Sunday, June 3, 2012
There have been several indicators that our kids are ready for first grade and several that they are not. They've been in a mixed-aged Montessori classroom for two and half years at this point. They were in the kindergarten group this past year but neither of them completed the kindergarten curriculum. The reason for this is simple. In the pre-primary Montessori classroom, the kids are in charge of what they do. They are not made to do anything that they don't want to do. Nothing like putting the fox in charge of the hen house. This led Henry to hand-grind so much Costco bulk coffee that I had to start buying heavy whipping cream to make the stuff palatable. Elliot must have sawed up 14 cords of wood. They call these the "practical life works." What is this, Little McMansion on the Prairie?
I think this is fine for some kids. Not my kids. But some kids. My kids lack confidence in their educational prowess and therefore are not able to sit through the uncomfortable process of not knowing something or not being good at something they're just learning. I think they are budding OCD perfectionists. Wonder where they get that?
Also, there's the whole lazy, path of least resistance thing. Let's face it, that crazy b**ch Tiger Mom lady had one overwhelmingly good point: Kids don't like doing things they're not good at. And... They don't get good at things until they do them a lot. That's the part of the conundrum where parents come in.
Now there are the cutesy tootsie parents who know how to make every learning exercise into something joyous, fun-filled and wonderful. I don't know any of those people and if I did, I would run them down. I am the single worst teacher there is. So that group would not only exclude me, they would vaporize me with their thoughts right through their brainiac bifocals.
I think I spontaneously read at about 3 years of age. The problem with me was just like the one with my kids. The only book I would read was Alice in Wonderland. I was uninterested in anything else. Now that probably says as much about my need for the absolutely tripped-out, bizarre-ass, crazy narrative and for deeply disturbed characters as it does for repetition of the familiar. Hell, I have watched Pride and Prejudice no fewer than 600 times over the past 6 years. Half the time that's how I fall asleep. When Jeff deleted it from our DVR, I thought I would end him with a pillow.
Let me state for the record that I am not trying to create anything with respect to my kids and a particular educational bent. What I am trying to do is to set them up for the best possible trajectory. In my head the trajectory would be in the direction of a contented, well-rounded, resilient, connected, compassionate, love-infused life full of deep experiences with lots of meaning. They would also be able to pay their own rent when they graduate from college. And if all the former things fail, then the latter would be good. Oh yeah, I'd like them to still be speaking to me. Or at least be willing to speak to me say by the age of 30. That seems reasonable, right?
So there you go. I don't give a rat's ass about the stuff my friends care about. Ivy League? Dude, seriously? Our kids were in preschool and people were talking this way. I'll be happy if they're not incarcerated. If they only hit one stint in rehab before 21. Am I aiming too low? Am I being realistic? When I get too far out into the future with this stuff I do 2 things. 1) I look at photos from the past couple of years and 2) I go to either St. Jude's or SmileTrain's websites and look at real problems. Then I go into my kids' rooms and kiss them and whisper to them how much I love them. I make a list of what I forgot to do with them today--like play tennis with Henry--and promise myself I will make it up to him tomorrow. And remind myself that tomorrow is promised to no one. It would be better if I could remember that during the daytime when I am freaking out at them for pissing in the wastebasket instead of the toilet (on purpose) or dumping their sand-filled shoes on my clean car floor instead of out the open door to their immediate right. But I always forget until they are quietly sleeping in their sweet little beds.
Tomorrow is promised to no one.
Kindergarten twice? Who gives a crap?! It probably can't hurt. If it does, it'll just be fodder for the shrink in 25 years. After the cake life these two monkeys will have led, they're going to need something to talk about.