A Southern Swamp Rat in the High Desert

Moved 2,600 miles from Florida to Idaho and talk about differences! It's almost a whole other country! I will discuss our move and the differences between the Deep South and the Northwestern High Desert as only a Southern-Bred Swamp Rat can. Check out my new Facebook page at www.facebook.com/idahoswamprat. My updates are irratic, but they are fairly regular. Stay tuned!

23 Words That Have A Totally Different Meaning In Florida

I received this from a friend in Florida.  They are just so true, I had to share.

2 weeks ago

Snow and Sand Sculptures
The top two are snow from the McCall Winter Festival, the bottom are sand courtesy of Photobucket. And, as you can see, we have a very confused snow….um….sand man.
If anyone has any additional pics of snow or sand sculptures you’d like to share, go for it!

(Source: )

Snow vs Sand

This is something I actually dreamt up over a month ago, after our last decent snowfall here in I—Dee—Ho, but, bad me, I didn’t get to it until now.  A little dissertation on snow (In Idaho) vs sand (in Florida).

Snow vs Sand

Ah, snow vs sand.  Sounds way different? I thought so too, or at least never really thought of them as having much in common….until now.  I can honestly say I’ve had intimate experiences with both.  Snow and sand actually have more in common than you’d think.

First, I’ll state the obvious.  For the most part, they are both white.  I KNOW some sands are different colors and the whole dirty snow scenario, but I’m talking in general here……snow and sand, are both white.  In addition, as you walk through both snow and sand, you are leaving your footprints behind.  It depends on the consistency and quantity of both to how large the said footprints might be, but still.

They are both subject to drifting when the wind picks up and they will both sting your eyes and burn your skin in the process (except with snow, you’re usually dressed for it while often with sand you’re almost completely exposed).  

Both snow and sand stick to everything. Yes, everything.  Don’t lay a book in the snow with the expectation of retrieving with no snow a minute later.  It won’t happen, and neither will it in sand.  When at the beach, on a camping trip, or anywhere in the “open” in Florida, sand will find its way in to every crack and crevice, and good luck in getting it all off, even with a shower!  The difference is, the snow will melt and turn to water while the sand is found near or in water, hence, sand is much harder to get rid of.  Snow will melt….sand will not.  In addition, snow and sand look almost identical when drifting across the road and both will make you slip and skid.  Difference, sand is used to give traction to snow.  It, um, can’t really work the other way around.

If you choose to go barefoot in snow and sand, they will both burn your feet, one from the cold and the other from the heat, and sand often has shell particles in it to boot in case the sun isn’t shining on it.  Gives the sand a little extra umph.

In addition, both snow and sand are used to make sculptures, and in places like McCall in Idaho and Daytona Beach in Florida, they have big events focused around these sculptures. Obviously, however, snow sculptures will usually last much longer, through winter or at least until a good warm front comes through.  The sand sculptures, on the other hand, will last until the next high tide or errant wave comes crashing through.  You have to admit, however, with the pictures as evidence, that the sand sculptures can have much more detail!  (Pictures in next entry!)

So now you know the skivvy about snow and sand. Much more similar than you’d think on the surface.

45 Reasons Why Idaho Is The Most Underrated State In The Country

I think this is something that anyone who lives in Idaho can appreciate.  Quite funny and all true.

2 months ago

Focus on Idaho Schools, Part II

About two or three weeks after the school year started, Nampa High School held their annual open house.  Unlike Orange Park, very few students and parents attended, and the ones that did didn’t follow any type of set open house schedule.  It was approximately two hours in the evening on a drop-in basis.  Parents came, saw who they wanted to see, and left.  One good thing about Nampa’s open house is that it was much more intimate.  I was able to talk about Timothy’s performance one-on-one with most of his teachers and work out a strategy with a few of his teachers to hopefully keep him on track.

In addition to open house, a few weeks later, Nampa High had a parent conference evening.  Last year, they actually set aside an entire day with the students off school for the event, but this year it was just for an evening.  It had a few more parents than the Open House, but it worked pretty much the same way, with parents and students walking in to talk to teachers on a drop-in basis. I was once again able to touch base with the classes he was having the most difficulty in and was able to set up a strategy with a teacher or two to help him in the classes he was falling behind in.

Nampa has an online grading program, like Orange Park, that allows parents to check out student grades, but I’ve found it problematic at best.  It comes up on my home computer as having a virus and it is finicky when it comes to user names and passwords. Also, Nampa does not pass out paper report cards, so in many cases, the program is the only way to check grades.  Needless to say, it’s been hugely frustrating.

Idaho’s standardized test is the ISAT - Idaho Standard Achievement Test.  The test has been taken completely via computer for at least the last few years.  The test, however, is going to be replaced within the next year or two by a test that goes along with the new Common Core Standards.  The first year or so of the test will be a trial run and also used as a baseline to determine how scores fall. The new test is expected to be much harder and longer than the ISAT.  Only time will tell.

And last but not least, magnet programs.  Yep, Idaho high schools do offer magnet programs at least here and there, but at least in Nampa, the way they handle magnet schools is much different, perhaps because the actual schools are closer together.  From what I understand, you still have to apply for and be accepted in to a magnet school, but when you are accepted to the magnet program, you do not attend that magnet school all day.  Your home school, the school you are districted for, is still your home school.  Instead of going to the magnet school all day, the school district arranges transportation for magnet school students for the specialized classes only.  As a result, the students involved must leave a class at their home school early to get on the bus.  My son was in such a magnet program, but due to having to leave his most challenging class early everyday and his obsession with time, constantly waiting for the time to catch the bus, it was not the best option for him.

Nampa High School

Tale of Two Schools - Idaho

Keep in mind that my knowledge of the schools here in Idaho is still very limited compared to what I know about Florida schools. Much of what I know is passed down from my son, but I think I can still make an accurate comparison….it would be better to call it a contrast.

Nampa High School also consists of a number of buildings, several of them two stories with no portables in sight.  They have a gym and a football field. I do not know if their band has a separate building and they do not have a ROTC unit from any type.

Nampa High School students take eight classes at a time on a rotating schedule equating to four extended classes of approximately 90 minutes each day.  In Orange Park and I believe all of Florida’s schools, year-long classes are considered one credit while half year, one semester classes are deemed as half credit classes.  Therefore, Florida high school students usually achieve six credits a year and need 24 credits to graduate. In Nampa, perhaps throughout Idaho, credits are based on the semester so the students can generally achieve sixteen credits per year.  One stark breach of “Separation of Church and State” takes place at Nampa High.  There is an LDS seminary right across the street and a number of students take leadership classes there as part of their curriculum.

From what I gather, Nampa High School offers breakfast free of charge to all students who attend, and lunch is either free, reduced, or full price based on income.  They have a bank of vending machines in the cafeteria with a wide variety of teenage delicacies, and students are allowed to take their food and snacks into their classes with them.  Nampa High School and I believe all of the schools in the Nampa area are called “open schools”. The students are allowed to eat food as well as carry and use electronics including cell phones with them pretty much anywhere. I was told that it was at the discretion of each teacher on what they allowed and I did see a few teachers with signs on their doors forbidding the use of cell phones in class, but most teachers do not seem to mind.

Like Orange Park, students at Nampa High pick their classes in the spring of the previous year, but unlike Orange Park, they are NOT considered automatically enrolled for the next year.  The school opens several days the week or so before school for each student to officially enroll. In addition to enrolling, students can preorder yearbooks, purchase parking passes or passes to athletic events, and pick up schedules. They also require that each student, hopefully prior to this event, go online and officially register including updating information.  Students, at least some of them, also receive their schedule after going the gamut of everything else at registration day. My son did not get a schedule though I know he picked his classes; I do not know why.  At some point, I’m not certain if it was offered prior to school starting, the students can also acquire a locker.  They were free of charge.

The students at Nampa do not have a homeroom.  I do not know how Nampa High handles the first day of school without one, nor do I know if they do any type of official student count, whether mandated by the state or otherwise.  They must have some system in place for students who don’t show up for the registration days to get their schedules and become “official”, but I do not know what it is.  I DO know that Nampa High’s teachers each have the extraordinary challege of teaching a gigantic amount of students.  When I went to Open House as well as a teacher’s conference, I asked how large the classes were just to see.  Each of my son’s classes were between 35 and 40 students!  I honestly cannot imagine teaching that many students.  My son comes home almost every night saying he doesn’t have homework.  I asked and he was telling the truth: he rarely does, but with that many students and the grading involved, I certainly can’t blame the teachers.