Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vintage Whine

While Spring cleaning The Young One’s room, I found a picture that brought back lots of memories and made me laugh. The timing for finding the picture is eerily coincidental as it was four years ago this month, that it was taken.

Four years ago, The Young One was in sixth grade. April was an incredibly busy time as the children were getting ready to participate in a week long field trip called Nature’s Class Room. They would travel to Connecticut the week before the April school vacation and spend the week learning about nature and conservation. Parents were given a long list of items the children needed because the trip was held rain or shine.

About this time, the Fifth Grade Teacher, bless her heart, thought it would be fun for the fifth and sixth graders to participate in a social studies fair. This was on the scale of a science fair and would take place the week after the April vacation. Each child was assigned a topic.

When I saw the picture, nostalgia for a vintage whine kicked in. About this time, I was hanging out in a chatroom for Big Valley fanfictions writers. I wasn’t writing fanfiction at the time, so I whine loud and long about the dreaded Roman project. The authors in the chatroom were patient and sympathetic while I vented:

The teacher in her whimsical moment had decided the children would make costumes. They were told sheets wrapped around them would not be acceptable. The children also had to make something that had to do with their topic, (a food, an invention, etc.). They had to write a three page paper prepare a tri-fold presentation board, and then make a presentation at the fair.

Not to mention the fair was ill timed. The sixth grade parents had to spend time packing up their kids. The sixth grade children lost a week of project time because they were in Connecticut which meant their vacation week was spent working on the project. Parents spent the week making the costume, working on parts of the project, and nagging their offspring to write the ^@#%$# paper.

The project topic was too broad and beyond the scope of a sixth grader. Not many 11 or 12 year olds had the skills necessary to decide what material to make the costume from, buy the appropriate yardage, make a pattern, sew, etc. And as to food. I’m glad I didn’t have to learn how to prepare peacock tongues or some other Roman delicacy.

Fortunately, The Young One’s topic was Julius Caesar. What did Caesar make before he became emperor? That’s right, war. I hired my friend Lambie to sew a Roman Centurian’s costume. In her research, The Young One found Caesar had built a bridge to cross the Rhine to sack the Germans. The Young One was sent outside to gather sticks to make a bridge which was hot glued together. Yeah, I know, Caesar didn’t have liquid nails, but tough cookies.

I photographed The Young One sitting on a chair and then with her by my side, we played with the pictures in Paint Shop Pro. The Young One astride a white horse leading a phalanx of soldiers in parade by the Colliseum, and then prepared for battle coming across the bridge. I took a head shot of The Young One and through Paint Shop Pro we “minted” coins. (Caesar was the first emperor to mint coins with his own image) We made stickers and stuck them on York Peppermint Patties. Headings for the presentation board were typed in Latin, well as near as Latin for Dummies could get me. No letter J or U because the Romans didn’t have those letters.

At the fair, I wandered around passing out the mints to the fifth graders (American Colonies) and the sixth graders for all their hard work. At one point, the Third Grade Teacher, another notorious for giving parent vs. parent projects, asked me what I thought. I slapped a mint in her hand and said, “This better get me an A.”

The Fifth Grade Teacher had the misfortune to approach me. She asked me what I thought. Now I honestly had no intention of raining on her parade. She was a very young teacher full of whimsical ideas, but she asked. She had approached me with a broad smile which quickly faded. She took several steps back and all but ran away. Hey, she asked!

The Young One’s paper was approximately 20 pages long. When the teacher was collecting the papers, she asked about the length. “Oh, these pages are my paper,” said The Young One fingering her three pages. “The rest is my mother’s paper.”

The Young One’s paper was returned. There were no correction marks on any of the misspellings or use of punctuation. There was an A, though I doubt the teacher read the paper.

The memory is funny now, it wasn’t then. On the other hand, I wouldn’t give up the aggravation because while whining in the chatroom, I made some very close friends and later had the opportunity and thrill of meeting two of them in person.


  1. I loved the whine and I love the picture of the Young One.

  2. Cute picture. Don't you just love those projects that mean you have to come up with all the ideas? Shudders. It reminds me of last year's end of school project---make a portfolio to show kids in South America how we live here. Why is it teacher's come up with these projects when kids just want to be DONE and don't care a HOOT about writing five pages. I'm sure I did a good enough job though---the teacher did thank me later. :)

  3. what a huge project and so interesting to read about it all. What a cool costume. Quite a fun read. and a week for a nature trip - i would have loved that as a kid!