Over the past couple of years, I've found that this blogging thing definitely has its advantages. Pre-Mama Madison, for example, my command of standard written English was questionable at best, especially for someone who claims to have majored in the language. But while I still regularly fall victim to the dreaded comma splice and may never master the difference between affect and effect, there is little question these weekly posts have forced me to rekindle my long overdue relationship with The Elements of Style.
Another wonderfully unexpected side effect (not affect, thank you) of writing regularly about my kids is that it forces me to pay much closer attention to some of the littler details of parenting. Someone very smart once said, "Write what you know." And it didn't take me very long to figure out that I was all too often the mom who didn't "know" what position her son usually played in the outfield. Or even whom my daughter sat next to each day at lunchtime. A weekly deadline for telling their stories has made me much more attune with the subtle ins and outs of their lives.
But perhaps the very best part of this blogging gig has been the chance to discover my voice. Not so much my speaking voice--that is something I use often and perhaps a bit too loudly. But forcing myself to write those same thoughts down, and then post them in a public space, has helped me to realize just how therapeutic, for both the writer and perhaps, too, for the audience, the sharing of stories can be.
My world view though, while 100% mine, is admittedly limited. And there are many other far more important voices in our community that need to be heard. Wise voices. Original voices. Young voices.
No, adults aren't the only ones with stories worth sharing. There is a lot, too, we can learn from listening to Madison's children, including the ones who have had the experience of homelessness.
In May of this past year, Jani Koester, a veteran educator for the Madison Metropolitan School District’s Transition Education Program, spearheaded a daylong workshop where nearly 20 homeless MMSD students got to the opportunity to tell their stories--raw, real and honest--through several media forms including writing, art, and personal interviewing. Koester's hope, and that of her partners in Madison's creative community, is that by giving these kids the space to express themselves, some of the stigma associated with homelessness can be broken down.
This coming Wednesday, July 11 from 5 to 8 p.m., the organizers of the Who We Are: Voices in Our Community effort are collaborating with the Madison Children’s Museum to celebrate the workshop participants' projects at the museum’s free "Twilight Art Night." Some of these brave kids plan to attend the exhibition, and to share their experiences in person. I have little doubt this show will stand out as a unique chance for the community to view one of the biggest social justice issues of our time, homelessness, through the eyes of the young people who are living it.
At the end of May this past school year, the district counted 1,100 homeless children among their students--a number that has been steadily growing over the years. Next Wednesday won't give us the chance to hear from all of them. But I am sure these representative few will have a lot to say.
This project has been the chance for these kids to write what they know. And it's important that we listen.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.