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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Top 10 things to do with kids when they have unexpected time off
March 13, 2012 - 5:59pm

An ongoing labor dispute between teachers and the government in my province of British Colombia came to a head last week with a teacher strike. Although teachers were only out of the classroom for three days (after giving a few days’ strike notice), parents were sent scrambling to juggle schedules, arrange for childcare, and keep their kids occupied. My husband and I traded off a bit, and we envisioned the strike days as a chance for our children to catch up on schoolwork and spend time on other obligations. What a great opportunity to put in some extra practice with spelling, math, and piano! We wouldn’t want them to be bored after all.  I made up a list of what to do (which unfortunately had to be modified as the three days went on).

The grand plan:

10. Before the strike, stop by their classrooms and insist that the kids bring home all their schoolbooks.  We could spend the time off reviewing everything (only a few hours a day--I’m not that mean).  When my son argued that he’d hoped to have a vacation from school, I caught his teacher’s eye, and she helped convince him and his buddies to pack all the work they needed.  We didn’t need to exchange a word, but I’m sure she understood my plan.

9. Wake up well before the kids on the first strike morning, and create a lesson plan with dozens of multiplication practice problems, a schedule for reading, spelling, and writing practice. Channel my inner Tiger Mom and insist that the children go along with my inspired, supplemental education plan.

8. Hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the front door so that the neighborhood kids, whose parents weren’t forcing them to do extra schoolwork, would stop knocking.

7. Make a list of all the household chores the kids could learn to do during the three strike days. 

6.  Quickly realize that it’s way too much work to supervise and cajole them into doing housework; leave all the chores for my husband and me to finish later … after the strike.

5. Organize playdates. Lots of them!  Swap kids as much as possible.  See if the other families might get them to do math practice.   

4. Raid the baking supplies for chocolate chips as a bribe to get my daughter to practice piano.  Every two measures played correctly gets a chocolate chip.

3. Stand in a line that stretches around the block, along with dozens of other parents desperate for something to do with kids, for the $2 Tuesday showing of The Lorax at the local movie theater. (It was a very smart business move on the theater’s part to take advantage of the strike and have special, unplanned shows during the day.)

2. When things get too dull, a trip to the emergency room can shake things up.  After he hit his head on concrete, my son and I spent the rest of a beautiful, sunny afternoon in the E.R. waiting room, where he slept with his battered head in my lap for almost four hours.  Not surprisingly, my son was one of many school-aged kids there with injuries.

1. Change the plan.  Forget about lessons, and lounge around in pajamas, reading and playing video games.  I couldn’t make my son practice piano or multiplication problems with a mild concussion.  The day after my son’s hospital visit, I kicked out the Tiger Mom, and we all enjoyed a guilt-free play day.   It was fun, and I passed the zombie level I’d been trying so hard to defeat on my (son’s) video game.

The strike is over for now, though the issues are far from resolved.  And now we have one week back at school before we do it all again when Spring Break starts next week!  Hooray!  I have a plan…    


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