Headlines from First Thoughts

Saturday, August 26, 2006


Parker brought home his first homework assignment Friday. Kelly and I picked him up from school together. Friday was his first full day, and the teacher sent home some work to do. It's due Wednesday, but being the industrious Dad that I am, and knowing that Tuesday night could be torture trying to get it done, Parker and I worked on it together Friday afternoon.

Friday's assignment involved the alphabet. They're working on the letter M next week, so the assignment was of course about all things "M": Mommy, munching, M & Ms. You get the picture. The first assignment, however, was really not the homework. It was getting Dad to figure out the assignment. I leafed through the yellow folder that was supposed to contain the worksheet, read through the note to parents, and we began. Parker had an "M" sheet in his hand, complete with an "M" man to color; and I naturally assumed this was the homework sheet.

We began the process. We had to find magazines, tape, and scissors. He was supposed to (1) cut out "M" from magazines, both pictures of words starting with M and the letter itself, (2) paste them on the page, and (3) write his name. We assembled the old magazines we could find and started cutting. Watching Parker attempting this was a little bit like trying to get jello to stop moving. He was all over the place. In my lap, on the floor, looking around, asking for a break every 15 minutes.

About midway through the assignment, I continued reading through the yellow folder. There were other pages inside that contained notes to the parents. I happened upon another sheet that said, "Sample Letter Page" at the top. The sheet had examples of how to complete the assignment. I realized, "Parker's M page doesn't match the sample page in the folder." Even worse, I couldn't find a blank version of the sample page.

I pretended to urge Parker to continue but had this sinking feeling, "I've just caused my son to fail his first homework assignment. He's filled out the wrong homework page." After the 10th time looking feverishly through the folder, I found a blank page that matched the sample completed page.

"I think we were supposed to do that one," said Parker.

"Yes," I replied, trying not to admit a mistake and frustrate him even further, "We were just practicing on the other page. Now this one is for real."

When we finally completed the assignment we had two perfect homework pages, one exasperated Dad, and a reminder that life could be easier if you had all the instructions in front of you at the start. You can't read a book, a homework assignment, a Bible or even a life by just taking one part at a time. You need to see the big picture to understand the concept. That's the kind of work that I need at home.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Parker described his first day at school in one word: "GREAT!" Since he has never attached this adjective to anything, I think we've found a winner.

The morning started early for yours truly. I woke up at 5:00 a.m. ready for the new day. I felt like it was my first day. I aroused the young scholar around 6:20, to which he promptly responded, "It can't be morning already!" After shaking off the cobwebs, we were off and rolling. Kelly and I rode together for the inaugural day. We parked, snapped a few photos, and escorted Parker to the waiting area. I'm proud to say that not a tear was shed by any of us. We talked to Miss Corden, chatted a bit with Miss Cochran the student teacher, and handed Parker off to the world of public education.

Last night, he told me all about their quest for the Gingerbread man, that a real Gingerbread man was somewhere in the school, and that his class would find him. Good for him. We need all the cookies we can get.

Apparently, the day was so productive, they gave him the next day off. He doesn't have to return until Wednesday. Hopefully by then, we'll be ready for another GREAT day.

Monday, August 14, 2006

First Days

Rocky Hill Elementary School

We practiced, studied, prepared and I think we’re ready. Kelly and I mapped the route. (Turn left out of the driveway, right, right, and left.) We consulted with well-known educators like Joe Dent. We met the teacher, the student teacher, and even the new principal. We passed all the tests. We’re finally qualified to be parents of a Kindergarten student.

Parker was ready about 18 months ago. As a very advanced boy, he knew where Rocky Hill Elementary was located when we arrived in Knoxville. He pointed it out every time we drove by. He practically aced his Preschool test at St. Mark’s Early Education School for Smart Intellectual Children. Seriously, he really did have to take a test. I would not joke about this. He was graded on the scale of “Most of the Time,” “Sometimes,” and “Not Usually”-- “M” “S” and “NU.” He received an “M” in every category except one. He aced important subjects like “Counts 10 objects meaningfully,” “Hops for six feet,” “Gallops,” “Follow three unrelated commands in sequence,” “Holds pencil properly,” “Able to separates from Parents,” “Puts toys away and cleans up.” (Apparently, there was not a home version of the test.)

He received an “NU,” however, in “Skips.” You can imagine the horror on Kelly’s face when she realized she had failed to teach my son how to skip. After recovering from the sheer embarrassment, we enrolled in an advanced summer program called “Summer Skipping for Struggling Superchildren.” He can now skip with the best of them. Yes, Parker has been ready for a long time.

On the other hand, I have been more worried about me and Kelly. When we walked into the kindergarten classroom, his new teacher Miss Corden handed us our “first homework assignment.” I was afraid at first they might be test us over the same material from Preschool. Already I could read the report card.

“Follow three unrelated commands”: go to the store, pick up milk, buy stamps

Grade: NU (can’t remember all 3)

"Holds pencil properly”: do I get to use the computer?

Grade: NU. (This is why no one can read my handwriting today.)

"Able to separate from parents/child”: in the parking lot? In the room? Where?

Grade: NU. (Kelly cried at the open house.)

Instead the homework was directed at the students: “Show them where the bathroom is,” “Put on your nametag,” etc. What a relief!

Thursday morning, when both of us take Parker into the hallowed halls of Rocky Hill, our little boy will reach another milestone; and so will his parents. All of us will grow up a little more and learn to be more prepared for the days to come.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Life is tough, but life without a vacation is tougher. So I opted for #1 and drove to Florida. We spent a few days with friends and a few days with just the family. In the hottest week in America, it was great to be in sunny Florida. If you're going to be warm, you might as well roast on the coast!

Among many other things I read while I was relaxing, I noticed in USA Today that the average freshman spends $1,200 to decorate and outfit their dorm room. Not bad for a closet!

Bill and Kelly at an outdoor concert with... Guess Who? .... Kenny Rogers (the people behind us were bored)

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