Do you remember that exchange in The Incredibles movie where the title character, annoyed that he needs to attend his son's end of year "graduation," angrily tells his wife, Elastagirl, "It is not a graduation. He will be moving from the fourth grade to the fifth grade. It's psychotic! They keep inventing new ways to celebrate mediocrity..."
Well, I used to feel the very same way as Mr. Incredible. Not so much that what was accomplished in fourth grade was tantamount to mediocrity. But more that I could sympathize with the fictional superhero's desire to skip out on at least one end-of -school year ceremony, potluck or performance. Especially one that involved watching, for the umpteenth time, a bunch of elementary schoolers parading down the aisle of a non-air conditioned gym to the weak strains of "Pomp and Circumstance" while sporting homemade cardboard mortarboards.
But things are different this year. My youngest is "graduating" from fifth grade and moving on to middle school. And this occasion is giving me pause. Less because it is a super big deal for my daughter who, although nervous, seems ready for the changes, both exciting and nerve-racking, that a new school with new kids will bring.
No, I'm likely to cry a river at my final kid's "Movin' On" ceremony next week for more selfish reasons.
Because the rhythm of my life-the life of an involved (perhaps overinvolved) elementary school parent-- will be substantially changing.
Starting next fall, for example, for the first time in over seven years, I will no longer walk one of my children to school. Sure, those mornings were crazy, attempting to hustle out the door by 7:15 to get to class on time. My child's teeth went unbrushed more times than I care to admit. And I often made the walk while still in my pajama pants. But regardless of the inevitable 7:14 frenzy over where they'd placed (or misplaced) their Friday Folder, or the appropriateness of a pair of shoes on gym day, I relished our morning walking ritual. And I relished even more the fact that as an elementary school parent I at least knew it was a gym day. And that they had a Friday Folder.
Because younger kids tell their parents such things. Middle schoolers, not so much.
And I am also going to very much miss walking the hallowed halls of Randall Elementary, where, just like in the theme song from Cheers, everybody knew my name. Parents, you see, tend to be welcome in elementary school and encouraged to become a part of the community. And I took full advantage. Chaperoning field trips, overseeing "centers," even the occasional playground duty, all helped me feel connected to my kids in ways I fear will inevitably diminish in each passing school year. Because I'm pretty sure my soon-to-be-sixth-grade daughter will not welcome me as a lunchroom helper at Hamilton Middle School. From her perspective I'm already starting to become a bit of a social liability. Especially when I insist on singing along to Pink in front of her friends in the car.
Last week a hilarious post by blogger Jen Hatmaker, the self-proclaimed "Worst End Of School Mom Ever" made its rounds around the Internet. In it, she bemoaned, "The (end of year) emails coming in for All Of The Things -- class gift, end of year letters, luncheon signup, party supplies, awards ceremonies, pictures for the slide shows, final projects -- are like a tsunami of doom." And for years, just as I had with Mr. Incredible, I agreed.
Yet as my last child transitions out of fifth grade, I am already starting to feel nostalgic for the good old days of elementary school parent hyper involvement. But eventually everyone, especially me, needs to be "Movin'On."
So maybe I'll plan to wear a cap and gown to the ceremony next week. But with my pajama pants underneath as a reminder.comments powered by Disqus
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.
Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint.
If you're checking out summer camps for your child, there are many issues -- some obvious, some less so -- to keep in mind. Here's a list to keep handy when you contact camps and camp directors, looking for the perfect spot for your kids to have fun, relax, and learn this summer.
I know, in the grand scheme of things, that my kid issues, when it comes to dining out, absolutely pale in comparison to those of parents whose kids have special needs. Many kids, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, are disturbed by changes in their routine, or anxious around noisy places. They may not be able tolerate waiting for a table or standing in line. So unfortunately, many of these families just avoid eating out at restaurants altogether.
It's weird to admit this, especially in a city surrounded by as much outdoor beauty as Madison. But frankly, I'm just not that into nature. I'm more of an indoor kind of gal. Give me an afternoon at the Chazen or the Wisconsin Historical Museum over the Arboretum or Olbrich Gardens any day.
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.