Friday, September 27, 2013

The Trouble With Literacy

In a former life, I was a school teacher.

I fostered all kinds of educational growth in my students (I hope) and was just so thrilled when I saw the light of understanding in their eyes. It was so satisfying. So fulfilling. So wonderful to play even a small role in their personhood.

So lest I be accused of encouraging ignorance, please keep in mind my past profession and my calling to educate the young people of our world.

But dadgum it, literacy has really become a thorn in my side as a mother. 


Before any of my children could read, things were just so much EASIER. I could spell out things I didn't want their little ears to hear in my conversation and they didn't bat an eye. I could skip long paragraphs of stories at bedtime and as long as I made up something that sounded good in its place, all was well. 
When I was hit with statements such as, "Mommy!? There's Chuck E. Cheese's! We HAVE to go there right now!" I could reply with something like, "Oh, baby, I'm not sure if they're open right now." 
(You know, in THEORY, I could do this. Not that I ever kinda sorta lied about ice cream stores or toy shops being closed when the sign on the door clearly said OPEN. Ahem.)

But you see, when you are the only one around who can read, there's just a freedom there which I have found gets lost in the abyss as your children grow and learn.

Take, for instance, the little incident involving my pre-k child last week. In keeping with my tradition, I began working with her in August to learn how to read. Since all my girls are six when they begin kindergarten, I have tried my best to have them reading or at least well on their way by the time school rolled around. I am a teacher, after all. It would be kind of embarrassing to have the oldest kid in kindergarten who doesn't know any numbers, colors, shapes, or letters for no reason other than her mother was too lazy to work with her in our spare time. Sometimes humiliation is a great motivator, you know?

Anyway, we are about 20 lessons in now and she is doing just beautifully. We are using the book, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It really is easy. Ten minutes or so a day and she's already reading simple words and is super proud of herself.

Too proud, actually. This is what got us into trouble last week. 

During one of her lessons, she gasped as the little wheels in her mind turned and she realized, "I know how to spell something!!" 

"What? What can you spell?" I asked her eagerly.

She wrote b-u-t on her paper and looked at me with a gleam in her eye.

"I can spell but!!"

Now, hear me out. I am not advocating what I did here. But you've got to understand something. I have another child who struggles with some dyslexic tendencies and teaching her to read has not been the simplest of tasks. She is such a hard worker and doing great, but it has not been like falling off a log, as those of you who have a child like that in your life can understand. So to have a five year old clearly understanding and catching on very quickly to how the English language works was thrilling! 

 So yes, I made a critical error. I taught her how to spell the word "butt" correctly with two t's. Frankly I was so relieved to see that maybe she would not struggle with dyslexia that I would've been willing to teach her any number of inappropriate words in that moment. "Hey, Leighanne, wanna learn how to spell a funny word for poo? S-h-i-*" (okay, too far...mom, I'm sorry and no, I didn't really do that).

 I do kinda pride myself on being able to think of things which appeal to my students to help them remember things, and my method worked like a charm. She giggled and hee hawed as I drew the backside of a stick person with a giant bubble butt and said, "See how this person has TWO butt cheeks? That's how you can remember the word "butt" has two t's!"

We laughed at the silly picture and that was that. A fine bonding moment. Educating my child and all. I was really feeling good.

The next day as I got her ready for school, she presented me with this piece of paper:


"I'm going to take this to school and show my teacher and friends! I can read!! " she proudly informed me.

"Oh, no, Leighanne. I don't think that would be a good idea. That's not the nicest word and I don't think your teacher would want you to share that with the class. That's just between you and me, okay?"

She shrugged and said, "Okay, Mommy," as she scampered off to get her backpack. Phew.

I dropped her off, enjoyed my morning, and made my way back to pick her up at 12:30. 

Her teacher met me at the door.

"Um, you may want to look at the back of Leighanne's paper when you get home. She wrote something special for us today," she said.

My heart kind of caught in my throat for a minute. I MAY have thought one of those four letter words I thankfully had not been wililng to teach her how to spell.

"I bet I can guess," I replied. "I'm so sorry. She figured it out and has been so excited." (I happened to forget to mention that I had been the one to teach her how to spell it.)

"It's okay," her teacher replied. "I just told her that's not a word we use at school."

I thanked her, slightly flustered, and rushed my little Mr. Spell out of the classroom. We had a good little talk about it, she agreed not to write "butt" anymore at school, and all was well. 

Except I keep finding things like THIS all over the house:


And I do mean everywhere. I found about 15 little post its with this word complete with illustrations yesterday. It's like an infestation you just can't get rid of no matter what. 

Me and my bright ideas. That's it. I'm never teaching anyone to read ever again. 





Friday, September 13, 2013

Waking Up

Sometimes I feel like I should've been an entertainer.

I should've pursued a career on the stage, and I imagine myself delighting throngs of adoring fans with my many talents. Singing, dancing, being a mime, an acrobat, etc.

But then again, so could virtually EVERY mother out there. 

My talent show is seen daily every morning at 6:50am when I begin waking my sleeping beauties for school.



And fortunately, I take criticism from my audience pretty well and do not let it discourage me from future shows.  It doesn't bother me a bit when they groan and throw the covers over their heads or when they give me the evil eye. 

I set my own alarm for 6:30, giving myself 20 minutes to mentally prepare. I have to get into character, you see. What I really WANT to do is stand at their bedroom doors and mumble, "Get up and get ready," and then walk away. And just like that, they would cooperate and all would be well.


Unfortunately, my children in reality are not quite as cooperative as my children in fantasies. I usually begin with gentleness. I rub their backs, I kiss their cheeks, I whisper good morning into their little ears.

And then comes stage two: role play.


I grab the nearest stuffed animal and begin having a conversation with it. It doesn't matter if it's a bunny, a doll, a bear, or a tree (for real...my daughter sleeps with a little stuffed tree she sewed...maybe she'll be an environmentalist), I talk to it as if it's real. Usually the stuffed animal in my little show does or says something naughty. The kids get a real kick out of that. With their eyes still closed, I'll see the hints of a smile if the stuffed animal does something outrageous enough. I spend a couple minutes in stage two, but if the kids are still not getting up, then it's onto the next act.

Stage three: dancing and singing.

I know! You feel annoyed already, don't you? 


I turn on my ipod and stand on their bed and dance to my heart's content, jostling and disturbing them as much as possible. Van Halen, Journey, or Taylor Swift often help me serenade the little darlings. This stage is usually fairly effective because my kids are NOT in the mood to put up with my singing. But if even that fails, I move onto the final performance.

Act four: acrobatics.

I physically drag my child out of bed. I start by swinging their legs off the edge, stopping them when they try to curl back up, and then either pull them by their arms or put my hands under their backs and lift them. This is getting seriously difficult with my 10-year-old. We don't grow petite people around here.


Have you ever tried to dress an 8-year-old who is standing up but still practically asleep? It ain't easy. I coax little arms into arm holes and shove their little feet into socks (which I'll be honest, usually are not part of the same pair). The hardest part is the pants or shorts. I tug and pull and wish we could just agree that kids could go to school in their pajamas and change later in the day when they feel like it. In fact, that sounds like a pretty great rule in general, doesn't it? (Except okay, nobody really wants to see anybody else in lingerie so we'd have to have rules about decency I suppose). 

Finally up and dressed, we move the show downstairs where I then play the part of fortune teller

It's a little like trying to guess what card someone is holding when I try to guess what they would like for breakfast. And inevitably, the less time we have to eat, the more time consuming the meal they want. Cinnamon rolls? Pancakes? Biscuits? Scrambled eggs?

For the love of all things, why can't they ever just want a bowl of cereal or a pop-tart? I rarely guess correctly and usually just tell them to figure out what they want and let me know when they decide. And of course I never let them eat cookies for breakfast. Ahem. Don't judge me. It's not a regular thing!

And then the moment comes when I wave goodbye and remind them that I love them as they get out of the car with the assistance of a cute 5th grade patrol student who always says to me, "God bless your day!"

Oh, yes, I think to myself as I pull away, God has INDEED blessed my day. And His blessings will continue every day until 3:00. 

I know the afternoon performance is coming. I roll down my window, feel the (stifling) fall breeze, and give myself a little time to recover before I become the homework cheerleader in just seven short hours. 

I wonder if I could take my little act on the road. 



There was an error in this gadget