With Max starting a new school this year, Rachel and I were understandably nervous. The first few weeks were not easy. Max seemed overwhelmed by some of the work, and dreaded doing his homework because it was so hard and took him so long to complete. We started to think maybe we made the wrong choice for Max. The struggles at school, seemed to be affecting him in all aspects of life. He was grumpy and irritable, he seemed to lack focus, and even struggled with baseball. He was striking out, making errors. September was not a good month for Max.
But then something weird happened. Everything just sort of started to click for him. Homework that was taking him 20 minutes to do, he was now finishing in 5 minutes. Papers he was getting minuses on, he was not getting pluses on. He got his first math test back and he got a 100. And his whole demeanor changed. He seemed happy again. He started to look forward to going to school. He started hitting the ball again, and his fielding improved. We got his first interim report last week, and his teacher noted that she was very encouraged by the improvements she’s seen Max make. He gets his first report card in two weeks, so I’m anxious to see what his grades are like. I’m hoping that the grades he got early on, don’t bring his marks down too much. I think getting a good 1st report card will help Max’s confidence. But even if the 1st report card isn’t great, I’m encouraged that he has done so well the 2nd half of the grading period.
So we were lucky enough to get Max into a new school. He did well at his old school, but the old school had it’s share of problems. There seemed to be a lot of teachers leaving each year. Which is never a good sign, and Rachel and I always felt like communication was lacking a bit and that academically, they weren’t really doing anything extra. They were basically just doing the bare minimum. So there were times when Max seemed bored and disinterested.
So tomorrow is my first day back to work after 4 days off. Rachel had to go back to work on Tuesday , so I was lucky enough to have one on one time with Max. Because of work, school, sports, and life in general, these moments of one on one time are all too infrequent. I’m genuinely bummed, and will really miss being able to spend the whole day with Max tomorrow.
Instead of fun trips to the park, playing board games, swimming, bowling, skating, and working on projects around the house, I’ll be back to “slaying the dragon” at my desk at work. Doing uninspiring stuff like monitoring routers, installing software and deploying new servers and replying to e-mails. It’s very sad that in this “modern age”, in order to provide for our children, it often means spending lots of time away from them. No wonder society has so many problems.
I’m fortunate that my work schedule is pretty flexible. And I probably get to spend a lot more time with Max, than other parents. But since these moments where we genuinely enjoy each others company are so fleeting, it seems like there is never enough. I know the days when I am annoying, or embarrassing to Max are just around the corner. So the fact that Max loves spending time with me, and me with him, is very special to me.
One of the things I love most about spending time with Max, is listening to him talk. I get a huge thrill when he asks questions, and shows interest in how things work, and how he tries to get a better understanding about the world around him. His curiosity is so interesting to me. I’ve heard people say that parenthood is as much of an education for the parent, as it is for the child. And I didn’t quite know what people meant by that at first, but now I totally get it.
So the summer is about half way done. Max starts school in about 4 weeks. I thought it would be a good time to write. So far the summer has been great. It’s nice not having a rigid schedule like we do during the school year. Max enjoys staying up later. And it’s nice not running from ball field to ball field for games and practices. Although fall baseball starts up in just a few weeks.
Staying up later, and late sunsets have allowed us to do some late night swimming, toad/frog hunting, and firefly catching. Thankfully, Max hasn’t been as adiment this year about catching slugs. Last summer he was obsessed with slugs and snails. They are so gross and slimy, I really don’t like them at all. I have to admit that catching the toads has been kind of fun. We wait till about 9PM and we head out with flashlights and headlamps and a small plastic habitat. There have been nights where we searched for an hour and found nothing. There have been nights when we find 2 toads in the first 5 minutes. We usually catch them, Max observes them, we take photos, and then the next morning we release them.
We’ve also done a bit of stargazing. Last week, a co-worker mentioned the International Space Station. And I remembered that I had an app on my phone that tracks the ISS, and alerts when it is nearby and visable. So I re-enabled the alarms. Sure enought around 9PM on Friday night, I got an alert that the ISS would be passing by in 5 minutes. Rachel, Max and I headed out to take a look. About 9:05, we saw a small dot in the distance. In a few minutes the dot became bigger and easier to see. It was the ISS! That same night, we also saw a shooting star and the awesomely bright “blue moon”.
Max and I have gotten really close this summer. Sometimes with school, and sports, it seems like all we do is run around. It’s been nice, spending quality time with him this whole summer. Instead of running around from place to place, we have been leisurely doing different things. Like neighborhood bike rides, swimming, playing with water balloons, and gardening. In the spring, I saw a cool YouTube video about “earth buckets”. They are 5 gallon buckets that you use to grow vegetables. You drill a series of small holes and put a net pot on the bottom. The water wicks up through the holes and into the wicking cup which provides the perfect amount of water to the roots. I watched a few videos and kind of pieced the best aspects of each together and we built 5 of these buckets. We used 5 gallon buckets from Home Depot. We planted two types of tomatoes (roma and grape), two buckets with cucumbers, and 1 with bell peppers. We’ve had varying rates of success. The cucumbers have grown a little too well. They have gotten so large, that they are hard to manage. The roma tomatoes looked promising. The plant grew very full and had lots of flowers. However, as the tomatoes formed and then ripened, most of them got a dark black spot on them like they rotted. We’ve been picking them before they fully ripen, and that seems to help. So far we’ve gotten about 2 dozen roma tomatoes. About 15 cucumbers, and about 10 peppers. The grape tomatoes have grown amazingly well. We’ve probably gotten close to 100 tomatoes from that plant. The plant is huge and has dozens of flowers still. It’s been producing fruit for 6 weeks now. It’s been a fun project to do with Max. He enjoys watering the plants and checking for new vegetables each day. And since he loved cucumbers, he has enjoyed eating the “fruits” of his labor. Next year, I plan on doing these again. Maybe try some other fruits and vegetables.
Max has also had some fun playdates with some of his friends from his baseball team, and school, and he even got together with his friend Brody that he went to pre-school with. Max and I have always been close. But sometimes when we are super busy, we focus more on the activities and less on each other. It’s nice that he is now at the age where we can have conversations, and I can teach him things, and we can share laughs together. I love the way he giggles when I chase him in the pool when we play “water tag”, and when I make “monster waves” in the pool. It’s also funny watching as his sense of humor develops.
Max has also taken a real liking to skating. He goes roller skating almost every week. The local roller rink has fun summer events for the kids, so he got to skate with the Minions, did a “super hero skate”, and some other cool open skate events. He also tried ice skating again when we were on vacation. He’s definitely better and more comfortable on roller skates, but seems to enjoy doing both. The local ice rink has open skating, so I would like to take him a few times so he can continue to practice and get better. Max and I also tried rock climbing for the first time at this cool indoor facility. Max took a real liking to this as well. Rachel’s brother used to rock climb, so the next time we go, we will take him along so he can give us some pointers. It’s fun watching Max try things, and of course, it’s fun when I can try them along with him. I’m enjoying all of this immensely. The time will come, when Max doesn’t want to do things with Dad anymore, and will want to do more with his friends. So I’m happy that he still likes doing stuff with me and has fun while doing it. And we live in an amazing time, where we have cameras and social media to capture and share it all.
So I had a bit of a breakthrough with my 1st grader. I notice when I review vocabulary words with him, if the word is a longer word like cardinal, he just guesses the word if he doesn’t immediately recognize it. But if I say to him “come on, you know what c-a-r-d-i-n-a-l spells, he would almost immediately recognize the word. So I got him in the habit of saying each letter when he doesn’t know a word and it seems to really help. When I went through a list of 25 words with him initially, he got 18 of 25. When we went over it a 2nd time, and I had him say each letter, he got 24 out of 25.
I’ve tried to give Max little routines for math, spelling and writing. Try to get him in the habit of doing things the same way each time. This is a challenge, because he seems to do it when I am looking over his shoulder, but as soon as I step away, or when he does work in school, he seems to do what comes easiest instead of the “routine” I tried to teach him. I’m sure if I keep stressing it, it will become part of his routine.
I guess we will see how he does on the next couple of tests and on the worksheets he does in class. Sometimes, you have to think outside of the box a bit, and listen to your child and find what works best for them. Teachers generally have one way of teaching things, and that doesn’t always work for everyone. And teachers are so swamped and overextended, that it’s really up to us as parents to work one on one with our kids.
His teacher this year doesn’t really communicate with the parents very well. So I’ve taken the initiative and e-mail her on a regular basis so I can be more aware of the things Max should be doing.
His last report card was really good, but things seem to be getting more difficult in the 3rd grading period. So I want to make sure we stay on top of things. Luckily math comes really easy for Max, and we don’t have to go over math very much, but the writing and reading definitely requires additional work at home.
Max finishes his 3rd week of 1st grade today. The year started off pretty crazy. Two of the four kindergarten teachers left. Luckily Max was assigned to one of the classes with a teacher who has been at the school for several years. Apparently one of the teachers decided to leave a few days before classes started, so it was pretty chaotic for the kids that were supposed to be in her class. However our initial impressions of her are not good. She isn’t really good at communicating what is being taught. Each class has a webpage, and checking the other 1st grade pages, there is a lot of detailed information. Lists of words they are learning, a daily schedule of what subjects will be covered, and things of that nature. When we checked Max’s class page, there was none of that. Just a list of the “encore” classes that are scheduled each day (art, music, gym, library and computer lab).
Last night when I was putting Max to bed, he asked me to read a book he got from the school library. It’s a book titled “Hooray for Fly Guy”. Fly Guy is one of Max’s favorite book series. Well a funny thing happened. As I opened the book, Max started reading. In the past he had read a few words on the page, but tonight he read the entire first page. So I pointed to each word on page 2, and he read those too. I turned the page, and he read the next two pages, and the next two. All I did was move my finger from word to word. Before I knew it, he had completed the first chapter (about 10 pages). I was so excited and amazed.
He struggled with a few words. Last year, he would get frustrated and just start guessing the word. Last night he actually sounded out the words. He didn’t get everyone right, but he got most of them right, which very encouraging. And text was a little more varied then some of the other stuff he has read before. He was never able or willing to read a whole chapter on his own.
So maybe this new teacher isn’t so bad. We have back to school night coming up in a few weeks, so we will finally get to meet with her. The first month of school is usually used to assess each student so they know which areas to work on with them. So perhaps she will start doing more regimented work starting in October.
After Max was asleep, I remembered that his book order form for Scholastic was due. I ordered him a few more books around the same reading level. Hopefully with some new reading material, he will be encouraged to read more. After reading him books for the past 6 years, it was nice having him read one back to me.
With fall baseball in full swing, and many nights after school spent outside ride bikes, scooters and playing with his friends, Max is a tired little boy. He used to wake up before 7AM most days. This past week, I had to wake him once at 8AM so he wouldn’t be late for school. The rest of the week he didn’t wake up before 7:45. Max had a baseball game last night and all the kids looked like they were a bit drained and tired. They didn’t have that usual pep in their step. Hopefully sleeping in till after 8AM this weekend is in his plans. He definitely needs it.
Even when he is super tired, he fights it. It’s especially hard now since he knows how to tell time. Before, we could tell him it was bedtime, and he wouldn’t argue. Now if we tell him it’s time for bed, and it’s not exactly 8:30, he squawks hehe. Time to start messing with the clocks in the house :-).