Thursday, August 20, 2009

English As a First Language, Funnier By the Second

I was on the phone to my mom telling her about Smartypants' new school, how the kids all appear well taken care of though the school's reported poverty level is about 70%.

We live in a rural-with-a-Target agricultural community with a large Hispanic migrant population. It had never occurred to me to ask until that moment:

"Smartypants, are there any kids in your class who speak Spanish instead of English?"

"Well, when Mrs. Roldan talks to Luis I don't know if she's speaking Spanish or Chinish."

Gotta love it. And with Grandma in the audience to boot.

The Case for Kindergarten

Smartypants is not enjoying Kindergarten. We're 5 days in and already I'm getting, "I wish I were sick for 152 days so I wouldn't have to go back to school."

I'm sorely tempted to pull him out of his public half day Kindergarten and homeschool him. And I may do that in the end. For the moment I'm trying to pin down solid reasons for why I want Smartypants to go to school this year.

1. Leadership: If one does not have anyone to lead, how does one become a leader? At home, pickins are slim--he can try to get Sweetiepants to do his bidding; stuffed animals don't follow unless you tie them to a rope and pull.

2. Cultural Literacy: From silly songs to the flag salute, I want him to share a collective experience with his peers.

3. Someone else's rules: Smartypants has a strong personality so I have no qualms about allowing his teacher to "boss him around." There are many situations in life that require obedience and cooperation; I'd like him to learn to adapt to an adult perspective and directive different from his parents'.

4. Long-haul socialization: Smartypants coos over babies, plays well with his 2 year old sister, and can hold his own with his 12 year old best friend. But his experience hanging out with same-age kids has been contained to Sunday School (1 whopping hour) and sleepovers with cousins, who are more like siblings. I want him to develop relationships with his peers, learn how to be a friend--and how to defend the friendless.

5. The chance to be the best: Sure, he's the most intelligent, most talented, most beautiful--er, handsome--boy I know, but I want him to be a big fish in a big pond. I want him to bask in the glow of the teacher's praise over his precociousness, revel in being the best hanger-upside-downer (or whatever the best thing to be is that day) -- and learn how to graciously accept defeat (should that defeat miraculously occur) then plan and work to regain Golden Boy status.

If Kindergarten takes, I'm in--he's in. If he still hates school by Halloween...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Smartypants: First Day Of Kindergarten

"That wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," I said to my husband as we walked to the car after dropping Smartypants off for his first day of Kindergarten.

Then I realized: we just dropped Smartypants off for his first day of Kindergarten! "This is harder"--and I teared up.

I expected Sweetiepants to take the separation harder than I did: this would be the longest time she'd ever spent away from Smartypants in her entire little life--3 1/2 hours. I was not disappointed.

Sweetiepants did OK til Daddy left for work. She looked at me as if to ask, "So, what now?" I looked at her in response: "I have no idea."

Then Sweetiepants got an idea. An awful idea. Sweetiepants got a wonderful, awful idea:

"Turn the TV on NOW!"

Now I talk a lot. But Smartypants leaves me eating his wordy dust. She couldn't stand the relative silence.

"Let's have a teaparty!"
"Turn on the TV!"
"Want to wear your tutu?"
"I want to watch Cinderella!"
"Want to help Mommy make bread?"
"NOOOOO!" As she scooted a chair up to the kitchen counter.

So we made bread. And cuddled. And watched Cinderella.

When the timer for the bread went off we both jumped up--still wearing our shoes (very unusual here): Time to get Smartypants!

When Smartypants saw us he ran out the door. I told him to tell Mrs. Roldan that I was here and that he was leaving. "Mrs. Roldan! Mrs. Roldan! Mrs ROLDAN!" Mrs. Roldan looked up from helping a student into a backpack twice the size of the student with a frazzled confused look--the look I must have when I finally register that the barrage of "Mommy Mommy MomMEEE!" is directed at me.
"Oh! Ohhhh! Goodbye!"

Smartypants declared the day "Good." No exclamation point. But no refusal to return either. On yet another hand he didn't give the speech he consistently offers when he really loved an event and is upset it's over ("Why did you take me to Disneyland? I didn't want to go to Disneyland. We should have stayed home so I could play Legos.")

After an extended round of 20 questions Smartypants proved himself Daddy's equal in reticence:
Did you color?
Holds up a coloring page with a yellow mark and a blue scribble and the first 4 letters of his 9 letter name written remarkably neatly.
Did Mrs. Roldan read to you?
What story did she read?
This one. (Again holds up the coloring page with "Spot Goes To School" noted at the top.)
Did you play?
We had 2 recesses: a practice one and a real one.
Did you learn anyone's name?
Allie was there. [He met Allie at last week's orientation. First friend = best friend.]

And so on.

Smartypants has a particular way of digesting important things. The importance of the thing can be determined by how long it takes him to start talking about the thing.

After dinner I heard him singing to himself, "Did you ever see a goose kissing a moose? Down by the bay down by the bay...." So I know the singing bit was superfun.

At bedtime he told me that one kid pushed another kid off the ladder on the playground. So I know this was troubling him.

The next morning he told me that "the kid who got pushed off the ladder" is his friend. So I know that Smartypants was more worried for the pushee than about the possibility that he may be the next one pushed.

And this is perhaps the hardest part of sending Smartypants out for Kindergarten: he has his own life now, a life he can choose to share with me -- or not.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Kindergarten Screening: Aced by My 2 Year Old

Bored as a cord. That's what was screaming through my head as Mrs. Roldan ran through a few Kindergarten drills with Smartypants. During our casual meet and greet last week she asked Smartypants to sit with her so she could do "a quick screening."

Uh Oh I thought. Did we doom our kid to play catch up with his class by not preschooling? Is she going to ask him who the President is? (and would he say "Obama but I wanted John McCain to win because he looks like me" again?) Is he supposed to know his multiplication tables already? Should he know how to hold a pencil correctly (something no teacher was able to teach his mother)? Or for that matter, be sure which hand to hold the pencil with?

I figured she was starting out slow when she held out a crayon: What color is this? "Pink!" yelled Smartypants. Well, yes, the wrapper is pink, but what color is this part (points to the crayon tip)? Oh, red. She goes through a few more colors. Are there any I forgot? Smartypants reminds her: black and green.

Next up: Shapes. Like all four of them: circle, square, rectangle, triangle.

Numbers? Mrs. Roldan shows Smartypants a page with numbers 1 through 10. As he reads the numbers she points to, Sweetiepants chimes in: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 twelveteen....

Come to think of it she was yelling out crayon colors too. And "Circle!" So far my 2 year old is passing Kindergarten screening with flying colors.

Mrs. Roldan has Smartypants read rows of capital letters; he rattles them off so quickly she can't move her ruler fast enough. Then lower case letters--he misses q and calls b "d."

She raises her eyebrows and I wait for it--the condemnation: Well, we'll let him in but you'll have to work with him every night to bring him up to speed. Instead I hear: Wow! Has he had preschool? Um, no. So you must work with him a lot? No? But we read a lot and we talk A LOT. She goes on with so many praises and glowing remarks that I realize: this is not a kindly Kindergarten teacher's attaboy!--she's truly excited about how much Smartypants already knows.

Expected condemnation morphs in that moment to sweet sweet vindication.

Next up: First Day Of Kindergarten

Sunday, August 9, 2009

My Baby Is Starting Kindergarten

God, please keep the calls from the school to 2 max per week.

Smartypants starts Kindergarten Thursday. Where did the time go?
Image: Smartypants at 8 months old

Mrs. Roldan, Smartypants' teacher, invited us to meet with her last Friday. Smartypants toured his new classroom and chose to follow my advice to shake Mrs. Roldan's hand and respond verbally to her questions. Honestly it could have gone either way: when he knows you want it he's less inclined to deliver the goods.

Smartypants has not attended preschool so Kindergarten will be for him what it was for us parents some 30 years ago: Kindergarten, not his 3rd year of "school." There are a few distinct advantages Smartypants' preschooled peers will have over him:
  1. They can wipe their own bottoms. I hear tell that most preschool teachers are not supposed or disposed to assist kiddos with the messier aspects of personal hygiene. So 1 up for the preschooled kids. Expect multiple posts with all the gory details.
  2. "Write your name in the upper right hand corner": I assumed most of Smartypants' class would already know how to write their names. Though I made a few weak attempts to convince him to practice I'm glad I didn't make too big a stink about it as Mrs. Roldan will be teaching this skill in the first few weeks of school.
  3. Yeah...I can't think of another point either. And really, #2 has been eliminated. So that leaves only #1, which is really about #2.
Up next: The Kindergarten Screening: Aced by My 2 Year Old