Monday, March 29, 2010

More Math Please!

Having two math courses this semester would be easier if the test for one, would alternate weeks with the other. I am never that lucky. Hours and hours have passed this weekend, with my pencil and calculator hard at work. The fact that this was my 'birthday weekend' made it less than tolerable. The ends will justify the means if both tests reflect my efforts.

As we drove last night to a version of 'My Big Fat Greek Familiy Birthday Dinner', I was still contemplating the last math problem that I had worked. The mush that was in place of my tired brain struggled to remember the answer. So, I picked up a scrap of paper and worked it out we drove...arcsin-1)pi/12. It was at this point that my husband quietly observed, "that's a bit weird, Diane".

I love mastering the numbers, and I fully understand that many others do not. Case in point, my younger son. He struggles in 8th grade math, in spite of his mother's love for the subject. Personally, all he needs is extra practice. As any concerned mom would do, I introduced him to my favorite math site. It is free and accessable to him even on the school computers.

The site allows the student to choose the math class, the section to be covered, and each segment can be replayed over and over. After several sessions practicing the basics of factoring, my son was able to earn an A on his 3rd quarter math test! That's all it took.

He may not be interested enough to search for scrap paper in the car, but there is hope for his math skills thanks to a great online site.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pastitsio and Public Education

I married into my 'Big Fat Greek Family' almost 21 years ago. Until 4 years ago, I had never bothered to try my hand at any Greek recipes. Then I found the ultimate pasta dish, that was my destiny - pastitsio. It is a Greek version on lasagna, with sweeter spices such as cloves and cinnamon. After several practice attempts, with all the expected fine tuning, I took a deep dish pastitsio to the family dinner. Face with all the Greek in laws, I earned their deepest respect and was crowned the best pastitsio maker in the family. (An honor I do admit to deserving...the last sister-in-law to make it, must have used glue.)

At these monthly family dinners, we share all the events of our individual families. The latest discussion over my perfect pasta was Christine's upcoming Easter vacation to Greece. Most of the family has been there, and we are told that my husband and his siblings actually own property there. Haven't yet seen pictures, or money from said property, but it is supposedly there somewhere. And while my husband had been to Greece several times while growing up, he has yet to take his lovely wife and teenage boys.

The closest I can get is with family pictures, and my assignment to look into a foreign country's education system. Naturally, I spent time learning about the options for students in Greece.

As in all European countries, the Greek educational system is governed by laws and administrative Acts. While preschool can start as early as 2 1/2 with either public or private institutions, it is not mandatory. For children ages 6-15, education is mandatory in Greece. The system consists of three increasing levels: Primary (Dimotiko), Secondary (Gymnasio) and Tertiary education level.

Primary or Dimotiko education if for children 6 to 12 years old, after which they enter the secondary level. This next portion of education is further divided into two sections. The first of which lasts until the age of 15, when a student may decide to leave school. If they choose to continue, they will finish the Gymansio portion of their education and can proceed with the Tertiary level. This is completed by way of a State run university or a technological institute.
Technological Educational Institutions (TEI) form part of higher education just like the universities but belong to the non-university sector. Military Academies enjoy the same status as universities but they fall under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defence. There are no private universities. The diplomas awarded by certain private post-secondary education institutions are not recognized by the State.

As all of my Greek in laws have been educated here in the United States, they are not terribly interested in the details of the tri-level education of their ancestry. However, I will gladly share with them what I have learned about that, but will keep the secret to a perfect pastitsio to myself.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Let Me Explain

I missed the instructions for the last post the class had been assigned. While home fighting a sinus, and double ear infections, my classmates were asked to create a blog entry that included pictures. No problem. I can do that. I have plenty of pictures on my computer. Then I remembered that the computer housing all my pictures for the past 5 years, is the computer that completely died last November. No problem. I had some smarty-pants young man (no, not my son) transfer all the information to my brand new flash drive.

That is when I got nervous. I don't like the flash drive. Barely know how to use the flash drive. Which is to say, I have only ever saved two documents on it...ever.

The easy picture blog assignment now meant I would have to transfer all the old computer info, onto my new computer.

Truth was easy. For the first time, I worked my way through the technology I so desperately try to avoid, and found myself looking at some incredible memories of years ago.

My sister started her fight against breast cancer at the very end of 2005. By spring of 2006, she was in the middle of chemotherapy, and completely bald. I spent much of that year traveling to California to sit with her, talk with her, love on her. During one of those trips, my family celebrated our time together with an outdoor dinner, and ended the evening with the time-tested ritual performed around the world...pass the wig.

For those who have heard the stories about the special kinda crazy that surrounds my family, I present proof. With love, tears, and great memories, my sister and her family continue to persevere.