Friday, August 31, 2012

secrets to summer

Oh. Hello, there. I'm not dead. I haven't even been sick. It's just... well, as it turns out, there are only 24 hours in the day. And I've been filling those 24 hours with really productive things like obsessing over bike routes, tomatoes, and cleaning out my kids' closets while they're at school. Sprinkle in some grilling on our new-to-us gas grill (as well as a lot more RESEARCHING grilling), spending time with Gemma, and training this guy
to do tricks, and I begin to worry that I'm not tracking anything my children are doing or cleaning any bathrooms or doing laundry. This has been a problem since Donovan's socks should probably be on the "endangered" list, as they seem to be disappearing at an alarming rate.

Joel has been working about 22 hours a day, so I have been left to download and then upload any photos I may want to use/print/see. This has also left me to do all yard work and homework and research what kind of creature has dug an enormous hole in the corner of my garden (it's not a mouse. unless the mouse weighs like 40 pounds). I'm not complaining, though, because he's working for us. Or so I have to keep chanting to myself when the children have complained or talked back for the bazillionth time and all I want to do is say, "Go talk to your father."
We've been in school for three weeks now. THREE WEEKS. I can't really believe it. Ainsleigh started fifth grade with her first BOY teacher. I had a boy teacher in fifth grade! Ah, Mr. Fambrini - are you still teaching? Anyway, Donovan has the same teacher as last year because he was/is in a 1/2 blend, so he moves up and stays with her, which is fantastic because she is, quite possibly, the best teacher on the planet.
The kids were mostly excited to go back to school. Ainsleigh was more excited than Donovan, which I find interesting given that she sometimes struggles with school. But she has such a good attitude, I think she doesn't let it bother her.

After coming home from school on the first day, she said, "I know a lot of people in my class, but it was weird. I can't describe it, really, except that I felt lonely." My heart kind of lurched. No parent wants their child to feel lonely. I started to reply, saying, "I know what it feels like to be surrounded by people and still feel lonely," but she cut me off there and said, "But when I got home, I said a prayer, so tomorrow will be better." And, sure enough, the next day on the way home from school, I asked her if she felt lonely. She looked at me like it was a dumb question and shook her head, saying, "Nope!" The appending "duh" was silent.

Donovan has slid quite nicely into second grade. He excels at reading, and his initial math testing revealed that he should be in third grade math. I'm going to take complete credit for this. Well, I'll give a little to him, but I can confidently say this is due, in large part, to his pestering mom.

How many summers have we had where I've thought, "We're going to stay on top of reading and math this time!"?! And yet, August rolls around and I think, "Oh crud..." Well this time, THIS TIME, I sent my kids back to school knowing we had practiced the heck out of math facts.

Want to know the secret? XtraMath! It's a brilliant program that assesses your child and then gives them drills based on their level. They start with addition, then move to subtraction, then multiplication and division. It usually takes 10 minutes, initially, and then more like 5-7. It has a cool graph that marks their progress. So I made charts for the kids toward the end of the school year with 100 boxes for checking off. I told Ainsleigh that if she did XtraMath for 100 days, I'd buy her a new American Girl doll - THAT'S how serious I was about this. Donovan would get a skateboard (a real one - not one from Target). This is where we see which child is motivated by prizes. Donovan finished his about a month ago. Ainsleigh still has 7 days to go. I didn't make them do it everyday (obviously), opting to let them choose. And I tried to let them see how, if they let a few days go between drills, their score would go down. But if it had been 5 days, I'd say, "You've got to do this." I'm quite pleased with the program, especially given Donovan's test scores now, of course.

Want to know my other summer secret? Screen time. Or, rather, the lack thereof. I have a friend here whose television goes on vacation during the summer. Gasp! Ok, they do have family movie nights, but during the day it is off off OFF. I couldn't quite go that extreme right off the bat, but the kids were allowed 30 minutes per day. Screen time was any tv, computer, video games, ipod, etc. Every now and then I'd reward them with extra screen time, just as every now and then they'd lose screen time (watching the Olympics didn't count toward screen time!). About three weeks into summer when this was enacted, suddenly everyone was a lot calmer, a lot kinder, and a lot happier.

Want to know another secret (I'm full of them!)? Summer is over, but the kids still ask permission to use their screen time. The tv isn't on as much, and Albus gets more attention (and thus is a bit calmer. or that could be that he's growing up. who knows. we're all happier).
Stay tuned for a California recap only a month late. Pshaw. Then I'll tell you another secret about summer.


Becca said...

I'm obsessed with Alby pics. You should post more. Like a gazillion more.

NancyO said...

My only boy teacher in grade school was fifth grade, too.

Margo said...

Sarah, I love xtramath. I am so glad you told me about it. My kids hate it but that means it is a good thing. I even told Davids teacher about it and now she has the whole class doing it. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

Amy :-) said...

Stopped in to see how things were going, and I was thrilled to see pics of Albus! Sounds like he is a handful, but hopefully he is making up for it with doggy trick proficiency!