Friday, February 29, 2008

Learning My Lesson

When I started out being a mom, I thought I'd teach my kids how to read by age 5. I mean, I know how to read. So how hard would it be?

Also, not to brag, but I was an early reader. My parents read me Dr. Seuss and voila, I knew how to read. But that's pretty common among writers. We peak at age 5.

During the year that all the kids were home, at ages 3, 5, and baby, I was going to prepare them for kindergarten in the busom of our home. They would go to school reading, shining examples of my motherly dream.

I even bought a book that was supposed to have your child reading within a year. Maybe I should have been skeptical when, in the introduction, it said something like, "No matter how ballistic your kid goes over having to work on this book, still make them do it. They'll get used to it."

Nobody in our house ever gets used to anything. Richie is five years old and I still have to remind him that his pajamas are in the top drawer, where they have been since his birth. Every night Johnny asks me, "What are we going to do tomorrow?" even though my answer is always the same: "We're going to eat breakfast, go to school, come home, watch T.V. or play on the computer, do homework, eat dinner, read a book and go to bed."

It's like they're waiting for the day I say, "You guys are going to clean some chimneys and then I'm going to sell you to the circus."

Sadly, they would probably like that plan. It would be something different!

Anyway, I worked on the reading book with Johnny for a while and finally gave up. I have enough mama drama without fits over reading time.

They sort of learned the alphabet--or at least one letter in it. For Johnny, it was J, Richie knows B, and J.J., E. If we had 23 more kids, they'd have it down pat.

So Johnny and Richie went to school, the victims of my horrible teaching skills. And that was when the miracle occured.

While Richie hasn't grasped the concept of criss-cross applesauce during circle time, his teacher said he scored very well on his kindergarten preparedness test.

"He did?" I asked, not hiding my shock very well.

It's not that I don't have faith in him. It's just that, knowing the environment he grew up in, I thought it would take him years to catch up.

Then Johnny came home from first grade and said, "I know how to read now," and he read Sam the Minuteman. Just like that. That book is practically a novel. I would use a bookmark if I read that book.

So--ehem--I guess I was a pretty good teacher after all.

Kidding! I think we all know who the heroes in this story are. School teachers.

Don't get me wrong. Some mothers do a wonderful job preparing their kids for school. Others mold their children into geniuses while homeschooling. But for moms like me, who consider getting through lunchtime to be a major success, teachers have our backs in a major way.

For this reason, I'm sending J.J. to school next year at age 3. It's simple division of labor. The teacher will teach him the ABCs and I'll stick to what I know how to do: writing.

My dad, who coached grade school football for many years, said he could never figure out how teachers maintained discipline without making kids take a lap. I grew up in a house that really respected teachers. I remember one time, I came home and said that my teacher was wrong about a spelling word on my test.

"I'm right. The teacher is wrong!" I told my dad.

I even looked it up in the dictionary and showed him that the spelling on my test was the same as Webster's spelling.

"See, I'm right," I said.

"No, the teacher's right," he said. "The dictionary's wrong."

Today, I think parents sometimes give teachers a hard time. But I'll always admire them. And I now realize that the most important thing I can teach my kids, when I send them off to school is: "Be good. And listen to your teacher."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good plan! Teachers are great! I didn't remember your dad's line - that's a riot! I do remember that if any of you got in trouble, we backed the teacher. I think it's wonderful that Johnny is reading so well, and so fluently just since school started. And Richie is ready for Kindergarten - great after your 1st p/t mtg this yr. And then there's JJ - I will miss him so much at school. I hope I can pick him up early whenever possible. Mom

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you're darn right! i am with you 100%. Go Johnny! He is such a smartie!!! give them all our love!!

12:22 PM  

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