Personal ponderings from a natural night-owl!

Archive for September, 2011

End of the Innocence?

For 10 years, I’ve been quiet about my personal reaction to and feelings about the events of September 11, 2001 and the aftermath. But it seems fitting on today’s 10 year anniversary to let my perspective finally be heard.

Nothing in my experience of the day or my feelings as it unfolded was unique or remarkable. I was a stay-at-home mom of two young children ages 2 and 2 months who took her kids to a morning gym class and came home to news reports of tragedy. Millions of Americans saw the same scenes I saw and were glued just as voyeuristically to the horror unfolding on television as I was. It was what happened in the days, months, and years afterward that came to shape how I feel today about the events of that day.

People associate a wide variety of feelings with their personal experience of 9/11: grief, loss, fear, confusion, insecurity. Personally, I associate 9/11 with shame and anger – for my own country. If today’s ten year anniversary is about loss, and here’s what I believe we truly lost on 9/11:

* We lost over 3,000 civilian lives in a horrifically tragic way – as tragic as the millions of innocent lives which continue to be lost in horrific ways all over the world from violence, preventable disease, human cruelty to fellow humans, and wars which we ourselves are perpetrating.

* We lost our sense of fiscal responsibility, led by a President who told our citizenry that to spend money to avoid recession was their patriotic duty. Is it a surprise that we are in the economic situation we are today?

* We lost our sense of security at home, just like we lost that sense when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. We vowed we’d never forget the lessons we learned following that particular national tragedy, never repeat the mistakes made in the aftermath.

* We lost the recognition of individuality for which we were admired throughout history. We blamed an entire religion instead of a handful of radical zealots. We feared and institutionally discriminated against Americans who practiced Islam, making them feel fear in their own country and depriving them of individual liberty, just like we did to Americans of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor.

* We lost the very foundation of freedom that defines us as a nation. Instead of being MORE vigilant to protect that for which the world envied us, we gave it up for the illusion of action to create a false security which never did, never could, and never will exist.

* We lost our pride in our freedom to question those in power. We pretended unity and called it patriotism. We called traitor those who disagreed, rather like the very extremists we abhorred.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty – power is ever stealing from the many to the few…. The hand entrusted with power becomes … the necessary enemy of the people.” Wendell Phillips, 1852

After the events of 9/11, we vowed not to let the terrorists and the extremists win, but when we allowed them to take our sense of security in ourselves, when we allowed our priceless American liberties to be eroded, we gave up our power. “We have met the enemy – and he is us.” (Walt Kelly, 1953)

“The world changed that day,” they say. But did it? Or was it just your personal perception of the world that changed? “We will never forget,” they say. But that’s what a generation before us said after Pearl Harbor.

I believe with all my heart in what the United States of America truly stands for, in the ideals on which it was founded. But I feel we have fallen far away from those ideals as a result of our reaction to the events of 9/11 – and THAT is what saddens and angers me even more than the loss of innocent life. I pray that as a country, we will stop cowering behind bravado and return someday to what made us truly great: to embracing the REAL American values of individualism with respect, openness without fear, and freedom with hope that made us a target that fateful day.

One Week

It’s been one week that Emily, my 12 year old, has been attending school at home online through Ohio Virtual Academy, so it seemed like a good time for an update!

The state of Ohio requires us to complete 920 instructional hours during our school year. Most schools do that over the course of 180 days, so OHVA expects us to complete between 5 and 6 hours a day, or 25-30 hours per week. This time includes time spent in online classes – called “Class Connects” – with her teachers, time spent in the OLS (on-line school), time spent working off-line, and supplemental hours – educational activities not associated with school. We were told not to expect to get much done the first week because just like B&M (brick & mortar) schools, we’d need to take some time to get oriented, figure out what works for us, and ease back into some routine.

Monday morning was Emily’s first day. She jumped out of bed at 7:00 (from what I was told, because I was still sleeping!) and came right down to start school on the couch in her pajamas! At 8:30, she couldn’t wait to tell me how much fun she was having, so she came up to wake me up (it had been a long night since I woke up at 2:30 am for some reason and couldn’t get back to sleep until 5 am).

Somewhere around 11 am, I had to MAKE her stop “doing school” to eat something and get dressed so I could take her annual “first day of school” picture next to the piano – with her laptop and planner, of course!

By the time we had to leave for our semi-annual dentist appointments at 3 pm, she had completed nearly 5 hours of school – but she wasn’t done yet! While we were there, she was reading for fun, as she always does. [We’re the only family I know whose kid thinks the ultimate punishment is telling her she isn’t allowed to read!] In “real life” reading is educational. In a B&M school, recreational reading does not count as instructional time for state requirements, but it does in OHVA! By the time the day was over, she had completed 6 hours and 45 minutes of school. And the only nagging I’d done was to force her to STOP doing school to get dressed and go to the dentist! I was sure this wouldn’t last.

To my delight, Tuesday went about the same way, as did Thursday and Friday. Wednesday was a different story, though.

Wednesday was Megan’s last day at home before starting Miller South, so I decided to use our free admittance to COSI from the spring camp-in with Girl Scouts. Emily spent some time on Tuesday looking at what lessons were up for Wednesday and gathering her materials. She did this on her own as I was gone at choir practice. During our 2.5 hour drive down to Columbus, she did 30 minutes of free reading and 2 hours of school – reading textbooks, doing worksheets, and studying. Of course, because it was educational, our 5 hours at COSI counted as supplemental hours in science, so she ended up with over 7 hours of school that day, even though it felt like a “day off.”

All told, she accomplished 32 hours and 25 minutes of school her first week, including 12 hours of supplemental time doing free reading, her art lessons, and COSI.

Of course, hours spent “doing school” are only one – admittedly inconsequential – measure of  education. The k12/OHVA curriculum is a mastery curriculum, which means you take a SHORT test after most lessons and must achieve a certain percentage to move on. Short tests, maybe 5 questions, mean you can only miss one question to achieve mastery, so there is very little chance to “skate through” not knowing the material. Using the parent login to the on-line school, I have visibility to all the lessons and tests, can see Emily’s scores on each assessment, and can also see how many times she took each test.

Unlike most B&M schools, if you take a test and do poorly – or if you take a test and achieve less than 100%, you can go review the material, study what you didn’t know until you learn it, and take the test again. Similarly, if you think you know the material without doing the lesson, you are free to take the assessment first, using it as a pre-test, and continue on if you accomplish the required proficiency level. The school’s required level is either 70% or 80%, but our family has set a minimum required level of 90% – meaning that if she gets anything less than 90%, she has to go review the material and retake the test. Using the pre-test/re-test method allows Emily to get right to the material she doesn’t already know.

For example, this week she completed almost one entire unit of pre-algebra. The unit consisted of a semester introduction, 7 lessons, 3 reviews of material, 2 mid-unit assessments, and one full unit assessment. Emily completed all 7 lessons this week, scoring 100% the first time she took the test on all but two of them. She has only scored 67% on her final unit assessment, though, so next week she will go back and do some review there, as well as retake the one lesson where she scored an 88% and did not re-learn/re-test yet. She spent only 3 hrs and 35 minutes doing math this week, which we will probably try to bump up to 5 hours next week. In short, as a concerned and involved parent, I have full visibility to what she is learning and how much time she is really spending on it – advantages not even her teachers have at a B&M school.

As you can see, it was a pretty darn good week at the Schinker At Home Online School! I feel that much more time was spent on actual education than would have been at a B&M school, but of course, with only one student in our at home online school, the logistics aren’t nearly as time-consuming! Emily had a GREAT TIME learning and didn’t want to stop most days, which is a huge win! Socially, we went to a museum, attended a school-sponsored bowling outing (which counted toward physical education time), and both girls went to the Stow-Kent football game Friday night for fun.

I am quite sure that not every week will be this good. But for now, we are riding our wave of enthusiasm and can’t wait to get going again next week!

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