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Archive for the ‘Grades’ Category

Wonky LED’s and an amazing brain

My wife is home schooling Preston, as the local school system could not really cope with his unique needs and abilities.  Children who are on ‘the spectrum’ are not like neurotypical children.  In Preston’s case, he not only is bright, but gets bored and pays attention to things that most people would not, like the order of books on a shelf or a sign that should not be up. Things like that. So, because his needs were not being sufficiently handled by the school system-and, don’t get me wrong, Hanover Schools are excellent, for most.  I have nothing against this school system or even Preston’s former school–they just are not equipped or staffed to handle one, let alone many-which they claim they do.

Anyway, as part of Preston’s home school curriculum, I am teaching him programming and how computers work.

To my delight, he has a knack for the programming part. I think he will for the hardware as well, though his mind wanders a great deal when I am teaching him about the hardware.  A good programmer should know the basics of how the computer works.

Along those lines, I dug up a small computer (one with very little capabilities called an ‘Arduino’, they are used for controlling things) and an old laptop and we made two LED’s blink in varying patterns and duration.  While he got a bit bored while I was setting it up, he got very excited when we made the LED’s do things. 

That was fun, but it also showed me a bit about his very anal attention:  those LED’s HAD to blink at precise intervals.  He could not cope with random intervals of on or off. He also did not like the brightness. I explained that, while we can control the brightness, we were not doing so then, that was for another lesson.  He, reluctantly, went along with that, but those LED’s blinking differently, he could not take that.  So, we changed the program so they would blink at a constant rate. I had him tell me how to do that.  With only a few lessons, he was able to do that. 

Of course, by that point, our four year old was interested and, he too, wanted to make the LED’s blink.  Preston and I changed the code so that you could type a number and make the LED’s blink at that rate.  Xander was just as excited as Preston.

It is amazing how Preston reasons things and how well he remembers. This was the first lesson in a couple of weeks and he remembered the last things we did–I did a verbal quiz and he was 100% correct. 

HIs tendency to be so anal, though, can be a slippery slope.  We will work through the rough spots, but I think he will be able to use it as a strength.  In this case, the randomness of the blinking LED’s  made him a bit nuts, but he worked through that and came up with a solution.

Of course, the notion that a dollar’s worth of parts would provide he and Xander with so much fun is, itself, amazing. Like his brain. 

I love that kid.


How to deal with school when your child misses a lot of time

In a week full of sadness and terrible memories, something wonderful happened. My son, Chase, graduated from high school. Like thousands others on that hot, Saturday, Chase walked across the stage, shook a few hands and received his diploma. Less than an hour later, the super intendant of Hanover County schools declared him and 378 others as graduates of high school and no longer required to attend public schools.  In effect, they became adults at that moment.  Adults.  Made me think about when I graduated and how I felt.  But, the day was his, not mine, and so, we celebrated. We met some friends and family and had pizza and exchanged stories. All the while, I had to wonder…how the hell did he grow up so damned fast? And, boy, his Mom, Papa and, now, Nana, would be so damned proud. Indeed. We all were.

And, admittedly, there was a bit of relief too. Relief that we no longer had to deal with the red tape because of his health, which is not great. Living with an immune system that barely works is a difficult thing, being persecuted for it, however, is just wrong.  Now, don’t get me wrong, Chase has been fortunate and had many, many wonderful teachers who not only understood, but CARED that he was sick and worked with him on staying up to date with his work. And, for the most part, the school administration has been kind and worked with us. But…

…there were times when it was not easy and, in fact, much more difficult than it should be.  The key, to both a smooth relationship and to cover everything, is documentation. Doctor’s notes, detailed journals, transcripts of testing, medical test results and patience. Don’t get upset with the school when they want ‘proof’, it is their job and there are those who would take advantage of the situation.

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS get a note from the doctor’s office no matter what.  If your child is in kindergarten, where it, seemingly, does not matter, it really does.  AND CALL the school. When your child is out, call the school.  Do that as soon as you can. Do not miss a day. This is important, as important as that doctor’s note. For one, it alerts the school that your child is not there and won’t have to be accounted for IF there is a problem. Secondly, and importantly, you establish that, yes, you know where your child is, you care about your child’s education and you want to establish a good relationship with the school.

One great way to maintain all of that documentation is with a computer.  I use Microsoft’s OneNote to maintain a journal of my kids’ health (as well as my own and that of my wonderful wife.)  OneNote has an OCR capability (meaning, it ‘sees’ text in images and can search on that text) which means you can scan in test results, doctor’s notes, and any other documentation that you may need. That documentation can then be searched. Having your stuff in a computer will help you not only at school’s end, but you can also produce reports for your doctor. If you keep them updated, then your doctor will have a good picture of what is going on with your child.

It is also important for YOU to contact your child’s teachers IF they are out for more than a couple of days.  Be courteous and mindful of the fact that your child is not the only one these teachers deal with.  And, remember, they have, likely, seen and heard it all.  When you talk to them, let them know what’s going on with your child, how long you think they might be out and offer to come pick up any make up work.

For Chase, I’ve had to coordinate things myself. It was not easy, but being organized is important.  Know yours child’s schedule, teacher names and the times they have class.  I have not always done this and it usually ended up a confusing mess.

Follow these tips and you should have an easier time dealing with the school. Just remember, one troublesome administrator or teacher does not mean all of them will be the same way. They have your child, plus dozens more to deal with, just keep that in mind.

I…was wrong

Sometimes, being a parent also means being wrong. We all like to think that we make good, sound judgments, especially where our children are concerned. Well, being a parent also means that you are human and you do, like it or not, make mistakes.

I am far from a perfect father. I have made many mistakes and been wrong many times. Likely, this is a pattern that repeat itself.  Not on purpose, but, no doubt, it will. When I am wrong, I can admit it.  Sometimes, though, it is hard to do so, especially when one thinks one is doing the right thing.

Recently, my fifteen year son missed quite a bit of time from high school due to illness. My son has an autoimmune issue that causes him to get sick frequently and it generally takes him longer to recover.  In the past, he has been very diligent about making up his work and staying on top of his grades.

Chase is a wonderful son. Pretty responsible and is one who knows right from wrong. I credit his late mother and grandfather with much of his character. I like to think I had a hand in there as well. He doesn’t drink, do drugs, run around with out letting us know where he is and, most important, has empathy, something many young adults sorely lack.

Given his responsible nature, we decided not to hound him (as we have in the past) about making up his work and doing what he can to stay current at school.  Unfortunately, he didn’t do as well as we had assumed he would and he fell behind. As a result, his grades faltered.

Naturally, I felt partly responsible for this…I should have been monitoring him more than I did. That said, he should have kept up. The work he was missing was not that much, but I thought that his teachers would not allow or could not allow him to make it up. Well, they did and he finished within a weeks time. As he was grounded until he made it up, he had a lot of incentive.  At the end of the week, he had made it up.  Since then, my wife and I have been checking the web site where the teachers post his grades, assignments, etc.

Once again, he got sick and missed a few days.  As a result, his grades in three classes plummeted and, suddenly, there were assignments – some from the previous nine weeks – showed up as missing. I confronted him about them and he told me that he had already done much of it and that the teachers had not yet entered his grades. I, however, did not believe him and thought he was just telling me what he thought I would want to hear.

So, I fired off some emails to the teachers involved.  I got responses. Now, before I go on, let me say that I do, in fact, trust my son. When he was grounded, I did not take physical possession of his computer or iPhone. I knew that he would do I told him.  I knew that he respects us enough to follow our rules and instructions.  This knowledge, however, seemed to elude me for a moment.

Sure enough, the teachers had accepted and graded most of the work (some of it requires him to be at the school, which he is doing) but had not entered it into the school’s system.

Imagine how small I felt. I had got so worked up over the poor grades that I forgot who my son was and assumed the worst. Not only had I, indirectly, let my son know that I had not trusted him, I believed a freaking web site over my kid’s word.  I felt absolutely horrible. I did apologize to him, but it seems inadequate. How do I convey to my son that I do trust him, yet take the results on a screen to heart more than his words? Simple. Just don’t believe the damned screen.

So, I was wrong. So wrong here. I should trust that my son is still on top of things and just use the web site for guidance and not gospel. As for grades, maybe we should not put as high of importance on them that we forget the ones who are attaining those grades.

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