"Provisions for Parent Education"
[Monday, March 16, 2015]
On Monday, they all got into
the Family Services van and
drove an hour to Omaha.
They talked about different ways
of being smart and what things
Alvie enjoyed doing the most.
They sang songs, and they
learned that Dr. G could sing
in two languages nobody else
had even heard before.
They played car games, like
who could spot the Exit signs first,
and Alvie's family had an advantage.
Along the way, Alvie pointed out
her favorite stops, because they
drove this route once or twice
a month to visit Mom's family.
There was Oak Lake Park,
the Aardvark Antique Mall,
the Aerospace Museum,
Nebraska Crossing Outlets,
Sky Zone Trampoline Park, and
the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.
They pulled into Omaha and stopped
for lunch at Cow Heaven, which
made terrific hamburgers and
barbecued ribs and spuds.
Mom had to change DeSoto again.
Then they drove over to
the Brownell Talbot School.
"It's beautiful," Alvie said.
"Look at the pink trees!"
"Those are redbud trees,"
Dr. G said. "They're popular
in landscaping because they bloom,
they grow fast, but they don't get
so big they get in the way."
Alvie poked at the pink flowers
beside the staircase, then scampered
up the steps into the school.
The students were a little mixed,
in between the Lincoln schools.
Then Alvie wrinkled her nose.
"I don't want to wear a skirt,"
she said. "All the girls are."
"Most are, but look, there's one in
trousers," Dr. G said. "This school does
have a dress code and uniforms, but I checked --
they're flexible. They have to accommodate
gender variation in any case. I always check
that because my child Halley isn't a boy or a girl,
and I wouldn't recommend any school that
I wouldn't send my own kids to attend."
"That's a good rule," Manushi said.
Alvie looked closer at the uniforms.
She thought it was silly to wear
the same thing every day, but
she could live with trousers.
The library was way bigger
than what they'd seen before.
Dr. G practically had to drag Dad
out of there, but they were smiling.
"The financial aid looks promising,"
Dad said. "If Charisse can get
more education and a better job,
then we might be able to swing it
with some help from Brownell."
"I'm loving this extended care,"
Mom said. "Think how great that
would be when we're working!"
Alvie loved it too. They had
art, sports, and STEMZ programs.
"I like zetetics," Alvie said, turning
to Dr. G. "Do you like zetetics?"
"I love zetetics," he said. "I
know some gizmologists and
even super-gizmologists. Have
you ever visited WeGeex?"
"I'm afraid not," Dad said.
"Then maybe we can arrange
a field trip someday," Dr. G said.
"Please," Alvie said, bouncing
up and down. "Pleeeeeeease!"
"We'll see," Mom said. "It sounds
like fun to me too, sweetie. Maybe we
could make that our after-move treat
if we wind up shifting to Omaha."
Alvie squealed, and Dad said,
"Indoor voices, please."
"Alvie, what do you think of
this school?" Dr. G said.
"I like it," she said. "I could
go here and have a great time.
Plus I wouldn't have to switch
when I got older. It goes up
all the way to high school."
"That's an advantage,"
Manushi agreed. "You've
already got a big upheaval,
so minimizing future ones
is probably a good idea."
"Let's not get ahead of
ourselves, though," said Dr. G.
"We still have one more stop
before talking over choices."
They didn't go straight there, though.
Instead they drove around the neighborhood
looking for golf courses where Dad might
find a new job and clinics for Mom.
The houses looked nice, not too small or
too big, and the apartment buildings were
lovely things of brick, or wood with brick bases.
"Look, that one even has a swimming pool,"
Alvie said, pointing to the fenced yard
between a cluster of buildings.
"It's probably shared by all of
those apartments," Dr. G said.
"Some Omaha neighborhoods
have excellent amenities. You know,
even the public housing complex has
its own library room, if the family budget
winds up a little snug after moving."
"Good to know," Dad said. "Maybe
we'll swing by there if we have time."
"Here, let me give you a preview,"
Dr. G said, and showed them pictures
on his smartphone. In addition to
the library, there was a gym
and a common kitchen.
"Hey, I could volunteer for
storytime in the reading room,"
Dad said. "Right now I do
that at a nearby library."
"Bet I'd have plenty of takers
for a lesson on healthy soul food,"
Mom said. "I like teaching that."
Dr. G laughed. "I can think of
at least one person in particular."
Afterwards, they moved on to investigate
the Montessori Elementary School of Omaha.
Where Brownell Talbot had been tall and stately,
this one was much smaller and homier. It
had a yard out front with grass and trees,
almost like a big sprawling house.
When they went indoors to explore,
Alvie was surprised because it
looked a lot more like a house
than like a school there too.
There were no classrooms
full of desks in boring rows with
nothing to do, and the kids roamed
from one room to another while
the teachers didn't seem to mind.
It was also quite beautiful.
Almost everything was made
of wood, some natural and
some painted in bright colors.
Alvie was used to everything
being made of plastic or cheap metal.
All the stuff in these rooms made
her fingers itch to reach for it.
Unlike the other schools,
the kids didn't ignore her.
As soon as Alvie drifted over
to gaze longingly at the books,
a boy piped up, "Would you
like to see our library?"
Before she knew it,
Alvie was perched on
a child-sized wooden chair
with a pile of books in front
of her, and they weren't all
books for children, either.
Some of the teacher's books
were right out there, not the ones with
answers in them, but books about how
the Montessori schools worked.
A long poster down the side
of the bookcase gave a list of
the top ten Montessori principles.
"Don't interrupt your child's work cycle,"
Alvie read, tracing the line with her finger.
The part she hated most about school
was that just when she got going with
something, the darn bell rang and she
had to quit and do something else.
"Do you like books?" the teacher said.
"Books and jumping games," Alvie said
without looking up from the biography
about the lady who invented the school.
"We have plenty of both," the teacher said.
"Would you like to keep reading, or may I
show you around our classroom?"
That was ... different. Usually
teachers just dragged her around.
Curious, Alvie put down the book
and said, "Sure, I'll come."
There was so much to do here!
Besides the library, there was
a whole rack of materials for
reading and writing activities,
another one for the math tools,
a corner devoted to games, and
even a water table and a sand table,
which Alvie hadn't seen since preschool.
There were small tables and chairs,
more bookcases, also lots of shelves
with little baskets of stuff on them.
Students milled around, some of them
Alvie's age, others older or younger.
They seemed to be grabbing stuff
at random off the shelves to play with.
"Don't you have lessons?" she wondered.
"We do, but they might not look like
the kind you know from public school,"
the teacher said. "Sometimes I invite
a few kids to watch while I show them
interesting things. A few times a day,
we all sit down and share a lesson.
Right now, students are free to choose
whatever projects they want to do."
That sounded more like play
than school, and Alvie said so.
"That's okay," the teacher said.
"Play is the work of children. We feel
that school should be fun and interesting.
Some parts are hard, and might be frustrating
at first, but you'll get the hang of them."
Alvie thought that going to school
would be a lot less frustrating without
her teachers jerking her around all the time,
but she didn't say that part out loud.
After exploring the classroom, they
went on to the rest of the school.
It had an art room and a science room,
which Alvie recognized although both were
a ton better than her old ones. It had a gym, too.
There was something called a Practical Life Room
that was like a studio apartment with a kitchen,
a dining table, and a Murphy bed in the wall.
"Why do they have this?" Mom wondered,
bouncing DeSoto on her hip, and Alvie
was wondering the exact same thing.
"This is where the teacher presents lessons
on everyday skills," Dr. G said. "Students can
learn kitchen safety, cooking, washing and
folding clothes, making a bed, and so on."
"Well now I'm just green with envy,"
Mom said. "I would've loved doing
that when I was a little girl."
Dad laughed. "I guess these kids
don't move out and turn all their sheets
pink in the first week," he said.
"I expect that happens less often
when they get to practice laundry skills
starting from an early age," Dr. G agreed.
"Well, Alvie? What do you think?"
"I love it!" she said, bouncing on
her toes. "This place is wonderful."
"Out of the four schools we've seen,
which do you like best?" Dr. G said.
"I don't know," Alvie said.
"Okay, let's try a different way,"
Dr. G said. "Did you like the ones
in Lincoln or in Omaha better?"
"Omaha!" Alvie said at once.
Then she slumped. "But we'd
have to move, and that's hard.
Mom and Dad might not be able
to find work or a place to stay."
"Let us worry about that,"
Dad said firmly. "You just
worry about the schools."
"Which of the two we saw
today did you like better?"
Dr. G asked Alvie. "Try
to compare them."
"I don't know!" she said.
"They're both great, but
I like different things about
each of them. I can't decide."
"That's wonderful," Dr. G said,
clapping his hands. "It means you'd
probably be happy with either one of
the Omaha schools. We don't need
to decide today. Let's give your parents
a chance to check out more opportunities
for jobs and housing. Maybe that will
help pick a neighborhood, and then
you can just go to that school."
"That's a good idea," Dad said.
"It is, but judging from what I've seen
already, I think we should all be prepared
to have a much wider spread than what
we had before," Mom said. "In Lincoln,
both jobs and school were pretty close. I
don't know if we could even get an apartment
within walking distance of the schools here."
"Then let's go do some more scouting,"
Dr. G said. "Information is always useful."
So they drove around this neighborhood
looking for places to rent or to work. It wasn't
quite as fancy as the other one, but it was nice,
and still a lot better than their old neighborhood.
Then they went farther north so they could
visit the Metropolitan Community College.
Mom liked that a lot. "It would only take
a year for me to get an Associate's Degree
and become a registered nurse," she said.
"Year and a half, if I take the summer off."
"That's doable," Dad said, "especially
if we land the school with extended care."
Mom shrugged. "If not, someone in
my family will pick up the slack."
"It's good that you have family support,"
Manushi said. "I can help with planning
and negotiations if you need that."
"The only negotiations will be
which of my sisters gets to play with
the new baby," Mom said with a snort.
"Yeah, but it's fun to play with our cousins,"
Alvie said. "I don't care where we stay."
"In considering future plans, bear in mind
both elementary schools have programs
for parent education," Dr. G said.
"Speaking of parent education, I can
put in a word for the state chipping in
toward college for Charisse," said Manushi.
"We appreciate that, but why?" Mom said.
"We don't often get a chance to fix things
that go wrong. I think we caught this case
early enough that we can," Manushi said.
"It won't take much to boost your education
enough to raise the household income, which
should make it easier for the family to afford
better school for Alvie, the original victim."
"That's fair," Dr. G said. "Thank you for
supporting the college part of the plan."
"Let's look at our options so far,"
Manushi said, laying out her mind map.
She had added a college hat and notes
about Mom's opinion on the school.
Alvie had doodled a bicycle on hers.
"If we're going to be farther apart, then
we need to check bike routes," she said.
"Get the latest bus maps, too."
"Those are great ideas," Manushi said,
drawing them on her mind map.
"Lincoln's bike routes are better,"
Mom said. "That was one of the things
that I really liked about moving there."
"Note to self, look up organizations
to promote more and better options
for biking in Omaha," Dad said.
"All right then," said Dr. G.
"Is anyone else hungry?"
"Me, me!" Alvie said,
waving her hand eagerly.
"Jimell, you mentioned a taste
for jazz and blues music," said Dr. G.
"How about we swing by Blues Moon?"
"Oh, I haven't been there in ages,"
Dad said. "They had great music
and pretty good food too."
"The food might be better now,"
Dr. G said. "I know they've got
a new buyer for produce, fresh
from the local farmer's markets."
"I'm all for it," Mom said, and
Manushi was happy to come along.
Blues Moon offered both music and
food, and it had art all over the walls.
Alvie loved the paintings and photos.
As soon as they went in, a boy
with startling white hair yelled,
"Dr. G! It's not your day, what
are you even doing here?"
"Looking for food," Dr. G said.
"Awesome." The boy grabbed
an apron and an order pad, then
showed them to a comfy booth.
"What do you want?" the waiter said.
"What's good in healthy soul food?"
Dr. G asked, leafing through the menu.
"Oh, you gotta try the smoke turkey collards!"
the boy said, grinning. "I just found this guy
at the farmer's market selling spring collard greens
that he grew over the winter in, like, row houses."
"Sold," Mom and Dad chorused, and Alvie
knew she'd wind up trying the collards
whether she wanted to or not.
Mom's recipes usually tasted good,
though, so maybe this would too.
"Just bring us a family-size bowl
of the collards, please," said Dr. G.
"Get you a slab of ribs, too, if folks
go for barbecue," the boy suggested.
"That's a great meal for a family. We
got a red pepper cornbread today,
by the slice or by the round."
"Round, please," Dad said.
"Desserts?" Mom asked,
more interested in the server
than in the menu itself.
People who worked a place
usually knew what was good.
"Cook made lemon dream pie with
these Meyer lemons," the boy said.
"Same as cornbread, slice or round."
"Round," Dr. G said. "Anything we
don't finish, I will happily take home.
Also, I'll be handling the check."
"Ugh, no, I hate lemon pie," Dad said.
"Don't you have any cake here?"
"We have chocolate or white cake
most days, unless we've run out,"
the boy said. "Some days, Cook
makes another flavor, like carrot.
It's all sheet cake today, like this."
His fingers made a little square.
"Chocolate for me," Dad said,
and the waiter made a note.
"One main, two sides, and
dessert makes a family platter,
that's a good deal," the boy said.
"Comes with a pitcher of drinks --
we have tea or lemonade for kids."
"Yes, make it a platter," Dr. G said.
"I'm sure we'll polish it off just fine."
"We'd like lemonade," Mom said.
"You want a baby plate?" the boy said,
nodding at DeSoto, who was desperately
trying to reach the silverware. "It's free
with any adult meal. We got applesauce,
pulled pork, and Cook can run any fruit
or veggie stuff through the food mill."
"Applesauce, pulled pork, and
mash up some collards, please,"
Mom said. "That's very nice of you."
"No problem, we're a family joint,"
the waiter said. "Anything else?"
"Alvie, do you want something
to nibble on while we wait?"
"Fruit or veggie tray if they
have that here," Alvie said.
"You can have either one, or
both together," the waiter said.
"You get two dips with that."
Then he rattled off a list.
"Both fruit and vegetables,
please, with the vanilla fruit dip
and the pimento cheese dip,"
Mom said. "Thank you."
The waiter repeated their order
to make sure he had everything.
"I'll bring out your pitcher and
snack tray in a few minutes,"
he said. "The rest should take
ten-fifteen minutes. Cook hasn't
taken all the ribs off the grill yet."
"I don't mind waiting," Dr. G said.
"By the way, Charisse was wondering
about good places for a nurse to work."
"Omaha Personal Repair Center is nice.
They might or might not be hiring now,"
the boy said. "I know Freeman's is, though.
Somebody opened a new ethnic care clinic
up in Siouxland and poached a dozen of
their staff, so they're totally scrambling.
You won't find a better place in town."
"He's right," Dr. G said. "We were looking
for proximity rather than quality today, but I
can tell you Freeman's Family Hospital is
one of the best in town. You probably
know about them already, though."
"I know the place, my cousin
works there, but I didn't know that
they're short-handed," Mom said.
"Cool! I can get a family referral."
"Yeah, they do all kinds of classes
and programs out of there," the boy said.
"There's a newish one for healthy food.
I'm one of their eaters. It's fun."
"Then I'll definitely look into
those as well," Mom said.
"Can I try there?" Alvie said.
"Maybe they won't tell me
to grow up before I can
take first aid classes."
The boy laughed. "If they
blow you off again, ask Dr. G
to hook you up. His daughter Molly
is a paramedic, and she does
first aid classes for us here.
If she can teach us idiots, then
a little kid is no problem."
Dr. G cleared his throat.
"You are not idiots."
Alvie wondered if maybe
she wasn't the only one who
got the short end of the stick
in school. That sucked.
Then the boy spotted
Manushi's mind map.
"Hey, you brought art?"
he said. "Haven't seen
anything like that before."
"It's called a mind map,"
Manushi said, turning it so
the art didn't show. "Sorry, it's
for a private research project."
"Didn't mean to pry," the boy said,
raising his hands. "It just looked cool."
"If you're curious, Shiv, I'll show you
some examples the next time we
get together," Dr. G said. "I think
the technique would work for you."
"Yeah, probably," the waiter said.
He pointed to a nearby wall where
a swirly picture hung. "That's mine,
the boss just put it up yesterday."
"You drew the music," Dad said.
"Wow, that's really something."
"Thanks," the boy said, ducking
his chin. "I'll get your food now."
He headed off toward the kitchen.
"I am so looking forward
to this meal," Dad said.
Mom looked antsy, though.
"Do you really think that
all of this will work out?"
"I'll make sure that it does,
one way or another," Dr. G said.
"It is far wiser to prevent problems from
becoming acute than to introduce clinical aid
or other corrections into the educational program
after the problem child has become a truant
or a delinquent. Let's shut the barn door
before the horse gets out, shall we?"
"Hear, hear," Manushi said. "The plans
of the administrator must therefore include
suitable provisions for parent education
so that the program becomes one of
teamwork toward common goals. It is
the legal responsibility of the state and
the local district to furnish this program."
Alvie kicked her heels against the booth.
The food was taking forever to come.
"I'm bored," she whined.
"Well, that's no fun," Dr. G said.
"Would you like to borrow my phone?
I have the iMusic Dictionary on it, and
MJF's Digital Music Education Project."
"Oh, give me that," Dad said, and
wiggled his fingers for it. Dr. G passed
the phone to him. Dad looked at it,
then looked around the room.
Alvie twisted in her seat,
trying to figure out what
Dad was looking for.
"Okay, here's a musician,"
he said, turning the phone
so she could see the screen.
"Something in this room relates
to him. Can you find what it is?"
Alvie looked at the phone.
It had a picture of a black man
and a paragraph underneath.
"I don't know all the words."
"Show me which ones are
new to you," Dad said. She did.
Then he looked them up with
the dictionary and read her
the definition for each one.
"Okay, gimme the guy back,"
Alvie said. "I'll find him!"
She hadn't actually done it
by the time the snack tray came,
but that was okay. She could
grab fruit with one hand and
hold up the phone with the other.
The vanilla dip was delicious.
She'd rather have plain cheese dip
than pimento, but it was okay too.
"Whatcha doing?" the waiter said.
So Alvie explained the game,
and the boy laughed. "Go for it,
kid. This place is like a museum."
It really was. Alvie loved it.
She couldn't help thinking that
if they moved to Omaha, then
maybe they could come to
Blues Moon more often.
That would be awesome.
* * *
This poem is long, so the notes appear separately.</user></user></user></user></user></user></user></user></user></user></user></user></user>