Last Day of First Grade

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Today is the last day of school for my eldest. We took a leap of faith and opted to send her to a Charter school instead of a traditional ISD. It wasn’t a good or a bad choice, but a choice that we’d felt was right for our family at the time. It is the end of the year and the biggest takeaways for the year have been:
  • she has improved in her Spanish language skills, so much so that she teaches her baby sister
  • she has a genuine hunger for knowledge, especially anything related to science – she has a basic understanding of photosynthesis, can identify different types of plants, knows the different types of clouds and what they signal, is aware of different climates and regions, and knowing all of that, she isn’t threatened by thunderstorms, earthquakes, or tornadoes
  • she has horrendous spelling, but that had never been an emphasis for the year <—not one single spelling test this year
  • she is doing fractions, complex addition, and basic division – this was made even more evident when she could divide food portions based on those fractions and she could estimate her per mile pace based on her finish times
  • she has increased her strength in compassion and kindness
  • she has improved her confidence so that when other kids are mean, she isn’t as bothered by it
  • she is still a dreamer and fiercely independent
Next year, I am unsure if we will go back to the Charter or the traditional ISD. Several months ago, I wrote her a letter to get my thoughts out. Reading it over, those same words still ring true to me.
You've always been a curious dreamer. Your eyes will often stare off and I will catch you dancing in the sunlight when I don't hear music. I am quite familiar with both of those things. I remember when I was a child, dancing to the music in my heart with the wind blowing against my wild hair, the sun kissing my face. I remember pirouettes in the rain. I remember watching the whole world in front of my eyes, with wonder and awe, unaware that mundane things weren't meant to attract the attention that captivated me in that way. No one else saw and heard as me. The colors were more vibrant, the music was louder, the feelings were stronger, but I didn't know how unique and special that was. I wouldn't know it to be special until I was older and some of it had faded, but I did my best to pass it on to you. 

Knowing what I know, I struggle with your school(s). They want to limit the dreaming and the dancing. They need to fit it into a time-box that you can only visit a few times a week. You need to learn and grow into a productive member of society, where, SURPRISE!, closet dreamers make the world go 'round! So many of the successful people I have been fortunate to meet and know had creative energy in common. They saw the world from a different perspective, one unseen by others and they are all very driven (ambitious).
My stress is this: Where should you go for your education? I endeavor to figure out a way for you to learn and excel at important subjects like reading, math, science, writing, all while allowing your creativity to flourish. Standardized tests won't tell me how you are progressing in life. They won't tell me that you are excelling at the things that matter most: because you can't measure the unseen and the unknown. But you must learn to multiply and divide because you will need those skills in life. You must know how to read and write, because effective communication is important in life. You must remain a curious dreamer—that is something you were born with, not taught!

My child didn’t get any fancy awards this year at their ceremony. I’d prepared her, as such. She was ok with it. Her response, “Mommy, that’s ok. I don’t need any awards or certificates.  I have plenty from the other things I’ve done. I am not the best student in class. I am not the worst student. Besides, you told me that I should be better than I was yesterday and that’s all I’ve tried to do. I feel like I am better than I was when I started.” It was a punch in my gut. I am very driven and want my children to be driven. However, their motivation to achieve is vastly different in the way that I measure my own success. She’s right. She’s listened to me. She’s applied it and is happy.
I wasn’t surprised that when they called her name, what followed were: promoted to second grade and reading 1000 books. (Those damn log sheets were such a struggle for us over the past three weeks, I tell you. The child loves books and reads 1-2 hours a night. This is what happens when you aren’t allowed television during the school week and are restricted to movies on the weekends. Every where we went, she had a book! The thing was, she’d never written them down. She didn’t write them down while she was in school, either. When I asked her why, she simply said, “Mommy, I don’t write as fast as the other kids. I like to take my time. Plus, some of the other kids needed help, so I helped them or I just wanted to spend my time reading.”) She didn’t get the best student, most improved, most valuable player, best at music, best athlete, or any other academic award, therefore, she didn’t get a medal from the school. She told me that she was one of three kids in her class who didn’t get a medal, and she was ok with that. She also said she was so excited for her friends who earned their medals and gave them a high five. When I asked her if she wanted to maybe earn one the next year, she looked at me, thought about it, and said, “Maybe, but only if they think that my hardest work has earned a medal. Otherwise, no, I don’t want for them to just give me one. I want to be able to earn it. I am still going to work hard, as hard as I can, but sometimes there are just people who are better and that’s ok. It’s important to tell everyone good job for trying. Like you said Mommy, we all have different gifts and some of us are better at some things than others.”
Yep, some of us are better at some things than others.

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