Janet Urquhart: Valuable lessons? Well, sorta | AspenTimes.com

Janet Urquhart: Valuable lessons? Well, sorta

Four-hundred bucks a month for kindergarten? There must be a lot more to kindergarten in Aspen than there was when I, clutching my mothers hand, timidly ventured into Miss Oakleys room at Fitzmorris Elementary School in 1965.I dont think I carried so much as a single school supply for my introduction to nearly two decades of educational rigors. I wouldnt need my Big Chief notebook or Casper the Friendly Ghost lunch box until first grade.In those days, kindergarten was only a half-day and thats all there was to it. Im not sure how much Mom would have forked over to get rid of me all day long. Quite possibly, it would have been a substantial sum, but it wasnt an option.For parents of that era, it wasnt a choice between spending cash on all-day kindergarten or spending it on daycare. Moms stayed home, which is why mine might have sold a kidney to get rid of her kids for an entire day a year sooner.Educationally speaking, though, it would have been a poor investment. Tuition for what? Juice and cracker time? Fingerpainting? Big, fat crayons with a flat side so they wouldnt roll away? (As if the world is tilted when youre 5 years old.)I distinctly recall spending one entire day make that a half-day watching corn pop a kernel at a time. Each kid had a chance to hover with the teacher over the transparent top on a pot to watch the kernel sizzle in oil until bam, it exploded into a puff of white and slammed against the pot lid. Then, after everyone had a chance to watch a pop, we made a batch to eat.Another time, we all took turns churning butter, which we then spread on Saltines.There was a lot of snacking involved, now that I think about it.Mostly, kindergarten was our introduction to social interaction. Wed spent the first five years of our life primarily in the company of mom and siblings, since nobody went to daycare then.Kindergarten was about identifying which kids were gonna eat paste and get left behind in first grade, when we would be expected to write something with the alphabet we were learning.It was about picking your best friend for life when you couldnt comprehend a span of time longer than about 30 minutes, and seeing milk come out of someones nose for the first time.Granted, kindergarten is probably a lot different now: pint-sized overachievers showing up for class with their laptops and already finely honed reading and writing skills.I didnt know my left hand from my right at that age, but I do now, thanks to kindergarten. In order to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we had to hold our right hand over our heart. Facing the front of the classroom (and the flag), the piano was on the right, Miss Oakley advised those of us who couldnt remember which hand was which.To this day, in that nano-second it takes to remember which hand is my right one, I picture the piano on my right.I guess that month was worth $400.[Janet Urquhart never gets to recite the Pledge anymore, though. Her e-mail is janet@aspentimes.com]