School at the Bauer House
by Susan Wise-Bauer

Fall of 1999: a day with a first and third grader and a  three-year-old.

6:30 AM: I meant to get up at 6, but I got to bed late last night and now I'm dragging. I drink a quick cup of coffee and go for the 3 1/2 mile walk I try to take at least four times a week. The boys don't usually get up until 8 AM; if they wake up, they read in bed until I come to get them. Peter (my husband) has a breakfast meeting this morning and won't be back in our home office until around 2. I ask my mother (who lives in an adjoining house here on the farm) to open the connecting door between our households and keep an ear out for screams.

7:50: I get back from my walk and decide I don't have time to shower. Instead I do a load of dishes and go in to get the boys up. They're all awake. Benjamin (six) wants to do school in bed this morning, so I get him a lap desk and serve his cereal and milk on it. Christopher (8) and Daniel (3) get up and dressed, and come into the kitchen for breakfast.

8:30: I've been shuttling between kitchen and bedroom for half an hour. I tell Ben that if he needs any more food, he'll have to come into the kitchen to get it. Christopher's finished eating (toast and scrambled eggs), but Daniel's still working on his plate, so I start Christopher on his cursive penmanship (which he can do by himself) and get Ben's books together.

8:45: Christopher finishes penmanship; Ben finishes breakfast; Daniel drops his plate. I give Christopher his grammar book, explain the rule in today's assignment, and tell him to start the exercise. Then I wipe up the eggs and take Ben's penmanship into his room. I still have to watch him do his writing, because he wants to do his circles backwards, so I stand beside the bed and say, "Up and around towards the wall! Up and around towards the wall!" while he writes. Daniel climbs up on the bed. Ben protests. Daniel yells. Christopher bellows from the kitchen that he's done. I tell Christopher to be patient, Ben to be tolerant, and Daniel to stop grabbing Ben's pencils.

9:05: I take Daniel into the kitchen with me to check Christopher's grammar. He's made two punctuation mistakes. I mark them and ask him to correct them and find me the rules that apply. Daniel asks for his markers, so I put him at the end of the table with his marker basket and a pile of scrap paper. When I get back to Ben's room, he's finished his penmanship and done all the remaining circles backwards. I make him write five more the correct way around.

9:15: Christopher's ready to do his Writing Strands assignment. Today he has to do a Good Deed report, so I persuade Ben to get out of bed and bring his brother a little bowl of M&M's. Christopher is supposed to write an account of this, but everyone now wants to eat M&M's, so we have our snack break (way too early).

9:20: Daniel is covered with red M&M goo. That "Melt in your mouth, not in your hand" slogan is a LIE.

9:25: Daniel's in the bathtub. I put Ben back in bed with his Spelling Workout book, explain what he has to do on the next two pages, and ask him if he can do it alone. He says he can. I go into the kitchen and ask Christopher to tell me what just happened. He says, "Ben brought me some M&M's." I say, "No, tell me exactly what happened from the beginning." "Ben came in the room," he says. "What next?" I ask. "He gave me M&M's." "Wait," I say, "where did they come from?" "You gave them to him," he says, looking at me as though I'm feeble-minded. "No," I say, "you have to tell your reader that Ben was holding M&M's in his hand, or else the reader won't know where they came from." "Ben had M&M's in his hand,"Christopher
 says. Daniel yells, "I want my octopus." I tell Christopher to think of a title for his story and write it at the top of his page. Then I find the octopus, check on Ben (who has actually DONE his work -- I am astonished), tell Ben he's wonderful and he can play Legos for a minute, and then go back to the kitchen. Christopher has written, "Ben Brought Me M&M's" at the top of his paper. We talk through Ben's "Good Deed" for a few more minutes, and then he begins to write the sentences down, one at a time. I start to make brownies -- this morning, my father and grandfather and a couple of other men are outside running
 the sawmill, and we usually take them coffee and goodies around 10:30.

9:55: Christopher has written two sentences. "Isn't that enough?" he asks. "No," I say, "you need to finish the story." I go in Ben's room and listen to him read me a chapter out of Owl Stays Home. Daniel is pouring water on the floor, but since he's out of everyone's hair, I put down three towels and try to ignore it.

10:05: Christopher has written three sentences. "Isn't that enough?" he asks. "No," I say, "you need to finish the story."

10:10: I start the coffee, and then call Ben out for a piano lesson. We work for about 15 minutes before his attention starts to flag.

10:25: Christopher brings me a page of writing. I praise it and ask him if he'd like to see how to set it up as a newspaper story in Microsoft Publisher. He says he would, so we turn on the computer, open the program, and type "The Paper" as the title of the newsletter. He starts to type his story into one of the column (hunt and peck method). Ben puts on his boots and says he's going to go tell the men that the snack is coming. Daniel appears in the living room, stark naked and dripping water. "The train got out of the tub," he announces....

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