Family Life


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Mommy Laugh Track: Growth Opportunities

Summer vacation and playground politics reveal that sometimes the lessons learned outside the classroom are the ones that stick the most.

You send your child to the schoolmaster, but ‘tis the schoolboys who educate him.
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Growth 1 - mommy laugh track: growth opportunitiesAfter a summer off from formal education, it can be hard for kids to get back into the spirit of learning that exists within a structured classroom. But what they might not realize is that they have been engaged in a different kind of (dare I say Lord of the Flies) learning while hanging around with their friends… and maybe even their family!

While in the formal classroom setting they are learning
the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic, the summer was brimming with other kinds of learning opportunities. On the soccer pitch, for instance, they learned about spatial awareness, (“Run to your OTHER left, your OTHER left”), logic (“Just let us get five goals ahead and then I’ll let you get back in the game Norton”) and diplomacy skills (“Mom that kid just told me I suck! And he’s on my team!”). Not to mention some of the more subtle aspects of teamwork such as nepotism (“Because she’s the coach’s daughter. Want me to coach next year so you can take the kick offs sweetie?”) and oneupmanship (“Did you see my daughter? Man they’re lucky to have her.”)

Rainy days spent in front of the television and computer, or with handheld games, also afforded important educational opportunities. Here, our children learned fine motor skill dexterity (“Sixteen kills in eight seconds Mom!”), human anatomy (those graphics are so lifelike!), and interpersonal relationships (“I have 48 friends on Facebook.”). Not even your family vacation was immune from becoming a living classroom. Children and parents learned to hone their negotiation skills (“We’ll stop for lunch after we pass the next exit”), improve their self-esteem, (“I didn’t want the back seat anyway, loser. It’s for losers. Loser.”), and learn the fine art of debating (“Yes you are! No I’m not! Yes you are! No I’m not!”). This of course precludes the actual learning that goes on when the jockeying for the best seat on the airplane begins and the basic principles of “fight versus flight” are taught with some legitimacy.

Flash forward to the first day of school, where we find our freckled, rested and anxious kids, dressed in their new stiff school clothes (anything more than board shorts and tankinis after the summer is going to feel restrictive), nervously lined up in their “new lines” at their “new doors” waiting to meet their “new teachers”. And while on that first day they will be taught the logistics of the classroom, the subjects to be covered, and the expectations for success, their biggest  learnings will still come from outside the class, as that first recess bell rings and the scramble for “who is friends with who” begins. From the kid who gets picked last for the soccer game, to the girl who discovers her best friends from last year seem to have aged five years, along with the now appropriate hair, makeup and clothes, the lessons learned are more of a social nature.

As William Golding said in Lord of the Flies, “’We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages.” Perhaps one of the first things we need to teach our kids this school year, is that the teacher isn’t the only one teaching.

Kathy Buckworth ’s latest book Shut Up and Eat: Tales of Chicken, Children, and Chardonnay, is in bookstores everywhere. Visit and follow Kathy on twitter at

Published in August 2010

a man carrying two children

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