Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday drop-off and pick-up

Timing drop-off is much easier, because Tyler wakes up 40 minutes before the arrival bell rings. He wakes up giggling, eager, and happy. He eats as much breakfast as he can manage, and we set out to walk. The bell rings just as we arrive, and the kids form two lines.

For pick-up, I'm far too early, and have Ashley, so we keep strolling around in wide circles in the hot sun. I watch him with his peers, and when I pick him up, I ask his teacher how he is, and "does he listen?" She's distracted by a kid pulling on her, but says wholeheartedly, "yes, he does." She seems happy and unfazed at end of day. On the way home, Tyler says goodbye, waves and calls to classmates, all walking home, all girls.

It was a good day for him - he again had a double portion of pizza instead of a single, and they talked about dinosaurs in the library.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

Ashley is thriving and has had a physical growth spurt. She's started to grow into her newly stronger self, confidently ascending and descending stairs. This means she suddenly appears somewhere when you don't expect her.

This afternoon, after playing largely indepdendently for two hours, it seems she put herself down for her own nap. She's not a baby any more...

Curriculum night

I went to curriculum night at the school, and invited my mom, a newly retired teacher with 25 years of primary/junior experience. Dad nursed his cold at home.

Some routines were reinforced, and we heard from the teachers and ECEs. What I really go to hear is not what is said about the strands and expectations of the curriculum, but what underlies the program. It's not what's said, but how it's said, and the stance that is taken towards the children, and the parents. Do they talk down to the children and the parents, or do they explain why they ask for things to be done a certain way? Do they make small jokes at the expense of the children, and use sarcasm, or do they have a nurturing, sympathetic manner to the challenges of being a 3-5 year old seeking to become more independent? Even at drop-off and pick-up, I attend to how they look at, talk to, and treat the kids who are still waiting for their adults to arrive. It's more telling than what they say to the kids in front of their doting mothers.

At minimum, I want to hear "I care about your child's well-being, and I'm here to teach him." Better is: "I have the patience to teach all the children, and to also take the time to get to know your child as an individual, and do what I think/feel is best for him." Best is something like: 'I enjoy children, LOVE your child, and wholeheartedly support his contribution to the class! I look forward to collaborating with the family to ensure his success!"

Note that best is always with exclamation marks! Passion!

My mom picked up the same positive elements as I have: from his teacher - a level of calm, patience, and maturity; and from the ECE - a kind and gentle manner. She saw them as being a good fit for Tyler. She also loved the library at first sight, as I did too. A well-stocked library is always a good sign.

I'm also hyperaware to the dynamics and power balances/imbalances between the teacher and the ECE, and to the teams to one another. Just like the adult relationships in a home are models of behavior for children, so is this relationship important to the children. It can be tricky to manage a hierarchical, uneven structure like this one. The roles are different, and there is some overlap, but both are important to the well-being of the children. So far it seems like a respectful, healthy relationship.

So that's a wrap!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The appeal of dinosaurs

Tyler is on a dinosaur kick, which means I'm feeding that interest with cut-out paper dinosaurs and fact cards, dinosaur books, dinosaur colouring & activity books, and episodes of "Dino Dan."

I've tried to figure out what makes them so interesting. My best guesses:

-fun to say & remember their tongue-twister multi-syllabic names
-fun to be an expert in something and teach others around you
-scope for imagination: large, predatory & sharp-toothed carnivores; enormous herbivores; fliers; swimmers
-extension of interest in animals
-relation to seeing dinosaur skeletetons at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

In any case, I'm happy enough to hear all day long about the triceratops (his favourite), the spinosaurus, brachiosaurus, stegosaurus, etc.

It's a strange culture, this kid-land. I don't know any adults who obsess over dinosaurs...

Friday, September 19, 2014

No princesses here, for now

It may be a benefit of having an older brother whose two great loves are currently tow trucks and dinosaurs, but my two year old daughter is not interested in princesses.

She is most enamored these days with Peppa Pig, Magnatiles, and lining up small figures (Playmobile, Little People, etc.) on different stairs - a makeshift dollhouse.

She does have some dolls, but doesn't prefer them any more to other stuffed animals. She doesn't insist on girly clothes, though will preen in front of the mirror and smooth out a dress if she finds herself in one.

We've kept her hair short, which suits her fiery personality. We also don't call her a princess, as she is petite, but isn't really demure and dainty. She looks like "Boo" from "Monsters, Inc." but takes after "Jack Jack" in "The Incredibles," roaring at and overcoming the bad guy, then smiling at and cooing at mom. We call her the boss, and the CEO.

She's a force to be reckoned with, our daughter. If she does later become a princess, she'll be the one who singlehandedly saves the kingdom, probably by transforming into a dragon, taking flight, and using the advantage of fire-breathing. She'll return in time for an afternooon nap.

School pick-up

I have a flexible workplace that allows me to leave early every other Friday to do that day's school pick-up (and then telework for an hour or so).

I'm fifteen minutes early, which is very early. I think just-in-time pickup is the order of the day. I'm the only parent at the door. They have a great setup, in that the JK/SK kids have a large fenced-in play area. The backpacks are hung up on the fence and the kids start to filter out fifteen minutes before dismissal. There's four adults (2 teachers, 2 ECEs) for forty-something kids, and they seem to share outside duties, so all the adults know all the kids.

I share a few pleasantries with my sons's teacher and ECE, but am aware they are still 'on-duty,' ensuring that the gaggle of kids are playing nice, and the proper people are picking up the children.

My son's not the first one out the door -he seems a little pokey at end of day, wrangling everything into his backpack, forgetting his jacket, etc.

I watch the adults in charge for how they interact with him -all seems well, but of course I'm right there, watching.

I ask Tyler about his day, and hear more about specific things they've said to him. Last night during his bath he said he loved me, and then named his teachers and said he loved them too. All good signs.

As we leave, he points out and names some kids in his class. He's always been aware of others. I wonder if the other kids talk about him, and if those parents wonder who 'Tyler' is.

I get half-stories from Tyler, and miss the inside jokes because I'm not understanding the context, and 4-year old humour.

Still, it's the best part of my day, to reclaim my son and bring him home for the weekend. TGIF!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

School report

Every day instead of asking Tyler what he learned in school, I ask "What did Ms. P say?" and "What did Mr. W say?" Usually, Ms. P is reported as speaking in rhyming couplets, because she is impressing on them the poem of the week. Usually, Mr. W seems to either be reinforcing a school routine - "Let's clean up before we go outside!" or relationship-building -he says "Welcome back!" and "Don't get sick!"

There haven't been any crafts yet. What he does bring home are stories of what he's done, bits of conversations, half-remembered lyrics and tunes, names of classmates, playground sand on his clothes, wet sleeves from the water table, lunch and snack remnants, interest in transferring school roles like door-holding to the home, and thankfully, high spirits.

School is his domain, and he is the expert in it.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rhythms of school

With a full-day kindergartner in the house, we have settled into a rhythm that revolves around the morning arrival and afternoon dismissal bell. Dad is waking up earlier to get him ready and walk him to school. He's picking him up four days a week too. I've adjusted my work schedule to start earlier and leave earlier, and to do an extra pick-up every two weeks that I wouldn't otherwise be able to do. We are conscious of adhering to bedtime, so he has enough energy for the day.

Little sister is starting to drop her afternoon nap, and sleeping earlier at night.

It feels healthier, this early to bed, early to rise...may we be wise!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Welcome back!

His second day of school was today. He's a chatterbox in earnest now, with new experiences to share.

-A kid peed on the ground!
-I have a friend named Zachary! We are the same height! He was wearing a blue shirt! We sat together for lunch! They mixed us up once at the water table! I didn't get a chance to ask what his favorite truck is! He has grey hair!
-I have a friend named Paige! She's a girl.
-When we walk down the hallway, we put our fingers on our lips and our fingers on our hips!
-We put both hands on our heads to be quiet.
-We had meditation time. I raised my hand and asked "what is meditation?" Mr. W said it's when we listen to music quietly. We listened and then we sang the ABC song!
-We counted to a hundred!
-There are two Tylers. I'm sad about the other Tyler. That's too many Tylers!
-We played basketball with Mr. W!
-I didn't have time to finish my lunch. There wasn't enough time.
-For lunch I want to have what the others have. They ate carrots!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sick day

We had thought since he hasn't been going to daycare that we would fall sick once he started school. Still, when he started sneezing (wet spraying) after napping in the car, and still being tired, it's a bit of a surprise. He is congested. It makes sense: 48 hours from exposure to start showing signs of sickness.

It's up to dad (on drop-off duty) to make the judgment call in the morning. If he wakes up healthy and happy, it's a go. Otherwise, if we would normally cancel a planned outing or play date based on his condition, we would make the same decision to keep him at home to rest and recover. In other words, if he's too sick to participate, and spends all his time holding wet Kleenex, he should stay home.

Yes, we want him to get into the kindergarten routine, but we don't have reason to be concerned about his ability to adapt or about his social skills.

So this might be a "soft start" to school for him. But we should probably drop off those all-important forms if he misses more than a day...

Friday, September 5, 2014

First day!

It seemed we were the only ones whose uncle also came along for the first day, with a videocamera. We did the photo of Tyler in his first day of school shirt (featuring the Fibonacci spiral), and some family pictures as well.

The walk to school had never seemed longer, but it still only took seven minutes from door to door. We were among the first to arrive, a few minutes early, and then everyone else showed up. On day one, the backpack is heavy. He's carrying brand new running shoes, a raincoat, and a full set of extra clothes to leave in his cubby (really just a labelled hook, as I later saw at pick-up).

The lines formed up for the two kindergarten classes, and he started to look apprehensive, but then walked through the door when it was his turn. It would have been nice to follow him in and check things out, but that's not what happens on the first day of school. As of today, we are now his co-teachers, and his teachers are now 'in loco parentis.'

It's a good thing I head off to work, so I don't how he's doing for the next 6.5 hours.

At pick-up, we watch an entire class parade out in line, and sit quietly within the fenced area to wait for dismissal. His class is dismissed at the door, one at a time as the teachers make eye contact with waiting parents and release them. Tyler is one of the last to leave, gathering up his water bottle, shouldering his backpack, handing on to his fire engine thermal lunch bag. I see that he has the weekly "shuttle" in his backpack, and a duo-tang folder which will hold his weekly poems.

As we head home, he's tired, and takes some breaks, but keeps on with our urging. We pepper him with questions, until finally we decide we will concentrate on just walking. He's receptive, but it's also unseasonably warm out.

I let him settle in with a snack of chicken nuggets and edamame and clementine slices, as well as cookies from his lunch. I find it oddly reassuring to read through and complete the paperwork, on medical information, identifying who will do the pick-ups (and approved alternates), emergency contact information, on dismissal from school for lunch or supervised lunch at school, a blanket permission form for local walks, pizza day order forms, school merchandise, available a la carte hot lunch options, reminders of a peanut-free school, information on the first parent council meeting, school closure (snow day) procedure, a calendar of PA days and holidays, how to call in for absences or late arrivals, and a pamphlet for insurance. I sign him up for four single-slice pizza lunches in the next two months, and a school T-shirt.

I notice he raises his left arm high and waits to be acknowledged while speaking. Evidently, this is a key thing to learn on day one. I tell him he doesn't have to do it at home, but he says he wants to. He seems a little more assertive when ordering his sister not to do something, or when he runs to get her a toy, so she doesn't play with his. I think it's a good thing for him to have peers, but it does mean that the 22 month gap between him and his sister may grow larger, at least until she has her own first day of school.

We talk more about school during his bath time, which I am finding is a time when he's ready to disclose information, to confide, and to be at ease. He smiles when he names his teachers. He says there is another student in his class with the same name - I'm not sure if he is pretending or if it's true. He's lucky to have started on a Friday, so he has two days to enjoy a weekend, before a full school week.

It's interesting to see all the institutional paperwork and process, in which he is one kid of many. I'm used to seeing him as the unique individual he is, not as one of a class or collective. I look forward to seeing what his teachers say about him.

Of those waiting to pick up, we have exchanged some pleasantries and smiles, but in a way, we could wait to see what friendships form among the children before we then make the connection to the families. The kids take the lead, in this case.

Looking forward to day 2, and 3, and so on!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Ready for kindergarten

We are uber-focused on the 4-year old today. We take him to the dentist, and while I zone out on the ledge, dad (who dislikes dentist visits) holds Tyler's hand throughout, standing over him and reassuring him, adjusting him so he is comfortable in the big chair that's not ergonomically fitted for a kindergartener. The hygienist still looks past him to address me on hard-to-reach spots for brushing and on flossing, and I'm not sure if it's a compliment or insult to assume I'd be the one more involved in my kids' dental hygiene.

After Tyler's appointment, I realize anew we don't need to bring his own toys, as we occupy ourselves with verbal games like "I Spy," explore the waiting area and neighboring corner store/dry-clean business, read Dr. Seuss books, play with the treasure chest toy (green brachiosaurus), and check on dad having his own appointment. I realize by testing him on a whim that he understands the concept of addition, and can add/remember
 small sum totals in his head, or can count fingers to come up with a total. We recall that he has 20 teeth, and 10 plus 10 equals 20.

Later that evening, he exercises choices for what to pack for his snacks and lunch tomorrow, samples the contents, and helps pack it away.

He is enthusiastic as we give him last minute tips of what to and what not to do.

And there he goes to bed with a minimum or fuss, poking his head out to give me a big good-night.

Tomorrow I dress him in a brand new shirt and we send him off into the wild.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Getting into the reading habit

Although I had good intentions of registering both children on the first day of summer, it wasn't until the last "reporting day" of the TD Summer Reading Club that I managed to go into a library branch. I obtained a notebook for each, a sheet of stickers, and a preschool pamphlet with colouring page.

I've decided it's one "club" that they can join every summer. It gets us in the habit of reading - to purposefully set aside some time to choose some books from our own library, read them together, record the titles & authors, and choose a sticker for the day. It's a memento to keep for later, this small passport-sized "this notebook belongs to" log of books that they enjoyed when they were 2 and 4 years old.

It completely suits me that junior kindergarten has some projects, but doesn't really have homework, except that they encourage reading every day, and may even provide a new book every school night for this purpose. There is a weekly school library visit, and a book is borrowed each week. It's the cultivation of these habits, instituted at school and encouraged at home, that I think will create not just competence and confidence in reading, but a love of reading, for its own sake.

Today, Tyler and I read the Eyewitness book set, a book each on Insects, Reptiles, Amphibians, Mammals, and Dinosaurs. He saved the Dinosaur one for last.

Ashley chose Sandra Boynton's "Happy Birthday, Little Pookie" and Barbara Reid's "Welcome, Baby!"

Things I learned from my son today

That when we read books together, he will "read" his own story from a blank page.

That while we were racing down the hallway, we were "neck and neck!"

That the spinosaurus and the brachiosaurus are real names of dinosaurs.

That he can identify (from pictures) a platypus, a manatee, a llama, and an aardvark.

That when he calls me on the phone, he can hold up his end of the conversation without being prompted.

That he does not need a going-to-bed routine. He needs ten minutes advance notice (while playing) of bedtime. When the time comes, he will run cheerfully up the stairs.

That he was content to go to bed if I kept playing, in his stead. We made green 3-D dinosaurs using Play-Doh molds. He told me to keep playing with them, and have them stand together, and maybe fight. It was as if the toy dinosaurs could have life and attention beyond himself, he could go to bed.

That he still includes his grandfather when counting off family members in an imaginary story, told during his bath time. Some things a mother is wise not to question further, but to just accept, and be thankful.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Last day of summer!

Of course the last day of summer is the day before school starts. We received a letter from the school that Tyler's first day of junior kindergarten will be Friday! He gets three extra days of summer...

We are looking forward to the change. He is as ready as he could be, and we think he will enjoy it, after an initial adjustment period.

This is the beginning of the years starting to fly by, I think.