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I know where all the unmatched socks are…

So I says to Master 11, I says “Go look in your room for these two socks – I can’t find their mate.”
He says okay and goes up to look.

“I found one, Mom!” he says, and throws it down to me. It matches neither of the socks I have waiting. “That’s not it – now you have three to find!” I say.

He goes and looks again. “I found two!” He yells, and throws it down. Not only do they not match the three I have in my hand, they’re not even his socks.

“How on earth do you have single socks that aren’t even yours? Go look again!”

“Ok. I’ll go look in my sock drawer,” he says. I laugh and ask “Where were you looking before?”

Then he comes down with 4 socks. We successfully match a few pairs, but we still have some unmatched socks. So I go upstairs and have a hunt through his drawers.

The whole time he is yelling at me about privacy and how I shouldn’t go through his dresser. “Why?” I ask. “Do you have anything private in here?”

“NO!” he yells. “It’s the principle of the thing”

Nevertheless, I persevere and come up with two more socks. I take them downstairs, and continue on my way.

But then I’m back on my way upstairs and he yells “NO YOU ARE NOT GOING THROUGH MY JUNK DRAWER!”

I tell him I wasn’t even aware of his junk drawer and we playfully tussle for a moment while he tells me his junk drawer is completely off limits.

“Why?” I ask. “Do you… <snarf> do you… <giggle> DO YOU HAVE SOCKS IN THERE?”

We both lost it and dissolved into hysterical laughter.

At which point I decided to give up and went downstairs.

Then faintly I hear upstairs …

“Mom? I looked under my bed… I FOUND ANOTHER SOCK!!”

I’m still laughing. And I still have 6 unmatched socks.

Keeping children’s schoolwork and art

boxes

boxes (Photo credit: ejhogbin)

Could you fit your life into 10 boxes or less?

I’m trying.

It’s interesting to recall what I thought were so important the last time I moved overseas, and notice that those things aren’t coming with me for the most part this time around.

The number of things I consider my extra special treasures are diminishing.

And it makes me question why we keep some things.

My mother recently sent me a parcel that contained a lot of my school work and report cards from elementary school.  I read them and was amused, but for the most part, I neither remembered much about them nor felt that the re-addition of them into my life added value.

So then why am I keeping my children’s art and schoolwork?  Is it because I will want to look at it years from now? Is it because I want to give them back to my children eventually?  Will the reintroduction of the work add value to our lives many years later?

Or will I feel better if they’re all gone and forgotten?  It will definitely be one less box to transport and pay for!

What I learned from the Chess Tournament

An example of early-style Staunton Chess Set

An example of early-style Staunton Chess Set (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today I went as the Parent Supervisor with The Boy and 3 of his schoolmates to the local Chess Championships.

I’m not a chess player, so I knew nothing about what to expect or what was going to happen.

Here’s what I learned:

10) Parents who go to help at a Chess Championship should know how to play chess. I had no idea if our children were being treated fairly or not in their games, and I couldn’t help when they’d ask why certain strategies in the game happened.  I’m really glad the teacher had already taught them the 4 move checkmate though – other children got caught by that!

9) When you’re playing in a championship, the same hand that moves the piece must touch the clock to end your turn.

8) If you touch a piece, you have to move that piece. If you touch someone else’s piece, you must remove it from the game (unless that’s an illegal move.)  If you touch a piece and let go before you move it, your turn is done.

7) A lower rank team has the luxury of playing for fun.  They’re playing to improve and learn, not necessarily playing to win.  Much more fun, less stress. My team came in 14th out of 17 teams and they had a lot of fun!

6) A highly ranked team has stress over keeping their ranking.  Not as much fun, and way more pressure. I was watching the highest ranked teams and there were tears, nerves, complaints, and some poor sportsmanship. Not sure how much learning or improving happened there.

5) Parents need to get over themselves and let their children play and learn.  I’m certain a lot of the stress from #6 actually came from all the parents that stood around the table silently watching and communicating frustration through their non-verbal communications. I did that for the first game, realised how much trouble I was causing, and then purposefully stepped back and away from the tables for the rest of the games.  Less stress for me, and less stress for my team!

4) If you’re setting up a chess championship, it’s better to make it so the toilets, kitchen, and exit are not on the other side of the room, with the only way there is a path through the competition tables.  Talk about interference and distraction!

3) It is impossible to keep a room full of 50-75 adults and children quiet through a full round, waiting after their game has been decided, while other people are still playing. Especially considering point #4.

2) Practice is everything. That’s how a 7 year old (who has been playing since he was three with his parents, since he was 5 with his school and with an after school chess club, and been in the championships 3 years running) beats an 11 year old  (who has only been playing for a year and had never been in a championship).

1) If you walk around one of these events with a clipboard, everyone will assume you’re in charge, even if you’re not. If I had been a bit more on my toes, I could have had a lot of fun! (I was keeping track of my team’s scores!)

What I actually did

You’ll need to read this post first.

I wasn’t comfortable with what happened, at all.  I mentioned it in passing to the Vice Principal, by saying that I wasn’t complaining, and that I had thought about it for a long time, but that I was concerned that the children saw what they did. That had it just been nudes, that was one thing, but a woman playing with herself was inappropriate for the age group. Wouldn’t have bothered me for older kids, but for pre-pubescent children, I was uncomfortable.

I followed that up with an email:

Just further to our conversation – I just looked at The Boy’s art assignment from the Art gallery – his person has one hand picking his nose and the other one putting up a middle finger. I haven’t said anything to judge his picture to him, but frankly, for an 8 year old to think it’s okay to do that in art, that’s just not right. I’m really uncomfortable with it. He’s not allowed to pull the finger at home or at school, so we’re giving him a mixed message by saying it’s okay in art. I am very relieved that the other pictures seemed to go completely over his head – but what if it hadn’t?
I just want to make it clear I’m not trying to lay blame on the school or the teachers. I am thinking that the Art Gallery should have notified the school of the content of their art show for the date the children attended. Surely they didn’t think that was appropriate for 7-9 year olds. Not all parents allow their children to watch inappropriate things on television or listen to inappropriate music!

I am wholly in favour of the children going to the art gallery.  And I think sometimes displays at the art gallery are not appropriate for primary school children. So in future I think it would be a good idea to be aware of the content before they go, and maybe delay the trip where necessary. I also think, in future, the school needs guidelines in place to check the appropriateness of the content before a similar trip is scheduled.

If the Art Gallery doesn’t agree with that, then perhaps we need to find art elsewhere – like, perhaps, the art gallery right here in our town? Or even invite more artists to visit the school. I know both of my children thoroughly enjoyed the artist that visited and drew funny pictures of the teachers!

I understand that art should be controversial and get people to ask questions. And I’d also like to preserve my children’s childhood for as long as possible. Those two things should not be incompatible!

Thank you all of you who took time to comment. It was greatly appreciated!

What would you do?

Okay, so, perspective please …

The local Art Gallery invited my children’s school to visit. They paid for the buses and only asked for a $1 donation per child. They do this once a term.

Last time the children went, Hubby went along as parent help. He was shocked that some of the artwork was presented to the children (5-9 year olds) as “And this one’s about the artists anger about how all white people are racists.” Not the exact words, mind you. Hubby can’t remember exactly what the curator said, only what was implied.

This time, The Boy’s class went (7-9 year olds). The front entrance had a painting with a man projectile vomiting, another with a man, his privates in full view, urinating, and a woman playing with her fully erect chest area. (words changed to try to prevent certain spammings)

In the exhibition the children went to, there were cardboard cut outs of people, one of whom was picking his nose and pulling out visible boogers, and another one with birds pooping out of his butt while he gave the audience the finger. The curator specifically pointed out this piece and talked about it, drawing it to the children’s attention.

Now, The Boy didn’t seem to notice the paintings at the entrance (or if he did, he’s saying nothing.) However, the class was asked
to do an artwork based on what they saw. My Boy’s art faithfully reproduces the picking nose, boogers, and flipping the
bird.

How comfortable would you be with this? And what would you do?

Using synesthesia to cope with dyscalculia?

Math Mark

Math Mark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My daughter’s been having a spot of trouble with her basic math skills. She’s gone backwards in her knowledge, forgetting some strategies and seemingly not understanding the new strategies.  It’s a bit odd, because in terms of her reading, writing and spelling she’s way ahead of most of her classmates.What’s not so odd is that I had the same kind of trouble when I was her age.  I always just thought I was horrible at math. And then I went to a workshop at the school and learned that perhaps at least some of the issue was with the way it was taught.

But there’s always more to the story, isn’t there?

As a bit of a lark, I typed “math dyslexia” into google and ended up on a dyscalculia page or seven. Dyscalculia involves difficulty in learning or comprehending mathematics.

I was especially intrigued by some of the “symptoms.”  But not for my girl – for me!

  • Inability to comprehend financial planning or budgeting, sometimes even at a basic level; for example, estimating the cost of the items in a shopping basket or balancing a checkbook: You got it. I never know how much is in my trolley unless I use a calculator, and even then, I make many errors when adding things up on a calculator.   I have completely messed up our budget more than once (I’m never sure exactly how I break it, but I do.) And I have frustrated both my father and my hubby when they were trying to explain financial things.  It’s like I can’t get my head around it, no matter how hard I try.
  • difficulty navigating maps – I’m not allowed to use maps unless it’s a GPS.  That said, I have pretty good direction sense – I usually know where I am. If I’ve been there, I can direct you. But if I use a map, I’ll get you lost.
  • mistaken recollection of names – I usually blame this on my synesthesia. Some names are the same colour, you know.
  • difficulty differentiating between left and right – this one drives the hubby nuts. I have to stop, think (sometimes find the L when I hold up my hands, sometimes remember which one I write with) and then tell you.  Interesting fact –  I still refer to a turn across traffic as a “left hand turn” and a turn with traffic as a “right hand turn” just like I learned it in Canada despite the fact it is the complete opposite here in NZ. And despite the fact that I know it’s wrong.
  • inability to visualise mentally – I assume they mean with math – and yep.  I can’t hold the numbers in my head. Unless it’s basic addition (1-20) or basic multiplication (0 – 12 times tables) which I have memorised by colour, I have to write it down.
  • Might do exceptionally well in a writing related field – Hmmm, I resemble that remark!
  • along with, of course, difficulty with basic math – addition, subtraction, division, multiplication – If I don’t have the calculation memorised by colour, it’s not happening.

I’m also completely useless with mathematical formulas. (Did I mention I failed physics, despite being able to spout off all the theories correctly? It was applying the formulas that did me in! I’m also completely useless with calculus and statistics. Failed them too.)  Makes me (and likely you, too!) really glad I never attempted biology or chemistry.

Did you notice those sections above that mention memorising  “by colour”?  That’s where the synesthesia fits in. If I do have dyscalculia (maybe I don’t and it’s just my synesthesia playing havoc?) then I think I mitigated it during my school years with the synesthesia, using the colours to memorise the basic mathematic skills I needed. I changed the numbers and calculations to colour combinations. When I mess up the colours (it can happen. After all, 8 and 3 are the same colour.) I mess up the math.

Which brings me back to my girl.  She doesn’t have synesthesia (that I know of), but she is clearly having trouble with math.  And now that I know that there is such a thing as a math-specific learning disability (and that apparently it is genetically inheritable) perhaps I’ll be able to use some of the strategies they use for dyscalculia to help her, even if she doesn’t have it.

 

Learning from a walking bus

Recently, our little cul-de-sac started up a walking bus.

A walking bus is where a group of school-aged children walk to school with an adult or two accompanying them as the “bus driver.”

Our local council pays for the “bus tickets” (laminated punch cards), rain ponchos, hi-vis vests and jackets for the adults, umbrellas, first aid kit, and little keychains that are the rewards for walking to school a set amount of times.

I was skeptical of the benefits of a walking bus at first. Surely the older children would think it was “uncool?”  Possibly the parents might think it’s a waste of time.  Would anybody show up when it was raining?

But I was pleasantly surprised.  Even the two oldest girls in our cul-de-sac like the walking bus.  And I think I can tell you why, using the Te Whaariki learning strands.

  1. Well-being.  When we all walk together, we can talk and laugh and share stories.  Only one adult has to be with our group, as there’s only 9 children. And yet, the other parents walk with us often, just because it is a good time to share.  All of us (adults and children) arrive at school happy.  There’s also the health aspect of it – we walk even when it’s pouring with rain.  Finally (but I think most importantly to the older children), our path to school goes through an alleyway, past a dairy and past a highschool. I think all the children feel safer as part of the group and with an adult around. Teenagers can be a bit scary to everyone!
  2. Belonging.  We’re part of a group, and we all know each other.  We all know the rules of the walking bus, and each one of us (children included) enforce them. The children also keep tabs on who is about to get a new reward keychain. This feeling of belonging has even extended to the adults on the street. We talk and visit each other more.
  3. Contribution. We take care of each other. The children like to make sure everybody is on the bus, to the extent that they will knock on the doors of the missing, or go to the classrooms of the children who aren’t there. In the cul-de-sac, our Neighbourhood Watch is stronger because it’s not just the adults watching now, the children watch too. They know all the people on our street, and they know which people shouldn’t be there. And they tell us! Plus we all watch out for each other, offering to help out when we see people gardening, doing some DIY, or anything else that may need some neighbourly help.
  4. Communication.  Making sure each of us knows who has netball after school, who’s going home with their Dad instead, who’s sick.  Who’s having a hard day/week. Who’s going on vacation and needs us to keep an eye on their property. Who is making a presentation at school today! Who got the taonga* for doing something special at school today.  Celebrations and Sadness. Funny stories. Also, learning how families are different through our stories.  There are 3 families not from New Zealand, one Tangata Whenua family, one family that moved to Australia and then came back, one family from a single parent home, two families that have extended family living with them.  We learn from each others similarities and differences.
  5. Exploration. We gain confidence from walking together.  We jump in puddles and notice differences in the trees, plants and flowers as we walk. We look for Monarch chrysalis and monitor their changes as we go by every day, and once we even got to stop and watch a butterfly hatch. We find sticks, and interesting rubbish. Sometimes we find interesting graffiti and talk about why it’s there.  Even our walk to school is an opportunity for learning.

Our walking bus has brought our little neighbourhood closer together, and brought positive changes in our outlook towards each other and our environment.  Our children have gained confidence, and all of us have gained friends. We’ve all learned something.

My skepticism is all gone. Clearly even the bigger kids saw something that I originally didn’t!