Sunday, May 17, 2009

If I were in charge of Education

Lots of commentary in the last weeks about how to improve education for poor kids.  See: 11D, and David Brooks, and Half Changed World

I've got a simple, sure-fire solution to raising the test scores of poor children.

Here's my plan:
Everyone who has more than they need can join a mentoring program, get matched to a child who doesn't have enough.  You simply promise that child that you will do everything in your power to make sure he or she has clothing and food.

That's it, really.  clothing and food.

You see, once the shelter, clothing and food needs are met - amazing things can happen. (Ideally, you'd be able to promise the shelter too, but let's not bite off more than we can chew right away. clothing and food, and books, maybe.  I should add books.)

OK, so maybe it is more than that.  You see, once you experience the sheer magic of helping a child succeed when they face every single conceivable obstacle in life....something happens to you.  You start to care. 

So, now a child has food, clothing, books (possibly shelter) AND an adult who cares.  Voila - higher test scores.

I've had a rough couple of weeks with my current match situation. Unbloggable stuff. Stuff that has me reaching out to social workers and other professionals.  Stuff that has me curl up in the fetal position on my living room rug when I'm all alone and no one can see me crying.

One possible solution for the current "stuff" is to find other matches for some of the other younger kids in the family.  Right now, I'm the only match and there are 5 kids. The 8-year-old boy has been on the waiting list for two years.  TWO YEARS. TWO YEARS.  

It kinda breaks my heart. Turns out there are almost 300 kids on that waiting list.  Mostly boys.  Most have been on for years. This mentoring stuff works, (really, it works.) 

But no one wants to do it. 

The one silver lining:  I was on the phone with a local respite center talking about (unbloggable stuff) and reading about all the things they need on their website. My daughter, who absorbs way more than I think she does, gathered up every penny she has ever saved, and carried it out to me. She wanted me to give it to the respite center.  We are headed over there this week.  Just when I think I am doing just about everything possibly wrong that I can as a mother, she goes and does something like that to prove me wrong. 

I guess.  

Part of me wants to shield my own 9 year old from the ugly parts of  the life of my 10 year old match. I try the best I can. But let's be honest: I can't. We've opened our home and our life to this other child and I can't pretend that her life is just like ours. It isn't.

But her test scores?  Up.  Way up.  So we plug on...two steps forward, one step back.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

No longer the target demographic

There is a super cool start-up company,, that is in my building, on my floor even. They are selling household products over the internet, with a social media twist. They have an extremely well written blog with gorgeous photos and a lovely design. I wish them great success. You should go there now, and subscribe to the blog. You won't regret it.

I was so excited when I learned they were moving into our building. I figured I'd be their perfect target demographic. After all, I have a blog. I'm on Facebook. I'm on Twitter. And I already buy almost everything over the internet. I have an Amazon Prime account. I order my milk/dairy products directly from the local farm over the internet. I often get my groceries delivered through the local coop over the internet. Prescriptions too, over the internet.

I'm one of the few people in my neighborhood who clean my own house, and given enough time and energy - I actually enjoy cleaning. So a new site with household and cleaning products over the internet - how perfect is that? (you know, now that I think about it, I might be the only person in my neighborhood who cleans her own house...sigh.)

But I have been dismayed to realize that I am so obviously not their target demographic.

Their message is not in any way directed at an over-committed busy 40-year-old working, PTA President, mother-of-two. They offer advice like "don't hit your snooze button" in the morning. Snooze Button? What is that? I haven't had to set an alarm for 10 years! Those children....they wake me up every single morning and last time I checked, they don't have a snooze button.

And we've been working very hard to get son D to stop saying "Yo!" Evidently, 6 year old boys enjoy preceding every sentence with the word "Yo." (So far, I haven't had to answer to "Yo Mama" but I tell you, it is coming any day now.) So, I'll have a hard time dialing a phone number that begins with "Yo" as theirs does.

I could go on and on. It turns out that I am no longer in the coveted "18-35" demographic and it's a weird, weird feeling. When did that happen? What's next? Will I start sitting on my front porch yelling "Kids! Get off the lawn!"

Thank God for Mir over at Want Not. She may not have a cool internet start-up. But she gets what it is like to be a crazy-busy mother with a crazy-busy life and still have to get the damn shopping done.

(And she has great coupons....)