Thursday 9 August 2012

Kindergarten Readiness

I hate parenting workshops.

Oh man, do I hate parenting workshops!

I try as hard as possible to avoid workshops at all costs but the evil of the workshop is that it will insidiously try to hide itself in something that looks harmless.  You go and sign up for oh, I don't know, a Kindergarten Readiness program and BAM! all of a sudden you're tossing around a ball of yarn and shouting out words like an idiot.

That's how they got me.

When the Early Childhood Educator (ECE) running the program called me up with the basic information they told me I would be dropping my child off at 9:30 and then joining them again at 11:00 for Circle Time.  This sounded great!  I'd drop him off, kill some time running errands or whatever, and then come back when they needed me.  Finally!  A program that gives me a whole hour and a half to myself!  Hallelujah!

I should have known better.

As I dropped Frack off in the Kindergarten room I was directed to go into the room next door for the "parenting workshop".


I wander into the next room to see about 9 other Moms sitting uncomfortably at teeny tiny desks in teeny tiny chairs.  The ECE running this workshop, let's call her Miss Sunshine, hands me a piece of paper and tells me to write my name in large letters on it and place it so she can see it on my desk.

"Sorry, we have no name tags" she says apologetically.

She starts the workshop with an "ice breaker".

Every session we are presented with an ice breaker, and every time I have to resist the urge to repeatedly bang my head against my teeny tiny desk.  Each ice breaker is more excruciating than the one that came before it.  The first was designed to help us get to know each other (because fully grown adults are known for being awkward and having no social skills).  But once we got the introductions out of the way, each new ice breaker had to have some educational purpose, typically to demonstrate how children get frustrated.

Because that is apparently the only way for them to make the point that kids get frustrated.  Without the ice breaker exercise the idea of frustration could only be an abstract concept.  Because parents somehow made it to adulthood without ever having experienced frustration or knowing that our school aged children get frustrated.

It's like they're saying, "Hey, we could have saved everyone a lot of time and just told you what our point was but we had so little faith in your intelligence that we had to make you feel stupid on purpose or else you wouldn't get it.  Aren't we smart?"

Slightly less irritating was Miss Sunshine herself.

Look, I know I'm a bitch, especially in the morning.  I tried to like Miss Sunshine, I really did.  She was so nice and she was trying so hard to do a good job BUT....

....everything she said sounded like she was addressing a room of four year olds.  It was almost as if this woman had spent so much of her career working with and talking to small children she had lost the trick of carrying on adult conversation.

She used her big happy voice and spoke slowly using hand gestures.  She made simple statements and then followed up the statements by asking us questions where it's obvious that the answer is the thing she just stated.  If we tried to give any answer that deviated from what she just said it was "wrong" and then she would patiently repeat her original statement.  Shoot me now.

And then there was the disappearing "r".

Specifically with the word "library".  The first time I heard it was when she uttered this little gem:

"Reading and going to the liberry are good ways to strengthen the bondage you have with your child."

WTF?  Did I just hear that?

I look around the room and none of the other Moms seemed to have noticed.  

Maybe I just imagined the "liberry" part.  I know for damn sure that she said "bondage" which is hilarious, but maybe that was just an unfortunate slip.  Maybe I just need more coffee.

Is this something I should even care about?  Am I just being a language snob?  A grammar nazi?  But she's an educator for chrissake!  She had to go to college for this!  No, no better to just ignore it.  

To be honest, the "bondage" slip was the closest I came to genuinely liking this woman.  But that "r" in "library" kept coming and going like Kevin Costner's English accent in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves".

At the end of each workshop we have a group discussion where we are obliged to share how we are teaching our kids literacy skills at home.

"I make fingerpaints out of pudding and get him to paint the alphabet in it.  He can write his whole name!"

"I let her pick out her own books and then she reads them to me, in two languages!"

"I give him cardboard and crayons and he makes his own books with pictures and words!"

The worst part of this is that the Moms honestly don't seem to be bragging.  They are all acting like this is normal, mundane four year old stuff.

When it was my turn everyone looked at me expectantly.  Frack barely speaks one language and my attempts to teach him the alphabet have not made much progress because he's obsessed with the letter "H".  Any time he is required to write he only writes "H" even to sign his name.  He makes the biggest possible "H" he can and he is very proud of his "H" drawing abilities.  Hell, I'm proud of his "H" drawing abilities.

But compared to these Moms Frack's accomplishments, and therefore my parenting, are somewhat less than stellar.  I've never liked the idea of regimenting every minute of every day with some education oriented activity in mind.  What he loves more than anything is lots of physical activity so I mostly just let him run around playing and doing his own thing.  I read to him at bedtime and we do speech therapy but these things suddenly don't feel good enough.  I start racking my brain for some other literacy related activity he likes to do.

"Uh, well, Frack likes using the dry erase markers on the white board at home so we let him doodle on that while I'm teaching his brother."

I could hear their collective gasp.  They were all staring at me, faces frozen in shock.

What?  What did I do wrong?

"Okaaaaaay," says Miss Sunshine.  "But of course you have to be very careful when using dry erase markers around small children."

And the other Moms are clucking and shaking their heads about the chemicals in the cleaner and markers themselves.

Listen bitches, lighten up!  You didn't even ask me if I was using non-toxic Crayola markers (which I am) and last time I checked they are called "dry-erase" because you can erase them without the cleaner.  Obviously I don't let my four year old handle cleaning chemicals.  Also, it's not like he's not being supervised.  Because you know what dry erase markers do not dry erase from?  My walls and my couch.  You're acting like I let him sit in the corner huffing solvents.

Nevermind.  Nevermind.  You are doing this for Frack.  Remember that.

And it was great for Frack.  He's almost a totally new kid.  He didn't want to go to school and now he does.  He's much more outgoing with kids his own age and is learning how to make friends.  He's more interested in books and he is exploring other letters of the alphabet instead of just "H".  I wholeheartedly support the Kindergarten Readiness program even though I hated every last minute of it.

And now that it is mercifully over I intend to celebrate our graduation with cupcakes and a pitcher of sangria.  Because there's nothing quite like being an adult in Kindergarten to make you want to hit the bottle.


  1. Ugh, I think I would have taken off when they tried to put me in that room. Good for you for suffering through it.

    1. Believe me I was very tempted. But then I thought I might get into trouble like they would think I abandoned him or something. I'm still feeling sorry for Herman's Mom.