For those of you unfamiliar, Book Bowl is a Madison public school rite of passage. The voluntary contest, designed to encourage kids to read more and explore new genres, begins in fourth grade. The kids pick their own teams, usually of four, and begin the sometimes daunting task of finishing 16 fiction titles in preparation for a "Quiz Bowl"-style literary smackdown in early March.
My oldest never did Book Bowl. He was an all-non-fiction-all-the-time kind of guy and certainly didn't want any "pesky" (my word, his sentiment) adult telling him what kinds of books he should be reading for pleasure. But the kid already had Steven Ambrose's Band of Brothers on his nightstand and Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals half finished under his bed. Sure, I wouldn't have minded him stretching a bit and considering a topic that didn't involve the United States' presidency or one of the World Wars. But I chose not to meddle.
For son number two though, Book Bowl was the highlight of his elementary school experience. Two years later, I am still not sure which of his friends convinced him to compete, but I owe that boy a big thank-you. My kid was not what you'd call a voracious reader. I'd have assumed he'd be the kid picked last for a Book Bowl team. Kind of like me for grade school kickball.
I owe even bigger thanks to whichever kid had the genius idea to invite the boy with the librarian mom to be on their team. That woman, a saint, divided up the books among the boys, had them reading an additional few for "back-up", and invited the team over every Monday during the "training period" for cookies, milk and book discussions.
The boys worked hard. They did the all their assigned readings and then some. They learned to spell authors names, like Patricia C. McKissack, with the appropriate upper case M and lower case c. Precision counts in the world of competitive reading.
I think it was the first time my son genuinely realized that there was very little he couldn't do well if he chose to put in the time. It wasn't quite Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hours . But it was enough to bring home the Randall Elementary championship.
Having been inspired, or at least envious, of her brother's success, my daughter, a light reader herself, chose to participate this past week in the "Bowl". I hoped she too would discover that working beyond your comfort zone is a good thing. That, and that reading quietly without the constant blare of the Disney Channel in the background can really help with comprehension.
But no such luck. She and her teammates divided up the 16 books evenly, four books per girl. I guess I should have been happy that their rudimentary division skills were okay. But none of them had much desire to read even a page beyond the bare minimum. And I think they got together only once to prepare during which time they discussed Selena Gomez's post-Wizards of Waverly Place career options as opposed to the actual books.
Come Book Bowl morning, my daughter's worst fears were realized. One of her teammates was sick. It was down to three of them to hope and pray that the questions they would receive would be about the books they'd actually read. But unfortunately question #1 was from the sickie's book, as was question #2 and question #8. And given that they grew up in the post-Gloria Steinem era, neither my daughter, nor any of her teammates, could seem to remember that the title of E.L. Konigsberg's 1967 Newbury award-winning book was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, not Ms.
So when it came time for the librarian Master of Ceremonies to announce the winners, they already knew. It definitely wasn't them. It is entirely possible her team, "The Intergalactic Flying Bagels" (they could have won for best name), had come in dead last.
My daughter was bummed. But we discussed that while I was very proud of her for participating (it was voluntary, after all), each member of her team hadn't read all the books. She hadn't done title-spelling drills or participated in plotline discussions. She hadn't worked her hardest. She probably didn't deserve to win.
But she discovered, as is true with so many lessons, that sometimes it's not just what you learn inside, but outside the book as well, that ends up mattering the most.comments powered by Disqus
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.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.