Tag Archives: school

Does nature know when school starts?

Summer has been rolling along nicely here in Michigan.  The temperatures have been a bit up and down, but for this state that is normal.  For the most part though it was summer weather, summer wear — flip flops, shorts, tank tops, and sunblock.

Then it became the last week of August.  The temperature turned cooler, people were in a variety of clothing styles, an indication they weren’t quite sure what the weather was going to dole out and were making their best guess.  You would see someone in shorts, then someone in pants, a tank top then a sweatshirt, sandals then boots.  Why?  Because even though it wasn’t “cold” it felt that way to some.

Does nature know kids are going back to school and that temperatures must drop to get children in the mood for school?  Is this a system of reminding parents that if they haven’t purchased that exhaustive list of school supplies they need to handle it now?  How did the school schedule get established in the September to June rotation so that children are attending during the coldest months of the season?

I have learned that our traditional September to June school schedule was established at a time when the United States was a farm-based society and children had to help with spring planting and fall harvesting of crops.  The September to June schedule with three months off in the summer best suited the needs of children being able to help in the fields during the main production period with as little interference as possible in their education.

Even though we are no longer a farm-based society and industrialization has ended the time of children needing to be taken out of school to help with farm duties, the schedule has held pretty close to the traditional rotation for decades.  My statement thank teachers

A number of states have tried to increase the hours of a school day, lengthen the period of time that students attend, and some have attempted a year-round school schedule.  What many places have found is that increasing the number of hours a student attends also increases operating costs for the school district and many can not afford the increase.

The level of learning, length of time a student spends in school, methods for teaching, and every other aspect of education in this country is constantly being evaluated and changes made.   The length of the school year is normally determined by a specific number of days or hours of instruction. One hundred eighty days (180) is the minimum required by many states, five states require more than 180 days, and five states require less than 175 days.  Here in Michigan students are required to attend a minimum 180 days.

So what this all means is that it is now September and for the next 9-10 months there are certain times of day when we may be delayed by a school bus.  We will see children carrying backpacks loaded down with books, lunches, and a number of other necessities for school.   The rotation of school sports, PTO meetings, parent-teacher conferences, homework, report cards, and school breaks is now in session.  Whether nature knows it or not, the school year has begun.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Activities, children, education, exploration, Family, farm, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, nature, parents, school, summer, time, Weather

The Dog Ate My Homework

It was spring, sunshine streaming down, making everything warm, drawing me outside.  The smell of freshly cut grass made me stop, pause and breath deeply, enjoying the clean scent.   Someone had their windows open, I could hear a baseball game blasting on a TV.

My left arm wrapped around my textbook, American Government.  The page of questions to answer, sheets of loose-leaf paper and a pencil lay on top of the book.  At least I could enjoy the beautiful weather while I did my homework.

I saunter through the grass, enjoying the feel of it on my bare feet.  I pick a spot under the weeping cherry tree, its branches full of pink blossoms flow back and forth in the breeze.

I let go of the book and supplies in my arm and they drop to the ground, disturbing the green grass around them.  Not having been mowed yet, the blades of grass bend and curve around the folder and paper.

I cross my ankles and plop down beside my homework, landing in the grass in a cross-legged “Indian style” position.

I flip open the book and begin answering the questions…Name and define the branches of government.  What are the fundamental goals of political parties?  What is the Due Process Clause?  On and on through twenty questions.

I throw my pencil on top of my answers, lay back on the grass and stare at the sky.  The warm sun envelopes me and I slowly relax, closing my eyes.    I feel the breeze grow stronger, I hear the papers in the grass beside me rustle.  I open my eyes and sit up just as a gust of wind whips by, grabbing the sheet with my homework and whipping it up into the breeze.

I spring to my feet but I’m not quick enough.  A dog goes running by and before I can move he catches my homework paper in his teeth as if it were a toy and continues running!  homework-in-dog-mouth

That little homework thief runs like mad, zig zagging down the road, through lawns, around bushes, dodging my attempts to catch him.  Panting, I stop to catch my breath and so does he, just far enough down the road that he can make another get-away when needed.   He watches me as if to say “ha-ha, beat you!”

I take a step toward the dog and he immediately takes off again.  Entering the park he continues at a full run until he gets to the edge of the river.  Dropping my homework at his feet, the dog stands guard over it, tongue hanging out as he pants.

The wind swirls around us, the paper flutters then lifts and before the homework thief could snatch it back I watch it fly out over the river, floating on the breeze.  The speed of the wind slows, the paper drops toward the water, then by luck it lands on a log floating down the river.

As long as the homework stays on the log and I can figure out a way to catch it and retrieve the paper it will be saved.   I walk along the water’s edge, keeping my eye on the log, watching it carry my homework farther and farther down river.

I hear a humm, and it is getting closer, louder.  Oh no!  This is not going to be good.  No, not that!   Hmmmmmmm, and sure enough, two jet skis come flying up river full throttle, zipping back and forth, creating a huge wake.  The water sloshes back and forth, rocking everything in its path.

The log that is transporting my homework rocks back and forth under the pressure of the rolling river water.  The log spins, twists, and my homework flies off the log and floats down into the cresting waves.  Soaked with water, it spins and twists in the beating waves, slowly sinking into the water until it is no longer visible.  Gone forever, wrecked and sunken at the bottom of the river.

So, that is why I don’t have my homework.  It was caught in the wind, stolen by a dog, carried to the river’s edge, blown out over the water and onto a log that got caught in the tossing and turning wake of jet skis and then sunk to its death in the bottom of the river.

The teacher looked at me in disbelief.  Eyebrows raised, lips pursed, and a grin slowly kept across her face.

“That story is so farfetched it has to be true.”

Now what do you think, did this really happen or do I have a very vivid imagination?


Homework: Bring Your Kitty To School.  'My dog ate my homework.'

Author’s Note:  I received a writer’s prompt in my email, which is something designed to get your creative juices flowing.  Usually they don’t inspire me because I am normally a non-fiction writer, but this one intrigued me and I thought “why not?”  After all, it is a well-known excuse and the challenge was to come up with an elaborate story as to what happened to your homework because the teacher didn’t believe the typical “my dog ate my homework” excuse.  A fun break from my normal type of post.

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Filed under children, communication, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, school, Weather, work

Toot My Own Horn

As a writer I love putting thoughts down and sharing them. This week I am going to share two columns I recently had printed in the local paper…I’m going to toot my own horn.

It seems as if the government is getting involved in our lives more and more, taking control in areas they never have in the past. Once such area has to do with the regulation of school lunches, so I wrote a column School Food Guidelines Will Not Solve Kids’ Nutrition Problems. I am sharing it with you here both as a link and with a copy of the column posted below in case the link no longer functions, as sometimes happens with newspapers.

The other column is on a subject much more personal to me.  My grandchildren were taken by CPS, parental rights terminated and although my husband and I tried to foster and adopt our granddaughters CPS/DHS fought us all the way. That battle is the subject of a book I am writing. I recently wrote a column that Foster Care Policy Change is Modest Given the Need for Reform.

I hope you enjoy the subjects on which I have chosen to “toot my own horn”. If you have any accomplishments to share, please do in the comments section below.

Times Herald Column - Foster Care Policy Change Times Herald Column - School Food Guidelines

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Filed under Adoption, Child Protective Services, children, CPS, Department of Human Services, DHS, education, Family, food, Foster Care, grandchildren, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, lunch, nutrician, school

Let’s Get Prepped

Corbins First Day  of Preschool September 3, 2014

Corbin ready for preschool. Photo by Caroline Kelch.

This week as the children in Michigan returned to school I was thinking about how the more things change, the more they stay the same.  There were numerous Facebook postings of children on the first day back at school.  Photos were posted of my grandsons.  I don’t remember my mother taking the “first day” photographs every year, but I did take them of my children and that seems to be a popular modern activity.   In reflecting on back-to-school preparation and school routines there are generational similarities that may or may not be an improvement.

Austin and Corbin ready for school.  Photos by Caroline Kelch.

Austin and Corbin ready for school. Photos by Caroline Kelch.

I was of elementary school age in the 1960’s.  Back-to-school preparation involved getting 2-3 new outfits, new shoes, tennis shoes for gym class, new pencils, an eraser, a box of crayola crayons and a notebook and loose leaf notebook paper, and of course your metal lunch box, carefully selected with your favorite TV show on the outside and a matching thermos to carry your beverage.  There were no book bags or backpacks.

If you lived in town you walked to school, if you lived in the country you rode a bus.   There is a home movie of me and other students walking to school my kindergarten year on the shoulder of a road.  There were no sidewalks and we walked with cars driving past us on the roadway.  My first grade year we moved to the small town where I grew up.  Subdivision streets did not have sidewalks, so again we all walked on the side of the road.  Somehow we all managed to survive the hike each way without anyone getting killed or kidnapped.   Today’s parents would most likely cringe at the thought of sending their young children out to endure such a walk on a daily basis.

In the classroom each student had a desk with a lift up top so you could store all your supplies inside.     School started at 9:00 am with the Pledge of Allegiance, and then class instruction began.  There was a 15 minute recess in the morning,  and another recess in the afternoon.  A hot lunch could be Back to School Desk 1960spurchased or students could pack there own, and there were no restrictions on what could or could not be brought to school to eat.  Lunch was a one-hour period in which students sat wherever they wished in the cafeteria and once done eating would get up and go outside to play for the remainder of the lunch period.  If it was cold weather this involved walking back to your classroom area, unsupervised, to put on your hat, boots, etc. and then exit onto the playground.    School was dismissed around 3:20 pm.  Latch-key did not exist, everyone went home after school.    While some kids had extracurricular activities, for the most part the time after school was open for to play with friends, watch TV or do chores.  Elementary level students rarely had homework.

When my children were in elementary school in the early 1990’s shopping for school included several outfits, shoes, gym shoes, backpack, folders, spiral notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, colored pencils, Kleenex, glue sticks, highlighters, red pencils,  lunch boxes, thermos, and other items I have since forgotten.    If you lived within a mile of the school your child was a “walker”, but the majority of the parents drove their children to school.  There was always a long line of vehicles going in and out of the school parking lot.  School began with announcements over the intercom system and each classroom then had the option of saying the Pledge of Allegiance.  When my oldest child was in third grade the district we lived in eliminated recess and it was Back to School Suppliesnever restored.  The only physical outlet the children had was gym class once a week, and art class.  Children who could not sit still or pay attention for extended periods of time were diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and medicated.   At lunch time students had assigned tables, sat with their classmates, and had to remain there until lunch was over.  Lunch was a quick affair, only 20-30 minutes to get your food and eat.  If a child forgot their lunch money or lunch they were offered a free peanut butter and jelly sandwich.    With most children coming from two income families, many children went to latch-key after school or had other organized activities in which they participated either immediately after school or in the evening.    My kids were no exception, participating in cub scouts, girl scouts, Awana, Karate, dance, and probably a few other things I have forgotten.

Now zoom forward to the 2010’s.  I  have grandchildren who are in elementary school.  Clothing and shoe requirements are about the same as they were when my children were young.  Backpacks are a must and children ride the bus to school even if they live in town.  My daughter deals with a lengthy list of required school supplies.  Many schools have supply lists available in advance at major stores so people can stock up.  You are not purchasing supplies for just your child, some items are shared with the entire classroom.  Required supply lists include notebooks, paper, folders, pencils, pens, highlighters, markers, glue pens, erasers, scissors, Kleenex, hand sanitizer, and snacks to share with the class.  Young children often have a lunch box as well.  Schools are managed tightly for security, teachers meet the youngest grades outside as they exit the bus, and escort them back to their buses at the end of the day.  Entrance to the school is only possible through the main entrance, all other doors are locked to prevent entry from the outside.  Most schools have eliminated the Pledge of Allegiance because of its reference to “One Nation Under God” and the fact that this reference might offend some people.  Classrooms have a mid-morning snack time using food provided by students.   Classrooms and/or schools may have restrictions on certain food items due to other children having allergies, with peanuts and/or peanut butter being a frequent restriction.  I believe there is limited recess time for the children to go outside and play and do not know what the arrangements are for lunchtime seating but assume it is a controlled and organized system.  Many children are scheduled with after school activities.Back to School Bus

What I question is whether things have improved over the generations.  Things were far more relaxed in the 60’s and 70’s than they are now.  There was less structure giving children more  opportunities to make their own decisions and they had more unscheduled free time.  More time was allotted for play/recess during the school day which allowed students to expel excess energy and learn social skills such as how to resolve conflicts on their own.  You rarely heard of children being medicated for disorders, allergies were practically non-existent, and violence such as stabbings and shootings in schools were extremely rare, basically non-existent.  If children got into a conflict or fight they may have been sent to the principal’s office, but suspensions from school for such conflicts were not common.  If our parents worked we went to a friends house after school or by around age 11 were allowed to let ourselves into the house and stay there alone until our parents came home.  Actually many of us were babysitting other children by the age of 11 or 12.    Parents of today may read this and wonder how we survived without having our lives properly organized.  The answer, we learned how to cope with boredom, how to socialize and resolve conflicts without violence and how to take care of ourselves so that we were well prepared to go out into the world and be productive members of society.

School - How do you turn this thing onChildren that grew up in the 80’s, 90’s and the 2000’s have led a much more structured lifestyle.  Their time has been mapped out for them with activities, video games and TV to prevent boredom.  School days are organized with where to sit, who to socialize with at lunch, and any physical or verbal conflict results in suspension due to “zero tolerance” policies.   Children do not learn how to conquer boredom, resolve conflicts or care for themselves because their time and care is mapped out for them on an hour-by-hour basis.  In my opinion this has resulted in increased violence amongst young people who are frustrated, angry, over-scheduled, and have never learned coping mechanisms for boredom and conflicts.  While not all children demonstrate these symptoms and many are successful, there are also a high number who are unable to adjust to the realities of adult responsibilities.

While it is doubtful that things will ever change back to what they were in prior generations, I think it is important to look at the overall affect our lifestyle is having on our children and try to make whatever adjustments we can to make sure that they learn all the skills they need to be successful academically and socially in school and later in their adult years.

I welcome thoughts on what you think on this topic.  Whether you agree or disagree, an active discussion is a great way to open minds and consider different viewpoints.

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Filed under children, education, Family, grandchildren, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, school