Homework Meltdown

1animated10-thumb2Little Eva is only six and in first grade, yet she has to do homework every night. Five nights a week, she has a math worksheet to do. Seven nights a week, she is required to read two little “easy reader” books. Since she was an infant, we have read a story or two to her every night at bedtime. Every night. This summer, Eva was happily reading easy reader books aloud to us as well. Now that she has to read them every day, it has become a chore and the joy of reading is already fading. Honestly, it’s killing me. My Masters in Education training and research taught me that children are better off learning to read at seven or eight. Furthermore, there is ample research on how children love to read until they are forced to do it for homework. School homework really can kill a lust for reading. I just never thought it would happen so soon. My friends who are the parents of second graders in the district warn me that the second graders are not only required to read every night, but they are required to write about it every night as well. This is just too soon.

When Eva gets home from a full day of school with a mere twenty minutes of recess and gym class only once every three days, she is very tired (don’t even get me started, my letter to the Superintendent about the need for more free play and recess has gone unanswered for over a month now). I’d much rather she have the choice to read aloud to us. However, if she takes a night off, she won’t get a cute stamp on her calendar for that day. If she doesn’t do her math homework, she misses out on the few minutes of “play time” which is really snack time. Incidentally, I don’t have her over-scheduled. On the weekdays, she has ballet one day a week and martial arts one day a week. On the weekends, she goes to Sunday school every week and Brownies once a month for an hour.

The other night, poor Eva was tired and didn’t want to do her math homework. She wanted me to give her the answers. When I refused, she flipped out. I had never seen her like this. She was knocking things off her desk, toppling furniture, kicking and screaming. She threw the worksheet at me and yelled, “Just rip it up Mom! Rip it up!” When I wouldn’t she grabbed it back and took a marker and blacked out all the answers she had done so far. This just broke my heart. She is way too young for this.

I am simply at a loss as to how I can change the homework policy at this school. They are so driven to get their scores up. They have made Kindergarten into first grade and first grade into third grade. My daughter is doing homework here in Skokie that my friends’ third graders are doing in Northbrook (schools with much higher scores I might add). Can I make a difference in this district that has been determined to excel at all costs? Would these administrators be willing to turn back the policies they just put into place in the last two years? I’d like to try.

Support Healthy Schools

Earth Friendly Cream Cleanser (a favorite of mine from a local company!)

Earth Friendly Cream Cleanser (a favorite of mine from a local company!)

The Healthy Schools Campaign is hosting a national summit on November 12th in D.C. to promote Green Cleaning in schools nationwide. Click here to sign your name in support and find out more about the summit. A recent Illinois law requires schools to use green cleaning products, but it is not a nationwide thing. Green cleaning is good for everyone. No strong smelling toxic chemicals for our children and teachers (and custodians) to inhale. No toxic chemicals dumped into our water system. No toxic chemicals created to pollute the earth. Oh, and no one is requiring the schools to buy prepared products. Nothing could be cheaper than baking soda, borax and vinegar (my personal favorite cleaning products) What’s not to love about keeping schools healthy places to learn? Yeah!

Oh Happy Day!

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Yeah! Barack Obama won!!! I feel so relieved, so happy, so much safer. When I woke up in the morning after election day, I found myself singing — really! I was humming and singing all day (part of that might have have been from the nookie I got the night before). Around the neighborhood, people were happy, giving thumbs up, raising their arms in victory. In some ways, it feels surreal. I have been voting in every election since I turned 18. That’s 21 years. I feel like it has never gone my way. After all, the last campaign election I actually worked on was Paul Simon’s. I had pretty much lost my faith in humanity. I wasn’t optimistic about this year’s election. To coin a phrase, I didn’t have the “audacity of hope”. Frankly, if George W. could be elected for a second term, and then Palin could be nominated for V.P., anything was possible.

In many ways, I feel a vibe in our community that is directly opposite the vibe I felt when O.J. Simpson got acquitted of murdering his ex-wife and Ron Goldman (a childhood friend of mine). I was so resentful of the Black people I saw high-fiveing each other . I felt hurt by the suspicious looks I got from the African-Americans I worked with. The whole city of Chicago seemed to be on edge for a long time after that verdict. We were divided by color, and it hurt inside (I don’t want to stir up trouble again, I actually believed Mark Furman wrongly and unjustly planted evidence, but that Simpson was guilty just the same. No matter what, two people had died and I didn’t understand the joy anyone could feel over anything related to the situation).

My point is, it is so wonderful to live in a city united. A city ready to be protected by an intelligent, thoughtful, optimistic, charming and gorgeous (oh sorry, is that relevant?) new President of the United States. Thank you citizens of my country, you have renewed my faith in humanity. You have brought hope back in my heart.

Studs Terkel: America’s Mirror

Studs Terkel died on Friday. If you don’t know who he was, now is the time to get to know him. The Chicago Tribune has an article paying tribute to him and WBEZ, our National Public Radio station, is replaying some of his interviews. As I was reading the 143 comments left so far on the Chicago Tribune website, I began to cry. Gadget Man laughed at me, “You met the guy once,” he snickered. I can’t talk to him about this. He said he has no interest in Studs Terkel. That was infuriating to me. That’s like saying, “I have no interest in Americans.” Anyway, I’m not feeling sorry for me (as I might when a good friend or a relative has died and I will miss them in my life), I’m feeling sorry for our country and for Chicago. Thank G-d he lived a long life and was able to give us so much. A few of the comments on the Tribune website summed him up our loss better than I could: B1c0516 wrote, “Chicago is a little less Chicago today.” Shannon, of Chicago said,”It’s like waking up and finding the lake gone.” Finally, Jeffrey Wagner of Sacramento California mourned, “G-d save us all, our mirror is broken.” If there is a G-d (and I believe there is), Studs is in heaven with his tape recorder in one hand and his wife’s hand in the other. Thank you Studs Terkel.