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05 October 2005

 

Sex Ed, Kinda

Miles started Kindergarten this year.

In August, I attended an informational meeting for parents at the school. The teacher, Mrs. Houston, introduced this year's crop of parents to the new face of Kindergarten.

When I was in Kindergarten, I remember precious little other than art, storytime, snack and recess. Kindergarten was mostly about socialization skills, counting and learning the alphabet.

In 1977 most kids weren't in full-day daycare programs. We were home with our moms or grandmothers, but for that three-hour break in the day. We needed the social time. We needed the chance to be slightly independent, away from our families in preparation for the rigors of full time public education.

Now, though, a majority of kids go to daycare or preschool at least half time. Pre-academic skills are stressed, kids learn to write their names, add, solve problems and have a ton of social skills.

So Kindergarten had to adapt. Today's kids are too smart for the rinky-dink operation we called KG. It was time to bring out the big guns.

So there we were: thirty of us, aged 22 to 50, sitting like giants on tiny chairs pushed up to little round tables, passing packets around (take one, pass it on..) and filling out information sheets with the No. 2 pencils from the cups in the center of the tables.

I looked around and got a feeling for my cohort. There were the ones who most resembled me: 30s, educated, working people, a little frayed around the edges but clearly involved parents.

Then there were those on the outside edges: the minimally involved parents and the demanding, smothering ones. The ones who don't read to their kids and the ones who've been training them with flashcards since they were six months old.

Mrs. Houston reviewed the school year curriculum and my jaw dropped when I learned that Miles would have homework twice a week, and that he would be writing and illustrating his own stories by the end of the fall quarter. "The children each keep a portfolio of their best work, and they each get to sit in the Author's Chair and discuss their stories," she said.

I could barely breathe. Stories? "Author's Chair?" This is so amazing to me, and I wonder why more of the other parents aren't as stunned as I am. How excited I am to read his first story.

There is a parenting book I like very much called The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. One of the points the author makes is that, as parents, we naturally think of our children as brilliant. Statistically, it is impossible for each child to be a genius. And why would we want that, anyway?

One of the most powerful realizations I've made in the last two years is that it's important to allow my kids to be average. That they don't have to do anything extraordinary to make me proud of them.

They may excel in something, they may not. But to have stratospheric expectations of children is unfair, I think. I expect my kids to be responsible for their chores at home. I expect them to be polite and respectful and kind. I expect them to help others.

Pretty basic stuff.

Sometimes I forget that they are learning real things in Kindergarten and preschool; not just those basic social graces.

Last week, from his perch on the toilet, Miles shouted out to me, "Momma, did you know that when someone chooses not to vote, it is called 'abstaining?'"

Huh?!

"Oh, well, that's right, honey! Did you and your class vote on something today at school?"

"Yes. We voted on what to have for snack. I voted pretzels. But some kids abstained."

I am impressed and almost giddy that he is absorbing these things, this language I love. Then, as it so often does, my brain picks apart his statement and finds the double meaning.

I silently crack up when I think of my five year-old discussing abstinence.





7 Comments:

Blogger Feifei said...

Hi! This isn't really a response to this particular post. I just wanted to say that I stumbled across your blog a while ago and I'm awed and impressed and humbled you choose to share so many aspects of your life. For whatever it's worth, I think you're an amazing person. Your love and dedication to your children touches me to the core every time, and your ability to juggle all the parts of your life is truly inspiring. Your style of writing is great, lovely and humorous. Oh, and the sex posts are absolutely fantastic =) I wish I could embrace that side of me with equal maturity (and enthusiasm =D). So thank you for writing a truly beautiful blog, in all the ways possible.

10/05/2005  
Blogger Olympia said...

I know the feeling of being awed by what kids know. I once asked my son if he knew what a Euro was and he answered with the EXCHANGE RATE.

That book sounds fabulous! I must read it!

10/05/2005  
Blogger figleaf said...

Hi Maddie,

Blessings of a Skinned Knee is an amazing book! It helps me every time one of my kids do something hopelessly brilliant or stubbornly dumb. "Everyone is unique, no one is special" just.. helps. When you're surrounded by parents of good, intelligent children and they're all worrying that maybe special tutoring this or dyslexia that would make a difference. Sometimes it does but mostly they're just being kids. Right after our first was born I ran into a long-lost cousin who's kids were all grown. One had been placed in special ed, one in advanced placement, and one was just an ordinary kid. He said "Y'know, around age eleven almost everyone just suddenly turns normal. So if they say your kid's smart, or dumb, or whatever, it's ok to listen but it's not ok to panic or primp about it."

Anyway, I love that book. If I blogged about childrearing instead of sex (I almost went that way instead) I'd quote it regularly.

Take care,

figleaf

10/06/2005  
Blogger Heavyskies said...

What a change of pace from what seems to be the norm here, and in typical form, wonderfully done. I may not have kids, but when I was in KG, well I don't remember doing things as elaborate as what you described for your kids. I missed out I guess ...

10/06/2005  
Blogger Prospero said...

On the one hand, I love it that the kids in kindergarten are being encouraged to write, even with "invented spelling," and that they do bar graphs of who brought what snack to school (if they're allowed to bring snacks, since it's almost guaranteed that some child in class is going to have an allergy to peanuts or wheat or something...). On the other hand, the horrors of what state testing and NCLB have wrought on curricula starts soon enough. It's a shame they can't just enjoy their centers and showing off their stitches.

10/07/2005  
Blogger marcus said...

wait a second... figleaf is calling you "maddie"?

no, no, i mean, jack is now abstaining from sex?

no- i meant to write, i think you're an amazing person, too. now. git yo' ass over here, bitch! nine days and counting.

...thats 216 hours, or 12960 minutes, for you kindergartners who want an extra math challenge today.

10/10/2005  
Blogger Holiday said...

Dear Madeline:
I must inform you how much I enjoy your blog, which I read regularly. You write with
grace and precision, always providing wonderful meditations.

10/11/2005  

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