How much do you love me? This is a test.
First grade, declares my six-year-old, is all about learning to sit at a desk. Kindergarten block center, dramatic play, and extra recess have been replaced by dictation, handwriting, and tests. Yes, I’m surprised to learn. Tests in first grade. I was ready to get worked up about the diagnostic tests in the fall – my boy spending the good part of two school days filling in small circles with a number two pencil – until he came home. Excited. My nerdy little boy LOVED filling in small circles with a number two pencil!
Testing. We’ve seen a good deal of testing behavior this year. Will I actually be in trouble if I play in the basement like I’ve been told not to? What happens when I freeze OJ, olive oil, and blueberries in a cup? What happens when my friend and I get into the spray paint? Will Mama follow through on the consequence she said is coming? This is the kind of testing that belongs in first grade, in my oh-so-humble opinion.
Shortly after entering kindergarten, my kiddo began playing school. (I get corrected regularly, it’s not playing. Right. Not playing. Teaching school to imaginary kids in the playroom off the kitchen.) Somehow, I had the foresight to declare early on that I would not, could not, pretend to be a student. Instead, I quickly promoted myself to principal. Sometimes imaginary kids get brought to me by a pint sized teacher with a stern voice and a school photo turned ID in a leftover corporate lanyard.
Halfway through first grade, he now makes tests. Multiple choice, fill in the blank, show your work and explain how you found the answer. His tests give me a window into his school day, his interests, and his reliance on phonics over spelling. They also keep him occupied at the table while I finish making dinner.
One evening, he’s left a test for me on the kitchen counter. After bedtime, I pull out a pencil and begin answering his questions, anticipating the smile on his face when he finds the completed test at his breakfast spot the next morning.
Some of the math problems make sense. Others don’t:
Ges how old I am. Yose the code to figer out how old I am. I was bone in 2009. 6+0=__ years old.
I smile at the essay question: Why do you like ________? Explain what it maks you feal.
I consider expounding on the merits of tequila, coffee, and grown up time without children, but settle on a basic: yoga. Here is an opportunity for my kid to hear why this practice is important to me.
Turning to the last page, my heart cracks open at the final multiple choice:
How much do you love me?
My check box options are a moon, some stars, a smile, the world, one heart, and many hearts.
I search his play area for crayons. Color each choice, then check them all with a purple crayon, my favorite. And then use the rest of the page to illustrate how multiple choice doesn’t even begin to answer the question. Neither could an essay. A picture is, after all, is worth 1,000 words.
You may know the story of a skeptic questioning a guru:
What holds up the world?
The world rests on the back of a turtle.
What does the turtle stand on?
What does that turtle stand on?
Its turtles all the way down.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ginny is a pain specialist, yoga instructor, and Reiki practitioner, offering classes and support to busy moms carrying the pain of too much stress and too little exercise, rest, and self-care time. She has put down roots in South Amherst with her spouse and young son. Daily she’s amazed by the beauty the Pioneer Valley offers, though her allergies beg to differ. In Off the Mat, Ginny explores how yoga’s physical and mindfulness exercises help her parent and how parenting shapes her yoga practice. www.ginnyhamilton.com