Category Archives: Third Grade

We Made it!


We made it. The last day of school. We arrived early, and they were thrilled. They’re excited about field day, report cards, the picnic this afternoon, and class assignments. Lyle showed me (twice) the tiny cheat sheet in his shorts pocket that matches next year’s teachers with their room numbers, so when he sees the room number on his report card today he’ll know which teacher will be his. He cried about having to say good bye to his beloved third grade teacher today. Baxter is hoping he gets his awesome math teacher for homeroom next year. She is truly amazing and so I hope so, too.

Baxter got an award for straight As this year and Lyle is on the honor roll for getting all As and Bs. I’m so proud of all their hard work, particularly in the face of a lot of stress for them at home.

Happy End of School!


One School Year

Dear Baxter & Lyle,

September 2012 to June 2013 — 9 months — one school year. So much change. Your lives at home have changed dramatically and you look so very different. But here you are, laughing and being ridiculous together just as you’ve always done.

Love you boys, and I’m so proud of how beautifully you are growing up. Keep being ridiculous together.



September 2012 June2013


His head was already on the dining room table in defeat. He was crying over the chicken I’d served for dinner. Because Why wasn’t it hot dogs?? But when he picked himself back up toward the end of the meal and looked at me again, there was a completely different question on Lyle’s mind: Why won’t you just homeschool me?

When I am being my best Mom self, you know, when I have time to sit there with my kid and my glass of wine and fantasize right along with him, it’s well worth doing. I remember sitting with this same child 5 years ago, him crying on the floor before preschool because he wanted to stay home with me (anyone notice a theme here?), dreaming up how we would spend the day if we were together. In the end we wrote “Watch Backyardigans” on a piece of paper and posted it right by the door so we’d remember immediately after school that we were going to do that together, and then he wiped his eyes and headed out the door for school.

And so, rather than dismissing this new request by saying, Oh, don’t be silly, you love school! or But what about all your great friends? (or even There’s no way in hell I could afford to quit my job! or, what would’ve been the worst dream killer of all, We aren’t even together all five school days!) I let him spin this thought out tonight as far as he wanted, saying, Wouldn’t that be great? I wonder what it would look like if I homeschooled you? He had a lot of great ideas, so I used another one of my favorite parenting strategies, and told him we’d better write them all down because they were so important. When we do this, we don’t just jot them down on scrap paper; I make sure we get a legal pad from my home office. It’s official that way. You wouldn’t believe how happy it makes kids when we take their ideas seriously enough to write them on a legal pad.  He wanted to write them himself and he immediately brightened.


He created one column for the benefits of a homeschool life and one column filled with his brainstormed ideas about how we’d spend our days. I loved this process because it gave me a window into what he was craving: mainly, homeschool would be quieter. He wouldn’t have to rush in the morning and neither would I. There would be no fire drills and he could avoid his least favorite classes, choir and Spanish. What I heard was that the chaos and noise of school is feeling like too much right now, and so I verbalized that and empathized with him. He’s hoping we could have a Minecraft class every day and take a lot of field trips. He wants to do art with me daily, and have the freedom to take a bathroom break any old time. And he’s dying to study topics of his choosing. Who can blame him for any of those wishes?


He decided to type up his list and I agreed that would be a good idea. When he was finished, I suggested he put an asterisk next to the things that were most important to him, but instead he made smiley faces next to those – there was a smiley face by each line when he was done.

ImageOn his own, he brought up the challenge of income for me. He thought maybe we could homeschool on MWF and I could work T/Th and weekends. He’d come along to my office when I had to work and play games on his iPod Touch all day (how generous of him!). I simply told him it was a pretty big decision to homeschool and change my work around, and we were only having the first conversation about it. He was satisfied with this and went off to read in bed, relaxed because he’d gotten to share all that was on his mind and knew he’d been heard.


I don’t expect to homeschool Lyle. It’s true that I was originally planning to be a teacher before speech pathology called my name, and it’s also true that many times when the boys were younger I marveled at their quick minds and interest in everything I told them, and thought, Wow, would it ever be cool to be this kid’s teacher! Lyle’s ideas about how we would spend our days are also appealing to me, minus the Minecraft class. But the reality is, I love my career. When I stayed home with the boys for periods of time over the years, it didn’t feel like a good fit for me. I also have a belief that my income is important because it is currently paying for many critical things. And so I have never seriously considered homeschooling them.

But when Lyle and I were discussing this tonight I’m sure he believed I was open to the idea because, in fact, I was. My interest in his thoughts about it were sincere and I let myself imagine it along with him. If there is one thing I’ve learned in the last couple of years, it’s the importance of being fully open to new ideas, to turn off the I can’t voice and just listen. I could never have made the big decisions I’ve made in the past year without that openness. Could I be divorced? Could I be a single mom? Could I live in an apartment in another neighborhood? Where do I want to live? Chicago? Evanston? Our own condo? Should I go work for someone else? Should I reorganize my own practice to make it work better? What would each of those paths look and feel like? I fully explored every option, quite often going down multiple imagined paths simultaneously with complete openness, until I finally chose certain ones. Which is, I believe, how I ultimately landed in a new life and work situation that feels very, very right to me.

My guess is, Lyle will bring up homeschooling on occasion. We’ll revisit his list, probably add to it a few times, and I’ll watch and see if he continues to feel so strongly about this once we transition into summer and leave behind the extra end-of-the-year chaos that has been especially tough for the two of us this past week. Chances are, he will find quite a few good reasons to go back to school in the fall, and will be happy to have come to that decision on his own. But if he doesn’t, I will continue to imagine it along with him and perhaps we’ll eventually find ourselves on some totally different path we’d never have expected in a million years. To me that would mean we’re living an amazing, full life.

26 Acts of Kindness

IMG_0920Yesterday was the last day of school here in Chicago before the winter break. In lieu of a cheesy holiday movie on that last interminable day of school, my seventh grader’s teacher made the decision to show the kids a video about Ann Curry’s 26 Acts of Kindness campaign, created to honor the 26 children and adults who were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT one week before. My son and his friends were very aware of the tragedy in Newtown, pulling together the following Monday to wear blue in honor of those killed, and talking about it quite a bit. The kids were inspired to go out and engage in 26 Acts of Kindness themselves and then come back to share what they’ve been doing in person and on their class’ private educational social media site. The students have been posting their acts of kindness this weekend, and they’re quite uplifting.

My son came home with the idea to bake cookies for 26 people and deliver them around the city this weekend; his 8-year old brother jumped into the idea with both feet and they were off and running. I can’t express enough what a joy it was for us as a family to do this together and I believe that it is especially important for school children to feel that they are helping in some positive way during a time that is so sad and scary for them. I am very grateful for the teacher’s idea to share this with the kids; it’s a perfect example of ways teachers impact our children for life. I can point to specific ways my teachers positively influenced my thoughts and actions as I grew up and now I see the same thing happening for my kids.

For me, the heart and energy I saw the boys pour into this project, and their interactions with strangers around our neighborhood, was all the gift I needed this Christmas. Below are photos of our adventure as the four of us worked together to make this happen today. Here is our story (click on any picture to see it enlarged):

Each of the boys made 13 cards to attach to their plates of cookies…




We all worked hard making a huge batch of sugar cookies while listening to music DJ’d by the 7th grader.


Here we have the requisite Gangnam Style dance interlude while one batch was baking…


Next, the kids assembled 26 plates of cookies, covered them in plastic wrap, and attached their notes to the top of them. They each carried a bag of 13 plates out into the neighborhood.


Starting with our mail carrier, the boys approached every person they passed in our neighborhood, asking if they’d like some free homemade cookies. We walked the couple blocks to our local El stop and gave them out to people coming and going from the train, including a failed attempt to give some to the CTA worker inside. We all had our favorite recipients; mine was probably the runner who jogged the rest of the way home carrying his plate of homemade cookies. He gave each of the boys a high-five, exclaiming to each of them in turn, “You my man!” 








Our New Year’s resolution is to think of more random acts of kindness all year long. Happy Holidays to you all!

(For more information about this campaign, here’s a video about it; you can also find plenty of inspiring ideas by searching the #26Acts and #20Acts hashtags on Twitter!) 

The Old One-Two

I love it when my kids hit me with the “old one-two”. Lyle appears with this funny little drawing of an “up and down” man, and Baxter looks at it over my shoulder and comments seriously, “He’s probably bipolar.”


Baxter’s local grandparents, his Oma and Pops, have been doing “algebra” with him for a couple years now.  This has basically consisted of giving him a series of problems such as, “8 + x = 10, what is x?”  He loves this and because it suits his quick mathematical mind very well, he asks for algebra problems all the time when he’s with them.

A few nights ago, he asked for algebra problems at the dinner table.  To challenge him, we started tossing multiplication and division problems his way, and he was solving them fairly easily.  Out of boredom, because his mind (like mine) is oriented more towards the verbal than the mathematical, Matt eventually switched from numbers to words and called it “Animalgebra”.  We were so blown away by this exercise and Baxter’s answers to the problems that Matt started to write them all down.  He generously forwarded the list to me tonight so that I could share some of them here:

Matt:  “hippopotamus + x = rhinoceros”      Baxter:  “x= tusks”

Matt:  “giraffe – x = horse”      Baxter:  “x = neck”

Matt:  “chimpanzee + x = human”      Baxter:  “x=technology”

Matt:  “horse + x = zebra”      Baxter:  “x = stripes”

Baxter then took a turn…

Baxter:  “half horse + half zebra = x”     Matt:  [stumped]    Baxter:   “x = zorse”

Good times, no?

My Son’s Bitchin’ Spelling List

Coming across my third grader’s school backpack today as I was cleaning up the house, I stopped to take a look at the homework he had completed after school yesterday with our babysitter (how awesome is she?).  In his agenda notebook, I found the first spelling list of the year.

Now, let me preface this by saying that Baxter attends a Chicago Public School that is a literature and writing magnet program (and now has technology magnet status as well), and each child has his or her own individual spelling list each week, which I love.  In previous years, the teachers started with the grade level words that are supposed to be mastered that year and then later pulled misspelled words from the kids’ own pieces of writing to create their lists.  I knew from the form that had come home that Baxter had only missed one of the third grade words, different, and so I was not surprised to see that word at the top of his list.  The rest, however, mystified – and then completely stunned – me.  Read on:

1. different

2. gadget

3. barricade

4. bastion

5. batiste

6. baton

7. bayberry

8. bistro

9. bitch

10. blacklist

Yes, bitch is one of my son’s spelling words for this week. [Never mind the randomness of the rest of the list.]

Here is the conversation that ensued:

Me: “Um, Bax, I was just looking at your spelling words.  I’m wondering, where did these words come from?”

Baxter: “Well, I got different wrong on the test, and Ms. B gave me gadget for some reason.  Then, since there weren’t any more words, she told me I should go to the dictionary and find words I didn’t know, and add those to my list, so I started in the B’s and found these words.”


Me: “Do you know what all of these mean?”

Baxter: “I looked up four of them to write sentences about on Friday, but I don’t know the others yet.”

Me, after asking a couple other definitions, I asked casually, “How about this one?  Number 9.  Bitch?”

Baxter: “I told you I haven’t looked them all up!  I don’t know.”

Me: “Remember I told you that there are some swear words people say sometimes and you wanted to know what they are?”

Baxter, hazel eyes growing wide behind the blue frames: “Yes?”

Me: “Well, um, bitch is one of those words that has two meanings, sweetie.”

Baxter, brightening: “Yeah!  Like zest!”

[Yes. He did.]

Me: “Right.  Like zest.” [How did I not crack up during this conversation?]

I went on to give him two definitions of bitch, including the not-so-nice one.

He was mortified, and worried, but came back later and said, “But Ms. B won’t think I meant anything bad, because she knows I was just looking up words I don’t know, right?”

Right.  That and I’ll be giving her a heads up over email this weekend.

In Which I Bow Down to the New Teacher

The stories coming back from the first week of school make me smile wider every day.  Tidbits like, We can get a drink of water or go to the bathroom whenever we need to!, I got to play Blokus with my friends this afternoon – we have time for games on Fridays!, and I like every day even better than the day before.  At dinner, when he says what he’s grateful for, he names things about school.   Aaah, music to my ears.

And then, if only to make me happier about this first week of school, this piece of paper came home today.  The kids were asked to write a word or two describing how they felt on the first day of school and then how they felt today, noting if these were the same feelings or different feelings.  Wait!  Feelings?!  In school??  It’s enough to make a mama burst into a rousing chorus of Glory, Glory Hallelujah!  How cool is this? (See her note at the bottom.)

I dare say we’re off to a fantastic start.

And so Third Grade Begins

    Posing with his Harry Potter wand,

 and with his best friend,

 and with his little brother:


It was a happy day all around.

Have a great new school year, everyone!