Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Old School...

Last week, the kids started another school year. We now have one in eighth, one in fifth and the youngest in all-day kindergarten. Mostly, my wife handles the chaos that is getting all three ready for the day. Occasionally, I'll make a lunch or put socks on one of them. But, I have a hard enough time getting myself washed, dressed and out the door for my day to be of any use to the rest of the family.

Despite my ineptitude when it comes to the morning routine, I excel in the area of homework. I'm the go-to parent when it comes to difficult math or science problems. And, my journalism degree comes in handy for the "Language Arts" (that's what they call English, Reading & Spelling these days).

Though I've always been able to tackle the tough homework questions, I feel my days are numbered, especially with the eight grader. Once serious algebra questions start coming home, I'm grabbing a life boat, some oars and my pride before heading to shore. Bailing as the homework savior is the one time in life when quitting is a better option than trying. I know my educational limits -- now it's time for my kids to know my educational limits. It's precisely the reason I've been hammering home to them the idea that at the top of the list of important things to do while in school, regardless of grade, is to make friends with the smart kids.

The good news is my kids have not yet approached me with anything that looks like sentence diagramming. I swear I didn't learn to actually read until high school. That's because just about any real sentence I came across in grade school needed to be dissected like a frog in biology class. The only real difference between the frog dissection and diagramming a sentence was that at least I could recognize a frog bone a frog muscle and a frog heart. I had no idea what I was doing with nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. I was clueless, yet I was one of the best in my class at doing it -- sentence diagramming that is, not amphibian autopsies. Who knows, maybe I was an idiot savant when it came to sentence structure. That's what I thought when I was younger, but then I realized that I was just an idiot and did an exceptional job of guessing the answers. Guessing, I've found, is not an ideal strategy to use in dealing with career and family issues when one enters the world of adults.

Similarly, the metric system has only occasionally reared its ugly head in my kid's homework papers. When I was in grade school the teachers had us convinced that we would not be able to function as adults if we did not learn the metric system. Like African Killer Bees that were due to build a giant hive at the end of our street by 1980, we would need to take heed or face a gruesome demise. I guess teachers missed the memo that said "Unless You're Planning To Become An Olympic Swimmer, Diver or Track & Field Athlete, The Metric System Will Be A Huge Waste Of Time For You And Your Students."

I pretty much pulled the plug on learning anything math-related that didn't require a calculator after hearing my high school algebra teacher tell our class that we'd end up using less than 10% of what he was teaching when we got into the real world. That was refreshing. That one comment shaped my mathematical life. It was a lot like learning that size doesn't matter and only the good die young.

So, my kids don't have to worry about diagramming sentences or learning the metric system. There's still an outside chance that those crazy killer bees took the scenic route on their way to Ohio, but I'll save my children the uneccessary concern.

The thing my offspring have to deal with hits much closer to home -- it's called Peanut Allergies. My youngest is not allowed to bring in anything that contains peanuts, including a seemingly benign peanut butter and jelly sandwich. PB&J is dangerous? Apparantly, to anyone with a peanut allergy it is. So, there is a ban on the favorite sandwich of American youth in my daughter's school. My wife's school doesn't ban the sandwich, but makes the afflicted kids sit by themselves, away from people who might be packing toxic peanuts or their derivatives -- like lepers.

I'm not sure when the whole peanut allergy thing first came to light, but I'm pretty much convinced it's a hoax. At best, it's unfair to peanut lovers. I wonder if my youngest was allergic to cheese if the school would stop serving pizza. Or worse, if she had the dreaded combo allergy of both cheese and salami -- potentially, lunch would be need to be abolished altogether, at least if we were playing by the same rules that are being used for the peanut allergy people.

But that's just me, right? School has been a haven for stupid rules for as long as I can remember. Like not touching the water fountain with your mouth and having to raise your hand to ask permission to fart in class.

In reality, not much has changed. The teachers still teach. The kids still learn.

And I...well, I'm still just an idiot.

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