The end of the year report card

It’s hard to believe it’s almost the end of the school year. The actual school year ends in May, but the kindergarteners in The Boy’s Montessori classroom will have their first standardized tests in a few weeks, and everyone will be plenty busy. Besides, it’s not like the Pre-Kindergarteners’ skill sets will really change all that much during the last 7 weeks of school.

We received The Boy’s report card today, and after Cute Husband and I reviewed it at the dinner table, we told The Boy how very proud we were that his skills had shown marked improvement. When we received his first report card in November, most of the scores were Ps, or “in the process of mastering”. (I prefer to say the P is the equivalent of the S, or “satisfactory”.) This time, most of the Ps were now Es. (E stands for established mastery of a skill. I prefer to think it means “excellent”.)

So which skill sets remained Ps and didn’t improve to Es?

  • Controls own behavior
  • Follows classroom/school rules
  • Listens appropriately
  • Works neatly
  • Good pencil control
  • Writes letters on lined paper
  • Writes the numerals

None of these are surprising to me. I’m a little more surprised (but relieved!) that he has shown mastery in observing table manners, but I’m not at all surprised that he still needs to master controlling his own behavior or any of the other skills listed above. It’s not that he doesn’t know how to follow classroom rules or use his listening ears; he just chooses not to sometimes, and that’s not okay.

All in all, though, it was an excellent report card. He’s shown a tremendous amount of progress in his skill sets, and he is truly thriving in this environment. I have a meeting in a couple of weeks with Ms. M to review what will be expected of him (and what I can expect) once he enters Kindergarten, and I’m sure there will be a few things Cute Husband and I can do with The Boy to help him really prepare over the next few months.

It’s still hard to believe it’s almost the end of the school year, and it’s even harder to believe The Boy will start Kindergarten in the fall. But he loves school, and he’s excited to learn, and I’m continuously amazed by how much this little person has mastered in such a short period of time!

The Boy’s first obstacle course (and first eating contest)

Today was the Second Annual Boot Camp Barbecue at The Boy’s school. He wasn’t enrolled last year, so we weren’t there for the inaugural event, but this year’s was a lot of fun.

The Boy has been looking forward to it since they announced it in February. It’s a school fundraiser, and the students families parents are expected to, well, solicit funds for the school to use. I didn’t have time to do my usual fundraising (last fall, I baked brownies and cakes and all kinds of goodies to sell at work, with the proceeds going to The Boy’s school), so I just wrote a check for $30 and was done with it. (That was the minimum to get a T-shirt, which is all I really cared about.)

The Boy (in his Boot Camp shirt!) waiting for his classroom's turn on the obstacle course.

Now, because we weren’t around for last year’s Boot Camp Barbecue, I really had no idea what to expect. Sure, I saw a few pictures, but I really didn’t know what, specifically, would happen this year. All I knew was that I promised The Boy I would go through Boot Camp with him, whatever that meant.

Last night, The Boy, in all his excitement, put himself to bed without any fuss, and, even more miraculously, he got up without incident this morning and was so excited about starting his day. (I wish we all greeted each day like that.) This morning was otherwise business as usual: I took him to school, walked him to his classroom (because it’s Friday), and went to work (but only for half a day).

When I returned to The Boy’s school to help out before the event actually began, I saw a rather large obstacle course at the bottom of the hill by the parking lot. The school had sent home a map last night (which I studied carefully), but it still didn’t properly prepare me for what I actually saw.

The Boot Camp obstacle course

The first obstacle was a wall (actually two large boards leaning together in the shape of an upside-down V) with ropes attached that students would scale. (There was a smaller version of this wall under the larger one.) From there, they would crawl under a web of orange ribbon, go through a misting “tunnel” (really, a tent), balance on two separate teeter-totters, run through a series of tires, jump over a series of hurdles, race through agility poles (the kind you see dogs using in those dog shows), cross an open “bridge” over a small pool of water, attack a kick-boxing bag, and skip down a short path before climbing up the hill to where tents were set up waiting for them.

This was the little kids’ version, by the way. And if you’re exhausted reading it, imagine how spent The Boy was after running it. Repeatedly.

The Boy loved the entire course. The whole class ran through the obstacles together twice, and I eagerly joined in the first round. I was all set to run with him and his classmates a second time, but The Boy looked up at me from his place in line and said, “Um, Mommy, I don’t need you to go with me again.”

Oh, well. Since I wasn’t running the obstacles, it meant I could take pictures, right?

Kickboxing. Sport of the future.

Interestingly enough, one of his favorite obstacles was the teeter-totter.

The bridge was another favorite, though he didn’t trust himself to climb onto it by himself. (The bridge was the only obstacle I didn’t attempt because I didn’t trust it to hold my weight.)

The Boy on the bridge. He was nervous about falling into the water below because he didn't want to get his shoes wet.

One of the highlights of the day, though, was being selected to participate in the watermelon contest! I agreed to let him sign up to participate in it (making him sign the form and everything), and of all the entries, his was one of five selected.

Sizing up the competition at the start of the competition.

Cute Husband and I were a little unsure how he would do. After all, he had just finished a hot dog for dinner and wasn’t exactly starving, and though The Boy doesn’t exactly eat slowly, he’s been told from the time he could eat solids to take small bites and carefully chew his food.

Almost through the first slice. Look at all the watermelon juice dripping down the table from just his corner.

He was a little slow to start, but once he got started, he did very well. He polished off one slice…

He's down to the bottom of the first slice, but that slow start means he's got a lot of ground to cover.

…and quickly got started on a second.

Onto the second piece!

I will admit I was a bit uneasy watching the competition munch on the watermelon. It looked like it was going to be a close race.

The Boy doesn't seem to realize you're not supposed to worry about seeds when it's a contest.

Ultimately, The Boy came in a very close second place. The judges were torn for a moment, but I could see straight away that one of his opponents ate a bit more of the third slice than he did.

Well, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. He had fun; that’s what really mattered. And he didn’t seem at all disappointed about the loss, so that was awesome for me.

But, of course, the watermelon contest wasn’t the end of the day. Even with a very full belly, he insisted on returning to the obstacle course to run around. And after (what I felt was) a reasonable resting period, he joined some of his classmates on the field where they all tested out some of the obstacles designed for the bigger kids. One of his friends scaled the taller wall (both with and without the footholds!), and The Boy found joy in rolling a tire up the hill.

It may be a shell of a tire, but its diameter is almost his height and it still weighs a whole lot when you're pushing it up a hill!

When we finally left, he was exhausted, and once he showered and brushed his teeth, it wasn’t long before he went right to sleep. And after a day like this, I can’t exactly blame him!

The Boy’s social calendar

If you’d like to schedule a playdate or invite The Boy to a party, please note that his calendar is quickly filling up.

Last week, The Boy received an invitation to a birthday party (a first grader’s birthday party, no less) that was this afternoon. In his Friday backpack, he received another invitation, this time for the birthday party of a girl in a different class. (“She’s in Mrs. B’s class,” he informed us, adding proudly, “I’m the only one in my class who knows her.”)

Goodness, it’s tough being the parent of a popular kid.

Today’s party was a lot of fun. The celebrant’s younger brother is in The Boy’s class, and he already knew some of the other kids from After Care. Plus, he plays soccer with the celebrant on Fridays, so they’re buddies. As for me, I chatted with some of the other parents a bit and enjoyed watching the kids play in the bounce house.

The Boy’s own birthday is just about 6 weeks away, so Cute Husband and I need to start planning it. Right now Cute Husband and I are thinking of having it at a private park, but we’re not sure what we’ll do if it rains.

Ugh. Decisions, decisions. These really are First World problems.

Banned

At school this month, in addition to the Presidents, money, and dental hygiene, The Boy and his classmates have been learning about geography, specifically the United States. One of the lessons they have the option of doing is a large Melissa & Doug floor puzzle of the United States.

This is the same puzzle I bought for The Boy ages ago, the same one that he figured out how to piece together on his own in October, the same one he likes to work on in his room when I tell him to play quietly so Mommy and Daddy can get a few more minutes of sleep (that somehow still never happens).

The Boy knows this puzzle and can complete it very quickly. He doesn’t even need to look at the picture on the box anymore. He’s beyond knowing where Florida, Texas, California, and Maine belong on the map. He knows the southern border states, the northern border states, the West Coast, the East Coast, and everything between. (He can even do it upside-down – and often does.)

And when he watches the other kids struggling with the puzzle, he gets antsy and begs Ms. M to let him help his classmates. That is to say, he asks if he can take over the puzzle and piece it together himself.

Never mind that we have this puzzle at home. Never mind that there are dozens of other lessons he can work on that will hold his attention and challenge him. When he sees the other kids struggling with this particular puzzle, he gets frustrated and wants to swoop in and do it. So on Friday, after telling me how great The Boy is doing with his lessons and how impressed she is with his geographical knowledge of the United States, Ms. M told me The Boy has been banned from working on the puzzle in class now.

I suppose it’s a good thing, then, that he can complete it whenever he wants at home.

The (almost) finished - and now banned at school - United States floor puzzle.

And so it begins…

“What did you make in art class?” I asked The Boy yesterday when I picked him up from school.

“Um, it’s in my backpack,” he replied, putting down his stuff and opening his backpack. “See?” He pulled out a plastic bag with some beads and a length of ribbon. “I made a necklace but the beads fell out and I have to do it again.”

“Okay,” I said. “Maybe we can do that when we get home.”

“And I want to give the bracelet to my girlfriend.”

He said it so matter-of-factly, like it’s perfectly normal to be not-quite-5 and making jewelry to give to a girl. I take it in stride – without missing a beat – and replied, “Sure. That’s a great idea.”

Inwardly, I have to admit that I don’t like this. But if I react badly when he’s 4, how am I going to react when he’s 14?

His girlfriend, R, is very cute. They don’t play together, he says; they just walk around at recess and sit together in the classroom. He’s talked to Cute Husband about her, and we’ve agreed that the best way to handle this is to let him take the lead, meaning we aren’t to talk about it unless The Boy brings it up.

Anyway, after watching Transformers last night (the cartoon circa 1984, not the movie), he announced that he wanted to finish the bracelet to give to his girlfriend. I helped him and even gave him a few extra beads from my collection. When he was satisfied with it, I carefully knotted it to make sure the bracelet wouldn’t come undone.

The Boy's first real jewelry creation.

This morning, after a good night’s sleep (he seemed to have some pretty intense nightmares last night, though he says he doesn’t remember any of them), he decided not to give this bracelet to R, but announced that he wants to give it to E, his friend from his old school, instead.

Well, if it’s any consolation, I can rest secure in the knowledge that while girls will come in and out of his life, he’ll be my little boy forever.

The topic I hoped I would indefinitely avoid

The Boy is being bullied.

I had suspicions, but he was still so eager to go to school. He would tell me that he didn’t want to play with a certain boy anymore (let’s call him ‘X’), and that X wasn’t a very nice person.

Now, before anyone tells me I’m over-reacting or using a super-charged word when I oughtn’t, I researched bullying quite a bit this morning and have discovered that, yes, what The Boy is experiencing is, in fact, bullying.

According to the Stop Bullying Now campaign, bullying consists of three generally agreed upon elements:

  • An imbalance of power
  • An intent to knowingly cause harm
  • Repetition
  • X is older than The Boy; the oldest child in the class, in fact. The Boy attends a Montessori program at his school, where grades PreK3 through Kindergarten are all in the same classrooms. Kindergarteners have their own breakout sessions, but the idea is to ensure the children have all the necessary skills for grade school.

    Well, as you may have surmised, X is a Kindergartener. He was also already 6 years old when the school year began in August, so he is much older than my almost-5-year-old and, understandably, much bigger.

    Imbalance of power? Check.

    The Boy told both Cute Husband and me that X hits him and kicks him. It’s not on accident; it’s deliberate. And X has told The Boy that if he doesn’t do what he says, none of the other kids will play with him. As such, the boys only play games X wants to play, and The Boy is afraid to stand up to him because he doesn’t want to be ostracized.

    Intent to cause harm? Check.

    And lastly, the above is not an isolated incident. Cute Husband and I have both known this has been a problem for several months. I’ve talked to Ms. M, and she is quite aware. She separates them in the classroom and keeps a watchful eye, but she can only do so much when these things happen away from her.

    Repetition? Check.

    Yesterday after an event at school (I volunteered to help), I wanted to talk to her about X but didn’t have an opportunity. So after I came home and learned that The Boy told Cute Husband that he doesn’t want to go back to school (he told me that yesterday morning), I sent his teacher the following message:

    Hi, Ms. M! I wanted to talk to you really quick about some stuff The Boy has said that concerns us. He’s told both Cute Husband and me that X hits him and kicks him and has told him that other kids won’t play with him if he doesn’t do what he says. He’s afraid to tell on him, and this was the first time he told us he doesn’t want to go back to school because of that. I’m not sure what to do or tell him. I know X is a bigger kid and others look up to him because of it. The Boy said he doesn’t want to be in the same class as X anymore. I told him it’s just until the end of the school year, but then he started counting the number of months left. Suggestions?

    Within minutes, she replied and said she will call me on Monday. In the meantime, I’ve praised The Boy for coming to us about this and let him know that his teacher and I will talk about it. And Cute Husband and I have reviewed with him the things he can say to someone bothering him. The Boy is not shy about telling people when they bother him, so that combined with this sudden desire to skip school was the cause for the red flag.

    No one wants their child to be bullied, but I guess mine is one of the “roughly one in four” children who are the targets of bullying before Middle School.

    One study I read suggests preschool bullies target the kids they most envy or want to be like. And Cute Husband and I can both see how this may be a possibility. When Cute Husband chaperoned a field trip in November, X asked Cute Husband to buy him a Beyblade Tornado (The Boy had one and X clearly wanted one, too). And both times I volunteered to lead crafts in the classroom, X made a fuss about getting my attention, and I noticed that his parents haven’t signed up to lead crafts.

    Is X screaming for attention and acting out against The Boy because he subconsciously wants his life? Is he exerting all this power over his classmates because he feels powerless at home? Possibly and possibly. And it makes me sad for X, that he has this need to overpower his classmates out of envy or misplaced aggression.

    But it still doesn’t excuse the fact that he’s tormenting my kid. And it doesn’t make me feel better about it.

    The 2011 Thanksgiving Feast (at school)

    The Boy had a huge Thanksgiving Feast at school today. There were chicken fingers, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese (the homemade kind), veggies (and ranch dip), and all kinds of desserts. I (and about 30 other parents) joined him for lunch, and it was a lot of fun.

    I will say this about his current school versus daycare: I don’t get much of a chance to meet or socialize with parents at his current school the way I was able to at his daycare. I don’t have much of an opportunity to get to know the kids, either, except through signing up to lead crafts, and even then, it seems so rushed.

    Anyway, it was nice to meet more of the parents, visit with the moms I had already met, and share stories about our kids. I wasn’t exchanging phone numbers with anyone, but I had the chance to talk to the parents of some of the kids The Boy likes playing with, and that’s always a plus in my book.

    Ms. M had all the kids share what they were thankful for this year, and The Boy said he’s thankful for his mom, his dad, and his toys. I stood in the back with the other moms as the kids were making their announcements; we shared funny Thanksgiving stories. One of his classmates, Brian, announced last year that he was thankful for Star Wars. I told the moms that two years ago, The Boy said he was thankful for ketchup.

    Oh, and this really was a huge Thanksgiving Feast. There was a lot of food – more than was needed to feed the kids, teachers, and parents.

    We certainly have much to be thankful for.

    The Boy’s first report card

    I don’t know why I was so nervous opening up the little white envelope that came in The Boy’s folder today. I mean, he’s in Pre-Kindergarten, for crying out loud. It’s not like this first report card will dictate where he goes to college or what profession he’ll ultimately pursue.

    Anyway, he did very well. The scoring for the Montessori program at his school doesn’t follow traditional grading, so it took a minute for me to understand what I was reviewing.

    A score of N means that a skill set has yet to be introduced. The only areas where he received an N were under Mathematics for addition and subtraction. Cute Husband and I have introduced both concepts here at home, but he just hasn’t done activities that work within those areas at school.

    A score of I means that a skill set has been introduced and that the child is currently working on that skill. The Boy didn’t receive any I scores on his report card.

    A score of P means that the child is in the process of mastering a certain skill set. In my mind, this is the equivalent of S, or Satisfactory. In other words,, The Boy does this reasonably well, but not perfectly. Most of his scores were Ps.

    Finally, a score of E means that the child has established mastery of a skill. The Boy received a handful of E scores:

    • Makes friends easily
    • Works and plays with others
    • Takes pride in work
    • Participates in group activities
    • Speaks in sentences
    • Alphabet sounds

    These really don’t surprise me; he’s a very social child, after all.

    What made me smile, though, was in the comments:

    C has adjusted to our environment just fine. He is making fantastic progress on all the areas. We are focusing on mastering our classroom rules. He is a leader and we are encouraging him to apply it in a positive way. He shows great pride while working. Keep up the good work!

    The Boy is definitely a born leader. He’s very charismatic, and I’m glad his teachers recognize this and are showing him how to channel it in a way that doesn’t disrupt the other kids.

    It reminded me of one of my own preschool report cards that I found among my mother’s papers many years ago. In the comments, my teacher wrote that I was a natural leader but needed to learn to follow directions and work well with others.

    Maybe The Boy and I really aren’t that different, after all.

    Craft Time with Mrs. Caines

    I went to The Boy’s school this morning to lead his class in a craft. I initially only signed up for December, but I saw there was an opening for November, as well, and signed up for it. After all, it’s crafts, and, well, I love doing crafts with The Boy.

    I found this fingerprint tree on Pinterest and decided this would be great to do with The Boy’s class. It met all the basic criteria: easy, fun, can be done in small groups, and in keeping with one of the classroom themes (parts of the leaf are being covered this month).

    The best part of leading the craft wasn’t the craft itself, but being present to observe The Boy and his classmates during Circle Time. It was so cute to watch, and I could see that he really is thriving at school. They begin the day with a “Hello” song, then move on to discuss the days of the week, the date and the weather. And through it all, The Boy was (mostly) behaved. One of the kindergarteners started talking to him during Circle Time, and after Ms. M reprimanded them, he covered his ears when the same boy began talking to him again.

    He really is a good kid.

    The craft itself was fun and only took an hour for the whole class to complete. The Boy was part of the first group and was the first to finish his tree (I let him do a sample tree on Saturday, so he was kind of over it), which only meant that he came to me periodically to show me all the lessons he worked from start to finish while I was there. (There were quite a few of them, really.) Some of his classmates took longer to complete it (including one little girl who wanted to cover the entire paper with fingerprints), but everyone seemed to have fun with it.

    And now I have another month to set up December’s craft.

    “She doesn’t understand!”

    The Boy has been very tired this week. With Aunt A and Cousin E visiting this past weekend, he didn’t go to bed until after 9 o’clock on Saturday night and after 8pm on Sunday. For a child who absolutely does not function on less than 10 hours of sleep (and operates best on 11-12 hours of rest) and needs to be up no later than 6:30 on a school day morning, this translated to a very sleepy boy. This has been the toughest week for our AM routine since June.

    Last night, Cute Husband and I reduced The Boy’s number of shows to one (but I threw in a story to extend cuddle-time a bit), which did not go over well with the little man.

    “Ms. M says I need to go to bed at 8!” he insisted. “It’s not 8!”

    Never mind that he was fighting sleep in the car on the way home from school. Never mind that his eyelids were so heavy as he sat at the dinner table eating his hot dog and apple sauce. The Boy was adamant that he wasn’t sleepy; he wanted a second show.

    Cute Husband and I held our ground, though, and The Boy was in bed by 7:30 and asleep by 7:45. And when he woke this morning, he was much more pleasant. He was still sleepy, but he didn’t complain about needing more sleep the way he had the rest of the week.

    As I like to do on Fridays when we get to school a little early, I walked The Boy to his classroom today. Ms. M had sent me an email earlier this week about coming in for a craft project a week from Monday, and since I hadn’t had a chance to reply, I wanted to let her know that day worked with my schedule.

    I also apologized for The Boy being so sleepy and explained that he had a really busy weekend last week and hadn’t had a chance to catch up on sleep. I know The Boy kind of shuts down and refuses to listen when he’s tired, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear that, despite all the drama at home, The Boy had been very good (using his Listening Ears and all) at school.

    But Ms. M told me that some of the older kids were falling asleep in class and that she had to send a few emails this week to parents because quite a few kids were tired and not listening well. (You have no idea how relieved I am that The Boy was not among them.)

    “We had a talk yesterday about bedtime,” she explained, “because it seems like a lot of them just aren’t getting enough sleep.”

    “Yeah!” The Boy interjected. “Ms. M, I told my mom that I need to go to bed at 8 o’clock, but she doesn’t understand!”

    “I put him to bed at 7:30 last night,” I said quietly.

    “Yeah! And I told her you said I have to go to bed at 8! See? She doesn’t understand!”

    Ms. M smiled, and it seemed like she was trying not to laugh.

    “It’s okay,” she said. “As long as you’re asleep by 8 o’clock, if your mom wants to put you to bed before 8, it’s okay. You just need to be asleep by 8.”

    I’m glad it’s almost the weekend. I can get him to bed at 6:30 or 7 tomorrow night and get him caught up on sleep a bit. And maybe he’ll forgive me if I get him to bed before 8 o’clock now.