Monthly Archives: March 2014

30 Things: 5 Loves, 5 Hates (Assignment)

Thirty labels that apply to me:

1. Home school student.

2. Survivor.

3. Brunette.

4. Sister.

5. Singer (casually, at least).

6. Blog-writer.

7. Vegan.

8. Pianist (novice).

9. Misotheist.

10. Budding (pun intended) herbalist.

11. Artist.

12. Gluten-intolerant.

13. Single.

14. Gemini.

15. Young.

16. Very casual occasional violinist (it’s not mine but I play with it sometimes, oops).

17. Art history student.

18. Astrology student (although I’m not super into it).

19. Grey School apprentice wizard.

20. Aspiring herbalist/nutritionist.

21. Writer.

22. Picky reader.

23. Facebook member.

24. Ex-Tumblr blogger.

25. Teenager.

26. Fashion enthusiast. 

27. Teen Vogue reader (at least online).

28. Closet yuri watcher (only the tame stuff like Maria Sama Ga Miteru).

29. Pretty Little Liars enthusiast.

30. Wannabe gardener. 

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Loves:

1. Vegan cheesecake.

2. My sister.

3. Dark chocolate.

4. Europe.

5. Marimite.

—-

Hates

1. My old family (most of the time, except when I don’t. Ugh).

2. Most religion.

3. People who use personality disorders as an excuse to act abusively toward others.

4. Most therapists.

5. My old school and all the administrators there. 

Why do I write (assignment)?

This is an assignment for the MIT Creative Writing course on the open source site. I hope to take a “real” one soon but for now here goes.

—-

Why do I write?

The answer is, I don’t. I don’t write unless I have to. Right now, I have my own blog and I have it because I need it. I need it because I am adjusting to home school, and WordPress helps me to feel as though I won’t just disappear. Back in sixth grade, maybe the beginning of seventh, I thought I was going to stay a regular schooled kid. When I stopped living with my parents and was appointed a guardian, school was brutal and unforgiving toward me. Educators were nowhere near sensitive or respectful to my needs as someone who risked being sent back to a dangerous situation or thrown back into the life lottery if I could not keep my grades up and “prove” this was the right place for me. My guardian essentially told me that she didn’t think that middle school would work for me. I was taken out of school to deal with issues like PTSD and such. Because a lot of my time as a home school student has been about dealing with trauma and keeping avoidable triggers out of my schooling, I haven’t had much time to socialize. The only home school group I belong to is virtual. Next year, she says she’s going to get me a more formalized curriculum for ninth grade since colleges look at that sort of thing but this year a lot of my work is “research things that interest you and write about them or talk about them” with a dash of “do things on Kahn Academy/The Grey School.” The Grey School is nice because it surprisingly has a lot of history and literature type courses along with a bit of basic math. A fellow home school student I know is taking a basic math refresher course there to make sure she’s up to speed on arithmetic before potentially starting pre-algebra. 

I don’t have report cards. I don’t have tests or a student ID badge with my name on it. The only thing that “proves” I exist and that my education exists seems to be this blog and maybe my Facebook page. I write because it is a means of being legitimate and having my voice heard by the outside world without having to have intensely stressful one-on-one conversations. This is why I write.

On “Dumpster Diving” Response Paper

It is difficult for me to talk about books when I find the intro uninteresting unto itself. You wrote a letter to the dictionary producers to find out more about the origin of the word “dumpster?” So it was published in 1991, maybe you didn’t have Wikipedia to help you out there. Still, I tend to dislike this sort of introduction in fiction – the kind where the writer just mentions some quirky thing he does as a segue into whatever point he’s trying to make. The question becomes why is this important and why should I care? If teachers are allowed to ask those questions of readers, are we not allowed to ask them of writers and of our reading assignments? The first paragraph makes me think of those hipsters in the local community who would totally eat out of dumpsters despite being on the meal plan to be “ironic” or whatever. Granted, that whole movement likely didn’t exist in 1991 so I’m trying to let go of my prejudice here.

Once I realized that the narrator becomes legitimately homeless and is not dumpster driving in the eco-friendlier-than-thou way that local college students do, I had a bit more sympathy for him. The disturbing thing was how much he seemed able to get from the garbage. Who in their right mind would just throw their clothing in the trash when it can be given to Good Will? I guess people do this, but it bothers me! 

The writer talks about various dangers of eating out of a dumpster. One is botulism which makes canned food fatal to eat. This makes me actually a little worried for those hipster kids behind the bakery. It seemed as though the writer had to do a lot of different things to evaluate foods for their safety. He writes that restaurants would throw out food they could not sell but then stop throwing food out when they found out people were eating it. This actually frustrates me greatly. Why would people do this, honestly, why? All that food could be picked up if a freaking kickstarter were to hire an individual to do so and taken to a place where low-income people living off food stamps could get all the pizza some prank-ordering stoner didn’t want. This business would have to be on a bus line so that people without cars would be able to get there. I think food should be a basic human right and hate that people are so selfish as to starve out the homeless person who eats their trash. 

The narrator describes getting dysentery once per month despite being very careful with what he eats. Having never heard of dysentery outside of Oregon Trail (an old relic but whatever), I had to look it up. Dysentery is an inflammatory disorder of the colon which causes bad diarrhea, according to Wikipedia. Now I am especially sorry for those poor hipsters. Hopefully the bakery doesn’t throw out anything too hostile to the stomach. 

The narrator does not dwell too much on indigestion, and instead moves on to talk about the perspectives he gets on human life from viewing what people throw away. This part is honestly sad – particularly how many deceased pets he finds just thrown in the trash. His takeaway message is that items are not often worth acquiring, and mine is that people seriously need to be less wasteful and more considerate.. 

 

Honors and AP

I’m a little frustrated by the reading I’m doing about how obsessed colleges are with AP courses. Supposedly if you have that AP designation, your education is more “standardized” and they have an easier time judging whether or not you’re a worthwhile student. Part of why this bothers me I think is because it just doesn’t make any degree of sense. I have heard that AP somehow impresses them more than CC courses, and to me that just seems whack because in a CC course you are literally IN COLLEGE, experiencing college. What better way to demonstrate that you can handle uhm…college? 

Also the “school” I’m looking at online to take some high school-level courses at has some great course offerings that don’t fall in line with that perfect “AP track” plan. I’ve already read some Shakespeare and some American literature but I haven’t read anything from the world mythology English course and of course that’s the one class that doesn’t offer an “honors” version. I’m interested in Honors Oceanography but that isn’t Biology which leads to the wonderfulness of AP Biology II. Part of what bugs me is that a lot of colleges don’t require things like Biology anyway and have easy versions like Physics for Poets or whatever, so it doesn’t make sense to me why not taking AP Biology would somehow make you a “bad candidate.”

Supposedly it’s also about making sure a student is taking the most challenging courses possible. Uhm…well…what about times when students aren’t doing well in certain subjects? That is actually something that severely bugs me about school. If you’re bad at math, let’s say you start off in Algebra I (regular, not honors). The course doesn’t try to get you caught up to the Algebra I Honors students. There’s literally no way to catch up. A friend of mine took Geometry (regular) and then asked to be moved to Algebra 2 Honors and found that she could not keep up at all and that the course assumed having taken Geometry Honors. She got downgraded to regular Algebra 2 which ended up being way too easy for her. If education is supposed to be about educating people, why this system where if you don’t have it all together by the time you’re 15 you’re just fucked for life?

I guess supposedly the big reason for all of this is that colleges are competitive or whatever. To me, that’s not really a good thing. I mean, yeah, when those big ivies can actually boast that their students find jobs after graduation then we’ll talk but a friend of mine went to a new ivy and spent the first year out of college temping and being repeatedly ignored and rejected after college despite having a ton of job experience before graduation. 

My guardian’s valedictorian took a boatload of AP courses, went to Yale, and then dropped out after half a semester because it drove her nuts and then spent like 6 years at one of the state schools she used to turn up her nose at. There seems to be so much focus on getting in that there’s very little time to wonder what you’ll do when you actually get there. 

This is my sad story of why I’m in home school.

A few people have given me grief online about how I’m not getting a “real” education, and how I should go back to “real” school. In their opinions, the only acceptable way to home school is by paying $XXX a month to do some kind of “e-learning” which will lead to an “accredited diploma” saying you’re an awesome child who completed “e-learning” or whatever the hell. Yes I cuss, deal with it. My sister’s a big “never uses swear words” type but I haven’t picked that up yet.

“Real” school feels like it was forever ago, so I want to talk a little about what my experience was like there…hopefully to work myself out of this self-doubt I’m having mid-semester as I review high school curriculum options with my family.

As far as the “why do I home school” question goes, I’m sort of a weird case because I don’t actually live with the family I lived with when I was going to “normal” school. That’s a good thing, trust me, but it wasn’t so much a “family realized how much I was suffering and cared” thing. No, I asked my original family multiple times if I could unschool and their answer was always “no.” My experiences were terrible at regular school and funnily enough, 95% of my “bullies” were teachers. In preschool…I don’t talk about preschool. In pre-k, the meanest girl in the class was the teacher’s daughter and so I was expected to put up with bullying lest I offend her oh-so-great parenting skills. Beyond that, my parents put me in Catholic school and I didn’t know anything about Catholicism because they sent me to a New Age-ish church. Yeah I know that’s weird, I don’t care. I like being honest. Anyway, the teachers would mock stuff I said in mean voices and tell me I was a bad kid basically. Family didn’t care. I then moved on to kindergarten and remember I got in trouble for getting glue on a penny because that was “defacing currency.” Fast forward to first grade. I got in trouble for taking down a kid’s name from a cubby after he moved away. Second grade, I had this teacher who “didn’t believe” in recess. She was just a beeotch but supposedly “oh she has colon cancer” was ample excuse for the fact that we were holed up in her classroom for 6 hour days with no recess and were required to be silent this entire time while being told that we were immature, rude, etc. My third grade teacher was a lot better but she had her favorites and I wasn’t one of them.

By fourth grade I was a mess, and my family was sending me to this lousy therapist. I developed mild OCD and I got in trouble for OCD rituals. In fifth grade, the teacher was a single lady in her late thirties/early forties who was just angry all the time. In sixth grade, my teacher was one of the crabbiest people I ever met. I could NEVER finish the homework she gave us, and it wasn’t because I didn’t understand the material. It was because it was a ton of busy work and a ton of perfectionism. To illustrate, we had to write a whole paper without using the words “is” or “be.” 

At age eleven/twelve-ish, I started living with different people from who I grew up with. When they put me back in school, they took my disability documentation to the office and they assured my guardian that “oh yeah we’ll let her teachers know.”

Well…English teacher didn’t think my documentation was sufficient and kept making me jump through all these hoops. At the time I was having trouble sleeping and it affected my ability to stay super focused in class. The office didn’t help because supposedly it was his decision whether or not to accommodate me. Social studies teacher actually got fired eventually (but not soon enough) because he was constantly making demeaning jokes about people with mental illnesses. Foreign language teacher was a really nice lady. Math teacher was just…really bad at his job. The school sorted me incorrectly into a higher math class than made sense for me, and so I ended up struggling *a lot.* I also dealt with some bullying that was pretty bad. The girl bullying me had a fake ID (I know, right) and was possibly a teenage alcoholic but even when I shared that with the principal he just asked me if I wanted to start a lynch mob or something. So yeah this girl never got help for her addiction and I never got help for her bullshit.

My new family fought HARD to make normal schooling work for me. Poor guardian tried her hardest. She kept telling the office and my teachers that I had been in a rough family situation before and needed some consideration. Teachers just told her they wanted it “dealt with” and that I ought to be in therapy/taking medicine if it was really that bad. At the time, I was in therapy but my therapist basically said “I’m not a miracle worker” and stated that I did need accommodations and understanding to be successful and that his job wasn’t really to “change me” and change my needs so much as keep me thinking and processing and working on myself. Basically the school’s response was “well if he’s not a miracle worker, find someone who is.”

During that time, I was so scared of going back to my old family. I thought if I didn’t perform well in school, I’d be shipped back and that thought was terrifying to me. It added so much stress to my life. I remember talking to an academic counselor about that.

It went something like this:

Me: I moved away from a really bad home situation, but since this is new I’m really afraid of getting sent back if I can’t prove to the powers that be that this situation is good for me. I’m afraid that if I make bad grades, they’ll think my current living situation “isn’t working out” and it’ll give my parents leverage to make me come back.

Her: Oh, I don’t think that’s true! I think everyone involved in your care has your best interest at heart.

Me: But they don’t. My family is horrible, and I don’t even know if I’m going to finish school if I have to go back there.

Her: That sounds really hard. Are you in therapy?

Me: Not currently, Dr. G and I are taking a break, but it’s not emotional support I need. It’s basically having teachers work with me. I’m getting in trouble for missing class or falling asleep in class and I’m not sure I can handle this block schedule, mandatory attendance thing but I absolutely have to stay in school and succeed to stay safe basically. Sometimes I’ve requested alternative assignments and been ignored. I need someone to advocate for me.

Her: Well, unfortunately my hands are tied. The verbiage states that they have to give you “reasonable” accommodation and if they don’t feel that the accommodations you’re asking for are reasonable then they have a right to refuse. 

My guardian tried dealing with this woman too, to no avail. A family friend who also had some kids at that school started complaining, and then they started freezing her out because her kids weren’t students anymore and they had to prioritize “current students.” I think the counseling department even blocked her e-mail address which is just…wow. 

Then I was taken out of school. I felt a LOT of grief over losing “the high school experience,” whatever that is. I felt a sense of failure for not being able to finish strong. My grades were terrible (well, terrible for me – Bs and Cs when I know I could have done better). That school was private so C meant “barely passing” by their standards. I remember a teacher wanted to give me a going away card and I couldn’t even go pick it up because I felt sick even looking at that place. We did our homework and figured out how to make this work. 

In the beginning, I had frequent panic attacks and so I ended up having other people present for all of my study time and telling me when to stop basically. The end of seventh grade was a lot tamer than what I’m up to now. My new family has sort of structured some of my education around helping me emotionally. Communications was a required course at my old school and instead of public speaking, we focused on de-escalating high-conflict people and having successful interactions with jerkasses. It was funny, there was an online course about this, a webinar, articles to read, etc. With English it was kind of just okay as long as I was reading. A lot of what I did was history and art last semester. It wasn’t until this semester when I decided to get a bit more structured with it. The point is, it’s okay to take your time especially when you’re dealing with hard things. It shouldn’t be about “normalizing” if the whole point of education is to enrich young people and give them the tools to be productive adults. In fact, if you get beaten down for 21 years before you get out into “the real world,” you’re not going to be able to do a job or be a successful person.

Things are a lot better than they used to be. I can actually socialize with people now, and handle responsibility and goal-setting a lot more easily. That wasn’t going to happen at regular school. I notice a lot of parents take their kids out due to ASD rather than OCD/PTSD like I have, and I’m curious as to whether or not that’s a similar experience with teachers not getting it and blaming the kid for not falling in line. 

So this is embarrassing to talk about, but I figured somebody else out there has to have a kid with problems like mine and has to be wondering if home schooling would help. It does. A lot. Especially when you focus a few art sessions on drawing silly pictures of all the teachers who hurt you. 

Am I being totally unrealistic?

We’ve been talking about my plans for next year when I supposedly start high school, and I’m so confused/frustrated with it. When trying to picture my ideal home school situation, it looks like something I’ve never seen before ever.

I’d like to take online courses someplace with a recommended curriculum. It’d be nice if they had some AP courses available. The problem is, I don’t really want to apply/register to a “real” online school that basically assumes you’re signing up to have that be the school you’re going to. Does that make sense? I don’t want to just enroll in a school that’s basically no different from any other school except that it’s online. I more want a program where I know I’m touching upon the same materials other people would be but it’s not so structured like “we expect you to graduate from Online Asynchronous Expensive Institute of the Midwest by fulfilling these requirements, sending your real name and a lock of hair and an immunology record and a middle school transcript and blah and blah and blah and blah.” It’d be nice if there were some avenues for talking to other students online too.

There are some things I’ve come across that *might* fit the bill, but I’m not sure.

  • Thinkwell. A family member did a course through them in high school and said it was kind of boring but it gives you progress reports which is nice.
  • Education Portal. Somewhat good but a.) it’s all multiple choice and I hate that and b.) not all of their courses are complete.

It’s frustrating to me how you can’t just get a strong curriculum without it having to mean a commitment to do all your coursework there and sort of not be a home school student anymore. What if you want a transcript saying “hey, I did some stuff here” but you ultimately are using an online school to enrich home school education and not like as the be-all, end-all of your official normative high school education? Bleh. You must not exist if you want that. 

Dilemmas, dilemmas…

I really want to learn Spanish. It would be the ideal language for me because I want to be able to communicate with the numerous people who live in America and don’t speak English. Unfortunately, my Spanish course ran out and I don’t have more until money turns around (which hopefully will be soon). My guardian recommended I study French for the time being because I already know some French (I’d say 1-2 years maybe). She thinks it’d be useful for me to sort of “top off” what I already started for the sake of being able to list as bi or even tri-lingual on job applications later. Should I study both? What have other peoples’ experiences been with learning multiple languages?

College and stupid.

I just don’t know what to think sometimes. It seems like there are so many people trying to figure out “what colleges want” and advice is about as consistent as teen magazines are about how to get a boyfriend. If anybody actually had it figured out, people wouldn’t still be buying these “top ten signs he’s into you” type articles. I swear…”top ten signs a college is into you” could be a thing. There are so many categories of “do this, no do this” type scenarios that it makes my head hurt.

  • Colleges want IB courses, except no wait, those don’t transfer so take AP except no wait, we only count those as placement and not credit so take CLEP oh wait we don’t even know what CLEP is.
  • Colleges want extracurricular activities and hate home school students except when they don’t.
  • GPA matters except at schools that don’t care about your GPA. There it’s all about the ACT/SAT score except at schools that don’t care about those things. 
  • Community college courses are a great way for home school kids to show colleges they’re college-material except oh wait a lot of colleges won’t transfer them and will even look down on them and make you retake the same stuff you already took.

The more I look at this, the more it gets to seeming like college prep programs are just big cash mills. Maybe I don’t know anything about this, but I swear it seems like everywhere I go I find major contradictions in what colleges “need” to see and major discrepancies in what different colleges find important. Example:

  • There are about a gazillion “home school curriculum” programs that are extremely expensive and from what I hear not all that good. All of these things are supposedly “mandatory” to not get your parents arrested/get into a great school. The thing is, how mandatory does it have to be for someone to put that on their website and make a lot of money off of scared parents?
  • There are so many (expensive) ACT prep programs that it seems like the actual value of the ACT/SAT starts to decrease. I mean, think about it. If the person who can afford all the test prep programs has a 36 and the person from a low-income family has a 21, it doesn’t really seem like that’s a fair way of evaluating people and some colleges have actually dropped the ACT/SAT in part because of that issue.
  • There are people who SELL classes that will help you pass the CLEP exams which are supposed to be exams that give you college credit for thing you already know, not for paying to take an actual class. In other words, these programs can make money as unaccredited schools essentially.
  • There are so many “continued ed” and “certificate” programs. How many of those do employers actually value?
  • Some colleges will almost never take your transfer credits. They claim it’s because their education is so top-notch that your pathetic little junior college course doesn’t hold a flame to it, but I have to wonder if it’s really about making more money.
  • I also hear about people whose schools are making them spend like 5 years in college and then roping them into master’s programs they probably don’t even need OR that are basically grad school factories that don’t prepare students for jobs. They make them repeat customers due to their inability to get hired anywhere. 

There’s all of this “do this and do that or you’ll never get into college” stuff going around, but when my family and I were looking at options for next semester (I start high school in the fall) I saw that community colleges have open admissions which means that almost anyone can go. If you complete an associate’s and then get a bachelor’s somewhere, is an employer really going to go “hmm…how many extracurricular activities did you do in high school again? Did you drop out of band?” Something makes me doubt it. 

In the end, I just end up wondering if a lot of hard-working people who are in AP courses and going to $50,000/year schools are actually getting the best educations and the best jobs when I know liberal arts grads who are struggling so much. 

Book and TV recommendations (keep in mind my age please, no erotica or heavy nudity).

So for my Children of the Night Survey Course at Grey School of Wizardry, I’m supposed to find the following things:

  • 1 book to read about a vampire and one TV show or movie to watch.
  • 1 book to read about a werewolf and one TV show or movie to watch.
  • 1 book to read about a zombie and one TV show or movie to watch.
  • 1 book to read about another creature and one TV show or movie. 

Any recommendations would be appreciated.