The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: Education

It’s Schoolhouse Rocky,
that chip off the block
Of your favorite schoolhouse,
Schoolhouse Rock!

School House Rock

Learning comes in all forms. Some people are visual learners. Some auditory. Some need to get their hands in the thick of it to grasp concepts the best. I’m of the belief that regardless of what kind of ways you learn best, we retain the most concepts when we’re having fun with those concepts. Sometimes it’s a project in school that got you jazzed to be taking part in, or a teacher that made you laugh while you learned. The association with your enjoyment brings back and retains the knowledge you gained along with it. 

And I think that’s why Schoolhouse Rock! has been a reference point for so many of us from the 1970s, 80s, 90s, and to my surprise, beyond.

In case you weren’t around during any of its original run or its encore, the Emmy award-winning Schoolhouse Rock was a series of short animation segments that aired in between various Saturday morning cartoons on ABC. With humor and catchy tunes, they taught elements of history, civics, grammar, science, math, and more. Its initial run lasted more than a decade, from 1973 to 1984, and came back with a mix of new and old episodes for a few years in the early 1990s. 

To my generation, they’re classics, but they’re the sort of thing I’ve always felt would end up being just a fond memory of our childhood when we look back on those halcyon days of Saturday morning lineups, a box of cereal, and toy commercials that flood through our nostalgia-soaked minds. So imagine my surprise when I recently walked into the living room to find all our children laughing along with the series, courtesy of Disney+!

Since the series was released on the streaming platform earlier this month, they’ve watched them over and over again, quickly weeding out their favorites, viewing them (and singing along) again and again.

There’s certainly no shortage of great entries in the Schoolhouse Rock series, but in no particular order, I present to you our kids’ top three Schoolhouse Rock installments to both educate and earworm!

 

I’m Just a Bill

The 1976 classic still gets a lot of play in our home, and its influence already has our 7 year old discussing the process of lawmaking in discussions. Spoofed dozens of times over the years, this one stands out as probably the most famous of School House Rock entries, with a walking, talking bill explaining to a small boy why he’s sitting on Capitol Hill, hoping he doesn’t die in committee, and can one day become a law. History rock that makes an impression – for any generation! 

 

Interjection!

Hey! Wow! Yeow! Hooray! They show emotion! They show excitement! Sometimes with an exclamation point or a comma if the feeling isn’t strong. A wonderful 1974 entry in the grammar themed segments, whether it’s a great grade on a report card, a shot in the bum by the doctor, or losing the big game, this drives home with various scenarios how much the words we use can express ourselves when used correctly. 

 

The Tale of Mr. Morton

One of the later entries into the series, this one comes from the early 90s but is no less catchy and fun.In the story of shy Mr Morton, the song teaches the grammar elements of subject and predicate. Our kids quote its small bits of dialogue all the time and I find myself walking around singing part of its chorus “Mr Morton is the subject of the sentence, and what the predicate says, he does.”


What about you? Were you a Schoolhouse Rock fan? Any favorites on your personal playists? Feel free to share them!


The beat of the drums. The shaking of maracas. And our son running around a room wanting to play with a hula hoop on the wall.

It’s Kindermusik time.

What’s Kindermusik? I will explain to you, as I was completely unaware myself until Meg sent me the links one day that led to our signing the little guy up for our once a week outings.

Kindermusik is a musical class for kids and parents that uses music, singing, stories (and some occasional hopping and animal re-enactments) to help children as they develop fundamental skills. Those skills, for the toddler level that we’re currently enrolled in, is very much of the listening kind. It’s something we are, at times, struggling with, which makes the class all the more appropriate at this stage.

At the age level of our class (ages 2-3), parents are invited to take part with their children, which for us first-timers is good because we’re not quite at the ‘leave him on his own for a class’ stage yet ourselves. We’ll get there. Promise.

The first session, I went solo with the little guy. There were some kids and parents who were regulars and some other first-timers like us. When we walked into the carpeted room, walls adorned with animals and musical paraphernalia, instruments were in the middle of the room for the kids to try. Our guy immediately gravitated toward the triangle. Although, in all honesty, several minutes into it, the banging of the triangle had lost all novelty and he was using the wand (is it called a wand? I’m not a musician) to both be a conductor (shouting ‘Look, Dada! I’m a conductor! to the entire class) or to point it at me and tell me it was a magic wand (“I gonna shrink you now, dada!”) proceeded by a humming sound he makes to indicate magic.

I love his imagination.

The class itself had numerous, short activities that look to engage each of the kids (with parents joining in) from singing hello to each child with a different motion (clapping, rolling, stamping feet, etc) for each one, using the aforementioned maracas (which are more like little red eggs with rice in them, but they’re just as fun) and storytime with music to accompany it.

That first session’s storytime, it became obvious our guy was new to the group. Aside from being the tallest. He’s about to be three this summer, so in a class of 2-3 year olds, he falls on the older side of the spectrum in comparison to the others. When it was time for stories, some of the children, by routine, helped the instructor pull a blanket from the corner to set down and sit upon in order to hear the story. Well, our little guy hasn’t quite done that type of group storytime (at least not with a blanket involved. He HAS been to a few Barnes and Noble storytimes I’ve been involved with) and instead, he immediately put himself under the blanket, as though he was laying down in bed for one of our nightly stories.

You can’t blame him too much. That is HIS routine each night, after all and what he associates with hearing stories. Boy playing piano

Luckily, by week two, he had it down and was now only sitting ON the blanket, but was helping to move it for the teacher, which was great to see.

Both weeks had its moments (though for week two, both daddy AND mommy were there for class – and believe me, it was great having reinforcements) as he would have a mini meltdown if he wasn’t getting to use the instruments he wanted versus what the teacher wanted kids to use at the moment, or that he wanted the hula hoops hanging high up on the wall for use by another class.

It’s a 45 minute class and I suppose for a child, 45 minutes can seem like a longtime, especially one with as much energy as our has. The nice thing is that he’s not the only kid in the class who gets up and wanders around and the teacher is excellent in incorporating their individual attention spans and penchant for getting up into the class activities and discussion as they go.

I must have looked like a nervous wreck that first class, chasing him around whenever he’d go off for a wander, as a few of the moms there would smile and reassure me he was doing fine. After class, the teacher said the same thing, which was in stark contrast to the exaggerated nightmare version I was creating in my head.

And as I say, having both Meg and myself there the following week made a huge difference as well. Family doing the conga at family Christmas party

We had hoped by Week Three, we’d start finding a routine. I skipped out on the Week Three class and it was just Meg and he. I was having a rough morning mentally (more on that another time), and needed some time to reflect and re prioritize things. I chose to do that with a cup of coffee and sitting on a park bench.

When I returned to pick Meg and the little guy up, I immediately sensed things hadn’t gone well. Apparently it was the worst he had been yet. Not just the running around, but the constant not listening, hitting Meg, hitting the teacher, and riding another kid like a dinosaur, it was one big terrible, musical mess.

People tell us that at this stage of almost three years old, it’s a phase. And I’m sure it is. But while it may be a phase, these are issues. Issues we need to deal with now so that when the phase ends, the seeds aren’t planted for continued bad behavior and dismissiveness to everyone around him.

It’s worrisome. And likely a much more involved blog post for another day when I have time to both reflect on what’s happening, our approach, be it right or wrong, and do a little more research.

When it comes to Kindermusik, the end results those first two weeks were that he had fun.We had hoped him taking part in his very first class, interacting with a teacher and other kids would be good for him. At first, he got over the meltdowns and while wanting to do his own thing at times, was still taking part in the bulk of class activities. But last week seems like a major step backward.

Through a mere glitch in our schedule this week, we were unable to attend our usual class and shifted to another day of the week and time of day. It turned out that there were only two other children in that class, and making for a much better experience for us and the little guy. While he wasn’t necessarily angelic, he was much better behaved than he had been in the large group. Whether or not that’s the key to some progress as we move along, well, we’ll have to see.


I think every parent wants their child to have better opportunities than they were able to have, or afford. Just about anyone with a child wants their child to be able to have a better life than their own (and if they don’t, then maybe they should re-think this whole parent thing).

With that in mind, I’ve started the process of setting up a 529 account for our son so that when he becomes of age, there is money that has been invested and put aside to help him further his education. Of course, we’ll also be hoping and encouraging him to apply for scholarships and grants wherever they’re available.

Whoa whoa whoa. Slow down there, dorky daddy. Talking about college already when your son is only nine weeks old? What gives?

Here’s where it comes from. You see, while I went to college and received a degree, it was not a road easily traveled for me financially. Sure, I’m confident there are many who had things far, far worse when it came to affording higher education, don’t get me wrong.

However, financial aid and a grant only covered so much, and the rest (and there was a lot of ‘the rest’) was covered by student loans. What’s worse, the majority of them were private student loans, as public student loans only cover so much.

I would never want to give up the experiences and lifelong friendships that I made in my time away at college, but the costs that came along with it have become the gift that keeps on giving…to the banks.

At the young age of 17, 18, 19, I wasn’t thinking about what my life would be like 10-15 years down the road. It was all so ‘far away’ that I just naturally assumed and had confidence in the fact that I’d very easily get a job and pay off any loans that I took out to pay for college.

How young, foolish and wrong I was.

Even in the current journalism job that I’ve had for more than five years, I’m still paying out half of my paycheck each pay period to student loan lenders and will be for years to come.

So is it worth it anymore?

It used to be that people attended a college to learn more about a specialized field. Today it seems like it’s become nothing more than a “credential” that one needs in order to get a job.

So, we take out massive debt to get a piece of paper that may or may not help us get a job in order to pay for the massive debt we took out in the first place.

We’ve become indentured servants to our schooling and the banks, forcing us to stay in jobs that we might otherwise take the leap of faith out of to bigger things, but stay where we are for the security of knowing we can pay off that education debt that has outgrown so many other bills.

I don’t want that for my son.

Hopefully, by teaching him not only the importance of learning and how to learn, but investing in the 529, should he choose to go on to college, he will not become the Jacob Marley of education, wearing the shackles of student loan debt that so many of us on the college degree chain gang must wear.



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