Back to School Letter to Parents: Your School Knows What It’s Doing

kidsatschoolDear Parents Who Worry About Your Kids’ School,

It’s back to school time, so for many, the anxieties are at an all time high. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember when every news article you read today seems to find a new way to trash teachers and schools, but the simple truth is, the majority of professionals working in schools know what they’re doing and they take the job of educating your child very seriously.

KidsBToS12I can remember the days when I worked as a reading specialist (That means I had two degrees in how to educate children.) in a diverse public school. I would sometimes get pulled into  long summer days filled with post-it notes on white boards that we shuffled around and around trying to get exactly the right schedules with exactly the right teachers to make the best days for students with the resources we had. It was never easy, we had to get very creative and it seemed to take forever. Often there had been some movement in staffing because of people’s lives changing (Someone was always pregnant or moving!) or some county mandate that added or cut positions. These changes didn’t always happen neatly in May or even June, to give plenty of time to make shifts, but instead they were last minute calls in July or even late August which meant you had mere days to hire someone and move classrooms before the students arrived.

rp_DSC_0008.JPGOne year, we were making huge changes to the curriculum and the placement of classes because the previous year, after many meetings pouring over data both empirical and anecdotal, the administration and staff decided that implementing the state ordered curriculum changes would be done more effectively if teachers and classrooms were situated differently.

LunchBoxesI can imagine what this looked like to the community. If you had to visit over the summer, the school was a physical disaster for weeks as we moved entire classrooms. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure it would all be finished by Open House day. It was. But then, the parents arrived with their students in tow to view the classroom letters posted to the outside door only to find what they were expecting may have shifted dramatically.

minivanmoveThere were looks of horror and some squeals of glee because Jan would have her favorite teacher again as they moved up together but Johnny would never have the 5th grade teacher he’d been looking forward to since kinder because now that woman was teaching 2nd grade. Of course the parents questioned us. Sometimes, very loudly and even angrily.

We had to assure them that none of these moves were made haphazardly. Every decision was made on purpose with their children in mind.

LEBackPacksAnd of course, none of this “newness” was intentionally meant to throw off parents and students, including the decision to announce it only a few days before school. Trust me, the administration and staff would have loved to have their fall wrapped up the previous spring with classrooms moved and teachers announced and all happy constituents. But that’s just not how life works.

sadgbabyIs it unnerving to all of those involved, this shifting and changing and uncertainty that comes in summer? Maybe. Likely, for the teachers and staff, it’s exciting and perhaps a little scary, but overall they like a challenge and the new beginnings September brings, or else they would have different jobs completely.

Sitting here now, do I as a parent wish I knew more, and earlier, about what to expect when I send my babies out of the nest in September? Of course. I have some mad-anxiety issues around this place. I sure would love to start planting seeds in June for what to expect for September. Instead I take the summer as the summer and worry about school when it starts.

BabyFGradHere is why.

Because, what I do have is trust that the people in charge at  my children’s school know what they’re doing and have the students’ best academic and social interests in mind when they make whatever decisions they make. I can’t promise, but I can say that’s likely true for your school too.

I trust the education process. The people in charge of the process went to university (and beyond) to know how to do this job. They continue to take classes and workshops and learn and hone their craft. They have been doing these jobs, some for many years, successfully. And believe me when I say you will not succeed at this job if you do not keep children at the forefront of your decisions. These people are professionals who, in most cases, know more about educating children than the parents that cross their classroom thresholds year after year.

3GonzagaBabiesThey may not know more about my child’s moods. They may not know about their food and sleep patterns and the anxieties that keep them up at night. But these school employees know how to educate kids and they take that job, and all the shifting and change that comes with it, very seriously. If you keep that in mind, I promise every change you field this September, you’ll field just fine.

Sincerely,

Once a Teacher, Always a Teacher

 

 

I Think I’m That Mom, So Judge Away

20150818_220431248_iOS‘Tis the season for all of social media to light up with joyous cheers of parents sending their children back to school. Somedays it seems I’m the only one not cheering. I hate school and I am dreading the end of summer that will come too quickly next week.

What's Better Than Summer Friends?

What’s Better Than Summer Friends?

I’m not sure what it is, maybe the fact that my kids get along pretty well so the fighting is minimum in our house. Maybe it’s the fact that they are all pretty self-sufficient this summer so we have equally enjoyed long, lazy days with little but our imaginations to occupy us. Maybe it is the fact that no matter how old I get, I am not a morning person and it seems neither are 2 of my 3 children so waking for school sucks every single day of the 185 days we have to do it.

20150818_195033068_iOSWhatever the cause, I am not the mom cheering about the return to schedules and sweater weather and pumpkin spice lattes. I’m the one crying in the corner, clutching my bathing suit and flip flops, hoping for just one more day of sun and sand. I treasure these days of summer togetherness. They are more precious with each passing year because I know as my babies grow, these days are numbered for sure. Soon enough, I’ll be alone, doddering around my house all summer wondering what I used to do all day to pass the time. Maybe that’s why I hate it so much, because the beginning of school means another year closer to the days they move farther from me.

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I know the reality is they will all go back, almost happily, next week and our world will speed up and roll right along at its school-year-break-neck pace and all will be fine. We’ll have festivals and holidays and birthday and trips. It will all go so quickly that soon enough we’ll be here, ending August, again.

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But even knowing it will all be fine and that good things lay ahead, I just can’t help but wish we had another day, or week or even month of summer days where it seems going slow and being a family are the only thing on the to-do list.

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Back to School Reminders that Time Marches On

IMG_5736 It’s the shoes that get me. Every year around this time I take the kids out for new shoes. They get school shoes, gym shoes and “weekend” shoes. Every year I marvel at how giant their feet are. I mean, how can my baby wear shoes from the women’s department? It seems impossible. Don’t we all have to go home and share baths right after this?

Every year, on shoe day, I cry. I find old baby pictures to stare at,  and snuggle up close to the box of clothes I just can not give away that I have hidden in the basement. I just hug the fleecy footed pjs and the first little Polo shirts. What is it about the clothes and shoes that bring home the rapid passage of time?

The funny thing is, I would never go back. As much as I loved having a house full of preschoolers and toddlers, I have hit my stride with a house full of tweens and teens. I LOVE this time of life, where our house vacillates between all-out screaming fights and laughter so loud and full of life that it travels down the block. It’s an emotional rollercoaster around here, almost minute by minute, but I love it all.

Those are my BABY's feet!

Those are my BABY’s feet!

And yet, my heart can’t help but pine for those tiny breadloaf feet that I had to dress in tiny shoes every morning, and the little boys and little girl who spent long summer days in a kiddie pool, or covered in homemade playdoh. The same ones who loved to snuggle right into my side and watch Super Why  on the couch after a long day of play.

I miss those babies sometimes, even if I love the big kids they have become. I miss my role as their mom even more. It’s hard when the result of doing your job well is that you put your own self out of work. I know they’ll always need me in some ways, but every year, as their feet grow, they need me less and less and that is something I just don’t think I’ll ever get used to. I miss those babies and I miss my job as their mom even more.

 

Water Resort Fun at Camelback Lodge & Aquatopia

CamelbackLodgeBandsLast year I wrote a post on our grand adventures on Camel Back Mountain in the Poconos. The entire family had a blast splashing at the Camelbeach outdoor water park and ziplining and rock climbing at the Mountain Adventures area last year. So, it came as no surprise to me that when the kids were asked about their road trip wishes for this summer, Camelback was high on their list.

Lucky for mom, this year the new Camelback Resort and Aquatopia water park was open for us to add to our list of adventures in the mountains.

I actually rode this thing!

I actually rode this thing!

Our trip coincided with important work stuff for dad and camp stuff for The Girl, so just the boys and I headed out on this trip. We were lucky enough to rope the Adventurous Aunt into the mix as well, which only added to the fun for all of us.

CamelBeachKidsWe spent some time during the day outside at Camelbeach where everyone raced from coaster to slide and back again. When we all got too hot and tired, we headed indoors where the splashing continued at Aquatopia. The kids even got me on a few water slides there where I screamed bloody murder with my eyes closed but loved every second of it!

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Those little specks? Those are my people up there!

We were there with some of our friends from Jersey Moms Blog and since they had come the night before they were familiar with the lovely swim up bar inside Aquatopia and they insisted we give it a try. A vodka mojito later made the trip even more fun for mom.CamelBackLodgedrink

There is so much to do inside the Camelback Resort that we didn’t end with water slides. As our friends headed home, we checked into our room with a beautiful mountain view for showers and a reset before our night began.

CamelbackGameRoomWe tried dinner in the brand new (open 4 days!) Trails End Pub and Grille where the food and atmosphere were both delicious. They specialize in burgers and fries so while I noshed on a salad (which was surprisingly satisfying), I inhaled the tantalizing scent of everyone else’s shoestring fries and delectable sandwiches and burgers. Next time I’ll return when I’m at my goal weight and can really dig into the food! I will say, I did sneak a few bites of our free appetizer which was nothing other than hot pretzel sticks with mustard dipping sauce. When in PA…WarmPretzel

After dinner the boys got a little fun money in the enormous arcade and game station and Super Aunt and I hid away in the water park again because, believe it or not, it was quieter! They had a ball and we got to chat while still keeping an eye on their kid-fun. A win for everyone.

We finally got the boys to sleep sometime that night and were able to wake them in time for a huge breakfast at the buffet in the lodge as well as some dry-land adventure that included laser tag, rock climbing and mini-golf.

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It was an action packed 24 hours but everyone had so much fun, I’m glad we made it part of Road Trip Summer. The place is still so new, there were of course some kinks to be worked out, but nothing that got in the way of our good time, and I’m certain nothing that will last for long. Overall, Camelback Lodge is good, clean family fun.

Currently, they are running a special where you get $200 in savings coupons that can be used during your stay, including $50 credit to your room (hello, Mojitos). We utilized a few of these coupons so  much of our food was paid for (free hot pretzel appetizer!). With your stay you also get admission to both Aquatopia indoor water park as well as Camelbeach outdoor. It’s a great deal, so don’t miss it before Labor Day 2015!