Thursday, March 27, 2014

Where State Testing Fails...

I was supposed to volunteer in Cole's library class this week, but got  an email stating that due to PSSA testing they won't be having any volunteers in the building.  Cole is only in 1st grade so he is not doing any state testing.  Last year though in New Jersey he was exposed to a standardized test which he took via the computer.  He did really well on it and I appreciated seeing his results, because it did give me some comparison of where he stood.

As a child I always liked the testing.  We took the TELLS test and the California Achievement Test.  I can still recall the sample questions that went something like this... a baloo is a bear and a yonker is a young man.  If you know me then you won't be surprised that this useless info is forever ingrained in my mind.  In the 1980's the tests just sort of showed up one day, we took them and a few months later the results came through.  It was not an event.  There was no lead up, no incentives for kids to do well, no threats, no practice tests, special snacks, or anything of the like.

To me the issue with the current line of testing is not exactly the testing.  First it is the hype, that built up for kids and parents about the importance of the testing.  Children lose sleep over taking the tests and have anxiety attacks from the pressure.  Remember these same children did not even exist in this world as little as eight years ago.  Secondly it is the political pressure that surrounds the testing system.  I am not one for politics, but I am one who knows education intimately and better than most politicians.  They should hardly be the ones governing this system and using it as leverage for their own political gain. Next it is the finances.  What can we do to improve our nation's educational system for say 1.7 billion dollars?  I am sure that we could do a great deal including hiring more teachers to make class sizes smaller,  providing appropriate teaching materials for students, improving education in our nation's poorest communities.  Finally, the problem lies in what is done with the results of these tests.  Schools that do well get funding and schools who do not do well get into trouble and can lose funding.

I want to look more closely at that final thought.  I have taught in three states in three very different settings.  I have worked with students whose first language was not English, students with learning disabilities, students who were educationally gifted, students from low, middle and high socio economic backgrounds.  I have worked in places where class size was 17 and another where the average class size was 26.  In no way were the settings where I worked equal, but the tests given were the same.  One district I worked in the students basically walked through the doors reading while the other school we were lucky if the students knew the letters in their names.  How can funding be based equally when the educational system that provides the test prep is so clearly unfair? 

All this said I feel there is some value in standardized testing.  It is for the above reasons that I am against what it has become.  Will I opt Cole out of testing?  I probably will not as he is the type of student who will probably be just fine for that week.  I would like to see his results as it is a way for me to really see how he measures up educationally against the norm of his peers. That Kindergarten test he took last year, blew me away as he did really well and I was not expecting that. I do not believe the current system is worth the money or stress it causing to all involved.  A less invasive system of standardized tests would better serve our schools. If it surprises you that I would at any level support this form of test remember, you can't expect someone who can still recite their results from the Tells test taken at Schuyler Ave Elementary in third grade to completely turn their back to standardized testing, can you?

    Wednesday, March 26, 2014

    Vacation- Repeat or Brand New

    I love seeing people's vacation pictures on Facebook, especially this time of year when even though it is Spring there is still freezing temperatures and snow.  My question is are you a repeat vacationer or like to try new things? I can name five friends that seem to visit Disney every year and many more that do a week at the same shore each summer.  As we are approaching our upcoming Disney vacation, I am treating this as a trip that we won't be repeating in the near future. I am not saying ever, but I hope there are a few new adventure in between. There are so many wonderful places to see and the kids seem to be growing up quickly.  I can see the magic in a repeat trip to a place where everyone loves.  That shore trip where each year you indulge on crabs at your favorite restaurant or sit by the surf till sunset. 

    So what type of family are you?

    Wednesday, March 19, 2014

    Dial Deep Cleaning Hand Soap Review and Giveaway

    We have been using this fantastic soap courtesy of Purex Insiders for two weeks now!   The reason I waited so long to post the giveaway is that we had germs and I didn't want to dare touch the coupons with any norovirus infected hands.  The stomach bug hit the girls in the house quickly and to protect the guys we took to good old fashioned hand washing.  The kids do wash their hands, but to me it often looks like more of a rinse.  I pulled out two brand new Dial Deep Cleaning Hand Soaps to encourage thorough washing and it worked.  We are using the water blossoms and coconut lime verbena scents.   I was wary of the water blossoms as anything with a flowery scent usually does me in.  The scent was not overpowering and the kids really liked the blue color.  Another scent is yellow raspberry and black sugar and we would love to try that.
    Gives a great lather.

     These soaps have a micro scrubbers that really suds up while deep cleaning.  We loved the soaps and will be using them in the future.
    I was provided free product for my honest review as well as coupons to share with three lucky winners. Check out the contest below to take a chance at winning a free product coupon for Dial Deep Cleaning Hand Soap. 

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Monday, February 24, 2014

    Dial Vitamin Boost Body Wash Review and Giveaway

    Our family almost exclusively uses body wash. When I was given the chance to try new Dial Vitamin Boost Body wash through Purex Insiders, I jumped at the chance.  I received in the mail a full size bottle in exchange for my honest opinion of the product.  I used the body wash first and almost giggled when the wash first came out.  It worked great and had a fresh scent and nice lather.  I did not share my opinion with my husband who was next to try it.  

    We both had the same reaction.  Wow does it look like slime!

    We are now a week in and my husband absolutely loves it. He thinks it lathers really well and the scent is not overpowering but sticks with you.  I like it as well, though I must admit I have hard a hard time getting over the color and thinking about if the ingredients are natural.   Would I buy the Dial Vitamin Boost Body Wash again, yes.  The lotion infused wash left my skin soft at a really tough time of year.   You can give it a try too, just enter to win one of 2 coupons I will be giving away for Dial Body Wash.

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Thursday, February 6, 2014

    Should You Red Shirt Your Child?

    I was a September baby as was my brother, which mean we both officially started Kindergarten at 4 years old.  We then both graduated high school at 17 and didn't officially turn 18 until we had been at college well over a week. We were children of the70's back when not many people did something that many call hold back or more popularly today it is called red shirting. 
    When trying to get pregnant I was shooting for a late winter or early spring baby, but we know how that usually goes.   Cole was due on July 31st.  My mom was two weeks late with both of us so I expected him around the end of the first week of August.  So there I was a teacher due with a later summer baby.  He was not even born and of course I was already thinking about that big send him or not decision.  Cole threw us a curve ball when he arrived 6 weeks early in June.   When Kindergarten rolled around, we did not consider red shirting Cole. 

    Here is why:
    • Cole fell three months before the cut off in NJ and 2 months before the cut off in PA.
    • Cole showed adequate strengths in receptive (direction following) and expressive (speaking) language.
    • Cole was able to attend during school such as he could sit for circle time and listen to books.  
    • Cole was able to socialize with his same age peers and by the time he was in preschool could separate easily from me.  (at 2 that was not the case!)
    • Cole had reading readiness skills that showed he was ready for Kindergarten.
    That being said, there were some issues that I knew would come up with sending him on time. He had residual preemie issues with motor skills especially the ability to print using fine motor skills.  This then carried over to the ability to participate in sports with the other children. 

    The bottom line is that when deciding whether or not to send your child, you are going to be a big part of the decision making team.  It is a huge decision and I have often heard people say they never regretted holding their child back and giving them the gift of the year.  One thing to remember is that if you decide to red shirt your child, know that their brain is still developing at the same rate as if they were to be enrolled in Kindergarten.  This means you need to make sure they are being educationally enriched. 
    Who should make this decision? If your child is enrolled in preschool then the preschool teacher can be a great help in contributing key information to help you decide.  I often would suggest that a parent on the fence observe two places.  First would be to observe their child in the current class in which they are attending, but then ask your local elementary school if you can come in and see what their program is like.   The program being offered is one of the biggest contributing factor.  An excellent Kindergarten program will be differentiated, hands on, and most of all focus on learning through fun multi-sensory activities. Class size may also contribute to your decision, if the class size is below 20  then your child may get more individual attention to help bridge any gaps. 

    Once you have decided what to do, it is important to be confident in the decision.  Everyone has an opinion or tale about being the oldest or youngest child in the class.  I believe my positive educational experience with being the youngest probably contributed to me feeling more secure with sending Cole.  There are going to be struggles for Cole since he will always be on the younger side and these are clearly apparent when keeping up in sports. Someone has to be the youngest in the class and so here we are. Fortunately Cecily is a late April baby and she was ready for Kindergarten at the age of 3 or at least she thinks that! It feels like an eternity waiting for her turn to come.

    Friday, January 31, 2014

    Purex Crystals Mountain Breeze Giveaway

    I am very happy to be back reviewing some of the great products that Purex puts out! The Crystals have become a favorite as they add a really nice softness and scent to each load of laundry.  We are ultra sensitive to smells around our house and anything with a scent with too much perfume can't be used.  A half cap full of the Purex Crystals Fresh Mountain Breeze left the laundry smelling fresh and inviting but not to soaked in scent. This natural oftener really gives clothes a nice fresh smell.

    My free sample bottle from Purex arrived the very day that our toilet backed up into the house causing more than a mess but an awful scent.  We poured some of the crystals in small cups to help cover up that over and it really helped.

    Purex is also always running terrific sweepstakes and this time the grand prize winner will receive $500.  There will be 100 second prize winners that will receive a coupon.  Also in exhcange for my review, Purex Insiders has given me coupon just for my readers to try out Purex Crystals. It is a great coupon with a value of $6.00!
    So take the time to enter the contest here and the wonderful Purex Giveaway that is linked above and with in the Rafflecopter.  Good luck!

    a Rafflecopter giveaway

    Thursday, January 30, 2014

    Don't Use Flushabe Wipes a Cautionary Tale

    For your own sanity and the sake of the meal you just consumed I will not be adding any photos to this post.  You are welcome....

    The year was 2011 and we were living in our split level in New Jersey with our 3 year old and 9 month old.  It was a time of great couponing success with me and with that success came many free or almost free products.  We were busy preparing for Valentine's Day and it was my job to make the heart sugar cookies that were to be decorated in Cole's preschool class.  It was our second day with little to no water and one half way functioning toilet.  I was starting to loose my mind waiting for my husband's plumber friend to show up and I lost it and called in Roto Rooter.  $400 later, everything was back to working order, thank God!  The issue was flushable wipes that I had been letting Cole use.  I had gotten packs and packs of them for free at Shop Rite and they said flushable, so why not.  It was an expensive and disgusting mistake.
    That was the last time we ever used flushable wipes.  Fast forward three years almost to the week! New house and this time we have a septic system.  We only use Scott toilet paper and never use wipes!  On Tuesday, I was going about my morning routine of laundry and dishes when the smell hit me.  Put down your sandwich for this part, really you will thank me.  I followed the smell of poop and dirt all the way to our lower level toilet which we are not currently using.  I saw it.  Brown sludge pouring out the top of the toilet and all over the floor.  You know what brown sludge in a toilet is!  We called in Draintech who arrived promptly.  This time for under $200, the system was cleared.  The culprit....flushable wipes.  Not from us mind you but from the previous residents which means they were about 5 years old. The man said they caught in the pipe n with each flush more sludge was caught on the wipe until the pipe completely blocked and backed up into that toilet.
     At this point I have spent nearly $600 on flushable wipe incidents.  The money is one thing, but the clean up oh was the worst.  We were lucky it was minor but really it was completely disgusting!  Rich and I split it up just to survive the disgust.  These are two examples of why not to use flushable wipes and I can name two more people I personally know that had the same problem which created even worse conditions.  You say to me, but they say flushable on them so they must be.  I say then enjoy, but be prepared to clean up old poo!