Thursday, June 24, 2010

I never learned THIS in Schoolhouse Rock!

As a parent, you send your kids off to school each day, trusting that their hours away from you are filled with useful lessons that increase their knowledge and personal growth, and valuable information to help them along in life. You fervently hope that at least some of this learning will make a strong impression and stick with them after the bell rings...that is, until you discover that the burning topic that has fixed itself indelibly in the minds of the 4th-graders is: Cannibalism. (Yes, you read that right! And no, I'm not kidding!)

Allow me to explain. They spent a great deal of time this year studying the Jamestown Settlement, the early American Colonists, and the Powhatan Indians. (Sounds interesting and enriching, right? Wait for it...) Now, Jamestown had its share of serious troubles, including rampant disease and hunger. Experts say that when things got really desperate, the residents were forced to eat people who had died, in order to survive themselves (who knew?).  Let me just interject here that I am sure this was a MINOR point in the examination of the historical period, probably mentioned quickly in passing...but to the 10-year olds, it was apparently an Instant Sensation. And I probably wouldn't even know about it, except that I volunteered several times in May, when the class was working on their Final Presentations, and I happened to help out one little girl who was obsessed with writing a play...about a family who ate the youngest brother (it was somehow hilarious and creepy at the same time--as if Stephen King was inhabiting the body of a big-eyed, ponytailed elementary school kid).

Anyway, I didn't realize the macabre discussion had carried over to the homefront, until Riley was looking at a list I had made of potential "Things to Do" this summer.  At the bottom I had written Williamsburg/Jamestown. With an expression of mild alarm, he asked, "Why would we want to go to Jamestown, Mom...there's no FOOD!" (hence the gravity of the situation:  no field trips allowed without snacks, you know!) I assured him that in fact, they have resolved this issue in modern-day Jamestown. After a moment of relief, he began laughing; "That's good, but it would be funny if you walked up to your neighbor and said 'hi neighbor'....CHOMP!"

Sigh. 4th-grade Curriculum, meet 1st-grade sense of please, whatever you do, refrain from asking "what did you learn in school this year" unless you're prepared for the gruesome consequences!

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