Every end of August, I have a day or so of full-blown panic that takes me back 25-plus years. Flashback - it's March and I am a high-school senior dashing home from class to check what the mailbox has in store. A big manila envelope meant college acceptance; I was in, life was fine, I would get a worthwhile job some day. A dinky business-type envelope meant no go, applications up 40% this year, best of luck at your second choice, lady. For years my heart hadn't raced in quite that same way, but it does every year now -- on registration day for the Madison Metropolitan School District.
I am not sure how I got so caught up in the drama of who my kids' teachers would be, but there is no question I am playing a staring role. I am pretty tuned in to neighborhood "news" (I'd never call it gossip), and I know full well who are the "have-to-have" teachers and who are the "I'd rather not" folks. And of course the fact that all the kids have their hearts set on someone in particular (pretty much based on whether or not they give out candy on the first day) doesn't help ease my stress.
So I take a deep breath, walk up to receive my anticipated/dreaded folder and tentatively look inside. If the news is "good" there is a sigh of relief, a feeling of pride, as if my kid deserved this placement the way I had deserved a spot at Harvard (full disclosure, small envelope). I'd have the right answers when the "Who'd you get?" questions came rushing in.
But if that name is not "the one," or worse, the "one you don't want to get," decisions need to be made quick. Do I march down to the principal's office and ask for a move stat? Do I just live with it and hope for the best, or at least not the worst? Do I look for ways to convince myself it will be great for my child to experience a not-so-great year in a Blessings of a Skinned Knee kind of way?
I've gotten both types of folders on a warm August morning. And for the most part I can say that the teachers with the stellar reputations have pretty much lived up to the hype. But some good things have happened on the off years as well. Maybe it was my son getting to learn U.S. history from a dramatically different perspective (albeit in questionable chronological order). Maybe it was getting to meet his best friend while avoiding being stuffed in a trashcan. Maybe it was discovering there are things you can teach yourself, even when the teacher can't.
And perhaps most importantly, it was my realizing that this year alone will not dictate the type of envelope he (okay, we) will be waiting for come March of senior year.comments powered by Disqus
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.