Color wars

The Boy turned 9 last week, and we were somewhat stumped for what to do for a party. 

We've thrown a few different kinds of parties over the years, but they've all had a couple of things in common. a) It has to fit in our backyard. (or side yard. Or front yard. Whatever). And b) it probably will end up involving props of some kind.  For the first few years of the Critter's life, her birthday was a Bluegrass BBQ that slowly escalated into a multi-band jam.  And at some point I discovered that I could build medieval structures out of haybales, and then the fun really began. But this year, we were at something of a loss. 9 is tough, as the kid in question is beginning to voice an opinion about what kind of party he wants. 

I ran the Tough Mudder a couple of weeks ago, and I was somewhat tempted to build an obstacle course in the backyard (but then I realized, we had already done that). But that led to another thought, and we thought - color run! Wait. No. No running. Color wars! 

That we can do! I trotted out the pallets I had set up for last year's water battles, and made a team Red and team Blue fortification amidst the apple and pear trees. We looked up the recipe to make the color powder (turns out, it's just cornstarch and food dye, mixed baked and dried), but then we found an even better solution: you can buy the stuff for a few bucks. We ordered 100 packets.  

We ordered a box of those little nylon footsies they provide at the shoe store to try things on, and set up a production line. One bag filled two footsie socks. Tied off, they became handy little grenades that shed lovely color when you threw them, and splatted satisfactorily when they hit. And they could be picked up and thrown again and again. 

When the kids arrived, we divided them into a team Boys (made up of 8-9-10 year olds) and a team girls (which seemed to include a lot of older teens, and somehow, my lovely Bride, who wanted in on the action). 

She naturally became a prime target.  

We had only two rules, to keep it simple (just in case you want to try this madness at home) - One: you could only have one color grenade in hand at a time. And two, if you got hit, you had to retreat to your base before joining again. 

We gave everyone a pair of safety goggles, and set them loose.  The results were a lot of laughs, and some happy, exhausted, and very colorful kids. 

We had a lot of baby wipes to help folks clean up afterwards. (I did find quite a number of handprints on the walls inside the house that evening - a quick wipe down made it disappear, no problem).

I'm not sure which team won in the end, but I'm pretty sure the dog ended up being the most popular target. Poor, patient George started out in the thick of things, but ended up on the sidelines pretty quickly. The kids found her anyway, and spent the last of the powder creating Maine's only tie dye English Shepherd. 

Not sure exactly how we're going to explain this one to the groomer today... 

Why I gave my 8 year old a rifle for Christmas

A few weeks ago, I turned on the radio to hear some armed militants took over an abandoned visitor center on federal grounds.  A week or two before that, a couple of religious zealots 'borrowed' someone's automatic rifles, and tragically killed several people at a health center. The president recently spoke out against the ongoing incidents of gun violence. 

So what the hell was I thinking, buying my 8 year old son a rifle? 

OK. It's an air rifle. It shoots .177 caliber pellets. Or the classic, good old fashioned BB's. It's not exactly something he's about to take out and bag a deer with.  But I'm quite, quite sure that there are folks who would still raise an eyebrow.

I went to class with one of them. 

A few years ago, I took a Massachusetts certified gun safety class. It's a requirement for obtaining a gun license in Massachusetts. (Massachusetts has very interesting laws on gun licensing - beyond a couple of basic statewide rules like the safety class, the final issuance and requirements for a gun license are down to the town police chief. In our former town, the additional requirements included obtaining two letters of reference from other residents. Which I actually think is a pretty clever rule. If you're crazy, your neighbors will probably know better than anyone.) 

There were 8 or 10 of us in the class, which met in a training room in the police station. The instructor was an off duty cop, earning an extra few bucks on his weekend. I remember there were a couple of folks in their 20's. A retired Air Force colonel that I had met previously through a mutual neighbor. A 70-something farmer who had lived all his life in town, raising cattle. And a few other random residents. I put myself in that last bucket. 

There was one woman in the class who waited about half an hour into the class before making it clear that she was uncomfortable with firearms in general, and with people who liked them in particular. The instructor looked at her askew once or twice, but he was unfailingly patient and polite. An hour or two into the class, the woman told a story about a recent trip down to Florida, and her horror at the number of gun stores, and people that frequented them. 

"Those people," she said, "even bring their kids along."

Finally, even the instructor was driven to ask. "Lady, why are you here?"

"My father used to work for Colt. And I'm probably going to inherit his antique handgun collection. But I still don't like guns." 

Yeah. Ok then. 

Towards the end of class, we shifted to the practical part of the lesson.  I hadn't said much during the class. I think I was near the end of the list to load the pistols and dry fire as a demonstration that we had listened and understood the instructions. Even the colonel struggled with this. (In fairness, he was Air Force. My expectations weren't high). 

I loaded, readied and squeezed the trigger. The instructor chuckled. "Not your first time?"

"I learned to shoot from my grandfather when I was 6. I served five years active duty army. I'm from Georgia. I'm basically the guy that lady over there was talking about."

That earned me a couple of chuckles, and at least one dirty look.  

My snarkiness aside, I do find myself a bit conflicted about it all. My Bride has never been comfortable with keeping a gun in the house while the children are small. There truly are too many preventable accidents. And I'm not a gun advocate for reasons of self-defense. Or for hunting. (Though both are perfectly valid arguments). Personally, I enjoy the engineering and the craftsmanship of gun smithing. I'm an engineer by training and inclination. And operating a finely made machine of any sort is a pleasure.  There is something intimate and personal about the learning to operate a tool like a gun. It's a process that is generally taught one on one. Like my grandfather taught me in his backyard, with a .22 bolt action that he had owned for more than 40 years at the time. 

Of course, by now I also know all of the arguments against gun ownership. We lived in Europe for several years. And I still haven't bought a firearm for myself. When/as I buy one, I want it to be the right one for me (a .44 caliber Winchester 1873 rifle. I've become pretty specific in my want), but I haven't really gotten around to it. 

I am a lifetime member of the NRA, but I do believe in universal background checks. And I do believe in reasonable limits on the types of firearms that should be available to the public. I've fired fully automatic weapons of various kinds, both in and since my time in uniform. And the power is both exhilarating and terrifying. And even though we moved to a state that doesn't require a license to buy and carry a firearm, I think we probably should. If I have to take a test to get behind the wheel of a 2,000 pound potential weapon and take it out on the roads, I should probably be ok with taking a test before picking up and carrying a device intended to be a weapon. 

The Boy had taken 'riflery' at summer camp last year, firing more or less the same kind of air rifle. I was certainly supportive. He spends enough time shooting zombies, Nazis, or zombie-Nazis on video games. Understanding the difference between a gun in a video game and handling a real weapon that has no extra lives or restarts is a worthy lesson. 

And we do live in Maine. Many of his friends come from houses with guns in the home. My neighbor takes his three boys bear hunting. There's a tradition and culture of hunting and independence here that - whatever your political sway may be - you simply can't ignore. And when he's at a friend's house and sees a gun, I want him to be comfortable enough and know enough to recognize all the many reasons why his hands should stay safely away. It is not a toy. It is a responsibility. 

So when the pre-Christmas thought arose that this might be the year to bring a 'starter' rifle into our house, I broached the topic with my Bride. I was armed with all the stories, logic and arguments above. 

She was, as usual, three steps ahead of me. "Of course. That makes sense. Get it."

Yes, it's only an air rifle. And it only shoots pellets. But we established some firm, but simple rules up front.: 

  • Always treat the rifle as if it is loaded. 
  • We shoot together. He never shoots on his own.
  • The rifle stays in my office until/unless we are ready to shoot.

That's pretty much it. We reviewed safe handling, and all the components of the rifle together. He's actually a pretty good shot, considering that it's a pretty basic rifle.  It's not a toy to take out and play 'Cowboy' with.

It's a serious item, and a mark of my trust in his good judgment. And he has responded with a sense of responsibility and maturity that impressed me. He's got a very healthy sense of respect for the trust placed in him. 

The role of gun owner rights in our society is a complicated one, and considering the history, traditions, and prevalence of firearms in distribution, we're not going to solve it any time soon. (For context: there are 14.5 million hunting licenses distributed in the US last year, per the national Fish & Wildlife services. Compared to 125,000 active duty members of the Syrian Army. That's a lot of guns in distribution). 

The discussion is not a theoretical one. It's a practical one. And teaching respect & safety is core to how I want to arm our kids for handling it when it's their turn.

Pun very much intended. 

The hat skips a generation

Last fall, my mother- and father-in-law moved out from California to be nearer to us in Maine. It's been a real blessing and a privilege for many reasons, not least is that the kids get to spend more time with this set of grandparents. 

The boy has been spending a lot of time with his grandfather, Dardo. 

They look more alike every day. 


Harmonica might also have been acceptable

"Boy, it's time to choose an instrument." 

"Which instrument gets all the chicks, Daddy?"

"Banjo players get the most chicks." 

"The banjo is too heavy! I can't play that yet. What about the second most chicks?"

"Ukulele. Ukulele players get the second most chicks. After only the banjo players."

"That's it! I want to play the ukulele."

 

And the lessons begin. User your powers for good, my son. 

He has absolutely no idea

I don't remember when I started it, but I know it started as a joke. Every day when I see the kids off to school - usually when I'm headed out the door to work, but sometimes when I am loading one onto the bus, or dropping the other off at school - I give the kids a kiss and a hug, and I say in mock seriousness "Make good choices."

It makes me laugh. And it makes the Critter, in her infinite 12 year old wisdom, roll her eyes. So. Double win for me. 

This week, I was packing my bags for a quick trip out to the West Coast, and giving the Boy a hug as he headed out to catch the school bus. 

He stopped. Turned around. Pointed at me, and said: "Make good... what is it, Daddy?" 

"Choices."

He nodded. "Yep. Make good choices, daddy." 

Without a hint of sarcasm. 

And then my heart exploded. And I had to get on the plane like that. 

And... then my heart exploded.

The Boy's teacher sent me an email this morning: 

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That Boy is going to get the very first, very best hug & kiss when I see him next. A hug for the ages. The Valhalla of hugs. A gold-medal Olympic sized, Pulitzer-prize winning hug. 

And when I'm distracted by what my day holds as I scurry out the door again - and it will happen - I will work on remembering this moment. Because this is the important stuff. 

Educating the Boy: an update

Last year, we agonized over the recommendation for us to defer the Boy's start to first grade.  Just as we had done the year before over his step up into kindergarten.  

When we went into the last group meeting in kindergarten to inform the teaching team that we were going to willfully ignore their judicious nudging and go ahead and move the Boy into first grade, there was a long, contemplative pause from the other side of the table. 

"Just to be clear," the kindergarten teacher said, "we strongly advise you not to."  

We nodded. We felt our guts clench. We thanked them for their advice. And we repeated our decision. 

In the weeks after the end of the school term, we argued a lot. This decision was stressful, but figuring out how to make sure the Boy wasn't set up for failure was even more so. Once we were clear about our decision, the teachers and aides had put together whole bags full of prep material to help us make sure that the Boy didn't lose any of the precious academic territory he had gained before first grade officially started up again. There was an entire sack of short, pre-selected easy reader books. And word charts. And handwriting templates. A notebook to work on writing assessments with. Oh my God, getting him to write a line about his day was a Herculean task. Filling a whole notebook?  And getting the Boy to sit down and concentrate on any of this while the sun was shining outside and the whole summer was tempting his attention away was an exercise in parental futility. Mostly left to my Bride, as she was with him during the day.  And there was little joy to be found. 

Halfway through the summer, with the frustration mounting, we found a new resource. Wyzant.com. To be clear: I'm not paid to endorse Wyzant. I have no relationship with the company, and have never used them before. I can't even remember how we found them.

I think one of us typed "DearsweetJesusweneedarealtutorinhere" into the magic google box one day, and there it was at the top of the list. 

Wyzant is a marketplace for tutors to connect with students/parents. They list what they know, and what qualifications they have. You type in what you're looking for, and the magical computer elves pull together a matching set. You contact the tutor, interview them and agree a rate. And all payment is handled through the website. Simple. 

It's made even better because you can leave and read comments and reviews on the tutor - sort of like a Yelp.com for tutoring. Except respectful. 

Overall, this is a service that rocks. 

I found a tutor that had taught elementary school reading for several years. She has another job now, but she still enjoys teaching, and had a good approach. The first trial session, she skipped the "See Jane run to the garden" book, and said "Let's write a story together about the pirate Velociraptor that tried to eat Luke Skywalker."

The Boy was hooked, and sanity was restored. 

The tutor incorporated some games into learning that we just didn't know. Stuff they clearly teach in the "how to hold onto the attention span of a 6 year old boy" class in teacher-school that isn't available to your average parent.  So we signed him up for two sessions a week through the end of summer to supplement the bedtime reading and normal reinforcement stuff, and breathed a sigh of relief. 

Back to School: the true test

When school started up, I admit we held our breath a bit. The first days turned into weeks, and all reports were good. The homework was coming back fine, and it seemed like the Boy was doing well. 

We met his teacher (not the same first grade teacher the Critter had), and she seemed both serious and attentive. The kids like her, and the Boy was full of stories. 

One day, he came home with a completed exercise they had been working on in class. How many syllables does a word have? To complete the exercise, each child's name was written in large text on a grid. The student was to say the word out loud, count the syllables and fill in the blank. 

The Boy did great. (Never mind that his 2's & 3's were backwards. That happens as they start out.)

"Nick... 1"

"Helen... 2"

"Jimmy... 2"

"Kristina... 3"

"Sa-yum... 2"

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I laughed and wrote a note to his teacher.  In his defense, I explained, in our household 'Sam' usually does have two syllables. Maybe more if he or I are tired. You don't have to scratch very hard to find the appalachia in that boy.

I got nothing back from the teacher. She is good. And serious. And not much on sense of humor. 

When it came time to have our first parent/teacher conference, both my Bride and I didn't know whether to dread it or feel hopeful. We had a death grip on each others' hands walking into the school. We felt good about our decision, and there wasn't any doubt that the Boy was enjoying school. I had asked him the week before what his favorite part of school was. 

"Writing," he said, without even looking up. 

"Writ... huh? Did you just say 'writing'?" 

"Yep."

When we got into the room, the whole group was there. Not just the primary first grade teacher, but the reading instructor, his other 'specials', and the new principal of the lower school grades. 

Oy. This should be fun. 

We started off with pleasant introductions. And then the gushing began.

He has done so well!  He sits and concentrates - look here at what he wrote this week! He is attentive and making tremendous progress, and is right where he should be. 

The principal just smiled and said he wished all his conferences would go so well.

Six weeks later, and we had our second conference. With more of the same.

Overall, he's doing just great. Whether it was the tutoring (which we've kept up), the work we continue to do with him, the first grade environment, or just time ticking away on the calendar until it hit some mysterious turning point, we don't know. He loves school. He even likes his tutoring sessions. And he has found the joy of reading somewhere in there. Which makes me extremely happy. 

No one ever said, "OK, you guys were right" - the teachers are in the awkward position of having to plan for every scenario, and couldn't have predicted how well Sam would respond to tutoring, or the passing of time. They were right to err on the side of caution in making their recommendation.  I both get and respect that.  But it also shows that no one knows your own kid like you do. So trust your instincts. (And, I still would've liked it a little bit if they said "you guys were right.")

The best part of all, though, came in this last teacher conference. 

His first grade teacher was relating a story towards the end of the discussion. 

"We were out in the hallway, and some of the children were eating their snack. Sam stopped and asked me what I was going to have for snack. None of the children in any of my classes have ever asked me that before. He's such a kind little boy." 

There's nothing she could have said that made me more proud. 

Boy, I am glad that you're making strides in your academic learning. But I'm prouder than anything that you're still that sweet, funny little kid that we love so. 

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Mommy's little prepper

Fall is near, and the school routine is back into full swing. Bedtime rituals re-emerge along with the school bus and packed lunches and cooler mornings.

Bath time. A stuffed moose from Grandmom. A quilt handmade by mommy. Bedtime story from dad. 

And a handy sword within reach. 

In case of, you know, zombies. Or something. 

 

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He didn't get this from my side of the family. That's all I'm sayin' 

Once more unto the breach, first graders, once more.

For his sixth birthday, the Boy said he wanted to have a castle in the backyard again.

Thank God. I was afraid he was going to ask for something crazy that I wouldn't know how to begin building. 

Castles, we can do.  

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A few bales of hay, scrap 1-by lumber and a few flags. And there you have it: a castle.  

I got a little bit creative this year and built a couple of practice dummies that pivot when you whack them. Just to give the kids a bit more of a target for their energy. Because every birthday party is made better by a whirling pointy stick or two.

Our kids got a little bit of practice in the evening before the party.  

 

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My Bride made up some tunics for the kids in opposing colors, and hung them out to put on as they arrived, along with a basket of foam swords and some spongeball artillery for water fights, in case it got a bit too hot.  

We hung the Boy's armor from last year up nearby to give them the idea.  

 

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Since that armor was a bit small for my now-6-year-old, I worked up something new for him. I asked him what he wanted on the armor, and he said an eagle. And black, "like in Lord of the Rings." (I'm not sure which character he had in mind there. I'm not sure I want to know). 

So a few weeks in advance, I started putting something together for him. It turned out a little bit big and I trimmed it down a touch in the end, but that just gives him a little room to grow into it. Like any good armor for a six year old should have.  

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We had sketched out some shields in advance for the kids to finish decorating. Last year I had tried printing out some designs that they could cut out and glue on. That was messy and unsatisfactory. The shields are way bigger than your standard 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. 

This year, I free-handed in some basic designs with a handful of big sharpies and set them out for the kids to choose their favorite and make their own.  This was way more satisfactory in the end. And easier. 

Come back with your shields, or on them, kids...  or whenever you get hungry for fried chicken & lemonade. Whichever comes first. 

 

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(That's my daughter's shield on the table. I told her to draw whatever symbol she thought might represent her. She heard "draw everything you like to do  in the history of ever." Cooking. Painting. Horseback riding. Ukulele. Books. Violin. There's a pair of skates and a pair of skis on there. At one point she asked me how you draw "swimming"). 

When the kids arrived, we donned the tunics, handed them a sword and shield, and sent them out to cry havoc.  

Our parties aren't really about scripted activities, but we tend to go heavy on the props. 

 

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The Critter and her friend had painted a dragon for the party which we stood up to one side for a bit of additional challenge. The kids charged it, hurled water balloons and sopping wet sponge balls and defended it in turn.  I was pretty pleased with how well the girls did in coming up with this wee beastie - we may have to save this one somewhere for posterity.  

 

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And when the warriors had battled enough, we gathered in the weary wounded and had cake. 

Dragon cake. With gold treasure. 

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It was chocolate cake, with a red velvet dragon. I'm not sure that the kids got the joke. But the adults did when I cut it open and served dragon meat cake. 

My beautiful Bride has the best sort of twisted sense of humor sometimes.  

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And then the party was over, and it was time to say goodbye, and take the castle down again. The hens will appreciate the hay when the snow comes, the flags disappear back into the barn. and the wood never goes to waste around here.  

But I think the Boy will be ready to take the black if the moment comes. 

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Six

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Six is sword fights & musket drill & cowboys & Star Wars & squirrel hunting, and this time I'll be the bad guy because you were last time. And six is getting up after you killed each other and sharing a couple of pouches of lemonade, and planning the next round.

Six is building rockets with legos, and castles with hay bales, and tables with Dad's hammer, and entire worlds with your imagination.  

Six is a drawer full of soccer jerseys, and running after the ball til you're sweaty and falling down, and chasing your friends to get popsicles like you didn't just run for an hour.

Six is still loving a cuddle, but being ready to play. And jokes that you make up yourself with punch lines that make you laugh for hours.  And being pretty sure that summer is never going to end. But making sure to ask for more play dates with your friends, just in case. 

Six is sweet, and thoughtful, and making sure your friends are having a good time. And being concerned when someone scrapes their knee. And sure that a band-aid will fix pretty much anything.  

Six is being brave enough to conquer the world every morning. And tired enough to be carried to bed every night. 

Six is happiness.  

Educating the Boy

A year ago, it was suggested to us that the Boy, what with his August birthday and all, might benefit from deferring his entry into kindergarten

There was a lot of conversation at the time, and we took a 'we're talking about kindergarten here, right? With the drawing and the gluing?' approach, and kept him with his peers. The results of that initial assessment led to the development of an individual education plan (IEP) for the Boy, and some additional focused time with educators working on some skills through the year, mostly literacy and handwriting.  

We met with teachers through the year to measure progress. And I do mean 'measure.' The first couple of meetings were framed with some sort of floaty, non-specific language about progress. I made sort of grunting noises during these meetings. Maybe an occasional scoff.

To her credit, his teacher is pretty sharp. She picked up on this and started presenting data organized into tables and charts, documenting his progress against the class median.  It showed that his learning curve really didn't pick up until around Christmas, and that because it was a bit behind in starting, he continued to have to work to keep up in certain areas through Spring. Again, mostly literacy & handwriting. 

"He can do the work," was the message, "with support."  My Bride & I have worked with him on classwork at home. That 'support' mostly looks like standing over him and making him focus on what's in front if him. Or picking stories that contain something he connects with. Like anything with a superhero. Or a robot. Or maybe a robot superhero.  A story about a puppy who makes friends with a turtle? Please don't be so boring, old people. He cannot be bothered to read such drivel. More lasers are required.

By the end of Spring, the teachers asked if  we had thought about deferring his start in first grade a year. 

"He'll have more advantages with another year to mature. Think about how well he'll do in sports!"  

Yeah. You were doing well for a minute. But then you lost me, Teach. Know your audience.  

This was not an easy thing. I see the advantages (not the sports ones). But delay moving forward with your peer group? There's as much disadvantage in being the oldest in your class as there is in being the youngest. We talked a lot about the specific challenges he was having, and what effect a bit more time might have. 

Ok. Two things about handwriting. First: I had terrible handwriting as a kid. I still have terrible handwriting, but as a child it was especially bad. As in: sent-to-the-principal, I-think-there-may-be-something-wrong-with-this-child bad. I remember having lots of conversations about this in first and second grade. I held my pencil wrong. (I still do). I willy-nilly mixed curly and stick letters (I still do). It was barely legible. (I've made a little bit of headway on that one). My father, the Surgeon, wasn't exactly the best role model for this. His handwriting fell somewhere between 'code' and 'lizard footprints.'  I can't really remember if I had to have some special guidance on this. But eventually, we worked it out. (Until, years later, 95% of everything I write is on a keyboard, so when I pick up a pen again it looks slightly worse than my son's handwriting.)

Number two) It bothered the ever-living bejeezus out of his teacher that he took a while to pick a favorite hand. I sort of get this. I'm sure it's on a chart someplace of 'things most kids do at a certain age'.  But on the other hand, both my Bride and I were switch-handers as kids. I still shoot pool and a bow left-handed (which has more to do with eye dominance than hand dominance).  We told them this. But it would still come out in a furtive stage whisper in every meeting.  Like we were talking about teenage pregnancy. 

 "Your son still sometimes... I mean he hasn't... that is to say... he-hasn't-chosen-a-hand-yet. "  

Finally I asked him which hand he liked drawing with better. He held up his left one. 

"Ok, kid. That's your go-to hand from now on. Keep the pencil in that one."  

We haven't had that 'problem' since.  

The biggest challenge really didn't seem to be in a particular academic area, though. Not even in reading & writing. In fact, the teacher emphasized that. What she called out was just general... young-ness.   

A couple of times during the year there were the normal kind of conflicts in class. Two kids broke something of the Boy's mid way through the year. He was a bit upset, and the teacher had the other kids apologize. This made him feel better, and they went back to playing together. Later, the teacher told us that she wished the Boy had asked for more. That this was an indication of his youth.  

More? Like what? The kids apologized. The Boy accepted that, and moved on. They're all still friends. Isn't that, you know, the kind of behavior we're shooting for? Are we aiming for restitution?   

One of the other boys in the class was a bit punchy when he was excited. As: "Hi! So Glad To Be Here! I Will Now Punch You In The Head!"  This happened a few times, with several of the kids. Including the Boy on occasion. 

The Boy was pretty relaxed about things. He'd take the hit, give the kid a look, sigh and move on. He may or may not tell the teacher. He'd tell me, and I'd relay it to the teacher. She told me that his waiting to tell me showed that he wasn't yet mature in his problem escalation. I told her that 1) let's lead this conversation off by focusing on the kid that threw the punch, not the kid that caught it. and 2) The Boy isn't really upset at Punchy McPuncherson. He gets that he's just excitable, and shrugs it off. He just wanted me to know that it happened again.  

This is the balance of "work it out 'mongst yourselves" and "tell me when things get violent" that we shoot for with our kids. And the Boy's reaction was pretty much right on target. So, no. I'm not really buying the "lack of social resolution" skills bit.  The teacher and I discussed this. We politely agreed to disagree.

The whole year left us in a quandary Not very many years ago, when we moved from England to the US and were looking for a school for the Critter, this same school told us to never mind the fact that she had already completed the equivalent of first grade. The social skills were far more important than the academic strengths at this age (emphasis was theirs, not mine). "Stay with her peers. Don't put her in second grade."

The Critter was a quiet child. (Was. Emphasis definitely on WAS). So we followed their guidance, despite my reservations. And sure enough, it was more or less a waste of an academic year for her. But she's happy, and with her peers. And that's to the good. 

For the Boy, he's the mayor of his class. He's the peacemaker and get-along guy. Even Punchy wants to play with him.  He's strong at math, and structural things, engineering tasks & hands-on activities. He's even-keeled and happy. He just hasn't found the pleasure of reading yet.  Which is frustrating for all of us. But there it is. 

We've had a lot of conversations about whether or not to defer his entry into first grade. (A. Lot. Daily at times. Other times, even more often.) We took his IEP to a good friend and special educator out in California. He wouldn't even ping the radar out there. The things that are being worked on are skills that other school systems don't expect until later on. But this is our school. And we don't want him to lose the joy of it.  

In the end, I don't mind him struggling a bit. I struggled with my handwriting. I had speech therapy until third grade. I was shy and tended to hang out in the back of the class.  And for most of my schooling, I had a bad haircut. He's only got one of those issues to work with.

We met with the first grade teacher that the Critter had. "If you set the expectation, often the kid rises to it," she said. "And we'll make sure he has the support in the areas that he needs to focus on, one way or the other." That woman clearly knew her audience.

With a bit of support in the form of a reading tutor and a few more books about Star Wars to capture his attention, I think he'll be just fine.  

First grade, here we come.

 

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2013 - we salute you.

The last day of holiday should, by law, be spent in your pajamas. 

The ski helmet, goggles and rifle were his own idea. 

 

In his defense, here's a picture of the Critter taken at the same age, in a similar state of fashion-forwardism.

 

 

Not sure what it is with my kids and goggles. It must be because we live in The Future.  I remember from the comic books I read as a kid that there would be more goggles in The Future.