Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Our Wolf Cub

Father's Day weekend was spent at the annual Pack Family Camp Out with Guyan's Cub Scouts. For how stressful Cub Scouts can be during the year, it has always been a lot of fun. This year, Guyan was especially busy earning badges and belt loops in the weeks leading up to the Camp Out.

Here, he's being awarded his Geography Belt Loop, Fishing Belt Loop, Chess Pin, a gold arrow, and a silver arrow.

He also presented a poster to complete the requirements for his Leave No Trace Badge. Owen helped him out by holding the poster very nicely.

And finally, his Wolf Badge! Very proud of our scout.

(Thanks, Michelle, for use of your camera on the Camp Out! I can always count on you for photo documentation!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

And now for something completely different...

Usually, these posts are about family trips, adventures, accomplishments. This one's not like that.

The Ferndale School District, like so many in Washington State and the country, is in financial distress. They need to cut $1.55 million from the budget for next year.

Washington State funds part-time (90 days) kindergarten, and full-time for a handful of schools in the state that are "Title 1" (low income). There is one of those schools in the district, but not the one the boys go to. For all the other schools in the district, Ferndale decided two years ago to foot the ~$280,000 extra annually to provide full-time kindergarten. Now the economy went to hell in a handbasket, and they don't have that money.

So their idea? Originally, it was to cut one or two elementary school counselors to provide full-day in two more schools (in addition to the Title 1 school). Before you think "What the heck are counselors doing in elementary school?," let me tell you that they do a very important job making sure that children that are in bad family/abuse/poverty conditions get the resources they need. I don't favor cutting them.

But then some parents approached them and said "No! We all want full-time kindergarten! Can't we have the option to pay for it?" So they decided to give that option: no cost for free-lunch children, $150/month for reduced price lunch children, and (wait for it) $325/month for children that do not qualify for the subsidies. Who qualifies? A family of four making $40,794 or more per year would not qualify. Apparently if you make that kind of money, you can afford it.

Except they didn't ask those families. Last night at the school board's budget meeting, there were probably about 15 parents, three kindergarten teachers, and one principal. All but one of the parents--friends and peers of our family--said they could not afford that. All said they wanted equal opportunities for the children, not discrimination to the middle class. None of these parents took this decision lightly--we all felt that by checking the box "my child will attend part-time," we were checking a box that also said, "I knowingly am choosing the option that will put my child at a disadvantage." Ironic that we felt that by making a choice to stay home with our children and be a single income family (which was the case with most of the commenting parents last night), we got into a situation where they would receive 50% of the education of most of their peers (the acting superintendent said that similar programs in other districts have about an 80% participation in full-time kindergarten, via subsidized and paying families).

So after the comments, the board really did seem to hear that the pay option was not welcome in Ferndale, and was viewed as inequality. They decided to (yet again) look at the budget and try to find a different way that was equitable to all--hopefully, but possibly not, full-time kindergarten. The next working meeting is Wednesday, June 24th from 4:30 to 6:30. The public can attend, I believe, but not make comments. A public comment session is scheduled for July 8 at 6:30. If that meeting does not happen, you can email the board with comments. There was some discussion on whether it was tentative or not, but I can't remember; it was about 10:00pm by then. And the new meeting for adopting the budget is July 13th (it was going to be June 24th).

So there you have it. While my child that will be in kindergarten next year is totally ready, my soon-to-be third grader is not so ready for school today (he needs to leave in 25 minutes). Gotta get moving!!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Oyster Dome and the Bat Caves

Last weekend, our family went with some friends on a hike just south of Bellingham. We went to the Oyster Dome (a really high overlook with a REALLY steep cliff drop-off) and the Bat Caves (a boulder field just below the Oyster Dome).

(I put this picture, on top of Oyster Dome, first, since it will appear in your Google Reader if you have one...and it's such a good picture of the fam. By the way, Guyan has a hair appointment next Wednesday so that we can see his eyes again).

The hike took about 5 1/2 hours, and was about 5-6 miles. Not sure if it was the kids growing up, having friends along, or the perfect weather, but NONE OF THEM COMPLAINED AT ALL...except when Owen got poked in the eye with a stick, but who could blame him? Seriously, though, Sean told the boys later that night that it was the best day of the summer...even though summer doesn't start for almost another month.
Here we are at the outset...all smiles.

Still, no complaints from anyone...

And when we reached the top of Oyster Dome (after about 3 hours or so, and a few wrong turns), we had to take some pictures, of course--us and the other twenty to thirty hikers up there (none under the age of ten 'cept the four troopers in our party!).

The boys all wanted to look over the side of the cliff. Standing back about twenty feet from the edge, I was dealing with my anxiety. My children are not dare devils and would not knowingly do anything even remotely dangerous, and Sean was keep track of them, but OHMIGOD WE'RE ALL GOING TO PLUMMET TO OUR DEATHS kept racing through my mind. Obviously, we didn't.

This was the view over the cliff. The picture does NOT do it justice. In real life, those trees down there are not Christmas tree sized--they were gigantic, and the boulders were mini-mountains (I might be embellishing this just a little bit, but "objects in the picture are larger than they appear" truly applies here). The boulder field below is the Bat Caves.

Here's my friend Michelle and I at the top of Oyster Dome, way back from the edge.

After conquering the Oyster Dome, it was off to the Bat Caves. Cool little bridge here...

At the Bat Caves, Henry and Guyan were convinced (Henry especially) that they saw bats. I am convinced we saw a squirrel or other similar rodent. Fauna or not, the boulder field was pretty impressive.

...especially when you looked back up at Oyster Dome.