Thursday, November 06, 2008

Off Track

Things are slowly coming unraveled for Kenny this past week, and it has led to some very frustrating moments here at home. The Control Man who appeared around Halloween has not yet left, and he has been joined by his famous sidekick, Unfocused Man. We lost 2 jackets and ended up at school yesterday morning with none...and it was 36 degrees without windchill. One was truly lost temporarily (we have since found it) and the other was once again left behind in the classroom. So, Kenny had a natural consequence to suffer of being outside before morning bell when it was truly cold. I didn't like watching those boney limbs with goosebumps on them as I proceeded in the building to volunteer as well as speak to his teacher, but I also do not want another winter where we permanently lose 4 jackets. Hopefully he learned his lesson. The day before he told me he didn't need to take a jacket because he wasn't cold...inside the house...and tried to argue with me about it yet still I insisted he take one and it was a balmy 40 degrees out when we hit the playground so he was mighty glad he lost that argument.

When I say Kenny argues, it is a subtle thing. He is not loud about it, he is not obnoxious about it (thankfully), he simply knows more than you do and is going to do what he wants. It is so subtle that many would miss it, instead saying "Hey, this kid is logical! He is thinking!". However, when you really look at it, see the cyclical pattern, understand the background, you realize it is because he still has yet to come to the place where he feels 100% confident that adults can take care of him and make good decisions, even if his own decisions turn out to be not so hot.

Dominick and I are biggies for respect. You do NOT argue with your parents, teachers, etc. You can state your case, in a respectful way, and we will listen with an open mind. But we ARE the parents and as I told Kenny last night "I don't care if you agree with me, in fact I will definitely make mistakes...we all do...but you will still do what I ask you to do. " then I heard the dreaded words of my mother squeeze from lips "I have been on this planet a lot longer than you have, and I know a lot more than you do."...UUUGGHHHH!!!!! It really has happened, I HAVE turned into my mother!!! :-) How funny it is when that happens.

He also is really struggling with the idea that he is not performing at the same level as everyone else. We had a really long, deep conversation about this again, re-emphasizing that his grades really can not even be considered other than for effort, as it is impossible for him to do 3rd grade work but we pointed out just how much he has learned already this year. It is hugely measurable already, which amazes me. He said "I think I never get A's like Matthew." and I explained that no, right now he probably wouldn't, but we weren't looking for grades at all for him, instead we are looking for his best effort at all times and one day in a few years his grades will be important but not now.

Last night he was doing a writing assignment, which was a summary of something he read. He read an entire Dr. Seuss book all by himself, and last week read Green Eggs and Ham almost totally by himself. When the time came for the writing, instead of a summary which he definitely knows how to do, he elected to open the book and copy the pages, then asked me to check his work. I knew, of course, instantly that he had copied it...everything was spelled right! I made him redo it, much to his chagrin, and I realized as he said "But momma, this is right and what I write not ever right!" that we need to make some changes here, as his focus on grades and doing things right is going to distract him from the real purpose, learning.

His teacher called out of the blue last night to just chat about how things are going, as I had spoken with her yesterday and told her we are having issues at home and I wanted to know if she was having them at school, to which she replied "no, things are fine and his behavior is awesome." which I was pleased to hear. Kenny has forgotten homework at home two or three times this week which is not usual for him, he has come home without assignments, he has forgotten what his instructions were, it literally took us 15 minutes to get out the door yesterday morning as we waited for him to get everything together.

She and I both came to the same conclusion, we need to throw away grades for awhile which she reminded me was something I actually brought up at the beginning of the year as it is almost impossible to grade him in any meaningful way given the constraints of the typical A-F system. He IS learning, and at a rapid rate...but not measurable in their scale. He can't compare himself to others right now, it isn't fair nor worthwhile (Is it ever anyway?). She is absolutely the perfect teacher for him, and she really cares about his success. She expects nothing less than his best, and yet recognizes what he is unable to produce and tries to grade accordingly. But he is focusing too much on perfection which is unattainable right now.

We also spoke again about retention if necessary, and about how much school Kenny will realistically miss this year. I explained some of his fears of surgery and that I expect things to get tough in the weeks before it is scheduled as he frets over what he will have to face. She understood and was quite compassionate. We talked about our adoption trip and how that long absence will affect him, but the more important gains to be made by being with us, processing his own adoption experience from a different perspective, etc. She really heard me as I explained that my concerns are not just about his education, but about his soul, his heart. She seems to understand that Kenny is learning all kinds of important things in his life right now, not just his ABC's. We are very lucky to have her in our corner and if he has to repeat a grade we couldn't have a better advocate for Kenny than her.

So we continue to muddle along, wondering if we are indeed making the right choices, if we are being too firm or too lax, if we are being the kind of parents Kenny needs. We do our best, and question ourselves constantly. Each decision right now seems so important.

Today Kenny and I have a lot of alone time as we drive to and from his dentist office 2 1/2 hours away. We'll do some talking, we'll share some thoughts, we'll see if we can get the train back on track. After all, derailments are only temporary, the trains always run again.


Anonymous said...

Have you tried (and I am sure you have) comparing him to someone who has had the same amount of language (English) experience he has had. By that I mean if he compares himself in language alone to a newborn just to see how much he has learned. Because really he is just a baby when it comes to the language and unlike a newborn who is still processing how to make sounds etc. he has learned to read and write etc. I would consider him quite an intellegent "newborn" as I've yet to meet one who has learned as fast as he has :)

For the spelling one of the things I do is to have my students write the way they think it is spelled and when they are done they circle a few (predetermined number so the entire thing is not a big circle and it is managable to learn) words that they know they have spelled incorrectly. Write the words above the misspelled words and let him copy it again. He then has how he spelled it to compare with the correct way. Kinds like a human spell check :)

And if he has some of the sounds correct you can teach him to use the spell check on the computer IF you think he could recognize the correct spelling.

Good luck!!!
Kim in Seoul

Lori said...

Bless your hearts!!! I too have turned into my mom. My mom-ism? "Because I am the adult and I said so. You need NO other reason but that. When you become the adult, you will have reasons, but you won't have to tell them because YOU will be the adult." My students know lots of little mom-sims--"Life's not fair." "That's just the way the cookie crumbles." "Suck it up, butter-cup" and of course, "Yes, ma'am and no, ma'am." I HATED my mom not giving me reasons for her actions, just telling me because she said so, but in reality, it is just that--because she was the adult, had my best interest at heart, and that was that--she said so. I think it is funny that I get it now!

I'm very impressed with the Dr. Seuss books...people often think they are 'baby books' or easy, and they truly are not. They are actually pretty sophisticated, when analyzed! Does Kenny like comics? Scholastic has a series of "Phonics comics" which may help him be more successful in his reading (and help give him a little more self-confidence) I teach 2nd, but have taught K and 1, and still have 2nd graders not on level--heck, I had 3rd and 4th graders right there where Kenny is and I felt so much for them. If you think he'd be into comics (especially because they would help with picture clues also!) let me know...I can give you the info. Heck, I probably use some of my bonus points and get some for him to try and see what ya'll think...

Sorry, as always, for the long post. Another thing I got from my mom!

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,
you have gotten some great advice.
One thing that many people have discovered is that children (typically boys)think faster than they can write. A few posts ago you mentioned how frustrating this is for him. One way to help with this is to let him dictate to you what he wants to say. You write it or keyboard it and then he copies it at his own pace. This way he can get his thoughts out without being interupted with the mechanics and he gets to see the correct spelling, punctuation etc. Then he is not learning the wrong spelling first and then trying to unlearn it.

Good luck,

Hilary Marquis said...

Your mom'ism made me laugh out loud. I caught myself becoming my mother (not a bad thing mind you) the other day in the car. I picked the boys up from school only to have them start in bickering with each other. I'd had just about enough when we were nearing a stop sign (which they didn't notice). I completely stopped the car, turned around and asked them if they wanted to get out and walk! I can vividly remember my brother being argumentative with mom on the way home from school one day...she pulled over and kicked him out! (I knew better than to laugh, but it was priceless!)
Hang in there with the school stuff. I can understand a little about having a child struggle. Homework takes a very long time at our house...but he is learning, he is smart, he can do it. He just needs more time, patience, and sometimes a different way to learn it.