A resource for families in Santa Cruz County
Between the Lines
Dear Parents,

As of this writing, the County Health Department hasn't officially amended their regulations for camps. However, I have spoken with several camp program leaders and have visited many camp websites. Some are preparinging to open, following all safety regulations, including the practice of group(s) of 12 and a dedicated adult leader. Their clientele are "working parents." I don't know very many parents who don't work, be it at an outside location or in the home. If you and your children are eager to participate in some summer camp experiences, check the websites of your favorites, better yet, call them!


P.S. Please visit our Calendar. Thank you!
It may seem early to be thinking about school in the fall, but what comes next is on our minds. I asked some questions of a few schools and would be glad to get more answers!

Parents, what are you thinking about for next fall? What new perspectives have you acquired from working and learning at home?

If you like science fiction dystopian adventure, bone up on your Hunger Games trivia! West Creative Arts is hosting virtual fun May 19th! Happy Hunger Games… May the odds be ever in your favor Celebrate the release of Suzanne Collins’ new book, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes with WEST and Bookshop Santa Cruz. Our Hunger Games Trivia Event is a cornucopia of competition to test your knowledge and rise to victory. (Tweens and up.)

Families, I hope you are doing well, despite the challenges of SIP! Enjoy your weekend! Parmalee
Virtual, Classrooms, or a Combo?
We asked and Mount Madonna School answered. We welcome more ideas!

After all this virtual learning, do you expect to retain some aspect of it or return to usual school, or some combination?
  
Benna Dimig, Director of Admissions: "We are planning a full return to the classroom in September! Our program is at its best when on the mountain in our well-prepared classrooms and outdoor spaces. We have all become more adept with technology and the experience will lend itself to success should we have to go to remote learning in the future."

Bob Caplan, Dean of Students, upper school: "With so many changes in the recent past, we are keenly tuned to local and state health and education guidelines, which will in large part dictate the kind of program we offer in the fall. While we certainly hope to be primarily on-campus, we are preparing for the possibility of offering a hybrid of on-campus and virtual learning."

Do the teachers/children like virtual teaching or are they longing for the camaraderie of teaching/learning together?

Benna: "Our teachers, students and parents wish to be on the mountain and in the classrooms. Yet, they are resilient and finding a work/play balance in these tough times. I've heard the students say they are missing their friends and teachers. They miss the land, the fairy forest, the children's garden and the trails that connect us all. They are missing the camaraderie that comes with playing team sports, working on group projects and playing Four Sqaure at lunch. They miss hanging out at lunch in the classrooms of their favorite teachers. They miss the turkeys and the deer, the bus rides and the hugs."

Bob: "As all of us become more familiar with online classes, teachers are developing best practices and have discovered methodologies that work, and some that don't work. We have heard from some of the students and parents that they are finding the virtual platform refreshing and would even welcome a hybrid of on-campus and virtual learning."

Benna Dimig and Bob Caplan each work at Mount Madonna School .
Suki: Fall 2020 education

Longtime readers know that my family has used almost every type of educational approach for our kids. We like to joke that the only type of school that we haven’t tried is Christian Military Academy!

My younger son is currently about to graduate from a mainstream public high school (his choice), and I have to say, I have been pleasantly surprised at how well they have handled this crazy situation that was dumped in their laps. I’ve heard lots of complaints from parents in other districts, but I share none of them. It’s not perfect, but my son’s teachers got well-trained, really quickly, and they are trying hard.
Teachers are doing their best to maintain connections with their students.

One of the things that our district is doing really well is parent communication. OK, perhaps they are overdoing it: I don’t actually need a text message to tell me to read my email!

This week they asked for parent input through ThoughtExchange, a nifty little tool for exchanging ideas.

I had one thing to say and I hope I said it well: the public school system needs to be more flexible.

Rooted in tradition is not necessarily good
Public schools have not grown organically. They were formed on a specific model of learning, and all changes have taken place as if that model is not worth questioning.

When people have come up with better ideas that built on top of that model, they were tolerated. The charter school system, for example, was built on top of the standard public school model.

When people have come up with ideas that require throwing that model out the window, like the great educational thinker John Holt, for example, public schools would have none of it. They had certain tenets that would not be questioned:
  • All students must learn in age-homogeneous groups.
  • All students must be required to be on campus a minimum number of hours.
  • All students must study state-mandated curriculum.
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Enter the quarantine
This pause in school-as-usual can be seen two ways:
  • It can be seen as an irritating interruption, to be gotten past as soon as possible.
  • Or it can be seen as an opportunity.

I prefer opportunity.

Integrate home and school
Kids do better emotionally when they feel nurtured, loved, supported—all that stuff they have in a healthy home. We have cut families out of schools by design, and yet principals wail about lack of parent participation. Schools are simply not designed to be emotionally healthy and integrated with home life. Now that we’ve got parents and home intertwined with school, let’s not give that up.
Stop demonizing alternatives
This is my teen attending an online class while jumping on the trampoline.
When you judge a fish by how well it climbs a tree, the fish comes out looking pretty lame. Alternative schools are for kids who need alternatives. That means that the alternative will not reflect the demographic make-up of the surrounding district. When students and families choose schools, they make choices based on themselves, not the society they live in.

Yes, we should make sure that all choices are open and welcoming to all families, but districts need to allow for differences. For example, stop demonizing a program that attracts struggling students for its low test scores.

States have to stop assuming that all cultural groups are the same. Programs that suit the unique needs of a cultural group are not equivalent to racism. Equal education does not mean the same education.
Principals have to stop coming into schools and trying to strip the individualism out of the school in the name of “quality.”

Offer maximum flexibility
In a world where families can choose 20 different types of toothpaste, education is presented as a monolithic single choice. That doesn’t fit with our culture. Some students, certainly, not only need to be at school for the allotted time but also need aftercare. Some students thrive in standard curriculum with a typical school day schedule.

But many students don’t. Parents around the country are remarking on the positive changes they are seeing in their children:
  • My kids are learning so much more at home.
  • My teen is sleeping—finally! And waking up a reasonable human being.
  • My kid who was bullied has had a huge dip in her anxiety level.
  • We started following my kids’ interests and suddenly they love education.

Live and LEARN
If public school administrators and teachers don’t learn from this experience, they’re in the wrong profession. Teachers talk about creating lifelong learners—this should be the goal of everyone. We should all look at this situation and see what we can take away from it that is positive and good.

I was happy to see that I wasn’t the lone voice for thoughtful reconsidering of what school should be in the ThoughtExchange conversation initiated by my district. Let’s make sure the districts hear our voices, and don’t think that reversion to the status quo is any sort of achievement.

Suki is a local mom who writes, teaches and is a musician. She teaches online at  Athena’s Advanced Academy  and in-person in Santa Cruz. Check out Suki's Summer Teen Club . She is currently singing and performing popular vocal music with Persephone . Learn more about Suki here .

Resources:

Virtual Events
Join us online for a Preschool Storytime. We'll read books and sing songs. Mel is a great storyteller, and the creator of our popular Tales to Tails reading program for kids. For 3-6 year olds. ...
Friday, May 15, 10-10:30am
Children may be experiencing higher levels of stress and frustration that stem from a disruption in daily routines. Challenging behaviors are increasing and parents may feel overwhelmed and anxious.
Sunday, May 17, 7- 8pm

For parents of Middle and High School kids. Teens are notoriously social. They may be experiencing higher levels of stress and frustration that stem from a disruption in daily routines and a lack of c...
Sunday, May 17, 8-9:00pm
Toddler Time is a weekly early literacy program for families with children ages 0-3 years old. Music, movement, stories, fingerplays, rhymes, and songs are a fun way for your child to learn while spen...
Monday, May 18, 10-10:30am
Join UCSC for a one-of-a-kind virtual experience to explore Saqqara, Egypt's most enduring cemetery. UC Santa Cruz Associate Professor of History Elaine Sullivan will take us on a virtual visit to...
Wednesday, May 20, 5-6:15pm
While we each are trying to figure out how to ease back into our personal normal, please remember:
Some people don’t agree with opening more businesses.... that’s okay. Be kind.

Some people are planning to stay home.... that’s okay. Be kind.

Some are still scared of getting the virus and a second wave happening.... that’s okay. Be kind.

Some are sighing with relief to go back to work knowing they can prevent losing their business or their homes.... that’s okay. Be kind.

Some are thankful they can finally have a surgery they have put off.... that’s okay. Be kind.

Some will be able to attend interviews after weeks without a job....that’s okay. Be kind.

Some will wear masks for weeks....that’s okay. Be kind.

Some people will rush out to get the hair or nails done.... that’s okay. Be kind.

The point is, everyone has different viewpoints/feelings and that’s okay. Be kind.

We each have a different story. If you need to stay home, stay home. But be kind .

If you need to go out, just respect others when in public and be kind!

Don’t judge fellow humans because you’re not in their story. We all are in different mental states than we were months ago. So remember, be kind.

Please SHARE this reminder for kindness.

That’s it... just be kind!
Topics for the Times
My name is Rob Gorski and I’d like to welcome you to The Autism Dad blog (formerly Lost and Tired).

SPIN, Special Parents Information Network, has its own new website !

If you are living with physical and/or developmental challenges of any kind, we want to assist you in finding your adventure.

How to get through the rest of the year.

Imagine, for a moment, American children returning to school this fall . The school week looks vastly different...