Last night was not a good night to say the least. Bella seems fine during the day; but at night it is clear she’s still not comfortable in the new place. Yesterday she only took one nap and a short one at that, interrupted when something fell in the bathroom, blown over by the flapping window shade. Despite that, or maybe because of it, she went to bed later than usual last night.

Then she woke up again right as we were going to bed. It was almost 11 and we were just finishing our prayers and getting ready to sleep. Dom all nervous about his first day at work tomorrow and can he find some clean, unwrinkled clothes to wear. And then Bella starts screaming at the top of her lungs. It was clear we couldn’t just ignore her and hope she’d go back to sleep. So I changed her wet diaper and tried to nurse her back to sleep. Her eyes drifted closed and it looked like she was asleep but as soon as I put her down in the crib the screaming began.

I tried to bring her into bed with me. More screaming. I tried to rock her in the recliner. More screaming. I sang to her, the verses getting more and more garbled as I kept drifting in and out of sleep:

“Hush little baby, don’t say a word mamma’s gonna buy you a lullaby and if that lullaby don’t sing, mamma’s gonna buy you a billy goat and if that billy goat runs away mamma’s gonna buy you a looking glass.”

She’d drift off and then jump and wiggle and then drift off and then start squirming and then drift off again but her eyes would open as soon as I tried to stand up with her. And the screaming would begin again. Finally, I started awake, afraid I was going to drop her as I drifted off. She started awake too, two little dark eyes looking up at me.

I went in and told Dom I was afraid I’d drop her. He got up and drove her around in the car for a while while I drifted off to sleep. Soon enough he was back with a screaming baby. She’d fallen asleep in the car alright. But as soon as he stopped, she’d started again.

It was now 2 am. Every time she started another screaming bout, I was certain I could hear someone moving about upstairs. I’m sorry, I thought toward the nice girls who live upstairs. She’s not usually like this, I swear.

I tried nursing her again and she drifted off as soon as her mouth met the nipple. But again when I put her in the crib she howled. I rubbed her back and made comforting noises until she drifted off again, a little forlorn lump in the corner of the crib. But as I shut the door, she began fussing again. It wasn’t quite as strong as before so I decided to wait a minutes and see if she’d cry herself to sleep. It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes and she was quiet and I followed her to dream land.

Of course, she started screaming again at 5:30. I’d had maybe four hours of sleep all told. I’m afraid I was crying myself as I got up and changed her diaper and then rocked her nursed her, tried to comfort and console her. Nothing worked. She just cried and cried. And we rocked and I walked up and down the apartment and tried to tempt her with bits of food and cried tears of tired frustration.
Then finally the alarm clock went off and Dom got up to get ready for work.

The expected fiasco: wrinkled shirt and who knows which of twenty boxes the iron got shoved into. Not enough time for cereal and the bagel didn’t even get toasted before he had to run. Though I did spread it with cream cheese. Then he’d forgotten his wallet and passport and had to come back for them.

I had to stay awake because the guys were coming to service the furnace. But finally they showed up at the same time Dom did and I let them into the basement and then put the sleepy Bella down for her nap and fell into bed myself.

I think I’m going to take it easy on the unpacking today. We’re still too unsettled for settling in.

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  • I like the view of education set out in Little Women and other L.M. Alcott stories: manners and morals come first, then the knowledge that no one should be without, from history, math, literature, etc., to household management and basic cooking.  Get those taken care off, and you can be academic all you want.  It would never fly in today’s schools, but it does seem to be directed toward forming well-rounded, happy children and adults, not just achievers.

  • I agree. Alcott’s view of education strikes me as very sane. I think I may have to go back and re-read Little Women, Good Wives, Little Men and Jo’s Boys. If I can only find where I put them….

  • Heather writes in an email: I can understand the use of standardized testing as one diagnostic tool among many. As the sole criterion of school success, though, it’s too much pressure to put on one aspect. Literacy rates and graduation rates, not to mention college or university success, should be on the list as well.
    Then again, I taught French and Spanish and didn’t have to worry about standardized tests in my subjects.And I agree: our system needs Aegean stables treatment.

    With standardized tests, I realize that some people see the utility of them as one tool out of many (Dom agrees with that point of view and not with me.)

    But I guess I’ve just known too many people who are very brilliant but who do lousy on standardized tests. I’m skeptical. If the test’s results don’t accurately reflect their abilities, how reliable are they? What are we really testing for, knowledge and ability to read, write, do arithmetic, or are we testing for the ability to take tests well.

    I think my biggest objection is mostly a gut feeling that, if you fix all thats wrong with the schools, their utility as a diagnostic tool would fade to zero. If you really want to know how well a child is reading, listen to him read; if how he’s writing, read something he’s written.

    I don’t think a good teacher needs a diagnostic test to confirm what she already knows through real interaction with the student. As far as I can tell, tests exist solely for bureaucrats. And I think bureaucracy is a huge part of what is wrong with schools today.

    The thing is people are not standardized, interchangeable parts and every child develops at his own pace. Creating artificial minimums about when a child should be able to read or write or do long division doesn’t make sense to me any more than declaring when a child should be cutting teeth.

    Education is an organic process not an assembly line and each new concept, skill or understanding builds on what the child has already mastered. Because each child’s experience is unique, there is no way to standardize learning.

  • I agree with you on standardized tests.  Besides the whole issue of “standardization,” why take a whole week out of learning to do tests?  That may make sense at the end of a term, and especially for higher-level classes, but when I was in grade school it was always a week smack dab in the middle of things.  A week lost to other lessons.  Why?

    I knew Bronson was an educator and innovator, but I know very little about him other than what I’ve read while doing a bit of research on Louisa (and most of that was written by feminists).  I like some of his theories (encouraging the girls to keep diaries, not for self-expression but for self-examination, and also encouraging them to write and perform plays).  But he was a Utopian, and they tend to have screwy views of human nature.  His, I’ve heard, was that if we just let children develop naturally, they will always behave, always be clam and peaceful, and will be highly intelligent right off the bat.  And then Louisa was born and destroyed his theory, being a very cranky baby.  And Louisa’s own descriptions of Bronson’s Utopianism (his experiment founding a vegan colony aptlly titled “Fruitlands”) paint Bronson as a dreamer who left his wife to do the actual work while he and his friends talked philosophy and marveled at how easy the natural life was.  After reading that, I’ve been more interested in reading his ideas filtered through Louisa’s experience (and fiction—oh, and sense) than in looking him up for himself.  Call me biased.

  • Education is an organic process not an assembly line and each new concept, skill or understanding builds on what the child has already mastered. Because each child’s experience is unique, there is no way to standardize learning.

    While I agree that under certain circumstances, like homeschooling, that ideal is valid and should be attainable, if you’re going to have a public institution using public money engaging in education, then you need some way of ensuring that children are receiving an adequate education and not simply being indoctrinated into some teacher’s wacky liberal ideology.

    Yes, education should be an organic process free from arbitrary bureaucratic standards, but consider all the other areas in life in which we impose a standard on an educational/training process: Driver’s licenses, military boot camp, aircraft pilot training.

    I want a standard rigidly imposed in all those areas.

    I think we need to find the balance between the ideal and the practical as long as we have the reality of public schools, even as we work to change the educational culture that requires such standards to be imposed.

  • if you’re going to have a public institution using public money engaging in education, then you need some way of ensuring that children are receiving an adequate education and not simply being indoctrinated into some teacher’s wacky liberal ideology.

    Um, exactly how is standardized testing preventing that from happening now? How many kids are still graduating from schools functionally illiterate? I wonder if you compared literacy rates of hs grads before and after mandated standardized testing if you’d see an improvement or a drop.

  • There’s standardized testing done now and standardized testing done right. Before we throw it out as ineffectual, maybe it should be tried the way it’s intended.