I have become like Pavlov’s dog. A colored sheet of paper peeking out of K’s school folder triggers a minor freak-out. Do you know why? Moms – I know you do!
A colored sheet of paper means that there is something that I am going to have to remember, schedule, organize, attend, or buy something for.
I can’t tell you how relieved I was when the calendar finally turned over into March. After October-November-December-January-February packed full of holidays and birthdays and more holidays and school parties and…well, here is a brief summary of how the past five months have kept us busy:
- Star Student WEEK (a whole week of daily activities focused around K)
- Halloween parties at both school and gymnastics
- Trick or treating
- Field trips to the cider mill/pumpkin patch and somewhere else I can’t remember
- Parent watch night and parent participation night at gymnastics
- School Thanksgiving feast
- Actual Thanksgiving
- Christmas parties at both school and gymnastics
- K’s birthday cupcakes to take to school
- K’s Christmas program (for which we’d had to listen to/rehearse a HUGE number of songs for the whole preceding month)
- Actual Christmas
- School pasta dinner and enrollment night
- Dad’s breakfast at school
- All-school bowling
- Valentine’s day party at school (preceded by a brutal evening of making/addressing valentines)
- Lent/Ash Wednesday
- Fundraisers for School and for Child Care/Latch Key
Sprinkle a few birthday parties in there, plus snow days and school holidays, and I was very very ready for a stretch of “normal” schedule. Therefore, on the last day of February, I breathed a sigh of relief. The end was in sight. Nothing happens in March, right? Other than the daddy/daughter dance next weekend, there are no holidays, no birthdays, and no major special occasions. We were basically free until Easter and then the hectic last month of school. But March….aaaahhhh. Let’s relax!
And then it happened…
Friday night, a sheet of paper that was a particularly chipper shade of coral and was filled from top to bottom with type no larger than a 10 pt font size, came home in K’s folder. And my heart sank.
March is Reading Month! it happily proclaimed.
Wait…reading month? K is six. She can sight read and sound out a few words and knows all her letters, but an entire month of reading feels like it is going to be a lot of work for me. (and oh yes, we have to keep a log and do a minimum of 140 minutes of “reading” this month) Splendid.
To add to my dismay, Sunday March 1 was supposed to be “Turn off Technology and Read” day. Not “Turn off Technology and Read” for 4 hours, but for an entire day. I’m sorry, but our lives revolve around technology now. Not in a “we veg in front of the XBox or television all day” way, but in a “all our books are on Kindles, and both my husband and I have work we need to use our laptops for” way. We can’t just switch off for a whole day, and K can’t just curl up with a book and read for 14 hours. We did the best we could, which was basically no video games and no television/movies. More on this later… K did have a pretty good time making up detailed stories and recording herself telling the stories. I’ll be saving those for posterity.
Once I got over the panic of how to deal with no technology and re-planning my entire Sunday with a day’s notice, I read further down the list and couldn’t believe all of the things I have to remember/organize/attend and otherwise stress out about in March.
Pajama Day: Okay, this one is easy and fun, but it’s still something that warranted an entry in my “making sure K is not embarrassed by her mother forgetting an event” spreadsheet.
Muffins with Mom: I remember doing this last year. It’s a 45-minute period before school starts where moms (or grandmoms) have mini-muffins and juice in the library and read books together. It’s a sweet idea for sure, and I do enjoy it. But the downside is that I have to schedule more missed work.
School Spirit Day: Didn’t we just have one of these the last week in January? I remember “dress up like your favorite saint or angel”, another PJ day, dress in a class-color day (kindergarten was white!), and other assorted activities. Guess we’re doing it again. Students can wear their favorite school spirit shirt and jeans. Whew – no special costume required.
Donuts with Dad: I honestly think we missed this one last year entirely. I don’t remember scheduling my husband to go to this, so last year was #fail. This year, I’ve got it covered.
March 31: The last day of “reading fun” will be celebrated by the kids going to school dressed in their spring best. I decide that the daddy/daughter dance dress can now be used for Easter and Stop Reading day. Hoorah for getting triple-use out of a semi-formal dress!
The paper goes on to tell us about that reading log requirement and how kids can win a prize if they check out specially-marked books from the library. Considering K normally checks out books that are about rocks/minerals or animals, she might get one of those prizes – probably the prize that is secreted in the books that no one ever checks out. Her obsession with science may finally pay off.
Drop everything and read! Once a week the bell will ring and everyone drops what they’re doing and reads for five minutes. I’m not sure how this will work. Bell rings, mad scramble for a book, just get 1/3 of the way into a story, and … done? All the while the kids like K are howling “But I don’t know how to read!”
Special guest: And finally…a guest speaker will be coming in to talk to the students about writing and publishing. I really love that idea, but I would think it would be more beneficial for the older kids. I do not envy the guest speaker who tries to explain what writing/publishing are in K-3 terminology that the littles will not only understand, but which they will actually find interesting. Maybe he/she will have puppets. Writer-Puppet can open multiple rejection letters from Publisher-Puppet, while Blogger-Puppet gets harassed in comments by Troll-Puppets.
Does school really need to be this complicated?
The problem I have is that it becomes basically a part-time job for me just to keep track of everything that is going on. I can only miss so much work for doctor’s appointments, sickness, and occasional school events. I only have so many hours in the evening to take care of dinner and keep the house a step above “Squalor” on the cleanliness scale. To tack on all of these school events to keep track of, plus weekly homework and a monthly family homework project, plus the required yearly volunteer hours, plus trying to make sure to attend as many of these “x with mom” and “y with dad” events as possible…it just becomes overwhelming.
I am not someone who feels the need to beat everyone else at being busy. Definitely not. People can one-up me all day long; I am not going to over-schedule us more than we already are. We want to come home after work/school, spend a relaxing evening as a family, and go to bed unstressed. We have done pretty well at making sure we don’t over-commit to activities that just are not logical for our current schedule.
I get what the school is trying to do. I do like the fact that this school goes outside the box of reading-writing-arithmetic-state tests and focuses on reading for fun, art projects, gym/physical fitness, nutrition/cooking, and other enhancement subjects. That is one of the primary reasons we scrape money together for private school tuition. I am 147% grateful that we are able to send K there. It just seems sometimes like the teachers and coordinators of all this stuff are just making it harder on themselves than it has to be with all these special events. Not only do they have to think them up, plan them, create all needed materials, and then keep the students enthused, but they also feel they have to engage the parents at every turn. I promise – I honestly do not have a requirement that my daughter’s school keep me quite this involved.
I’m just worried that all of this required parental involvement is only accomplishing my spending even less unscripted time with my daughter. There is rarely time for us to just bake cookies, make up stories, play games, have K dress up and put on dance shows for us, or watch PBS Kids together and talk about what we are learning. Instead we have homework, projects, required book reading every night – things that I understand are meant to encourage our involvement and interaction. However, when you put requirements and deadlines on these activities, now it becomes just an obligation to get through. It simply becomes a tired, unenthusiastic, stressed-out mom trying to encourage a six-year-old to spend 20 minutes “reading” every night when the child really just wants free time to play.
Whatever happened to just sending your child to school? Drop-off and pick-up. Help with homework when needed. Simple and manageable.
Can we find a happy medium?
Author’s Note: I honestly don’t know how working parents with more than one child manage all this. Multiple spreadsheets? Charts on the wall? However you do it, my hat’s off to you!