At present, the Free-Ride offspring are enjoying the hospitality of the Grandparents Who Lurk But Seldom Comment, and the Free-Ride parental units are enjoying quieter mornings — at least in theory.
This morning, some time before 7:00 …
Casa Free-Ride telephone: RING! RING! RING! RING!
Dr. Free-Ride: Mrrph! ZZZZZZ
Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Hello?
Younger Free-Ride offspring: Hi [Dr. Free-Ride's better half]!
Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Hi [Younger Free-Ride offspring]. Do you know what time it is?
Younger Free-Ride offspring: No, let me look at the clock.
Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Yawn!
Younger Free-Ride offspring: (heard over the phone) No [Grandparent Who Lurks But Seldom Comments], it’s not too early to call. [Dr. Free-Ride's better half] answered.
Discussion ensued about the sprogs’ preparation for today’s “World Cup” competition at soccer camp. There was a significant energy gradient between the two participants in the conversation.
Younger Free-Ride offspring: Bye [Dr. Free-Ride's better half]!
Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Bye [Younger Free-Ride offspring]. Next time, check the clock before you call, OK?
Younger Free-Ride offspring: OK, I will.
Dr. Free-Ride: (drowsily) Did you specify a time before which it’s too early to call?
Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: No.
Dr. Free-Ride: Well, the next early-morning call we get, [Younger Free-Ride offspring] will at least know exactly what time it is.
Dr. Free-Ride’s better half: Getting the facts is the first step to making a good decision.
Dr. Free-Ride: As long as you take the call.
* * * * *
In the phone conversations I have had with the sprogs at more civilized hours of the day, they have neglected (some might say refused) to give up any science-y morsels for me to share with you today.
So instead, as the school year creeps up on us, maybe it’s time to check how the ubiquitous school budget cuts will be affecting science instruction in your area, and to share strategies for getting school kids through these lean times without too much trauma.
In our elementary school (and public school district), things look like they will be a little better than was initially feared. That is to say, science instruction has not been totally cut (unlike music and physical education). What has been cut is the teacher assigned as the science teacher for the school. (That teacher will be a regular classroom teacher in the fall.) And this means that every classroom teacher will be responsible for teaching the grade-level science curriculum to his or her class — learning the material, figuring out multiple ways to explain the material, getting the hands-on demonstrations to works, leading the students through the hands-on experiments (and being ready to help the groups of students troubleshoot on the fly), not leaving the equipment and materials for the demos and experiments in such disarray that the other teachers cannot find what they need.
I’m guessing things may not go totally smoothly at the beginning — and that’s before we even factor in the classroom teachers who are kind of freaked out because they don’t feel so comfortable with their own knowledge of science or ability to teach it.
Also, the school won’t be having a science fair this coming academic year. While the Free-Ride offspring will doubtless be doing lots of experimentation of their own around the house, I anticipate it will be harder to get them to write any of it up (or think hard about how to explain it to other kids, etc.).
Our school’s solution to almost any challenge is to throw parent (and grandparent) volunteers at it, but our experience has been that many of the parent volunteers are openly freaked out about science (or more precisely, about the fact that it is not something they think they’re good at). I’m a little worried, therefore, that the big lesson the kids at our school learn this coming academic year is that grown-ups think science is scary. (All in all, that’s a better lesson than “Science is scary,” but still, it seems suboptimal.)
Have any of you been through a school year like this? Any clever ideas to share for getting through it?