Confronting a Bully on the First Day.

10708783_10152475639178860_6213760241580596127_oYesterday, my hurricane began kindergarten at her new school which was a rousing success. She came home happier than I’ve ever seen her when coming home from school.  She did talk a lot about a boy in her class that was making lots of bad choices, and it eventually came out that he hit her in the chest. I asked her what happened after he did that, and she told me that she informed Ms. Y (her teacher) and the boy was removed from the classroom temporarily.

Forward to this morning. I wanted to walk my love into her classroom and talk to Ms. Y about the entire day yesterday. No other children were present in the class as we spoke and it sounded like the issue with the boy was being addressed appropriately. Then my girl announced she wanted to talk to the boy about what happened. As we moved along in topics from school binders to supply lists to P.E. being three times a week (for real!!!!!!), as well as recess every day, I began to bid my girl farewell with our usual kiss and hug, when the door opened and the particular boy involved walked in the door with his mother. Ms. Y explained in detail to his mother what happened and his poor Mom looked like she wanted to die on the spot. Ms. Y told him that my daughter wanted to speak to him about yesterday’s occurrence, so she and the boy moved to the other side of the room. My girl stood right in front of him, ready to have her say.

She wasn’t indignant about it, she wasn’t spiteful, she didn’t even seem hurt. She was genuinely trying to be helpful and watching her handle that situation just took my breath away. She told him that he should think about how others will feel before he acts, that he should keep his hands to himself and never hit. That if something is upsetting him, to use his words and think first, before acting. I watched in amazement as my daughter, on only her second morning at this new school, was calmly confronting and trying to guide a child that had wronged her. It took everything in me not to cry with pride. What she said probably won’t change his behavior but it might make him think twice before he messes with her again. Because she won’t take it lying down. In fact, she’ll face you head on with it.

So while I know I’ve screwed up a thousand times with this parenting thing, today, my girl made me stand tall and swell with pride, because she is as awesome as I’ve always known she is. As I left the classroom, I hugged and kissed her, and whispered in her ear how exceptionally proud I am of her. <3

Beginning Kindergarten All Over Again.

Last year, I entered my girl into a lottery for two local charter schools that are rated exceptionally well. Lottery time came and went and we heard nothing. Just a few weeks ago, I learned she was #90 on the waitlist for one of them and I didn’t even bother checking the second charter waitlist. Who needs that kinds of rejection? Then midweek, I received a phone call from the second charter that a spot had opened up for her. Whhhhhhhhaaaaaaaatttttt?????  It completely threw me for a loop and all of a sudden, I had to get days worth of paperwork together in three hours. I toured the school, asked questions that I wouldn’t have known to ask before (schedule, recess, homework, etc). I started feeling a little better and I enrolled her on the spot. That was mostly because the school is in such demand that they needed an answer almost immediately because hundreds of others were waiting in the wings. And I wasn’t going to let my girl sit in a school that is rated 5/10 when a 10/10 school was inviting her in. The new school groups students together based on ability, and thus teach to that level so no student is left waiting for others to catch up and other students are not left feeling inadequate.

I know this particular school is very heavy on academics. It’s a nerd’s dream come true, which works for us because both my husband and I are nerds. So is my youngest. I have a strong feeling they’ll make the fit with my daughter too. Something that intrigued me greatly is that the school provides after-school clubs for 45 mins. These happen on-campus, and are mostly free. Clubs like art, reading, music, yoga (yes, yoga for K-2 grades), a fitness club, poetry, creative writing, an environmental club, theater, younger singers, a gaming club. What’s not to love there? Then, when the kids get to the third grade, the clubs mature to science olympiads, math olympiads, sports, gardening, newspaper club and more. The kids have recess every single day, as well as PE during the week, along with art and music classes.

rainbowShe also doesn’t have that mandated extra hour of school every day, like her old school. The only extra time is optional and will be based on my daughter’s interest in the item. She has a school uniform now. I’ll be sad to see the rainbow outfits disappear but it is what it is. I’ll take a better education over fashion.

Tomorrow, my 5-year-old starts the new school. I was a little worried that she wouldn’t care for a transition so I asked her during the week if she liked her teacher, Mrs.V, and the answer was “No, not really.” Well then. For the record, I think Mrs.V is a great teacher and a sweetheart, but my girl did not take her to from the moment they met. After her final day at her old school came to a close (Friday), I drove her to her new school so that she wouldn’t have the weekend to wait and wonder, be anxious, about the new place and she was impressed. She liked it and I think we’re already off to a good start. She got to tour the four kindergarten classes, met two of the teachers and thought the rooms were fantastic.

My shoulders have dropped two inches and while I was still awake at 4am this morning worrying about it all, I have a feeling (a hope) that in a few weeks, I might even be able to sleep through the night, something that hasn’t happened in 6 weeks,  content that my girl is getting what she needs.

I hope.

Please stop touching my child.

Dear lady behind me in the check out counter,

I fully understand that you are being sweet and friendly, but persistently trying to talk to my introverted 3-year-old as he squirmed in the shopping cart seat makes us all uncomfortable. I politely told you he was shy, but you never let up. You caught him on a good day – he didn’t start crying as a result of your constant attention. But once you kept rubbing his back while saying hello, he began trying to climb out of the cart to escape you. I know you had no ill-intention, but please understand that not all children are extroverts. My oldest would have talked to you long enough to see you in your grave, but my youngest is an introvert to people he doesn’t know. 536677_10151609850588860_878600609_nOnce he knows you, really really knows you over the course of several months, he turns into the outgoing child you expect all children to be. However, to strangers, he simply wants to hide or bury himself in my arms to try to disappear. This isn’t a result of some childhood trauma. It’s not a lack of parenting skills to force him to talk to someone who makes him uncomfortable. After all, aren’t we supposed to drum “don’t talk to strangers” into kids these days? It’s simply his personality.

He is shy. He’s an introvert. Nothing you do or say will change that. I know you didn’t know that to begin with, but once I tell you he is shy, and you see him struggling to get away from your attention, even down to trying to physically escape when you touch his back, that should be a clue for you that he’s not that outgoing kid society seems to expect. So please, stop trying to touch him and just let him be.

Thank you.

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

Ray Rice & What This Tells Your Children.

Like everyone else, I was shocked to see a video of Ray Rice punching his wife into unconsciousness, then dragging her limp body out of an elevator. That happened last February. They weren’t married when this assault happened. But they are now. This woman still went ahead and married him. Thankfully, there’s been enough of an outrage about Rice’s behavior that he was sacked by the Baltimore Ravens immediately.  Then I see this as part of the CNN article:

“Later that month, a grand jury indicted Rice on a charge of third-degree aggravated assault, and the charge against Janay Rice was dropped. The couple were married the next day.”

CaptureApparently, experts are warning that the outside world shouldn’t judge her too harshly. Really??? Because this headline here doesn’t lean me towards much sympathy here. To be fair, I have no idea (thank goodness) what is going on there. I don’t actually want to know. My guess is that she’s an abused lady and perhaps she doesn’t have a way out. Stand-by-your-man may be the only defense she has for survival behind closed doors. I don’t know. What I do care about though is what the message is to the world. Get beaten up and still marry the guy? That being knocked unconscious by someone who is supposed to love you is normal? How is it that this has become mainstream?

Just a few days ago, a woman told me how her young daughter, who is now an adult, was having a problem at school when she was 9. A boy was bullying her. When the teachers and parents got together to discuss it, somehow the conversation revealed that the boy actually liked her daughter. And that was the end of the story. As if liking her made his behavior OK. It left me speechless. I’d love to say that’s an isolated instance, but it’s not. I’ve watched adults on the playground say something similar when a boy is mean to a girl and for the life of me, I do not understand. When someone is unkind to you, mean to you emotionally or physically, that is a sign to get the hell out of dodge. That person is dealing with emotional baggage that no child should be carrying. At no point should male aggression toward a female be OK. Likewise female to male aggression.

Comments such as, “Oh, he must like her.” need to be shut down. That is how this crap starts. Our children don’t need the notion that horrible behavior is somehow forgivable because he fancies her. That it should be tolerated, because, you know, he likes her. What we all need to be doing is ensuring our kids understand that they should never be on the receiving end of this. Never. Start insisting that they be treated better. Start instilling that they need to demand better treatment for themselves. That under no circumstances should they settle for anything less. Start now. When they are young. So that when you aren’t standing next to them, they will be able to stand up for themselves, as teenagers and then as adults.