The Big Decision

As you may or may not know, Sissy has had a pretty rough year in kindergarten.  She has always been academically gifted, hitting her milestones early, learning to read proficiently by the age of 4, and a pretty solid understanding of numbers and addition before the age of 5.  She is also incredibly imaginative and artistic.  The downside to giftedness is that it is often accompanied by extreme anxiety, and she has unfortunately also developed this as well.  I posted a few weeks ago that she was experiencing panic attacks in school and had begun vomiting at times when she was feeling overwhelmed and that she had even started to vomit at times of relative calm.  Her pediatrician expressed concern that this type of reaction could lead to an eating disorder at a young age as a way to exert control over her life and emotions and she suggested that we have her evaluated by the school psychologist.  We followed this suggestion and for the past few weeks Sissy has been observed in various settings, has had a SST review (an analysis of the need for special services), weekly meetings with the school counselor, and finally a sit down with the psychologist.  Earlier this week I sat down with the school principals, the counselor, the psychologist, and Sissy’s teacher to go over their observations and recommendations.  And the overall findings are:

Sissy is too academically advanced to function properly in her class.

Her teacher has been wonderful this year in creating a truly differentiated curriculum for her, but she can only do so much with 18 other kindergarteners to contend with.  In addition, part of Sissy’s anxiety comes from a self-imposed need for perfection and a desire to please those in authority, so she has actually digressed in many areas because she tries to mimic the work of her “peers” when the teacher compliments their work.  She doesn’t understand that “great” for them at a kindergarten level isn’t the same as “great” for her at a more advanced level.  So she gets worked up and overwhelmed and…vomits.  In her mouth.  And then doesn’t tell anyone about it until she gets into the car to go home where she will erupt into a sobbing mess, often for several hours.  She is making social connections in class, but is having trouble relating to her “peers” because they are not yet in the same place as she is intellectually.  She does much better with older children and adults who can relate to her in a more mature way.

All this to say that public school just doesn’t seem to be the place for Sissy.  She has qualified for the GT program, but it only for one hour each week and there is only one other kindergartener that qualified.  And we could try to skip her ahead a grade level, but even that would not really put her into the right academic group in several areas.  She is a self-motivated learner and the public school system is built on a mass-feed mentality where it is difficult to allow for students to pursue learning in their own unique ways.  So we are about 99.8% sure that for at least the remainder of elementary school that Sissy will be attending school in our own home.  That way we can create a curriculum that is suited especially to her and allow her to learn in the ways that are best for her unique gifts and temperament.  She will socialize through group activities, some local non-religious home school leagues, and through our church community.  We will utilize the amazing educational resources that technology provides (and that the public schools are unwilling and/or unable to commit to) to help her expand her learning in meaningful ways and also to make connections with other students and experts.  We will begin with an independent academic evaluation to assess her grade-level proficiency in the various academic areas and will then build our curriculum from there, using a mix of rote and project-based learning (PBL) as dictated by her learning style.  We will document and portfolio her work and will have her assessed annually to measure her progress.

I say we are 99.8% sure because this is a huge decision and commitment and we are taking the rest of this school year and summer to pull together resources, network, and evaluate ALL the pros and cons, and until we finish that we are not going to make the final decision.  But based on several months of discussion and research, this seems like the best option for her.  So, keep us in your thoughts as we start on this journey, and we would appreciate any help or feedback that you would like to share!

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Bubba Lays an OVO

On Friday my parents took me and the family (minus Peanut) to see Cirque du Soleil‘s show OVO, which is currently playing in town (watch the preview above for an overview).  The show is presented in true circus style, under a the big top, and was one of the most amazing performance experiences that I have ever…experienced.  The acts, the costumes, the music, and the performers were all mesmerizing and top-notch.  We all walked away in awe.

Bubba and Sissy at OVO

But the most wonderful part of the evening wasn’t the performance.  It was watching Bubba watch the performance.  He was enthralled with every single aspect.  As each new character emerged, he would point wildly and jump up and down in his seat.  Several times I looked over to see him standing in front of his chair, as if to get just a few inches closer to the stage.  While Sissy had a hard time figuring out what bugs the various performers were supposed to represent, Bubba never even had to think about it.  He knew what each of them were based on their often abstract costumes and stylized movements, sometimes even before Wifey and I had figured them out!  During intermission he ran around just outside the tent, so excited to go back in and see some more.  For a full two hours after the show was over, he just kept going on about it, reliving every last moment.

As an artist, the fact that Bubba was so moved by this performance touched me in a way I can’t describe.  Several times my eyes filled with tears as I watched him immerse himself in the experience.  We try, as parents, to let our children find their own passions.  While we certainly are very involved in the arts, we try not to be overbearing with a push that they be invested in them as well.  We allow them to explore a variety of interests and encourage them to try their best in everything that they attempt.  Because of this, it is even more special for me that Bubba was so impacted by this performance.

If you have the chance to see OVO, I highly encourage you to DO IT!  And if you have the chance to take a child, don’t miss out on the opportunity.  You won’t regret it, and it may even be one of the most memorable moments of your life.

The Balancing Act

Since I decided to try to post at least once per day, naturally I have gotten completely distracted by other things.  I have never been one to spend a great deal of time online, especially since my Blackberry allows me to check my Facebook from my phone.  But starting this blog made me curious about other dad blogs, which led me to other blogs and websites in general.  This coupled with a recent decision to integrate more technology into my classroom and a newfound obsession with Twitter has led to me spending an unhealthy amount of time cruising the net trying to connect with other educators and trying to find Web 2.o tools that can impact my instruction in a meaningful way.

Let me interject here that I am a full-throttle type of person, meaning when I decide to start something new I tend to jump in with both feet and take it to an extreme.  The downside to this personality trait is that I also tend to crash HARD.  If plans don’t work out in the way that I imagined they would or if too many roadblocks get in my way I lose hope and steam and often abandon the effort altogether.

This trait also has other repercussions, most notably that it drives my wife crazy because my tunnel vision detracts from my involvement in the lives of my family.  I will spend every spare moment engaged in whatever project I am working on and it will take a force of nature (or my wife’s exasperated scolding) to snap me out of it.

I want to be awesome at all things that I do.  I think that working hard to do the best that you can do is an important lesson to instill in our children.  It is important for my kids to see that I am a lifelong learner and that I am always striving to improve.  It is important to my marriage that I feel successful in my professional life so that I am happier overall and am bringing positivity and internal peace to the table.  But how can I manage my time so that neither my personal nor professional life suffer for the other?  To be the best I can be at work I have to dedicate personal time to improving my teaching practices and connecting with other professionals.  To be the best husband and father I need to be able to dedicate my time at home to my family.  And I can’t keep staying up until the wee hours of the morn to try to squeeze both in because then I am too tired to function successfully in both areas.

The solution isn’t as simple as “just prioritize” because both sides feed each other.  I can’t put off all of my professional planning until summer break because I must be consistently evaluating and improving or face having wasted an entire school year.  And I can’t just settle on mediocrity in both areas because that would make me miserable and would set a terrible example for my children.

If I had more time in my day or only had to work 4 days a week I would be more able to fit everything in (or maybe not), but as both are highly unlikely I don’t know how to find the balance.  So, what’s the answer?  Is there a solution?  Are my personal standards naïve?  Or am I just missing something that will make everything fall into place?

Enlighten me dear readers!  How do you find balance?

My Mouth Can’t Resist Those Beautiful Globes

As I draw you close your aroma makes me dizzy with desire.  I feel your warmth as my lips brush against your flesh.  My tongue travels over you, exploring your hidden recesses and folds and experiencing your taste, sometimes bitter, sometimes smooth and rich.  I savor your sweet juices as they spread throughout my mouth, making me crave you more.  I slowly bring my teeth together and feel you give yourself up to the experience.  Though many will never understand my passion, I can not bring myself to let you go.  And so I write this letter to you my tantalizing friend, my taboo love…

  My dearest Brussels Sprout

Brussels sprouts before roasting

Image by johnsu01 via Flickr

It’s true.  I can not hide it anymore.  I LOVE BRUSSELS SPROUTS!  Ah, it feels so good to finally speak aloud what I’ve been feeling for these many years.  I love their slightly bitter yet buttery taste, that they are perfectly bite-sized, their soft yet firm texture, and their pleasing color.  Plus, they look like tiny cabbages which is super cute.

Growing up I only ever heard horror stories about brussels sprouts.  My grandmother tells a yarn about how my grandfather always begged to have brussels sprouts, a vegetable that she despised.  After years of whining she finally gave in and made them, but instead of eating them he hid them behind some of the other food on his plate.  On both the big and small screens, children (and adults) bemoan the horrible torture of being served the dreaded sprouts.  The very mention of brussels sprouts is enough to send dinner guest fleeing for the hills.  So, naturally, I HATED brussels sprouts for many a year, despite never having eaten one.

But a few years ago, the wise and beautiful Wifey made them and insisted that I try them.  As I eyed the plate I could feel my stomach turn at the very thought of the supposed taste.  Why would she have prepared these little balls of evil?  Didn’t she know that they were the WORST food in the entire world?  Everyone despises them.  E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E.  I didn’t want to offend her after she worked hard preparing a meal for our family but I was also terrified that the result of putting that stinky green ball into my mouth would be immediate projectile vomiting.

I decided I had to risk it.  I speared the brussels sprout on my fork, brought it to my mouth, forced my jaws apart, and popped it in.

It was love at first taste.  I ate another.  And another.  I may have stuck my face into the serving bowl to lick the remains.  And from that time on, they have become a staple on our dinner table.

Bubba Can't Resist the Tempting Sprout

Peanut LOVES Her Brussels Sprouts!

What may be even more unbelievable than my love for these little bulbous miracles is the fact that my CHILDREN love them.  They actually cheer when we have them and we end up fighting for seconds.  Peanut will completely ignore any other food on her plate, demanding more and more and more.  The kids are silly for sprouts!

 
So, judge if you must.  But my passion for brussels sprouts will not be contained.

What Am I Thinking?

"That other bald one looks like she’s plotting my demise. I need a good defense strategy"

Since we haven’t invested in that Your Baby Can Read program, I think you can safely assume that The Baby has yet to develop the skill to articulate her thoughts. So, here is your chance to weigh-in. What is the thought running through The Baby’s head in this photo? The best response wins a shout-out and the photo’s caption!

Update: Congrats Jill on the best (and only) caption suggestion!!!!

Three Little Bears Sitting on Chairs

When Sissy was a toddler and Bubba was The Baby, we began a bedtime ritual that lasted for several years. Every night I would gather the kids into my lap, and we would read Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon. I don’t remember reading this story as a child, but in adulthood it has become one of my favorite books…and not just to read to my kids.  I’m mean it ranks up there with The Grapes of Wrath and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay for me.  I love the rhythm of the text, Clement Hurd’s beautiful illustrations, and the way the two combine to engage the reader.

We read the story so many times that my children at 2 and 3 could recite the book in its entirety.  There was nothing more moving than listening to their tiny voices speaking the story along with me as I read it from the book.  On several occasions, we even just spoke the story without even opening the book!  I’m not entirely certain when we stopped reading it every night, but I believe we just started supplementing other stories once my children were old enough to start showing preferences of their own.  Eventually, our tattered copy got mixed in with the host of other books that my children own and the routine just faded from our lives.

Until Peanut stumbled across the book just the other day.

She is in a wonderful phase right now where she wants to read the same books over and over and over again until you begin to doubt everything that you know to be true about the world.  We’ve actually started hiding some of her favorites, lest we suddenly snap and rip them apart, throwing them into the air with maniacal glee.  So when she dropped yet another book in my lap shouting “boo, daddy, boo!” my initial response was to toss it across the room.  But as my wrist was just about to spring, my eye caught sight of the cover and I stopped mid-throw.

“BOO, DADDY, BOO!!”

“Alright, Peanut, I would love to read you this book.”

So we sat down, and we read the book.  She listened intently, laughing at the pictures and pointing out the animals that she knows and repeating her favorite words.

“Cah-oo, mooooo”

“Kee-ee!  Mah-oo mah-oo!”

“Nigh nigh.”

As she experienced this book for the first time, I relived all the times that I had read it before.  All the sleepy nights we sat together, reciting it as a family.  All the snuggles and hugs.  All the times we whispered “hush.”  Midway through, I realized that I wasn’t even reading the words on the page, but was reciting it as it resurfaced from the recesses of my memory.  I looked over at my wife, and we shared a heartfelt smile of remembrance.

So we’ve reestablished the Goodnight Moon bedtime routine with Peanut.  For the last several nights we have sat together in the chair in her room and read the story while snuggling close and rocking back and forth.  I am so excited to be able to share this experience with the next pair of my children.

Do/did you have a bedtime ritual with your kids that you treasure?  Do recall with fondness a routine from your own childhood?  Did you have a favorite book that you liked to read as a child or with your children that you still remember?  I’d love to hear about your own experiences!

“Goodnight stars.  Goodnight air.  Goodnight noises everywhere.”

A Night Ride With the Girl Scout Legbreakers (via Gerbil News Network)

I came across this short story while tag surfing and it made me laugh out loud. And it is only slightly fictitious…the Girl Scouts can be badasses when it comes to cookie money collection!

A Night Ride With the Girl Scout Legbreakers Girl Scouts in Akron, Ohio are taking vigorous steps to collect debts owed by adults who fail to pay for cookies.                                                                     Associated Press             It’s two o’clock in the morning, and I’m lying in bed, wide awake, drenched in sweat.  I know what I need–a Thin Mint cookie–but I don’t know where I’m gonna find one.             I finished my last cellophane roll of the Girl Scouts’ sign … Read More

via Gerbil News Network