Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A letter to my Children

I am sad to say it's over guys, the summer and my days of being outnumbered all day! While the calendar has weeks more of glorious outdoor weather, the three of you bigger kids are all nestled in their beds patiently and or anxiously awaiting your first day at a new school. I doubt I will sleep at all tonight guys, because I am so nervous about whether we have made a good choice for all of you.

Little Daddy you are by far the most excited. (You have spent weeks deciding on the perfect backpack!) This being your first REAL school experience you have been counting down the days since we got your "you're in" letter from this school. You are an amazing young man, and I wasn't exagerrating when I told Mrs. Hastings that I think you are "ALL KINDS of AWESOME". You have always been a very flexible, easy going child, Little Daddy, and everyone loves to be your friend, because you have exactly the kind of tender heart that thinks of others first, and feels genuine sorrow when you've made a mistake. I am not worried about you and school at all, because I think you have made up your mind to LOVE it like awesome sauce. I will miss the way you become all mine when the big kids are away, I will miss your great ideas and creative play, and I will miss the way you are so careful and helpful with your younger sister all day, even when she is driving you BANANAS. I pray for you that when you are overwhelmed at school you will remember that you have an inner strength and a loving heart. I will try not to be the last mom in the carpool line. But your older brother and sister will tell you, sometimes I stink at pickup line.

Miss H you have been trying to hide your excitement out of concern for Cubby and I love that about you. I know that you are made for school Miss H, you are your mother's daughter afterall and I have seen in you this summer a creativity and industriousness that is new. You are immensely capable Miss H, in a way that makes me feel so blessed to be your mom and to be part of your journey. Watching you unfold your imagination this summer has been amazing, and I don't think I will ever look at Harry Potter, the tooth fairy or Santa the same way again. I have learned about you this year that you are very attentive to expectation, and you strive for excellence, except when you are in a hurry. I'm so proud to have you as my daughter. I pray for you this year that you will enjoy your classmates and their gifts, that you will challenge yourself to grow into all the gifts God has given you and that you continue to nurture and love your brothers. You are a great strength to me Miss H and a wonderful helper. I will miss your giggle immensely, and I know Lil Bit will too.

Cubby, you are my most exhuberant child. Never could I have imagined such a creative and sensitive person! You are anxious with this big change of schools Cubby, and you are the reason I agonized over making the switch. You are ART  with all its nuances and subletelys, you are expressive, and sulky at times, you believe in magic, You are faithful Cubby, and you are fiercely loyal. I know you are worried about all the changes and new faces and I pray for you to remember that you are loved. I pray that you continue to have a  magnetic personality and a great sympathy for others, and that you hone your creative and artistic gifts. I pray that you have the courage to embrace this great change as opportunity. You are "No Ordinary Boy" to me, or to anyone that has met you. I will miss not knowing what to expect from you next, and watching you flee from the hallway when you've switched the light off. I will miss your hilarious faces all day, and I sure hope Mrs. Best enjoys them!!

Lil Bit..
you are not even little anymore.. I don't know why I keep calling you that. Just tonight as I was packing up the lunches I said, "Hey save that last serving of smoothie and I'll feed it to the baby." You have grown up too fast for my taste! You are a little spicy. We are going to have such a fun time at home together I hope. I have never had just one kid at home so I suppose you'll have to tell me what to do. Good thing you have alot of practice in that area huh? I am thinking you will thrive with me all to yourself for a few hours, and possibly relax a little. I am looking forward to all your great snuggles, a million puzzles and your fabulous back rubs.

Above all my little chicks, I love you like awesome sauce! I want you to love learning, and school and for the whole experience to leave you a little breathless with wonder and excitement, but also spurred to stretch into your fuller selves.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Big Dealio

All Righty...

So if you have been reading this blog you will already be aware that I did allow the children to go to school this year. So both Cubby and Miss H trekked off to what I thought would be the best of my their options. I bristled a little bit when we were alerted to the no backpack rule after purchasing backpacks for the school year. But navigated the ever confusing car-rider pick up line anyhow. I kept signing the weekly packet and returning it, and listening to the kids recount their experiences.

There was alot of fun happening at Kindergarten. There was dance twice a week, which sounded a lot like freeze dance and direction following. There was music, which consisted mainly of singing. In class there was something called "settle in" and math centers, which from teaching the investigations curriculum looks alot like playtime. There was art, twice a week, the products from which were mainly marker/crayon/pencil line drawings.  After Christmas there was a Mondrian lesson, ASeurrat lesson, and a shading with pointilism lesson (I'm guessing was part of the Seurrat sessions). They watercolored some tulips for Mother's day. From their main teacher we took our turn with Brown Bear, and recorded his adventures. I waited for the "learning" the developmentally appropriate, the stretching of the children into more. But it did not come. I was told by the teacher that according to her assessments Cubby was a better reader than Miss H, (which is not accurate) and when I asked if during writing time they could be help accountable for more High frequency words with an additional list, or if she could write words they thought they would use during their writing that day in a bank for them the Mr. and I were told "Oh we don't really do that" When I asked Miss H, who LOVES to read why she wasn't bringing home books anymore she said that her teacher only had baby books in the classroom. When I asked the teacher if she kept a more challenging set of books somewhere she said it would be best if I just picked out books for Miss H because she didn't know what would be appropriate for her. What??! Certainly she's not the first kindergartener to read??! Don't worry, I didn't say that outloud.
They had a spring program, and I will admit the only picture of a school performance I had were my own elementary experiences and the program I witnessed as a student teacher at a school across town.
Cubby was crushed. The "Kindergarten" performance was actually a show to be preformed and choreographed by school of the arts dancers, and so the Kindergarteners were actually performing very little. Cubby spent more time "onstage" during our church's Christmas Eve family service, and.. I really wish they would have asked me to help with the costumes because they secured Miss H's headfeather to her head (along with the other 8 birds) with bright WHITE ONE INCH Elastic, and that was really distracting for me during the show. I MEAN REALLY distracting.
Anywoo we trekked on. I'm going to gloss over the part where the teacher seemed to insinuate that Cubby was a racist, because he is a history buff and quite imaginative. Because my heart speeds up when I think about it.
Both the kids really enjoyed having two "outside plays" everyday, although one one was supposed to be an organized game and it doesn't appear to have been so very often. (It's okay I just taught, jumprope, hopscotch, chinese jumprope, at home. Also the kindergartener's were not allowed to bring a ball to school, don't ask me why) They made some good friends.
We attended a few parties, I liked many of the parents we met they were great. The class is diverse in every way imaginable and fun. I really liked the way the teacher interacted with the kids, you could tell that she was a genuine nurturer. The kids sensed this too and really took to her, it is a comfort to send your kids off to school and know that the person watching over them enjoys them.

So the kids had a lot of fun. They learned very little. But they played some rhythm sticks in class, and wrote some funny journal entries (always in response to a prompt, and never a developed story) Also did I mention that the principal knows every student by name? I think that's pretty awesome. Last year she also taught a class because they needed to add a class to maintain class size, and she subs one day for each teacher in the building. All of that is awesome to me.

So.. I had just resigned myself to start over in a new year with a new teacher and seize the experience so to speak, just make the most of whatever the year offered and continue to supplement what I thought they were not getting at school. (So this year we did alot of journaling, reading and TALKING about what we read and Math workbooks.. because in the words of Cubby they only let us count to ten (they did eventually go higher but it took a LONG time)

When we got this call from another school saying they had spots for both Cubby and Miss H (and also a pre-k spot for Andrew) and my initial response was "Praise GOD!!" and then I wondered if it was the right choice. This school has art only once every two weeks. Music once a week (for 30 minutes) Enrichment is listed, and they go swimming part of the year at the local Y, but there's no drama, no first friday sings, no "performances" of any kind. Then I got all panicky.
The Mr. says I am impossible.

So I don't know which is right. Which IS right? Have I become someone who is willing to sacrifice fun in favor of time on task? Have I, who once had my surprise teaching evaluation when I had set aside a morning for my fifth graders to water color paint a response to one of our stories, become someone who is skeptical of the value of art? There is no gaurantee that this new school will give me teacher who will do the things I found so lacking in last years experience, and there is no guarantee that the creativity that is encouraged at their current school will be as treasured at the new school.

I had always thought that the biggest impact in a students school experience was the teacher, but what of school culture? The current school has a "we're so glad you're here" vibe about it. This new school seems to be, "we can't wait to grow you!" but what if my kids would grow just fine because I am so completely unnerved about them possibly not doing quality work? am I forcing them to sacrifice comfort and fun and creativity because I think I know better than them?

--Finally, did I mention that I loved school. I always loved school. I can recall nearly every teacher I had and usually a funny anecdote or memorable experience I had with them. I Loved my elementary school, and the distinct love I felt there, I even wanted Miss Gollub to adopt me.  But my elementary experience had everything. Paint, sculpture, papier mache, throwing of pots, plays, performances, music, xylophones, recorders, soccer, flag football, swings, and when I told mrs. Brusin on the first day of Kindergarten that I didn't need to do this phonics workbook because I could already read, she handed me  a first grade textbook.

How do I accomplish this for my own kids. Who have been reading HArry Potter this week?