Saturday, July 30, 2011

How Important Was Kindergarten, After All?

Many years ago, Robert Fulghum's essay "All I Ever Really Needed to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten" swept through the public's mind. It contained gems such as "share everything", "learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work some every day. " and, "be aware of wonder". I agree with all of this.

A few days ago, a friend announced on facebook that her child was going to start "Kindergarten readiness camp" in two weeks. This, apparently, is a time when rising Kindergarten students come together in a two week extension of the school year. Shocking, I thought. Because in my mind, summer is way too short and school is way too long as it is. Why would anyone want to extend the school year for the very youngest of students?

Since Fulghum's essay was first published, I wonder how much Kindergarten has changed. The hallmarks of Kindergarten today seem to be teaching children how to read, teaching children how to count money, and teaching children how to work in sets with math. That's a pre-multiplication math activity. And while Fulghum mentions that biggest word of all "LOOK!", it's certainly not the skill being emphasized. How many times have I heard someone tell me "X is so smart. She reads!" And while reading is undeniably important, and reading is power, reading can be an entry into a million worlds, and reading is even a break for parents - reading is surely not the be all, end all skill that must be acquired in Kindergarten. By sending my children to a Waldorf school, I'm betting my children's futures on it.

I'm betting instead, that developing a child's imagination is the very best thing we can aid them in doing. I'm betting that giving kids tools in a classroom that they must learn to negotiate with others in the room is important. After all, that large log propped in the side of the classroom simply cannot be moved by my child alone. No, Connor must gather a friend, they must decide what to do with it, they must be willing to determine a leader and a follower. They must, in order for everyone to be satisfied in the end and willing to try it all again, come to agreement about the object's purpose. In many ways, I feel like I've slowed time back down to when Fulghum was writing is acclaimed essay.

In just one month, Connor will leave his Waldorf school and enter a public school classroom where he will be put in a room with peers who have spent their last year doing completely different things than him. I'm vowing to savor every last moment of summer between now and then.


This post was inspired by the book "The Costume Trunk", written by Bob Fuller. The book is a children's story about children spending their day imagining a place called Paddywhack Lane. It's a sweet story that Helen and Connor both enjoyed. As a member of the From Left to Write book club, I received a free copy of the book. I usually pass these along to friends, but I'll be keeping this one, as Helen and Connor still think reading a book about 999,999 times is a good use of their time.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


This morning on our ride to camp, Helen announced her intention to marry Connor. Connor responded by letting her know it wasn't legal, with the helpful tidbit that it was also not legal to marry your cousins. I thought it was rather diplomatic of him, because he could've said something like "I don't want to marry you because..." True to form, Helen responded by saying "Connor, it is too, legal! And I am going to marry you." Connor then remarked "it is not legal, and I'm not discussing it with you any further. Take it up with Mom." She started arguing with me about it, and I punted to Ed. I believe he's the person that first informed Connor that marrying siblings and first cousins was illegal. Why, I do not know, unless he was trying to torture me with a conversation like this some morning when I least expected it.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Without Even a Glance Backward

This morning, Helen attended summer camp with Connor. It is the first time she's been dropped off without an adult being present, unless you count the time I had a kidney stone and dumped her off with a friend who was NINE MONTHS pregnant at the time. I went to the playdate for about a half hour before I headed to the doctor as a follow-up to my evening in the ER. (And don't worry, as my childcare has been unstable these past few weeks, with the leaving of one au pair and the arrival of another, I warned my friend to not allow me near her, lest she end up watching my kids again - with little to no notice!)

Helen let Ed know that she had been looking forward to being dropped off, (OK, Helen, I know!). After Ed dropped Connor and Helen off, he reported to me that Helen ran right onto the playground without even looking back. I'm guessing she was nervous that if she looked back, someone would notice her and she'd be taken home, clutched from her beloved "drop-off" experience.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Diving - Take 2

Growing up, my mom had a theory. She thought nobody should be given an "A" in any class for the first grading period. What would the student have to work for, if they already had the highest grade? As her daughter, I thought this was a terrible idea. However, now that I'm a mom, I'm beginning to see her point.

Thursday night, Connor had his second dive meet. He completed the same dives as last week (front dive with a hurdle and a tuck, jumping back dive, and front flip), but the judging was a bit pickier. It was still a hoot to watch. Last week's money dive - the back dive with a jump - did not yield such extravagant results as it did before, but he did complete the dive. And once again, because most kids in his age group choose to complete a pencil jump (degree of difficulty 0.5) and Connor complete the flip (degree of difficulty = 1.4) for the third dive, he ended up winning. Again.

And again, he was completely pleased with himself, and his coach rocked it (even giving Connor a huge bear hug in between dives to help keep Connor warm).

But Connor knew his back dive was not as good this week as last week. And now I'm wondering - will he want to work hard to do the back dive better? Or has he decided that he is the King of 5-6 year old boy divers (of which there are not many), and he doesn't need to work to be on top? In many ways, it doesn't really matter. It's just diving. But I'm starting to see my mom's point - at least a little. Of course, maybe Connor will decide to try and become King of the 7 year olds - which will actually be a pretty difficult feat. At least half of those kids can complete a third dive!

Ed's comment? The video above is going to make for some good human interest footage in the Olympics someday. If he gets there.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Today, I registered Connor to attend our local public elementary school. He'll start first grade in the fall. As confident as I am that this is a fantastic school, I still almost cried. You see, earlier today, Connor spent some time painting during summer camp at his Waldorf school. Just like every other time he has painted this past year, he was given three jars of paint - red, yellow, and blue, a high quality paint brush, and a wet piece of paper affixed to a painting board that the painting would dry on. It's a beautiful setup, and one I can now replicate at home since I finally purchased painting boards.

When I arrived at the public school, children were painting in the flower garden out front. Their supplies? They had one of the crappy plastic paint trays where you have to dip your paintbrush in water to free the paint. That was not inspiring.

But I turned in my deed showing that I lived in the neighborhood, a health form, several other random required forms, and that was it. Connor was enrolled in first grade.

I sent the following note to Ed:

"Your son is now registered to be a tiny cog in a very large machine, where he will be issued sub-standard art supplies and asked to thrive.

Welcome to government schools."

So, in short, we are now officially part of the problem.


Wordless Wednesday: Cheesy Poofs!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Painting the House

Our house has lacked "curb appeal" since we moved in. For starters, part of it was randomly painted brown. The landscaper who worked with me on the front yard told me that it needed to go. The roofer told me it was really ugly, and I know a few other people commented.

A few weeks ago, Ed decided to paint the random brown part of our house white. Wow. It makes a huge difference. And not just because it'll be easier for me to see the outline of a child if they ever attempt an escape via that window.

Connor was delighted to help paint this part of the house. Ed was delighted that one of the roofers agreed to paint the part of the house that was very difficult to get to, and required someone who knew how to climb around on a steep roof.


Saturday, July 9, 2011

First Dive Meet

On Thursday, Connor participated in his first dive meet. I was nervous. We had attended an "A" meet, the previous week, and Connor had picked up on the following items.

1. 5 is a really good score (diving is scored from 1- 10, and we saw the youngest divers)
2. Receiving "no score" is really bad. (Something that happens when you fail to complete the dive you've signed up to complete.)
3. He would probably at least get 5s. (Confidence that kid has, I tell you.)

I picked up on the following:

1. The youngest age group is age 10 or under. There's a lot of difference between a 5 year old and a 10 year old!
2. Getting a 2 would be a miracle.
3. Sometimes, diving hurts.

I wasn't sure how his little ego would take getting crushed, given that he wasn't on track to get all 5s, but I didn't want to broach the subject too harshly, because I didn't want him to be worrying about it. I want him to worry about clearing the board and not needing to go to the ER - although I don't think he even realizes this is a possibility.

I needn't have worried. It was a "B" meet (which is why he could participate), and the youngest age group there is 5s and 6s. Also, the worst score they give is a 2, and at one point, someone completed the wrong "dive" (they performed a front jump into the pool rather than a back jump) and one of the judges quickly called out "score it as a front jump". And so the other judges followed suit. Amen. Hallelujah.

Connor's first dive was a hurdle front dive. He was the only one in his age group to complete this dive. Most kids opted for a "falling off front dive", or had a coach assist them into the water.

Connor's second dive was a jumping off back dive. Most kids did the falling off back dive, a few did a back jump off the diving board, and a few just jumped off frontwards. Notice the air he gets on this dive - and recall that this is the dive that he recently smacked very badly, and his coach shouted at him "Connor, I'm glad you were wearing that smack suit, because otherwise that would've hurt". He nailed the dive.

Connor received all high scores for this, including at least one 6.5. The announcer forgot to announce it, and his coach shouted "announce those scores - let him hear it" and Connor was out of this world thrilled. I'm sitting far away, but you might be able to pick up on his delight in this photo.

I've said it before. I love this coach. Love him.

Finally, for Connor's third dive, he did a front somersault. He had the option of pencil jump (degree of difficulty = 0.5) or the flip (degree of difficulty = 1.6). He went for it - and landed it - splashing me in the process!

After Connor's group was done, Coach Bobby shouted "hive fives for the divers" and that's when all the kids on the team stood up and started high-fiving Connor like he was Greg Louganis. Connor was so proud.

Connor, you've come a long way!


Updated: Connor learned today at his dive lesson that he placed first. He was so thrilled that when I walked in the door today he shouted "Mom! You won't believe what happened. I won the dive meet!". He later told me it was the best thing that had ever happened to him. And then he told me I should take some lessons so I could learn how to dive better.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Homemade Friday: Wax Hand

When we were in Squaw Valley last winter, Connor and Helen made candles at a candlemaking shop. For a while, they were too nervous to burn them because I think they both believed the candles would just disappear. That, however, is not the case - because they are both huge candles.

While in Williamsburg, the kids had an opportunity to make other was creations - Helen made a jar candle, and Connor made a wax hand at the Yankee Candle Company. The hand is seriously awesome. Connor had to make two of these, because the first one couldn't be pried from his hand in one piece.

Connor, with a claw shaped hand. I thought it was fabulous. Sadly, it ended up in the trash bin in several pieces.

What could be more awesome than a rendition of your child's hand floating around in a tub of ice. Fist-shaped = much easier to remove from hand.

After the wax hand was released from Connor, he had it dipped in green and red wax, so now a fist of Connor's sits on my mantle with green, white, and red stripes - just like the Italian flag. I might have preferred one color, but Connor was set on having as many colors as possible - which turns out to be two, with white in between them.

Helen had a ball selecting which color of wax she would deposit in her jar. Ed was not as enthusiastic.

Afterwards, we ate lots of candy at the candy store embedded in the Yankee Candle Company, bought some fudge, and then called it a day.

I wish I had a was hand of Helen, but she was too short to be able to dip her hand in the wax and also, having Connor keep his hand still was hard enough, asking Helen to do it would have been an impossible task. I would love to have a collection of wax hands of both Helen and Connor though. I think it'll be fun to see how their hands grow over the years.


Disclosure: For this vacation, my family was guests of Greater Williamsburg. I received a free candle and wax hand from the Yankee Candle Company.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chincoteague - 2011 Edition

I've been heading to Chincoteague almost annually since 1995, when my boss gave my coworker keys to a house he had rented but was unable to use. That was a huge mistake of my boss (I've always wondered if he got that security deposit back), but great fun for me and the 20 or so other people that piled into that little house for the weekend.

Over the years, the trip has mellowed considerably. Which is probably a good thing.

This was the first year that Helen truly embraced the beach. No more being annoyed by sand for her - she was ready to play. Most of the time. She still enjoys sitting in a chair with a towel beneath her feet so they don't get too dirty. But luckily, the rest of the time she seems able to cope with the dirt.

This year, Therese and Rob introduced the boys to the boogie board. And, no surprise, Connor loved it.

Helen wasn't quite as into her board as Connor - which is good since she can't actually swim. I like to have her holding someone's hand when she's near the ocean. It just makes me feel more comfortable. And she's happy to oblige, though she does love the "way deep" water when a parent, usually Ed, takes her past the breakers.

I'm happy to report, that we accomplished every single item from our list of things that Connor insisted we do the next time we went to Chincoteague. I didn't actually look up this list prior to departing for Chincoteague - and as it turns out - I didn't need to. Connor and Helen remembered every.single.item.

As a review:
1. Get a toy. There was a cheap plastic horse, trailer, and car at the Chincoteague Pony Centre. We weren't on the island more than a few hours before Connor recalled how "Daddy had promised he would get a toy" and that's the one he wanted. We're not that into buying a bunch of plastic junk, but Ed and I both agreed that if Connor could remember the dumb thing for a year, he could have it. Wonder what egregious things he's going to remember from his childhood?

2. Go to Mr. Whippy. We had actually done this last year, but not enough for Connor's liking. Just in case you wondered if Helen has grown in the past two years, check out these photos - taken in 2009 and 2011. The sign hasn't changed. The kid sure has!

3. Ride the ponies at Chincoteague Pony Centre. Again - we did this last year, but not enough. For Helen's entire ride, she kept chanting "giddy-up, giddy up". The teen horse leaders were shocked. I wasn't.

4. Ride the convertibles. We rented the mini car for an hour, and Helen thoroughly enjoyed her 20 minutes in it. Ed did not enjoy his hour rattling around the beach nearly as much. When describing Chincoteague to a babysitter, Helen noted it was "a place where you can rent houses and little convertibles". She also casually mentioned, while at the Build Your Own Cookie stand that "if, you  know, we just happened to want to rent a convertible again, there was one right over there. We could just walk! See! It's not far at all."

5. Golf. We actually managed to hit both courses.

And of course, the list was longer than that. The thing we did different this year? We left the fair before the fireworks, drove about an hour and saw a fireworks show from the side of the highway, and then kept right on truckin', with both kids sleeping. No more ruining vacation with a long drive!


Monday, July 4, 2011

Firsts at the Beach: Periwinkles and Raw Oysters

This past week, we made our annual trek to Chincoteague Island. As always, it's been a blast. Helen dove right into eating a raw oyster that Captain Barry plucked from the ocean and followed it up a few nights later with several periwinkles.

Here is Helen holding a bucket of the periwinkles (snails) that she helped pluck from a nearby dock.