The things that matter to kids

Yep. He's planking

A week back Oliver won an award at school. You know those bumper stickers that say, “My Kid Is A Terrific Kid”? Well, he won one of those. They honoured some of the kids at a school assembly so Matt and I showed up and took our parent’s share of photos. He stood up there and tried his hardest not to smile. He does that when he’s in front of people and I’m not sure why. It was a lot of fun to see him receive an award.

They also announced other awards for different kids in areas of Math, great attendance….other stuff that I can’t remember. His best friend in the class won a Math award and it’s not surprising because that kid is pretty academically inclined. His teacher says Q is “the smartest kid in my class” to which I always want to chime in, “You know, there are different types of intelligences” but she’s a school teacher so I don’t get into that with her. Nonetheless, Q is a very bright kid and I think he’s going to do very well through his school years.

It’s funny how adults gage things that kids do. There is so much pressure in school to get kids up on Math and Science because we seem to be failing from the rest of the world, there’s a huge push to get the Math scores up. Also, if your kid is good at Math, well, you just know life’s doors will be opened up for them. When Oliver got the Terrific Kid award I thought it was awesome but I do know other kids will get it this year too because they want to honour all the children at some point. When Q got the Math award I knew it was because he was good at Math. Oliver is good at Math and even likes it but he’d rather draw than do homework. I don’t blame him. But I secretly hoped that some day he would get a Math award because “that proves that my kid is smart”, right?

The funny thing is, I had Q over to play with Oliver the day they won the awards and Q said, while they were making robots out of cardboard, “Oliver won the Terrific Kid award. I just won a stupid Math award”. Then later he told his dad, “The day goes slowly when Oliver isn’t at school. He’s a Terrific Kid, you know?”

The things that matter to kids aren’t being amazing at Math while in first grade. The things that matter are people recognising that they are great children and that they are really loved; that people celebrate them. The things that matter to adults are, “You think my kid is smarter than yours, right?” I have to say that listening to the boy’s comments while playing really put things into perspective for me. I’ve always believed that kids learn differently and have different strengths that need to be fostered but now that he’s in school the things that are important to his teacher (Math and Reading) have to be important to me because I have to do the work with him. We work on these subjects together but I don’t ever want to lose perspective as I help him in his academics. I mean, he is in first grade for the love of God! I have to remember that it matters to him that I think he’s terrific! He doesn’t care that I’m impressed with his reading level. It matters to him that I think he’s a great little boy who impresses me just because he’s a part of our family and because he exists.

Now I see why people put the bumper stickers on their minivans. Still, I think we’ll hang ours in our room.

A tank in the city!

Yesterday Oliver had a friend from school over to play at the house and, of course, he ran outside to turn the world upside while he played. I often find him out, when a friend is over, getting into stuff he really shouldn’t be. I think he just gets excited and conveniently forgets that we have rules.

He’s a really creative kid so I’m riding the line between, “You can’t do that! People don’t like it when you pilfer through their garbage and use it to make a robot”, and “Ok fine….make your robot from trash. Just wash your hands when you’re done!”.

Yesterday I came outside to find that he had turned the neighbor’s rubbish bin on it’s side, taped his Stomp Rocket to it and turned the whole piece into a tank. Here’s my world with this kid who always sees things in a different way.

PS- No wild pit bulls were harmed in the making of this tank and this tank does not contain trans fats. The tank even rolls!

Notice the firing of the rocket.

My son is a first grader

Today Oliver began school as a full-timer. He goes from 9am-3:30pm and it’s just mental to me that he is in school again; it’s never been this long though. He went for a few months last year but it was part day so I could handle missing him for a few hours a day. He actually loved it. He came home with tons of projects every week and always played with the wee little boys and girls that seem so tiny to me with their little back packs and their little shoes.

I’ve had a variety of thoughts since my son was about two years old regarding school. It was clear to me early on that he was highly curious and he soaked in information at lightening speed. All kids are little sponges that soak in learning (they are natural learners) but there has always been something unique about my son in terms of how he learns. He’s very tactile so he needs to manipulate materials in order to understand. He learns very fast and has a curious interest in science and art. He also loves to make things out of ordinary items. I have had so many kitchen utensils disappear into the abyss of our home because he is always making robots out of spoons and spatulas.

I have long asked myself what I will do when it comes to school and I have read, and reread, countless books on homeschooling vs. public school vs. unschooling all before my son was even of traditional schooling age. He needed intentional investment early so I’ve been reading about learning since he was about two. While most kids are fine just playing I had to keep him busy by teaching him about space and the human body otherwise he was always bored.

I’ve always told myself we will only take school one year at a time because my kids are always growing and changing so their needs will likely change from year to year. Yet, I have gained a very different view on education because of what I’ve researched and the questions I’ve asked regarding my own family values on education. It’s been a fascinating journey that is very much still just that; a journey.

It was also clear to me that he needed school this year. He’s been very under stimulated at home these past six months homeschooling and I haven’t really been able to keep up with his level of curiosity and creativity. Many days were spent researching a project for him online, gathering the materials for it, helping him put it all together (all of this taking about an hour or more from start to finish) only to hear him, the moment the project is finished, say, “Ok. What are we going to make next?”  Then I would collapse into a ball and rock back and forth, clutching my knees to my chest. This has been every day for the past six months, that and the endless asking of who we are going to play with every moment of the day. He’s also highly social.

We were able to send him to our community school, a centre for the expressive arts, and I was floored when I realized he would be able to attend this year. Oh, the stuff he will make!!! The thing that has been the hardest is feeling like we’re ‘giving him over to the system’. I’m entrenched with homeschooling mentality so it’s very hard for me to let go of what I wish I was able to do with him (homeschool). I still agree that every child is different and you can always take things one year at a time, which is exactly what we’re doing; one year at a time.

Matt made an interesting comment this morning as I was wiping the tears away after dropping off Oliver. He said, “It’s not like we’re handing him over to the federal government and asking them to educate our child! We’re sending him to a school in our community and there is also something Biblical about this model; the entire community helping invest into children.” It’s a valid point. I realize the analogy breaks down because it’s sort of a community we don’t know intimately yet but there is always space to be highly involved in our kids’ education even if we are sending them to school. In fact, I think that’s what teachers expect of us too; to be highly involved in our kids’ lives. Imagine that! I just wish first grade didn’t have to be so long.

In my heart I still agree that we can turn out amazing kids who are highly creative, compassionate, having close connectedness to family before peers, all while fostering a love for learning. I think it just has to be done very intentionally. But that’s what I found with homeschooling as well, it has to be intentional or it doesn’t work. So we’re still at the place with our children where we follow their lead in terms of what they are interested in learning, we create space for them to try new ideas in a safe and nurturing environment and we teach them compassion all in the same vein. The only difference is that he’s also in school while I do all of this. Oh the things we will all learn this year!

Did I swallow the baby?

Oliver is going through a very curious stage in regards to how babies come out. I tell him that ‘the mamma pushes the baby out’ and that’s about where we leave it. I know him well enough to know that if I were to disclose EVERYTHING it would completely traumatized him. He’s just not ready yet. But he’s also not satisfied with the ‘push’ answer mainly because he doesn’t know how or where the mamma pushes the baby out. He knows it can’t be out of the belly button but you can see his little inner wheels spinning when he thinks that there might be a possibility that the belly button is the way in which baby enters the world.

Over a year ago a friend was pregnant and at our house for a party. When the room was quiet Oliver went to her fascinating, 9 months -pregnant belly and said, “Hey, you’re getting really, really big!!!” while he put his arms in the air in the shape of the earth. Then he said, “Open your mouth” and out of curiosity at this strange request she did. Then he said, “Why did you swallow the baby?” The room filled with laughter and then he pushed really hard on her belly because he was trying to ‘push the baby out’. It was a fantastic moment. One in which I was reminded of why my son is amazing.

It wasn’t until recently that he stopped asking me if I swallowed the baby and that’s how it ended up in my tummy. He doesn’t know yet how it got there but he’s still so fascinated and curious about this whole phenomenon. It must be so strange to be a little person and you know there is a baby in there but you can’t see it or hear it, you just know it’s there. He’s in love with his little sister already and loves to feel her move and wiggle. Chloe, not so much. I think the boney and pokey bits jutting out of my belly freak her out a bit.

Soon my kids will hold their little sister and the questions will cease for a bit. It won’t all make sense, they will just be settled enough with the ambiguity as they enjoy a new baby in the home. Now if I can just keep from going into labor on a three day road trip…..

Here’s to curious little minds!

Other rites of passage, teasing on the playground

What is it about watching someone’s child teasing your child that makes one want to jump into the action, take advantage of being ‘bigger’ and rescue our kids from pain and disappointment? I know protecting our children is the main element to this response but maybe there’s more in there that brings us back to our own experiences with pain when we were young. It feels like we need to fight that injustice. I’m not really sure. All I know is when Matt and I were with the kids yesterday and three boys started taunting our son, it was really disheartening.

My son is super friendly and outgoing and has always felt comfortable approaching strangers and children he isn’t familiar with, asking them if they want to play. He really does make friends wherever he goes and he hasn’t reached that shift in life where one becomes insecure about their likability and how others view them. Yesterday we had a family day and took the kids out to a park to play. Three other boys showed up, mom still getting stuff out of the mini van somewhere. It didn’t take long for Oliver to approach them and say, “Hey, do you wanna play with me?” Matt and I always smile at this because it reaffirms to us that our kid is comfortable in his skin. He’ll have his adolescent years to become an awkward, lanky kid with a cracky voice and oily skin who tries to conceal his insecurities when dealing with how others are viewing him.

For some reason the boys didn’t give Oliver a chance and just said, “No kid, you’re boring. And you’re no hero, you’re a zero!” I’m not sure they even knew what it meant except that it was some sort of a taunt. They likely heard it on a cartoon or a show. But they kept saying it, even though his parents (us) were right there. Matt and I just looked at each other with that, “I know we can’t really jump in right now but how far do we let this go?” look. Oliver just came over by us and said, “Pappa, can YOU push me on this toy?” and that was that.

It seemed pretty painless for my son but it was gut wrenching for me. Maybe it’s because I know that this is only a small portion of how children actually treat each other and it seems to intensify when they get older; the taunts are more hurtful and I can’t really protect my children from most forms of pain. I hate it when they fall and experience physical pain but emotional pain is a totally different world! It’s a world I’m very familiar with as an awkward kid from a really messed up and poverty-riddled home life. I know very well how deep teasing runs into forming how you see yourself but I’m also aware of how crucial it is for parents not to transfer their pain and insecurities onto their own children. I’m sure we all know of parents (maybe we are those types parents) who instill a false sense of superiority in their kids because they don’t want them to experience rejection like they did and it’s a very dangerous path to walk with formative little people.

So we sat and watched and listened yesterday, wondering how our son would interpret what was happening to him. It’s similar to watching kids play with your child and they are doing the ‘run away from the loser’ game, this time your child is the ‘loser’ they are running away from. You can’t really jump in, but you sort of have to. Or do you? I have no answer for this. I just know when my kids are playing the run-away game from another child it is NOT ok and I for certain jump in. I can’t keep them from experiencing rejection but I can help them learn that inflicting it is unacceptable!

The best part of yesterday was indeed how Oliver interpreted and responded to what will go down in history as ‘the playground event’. When we were leaving we asked him what he thought of what they said to him. His response gave Matt and I the assurance that he’s going to be just fine. He said, “I don’t know why they were saying that to me. A zero is just a number. That doesn’t make sense”. Matt and I smiled and said, “Yes, you’re so right. What silly boys who think it’s mean to call someone a number. Great attitude Oliver”. And that was that!

Similar Post:

Rite of passage for girls (the battle of the body)

Numbers and concepts

My son is a handful. Anyone who knows him knows that. He’s a brilliant and jubilant little man and while I am simultaneously concerned for his future (will juvenile detention be involved?) I am also pretty sure he’s going to go very far and succeed at whatever he does. That is if he makes it to 6! He has energy to burn but he is also in need of constant mind and body stimulation. If it’s not running and yelling he must be working at building something intricate or working out a puzzle or learning phonics.

I’ve tried to teach him some simple math concepts without cracking open the math curriculum I bought in the fall. Something tells me he isnt’ ready for the curriculum. He’s only just five and doesn’t have the patience to sit through more than a few lessons of one topic. I am like any mother though and I have concerns that he is behind or wonder if he’s learning enough. I’m pretty convinced that he isn’t being challenged enough for his intelligence level. There are a lot of things I just don’t know how to do with him to get him stimulated. He loves to build and invent so I’ll try to give him a bunch of random bits and bobs lying around the house and ask him to make something out of them. Some days he’s into that, some days he whines about everything.

He is also unusually talented at figuring out mazes. I bought him a book of mazes for an older age level and he worked out the entire book in a day. Well, there goes a few weeks worth of ‘something to do’. Then a friend downloaded some adult mazes and he worked out most of them as well. Some were too tough for him but I was shocked at how fast he could just look at them and work it out. He’s not counting spilled out toothpicks on the ground by just taking a glance at them, for those of you who are wondering. “82,82, 82. There’s 246 in the box! That’s nice, Raymond”

I was able to get him interested in working on counting by giving him some dot to dot work sheets. I realized they are more of a challenge to him and much more interesting than counting the days on the calendar or staring at numbers and counting them. Even counting beans puts him to sleep.

This home schooling thing is really challenging for me because his learning style is so very different from mine and I’m usually frustrated by how much work you have to put into doing this with your kids. I’m going to be honest and say that it isn’t always fun for me like it seems to be for some mothers. I am naturally a teacher but get me in front of university age students and I’ll come alive. Put me in with little children and I lock up. I’ve always been that way. That’s why I was a preschool teacher’s assistant and NOT the head teacher.

We’re working things out and some days I do absolutely nothing with them. Not because we are doing other things like going outside or baking together, but because I just can’t force myself to do it. I get very emotionally exhausted and just give up for the day. I have fears that I’m not going to be able to go the distance with schooling my kids; fail! I told myself ‘one year at a time’ and that’s where I’m at right now. He’s not even ‘school age’ technically so I should not worry too much about it (that’s what friends keep telling me anyway). But I’m a perfectionist and I think way too much so this is not easy to let go and relax with. I can also see that I need to work with my son very intentionally on a daily basis because of his need to be stimulated. I’m tired and cranky right now and I’m hoping that these small victories will bring life into what I’m attempting to do in my home.

I would love to hear your failures. Not to make me feel better but to know that you’ve failed in some ways with home schooling, you’re still doing it and it’s been a high route to travel with your kids…. and also to know that your children haven’t wound up in juvie due to your high stress levels.

Day 11: My son’s sense of humor

Oliver cracks me up, not always but usually. He’s an intense kid but super bright and witty. The other day we had relatives of Matt’s staying at his father’s apartment. The couple has a two year old daughter who doesn’t speak English, only French. So while Oliver was trying to talk to her and show her his cars he notices she won’t speak back. He comes up to me and says, “Momma, she can’t talk. She’s not talking to me.” I explain she doesn’t speak English but a four year old presumably only hears, “she doesn’t speak”. He then tell me something is wrong with her chin and he doesn’t like it. I look at him very perplexedly and ask what he means. “It’s funny looking. It looks like a bottom”. Yes, it’s true! The little girl has a bit of a butt-chin. I had to hide behind my book because I was laughing so hard. I can’t believe he thought that.

Yesterday we were in our community center cafe where they hire at risk kids from the local area to gain job training in the cafe. There were a group of boys with afro puffs and droopy pants working behind the counter. One boy had his whole backside sticking out (covered with boxers, of course) and his jeans were totally under his cheeks. Oliver says, “Momma, he needs to pull his pants off ‘cuz they are gonna fall off”. I giggled and mentioned that he should go tell the lad this. Oliver refused.

A few months ago we were at the grocery store and Oliver saw an overweight woman with VERY tight clothes on. I guess she looked like Mr. Incredible from the Pixar film The Incredibles (huge on the top with little legs and even smaller feet) because he pointed to her (this is where I was horrified with what was about to come out of his mouth) and he said, “Momma, that person has really, really big muscles!!!”. To which I said, “Well, sort of”.

Classic Oliver moments. I am thankful for moments to giggle in the midst of raising toddlers.