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.


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.”

African Feasts, Spanish Fiestas, and Cheeseburgers

I typically make dinner for our family six days a week. So, you might think I relish the homework assignments where cooking is involved.

I do not.

Frankly, I’d rather write a paper, make a poster, spend hours on a diorama, or muddle through a calculus problem. And it seems that the African feasts and Spanish fiestas always happen during a week of tests, meetings, and any version of silly end-of-trimester chaos you can imagine.

I love project-based learning. I want more global awareness built into my kids’ curriculum. But I have boys who bite off more than I’d like to chew.

One year, my oldest decided to report on the history of cheeseburgers. Having never seen him more excited about school – and this was six years ago – we cooked up a cheeseburger buffet for 22 kids.

Big hit.


Tonight, my fourth grader and I are making a dish from Botswana that combines ground beef, milk-soaked bread, and strawberry jam. He found it on the Internet, but…

I don’t even know if it’s a real dish.

And after soaking the bread and chopping the onions, he cracked the egg, which exploded all over the kitchen counter and floor. “If that chicken were born, it would have ADHD!”

I know. He’s having fun.

Still, I cannot imagine a single 4th grader wanting to taste our dish.

Fortunately, my middle son, after his brother’s cheeseburger incident, decided that mom likes it when he volunteers chips and salsa. Every fiesta, always timed perfectly with the Christmas parties and end-of-year celebrations, he offers, “Mom, how about chips and salsa?”

And I can’t help but smile.

What I Love About 10

Today is Pajama Day at school, and while our middle school son wore sweats and a favorite Falcons t-shirt, no different than any other day, our 10-year-old strutted into school proudly sporting his flannel Snoopy Christmas pajamas.

Bright green. Snoopy. Charlie Brown. Woodstock.

Not a care in the world. No thought of “cool” or “not cool”.

Just lovin’ his PJs.

Struttin’ into 4th grade.