In the last days of summer, I’ve pulled out the family calendar and started adding all the key dates for the 2011-2012 academic year. Here’s what I’ve learned already: no one is spending much time in the classroom over the next ten months.
The younger daughter attends a public elementary school in Oakland, a district that has been all kinds of creative in the face of long-standing financial struggles. We here in the Oakland Unified School District love us some “Minimum Days,” Wednesdays on which the kids are released right after lunch instead of going all the way until 3:00, so that teachers can have at least two hours a week of paid time for lesson planning. (Considering the hours they’re putting in at home, I don’t begrudge them.)
But this year, Minimum Days seem to be sprouting like California Poppies. The whole first week of school is minimum days – as it was explained by one administrator, it’s a way “to help kids ease into the school year.” My own ad hoc polling of mothers run ragged by their children’s summer activities showed a zero percent belief that these kids need any easing at all. “Boarding school” was mentioned more often than “easing in.”
Lest you point the finger at public school education, let me assure you, as a parent paying private school tuition for our older daughter, that she has even LESS butt-on-chair time. Yes, their school days are longer. When they have them. Her first day of school is a full four days later than her sister’s, which should make for rich dinner table crabby bitterfight material all week. Between teacher development days and holidays in observation of Eleanor Roosevelt’s Birthday (did I mention she goes to a girl’s school?) the good news is that we’ll put very little mileage on the car in support of her academic career this year.
Then there are the national holidays like Veteran’s Day and Indigenous People’s Day (that’s Columbus Day to all of you non-PC citizens outside the Bay Area.) It seems that if one girl has the Friday off, the other one has the Monday off, preventing us from ever catching a 3-day-weekend benefit.
In fact, as I scan down the filled out calendar it’s clear that I will have one child or the other home every day of the coming school year, and that any hope I have of holding down a full time writing career is just insanity. In the rare instance that both girls have a full school day, I expect feral children to slip through the front door to demand sandwiches and mess up the living room.
And now, with hurricanes and earthquakes hitting the Eastern Seaboard, the one stay-at-home excuse that I thought would never be an issue here is California is probably just a question of time.