Snow what?

February 17, 2014 by Katy Brown
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olympic rings

Looming for art and social studies.

In the past two years of serving on academic committees, I’ve been pelted with the same question:  “Katy Brown, don’t you care about your child’s education?”

With your No. 2 pencil, fill in the bubble “YES”.

The long answer, in essay format, is written below:

I’ve been well known to irritate people for a laissez-faire attitude and leadership style.  Things will be OK.  Everything will work out. Just calm down.  This is a strange personality trait considering how much I worry and fret. But when it comes to my children’s education, I don’t panic. I’m teaching two elementary school-aged daughters to do the same thing:  Don’t wring your hands. Use them.

When we were sitting at home watching seven inches of snow fall in the same amount of hours, a number of learning opportunities popped up.  Olympic coverage was on NBC stations, which we observed with interest.

Where is Sochi?  Let’s look it up.

Why is it snowing on the mountain but not on the ground?  Let’s look it up.

Why do Americans not like Russia? Let’s look it up.

Where will the summer Olympics be held?  Let’s look it up.

Why do winners bite their gold medals? Let’s look it up.

Why does that man have red, swollen eyes?  Let’s look it up.

In one snowboarding competition, we learned that Sochi is really a tropical area of Russia, where snowcapped mountains overlook green palm trees.  Despite those 60-degree temperatures in February, we learned about The Cold War.  Much to my youngest daughter’s excitement, we discovered that the next summer Olympic games will be hosted by Brazil (and Rio 2 will be in theaters on April 11). Finally, as my daughter slurped back two teaspoons of Tamilfu, we learned all about conjunctivitis, Bob Costas and the Center for Disease Control.

We covered social studies, science, math and health all in an hour.

After that, we shoveled snow.

Is it true that no two snowflakes are alike?  That’s what scientists say, but let’s look it up.

This is hard work! My arms are tired!  It’s good cardio exercise.  Look it up!

Is this the type of snow that we can use to make a snowman?  (You know the drill….)

And in that hour, we learned about microenvironments.  A snowflake begins to form when water vapor condenses around a speck of dust high in the clouds—more than six miles (ten kilometers) high—and then crystallizes.  (Yes, I had to look that up.  Credit: National Geographic)

When we came inside — for lunch made with bottled water — I told the girls that I didn’t care what they read as long as they had a book in their hands. Fascinated by British culture, my oldest daughter read from “Who was…Queen Elizabeth” and “Who were …The Beatles” books.  Our youngest one read from the Baby Mouse series – “Skater Girl” and “Mad Scientist”.

Then…a surprising twist:  A text message appeared on my phone from Ava’s fifth grade teacher.  “For every day of school missed, students are required to complete activities online for math and reading.”  Achieve 3000 is a website filled with lessons that cover grammar, reading comprehension and writing assessments.  Math links cover estimates and decimals.  And, they had workbooks and textbooks in their backpacks.  They could read ahead, or in the case of our daughter who lost two more days due to illness, she could read again.

It was a full day of indirect study, but the girls stayed busy. It was mandatory. I had multiple deadlines to meet, including a series of press releases that needed to be translated from European styles to American linguistics and publishing formats.  Just because I work from home doesn’t mean I can blow off time.  As a parent, there are no sick days.  As a self-employed worker, there are no snow days.  If I don’t bill clients, I can’t pay my bills.

After a month of missed classes, I admit that I’m tired of the uncertainty, and I’m frustrated that we haven’t been on schedule since the beginning of November. I have my own concerns about year-round school and how 180 days of instruction are worked into the calendar. I do have strong opinions about standardized testing and Common Core curriculum.  But what I don’t worry about is what my daughters are missing during cancelled days due to icy roads and smelly water.

Now, I know that not every child has this type of support at home. There are critical issues to deal with such as adequate supervision, proper nutrition, enrichment learning and preparation for the next grade level. Children should be in school.  But when they aren’t because the central office says they can’t, then we as parents have to accept a little more responsibility.

What makes me so smart? I’ve got all the answers, huh? Hardly. I make more mistakes than you’ll ever know about. But I do know that an academic state of emergency requires individual problem solving. This is the time when parents are tested.







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