Thursday, October 24, 2013

Where is that soap box?

*First - I apologize in advance if I offend anyone – my teacher friends in particular.   I am open to healthy debate with people who have differing opinions.  I understand my thoughts here are biased and riddled with past experiences that cloud my objectivity.

* Second –  I am so done with talking about this, year after year, I don’t even want to hear myself.  I wish I could just let it be.  Take my position on the subject (which is likely the minority), own it, and stand facing the hurricane force winds without falling over in submission… but I can’t. 

Max… reading… school… teacher….


The latest round occurred this afternoon:

Max: Mommy!! Mommy!!  I need you to fill out this form!  I filled out the top part, but you have to fill out the bottom!  My Teacher said she wants 100% PARTICIPATION!!!  Mommy I need this by tomorrow.

I take the handout from Max and vaguely remember getting another form similar to it at the beginning of the school year.  I admit it… I didn’t read it… I glanced, I read “the majority” (of the article), I placed it among the other 10-15 pages of information regarding the new soccer program I could sign Max up for, the “does your child qualify for reduced or free lunch” survey, and every pink, blue, and yellow form that comes home in every kid’s folder but almost never has anything to do with my child.  This form is one of many that have come home this year with *new* and *exciting* enrichment programs for parents.  Seminars on how to prepare for middle school, requests for DADS to volunteer during the school year, etc. 

I immediately shuddered when I realized it was another reading log – neat columns and rows for 7 days a week – 30 minutes a day – detail what you read – parent’s signature. I hate these forms with all my might.  Only this time, I didn’t realize it was not Max’s form… it was MY FORM.  F.R.E.D. – Families Read Every Day.  This was not Max’s 30 minute reading log, it was an additional log for us to read together for 30 minutes a day. 

Read comic books / magazines / books out loud to your child
Write a play and read it together
Read and prepare a new recipe
Write the lyrics to your favorite song and sing it together

Do the people who make these things up really believe themselves?!?!

Then I was supposed to evaluate the program (check all that apply) – I feel closer to my child, I feel this enriched the quality of our time together, I feel my child is better in Math, I feel my child’s vocabulary has expanded, etc.

“Mommy!!! The Teacher says we HAVE TO HAVE 100% PARTICIPATION”

Max had gone through and written 30 minutes for every slot, every day, for 5 weeks.

I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t fill out the form “just cause”.  “Mommy!! Please!!!”

I took a deep breath.  I was bubbling with anger.  I don’t need homework.  I don’t need your help to parent my child. I will not be graded.  I will not be judged.

Breathe…. Step away from the ledge.  What are you really upset about here?

Max – I am not going to lie.  We did not do this.  I understand that you have been promised something if everyone turns in this piece of paper, but I can’t.  I will write Ms. Medina a note.  I will explain that even though we did not do this specific plan, we do read and we are making sure that we are working on this because it is important.  Do you understand?    We cannot fill out the form and turn it in for a pizza party (or whatever), because that is lying.

Sad face.


I am DONE WITH THE READING THING!!!  There!! I said it.  I hate it.  It is NOT the most important thing in the world.  It is not the focus of all that dictates the success/failure of a student.  I hated reading.  HATED IT!!  If you FORCED ME to READ SOMETHING I assure you, I remember NONE OF IT.  These forms/logs/programs do nothing but make people who are not readers hate it even more.  Guess what… I am not a reader, but I am a successful business person who has been successful in a variety of jobs/fields.  I know people who have surrounded themselves with books, but can’t hold a job or get out of bed in the morning.  I can read. I can write.  Have I read even 5-10% of the top 100 books of all time? Nope.

I am not sure how I am going to survive parenting in today’s world when it comes to my children’s education.  I cannot handle that 1 study or point of view then dictates how ALL children are supposed to learn.  I cannot handle that the way children are taught today is largely focused on how to take the tests.  Math isn’t about facts – it’s about averaging and estimating.  Why?  Because it takes too long to actually do 1476 + 273.  But if you round to 1500 and 300 – then you can figure out the answer closest to 1800 and pick that answer from the multiple choice.  You don’t learn complex problem solving, but you do learn test taking.

See, dear teacher/school administration, I get it.  I see what is happening.  I know your intentions are true.  I know you don’t come up with these programs.  I know the difference between your project and the programs that are coming from the muckity mucks in the admin buildings 20 miles away from the school.  The important people who went to the latest and greatest conference on child development but haven’t touched foot in a classroom for 15 years (or ever).

 I will support the hell out of the cloud science project.  I am with you when you tell me my child races through the tests and he doesn’t check his work. I know not to get mad when the test score is low because he didn’t understand the concept and when to take privileges away because he went too fast and he missed questions or forgot to answer them.

But I will be damned if you pull me into your studies on parent enrichment and grade my parenting based on a log that tells you nothing.  That log doesn’t tell you that we were out late cheering his brother at a scrimmage, so no, we didn’t read.  If we had stayed up late reading then the child who needs his sleep would have been worthless in your class the next day.  The log doesn’t tell you we decided to take a family walk and talk about what it is going to be like to walk to middle school next year, and be away from his friends since they are going to different schools.  That log doesn’t tell you that in this fast paced world filled with electronic distractions and mind numbing noise, my almost 11 year old still comes down – every morning – to snuggle before the day officially starts.

Thanks for the 1 page tool with vague instructions on how to bond with my student and make him a better reader.  No – your little 1 page form did not make my child better the past 5 weeks.  We did.  My husband and I did.  We got this.  We will have our own pizza party at home.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Parental Arts & Crafts

I didn't make it to Body Combat tonight.    I have a fog around me created by a laundry list of poor choices recently.  This fog was thick and so... it just didn't happen - but THAT is a post for another time.

What did happen was what I like to call Parental Arts & Crafts (we'll call it PAC).  One of those terribly mundane tasks that would make most parents scream or jump off the nearest cliff.  Not me.  I LOVE IT.  I love it as much as I love coloring books.  I love it because it allows me (grumpy tired adult with responsibilities) to zone out and let my inner child with OCD take over.

Today's  PAC moment came in the form of school box tops. I plan for these moments.  Well, inner OCD child plans for these.  It starts in the grocery store, casually walking down the aisles and checking off the grocery list.  Then we get there.  We get faced with the HUGE decision... generic or brand name:
Grumpy adult with responsibilities: Generic - save money.. tastes the same
Inner OCD child: WAIT... look.... a pink box... THERE IS A PINK BOX.  AND OMG - it is a 3 BOX BONUS!!  Please please please... PUH-LEASE!!!

Then we get home.  The inner OCD child mantra begins.... "don't forget about the box top... don't forget (that item) has box tops.. maybe we should ruin the box now and cut out the box tops because you know those stinky boys are just going to throw it away!!"  Several days (or weeks) later, I see that cereal box in the garbage about to head out for trash day.... "UGH!! What is WRONG with you people... you might as well just throw a dime in the trash... you are throwing away money!!!  Money for the children!!!"

So the tops get collected.  They get hoarded in a zip lock plastic bag (yes a ZIPLOCK BRAND plastic bag because there was a double box top for back to school).  The bag is filled and it sits there until I need it.  It has to be full.  It has to look meaningful.  It has to wow the teacher.  Yeah - I picture it.  I see it clearly in my head.  My precious glowing child presenting the plethora of box tops that will save the school budget and pay for the teacher's lounge coffee this semester.  All because of ME!!!

So here we are... tonight.... it's time.  I need some zoning out time.  I gather my tools.  Paper, scissors, tape.  I take time to cut each box top perfectly along the pre-printed white dotted lines.  I organize them - 3 bonus box tops here.. single box tops there.  Stack them in piles of 10 then divide the piles into two - one stack for Max, one for Ben.  For one beautiful hour we have done crafts and simple math to create art.

It's beautiful.  It's satisfying.  They are clean cut little pink soldiers ready to battle the evils of congressional budget cuts.  BONUS - Ben get's to enter a give-a-way!!  For every sheet of box tops, he gets one entry into the drawing. And THIS mother-of-the-year just bought her son 4 ENTRIES to win that stuffed Despicable Me Minion or Monster's University "plush toy".  SCORE!!!

It's the little things people.  The little things that help get me through the day.

Now I am going to put my pajamas on and watch TV 30 minutes after it has aired live so I can fast forward through the commercials.