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This is the one who didn't get the gene for spelling.

1. relly x 100,000 big box or bag of twix
*2. everything circled in big A.G.D.(american girl doll) mag. (mag. comes with list) [list was paperclipped to the catalog]
3. red corduroy super skinny pants (strechy!)
4. salon date with mom! :)
5. chocolate orange
6. own set of bathroom towles
7. cute stuff for forever house room (style = tooter [Tudor] colores = black white blue/gray furniture = black + bunk beds)
8. girl-friend for Morese [Maurice is a stuffed monkey puppet] (he's getting lonly)
9. ipod mini!

[added after we visited the zoo]
Zoo Gift Shop
10. manity [manatee] stuffed animal
11. purple owl watch
12. glass animals (at least 3)

*last year you did not relly get me any A.G.D. stuff :(. Could you get me some this year! :)
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Let us begin with school. The school is a "neighborhood" public school, in a very nice neighborhood (some rentals in the zone, but houses for sale at $4-500,000 are the standard.) Judging by eye the student body is about 10% non-white, largely black but a few Asians (south and east); I have not seen a child I would guess is Latino. There are a lot of blondes; we're back in the land of the Germans! We're scheduled to get on the bus route on October 24 (there is no stop within 1/4 mile of our house, so they have to create a stop for us, and this takes 2 weeks), but in the meantime our routine is mr. flea drives us all to school at about 8:30; the kids play on the playground and I watch them (other kids start showing up by 8:45, the before-school program, kids off the buses, and drop-offs); and at 9:15 they line up and go into school and I walk 2.1 miles home.

In the afternoon I walk 2.1 miles back to school, pick the kids up when they are released at 3:35, and we all walk home. We haven't actually walked the whole thing yet. Day 1 we were 2/3 of the way home and our neighbors drove by and picked us up (on purpose - I had mentioned the bus assignment delay, and their 8 year old saw us from her schoolbus and begged her mother to come get us so they could play. Neighbor 8 year old and Casper have hit it off great guns - a sleepover is planned for tonight.) Yesterday it rained and mr. flea did the pickup, but he forgot and was late and was unreachable at work, so if it rains again I am calling Nice Neighbor and asking for help rather than spending an hour and a half trying not to panic about whether someone is picking up my kids. Today is cool but sunny and I am planning to break at the library.

Dillo is in K is a large mixed class (I think it's actually K and 1 together) of about 36 kids and 2 teachers, although one of the teacher is his primary. He seems to be doing fine, and the work is at his level, and to his interests (they are doing planets and the sun; we had a talk about why Pluto was no longer a planet this morning). He had an accident yesterday, but this is hardly unusual for him.

In general, Dillo has pretty much taught himself to read this past month. He sounds out words everywhere and all the time - from boxes, on signs, anything with letters. He hasn't grasped the Silent E concept yet, and in general tends to be frustrated that letters do not always make the same sounds, but once he's read a word he tends to remember it. SO completely different from Casper at this age, who got letter identification and sounds, but never had any spontaneous interest in sounding out words and in fact is still not very good at it.

Casper is in 3rd grade in a small classroom with about 20 kids and 1 teacher and a part-time student aide. She got off to a decent start socially - the teacher cleverly seating her next to an extremely social and outgoing girl - but has been overwhelmed and disorganized about work. She never brought the homework packet home, and I discovered last night that she had a spelling test today, but she had no idea on which chapter in the spelling book, and she seems to have lost the book (Danger Along the Ohio) that is serving as their reading and social studies text (it has never come home). The teacher has been responsive to email, so I hope we can get Casper sorted out soon. She is happy, in general, and they have started division (with Smarties) and she picked it right up, and I sent her in with $5 to buy a recorder for music class.

At home she had a brief phase of obsessively reading Dahl's Matilda (her proper first chapter book) but she has stalled out on p. 91 and I need to get her going again. Neighbor 8 year old takes a dance class that seems fine, so I think we will sign Casper up for that too. Next to look at are Girl Scouts (although she does not seem interested at the moment), and maybe Art club at school, and then when our finances settle out some kind of music lessons I think.

Every afternoon the 4 kids on the block play together, outside, at their house, and at ours (Neighbors have a 5 year old girl with an October birthday, so she is still in preschool; she and Dillo are not BFFs like Casper and the 8 year old, but they deal perfectly well). I was brave and spent 45 minutes with the parents over a glass of wine yesterday (and nearly burned our soup - gas stoves are enthusiastic!) so I am starting to get to know them.
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mr. flea took the kids out and bought them some books the other night - Tuesday, I think. Maybe Monday? Casper got Bone 5 & 6. Last night I went in to tell her to turn out the light and go to sleep at 9 and found she was on the last page of Bone 6. She'd been reading continuously since we got home at 7pm. I was so happy, and she was so proud of herself.

This weekend plans include a sleepover for Casper with our neighbors (none of whom, including the adults my age, have ever seen The Princess Bride, which Casper will remedy), building terrariums (mr. flea project), and the usual sundry boring chores.

Our house is covered with paper airplanes at most times; Dillo is obsessed with them. And now all the Chiefs (4 year olds) at camp are making paper airplanes too! I have a large cardboard box that is the corral for errant paper airplanes. Our house is also covered with boxes; they are so useful when you are a creative child. It is too bad I don't like clutter.

A note

Jun. 6th, 2011 06:20 pm
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Following a dispute over who got which shoebox for making houses/dioramas. Handwriting excellent; spelling reproduced accurately.

Dear Mom + [Dillo],

I am sory I flict spit [at] you [Dillo]. I am olsow sory becus I side NO! wen you asct me if I cood help you.

Love [Casper],

PS can I have the box plees! [drawing of an anime-style dog] pup fas


Apr. 2nd, 2011 05:20 am
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It was 3rd quarter teacher conferences this week, and we had a good conversation with Casper's teacher and the Spectrum teacher.  She's really a fascinating creature, Casper is. A mix of things - brave in some ways, fragile in others (we had an awfulizing meltdown Wednesday night), capable of focus and extremely detailed work but often careless in her schoolwork. Spectrum teacher, whom I like a lot, noted that Casper does tend to march to the beat of her own drum, in terms of classwork as well as socially. She's unsure how to negotiate group work, and will sometimes wander off and just start getting things done by herself. When working alone, she is usually quite focused and confident.  Both teachers noted that she tends to approach problems in unusual ways - Mr. H noted that she almost always solves math problems through methods that none of the other kids use, and methods he hasn't explicitly taught, and Spectrum teacher noted the same sort of thing.  This is interesting to me and makes me glad she's in Spectrum where they can appreciate this - I think a lot of "gifted" kids at her school are like I was - wicked smart, precocious verbally and good readers and adept at processing and incorporating new information - whereas Casper in some ways really does "think different," even different from the average smart kid.  This could be a great benefit in her life, if she can turn it to her advantage.

Her reading is going fine - Fast ForWord does seem to be helping.  Mr. H talked about the program a bit - he's actually gone and used the software to see what it is like - and it generates reports that show things I've instinctively known for a long time - that she does often miss common and fairly simple words like when and were. She definitely has trouble with long vowels, too.  The program does some ear training exercises, with different tones, and also promotes focus.  I think there have been definite improvements.  I still worry that neither of the teachers were able to really have a conversation about what Casper struggles with about reading - what is it that makes this hard for her, and how can we specifically target strengthening it?  Spectrum teacher noted that most of the interventions for struggling readers are geared towards kids who are less generally intelligent than Casper is, and who often have other language problems alongside reading problems (Fast ForWord, for example, is especially recommended for kids with auditory processing problems, who often have limited vocabularies and are slow to talk - NOT Casper!!)  I'm almost to the point that I'd like to talk to a reading specialist, who has the background and experience to help me understand and explore what are the factors that make Casper struggle.  But, again, she's doing fine, grade-level work (except most of her Spectrum peers read well above grade level.)

I am having a week of depression and social anxiety, feeling isolated and generally low and anxious.  I cut all my hair off yesterday and didn;t even get much of the usual post-haircut boost that I do (you know, where you spend the rest of the day walking around going "I'm so cute!") It's spring and houses are going on the market and it's the time when Universities are making hires and people are planning moves and changes over the summer, and we have no idea what the plan is for the future.  Well, signing up for summer camp starts today, so I guess we just trundle forward.
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Casper brought a Batman chapter book home from the school library this week, and is voluntarily reading it, out loud, to herself.  She gets a lot of the words wrong, so she's missing or mis-perceiving maybe half the content, but she's reading for fun!

She can also, I discovered as a result of her homework on Tuesday, add and subtract 3-digit numbers with carrying.  She made some arithmetic mistakes, but was absolutely clear on the concept.

I had the amusing experience of walking to the bank this morning with more than $1200 in cash in my purse (Girl Scout cookie deposits.)  I was happily not mugged on the way.  They have a great machine that counts the bills, and I was very proud that my count matched theirs perfectly.
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Dillo is obsessed with paper airplanes lately; the house is littered with them.  He makes them at afterschool, with A., S.'s twin, who is in second grade (in Casper's class) and working on a paper airplane science fair project in the Spectrum class.  Amusingly, A. and Dillo could be brothers; they have a very similar look.  Dillo is also obsessed with a new PBS show called Wild Kratts, a mostly-cartoon show about brothers who interact with wild, usually endangered, animals.  He wants to watch it constantly.

I worked a split shift yesterday and picked Dillo up at 2:30 as a treat. We scootered home (after scootering to school that morning with an inch of snow on the ground, so pretty!) and built a lego (duplo) garage, originally intended for his matchbox cars, but which in the event was used for jumping frogs.  We also changed out the toilet seat upstairs, and he turned the old seat into a rocket for his frogs. I love the way he says "blast-es off".

He remains unhappy with school, especially after school, which is boring for him. His ideal world would involve staying home with me and playing with me and watching Wild Kratts, so. He's pretty much always been like this.  They have started doing a little bit of reading group with part of his class, and he likes to play Starfall on my computer, so maybe he will start reading and have that outlet at school.

Casper has been a little fragile emotionally of late, and I emailed the counselor again and she replied but I am not sure she's met with Casper yet; she said she's been incredibly busy.  When there are 3 children at the school who've had parents murdered in the last 6 weeks, and many children living in poverty, the counselor is probably right to make the neurotic and depressive tendencies of an upper-middle class girl with neurotic depressive parents a second-tier priority - if Casper has a crisis, we have at least some of the tools to deal with it ourselves.  We've tried.

Casper's gotten a space - apparently these are in much demand and she's been on a wait list for it - with a program called Fast ForWord, a computer-based program for helping struggling readers. I've read the Wikipedia page and some of the product's marketing materials, and am somewhat cynical.  (Well, what else is new.)  It says it focuses on phoneme awareness and is especially useful for students with auditory processing disorders.  Casper does have troubles with phonemes, but she certainly does not match up with the symptoms for auditory processing problems, which include slowness to talk and trouble with vocabulary and comprehension.  It seems like auditory processing is a fad diagnosis for reading troubles right now, lined up with the fads of ADHD, dyslexia, etc.  I hesitate to get Casper formally evaluated (independently; they have done some evaluation at school apparently, which got her recommended for Fast ForWord, but we have not heard the results) and diagnosed with something because I am so cynical about the faddiness of diagnoses; on the other hand, I do feel like the right help could get her over a hump and reading well.  mr. flea is wary of diagnoses because of stigma.

Casper hates Fast ForWord (yesterday was the first day) because she got pulled out of class and missed making shadow puppets; at least she isn't feeling stigmatized?  There was torrential weeping about this, though.  I tried to present the program as a positive - she's improved so much in her reading that she's ready for an intensive program to jump-start her and get her improving fast, so she can read hard long books all by herself.  She is improving; she notices words on signs and reads them out often now.  I do think about whether we would even be worrying about her reading if she were in 1st grade instead of second.  And I confess that although I don't know a great deal about the science, such as it is, of literacy acquisition, Casper is a little confounding.  She does write some letters backwards; her handwriting is horrible (though if she tries it is fine); her spelling is awful, even with words she has known for ages; she stumbles over very easy very common words when reading sometimes (was, there, could) and yet manages quite difficult words with ease; her reading ability fluctuates extremely based on mood.  If anything, I think she has visual processing issues with letters; she is a very visual (picture) focussed person, and I wonder if Chinese or another pictographic language would have come easily.

Any suggestions for quality readings about literacy acquisition would be appreciated.


Oct. 25th, 2010 03:55 pm
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"Practice quiz" came home for Spectrum class, 9 Northeast states. She got ONE of them in the right place, and spelled every single one wrong.

It's also like this for every single weekly spelling test right now. Every single word wrong, some in such deeply improbable ways you have to ask if she's paying any attention at all. I mean, the word "first" is spelled exactly as it sounds! No, you cannot write a word with no vowels in it!

But she can relate the entire myth of Osiris to me...
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We moved the kids into one room this weekend, assembling the bunkbeds for the first time in this house. Bedtime is going okay - still too late. We've started with music at lights out (the Bernstein recording of Peter and the Wolf) which is helping. One problem is mr. flea is reading the crux of Harry Potter IV, and Dillo is bored by it. When he'd done I'd like to try reading to both of them together, whether in bed (chapter books with few pictures) or out on the couch. I think an "extra" birthday present for Casper (turning 7 on Saturday) will be an itty bitty book light so she can look at books after Dillo falls asleep. The other room (Casper's) is the playroom; I'd like to move the yellow futon couch in there for reading and snuggling.

It was Curriculum Night at school last night, so we had a more formal introduction to PreK and 2nd grade. Honestly, because of his home socialization and book-reading and his Montessori daycare, Dillo pretty much has all the skills they seek to instill in PreK: deal with others without hitting or messing with people; understand how books work; know letters and numbers. He accurately read "P E Z" on a pez dispenser last night. His fine motor work is weaker; we need to do more drawing projects, maybe while Casper does homework.

Casper is doing reading in a group with Mrs. H, in another classroom (they mix them up for reading time). She is with Nathaniel, who was in her class last year. She brought home guided reading books for the first time this week, and read them to me okay (reluctantly). Her homework often consists of "read for 30 minutes" and she says she does this at afterschool, but her idea of reading still does not necessarily include actually reading the words in the books. Mr. H, her teacher, said she is doing fine with comprehension and her tendency to guess at words based on context and first letter is a useful skill (this drives me nuts when we read together - I am constantly saying "look at the letters.")

Mrs. U, who is a parent whom I like, is the Spectrum (gifted) teacher for 2nd grade this year, and they are doing recommendations and re-testing this month. mr. flea wants to recommend Casper. You may recall she was tested but narrowly missed the cutoff in K; her increased maturity and test-taking skills (she did fine on the CRCT) should help her this time. I think if it were me I wouldn't bother recommending her again, but mr. flea feels strongly about this.

She's a little down about school right now and I'm not sure why. Complains she doesn't want to go in the morning; told me she doesn't want to do writing and puts her head down on the desk (which Mr. H did not mention.)

After school is still poking along; apparently they are interviewing new directors this week. I signed the kids up for a Spanish class at after school, taught by UGA students, that will start in a couple of weeks and run for a month. No word on Tae Kwan Do, though Casper asks about it. Dillo says after school "takes so long" so I really hope they get a director who does stuff with the kids so they are not so bored..

I called the Girl Scouts last week but they never called me back. Don't they know how hard it is for me to make phone calls, dammit?
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As we were getting into the car for a day trip to Atlanta yesterday, I suggested that we make some rules for the day's adventure.
me: What would be some good rules to make it a better day for everyone?
Casper: Have fun!
me: Good one!
Dillo: Don't pee in your pants!
me: Excellent one!
Casper: Try new things!
me: How about: Don't fight? Or: Be patient with each other?

They agreed, and we had a mostly good day. And Dillo managed not to pee in his pants until we got home (whereupon he did it twice, of course.)

ION Casper was reading aloud to me at bedtime last night, and I noticed that when she's the one reading, she is extremely fidgety and jiggling and falling off the bed. When I'm the one reading, she can lie quietly. I am wondering if it might help her to have a specific physical activity that she does while reading, if (as I think) the physical release is a comfort/help to her. Maybe a knee jiggle, or a finger exercise, or komboloi (Greek worry beads); ideally something she could use at school, too. My undergraduate professor of Greek sculpture, a legend in the field, always lectured with komboloi.
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I started to title this post, "all about pee, as usual," but realized, I don't really want to rehash it all. There's been a lot of pee, people.

So, two nice things:

Casper can read. She's been reading me (or last night, all of us) new books every night, books she didn't think she could read until this week. Dora books (god, stupid Dora books), Arthur's Reading Race, Berenstain Bears, Frog and Toad, as well as Elephant and Piggie (which are a bit easier). She struggles occasionally but not too much. She is very proud of herself, and she is loving being able to read to me. I am loving it too. I wonder if it is even sweeter since I have been waiting so long (it feels like) for this.

Dillo is hilariously obsessed with counting to 100. He starts out and gets through the mid-teens okay, them fumbles around in the late teens and asks, "What do I say next?"
me: "Twenty"
Dillo: "21, 22, 23, 24, 27, ... what do I say next?"
me: "Thirty."
Dillo: "31, 32, 33, 34, ... what do I say next?"
et cetera. When we get to 100, he wants to start over. We have this conversation, verbatim, pretty much daily lately.

He also says, "oopsie-doopsie!"

Not about his peeing, however. I put him in a diaper last night for bed, and he peed through it.
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It's a good sign you're ovulating when you find the character Hector on The Electric Company kinda hot.

Casper's latest angry note: Mom your a big fat hors. Illustrated, natch.

Dillo is working on being able to recite the entire corpus of nursery rhymes contained in the Opie/Wells Mother Goose. He can do a bunch - his favorite is Hey Diddle Diddle.

not gifted

Mar. 18th, 2009 07:24 pm
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Casper didn't test as gifted, as per the very gently-worded form letter we received (she could have had a bad day! maybe she needs to mature! she still counts as smart! don't be sad - read her some books!).

I'm a bit disappointed, only because from the little I know of the gifted program at her school it's kinda fun-looking, one-on-one or small group attention, they seem to do a little French. (One of the best things about my own education, IMO, was my public school had French for everyone starting in 5th grade. Of the numerous languages I have studied or been extensively exposed to - German, Italian, modern and ancient Greek, and Latin - French is the only one I retain any fluency in, and I stopped studying it when I was 16 and haven't used it in an immersion setting since then. I think everyone should have a second language in elementary school.)

I do worry a bit that Casper can't (or won't) read and seems, in general, very little motivated about school work. Mrs. B, her Pre-K teacher, talked to us about her motivation - the goal with Montessori, as that was, is to develop self-motivated kids. Left to her own devices, Casper would have colored all day, but, you know, she was 4! She seems to enjoy school now, as a whole, but from what I've seen she's often a bit lazy and has to be prodded to do things fully (things other than making elaborate drawings, that is). It is a huge struggle to get her to "read" us a simple book that she usually has memorized, and she hates doing the flash cards of words she supposedly knows, and often guesses at them half-looking (based on initial letter) and gets them wrong. She might be able to struggle through Hop on Pop at this point, but nothing beyond that. And she's known all her letters and sounds for about a year now!

I know that the age of learning to read is variable, and in some countries (Scandinavia and Germany?) children aren't expected to read until 7. I know Casper is smart and creative. But reading is so incredibly cool! It's deeply important to me and to success in life! Why the heck isn't she doing it yet? She's five and a half - am I being silly?


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