His First AP Test

He’s a freshman taking AP Human Geography. It’s his lowest grade entering exams. But when I dropped him off this morning to take his first AP Test, I gave him a high-five, “You’ve got this!”

Keeping our fingers crossed…

5 Days To Go: He begins re-reading his text book. A few hours, face serious, with the book open.

“Can I take a break?”

“Nope.”

“I’m soooo tired.”

“Focus.”

“You’re soooo mean!”

4 Days To Go: Same thing. Book open. Occasionally shouting out interesting facts. Then, Dad starts quizzing him.

Not good. Blank stares. Lots of “we didn’t learn that” and “wait… I know this… don’t say anything…” then “why can’t I remember?!”

Time to intervene.

3 Days To Go: I find an AP Human Geography Quizlet online. More than 900 terms. Multiple ways to test himself. “This is your life for the next three days. Go!”

“Can I take a break?”

“Nope.”

“A snack?”

“Focus.”

“You’re soooo mean!”

2 Days To Go: Amazon Prime delivers AP Human Geography flashcards. Quizlet by day. Flashcards with Mom by night.

“Can I go to bed?”

“10 more.”

“You’re soooo mean!”

1 Day To Go: Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. And then… “We did that one last night!” and “Ohhhhhh, nailed it!”

And then, finally headed to bed… “I’m really looking forward to the test tomorrow. I think I enjoy reaching mental capacity.”

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Looking Back in the Weeks Before 8th Grade Graduation

I volunteered to interview our school’s 8th graders for a Middle School Graduation video, and jotted down some of the things they shared. I asked a lot of different questions, but what I expected them to remember and talk about wasn’t always important to them. Only a few could come up with a story from Lower School, while I can tell you numerous memories from my own early years. First grade. Third grade, certainly. And Fourth.

Only a handful could remember anything that happened in the news, yet here too, I could talk for hours about how I perceived or even participated in historic events of the 1970s and 80s. And oddly to me, quite a number of “best field trip” moments took place on the bus rides there. The only bus ride memory I have took place in fifth grade, when one of the boys told me I was “gullible,” which I was, but I thought it meant “huggable”, and it made my day.

Funny story:

“We were seeing how many of those little orange slices you can stuff in your mouth. We were backstage, and I was on the floor laughing so hard that I started to spit them out just when an admission tour group came through. I’m guessing none of thosekids are coming here.”

Wisdom you might share with your second grade buddy:

“Don’t stress out. It gets harder every year, but when it does, you’re ready for it. And it’s not that hard, because the teachers help you.”

“Spend as much time with your friends as you can.”

“Be yourself. Don’t worry about what other people are going to say, because most of them are nice.”

Best part of the Washington DC trip:

“It was on the bus ride, and he was sleeping, and his brother and I were throwing cashews at him. And then he woke up, and yawned, and I threw one perfectly into his mouth. He was soooo surprised.”

“Well, one story, I can’t tell you.”

Best day at school:

“My very first day here in sixth grade. I came here and I realized I could be myself. I didn’t have to be crazy or anything for people to like me.”

“They were going to tear the old Lower School building down, and so on the last day of first grade, they let us write on the walls. I remember we were drawing on the bathroom walls. Everywhere. But then we started drawing on the carpets, and apparently, they were planning to re-use the carpeting. So, our teacher got really mad. That was the best day.”

Middle School Dances:

“The dances are pretty ‘cringy’, because there are like two slow dances, and there’s like three couples who dance together, and everybody starts freaking out because they’re dancing.”

“Everybody only has six dance moves, and they just do them over and over.”

“Most importantly, you get candy.”

Something that happened in the world during your time at the school:

“The Broncos winning the Super Bowl.” “The Patriots winning the Super Bowl.” “The Broncos winning the Super Bowl.” “The Patriots…”

“I will always remember the day in December 2012, when the world was supposed to end, and we were all standing out on the field looking up at the sky waiting. And then it didn’t.”

The “No Technology” Consequence

Our ninth grader came home with a few unusually bad grades. He’s losing focus, missing assignments. So, we banned technology until the end of the school year. Seven weeks. No video games. No YouTube videos. No watching South Park episodes for the millionth time.

To him, this means passing through the Gates of Hell.

So, he spent Sunday pouting and doing the homework that he had claimed earlier in the weekend was already done. Look at that! He actually studies for Spanish tests in Hell.

Although not the one who came up with punishment, I, of course, was the one getting the silent treatment. Until he handed me a letter Sunday evening. A full page. Almost as long as his English paper on A Farewell to Arms.

“Dear Mom and Dad…” it began before launching into his “re-commitment to getting straight As” and his strategy to achieve such a feat. He glared at me while I read how he is going to focus on studying so much that he will not be able to talk or eat until school gets out.

“That’s a bit extreme,” I said, annoyed at the theatrics.

He stuck his chin out and shook his head like a four-year-old stubbornly trying to win a not-speaking contest.

“Then show the letter to Dad.”

He shook his head again, as I knew he would.

“If this is your plan, Dad needs to know.”

So, he stomped upstairs, and I could hear them talking softly, before my son returned to me in the kitchen. With the greatest of seriousness, he said, “Dad and I figured out a better plan. I’m going to focus on schoolwork from 3-5:00 every day.”

“Perfect,” I smiled.

“Except for a five-minute break at 3:55.”

No technology… but speaking. And eating. And re-committed.

Our Picky Eater

In December, my son’s teacher informed me that he wasn’t eating lunch. She was wondering if there might perhaps be a connection between hunger and a lack of afternoon impulse control. “Could you please try packing his lunch?”

A few weeks later, with behavior back on track, another teacher mentioned his “picky” eating.

This “picky” eater ate three lamb chops two nights ago, shrimp tacos the night before. At restaurants over Spring Break, he tossed aside the Children’s Menus for beef tenderloin and broccoli, lobster quesadillas, and huge fish sandwiches.

When I pack his lunch, he eats pasta with pesto, bacon sandwiches, leftover sesame chicken, bags of celery and carrots, and his latest go-to request, mozzarella and tomato sandwiches with fresh basil and a splash of balsamic vinaigrette.

“It’s delicious!” he grins. “Can I have that tomorrow too?”

For the record, we’re being played.

A Fourth Grade Rap

Spring brings the school talent show, when kids get to show off their skills not usually celebrated in the classroom. It is always surprising and delightful. This year, our fourth grader was on a mission. First, he came home upset that he didn’t have someone with whom to perform. “Everyone is already doing something with someone!”

I emailed the teachers asking if anyone else was still available. Apparently, no one had yet signed up. Everyone was fair game.

The next day, he came home smiling, “I know what I’m doing for the talent show! A comedy show about how much school sucks.” Still smiling, but not a joke.

Train wreck coming!

So, with a cup of coffee in hand, I dashed off A Fourth Grade Rap just in case I could sway him.

Hmmmm. “Mom… it’s just… I guess some of it’s good.”

So after editing my work and adding a verse, he gave the okay to send it to a few of his friends’ moms in a recruitment effort. “Anyone up for doing a talent show rap?”

Two pair of cool shades, a backwards baseball cap, and two rehearsals later, we had ourselves a hit.

Fourth grade is cool. The kids are really funny.                                                                           But you gotta learn your skills if you want to make money.

Remember when Mr. B fell off the boat?                                                                                    The water was cold. He wished he had his coat.

Tuesdays rock if you go to Homework Club.                                                                               Ms. Grant gives out gum, and gets the big DUB.

We practice our fractions on IXL.                                                                                                   We copy eight words until we can spell.

Fourth grade is cool. The kids are really funny.                                                                           But you gotta learn your skills if you want to make money.

We know our state capitals, north to south.                                                                              And we’ve learned it’s bad to have a big mouth.

Did you find your fiftieth license plate?                                                                                Getting Puerto Rico was really great!

What did you make for our African feast?                                                                                Your Invention Convention idea was beast!

Fourth grade is cool. The kids are really funny.                                                                            But you gotta learn your skills if you want to make money.

We play Danish Rounders and Seven Up.                                                                                Guess what, mom, today my pin got moved up!

We read Ranger’s Apprentice, Holes, and The Cay,                                                                 Filled out our Reading Logs every day.

We have the best teachers in the U.S.                                                                                       We’re sorry recess was sometimes a mess.

The kids are really funny. Fourth grade is so cool.                                                                       We have the greatest grade in the whole school.

I mean, let’s get real. Which grade is better?                                                                              Just consider this our thank you letter.

Thank you soooo much Ms. Grant and Mister B.                                                                    Fourth grade has been an awesome year for me.

We hope fifth grade will be this super cool.                                                                            We’re almost ready to rule Lower School!

Like Grandfather, Like Grandson

My eighth grader, typically an A student, received a C- on his notecards for a research paper on World War Two. He reads a lot and loves history, so his knowledge about the subject before the unit was already fairly impressive. The teacher said he hadn’t followed the instructions regarding the sources to be used. He relied too heavily on a single source, which might lead to bias.

True. A good lesson for my son…. maybe.

I read the 75+ notecards, which were full and demonstrated knowledge of the topic, but he did rely heavily on one source – a rather long book that most of his classmates wouldn’t have bothered to muddle through. He had more than double the number of notecards required (or matched by most of his classmates). Had he completely erased this book from the project, he would have still had enough other sources, notecards, and information.

Hmmm.

But after days of stewing on his behalf, I remembered a story my father told me. It involved another history lesson and a teacher whose name he remembers even now.

My Dad, according to the tale, was taking a high school essay exam for a class that covered the American Revolution to Teddy Roosevelt. The final essay was to list any books (and the authors) he had read that addressed that timeframe. Excited to share, he went straight to that essay, and was so absorbed in making his list that he barely had time to complete the rest of the test.

He listed 57 books and their authors.

Like my son and his C-, if you’re a rule-follower, his grandfather should have bombed the test. But his teacher, the one whose name stays with him now that he is a grandfather, was so tickled to have a student that passionate about reading and history, that he upped his grade to a B.

When I first heard that story, as a girl who was very good at following directions, I remember thinking, “what kind of ding-dong does that?”

My father. My son.

And even though the “ding-dong question” still hangs in the air, I love that they are both so passionate about books and history.

Another lesson: history, at least in families, repeats itself.

The Nerd and the Space Pirate

Last week, on the way home from instrument lessons, my ninth grader was extolling the joys of looking at leaves under a microscope. He described the different things he saw and was practically bragging to his fellow travelers about how much fun he is having in Biology Lab.

Our eighth grade friend commented from the back seat, “I don’t really like school that much.”

“You must have a favorite class,” replied my doubting son.

“Well, I guess I would say Social Studies, but…”

“Then you have to take AP Human Geography. That’s what I’m taking right now and…” he launched into a soliloquy about all the fascinating things he has learned. He went on and on and…

Again, from the eighth grader in the back seat, “Seriously though, if you want to be smarter socially, you need to stop talking like this.”

Undeterred, the socially clueless ninth grader followed with, “Then what do you want to be when you grow up if you don’t like to learn about anything?!”

Silence. Then, “A space pirate.”

A few days later, as if he’d been pondering the conversation since then, my ninth grader confided, “He’d actually be a really good space pirate. He’ll just have to like Astronomy.”