Saturday, 18 October 2008


The evenings are drawing in, the weather getting colder and the fall type craft activities increasing (which isn't actually a stretch)

Jamie is not by nature a child who would choose sitting and creating art over almost anything else, and for the most part the run on the beach wins out with all of us.
However, this evening when I suggested we do some art with stickers he was uncharacteristically keen.

Results below....
kinesthetic, hands on learner meets maternal crafting impulse...

Learning styles,
kinesthetic and otherwise are on my mind at the moment. (Bet you didn't see that segway coming from like, a million miles away, did ya..?)(did you also notice that I look, like, 12 in the photo. yeesh.)

School registration deadlines are fast approaching here, and talk amongst my
pre-school parent friends is all catchment areas and class ratios.

I have been almost smug in my detachment from these conversations as we plan our big move back to Canada the summer before Jamie would be due to start school here.

I'm a sea of conflicting emotions about the move generally, but I had put the school issue in the boat of 'good reasons to move' and happily shoved off. In Canada Jamie will have another full year of half day, play based learning in Kindergarten. He will (we hope) attend an alternative school that mixes grades, and focuses strongly on community. All was good.

As will be clear to everyone who has ever read this blog before I have an almost pathological need to poke the sleeping dog, until it barks all night keeping me awake. And then bites my finger. I mentioned the smugness before to give you a little hint that there was maybe some burgeoning moment of over analytical parenting coming.

The crux of the issue is this; Jamie is an
unusual learner.

Even as I write this there is a little
catch of sadness. Its maybe the letting go of the deep hope for our beloveds to have a childhood with no problems, no hardship, just love and sunshine from everyone. The forming understanding that there may struggle, judgement and misunderstanding in a part of their lives that consumes 3/4 of their time, and anxiety on anxiety, where you are not is one of the most scary thoughts of parenting

J is a very bright boy, but lots of his ability is hidden behind a kid that just loves nothing more than to be.. well, a kid. He's physical, doesn't like to sit still to demonstrate his ability, and will jump through hoops when, and if, he deems it important.
He frequently immerses himself in intricate imaginative play, and forgets that others aren't in his head too. He is verbal, and logical and finds fun in wordplay and contradictions, and if you don't really listen carefully to what he's
actually saying sometimes comes across as a little too cheeky, but is genuinely surprised that others interpret him this way. He's sweet and sensitive, but also non-conformist and sometimes a little.. well.. impulsive.

I don't know if this makes sense to anyone other than me - as is often the case when describing our own children, but I can see the potential for Jamie to be just another 'could do better' - board with school.

I'm not as neurotic about this as it may seem (really...yet...). He's doing just fine going at his own pace, which of course at 4 is just how it should be, and his wonderful pre-school is good for him.
Its just that there are little things, foreshadowing, potential for things to be
less well in the future I think.

So I'm left with lingering questions that I'd welcome your wisdom on.

Do we just find a good school in our neighbourhood, stay involved and encourage Jamie to build the skills that allow him to fit in, but maybe be educated in an inevitably cookie cutter way...?

Private school - smaller classes, more tailored approach, ethically and financially sticky for us, but, well, it is our child's education..?

What about home schooling...?

Maybe we should stay here and have him go to school with his dear friends?
Its here that seeds of doubt about the move are sown. I'm in the middle of revisiting research on children and friendship to embed in the psychology courses I teach, and I am reminded of how vital they are. I know the findings, but again the lines between work and parenting blur. Its suddenly closer to home.

Is Jamie's uniqueness just one drop in a ocean of unique children, and I should stop over analysing and just let it unfold as it does for
every other family... (its Ok, you can say it... I know ;)

Or is this serious and I
should go to greater lengths to address our choice it intentionally and careful....

Yikes. holy minefield batman.

And can I just remind you of this......

in case you think I take myself and my neurosis too seriously .:)

But really,
How was school for you? What would you have had your parents do differently? What do you do for your own children...?

Talk to me Goose.


Anonymous said...

Good questions, Kate. I'm reminded of my nephew - an intensely kinetic little boy, who continues to be kinetic. Sometimes I wonder what he'd be like if my sister chose to put him in school, instead of homeschool (ritalin??). I know it's certainly presented a lot of challenges to my sister, though, especially with her rather cerebral older daughter...

I can't answer your question about what to do with Jamie, but I can tell you about my schooling. We moved just in time for me to start kindergarten, from Wpeg to a small town in SK. I found my best friend there, even though she was in the other kindie class. I hardly remember the friends I had from before moving to IH, and kindergarten seemed just fine.

The rest of school was... well, what I'm guessing is usual. Some not fitting in. Some great friendships. Being bored in class (especially in high school, until we moved to a city). Laughter. Hard stuff, but lots of good stuff. All that despite having 2 elementary schools in 2 different provinces, and 2 different high schools, also in 2 different provinces.

I can't imagine what it's like to answer the questions you pose. But I'm sure that you'll answer them with integrity. Also, remember to consider your and Marti's needs. Where will the two of you both be best supported as you go through the struggles of having school-age kids, whether in your home or otherwhere?



Anonymous said...

First, I would like to make sure you know what a good writer you are:

"As will be clear to everyone who has ever read this blog before I have an almost pathological need to poke the sleeping dog, until it barks all night keeping me awake. And then bites my finger."


Second, I would like to say, "Woo hoo! I hope you guys come back to Ottawa soon!"

Third, to get to the question you actually asked me, I think you may be overly anxious. I think you should try Jamie out at an ordinary school with his friends and give him time to settle in.

All small kids have short attention spans and prefer jumping and playing. Athena is very curious and active. At her old daycare, one caregiver called her a "livewire". When I was a kid, my parents thought I was hyperactive, and gave me valium at ages four and five! Most kids are whirlwinds of energy.

I don't know what the school system is like there, but Athena's school (an ordinary public school) uses kinesthetic learning techniques. She's in junior kindergarten. The way Athena learns French is in the gym, running around and acting out the vocabulary words she is being taught. There is plenty of imagination time. When in the classroom, there are several activity centres, and the kids rotate in small groups from one to another. For example, she will play with playdough for 20 minutes, which is supposed to increase the manual dexterity needed for writing. Then she will move to another table and trace letters and colour pictures of objects which start with that letter. The only time they need to sit still is during story time. Even during circle time, they often sing and use gestures. They play outside twice during the half-day. After JK, Athena goes to the Y daycare where she burns off even more energy swimming, in the gym, and dancing, as well as doing art work, reading stories, doing science experiments and practicing letters.

I think it might be more of an adjustment for Jamie if he moves to a different country and then starts school for the first time. He will have no frame of reference for school, and it will simply be more for him to adjust to.

Another thing I learned is that our babies seem a lot smaller and less ready to us than they actually are. I would just give him a chance, and see how it goes. And I know this is really difficult, but try to relax about it, because kids pick up on our moods and anxieties in subtle ways.

I did not choose to home school Athena for many reasons. We would not be able to afford to go without my income indefinitely. It's already hard - we are racking up debt as I finish my PhD. I don't have the patience or energy to home school her either. But most of all, even if I had the money and the patience, I still wouldn't do it because she gets a lot more from school than I can give her. She already gets the best of my knowledge and care. School teaches her important lessons in socilaization, following schedules and structured activity, and gives her close, daily contact with adults and kids from a variety of racial, ethnic, linguistic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds. I know I am not, and should not be, the only person she learns from.

Each child and parent is different and each family needs to make the decision that is right for them.

Thanks for asking for my opinion.


Kate said...

Oh, Kate. I so, so, SO hear the concerns, the fears, the foreshadowing you have been feeling-- I was right there when my Noah was Jaime's age. It is beyond hard, when you have a bright, imaginative boy, to picture them succeeding in a public school setting. I homeschooled Noah for two years-- which was wonderful but exhausting-- and just put him into the fourth grade this fall. I would be lying if I said it wasn't tough. We are already facing the teacher and administrator that don't think he's all that "smart," even though I went to the extreme and had him tested (something I swore I'd never do), just so I could point to that IQ score and say, see-- I TOLD you he was beyond bright. He struggles with graphomotor disorder (struggles with handwriting) and does not test well-- the two measures of success at the elementary level. What he does do well-- creative thought processes, information gathering, comprehension skills, ability to think in abstractions and see the "big picture"-- these are not skills that are sought out, even though in my mind, they are the keys to becoming an outstanding adult. So this is what I'm learning to do: I throw away his tests. I will not look at his report card. I will work to give him outlets for his knowledge, his wisdom, etc. outside the classroom walls (I actually let him start a blog to document his fourth grade year-- even though we don't have cable and I'm one of those mom's who never even let him near a computer until this year....he's so excited though, sometimes you have to let go of ideals in order to pursue what works...). I will continue to remind myself that as long as he as fun, as long as he feels successful on some level, and MOST importantly, as long as he does not lose his love and desire to learn, we are going to get through this year without worrying about the rest. Bottom line: early years, especially for busy boys, are tough. But whoever defined a successful life by being top of an elementary school classroom? Learning to redefine what you want out of the school experience-- for us, it is giving Noah time with his peers-- and learning to let all the rest go-- that will be the key, at least for me. That said, I live in an area where it is public school, and public school. We have no Waldorf schools nearby, nor any experiential or place-based learning programs (either of these, I think, would benefit a learner like Noah (kinetic and auditory) in huge ways. If you have those options, seek them out, for sure. As for homeschooling, I can't say enough about how wonderful our time together was. If you have the energy and ability to do it-- it is a great experience, even if just for a year or two, when the workload switches from play-based to something else. If you are working, however, or if your Noah is a high demands child (as my Max is), just know that the schooling will drain you of any and all extra energy. Sheesh-- I don't want to leave you feeling negative-- I will say that as Noah grows, his sensitivity to how I react to him increases, and as long as I work to genuinely show him how much I appreciate his unique personality and wonderful thought process, he feels good. It is hard sometimes, to not wish that he would just meld in with the rest of the public school kids. But then, Kate, I always stop myself. I remember that the world is never changed or challenged or made fantastically better because of the average adults. It is the people who learn differently, who live in their heads, and who have had the support to know that the above two things are okay-- and in fact, to be celebrated-- that make us all amazed. Just keep searching for what works, and make it clear to teachers that standards and measures mean nothing to you. What matters is that jaime's love for learning-- for seeking knowledge-- continues to blossom, at his own pace.

Louise said...

From my own memories of school, bright children do well wherever they are if the following things happen:
- The parents are supportive and interested in their schoolwork (ask them to show you what they learned today)
- The parents and teachers work together to teach the child in and out of school
- The parents enhance and expand on the academic learning outside school: museum visits, field trips, "science" experiments, sports clubs
- Being clever and knowing the answer is applauded in the classroom and at home (being a "know-it-all" is a GOOD thing!)
- Parents are prepared to step in and discuss any issues with the teachers on a "we're all on the same team" kind of way.

As for starting school here or in Canada, I reckon you're best starting him in the place he will be living, so he can build a solid group of mates who'll be with him throughout his school life. I still have friends from Primary school ;)