Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Our three day weekend ended in a meltdown.  Little, who is eleven, had a paper due.  One she hadn't worked on over the weekend.  Her weekend was spent being a kid and playing with friends. We didn't find out she had the assignment until the breakdown happened.  At 10:00 pm. The night before the paper was due.

She was bawling.  Her sister had made fun of one of the sentences she'd written.  Little said she knew, she knew,  she was a terrible writer.  TERRIBLE.  And her teacher was going to be mad at her.  HER TEACHER WAS GOING TO HATE HER.

Little's father and I told her not to worry about it.  Don't do the paper.  It's not worth the stress. But she couldn't let it go.  She worked herself into a frenzy.  Her shoulders tensed, knotted, and then she couldn't sleep.  She went to bed around 1:00 am.

Now me -- I'd been working all weekend. Nights.  And Monday was my zombie day.  A day I was awake but not fully present.  A day of recovery.  I rubbed Little's shoulders.  Told her it was okay. But I did not have the energy to help her write. I also did not get to sleep until the wee hours of the morning.  Middle, who went to bed at the same time, had to be up a six.  As did Papa.

Papa, graciously, got himself and Middle up.  He let Little and I sleep.  This afternoon he is napping. Because he, too, is exhausted.

Today we let Little play hooky.  I'll be getting the phone calls and admonishments from the school. Because it's not okay to miss class.

Today we went to the library.  And a coffee shop with macaroons and blue cheese and pear sandwiches.  We are working on this assignment.  Eight paragraphs about dogs.  Something that should be simple but now is not.

Little is a good writer.  But she needs to be gentle with herself.  First drafts are just that - first drafts. They are meant to be corrected.  Writing takes time.  And patience.

Little, more than anything,  needs encouragement.  She needs to know it's okay to make mistakes. Goodness knows I love to write and my writing is riddled with mistakes.

And writing doesn't have to be rigid.  Talk to any teacher and they'll tell you no sentence should start with "and".  I do it anyway -- rebel that I am.  The world continues to turn on its axis despite my literary transgressions.

Little also needs inspiration. Right now she is working on her own project. Something for fun. She is re-writing popular lyrics and infusing them with Minecraft lingo.   Is this any less valuable than a report on dogs?

I can accept stress in my life.  As an adult stress is my burden to bear.  But a kid should be a kid; which, to me, means to play and explore.  Not to stress and panic.  Not at eleven.

I worry for our kids.  All of them.  We are sacrificing their beautiful creative minds for quadratic formulas and papers on dog.  I worry our world has moved forward but our schooling has not. Not the fault of teachers but of system that is nothing short of an archaic bureaucratic nightmare.

Right now Little is taking a break.  She's written four of eight paragraphs.  She is petting the dog and singing.  Were she in school her behavior would be inappropriate, disruptive.  And rightly so.  I can't imagine trying to teach 30 to 40 kids, each with different needs.  

We, as a family, are working to find a solution.  For Middle this means a mixture of online and home/unschooling which will start next semester.  Little has also been given this option but she wants to stay where she is -- at least for now.

I'm trying to move forward with an open mind and an open heart.   But I worry.  For your kids and for mine.  What a world.