I have mentioned this before, but I feel it’s important to mention it again. When I was in first grade, I was learning to read, learning to print my letters neatly, learning to count, learning to be away from my mommy for a full day, and – because I attended Catholic school – beginning to memorize my Baltimore catechism (Who is God? God is the Supreme Being who made all things, except that I thought the nuns were saying “string bean” because see above: I couldn’t read).
I dare to say that for most kids these days, thanks to early childhood education and Sesame Street (and all of the subsequent children’s learning programs), all of those things are old hat by time kids reach the first grade. I have two granddaughters in first grade and they can both full-out read. I think it’s wonderful, though I dare to say that, despite learning things later than our grandkids, we did catch up. Most of us can read quite well, thank you very much.
But the fact that kids learn more in first grade than I ever did was revealed to me with a vengeance this past week. I picked up 6-year-old Kaiya from school on Thursday, and she came out of the door bearing a piece of artwork that had her name on it.
“What’s that?” I asked her.
“Starry Night,” she replied.
Now, the only Starry Night I had ever heard of was the painting by Vincent Van Gogh, and she certainly couldn’t be talking about that.
“Did you draw that from your imagination or copy it from something?” I asked her carefully.
You know how your grandchildren (or perhaps your children) can look at you as if they can’t believe you are the ones running the world?
“It’s copied from Van Gogh’s Starry Night painting, Nana,” she said, and I’m pretty sure she was rolling her eyes.
“You’re learning about Vincent Van Gogh?” I asked SIX-YEAR-OLD Kaiya.
“Yes,” she replied. “And about Georgia O’Keeffe. She likes to draw flowers. My table’s artist today was Matisse, but I really like Picasso.”
At 6 years old, the extent of my artistic ability was making snowmen out of cotton balls, pipe cleaners and glue.
But, just to show her that I knew a little something about art, I said, “Picasso’s paintings are really strange, aren’t they? He liked to use his imagination.”
“Nana,” she said, “Picasso liked to use his FEELINGS.”
“Well, I think those two things are the same,” I said, somehow feeling it necessary to one-up my 6-year-old granddaughter.
I’m certain I have the smartest grandchildren in the world, though I’m pretty sure most grandparents think that to be true. But in addition to Kaiya’s eerie knowledge about art, 8-year-old Dagny told me she got kudos from her teacher this past week because she was the only one in her class who knew what a buffalo soldier was.
I knew I was in trouble because the only Buffalo Soldier I know of is the song by Bob Marley, and I never could understand what he was saying.
“What did you say a buffalo soldier was?” I asked her, not because I wanted to know if she gave the right answer, but because I wanted to know what a buffalo soldier was without letting her know that I didn’t know what a buffalo soldier was. She gave me the right answer. I looked it up later on Wikipedia. Sigh.
It’s a good thing I don’t have to help any of them with their homework, because unless it’s spelling, I’m no help whatsoever.