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Published: Sunday, September 1, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Here's to a loud, messy, chaotic, creative school year

'What if," my 4-year-old asked me, "I pooped in my brother's eyeball and he thought it was chocolate chips and he ate it and then went to the dentist?"

Admittedly, it was a question I had never before considered.

Nor had I ever thought about what type of insect hybrid I would be if I could be three bugs smashed together. When my son posed that question to me recently, he was ready with his answer.

"I'd be a hornet/cricket/ant, so I could sting people, jump really high and carry heavy stuff."

That sounds like a good way to get through Costco.

If you've ever dealt with children, you've probably had your share of "What if?" questions, too. Whenever you hear those two words, you know that a strange conversation is about to follow.

But as a mom, I don't take enough time to think about hybrid bugs and defiling my sister's eyeballs. I'm so busy paying bills and rushing to make dinner that imagination can seem like a distant memory. And no, pinning creative ideas on Pinterest doesn't count.

Sometimes when my kids ask the "What if?" questions, I am guilty of exasperation. "I don't know!" I'll say. "Why are you even asking that?"

Ouch. What I mean to say is, "Keep those questions coming, kids."

I want my kids to ask "What if?" questions. I also want them to be tough and courageous. Imagination is great, but it needs a sidekick of resiliency to ever go anywhere.

One of my favorite Walt Disney quotes is "our greatest national resource is the minds of our children." I'm not sure if Disney meant dreaming about poop and bugs or not, but dancing broomsticks had to start somewhere.

But there's a second part of Disney's quote that you might never have heard before. It comes at the beginning. The full quote is "Crowded classrooms and half-day sessions are a tragic waste of our greatest national resource -- the minds of our children."

I've been thinking about that line because school starts this week and it's easy for everyone to get the jitters.

I've been a teacher in a crowded classroom. I know that the hardest thing about having a lot of students is making enough time to really listen to them.

Sadly, it's easier to "manage" 30 kids than it is to elicit creativity and excitement over new ideas. Some teachers fight this, others don't, and the standardized testing issue doesn't help.

Spark imagination and you get commotion, glitter, torn-up paper and other things that many principals don't appreciate. (Like moms, school personnel can get exasperated, too.)

Teaching kids to think can be messy. Asking "What if?" questions makes noise. Classrooms that are constantly quiet make me nervous.

So here's hoping your child's classroom this year is really loud (at times), and that you have the resiliency as a parent to partake in every conversation.

Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at teachingmybabytoread.com.

Story tags » Education & SchoolsParenting

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