Friday, September 19, 2008

Why Johnny Can't Read

I'd like to tell you about a difficult day in the pursuit of knowledge.

We began schooling after breakfast, as we usually do. Five minutes into our language arts (the first subject we tackled), I heard unusual crunching sounds and laughing in the kitchen. I looked suspiciously through the door and saw Silas sitting on the floor amidst the broken eggshells of our breakfast, gleefully smashing them and smearing them everywhere he could reach with a dirty rag. Talia watched, delighted. Lessons halted while I washed his hands and shooed Talia from the kitchen. One student was required to restrain the prisoner while I mopped up the Salmonella and took out the trash.

Ten minutes later, we returned to our schooling -- for five minutes. I was interrupted by Talia, who was sitting in an empty diaper box in the living room. Wide-eyed with guilt, she called out, "I peed!"

I ran to get her out, hoping to remove the box before it leaked onto the carpet. Snatching her out of the box, I set her in the laundry room. In the living room, I picked up the box and tried to transport it without spilling it. I wasn't successful. The box rained urine across the floor, directly over Silas (wetting his hair for him while he toddled obliviously after me). It drizzled through the dining room, through the kitchen --spattering the area I had just mopped the egg mess from), and through the mudroom out into the driveway. I grabbed my Clorox Ready Mop, put a new pad on it -- the eggy one had been thrown out-- and started with the laundry floor, moving through dining, kitchen, and mudroom. Stomping a towel on the living room carpet, I tried to soak up the urine. Several baby books had been sprinkled and had to be cleaned. I sent Talia upstairs to the bathroom, gave the older kids Cuisinaire rods and math pages, and scooped up Silas for a bath.
With the younger ones smelling sweet, and more time lost, I returned to my pupils.

The phone rang.

Silas toddled round and round the table saying, "Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-OH!" I tripped on shoes the baby had scattered in his wake.

Talia yelled, "Silas smells stinky!"

As I read about people of the world to the kids, Talia made herself conspicuous by standing in the living room and pointing behind me with a smile.

"What?" I asked. She intensified her pointing and smiling, and then pointed into the living room, too.

"What?" I asked.

"Dirt," she said.

I didn't understand.

"Dirt. Dirt in there, and dirt in here!" Her smile never wavered.

I looked around me to see handfuls of dirt sown through the dining room and living room. Silas was busily adding more. I plugged in the vacuum and vacuumed up all the dirt. Silas toddled fearfully away, crying in dread of the vacuum. Elisa spoke encouragement to him, taking his hand to lead him out of the vacuum's path.

By now, our obstacles had become downright funny. (At least, to me. But I'm easily entertained.)

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