Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lily's first day of school

Lily was sitting at the breakfast table last week, and I told her that one of the things I like most about her is her sense of humor. She smiled brightly and then asked, "Why did the fish cross the road? To get to the other tide!"

And sure, it's a kind of obvious little kid joke, but it makes me happy on a couple of levels. The first is that she has a sense of humor, and there are a bunch of traits that go into that, chief among them intelligence, empathy and interest in entertaining your listener, all of them, I think, are essential to being a complete human being. Another thing that makes me happy is that she's still at the age that I can encourage her interests. She heard that I thought that a sense of humor was something that was good, so she showed hers off. A couple days later she regaled me with a whole performance of Halloween jokes. ("What did the mummy detective say at the end of the case? That about wraps it up!" "What's a ghost's favorite amusement park ride? The roller ghoster!" "What's the problem with twin witches! You can't tell which witch is which!")

There's a lot of truth to the old chestnut that "Minds are like jello. The trick is to put in as much good stuff as possible before they set." I've talked about schemata before (they're the structural framework we use to organize knowledge), and I think that these are largely established for her at this point, but we can still help her shape her attitudes that she'll carry with her for the rest of her life. 

That's why Pre-K is so disappointing. She had her first day, and she said she hated it, and I think she's right to hate it. As I mentioned before, she misses the cut off date for kindergarten by three days, and that's the only criteria the local district uses. They're covering the color yellow now and Lily's "homework" was to color in a poorly drawn picture of a duck and a flower. 

What's she going to take away from this? Not her colors. She's known those for years. If you'll forgive the digression for a moment, there's a school of though that there should not be unenforced laws on the books, because the existence of those laws and the awareness that they are not taken seriously engenders contempt for legitimate authority. And unfortunately, I think that's the only kind of lesson this program can teach her, that school is a place where they tell you things you already know and that you do things because someone in authority tells you to do them.

This puts us in a lousy situation as parents, because do we lie to her and tell her the program is worthy of her respect when it's clearly not? That's not a great solution, but neither are any of the others, such as telling her her it's shitty and she'll be spinning her wheels for another year.

Feeling the excitement

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