Tiger Mom, Maybe; Ninja Mom, Definitely

Mother: Hey, did you hear anything about any new after school language classes coming up?

Child: Whaddaya mean?

Mother: You know, like the French class you took after school last year?

Child: Huh?

Mother: You know, like the French class that's taught by the high school students who come to your school one afternoon a week for a few months to teach you a foreign language?

Child: Uh...I dunno.

Mother: So, if I email your teacher or look through your backpack, I won't find out that there's another after school language class starting soon?

Child: Oh, that.

Mother: Yes, that.

Child: I don't really want to do that again.

Mother: It's not an option.

Child: But, I already...!

Mother: Hold on. Before you say anything else, let me tell you that I'll gladly listen to your argument, but you're not going to win this one. I already know that. I know how this is going to end: with you going to language class.

Child: Sigh.

Mother: So?

Child: I have the sign-up paper in my backpack.

Mother: Good!

Mother: Oh look! And today is the deadline to sign-up! Lucky for us!

Child: How did you know that today would be the deadline? How did you know to ask about this today?

Mother: I know everything.

Child: Heavy sigh. You probably actually do.

Mother: I think Chinese this time. Your sister can help you.

Child: No, she won't.

Mother: Oh yes. Oh yes she will.

Child: How do you know?

Mother: Oh...I just know.

Pennsylvania Farm Show with The Tractor Expert

This is The Tractor Expert.

He knows a lot about tractors, farm equipment, and all sorts of machinery that make noise and move things around in a loud, destructive/constructive fashion.

Today he is at the Pennsylvania Farm Show - a week-long extravaganza of farm equipment, farming supplies, pigs, goats, chickens, cows, milkshakes, butter sculptures and gewgaws galore.

Right now, he is on his third ice cream. Farm Show is a lot like camping: Mom lets you eat a lot of junk. Eating ice cream is also important if you are a Tractor Expert.

Here are some of the many fascinating tractors you will find at the Farm Show.

Some people think the only kind of tractor is a John Deere. While John Deere tractors are extremely awesome, they are not the only kind. The world is filled with many types of cool tractors.

The Tractor Expert says, "Peace. There is room for all here. So much awesomeness."

The Tractor Expert knows that where there is large machinery with pointy, jabby, rusty bits - plus animal dung - there will be tetanus.

You don't want to get tetanus. Tetanus could seriously ruin your ice cream eating plans for the weekend. What with the locked jaw and what not.

Sure, not a lot of people get tetanus these days. Still, this is a convincing display. It even won a prize.

The Tractor Expert does not know what the brown tube-shaped clump is supposed to represent. Although, it's entertaining to think it might be tetanus-riddled animal dung.

Here are some Farm Show piglets.

The Tractor Expert knows that life can't be all about tractors. Some days, you need to find your joy in other places. Like looking at these cute, sleeping piglets.

The Tractor Expert wanted to snuggle a piglet. However, he was reminded that piglets - pretty surely - would not go lightly into being snuggled. Still...one can dream.

Here is The Tractor Expert on a carousel horse.

The Tractor Expert looks like he is grimacing in about-to-pukedness after so much milkshake and ice cream and apple dumpling, and now being whirled around on an up-and-down pony. This is not, in fact, why he is grimacing. The Tractor Expert is grimacing because he hates the camera flash.

It didn't matter how many times the photographer reminded The Tractor Expert that the flash was not on (thus the many blurry photos). He still made that face mostly.

This is a premium old-timey tractor!

The best thing about this tractor is that it looks like it's called "Kerosene Boy". Which would be a great name for a steampunk superhero.

This is the famous Butter Cow.

The Tractor Expert wondered how the Butter Cow sculpture was made. The photographer helpfully explained that the Butter Cow was designed and crafted using magic.

The Tractor Expert pondered this answer and then accepted this as a reasonable explanation. 

The photographer is also available for kids' birthday parties and tutoring Calculus. 

This is The Tractor Expert pointing out some of the award wining mushroom displays.

The Tractor Experts was uncertain whether the cupcakes were real cupcake, or whether they were mushrooms designed to look like cupcakes. This also happened to be a question the photographer once asked herself sophomore year in college. Although, this was after she had already eaten a mushroom cupcake.

Don't eat the mushroom cupcakes. It will be at least Sunday afternoon before your roommate's face stops looking like the Cheshire Cat and someone notices that the Jefferson Airplane album has been skipping for twelve hours.

The Tractor Expert never once questioned why someone would also make a rabbit sculpture out of mushrooms.

The Tractor Expert is accepting. Also kind of naturally wacky.

This is The Tractor Expert in a greenhouse wearing an Amtrak conductor hat and studying a miniature garden diorama made of Lincoln Logs, plants and aquarium stone.

This is how you raise a creative out-of-the-box thinker.

Pennsylvania farming country is, evidently, chock full of them.

They're kinda of eye-rollingly bad.

But you kinda also want one.

The Tractor Expert thought the Attack Turtle was an excellent notion.

The photographer was looking for Attack Pony for a friend whose pony attacked and killed a llama.

It's the kind of thing you'd think would only turn up in a Tom Robbins book. But no, it really happened.

Here is The Tractor Expert at the weather exhibit.

The weather exhibit was an educational display about all the ways that nature tries to bugger farmers with lightning and tornadoes. There was a movie on video loop of a category 587 tornado wiping out all of Kansas, pretty much. It was very scary.

The Tractor Expert touched the glowing orb and said a small prayer for all the really cool farm machinery that has gone on to greener fields after being devoured by tornadoes. 

It was a difficult exhibit. So much excellent destruction - but so much destruction of excellent farm equipment.

The Tractor Expert left feeling a little confused, a little philosophical.

"Maybe after the tractor was crashed in the storm, someone got the parts and made a new tractor. It could happen."

Maybe, Tractor Expert. Maybe

Here is The Tractor Expert with four PA State Troopers.

The PA State Troopers were very happy to pose with The Tractor Expert, declaring him "a good kid" and saying, "hey, Buddy, how'd ya like the show?"

The Tractor Expert was over-the-moon to be standing with all those tall, strong, uniformed, gun-toting guys.

The photographer was also feeling a little verklempt.

This is The Tractor Expert.

With the last tractor of the evening.

It was an incredible, gigantic tractor.

The kind that made you feel good to be an expert in such things.

The Tractor Expert gave the great red tractor a hug.

Then posed for a photo.

And then it was time to go home from the most super day ever.

The Tractor Experts gives the Pennsylvania Farm Show two enthusiastic, ice-creamy thumbs up.

Homeschooling Figure Skaters

A while back, someone asked me to write a post on my thoughts about homeschooling.

They were especially wondering whether I'd ever consider homeschooling my daughter who is a competitive figure skater.

At one point when I lived in center city Philadelphia in the catchment area for a seriously failing public school, I had looked into homeschooling. I bought the books, joined the co-ops, engaged in the debates. I was convinced it was for us. Then we moved to the suburbs of Harrisburg and into a seriously awesome public school district. It's not perfect. But the more general complaints about learning by the bell, stunted and stilted curriculum, and turning children into mindless automatons were swept away by free violin lessons beginning in fourth grade, Chinese language class beginning in seventh grade, and fifth graders having access to seventh grade algebra lessons.

I know, right?

And while there are many positives to be gained only through homeschooling, for us the scales had tipped. Or had at least evened out.

And before anyone starts the debates, I've met just as many socially awkward kids who are homeschooled as those that are public schooled. I've met as many kids from both sources of education whose spirits have been nurtured to precocious - even endearingly obnoxious - levels of creativity. My kids have run up against public school bullies, church group bullies, homeschooled bullies, sports bullies and bullies in the grocery store. My kids also have great friends from all those groups.

So all to say, I'm bowing out of any debate.

But thinking about homeschooling a child to accommodate a sports schedule...honestly, I'm going to bow out from debate there, as well, other than to say I wouldn't discount it as being a crazy idea.

Generally - generally - I think that kids who are driven and disciplined in one area are driven and disciplined in other areas. If your kid is working hard enough at figure skating to progress and test or compete well, then he/she is probably the kind of kid who will work hard at academics as well (even though grudgingly at times.) This isn't to say that some kids aren't pulled out of school for pie-in-the-sky reasons ("Six-year-old Sally landed a toe loop and placed first at Little Fish Rink's Basic Skills Competition. A lot of parents tell me she's Olympic material!")

(Nothing against Little Fish Rink. It could be the best place for a low-stress learning and practice experience. But if competitive skating beyond smaller competitions becomes a longer-term goal, I think one has to be realistic about what's going on at Big Dog Rink, as well. )

But even in this case, I'd worry less about the homeschooling and more about what will happen if the pie doesn't pan out for Sally as quickly or as easily as mom or dad had anticipated.

All that said, I do often wonder whether just figure skating in and of itself doesn't offer a fairly decent core curriculum education.

Sure, a kid may not learn Chinese or get violin lessons.

On the other hand, hang around skating rinks enough and you're bound to pick up some Russian (if only as relates to yelling at kids to point their toes and snap their axels). And the other day, my daughter and her friend asked me to turn up the classical music station in the car because the song playing might contain the dynamics for a good long program music choice.

My first reaction was "Pffffttt. Geeks."

(I promise, I said it in my head.)

But then I thought, "Cool!" And even "Nifty!" And "Hmmmm, I don't remember having had the slightest interest in classical music as a kid, even during eight painful years of piano lessons."

Although, I think I did later buy the soundtrack to Clockwork Orange. Not that I encourage this.

So what this is all leading up to is my idea for the Figure Skating Homeschool Curriculum.

I think it could work. Almost seriously, I think it could work.

I'm kinda not kidding.


Anyway, I've created an end-of-year survey test. See what you think.


It may need a bit of tweaking and additions because it's heavily biased toward pre-teen female singles skaters.

Feel free to add your curriculum and test question suggestions!

Pay attention! School's in session!

Blog Ping