There are many people in this world I have tried to emulate, but I never thought Dora the Explorer would be one of them. Yet, that is exactly who I am about to channel, at the risk of sending half of my readers running from their computers (because, duh, kids shows are annoying).
So you know how good old Dora is always asking your kids to help her get someplace like Carnival Town to deliver piñata cookies to the Big Red Chicken? And all along the way she wants your kids to count the hills they need to climb. Or yell “Swiper, no swiping!” to keep that sneaky fox from stealing Dora’s talking backpack, filled with random things that would never be useful on any normal voyage, but somehow get her out of the strangest of pickles? Well, according to Dora, she couldn’t complete any of those adventures without your kids. I usually call her bluff on that. Last time I checked, she still made it past that grumpy old troll even when my kids failed to count to five in Spanish. Continue reading “I Have Become Dora the Explorer: Help Me Please”→
The other day, my nine-year-old daughter, Grace, sent an email to my husband and I, as well as to her grandparents. Since she is just nine, those are the ONLY people with whom she is allowed to have email contact. Still, she is so enamored with having her own account that we are often treated to her random thoughts for the sake of her being able to send a message. This was one of the most recent:
I cant believe I’ve started long division so soon. In thierd grade I learned so much, like… science, multiplication, division, and now you know, long division. I won’t know if this is right or wrong until i’m older, but…WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO LEARN?????!!!!! I’ve already learned addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and long division. When do I use this stuff in my life anyway, besides school? But I geuss I should Know how to do this, just in case.
When do I use this stuff in my life anyway?
Every teacher everywhere has heard that question before. I actually just heard it from a fellow parent regarding the aforementioned long division as we chit-chatted during our sons’ baseball practice. Her daughter sat next to us, trying to trudge through two more homework problems before being allowed to play on the playground. Part of me sympathized with her frustration. My own daughter has been struggling with the demon that is known as long division, and homework time has dragged on with a lot more whining and overly-forceful erasing. And whining. Did I say whining? Because there is whining. And that can only lead to a passive-aggressive Facebook post from me:
Dear Long Division,
I did not like you much when I was a kid. I still don’t like you much as a parent. I’m starting to think “United we stand, divided we fall” was really an outcry against any homework focusing on you.
Love, English Nerd
It is sometimes hard to justify why learning certain things are important, especially when your child does not always see you using those specific skills in your everyday life. You, after all, are probably the first model your children look to as a barometer of what adulthood will be like. And hey, if you’re doing just fine without long division, why should they have to learn it? It also does not help matters when mom and dad can not quite seem to answer those “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” questions.
Just last week, I got to be Billy Madison. In case you don’t know who that is, he is a character played by Adam Sandler, who, as an adult, had to repeat grades one through twelve in order to take over his father’s business. I, on the other hand, only had to repeat third grade, and my teacher was none other than my daughter…and the rest of her class. “A Day In Third Grade” was a way for her and her friends to demonstrate to their parents what they have learned during this school year. And I was worried I would show my daughter on an even grander scale how much I do not remember from grade school, further demonstrating just how little retention of the the third grade curriculum is necessary for success later in life. I mean, we are talking about me, the woman who ran into some trouble helping Grace with her FIRST GRADE math homework.
Sure enough, my old nemesis long division reared its ugly head as one of the lessons, along with spelling, grammar (which I DOMINATED), a test on natural resources (on which my b.s. answer of “we would die” to the question “what would happen if we didn’t have trees?” was counted as correct), and an incredibly anxiety-inducing timed math game.
My daughter and her partner taught a lesson on cursive. Cursive? There are schools out there still teaching cursive? Doesn’t that seem a little archaic in this technological day and age? I know several schools in our area have done away with teaching cursive. But I am thrilled my daughter’s school still does. I’m even begrudgingly happy about the whole long division thing. And I will tell you why.
Educational standards are constantly coming under scrutiny in order to make sure our children are learning the skills they will need to succeed later in life. I have seen more and more emphasis on things like technology, which has pushed out many skills now viewed as passé, like cursive. Handwriting in general doesn’t seem all that important either, seeing as how so much of our daily communication happens electronically. And there is only so much time in the school day.
Yet I would argue that my children are receiving a gift by going to a school that still believes in teaching things like cursive. But not because I think cursive itself is that important. Heck, I don’t even use cursive anymore, in favor of printing. However, I worry that we are becoming a society who cares so much more about the product than the process. If the product itself is not crucial, then it can be easily tossed to the side. But the way I see it, even if we may not end up using the product, the process is still incredibly valuable. Things like teaching cursive help children master a skill. They learn to practice over and over to make perfection. All this technology we use automatically makes many things perfect for us. How is that good for developing brains? How does that encourage growth? How does that foster the idea of learning for learning’s sake? How does that contribute to future generations of culturally literate populations?
I may not use cursive anymore, but those hours at a desk with a freshly sharpened pencil and a sheet of lined paper, repeating the curves and bends and flows of letters, was the beginning of a realization that I could train my hand to do better. And every time I sit down to create an illustration, or pipe a decoration onto a cake, or create something for someone I love, I know how to control my movements. More importantly, I know it is not always going to be perfect the first time. If I want a desirable product, I have to pay attention to my process.
That is also what I console myself with when I sit with my daughter, helping her remember each and every God-forsaken step of long division. Even that little awkward mathematical outcast, the remainder.
And it is why I spent my day in third grade as an attentive and enthusiastic student. I wanted my daughter to feel like what she has been learning this year is valuable, even to someone who does not directly use all those lessons on a daily basis in her grown-up life. After all, it is much better to have a well-stocked reserve of information floating around in your brain, as Grace pointed out in her email, just in case.
Still, I am doing a happy dance that this is the last week of school before summer vacation. I need a homework break. Because you know fourth grade is going to pick up with fractions. Those little bastards are always ‘effing with me.
By the way, my dad was the first to reply to Grace’s email with one sentence. And as is my dad’s way, his response spoke a simple, no-nonsense truth that could not be negated by even the girl who once justified that, even though we live in the center of the country, her biggest fear was getting her arm bitten off by a shark because she might one day live in Hawaii:
You need to know long division in case your computer or calculator is not working.
Time for another recycled post! This one is courtesy of January 2011. Enjoy!
When I was teaching, I used to tell my students there was no such thing as a stupid question. Let’s be honest. There are stupid questions. But I could never say that to my students, lest I get an angry phone call from some parent about how I had forever damaged the delicate psyche of her daughter, who obviously Continue reading “The Archive is Alive: Even Stupid Has a Purpose”→
What do all these things have in common? Yes, they are all fads which kids at different points in history HAD to have. But they are also the worst kind of fads: the fads that make somebody rich by forcing poor parents to spend hard-earned money on crap we can already find in our homes: Beanie Babies=bean bags. Garbage Pail Kids=drawings of gross characters (my son makes these on a daily basis). Pogs=cardboard and poker chips. Silly Bandz=rubber bands. Pet Rock=rocks. Friendship Bracelets=thread. Jelly Bracelets=more rubber bands. Slap Bracelets=mini-blinds.
And now, there is the Rainbow Loom.
I’m going to bet every parent with a school-aged child just grunted. Why? Because the Rainbow Loom is a pain in the ass. For those of you lucky enough to not know what a Rainbow Loom is, it’s basically a combination of Silly Bandz and friendship bracelets. In other words, it’s a super hybrid fad. I would like to meet the genius who turned orthodontic rubber bands into the hot new must-have item among the juvenile set. And I would like this person to invite me over to his or her home mansion so I can sprinkle those tiny, brightly colored elastics all throughout it. Because if my daughter doesn’t manage to weave those little pieces of junk into a tight-fitting bracelet that cuts off the circulation to my hand, then they ultimately end up on the floors of every room in my house. And if they are all over the floors of my house, they aren’t in her little rubber band organizational case. And if that organizational case it empty, then I am tasked with spending another $5 on a small bag of things I used to get for free at the orthodontist’s office and made my teeth sore while correcting my overbite. And don’t even think about trying to use a coupon to help subsidy this new habit. Because those awesome weekly 40% off coupons at the hobby store can be used on pretty much everything…except the Rainbow Loom and its accessories. Bastards.
Don’t get me wrong. I think fads are fun, especially ones that promote creativity and artistic skill. But wouldn’t it be nice if something would catch on with kids that didn’t involve sweatshops in Taiwan?
Far be it from me to simply complain about something yet remain inactive. So I have taken it upon myself to suggest some candidates for new fads in children’s play…and none of them will cost you a dime. As a bonus, they all have that “reduce, reuse, recycle” thing going for them, because they are all born from crap already lying around your house.
1. Produce Bag Twist Ties Sculpture Kit
You guys, we’ve had a goldmine of endless hours of play sitting in the bottom of our refrigerator produce drawers ALL THIS TIME. They twist. They bend. You can turn them into pretty much anything in the whole entire world. And when you run out, all you need to do is head to the grocery store to pick up some more apples. Which brings up another amazing quality of this toy: you can bribe your kids into better eating habits: “The more bell peppers you eat, the more twist ties I can get for your sculptures.” I don’t know, but I kind think this one could be a “Parent’s Choice” Award Winner.
2. Marker Caps Manicure Set
Until someone figures out a foolproof way to teach kids that the caps go back ON the markers after they are finished with them, this fad will likely enjoy some good longevity on the market. And you don’t have to use any harsh chemicals to remove them…or risk your child setting all her nail polisher remover-soaked cotton balls directly onto a bathroom shelf, adding yet another piece of household furniture to the “claimed by children” list. As for all those dried-out markers, sorry. The idea ends here.
3. Granola Bar Wrapper Headband Maker
We can finally all be free of those overpriced Lululemon headbands. I mean, my kids eat granola bars like they are going out of style, but it’s also apparently not in style to throw away the wrappers. Because they litter my house with them. No worries. Now our daughters can use them to make stylish headbands that promote adequate daily fiber intake and Puritan modesty, instead of ones that might become see-through if their heads exceed the maximum circumference deemed acceptable by some sad excuse for a CEO who doesn’t know how to apologize to his customers and all of humankind.
4. Dog Hair Knitting
Think about it. It’s cruelty-free fur, and your floors will have never been cleaner.
5. Crayon Stubs Mosaic Kit
Pretty self-explanatory. I wouldn’t mind buying a new box of crayons approximately every three months if I knew the nubs would end up someplace other than the bottom of random drawers, under couch cushions, smashed into carpets, and melted inside my floor vents.
So, what do you say, fellow moms and dads? Should we take the matter of fads into our own hands? Create the next big thing every kid in school has to have (and already does)? Keep our money for more important things, like college tuition…or splurging for heated seats on our next car purchase?
Let’s keep tiny rubber bands where they belong: in the metalled mouths of middle schoolers.
Do you have any more ideas for free fads? I’d love to hear them!
I’m linking up! So can you!
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Everyone is afraid of something. But for me, I like to go big or go home. I don’t fear the dark, or heights, or snakes. Wait…actually, I do fear all of those things. But then I also fear completely irrational things on top of your average, run-of-the-mill phobias. I have already confessed my propensity for irrational fear when it comes to my children in my Instagram Diary of Anxiety. But I am not new to this game. I have Continue reading “Being Afraid of the Dark Is For Amateurs”→
Hey moms and dads. I know you know where I’m coming from. It is the background music to the soundtrack of this phase of our lives. I’m talking about kids’ shows. And I believe they fall under the genre of annoying.
But why wouldn’t they be? Their target audience is kids…and to be blunt, kids are annoying.
Twitter and Facebook feeds are blowing up. A cure for cancer? Nope. Peace declared in Syria? Uh-uh. Finally an Ikea in St. Louis? There are rumors, but nothing confirmed. No, the breaking news heard ’round the world is that the roles for the movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey have been cast. Hear me *squee*…………….Did you hear me?…….oh wait. That’s right. I couldn’t give a whip and chain.
August in St. Louis typically feels like wearing long underwear in a sauna. It’s sweaty and sticky, and sometimes too oppressive to even breathe. Typically. But this August has been anything but typical. I would venture to call it downright lovely. Even recently, when temperatures did break into the nineties, I have found it hard to be all “holy-crap-Dante-must-have-written-Inferno-sitting-under-The-Arch.” St. Louis is a nice place to be, and I felt a little sorry for my husband when he called from his trip in Austin, Texas this past weekend to Continue reading “Perry Tries to Poach More Than Eggs in the St. Louis August Heat”→
I should have known it was going to come back to bite me in the extremely round and prominent rear end. I mean, it IS Kim Kardashian. Two weeks ago I proclaimed Kim K. to be “The Patron Saint of Puffy Preggos Everywhere.” While I feel my reasoning is still sound, I distinctly remember ending the post with this statement: