Sunday, August 28, 2011

The first week at Elementary School

It seems like just yesterday I blogged about embarking upon the dreaded San Francisco Unified District school tours. We found out which school we got into back in March. Then the rest of the year frisked right by and the beginning of the school year hit us. Geekygirl is a kindergartener, with two full weeks at her new elementary school under her belt. She loves it. She loves her uniforms, navy and white, though I failed to calculate the number of possible permutations and combinations a creative girl can consider when she has five different bottoms and three different shirt styles to choose from in the morning. When you add in the fact that they are allowed to wear legging or tights of any color under their skirts we still end up taking quite some time to get ready of a morning!

She has made new friends already, and she loves her teacher. She even loves the afterschool program. I was a bit worried about this. In her daycare/preschool all the families had working mums (or two working dads), so I had comfortably avoided making her aware of the concept of a parent who stays home and picks up the end of the school day, which is early afternoon here. A lovely friend who also has a kid in her class, and has a more flexible schedule than mine is going to take her home one day a week though (thanks P!), to give her a bit of a break from school.

Which brings me to why I'm loving the school. The community. One of the reasons the district changed the application policy for the schools this year was to try and make them more part of the communities they were located within. Not everyone has been delighted with this new policy, but I love that when I drop off at school I see the same families we play with in the playground, kids that I went to mummy and baby classes with, and mums I remember being pregnant at the same time I was. There are also families who live in the less affluent part of our neighborhood who we otherwise wouldn't interact with. I love that the school is so close to our house.

Admittedly, most of the families I know are in the much lauded Spanish language immersion path at the school. We are not in that program, we are in the regular General Education English language track. I did a fair amount of outreach into our parent community over the past year, and for the first time a decent proportion of this class also is from "our side of the tracks". A bonus of this not being one of the popular schools in the city means that there are only fourteen children in Geekygirl's class.

 As part of my rallying effort I had asked the kindergarten teacher at the time to meet with prospective parents. This lady, a thirty year veteran teacher, spoke about assessing each child's needs and grouping the children according to ability to ensure all children progressed, rather than teaching to the lowest common denominator. This gets called "supporting differentiated learning" here, and apparently it isn't philosophically supported by all schools. The teacher we met with retired over the summer though, and the teacher of this years K class is new.

The only nagging concern I have is whether she will be able and willing to meet the needs of all the kids in the class. There are kids who have had no preschool, kids who don't speak English well, and kids like Geekygirl who can read and write already. She seems really lovely, but I would like to have a conversation with her about this concept without sounding like a pushy parents who is convinced her child is a genius. Any suggestions?!

Happy back to school, everyone!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Silent Sunday

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Silent Sunday

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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

Despite never having lived in the country, Geekydaddy is Danish, courtesy of his Danish mother, and of the queen of Denmark who granted his citizenship plea when he turned 18. His mum and dad have a cottage on the coast, an hour or so from Copenhagen, and that is where we spent a week of our vacation.

Rural Denmark must be the greenest place on earth. The grass, when examined closely, proves to be interlaced so thickly with leafy chartreuse moss that it is more moss than lawn. Mushrooms sprout in the shadows. It is a damp country. For the week that we were there though, it was glorious. The white sandy beach with its shallow gentle water a veritable Danish riviera. Every day the kids frolicked in the sand and water. "The sand is as soft as snow" Geekyboy exclaimed on his first trip down to the sea.

We consumed our annual supply of omega 3 fatty acids with a daily herring lunch. As I posted on Facebook, you know you are in Denmark when lunch consists of pickled herring, smoked herring, herring salad with some smoked mackerel to add variety. The children didn't touch the herring, I hasten to add. In fact they universally turned their noses up at lovingly prepared food on both sides of the North Sea. Thank goodness jarred pesto sauce and dried pasta are internationally consistent products, otherwise they may have starved. They did relish their "frigadella" (Danish meatballs) and British sausages, at least.

A trip to Denmark wouldn't be complete without an outing to Tivoli, the wonderful old theme park right in the center of Copenhagen.
Geekydaddy turned into a child as soon as we walked through the gates. This was a paradise from his own childhood, and he couldn't wait to share it with the kids.

Our kids hadn't even been to a theme park before. We haven't made the trek to Disney or lego-land. We may have to now, because they loved Tivoli. Even Geekyboy, usually cautious, wanted to go on the rides. Our favourite was a peculiarly Danish ride "the magic Suitcases". Riders sit in a car shaped like an open suitcase and are carried through animated scenes from Hans Christian Andersen stories, some rather strange and sinister, others very beautiful and charming. I noted that the lovely "little mermaid" scene consisted of several stylized topless mermaid statues complete with round perky boobs with bright red nipples. Can you imagine such a thing in Disneyland in a ride intended for preschoolers?! I do love the Scandanavian attitude to the human body. We had planned a sensible early exit from the park, but Geekydaddy begged and pleaded to keep the kids up too late and to stay for longer, so we fed the kids some more sugar to keep them going long past their bedtime.

This trip is probably the first that Geekygirl will really remember well. She was only three the last time we traveled with her, and she has some flashes of recollection but not many.  At five, this trip will be written into the mystery that is permanent memory. Holiday memories burn brighter than others, I think. Maybe because they are more photographed and talked about. Maybe because we pack so much experience into those few weeks away from our usual routines. I have vivid and happy memories from my childhood holidays. This trip is the beginning of a holiday memory collection Geekygirl will carry with her forever. I'm glad it was such a good one.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The squeaky stair

I'm not sure when the second from bottom stair in my parents house started to creak, but it has done so for as long as I can remember. My mum and dad purchased our family home brand new, in 1973. At the time the little estate was at the very edge of the small and rather shabby market town, built on the first of many farmer's fields sold to developers. They still live there; its now much farther from the edge of the town, and the town itself is now an attractive local destination filled with gastro pubs and designer shops. The interior of the house is much tidier and more stylish too, and the garden a veritable magazine piece. The stair still creaks though.

My mum's footfall on that step, bouncing up and down those stairs, epitomizes home to me. I have lain in bed, upstairs, waiting to be kissed goodnight, for a glass of water, to be roused for the school bus, illicitly with a boyfriend or just innocently drifting off to sleep alone, and that creak has meant mum or dad were on their way up or down. I jumped over that creaky step if I came home late, trying to be quiet, though I'm sure mum was still awake, she never slept until we were all safely home.

Our first port of call on our recent holiday to the UK was mum and dad's house. Warmly welcomed, the children were cool. They don't know their grandparents well, how could they really with the miles that separate us? Geekygirl especially can tell how much I want her to like them, and being her contrary self decides that therefore she won't. I was sad that they didn't show their adorable selves very often, but instead met my parents kind efforts with a sullen, grudgy compliance. Still, we explored my childhood haunts and many wonderful attractions that didn't exist when I was a child, and they had a wonderful time. England has become so child friendly, even child centric, it seems, since I left. Family farms and adventure playgrounds galore.

The wall next to the staircase in my parents house is a family gallery. Arty shots of me and my siblings, wedding snaps, and precious portraits of long passed family members, some perhaps the only photos ever taken of them, and certainly wearing the only shoes they owned, adorn the walls. Geekygirl, her ascent halted by the disconcerting squeak of the stair, stopped to look at them and was fascinated by a sepia picture of two curly haired toddler girls and a baby boy. She was incredulous when informed that one of the pretty little girls was Grandma. It seemed almost impossible to her that Grandma used to be a little girl. That I used to be one too, a skinny gap toothed creature in the gallery, she can barely grasp. This sense of continuity, this home with its trail of family, is one of the reasons I wish we could bring the kids 'home' more frequently.

That, and to preserve the lovely English accent both kids seem to have adopted during the trip.

Silent Sunday

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Silent Sunday