Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Updates on Public School

There is oh so much to say about how Eloise's school is going. It is such remarkably wonderful stuff, but I have been so wrapped up in, well, life, that I haven't taken the time to write most of it down. I am truly bummed about that, as this blog wasn't just a means of telling the readers what we are up to, but also to document it all for myself and my family. 

So without further ado, here are some highlights from the past few weeks.

Eloise's classroom goes on a lot of field trips. It's quite amazing, actually, how insane brave and energetic her teacher is to organize so many trips. Right now the theme in the classroom is "markets". Earlier in November the class went on a trip to the "world famous" Pike's Place Market. The week before Thanksgiving they went on two different field trips. One of them Matt was a  chaperone for and they walked/city bussed to the local food co-op and got a tour of the store. The second one that week had nothing at all to do with markets, but was a great opportunity for the kids-- they got to see the Seattle Children's Theatre performance of Frog and Toad. Iris and I were lucky enough to chaperone the SCT trip. Tickets to performances at SCT are pretty expensive so we have never been, but now I am hooked. It was so amazingly well done, from the set to the costumes to the acting/singing and music/sound effects. This week the kids are going to Seattle's International District to check out markets that they are likely unfamiliar with. 

Last week we had Eloise's parent/teacher conference. We had been witnessing some increase in Eloise's tendency to be rough with other kids-- using her hands instead of her words when she gets upset. She has ebbed and flowed with this issue most of her life and right now we're in a bit of a trying period again. When we sat down for the conference it was the first thing I wanted to talk about. I never care as much about how she is reading/writing/doing math as I do about how she is getting along with other kids. We are so fortunate that Eloise's teacher is incredibly kind of loving and supportive. She has done a good job working with Eloise and using appropriate discipline as necessary. I was concerned about Eloise's ability to make and keep friends because of her behavior and also about her friend's ability to give themselves space from her when they need to. 

We discussed quite a bit, but the one thing that struck about the teacher is she explained, basically, how this issue is Eloise's struggle, but it doesn't really define her. She has so many other amazing, positive things about her and the other kids can see that she is a good person who struggles with controlling her body sometimes. Awwwwwww! I love that this her classroom is such a supportive place and Eloise isn't labelled a "bad kid" because of this. *sniff*

Her teacher had completely filled (like, scribbling in the margins filled) an evaluation of where Eloise was in other areas, too. With such a big classroom it is amazing that she is able to take that much time with each student to grasp exactly where they are. All in all we were not at all surprised with how Eloise was doing and were 100% pleased with her progress.

I have been surprised lately with Eloise's interest in reading. I am not sure how close she is to independent reading, as she doesn't quite know all of her letters yet, but she has a strong interest. Iris started reading a couple of months before she turned six and have always thought there was no way Eloise would be reading on the same time frame-- but I think we might be pleasantly surprised! With Iris I don't remember so much practice, it almost seemed like one day she was reading and that was that. It's fun to be so involved with Eloise' process. 

Both Iris and Eloise had the entire week of Thanksgiving off of school because Seattle Public Schools are closed that week. It was fun to have them both home and just run with a relaxed schedule and do whatever we wanted. I was sad to see Eloise go back to school this week, though I did have to pick her up early today because she didn't feel well. There has been a definite inner struggle with me, knowing how awesome her classroom and school are and how well she is doing there, but also wanting her home with me more. I keep coming back to this idea that there needs to be more (or any!) part-time schools for families who want part-time formal school and part-time home school. I have heard of them in other parts of the country, I have even heard grumblings there may be something like that in the 'burbs, but there is nothing in Seattle. The Waldorf group that Iris was a part of for a short time came close to that kind of schedule, but it was a make-shift program run by three parents. As far as I have heard in my admittedly limited experience in the Seattle home school community there aren't other programs like that that parents are running. 

Hopefully my next update won't take so long! There is so much to say. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lessons From a Kindergarten Teacher

There is so much our family can learn from Eloise's kindergarten teacher, but here are two of my recent favorites:

"Oh, well." and "Don't yuck my yum!"

Let me further explain. At school the kids are learning that, sometimes, the best thing to do when a situation isn't going their way is to say "oh, well." Obviously, this isn't always the best thing, but a lot of the time it can be. Like if a kid takes the crayon you had your eye on? "oh, well." If someone cuts in front of you in line? "oh, well."

Luckily for us, "oh, well." has transferred over in to family life. For example, last night at dinner Iris said she didn't like the "chicken" I made in the stir-fry (it was actually seitan, but I didn't tell anyone, figuring that pointing it out would make them less likely to eat it). Then Iris quickly followed her proclamation with "oh, well." Matt and I pointed out that we have say "oh, well." a lot in our own lives, too. It's not just kids who don't get their way (and man, I would venture to say, being an adult means I get my way less than I ever did as a kid!)

My favorite, though, is "don't yuck my yum!" or "don't yuck someone else's yum!" which means, don't be a downer about something I like. You can apply this to different situations, like (using the dinner reference again) if Iris started complaining about the dinner I made, I would say "don't yuck my yum!" and she would know that means to keep her complaints about something I made or like to herself. Or if Iris is really excited about an idea that Eloise isn't so excited about, I could say "don't yuck her yum!" and Eloise would know to keep quiet.

We talk a lot about how we can think things in our head, but that sometimes those thoughts shouldn't come out of our mouths. Hate the dinner I made? Well, go ahead and complain all you want in your head, but I don't want to hear about it! It's far from being perfectly executed, but to me, it's a decent message. Think what you want and censor your mouth.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Math Curriculum

Since we recently enrolled in CVA I was excited to have the opportunity to try out some new curriculum for Iris. I hemmed and hawwed and lost sleep over my decisions, but eventually just had to pick something-- and the math curriculum came today! Oh, my. It came in a scary gigantic box. Like, maybe I could ship my five year old somewhere in it (and don't think I haven't thought about it already . . . )

The math curriculum I chose was RightStart Mathematics Level B.

Image courtesy of RightStart Mathematics.

The cool thing about RightStart Mathematics is that it comes with a mind-boggling amount of manipulatives. I can't speak to all children, but I can speak to mine: teaching Iris math without anything to mess with while she is doing it is really quite difficult. For instance, today we were going through her (now previous) math book and learning about analog clocks. It was basically impossible to figure out how a clock works without having an actual clock in her hands to mess with.

One of the things that has been tricky for me is just jumping in to being Iris's teacher after having her in elementary school for two years. Now, I have to say, I LOVED her previous school, and didn't want to have trade it for homeschooling (until I felt like I had to get Iris out of ANY school setting), but it does now present the challenge for me of teaching a child and not really knowing where she is at. I am figuring it out, though, and she is just going to have to be okay with lots of repetition sometimes and jumping in to things she isn't really familiar with at others.

I look forward to writing some reviews of the RightStart Mathematics curriculum to share with everyone after we've done some work with it!