Early Spring Ramblings . . .

(Note: this is Paula’s post; not Sean’s)

This semester has been my busiest so far. I can’t believe months have gone by since my last post, but this is the case. I know this is an ancient reference, but Ellie did get the cowboy boots for school shoes and she has just about worn them out. Fashion is definitely an interest for her and something she uses to express herself. I’m already worried about the teenage years. I picture my little sweetheart with multiple piercings and at least two or three tattoos. Maybe it won’t be that bad! And, certainly there are worse things. She is planning for her 7th birthday. She plans to have a science and engineering party this year. We’re going to build kaleidoscopes and make structures with toothpicks and mini marshmallows. Should be interesting. Hmm, I’m starting to imagine an alternative-type engineer. Do they make tie-dyed pocket protectors? Gee, she’ll fit in well.

Ellie’s sixth year has been a great one. She has had a fantastic experience with first grade (thank you Ms. Heiler!!) and has grown in so many ways. She’s a reading and writing fool. And, she’s a great thinker. I have a book about teaching philosophy to kids, and she’s always asking me to ask her questions from that book. We’ve had great discussions about the meaning of love, the value of individuality, and what it really means to be a friend. The other night in the car we were talking about how love brings joy and that money can never really make you happy. I told her how much I agreed with one of her statements and she said, “well mom, when I get a little older, you can call me the wise one.” I just thoroughly enjoy her company.

Her and JD have been getting along great lately too. They have their moments but for the most part are good siblings. JD really knows how to get under her skin though and he does it in such a stealth way. She’ll be working on something and he’ll walk by whispering, “mess up, mess up, mess up.” It makes her so mad! Other times, he draws her pictures and brings her special treats, so I guess it all evens out.

JD has taken a big interest in math. He sits up in his loft at night and on many evenings when I check on him, he’s flipping through some flashcards Santa left in his stocking. On many of the addition facts, he’s faster than Ellie, another things that upsets her. He’s interested in reading too but not quite as much as math. He did complain recently that the preschool teachers haven’t taught him to read yet. He assumed that would be part of the curriculum! He’s also starting to really enjoy his two sports of choice, basketball and tennis. He’d play everyday if he could and has enrolled in three sessions of basketball class. I think it’s so cute, but can’t let him know that as he’s quite serious about his mad skills.

JD and Robert are still best of friends. Robert is a great kid and pretty hard to beat as friends go. JD hasn’t found many boys, if any at all who meet friendship standards as set by Robert. They are very much like brothers and a lot of fun to have around. They even let Ellie join in, which works for her, because their play is so enjoyable.

As great as the school year has been for the kids, I think we’re all looking forward to the summer. I know I am. We all tend to slow down to enjoy the best season of the year! I will try to write more often and share specific stories. In the meantime, enjoy the spring. There is something energizing in the return of the birds, the popping of the early spring flowers, and the opportunity to open windows for some fresh air.

March 2006 Update

i’ll start this update with JD. JD has been participating in a basketball class class lately at the rec center we joined late last summer. he is in a class with his best buddy Robert and some other 5 and 6 year olds. when the class first started, JD was fairly uncoordinated. i showed him some Pistol Pete video and explained how much PP liked to dribble around town and how he worked on dribbling all of the time. now in class the coach will have everyone gather around and they all sit down while JD stands back behind everyone and just dribbles, dribbles, dribbles. and, after about 6 – 7 weeks of classes, he is getting MUCH better. they had a drill this past week where the kids shot from 3 different spots and the coach would have them shoot and then make them run to the next spot and get the feed and shoot quickly again. JD made all 3 of his shots while most of the kids missed all 3 shots. he’s just getting it lately and he’s loving it. sometimes it’s hard to keep the proper perspective and remember that he hasn’t even started kindergarten yet. i have another little JD story, but it’s related to Ellie’s story so i’ll start that first.

Ellie will be taking a big test tomorrow. the test is a test for the gifted program in East Grand Rapids. let me first explain that this is the 3rd grader’s test. all second graders take this test to see who qualifies for the gifted program. the top 10% of second graders are then eligible for the gifted program. that being said, Ellie has been selected to take the test as well. for her to qualify for the gifted program as a first grader, she’d have to beat 90% of the second graders taking the test. no first graders that took the test last year qualified, so we aren’t holding out any hope. but, Paula and I worked with Ellie on a practice-type test so that she’d get a feel for the kinds of questions that might be on the test (it’s just reading and math). we bought the practice test on Amazon and had Ellie try the reading portion. Ellie got every single question correct in our first session (about 1/2 of the practice test in reading). her verbal skills are pretty awesome. the next night, i had her try her hand on the math problem solving. it was more difficult for her. the thing is, she has to read the directions and figure out how to do the problems herself. many of the questions are posed in ways that she doesn’t understand; however, she can do the concepts if they were worded differently. for example, she knows how to do multiplication (hasn’t memorized the times tables, but she knows how to solve multiplication). the test presents mostly word problems instead of the number problems they do in first grade, so that was an adjustment. but the test would say something like this, “Mary has 2 times as many apples and she has oranges. If she has 3 oranges, how many apples must she have?” she didn’t know what times meant until i explained it to her. once she realized it was the same as multiplication, she was golden. keep in mind, they haven’t even heard the word, “multiply” yet in first grade — this is just from home tutoring. anyway, if she really knows what the questions are asking then she can get most of the problems correct, so we’ll see how she does on her own starting tomorrow. i think the test takes place over many days and the test forms are mailed elsewhere to be scored, so who knows when we learn more, but it should be a good test taking experience.

i said i’d tie JD back into this discussion. as i was working on math problem solving with Ellie, I was posing a bunch of questions out verbally. JD was sitting about 10 feet away looking through a book. a couple of times, he actually beat Ellie to the answer and he was correct. for example, one question said, “what do you get when you add 600 + 50 + 3” and JD knew it within a second. Ellie blurted out, “HEY!” and JD just chuckled. i think he’s ahead of many first graders with regard to math and i know he’s even ahead of a few with regard to reading, unfortunately. also, Ellie asked me today to explain adjectives. i doubt she’s learning this in school, but she’d heard the word and was curious. she knew it was a part of speech. i explained it to her and when JD heard the word ‘noun’ he immediately said, “a noun is a person, place or a thing.” not bad for my little preschooler. he’s sharp.