Volume 19 • Issue 15 | August 25 - 31, 2006

Back to School 2006

Chapter books and homework? Uh oh, look out

By Jane Flanagan

School is in the air. I’m writing this from the country where crisp, cool August days are spurring feelings of melancholy among a lot of tanned individuals. Me included.

I’ve had the great good fortune of enjoying an old-fashioned summer. Old fashioned because I spent the entire time up here in Connecticut near a lake. My 8-year-old son, Rusty, who did not like school last year, was very happy here. And since he was happy, I was happy.

In the morning, he’d jump into his shorts, grab his sunglasses and we’d leisurely drive along the rolling hills to camp. Midafternoon I’d pick up a tanned and happy boy and we’d head to the lake. There he played with his friends for hours and hours. It’s been the most relaxing time of my parental life. Between boogie board surfing, sand castles and diving for clams, my son and his pals rarely required grownup interference. My job was relegated to standing by with towels and snacks. Once a week, we’d stay late to barbeque and I’d have to drag him out in the dark.

But now it’s all coming to an end. All because of school. Rusty will be going to second grade and neither of us is looking forward to it. Memories of first grade still linger. He just didn’t jibe with his teacher last year, and apparently when you are 7 that means you will not jibe with anything. Thank God he continued to behave well in class, but at home he was not pleasant to be around. And that kept up for a long… time.

Fortunately, Rusty did learn to read in first grade, but he isn’t what I’d call enthusiastic. This summer, thanks to an easily accessible local library, I’ve been taking out a stream of books in a desperate attempt to pique his interest. And there was one book he liked. It was about a kid who had a really lousy day at school. Things got so bad that the character went home at lunchtime to start over. The kid put on his pajamas, went to bed and counted to 10. Then he jumped up, got dressed and headed down to the kitchen for cereal. Rusty laughed so hysterically I couldn’t help but infer a cathartic element.

A glance at the lesson plan for second grade is not cheering me up, either. I see that chapter books start this year. Chapter books? Reading further down I spot a disclaimer. Picture books will “remain an important genre.” Thank God. We’ll be enjoying that genre for a long time to come. And then there is homework. At his school, homework begins in second grade. Judging from his violent reaction to the odd project that came home in first grade, this should be fun. I’m already trying to plot ways not to be the Homework Enforcer: Put him in after-school homework hours? Right. “No way mom!” Plead with my delightful 20-year-old babysitter to take on the role? Just how much do I have to pay her for that thankless task? Promise my husband I will do morning drop-off every single day this year if he’ll be the homework guy?

Well, on the positive side, I see that the second grade social studies curriculum will have them traveling around the neighborhood to learn about local stores, etc. That’s good. He’s always game for anything that takes him out of the classroom. At one point last year I asked him what his favorite subjects were. “Gym, recess, art and music,” he said. In that order.

I just received a mailing from the school about preparing your child for the fall schedule. It’s important to get the routine going ahead of time, they say, and I know they are right. And with just a short time left, I should be heading back to the city now. But I can’t. There’s a phrase that keeps reverberating in my head: “Once more to the lake!”


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