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By John Addyman with Jaden Addyman

   We’re thinking about the Common Core Standards in our house.
   Haven’t heard of them? 
   You will.
   These are the new measurements of student progress that all New York schools are implementing, the ones that ask parents to not only assist with homework, but to ask probing questions about it.

   Krista Lewis, Newark School District’s new Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, made a presentation about the common core standards in the last school board meeting. She said if we’re going to have successful students, more parents have to belly up to the kitchen table at homework time and dive in.
   She was nice enough to include a list of questions parents should ask to get kids talking about what they learned…and in answering, to make the learning a richer experience.
   And suggestions. She had a bunch of suggestions. The one I liked best is, “Have fun with non-fiction in front of your children.”
   I hear a lot of brows furrowing out there.
   So, I’m prepared to provide an example. I don’t have any children in school, but I have three grandchildren in elementary school, so I grabbed the nearest one available.
   “We’re going to have fun with non-fiction,” I told my grandson Jaden.
   He would have run out the door, but I had a good hold on a couple of belt loops in his jeans.
   Our fun with non-fiction started with the fact that my grandson needed a haircut.
   Since school started, he has gone from looking like a furry bowling ball to an Ewok.
   Jaden is 7. And he’s got hair that looks like it’s happy growing straight out of his head and won’t abide with combing or “training.”
   So, we get him a buzz-cut and everyone’s happy.
   I took him to Fran Mason’s barber shop in Newark.
   The barber shop looked different.
   “It got bigger,” Jaden said. “It’s extended.”
   He was right. The barber shop was much bigger.
   I introduced Jaden to Mr. Mason.
   “Where did the wall go?” Jaden asked.
   Fran explained to him (and me) that he had always wanted to expand, and when the space next to his shop became available, he took it. Now he was deciding what to do with all that extra space.
   Jaden went into the new section of the shop, picked up a fishing magazine, and immediately struck up a conversation with a young woman.
   “I asked her who she was with, who was getting the haircut,” Jaden said. “She said she was there with her little boy whose name was Connor. He was sitting in Richie’s chair, getting his haircut. We also talked about the fishing magazine. I saw a catfish in the book.”
   Jaden was waiting for Richie to finish, restlessly. Richie was busy with Connor, and had a couple of people waiting.
   Fran stepped in to ask if he could cut Jaden’s hair.
   “No,” said Jaden.
   I insisted he give Fran a try, so Jaden climbed into the chair.
   Jaden asked Fran about “the little spikey hair-cutting machine” and why Fran had a big belt hanging off the chair.
   Fran explained the belt was used to sharpen the razor blade he used to give people shaves. And the spikey hair-cutting machine was used “to cut your hair.”
   I was sitting nearby as Fran cut Jaden’s hair.  
   “Where’s the television?” I asked Fran. “You have all this room…now it’s time for a TV.”
   “You, too?” asked Fran. Apparently this is a subject of some sensitivity. Fran waxed poetic about how a trip to the barbershop was an opportunity for a guy to bathe in a quiet environment and enjoy good conversation on almost any topic with members of his gender of all ages. A television would surely interrupt that community communication, as guys would be glued to the TV set, watching sports. The conversations would be limited and therefore, far less fulfilling.
   “Are you done?” I asked him. A significant amount of time had passed while he was waxing poetic.
   He needs a television, I told him. But hey, there were other things he could consider now that he was expanding into a big-box barbershop.
   “With all this space, you could put in a drive-through…”
   Fran looked at me. I couldn’t decide if he trying to figure out if it  was time for me to get a haircut, too, or if was looking for telltale signs that my marbles were falling out of my ears.
   “Think about,” I said. “You could put a drive-through along that one big wall. People could order a simple haircut at one end, drive up to the window, and stick their head in. You’d use a special machine to do their hair and vacuum up what was cut off, and the guy could drive away all shorn and happy.”
   Fran was looking under my chair.
   Guess some of my marbles were on the floor.
  So this has been my example of having fun with non-fiction.
   Wait a minute. Was this really non-fiction?
   You have to ask Fran…
   …but look out for the marbles.


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