18 June 2012

RIF - Reading is Fundamental, but not always Fun.

     I just have to say that I hate summer reading lists.  I mean Hate, H.A.T.E.,  HATE them. 

     It's not that I hate reading.  To the contrary, I love to read.  I have always loved to read.    I love to read so much I became a librarian.  Now I think that's saying something!  I will read anything, and I mean anything - books, catalogs, newspapers, dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias, magazines, I even read the junk mail.  I used to drive my mom crazy as I read signs out loud as we drove (sometimes I still do it to twist her knickers.)  I got a Kindle for Christmas and have read have read 38 books so far (I don't even want to know how much this Kindle has cost me...) That does not include the books I read to the kids.  I just love to read that much.

     But my children don't.  I have tried.  Gosh how I've tried.  We've always had books around the house.  They've always seen me reading (and have asked me to put a book down so they can talk to me.)  I have always read to them.  Heck, I still read to them and they are 12 and 11.  Try as I might though, I just can't get them to enjoy reading as much as I do.  This is a lesson I learned back in elementary school.  My poor friend, Julie, didn't like to read as much as I did.  I figured an afternoon at my house, reading, would make her like it.  It didn't.  It also didn't make her want to come to my house for a while.  She hated it so much, that her mom called and talked to me about it.  I didn't understand then, but I do now.  No matter how much you like something, you can't force someone else to like it.

     So maybe this is a lesson that schools should learn.  Princess just came home with a Summer Reading Record - Nine weeks of reading.  Monday through Sunday.  Total for Week.  And Parent's Signature.  Not only to the parents have to sign at the end of each week, but there is tantamount to an affidavit at the end of the of the reading record that both the student and the parents have to sign.  She's going into the 6th grade.  Not college.  And The Boy?  He'll be starting school in VA (after three years of home schooling) and there is a summer reading list and he has to read at least one book. 

     Now you may think that one book in the summer is not a big deal.  You're correct, it's not a big deal.  Unless you hate to read.  Now the issue is not the ability to read.  My kids can read.  At grade level.  They just don't enjoy it.  So think of something you hate to do or something that you really don't like to do.  Now imagine being told you HAVE to do that thing.  You're not asked if you want to do it, you HAVE to do it.  Doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun now does it? 

     Don't get after me that the summer reading prevents 'summer slide'.  If that's your argument, then spread the school year over 12 months*, because reading skills are not the only subject that 'slides' over the summer.  Yes reading is extremely important.  Math, Science, History, Foreign Languages, Social Skills, English Language Arts, the Arts are all equally important and yet there is no 'Summer X list' for these other subjects.

     So I will be emailing Princess's school tomorrow to say that she will not be keeping a summer reading record.  I am also prepared to speak with The Boy's teacher in September about my thoughts and feelings of summer reading lists and explaining why he has not read a single book on their list.  It may not win me (or my children) any friends at the schools, but for a few weeks anyway my kids will be kids and they will read if they want to.

*For the record, I am a firm believer that the school year should be spread out over 12 months for many reasons.  One of which is to avoid 'summer slide'.

08 June 2012

Growing old. Gracefully.

     I've never really given getting older any thought.  Sure when I was nine I couldn't wait to be 10 and enter double digits.  Turning 16 was a big thrill.  Twenty-one was another big thrill, but that's a story for another day.  Twenty-five came and went, then 30, 35, 40, and 45.  This year it is 46 and you know what?  It's not a big deal.

     The Boy and Princess think I'm getting old and they are right.  And wrong.  I may be aging, but I'm not getting old.  Princess sees me through her 11 year-old eyes and sees the grey hair, the 46 year-old butt, the losing battle with gravity,  the scars, the wrinkles.  The Boy sees me with his 'teenager' eyes and doesn't see a super model or a woman who can wear a bikini.  I have to chuckle at their reactions when I show them pictures of the 21 year-old me (yes, in the bikini).  I also laugh when I explain to Princess that my genes run through her body - that I am the Ghost of Christmas Future for her - and she cringes.

     When I look in the mirror, I don't see a 46 year-old me.  I don't see the grey hair, wrinkles, or the effects of gravity.  I see the results of a lifetime of laughter, smiles, good friends, great meals, fabulous wines, wonderful experiences, tears of joy and pain, a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister.  In a word, I see - Me.

  I can't imagine anyone I'd rather be. 

05 June 2012

How do you protect your family

from a well-meaning, but misguided person?

I'm dealing with a person (let's call them Bureaucrat #1 or B#1) who couldn't pick any member of our family out of a line up, and yet Bureaucrat #1 has absolute control over where we go next.  Or at least where The Boy goes.  Crazy.  B#1 is actually assigned to The Boy, but has to be reminded that he is in fact a boy, is home schooled,  is 12.  B#1 has never once asked me anything about him.  Like what our goals are for him or his goals for himself.  Or like what our family values are, at least in respect to education.  Or about our family dynamics.  B#1 has never even asked to speak with him.  And yet B#1 has the audacity to tell me that B#1 is his greatest advocate.  Hate to break it too you sweetheart, but I AM his greatest advocate!  I always have been and will be always.

I personally believe that college is not for everybody.  I am also a strong proponent of a gap year(s) to help you figure yourself out - what you want to do or not do with your life.  As far as I'm concerned, a gap year is not an indication of a lack of intelligence or motivation.  It is actually a sign of a maturity, an I'm-not-a-lemming-and-following-the-crowd kind of personality.  I am certainly not advocating that someone graduate from high school and move into Mom and Dad's basement.  I do advocate that the gap year  involve volunteering, working, traveling, and/or military service.  You get an idea of what the world is really like.  You get an idea of what you are really like.  You learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and how to use them to your advantage.  If at that point you decide college is in your future, well have at it!  Mom and Dad are more than willing to help!  If after a gap year(s), you decide that college is just not in the cards, or not in the cards right now, well then great!  You've just made an informed decision.

What does this have to do with The Boy's 'greatest advocate'?  Well B#1 thinks The Boy should go to college.  He's 12.  He's in the fifth grade.  I just want him to finish this school year in a successful manner, and he is on track to do so.  Then I want him to finish next year in a successful manner.  Then I want him to finish the following year in a successful manner, and so on and so forth, until he graduates from high school.  Yes he has some special needs, but that is irrelevant to him having a successful educational experience. 

State has a vested interest in the well-being of FS families.  For obvious reasons, I fully appreciate that mind-set.  They provide support for children with special needs and again I fully appreciate that stance.  They want what is in the child's best interest.  Who can argue with that?  What twists my knickers though is that a total stranger, who can't even remember that The Boy is in fact a boy, believes they know what is in his best interest better than his own mother.  Really?!  I mean REALLY?!?