I Love Teachers

A friend recently posted the resignation letter of Kris L. Nielsen, a teacher in Monroe, NC. Go read it– I’ll wait.

That sort of sums it all up, doesn’t it? I love teachers. The burned out teachers? Well, I love them too, because thinking of doing that job with a class full of wound up energy balls makes my uterus hurt.

My familiarity with classroom volunteering– their preschool was (is) participatory– fooled me into feeling prepared. I forgot about class size and shorter days. The transition to public school has been… complicated. For me, for Zach, for Elliot.

I volunteered in Z’s class earlier this year. There’s something extra special about adults that can deal with a gaggle of 5 and 6 year old children without flipping out. Hell, I can barely deal with my almost 6 year old without losing patience and I like pushed him out of my body.

I read Ms. Nielsen’s letter yesterday morning, a day that was both teacher workday and Halloween, on too little sleep and too much PMS.

A morning spent sort of weepy and full of angst for the future of ALL children made me more present with my own children, and for that I thank her.

The state of public education still saddens me. So many worksheets. So many… moments of institutionalized learning. So much sitting.

Back and forth I’ve gone with JB about the risks and benefits of homeschool. He points out (fearfully, I think) that homeschooling lacks the same cultural diversity that sent me away from private school. He likes to roll out Other Self’s opinion of public schools– that it serves society a purpose greater than simple letter-learning. When I walked inside from volunteer day– wide-eyed, exhausted, and in desperate need of an alcoholic beverage– he reminded me that all of those diverse personalities translate into eventual adults.

John Hughes needed to write The Naptime Club. That would have helped.

But knowing the importance of these exposures– really, tolerance and empathy isn’t learned in a homogenized vacuum— doesn’t make it any easier to watch my child hold himself under such control all day. It does make it slightly easier for me to maintain my calm with an insanely hyper energetic kid runs to the car.

Sort of. Sometimes. On Wednesdays.

It doesn’t make it easier to explain to my child why I pushed him away from both the TV and video games saying “it’s not healthy to sit all day” only to send him to a place where he spends most of the day… sitting.

I have an intimate understanding of the challenge of sitting still (thanks ADHD), so now I let him stand up to eat dinner. I’ve also worked with him on some ways to internally fidget. Can you say core exercises? He’s gonna rock some six-pack abs in first grade.

When he looks at me, and says, “I could do all my school work at home in an hour” (and he’s not lying either) I pull on my poker face and remind him of what he’d miss out on. All while doubting that he’d miss out on that much.

In my eeyore-ness, I’ll log onto pinterest and see how available all the information is; how doable and satisfying homeschool could be.

Then I’m home with the two of them for an hour and suddenly public school doesn’t seem so bad. Separately, I rock this parenting thing like I did it on purpose. I’m much less effective teaching both of them. Their temperaments, abilities and interests are so very different.

What I can’t do well with two, we expect of teachers with 25. Moronic, yeah?

Anyway, this rambling has something to do with why I wish the American education system was different. Why I’m confident I could homeschool at 1pm on a Tuesday, and equally as certain that my Tuesday-self was batshit crazy by 5pm Sunday afternoon.

The hippie in me wants to pull my whole family into a wigwam and live peacefully off the bounty of the land. But I’d have to find a new husband. And rig up solar power for my computer/iPAD/smartphone.

Techno-hippie sad.

The End of Quarantine

Tuesday, Day 4
Mildly sick-ish kids–low fever and snot, but they’d have to like a person in the eye to spread any germs. Off to the Cary train station before the end of quarantine.

They have lots of cool stuff—like route maps.

A bench with an older man who spent more than several minutes playing pass the paper with Elliot.

Instead of being punk’D, I was ADHD’ d and managed to insult the game-playing stranger. If a clinical definition for social Tourette’s Syndrome doesn’t already exist, it should. I don’t even remember how I managed to transition an innocuous conversation about plane vs train travel into a Yankee crack. In Cary. Cary, the city that is (lovingly) referred to as the Corral Area for Relocated Yankees. Thankfully, the train arrived soon after, saved by the…whistle?

In the afternoon Zach and I made play dough. I even let him stir it on the hot stove stove, with burner on super low.

Oh gracious, he could have burned himself! What if he ended up in the ER. Said with all of the Southern-ness of, Bless your heart, you moron. Why ever would you let let your 3.5 near the hot stove?)

I have to constantly remind myself (and a few others) that Zach is not as spastic as Elliot. Activities that Elliot can’t do–both because he’s Elliot and he’s only 18 months old–Zach can do, just fine.

Also, for anyone who thinks that homeschooled kids don’t learn as much as schooled children…let me point out a few of the conventional topics I taught to my 3.5 year old.


      Review of capital versus lowercase letters.


    Reading–recognize simple words, learn new words.


      Review of whole number ID


      Introduction to fractions–1 cup of flour versus 1/2 cup of flour


    Counting–3 cups of water


      What is energy–for cooking, the energy is heat


      Phases of matter–How does energy affect the matter? Liquid starts to solidify


    Describe the some of the differences between a liquid and a semi-solid

All of that looks like formal learning to me. And we got some playdough out of it. 😉

Then there are the points that I re-learned, too

      A kid who goes more than a little crazy after


      red dye #40 will have the same reaction he uses it with bare hands to color his dough orange.


    Food coloring is more water resistant than Crayola paint

Wednesday, Day 5.
Yet another regularly scheduled playdate that we are missing. The fevers broke on Tuesday night, so they were both feeling better, which meant they were antsy. It’s hard to explain the 24-hour-without-fever rule to Small People. We were all bored and getting annoyed with each other.

A random bag of hidden (from them, not me) toys provided a happy diversion when tossed into rubbermaid containers of moonsand.

We ended up having a spontaneous–and quick–birthday party for several members of the Stuffed Animal crew. Complete with cake (bread, cream cheese, and fresh strawberry preserves) and pointy birthday hats. Take that, Tea Party.

Even though hanging out with them turned out to be a lot more fun than I anticipated we are happy to be rejoined in the healthy world of with the other Small (and adult) People.

What to do with sick kids-Day 1

Starting last Friday night, Elliot developed these ridiculously painful looking blisters in his mouth, a fever, and a refusal to eat. The kid might be skinny, but he’s never flat-out refused to eat. By Saturday morning all signs pointed to him having Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD).

Today is Wednesday which means that Elliot has been quarantined since last Saturday. He does not like to stay home, as he pointed out by throwing shoes at the front door for 30 minutes Sunday morning after Joel and Zach left for a playdate. Without Him.

The weekend was okay–Joel and I took turns taking Zach to his various social obligations and the one who was home with Elliot catered to the demands of a sickly tyrant. E is insistent (or unrelenting, depending on the day) on the best of days. A sick Elliot is a snot-filled mass of “do it now” and “gooooo” and “book-y”. Should now not be a good time because you are, you know, in the bathroom, he’ll throw himself to the floor and wail. Ahh—18 month old, second-borne kids, who happen to have inherited the impatience gene from one of the worst offenders–moi.

By Monday morning, Zach realized that he was also going to be quarantined. Another one who does not like to stay home. Really, neither of them inherited my homebody tendencies? How is that even possible?

Despite Mondays being Three Amigo day (as in just the boys and me), I either plan something specific to do, or somewhere special to go. To make sick tyrant quarantine even better, it’s been raining like mad here for a week resulting in ankle-high weeds–er, grass–and swamp-esque backyard conditions. So not only were we stuck at home, we were also stuck inside.

All of that, ladies and gentlemen, can make for a painfully long day. As much as I wish I could plop them in front of the TV (PBS shows, of course) all day I don’t—for two reasons. One, I don’t want to deal with the incessant pleading of my 3 year old, negotiator-in-training for just “one more show”–we have a loose rule of no more than an hour of TV a day. Though Zach has figured out the button configuration that turns on both the TV and cable box, he has yet to conquer the DVR, thus he usually ends up stuck on the home shopping network. And he’ll sit and watch them sell purses, too—the TV-addiction runs deep with that one. Elliot, on the other hand, is a TV snob. He only watches certain shows and even with those he only sits still for about 15 minutes before getting up to explore (e.g., climbing on the dining room table).

So, what’s a mom to do?

First, a mom who is supposed to be homeschooling needs to have an arsenal of craft supplies, which I do. Second, a mom who winces at the thought of actually remembering where she put those supplies (never the same place twice!) needs to get over herself, which I did.

I’m not going to lie, as much as I love arts and crafts, in the past the amount of effort involved with keeping the attention of two differently-aged children for longer than 10 minutes is usually enough demotivation for me to direct activities toward the science-y/outside stuff.

Yet I remain insistent that there is no need for me to pay for preschool when I am more than capable of teaching these kids myself. As my Dad would say, it’s time to poo or get off the pot, meaning I either need to be more focused about teaching or I need to remember that there is a preschool registration deadline prior to that date’s passing. That was my pep talk to myself as we all watched Joel drive off to work.

I remembered finding a large roll of packing paper (in the bathroom cabinet–where else would you keep packing supplies?) and it was perfect for my plan. I taped a large portion to the floor, and handed out brushes and empty containers. Zach and I did real “school” and learned about mixing colors with a color wheel. Elliot misinterpreted the art lesson as cooking school and did taste testing instead.

You can find all kinds of random stuff to make cool patterns for painting projects. I’m not even sure what this thing is—maybe something for cross-stitching? The second mystery is why I have it—I do not cross-stitch.

Elliot was unimpressed after about 4 minutes of painting and opted for a snack instead. Fine by me, he’s happy and contained. Note, his snack was vanilla pudding, the rest of the color palette on his face, hands and arms is paint.

Zach decided to paint himself a pizza. I’d like to point out that his painted pizza included both spaghetti sauce and green peppers– neither of which he’ll eat in real life.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well the whole thing turned out. Unlike the last time we painted, Elliot did not come out of the activity with a half container of paint in his hair. They even helped with the clean-up, though I have a bathroom towel that will likely never be the same.

I’ll post what we did on Day 2 of the quarantine–after Zach started getting sick–tomorrow.