01 Dec Couldn’t School Just Be Enough? (Republished by Request)
Rosie and Quinn were very good friends. Both children were in Mrs. Randall’s Nursery class at the Little Farm School. They had been in class together last year as well and were overjoyed to be sharing another year of school together. Given free time, the two children almost always ran to the dress up area of their classroom.
“I’ll be the dog,” said Quinn predictably. He almost always wanted to play a dog.
“Let’s pretend you hurt your paw, and come to the vet,” Rosie added. “I’ll take good care of you. Oh, a thorn. Please hold still. There, it’s out.”
Quinn barked with pleasure and let Rosie do a little pretend grooming of his fur. “I love this game,” he exclaimed, smiling delightedly at Rosie.
Mrs. Randall put on the familiar clean up music, and the two friends began to put the dress up area to rights. The other children pitched in too.
“Great cleaning, Rosie and Quinn,” Mrs. Randall told them. “You can help pass out napkins and cups.” They smiled at each other and got right to it.
In minutes, everyone had washed their hands and found seats. Apples sprinkled with cinnamon was a popular snack and the children ate happily. The class was in Seventh Heaven.
After snack the children gathered on the carpet for story time. Mrs. Randall chose one of her favorite stories. The children listened carefully to every word. The story was about a bunny who was frightened by a fox, but managed to get back to her bunny hole, where her mother patted her and helped her to feel safe and sound. In the second chapter, the bunny family took a short trip to their Aunt Betty’s hole, where they nibbled on carrot tops and loved her blue and white checked tablecloths. As they were feasting on berry pie, there was a loud noise outside the bunny hole.
“Tomorrow we’ll read Chapter 3, children,” Mrs. Randall announced.
“Will the bunnies be safe?” Greg wanted to know.
“You know I always pick a story with a happy ending,” Mrs. Randall assured him.
After playing outside in the warm October weather, the children went in to lunch. Rosie and Quinn were happy to be able to sit together. He was teaching her how to count by twos during lunch. Quinn loved numbers and helped Rosie to love them too. During dessert, they nibbled their oatmeal cookies, trying to see who could take the most bites and make the cookie last. Rosie ate hers in fourteen bites and Quinn took seventeen.
“Hey, Quinn you beat me by three bites!”
“Right. Rosie, you are getting really good at math.”
Back in their sunny classroom, they sat together at the art table. Rosie showed Quinn how to draw a bird.
“Here’s how you do the beak,” she told him.
“Rosie! My birds really look like birds.” Quinn couldn’t have been prouder.
Just then the door opened. Quinn’s mother, Lorraine came in. “Mrs. Randall, I have to pick up Quinn. He has somewhere to go. He’ll see you all tomorrow!” she announced in a loud voice.
Quinn was surprised to leave. “Goodbye, Mrs. Randall,” he said softly.
“Goodbye, sweetheart. See you tomorrow.”
As Quinn and Lorraine left the building, Quinn told his mother, “Rosie taught me how to draw a bird. She’s a good artist. I wanted to practice a little more. Why am I leaving early?”
“Quinn, you need challenges. I think you should be learning a lot more.”
Lorraine drove to an unfamiliar parking lot and they got out of the car. They entered a building and turned into a room with rows of desks.
“This is Mr. Baxter, Quinn,” Lorraine said. “He is going to help you learn new things and get really smart.”
Mr. Baxter spoke calmly. “So Quinn, I hear you are good in math. But you can be better. You want to be better, right son?”
Quinn thought he was getting better at counting, writing and drawing. “As I do things, I get better at everything,” he said.
“Well, I can help you be faster and better at numbers than your friends. Let’s start by having you write the numbers 1 to 10. And then write them backwards.”
Quinn bent over the paper and wrote the numbers slowly. His fingers felt stiff. The backwards ones were hard.
“Now listen, Quinn. How much is 3 + 2 + 4? Hurry up, Quinn.”
“Um ten. When is my mommy coming back?” Quinn asked. “I’m kinda tired.”
“Soon. Pay attention. ”
Just then, Quinn’s mother returned. She had several books in her arms.
“How did it go?” Lorraine asked, a bit anxiously.
“Fine, fine. Quinn is learning what a real school is. I’ll see him tomorrow afternoon. A bit earlier would be better.”
“Okay, Mr. Baxter. We’ll be here then.”
“Mommy, wait. I don’t want to miss any more school. I love school.”
“After the first few lessons, you can come after school, Quinn.”
When they were back in the car, Quinn said, “Mommy, I don’t want to go back there. It’s awful.”
“Quinn, the Little Farm School is a nice place but you are really just playing. You need to learn. I have some books on letters and reading. I want you to start taking Spanish. At school all you learn is how to draw a bird! I sometimes wonder what I am spending my money on.”
Quinn thought of Rosie pretending to cut his dog toenails, which seemed like a million hours ago. Wearily, he thought of the bunnies and blue and white checked tablecloths.
When they got home, Lorraine sat Quinn at the kitchen table with a number workbook. “I have some calls to make. Get started.”
There were a few blank pieces of paper and a pencil beside the books. Quinn took the pencil. Almost by magic, a bird’s head and body appeared. A little lift came over him.
His mother reappeared. “All set up. Starting next week, you can take chess at the Y. I also signed you up for Letters Gone Wild on Thursdays after school. You’ll be a busy boy, Quinn. You are going to shape up, at last.”
Quinn’s head was propped droopily on his very tipped hand. “Enough drama,” his mother said. “Let’s look at the numbers book.”
“Mommy, I like numbers. I think about them a lot. I love to count in my head. I just don’t want to do them this way.”
Lorraine looked at the clock and realized it was later than she thought. “Okay, I’ll make dinner. You can play for a while.”
Quinn brightened. He sat down on the comfortable couch and felt thankful to have his mind to himself. In his four-year old way, he wondered what had changed. Why did he have to have all these activities? Couldn’t school just be enough? In no time, Quinn fell asleep holding the soft edge of a pillow.
Originally published in 2013
Written by: Anne Martine Cook, Managing Partner & Mom, with 40+ years experience teaching nursery school children.
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