The FCAT, for those non-Floridians out there, is a standardized test that Florida uses to grade their schools and teachers. The idea is to give all the students the same test. Those schools and teachers whose students get high scores get a higher grade.

With their professional future on the line, teachers teach to the FCAT and stress to their students the importance of doing well. Who can blame them? The stress on the students, however, is significant. Even worse, some schools now use the FCAT to separate students. Get a good grade on the FCAT, and you’ll be placed with the “smart” kids next year. In third grade, if you get a bad enough grade on the FCAT, you’ll be held back.

The pressure on the kids is insane, and parents spend the weeks leading up to FCAT trying to convince their kids to relax. The result is a confusing mess for the kids, with the schools telling them one thing and their parents telling them another.

Last year was my oldest son’s first year of FCAT, and this is what it looked like.

This year was my youngest son’s first year of FCAT, and I gave him the choice of what to do on Sunday to blow off steam.

“Water park,” he said immediately.

“Um, you mean Aquatica?” I asked.

“No. Backyard water park.”


He and his brother spent the day transforming our backyard into a water park. They strung the hose to the top of the slide, and put a mat at its base. Presto, instant water slide.

Next, they filled up buckets with water, stacked water guns next to it, and turned over benches and tables to make forts around the yard, turning the whole yard into a water gunfight arena.

Turning away from the water, they built a hill out of cardboard and set up Legos next to it so there could be Lego races.

Next, they carved up a couple plastic bottles into display cases, added grass and plants, then caught a toad. Add a few lizards, and they had a mini-herpetarium.

I’m leaving out some things, like the Nerf swordfighting training academy, but you get the idea. Once it was complete, they invited me to join them, and we spent the day in their homemade water park.

Absolutely wonderful!

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