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. All three kids sat glued to the Internet and watched rural districts, then Milwaukee public schools and finally next-door neighbor Verona fall. They were hoping the Madison schools couldn't be far behind.
The robo call we received at 4 p.m., indicating no early release, but a full day on Monday, really messed with their minds and spirits.
But at 5:10 p.m. it was official. And the kids had a new hero. Her name was Jennifer Cheatham, superintendent of the MMSD. She, with her trusted weather advisers, had made the call. School was canceled on what was supposed to be the first day back in class after a two-week winter break.
I breathed a heavy sigh of resignation. One more day of vacation for them. A day no one in our house really needed.
Now, I don't blame the MMSD administration for making the call to cancel. I'm not one of those "we are making kids wusses by canceling for cold" type of people. Especially when a lot of the kids in the MMSD don't have access to North Face, Sorel, SmartWool or other expensive gear that makes walking to school or waiting for a bus in below-zero weather a safe possibility.
But like many parents I know, I wasn't exactly thrilled about an extended winter holiday for the kids. I work from home and was looking forward to getting my "office" back to myself. But just as importantly, I really felt it was time for the kids to get back into learning mode. I have little doubt some significant brain cells have atrophied over the past two weeks. I blame Xbox Madden, Club Penguin and what appears to be my sons' desire to break the world record for continuous viewing of The Simpsons.
Yes, a book was cracked over break. The most recent edition of the Guinness Book of World Records to find out how many episodes they needed to shoot for.
So, last Monday I briefly considered dipping my (frozen after a two minute walk with the dog) toe into the world of homeschooling. If the kids, after all, were going to get a freebie day of vacation due to dangerous wind chills caused by a meteorological phenomenon called a polar vortex, shouldn't they have to do a little research on which poles were involved? Or at least be able to define vortex?
Maybe, I thought, they could do a history/literature crossover project on how Laura Ingalls and her family would have survived said polar vortex in either their Little House in the Big Woods or the pad on the prairie.
But instead, on the 17th day of vacation, the kids pretty much did more of the same. They just traded out Bart, Lisa and Maggie for their other favorite sibling set, Hayley, Alex and Luke of Modern Family.
Since they are "real people" as opposed to cartoons, I chose to call this progress.
And when I asked about the possibility of them pulling together a five-paragraph essay on how the Dunphys might survive a polar vortex, it was their turn to school me. "Mom, it would be more like five sentences. It never really gets that cold in L.A. Try earthquakes for a Southern California natural disaster."
So needless to say when we got word-via Facebook, Twitter, text, phone call and email -- that school would be closed again on Tuesday, my heart sank. I didn't even try to come up with a worthwhile educational project beyond tossing boiling water out the door to see it change to snow.
My kids definitely need teachers who are the real deal, real soon. Mrs. Krabappel and I are totally tapped out.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 was my husband who had originally signed up to chaperone the event, thinking that spending a few days with his 11-year-old daughter and her compatriots would serve as an excellent anthropological experience. But when an unexpected work obligation made it impossible for him to attend, it was me left holding the bag
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.