Friday, March 02, 2007

Show and Hell

Somehow, through no fault of my own, Thursday night has become Arts and Crafts night at our house. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago when Thursday night was 2AM Denny's night because you didn't have any classes on Friday, or Thursday night was lie on the couch and watch "Friends" night and try and get through to the weekend when you can sleep all day. Those days are over. Now, Thursday nights are spent gluing and drawing and trying to explain what "nervous" means to a 4 year old.

Perhaps some backstory is in order. My son is 4, which puts him in Preschool II at his daycare, or what I like to call the Pre-Harvard Program. For some reason, his school does everything a year ahead, so the PS II kids are doing what you'd normally do in Pre-Kindergarten and the Pre-K kids are doing what you'd do in Kindergarten. Not sure what the private Kindergarten kids do, probably work Pi out to 8 billion digits, and we'll never know because I'll be damned if I'm going to pay property taxes for full day school and then pay for private full day schooling on top of it. Actually, I know why they do everything a year ahead, it's to satisfy a generation of parents who think that if Timmy can't conjugate Spanish verbs by age 5 he's going to end up homeless and living in a refrigerator box.

When my son first joined this class, the kids were allowed to bring in whatever they wanted for Show and Tell. Being that they're all small kids, they brought in toys. Linda and I were pretty restrictive as to what toys he could bring as we tried to put ourselves in the teacher's shoes. Basically, nothing too big and nothing that made noise. Other parents apparently didn't feel the same way, shocking I know, and Show and Tell day descended into a cacophony of toy sounds, screaming children and a lack of attention to the day's activities. For this reason, Show and Tell in its toy free for all form came to an end.

In it's place, Ben's teacher put "projects" for the children (parents) to do to help relate to the week's lesson. Now, I'm all for activities that get kids and parents working together, and I'm all for projects that reinforce the week's learnings for the children, but some of these projects are not designed with 4 year olds in mind. To me, the project should be something that the kid can at least come up with the ideas for, and just require parental assistance with the implementation. Not create an internal combustion engine from twigs and leaves.

The first sign of trouble was in October, when the project for Show and Tell was to have your kid draw a cornucopia and put in it pictures of all of their favorite foods from magazines. OK, most adults I know don't know what a cornucopia is much less a kid who, when asked what he does on the weekend, tells his teacher "We go to the jungle." Plus, the magazines I read are Game Informer, Playboy and Cooking Light, none of which have pictures of Yogables and Cheezits, his favorite foods. If the cornucopia needed pictures of Master Chief, an Easy Ravioli Bake and Ms. April's boobs, we'd be all set. We settled for me drawing a corcucopia with drawings of Ben's favorite foods as told by Ben and him coloring everything in. That seemed to work fine.

The next big project was to create a 3-d cat, owl or some other animal. Ben chose a cat. It took me some time to come up with a design that didn't involve papier mache or some kind of elaborate scaffolding. I also tried to avoid the craft store as much as possible, but ended up relenting as we, strangely enough, don't keep a readily available supply of pipe cleaners at home. Should you be of the mind to search out some hot, 60+ action and they won't let you loiter around the nursing homes, might I recommend the craft store at lunch time. The combines age of the shoppers in that store exceeded the age of our galaxy.

The cat ended up being a smashing success. You may remember it.

We had a small respite over the holidays when Show and Tell involved nothing more complicated than wearing a particular color on a particular day. At one point, Ben had to bring in something that could go in the water and something that couldn't. I suggested he bring in a boat and a cat tied to a brick. Linda didn't appreciate this suggestion so he brought in a Matchbox boat (ok in water) and a Matchbox car (not ok in water).

Then came the Tome of Feelings. The week's lesson was feelings, which is probably a good idea considering that these kids are volatile powder kegs of emotion just waiting to explode in fury. Ok, so maybe that's just my kid. Anyways, the project was to create a book of feelings. Not too bad as you'd expect that for a 4 year old, they'd cover the old standbys, your happy, your sad, your mad. Oh no, not this class. The five feelings were happy, sad, nervous, scared and excited. Nervous? How the frak do you explain nervous to a 4 year old? When the hell are 4 year olds ever nervous anyways? I don't think the emotional spectrum of kids this age is finely tuned enough to register nervous. Scared? Sure. Happy? Sure. Nervous? I don't think so. Rather than give him examples of things that could cause him to be nervous, and risk making him nervous about things that used to never bother him, I simply made the book, drew a smiley face on each page for the associated feelings and had him draw whatever he associated with the feelings. For the record, green ladders make him both nervous and excited.

This past one was the toughest one of all. I got a week's break when the Show and Tell item was a family photo on a piece of paper. I let Linda hande that one as she's our resident photographer. In retrospect, this was a bad idea as the picture was poorly placed and didn't allow for writing and/or drawing all around the picture. Strictly amateur hour but understandable given her self imposed distance from the crafting process. Apparently I posess craft chops where she does not which is how I got roped into this whole thing in the first place.

But I digress. This past week's lesson was life cycles as in eggs -> tadpole -> frog or catepillar -> cocoon -> butterfly or 80's hair band star -> washed up drug addict -> "Surreal Life" cast member -> washed up drug addict. The exact assignment was: "This week I would like for the children to Pick one out of the three and make the life cycle using a variety of things: Frogs, flowers, or a butterfly. Example: {frog} I would collect a leaf from outside and make it my lily pad then I would draw an oval and color it green and add glitter, and the frog can be made from toilet paper roll." OK, I can handle the leaf thing, and I know what glitter is but how the hell do you make a frog out of toilet paper rolls?

As it's "his" project, I asked Ben which life cycle he wanted to do. I was pushing for the flower. I figured some construction paper, some glue, an unpopped popcorn kernel and a daffodil culled from the front yard and we'd be done. Of course, Ben wanted to do the most complicated one and tackle the frog. Behold the finished product!

The eggs are cotton balls marked with a Sharpie. The tadpole is a construction paper creation, illustrated by yours truly. The frog is construction paper glued together by Ben and myself with eyes of Ben's creation. He went for two different colors for the eyes. A bold choice to be sure. The lily pad is an actual leaf. I cribbed from the teacher on that one. In retrospect I should have made the frog's body more elongated, but I was working from a design that used a paper plate to make the frog, and once I got locked on a folder circle for the body, I didn't think of anything else. I have no idea what's going on with his legs. I think he's jumping but now that I look at it, it looks like he's been run over by a semi. I wanted to make more eggs to use as googly eyes but Linda thought it'd be unsettling to have a frog with eggs for eyes. She's got a valid point there. Ben also helped with the spelling of the words as I felt that having him write "tadpole" would take us well into the next millennium so I took care of that for him.
I think it turned out OK, and it's certainly better than my original idea of gluing a toy frog to a foam plate, but it's not as good as it could be. There's certainly room for improvement. Ben seemed satisfied which is the important thing as it's his project. Actually, he seemed fairly oblivious and this morning wouldn't have even remembered it had I not pointed out where it was. Ah the joys of youth and short memories.


Greg said...

Ah - those good old 2AM Denny's nights. Or Dunkin' Donuts. Or Bickfords. We'd have discussions about string theory and freak the waitresses out.

Heh heh - you said your kid was a PS2 kid.

I actually just snort-laughed at the cat-tied-to-a-brick. Kind of hurt my throat. Jerk.

Ahh - see what I have to look forward to?

suburbanjoe said...

String theory? With talks like that, you could have gone to college with me. You're not an RPI grad are you? We weren't nearly so highbrow. We'd just do the fake eye stab trick with creamer packets.

Nice catch, I didn't see that. He're more of a Wii Lad though. Heh heh heh.

Sorry about making you laugh until it hurts. Comedy can be painful.

I'll save the craft projects and sell them to you at a deep discount should your kids have a need for them.

Greg said...

I went to CCSU - Central CT State U, as did the three of my friends who were in on these talks. We'd read Hawking's books or Elegant Universe and then discuss the nature of Event Horizons and Hawking Radiation. Not that any of us really knew much, but when you're tired and it's 2AM, who cares?

Booster MPS said...

Hell I am bid for those same projects when I have kids. Can we just pass them around? I hate stuff like that and I have no hopes if my spouse is not creative. I was the kid that hated coloring and drawing growing up and it showed in my "art". Remember the kid that picked the worse colors for everything and did not stay in the lines? That was me.

MQ said...

Seriously!You turned that in for your pre-k-er? And I thought Asher was doing well learning the head and shoulders knees and toes song at preschool. I guess he'll end up in a cardboard box with the rest of the Harvard drop outs...