Josh’s Morning Routine

When Josh is getting ready for a school day, I can only imagine how he processes his to do list.

“Lets see, I have to

A. Bug Joe
B. Bug Amy
C. Bug Lauryn
D. Change underwear
E. Get dressed
F. Put on socks AND shoes
G. Brush teeth

Wow, that’s a lot. Time to prioritize. A-C are non-negotiables, but that’s going to leave me pressed. D is optional, so I’ll put that off til next week. I can manage to squeeze in E and F as long as I leave out the sock part. If I just run my toothbrush under the faucet, that might just leave me enough time for another round of A-C. This should work.”

How to Fix Our Math Education –

In the past two weeks, I have been reliving my middle school math nightmares, and it hasn’t even gotten tough, yet.  It all started with helping Joe, the 7th-grader, learn to work with negative numbers.  Correct that, we were learning to work with integers.  Oh, yeah, integers, numbers, and numerals are not necessarily the same thing, even though the little buggers look identical (in the future, I promise not to give my students a hard time over verb forms that seem self-evident to me).

Then, Amy, the 6th grader, needed help with long division.  I have to say I’m on much more solid ground there, but I’m already bracing myself for the mysteries of algebra and quadratic equations.  It was in the midst of these help sessions that I read the New York Times op/ed pice, How to Fix Our Math Education –  In it, the authors decry the rather abstract way we tend to teach math, divorcing it from real-life applications.  They also suggest the rather radical idea that not everyone needs to learn the same math.  It made me wonder if we don’t think of learning math the same way senior fraternity members view hell week: if I had to go through it, so do you.

It wasn’t until I took a math for non-majors course in college that I finally got quadratic equations.  When I did, they suddenly seemed beautiful–I learned to love that elusive X.  Ask me, though, how many times in the last thirty years I’ve actually had to use one in some practical way. 0, zip, nada.  In fact, I probably did encounter situations where I could have solved a real-life quantitative problem by solving for X, but I didn’t recognize it at the time.

So, here I am, back in the world of wandering through abstract concepts with no idea where this trail comes out.  I’ll be leading my kids, using a mish-mash of the New Math of my generation (“but, Dad, I have to show why that’s the correct answer!) and the shortcuts my engineer father tried to teach me (“don’t you see how much easier it is if you just switch all this stuff around?”).

I just hope and pray we get through it with a minimum of weeping and gnashing of teeth–oh, and that the kids don’t cry much, either.

Amy’s “Teenage Years”

Last night, as we were leaving church after a great night, Amy, my 11-year-old, spoke up:

“Dad, can we discuss my teenage years?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, like, when I’m sixteen will you still be running my life?”

July 06-24

I know I’m the cliche father when I say I’m not ready for this, but I’m not.  It really does feel like yesterday that she was making mudpies in the backyard with her brother.


What is even more interesting to me is the fact that she still likes making mudpies.  As these pictures illustrate, she has always been a fascinating mixture of a child beyond her years—ready to run the world–who nonetheless still wants me to lay down with her at bedtime.

And I still want to.

Dances with Wolves . . . in Pink

Today began a new chapter in the cultural life of our family.  Our two daughters, Amy and Lauryn, began dance lessons with a local studio.  Amy had taken ballet a couple of years ago, then tried some other activities, and decided recently that she wanted to get back into it (the fact that a friend dances with the same group may have something to do with the decision).

So, we called, got info, and as of 5:30, we found ourselves immersed in the world of ballet, jazz, tap, and hip hop.  Since I’m the only one driving right now (Melissa is recovering from a broken shoulder–‘nother story), I had the privilege of ushering a very pink 11-yr-old and her fly-girl 6-yr-old sister into an estrogen-rich world.  An hour later, a few bucks poorer (class fees, costume fees, list of required clothes and shoes), and we’re in.

I still don’t exactly know what Lauryn did in her class, just that she has apparently befriended the entire staff and several of her classmates.  Amy, on the other hand, is already mentioning sore abs, so it must have been a good workout.  While waiting, I got to listen to opinions on various subjects: snow days (we’ve had a lot lately), middle-school dating dramas, and the best place in town to buy training bras.  Looks like all of us are in for an education.

Joe, Amy, and Lauryn Enjoying Their Summer

Joe, Amy, and Lauryn 2010, originally uploaded by Chuck238.

Even though life around our house gets a bit chaotic over the summer (less structure), it’s always amazing to me to see how much personal growth occurs in my kids when they’re around each other more during the day than when they are separated by their school lives (different schools, different grade levels, etc).

I had mentioned in my post about camp that Josh and Lauryn loved having Joe and Amy gone for a week, but I should also mention that Lauryn and Josh also LOVE having the attention of their big brother and sister, and Amy loves having real “students” populate her “kitchen classroom,” versus the imaginary pupils, who seem to get called up to the front of the room a lot for disciplinary actions (don’t know WHAT that’s about).

They are all getting geared up for our big two-week trek into New England in July, to visit relatives in Vermont, see Niagra Falls, and explore Boston. We plan to do all of this while building togetherness in a 10 x 14 tent.

THAT oughta provide a few blog ideas.

When a third of the family goes to camp

This has been an interesting week in the Gobin/Bowman household.  On Monday morning, I loaded all four kids into the car to take the older two, Joe and Amy, to summer camp in Ravenna, KY.  (It’s Camp Aldersgate, a United Methodist camp they’ve gone to for the last three years.)  Maybe it was the fact that school had just let out the previous Friday, but EVERYBODY was wired.  Amy was admiring her new sunglasses in the mirror and wanting to make sure we got there in time for her to get a bottom bunk and to check out the bathroom situation.  This is her first time camping for a whole week, in cabins. Last year, she did mini-camp, where she got to stay for two nights in what amounted to a vacation condo.  Joe, her helpful older brother, informed her that cabin camping was very different, including showering in spider-infested bath houses.

After two loud hours in the car and a short respite at McDonalds, we escorted them to their respective cabins, said our goodbyes, and drove home.  What has transpired since then has been an interesting sociological experiment.  Our four children’s ages are 11, 10, 6, and 5.  I mention this because this week at home the two younger ones, Josh and Lauryn, have morphed into these other creatures.  I know there is a tendency in all older siblings to dominate the younger ones, and—on the whole—ours treat each other pretty well, but you would gather from Josh and Lauryn that we should all be singing “ding, dong, the witch is dead,” or “free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I’m free at last.”  Yes, the house feels quiet, and, yes, everybody misses Joe and Amy, but we suddenly have these eloquent conversationalists at the dinner table who are clearly loving having mom and dad all to themselves (not to mention the TV and their respective bedrooms).  It will be interesting to see how these changes continue to manifest themselves on Saturday, when our household number returns to six.