Our 16 year old made the decision back in February to register for online English for this summer. It seemed like a great idea at the time. This would free up some coveted hours in the fall to concentrate on fewer courses while having time to swim and perhaps, sleep.
Things have changed since February. Almost all learning has shifted from in-class to online, swimming has been cancelled indefinitely and we are all more than well rested.
She opted to keep the on-line course as part of her summer plans should Sept. 1st resemble any sense of normalcy and we are nothing if not a family of optimists.
Then I had the most amazing idea. Firstly, I would worm my way into the early planning stages of how to prepare for this course, like any good parent would do. I would then research the grade 12 curriculum and make several uneducated guesses about what possible texts could be in her line-up and then, following the first rule of parenting as taught to us immediately following birth and delivery, I would FORCE and then BRIBE her to read these books ahead of the course assignments so she would be ahead of her peers, her teachers and ultimately, the universe.
For non-parents, the force and bribe technique, (F&B) works as follows.
I decided based on several grueling, non-consecutive minutes of internet research that Hanna will, with 100% assurance, be assigned at least one Shakespeare play. That play will of course be, Hamlet.
She will also most definitely be tasked with reading F. Scott Fitzgerald’s, The Great Gatsby.
After a series of questions, “Have you read either of these books yet?” No. “Have you talked to anyone who has already taken grade 12 English to see if these books/plays are what they read?” Also, No. “Have you put away that laundry I folded and left on the chair in your room from before the quarantine started?” Follow the pattern.
With the force and bribe, you can’t just tell the kid they have to do something you know they’re going to battle you on. I threw out the idea over lunch. “Hey, the Stratford Festival is streaming some of their best performances and Hamlet is one of them. It’s only available until (insert date the course starts) and then they wipe it clean from their hard drives and it disappears forever. What if, I don’t know, just throwing it out there, what if we, like just the two of us, sat down and watched it?” No.
Ellie chimed in, “I’ll watch it with you, Mom.” Shut up, Ellie.
“Come on Hanna. What if I pay you five bucks?”
Hamlet it is. Now for Gatsby.
“Hey, I read this amazing book both in high school and in University. It’s widely considered one of the best books ever written.” Looking back, I guess my use of, widely is what instigated the eye roll.
“Like Hunger Games or Twilight?”
“Yes, exactly. You’ll love it. Except instead of vampires and warring children, it’s more of an early 1920’s wealth in America-vibe. I think you need to read it for your online course. I have at least 3 copies in the house somewhere.” None that I could find of course so I headed to Chapters to pick her up a fresh copy. Who could refuse the smell of fresh pages and mischievous mothers?
“What if this stupid book isn’t part of the course?”
Force and Bribe, Force and Bribe, forceandbribe, forceandbribe…..
“Who cares if it’s not on your syllabus! Read it! Worst case scenario, you’ve read an American Classic and it’s not a Tik-Tok!”
That wasn’t forcing or bribing. That was hissy-fitting and yelling.
She actually agreed to read it. I was shocked. But we made a deal. $5 for watching Hamlet and $20 if Gatsby was not part of the reading list.
I was so sure they would both be on there I had no intentions of making that drive-thru withdrawal.
About half way through Gatsby and Day 2 of 3 of Hamlet, Hanna said, “I don’t know why you like this book so much. There’s no action. Nobody slashes anyone’s eyeballs out to become Queen. They basically talk about, ‘there’s a guy with a tie. The tie is yellow. He’s wearing it with a spiffy suit at a party. The tie has mustard on it. The mustard is crusty from a previous party.’”
“Did you just write that? I would read that book! Are you kidding me? Mustard—yum and ties—fancy!”
The course started yesterday and I think you can guess the outline, “Mom! I got the reading list today. I have to read ONE book. Any guesses?”
“Hamlet with a Gatsby chaser?”
Tina Fey’s Bossypants.
I’m out $25.
Though the title is fitting.