Back to School, Kids!

Will’s school starts shortly, so I had him try on his uniform pants from last year. It’s no surprise that none of them fit. 15-year-old boys have a way of shooting up several inches while they sleep.

It won’t be long before the neighborhood children will be seen walking up the hill to school, their new backpacks on display. There is something about those first warm days of school when summer is just transitioning into autumn that I have always loved.

I have written before about my love for school as a child, more in elementary than in high school (but that’s another post.) My elementary school years were happy ones educationally.

A triumphant return from my first day of kindergarten, 1971.

We walked the two short blocks after our family moved a few weeks after school started. The Lutheran day school and Neeskara Elementary kids walked on one side of Washington Boulevard, and the St. Sebastian’s Catholic school kids in their uniforms on the other side. Occasionally, a little inter-school rivalry would take the form of shouts across the boulevard, but it was always pretty good-natured.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about my first day of kindergarten and the joys of Miss Weber’s class. First grade, however, was a bit of a shock. Having come from a largely non-academic, half-day kindergarten, first grade was very serious business. The teacher was not a grandmotherly teacher like Miss Weber. She was tough and got us right to work. Rather than tables and chairs and a big play area in the classroom, the desks were all lined up in straight rows in first grade. It was time for serious work.

They did not push reading in kindergarten back then. I was more than ready and had learned my letters even before kindergarten, but it was in first grade that phonics were taught. I remember the magic of finally being able to de-code letters in a book. It was thrilling to know that I didn’t need anyone else to help me with reading anymore. The world of books was all mine.

The highlight of the year was the spring concert where the girls in each class dressed up like a specific kind of flower. I only remember that my flower costume was a sort of periwinkle color and that we were instructed to leap around the stage while the piano played. Hardly any first-grade girl wouldn’t love being a dancing flower, and I was a very enthusiastic one.

I feel sad to think of children for whom school is not a joy, but an endless source of misery. It doesn’t take much money to prepare school-ready children. It does take a commitment on the part of at least one parent to read and converse thoughtfully with a child, to train a child behaviorally and of course, to provide a stable and loving emotional environment. Without these key elements, children are hindered from learning properly, and are potentially negatively impacted for the rest of their lives. It all starts with the family.

The bins of school supplies are all out again at the stores. I bought Emmy some big chunky crayons today. She likes to scribble with pencils, so I thought she’d like to make some colorful swirlies. Before we know it, she’ll be ready to sit down with me on the sofa with the old phonics handbook that has served our children well. I took 15 minutes a day to drill the sounds, and within a short time, they read beautifully. I’m looking forward to the day when the world of books is Emily’s for life!

For some American children, back to school means back to home-school. The world of American education isn’t what it was. Schools, both private and public, are often a microcosm of the moral anarchy of our culture today. Case in point: I saw pink girls’ notebooks today at Wal-Mart that read, “Eye-Candy” and “Love Muffin.” Seriously. Parents have to weigh carefully what is best for their particular child. Thanks to technology, home educators have an endless array of quality options to choose from.

Even when we home-schooled, it was a delightful day when we all sat down to get started, pencils sharpened, text books and notebooks crisp and new. Each school year is a new beginning with many joys and many challenges ahead. Another one is just about to begin…

4 thoughts on “Back to School, Kids!

  1. Margaret L. Been says:

    I loved grade school also, and those warmish/coolish early September days! The only thing that dampened that lovely time of year for many of us, back then, was the shadow of polio which hovered from mid-August until the first frost.

    I’m so thankful I could raise our children without that shadow! I recall it every year around this time, along with my parents’ anxiety!

  2. Marilyn says:

    For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schafer Macaulay, Home Grown Kids by Dr. Raymond Moore, Hints on Child Rearing by Trumbull and Saving Childhood by Micheal Medved (forgive my spelling–just remember off the top of my head) influenced my view and way of parenting, thankfully so. I grieve when young moms have not even heard of such books and depend on daytime TV and reality shows to shape their parenting skills. I have seriously considered giving a bundle of these books as a baby gift rather than the traditional fare. Thanks for sharing. I felt like someone read my mind as I read.

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