Thursday, July 31, 2014

A rant that didn't start out as one

I'm pretty sure we spent five hours at the pool today, which is probably why I feel simultaneously exhausted and like I haven't accomplished a thing. There are still piles of neatly folded laundry on my floor waiting to be put away. I suppose the bright side is that at least they haven't been disturbed...because nothing was touched in our house all day.

We met with some friends for swimming lessons this morning and then stayed and swam after. We came home and had lunch and then Miriam went to play with her friend Marcella, who has been so lonely since her brother's gone off to kindergarten. It worked out well because Miriam has been missing having Rachel to play with, too.

I put Benjamin down for a nap and then thought about putting the laundry away but ultimately decided that I could just take a nap, too, since there was no one around to bug me.

After we woke up, Benjamin and I went outside to play while we waited for Rachel to come home from school. Then we got ready to go to the pool again!

Miriam met us at the pool and everyone had fun swimming while I gave Marcella's brother some swimming instruction. And then we stayed to swim after.

Andrew was already home and making dinner by the time we soggily strode into the house. We studied spelling words over dinner because Rachel has her first spelling test tomorrow. She's never had one before but I think she'll do fine. Her teacher gives the kids a list of twenty words and they can choose to do the first ten, which are so easy Miriam was spelling them; or the first ten and next five, which are slightly harder; or the first ten, the next five, and the next five, which are the "challenge" words.

Aside from saying double-u every time she meant plain-ordinary-u, Rachel spelled them all flawlessly so I'm sure she'll do just fine.

I do worry over that girls perfectionist tendencies. We've been stressing, as parents, the importance of doing our best rather than always getting 100%, but I know, as a perfectionist, that that concept is difficult to wrap your brain around.

100% is the best, therefore it is my best, therefore if I do not achieve it I have not done my best and have, by every definition, failed. Most likely the world is coming to an end. Happy apocalypse to me.

That was pretty much how every day of my entire educational career went. I want my children to be happier in school than I was. But I know that if they're at all like me (or their father, who has had his fair share of back-pats and conciliatory bowls of ice cream over the odd A-) that will be a hard thing to pull off.

My kids seem to love learning, though, which I love. All three of them fell asleep with books in their beds. Miriam is cruising through her reading lessons. We're trying to finish before she starts preschool (as insane as that sounds—because reading before preschool is by no means requisite but reading is also something that brings my children immeasurable joy, so it is what it is) so that we can lend the book to a friend who will be homeschooling her son for kindergarten because he wasn't able to get into a good school.

This particular friend doesn't share my political views at all, which is fine because most people I know don't, but sometimes I just have to giggle over how scared everyone is by the "other side." Today she asked online how her fellow homeschooling moms avoid common core. Because common core is, as we all know, evil.

Here are some of the standards "they'd" like kindergarteners to achieve these days:

1) Demonstrating command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking by...

  • printing many upper- and lowercase letters.
  • using frequently occurring verbs and nouns.
  • forming regular plural nouns orally (by adding an -s or -es or whatevs).
  • understanding and using question words.
  • using prepositions appropriately.
  • producing complete sentences.
  • (see more here)
2)  Using represent quantities and to solve quantitative problems...
  • knowing number names and the count sequence.
  • counting to tell the number of objects.
  • comparing numbers.
  • (see more here)
Admittedly, I've totally been into the kool-aid but, uh, how are these standards bad? And how would one go about completely avoiding them? By not teaching your child upper- and lowercase letters? By not teaching your children the count sequence?

"Hey, Johnny—let's sing the alphabet, but not the common core way, no. We'll sing it like this: AQ37UHN..."

The common core standards are pretty simple, that's true. If this bothers you then the solution, I think, is that rather than seeking to avoid them we should exceed them. 

I am open to ideas on how to educate a child well while "avoiding" the common core standards. It doesn't seem possible to me. Basic literacy and numeracy are imperative for future learning, so I think my friend should probably embrace those common core standards so that she knows her son will be on track when she tries to put him in public school later on (which she's stated as being "the plan" to me). And if she succeeds in teaching him more, then congratulations!

But if she really wants to avoid common core I will give her the following list of books to not read to her child:

Minarik, Else Holmelund. Little Bear
Eastman, P. D. Are You My Mother?
Seuss, Dr. Green Eggs and Ham
Lopshire, Robert. Put Me in the Zoo
Lobel, Arnold. Frog and Toad Together
Lobel, Arnold. Owl at Home
DePaola, Tomie. Pancakes for Breakfast
Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Wilder, Laura Ingalls. Little House in the Big Woods
Atwater, Richard and Florence. Mr. Popper’s Penguins

I'm trying to imagine kindergarten—or even life—without Little Bear or Are You My Mother? or Green Eggs and Ham. I've already read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Little House in the Big Woods to my kids (and I read Mr. Popper's Penguins in school when I was younger). I can't imagine an education being complete without those books, either.

Though to be thorough and fair, those books came from a list of texts that "primarily serve to exemplify the level of complexity and quality that the Standards require all students in a given grade band to engage with," so perhaps I should just tell her not to read anything by Dr. Suess, Tomie DePaola, or Arnold Lobel with her child. That way she could really safely avoid the common core standards altogether.

This post really wasn't intended to be a rant but it sure turned out being one. I think I'm permanently stuck in a bad mood—it's so bad than not even five hours in chlorinated water bleached it out.

I'm sure my mood will blow over eventually. In the meantime, don't mention Israel to me and avoid asking me anything about when I'll be having another baby (two topics that have been coming up way more often in conversations than I'd like lately) and we should be able to stay friends. 

You've been warned.*

* I jest. If we're friends for any reason I probably won't just stop being your friend because you want to hug Israel right now or if you think it's time for me to have another baby. I'm not that petty. I just also don't want to hug Israel right now and I'm not procreating with you so maybe stop talking to me about child-spacing patterns being thrown off—I've already noticed, thanks.


  1. Oh man I forgot these common core opposition arguments. Lord help me to keep my cool at play group...