Category Archives: Parenting

Kids and Allowances: What Do They Pay For?

Allowance Game
Photo by Mike Baehr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Yes, we give our kids an allowance. Yes, they also have chores – but the allowance is not tied to the chores (they lose electronics or other privileges if chores are a problem).

How much? Right now, our 9-year-old gets $5 per week, 12-year-old gets $10 per week, and 14-year-old gets $15 per week.

How do they get it? 12 and 14 get theirs direct-deposited into a bank account with a debit card. 9 gets $3 per week direct-deposited into savings (her choice), and $2 per week in cash (she doesn’t have a lot of expenses but likes the occasional candy or soda).

Now, my question to you, if your kids also get an allowance or have some sort of income, is what do your kids pay for vs. what you pay for?

Our kids can spend their money on fun stuff: candy, sodas, books, magazines, music, posters, etc. But they are also supposed to pay for things like birthday gifts for friends and smaller expenses at school (school dances, smaller field trip and supply fees, additional school supplies, drum sticks).

We’ve also started giving a seasonal clothing allowance for the older two, although I’m still trying to figure out what is the best amount. So they pay for their own clothes out of that, unless something comes up like an urgent need for a new winter coat, or having NO SHOES that fit any more.

OK, that kind of sounds like I have our system figured out. But I don’t entirely, and I suspect high school is going to shake things up a bit, and we’re going to have to figure out where to re-draw the lines between what we pay for and what they need to budget for.

What do you do?


Yes, it’s been a while. What have I been up to? Lots of hiking this summer. I’m hiking for my health and because I love it!  I post hike reports and photos at the Portland Hikers Forums (latest post). I’ve also been traveling with my family – family reunions, Yosemite, and the Oregon Coast.


We Are People, Not Test Scores

Lots of schools in Oregon are having parent-teacher conferences right now. If you’re a parent, you may be asked to sign a form that authorizes your student to take each OAKS test twice. That’s twice for reading, twice for math, and if your child is in 5th, 8th, or high school, possibly twice for science, at 60-75 minutes per test, or 4-7 hours altogether. Possibly longer. Many kids who have the hardest time with the tests take even longer.

You don’t have to sign that form. In Oregon, the school can’t test your student a second time unless you consent. And you don’t have to consent. We didn’t.

In fact, you can opt out of the testing entirely if you want to. In Oregon, this has to be based on either disability or religious belief, and no one is going to give you a religious test. “Judge not lest ye be judged” might  be one belief, for example.

We haven’t decided whether to opt our kids out entirely. There are reasons for doing this; they may be personal (I don’t want my kid under that kind of pressure) or they can be a form of protest (see the Why Opt Out? list down past the images on this page). My initial feeling is that I don’t really mind a one and done standardized test to  show how my kid is doing, and how the kids in that particular school are doing. But I think repeated testing  just encourages an emphasis on coaching kids for the test rather than on real learning, and I think it wastes time that could be spent on real learning.

So, unless we change our minds between now and then, our kids will take the first round of OAKS tests and be done.

Teach Your Children

I haven’t done a post with this title yet? Good. Because today, it just fits.

If you’ve been hanging out on the internet lately, you may have noticed that there appears to be a significant segment of the U.S. population that still, consciously or unconsciously, supports racism. You don’t even have to read a Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman story to see it. You could take a look at the people who think that Marc Anthony (a born-in-the-USA American citizen of Puerto Rican descent) is not fit to sing “God Bless America” at a sporting event.

It’s horrible. And it’s not always that overt. Sometimes it’s just, as President Obama described, being followed in a department store, or crossing the street and hearing car door locks snap down, or seeing a white woman become nervous because you’re there.

But why are people still acting this way in 2013? They had to learn it somewhere, and I would guess that in most cases it begins with the parents or other primary caregivers. And I would guess that this is true about other forms of bigotry as well: religious bigotry, homophobia, and sexism for instance. And about violence — bullying, gun violence, gang violence, violence against women, even, perhaps, war.

So, parents and other adults, if we want things to change, it’s at least partly up to us. We have to be the ones to teach our children that bigotry and violence are wrong. We have to tell them, and model for them as best we can, that people are people no matter what color they are, and no matter what language they speak. We must teach them that it’s not OK to shoot or beat up other people, and that it’s not cool or funny to rape.

We also have to admit that we are not perfect at this. I know I am not. I sometimes react to people who look different, even if I keep that reaction inside. I’m not proud of it. I want to do better, and I want my children to do better. That’s something the President addressed, too — he said that Malia and Sasha and their friends are much better at not being racist than we are. I think my kids probably are, too. But what about the rest of the country? Obviously there are families and places where kids simply aren’t learning these things. Will it just take longer there? Maybe.

But you, the one reading this. I know you’re probably more likely to agree with me anyway, but let’s do what we can! If you haven’t directly talked with your kids about bigotry and violence, do it! Make sure they know that this is not the way to live. And then live the example with them.


Don’t Go It Alone: Important Parenting Addendum

I can’t believe I didn’t include this in my previous post, “The Kids, the Crazy.”

But in addition to “it gets better” I should have said “DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, FEEL OR THINK YOU HAVE TO PARENT ALONE!”

Because that way lies further madness.

We’ve got this idea in much of the United States that we have to be independent and handle things on our own. And in general, yes, we do have to learn to be responsible adults and not depend on Mom and Dad for everything. Many people do not even have the option of depending on Mom and Dad for support.

But the idea that you should be able to do everything on your own is just as ridiculous as expecting to be a child forever.

So if you have young children, and you are losing it, accept help or go looking for it! Ask someone to watch your kids for a couple of hours while you read a book or go for a walk or resolve some things with your partner or spouse. If you aren’t currently in need of this help, and you’re able to, keep an eye out for people who could use your help, because they may not ask. And they may not have families who can help out.

And if things are really desperate, there may be professional services available to you, from counseling to children’s relief nurseries. These aren’t just for people who have socioeconomic or other issues. They can be helpful for anyone. Google them. Also look for new parent support programs, playgroups, anything that will connect you with other people who can support you. I know church isn’t for everyone, but a spiritual community can also be a great source of support (as well as an opportunity to support others).



The Kids, The Crazy

BABIES. They’re a thing right now. Oh, I suppose they’re always a thing. But it seems like a lot of people I know are having them lately.

We are done having babies, even though I often think MOAR BABIES would be awesome. I mean, BABIES! Cute and cuddly and always learning new stuff, right? Oh, and always wanting to eat, and not wanting to sleep, and teething, and screaming for no apparent reason.

And despite what some people say, you really can’t do everything you used to do or that you want to do, because you have a baby to feed and change and hold and you’re too darned tired to do anything properly.

And if you’re really lucky, you fall into depression! You might get anything from a bit of baby blues from being to tired to full-blown postpartum depression or even postpartum psychosis. And if you’ve already got a tendency to depression, this is all the more likely.

AND, it’s not just the women who get depressed; it happens to men, too. Especially the good ones who actually help with the baby care.

Hey, I think I just talked myself out of those baby longings again.

So yes, I was frequently depressed when we had babies. I still get depressed, but those were definitely some of the hardest times. I first started taking medication when my depression was intensified by postpartum depression. There were times when I cried because the baby wanted to nurse AGAIN, after 20 minutes, and I was sore. Or when I just felt like everything was happening in slow-motion, and I couldn’t manage to get anything done. There were times when I just wanted to chuck it all and just do whatever I wanted to do for a day.

How do you deal with this without TOTALLY losing it?

I guess it really comes down to acceptance. You accept that you have to lower your expectations. You won’t be able to get as much housework done. You may not be as effective at your money-earning job, or anything else you have going on.

I set priorites for certain things that HAD to be done. For instance, I decided that no matter what, every day I would pick up any dishes, dirty clothes, and garbage that were lying around. And sometimes these things did lie around all day. But they got picked up at least once a day.

I eventually accepted that I would be spending a great deal of time holding, nursing, or lying down with babies. At first, I thought I would pop the baby in a sling and go on with life. It didn’t work that way. Sometimes it did. One of our babies spent hours in a sling while I sang in a church praise band. Our youngest spent small amounts of time strapped to my back while I worked in the garden. But I definitely couldn’t do this as much as I expected to.

However, I did make an effort to do things that made me feel more like ME. This included the singing and gardening, as well as exercising, reading, and meeting other parents on the internet.

It took me a long time to accept that I would feel depressed sometimes, and that I would come out of it. But it’s true. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you still get depressed. But you will get through it.

And that’s the other thing about babies: it gets better. Or different, anyway. Those first years are HARD. Many wonderful things happen, but at times, it’s hell. My youngest is seven, and it’s only within the past couple of years that I’ve started getting more sleep, having more energy, and being more effective in general. But it does get better.

I don’t know if “it gets better” is a very helpful sentiment for new parents! But it’s true. I’m proof.

This post was inspired by John Metta, struggling new parent of twins.



The Purpose of Education

My husband keeps asking “what is the purpose of education,” because he is disgusted with the state of education in the United States and thinks the entire system needs to be rebooted.

I’m heavily involved in the system, so I tend to be slightly defensive about this, although I agree that the system needs change, and a reboot might just be the way to go. I’m an instructional assistant/technology support specialist in a K-5 elementary school, plus I’m partially homeschooling my middle-schooler. I’m a union member, a Parent-Teacher Organization secretary and a sometime-attender of school board meetings. And I’m an all-around rabble-rousing type.

Anyway, I do think this is an excellent question, and one I’ve asked myself before while homeschooling, so I thought I’d try to answer it.

I think education has more than one purpose. At a basic level, students do need to learn reading, writing and arithmetic just to get by in the world today. But most students have reached at least a life-skills level of these subjects by the time they leave elementary school. So why continue education beyond that?

One additional purpose is for job training. We want people to be able to get living wage jobs as adults. So education is supposed to teach additional skills toward this goal. It’s become less common, however, for students to leave high school with such skills. We expect students to attend college or vocational schools in order to succeed. We tell them that EVERYONE should go to college.

Another purpose, and one that’s a priority for me, is teaching critical thinking skills. Students need to know how to solve problems, and how to find answers. We need scientists who can figure out how to deal with climate change, and how to get people to Mars. We need writers, musicians and artists who are truly creative. We need people who can figure out the best ways to grow, process and sell food at the local level.

And our founding fathers thought a well-informed and educated populace was essential to democracy (check out this summary of Jefferson’s views). I agree. People need to be able to evaluate what they see on TV and the internet, rather than just believing whatever a favorite talk show personality says. People need to think about those emails before forwarding them. And I think this is something that is sorely lacking.

So as a homeschooling mom, I focus more on critical thinking and problem solving skills than on specific content. The content is out there. It’s available in books and on the internet and in the people we encounter every day. It’s knowing what to do with that content, and how to find what you need, that is important.

My husband thinks that there should be more emphasis on vocational training and apprenticeships for students who would profit from that. We shouldn’t TRACK students, by any means. We have no business saying “you’re not college material, you should take auto shop,” which is what has happened in the past. But for students who are mechanically-minded and WANT this training? Why not?

What do you think? What would you do if you could reboot education in the United States, or wherever you are?



Dear Family

Dear Family: Today I asked everyone to help pick up the house a bit. It’s not unusual. We ask for this most weekends. And many times, everyone works together and gets things done beautifully.

But today, there was arguing and complaining, and I think I’m still a little short on emotional resources from a stressful day yesterday, so I ended up wanting to cry myself.

And I’m not trying to guilt you into doing more. I just want to express how I feel.

When you argue with each other, and complain that you don’t want to do it, and that weekends are supposed to be a break, I feel like you don’t care about me. And I know you do care about me, and that it’s really not about me. But that’s how it feels. I want to get things done and then…well, I’m probably going to be getting a few MORE things done before I get to relax, but you get the idea. And when you’re not willing to help out, it feels like you don’t care.

I know all the parenting literature says I should just not take it personally. I should just tell you what I expect, and apply natural or logical consequences if it doesn’t happen. And sometimes I’m OK with that. But, like I said, emotional resources are low today, so it’s a little harder.

Thank you for getting things done in the end. I just wish it could have been a little easier.

A New School Year

Tomorrow’s the first day of school, but no one here is particularly excited. Well, maybe our second-grader is. She’s excited about being in a class with her friend, and she’s excited that another friend is starting kindergarten this year, so they will be at the same school.

Our fifth-grader likes her friends, and does well at school, but I think she really prefers being with US. She was upset today because she didn’t get to go shopping with either of her parents.

Both of them will likely be in classes with over 30 kids this year, which worries me. A lot.

Our seventh-grader will be mostly home-schooled this year. She’ll take a couple of classes at the middle school (we’re still hoping she can get into band; she’s on the waiting list), but do the rest of her work independently. Middle school didn’t turn out to be a positive environment for her last year, and since I don’t see it as a positive environment either, I’m happy to have her out of school for the time being.

And me? I worked a couple of days last week, and tomorrow will be the first day with students. But my job is changing a bit this year, and I’m apprehensive.

Normally I work mainly with technology — maintaining the computer lab and all of the other computers, printers and audio-visual equipment in the building and helping teachers and students use the technology equipment. When classes visit the computer lab, I work with the teachers to help students with typing, art projects, math and reading tutorials, and more. When we have standardized testing, it’s all done in the computer lab, and I’m in charge of that. And I’ve always had some kind of lunch or recess duty, either in the computer lab or outdoors.

I used to have eight hours per day to do all of that. Last year it was cut to seven, because, budget cuts. And then I was asked to do after school crosswalk duty, and was granted an extra paid half hour for that specifically. Until they decided to downsize that, too. The principal decided to have the morning crosswalk person do 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon, instead of having us both do half an hour. Because, budget cuts.

This year I still have seven hours. But now I have a half hour of front door duty before school, a half hour of recess/lunch duty, and a half hour of crosswalk duty. And no, I won’t be granted additional time for any of those. It all comes out of my technology time.

And sure, I’ll be working with students during that time. But my duties will basically be HERDING students, which is, in my opinion, the least valuable part of public school. Students have to be herded, usually in large groups, into and out of school and from place to place within the school. NOBODY likes it, but under the current system, it has to be done.

And somebody has to do it. And I guess it’s gonna be me. But it’s disappointing.