Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Norman Solution

Our public school system is trying to phase-in full day kindergarten.   Two years ago, the school board decided to offer a full-day program to families who wanted a longer day option and who were willing to pay over a thousand dollars to do so.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Our public school system has very little money and the money it does have is desperately needed to cover teacher's salaries, school maintenance costs and major student over-crowding.  And that's not even mentioning the fact that our school buildings are extremely old and most need to be knocked down and rebuilt. 

For all those parents who needed extra childcare or were worried about their children falling behind in academic work compared to our full-day kindergarten neighbors, the school board offered a solution:  pay for the longer day yourself.  To make sure that the children who were staying a longer day didn't have an advantage over the children staying only a half-day, the school board declared that the teachers could not teach anything new during the afternoon hours.  Instead, the full-day kindergarten students eat lunch, have a long recess followed by a rest and then they do some worksheets that review lessons learned in the morning. 

This sounded crazy to me.  Henry and Georgia did half-day kindergarten and both were tired and cranky after the four hours were over.  Neither one of them has fallen behind academically and I've never really understood why kindergartners need to be at school for so long.  Besides, I saw that extra afternoon time as a bonus two hours where I'd be able to get all of Josie's activities over with before I had to pick up the older two and begin driving them to all THEIR activities.  I'm still not certain how I'm going to get three children to three separate activities every afternoon next year. 

I am definitely in the minority.  At our school, Josie is one of only 7 children who leave before lunch.  There are so few half-day students, that the school board was forced to put them all together in the same class.  Some of the other elementary schools have more 1/2 day children - I know, because Josie plays tennis with many of them one day a week, while her full-day peers are still in school.  Deciding to be in the half-day program was one of our better decisions - and not just because of the great activities she gets to be a part of before school even lets out.   

Josie, it turns out, is EXHAUSTED by noon.  I've learned to bring a small snack with me in the car to distract her as we drive home.  Sometimes, it's all she can do to get out the car, take off her shoes and coat and crawl into the kitchen.  I don't know if it's from the physical activities or just the mental ones, but kindergarten wears Josie out.

Last week, we had a particularly bad day.  Josie was too cranky to tell me what she wanted for lunch and a trip to the pantry to look at options almost killed her.  I found her lying on the floor in a fit.  I tried reasoning with her, but it was no use.  I had to resort to Plan B:  The Norman Solution.

When I was little, my family had a cairn terrier named Norman, who used to like to go into the first floor powder room on hot days and cool off by lying against the cold porcelain toilet.  He liked it so much that he often refused to come out until my mother would make a trail of raisins on the floor which he would follow - Hansel and Gretel-style - out the door. 

I didn't have any raisins, so I used Goldfish:

It worked!  Slowly, the Josie began eating and following the trail of goldfish....

As she ate, her blood sugar was raised and her mood began to improve:

What a huge relief.

Next year, Josie will be in first grade and there's no half-day option.  Perhaps I should give her teacher a supply of goldfish in case things get bad!


Elizabeth said...

Better not give Josie a beanbag to play with. You might lose a digit when you go to take it back.

Tara said...

Oh, I remember Norman, and this post had me in tears of laughter. After I composed myself, I logged this idea away for use when next confronted by a low-blood-sugar child of my own. Which will likely be in the next 24-48 hours. xx

Angela said...

Martha, I haven't checked in here in a while, and when I did, you had a post that I could have written about my tired boy!

Long live half day kindergarten!!!

Martha said...

Welcome back, Angela! I'm so glad you came to visit. What's the deal... are our children the odd ones? How are those other kids getting through the afternoon!?!? They board of ed should do a debriefing at the end of the year so we can figure this out.

Trish said...

It is such a tough decision! I would have preferred no extended day option but really had a tough time with how it worked out. Although, my kindergartner didn't have a tough time - just the mother!

Martha said...

we've had a good year.. except just last week I found myself wishing that I didn't have to make TWO pick ups from school. I'm ready for Josie to be a full-day student.

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