parent teacher conference

We just had our meeting and in general Vivien is doing very well in school.

As the hardworking teacher showed us the work and what they are learning I kept thinking, “I didn’t do any work like this in 3rd grade… or ever.”  Granted I had kind of a Bo-Ho education.  Not all kids get to opt to watch a Bette Davis double feature instead of learning long division.  But, 1) the work does seem harder now and 2) it’s just different.  The terms are different, the nomenclature of their work is so unknown to me so that if they didn’t include “notes to parents” in some of her work books I’d be unable to help her.

I think of the kids in her class whose parents don’t speak English and I wonder , “How can those kids succeed?”  So much homework, new terms, plop on  a different language you are sunk.

My only question at the conference?  When will they get more free play?  Answer:  they won’t.

Here is another burst of educational insight I had when Rex was younger and I still had my fab camera man Chung Ming shooting my vids  ( I just recently got to work with him.  Love that guy)

My other insight is bring your kid’s teacher a sandwich.  I did and she was happy.

School Search

When I first started thinking about where to send Vivien to elementary school I would talk to other parents about what they were thinking. I often said, “Hey, I’m not going to stress; I know it’s all going to be fine where ever we send her.” That was the point in the conversation where the other parent was suppose to say, “Right, totally.” Or nod. Or do something other than what they did do which was looked appalled that I wasn’t freaking out about this issue.

What’s the matter here? I thought. Well, the pod people eventually got me.  Yes, I have lost sleep over this issue.. just a little

School Daze

So, I’ve started visiting schools for Vivien for kindergarten next year. I’m only looking at public schools. Even pre-Madoff we were always go to go public for elementary. I don’t know why… guess we love rusty water fountains, or maybe paying $25,000 for kindergarten seemed a little outlandish even when we could have. And in LA one needs to save the pennies for high school. The school in our area is considered good, but in LA there are also magnets, charters, open enrollments. Basically, through a ton of parental involvement, some crappy schools have become good ones, and there is more choice than years ago.

Okay, so question: am I only the only one who gets kind of sad and or anxious when looking at schools? I think it’s twofold for me. 1) I start worrying about making the bell as if I was the little kid again. And 2) I am seeing some good schools, and while I’m excited for Vivien, I’m sad for what I didn’t have. My schooling was a tad chaotic. I went to a few, and I think there was less structure and fostering of various talents than there could have been.

Was that diplomatic enough?

I also had a yucky time in 1st grade, which, kid you not, bothers me to this day. I also feel like a bit of dumb dumb sometimes because of holes in my education. And there is nothing like having kids to point this out. After 5th grade when I offered Oliver help with his homework, he began to respond with what I can only describe as a smirk.

“No, that’s okay” when he really thought, “From you?  Are you kidding?”

And my handwriting does look like that of a serial killer. I left traditional school after 2nd grade. At that point we had learned cursive for the first half of the alphabet. I went on to go through Lord of the Flies academy after that, so I never properly learned the other half. There are other gaps as well. On the good side, I did gain a lot of sass, which is pretty much what I have run on since.

It’s something I didn’t think about when becoming a parent, how putting my kids in school would make me wish I could have an education Mulligan (for the golfers out there).  But of course I can’t do it over and only hope I chose correctly for my kids.

Uh, we really have to be there by 8:05?

Momversation: Private vs Public Schools

There is so much to be said on this topic. But Alice made a good point when she said that what can make a school good is often unquantifiable. Did I spell that write? Not sure if my school was any good.

Here is the dead truth about what I think is wrong with most public schools that NO ONE talks about: architecture. Seriously. One of the reasons I hustled and graduated early is because public school buildings are NOT built to the environment. They are created by the same people who build prisons. They are beat, yucky, not a place you want to matriculate, let alone take a dump. Sorry, but it’s true. I used to hold my sphincter in till after 3 in high school because of the gross bathrooms.

Architecture does affect people. One of my first reporting assignments I did in radio was to interview high schoolers from South Central in the aftermath of the LA Riots. These were the good kids. Not rioters. They were seniors who would graduate. But they said, basically, look, where we live is ugly. There are no trees; there are mostly liquor stores. It makes us feel disrespected that we live in this environment, so while we don’t think it’s a good idea to burn this place down, we understand why someone would.

I often think of that.

I mention my mother’s high school in this piece. It’s called Venture School. Her school is small, but she has helped many people over the years. But, you know, I’m biased.

Stacked Up: School Library

It’s a rite of passage of parenthood: volunteering at your kid’s school. I signed up for the school library, thinking that I can label and stack and organize.  Deciding on categories is tough, though.  We aren’t dealing with the Dewy Decimal system.  Ours is more like, “There’s a bear family in this book; oh, right, I’ll put the animal sticker on it.”

Those tasks can always be more tedious than one imagines.  Now that I can barely bend over, I might have to retire my library hat for while.  But the last time I was in the library, it looked fine.  Not my fault if people don’t put books back in the right places!  Here are other ramblings of a library volunteer.

Home Schooling

What would you say to a mom who says she might never send her kid to school? Well, the folks on got an earful when one mom said just that. It’s called “Unschooling.” Now, I really try not to judge other mothers’ choices, but from personal experience, this was the nicest way I could say: BAD IDEA!

Too Much Homework

Once again, when I need to tackle the hard topics I turn to my hero/guru: my mom. She was the director of a nursery school and for more than 30 years has run a small private school. I wanted to know her take on homework.

Obviously this isn’t yet an issue with Vivien, but the public elementary school near us that she will probably go to scares me a bit. It’s 60% Korean, and academically they ain’t kidding around! I see the little ones with wheelie bags. And with No Child Left Behind, arts have been thrown in the garbage.

Oliver has a fair bit of homework, which I used to help with a bit. But starting around 6th grade, when I would ask, “Do you need some help?” he would give me a look like, “Do you really think you can be of any help?” Frankly, I really couldn’t.

First Days at Preschool

Yes, the first week of preschool is upon us. I was sure I would be bawling, and a friend of mine was sure she would be fine. But, it’s flipped. Partly because Vivien wouldn’t allow us to leave yet. This is the “transition week,” so I’m still daydreaming about free mornings.

Creative Commons License photo credit: vitroids

Mark took her the first two days, since I was working, so I took her today. When she was jumping in my lap during story time, I tried to at least ease her on the rug in front of me to create some space. She did leave me for a while when buckets of toys were introduced. Also, we took the bus to school, which was a big hit, and ate Mexican food for lunch nearby, which made us both smile.

But come Monday, Mark and I will hang out for a bit and then try to bail to go to work. Mark says a friend told him to make it a game when we leave her at school on Monday. That the kid should push us out the door, with us saying, “Come on, push Mommy out the door!”

That might work for a more aggressive, independent kid. Not sure. But I’m just trying to sack up for leaving while she is crying. It’s not like I’m leaving her at a Russian orphanage, right? Moms that have gone through this already, do you have any strategies?