Desk pet…

Having had so many kids go through elementary school – we have seen all sorts of different ideas to motivate great class behavior, and most of them revolve around some type of “class store”. Some years they’ve earned money that they can visit the store each week where parents donate items. Some have collected points where they have an auction every once in a while. I have a love/hate relationship with these motivation systems. I love that it motivates, but then having to constantly donate to the class store little trinkets that I throw away once my kid gets home gets exhausting. My favorite things teachers offered for sale were homework passes, or lunch in the classroom with the teacher.

But this year, when I sat in Cannon’s curriculum night classroom, I was intrigued by the teachers approach to the classroom store. She created a fictional “desk pet” that the kids would spend their classroom money on. I initially thought the teacher was a genius because it was something I had never seen done before. And then I was even more impressed when I saw it in action.

I volunteer in the classroom and I happened to be working a Friday morning when the class store was open. Kids came to the back of the room one at a time with their money to make their purchases. To start, kids bought a little pet and with it came a little plastic dome house. But as kids earned money they could upgrade their house to a plastic box. They purchased rugs and blankets (fabric squares) and pillows (little pom pom) and food (also erasers). They can even purchase decorations for different holidays. Not only that, but their desk pets can have their own little pets. The kids were so into this little desk pet. It’s like the little tomagachi pets we used to have as kids.

Even better is the fact that this little desk pet has become a part of their classroom learning experience. They write paragraphs about their desk pet, they learn descriptive words with their desk pet and they draw habitats for their pets.

Cannon loves his little lion and works hard to make sure he’s comfortable and well fed. As a parent I’m grateful for an innovative teacher who is changing up the way “classroom stores” typically operate.

Back to school dinner…

Chinese food takeout has become our traditional back to school dinner. I used to make a beautiful homemade meal and then one year in order to simplify we grabbed chinese food and it’s been that way ever since!

This year we are focusing on the idea of “Love, Share, Invite”. It is as simple or as complicated as you want to make it. We talked around the table of different examples in these categories and Briggs and Hallie had vastly different ideas, but fitting for both of them all the same.

We reminded the kids just how lonely school can be for some kids (which is a foreign concept for many kids when they go to school with the same neighborhood kids year after year) and what a difference feeling loved and being invited can make. Can’t we all afford to feel loved? And who doesn’t want to be invited into the circle?! To the lunch table? To the swim party?

This year, now that we’re in person, we’re focusing on reaching out.

First day of school 2021…

Our highly anticipated day (with extreme temperatures of 111 degrees) has come and gone and each kid came home with their own version of the day.

Briggs had a great first day of school. He did tell us that the class almost missed their recess because the kids weren’t singing good enough. Not sure what that was about, but luckily the class redeemed themselves and the crisis was averted. He loved his pepperoni and crackers he had at lunch and he didn’t understand anything his Spanish teach said.

Cannon was happy to report that he sat by Avery at lunch and on the bus and played with her at recess so that is basically his best day. He also enjoyed his music class today and was a little bummed they didn’t do more math. 🙂

Bennett had nothing bad to report. He loved playing soccer at recess and there’s a new kid that is really good. He talked about how sweaty he got at recess and just how sweaty the collar of his shirt stayed long after recess. He has decided collar shirts are better left for cooler weather. He loved the fact that his teacher gave him an apple today and read them some stories.

Hunter admitted to being a little anxious starting junior high, mixed with some excitement. Of course as soon as he got there, and started classes he said it was all good. He recognized a lot of people from his school last year, sports and other social connections. He loved riding the bus (which was not the case for Hallie) he figures its just another 1/2 hour that he can spend with his friends each day!

Hallie came home less than enthusiastic. Her high school is undergoing some serious renovations but they’re only part way done and none of the area she sees has been updated yet, she was hoping it would be further along, instead, the campus is just torn up. She was also bummed that she didn’t have more friends in her classes. In a school of almost 4000 kids the chances of knowing people in your classes are slim – but there’s always a hope. And that hope was dashed today. The redeeming factor of the day was her friend’s birthday who brought Cane’s for lunch. The good thing about Hallie is she easily makes friends so although she doesn’t know any kids in her classes today, she’ll make friends before long.

Tomorrow is another day – a half day, but another day nonetheless!

Love where you live…part 1…

I have found my people in the neighborhood where we live! The people who are quick to respond to my mass text that asks who is willing to bring water balloons to ambush the kids getting off the bus on the last day of school. It’s become a neighborhood tradition that everyone looks forward to. A tradition that was squashed last year with COVID and the cancellation of school.

But this year we brought it back in full force. We had THOUSANDS and THOUSANDS of balloons thanks to all the neighbors who contributed. (Which is made significantly easier thanks to ZURU quick fill balloons party pack. I remember the painful process of filling up balloons when I was a kid and you filled up 10 and didn’t want to fill up anymore!)

We made a call to the school and bus dispatcher to let them know that EVERY kid would be getting off the bus at our house for end of the year popsicles. The kids that have been here for a while knew exactly what “popsicles” really meant. The kids exited the bus to greet the neighborhood parents, younger siblings, and any kids in the neighborhood not riding the bus for one reason or another armed with water balloons.

And then the epic battle erupted. I’m always amazed at how fast that many water balloons can go. I saw all the coolers, bins, kiddie pools filled with balloons and I thought it would take forever to go through all them. Newsflash: It didn’t take much time at all!

Some kids timidly avoided the ring of fire and they tossed balloons from the outskirts. And then there’s those (Steve included) that couldn’t help but be right in the middle, soaking wet.

The drawback to throwing so many balloons is you have to pick up that many balloon pieces. You would think it would take longer than it does. But once the battle is over, everyone, kids and adults, picks up tiny fragments of colorful plastic all over our lawn and street. Within 10 minutes, it’s all cleaned up and we hand out all the popsicles.

It’s such a simple tradition. The kids love it and every year the bus driver sticks around and videos the event.

It brings our neighborhood together.

It strengthens our community.

And it’s another reason why we love where we live.

Last day of school…

We made it.

The kids were far more resilient than I was – they rolled with every new change like champs. I, on the other hand struggled with what didn’t feel normal. I took a very active role in my kids education and to do that across 5 kids was exhausting.

The online learning environment was a struggle and I could see it wasn’t a great situation for some of my kids so we had to adjust. By the time they were finally allowed to go to school in person they were disappointed to learn that half their friends would be attending on opposite days. But they rolled with it. Masks – no problem, they never complained.

After October break they got to go back to a full but distanced classroom and this was probably the happiest day of the whole school year. This came at just the right time to boost morale.

They worked through the never ending changes and rules that never seemed to make sense. Let’s play basketball. It’s postponed. Now it’s cancelled. Just kidding, do you still want to play with crazy rules? They jumped through so many hoops…and they just kept jumping.

They made it. They loved their teachers. They loved playing sports. They loved being with friends again. The school year started extremely rough and I was a ticking time bomb ready to pull them from their schools. Luckily I had a heavy trigger finger! It worked out. There were a lot of not so great moments and I’m hoping the school/district has learned how to manage this situation better in the future in case such a problem arises again.

We are happily closing the 2020-2021 school chapter and hope to not look back or repeat it!