Sunday, May 29, 2016

More Gabe

One of the girl’s favorite books is I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll. Surprisingly, even though she is terrified of everything, the idea of monsters under the bed did not frighten her. In fact, she loved Gabe the monster so much; she decided that she was going to be him for Halloween last year. Mind you, Gabe is green and she was pink/purple, but when asked what her costume was, her reply was “Gabe”.

I Need My Monster is in our regular rotation of books for bedtime. She’s a big proponent of rereading (night after night after night) so when we’re on a roll with a book, it will be with us for a while.

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to attend BookExpo America in Chicago. There were many publishers and authors there discussing new books that would be released soon. As I walked among the shiny, slick covers of new and soon-to-be-released titles, I saw the familiar black cover and fonts of I Need My Monster.  I felt it was necessary to stop and inform the nice publishing lady how much my child loved the book.

But, as I approached the booth, my eyes examined the cover a bit closer. WAIT A MINUTE! There are TWO kids on the cover of this book!

I immediately snatched up the galley and began examining the cover mere millimeters from my eyes. Yes, there were in fact two children on the cover…I Need My Monster only had one. Who was this new kid? Where was Gabe? What was going on? Oh My Gosh…is this a new book?!?!?! Fortunately, the nice publishing lady came over and answered my questions as I babbled them incoherently at her (even including the story about my kid dressing up as Gabe).

The girl was so excited to see the new monster book, entitled Hey, That’s My Monster, due to be published on September 1, 2016. The story and illustrations are wonderful and just as entertaining as the first book. I am required to read BOTH books at bedtime now, but they are both so good, that it is easy enough to read them over and over (and over).

Bedtime reading reminded me of the importance of rereading. As I reread Hey, That’s My Monster for probably the twentieth time, the girl and I had some rather in-depth discussions about how the illustrator chose to show that Emma was making noise. Because we can’t HEAR sound in a book, the illustrator has to figure out a way to show that to us. So the girl and I had to examine the pictures thoroughly to find the ways the illustrator showed us what was going on.

Since we have read the book SO MANY TIMES, the girl has the first part of the story memorized. She can recite the first few pages, so he likes to ‘read’ the first few and then tell what’s going on in the pictures on the next few pages. But, she also asks questions for things she doesn’t understand. She wanted to know if Emma was playing with her dinosaurs on the blanket for a reason. After we talked through a few pages, she was able to answer her own question.

We are able to focus our bedtime reading conversations on thinking about the story, because we have read the words so many times, she already knows what is going to happen. This allows her to think beyond understanding the immediate story and build a deeper understanding of what is going on. She’ll need this skill later in life, both in school and in the outside world.

In school, so often we are worried about making sure the students can READ the words of a book. I completely agree that this is an important skill. But, pulling a group of students together to listen to a rereading of a familiar (and well-loved) story can also allow for deeper conversations and thinking that may not normally occur. Conversing about books with one another is an opportunity we shouldn’t deprive students.

I Need My Monster by Amanda Noll

Hey, That’s My Monster by Amanda Noll
Published September 1, 2016

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Homework Already

I am THAT parent.

The one the teachers talk about over coffee in the morning.
The one they shake their heads about and give knowing looks to each other.
The one they have secret names for when I’m not around.

I didn’t plan to be THAT parent. I’m not even sure how I got to this point. I just know that somehow I had to take a stand. Maybe a quiet one, for now. Maybe a small one, for now. But I know bigger ones are coming.

It started simple enough. When the girl moved to the 3-year-old room, she began getting a ‘Friday folder’. In the folder were two worksheets – one with her name three times and the other was usually some sort of additional tracing sheet: letters, numbers, shapes, etc. At first, these were new experiences so the girl was excited to try them out. We’d get out special pencils and markers and ‘trace’ our name and letters. Her fine motor control is off, so she never really stayed on the lines, but she had fun. We’d send the papers back each week and the next Friday there would be new papers. She felt like one of the big kids, so we kept going.

A few weeks ago, her enthusiasm for her homework tasks began to decline. It started to involve a lot of nagging on my part in order to get her to do the work. And when she did do it, she didn’t enjoy it; she did it because I told her she had to complete the sheet. A few weeks later, she was avoiding her folder altogether and waiting until Monday morning to do her sheets before she went to daycare.

Finally, about four weeks ago, she said, “Mommy, I don’t like doing homework,” that’s when I knew something had to change.

She’s three.

Three. Years. Old.

She has a LOT of years of homework ahead of her. More years of homework than I care to imagine. Homework that I hope has been carefully considered before being assigned. Homework that I hope is thought provoking and provides opportunities for conversations and sharing. Homework that I hope is open-ended and short, rather than rote and time consuming. Everything that the worksheets were not.

I rebelled. I started throwing the sheets away. 

Lately, our weekends have been spent digging weeds and worms out of the backyard. We’ve been busy reading books and playing with stickers. Her Lego houses have become more elaborate and detailed. There hasn’t been time for worksheet practice.

I’m okay with that.

I’ll own being THAT parent, if it means my kid gets to be a kid for a little while longer.