Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Catching Up

I was getting photos off of my phone and on to my computer when I ran across a few I meant to share here.

I think I encountered this truck on my drive home from Ann Arbor, back in February. It made me laugh.

Over Emma's spring break a few weeks ago we had a few days of decent weather, and she and a couple of friends got creative.

We're probably going to totally regret letting them do this, but Rob has such great memories of building forts in the woods behind his house that he couldn't resist helping them out with some materials languishing in our barn. That city sign was actually part of a doghouse that was on the property when we bought it --we didn't have a dog, so Rob dismantled it.They even dragged an old broken down swing bench in there so they wouldn't have to sit on the wet ground. High style :-)

They built themselves a little fire pit from old bricks, and dragged over stumps for seats.
One of them modified her stump into a kind of Game of Thrones style throne, made of branches rather than swords :-)
That evening they roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over their own fire pit. They had a blast :-)

After spring break it was back to the real world. Emma has been experiencing her first AP class, and for reasons related to how the AP system requires the class to teach to the test, it will also be her last AP class. She wasn't sure she wanted to take the AP exam (many colleges don't even accept it for credit anymore), but the review made up her mind for her. In the photo below, on the left is the textbook she's been reading all semester. On the right is the "review" book that her teacher told them to read before the AP exam. Ridiculous. It's basically reading a second textbook to get ready to take a test. She learned a lot in this class because she has a good teacher, but these classes are nothing like college classes --instead of the critical thinking we try to stress in college, they are a semester of memorizing tiny details and regurgitating them on multiple-choice tests.  Even the essay portion of the exams is graded based on how many tiny details you include, rather than whether you understood some over-arching principle.
And just because I'm sure you're all waiting to hear this particular detail . . . yes, there is still some art going on here. I'm figuring out how to create some texture with stencils, and also reacquainting myself with some of the zentangle patterns I'd learned but haven't used for a while.
I've also been wandering the garden --I even got two new plants delivered and planted, but I'll save that stuff for a later post.


  1. Really a shame about that AP class. The education "reformers" won't be satisfied until the joy of learning and of teaching are extinguished entirely.

    1. I have to reply to your comment, Jason--Amen on your last sentence!

    2. Sadly, it's horribly true, and it's creeping into college. I'm just glad I'm closer to the end of my teaching career than the beginning.

  2. Love Emma and friends' new fire pit and hideaway! My kids always enjoyed building makeshift forts, and now a grandson is asking to build some kind of treehouse here. That's the advantage of living in the country! I understand your concerns about the AP test; I taught the only AP class our small high school offered, and they are very restrictive about what should be taught. I didn't stick to the rules, though, and a lot of my students didn't even take the test. It's really, really difficult, and I was honest with the kids--hated to see them spend the money if I thought they couldn't pass. On the positive side, my granddaughter, who went to a larger local school, entered college as a second-semester freshman because of all the AP credit she received.

    1. Yes --I feel sorry for Emma's teacher. Emma loves her, and I'm hoping she might encounter her in an honors class some time, so she can enjoy the teaching without the rigid testing restrictions.

  3. I have mixed feelings about the AP classes. My boys have taken a lot of them and my youngest is a sophomore this year, taking 2 classes and the exams that go with them. The older 2 sons didn't benefit much at all from the exams; boy #3 entered college with sophomore standing BUT has said that he's glad he took some of the so-called equivalent classes "over" in college because the high school course didn't teach even half of what the college course contained. I dislike having to pay for those exams, especially when it makes little difference for college; however, the alternative is taking classes that aren't challenging for the student.
    It seems to me that teachers have their hands tied no matter what the course -- AP, honors, or standard -- because they all have to teach what will be on the test.

    Cassi, I'm always thrilled to see your artistic ventures here!

    1. I totally agree that teachers have their hands tied --and I actually think it's most likely that they make money for some company (Pearson?) and therefore the company keeps promoting them.

      All of Emma's other classes are honors classes. She's found these challenging and enjoyable, and the teachers aren't forced into certain testing requirements. She especially likes that the other students in the honors classes are engaged --they do their homework and participate in discussions, so the class is a lot more fun and the teacher is in a better mood :-)

  4. That fort looks really amazing, especially since a grownup like me can't see how to get in.

    I love seeing your art! That white on white looks interesting because it has texture. The flowers are beautiful - looks like watercolor painting, which my aunt does. I gather that with watercolors white is the most difficult thing to paint because you simply paint other things around the blank spot on the canvas. That is too complicated for me to imagine how to do.

    I preface what I will say about AP classes with this: in my opinion what is best is different for each student.

    Our kids had a mixed experience, mostly good, with the AP classes and tests. The teaching style and substance depended on the subject and teacher. My oldest took AP Bio and didn't much like it. It was a lot of memorization of detail, as you said. AP English (both the composition and the literature classes) were favorites of all three of my kids. The English classes required plenty of critical thinking skills, and really honed their writing skills as well. My son took AP chem, physics, and math. He did well and really liked his teachers for those classes. None of my kids took any AP history.

    It could be that the AP classes that my kids liked (and they are ones who thrive on critical thinking and challenges) were ones in which the teachers bent the AP rules. I have no way of knowing.

    We have a very competitive high school and my kids were gung ho about taking AP classes. That could be the difference in a successful result - if the student herself is enthusiastic. If your school offers honors classes that teach critical thinking skills along with the subject matter, with interested and engaged students in the class, that could be the better way to go. Education that is just memorization isn't really education, and isn't fun anyway.

    All of my kids' AP exams were accepted for credit at the college my oldest two kids attend. Getting the college credit was helpful in allowing them to get a little further in their college education than they would have otherwise. But as Karen said, for some classes they were *required* to take the same class again in college just to be sure they learned everything taught in the actual college course (but they still received the course credit for the AP exam).

  5. I'm experiencing intense nostalgia at the sight of that fort. I was a big (though not particularly skilled) fort-builder as a kid, but so many of the kids I come across now are so over-scheduled they don't have time for (AMAZING, CREATIVE, FUN) things like forts.

    I was burned pretty badly by AP classes in high school. Killed myself taking them, having been promised it would equal more scholarship money, but most scholarship committees only looked at final grades and scores, and although mine were decent, my school was one of only a few in Kansas at the time that didn't have a weighted grading scale, so my GPA didn't reflect my heavy workload. I shouldn't complain, I still got plenty of scholarships, but I still hold some bitterness over the AP hogwash.
    Your artwork is beautiful. You can create texture with stencils? Who knew?!

    1. I just read the other comments, and I will say I LOVED my honors classes. They were usually taught by awesome teachers, I learned so much, and it wasn't all teaching-to-the-test. I'm pretty nervous about what kind of choices I'm going to have to make when our kids have to cross these bridges.