Friday, June 20, 2008

Great Expectations

I think I've mentioned a time or two that my nephew Keven is visiting us for two weeks (one down, one to go) thus taking our kid count from four to five. Sometimes it feels more like fifteen, but that's beside the point. I have never been so tired in all my life! And that includes being up at night with baby nurslings for years on end! At the end of the day when Jim asks me what I'm planning on doing I tell him, "as much nothing as I can manage to squeeze in." It doesn't help that this week is Vacation Bible School at church and I'm in charge of "tour leading" a group of kids ranging in age from 4 to 5th grade. Lovely. Fun, but lovely.

So, how do I manage to keep a house tidy-ish (I subscribe to "Good Enough Housekeeping"), keep five kidlets occupied and fed and clothed and entertained? It's really easy. Great Expectations. I read it to them until they're either comatose or begging to wash dishes or some other drudgery chore. No, I'm kidding. I have great expectations for the kids! My kids do chores. They work, they entertain each other and their TV watching is really limited. I have found that children will do what you expect them to! But, they will rarely do more than you expect from them and will only do less than you expect if you allow them to.

I have tons of examples bouncing around my head of this, but I will only entertain you with one story. Every day I sit the children down to do schoolwork. American children spend the first two months of every school year re-learning what they learned the year before (academically and socially). They also lose a month to teacher workshop days, Christmas/Winter/Spring break. That leaves just six months of actual new learning! No wonder American children are so far behind the rest of the world, but I digress. I would rather have my kids have a head start on the school year by never stopping the learning. So, every day Evan and Keven are doing two third grade reading/English/Spelling papers (two sides each) and one math fact/skill paper. Having been with me now for over seven years, Evan knows that when I tell him that he's to read the paragraph and answer the questions he is to read the paragraph and answer the questions. Keven, however, takes those directions to mean read the questions and guess. Since Evan does what is expected of him it usually takes him approximately twenty to thirty minutes to do all of his school work. Keven believes somewhere inside himself that if he acts really cute then I will let him lower my expectations. I think not! So, today we spent two hours reading the paragraphs, looking for answers to the questions and underlining them so I know he found the answers and didn't just make a good guess. Lest you think I'm being cruel, he is getting some breaks in there to run around the house, sharpen his pencil, and generally squirrel around! :) But, I'm not letting him lower my bar!

I know that there are some children who are genuinely not able to do what is asked and require certain adaptations. I respect that. But in general, a steadfast requirement for excellence will be met. There will be much gnashing of teeth, and the kids will probably complain as well, but once the bar is set, and set high, kids WILL rise up to meet it! And that's what I'm working really really hard on for the next week! :)


Tooz said...

Keep up the good work, Tara. That's what those kids need. They'll learn just as much around your table as they would in the first few weeks of school. Love you all, and I don't even know you!

Monica said...

Good for you. Teaching kids to do their best the first time and get it done right is perhaps the best thing to help them on the road to learning. If that's the expectation then they will succeed.