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Posts tagged ‘academic’

There’s Nothing to Worry About. Right?

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Report card time. Mae earned B’s in science and math for the 2nd quarter and A’s in her other subjects. For the first quarter, she had an A in science and a B in math.

This time, Mae and I opened the report card envelope together and she smiled when she saw her grades. I asked if she was proud of herself and she said yes, with another smile. That was nice to see.

I have to admit that I felt a tinge of worry when I saw the B’s. The Voices on my shoulders started debating with each other.

She made all A’s (Outstanding’s) in her old school.

It’s a new school. Third grade is big leap.

She wants to be a chemist. Math and science are critical.

She also says she wants to be an Olympic fencer. Yet, she is taking a “break” from fencing and she didn’t practice at home after the second lesson.

She seems capable of A’s in math and science. What else can we do?

She’s taking 4th grade math, which may already be extra pressure. Don’t make the learning unfun.

If she were more organized and had turned in all of her math assignments, she would probably have at least an A there.

This is her first year changing classes and she may be still learning the ropes and finding what systems work for her. It’s a lot of responsibility for an 8-year old. She has gotten better about turning in her homework.

I’m a recovering Type A, so I know the problem is me.  Despite the debate swirling around my head, what I said to Mae is that she had every reason to be proud of herself because she has been working really hard.  I mean that with all my heart, and I’m proud of her too.

When Hubby looked at her report card later, he was surprised at the B’s.  He commented too that both subjects are important for what she wants to do in the future.  He helped her with her homework tonight.  He said to me afterwards that he hopes she understands the math.  (It’s nice to have partner in insanity.)

I think the bottom line is that we want her to be able to achieve her full potential and achieve all of her goals.  Our job is to do everything we can to help her get there. Does a B mean we aren’t helping her enough?

Of course, this is somewhat irrational.  She’s doing great and she feels good about how she’s doing.  She’ll be fine, everything will be fine.

I just needed to say that.

Fade to Black

watching fireworks

As 2012 fades to black, I think back on how blessed we have been this year and in previous years. Life hasn’t been perfect or stress-free. All-in-all, though, it’s been darn good.

I had a glorious time in SC with my immediate and extended families during our short winter vacation. We had a Christmas party on the Saturday before the holiday. The food was good, the games were fun, and spirits were high. One of the things I love most about my big (my mother is one of eleven), crazy family is that we manage to consistently have a genuinely good time, without the drama that is typically associated with big gatherings and without the help of alcohol (LOL).

Mae and Jay got to see all of their first cousins. They played well together, and I’m especially proud of Mae. I think she managed to avoid falling out with her big cousin, who is just 9 months older, even once. Usually, Mae whines or has a meltdown about not being able to play with her cousin’s things or something along those lines. No meltdowns at all on the trip. Growth is a beautiful thing, and she’s been doing plenty of it physically and otherwise.  Lately, she’s been asking questions on topics like periods and the N-word.  She’s becoming less and less of a “little girl,” a term she now detests.

Last week, Mae told me that she wonders if she should tell her friends that she has Asperger’s.  She said, “I don’t know what they’ll think of me.”  I told Mae that she can tell her friends if she feels comfortable, and that it’s more important to focus on what she wants her friends to understand about her and show them who she is without using a label.  I told her that the doctor said she’s barely on the spectrum, so Asperger’s may not be the best way to explain who she is.   Her question is an interesting question given recent media coverage of Asperger’s in relation to the Newtown tragedy.  Mae is aware of the tragedy because her school principal made an announcement the next school day.  She’s unaware of the media coverage and how some have attributed the shooter’s behavior to Asperger’s.  We’re not much of a news-watching household, and that’s a good thing.

After we returned home from SC, we buckled down to Mae’s homework.  She actually completed some of it while we were in SC, bless her heart, with little resistance. She has had so much homework over the past few weeks, more than I could have ever imagined for a 3rd grader.  We spent hours each day last Thursday through Sunday working on a book about the planets. There is a required 15-page minimum with limited use of illustrations, which Mae had to create herself. (Thank you, Microsoft, for Insert>Shapes.)

Last night, as Mae put the finishing touches on the book,  she told me that she enjoyed working on it, that she had looked forward to it.  She’s really had a good attitude about this homework business.  Hubby and I have been the ones grumbling for weeks.  I’ve been trying to think of a way to complain to the school, but I don’t know if it’s me or them that’s being unreasonable.  I wanted an accelerated and advanced curriculum, so maybe I should keep my mouth shut. What I didn’t know was that we’d be trading loads of personal time and family time, weekends and holidays included.

Mae worked so hard on her planets book and still needs to make progress on her science fair project, so much so that I can’t even bring myself to ask her to write thank-you notes for Christmas gifts.  That’s normally one of our projects over the winter break.  I may saddle Jay with writing for both of them, if I can get him to be still long enough. He has been a ball of energy, literally running in circles around the house, for no apparent reason.  He’ll go round and round the kitchen table.  He’s in constant motion, still at five and a half.  I don’t remember his sister being this way.

Yesterday, I surprised him when I told him that I like candy cereal too, but I don’t eat it.   He said, slowly, “That’s strange.”  Then, he added, “If you like something, you should just eat it.”  Oh, my dear boy, I have fillings in the double digits and a pouch to prove that I have done plenty of that.

I’ve got to work on my “just eat it” problem in 2013.  I’m not big on resolutions, but I do need to create a new exercise plan and cut back on sugar.  This year was not good for me in terms of healthy living.  I tried to eat healthy (though the green smoothie project didn’t work for me; I decided that eating should involve chewing.  I like chewing.) and exercise (I quit yoga after one session because one full hour of yoga is just too much).  I got off track, mostly due to exhaustion in the evenings from hard, long days at the job I started in March, and then curtailing weeknight gym visits to help with homework in the evenings.  On too many evenings, I ate salty or sweet snacks for dinner instead of a proper meal.

Despite exercising less and eating more than I should have, I’m ending 2012 with a pat on the back for myself.  I’ve already ordered our photo album for 2012, a year’s worth of pictures bound in a hard cover book.   It’s an annual project that I sometimes don’t get to until the spring.  And, I’ve ordered our Happy New Year photo cards to send to family and friends.  I think our 2012 cards went out in February last year.  I feel like I was more organized in 2012.  Also, I spent more time with the kids, making more of an effort to do fun stuff on the weekends whenever we could.  House and yardwork suffered, but I have no regrets about that.

So, I’m good.  We’re good.  2013 will be good.

Public School, Here We Come

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Mae was a lottery pick for a public talented and gifted (TAG) school. This is the school she tested into and for which she was wait-listed last year. It has a good reputation and I’ve heard nothing but good things about its gifted program. Hubby and I toured last week. The enrichment programs sound fun and challenging, and there is advanced, differentiated instruction within the classroom.

I am concerned, though, about the average class size for third grade. Twenty-five students per teacher with no assistant sounds like a lot of fish for Mae to swim with and then, I think, she was with 18-19 classmates for 1st and 2nd grade. What’s a few more kids?

I’m also concerned, of course, about the transition. When Hubby and I told her that she may be going to a new school in the fall, Mae said, in short, “no.” We told her it’ll be more challenging and she’s less likely to get bored. She has warmed up to the idea since we received the lottery results two weeks ago. She thinks 25 kids in a class is a good thing because, in her words, even if some kids don’t want to play with her, there are enough kids that it’s likely she’ll still have friends.

I asked Mae’s 1st grade teacher for her opinion on moving Mae from the small private school to a public school. She recommended a class size of 10, no more than 15. Well . . . . She also warned that new teachers often “get stuck” with the gifted classes because experienced teachers get worn out by high-maintenance, demanding parents. (I hope she shared that opinion with me because she doesn’t see me as such). During the school tour, we visited two of the three 3rd grade classrooms. The teachers were older, if not seasoned educators, at least mature in age, which is a relief.

I went to a PTO meeting at the TAG school also. There was a small group of committed parents voting for next year’s officers. I was impressed that there were folks happy, or at least willing, to take on the responsibility. At the last PTA meeting for the kids’ current school, it took some teeth-pulling and arm-wringing to get parents to accept nominations. (That’s not a judgment, just an observation. I didn’t volunteer for anything and declined a nomination. My new job is already spilling over into evenings and weekends, which I had not anticipated and I’m trying to get a handle on it.)

I introduced myself to the school principal after the PTO meeting. She seems like a nice lady, and the TAG Coordinator seems like he’ll be a pleasure to work with. Hubby is certain, and I’m also there, in thinking this is the right move for Mae. I want to give it a try so that we don’t wonder “what if.” The teachers’ and administrators’ demeanor and flexibility will determine if we stay.

“Mothers Are Not That Bad”

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That lovely image to the left is a “communiputer,” a device conceptualized and named by Mae.  I helped her and Jay make them this weekend.  They were so excited by these little pieces of colored cardboard decorated with stickers left over from a yard sale and various birthday parties.  I wonder why we even bother with buying toys.  The communiputer is better apparently than a smart phone; it can help clean up the environment and do all kinds of “futuristic” things.   Jay has asked that our next project be making hobby horses from orange juice cartons, and he roped Hubby into buying two cartons on Saturday that we’re supposed to drink up before the weekend.

They can be so endearing when they are not having meltdowns and demanding the world on a platter.

On Saturday, we met up with two families we’ve known for a while for laser tag and dinner.  I tip my hat to Hubby for being the only dad in the group.  I was grateful he could be there because I thought Jay would be unwilling to try laser tag.  I told Hubby he could opt out of dinner afterwards.  Being the smarty-pants that he is, he said, “Despite what I’ve heard, mothers are not that bad.  I can tolerate them.”  Haha.  The other two moms are women we’ve known since Mae was three months old.  Almost eight years ago, our daughters (first-borns followed by brothers later) started daycare during the same week.  We were all anxious new moms, dreading the return to work and trying to figure out how we were going to get it all done.  We don’t see each other as often as we used to (there are actually six of us families that have stayed in touch, and with fewer birthday parties and various extracurricular activities, getting together all at once is pretty difficult), but it’s always a good time.  Jay was reluctant about laser tag at first; he warmed up to it, probably shortly after getting his hands on the weapon.  Dinner was wild with six kids in one booth adjacent to us adults.  Somehow, they managed and it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be.

On Sunday, the kids and I went to a science and engineering festival in downtown Washington, DC.  We met up with two of Mae’s classmates and a nine-year old cousin whose mom is an engineer.  Mae was in her zone and probably could have stayed all day.  My boy the homebody did not ask even once to leave.  It’s so awesome to see kids excited about science, engineering, technology, etc.   After spending a few hours in the convention center, we walked to Chinatown for a late lunch and ice cream.  

The women in black and white are about to run into the intersection where an "officiant" will marry them while the man in the bridal gown plays "Here Comes the Bride" on his sax.

It was beautiful weather wise, so much so that there was a group of people marrying random couples in the intersection of 7th and H Streets.  Yes, literally, in the intersection between traffic light changes.  Mae and her little cousin were impromptu flower girls for one of the couples.  The newlyweds ran back to the street corner, and the girls threw handfuls of petals at them.  Then, the couple was offered a piece of cake from a paper plate on the ground.  The kids were more tickled than confused.  Me, I was just confused.

Mae had an eye exam on Saturday afternoon.  I noticed last week that she couldn’t see words on the TV screen while sitting across the room.  This was bound to happen, as we have so many eyeglass wearers in the family, including me and Hubby.  The doctor asked Mae to read the first image of letters he beamed onto the wall.  Mae said, “I don’t see anything.”  She said it as if she thought the doctor was playing a joke on her.  I was like, “Wow.”  So, she’s moderately nearsighted and eyeglasses are on order.

So, we’re into the work and school week.  I’m already looking forward to the weekend, though I’m hoping to stay in and lay low for this one.  We’ll see.

Moving Up and On

20120403-102450.jpgIt’s Spring Break! We’re free! We’re free!

Yesterday, I was talking to a girlfriend whose 2-year old is on Spring Break this week too. My friend was talking about her plans for events all around town. I felt bad. I have plans for all around the house. The kids and I were in the yard yesterday afternoon. Jay said, “I like pulling up weeds.” I thought to myself, “. . . until you go back to school and hear your friends talk about their trips to Disney or other exotic places.” Oh, well. We did have a play date today at an inflatables place. The kids ran, bounced, and slid for two hours straight. I felt better. I reminded myself also that they have had several busy weekends in the past two months. We’ve been to the National Building Museum twice, the Chesapeake Children’s Museum, Maryland Science Center, and the Natural History Museum. That’s in addition to birthday parties, field trips, and park visits. They get around. The father of the little girl we met today spoke of an article he read recently about how we schedule our kids’ time such that we deprive them of opportunities to use and develop their own imaginations. Instead of learning to plan and organize and be creative, they look to us to tell them what to do and play. And, on that note, while I spend the reminder of the week cleaning and organizing, Mae and Jay will be free to figure out what they want to do.

Last night, Mae had her last appointment with the therapist for what will be a while. During the visit, we talked about improvements she’s made and how it seems that the gap between her emotional and intellectual development has narrowed significantly. She has better self-control, and Hubby, her teacher, and I know better how to anticipate and head off triggers. Things have been relatively quiet on the school front, and issues she’s had — like losing time off recess for talking during class — are typical 8-year old behaviors. She rarely complains about not having anyone to play with or feeling left out. I think she’s accepted that she is not a part of certain circles. She doesn’t like it, but she doesn’t obsess about it. Right now.

The last quarter of school will be more challenging academically, and that will take extra coaching. When she doesn’t breeze through her work, she gets down on herself, saying that she can’t do anything. I have to coax her out of that frame of mind by reminding her of past success, which can include getting the previous 19 problems on the page correct with no assistance, and giving constant encouragement. I expect that transitioning to summer camp will take some special coaching as well. The therapist and I agreed that I’ll give her a call in early to mid-June to talk about how that transition is going.

I’ve given up on finding another social skills playground. So much effort, so little results. If she continues to have play dates and other social events where we can monitor her interactions with other kids and intervene as necessary, I think we’ll be fine. For now.

Jay had his follow-up appointment with the gastroenterologist today. I think his heartburn issues resolved shortly after our first visit in February. He continued to complain about more general stomach pain for a few weeks after, until about a week ago. Hubby and I became skeptical after we noticed a pattern of complaints after lights out on school nights. His stomach seemed to be pain-free on weekend nights and also at certain special times, such as when he had his blue comforter instead of his brown blanket, or when he listened to soft music at bedtime. There were many nights that I wanted to put my nose to his and say through clenched teeth, “Will you please just tell the truth?” That would work with Mae. Jay is my sensitive one. When I use a stern tone with him, he ignores the message and focuses on telling me he doesn’t like “that voice” and asking me to apologize. The conclusion is that his stomach did hurt sometimes, most likely due to constipation. So, we’re on to more fiber, water, and exercise.

My new job has gotten off to a good start. I swear this was a good move for me, and not just because I’ll be working from home two days a week. It’s going to be more intense and focused on employee relations (ER). After spending the past 6 years splitting my time between ER and other areas, I feel as though I finished my undergraduate degree and now I’m in graduate school. I’m excited about the new skills I’ll develop and new relationships I’ll build. It’s not that I wish for people to have problems at work or that I enjoy basking in other people’s problems. It’s just that problems are bound to happen because we’re human, and I like helping to solve them. So, I’m looking forward to talking to the supervisor of the “creepy old guy” who keeps putting his hand in his pants, much to his cubicle mate’s dismay. Ha’mercy!

“You Have Two Amazing Kids”

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That’s a great opener for a parent-teacher conference.  Ms. M had Mae as a student, and now has Jay in her preschool-4 classroom.  He is doing well, despite what she describes as trouble sitting still during circle time.  And, when he gets upset about something, he cries strongly for a while, but it doesn’t happen often.  I can live with that.  I’m so proud of how he is growing as a reader.  Ms. M told me that he’s “chunking” words, and I said, yes, his dad taught him how.  Ms. M is now sending home reading material for him so that we can listen to him and note what he reads easily and where he needs help.   So far, he reads the books and word lists easily, which is a great confidence builder for him.  It’s a beautiful sight.

Mae had another outstanding academic semester, and even better, we had no emails or calls from her teacher or the office about behavioral problems.  I’m not naive; I know that doesn’t mean there were no issues.  However, I think it means the teacher has figured out how to work with Mae.  And, that’s a beautiful thing too.

In the teachers’ classrooms and in the office, where I chatted with some administrators between conferences, I heard how they look forward to watching my kids grow and seeing what paths they take, what they become.

As I left the school, I was reminded of a book  about successful African American women, No Mountain High Enough by Dorothy Ehrhart-Morrison.  She interviewed a number of black women on the secrets of their success.  One common theme was high expectations from their families and members of their communities.  Knowing that others expected certain behavior and educational pursuit and success from them, they felt motivated to achieve so that they wouldn’t disappoint.  These women spoke of high expectations not as pressure but as confidence in their abilities and potential.  I hope my kids will appreciate the expectations of them as expressions of confidence and hope and feel esteemed enough to rise up.

Now that I’ve typed that I remember how this week Jay gave me a scary crystal ball moment in which I had a vision of him living upstairs at age 40, still sleeping in his twin bed.  One of his classmates asked me why it is that Jay can’t watch “Spongebob” and whether he’ll be able to watch it when he grows up.  I told her that when Jay grows up and gets his on place, he can watch whatever he likes.  Jay turned to me and said that when he grows up, he wants to stay at home with me and Hubby.  I was a little surprised; his sister picked out a condo building for her future home  a couple of years ago.  Isn’t that normal?  So, I asked Jay, “Don’t you want to have your own place so you don’t have to listen to Mommy and Daddy’s rules anymore?”  His bottom lip went out a little and he said, “Mom, I just love you.”  Since he only recently started using the “l” word comfortably (thanks to his teachers making it a classroom theme leading up to Valentine’s day), my heart softened and I said, “Ok, you can stay with us. ”  I hope this is a conversation he forgets we had.  Goodness gracious.

First Impressions

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So, Back To School Night was this past Thursday.  I was a little disappointed to find that Mae’s teacher, Ms. G, and the school’s guidance counselor hadn’t worked out a reading curriculum for her yet, and it turns out Ms. G wasn’t aware that Mae had second grade spelling last year.  I thought three full weeks would have been enough time for Ms. G to have made her own assessment and consulted with the counselor and worked this out.  At the same time, I recognize that this is her first year teaching and there is so much for her to learn.  I’ll give two more school days before I check in with her again.  That seems reasonable.

I was the last parent in the room, and Ms. A said to me as I was getting my things, “I just want to tell you that [Mae] is sooo special.  She is so loving and lovable.”  She gave an example of how Mae had encouraged a classmate who was getting frustrated with a lesson.  I agreed that Mae is a unique child.  It’s great to hear some nice things about her in a school setting, especially things that involve other kids and not just the academics.

In Jay’s class, parents sat in the itty-bitty chairs at the itty-bitty tables to color and cut with our non-dominant hand, which gave a sense of how our kids are learning.  Ow.  I colored a picture of a car for Jay, and I thought I did a pretty good job.  His reaction when he found it in his box the next day at pickup time?  He wanted to draw on it.  Well, gee thanks!

Jay is still loving the class.  And, I am too.  Yesterday, I saw his teacher handle a disagreement in a way I’m looking forward to trying at home (because I know I’ll get the opportunity).  A little girl hurt a classmate’s finger as they were tussling over a toy.  Ms. O talked to them together and then individually for a moment.  Next, she sat them on chairs facing each other and told them to talk about how to play together.  A few minutes later, she and I were chatting in the hall, and the boy and girl came out smiling.  The little girl said in a cheery voice, “Ms. [O], we solved the problem!”  It was sooo cute!!

Oh, if only all disputes could end that way!  Then again, I would have wasted a lot of time over the past 14 months earning a certificate in mediation, which I just received last week.  It’s my greatest educational accomplishment since getting a higher GPA than S.F. in 7th grade.  And, nobody can color on it!

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