Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Proud Mama

I need to brag on my boy a little. It's shamefully annoying of me. Apologies, but I'm feeling a little Mama Bear tonight.

The secret to our success as parents? Video games. Mario. Luigi. Toad. Link. These admirable figures taught my son to read, or at least gave him the motivation to learn to do so on his own.

This afternoon we had a meeting at Henry's school to discuss his Kindergarten pre-assessments. The teachers test the kids each year before they come in to figure out where they start. We knew, as all parents probably feel they do, that Henry was special. We knew he was smart and capable. We also knew that he was reading above grade level; at our orientation he sat and read all 100 or so "sight words" that the kids were to read by the end of the year. A quick glance of the standards gave me the impression that he could already do most of them. But I will be the first to admit that I can teach a high school kid about organizing an essay, but I don't know beans about how someone learns to read. I had no idea what my (and E's) instincts about Henry meant. Since I'm in education I didn't want to be "that" parent. I didn't want to march in and demand some kind of special challenges for my little snowflake, because teaching has given me a little bit more perspective. I know better than to think that my little man is unique. I know even better that teachers need to just be trusted to do their jobs without parents interfering.

Well perspective be damned, apparently. Henry's amazing. (Though I need to mention we didn't interfere here and this was strictly teacher-instigated.)

I knew anecdotally that he was probably doing more than he needed to before kindergarten, but as I said--not as a result of anything E or I have done with him, and I didn't know the specifics or if there were gaps in his knowledge. Today I got to see pages and pages of assessments, skills checked off and words and figures that Henry handled with ease. It's funny. We killed ourselves with Addie, trying to make her learn everything in the years between diapers and her first lunch pail. We wanted so badly for her to be ready for school. While happy to write, sit and talk for hours, or listen to us read a book, she didn't really show much specific interest before she started off to school. In a heartbeat, Kindergarten changed her life. She was reading in months and she was soaking up knowledge like a sponge. And she has taken to school like a fish to water. She loves it and she's so smart. So with Buddy we decided not to stress about it. But ironically, he just... learned on his own.

I realize the implications here. Video games do not an excellent parent make. But for this particular kid, the right combo of wildly literate parents, a sister who likes to play school and is happy to help share knowledge, and yes--those video games--has meant that our little Hanko marched off to Kindergarten with more than a backpackful of knowledge. His assessments were wonderful--he tested beyond Kindergarten in reading and math. His teacher had to keep pulling out new assessments since he was blasting through everything she had for him. There it was in our meeting--hard evidence. We were so proud we didn't know what to say.

In reality, though, he's still a Kindergartner. I'm glad that everyone at the meeting today--Vice Principal, two Kindergarten teachers and one first grade teacher (who happens to be his grandma) was on the same page about what was going to be best for our little man. Everyone wants to make sure he's challenged, but also wants him to enjoy the blessings that are a Kindergarten experience. And he needs Kindergarten. E and I talked after we got home and we love our sweet boy--we don't want to push him beyond where he is right now because he already won't be there for long. Kindergarten is a gift.

So we came up with a plan where Henry's going to be a most-of-the-time Kindergartner and a sometime-attending-class-with-the-first-graders-er. I think it's the best thing for his brain and his soul. He'll go to first grade for reading in the morning, come back to K for the rest of their day, and then go back to first grade for math. He still needs work on some things that Kindergartners need work on--handwriting, learning about school, being a part of a class--and that's why he's right where he should be. We called him in at the end of the meeting to tell him about his new schedule and he's so proud. (And we checked in with Miss Roo big time about this tonight as well... don't want her feeling like something is wrong with her because this is what Buddy is going to do.)

So I guess you could say I'm having a good day. I know I didn't really do this (other than in a breeding capacity--though I have to say Henry's Exhibit B in the case to be made for our combined gene pools really knocking it out of the park... ew, way to many metaphors there. Anyway...) I'm happy. And I'm happy that he's not going to be the weird kid but he gets to stay in K with his homies and his loving, sweet teachers, and he gets to go to learn some extra things which I know is going to rock his socks right off.

That + a warm night and a sunset in the backyard? Good times, internet. Good times.


  1. So, I am not a teacher nor a parent, but I still kind of have strong feelings against pushing kids ahead in their grade. I know they considered doing it when I was in first grade, and I am glad I didn't. I mean.. yes, I would have graduated a year earlier, but honestly, I don't think that would have placed me any better in life. The only bad part was I got in trouble a lot in first grade for bothering other kids when I got done with my work first... I feel every grade is an experience and I always wonder the emotional toll, especially with how mean kids can be when they find out someone is younger (or different in any way).

    Anyway, my two cents. You can always challenge him more at home and he can continue to go to school with all his buddies and take it one grade at a time :)

    And he is so flippin' cute!

  2. Don't know if E remembers this or not...but he and Steven, along with me...got to sit out of one of our kindergarten sessions and all read books because we were so advanced in our reading! E's sister skipped a grade...and you and Lis are incredibly smart...so I predict your kids won't fall too far from that tree :-)

  3. I think every kid is different. For him it's going to be good to stay in K but "visit" 1st for reading and math. We'll re-evaluate every year. For now I'm happy he has so many people focusing on what's best for him! :)

  4. Thanks Kayday... yup, we've talked a lot about our own experiences too!

  5. How exciting! I think it's great that he will visit 1st grade for reading and math. I know that most of the time those are the hardest things for kids to overcome. I think he would probably be bored in K! He is such a cutie and I am so happy for you!!