Aug. 27th, 2012

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The kids started school last Wednesday, at the newly-reopened public school that's a 10-minute walk from our house. Casper is in 4th grade at the gifted academy, and Dillo is in first grade as a regular civilian. So far, so good.

Dillo's class is actually mixed K-1; I think probably 1/3 to 1/2 of the kids are in 1 and the rest are K; they tested the incoming K kids and the ones who were more advanced were placed in this room. This could be good or bad (or both); Dillo has always been on the young end for his grade, and because of his shyness is undersocialized. Now he's one of the older kids, and could develop some maturity as a mentor to other kids, or have more social peers since they are younger. On the potential negative, academically he was already at the top end, so I worry that he won't be challenged enough if the teacher is also pitching to K students. I am not yet very impressed with his teacher; she seems nice, but I don't have much of an impression of her. She's only been teaching 3 years, after a career in HR, and is probably older than me.

At Casper's grade level, they have a homeroom and then rotate for the subjects: math, social studies, language arts, and science. Casper's homeroom is the math teacher, who is also older than me and just returning to the classroom after a few years as a master teacher/coach for developing teachers. I like her energy and air of cheery competence. Casper was very excited to find a couple of girls she knows from Girl Scouts in her class. We've just started getting homework in earnest, and there's something in each subject each night. It's assignments that would be manageable for someone who could settle down and focus on homework; as it is it's kind of a lot. Tuesdays, when Casper has dance class from 4-5:30 and soccer from 6:30-7:30, will be a problem. (We'll ditch soccer that night if we have to; we also don't have to leave for school until 8:45, which leaves some time to finish things in the morning.)

The content does seem more interesting and hands-on than last year. Tonight she's factoring numbers to 50 (only needs to do two factors per); writing definitions and providing examples of 4 terms in language (simile, metaphor, etc.); answering two questions about her favorite things to study in science; and doing a "quiz" of new vocabulary related to maps in social studies.

Today at pick-up time the science teacher - who is young and has a reputation as being very strict with the kids - came up to me and asked me if Casper had ever been diagnosed as dyslexic; apparently she noticed that Casper sometimes still reverses letters. I said no, that she's struggled with reading a lot but always came out as "at grade level" so was never formally evaluated, although I have my suspicions that she has some reading disability. She said they can certainly deal with kids who are both gifted and learning disabled, and I said I'd welcome starting a conversation about that. mr. flea is a little trepidatious - I think he fears labeling her - but I am mostly relieved and impressed that the teacher noticed an issue like this the first week of school, and brought it up with us. That never occurred in the 8 months Casper spent at her "excellent" elementary school last year; nor did it at the special reading camp for kids who struggle with reading at a local college's Education department this summer (where she was assessed as "reading at grade level" and so they focused on content. She GETS content; it's stuff like sounding out words and spelling she can't do.)

Interestingly, one thing I read today about dyslexic kids is they may have trouble memorizing math facts, which would certainly explain why despite drilling with flash cards all summer Casper has no more ability to recite her times tables than a kitten. (She can multiply; she just has to work it out every single time).

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