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At Parent Info Night this year one of my new parents was not quite aware of how much learning Kindergarteners do in 2011.  I wrote about the encounter in my post Inspiration (which I just accidentily reblogged but didn’t understand how to add what I wanted to add) .

Well today was Kindergarten Awards & Graduation.  The same parent came up to me after the award ceremony and handed me a beautiful flower lei to wear during Graduation.  I asked him if his mom made it, but no, it had been shipped directly from Hawaii.  The little girl had one on too.  After the graduation ceremony the dad came up to me again and said, “At the beginning of the year I didn’t understand what Kindergarten is and I think I offended you.  When I saw my daughter’s writing from the first day of Kindergarten and the last day, I cried.  Thank you so much for all you do.”

Retrograde Learning

“It’s just Kindergarten don’t they just play?”

Ummmmmmmm. “NO.”

When I explained what my students learn in preparation for first grade – reading, writing, math, geography, history, science and so much more – I heard, “Oh well I know you went to college and all.”

Ummmmmmmm. “Yes. As a matter of fact I have my Masters in Literacy Instruction.”

And then one more slipped out, “Oh well I know you went to college.”

Ummmmmmmm. Yes. Yes I did. And actually I majored in mathematics. My first career was in actuarial science.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m pretty used to this by now, but I can’t help but find it insulting. My parents thought I was wasting my private school education by becoming a teacher and leaving the actuarial profession.  And when I’m in social situations, the standard response when I tell people I teach Kindergarten is, “Oh. How cute.”

Yes, my students are…

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Excuses, excuses

OK, so I’ve been missing in action since October 24th.  I think I have some  pretty good excuses though.

Excuse # 1. We adopted two new puppies.  Yes, we were suckers and adopted the brother and sister because I didn’t have the heart to leave just one.  I know the other would have been adopted pretty quickly, but their cute little faces and furry bodies threw reason out the window.  Two puppies create a lot of extra work:

– There are the 4 am bathroom visits outside which my wonderful husband has taken over (I figure I’m due after all the middle of the night feedings he couldn’t accommodate because he didn’t have the right stuff).

– It takes me way longer to get dressed for work when there are two puppies licking my freshly showered toes.

– School work is often put to the side for a nice cuddle with a furry monster, a game of tug-o-war, or  watching them wrestle with a giant pillow or there hide & attack games.

– Even though my husband is the one who gets out of bed at 4 am, I still wake up and it takes a while to fall back to sleep. My late night blog writing sessions have been replaced by conking out by 9:30.

Excuse # 2:  I am a Kindergarten teacher and it was late October which means I had the horribly nasty cold I get every year complete with no voice.  Of course my hoarseness made it really fun and easy to explain what a “gravelly voice” meant as I read one of our Core stories, “The Jumping Mouse.”

Excuse # 3: On October 22nd, I learned how to crochet and now I’m hooked (ha ha ha).  A friend of mine is undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and I wanted to learn how to make a hat for her.  So here is what I made for my friend:

And now that I finished the scarf and the hat, I have started a blanket for my nephew-to-be.  I have until January, but I had no idea how long it would take me to finish a blanket so I started early.

Excuse # 4: I am an over-achieving Kindergarten teacher with two active boys of my own who have lots of homework, music lessons, and other after school activities.

Excuse # 5:  I didn’t have anything to say.  Nothing was compelling me to write.

So after three weeks of not having anything to write, I just started to write. And voila (and no I don’t know how to add the accent over the a nor which way it would go)! I wrote something.  Sure it’s one of the silliest posts I ever wrote full of lame excuses. But I wrote something, and that is truly the purpose of my blog – to write.

Happy writing everyone!

I never thought of myself as a dog person.  I always thought I was a cat person. We had a cat for most of my childhood.  Within a month of moving into our new house in the country, my mom found a mouse in the house. After sleeping with a broom by her bed, she decided we needed a cat to catch the mice. Of course when we got Sunday, he wasn’t much bigger than the mouse. Yes, his name was Sunday.  We adopted him on a Sunday. Very original, I know.  Well, I was only 7. Sunday was a nice cat who tolerated being dressed up in doll clothes and pushed around in the doll carriage (sort of).  I wish I had a picture to upload, but they’re all in sticky old albums in my mother’s basement. Sunday died of kitty leukemia when I was in high school.

My mother and sister adopted another cat, Chester, during my freshman year in college.  Since I was only home for summers and moved to Connecticut pretty soon after graduation, Chester never felt like my cat.  He belonged to my mom and my sister.

I happened to marry a dog person and once we moved into a house he kept mentioning how nice it would be to have a dog. We had a big problem though.  I am seriously allergic to dogs. I’m allergic to cats too, but the reaction is not as severe because I grew up with a cat in the house.  Plus, I endured 10 years of allergy shots as a kid and that included one for our feline friend. Cats make my nose a little itchy and I might sneeze a bit more than usual.  Dogs trigger my asthma.  It’s not good.  I get to the point where I cannot breathe and my inhaler does nothing.

We learned that certain breeds produce less dander and therefore do not trigger my asthma – poodles and other dogs with hair not fur. Our neighbors had a shih tzu (a hair dog) named Scooter.  They were going out of town one Christmas and asked if we could dog-sit. We thought this would be a good test for my allergies. Scooter was old and had stinky breath, but he did not trigger my asthma.

The following May we adopted Maddie, the sweetest black and white shih tzu ever. We had Maddie for thirteen years.  Because my husband worked from home when we first got her, Maddie bonded with him.  He was her person. Sure she loved me and eventually the boys when they came along, but she was 100% my husband’s dog. He took it very hard when we lost Maddie last June. He was devastated.

After we lost Maddie, I missed her terribly. I couldn’t believe she was gone. I couldn’t believe how much I missed this little dog who would drive me crazy!  I would have given anything to have her underfoot while I made dinner or on top of me while I was trying to work. All summer I saw other dogs and waves of sadness would overwhelm me. There was a Maddie sized hole in my heart.

Once we had our school year routine established, I began to feel lonely in the mornings – lonely for a canine companion. I only teach in the afternoon and most mornings I would be home with Maddie. After years of saying, Well, I’m more of a cat person, I had become a dog person.

My husband wasn’t ready for a new dog yet, but I was. I was more than ready. Little by little I began researching breeders online to find a new dog. Unfortunately there weren’t many shih tzu puppies available – that’s the problem with needing a pure bred dog.  You can’t just go down to the pound and adopt someone.

I found a pet store in the area that works directly with breeders. I asked a friend of mine who is a vet if she knew anything about this particular pet store.  She said the puppies she has seen from this pet store have been healthy and she could tell me which stores to avoid. I called the store and found out that they would be getting shih tzu puppies from a breeder that Tuesday.

George and Gracie

Well, apparently the hole that Maddie left in our hearts was so big it took TWO puppies to fill it!

There was a New York Times article a few weekends back about redshirting Kindergarteners

For those of you who might not have heard the term before, redshirting comes from college athletics.  Athletes can extend their eligibility by not playing their freshman year.  Since college athletes can compete for four seasons, by redshirting their freshman year they can still play for four years spending five years total at the school.  Some athletes will be redshirted to gain size and strength while others will do it because the current team is so strong they would have sat on the bench all season anyway.

Redshirting is also used to describe children whose parents delayed their start in Kindergarten.  Parents may choose to do this for a variety of reasons.  Their child’s birthday is close to the cut-off date and they don’t want their child to be the youngest in the class.  Their child is not socially ready for school. Their child is not academically ready for school. Some parents make the decision to wait because they themselves were late bloomers in middle school and want to avoid that same scenario for their own children.

States and school districts have specific cut-off dates for the start of Kindergarten.  The majority of states require that students are 5 or turn 5 within the first month of Kindergarten. For example, in quite a number of states students have to be 5 by September 1st in order to be enrolled in Kindergarten. If school begins around Labor Day then almost all children are 5 by the time school starts.

There are a few hold-out states, like Connecticut, which allow students to turn 5 up through December 31st – which means that some students are only 4 during one-third of the school year. Apparently the State Board of Education in Connecticut has been trying to change the date, but I could not find an article confirming this.

Here in Colorado our cut-off date is October 1st.  Considering school begins in mid-August I actually think the cut-off date is too late.  I didn’t always feel that way.

My older son’s birthday is in November.  He was an extremely social and verbal toddler. The fall he was turning 3 I was extremely frustrated because I couldn’t enroll him in a preschool program. I thought he was ready and I was more than ready for him to be in a preschool program.  We eventually were able to find a program for 2 1/2 year olds and it was fine.

As I look back, I can’t believe I wanted to push him ahead.  One of the older boys in his class (but not the oldest), he has a maturity about him that is just right. Academically he does well and he has a good, solid group of friends. I honestly can’t imagine him as a 7th grader right now.  He is just where he should be.

In my own Kindergarten class, during the first few days of school I can always tell who are my youngest students without looking at birth dates. Always. No matter what the cut-off date is, there will always be children who are the youngest in the class. It’s a fact of life.

My initial reaction when I began reading the New York Times article was defensive.  I am an experienced teacher and the more I read about the developmental nature of acquiring literacy the more I feel that waiting is always best. I couldn’t remember a parent who regretted redshirting their child. But I have watched children struggle because they weren’t ready for Kindergarten and would have benefited from waiting.

As I read and reread the article I began to understand and even agree with the scientists. Children who are young but academically ready often benefit from being with older children. I thought of some of my youngest students over the past few years who did well academically.  I couldn’t imagine having them wait a year for school. Plus, these children showed so much growth socially and emotionally over the year that being in school truly was the best option.

And then the memory hit me like a ton of bricks.  A few years ago my younger son was in preschool with another boy who was already five.  His mom wanted him to be the oldest rather than youngest. However, the child was exceptionally bright.  When he went to Kindergarten he was so far ahead of the rest of his class that he spent most of the day in first grade for instruction.  At the end of the school year it was decided to skip him to second grade.  Technically, he was old enough to be in second grade since his birthday was before the cut-off date. Here was the perfect example of how redshirting can be detrimental to children.  Fortunately the school and the parents worked together and the child was moved to the appropriate grade level.

The key part to that story was that the child was exceptionally bright. And rereading the article I saw that was the crux of their argument.  Holding children back who are academically ready can have negative effects.

So what about the children who are not academically ready?  I had to carefully reread the article to find the answer. There was one sentence about how delaying entry to Kindergarten can be beneficial for children who are academically behind. This has always been my opinion as well. A year of preschool would be much better for a child who is not ready for the challenges of learning to read and write.

The article goes on to explain that disadvantaged youth are better off in school than not. I wholeheartedly agree with this. If a child is not ready for Kindergarten and the parents cannot afford a preschool program, it is much better for the child to be in school.

So when people ask me my opinion on redshirting Kindergarteners, I will say it depends on the child.

Wedding Lanterns

Wedding Lanterns

Linked to Live and Love…Out Loud Wordless Wednesday

I am married to a man who has a largish family.  Both of his parents are still alive and my husband is the youngest of three siblings who are all married and have children. He has numerous cousins on his mother’s side of the family and one cousin on his father’s side of the family . Most are married and have kids. And now almost all of the kids have kids as well. OK, that may not be a large family by Reality TV standards, but it’s pretty big for me.

My husband and his family also have lots of friends.  Friends that they have known for 20-40 years. Friends who are now also married and have children and grandchildren.

Every summer my husband and I take the boys to spend a month at my in-laws’ house on Nantucket. This is a wonderfully
glorious time when the kids have time with grandparents, cousins, and friends who are more like family – and lots and lots of beach time of course. For one week of our stay there is a large convergence of friends and family. During the day we go to the beach – occupying a rather large amount of space that gets larger and larger each year as our children grow and spread their wings. At night we rotate amongst the different houses for dinner or cocktails or both – grandparents, parents, and children all together.

I love that my husband has all these amazing friends. They have become my friends too. And their children have become our childrens’ friends. And his family has accepted me (faults and virtues) with open arms.

I chose a beautiful day for my quiet time at the beach

Anyway, I learned something extremely important this summer during our crazy week. By Wednesday I had a meltdown. I was tired from staying up late and my nerves were frayed with all the socializing we’d done.  Other than sleeping, I hadn’t had a moment to myself in over a week. I needed to be by myself. So my wonderful husband took the boys sailing, I have no idea what everyone else did, and I went to the beach by myself.  Of course I wasn’t truly alone because the beach was packed full of people. But I was there with my book, my iPod and no one I knew.

I went back to the house late that afternoon exhausted from a day filled with walking, beach combing, and swimming. But more importantly I went back to family and friends refreshed in spirit.

A day or two later I came upon a new term while reading someone’s blog  – ambivert.

What is an ambivert you ask? Well, an ambivert is someone who exhibits the tendencies of both an extrovert and an introvert.

Most people who know me think I am extroverted.  I can be outgoing, friendly, welcoming.  I need to talk through decision making scenarios. I don’t often withhold my opinion. And I have been known to put my foot in my mouth on occasion. Friends in college often described me as a Dr. Seuss book, I was so easy to read.

That being said, I am outgoing, friendly, and welcoming in familiar situations. Put me in a group of friends and family and sure I’m outgoing. Find me at school talking to parents and fellow teachers, of course.  And you will even find me that way at church where I don’t necessarily know everyone, but I feel comfortable.  See, that is the key. I am outgoing when I am in a comfortable environment.

I’m terribly awkward in situations where I don’t know people. In college, I was the one in the group who hated off-campus parties or going to bars. I still prefer small gatherings of friends than huge parties. And given the option of staying home with my family or going to a dinner party on a Saturday night – I usually opt for staying home.  It’s not that I’m lazy (OK a little bit lazy). After a week of teaching Kindergarteners, dealing with parents at school, helping my boys with homework, shuttling them to different activities, and just being their mom I need time away from people.

Having time to myself is crucial to my sanity. I recharge alone, not with people. This is a fundamental introverted trait. The more I read about introverts the more qualities I saw in myself. Here are a few from Marti Olsen Laney’s book The Introvert Advantage:

  • working on projects in large chunks of uninterrupted time
  • rehearsing before speaking
  • anxiety around deadlines
  • zoning out if too much is going on
  • taking time to sort out information
  • dislike overstimulating environments
  • strong reactions to sensory input
  • feeling drained after social situations

All of these describe me. Yet, I like to talk too much to truly be an introvert.

So I am an ambivert.

I am an outgoing jellyfish who requires time alone in her shell.

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