I am a murderer of trees. All art teachers are. We go through more paper than The Baltimore Sun.
“Can I get some more paper?” asks the girl in the jumper who tugs at my shirtwaist. “I made my house too big.”
“Mrs. Barberry! I need to start over!” one student will shout, holding up a crayon portrait. He’s made an X over an asymmetrical face.
Swish, swish, swish, the sheets disappear before me and become butterflies and monsters and those broads from Frozen and inevitably a conglomeration of squares from Minecraft. And sometimes they’re not perfect. But, isn’t that okay?
I needed an intervention; a way to teach the kids to be resourceful. And creative. And confident in their abilities.
So, I consulted the manual on all of those things. A book that would make the medicine behind my message go down smoothly and sweetly.
Enter "Beautiful Oops" by Barney Saltzberg. With more color than Collin’s 152 crayon collection, fun little characters, and an important message about art and life, it was just what the Lorax ordered.
Each page shows a different “problem,” like a paint splatter or an unsightly crease, along with a whimsical “solution,” like turning it into an animal.
I’ve always loved books with “special effects,” and this one is full of them. From fun textures to flips and folds and an accordion-style pop-up that elicited elated gasps, I never lost a second of attention from even one member of my easily-distracted audience of kindergarteners and first graders.
Naturally, there was an assignment to go along with the book. Can you guess what they did?
I gave each student a piece of paper that was in some way damaged. Some of it was my recycling, some was crumbled up, some burned, some ripped, some with fingerprints, some with eraser-smudged pencil marks, and so on.
I was astonished by the results! A curvy piece of torn paper became a snowboarding course. A streak of highlighter became a kite string. Sharpie dots became a woman’s shirt. A gash in the middle of the page became a pop-up beaver. Collin (he’s my student as well as my son) turned teeth-like cuts into tabs for an x-ball machine. (He may have meant Xbox, but he has no idea what that is…)
A gash in the middle of the page became a pop-up beaver
Collin turned teeth-like cuts into tabs for an x-ball machine.
The students excitedly shared their assignments to their classmates’ amusement. They were so excited about their work that I let them take their “beautiful oopses” home. I just wish I’d taken more pictures!
At the end of class, I reminded them of the real lesson. Instead of throwing something away, why not turn it into something different? Fix it. Change it. Give it a second chance. You never know what a little ingenuity can do.
November 20, 2014 03:58
By Robyn Barberry
It is like something out of a dream. A stadium full of people chanting his name, “Col-lin! Col-lin!” as he weaves his way around the track, through the field, up the hill and back. Five years old, but hanging with the fourth graders in this, his first, ¾ mile race. The one question on everyone’s mind, “Can he do it?”
Flash forward to the day before. A conversation on the walk home from school.
“Collin, you’re going to after care tomorrow.”
“Where are you going to be?”
“I’m going to a race.”
“Not this time. A couple of the boys from running club are running in a race. It’s at Bob-Bob’s high school, where Becky works, Archbishop Curley.”
“I want to go.”
“You’re too little. Maybe when you get a little older.”
“I can do it,” he said. “Watch!”
He ran the 1/8 of a mile ahead of us to our front door.
“See! I told you! I can do it!”
“It’s further than that,” I told him. “It’s like running to the bowling alley.” He was used to our Tuesday excursions to Bowling Club.
But, he normally ended up hitching a ride on my stroller.
“Aww, please!” he insisted.
“Let me think about it,” I said.
I reread the flyer for the Archbishop Curley Cross Country Classic. The youngest age group was 4th grade and under. The distance was ¾ of a mile. I imagined one of my kindergarten students’ parents approaching me and asking me if his or her son or daughter could participate. Based on the information before me, I’d say they qualified. And so did Collin.
“You can go,” I told him. “But you have to run. You can’t stop. You have to keep going.”
“Okay,” he said.
Before I knew it, I was writing his name on a paper bib (number 61) and pinning it to his navy blue St. Joan of Arc Sweatshirt. I surveyed the crowd. He was the littlest kid there. Everyone else seemed to be noticing, too. I overheard their whispers as we walked by, “How old is that kid?” I struggle with a severe “Imposter Complex,” so I began to wonder if I was making a huge mistake.
By chance, Patrick was working on one of Curley’s athletic fields, so he made arrangements to spectate, as did my dad, who is a dutiful Curley alum, and Collin’s godmother, Becky, who teaches Spanish there. We watched each heat take off from the track, break through the fence, dominate a monster of a hill, tear through the top tier of the stadium, and round back down the hill into the home stretch of the track. The oldest students did it twice, while the younger groups fought their way around once.
Once. That’s all it would take for Collin to finish the race. As he bounced up and down cheering on our two runners, I imagined him stumbling up the hill, falling to the ground in tears until I came to rescue him. I pictured him veering off of course. I saw a vision of Collin quitting before he even made his way through the fence. My students, on the other hand, finished strong and made me proud.
When it was time for the fourth grade and under boys to line up, we barely made it to the track on time. As soon as Collin set his toe on the line, the gun went off, and so did he.
He fell behind just as soon as he started; his short, little 5-year-old legs no match for the brawn of the seasoned 9-year-old athletes. Patrick and I followed him on the ground, all the way to the fence, where a Curley student acting as a course marshal decided to abandon his post (Collin was, after all, the very last runner) and join Collin for his adventure. I looked at his face and thought I saw him crying. He smiled and waved.
Patrick and I stood at the base of the hill, our hearts pounding, watching in anxious anticipation as he ran toward the sky. We cheered him along, yelling out his name. Suddenly, a man with a radio voice joined us. “And coming up the hill right now is Collin Barberry, a kindergartener from St. Joan of Arc, and the youngest runner to ever compete in the Curley Classic. Let’s cheer him on!”
The fourth graders were finishing in bursts as Collin reached the top of the bowl. A line of spectators formed above the top row of the stadium, reaching down to give Collin “high-5”s. He tagged every single one, back-tracking if he needed to.
He kept up with his running partner all the way back down the hill and powered through his final stretch. The crowd went wild as the little blond-haired boy in the rumpled navy blue sweat suit crossed the finish line.
I ran over to him. He was panting, his face crimson. His hair had taken on the form of a stormy sea, wet, wild, and wavy. He looked like a grown man for a minute. Then, I saw that his shoe was untied and remembered that he was so little that he didn’t even know how to tie it. “I’m sorry I doubted you,” I told him as I turned his royal blue laces into bunny ears.
Patrick, my Dad, Becky and I swarmed him with hugs and forced him into a million photo ops. A lovely young lady, Caroline Kogler, approached us and offered Collin some Powerade and candy (Father Matt tried to steal some of Collin’s Skittles!) and told us that Collin would be receiving a medal.
“Look, Mom! I earned a medal!” he said, proudly raising the bronze coin on the red, white, and blue ribbon around his neck. It didn’t matter that he was the last runner to finish. What mattered was that he did finish, even though no one expected him to. Not even me.
Collin opened himself to the possibility of success. And everything else fell into place. I’m so grateful for that young man who ran beside Collin like a guardian angel. I thank Ms. Kogler for formally recognizing Collin. That’s not why we came, but it made his first race extra special for him. I’m honored to have been a part of the Archbishop Curley Cross Country Classic, and thank Mr. Gene Hoffman for giving Collin the opportunity to participate in this outstanding event.
Above all, thanks be to God for giving Collin strength of body, mind, spirit, and will to complete such a challenging feat. I learned more about my son in those 12 minutes than I have since the day he was born.
November 13, 2014 04:02
By Robyn Barberry
Like myself and my St. Joan of Arc counterparts, Beth Awalt loves her job. As the volunteer manager at Catholic Charities' Weinberg Housing and Resource Center, she spends her days welcoming those who wish to serve to a facility that provides housing and training to over 275 homeless men and women.
The bounce in Beth's step and her winning smile warmed the gray October morning when the St. Joan of Arc faculty (myself included) arrived for our annual retreat. This would be a professional development like no other. We would be on our feet, working side-by-side, talking and laughing, spending our time together doing something that matters.
I was expecting the facility to be some dim industrial space with nondescript walls and dirty floors. Instead, the Weinberg Center was bright and clean, with inspiring works of art EVERYWHERE. Everyone I encountered was friendly- employees, volunteers, and residents alike.
We toured the dorms, which are empty during the day while residents work or socialize in two large lounges at the very front of the building (one for men and one for women). We learned the rules of the place and that they help maintain a sense of peace in the community. And then, we made sandwiches. Lots of them.
In the cafeteria area, we arranged ourselves alongside about two dozen loaves of bread and jars of peanut butter and jelly. Each of us had a role in assembling these "emergency meals" for the Weinberg Center to provide for people who, for various reasons, are unable to participate in scheduled meal times. We lost count, but we made enough sandwiches to fill a 35 gallon plastic bin to the top!
We also stopped briefly at Our Daily Bread. Once again, it was a far cry from the gloomy gray room I'd always pictured. The entire first floor was abuzz with excitement. Change for the better exuded from the computer lab where men in the Christopher Place Academy prepared themselves for life in the workforce. Lively conversation and the aroma of lasagna filled the air of the bright cafe, which looked more like my award-winning college cafeteria than the soup kitchens I'd seen in movies. My big takeaway: they need us to make casseroles. Recipes are available here
Next, we took a tour of the Basilica. I hadn't been there since I was confirmed 15 years ago, and found myself most impressed by the paintings of the Evangelists that were discovered in the dome during renovations and, of course, the crypt. Photographs and artifacts from St. John Paul the Great's visit to Baltimore brought back memories of my incredible privilege of being present that day. Of course, I visited the gift shop and narrowed my selection down to a special cross that spoke to me. As we were leaving, we spied none other than Archbishop Lori, who was taking his beautiful dog for a well-deserved walk.
We ended our day by breaking bread at Mick O'Shea's. While laughing with colleagues and learning more about their lives, I thanked The Lord for allowing me to be a part of such an extraordinary school family and for the life of comfort I live.
November 04, 2014 09:17
By Robyn Barberry
On Saturday, amidst great fanfare, Leo graduated from having his life measured in months to having his life measured in years. In other words, he turned 1… and we celebrated.
Have you ever wondered why first birthday parties are such a big deal? Why is so much effort put into an occasion the guest of honor is unlikely to remember? And the details!
The party was held on the sod farm. The sunshine illuminated everything, while the wind tormented the orange, yellow, turquoise, and spring green tablecloths and balloons. The lion piñata swayed back and forth as we weighted down the plates and napkins which starred an adorable yellow lion with an orange mane. He was holding on to a blue balloon. “1” it read.
Both grandfathers prepared their famous chili (vegetarian and venison). Patrick whipped up his first batch of real macaroni and cheese. Our friends at Chick-fil-a delighted kids of all ages with their crowd-pleasing chicken nuggets. A very dear friend prepared 6 dozen cupcakes: chocolate, vanilla, and pumpkin spice. She even made a little lion smash cake. And with all that food, it was a real fight to keep the bees away.
My sister-in-law hid some cannonball pumpkins (about the size of a grapefruit) in an open grass field. A short hayride led us there, and the children squealed as they “picked” their pumpkins from our “patch.”
The candle wouldn’t stay lit, so poor Leo didn’t really get to make his wish. (I made one for him.) I’m not sure why, but he was hesitant to tear into his little lion cake. (His brothers didn’t mind.) Of course, he was spoiled with toys, books, and new clothes (always nice when you’re the third son!)
The party was delightful, but it wasn’t because of the details I just mentioned. Soon, they will fade from everyone’s memory. Even mine. But the thing that will stick around is the warmth and love we felt that day.
Like a wedding, a first birthday party isn’t just about the people who are being celebrated; it’s about the contributions made by loved ones in bringing them to this point. Leo’s first birthday party wasn’t just about him reaching a major milestone; it was a way of honoring his brothers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. These were the people who fed him, changed him, bathed him, clothed him, played with him, and read to him during his infancy. These were the people who nurtured him and helped him grow into the toddler he is becoming. And I’m grateful for each one of them.
I haven’t written much about Leo. I wanted the first year to be just for us. But I will tell you that he is quite sweet, patient, forgiving (especially to Frank, who has a tendency to bite, hit, and be rough with him), curious, and almost always smiling. He loves his kitty cats (and animals in general), every kind of food (even Brussels sprouts!), patty-cakes, Sesame Street, and stealing travel-sized toiletries from underneath the bathroom sink. He’s happy, healthy, strong, and lovely – all the things we prayed for when he was still living in my tummy. As he grows, you’ll get to know him better. I’m looking forward to it, too.
October 22, 2014 01:12
By Robyn Barberry
I always joke that part of the reason I chose to major in English is that I wouldn’t need math. My distaste for numbers began in third grade when I struggled to learn my times tables. In sixth grade, the letters showed up next to my numbers, and rather than rising to the challenges Algebra offered, I resorted to doodling in the margins of my notebook. I took the most basic math class I could in college, “Mathematical Ideas,” then turned my back on calculations and equations for nearly a decade. I taught myself algebra last summer to prepare for my real estate exam, but there are still more holes in my math education than there are digits in pi.
So when Dr. Peter Litchka and Dr. Peter Rennert-Ariev of Loyola University, the directors of the revolutionary professional development program St. Joan of Arc has joined alongside several other Archdiocese of Baltimore schools, asked my colleagues and I to go “out of our comfort zones” and observe another teacher from another subject area, I knew where I was heading.
Enter Kim Evelyn (pronounced “EEVE-lin”), the middle school math teacher at SJA. She invited me to visit her sixth-grade class on a Wednesday morning to observe a lesson on decimals.
Class began with a homework check, a quiz, and an awesome and unexpected prayer.
Mrs. Evelyn defied the traditional model of teaching by spending less than 10 minutes in front of the board introducing the new topic: decimal place value. “Remember: this is the pennies column and this is the dimes column,” she explained. I wish I’d learned that in sixth grade!
Students spent a short period of guided practice time delving into the fascinating task of measuring gerbil’s tails to the required decimal place (within the confines of their textbooks, of course.) And then, the most exciting thing happened … the iPads came out.
An air of giddiness swept through the room as students fired up their tablets and logged into an interactive program called IXL. IXL is an online, subscription-based program available for preK-high school levels. It covers both math and language arts and includes a variety of problems and games, all of which offer incentives (ribbons), scores, and constructive feedback.
The students were so engaged in the program that you could hear the tapping of their fingers on the glass screens of their iPads. Occasionally someone would exclaim, “I got a ribbon!” Mrs. Evelyn circumnavigated the room, spending a little more time with those students who weren’t grasping the concept and awarding those who finished with a small piece of candy.
Before I knew it, class was over. I was even a little disappointed, as I had been playing along on my phone. (IXL offers 20 free questions a day!) What a striking difference from the days when I tried to nudge the minute hand forward by squinting at it, rather than moving time forward by busily focusing on the problems in front of me. The marriage of technology and the modern, “guide by the side, rather than sage on the stage,” philosophy of teaching have transformed the way students learn. Mrs. Evelyn’s classroom reflects that. It’s a glimpse of the future of education. And it’s exciting.
October 16, 2014 02:56
By Robyn Barberry
My house is a maze of gates and obstacles so complex that the CIA should be stopping by for security tips. I have contrived the perfect geometrical configuration with my ottoman and double stroller to keep Leo from climbing upstairs. There is a complicated system of locks for just about every door in my house, especially the bathrooms and the ones that separate the child-safe world I’ve created from the scary one on the other side. The gate between the living room and the kitchen is so wide and so tall that my mind has convinced itself that a wall exists where a convenient doorway once stood. But, the poor gate between the dining room and the kitchen was the Dutch boy with his finger in the dam.
Inevitably, the barriers I set to protect my children from the places and things which might hurt them –will break. Leo gained the upper and lower body strength to push that stroller aside –brake or no brake- as though it were his toy train. When a startling silence crept from the toy room where Frank and Leo were playing to the kitchen where I scrubbed a pot of oatmeal, I grew concerned. I went upstairs and found the bathtub running, a towel in the toilet, and my contact lens case in pieces on the floor. (Fortunately, I was wearing them.) And that poor gate, that final fortress that safeguarded my kitchen, laundry room, powder room, storage room, and the door that leads to the great big world – has been reduced to mere child’s play. Literally.
I found out the hard way. I locked Leo into his rocking chair and put on Sesame Street. “Mommy’s going to take a shower,” I told Collin and Frank, whose attention had been arrested by a felt friend with a face. “Be good.”
When I returned downstairs, fifteen minutes later, Leo was sound asleep. Frank and Collin were nowhere to be found. So, I followed the sound of the giggles. There they were. Standing on my kitchen counter. Next to the knife block. Fortunately the chef’s knife, santuku, parer and all their friends were where I had left them. Unfortunately, the memory card of Frank’s baby pictures I had left on the windowsill – was not. (I still haven’t found it!)
I shooed them out of the kitchen and scolded Collin for opening the gate for Frank. “But I didn’t,” he said, “He climbed over the gate himself.” I was double mad at Collin for lying until I watched as Frank lunged himself over the hurdle like a runner effortlessly dashing toward his goal. I put him back in the dining room, but once again he forced his way back into the kitchen. When I blocked the gate, he redirected himself to the identical gate in the toy room, which took him right to the pantry, where he discovered he could finally get snacks for himself. I heard the rustling of the Goldfish package before I even saw him.
The gig was up. My efforts to keep Frank and his crazy Frank antics to one half of the lower level of my home were falling apart as quickly as he was growing. In theory, we were playing a board game -chess, checkers, Risk, Stratego, Battleship…it’s all the same – and I lost. But then I thought about it.
· Frank is exploring a world he up until recently knew only as a blur of colors as I escorted him from the back door to his “safe space.” He avoids the things with which he has had negative experiences (cat food and litter, for one) and thoroughly investigates the things that light up or make noise (refrigerator, dishwasher, dryer…fortunately, he’s accepted my word that the stove is “hot.”) The back half of the house is where food comes from. It’s the source of mysterious noises: the flush of a toilet, the rattling of the washer, the hum and ding of the microwave. It’s the place where Mom spends an inordinate amount of time. Why shouldn’t he be there?
· If Frank is intelligent and tenacious enough to thwart my traps, then maybe those character traits will carry on into other aspects of his life. When used properly, such as standing up for what is right and just or even chasing a ball on an athletic field, they can be tremendous strengths.
· Frank’s job, and the job of all children, is to test the limits. To gradually detach from us so that they can live independently. This is just another big step in that journey. I pray that God protects him now that he has found his way into the most dangerous part of the house. I pray that God protects him every time his curiosity about the world leads him beyond the fences we’ve created for him.
The day after Frank set foot upon his brave new world, something awesome happened. I was bringing a load of laundry downstairs when I heard another scuffle in the kitchen. There, I found Frank, climbing the lazy Susan cabinet to get to the counter top. He looked over his shoulder at me and said, “Mommy, I need help.” It was the first sentence I ever heard him utter. Another barrier broken. In my excitement and without thinking, I put him on the counter. When I realized what I’d done, I put him back on the ground, hugged him, and told him that he can always ask me for help. There just might be a gate or two along the way.
September 30, 2014 11:56
By Robyn Barberry
I was hot gluing a twig to a piece of blue construction paper when one of the little girls in my preschool class came running over to show me the red and green prints she made with half an apple.
Suddenly, she tripped over a chair leg and crashed to the ground. Please God, don’t let her be hurt, I thought as I stooped down to help her up. I expected there to be tears, but instead she jumped to her feet, straightened her uniform and said, “I’m okay. I should have been more careful. Next time I will do better.”
It was such a simple thing to say; a perfectly rational way to look at a mistake, but it’s something we adults often fail to do. Everyone trips and falls some time, but no one wants to admit to their faults. It’s just too shameful. It’s so much easier to redirect responsibility and blame someone or something else (“Stupid chair!”). It’s so much easier to run away and hide or to pretend nothing happened.
This little girl did none of those things. She recognized her mistake. She realized that it wasn’t something that was going to ruin her life or her day. She reflected on what she could have done. And she reminded herself to avoid situations like this in the future. She forgave herself, just as God forgives us. So, the next time you trip and fall, pick yourself up and say, “I’m okay. I should have been more careful. Next time I will do better.”
September 22, 2014 10:00
By Robyn Barberry
“Dirt,” the second-grade teacher told me when I asked her what they were learning in science class. Since St. Joan of Arc is a STEM school, I’m trying to tie material from other classes into my art lessons. The eighth grade was learning about heat, so we used a hot plate and crayons to create melted wax images on aluminum foil. The seventh-grade was learning about solubility, so we combined salt and watercolor paints for a cool tie-dye effect. But, dirt?
Naturally, I consulted Google for advice. I found a home-school mom’s website with pictures from a mud day. Her children were encapsulated in dirt and mud. I decided rather quickly that I should make every effort to keep my students’ uniforms crisp and white.
Then, I stumbled upon something awesome: the dirty car artist, Scott Wade
. This guy carves masterpieces into the thick dirt found on the back windows of people’s cars. But, where was I going to find 18 dirty cars (and stepstools) to make this happen?
Louisiana Mud Painting
looked promising, until I learned that I’d need to travel all over Harford County –and perhaps even the state of Maryland—to find the many types of soil I’d need to offer a range of colors.
I was stumped and running out of time. That’s usually when I pray. I fixed myself a sandwich (also a good time to pray) and returned to Google one last time before deferring to a plan B assignment. This time, I stumbled upon something new: Korhogo Cloth (African Mud Painting)
The material used for the painting looked similar to burlap. I had a roll of it left over from Collin’s Scarecrow costume last year and a pot of dirt that used to be a plant (I’m a horrible gardener for a farmer’s wife), so I mixed some dirt and water in a plastic bowl and used one of Frank’s old paintbrushes to paint a house on the fabric. It looked great, but when I moved it after it dried, all of the mud flaked off.
As it turned out, it needed a binder. We were out of eggs, so I used some brown tempera paint (it has egg as a binder) to make the mud smoother and stickier. This time, it looked great. I mixed up a bucketful for the students, poured into little white plastic bowls, warned them that even though it looked like chili, they shouldn’t eat it, and let them go to town on their pieces of burlap.
Thanks to God for directing me to a cool project idea, the students’ projects were a great success.
September 09, 2014 02:44
By Robyn Barberry
While I was waiting to pay for Frank’s haircut, a boy three times his size played peekaboo with Frank from behind a tower of shampoos and conditioners. Frank shrieked with delight, looking especially dapper with his newsman hair. The bigger boy’s father sat across from me in a Miami Dolphins hat and jersey. His eyes were the color of the Caribbean. He’d passed them-along with thick black hair and eyebrows-onto his son.
“It’s been so long since my boy was that size,” he said.
I braced myself for another lecture on how “time flies,” “enjoy it: they grow so fast,” “you’ll miss this,” and, of course, “these are the best years of your life.”
I know that people mean well when they say things like that, but it always brings me down. It’s a reminder that all the joy I’m experiencing is fleeting. I’ll soon be alone, without a sense of purpose, and before I know it I’ll be dead.
Of course, that’s not the intention. People are taking a moment to live vicariously through my life as the mother of three very young boys. They’re wistfully recalling their own experiences and regretting the times they so desperately wanted their children to grow up. They don’t want me to make their mistakes. No “Cats in the Cradle” to be had here. These kind strangers want me to appreciate the humor, the warmth, and the light which permeates my every day by the very presence of my beautiful sons. And so, they remind –no warn—me of the changes to come.
But this Dan Marino look-alike was different.
“It was fun, but I don’t miss it,” he says. “It’s so much better now.”
He explained that his wife works an intense job, so he is the primary parent to their 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter. He enjoyed taking care of them as babies, but hasn’t forgotten the frustrations of diapers, sleepless nights, and carrying around more luggage than most airlines would allow.
I dashed toward Frank to keep him from running out the front door and into the busy parking lot, but his big friend got there first and picked him up. I asked his father, “So, how is it better?”
“You get to know them for the people they are. They have more developed personalities. You can have real conversations with them. They make you laugh. You get to work on projects together. You can take them anywhere, even on roller coasters.”
I was intrigued. I’d never had this conversation before. All I hear about is how the life I’m living at this very moment is the best that it will ever be. That’s no way for anyone to live. My boys are sweet, and funny, and loving right now, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be in the future. Why can’t I keep loving them more and more every day? I know that they will separate from me eventually, and that there will be times I will want to send them back to Franklin Square where I found them, but that will be the right time for me to pursue that PhD and write that book I’ve been dreaming about. And there will be time for baseball games and science fair projects and stroller-free family vacations in between.
So, thank you, Super Dad, from Super Cuts. It would be nice if more people shared your perspective on life. I hope I can maintain it, even when the going gets rough. Watching your son play with mine was a nice peek at the good things headed my way.
September 08, 2014 09:17
By Robyn Barberry
It was an emotional week for many of my friends as we sent our 5-year-olds off to kindergarten. Some are excited, some nervous, some relieved, and some devastated. It is, after all, a major transition from raising the little kid whose life revolves around home to raising the big kid whose life revolves around school. I imagine this is an especially tough separation for moms who stay at home, so I will say some extra prayers for them and encourage them to volunteer at their child’s school if they can.
I’m handing it considerably well. I worked two jobs and went to grad school when Collin was little, so I’ve already experienced being away from him for long days at a time. It doesn’t mean that it was easy then or even easy now, but it’s somewhere I’ve already been. Even when I wasn’t working, I sent Collin to five-day preschool last year and all day camp twice a week this summer to get him used to being in a more structured environment. It also helped me to get used to Collin being somewhere else … but it’s still a little too quiet! I’m blessed to have the opportunity to send him to St. Joan of Arc, a family-like environment, with rigorous academics and strong a strong base in faith, right in our neighborhood, and where I also happen to work. I’ve gotten to know his teachers over the past couple of weeks and couldn’t trust him to more capable hands. I’m looking forward to being his teacher, too … though I imagine there will be some stories to come out of this experiment.
One of the greatest gifts St. Joan of Arc has to offer is a sense of community. I was delighted to find an invitation to the BooHoo/YeeHaw Breakfast for parents of new preschoolers and kindergarteners in Collin’s folder. There, in the church hall, I found a host of yummy breakfast treats and a warm circle of welcome from the Home/School Association, headed by Megan Cornett. She and other experienced SJA moms perambulated the room, introducing themselves and answering questions about school life and events.
There seemed to be a whole lot more “Yeehawing” going on than “Boohooing,” which was uplifting.
There were also two tables worth of volunteer sign-in sheets for various activities throughout the year. Halloween Party, Bowling Club, and Game Night, here I come!
It was most exciting to get the chance to meet some of the other parents. Not only could I bond with them over our common experience of handing over our children for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week for the first time, but I also got to know a little bit about their children, who will be my students and Collin’s friends for many years. As I fed Frank and Leo bits of a blueberry bagel, we had some great conversations about exciting fundraisers, choosing the right high school for each of your children, and the effect of social media on kids’ attention spans.
I walked away from the breakfast knowing that even when I do have boohoos while my children are St. Joan of Arc students, I’m surrounded by compassionate parents who have either been in my shoes, could imagine being in them, or are willing to let me borrow theirs for a while. And when we have yeehaws, there will be plenty of cheerleaders on our team!
September 03, 2014 04:56
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By Robyn Barberry