on school and learning

Read this. I know it is long, but go ahead. Don’t worry, I’ve got coffee. I can wait.

. . .

. . .

Are you crying? Well, I am.

I see The Kidling in this frustrated, insecure face, and it breaks my heart. Even something far less dramatic than the testing described here–the everyday work of kindergarten–has affected my dear girl. She has a phenomenal teacher, but she feels so much pressure from somewhere. Her peers? Herself? I don’t know, but I do know that she meant it when she asked if she could retire from kindergarten a few weeks ago. Being six is, it seems, just too hard these days.

Perhaps this is revisionist history, but I don’t recall feeling this way as a child. And no, it is not because I am so damn old. You see, I do recall walking to afternoon kindergarten with my childhood best friend. I recall social angst and trying to figure out how to navigate friendships. I recall being asked to stop talking by my ever-so-patient teacher. I recall forgetting that I didn’t have to raise my hand to use the restroom and waiting, wiggly and anxious, to be called on rather than just tiptoeing away.

But I do not recall requesting early retirement.

Perhaps the pressure is due, in part, to the fact that it never seems to end. The fact that she is in school all day. The fact that we have to wake her every morning and she doesn’t get quite enough sleep. The fact that, as a dual-income family, we get home, eat dinner, bathe, read a story, and head straight to bed (see above re: sleep). She has a great after school  program that allows her to play and discover organically, but this has been a rough winter, and an outdoorsy kidling needs to get her skinny little bum outside to be happy.

So where does this leave parents?

I want The Kidling to succeed, but what does that even mean? It’s not like she isn’t going to learn to read eventually. Why is it such a big deal that it happen at a particular time or in a particular way? I do know that, when presented with constructive learning activities, she relishes the discovery process. Her face lights up with joy when she comes to a conclusion independently. She listens intently as we talk about engineers and dinosaurs. She labors with quiet joy on elaborate drawings that detail a fantasy world beyond any adult’s imagination.

But my book lover shies away from stories when I ask her to read with me. And it breaks my heart just a little.

I don’t have an answer, dear readers. I won’t even pretend to. But let’s think about this, okay? There has to be a better way.


life lessons from the classroom

There is a child in The Kidling’s kindergarten class who seems to cause her some strife. This little dude (L.D.) is feisty, but as sweet as can be… at least when I am in the classroom. While I am a fan of L.D., The Kidling most certainly is not.

One recent evening, we were talking about L.D. and the trouble she has been having with him.

I hope it will be for a very long time that her “boy troubles” are about irritations, rather than rebuffs.

We talked for a while about ways The Kidling could model good choices and about what might be motivating L.D.’s behavior. It wasn’t long before she interrupted me with this wisdom,

“He wants attention and he just attentions us in such mean ways.”

Well said, Kidling. I guess sometimes you just have to step back and let it be.

work ethic

The Family has been struggling to figure out how to work this whole school work thing into our evening routine.

What? Kindergarten is hard.

Last night, The Dada and I worked out a new course of action. As soon as we get home at the end of the day, the plan shall be:

Discovery activity. Yes, this is homework.
Explore activity. Yes, this is a bribe.

Tonight we tried this for the first time and it was flawless. Positively flawless. After snack, The Kidling wrote two thank you notes for writing practice and it only took two eons. The bribe exploration activity was a fabulous incentive. After watching a wolf documentary (What? It is a school night. We couldn’t get too crazy), we had dinner and moved along with the bedtime routine.

It worked! It really freaking worked!

After a drama free bedtime, The Kidling and I snuggled up in her bed. We chatted a bit and I commented on how pleased I was with the productive and fun evening: writing, wolves, dinner…

The Mama: I’m proud of you, Kidling. Your hard work is really starting to pay off!
The Kidling: (matter-of-factly) You’re forcing me too.
The Mama: Yes I am. It’s my job.

And tonight, I did it well.

love is(n’t) in the air

Apparently, there is much talk of love happening these days around The Kidling’s kindergarten classroom.

Seriously, kids, it isn’t even February. Clearly Hallmark has not yet impressed on you the importance of saving up your love (and your money) for that one big day next month.

Thank freaking goodness.

But, as usual, I digress.

The Kidling was sitting at the kitchen table a few days ago when she began to tell me the rules of love (clearly parroted from a teacher), interjecting kindergarten for a little kick.

“If you fall in love at school, you don’t tell. No one falls in love at school. Cam* is in love with Emma. Clara is in love with Max. Jane and Jill are so best friends that they are close to being in love.”

“(shrugs) You could just wait and meet more people and then find someone to fall in love with.”

Um, yeah. A few more people might not be a bad idea. You’ve got to see what’s out there, kids.


* As usual, names have been changed to protect the innocent. And because I don’t remember.


“I feel like it’s too hard, me being in kindergarten. I want to be four.  …  I just get bossed around. We have to work all the time. We don’t get to play except at recess and centers.  …  I just really want to retire.”

-The Kidling
December 4, 2013

cue barbra streisand


Most of you, Dear Readers, do not know this factoid about The Kidling. She is a prolific artist. Yes, all five year-old children draw. Yes, they are all irrationally attached to their work products. But… The Kidling is different.

I know. Shut up.

After a scarring event involving one of her masterpieces and the recycling bin, she has become uncompromising. We keep every. single. thing. she brings home.

Did you catch that? Every. Single. Thing.

The caveat is that The Kidling is responsible for finding a location in her bedroom to store the piles and piles of paper. My hope is that she will eventually lose the ability to navigate the room, get fed up, and beg me to ditch a few gems.

I’m not holding my breath.

Misty water-colored memories…

This evening, The Kidling found a recent work from her sizeable oeuvre that I missed when emptying her backpack after school. This particular work–Opus 9,215–consisted of a sheath of five sheets of 8.5 by 11 inch printer paper . The stack was folded in half width-wise to make a small book and each page contained a series of squiggly lines.

You guessed it: her memories.

The Kidling gasped when she saw me with the journal in my hands, “My old memories!” Then, wistfully, “Old memories are important.”

Her eyes glazed over in contemplation. “Old memories are important,” she repeated. “It makes me think of when we were young and things were harder. When we were young and (pauses) We didn’t get to play on the playground.”

Confused, I asked for clarification. “Who didn’t get to play?”

“At pre-school,” she replied.

And then I remembered: the first week of pre-school. Bliss. Fun and learning and good old-fashioned gross motor skill development. Then one fateful day someone marched into the classroom and told the teacher that the playground equipment was only safety rated for kidlings aged five or older.

So it ended. After that, recess involved balls and an open field while the gleaming play structures taunted them from thirty yards away.

What’s too painful to remember…

If only The Kidling had come with a “forget” button. Alas, she will carry this indignity to her grave. Or to junior high.


playground ethics

“Big kids should help us, not non-help us!”

-The Kidling
October 8, 2013

sentences guaranteed to get you slugged on the playground

“I like these because they are fried and they have truffle oil!”

-The Kidling
October 1, 2013