I was a bit surprised when my oldest son announced he was going to see the midnight showing of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows--Part 2, on opening night, no less. It was a female friend's 14th birthday, and trust me, if you ever want to get a 14 year-old boy to do anything, just have a 14 year-old girl ask him.
Never before had my son expressed even an iota of interest in seeing The Deathly Hallows"Part 1, or the Prisoner of Azkaban or any of the other films in the immensely popular series. He had never read a single one of the books. It seemed the wizard world just didn't do it for him.
I'd always kind of hoped he'd eventually jump on the Harry Potter bandwagon. It seemed to be the pop-cultural thing to do. Like Judy Blume books and Sherwood Schwartz (RIP) sitcoms have been for me, they could provide a shared experience and immediate connection to all other kids born in same generation. Hogwarts could be something for him to talk about with his new college roommate on that first awkward day.
But he always preferred non-fiction to tales of magic and Muggles. Why read about Albus Dumbledore when you could read about Abraham Lincoln or Ulysses S. Grant--bearded men who actually lived? Why study up on the rules of Quidditch when a Golden Snitch was so much more elusive than a real-life baseball.
But at least he read. A lot. Son number two? Not so much.
I've been struggling this summer to get him to crack a book at all. Sometimes he'll humor me by reading inappropriate song lyrics on-line. Occasionally I can get him to get to tackle the back of cereal boxes. He is starting to know quite a bit about the benefits of oat bran, and that's not all bad.
But an actual book, you know, with pages, seemed out of the question. I was kind of afraid he might forget how.
"Mom, you can't forget how to read," he'd remind me. "It's just like riding a bike, but not as fun."
I had my work cut out for me.
I set timers set to 30 minutes, but he never seemed to get beyond page one. We encouraged him to enter the Madison Public Library reading challenge that, upon completion of 10 books, entered you in a drawing to shadow Paul Soglin for the day. It was a no-go: I think the Mayor is still on my son's naughty list for threatening to pull the plug on "Ride the Drive." We even dinked around with our own reward system, promising a trip to Babcock Hall for completing a non-fiction work. And a malt at Michael's for fiction. There is very little he won't do for a frozen dairy treat.
Except, as it turns out, read.
I felt like we'd tried every trick in the book.
But we'd never tried the book about magic.
My husband and I had somehow assumed that since Son #1 hadn't really sparked to Harry Potter, that Son #2 wouldn't either--as if taste in reading material was somehow hereditary and we had both passed on a recessive Rowling gene.
But when his brother was out seeing the Potter movie, we read the first chapter of book one of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone out loud to him. And he was hooked. The 309-page book is now almost finished and we have the second installment waiting for immediate inhalation upon its completion.
I don't care if it is black magic or some other illegal substance that J.K. Rowling sprinkles on those books. "The Boy Who Lived" has turned my son into "The Boy Who Read." I'll happily sell my soul to "he-who-must-not-be-named" if we can just keep this up through the school year.
We still have a while before he's made it through the whole Potter series. But I need suggestions for the follow-up. What titles have you relied on for keeping your kids reading this summer?comments powered by Disqus
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.