Posts tagged ‘bubbleboy’

October 12, 2012

Bubbleboy is Smart

I haven’t posted about my experience with the California primary education system in a while.  We might have just gotten used to it and things seem a bit more normal than they did 2 years ago.

We have, however, now encountered another “issue”.  It turns out Bubbleboy is a really smart little guy.  By that I mean by that is certifiably significantly above the average of his peers.   “I wish I had that problem, whiner” I hear you say thinking of struggling through homework with your child  and I realize that I am complaining about a desirable problem to have – but a problem none the less.

The California public educational system simply does not have money to deal with kids like Bubbleboy. The gifted program, once nicely named GATES, has been discontinued and what remaining resources are available for special training is going towards supporting those who can’t keep up with the goal to improve their performance so that the funds – based on achieving certain minimum levels in standardized testing – keep rolling in.  Smart kids don’t get in the way of that so no extra money gets spend on them.

But smart kids have other needs and issues that, when left unmet, create problems.  Some of the issues are social, e.g. Bubbleboy finds sports boring and does not play soccer with the rest of them – which does not make him popular with many of his sports-obsessed peers.  He tends not to be particularly patient in group work when he has figured stuff out and others haven’t – again, annoying but not surprising.

He also does not like math, although he is really good at it, because by and large it is to easy = too boring.  For the teacher the situation is not easy either, she tries to accommodate but without funds that is purely a labor of love.

What is truly mind-boggling, is that a State like California whose economy depends on smart people inventing cool stuff and selling it to the rest of the world – does not have money for gifted education.  Instead we build more prisons.  Makes sense how??

July 16, 2012


Where we live we have play dates for our kids.  They don’t just go out and visit their friends’ and classmates after school and homework as we used to do, no, generally, you have to make a “date” for such an important event.  This involves two parents – mothers, mostly – taking out their smart phones and scroll through their and their busy off-spring’s  calendars.  A conversation like this ensues:

Parent 1: “Monday and Thursday Jimmy has soccer training, Tuesdays is piano class and afterwards  we go to the library, Friday is his Chinese class and Saturday morning a soccer game.  We could do a week from Wednesday but not before 4:30 because of art class every other week.”

Parent 2: “Let’s see, a week from Wednesday … that won’t work, Danny has swim practice.  Maybe Friday after Jimmy’s Chinese class and Danny’s chess club.  Or maybe on Saturday between 2 and 4 pm – before the birthday party at 4:30 pm.”

The Fallacy of play dates, (c

So a date is set for a week from Friday at 4:45 pm for an hour or so before Jimmy or Danny has to run off again for some special event or another.  Chances are, though, this play date will get canceled at some point before Friday: “i am sorry , we won’t be able to make it on Friday after all, Jimmy has an extra chess club training event to get ready for the tournament.  Maybe we could reschedule for four weeks from now when the tournament is over.”

The funny thing is, almost all the parents I ever ask about that practice hate it (admittedly most of them are either Europeans or from India – given where I live and whom I hang out with) and all fondly think back to their childhoods when they would come home from school, eat, do homework, do whatever else kids have to do and the jump on the bike or run on over to the neighbor’s house, or go to the local park where a bunch of buddies were already kicking or tossing a ball – or whatever kids would do.  All without calendars and schedules and a multitude of enriching afternoon activities.

Yet, the play dates continue unabashedly.

November 17, 2011

Another crazy day …

No such a thing in Californian schools, pic:

… in the California school system.  I haven’t written about this in a while.  Kind of decided that it won’t get any better if I make a big fuss over it and have by and large been able to ignore whatever craziness came my way but today is one of those days when my son tells me a story and I just stare at him and say something along the lines of “you got to be kidding, right?”

“No, mom” he says and I say

“But this story you just told me isn’t true – you made it up?  Right?”

“No it is true, the teacher said it.”

So the story he told me was the following.  Along with such words as underwear, stupid, dumb and lame (I get the last three, no complaints there) the latest word to be banned from the class room is “easy”.  “Easy” as in not difficult.

A reasonable question in this context might be: “why on earth is ‘easy’ a bad thing to say?”  which is exactly what I asked my child.  He, looking earnestly, said “the teacher said because it might hurt someone feelings who does not think the task is easy.”  WHAT?  How far do we have to drive this craziness?  Some kid finds this easy, others that and that’s just a fact of life.   Shouldn’t they get used to that?  Isn’t that normal and a good lesson to learn?

So here we go again – another thing I need to remember when doing homework with him.  Can’t say “hurry up, you can do this quickly, it is easy.”  That just might be an insult to somebody out there.

Where, oh where, did all the common sense disappear to?

March 2, 2011

Little Red Ridinghood, part II

the wolf breaking into grandma's house to steal the muffin recipe, pic:

Since Bubbleboy has entered first grade and returned to his old home-based after-school the political correctness is no longer quite as much in my face every day as it used to be – or maybe I have just gotten used to it.

However, we had another “Little Red Riding hood” episode the other morning.  They are reading different versions of that old fairy tale in school.  Thankfully version 1 seemed to be fairly close to the original from what I could tell from my boy’s stories.  He seemed unfazed by all the eating of grandmas and cutting open of wolfs to get her out.  “It’s just a story, mom.”

Now the second version entered political correctness territory in a major way – the wolf, my child informed me – was not after the grandmother or even Little Red riding Hood, no, he was after grandma’s super special muffin recipe.

I abstain from any further comments on this craziness and leave you with the mental image of a wolf engaging in a little B and E (breaking and entering = burglary) to rummage through grandma’s cabinets in search for the famed muffin recipe, which, of course – and this I am making up as I go – would have to be either gluten free, low-fat, high-fiber, omega 3 rich, or – alternatively – triple chocolate, double fudge, extra cream – depending on grandma’s attitude towards life and health.

February 26, 2011

Pointing my finger

We are back to my favorite – not – topic:  Guns, toy guns to be precise. Whenever I refer to guns in this post I mean toy guns, not real ones .

We have over the last few weeks drilled into our son to never, ever sneak a gun or anything that might remotely resemble a gun into school.  Smart boy that he is he had pointed out that kids he had nothing to fear because kids don’t go to prison and being kicked out of school sounded like fun and so it all culminated in the statement that mom or dad might have to go to jail if he wields a gun.

So we got through that all right and I started to relax a bit about that whole gun business and was hoping that I could stop talking about guns all the time because that a) I find it incredibly boring and b) it makes them all the more exciting and interesting for Bubbleboy, or more aptly Gun Boy.

Then the following conversation happened:
Gun Boy: “Mom, we can’t bring guns to school.”
Me: “Yes, I know. We have been talking about this for a while now.”
Gun Boy: “We are also not allowed to use our fingers as pretend guns.”
Me, incredulous: “Really, I haven’t heard that before. Is that a new rule?”
Gun Boy: “Yes, were playing the other day and were told that we can’t use our fingers as guns either.”
Both contemplate that new development for a few seconds ….
Gun Boy: “Mom, you know, that is really difficult because we always have our fingers with us.”

A whole new meaning to flipping the finger, pic:

I stopped and hugged my little guy – he squirmed out of it, not wanting to be hugged randomly anymore – for I felt so bad for him. He is six, he wants to play cops and robbers, cowboy and Indians or whatever modernized variation therefore they play these days (yedi knights vs. droids seems to be the flavor of the month) like generations of little

boys before him.  They take his plastic guns, his sticks, pencils, squirt guns, and finally now they tell him he can’t even use his fingers anymore. What is he supposed to do, play house all day or exciting math games, or draw flowers and kittens?

As much as I dislike guns myself, and as much as I am pro-gun control to the point where they would probably kick me out of most states in the country if I voiced my opinion, so – considering all of that I am going to take this little boy to the local gun club.  I want him to learn how to handle guns and I want him to touch them, I want him to grow up and have a relaxed attitude towards them. It might not have gotten through to the people at school but things you really, really want and can’t have become all the more desirable. I could tell a few stories about that myself, most people could.

But somehow, this lesson seem to have gotten lost somewhere during one school reform or another.

February 14, 2011

Bubbleboy’s Valentine

Valentine’s Day is upon us with all its pink and red heart-shaped might and a lot of stressed out teenagers and adults who ponder such weighty questions as “what if anything should I give a girl-friend/boyfriend of three months for valentines?” and “Is a dinner at the steakhouse okay or does it have to be the fancy French place?”

Valentine's Day craziness, pic: (c) Tina Baumgartner

My naive hope had been that my young son would be spared the craziness because Valentines Day is about romantic love and at this point in his life all my son loves are his parents, his grandparents, some friends, his teddy bear,  Luke Skywalker and on some days Harry Potter.

As mentioned, however, this hope was naive.  At school we are all friends, right, and therefore every kid has to give every other kids in his/her class a Valentine’s day card. Unthinkable to hurt a friend’s feeling by not giving him/her a card.  My first issue, as alluded to, is with Valentine’s day card giving 6 year olds in general  – they should just be spared this day, they’ll have a lifetime to agonize over it.

And if they really really must be pulled into this isn’t it part of the deal that one feels special because one gets a card from cute Johnny while little Jane over there doesn’t. Cruel? Well, maybe – such is life.   Just wait until you are in high-school, then we’ll talk cruel again.

Now if my very social and outgoing child would come to me and say “Mom, I want to give everybody a card so nobody feels bad” I’d hug and kiss the little guy for such a brilliant sentiment and go and buy enough cars for everybody.  But make it a rule?

Tree-hugging European that I am, I am thinking of 1500 kids in my sons school giving each 20 cards and I shudder.  That is 30,000 cards in his school alone.

This is utter craziness.

February 9, 2011

Forbidden and demanded

A recent one day visit to two places in northern California yielded this array of signs telling us exactly what to do and what not to do.  Quite impressive – and probably I overlooked a few.

Most/some of them are reasonable but taken together they made for a whole day of screaming at Bubbleboy “don’t do that”, “don’t touch this”, “stay away”, “Don’t step on this”, “STOP”, “don’t run”, “slow don’t”, “be quite”, “shut up”, “sshhh”, “no you can’t have a snack right now because the squirrels will be jealous”, “put that bamboo stick down”, “that other one, too”, “don’t walk there”, “don’t stand there”, “behave well!”, “behave yourself”, “… because I said so”, “I know it isn’t fair”, “I don’t care just do it!”, and finally

“I had it, we are going home!”


Forbidden 1

Forbidden 2

Forbidden 3

Forbidden 4

Forbidden 5

Forbidden 6








forbidden - of course

this is pushing it

Safety concerns - always a good excuse

that is really pushing it

stop and think


Behave some more

and more behaving


January 11, 2011

Drop-off offense

When I started 1st grade my mom walked me to school for about 2 weeks and then decided that I was big girl now and could manage on my own. I think she secretly followed me a couple days and then she worried for a few more – and that was that.

I, on the other hand, pick my son up from school every day. It is just a little too far for him to go by himself from school to after-school especially given the four lane street he would have to cross. Admittedly, where I grew up streets weren’t four lanes wide.

The other day the pick-up here, drop-off there routine was upset by an important and unmovable meeting happening very soon after drop-off time. I figured, if I got my son to move reasonably fast – which is like willing a copy machine into copying faster – cut the chit-chat at drop-off, and hit all the traffic lights just right I might be able to make it with three minutes to spare.

The daily drop-off ritual, pic: © Steven Pepple |

Great plan, but as always in such cases, this turned out to be the one day where the teacher wanted to speak to me because of some incident involving my child (for once he was hit by someone accidentally and didn’t do the accidental hitting himself – relief) and so we were running terribly late. Ruthless mother that I am I thought up the following obnoxious plan: “Boy” I said “I am going to drop you off right where we always park. You my big, smart boy walk the ten steps to the door, open it, and run in – all by yourself.”

“Yeah, a real drop-off” my big, smart and increasingly independent boy said and couldn’t wait to get out of the car without mom in tow.

Boy, did I get in trouble for this in the evening when I picked him up. Turns out everybody under the age of 12 needs to be signed in by a parent else the school gets fined. 12?? Sign-in?? Please! My mom had to take care of her baby sister at the age of 11 and I – who was way less responsible than that – worked in restaurant kitchens for pocket money at 12.

I can see that you wouldn’t abandon a three-year old in the parking lot and leave him to wonder around and eventually end up in some neighbor’s front yard. But a six-year old? Come on, on the one hand we expect them to say, understand, and believe sentences like “it really hurts my feelings if you say unfriendly things to me and I wish you would make wiser choices” but then they can’t walk 10 steps, open a door and sign themselves in – once in a very big while, when mom is running late and is still waiting in the car to see whether those 10 steps are taken, the door is opened, and the kid disappears safely behind it.

In an attempt to avoid any even the remotest of risks from our children’s life I am afraid we will turn them into adolescents who will need mom’s help well into their 30s.

December 13, 2010

Bubbleboy and violence

For something like this my boy would be thrown out of school, pic:

Once a year we go visit Grandma and Grandpa in Europe. Grandpa likes to tell his grandson stories about the olden days when he was a little boy. Most begin with Grandpa being beaten up by a group of older kids and then going out, getting his buddies together and taking revenge in a very direct and non-subtle way. Most end with Grandpa coming home to his mom, all beaten up, cloths torn, and getting a serious beating from her for ruining his outfit.

Are those lovely, educational stories that I embrace whole-heartedly? Nah, not really.   But then, it all happened (more or less) like that, such were the days back then.

So, until junior entered the school system I would sit there and listen and asked my father to not encourage play-ground shuffles with shouts of ” hit him back hard! Grandpa will show you !”

These days I sit first mortified and then freaked-out at such speech. I kick my father frantically under the table at any suggestion that hitting back might ever be the appropriate way of dealing with any situation.

Disclaimer (again): I don’t like violence any more than the next gal. I do believe that conflicts are best solved with words and that smacking somebody in the face rarely solves any problems. However, and here it comes, I also believe that little boys – testosterone-driven little monsters they can be – once in a while need to be able to shuffle a bit, measure their strength and not just hone their ability to debate. That’s what debate club is for later in life.

We had it under control, more or less, until this happened:

My boy, testosterone-driven little monster that he can be, is by and large pretty good. So when the teacher asked me into the classroom one day to discuss something I wasn’t too worried. She proceeded to tell me that he had said the following sentence to a fellow classmate “I am gonna kick you in the face”.

Two reactions, the first was pride, he said it, didn’t do it and he could have. He trains martial arts three times a week and is really good at it; he could probably knock the daylight out of any of his classmates without even thinking about it. Good boy, didn’t do it. Used his words.

Second reaction: doom brought on by the sudden realization that his teacher’s and my reaction to the same incident in all likelihood will not even be close.

True enough, his words, I was informed, hurt his classmate’s feelings. Hmmm, maybe – but what do you prefer hurt feelings or a broken jaw? I sat through the conference looking contrite while planning in my head how to discuss this with my son later. “Honey” I would say “you did well not actually kicking that boy in the face and I am happy about that. But you hurt his feelings by saying those words and that is not a good thing either. So please stop saying things like that to people.” The entire time I would have to concentrate really hard to not either laugh out loud or say words that are even less acceptable, words that start with  b and then have an s somewhere in the middle.

To the teachers credit I have to say that she didn’t make a big deal out of it and never mentioned it again.

A few days later we were brushing teeth in the evening and my son was behaving like a little idiot – something he takes real pleasure in and is also extraordinarily good at. I did let slip something along the lines of “stop behaving like an idiot and brush your dirty teeth.” My son lowered his tooth brush, big, theatrical tears appearing in his eyes instantaneously, clinging to his long lashes, chin quivering “Mom, stop hurting my feelings by saying things like that.” Sob, sob.

I laughed so hard my husband came running to the bathroom to see whether I had gone insane.

December 9, 2010

Bubbleboy and the U word

Beware! Things starting with U on a line, pic:

Disclaimer: I do really like my kid’s teacher. She is smart, cares about the kids, seems to like her job, and conveyed early on the crucial message that in her classroom there is only one boss, and that is her. I dig that!

All the more surprising did I find a conversation that took place recently at at parent-teacher conference. I can only assume that she was encouraged to mention this or – worse – that there we actual complaints from other parents.

The kids have been working on a letter book. For each letter of the alphabet they say, write, and draw things that start with that letter. My son had many important contributions like gun, bomb, laser, ninja fighter, explosion, chemicals, potassium permanganate, …

The most notable, however, was one starting with the letter U and, no, it was not UFO. He raised his hands and blurted out “underwear”. To the best of my knowledge he did not say “stinky, old, yucky underwear full of poop” – that does start with s anyway – he just said “underwear”.

During the conference I was informed that that was an inappropriate word in the context of a 1st grade classroom.

Now in my universe (another word with U) underwear is what you wear under your, well, upper-wear: boxers, briefs, bras, bikini-bottoms, that sort of thing. Nothing questionable about it, the absence of underwear would be worrisome .   In the universe of 1st grade, however, the concept of “underwear” somehow became objectionable.

Call me a depraved but it never even crossed my mind that any part of that word or the two parts combined could be considered “inappropriate” for public utterance.   Had my son said that he needs to bring a thing that starts with u for the next class and he wants to bring underwear I would have made sure he takes a clean set – but that would have been the full extend of my parental involvement.

I mean, what are we supposed to call these things? “Unmentionables”? Stars with U alright!  Merriam-Webster dictionary mentions that term first being used in 1823.   I had assumed that it went out of style about a 100 years later – at the latest.

That only leaves us with the option of not talking at all about such objectionable concepts as garments worn directly on your skin. By and large that is fine by me, I have no strong desire to discuss underwear, although, I must admit, the girl-friends and I sometimes venture to discuss such topics. I can’t help but think, that by telling my son that it is not appropriate to say the wicked word “underwear” it is all the more interesting to him.

I can see him in my mind’s eye whispering in his friends’ ears during lunch break stuff like “underwear, underwear, underpants, undershorts, undershirts, underthingies,…” and they all break down in hysterical laughter.