Simcha Fisher, author of The Sinner’s Guide to Natural Family Planning writes for several publications and blogs daily at Aleteia. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and ten children. Without supernatural aid, she would hardly be a human being.
At the start of vacation, you sent us a letter about how to prevent "summer slide." It was really great advice, all about keeping the mind engaged, maintaining numeric literacy, cultivating assessment-compatible competencies across cognitive and affective domains, perambulating meaning-centered anagogical plutocracies to iterate syngergistic vainglory, and not just playing Mario Kart all the time.
I skimmed, I skimmed.
The upshot is, I'm sure that whatever you advised totally would have worked, if we had done it. If we had followed your suggestions, and played those fun math games, and done those enjoyable vocabulary exercises, you wouldn't be facing the prospect of spending the next two months re-teaching the things that last year's teacher tried to cram into their skulls during the last three months of school, while all the precious little scholars, with their pristine little frontal lobes, were fully engaged in gaping up at two flies having this awesome fight in the light fixture.
If we parents had taken the smallest bit of initiative, you might even be able to introduce our kids to new ideas this year, rather than expending most of your energy on suppressing the urge to scream, "Of course you'll never use this in the real world! But I took out a second mortgage to pay for my recertification so I could teach it to you, so just learn it, you overprivileged, undermotivated, wrongheaded, sunscreened, helicoptered, common cored crumbs!"
Alas. We spent our summer swimming, watching X Files, sucking down gallons and gallons of ramen, eviscerating countless watermelons, making a meticulous survey of the entire lifework of the master cinematographer Chow Yun Fat, and creating various kinds of heartache for your long-suffering soul sister, the public librarian.
As a result, my kids are about 35% less educated, and maybe 36% more resistant to learning anything useful, than they were when you said goodbye in the spring. I made some feeble attempts to enrich them culturally, but then there was that episode where even Scully has to admit that that was no ordinary flukeworm. Brrr. Oh man!
Since I never had any intention of holding up my end (hello, taxpayer here. Not my job, ha!), the least I can do is offer some advice for how to catch and keep my children's attention.
Get something wrong. They may look like they're just a few pulse rates away from flatlining, but ho man, make a little error -- pronounce "fibonacci" wrong, make a little mistake in the alphabet, or casually mention how you felt the first time you realized that Harvey Dent is really Spiderman -- and they will snap to attention faster than you can say "higher order thinking skills." Quick, toss some facts into their open ears while you can.
Wear something with a TARDIS on it. You don't even have to know anything about the show, just slap a bowtie on, or make arch references to "Bad Wolf" or "The Silence," and watch them adjust their opinion of you at least ten notches up. It's cheap, it's exploitative, but it works. If they think you're a Whovian, you count. Just remember, only the show is called "Doctor Who." The guy himself is called "The Doctor." If you call him "Dr. Who," the jig will be up and you'll be downgraded again.
Cry. DO NOT OVERUSE. But seriously, they are human. They don't really mean to shatter your spirit entirely, they just felt like toying with your life force a little bit. Once they realize they've actually done permanent damage to your psyche, they will feed bad and lay off, until tomorrow.
Above all, keep your integrity, and do not stoop to jazzing up a writing assignment by telling the kids to write an open letter to anyone. Puh-leaze, everyone is sick to death of this gimmick. Have some self respect.
A Mom Who Tried