Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Presidents

Last Monday afternoon, as is my usual custom, I was working on balancing our checkbook. Doesn’t that sound glamorous and exciting? I know. I actually find it relaxing when I don’t feel like I’m behind elsewhere.

Yes, I am a nerd.

I usually wait until Caedmon goes down for a nap, but he was playing so well that I decided to get a head start. I brought my pile o’ stuff into the living room and planted myself on the couch so I could work and supervise/help with his bug-matching game.

I had a few currency bills among my stack of bills and receipts, and Caedmon came over and started asking questions about them. I wasn’t surprised that he was interested in “money” because it is something that’s pretty cool to him right now. What surprised me were the questions he was asking.

“Who is this?” referring to the picture of Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill that was sitting there. I told Caedmon his name and explained that he’d been one of our Presidents. Then he wanted to know where he lived. “Washington DC” was the easy answer. (Although I couldn’t remember if the capitol was actually in Washington DC or New York at the time.) And then, he wanted to know how Jackson had gotten to be President. And who was our President now. And why Jackson wasn’t still the President. And if he could go to Washington DC to visit him. When I told him he’d died, he asked who killed him.

That one threw me for a loop. First of all, because Caedmon automatically assumed that if someone had died, they’d been killed. And because as best I could remember at the time, Lincoln and Kennedy were the only ones to be assassinated and What’s-His-Name died of pneumonia because he gave an incredibly long inauguration speech in the freezing cold, but everybody else just…died. (Can you tell I’m not a history buff?) So I tried explaining to Caedmon a bit about that without making it a big deal. Nobody killed him. He just got super old and died. He still wasn’t quite satisfied, but he moved on anyway.

He asked about Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. I told him he’d also worked in Washington DC. And then Lincoln…oh my. That one was a challenge. I wasn’t about to use the word “assassination,” and I’m sure you can imagine why.

As I sat, trying to fit numbers into neat little columns, I found myself giving my 3 year-old son a lesson in US History that I felt neither prepared for nor knowledgeable enough about to be sure I was giving him correct information. I know, he’s “only” three. But it matters. To me, anyway.

For a second I thought, “He’s too young for this stuff. Just change the subject. Cartoons! We can watch cartoons!” But I caught myself. If he’s interested in it, I shouldn’t gloss over it just because I think he’s too young to comprehend or because I don’t remember the details well enough. Because in some ways, he’s not too young. And I can always pull out a book. Or Google.

I remembered that several months back, I’d purchased a set of flash cards on US Presidents for $1 at Target. I found them in the closet and handed them to Caedmon. “Here you go, Dude. This is all of our Presidents!” He spent the next 15 minutes looking through all the cards and asking questions about some of them. I pointed out our current President and taught Caedmon his name. I also pointed out Bush 41 and 43 and told him they were father and son. He thought that was pretty cool.

All in all, the whole Presidents thing lasted a good 30 minutes, with all the questions and the cards. He even got up after his nap and looked through the cards again.

Monday afternoon reality check. That afternoon was a stark reminder and a little glimmer of the work and dedication it takes to educate your children and how much you have to know and/or re-learn. Just thinking about the quadratic equation and teaching the boy to spell “chrysanthemum” seems a daunting task. (Honestly, I learned to spell that one by watching Anne of Green Gables a few too many times.) But I reminded myself that I wouldn’t have to start out with that stuff. We’d start out with 2+2 (which I can totally do) and “c-a-t” and go from there.

I was also reminded that Caedmon’s education is our responsibility. Not a teacher’s. Not a school’s. Not a government’s. Ours. Parents. There are lots of excellent teachers and schools and I appreciate them and their dedication to teaching our kids. But we should partner with them instead of depending solely on them. Ultimately, he’s our kid and we are responsible for his whole person, which includes his education. I’m not saying I want to be one of those moms who does their kids’ homework for them or pushes them to the brink of insanity over getting good grades. Because, um, no. (I didn’t want to do that stuff for myself – why would I want to do theirs?) But I should be an active participant in their education, no matter where they go to school, be it down the street or at our kitchen table.

We both got a lesson that day.

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  1. I don't know how I have not found you before today. Like the blog a lot!
    We homeschool and I am constantly re-learning. Fractions kicked my tail in school, and sadly, are kicking my tail again!! HA!
    I'm a preacher's wife too!

  2. You could homeschool. I typically don't recommend it bc there are some idiots out there but you would do great. Praying for God's guidance for you guys. (;