My mom always says that she has been to more events/holiday themed parties/concerts at my kids’ schools than those of her grandchildren back home. It’s not because she visits us particularly often – usually once a year — but because by now, she has been here for every part of the year and between my three kids, she has caught just about every celebration that can be had in elementary and middle school. She has helped out at Christmas and Valentines parties, enjoyed talent shows and sing-alongs, watched art shows and school plays and helped set up year-end extravaganzas.
My mom is under the impression that there is a whole lot more going on in our schools here, compared to back home. I can’t tell for sure if my mom’s impression is correct, as my kids have all been in California for their entire school careers. I do know however, that there is a more or less constant request for supplies or help once your kid starts school. And when I talk to my brother in Sweden, who has two school age children, the picture is indeed different. Not that they never go to a school event; and sure, every now and then they are asked to bring empty toilet rolls or clothes pins for a classroom art project. Never however, has he been asked to cut 150 hearts out of pink and red paper or glue those hearts on to folded white cards. Never has he gotten the request for scary themed fruit platters for Halloween (serving 30, please!), or been asked to elaborately decorate a classroom for a Christmas party.
One of the most curious things in regards to schools here in the US is the fact that kids will have PE (Physical Education) without taking showers afterwards. I still have a hard time getting used to this, even though my kids have been doing it for years now. In some ways it is a little contrary to the whole idea of taking care of yourself and your body, which is a concept otherwise taught quite a bit. I am not sure what the reasons behind this practice are – is it modesty? Is it lack of appropriate facilities? Is it lack of time? I just don’t know. This New York Times article highlights the phenomenon.
I help serve lunch at my 8th grader’s school. Lunch here is very different from what I remember when I was in school. We really had no choice about what to eat – we ate at the cafeteria, where, if we were lucky we could say no thanks to fish if we didn’t like it and just have the mashed potatoes instead. We got in trouble if we tried to leave food on the plate or didn’t take vegetables with the main dish. Fast forward to today at my daughter’s school and I am serving meals that have been ordered and paid for online, selected from a choice of five or so warm entrees, a salad or sandwich. Some days, the choice includes pizza. My daughter, a picky eater at best, always brings her own packed lunch, as do many of her friends. No one checks to see if she finishes her food, no one tells her to eat her veggies – no one, other than I when she gets home. Unfortunately, it’s just a little too late by then!