Category Archives: Frustrations

Assume the worst!!!!

11402820_10153078069968860_1834004617683557110_nWhat is it about our society that it’s inherent that people will assume the worst out of any situation? Particularly when it comes to children. They’re such easy targets.

I was grocery shopping today in the best store ever, Aldi, with my 4-year old escaped mental patient whom was having a good day. He was in a good mood, chatting away, discussing the merits of outer space and why didn’t the packet of alphabet pasta have any numbers in it, while we were checking out. A lady came up to the cashier to complain about an item she had purchased two weeks ago. Without so much as even asking for a receipt, the clerk gave her a replacement but she felt the need to comment that my child was well behaved, unlike some of the other kids she had seen in here. She began ranting about two children who were in the store last week when she was there, just running around, being loud and unruly. I tried to nicely diffuse the situation that perhaps the kids were just having a bad day. Even kids have bad days, you know. Didn’t even try to get into the ages of the kids and whatnot.  My suggestion was met with deaf ears (expectedly!) and she insisted that the kids were just awful. They were hitting each other. All the while, she’s nodding at my child as if he’s the Golden One.

What she doesn’t know is that last year, he was the devil incarnate when it came to Aldi and his screams could be heard throughout the store for every entire shopping experience, because he was a three year old mental patient then with no logic, rhyme or reason to his actions. He lives on pure emotion and that expression of emotion. What she doesn’t know (and I don’t know) is that perhaps those two kids last week are coming from a difficult situation, maybe there’s trouble at home. Maybe this is the first time they got to go grocery shopping in a month.  Maybe they’re hell on earth, maybe they aren’t. Maybe the mother just needed to get her grocery shopping done and didn’t have childcare. We don’t all have a village of people at our disposal.

I refused to acknowledge or concur with this woman’s conclusions of her previous experience, ending the dialogue that I’m sure it must have been very tough on the mother and I turned back to the clerk.

Really people, does a little empathy have to be so hard to provide???? We’re all so damn quick to judge, so quick to hoist an imaginary level of superiority over complete strangers, when the God’s honest truth is that you have absolutely no damn idea what’s going on in their world, why someone, anyone, is acting how they do. What I want to know is how does it make YOU feel to belittle random strangers? What good does it do you???

My family went to brunch last Saturday and my 7-year old asked to sit next to me. It was a rare moment of her wanting my attention and actively engaging with me, so I spent the entire brunch focusing on her completely. My husband and son were mostly ignored and to anyone looking on the outside, it must have looked weird, but I never get to devote time just to her. Haven’t been able to for years! So when she opens a window for me to connect with her, you better believe I’ll drop whatever it is and give her what she needs. Again though, anyone looking at our table wouldn’t have known that.

Frequently, when we are out and about, my son will declare he wants to go home. Sometimes, it’ll make others feel uncomfortable and I’ll be damned if I care. He’s an introvert. He’s four years old. If he’s emotionally aware enough to tell me that he’s reached his limit socially, I better listen.  It’s quite funny to see some faces sometimes. The looks of disapproval when he projects how he’s feeling can be epic, because somehow all children are supposed to conform to some uniform standard of behavior (i.e. being extroverts) and any deviance from that makes people uncomfortable. An adult listening to a child is apparently a rare enough phenomenon that I get odd looks as if to say, “you’re leaving because of him??” and the answer will be yes! I may try to drag out another thirty minutes, but when he’s reached his external limit of tolerating other people (and that’s what introverts do, they merely tolerate), it’s nothing short of cruel to ignore their pleas.

So please. Just keep your thoughts to yourself. If you think the children in the grocery store are a nuisance to you, instead of complaining about them, be grateful they’re not going home with you in your car, OK?

Back to School and Alcohol.

I know I’m not alone here. I just know it.

It’s back to school week after Christmas break. The kids relaxed for a full two weeks, even my 7-yr old began sleeping in. I could see that she needed the break badly. By the last week of school she was d.o.n.e!!! So she loved every minute of the break and then headed back to school. She’ll still declare that she loves her school however there was a definite shift from enjoying Christmas vacation to not wanting to go back to school. And so began hell week. You may think I’m kidding. I’m not. From the moment of every pickup, she’s been a tornado of anger and frustration. If I didn’t know any better, I’d downgrade her back to an escaped mental patient but I know what’s going on so I handle it differently (and much more calmly, I proudly add).  However the schedule of the week was different for me.

Monday: I know she’s tired. I dragged her out of bed. A full day of school. She’s pissed. We’ll get through this.
Tuesday: OK, I know she’s tired, she doesn’t want to do homework, but dear Jesus, this attitude better change.
Wednesday: OMFG, I’m going to kill her. I keep it together (mostly) as she drags out homework over the course of two hours simply because she just doesn’t want to do it. As soon as she goes to bed, I make Baileys & decaf tea. Yes, that feels good!
Thursday: It’s the exorcist. It’s reincarnated and that’s just on the car ride home. Upon entering the house, she bee-lines for Legos and I pop open a Strawberry Ale. It’s only 4.30pm but I figure this might be her best chance at staying alive.
Friday: I don’t know yet but I’m scared. I may have an IV of alcohol attached to me during the carpool lane. At the very least, when I get home from picking her up, it’s PARTY time!! Ice cream for all and beers for Momma!

I remember this struggle the first week of the school year. The mega adjustment is hard to cope with for the little ones and she specifically takes it out on me because I’m her safe place. I get it. But as I bob and weave my way through the house looking for hiding places, praying for it to be bedtime, I can’t help but wish this week were over.

I swear to you, alcohol sales must spike more after Christmas than during it because I’ve decided that that’s the only way I’m getting through this. Am I alone? Oh I bet not!!!!

Excuse me while I pop open #2.

 

How school is going to kill me.

code is funHomework. Oh how I hate thee. My awesome hurricane turned 7 last week!! I’ve really been enjoying being with her. Until homework, and then the devil comes out of both of us. What used to take 2 hours now takes 1 hour (still waaaay too much). Each night we have to practice spelling words and this week’s selection were particularly tough and confusing – circus, cell, circle, pencil, silent, palace all were consistently spelled by her as she hears it – circis, sel, circil, pencel, silint, palis. It didn’t matter how many times I went over it with her, it wasn’t clicking with her. We were both equally frustrated, and the tension was building. Soon, I’m yelling that I don’t understand what’s wrong and that I’m done. What an awesome example of motherhood I am (input complete sarcasm there). I walk into the kitchen, trying to take deep breaths and it dawns on me. Dawns how bloody ridiculous this all is. This is ONE damn test out of who knows how many she has, and who the hell cares if she fails this one. It’s not worth me yelling at her, making us both feel bad, and consequently, making her feel like a failure.

So I returned to the table and before I got to say anything, she asked me for a hug. I squeezed her tight and told her we were done with the spelling words. Just done. They were super tricky words, because they go against a lot of the spelling rules she’s been learning so it’s super easy to get them wrong. That I didn’t want silly, tricky words to end up with us both angry and exhausted. That it just wasn’t worth it and that I didn’t care what grade she got. She asked if that meant she was going to fail it. I told her to just do her best, and whatever grade comes home, I don’t care, because it’s only one out of soooooooo many. She asked me why we do homework at all, and I told her she should ask her teacher, because I don’t like homework either and I don’t think it’s effective.

What I’ve seen with homework is that I often have to explain what should have been covered in class. Sometimes I’m merely reinforcing what she has learned, but other times, I’m the one introducing new concepts to her that she’s expected to know, because they are on her homework sheet. I have no doubt her teacher is worked to the damn bone. It’s not her fault either. It’s the system. So much emphasis is put on testing and grades, that every single thing has to be entered into the computer as a grade. I can see these grades in her school portal online, and for every grade on every sheet of paper, I can see when it was entered. Her teacher is working Saturdays & Sundays just to enter in this ridiculous information. I see time-stamps of 6:30am during the week, mornings and afternoons on the weekends. It can be 9 pm at night and her teacher is responding to emails. It’s no wonder teachers are leaving in droves. There’s barely any actual teaching involved. At this point, each teacher should have their own secretary to handle the paperwork alone.

Capture2Having to explain things first hand to my daughter is part of why I started the book series. I needed to learn what the rules of reading and writing are, so that I can help her. The Magic Forest Alphabet: Introducing Letter Sounds came out last week and you people knocked me to the floor with your support and well wishes. You shot me into Amazon’s top three of their “Hot New Releases” category. The books are just as much for parents as they are for children. I had planned on just doing the basic alphabet book then moving onto the stories of The Magic Forest but I’ve realized how much I don’t know and need to know if I’m to help my kids through this important journey. I’ve already begun book two which will focus on common consonant blends & digraphs, and then I’ll round the trilogy off with tackling those bloody vowels. I blame them for everything! Lots more information over at Little Gem Publishing. There’s a free giveaway going on right now too.

rick roachA few days ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Rick Roach who is running for FL Senate in 2016. I don’t normally bring up politics here, but he used to be a teacher. He took the FCAT as an adult and failed it. He was on the school board at OCPS so he knows how that beast works. He’s watched the school system get dirty, begin to crumble, and the fall out is becoming apparent. He has a solid understanding and knowledge of the educational issues we face, and just as important, he has solid plans to fix them, and they definitely involve changing this testing ridiculousness. He also happens to be a very nice guy too. Give him a look.

Is it summer yet?

Norwegian Nick Jr Cruise (A review)

IMG_0035I was lucky enough to do a 7-day cruise last week. It was the first real family vacation my husband and I have had with the kids and what better than to do it with a Nick Jr cruise. I admit our expectations were high going in. Hubby and I did a 4-day Carnival cruise on our own last summer. Carnival has the reputation for being the lowest of the budget cruises and not being good at all. We however had a fantastic time that weekend. No kids (this was a major factor) but we knew everything else was going to be average. Our first ever cruise was on Celebrity before we got married and boy, there’s where you are treated like a king and queen forever. So when it came to a Nick Jr cruise, I had high expectations. Not Celebrity high, but high enough that a major network would affiliate itself to it.  Unfortunately, we had one or two hiccups (meaning LOTS) on board. We embarked the Norwegian Epic Sunday afternoon and by Thursday, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut any longer and marched myself down to guest services. There weren’t huge things going wrong, just minor little things that kept adding up to a crappy cruise experience.

Without writing a 5,000 word essay on the experience, I’ll simply give you the pros and cons.

Pros:
IMG_0021– Splash Academy where you can drop off your kids to get some free time. These people rocked. The kids loved it there (I was shocked). Every night had a new theme and toward the end of the cruise, I’d try to pick up the kids and they’d ask to stay longer.
– There is a good variety of restaurants on board (see below though).
– You’re cruising through the Caribbean with that gorgeous view around you. What’s not to love.
– Norwegian try to be very eco-friendly, so your key-card turns on the lights. Therefore, when you leave your cabin, you can’t leave all the lights on.
– The engineer arrived very quickly (see note below)
– Thursday, there were four cruise ships docked in the Grand Caymen Islands. So we elected to stay on board. Then we had a great time. No problem getting seats, quiet pool area, so much more relaxing. So that’s your tip, when you are in port, that’s the best time to be on the ship.
– The Ultimate Beverage Package. It’s pricey but you’ll need the alcohol to get through the cruise!! And it is unlimited. You may order a tasty cocktail for yourself as many times as you want. The only restriction is that you order one at a time. Fair enough.
– They are obsessed with hygiene. Before entering the cafeteria or buffet line, you are mandated to sanitize your hands. This involves a woman with a squirt bottle, giving Disney a run for their money by over joyously saying “Washy-washy!!!!”

Cons:
– We boarded Sunday afternoon and weren’t even so much as handed a map of this enormous ship. So we had no idea where we were, what deck we’d even walked onto or where our cabin was.
– The light switches in the cabin were less than intuitive (and really, how hard can this be). In trying to turn off the vanity lights Sunday night, my husband wondered if it was a touch light since there wasn’t a switch in sight. The bulb was so scalding hot that he badly burned his finger and had a huge blister on it the next day. So much for eco-friendliness. To show me how hot it was, he wet a face cloth and placed it over the bulb. The singe was very audible.
– Monday at sea. By 9am, every single chair on deck was “taken.”
– The layout of the ship was the most confusing thing ever. And obviously no thought went into the pool or splash pad because there were very large structures in between the kids pool and the toddler splash pad. That meant we couldn’t see either area at the same time without sitting in one of two very specific spots on the deck. To that end, while watching my 6-year-old, the 3-yr old wandered off and got lost. Yeah, that felt great.
– We went back to our cabin Monday afternoon only to find our key card didn’t work. We called for someone to come help us and it took a full 30 minutes before someone arrived. The Engineer arrived very quickly, took apart the lock and discovered that someone had placed a dime into our key card slot. Well thanks very much.
– We wandered to Spice H20 (adult only area during the day) to check out how to get some quiet time. Insanely, we were greeted with an amphitheater that had a huuuuuuuge screen on the very back of the ship. So in the adult area, you couldn’t even see the ocean thanks to that monstrosity and then you were bombarded with noise. With two days left on the cruise, we discovered a “quiet area” on deck 16 which would be great except it had nothing on it. No shade, no comforts, nothing.
– The family pool area was fairly small and the cruise line insisted on blasting music from 10am-6:30pm. When I say ‘blasting’, I mean a 747 would’ve made less noise. By the time Tuesday morning came around, none of us (including the kids) could stand it anymore.
– Monday night in The Manhattan Restaurant, I had French onion soup which was the worst thing I’ve ever tasted. Followed by the most bland linguine with clams. If I say it’s bland, then imagine this – black pepper is too spicy for me. If I consider something bland, it has to be completely tasteless. Our waiter said we should talk to some dude who took notes of our issues and that was it.
– Tuesday night, we wanted to try something different for food. We discovered that most of the restaurants there actually had a cover charge (ranging from $15-$30 per person), except maybe 4 of them. Oh, two of those four without a cover charge serve exactly the same menu every night. So while there is a good variety of restaurants on board, to experience them you have to pay an additional cover charge and/or pay a la carte. WTF!  In our quest for a different experience, we went to Taste which is where we found out that it had exactly the same menu as Manhattan. Just a little more laid back atmosphere. Unfortunately, it was so laid back that the waiter took our kids’ orders and we never saw him again. The food for the children was delivered and our order had yet to be taken. Then it was like hunting for Big Foot to try to get out orders in and get the hell out of the restaurant.
– It was in Taste that night that my poor mother-in-law began questioning why there seemed to be a lack of vegetables in all the meals.  In a quest for healthier food, she ordered a “Garden Spring Lettuce Mix” and underneath it was written “Crunchy Garden Vegetables | Chives.” Her plate arrive and she searched in vain for some vegetables. She asked the waiter where were the vegetables and he looked at her as if she was nuts, because the three slices of onion on top of the lettuce was supposed to pass for “crunchy vegetables.” No chives by the way either.
– We had brought two glasses of water and a mimosa to our room Sunday night. Tuesday night, the empty, used glasses were still left there.
– When at any of the restaurants, the kids are handed a kids’ menu. Superb. On the back of the kids’ menu is a coloring page. Excellent. However, none of the restaurants carried crayons. Seriously. For real. They didn’t carry crayons or even a pencil (my husband had been searching for one since he’d set foot on the boat). Why the flying f*&k do they give kids a coloring page without anything to color with?????????
– There isn’t any hair conditioner in the cabin. This sounds silly, it’s only shampoo. When both females in the cabin have long hair, and one of them is a child, the results are painful. When I complained about this, the manager tried to tell me it was a shampoo/conditioner combo. But it’s not. It’s labelled “Shampoo” and even my husband with short hair could tell me there was zero conditioner in there.
– My three-year old’s aim for the toilet isn’t the best. By the end of the week, our cabin bathroom reeked which told me that the staff don’t clean that area at all.
– I’m not sure if I’ve just got high expectations or what, but when the cabin staff were making the beds, they would simply throw all the pajamas into a pile on the stool in front of the vanity desk.
– Thursday, when everyone else was off the ship, we got those “special” seats from where we could watch the pool and toddler splash pad. But the pool was close for “maintenance.” Despite being assured that it would be open at 10am, at 11.45am, I was ready to explode. That’s when I just couldn’t take it anymore and marched down to guest services.
– Thursday night, we were approached by the Maitre’D of the Manhattan who offered his apologies for the service and would like to invite us to La Cucina ($15 cover per person) the next night as his guests.  Fair enough. The food was marginally better but not crazily better. So if I had actually paid $15 per person to get in there, I would’ve been crazy pissed.
– We went to bed Friday night, got the kids to sleep only to hear a thump-thump-thump throughout our entire cabin. Some architectural genius put the family cabins directly below the pool which meant that the Friday night pool party shook our cabin for two hours.
– Saturday was a day at sea and again, there wasn’t a seat to be found by the pool. My husband stalked chairs for an hour and a half before two became available. Mind you, over half the chairs were unoccupied by people. They simply had towels laid over them, in reserve. The chairs that we wanted (so we could see both children at the same time) was unoccupied for four solid hours. There was a towel and a bag there. Eventually, a woman came over, grabbed some sun lotion from her bag and then went to another lounge chair in the sun. Are you kidding me?? I asked the waiter what the time limit is for this crap and he responded that people could only leave towels there for an hour. But no where is this posted on the ship. When I informed the waiter of what was going on next to me, he told me I needed to speak to someone else. WTF. Meanwhile, a little bit away from me, I saw a woman struggling to get her young daughter into the shade because the daughter needed a nap and I just couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I told them the chair next to me was not only vacant for the past four hours, but the intended occupant was over there sunning herself somewhere else. At least on Carnival, there was a 45-minute rule (at least in the adult area) and everyone was within their rights to remove a towel from an unused chair after that. On Norwegian? Pheft.

IMG_0017OK, so it wasn’t a terrible time. But there were just so many little things that added up to being major pains in the ass that I have to say I would definitely NOT recommend Norwegian again, and not a Nick Jr cruise at that. We heard while on board that our particular ship, Epic, was heading to Europe after our trip. We also still had that spectacular view to look at which is always amazing and wonderful.  I did just want those people considering a Norwegian cruise to be aware of what happened to us.  We met a couple on board who had nothing but glowing things to say so it felt like there was a little dark cloud hovering over us specifically. In the end, we were making jokes about searching for vegetables and maybe the Mayan’s in Mexico had a pencil we could borrow. It was still a week away, a week not at work, a week with a glorious ocean around us. Just next time, I think we’ll be a little more selective. I’m hoping we just had some bad luck. 😀

What has happened to Kindergarten?

10708783_10152475639178860_6213760241580596127_oI love our new school. My 6-year-old tornado is doing great there, but I’m still increasingly concerned by the standards that these kids (all kids in any sort of public/charter educational system) have to get to. I love her teacher. She’s a sweetheart and sends home a newsletter every week with updates on what’s going on in the class, things they need, things that’ll be coming up. This week, the newsletter said that next week, the kids would begin spelling tests. In kindergarten???

Am I just out of it? Am I alone in thinking it’s entirely ludicrous that kindergarten has been reduced to this? There’s a list of sight words that the kids are tested on (to read) at the beginning, middle and end of the year. I tried to help out, and I typed our Sight Words so every week, my girl and I go through the list. I add a page every now and then. I thought this was a lot for a kid to have to learn. Where’s the fun here? Now she has to do spelling tests? WTF!

Just this week, we were going over her homework. Mostly, it’s greatly conceptual and I’ve no problem with it. Maybe write a couple of sentences. They’ve been working on math too so they’re doing simple equations such as 6+1=7. Nothing goes above 10. OK. But this week, the homework unit was that I was to write out a few equations such as 4 + = 10 and she was to figure out what x was. Say the hell what????? When did algebra become necessary in kindie and when the hell did abstract algebra factor in here?? How the heck is she supposed to conceptualize that x can stand for any number at all and that it all depends on the equation. For the most part, I just counted with her – if I’ve got 4, how many numbers do I need to get to 10, and then finger count along with her. IT’S KINDERGARTEN!!

I even talked to my 14-year-old niece who fondly remembers kindergarten and then said that things got serious in 1st grade.  I told my niece what my 6-year-old is doing and she was shocked. They never did that in her kindergarten class. Well, I guess the educational system has pushed that crap downwards and now the kindergartener gets to do what used to be for the older grades. It just feels like a bunch of this (especially the x equation, come on!!!) is well beyond her mental capabilities and she’s a smart kid.

Having had my rant, she’s still a happy camper in school. Although, she did ask me this morning if her 100 days of summer is coming up soon. This is because the 100th day of school celebration is this Friday but I think she thought that meant she was getting ready for summer break. Sorry, kid.  She asked me to put together a calendar for her to look at so that she can see when it’ll be summer time. I think that might have more to do with getting up at 7am than the work itself. She still bounces into the car each afternoon and runs into school every morning.So they must be doing something right. Maybe it’s just me that has the problem or maybe she just doesn’t know any different. My youngest, the 3-year-old will be starting VPK in August and it more than likely looks like I’ll be able to get him into the same school she was in. She loved that place so much. He’s started asking if he can go to school and she’s been telling him how much fun preschool was. And while I do think she is happy in her current school, the inference was that kindergarten isn’t as fun as preschool.

And that makes me sad.

When Children Aren’t Children Anymore.

Naturally, it wasn’t until I became a parent that I began questioning the normal societal rituals that our children go through. School has become one such ritual that I am increasingly scared by. The United States, ever competitive, must-always-be-best, has created an environment that in order to get ahead, you have to do more. It sounds logical, right? For instance, in my girl’s old school, the county school board mandated an extra hour of school every day (for all elementary grades, even kindergarten) to try to rectify the bad test scores of the previous year. Thankfully, I’ve been able to move her to another school that not only doesn’t have this extra hour of school work, but it has much more play time (recess every single day and PE three times a week). The difference in my child has been staggering. She is so much happier when she comes home from school, less stressed, less anxious about the next day. Think about that – I’m referring to a five-year old being less stressed about school.

I don’t discard the vital importance of an education. It’s how we educate that worries the crap out of me. More, more, more! More homework, more hours, more studying. This all comes at a cost and the cost is our children don’t get to be children anymore. Their own interests are tossed aside, natural never-ending energy isn’t being expended, and nonstop testing rules the classroom.

The first quarter of the 20th century saw huge leaps forward in education and productivity, but as the decades have marched on, our educators have forgotten these lessons. Superwoman was already here to breathe new life into education, beginning in 1907. Thankfully, Montessori is growing rapidly throughout the United States. Click here for a more information on it. It focuses on the growth and individual interest of a child, addressing individual needs, autonomy and responsibility. None of these things exist in the current public school system.

And what about play time? Take a look at Finland’s school system, which is #3 in the world, by the way. They didn’t pile on the work, the lessened it. After every single class, children get to go outside and play for 15 minutes. After every.single.class.

Not only do Finnish educational authorities provide students with far more recess than their U.S. counterparts75 minutes a day in Finnish elementary schools versus an average of 27 minutes in the U.S.but they also mandate lots of arts and crafts, more learning by doing, rigorous standards for teacher certification, higher teacher pay, and attractive working conditions.

The more, more, more, attitude of school, hunker down those kids, burying them in books is suffocating our children. Clearly, our current educators do not see a parallel between our childrens’ education and the exploitation of the middle class in the early 20th century either. Previously, average factory workers were expected to work six and seven days a week to maximize output in factories. On May 1st, 1926, Henry Ford mandated that his workers could only work 40-hours per week, five days a week, as well as almost doubling the hourly wage to $5 per hour. Yes, you can thank Henry Ford for pioneering the five-day work week, because it became, and still is, the industry standard.

The news shocked many in the industry but turned out to be a stroke of brilliance, immediately boosting productivity along the assembly line and building a sense of company loyalty and pride among Ford’s workers.

So why can’t our educators at the top see that less is more? Less nose-to-the-grind and more play for children. Happier children have an open mind to learn. Strung out, overworked children do not. Homeschooling is on the rise, private schools and public charters are exponentially gaining popularity. People will do anything to avoid going into public school. And for all of us that say “well, I went through public school and it was fine,” the public school you and I knew is not what it is today. It is very, very, very different.

Pay teachers what they deserve. Every teacher I know works a minimum 10-12 hours every single day, throws in extra time on the weekend and even then, might not be able to catch up on paperwork. Considerably raise the salary of our teachers and not only will productivity rise, the desire to become a teacher will increase too. Flood the school market with teachers clamouring to teach and you’ll raise the overall quality of the teacher in the classroom. Raise that quality of teacher, and you’ll start to generate a better education system. When both the teacher and student are respected, are able to be whom they were meant to be, whom they want to be, the entire school system will win.

Superwoman Was Already Here.

homework1My increasing disillusionment with Kindergarten and the traditional school system has rendered me the in-house mental patient for the past month. Last Thursday, I decided to notice the clock as we sat down to do homework. One hour and fifteen minutes later, two weary females left the table. This is ridiculous for second grade, let alone just the fourth week of kindergarten. Not sure if you can make it out in the photo, but we doing chapter 12 of algebra. Because that’s what we’re forced to do now on the fourth week of kindergarten. We never started at chapter 1, we started with chapter 12.

homework4We’ve got the usual writing to practice and we haven’t even finished the entire alphabet yet, but somehow here we are, trying to put letters together. Oh, and she’s supposed to write a sentence at the end of the page. You are correct, she doesn’t even know what a sentence is.

What the hell has happened? More and more, our children have become assembly line robots that are force-fed information, and to what end? So that the school can pass a test at the end of the year. In Florida, there is the joy of FCAT (Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test). A series of tests that begin in 3rd grade that have proved utterly useless.  I spoke with my daughter’s teacher on Friday morning regarding the unGodly amount of homework and her dear teacher, a classroom veteran of twenty years, was ready to cry along with me. Mrs. V doesn’t recognize kindergarten now, not from when she started teaching and she confided that she’s begun speaking to her husband about retiring soon. She warned me that homework was going to get worse after Christmas because the kids (KINDERGARTNERS) will have to take a test on the computer at the end of the year. She even suggested removing my girl early from the school day every now and then, since the kids are already in school so long each day, just to give my girl a break.

I’m done. I can’t take anymore. My paroled mental patient is actually adjusting well but I don’t want her adjusting to that. I don’t want her turning into a robot that stomps on individuality and creativity. She is a high-spirited child and I absolutely do not want that spirit crushed. Regurgitating for the sake of school scores, where the desire to learn is etched away week by week, no, that’s not for us. With my escaped mental patient at home with me (3-years old), I just can’t fathom homeschooling. So what I need is Superwoman. And it turns out, she’s already been here.

Maria Montessori was a pioneer, and slowly, the movement she created is spreading. Most Montessori schools are private, unfortunately, but there are some charter schools out there. My daughter is on the waiting list for one. I urge you to look at this alternative to the abhorrent day that our children are subjected to. Yes, yes, we all did it and survived. How many of us thrived under that system?  How many thrive from Montessori? Ohhhhhhh . . . the Montessori approach has spawned a creative elite, including Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, videogame pioneer Will Wright, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, cook Julia Child and rapper Sean “P.Diddy” Combs. I’ll talk about the benefits and core beliefs of Montessori in another post. If there is anything else you do today, please watch the video above.

<3

Bad Parenting Day #778

I know I’m in trouble when I feel a little jealous of people who can lock their kids in a closet.

stretchkinsThe kindergartner was walking with me through a store last week when she spotted the highly coveted unicorn stretchkins. I am supremely confident that she would play with it for an hour tops, and then it would join the rather large pile of discarded teddy bears in the playroom. Our rule now is that we only buy toys for birthdays or Christmas, and if they want something specific, it’ll go on their wishlist until the next occasion. She had a rare freak out when I let her know we weren’t buying it that day. I turned it around to tell her that it was good she was upset, because that meant she really wanted it, so isn’t she going to have a nice birthday! Sneaky, I know.

Today, I picked her up from school and along with the 3-year old mental patient, headed off to go back to the store. Made the drive OK. Even started the shopping OK. Until we had to walk by the stretchkins. I shut down any requests quickly, naively thinking that was the end of it. Until my 5-year old decided to try emotional blackmail.

Her: “I can’t believe you aren’t going to buy that. I really want it.”
Me:  “I am going to buy it, just not today. I’ll buy it when it’s your birthday.”
Her: “It really hurts my feelings.”
Me:  (silence)
Her: “Did you hear me? It really hurts my feelings.”
Me: “We’ve gone over this. It’ll make a great birthday present.”
Her: “I don’t understand why you won’t get it now. If you don’t get it now, it’ll change my love for you.”
At that point, I actually started laughing which wasn’t too smart. The beast was already riled up.  Now she was vying for anything she could to gain ground. Demanding Hello Kitty yogurt. Grabbing a book that was for her brother. Rebuking any consequences I was giving her. After about 10 minutes of insufferable behavior, and aware other people are around me so I can’t really scream the immense frustration I feel, I do something I have never done before.

She was standing on the side of the shopping cart. I simply picked her up and placed her next to a freezer aisle. Without a word, I walked away. I didn’t even glance back as I walked forward, wondering how far I needed to go before this bluff was called. It wasn’t far. I got about 15 feet away, and I heard a sobbing, “Moooooooommmmmmmmmmmm.” My intention was not to make her cry, it was to jolt her out of whatever attitude was going on. And it worked.

We discussed how I was never going to leave her there, that I merely needed some space because her attitude was something I couldn’t  be around. I told her how much I love her but that she needed to rethink how she was speaking and behaving. Then I told her to give me the biggest hug she possibly could, give it her best shot, squeeze me so tight that I couldn’t breathe (I should be careful here!), and she did, laughing hysterically. And that was the end of the effing stretchkins.

Mental note has been made. She will never come to this store with me until after her birthday.

Aaaaaand it started. The kindergarten struggle.

KindergartenEven before Meet the Teacher, the signs were there. My spirited five-year old didn’t want to go. When we entered the classroom, my tornado did all she could to avoid the teacher. During that visit, I learned about the extra hour that has been tacked onto the school day. That alone had me terrified and consumed my entire weekend. I’m already dubious about the lack of organization in this school. Carpool on the first day was bedlam because newbies like myself were screwing it all up. No one told us what to do. Just like no one explicitly explained the extra hour on the school day. Or what activities the kids do. There has been zero communication from the school apart from a robo call telling us the date of Meet the Teacher. I feel like I’m flying blind so now I’m getting a glimpse of what things are like for my child, who has no idea what is going on.

The first day of Kindergarten arrived and I walked her to the auditorium, hopeful that she would enjoy it all. I picked her up eight hours later (yes, eight!!!!). I had dreams of delightful songs, fanciful art work, best friends for my girl. She got in the car, strapped herself into her car seat. I delightedly asked how her day was and she responded, “I didn’t get a star today. I wasn’t good enough.” Whhhhhhhaaaaaaaatttttt? Again she says, “I just wasn’t good enough.”  My heart breaks, my head starts spinning, I’m trying to focus on not crashing the car because of the seething rage burning inside me. This is what her first day of kindie has taught her? I’m crushed and devastated. We get home and I ask her for more details. Did Mrs.V tell you this? No. Did you make any friends? No. What happened? Nothing.

Again, I spend the evening crying (out of child’s view), cursing what I’ve done to my child. When I wake my love up for school this morning, she tried ever so hard to persuade me it was Saturday. We finally got out the door and I walked her to the auditorium again. I met Mrs.V and instead of turning into Momma Bear, I politely asked if she knew why my girl would say she wasn’t good enough. Mrs.V then explains that my hurricane wouldn’t participate in anything. When she was reading to her, asking what letter this was, my girl would respond with “No.” She apparently spent most of the day in the corner of the room, after my daughter recused herself from the activities. Her teacher said to give her some time to adjust.

I simply don’t know what to do. I know she’s a strong-willed child. A stubborn individual with her own agenda and own way of doing things. As a side note, I cannot possibly imagine who she got those traits from (insert dripping sarcasm). There’s a couple schools I’d love her to attend. One is a charter school that is very close by, but she is #90 on the wait list. The other does not have any open spots and will not accept a waiting list. I feel like we are trapped. Being new to this school stuff, I don’t know if it’s something that will iron itself out over a week or so, or not. I don’t know if it’s my daughter that is the problem, or the teacher, or both. It doesn’t help that the disorganization of the school has undermined my confidence. I keep remembering last year, when she attended another school. Unfortunately, they don’t offer elementary education. She ran into that classroom every day. By day two, she had made a card for her teacher to tell her how much she loved her. Now she is defeated. In Kindergarten. After one day.

Kindergarten – Terrified before we even begin.

1602140_10152085974543860_1758442243_oWe met with our teacher yesterday afternoon. The classroom looked great. My girl seemed excited. The teacher seemed nice. I was getting comfortable with the notion of her going to school. Since I’m a newbie at this school stuff, I asked her teacher what time I needed to drop her off. I remember looking at the school website last year and classes began at 8.45am until 3pm, so when does she need to be dropped off? Already, I thought the school day was horrendously too long for a 5-year old. I’ve always thought that. My girl is used to spending 4 hours at the playground. She’s always had infinite energy that needs to be expended. And then bombshell is dropped. The kind teacher says she needs to be dropped off at 8am. Whhhhhaaaaattt?  She tells me since “there’s that extra hour, I pick the kids up from the auditorium at 8.10am.”

I’m confused. What the heck is going on? Maybe there’s some super secret process I don’t know about. There’s nothing in the literature about this. What am I missing? Instead of asking her, because I already feel like an idiot, I go home in a state of shock. Aside from the average how-the-hell-am-I-going-to-get-her-to-school-at-8am freakout, I then remember I saw a sign at school that pickup is at 3.30pm. I turn to Google to research and to my horror, discover that her school performed in the bottom 33 of schools in our county for reading and the school board mandated that her school add an extra hour of studying every day. Oh.My.God. Now, the already ridiculously long school day just got longer. My 5-year old is supposed to attend school from 8.15am-3.30pm. I’m horrified. I’m devastated. I knew her school wasn’t the best in the county but oh dear God, I didn’t realize it was that bad. This board decision on school hours only came down 4 weeks ago so all my research, all my agonizing, over the past year was moot.

Last year, her VPK (Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten) hours were 9am-12pm, and she was burned out by March. This will have her strung out by Halloween.

Now I can’t stop crying. For the immediate future, my hands are tied. She will begin school Monday morning and I will see how it goes. I suspect that in a few weeks, I will be knocking on the doors of other local schools, requesting a transfer. If all else fails, I may have to turn private. I only know that I’m not having her completely jaded from school at the mere age of 5. Kindergarten is supposed to be fun. I know it’s only an hour more, but already the day is much too long for little kids. Now it’s just ridiculous.