Saturday, September 3, 2011

How Much Is Too Much

So I have been mentally preparing myself for the start of public school for a couple of years. Okay. The truth is I have been looking forward to this for a long time. I love watching my children learn and try new activities. I love that our elementary school is much more diverse than our middle class expensive day care center. Jacob is now making friends with children from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, cultural backgrounds and family types. He isn't the only kid in his school who has a single mom, he isn't the only child adopted from Ethiopia and he is one of many children who have siblings who have different skin colors. I loved watching the families walk into school yesterday and seeing how many really looked a lot like ours. I knew there would be a few but there were so many ours didn't even stand out. No one batted an eye when my dark blond son and Ethiopian son both called me mom. It was normal there.

So Jacob is off and running. He starts flag football next weekend. He is in youth swim lessons instead of preschool swimming. He has already completed and brought home his first assignment. (He drew a picture of himself and wrote his name. The original is hanging in the classroom but the teacher photcopied them so the parents could see what the kids did their first week). I am now finding that all of those years of preparation are paying off.

So now the question is what type of a mom will I be. The media loves to give moms names such as helicopter moms and tiger moms. So what kind of mom will I be? I'm not sure the name I would give myself. Maybe some of my readers can help me with it. Here is a brief description.

-School is important. My children will be expected to complete all of their work, correct any mistakes and learn as much as they possibly can. Bs will be acceptable but will require addtional work to try to improve them. A's are the goal and A- the lowest possible without extra work with Mom. Extra work may just be having Mom check work over before turning it in or it may be extra math problems and reading time at night.

-Extra work will be completed after home work or on weekends on any subject area with a B- or lower. In elementary school with the number ratings it will be anything below 3 on a scale of 1-4. 3s or 4s just mean a pat on the back and no extra work beyond teacher assigned work. 4s will be rewarded with praise and if there are mostly 4s with a special reward at the end of the semester such as choosing any place to eat dinner or getting to choose a fun activity for the family.

-Missed school days because of illness or emergencies will result in Mom picking up work from the teacher and bringing it home to complete. The work can wait until the child is healthy enough to get out of bed and begin playing but it will be completed before returning to school. Every parent knows when there child begins to act "normal" and show signs of being well again. That is the point where the homework will come out if it wasn't done earlier.

- Frequent communication with teachers. No, I'm not the mom who emails the teacher several times a week to make sure everything is going well. It's not that I don't want to but I realize I need to let my child learn to swim or sink for himself. If the child is bringing home good grades and the work is completed, there may be very little to talk about and it can wait until conferences. If the child is struggling, then frequent emails will be exchanged until the child is no longer struggling. It doesn't have to be daily but it will be as often as necessary to make sure everyone is succeeding. As well as offering to come in and help out when the class has field trips or for special occassions such as Ethiopian holidays.

- I believe teachers should be able to teach the way they want to at the rate they want. As a parent, it is my job to provide extra support if I feel my child isn't learning as much as they should or is struggling in any area. Especially if he has a teacher that may not be pushing as much as other teachers in the area. The teacher won't be hearing me complain that the kids aren't reading enough or learning enough, I will just quietly supplement it at home.

- I won't be hiring tutors to make sure my child is valedictorian. I won't be scheduling "cultural" lessons three or four nights a week to try to make him more well-rounded. He will be allowed to just be a kid, relax and play every day. They are only allowed to be in one sport other than swimming lessons during the week.

So that is current philosophy on parenting. Now I am sure the more experienced parents out there are laughing at me. Who wouldn't? I laugh at new moms too. My expectations and philosophy will change as I learn, my kids learn and life goes on. After all, isn't it just plain life that often gets in the way of our ideals and plans? Hey, life happens. My kids and I will continue to roll with the punches and adjust as needed to meet our lifestyles and needs.

So what kind of label would you give this mom?

Kindergarten Success!

Jacob is a kindergarten success story. He loves it there. I was a few minutes early picking him up yesterday and saw him go to his locker to get his backpack. He was full of smiles and excitement. He has even figured out the trick to getting his locker to open when it sticks!

I decided to walk Jacob home from school yesterday. I remember hating walking home from school but I also realize how much I learned on those walks. It was a chance to just relax and have fun while looking at the sky, grass, insects and world around me. I wanted Jacob to have that same experience. He normally rides the bus to day care but I took yesterday off work so he came home instead.

The walk home as well as much of the past 2 days has been full of stories about the wonderful things he has done and kids he has met. He states they are all his best friends and there aren't any he plays with more than others. I am sure that will change as the year goes on but for now it's great that he likes everyone.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about what our evening routine will look like. Jacob's not thrilled that I am instituting a new "routine" at home but I have noticed that those kids who do best in school are often the ones with a pretty structured home life. So here is a look at what I hope our new routine will be.

5:30 Arrive home. Mom cooks dinner while the kids play or watch TV.

6:30 (or whenever dinner is finished and the table cleared off). Look through Jacob's backpack with him. Discuss homework assignments. Find something positive about each piece of work before discussing what he could have done differently.

6:35 Work on any homework or assignments that weren't completed at school or day care. Check over assignments for the next day.

After homework is completed or additional work completed the following list is completed in order:

- Get backpack ready for the next day. Pack lunch box and place in fridge if not eating hot lunch.

- Play or watch TV. Must be inside the house by 7:30 if playing outside with neighbor's kid.

- 7:45 pm Bath time while I get Matthew ready for bed, read books to him and have -one-on-one time.

- 8:15 pm Read stories and have a few minutes of one-on-one time.

- 8:30 Tucked into bed. Light on with a few books to look at

- 8:45 Lights out and books put away.

That is Jacob's new routine. I am sure it will be adjusted slightly as the year goes on. The bedtime seems a little late but really it's earlier than he went to bed last year (by about half an hour). Since he rarely takes naps at home or day care anymore, I don't think he will require extra sleep. He gets up about 6:45 so he gets a full night's sleep. Matthew goes to bed a little earlier because he seems to need the extra sleep. He also gets up closer to 6:15 or 6:30.

I hope this routine works and the kids both strive from it. Matthew will have a similar routine when 4K starts next week except he doesn't really have any homework or even academic work to look over. He will do a little more structured learning later in the year and I will spend time looking at his work from school also but he won't have the same academic expectations until next year. For him, we will look over his papers together, discuss what he did really well, review anything he might have been working on and then just go play until 7:15 when his bath and bedtime routine begin.

There are also some nights where our routine just won't work. Tuesday nights Matthew has swimming lessons from 6:30 until 7:00 and Jacob has lessons from 7 until 7:45. We will get home around 8:15 and both kids will have to get ready for bed, read stories as a family and then go to bed at the same time. Thursday nights I have class so I will have to pull out any homework for Jacob before he goes to his babysitter's house, read any notes or newsletters on my break at school and then go over his worksheets Friday night. The babysitter will get him ready for bed and he will have to sleep in the car on the way home. I am hoping he won't be too tired on Friday mornings but it is the best I can do for this year. At least I only have class one day a week so it is only one late night a week.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Start of Something Big

Today was the start of something big. Big kid school has begun. My little baby I first met 4 years ago in Ethiopia is now in kindergarten.

It was a little bit of shock to see how small he looked next to all the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. He has been one of the big kids in his preschool program for the past year. Now he is one of the little kids again. And he did look little. It was a little hard for me to walk away with him surrounded by so many big kids outside a very big school. Even if the teachers were right there.

I worried about him all day. I knew in my mind he would be fine but my heart ached. Was he having fun? Was he making friends? Was his teacher as nice as she seemed? Would he be okay on the bus? Would they remember to help him get on the right bus?

In the end he did great. He loves that they have recess 3 times (including lunch). His teacher made him eat his vegetables at lunch which he didn't like but I love. He played games and made a lot of new friends. He saw some old friends who are in different classes when he was at recess and lunch. He loved riding the bus and proudly told me he is the 3rd stop. He complained when I picked him up from the school age day care classroom because he wanted more time to play with his friends. Many of them were the same kids he was in 4K with last year. They all went to different elementary schools but get to see each other after school.

Jacob had a great first day. I missed him and will continue to miss the baby he used to be. Yet I continue to be amazed at the young man he is becoming. He was exhausted after not sleeping well last night (he kept waking up asking if it was time to eat breakfast yet) and a full day of fun. I caved in and let him watch a movie on my computer tonight. Matthew was feeling left out of all the kindergarten excitement so he got to watch too. His new school year starts next week. He will be part of the 1st 4K class in our district.