Having been a teacher for 15 years, (I taught high school science…yes, I am that nerdy) I see my kids’ academics as an important part of their lives. Now, I don’t mean to insinuate that if you aren’t
or have never been a teacher,you probably don’t care. I am just explaining my own point of view. Anyway, with school just about to start, and the school supplies sitting on the dog’s kennel (the new catch-all at our house), I am finding myself thinking about this topic much more. I had been hoping to spend a lot more time with the kids over the summer, going over their numbers and letters and math and reading, but it never really happened. Not formally, anyway. That was my fault. I made myself too busy and kept putting it off. I am not too concerned about it, though, as my boys are pretty smart and have always been ahead of most kids their age. I don’t want them to be too far ahead, because then school will be boring, and they could end up with some bad grades and behavior problems. I just want to be sure they are where they should be or just a bit beyond.
Jason has always been a math wiz. I remember when he was 2-years-old and I sat down to start going over numbers with him. He just looked up at me and counted to ten in both english and spanish. Really?? Wow! He got that from his toys, mostly. He also knew his alphabet at that time, as that was his favorite song, so I would sing it to him every day. The following year, when he was 3, we were in Colorado visiting my parents. My brother and his family were there as well. Derek was just born, and my bother had just had his son, their second (their daughter falls in between Jason and Troy) three days before I had Derek. We were getting ready to sit down for dinner, and Jason decided to figure out how many kids there would be. Rather than just count them, he looked at my mother and I and said, “Mama, if we have three kids in our family and Uncle Brian has two kids, that means there are five kids, right?” My mother and
I stopped and looked at each other in amazement, and then I looked at him and said, “Why, yes, Jason. Very good!” We were so amazed by what he had done at just 3 years of age and no practice from Jason or I, that we peppered him with a few more word problems, both addition and subtraction. He answered almost every single one of them right! Math just makes sense to Jason, and so he is great at it. His Kindergarten teacher last year was impressed as well. Heck, he was “Student of the Year” last year, and was at the top of his class. When it comes to reading, it is a bit different. Because Jason is naturally smart, he is also academically lazy. He knew his letters at two, and knew letter recognition and sounds by three. By age four he was reading small words, like “it’” “to’” and “me.” When he got to kindergarten, he was way ahead of most of the other kids. He learned his sight words immediately, and did great with all the assignments. All kids, no matter how smart they are, have to work a little at sounding out words when they first start to read. That is just the nature of the beast. I worked with Jason on it all year, but it was a struggle. It was not because he didn’t get it, but because he had no desire to actually work at anything. Everything has always come so easily to him, that the idea of actually working at something was appalling and he was very stubborn. He would give me about two words and then quit. One day he told me he was just not good at it. I was afraid that was going to be his assessment of the situation. In reality, he is very good at it, he is just not used to working at it. He has always done well academically. As the first day of first grade looms, I think I need to sit him down and work on it more with him. He needs to get used to the idea that not everything comes easy and some things require work, and when they do, he needs to be prepared to work hard. He is a practical kid and already understands the value of an education to a point, so I am sure this is just going to be a phase, but I think it is time we start getting through this phase. We start tomorrow.
Troy is a completely different kind of human. Troy is also very smart, but in a completely different way. To this day, he cannot count to 20, and while he knows his letters, and has for a long time, he does not have letter recognition or letter sounds down yet. This issue is not because Troy doesn’t get it, it is because Troy doesn’t care. If Troy is academically interested, he learns it, and learns it completely.
Ask him the lifecycle of a butterfly or how a plant grows. Ask him to explain the reason a plant is a living thing, but a rock is not. At five years old, this kid can explain many things that most 10 year-olds struggle with. If Troy cares, he figures it out. If you want to know how something works or why something happens, give the problem to Troy, and he will bring it back to you a little while later with a full explanation. He is amazing! At two, he was taking apart a flashlight and putting it back together so that it worked again. The kids call him the “fixer man.” Troy is also that kid that asks “why” all the time. He asks me “why” at least 9 million times a day. If I am busy and try to BS him a little bit, no dice. He will call me out on it, chastise me, and then ask again. It is easier to just answer the questions correctly the first time. It can be really annoying sometimes, but overall I am grateful he is this way. Lately, he has found an interest in his letters and letter sounds, and also in writing. I have seen, in just a few days of practicing by himself, a huge improvement. He could write his name last year, but now he is writing everyone’s name and it is clear as a bell. Some of the letters are backwards, but for the most part, he is right on. We practiced letter sounds today, and at first he struggled, but after a few minutes of trying, he had a good number of them down. He learns fast when he is interested. Since he is starting to show interest, I am going to work with him these next few days and see if I can have him complete his counting from 1 to 20. He can get to 15 with no problem, but then he gets lost. We will also do letter flashcards and get the letter recognition down and work on their sounds. I suspect that by the time the first day of school rolls around next week, Troy will have the majority of that completed. Another thing about Troy is that he likes to hide what he knows, so he could be further along than I suspect. When he was two, I started to go over his letters. I worked and worked and worked with him. He never got past the letter “A.” I was getting frustrated and a little worried. Then one day, while I was making dinner, he walked in, started spinning in a circle, and sang the entire alphabet from start to finish. I just dropped the spoon I was stirring dinner with and just stared at him. The little punk. He knew it all along, he just didn’t care that much and didn’t feel like doing it when I was asking him to. Good thing he liked the song and felt like singing along at that time, or I may not have known he knew it for a very long time!
Derek is ony 3, so I had no intention of doing a whole lot with him academically. He can pretty much count to ten, and does it often, although he misses a few numbers sometimes. He is not quite consistent yet. I am not sure what he knows in regards to his letters, so we will go over those throughout the year this year. He doesn’t even go to preschool until next year. That being said, he has been bringing me books and asking me about colors the last couple of days. We have gone over them a few times now, and he has gone from only knowing green to knowing the whole rainbow. We are starting to venture out a bit more to the other colors, and he is enjoying it. I think I may be blessed with three smart boys. I thank God for that. It certainly makes life easier.
Finally, we have Ashley. Now, at 20 months, she is not really old enough to learn numbers and letters, or other things academically, but basic life skills are what I will go over with her. This last week, she has been bringing me diapers when she soils the one she has on, or she tells me she “has poop” and pulls at the diaper she is wearing, indicating her strong desire for a diaper change. This morning, she even asked to sit on the potty! She had already gone in her diaper, so I changed her first, but then I took her in and let her sit on the toilet. I kept telling her to, “put poop in the potty.” She looked up at me and then into the toilet and then pointed at the water and said, “poop?” I replied, “Yes! Poop, Ash. In the potty.” And then I pointed into the toilet. She just smiled. I don’t think she is quite ready yet, but she is getting close! After almost 7 years of kids in diapers, 3 1/2 of them with two kids in diapers, I am so ready to get my last one potty trained! We might have to have a big party that day.
I am not sure if it is the greater talk of school starting or the slightly cooler weather, or what, but it seems all four kids have decided to increase their knowledge base. I am pretty happy about that. I am more than willing to take the time to sit with each one and go over a few things a day with them. They have so much potential and they are still so young, anything can happen. Of course I have high hopes for them, and I know they will do great things someday. They don’t just do the work under threat of punishment, but they take it seriously, which is awesome. I hope that never goes away. I am very proud of my kids, as I am sure this post clearly shows. I hope you all have a wonderful day!
post will not be ready until Friday. She has a draft written and she read it to me over the phone last night. You don’t want to miss it. It was amazing. I love my mom, and I am so proud of her. She went through so much. I really appreciate her sharing this story with everyone. I hope you enjoy it as much as I think you will. While it is heart-wrenching, it is still a good story. Don’t miss it and bring tissues!
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