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Posts Tagged ‘education’

When I sent my firstborn off to kindergarten several years ago, I was brand new at the whole school thing – and I had two babies in the house.

My son would bring home detailed instructions on what they were doing in kindergarten; one of my babies would cry; I’d drop the instructions and run off, forgetting immediately all information the school wanted me to know.

Thus, in those early weeks, he’d go to school rather ill-prepared – and then come off the bus at the end of the day, crestfallen.

“It was blue day today, mom,” he’d tell me.

Alas, poor child! The green shirt he was wearing was all wrong on the blue day, that special day when all the children in kindergarten were supposed to wear blue (according to the instructions I’d earlier forgotten).

For whatever reason, I remember his early weeks of school as being all wrong – his wardrobe never matched the instructions – because I’d lost them in a swirl of distraction.

Thus, I resolved that when those two distracting babies reached the age of kindergarten, I was never going to fail to put them in the right color!

I didn’t count on the color preferences of my girls to stand in the way.

Who has orange items in their wardrobe? Not my girls – not my pink and purple girly girls.

Who has red? Mine do – but not in an item they wanted to wear today.

The color-coordinated lesson plan has been a headache from the get-go. So enough already with the color stuff. Let’s get them going on the good stuff – like algebra….

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Right this minute, as I type this, all three of my children are in grammar school. My girls, my baby girls, are in kindergarten. My beloved first born, in fourth grade.

I’m once again overwhelmed by a parenting milestone. Emotional, and even, yes, a little teary-eyed.

This time around, I did not sob publicly at the bus stop, as I had done when my son boarded the bus on that first full day of kindergarten. He was completely perplexed that a day that gave him such a thrill caused me such obvious sorrow.

As he boarded that yellow bus, I cried. Yes I cried. I cried, not because my son was leaving me, or that I worried about his ability to do well in kindergarten. I cried because my son was going off onto the bus that would take him to the world where I could no longer protect him. I put him on that bus and with him went all the impossible dreams shared by all parents. We want our children to sail easily through life. No tragedies. No missteps. We want our sons and daughters to be beloved by all, to succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

And so they go to school, and that’s why I cried. When I think of school, I remember being inspired by the rare great teacher but I also remember unending boredom at the hands of people who no longer cared for teaching. I remember the cruelty of children towards other children. I’ve sent my children off into that world and I hope I’ve given them the skills they need to thrive, but I worry. One cannot help but worry.

This year, I held it together on Monday, the open-house day, when the parents got to go to school with their kindergartners.

I held it together when the teacher read a poem about the fears parents had the night before the first day.

I held it together yesterday, when my baby girls got off the big yellow bus by themselves, after their first full day in the classroom.

I held it together – and even enjoyed the family back-to-school barbecue last night.

Today, I’m a mess. I’m a mess because I’ve launched my babies into the world and yes, it’s all good – they’re ready.

But I’m a mess because maybe, just maybe, I’m not ready for my obsolescence.

Nearly ten years ago I became a parent, and was immediately overwhelmed by the constancy of my baby’s need. He ate all the time; he slept hardly ever. Between the two, I was literally blown away by how tethered I felt as the mother of a newborn.

Then the twins came, and I was tethered, yes, but used to it by then. I had learned to fit pieces of me into little slices of naptime and other bits of time like that.

And then my son went to kindergarten and my girls went to preschool.

And today, they’re all in grammar school. All three of them are “big kids” now. And my life as the mother of babies has come to an end forever.

Today, I am sad.

Tomorrow I will celebrate this milestone. But I never realized how much of parenthood was learning to let go….

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I’ve told this story on other forums, but given the gloom surrounding us today, it’s a story I want to share again – a story that begins in October 2008, just as we are beginning to realize the significance of the economic crash.

It is precisely at this time that my next-door neighbor, Annie Jennings, comes home from high school bearing an orange rose. She presents this flower to her mother, Ellen, with the announcement that she is one of the “Sweet 16,” a member of the high school’s Homecoming Court.

Annie is not quite 18 years old, a high school senior with stick-straight, sandy blond hair, glasses and a big smile. We hire her to feed our cat whenever we head out of town and we leave knowing our cat is in very good hands. So when I learn of her selection as a member of the homecoming court, I am intrigued. This is the girl who watches my cat, after all.

Ellen is curious about what it means to be a member of the “Sweet 16.” Turns out that the senior class has voted, and Annie is one of a select group of girls to be considered for the Homecoming Queen. Within a week, the entire student population will choose one girl from this group to be the queen. Usually, the Homecoming Court has 16 girls; this year there is a tie, which means there are 17 girls being considered for this honor.

Ellen is a practical woman, a librarian who drives a Honda Fit economy car. The desire to be a homecoming queen has never been hers. Still, she is happy for Annie and vaguely proud that her daughter has been plucked from obscurity in this way.

She becomes concerned, however, when Annie assures her that she will win the title.

And, frankly, when Ellen tells me this, I’m also concerned. As much as I like Annie, she doesn’t at all fit in with my preconceived notions of what a Homecoming Queen is. I just assume that this is an honor that the pretty girl wins, the popular girl, the cheerleader. Not girls like Annie.

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Reading is one of the most fundamental activities we can engage in. We need to read in order to learn; we need to read before we can solve some complex math problems; we need to read to become informed.

Reading is fundamental, of course, but is also much more than fundamental; it is foundational because it allows us to tap into diverse resources for knowledge.

According to the dictionary, the roots of the verb “read” can be traced back to the Middle English word reden, which means to advise and interpret.

The Sanskrit root of the word is rādhnoti, which means to achieve, to prepare.

Cracking the Code
I am a reader – I have absolutely no memory of a time when reading was not an essential aspect of my day-to-day life. I remember the first words I ever read – a sentence that can still be found on the cover of every Dr. Seuss book – “I can read this all by myself.”

I don’t know how old I was when I first deciphered the code, but I still remember the sheer excitement I felt when the jumble of letters became transformed into words.

From that moment on, reading became a huge part of my life. And I assumed it would be the same for my children.
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