How Do You Spell Fonicks?

by Brooke Bernard on August 22, 2012

My first grader has been in school 15 days. I’ve helped him get one wrong answer on his homework so far (the “genre” of the bestselling page-turner called Pig in a Wig is fantasy, not fiction, just FYI.) Pretty sad considering I double majored in English and journalism for my undergraduate degrees. Also sad because the answer was in his textbook, and neither one of us saw it. I guess I need my money back from college – and possibly to brush up on my comprehension skills.

To make matters worse, as I type this, I have just arrived home from first grade curriculum night. In the olden days (and by that, I mean the 1980s), our parents called these school events “open houses.” Our parents looked at some art on the wall – probably handprints made into falling leaves. (Remember when school used to start in autumn?) They said hello to the teacher and thanked her for doing her job. That was all, at least the way I remember it.

Tonight, my mouth is still hanging open. At risk of sounding like the incredibly old woman I apparently am, um, this ain’t your mama’s first grade – or even your first grade. Undoubtedly my child is receiving a top-notch education from one amazing teacher. Sadly, it turns out, I will have absolutely nothing to do with it. Because I don’t know what his teacher is talking about.

Some curriculum night indicators that I was 1. Never really as smart as I was led to believe, and 2. That my children really have destroyed any working parts of my brain are as follows:

  • I thought Marcy Cook was the name of an overachieving six-year-old who was good at math. Turns out, Marcy Cook is a kind of math. But Marcy doesn’t make the kids write anything down.
  • A Saxon is not a musical instrument. It might be some kind of Viking or a Dr. Seuss character, though. Not sure yet.
  • The students are doing some kind of coding of words to learn about the mysterious Saxon. I think it’s like Morse Code. I’m sending out an S.O.S. (Sing it with me, children of the ‘80s.)
  • My husband thinks the code is more like Russian. Russian fonicks.
  • A “macron” is not a cookie. And “breve” doesn’t mean to keep it short. Also, I apparently cannot pronounce these two words correctly without the Russian Morse Code.
  • Moving on to social studies: Annie Oakley is a folk character? I thought she founded a sunglasses company.

Editor/writer and mother of 2, Brooke Bernard used to think her future was so bright she needed to wear shades. Now, the parent of a first grader, she knows the shades are just to hide the dark circles and the fact that she doesn’t have any answers.


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