Monday, October 21, 2013

First Quarter

Today was Amy's 45th day of school, meaning that she is exactly one-quarter done with kindergarten. What??

This school district doesn't take off for any miscellaneous holidays, so every week except Labor Day has been a full five days and as a result we are plowing through quickly. I thought I'd take a minute to capture a few of my thoughts on the whole experience so far.

First of all, I still think an elementary school day starting at 7:30 is ridiculous. Getting up at 6:30 has not gotten any easier for any of us, particularly as it continues to get darker in the morning. These days sunrise here is just about at 7:30, which means we are waking, dressing, eating breakfast, and driving in the dark. The time change can't get here fast enough - that will help, but I still think it is absurdly early for little kids.

Aside from some grumbling at wake-up, we have otherwise come enjoy our new routine. After dropping Amy off, William and I are back at the house by about 7:45. We typically restart our morning at that point. He usually will eat when Amy does, but often joins me for a second breakfast while I eat my first one. Somewhere in there I run upstairs to make the beds and start laundry. I tend to the cats, the dishes, and the general morning household upkeep that always ends up taking a bit of time. By 8:30, sometimes earlier, we usually sit down to a show or two on PBS. William chills out while I read the paper. Occasionally I use his downtime to get something else done, but lately I find it better to save my energy and enjoy the chance to sit for a bit. By mid-morning we are ready for any appointments or errands scheduled for the day, or we simply spend time outside or riding bikes or going to the park. Home days are my favorite - William is very agreeable, low-key company and we usually find plenty to do to pass the morning.

By the time lunch rolls around at noon our time without Amy is practically over - we eat our lunch and chat or play for a bit, then pop on a movie and both take a rest for about an hour before we hop in the car again shortly before 2 to pick Amy up. The other variation on the afternoon is if we've been out in the morning, William will often doze off in the car on the way back, and continue taking a nice nap once we get home - so he might sleep from about 11-1, give or take, and wakes up for a quick bite before we go for pick up. On those days I enjoy some blissful time "alone" in the middle of the day. About 2-3 "nap days" each week seem to be about right for keeping him caught up on sleep.

Our afternoons all back together are pleasant. Amy is always happy after school and full of things to tell me. It can be hard to give her my full attention, and to keep her acting civilly to William, who also wants her (and my) attention. We go over the papers she brings home and have a snack and chat a bit before my phone date with my mom at 3. After that it's generally outside to play until dinner on the earlier side (5:30 if I'm lucky), and some unwind time, then bath, books, and bed - lights out by 8. I always wish for an earlier bedtime but everyone gets such a huge second wind after dinner that it is hard to make that happen. Again, when it is dark at dinner I am hoping that will help push the whole evening routine a bit earlier still.

So that's how our days are working out. As to school itself, I remain very pleased with Amy's academic experience. Her handwriting has improved tremendously and her pencil grip was quickly corrected (something I could never get her to fix). She reads easily and her teacher has made a lot of effort to keep her challenged in that department. Amy describes her day in great detail, and it sounds like they have a nice assortment of activities that they rotate through in the classroom that are both appealing and interesting and allow each student a lot of individual attention. She gets all the usual "specials" and enjoys music, art, library, computer lab, and P.E. The highlights of the day according to Amy are lunch and recess. She loves the company of her classmates and seems to have had no trouble fitting in or making friends. I am also proud of how she handles herself when childish antics are directed at her: today, for instance, she reported that one of the boys called her and another girl "cockroaches" (though Amy said it "clockroaches") - rather than getting her feelings hurt she just thought this was funny and took plenty of delight in the fact that her teacher heard and her classmate got in big trouble for such a remark. She doesn't seem bothered by too much. And I love the chance for so many new teachable moments, now that she has so much time apart from me. She'll share a passing anecdote from the day, good or bad, and it either reminds me of something from my own school days to share with her or simply a chance to talk with her about a subject I might not have thought about on my own. Nothing too serious, just general chit-chat with my almost six-year-old girl.

As a side note, I continue to be thankful that Amy has the good fortune of being in such a good school, particularly in a district that is not universally good. Her teachers and staff are completely devoted to their kids, the school is safe and kind and the kids are generally good and respectful. I've volunteered a couple of days to help with lunchtime, and I'm impressed with how the school runs and the mostly smooth behavior of the kids. I just recently learned that 92% of the kids at her school have one or both parents on active duty, and so they share the common bond of being military kids. Amy gets to use ipads in her classroom every day (I have, to this day, never used an ipad). She is in a good place.

I still think a lot about homeschooling. For the first few weeks Amy was so completely enamored with school that she could hardly wait to get back to school after a weekend.  Then she missed two days week before last, home with a little fever. That seemed to break the spell a bit, and since then she's been a bit more normal about not wanting to go back to school on a Monday morning, wishing to stay home another day, etc. I do still think the school day is long, and certainly filled with, well, filler, if looking at it from a strictly instructional standpoint. I would love to cover material with her at a better pace, but frankly, she seems more receptive to instruction from her teachers for now. I still do a lot of work with her in the afternoons since she is always wanting to write and spell things and show me the math she's learning, etc. Next year we will be in a new place and I would say that homeschooling is certainly still on the table. It's a fine line between the enjoyment Amy clearly takes in the experience of school - the high level of stimulation, her interest in her classmates, and the diversity of activities that I couldn't necessarily replicate at home, and yet avoiding the pressure of too much too soon - homework, academic expectations, long days, loss of freedom for family trips or outside school experiences. One year at a time.

And that's where we are in a novel, I mean a nutshell. There is probably something I'm forgetting to mention but I'm sure I'll squeak it in another time. Thanks for reading and I always look forward to continuing the education conversation. How is the school year treating everyone?

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