Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Educating Mom...(again!)

As a parent--although of course I'd prefer my children to continue believing that I know it all, for as long as possible--I do realize that my education is an ongoing process.  As such, I'm currently studying 1st grade (for the second time, in case I missed anything a few years ago) and 4th grade (to catch up on what I might have missed since I was in elementary school...in the 70's...yikes!)  The great news is: the alphabet and numbers we use are PRECISELY the same as when I was a kid!  The bad news is: you guessed it, absolutely everything else seems to have changed.  Here's just a small sample of Education in the New Millennium: there's no "borrowing" or "carrying" digits in math problems; it's "regrouping" (and honestly, it makes perfect sense when you learn it this way...along with your 6-year old).  Derek recently finished a science unit that involved identifying distinguishing features of fingerprints (that'll reveal who made off with your favorite pencil, right?), and Riley regaled us tonight with the information that "cotton and polyester are not waterproof, but wool and nylon are!" (I hope they were using fabric swatches, and not each others' clothing to test this!)

Okay, that covers math and science, which I suppose we should expect to have evolved, with updated research, new technology, etc. But I thought I could count on good old reading and writing. Those are familiar, constant subjects, unchanged by time...aren't they?  Well, I sauntered into 4th grade to volunteer one day, holding onto exactly that comfortable assumption.  I sat and listened attentively (being a good role model, you know) while Derek's teacher reviewed a short story with the class.  She was about to dismiss them to go do their written assignment, when she held up a finger for one last reminder:  "Remember when analyzing the story, be sure to use "Swibus"!  she said brightly.  Wait, I'm sorry, WHAT?  I don't think I have a Swibus.  Am I supposed to?  Actually it sounds kind of painful...aargh, they're going to throw me out of 4th grade! (fortunately, all this was Internal Parental Meltdown.) And I had been doing so well up until then!

Since I was supposed to be assisting these 9-year olds, guiding them in the writing process, shaping their young minds, as it were...I hastily cornered Mrs. W and hissed out of the corner of my mouth, hopefully too quietly to be heard by the students, "Um, what the heck is a "Swibus?" She grinned reassuringly and explained: "It's a way to retell the most important details of a story.  S.W.B.S.  Somebody (the main character) Wants (their motivation) But (the major problem confronting them) So (what they do to resolve the issue)."  (I guess since 4th graders are just so darn cool, they made an abbreviation to remember it; you know, "Hey, have you finished your SWBS, dude"!)  Oh, well when you put it that way, it's not so so daunting--who's afraid of the big, bad Swibus?

I was relieved that I wasn't suddenly losing my hearing--or my mind--in the middle of the 4th grade...and I was even more pleased when Riley brought his homework home on Monday and I saw the instructions: "read your story, then  write about Somebody Wants But So."  Oh, sure, Swibus!  We're all over it!

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