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Archive for January, 2008

Redshirting

I had a mom friend over yesterday who was telling me about this new phenomenon in affluent communities called reshirting, a term taken from high school sports. Though I played my share of high school sports, and though I have three children, and though Sunshine is in kindergarten, I had never heard of redshirting. Indeed, Sunshine is one of the oldest in her class (Dec. birthday) and there are no 7 year-olds in her kindergarten. In case you, too, don’t know what redshirting is, let me explain…. (it’s kind of creepy, so beware)

Basically, redshirting is the practice of delaying a child’s entry into Kindergarten so that they will be older, or larger, or more mature, and thus better prepared to handle the increased pressures of kindergarten today.

Here was my original take: In affluent communities, there is this winning combination of the money to send Suzy to an expensive preschool that teaches her more than I knew in 3rd grade back in my day, AND the desire/need for Suzy to be the #1 rope climber, reader, and spelling bee-er. So they hold Suzy back until she is more likely to succeed, and to win, win win!

But then I read this NY Times article, which explained a different (and fairer) reason behind redshirting:

No Child Left Behind, in 2002, exacerbated the trend, pushing phonics and pattern-recognition worksheets even further down the learning chain. As a result, many parents, legislatures and teachers find the current curriculum too challenging for many older 4- and young 5-year-olds, which makes sense, because it’s largely the same curriculum taught to first graders less than a generation ago.

That the social skills and exploration of one’s immediate world have been squeezed out of kindergarten is less the result of a pedagogical shift than of the accountability movement and the literal-minded reverse-engineering process it has brought to the schools. Curriculum planners no longer ask, What does a 5-year-old need? Instead they ask, If a student is to pass reading and math tests in third grade, what does that student need to be doing in the prior grades? Whether kindergarten students actually need to be older is a question of readiness, a concept that itself raises the question: Ready for what? The skill set required to succeed in Fulgham’s kindergarten — openness, creativity — is well matched to the capabilities of most 5-year-olds but also substantially different from what Andersen’s students need.

…increasing the average age of the children in a kindergarten class is a cheap and easy way to get a small bump in test scores, because older children perform better, and states’ desires for relative advantage is written into their policy briefs.

“You couldn’t find a kid who skips a grade these days,” Morrison told me. “We used to revere individual accomplishment. Now we revere self-esteem, and the reverence has snowballed in unconscious ways — into parents always wanting their children to feel good, wanting everything to be pleasant.” So parents wait an extra year in the hope that when their children enter school their age or maturity will shield them from social and emotional hurt. Elizabeth Levett Fortier, a kindergarten teacher in the George Peabody Elementary School in San Francisco, notices the impact on her incoming students. “I’ve had children come into my classroom, and they’ve never even lost at Candy Land.”

It’s sad, isn’t it. It’s sad that children are losing so much of their childhood, even in their school lessons. And it’s sad that parents are worrying about their children’s test scores at age 6.

An even more disturbing idea is that this trend could, and will, widen the gap between the affluent and the poor children even more than it already is. The affluent can afford to keep their children in preschool until they are five or six years old. Struggling, working parents, on the other hand, who may or may not have been able to send their children to preschool, are eagerly waiting for their tax dollars to take over and pay for their children’s education as soon as possible. Welcome to grade K, with Suzy at 6 and Bobby at 4.9; welcome to grade 6, with Suzy at 12 and Bobby at 10.9. That’s just not fair.

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I use a bite guard at night to protect my teeth from falling apart. Every time I go to the dentist, he finds more cracks in my teeth. He tells me I need a $375 custom-made bite guard. I tell that I if had the money to buy a $375 bite guard (plus a weekend a month off and a couple weeks a year in swanky we’ll-play-with-your-children-while-you-lounge-with-margaritas vacation), then I might not need the f-ing bite guard in the first place.

So rather than get the $375 fancy bite guard, or even the $60 one from Walgreens, I opt for the $11.99 Shock Doctor. That’s right, the very same kind that Rocky Balboa wore back in the early 80s. And it is sexy, let me tell you what. Hubby just loves that the last thing he sees every night is his woman who looks like she’s about to kick his ass. I kind of like it…

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I’m on my third Sock Doctor, because I chew the things up at night. I’m boiling a pot of water, and for those lucky few of you who have never had the opportunity to wear a Shock Doctor, let me share this moment with you:

Shock Doctor Fitting Instructions:

1. Fill saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Remove water from heat source. Let water stand for 30 seconds, then place mouthguard in water for 90 seconds. Do not exceed heating time.

2. Carefully remove mouthguard with slotted spoon.

3. Cool mouthguard under tap water for one second. Quickly move to step #4.

4. Carefully place mouthguard around all upper teeth. Bite down firmly into mouthguard while, suck in strongly and use fingers to press edges of mouthguard into teeth and gumline through the lips and cheeks (continue for 20 seconds).

5. Remove mouthguard and cool uner tap water for 30 seconds.

Got that?

I swear I have read this like twenty times, and I get more panicked every time I read it. What if I leave it in the pot too long, or don’t bite down long enough? What if I can’t find the slotted spoon in time? How many seconds for the tap water? What happens if I screw up and have to start all over? Can I do that? The first time I did this, my husband had to do it with me, and we were like one of those reality show couples: “How much time do we have? 30 seconds–now go, go!”

You would think that by #3, I’d have it down, wouldn’t you?

What is going to happen when Sunshine comes home with her first word problem. “If Henry leaves his house and drives 40 mph to the candy shop, which is three miles away, then leaves to go to the hat shop which is 2 miles from there, but only goes 25 mph (because he’s eating his candy while driving), how long does it takes him to get to the hat shop.” It hurt even typing that out. Does anyone else still get nauseous when they hear word problems? I refuse to say to all my children for the 13 years they’re in school: “Go ask your dad.”

Maybe the tri-monthly Shock Doctor fitting will give the practice I need to be ready for 3rd grade word problems.

p.s. I just noticed that at the bottom of the mouthguard fitting instructions, it says: DO NOT CHEW YOUR MOUTHGUARD! Now, do you think that is a warning that it might not work if I chew it, which would explain my dentist’s your-teeth-are-cracking-into-tiny-pieces reports. OR maybe it’s because they are using some toxic chemical that is released when chewed up, which would explain a while lot more…

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I am a relative newbie in the blogging world. Had it not been for my editing job last year, I probably never would have even read a blog, never mind write one myself. I had pictured blogs as being these uber-opinionated stumps from which lunatics could rant, or daily mundane experts from a bored cubicle.

…And isn’t it great?!

Soon, I realized that not only are blogs fun to read (and sometimes make fun of!), but that I, too, can rant, proselytize and be mundane (and made fun of)–all within my own little world. I get to meet people from Godknowswhere, talking and thinking about the same random things I am. And the best part about writing about whatever I want every day is that I see things differently. I see a a man picking his nose in the car next to me, and I want to write about nose picking. I hear part of an argument between a mother and her son, and I want to write about who I think was right. I stub my toe and I want to write about how my grandpa used to pinch me whenever I stubbed my toe as a child, so that I wouldn’t feel the pain in my toe.

The funny and wonderful thing about blogging is that I experience my day with a little more detail; I am more aware of what quirky things are going on around me, or in my head, because I want to write about it.

And then I get to read about others’ random occurrences in the day. Who cares about Brittany Spears checking into rehab when I could read about sweatpantsmom’s hilarious back to school night at a pizza parlor? That’s real, and I dig it.

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Hubby came home the other day, dropped his backpack on the floor, walked over to the cabinet, pulled out our Nalgene bottles, and threw them all away. His school, Tufts University Medical School, just released a study showing that bisphenol A, a chemical that Nalgene uses in its bottles, causes all sorts of childhood behavioral problems, cancers, and fertility problems. Yikes! We have been nursing Nalgene bottles since we were 19 years old! And our children each had their own Nalgene bottle. So that explains those aisle 4 meltdowns in the grocery store…

plastic.jpegBisphenol A is not just used in Nalgene bottles, but also in canned foods, BABY BOTTLES! and disposable water bottles. Look out for the #7 on the bottom! And what else, I wonder? And if the evil Bisphenol A isn’t leeching into my water, are there other chemicals that are equally or more toxic that we’re ingesting? When I look around our kitchen, I see a plastic Brita filter, plastic milk jugs, plastic sippy cups, freezer filled with plastic ziplocks holding leftovers, ice cube trays, all my canned crushed tomatoes, and oh….. plastic bagged everything from cereal to crackers to my broccoli that is sitting in it’s plastic produce bag in the fridge. God help me if I find out that plastic is evil, because I don’t know how to live without it.

Here’s another creepy bit about plastic: when manufacturers are making plastic products, including our children’s toys, they make one version for the E.U., which has much stricter environmental and health standards than ours, and another version, complete with evil, leeching toxins for us. Isn’t that nice.

So, what to do? Call your congressperson and ask them to advocate for stronger standards, start petitions, and if you have the time and energy, please do it for me, too.

As for me for now, I’ll start at home by tossing all my sippy cups and tupperware that were years old (the longer the plastic is used- and especially if it is dishwasher-washed (God, help me!), the more probable chemical leeching is. Nice.) , and buying Pyrex glass storage containers. I’m not sure how this is going to work out with my 1 year old tearing through the cabinets and literally smashing everything he finds onto the floor. Isn’t Pyrex supposed to be unbreakable? Unbreakable glass… hmm.

I know that researching environmental evils can be a scary downward spiral which is hard to break out of. I’ve been there before, in college, when I first realized that every article of clothing I wore was made by some child laborer in a windowless factory, and that destroying CDs releases toxic chemicals into the ozone. I eventually got so overwhelmed, along with everyone who had to listen to me, that I let go. I now shop at BabyGap and Target, I throw old CDs out, and I don’t even have a compost in my back yard.

I think it is, like everything else in life, a balancing act. How do we live consciously and responsibly without losing our minds?

Here’s another person, mother, and friend of mine who has more good insight into this topic: Product of Compression

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“Baby, Baby, what do you say?”

“Baby, Baby, come out and play.”

“Please eat one more piece of fruit.”

“If you do, I’ll buy you a seersucker suit.”

This was my afternoon and evening. Rhyming everything I said for three hours with Baby, even when he wasn’t listening or in the same room. This is what happens when Hubby skips town with Sunshine and Boo and leaves me with Baby. I walk around in circles, not sure what to do or where to go. What’s that? I don’t have to wake, make breakfast, lunch and dinner, drop two children off at two different schools, nap Baby while mopping and baking for the K potluck tomorrow, run to gym with baby, pick Boo up, nap Baby while feeding Boo, pick up Sunshine, go to Kung Fu (let the rhyming never stop!), dinner, meltdowns, bathtime, and Gracias al Senor, bedtime.

Nope. With Sunshine and Boo gone, I’m like, 1/4 myself. (A friend asked me what in the world would happen if Hubby had taken all the children and left me alone. First of all, that would never happen, so don’t worry about it. Secondly, then I would be 0% myself and what kind of FREEDOM is that, I ask you. Oh, que sigua la fantacia!)

The scary thing about suddenly having too much time on your hands (without the freedom to drive up to Vermont for a day of skiing then continue on to Montreal for a fine dinner and jazzy club with some sweet man, I mean Hubby on your arm), is that it makes me a little crazy. Not just the rhyming, though I’m very glad it was just Baby here to witness it, but the “what am I doing?” “Who have I become?” “What has happened to all my big plans, and where had she gone?” When I’m running around like a lunatic, I don’t have much time for my mind to settle upon what’s really going on in there. But when I slow down, the voices get louder. Oh, let the drama flow!

It’s okay; in the last three days, I have made plans- big plans that will keep me busy and fulfilled and at peace with myself and my family. Just what will happen tomorrow when they all return? Well, you know, don’t you?

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Mary Jo Who?

Yesterday, hubby was uploading music onto our iPod (part of our on-going campaign to stay hip) to go to the gym, and when I looked at his “pumping iron” playlist, I cracked up. “Honey, I’m pretty sure there has been some good music released since AC/DC and Poison were touring.” All his songs were from our good old college, no high school days! “Yeah,” he smiled back at me, “like who?”

Smile fades.

Our entire music library, with the exception of the Once soundtrack and the Fergie album (please, who can resist the woman who gave us “My Humps“!), all our music was from 1993 and earlier. Can you guess when we graduated college? Yep, 1993. Then time stopped, in our musical coolness.

So, I’m on a mission to drag myself into the present. I used to love– no I still love music. I just have to figure out how to find out who I am, currently, in the music world. This must be what college students spend all their free time doing these days– cruising play lists, trying to find the perfect person out there who has the same tastes as you, and who has done all the hard work of searching a testing, listing and editing playlists so that we can happily and lazily freeride. I, however, 15 years out of college and barely able to find the “download this song” button on iTunes, have not had as much luck finding my perfect playlist match. Nor do I have the time. Do you think I could hire a college student to find me my perfect match. Hmmmm…

The problem there is that they would ask me what kind of music I like. Um… Salsa and Cumbia, some 80’s but nothing close to Eclipse of the Heart or Lionel Richie; R&B, unless it had too much rap or too much wining; Pop, unless the singer really has a bad voice and there is too much synthesizers; Rock, unless it too much electric guitar; Indie/Folk, great, but again with the wining….

Would anyone take me on?

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I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions. And it’s not because I disapprove of them, or think they are a waste of time. I am simply too lazy. I don’t want to think about all the things that need repair in my life, and then sketch a plan on how to remedy them in order to make myself a better person. I mean, really.

That said, for some reason tonight, I decided to have a spinach salad for dinner, complete with a dressing of a guilt-free balsamic vinegar and olive oil. That’s right. No side of pasta, cheese, sausage, or even yummy crusty French bread. Nope. Just a salad. And as I watched myself eat my salad, I thought to myself, “Now, could this be my typical hubby-is-out-of-town-so-why-cookedness? OR could this be a subconscious attempt to shrink my butt and thighs?” I am pretty hard headed and, butt and thighs be damned, I am going to eat my cheese. But they say the subconscious is pretty strong as well.

And yet, HA-HA! As I write this, I sit down with a glass of Shiraz (maybe a glass and a half restaurant-style) and a plate of Brie with Triscuits (that’s right, if you need me to spell class for you, just let me know). Let the lazy, but determined, butt and thigh riding consciousness of this woman PREVAIL. Amen.

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