Posts Tagged ‘children’

home reading 002

Tee is in grade four at the local public elementary school this year. One of the programs his teacher has in place is called Home Reading. As the teacher explained at the beginning of the year, it has been proven that readers become better readers by reading, and for her, the next logical step was to enforce that reading. So she insists that the children in her class read for at least a half hour every day at home, and after each reading session, write down the name of the book, how many pages were read, and a comment about the reading.

Up until this year, nobody had ever insisted that Tee read.

Predictably, within several weeks of starting school, his interest in reading dropped dramatically.

When I asked him about why he wasn’t reading much anymore, he told me that whenever he felt like reading, he remembered that he would have to write down all that stuff, and that made him not want to read. When his teacher began insisting that he read at least a half hour every day, he really became resistant, and started “forgetting” his backpack at school and “losing” the book he was supposed to be reading. Then he started getting weepy about it.

So I went in to the school for a little chat with the teacher.

I explained the situation. She said that “we all have to do things we don’t want to do.” I said that it was my understanding that she was trying to encourage reading. She agreed. I said that this program was not encouraging Tee’s reading, that it was in fact squelching his desire to read. I went on to explain that Tee didn’t need encouragement to read. That he had been an avid and skilled reader before he started in her class. That if she left him alone with his reading, he would continue to read. That we didn’t need to document the number of pages he read, and that by taking such an overzealous interest in his reading, we were taking away his intrinsic enjoyment of it. She pulled out the research that provided the evidence that children who read a lot become better readers.

Back to square one. We were clearly going in circles.

So I smiled and said that while her program might very well work for some children, it obviously wasn’t working for my son.

She said that it would be unfair if Tee was excused from doing homework that the rest of the class was expected to do.

I said that I thought it was unfair to be inhibiting Tee’s interest in reading.

She said that Tee needed a better attitude, that he was homeschooling no longer, that he was now part of a group, and that sometimes “we” do things because “we” are told to do them.


I finally just told the teacher that I truly did appreciate her care for her students but that I disagreed with her opinions on this matter. Then I said that I would no longer be insisting that Tee do the Home Reading when he was at my house. That I wasn’t willing to coerce him into doing something that I thought was to his detriment. That I had to pick my battles with my contrary young son, and that Home Reading wasn’t going to be one of them. She said that she would be having a chat with Tee about doing the homework, that she was his teacher, that she insisted. Fine by me, I said. Give it your best shot. Just don’t expect me to be one of your henchmen.

In counselling lingo, what I did was extricate myself from a relationship triangle.

I was no longer willing to be the middle person in a conflict between two other people.

I’m not sure what ended up happening with the Home Reading. I found the journal, soggy and torn, on the kitchen table this morning, and there were some entries in it, so he must record at least a bit of what he reads. All I know is that when he’s at my house, he’s back to his old reading self, and that’s what I care about.

home reading 001

note: why are the entries for dates that haven’t happened yet? and does he read anything but comics?

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j polar bear 2009 014

..because it captures one of the many moods of this mercurial girl. Most of the photos I have of her show her beaming, because that’s her baseline, and it’s not often that I snap a shot of her like this. I look at this one and I know exactly what she’s about to say. It brings back the moment in a way that the smiley shots don’t.

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Why don’t you come for a little car ride with me honey?

On the plus side, I can honestly say that at this moment I truly appreciate having a 12 year old van. After scraping the frozen vomit off the upholstered seats and floor mats, I didn’t have to worry one speck about whether I’d made that bleach solution too strong. OUT bad smell, OUT!

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The second trip to the Big Library in 3 days, and this time I found a totally unexpected surprise….the new David Sedaris book When You Are  Engulfed in Flames. It was one of three Recent Bestsellers (which can only be taken out for a week and can’t be renewed and cost two dollars a day if they’re overdue) that I couldn’t leave the library without.

It totally made up for the parking garage ticket being called “unreadable” by the machine, and having to press the Help button, and then having to explain my dilemma to the voice on the speaker over the sounds of my 7-year old shrieking, “Mom, drive! Drive! There’s a whole lineup of cars behind us!” and then getting out of the van to explain my situation to the people in line behind us while we waited to be rescued.

As a testament to the differences in personalities between my children, Tee was also in the car when this happened, but he had to be told about the event when we got home.

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Behind our house is our garden.

winter solstice 2008 033

At the bottom of the garden is the river.

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On the river is an ice rink.

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In the middle of the rink is a snow fort.

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And in the middle of the snow fort is a tunnel.

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(thanks to our neighbors, who dedicated the afternoon to shoveling snow off the river instead of off their driveway.)

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In 1989 the United Nations approved The Convention on the Rights of the Child which has now been signed by all but two of the 192 members of the UN.

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Jay (age 7):  Mom, do you believe that the Canadian warriors in Afghanistand (sic) are important?

Me: AfghanisTAN.

Jay: Yah, that’s what I said, Afghanistand. Well do you?

Me: Well, that’s a tricky question. It’s complicated. What do you think?

Jay: Yes. They’re important because they’re making peace. That’s what my teacher said.

Me: If a Canadian soldier kills an Afghani soldier, and that soldier was a daddy, do you think his children would like the Canadian soldier very much?

Jay: No.

Me: So it’s complicated. When you say that they’re fighting for peace, what does that mean?

Jay: I don’t know.

Then we had a discussion about peace and pacifism and fighting and protecting ideals. Now my little daughter is a whole lot less clear than she was when she came home for lunch, but I think that’s appropriate. I don’t think that a subject like war should be simplified, even for second-graders.

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Driving the Driven

sept 10 2008 gymnastics Julia 002

Another year of extracurricular activities officially kicked off with the start of gymnastics.

Next week we add diving, which L has been participating in so long that we’re all as familiar with every nook and cranny of the pool complex as we are with our own house. Jay practically grew up there.

Soon Tee’s basketball starts as well.

Not to bore anyone with the tiresome scheduling details, let’s just say that from 4 till 8:30 every single weeknight, I’ll be driving hither, yither and non. It’s common practice in my parenting circle for families to overschedule in this way, and it’s one of the (many) things I swore I’d never do with my own kids. Yet here we are, rushing around every evening, all hectic and scattered. Partly, it’s to do with having four children. Partly it’s having to do with four children who share none of the same scheduled activities. Really, I envy parents who’ve managed to breed entire families of say, competitive swimmers. One stop shopping would be nice. Dropping them all of in a herd, and going home to a lovely supper before picking them all back up again. Going to one main event with all of the kids competing, instead of sometimes having to miss one child’s event because of a conflicting one. I could, I guess, insist that they limit themselves to one activity each, but I’ve only done that with oldest son once, and only because I really and truly couldn’t manage the driving.

I’ve often said to Miss L that if I’d known when she was 6 and interested in becoming a diver that it would involve such an extreme level of commitment from her, and more distressingly, me, that I would have balked and signed her up for community hip-hop classes instead. I had no interest in any of the kids becoming competitive athletes or of being a “diving mom”. Even now, I would choose free, unstructured time over such regimented activities if it wasn’t for the crystal clear evidence of each child’s huge enjoyment in what they’ve chosen to do.

I have learned a few lessons along the way though. When Jay begged to take gymnastics classes, and I saw the pint-sized bundle of determination that she was, I had visions of her training 25 hours a week at age 7 in an obsessive quest for the Olympics, so I said okay to the classes only if she understood that she was not to enter the competitive stream. It hasn’t dampened her enthusiasm for the sport any, but hopefully she’s doing it purely for fun, not for any dreams of glory.

On the other hand, it’s possible that she just out-thunk me. She asked to take diving “like her big sister” this year, possibly because she rightly guessed that I couldn’t allow one child to compete in a particular sport without allowing it for another child. I’m guessing that a competitive drive finds an outlet.

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A beautiful Sunday morning sleep in. I was poked in the ribs at 7am by the littlest princess, who said she was hungry and could I make breakfast, but I only half awoke, just enough to tell her to make her own toast, and then fell right back asleep.

When I finally stumbled down the stairs at 9, I came across the whole gang, sleepover guests and all, huddled in front of our ancient 17 inch Dell computer monitor, watching an episode of The Simpsons.

Which reminded my of my sanctimonious little post about our TV-free household. When the kids were small, and I was the dictator of this queendom, the only things they watched were carefully screened, non-offensive movies, usually of the educational variety. Now, ages 7, 9, 12 and 14, they watch downloaded copies of Futurama, The Simpsons, and Doctor Who.

I’ve kept the evil forces of pop culture at bay for as long as I could, but some of it is starting to seep in, thanks to having kids that just keep getting older. I realized that it was more important for my oldest son to to have friends than it was for this house to be completely off limits to commercial programming, It’s too bad that the younger ones are being exposed to it at their age, but at least I sheltered their toddler brains.


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