Monday, September 22, 2014

PreK (a few weeks in)

Eli is having another transition in preschool...but this time it's a new teacher!  Another teacher was needed at his school, and she was placed in Eli's classroom.  Previously, she taught Kindergarten at a local school, and has a ton of experience in the classroom. Today was her first day with Eli's class.

This morning when I dropped him off, I left his reading packet (that comes home on weekends) in his folder. When she asked what it was, I told her that it contained the sight words that the other teacher had left for Eli to learn.  Her eyebrow went up. I was pretty sure she didn't quite believe me...or that she thought I was a crazed helicopter mom. I stopped talking.  Then, Eli chose that moment to gently pour his own milk over his cereal (he eats breakfast at home and at school).  I suppose I am used to Eli pouring liquids at home (hooray for the Montessori methods!)...but the new teacher was very surprised that he did not spill any.  I was a little disappointed with morning 'table time'...she had the children doing 4 and 6 piece peg puzzles. Eli's been working on 100 to 150 piece jigsaw puzzles since this summer.  That wouldn't work for a 15 minutes table time...but 4-6 pieces is waaayyy too small to keep his interest. From the initial impression that I got of the new teacher, she seemed very sweet...but my gut says Eli is about to either truly surprise her...or drive her nuts.  Later, I thought that I should have told her that he's also a little more than a year younger than the other kids...but decided to keep that information to myself for a while longer.  Her impression of him today is that he is a 'pistol'...which he definitely is...but when he's engaged and/or challenged at an activity he gets very focused and quiet.  He definitely does have trouble following directions in a group setting, but it's often because his imagination is running completely wild.  All things considered, Eli seemed to enjoy his new teacher, and was excited about one of the activities that his class did today.  He played so hard at school today that he fell asleep in the car on the way home!

I do have some happy reviews of the first few weeks of PreK. First, some of his academic skills have started to take off. It began with his first list of 10 sight words. He quickly learned all of his words (7 of which he knew before being given the list). On Friday, his previous teacher tested him, and rewarded him - with a toy - for knowing all of his words.  MOTIVATED does not even begin to describe what happened the following week. He learned the next set of words quickly, too...even though he struggled with the difference between "they" and "that."  In the meantime, I decided that it was time for him to be working on phonics, since his previous teacher wasn't teaching phonics.  In the last week or so, he's mastered the first 5 of the mini-books on and more than 50 sight words...and he's learning words so fast it is difficult to keep up with him. Sadly, his previous teacher didn't test him over the second set of words before she was transferred to another room - but this hasn't slowed Eli down one bit.  When he picked up a favorite book at home and realized (for the first time) that he could read it....and I mean REALLY read it...he was hysterical. A very happy, but stunned Eli just repeatedly said "These are my words.  I know all of these words.  I can read it."  He looked at me with big eyes and read a certain passage over and over just for the joy of being able to do it. Now he wants to read everything : ) and has an insatiable need to be read to (thank heavens for books on CD and recordable books). This is a far cry from the child who threw massive (legendary) tantrums at the mere attempt of reading him anything at all. He is falling head-over-heels in love with Flat Stanley, Splat the Cat, Skippyjon Jones, Pete the Cat, etc.

In other (related) news, we stumbled across a Star Wars set of math workbooks at a local department store. As a math teacher, I was thrilled with how thorough the workbooks were. I bought one of them....and after watching Eli enjoy it so much, I ordered the next one in the series!  I also started him on the Life of Fred series of math books...this series goes from very basic addition through calculus and beyond. At this point, Eli can add/subtract using his fingers, count to 120 (although he still skips 15), and is learning place value and skip counting (he can now skip count by tens and hundreds - which is extremely easy with Montessori methods).

I know it sounds like he's being kept busy...but we spend roughly10 minutes on reading (phonics and sight words together) and 10 minutes on math each night.  We don't normally do the lessons back-to-back, either. We generally tackle one subject right after school and the other sometime after dinner.  Eli also seems to regularly go through fast periods of learning, then he has slow periods of consolidation.  This recent learning spurt has been so rapid that I think he will slow down for a while soon.  We know that spending any time on academic "stuff" at all is optional...but while Eli is motivated and excited, we have decided to let him learn at his own pace.

In the meantime, Eli's also been doing a lot of riding on his bike. He alternates between the balance bike and his two-wheeler. The two-wheeler is still a tad big for him (it's a 12 inch), but he can still manage it pretty well. His biggest issues are starting and stopping without falling over....but in the meantime, he has discovered how much fun it is to coast down the hill in our yard : ).  Next time, pictures!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Mrs. M

One of the teacher's at Eli's school was in a terrible car accident recently....and she was 32 weeks pregnant. Thankfully, although she was severely injured, she has been released from the hospital and is healing. Unfortunately, because of the severity of her injuries and the care she needed, the doctors were forced to perform an emergency c-section. Her baby is currently in the NICU at a local hospital.

Eli knows that Mrs. M won't be back to school anytime soon. She was not his regular teacher, though he does know who she is. His school is running a fundraiser to help her with medical expenses. Eli was both sad and hopeful the day that he got his fundraiser packet.

He said, "Mrs M. had a baby in her tummy, Oma. But she was in a crash and got hurt and went to the doctor. The doctor took the baby out of her tummy and he's sick.  I prayed for Mrs. M today at nap time because I want her to get better. You think God will make her better?"

I nearly fell out crying. He was so genuine, and has such a loving soul. If he thought there was a way for him, personally, to make Mrs. M and her baby well, he would do it.  We are praying for Mrs. M and her family, and hope anyone who reads this will, too.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Pre K (so far)...

I can't believe Eli has been in pre-k for a month now.  For the most part, he's really learning a lot and enjoying it. He's learning more about how to tell what today's date is, he has a new best buddy, and his letter-writing skills have improved dramatically. Eli had a hilarious light-bulb moment tonight when I explained to him what the lines on notebook and tablet paper were for. For a few seconds, he thought lines on paper were the greatest invention ever!  He's also developed an almost rabid interest in writing, which caught me off guard.  He was really interested in it several months ago...then his interest waned...and now he's REALLY interested again!

But there are some downsides to pre-k, too. One, in particular, is eating at me tonight. The teacher promised my son's class that they would have a "movie/popcorn party" when all of the kids learned their letters. This is a great idea to motivate kids to learn, and, as a fellow teacher I understand why she did it (and, generally, that is a really nice thing to do).  It's having some unexpected consequences for my son, though. Each time she's reminded the class about the party, my son has come home upset. He doesn't understand that even though HE knows his letters, many of the other kids in the class really do not know theirs. He definitely doesn't understand why he must wait for a reward that he's technically already earned...and now the teacher has said it enough times to the class that Eli feels it is aimed at him (even though it is clearly NOT aimed at him)...and he is genuinely frustrated.  I've explained to him that she's really talking to only the kids who DON'T know their letters, but he's still so sad : (.  I know that this is truly minor in the grand scheme of things, but it is still so hard to see him feeling so hurt.

While I am somewhat concerned about what this means for next year, when Eli's still too young for Kindergarten and has to stay back in pre-k, there are many, MANY bright spots.  There is a second teacher in the classroom who is definitely working with Eli on his reading.  She sent home a note with the sentences and words he was working on today, which I truly appreciated. One of the words today was "big," which is one I hadn't started him on, and she did a great job helping him - with promise of helping him learn more as he was ready (which he is excited about).  Hallelujah!  What a sweet lady for taking time out with my son feel special and to make sure that he was learning something new : )... for this, we are very grateful.