Here’s good news, though it’s only good news for us: we got the kid’s first AR reading report on Friday (for those without kids in the school system, AR= Accelerated Reading) and she’s reading on the third grade fourth month level, with an average of 96% on her tests. We’re pretty impressed. She says her language teacher told her they would have to go across the hall (to the upper school classroom) to get her books from now on, since the books in the kindergarten rooms are all too easy for her.
We love the Montessori school.
This is her third school – we had her in a Christian pre-school, back when we lived in North Carolina, and then the public school here, last year (her first shot at kindergarten), and while those were both okay schools, neither of them were what I would call successful experiences.
The Christians were perfectly nice folk, mind you. Methodists. Methodists are not lethal Christians. The pre-school they ran was six blocks from our house, and (important, because we were so pitifully broke in NC) it was cheap. And their prayers were harmless things along the nature of “God is good / let us thank him for our food” sort.
The kid started coming home from school with questions about toys – “Is this a girl-toy or a boy-toy?” she would ask me, holding her toys up – and about jobs: “Girls can be firemen, right? Because Austin says only boys can be firemen.”
Blue had been her favorite color since she started knowing what colors were. But she hadn’t been at that school for two months before she announced to me that pink was her favorite color now.
It went like this:
“What’s your favorite color?” she asked me.
“Oh,” I said. “Blue, mostly. I like gray, too, though. And green sometimes. But I guess blue. What’s yours?”
“Pink,” she said, flatly.
“Oh, yeah? I thought you liked blue.”
“No. I like pink.”
“Okay. What kind of pink? Pale or bright?”
“Girls like pink. Blue is a boy’s color.”
Then at the first conference, her teacher, a sweet little child of about twenty-two, very blonde and dressed in white and shell-pink, told us that the kid was doing just wonderful, that she was learning well, that she had some trouble with skipping (who knew they graded on skipping, but apparently they do), and cutting with scissors, but that they were working on it, and then mention, very sweetly, that the kid was “much happier” on the days when she was wearing pink and had bows in her hair.
“Huh,” we said. “Really. What about that.”
“Yes,” said the teacher. “We’ve all noticed it.”
Now if I was a Levitican parent, or one of those parents who actually believed that in-born gender nonsense, I might have bought this. Might have smacked myself up the side of the head and said, “Wow! My kid wants dolls and make-up after all! All that silliness about liking dinosaurs and science DVDs and piano, bah, that was just some wacky aberration, she's really much happier with Barbies and bows!”
But luckily I had actually read a few books and knew that (a) observers tend to see exactly what they want to see – so the Christian pre-school teachers wanted to see my little girl being happier when she wore pink bows, and decided she was happier in pink bows; not to mention socialization pressure -- in other words (b) both the teachers and the others kids were giving her their approval when she wore pink bows, so of course she would be happier.
What solution to this?
Dress her in pink and bows every single day?
Because, you see, pink was the only color that was “okay for girls” at that school. Boys could like any color: green, red, black, gray, blue.
Girls had to like pink.
Boys could want any job – fireman, doctor, soldier, farmer, astronaut, whatever.
Girls had to be teachers or mothers.
Boys could play with any toys.
Girls had to play with dolls or the kitchen corner.
Which – right there – is the problem with Levitican society.
The solution that presented itself was moving to Arkansas and putting her in public school, which we hoped would be better, and wasn’t, since all of Fort Smith, Arkansas, is Levitican.
Same rules applied (not with the teachers. At least her teacher was better. I liked her teacher a lot, in fact.).
But the students were all Levitican Christians, and so were their parents, and the same exact questions kept coming home, and the same rules seemed to apply on the playground, and among the social pack – except stepped up a notch, because the kids were a bit older – and, worse, the parents were moving in on this Jewish child, who was, of course, GOING STRAIGHT TO HELL, unless they saved her soul, by some way, any way at all (hook or crook) getting her to their church.
And girls had to like pink.
Girls had to wear pink.
She could wear other colors sometimes, but she had to wear pink a lot. Most of the time. At least two or three times a week. She said it was because she liked pink, because pink was her favorite color, because she loved pink. We didn’t argue. She did a lot of talking about it – we did that conversation over and over:
“What’s your favorite color?
“I have a lot of colors I like. Gray. Green. Blue. I like blue a lot. I like green a lot. Black is a really good color too. What’s your favorite color?”
“Pink,” she says, furiously. “I LIKE PINK.”
At least once a month, we would have that conversation.
Once or twice, I tried to have the enlightened liberal parent dialogue with her: “You know,” I said. “It isn’t true that certain colors are boy colors and certain colors are girl colors. Some people believe that, but those people are wrong. Yap yap yap blar blar blar blar you do get what I’m saying right? And who are you going to believe, some five year old brat in your kindergarten class, or me? Didn’t you notice I have a Ph.D.?”
“Yeah,” she said. “But I LIKE PINK.”
So this year we moved her to the Montessori school. She had to repeat kindergarten there, cause Montessori school has a different way of teaching than public school does (boy, do they – do you know that Montessori school teaches algebra starting in kindergarten?)—but that’s okay with us.
It’s a lot better now.
At the Montessori school, we do have some Levitican Christians – the girl whose mother won’t let her daughter do Halloween because God doesn’t approve is one, I’m sure.
But we also have a number of Muslim families, and Jewish families, and Indian families.
And when the teachers teach about jobs people can do, they bring in parents who are doing those jobs – and the parents at the Montessori school who have jobs like doctor and professor and fireman and soldier are of both genders and all races and religions.
And before Winter break? My kid told the kindergarten about Hannukah. The Muslim kids told about Eid. The Christian kids told about Christmas. Everyone sang everyone’s songs. They all cut out pictures and did art.
And the kid came home a few weeks ago and said to me, “I like all the colors. All the colors are good.”
“Yeah,” I said back. “Me, too. Colors are good.”
So there you go.