learning. Of course, the level of challenge and competition needs to stay healthy - this is why we are not considering another local school that prides itself on a very fast pace with enormous amounts of homework. Hopefully, we will find something that will be just right for Smarty.Your TurnAre you thinking of changing educational paths for your children?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



The Week in Review: December 9, 2017

2017-12-09T02:30:11.002-08:00

Highlights of the WeekWe started this week by celebrating my birthday - always a good time to count my blessings and reflect on the plans for the next year. Smarty was in a good mood, helpful and responsible all week - she has a lot going on socially and academically right now, and she seems to enjoy all the busyness that comes with her multiple projects. We are making good progress with our Christmas preparation - hopefully, by mid next week all the cards will be written, packages sent out, and we can relax and enjoy our time off.SchoolSchool is going well for Smarty - she still barely has any homework, so I was surprised when I spoke with another Mom from her grade, and she was complaining how much homework her daughter is getting in social studies. I asked Smarty about it, and she said that teachers always give them independent work time in class to do their assignments, but some kids choose to socialize instead. She was genuinely perplexed as to why these kids would rather spend more time at home doing work if they are in school anyway and could be just done with it. I only wish the same work ethics would translate into chores at home :)After SchoolThis week Smarty was very busy after school doing things with her friends and grade mates - she went skating on Tuesday, painted pots for school beautification project on Wednesday, and went to her classmate's house on Thursday to discuss a possible project. However, she was still working through some of Algebra 1 topics - we moved to Alcumus as a practice platform, and I promised her a treat at Yogurtland every time she moves to the next Alcumus level in algebra. This is pretty motivating to her, so she is trying hard to get through tricky topics of advance systems of equations and inverse proportions. We are getting close to quadratic equations when I will finally get to do some teaching, since it's going to be a completely new area for her.What My Child Is ReadingDisclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, and this post contains Amazon affiliate links.Smarty flew through Magemother series by Austin J. Bailey in a couple of days - mostly Sunday and Monday. We know when the book is good - it's when Smarty does not respond to anything and is not interested in any sort of activity until she finishes it. Apparently, this series is that good. We got an entire series on Kindle during Black Friday Kindle book sales, so I might read it one day too.Favorite Memory of the WeekI overheard this conversation between Smarty and her BFF at a skating rink,BFF: I really wish I had a sibling.Smarty (firmly): I don't want a sibling. I am happy to be an only child.BFF: But suppose I were your brother?Smarty: Well, yes, I would like to have you as a brother... as long as we still each get our alone time."Your TurnHow was your week?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



Math Assessment Results

2017-12-07T18:29:56.838-08:00

We finally got math assessment results from the tests Smarty took in the end of the first trimester. The question is now, where do we go from here?I have to start by saying that it pains me to always have to ask our school to do anything extra for Smarty. I envy parents and students in schools who take more proactive approach in supporting individual needs of their students. In our case, it took a meeting with the teacher and a meeting with a principal to just agree that our daughter needs an assessment to establish her true level of math understanding. Eventually, it was granted, and Smarty knocked out 10 assessment tasks (5 for 7th grade and 5 for 8th grade) in 2 days. These tasks are not simple calculations - each task is an extended word problem with multiple steps to be performed and explained. Interestingly, Smarty got 34 out of 40 points in 7th grade assessment and 34 out of 40 points in 8th grade assessment.We could not get a copy of her assessment, because the tasks themselves are "top secret", but Smarty's teacher left it for me to look over when I came in to teach my Math team. I could see looking through 7th grade assessment that she rushed through it. If she used a calculator (it was allowed) and checked her work, she would have probably received 38 or 39 points on it. 8th grade was more interesting to me as it clearly showed a gap in a specific topic - a gap that she will eventually need to close.Smarty said that her teacher went with her over the results and said that she did very well and her scores were the same as average scores of the graduates from the advanced program of our main middle school. It's rather amusing considering that she could be in the fifth grade right now based on her age. As it were, we need to decide what to do next to keep her challenged and learning.In the good news department, our administration finally woke up to the fact that students leaving STEAM school should have the same opportunity to accelerate as their counterparts in our mainstream non-STEAM school. It looks like this acceleration will be offered in the form of online curriculum even though I don't know at this point what this curriculum will actually cover and when the program will start. Our principal has mentioned in the last School Site Council that they are working with our high school district to ensure that it will accept the credit from an online program as a credit from the first year of high school before rolling it out. We are currently on the fence as to whether to wait for that to happen or insist on independent study now. On one hand, Smarty says that she would like an independent study on her level, on the other hand, she is still enjoying her math teacher and some of the activities in the classroom. For now, we have asked our math teacher to meet and discuss options and we hope that some sort of path forward will be found before the Christmas break.Your TurnIf your children go to a "brick-and-mortar" school, is it receptive to their needs?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



Beginnings of Social Life

2017-12-06T13:44:20.320-08:00

It's interesting to observe how Smarty's social life is evolving this year.Last year, Smarty was happy academically but struggling socially. No, she was not bullied or excluded. It was more that she was excluding herself and not willing to reach out to other kids. She also had a hard time working in groups, because she tends to be very task-oriented, and she had little patience with kids being off task during group work. At the same time, she was telling me that if they were given a chance to choose their group partners, she had to "hustle", because everyone else had their preferred partners except for a few floaters who were rejected by everyone as partners for various reasons, and she did not care to work with those kids either.While Smarty still made things work in school, she did not have much of a social life outside of it. Her former best friend "replaced" her with a new girl friend from his class, and they did not meet up as often outside school as they used to. They also did not have much contact in school, since he was still in elementary section while Smarty was in middle school section, and recess times did not overlap. She did go to school with the same group of kids, but their social relationship was on again off again. In an entire year, she was invited to a birthday party once (for her best friend), and she mostly spent time at home reading or playing on the computer.So far this year is going better for her socially. She is a lot more comfortable with the kids in her grade, and they are more comfortable with her. In first trimester, she was mostly able to choose her project partners, and she felt that the "give-and-take" of the projects was fair. She is learning that when teammates share an enthusiasm for the project and care about the outcome, working with others can be exciting and uplifting rather than stressful and exhausting. She still likes to "take over" as a leader, but she is getting better in listening to others and recognizing their strengths. In her recent robotics project, her partner did an actual robot building, and she did programming. Each brought their respective strengths to the project, which led to the teacher recognizing their particular project (it was an animatronic bird) as a sample that he wants to keep to show other classes. Smarty was delighted and admitted that she was not quite fair complaining about her partner's tendencies to spend a lot of time chatting with others rather than doing her job. Apparently, the other girl was perfectly able to do both her socialization and her work at the same time - something that Smarty is still struggling with.In other positive developments, now when her former BFF joined middle school, they got close again and get together at least twice a week for Minecraft play dates. Her BFF is profoundly gifted and very different in his interests from Smarty, but they are finally at the age when they are trying to see other's point of view and not just trying to push each other's buttons. I think they are learning a lot from each other discussing books, programming languages, and just hanging out together.Minecraft also brought Smarty closer to her walking group, because there is suddenly a topic where she can be a student and more experienced players can be teachers. Now she actually has to plan her time a lot more judiciously to coordinate her Minecraft play dates with different kids who all also have extracurricular activities. I even see her using her planner to write things down, which is like watching the hell freezing over right before your eyes.And this is not all. Now Smarty is getting involved in two more projects of her choice. She and another girl from her class decided to contribute to "campus beautification" by painting flower pots and planting "something" in them. She is putting in her own allowance money towards purchasing materials for this project. Also, her science teacher sent her and another student in her class a link to a NASA-sponsored competition, [...]



Birthday Reflections

2017-12-05T16:29:54.426-08:00

Last Sunday, I had my birthday. It's hard to believe that next year I will turn big fat 5-0. Here are some hopes that I have for this year of my life.Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, and this post contains Amazon affiliate links.This Year...I think I've been very blessed this year. My health was good, my hepatitis C confirmed cured, and my liver test looked boringly normal the last time I took it. We have invested into our house by remodeling our backyard, building a new deck, putting pavers in our driveway, and installing new copper pipes. We had a chance to travel visiting Southern California in spring and spending three weeks in Germany in summer. Smarty and I had a chance to see Cats on Broadway when we visited my parents. I  also had time and opportunity to contribute to some causes I feel passionate about by coaching a middle school Math Club in Smarty's school and by being actively involved in running Lyceum, our local association for gifted children. Finally, I also had a new experience of being laid off and having to look for a new job. Next Year...I am reading the book The 7 Minute Solution by Allyson Lewis, and it inspired me to think of what I really value most. In the book, there is an interesting exercise where she gives the readers of 75 value words and asks to pick and prioritize 10 values that are most important to you. And, yes, you are supposed to spend 7 minutes on this exercise :)After some reflection, here is my list:FamilyHealthFinancial SecurityPeace/Balance (cheating a little here :))JoyRelationshipsLearningContributingTravelNatureThe idea here is to set personal goals that would align with your values and then focus on these goals making sure that you do "micro-actions" every day to move yourself closer to them. So here are some of my goals for the next 90 days:Enjoy Christmas break with family - focus on family, relationship, and peace.Physical, dental, and vision check ups (once we get our new insurance) - focus on health.Get my Project Management Professional certification - focus on learning.Get taxes done early - focus on financial security.Go skiing - focus on travel, joy, and nature.Get new Lyceum website live - focus on contributing.Transition Math Club to new coaches - focus on contributing.Reorganize our garage - focus on peace/balance/family.This year will bring a lot of changes for our family with me working out of office again, but I hope that we will all rise to this challenge, and I hope that the year leading to big 5-0 will be a great year for me.Your TurnAre you thinking of your goals for an upcoming year?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



Middle School Dance 7th Grade

2017-12-04T13:30:02.072-08:00

Smarty's school had its first middle school dance of the year last Friday, and, to my relief, my tiny and young middle schooler had a blast.The dance was organized by the Leadership elective which has a mix of students in grades 6-8, and the topic was Under the Sea. We were sent a release form with some instructions including a definition of "freak dancing" which was not allowed. It amused me that "dancing front to front" was outlawed as "freak dancing". Basically, the only dance styles allowed were group dances. Not that it mattered anyway, because middle schoolers in Smarty's school are still in that awkward phase when they are afraid to touch each other... unless they are wrestling or playing tag or other active game. Also, suggested dress code was "casual", which explains why Smarty is wearing what she is wearing (initially, she wanted to come in a dress).Leadership team set the ticket price to be $3 - mostly to cover materials used in decorations and props for the photo booth. Parents donated food and drinks, and middle school teachers helped with music set up. The dance started at 6:30 pm and was wrapped up at 9:00 pm on Friday night.At first, Smarty was not entirely sure that she wanted to attend the dance - she did not like the fact that she had to spend her own allowance to attend. Eventually, however, she decided to go, and we agreed that she would call us from the office if she wanted to come home early. However, this did not happen. When I came to pick her and the other two kids from our street up, they did not want to go home. Smarty was happily chasing soap bubbles with her friend and was quite hyped up on sugar and excitement of the evening.Since Smarty is so young, both physically and emotionally, I often worry about her ability to enjoy the social events of middle school. But... sometimes her immaturity is actually beneficial to her. She has no interest yet in "shipping" (this is middle school slang for being in a relationship), and she just wants to have fun and play. Luckily, many boys are actually on the same page in terms of what they want from these social events, and therefore Smarty can most often be found in the company of several boys who she calls her "male friends". They all run around playing with balls and chasing bubbles, enjoying the last moments of their carefree childhood before the turbulence of puberty hits them. I am glad that Smarty has friends and is accepted despite her quirks. I can only hope that she will navigate the second half of middle school with the same oblivious disregard for what is "normal" for her grade and continue to make friends based on their compatibility, not on their gender.Your TurnDo your kids have friends of the opposite gender?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



The Week in Review: December 2, 2017

2017-12-02T02:30:03.952-08:00

Highlights of the WeekOn Sunday, we said Goodbye to grandparents, and started gearing up for Christmas season. We were a little worried on how Smarty will be able to get up for school after a week of going to bed late and waking up late, but she surprised us by getting up and getting ready easily and with a cheerful attitude. I have scheduled my PMP exam for mid December and continue to prepare for it, while my husband is rushing to complete his current project hoping to take most of December off.SchoolSmarty is really enjoying school right now. She feels that her teachers are taking her seriously and her work appears interesting and meaningful to her. She is enjoying science and social studies, and we have a lot of interesting discussions at home about the topics they are covering (chemical bonds and Islam). She adores her PE teacher and performs amazing feats when he challenges her - such as 7 and 10 minute plank (he promised to fulfill one Starbucks order for the kids who can do 10 minute plank, and she was one of 7 kids in her class who rose to this challenge). For her Innovation Hour time, she plans to join the tech challenge for the rest of the year - it would be great for her, because tech challenge is heavily based on solving real problems through team work.After SchoolSmarty is really loving her taekwondo practice, but a couple of weeks ago she twisted her left knee a little bit and was complaining of knee pain every practice since then. I looked it up online, and it looks suspiciously like a mild medial ligament sprain (MCL injury). I let her skip one practice this week, and ordered a supporting brace for her to wear for the next few weeks of taekwondo. Hopefully, she heals quickly and can still make it to the next belt testing in late December.What My Child Is ReadingWe did not make it to the library this week, but Smarty found The Scorch Trials by James Dashner in the school library and inhaled it in one day. She is also reading Molecules by Theodore Gray.Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, and this post contains Amazon affiliate links.Favorite Memory This WeekSmarty spent several hours this week secretly making me this origami Advent calendar (you can see in the first image of this post). She told me that it also doubles as an early birthday present from her to me. I love that she put so much imagination and effort into it.Your TurnHow was your week?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



Teaching Kids to Set Goals

2017-11-30T13:23:16.301-08:00

Can kids under 13 be taught formal goal setting? I guess this depends on the kid based on our experience with the workshop that Smarty and I attended together in early November. It was organized by our local organization for gifted kids and most participants were about 8-12 years old.For Smarty, it was not the first exposure to goal setting methods. Last year, she attended three 4-sessions "leadership workshops" conducted by the same person who now offered this 2 hour "intro class". While Smarty really enjoyed these classes and an engaging manner of the instructor, I did not see any significant lasting changes in her behavior at home or outside. But, nevertheless, she really wanted to take a class with Mr. Jim again, and this time parents could participate as well, so I agreed to take it with her.Goal Setting in a NutshellThe class went merrily over basic concepts of goal setting that is certainly familiar to most adults:Brainstorm and write as many goals as you can come up with.Divide them into material goals (something you want to have), experience goals (something you want to experience), and character goals (something you want to be).Convert your goals into "SMART" goals - make them specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timed.Prioritize, and make an action plan on "who, what, when, where, and how you are going to work on each goal.Brainstorming GoalsThe instructor gave us 5 min to write as many goals as we could. Being a show-off, Smarty wrote a long list that I recently "excavated" in my purse. She managed to produce 21 goals in 5 minutes - they included  to be remembered 100 years after my death, getting a PhD from Stanford, live to be 100 years old, save a life, get a black belt in taekwondo, help get people to Mars, solve a mystery about the brain, help make people's lives better, teach kids, and become a millionaire.Achieving GoalsI think you can see a bit of a problem with Smarty's goals and the reason her list ended up buried in my purse. It's hard to attach any sort of an immediate action plan to most of them, and the goal without an action plan is merely a wish. For comparison, I wrote finding a new job as a main goal on my list with a specific plan of what I would do to achieve the goal. Apparently, I am also an over-achiever as I now have this goal checked off 2 months ahead of my completion date :) We did have one common goal on our lists - it was to get a cat :) Our main action here is to convince my husband, who never had pets, that having a cat is fun and beneficial and that having a cat will not disrupt out routines too much. We would also need to make some changes in our bathroom to actually have a place for our kitty's litterbox. This goal is still "work in progress", but I am hoping that maybe we will achieve it next year.Does Goal Setting Work for Kids?I have to say that so far Smarty really struggled to set the goal and stick with it if the goal was not tied to some sort of reward. In 4th grade, she actually had formal goal setting sessions during parent teacher conferences, but, frankly, they've been a joke in her case, because academically she met all 4th grade goals before she set foot in her 4th grade classroom, and her "citizenship" goals were too fuzzy to qualify as measurable. I am guessing she does have a hidden goal of being a straight A student - she applies a significant amount of effort in what she perceives as her weakest subjects - PE and Maker's Lab and she does check her grades occasionally throughout the term without us nagging her about them. The truth, however, is that she does not have to really "kill herself" to get straight As - she completes most of her assignments in class and barely has any homework, so she still does not have a lot of experience of really working hard for her goals. This worries me, because I would like her to get more into a habit of [...]



The Week in Review: November 25, 2017

2017-11-25T19:34:53.350-08:00

Highlights of the WeekWe enjoyed our week and having my parents here. Smarty loved seeing Babushka and Dedushka and being spoiled rotten. We really appreciated my Mom's delicious turkey and an opportunity to go on a date (sans Smarty) to our favorite fondue restaurant. And, {drum roll}, I received a great job offer. The job sounds very interesting and the pay exceeded my wildest expectations :) I already signed all the paperwork, but the date is not set yet. My intention is to start directly after New Year. Thanksgiving DayWe had our traditional Thanksgiving with the same people that we usually invite over. As usual, my Mom was stressing over turkey, and, as usual, it turned out great. Our side dishes were also "as usual" in our house - rice and dry fruits stuffing, boiled baby potatoes, corn, bacon and beans, cranberry sauce and gravy. Sadly, almost all turkey was gone by the end of the day - I love turkey, but my husband is not a big fan, so he always wants the smallest turkey. Nevertheless, it was great to spend the day with people I love most in an entire world and with our closest friends.Thanksgiving BreakSmarty certainly made the most of her Thanksgiving break. She immediately switched to her "late riser" mode - staying up until 10:30 pm and then sleeping in until after 9 am. We did not limit her computer time this break, and she spent some time playing Minecraft, some time just randomly browsing, and some time watching YouTube videos about board games and selecting games that she might want to have. She also had a few Minecraft playdates with her best friend and a birthday party for her classmate. She was the only girl at that birthday party, but she had a blast, because all other kids were her buddies from her middle school math club. It's great to see that she is having a better time socially this year.What My Child Is ReadingDisclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, and this post contains Amazon affiliate links.Smarty spent some time re-reading her favorites and also discovering some new books. I picked up The Maze Runner by James Dashner at the library, and, after some initial resistance, she started reading it and now hooked and demanding the next book in the series. She also read Princess Between Worlds, a book  from Wide Awake Princess series by E.D. Baker. Favorite Memory of the WeekI love seeing Smarty play with F. F is son of our best friends - they were even later starters than we are, and he is 5 years younger than Smarty. When F visits, they spend time making elaborate concerts complete with posters and programs and then just play together. Smarty is very patient and loving with him breaking the stereotype of a selfish only child. She told us on Thursday, "I really love F. Of course, I don't mean like a boyfriend, that would be gross. No, I love him like a brother."Your TurnHow was your week?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



School Theater 2017

2017-11-19T08:55:47.706-08:00

I am so grateful that our school gave kids a chance this year to take part in a real theater performance.There is a lot of talk in California about kids having different educational experiences based on their race. I'd say that the real difference is brought about by families' socio-economic situation and parental involvement in their lives. We live in an upper middle class neighborhood, which means an active Home and School Club (aka PTO) organization that is able to raise funds for many enrichment activities done outside of school hours. Besides regular school donations (a suggested amount in our school is $500 per child), HSC runs a number of other fund raising activities including a fall festival, a spring Walk-a-thon, and an auction. The result is that even in the situation of shrinking school budgets teachers have extra money to spend on materials for the classroom, each class has two field trips every year, and HSC can contract with outside vendors to bring after school enrichment programs in.The theater program by itself is also a fund raiser, because parents pay both for participation and for tickets (financial aid is available for families who need it). However, HSC first needs to pay the vendor, so this is why general fund raising is useful for those "pay upfront" situations. And it's not just money that makes theater program happen. Running it successfully requires tons of volunteer support. Yes, our vendor Starting Arts brings the play itself, has a director and a choreographer, and provides lights, stage props, mikes, and costumes for a week of dress rehearsals and performances, but parent volunteers handle kids before and during rehearsals, help backstage, donate goods for concession stands, and help with set up and clean up.This year, the play was opened to kids from grades 3 to grades 8 and more than 70 kids wanted to participate including two boys who were interested in tech aspects of running a play but did not want to be on stage. Honestly, I felt that The Little Mermaid was a bit emotionally tricky for middle schoolers. What boy is brave enough to be Prince Eric and have to "kiss the girl"? Luckily, two brave souls (one a fifth grader and one sixth grader) stepped forward and carried this big role with poise and commitment without dissolving into a fit of giggles on stage. The reason we needed two boys was because we had two independent casts, and each cast had two performances in the last two days of the theater program.I was very impressed with talent we have in our school. Several kids are involved in acting classes and voice lessons outside of school, and they were cast very well and very appropriately in lead roles. Smarty had a relatively minor role of Flotsam, but it was perfect for her as she shines in "comic relief" roles that don't require a lot of singing. Sadly, she did not connect much with her Jetsam, but they pulled up a decently synchronized performance and made audience laugh.Theater participation is a major time investment for kids, especially for kids who have a lot of lines and songs to learn. As a project manager who is always looking for improvement, I think that rehearsals could have been much optimized. However, kids stuck with long hours, worked outside of rehearsals to memorize their lines and pulled the show together despite rough dress rehearsals and a lot of last minute changes. I could not be more proud of them.During rehearsals Smarty was saying that she does not want to do another show next year, because she disliked having to sit around and do nothing for two hours. However, there is something magical to be on stage in a costume with a mike on performing in front of live audience. She is now hoping that middle schoolers are included in the next year's play, so she can have another year of theater in middle school. Drama i[...]



The Week in Review: November 18, 2017

2017-11-18T01:30:01.312-08:00

Highlights of the WeekIt was a crazy busy week for all of us. Smarty started the week sick with sore throat and cough, and staying in school until 9 pm for tech week rehearsals did not help. Magically, she was better on Thursday, just in time for her first performance in The Little Mermaid. I had an onsite interview at a pretty well known software company, and my prospects look good. My work break might end up being rather short, but I will know more next week or the first week of December. I am still working on my PMP certification, because this will be good for my resume and will give me some new skills in my new job, whether I get it now or later.SchoolWoot-woot! The first trimester wrapped up on Friday. Smarty had great 3 months of school. She handled all her assignments on her own, and did not have any late or missing work this term. Ironically, from the percentage grades, her best subject is apparently PE, but she pulled solid As in all subjects with percentage grades of 96 and up. She enjoys all her teachers and her subjects - she just wishes for science to be less dry and more hands-on. They do have occasional labs, but most of the time it's essentially another reading-writing lesson. It's not the teacher's fault, it's just how New Generation Science Standards (NGSS) manifest themselves in middle school.After SchoolAnother woot-woot! The school musical is done. I have helped at several rehearsals, and at times things looked rather dire. We came to watch Thursday evening performance of Smarty's cast, and it was amazing to see the play come together with just a few minor glitches. Some kids were amazing, and everyone did their best. During rehearsals, Smarty was saying that she does not want to do another play next year, but now she says that she will sign up again, because she loves performing on stage in front of the audience. What My Child Is ReadingDisclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, and this post contains Amazon affiliate links. Smarty got Moon Chosen by P. C. Cast as a birthday present, and finally read it this week. This book is recommended for grades 9-12 on Amazon, but Smarty did not mention anything inappropriate to me and said that it took a while to connect the story lines in the book, but it all came together in the end. She enjoyed the story a lot, and now she is hoping that the new book in this Tales of a New World series, Sun Warrior, will be on sale during Black Friday week.Best Memory of the WeekSmarty, "I am playing an evil eel in Little Mermaid, but I am not evil. I am an adorable little Ursula's pet. I am very loyal to her."Your TurnHow was your week?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



Why I Enjoy Being Laid Off

2017-11-15T22:15:11.469-08:00

In the end of October the inevitable has finally happened. I got a dreaded WFR (work force reduction) note. But... I can't help but enjoy being laid off.I got my inkling of what it is to come on Sunday evening when I saw an unexpected meeting with my boss and his boss popping on my calendar with a mysterious name. I could not sleep well that night with the same thought going through my head, "I hope they won't make it performance-related". It's one thing to leave almost 25 years of continuous employment with a severance package and another thing to get a bad performance review.It was not a bad performance review. It was a good old "We regret to inform you that your position has been impacted by workforce reduction." And... my predominant feeling was of a profound relief. The truth is that I was not happy at work for a long time, but... I was too "chicken" to leave. I liked my boss, my flexible schedule and ability to set my hours, and my 4 weeks of vacation time. All those perks were like "golden handcuffs" that were holding me in place. So now the decision has been made for me, and I was pushed out of this nest that was too small for me for a while. I admit that I was very happy not having to deal with the projects that I led - due to bureaucracy of my big company and resistance of some senior folks, they were rather dead than alive anyway. So I feel like a big burden was lifted off my shoulders - suddenly, I am light as a feather again and ready to be productive again.Speaking of being productive, I worked without any breaks from August 1993 when I found my first job in US until November 2017. That's almost 25 years. I've been better than most Americans about actually using my vacation time, but the longest vacation break I had was this summer when we went to Germany for 3 weeks. So, yes, I am enjoying this break while trying to use time productively. Since my husband works only 3 days a week, we finally started much postponed project of clearing out our garage - something that we did not fully do since moving into our house 9 years ago. I am also doing some decluttering and trying out new recipes. It's nice to not feel dead tired all the time and actually have some time to myself on the days when my husband is at work and Smarty is in school. I am trying to use the time to its fullest, since, I hope, it won't last for too long.Of course, this break is not without worry. Our main worry is about health insurance. I was insuring our entire family, and now we have to get either COBRA coverage (continuous benefits) or to get a policy from a health exchange. My husband and I looked at the options available at the exchange and our minds were blown. The prices are almost as high as COBRA and the out-of-pocket costs are significantly higher. The health insurance business in this country is nothing but a racket - with no attempt to lower costs and curb profits of health insurance companies. So we are going to stick it out with a price shock of COBRA - we did not get a number yet, but we expect it to be more than $2,000 a month. It's a little funny considering that my monthly unemployment benefit is only $1,800 a month. No wonder that many Americans lose their homes or run up credit card debt within a few months of losing their job. So far this is not a worry for us, since my husband still works, and we have savings, but I rather hope that I will find my next destination in a few months.Your TurnHave you ever quit your job or were laid off? How did you adjust?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



The Week in Review: November 11, 2017

2017-11-11T20:32:19.737-08:00

Highlights of the WeekThis week was relatively relaxed, with everyone in good health except Smarty having a slight cold. I continue my job search, with a couple of phone interviews this week and one onsite interview scheduled for the next week. Realistically, I don't think anything will happen before New Year, so I am using my free time to prepare for a Project Management Practitioner exam, which I delayed long enough. Smarty enjoyed a shorter week, because Friday was a Veterans' Day, and the school was closed.SchoolThe highlight of this week for Smarty was NaNoWriMo. Her teacher asked an entire class to sign up and set goals per student based on the amount of words they wrote during a 45-minute writing period. At first, Smarty thought that her goal for the end of the month was set too high, but she blew through it in just one week. She is already at 125% of her word count and she is still going strong with her multi-chapter realistic fiction story. I can't wait to read it when she is done.After SchoolSmarty was so consumed by NaNoWriMo this week that she spent a fair bit of her free time voluntarily working on it. She is also diligently practicing for AMC8 contest that is coming up next week. She really wants to beat her last year's score of 18 points out of 25. I hope she succeeds even though I find that every year this test gets harder - the questions that used to be topics of AMC10 now pop up in AMC8 practice tests.What My Child Is ReadingDisclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, and this post contains Amazon affiliate links. Smarty was happy to finally lay her hands on the last book in Ender's Shadow series by Orson Scott Card. She read Shadows in Flight in a few hours and then re-read it twice for good measure. Now she is back to re-reading Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan.Favorite Memory of the WeekSmarty to me, I can't stand people kissing in movies. It cannot be real. I will never allow anyone to attempt sucking my uvula out. Your TurnHow was your week?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



Why I Love My Kindle

2017-11-09T22:24:47.534-08:00

Today I want to tell you all how much I am grateful for my Kindle :)Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, and this post contains Amazon affiliate links. For full disclosure, please click here and thank you for supporting my blog!It is hard to believe that Kindle is turning 10 years old soon. It is just a year younger than my daughter. I remember its "birth", because my husband was an early adopter. He was home with Smarty and wanted to have an eReader with him for when he went to parks and playgrounds.At that time, I was skeptical. I do love the feeling of a "real" book in my hands, and I did not feel like an electronic device can ever rise to it. But the very next year my husband gave me my first Kindle as a Christmas or a birthday present, and over years I became a "convert", especially once I got my Kindle Paperwhite. Once I got Paperwhite, Smarty got my old Kindle for her 7th birthday. By that time she was a fluent reader venturing far beyond picture books, and she really wanted her own eReader to have her favorite books readily accessible to her. We did not expect her Kindle to last as long as it did, but she took excellent care of it, and it was still "alive" when we finally got her a Paperwhite of her own for her 10th birthday.Here are top 10 reasons (in no particular order) why I love my Kindle Paperwhite:Being able to read in bed even with the lights off or read while camping.Being able to read the same books with my husband and my daughter (lately, we sometimes read the same book as a family except that Smarty always finishes way earlier than we do).Being able to take my library wherever I go.Being able to increase the font size if I forgot my glasses at home.Being able to look up unfamiliar words in the built-in dictionary.Being able to use Overdrive lending library 24x7 - priceless, especially while traveling.Saving space at home - we do have a pretty extensive library of real books, but we would not be able to buy so many books as we do on Kindle, because we would not be able to store them.Being able to afford more books - we have a daily ritual of going to Kindle Daily Deals and checking out which books are on sale. We got a lot of great books for $1.99 or $2.99 when they were on sale.Being able to read my books on other devices that have a Kindle reader. I have to say that this convenience is mostly theoretical to me, because I like real Kindle much better than I like iPad or iPhone Kindle interface.Being able to READ MORE BOOKS! It's much easier for me to find time to read if I have my Kindle in my purse and can pull it out while waiting for something. Your TurnDo you have an eReader? How big is your eBook library?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



Creative Writing in 7th Grade

2017-11-08T16:22:31.501-08:00

Today I am grateful for Smarty's language arts/history teacher who certainly knows how to foster creativity in her students.I know that I complain a lot about our school experiences on my blog, but I also want to recognize wonderful teachers that my daughter had over years. I will always remember fondly her kindergarten teacher who made that crucial first year magical, a third grade teacher who really knew how to group students by ability in her classroom and challenge each group appropriately, and a drama/leadership teacher from the last year. I was hoping that a drama teacher, who also teaches language arts, will be Smarty's language/history teacher this year, but she got a new teacher instead, and this is her new favorite teacher this year. Ms. W is probably the youngest teacher Smarty had so far - she is not 30 yet and it's her 6th year of teaching. She is energetic and dedicated, and she also passionately believes in creativity and choice. This year Smarty had several wonderfully creative assignments, and I enjoyed seeing the "final product" of them.An Island of MeOne of the first topics of this year in social studies was maps. Students were asked to create their own islands - with landmarks meaningful to them. We had an opportunity to see all these islands during back to school night and marvel at creativity that went into them. Smarty's island was certainly not the best in terms of an overall execution (and that was reflected in her grade for this project), but she was still happy about it. It amused me to see a NASA center on her island as well as a sushi restaurant, a giant library, and a "World Math Association" (whatever that is). I am guessing she will never want to leave if she ever gets to visit an island like that :)My Famous DinnerAs part of their language arts curriculum, 7th graders are learning to write dialogues. This writing project had students choose four famous people (dead or alive) that they will be inviting to dinner. They needed to choose the setting for dinner and write a realistic fiction essay about it using as much dialogue as possible. Smarty portrayed herself as a host of a TV show and the topic of the show was renewable energy. She invited Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and Wehrner von Braun to this dinner. I enjoyed reading her dialogue - she was not afraid to take some jokes at her own expense playing a "dumb" host that does not know much about her guests and their contributions to science. I don't know yet what her grade will be for this project, but I thought that she did a great job.Were the Dark Ages Really Dark?Smarty is in the project-based school, and all projects revolve around history. I wish they were more science-related,.. but I digress. Last year, every 7th grader produced either some sort of a siege weapon or a model of a castle for this unit. This new teacher told the students that they are free to do whatever they want and choose any topic covered in their Medieval Europe part of the history textbook as long as they have something to share with class at the end of 2 months. They were also not forced into big groups and were free to work either on their own or with one or two classmates. To my surprise and pleasure, Smarty chose to work with a classmate and not on her own. Not so much to my surprise, they decided not to make anything physical, because, frankly, Smarty is not much of a maker. They chose the topic of the plague, and I liked that the teacher really gave kids the choice here, even though at least 30% of students chose the plague (d'oh!). Smarty and her friend built a website about the plague with a lot of research that they accumulated over time, and they also got [...]



Reflecting on 100 Years of Soviet Revolution

2017-11-07T18:12:52.557-08:00

It occurred to me yesterday that November 7th used to be a major holiday for me and my family - an anniversary of the "Great October Revolution", and that this year marks its 100th anniversary. I am thankful that we are not really celebrating this holiday any longer and that even in the former Soviet Union this day is fading into history.Celebrating November 7thI actually remember November 7th fondly. Despite popular beliefs, we were not obligated to participate in demonstrations and festivities of the day. For my family, it was just a day off, a lot like a Memorial Day here in US. Surely, the TV stations (all three of them) were full of patriotic propaganda, but it was an occasion to get together with family and friends for a special dinner and hear some stories from my grandparents. My grandparents were committed Communists who believed in the cause and fought for it. I guess we were blessed that our family was not directly affected by purges of Stalin time, and I recall some fierce debates unfolding between my two grandfathers as to what really went on during that time. I recently read a book Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith that portrays early 1950s of the Soviet Union as a horrible time with no joy and no authentic friendships and relationships. By all accounts of my family, it was difficult time, considering the devastation caused by the WWII and the iron rule of the Communist party, but it was also joyful for people who survived the war and were rebuilding their lives. Overall, my parents, just like baby boomers in US, were better off economically than their parents. Unfortunately, by the time my generation was coming out of age, the Soviet Union was falling apart. I was in my senior year of high school when perestroika started, and suddenly a lot of things that were taught to us as "Gospel" were revealed as monumental lies. It was also a year of Chernobyl, of opening borders and freedom of press, of nationalistic revivals in Soviet republics and of collapsing supply system. I can say that we truly lived "in interesting times" when the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, just before its 75th anniversary (or, to be precise, before its 70th anniversary as USSR was founded in 1922).A Lesson for the FutureThere is this perception that US "won the Cold War" and that was the reason for the collapse of the Soviet Union. I personally don't think so. I think that the socialist idea is flawed to begin with - that every person will happily produce according to their abilities while being an insignificant cog in the government will. We had a joke about the first wave of revolutionaries wanting to fight poverty, but that morphed into Communists fighting wealth by redistributing it. I do believe in fighting poverty and in equal opportunity. But I don't believe in sameness. It amuses me to see a lot of socialist trends rampant in California politics, especially when it comes to education. There is this non-stop talk of "equity" and closing "the achievement gap", which basically translates into trying to make everyone the same, somewhere in the middle, because, let's face it, there are two ways to close the achievement gap, and California is making dang sure that its high achievers are held firmly in place in an attempt to give struggling segments of learners a chance to catch up.Does closing achievement gap really works? Despite all the money thrown at the problem, it still persists. Honestly, I think that the best way to approach the problem would be to go to year round education and eliminate long school breaks which are hurting children who don't get educational support at home. In the meantime, we are witnessi[...]



Why We Love Our Taekwondo Practice

2017-11-06T20:27:53.337-08:00

It's been a year since Smarty started her martial arts training, and I am very grateful for her coaches who make her taekwondo dojo a very special place.Before Smarty started with taekwondo, she spent several years "dabbling" in gymnastics. I say "dabbling", because nobody in the house was committed to it. Smarty was always a physically cautious child and was unwilling to do any gymnastic moves that appeared dangerous to her. She went once a week unless something else was "in the way", and we never bothered to make up missed classes or consider increasing the frequency. Yet, she moved through a few levels over years, and gymnastics was certainly good for her, increasing her flexibility, coordination, and core strength. However, we were not about to put up a fight when she started saying that she wants to switch to a different sport and that she was interested in martial arts.Since martial arts are very popular in Silicon Valley, we had a lot of choices as to where to send her. My husband wanted her to take judo, because he did it as a young man. But our close friends suggested to come and try a taekwondo studio where their young son was already a student.Smarty came in for a trial lesson, and she fell in love immediately. The head coach is also an owner of this dojo, and he is a very special person. He has an amazing gift of dealing with kids. He is strict and firm, but at the same time he has a great sense of humor and makes kids laugh. It was amazing to see Smarty trying things that she would not do in gymnastics including full splits. It was fun to see her breaking the boards and developing "yes, I can!" attitude while trying something that was personally challenging and meaningful for her. Both the head coach and his assistants (our second-in-command is in the picture above) seem to genuinely like Smarty and push her to do her best. She made such a big leap this year, joined the leadership team and earned her entry into an advanced group. But it's not just about sports - our instructors are doing their best trying to build a sense of belonging and to create a community for their students. They hold potluck lunches after every belt promotions, host parent night outs, and encourage kids to participate in various service opportunities such as back-to-school drive, fund raising for hurricane relief, and now Operation Gratitude.It's exciting to see that Smarty found a sport that she truly enjoys and that she is supported by nurturing and committed instructors. She goes to taekwondo three times and has almost 90 minutes a practice every session without whining or complaining. She is not afraid to attempt board breaks and, even when she is unsuccessful, she shakes off pain and tries again. She has just started sparring, and, she stays in the fight even when her opponents are bigger and more experienced than she is. She says that she cannot imagine stopping taekwondo, and I hope that this attitude continues all the way to the black belt and beyond. I hope that she will not only learn to control her body, but that she will also get better at controlling her impulsive behavior and develop wisdom in when to speak up and when to let things go.Your TurnAre your kids involved in sports? What do they do?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



The Week in Review: November 4, 2017

2017-11-04T18:08:03.973-07:00

Highlights of the WeekThis week was certainly better than the previous week. Smarty is back to being her healthy bouncing cheerful self. My husband also had some stomach problems early in the week, but he is feeling better now, and we are looking forward to a quiet weekend without much planned. I have started my job search and already had some phone interviews, but at the same time I am trying to make a point to enjoy my break and get some things at home done.SchoolThere are two weeks left in this school trimester, and Smarty still has piles of ungraded work, especially in social studies and language, because her language teacher had to go on an emergency trip due to death in her family. They had a substitute instead and continued to work on this trimester's PBL. Smarty and her partner presented their work this Friday, and Smarty said that their presentation went well. I hope they get good grades for their work, since it has a lot of weight against a final trimester grade. Smarty also practices her ukulele song for a final performance in her music elective. She will be singing, You Are Welcome from Moana. While she enjoys music, she was unhappy with this non-elected elective, because she did not learn any more ukulele techniques than she already knew. She is looking forward to an environmental advocacy elective that starts next trimester.After SchoolBecause Smarty was sick last week, she missed her official day for taekwondo belt  testing. She came for a make-up belt testing last Saturday, but she was still weak after several days of lying in bed and not eating anything. She could not break her board and did not pass the test. Luckily, she still had a chance of a re-test and she was determined to pass it this time. She came for an additional preparation practice on Friday and nailed her re-test today by breaking her board on the first try and earning a perfect score in sparring and in form. What My Child Is ReadingDisclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, and this post contains Amazon affiliate links.Smarty still spends most of her free time on Scratch, so she read less than usual this week, but she did read Life, the Universe and Everything by Douglas Adams, plus some Dilbert books from our home library.Favorite Memory of the WeekWatching Smarty painting her own face for Halloween night. She used the only phrase she says perfectly in Russian, "Ya sama!" (I can do it myself). And she was right :)Your TurnHow was your week?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



Why I attend school district board meetings

2017-11-03T13:22:36.753-07:00

Today I am thankful for democratic process on a local level when every citizen does have a voice.About a year ago I have made a decision to start attending as many of our district's board meetings as I possibly could. In simple terms, I realized that if I want to understand better what's happening in my daughter's school, it would be good to be where "the sausage is made" and understand better how decisions are made and what matters on the district level.Attending these meetings was very educational. For example, I learned that our district school budget is inexorably spiraling toward insolvency. Every year our district spends more money than it brings. Why? Because California is a crazy state that tries so hard to equalize everything. It pays less per student in a super-expensive Silicon Valley than it pays for a student in Fresno, because our students are less likely to be economically disadvantaged English learners. At the same time, state jacked up employee contributions to state workers' retirement funds and, of course, teachers want to be paid decent salaries to afford to live and teach in San Jose. Also, special education costs continue to rise, and the district pays more for special education students than the money it collects from the state and federal agencies who give a mandate for free and appropriate public education but don't put their money where their mouth is.Because of this financial situation, the district continues to cut and restrict services for high achieving students, since these services appear "elitist" in this time of need. Our gifted-and-talented program was cut several years ago due to the lack of funding. Advanced English program was eliminated in our district's middle school and never started in our new K-8 school. Our STEAM magnet K-8 school did not get funds to have accelerated math program or a foreign language program. Basically, the achievement gap is being closed by not allowing any opportunities for high-achieving students to progress through the curriculum faster. Never mind that these students will feed into a high school district where they will be at a disadvantage, because students from other K-8 school districts do have access to accelerated programs. This will no longer be our district's problem, because it only has K-8 schools.While the situation seems rather hopeless, I also feel that I can influence the direction somewhat by staying engaged. Just yesterday we brought several parents and kids to the district meeting to talk about the dire need to have some sort of a path for high achieving math students of Smarty's school to obtain a credit in Integrated Math 1 that is needed to be able to take high level math classes in high school. In my speech I tried to focus on the district's goal to keep our attendance numbers high. This means that we want public school to be competitive in terms of programming to private schools in the area. When our magnet STEAM school opened, a lot of kids who came here actually came from private schools and increased attendance numbers of our district. Now parents of many of them are considering putting them back into private schools and many other families like ours are seriously considering following suit. I am curious to see what happens to our school district over years as our demographics gradually shifts to more affluent families who are able to afford houses in this area. If I look at our neighboring, wealthier, districts, parents definitely demand (and obtain) more academic options for their children. Hopefully, our district leadership will see that the pur[...]



Why I Love Our Weather

2017-11-02T08:21:47.187-07:00

Watching our tomatoes still producing in November makes me so thankful for Northern California weather.I grew up in cold continental climate of Belarus where we had real winters... and real central heating. When we immigrated to the United States, I lived in New York/New Jersey area for several years and "enjoyed" several "blizzards of the century" there. My California-born girl is yet to see snow falling from the sky, and I kind of get her desire to experience it, but... I don't miss snow and I miss driving on snow and ice even less. If we absolutely want to go skiing, we can drive for two hours and be in Sierra foothills. Alternatively, if we want to surf, we can drive two hours in the opposite direction and enjoy Pacific coastline.I love every season of California weather except, perhaps, extreme heat waves of summer. I love not having to check the weather forecast between April and October and not having to adjust our plans based on whether it's going to rain. I love looking forward to rain rather than complaining about it - rain here means that the dreaded drought might be staved off again. It also means an excuse to light the fireplace, read books, and play board games.I love having something blooming in our garden every month, even in winter. I love being able to grow winter vegetables, and I love seeing fruit trees bursting with flowers in February. My husband sometimes jokes that Silicon Valley will experience the same urban decay as Detroit if high-tech industries move on, but I like to point out to him that our climate is something that Detroit surely does not have and that perhaps we can then enjoy our retirement in less crowded Valley than what we have here now.Your TurnDo you enjoy the weather where you live?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



Why I Love Our Neighborhood

2017-11-01T15:07:58.048-07:00

Since November is a Thanksgiving month, I decided to focus this month on things I am grateful for. With Halloween just behind us, my first thankful thought is about our neighborhood.We are pretty lucky to be living where we do even though the real estate market was crazy when we bought our house and only got crazier since then. Our neighborhood is a typical upper middle class neighborhood of Silicon Valley - it's ethnically diverse, quiet, well maintained, and, most importantly, safe. Yes, there is a turnover and some "flipping houses" going on, but most of our neighbors have been living here for years and we all keep an eye on each other's children. The kids go out to play basketball, and there is an active group of older teens getting together to play street hockey every weekend. A nice park with a free tennis court is just 5 minutes away. A new playground has just been built there, and there is a basketball court, a baseball practice area, and a place to walk dogs/play soccer.Our neighborhood is famous for its Halloween hospitality. One of our street neighbors builds an elaborate haunted house around his garage, and kids flock in from far and wide for "good candy". Yesterday we gave out 3 Costco bags of chocolate candy - 450 total, and we had to limit Halloween visitors to take just one, so we could last through 3 hours of non-stop foot traffic.It was the first year when Smarty went out trick-or-treating without us. Originally, she set out with a sizable group of kids from our street, but eventually she and one of her boy friends split off. She came home glowing with excitement and satisfaction, because she had so much control on where they went and how long they were going for.I am thankful that we live in the neighborhood when I felt safe to let my 11 year old go out on her own in the dark. I admit that I was worried when the streets emptied out by 9 pm, and she still was not home (we agreed on 9:30 pm as the latest return time). It turns out that she went to her friend's house, so they could sort their candy and trade it. Smarty said that it was "the best Halloween ever", and I am grateful for good friends, good community, and my own ability to let her become more independent despite some fears of "what if".Your TurnHow was your Halloween?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



The Week in Review: October 28, 2017

2017-10-28T09:30:13.222-07:00

Highlights of the WeekIt was a hard week for us. On Monday, Smarty came back from school complaining of a bad stomachache. I took her to the Urgent Care where they ruled out an appendicitis and a bladder infection, suggested that she has an indigestion and recommended giving her Mylanta. However, her pain stubbornly stayed with her for the next three days keeping her away from school. She was not eating, acting very tired and even crying in pain. Eventually on Thursday afternoon I called our pediatrician again, and we went to his office for after hours service visit. They did an X-ray of the stomach, and it turned out that she has a blockage from constipation. I was glad that I took her - I did not suspect constipation, since she still had bowel movements every day. Anyway, the doctor prescribed a strong laxative to move things along, and on Friday Smarty started feeling a lot more like herself. Perhaps her illness was a blessing in disguise as it took my mind away from the fact that it is my last week at my job, and allowed me to count my blessings as we got to the root cause of Smarty's stomach issues. As for the job search, I currently have two opportunities where I will have phone screens next week and a few more resumes out as I set myself a goal to send at least 2 resumes every day. I am optimistic that I will find something soon enough.SchoolSmarty missed most of school this week, but she really enjoyed her school "Fall Festival" last weekend. This year we dropped her off and she just did what she wanted for 4 hours of the festival. This picture was taken when I came to pick her up. Earlier that day she also had her birthday party with her school friends at a trampoline place. Everyone had a blast, and now Smarty has more new science kits than she really needs :)After SchoolOur local organization of gifted children organized a great group visit to a Bay Area Glass Institute that offers classes on glass blowing. The instructors were amazing - even elementary school age kids were able to make a glass pumpkin. I already picked up a finished product, and Smarty's pumpkin looks gorgeous and deserves a separate post :)What My Child Is ReadingDisclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, and this post contains Amazon affiliate links. Smarty was going through her "comfort re-reads" while suffering from stomachache, but she did enjoy the next book in Ender's series - Shadow Puppets by Orson Scott Card.Favorite Memory of the WeekI loved watching kids at Smarty birthday - even though they are tweens now, they are still cheerful, respectful, and easy going. Smarty invited some old friends who are now 6th graders and some new friends from 7th grade, and they all got along just fine. I am glad to see that Smarty's relationships are stronger now and she is more comfortable with her grade mates than she was last year when she felt herself to be an outsider. Hopefully, we will stick it out in her current school for another year to let her social skills catch up (at least I am hoping for that!)Your TurnHow was your week?[...]



The Week in Review: October 21, 2017

2017-10-22T08:44:27.649-07:00

Highlights of the WeekIt was a week with some major ups and downs for us. On Monday, I found out that my position will be affected by workforce reduction and that I have two weeks left. Honestly, mostly I feel relief. I did not enjoy my job for quite some time, but I was "too chicken" too leave on my own. Now the decision has been made for me, and I am kind of excited about new opportunities opening in front of me. Of course, this also means changes in our schedule, but we will cross that bridge when we get there.Smarty's BirthdayWe also celebrated Smarty's 11th birthday this week. We are blessed to have our funny, intelligent, and energetic girl in our lives. She is still very much a kid, and she was super excited about turning 11 and at least for a short time matching some of her classmates in age. She was eagerly looking forward to her birthday, enjoyed her presents from the family and now can't wait for her birthday party with friends today.SchoolWe met with our principal on Tuesday and were disappointed with the outcome of this conversation. Basically, the only way for Smarty to get a desired first year of high school credit is to sign up for an approved online course and to do it on her own time and on our own dime. We have made a decision to at least look at a couple of possible private schools that provide middle school to high school programs before we commit to this course of action next year.After SchoolAfter school life went on as usual - taekwondo practice, theater rehearsals, math club homework, and a little bit of extra math on the side. At home, Smarty and I covered systems of linear equations, so we are somewhere in the middle of Algebra 1 class. Just as in the past couple of weeks, Smarty spent all her personal available time on Scratch.What My Child Is ReadingDisclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, and this post contains Amazon affiliate links.For Smarty's birthday, we gave her Molecules by Theodore Gray. She already had the previous book in this series, Elements, and she really enjoyed it, so now she is reading through Molecules book.Favorite Memory of the WeekSmarty in the evening of her birthday, I had happy 11 years of my life. I just hope that the next 11 years are just as good!Your TurnHow was your week?[...]



The Week in Review: October 14, 2017

2017-10-16T15:57:53.073-07:00

Highlights of the WeekThis was an exhausting week for all of us. While North California fires did not reach us, smoke certainly did, and the air quality was very poor. Kids were held inside for indoor recess, and everyone was tired and grumpy due to lack of exercise and fresh air. In more positive news, re-piping of our house almost went as expected, except that we had an unexpected cost added to our bill, because they discovered a drain leak in our downstairs bathroom, and we decided to go ahead and replace the drain as well while we are at it. On Thursday, the workers should be back closing the final wall which we had to treat for mold due to the leak, and, hopefully, life will resume its normal course.SchoolWe finally have a meeting scheduled with our principal to talk about our math options. I am cautiously optimistic that we will have some opportunity to get the accelerated credit that we want for high school with Smarty maybe doing an online program in 8th grade. However, we would like something "in blood", i.e. in ink, before we decide whether we are going to keep Smarty in this school for the 8th grade. If math situation is resolved, we most likely will, because she seems so happy this year, enjoys academics, and starts making friends. So I am looking forward to our meeting with a principal with both anticipation and hope.After SchoolAll after school activities are rolling as expected, but we did less math this week, because Smarty was so exhausted from smoke and having to stay inside. At least taekwondo gave her some much needed outlet, and she also got to do art when meeting a friend on one of the less smoky days.What My Child Is ReadingDisclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, and this post contains Amazon affiliate links. Smarty read several new books this week - the one that she particularly liked was non-fictional Poison: Deadly Deals, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines by Sarah Albee. She certainly knows how to pick her non-fiction... and then follow it by The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas.Your Turn:How was your week?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]



The Week in Review: October 7, 2017

2017-10-07T10:38:25.252-07:00

Highlights of the WeekBoth my husband and I had a stressful week at work, but home life continued as usual. We are bracing for re-piping project next week and hoping that it indeed will be done in three days as promised. We are also all set for Smarty's birthday party in 2 weeks, it looks that all her friends are going to make it, and she is eagerly looking forward to it. It's hard to believe that she is about to turn 11, but one can see an emergence of a young lady in this school picture above.SchoolSo far Smarty is staying on top of her assignments and has no homework. She always manages to complete everything in class and, I guess, with decent degree of care, since her grades are all staying in A and A+ area. Her class has started their first project of the year with a driving question, Were the Dark Ages really dark? Smarty chose the plague as her topic, so it's clear what she thinks about medieval Europe :) Her class is also wrapping up their first big writing project of the year, a personal narrative. I hope I can read it this weekend.After SchoolWe still have nice and warm days here in California, and Smarty spends some time after school outside every day - we either go for a walk together or she plays with neighbors. She is still very enchanted with Scratch, and she spends a lot of time trying things out. Also, Smarty and I made a pact to learn Spanish together with her being in charge of choosing time and how we practice. We are using Duolingo as a platform - we'll see how long we'll last :)What My Child Is ReadingDisclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate, and this post contains Amazon affiliate links.Smarty's school still doesn't have a library, but at least some of her teachers are well stocked with books. Usually Smarty is able to read an entire book during her school hours using her time of finishing fast, recesses, and play practice to sneak in some reading. She said that she really enjoyed Wake Up Missing  by Kate Messner as well as Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and Holes by Louis Sachar. In addition, she found Medieval Medicine and the Plague in the library and read it as part of her research for her social studies project.Favorite Memory of the WeekSmarty to me, "You know, my school is very big on building with things, like robots and stuff. But I don't like to build with things. I like to build with words."Your TurnHow was your week?Never Miss a Post   Enter your email address: Delivered by FeedBurner[...]