School for Casey

Casey started school too!  …two weeks ago.  Then she promptly got sick and missed a few days.  But she is back on track and set to enjoy the third week of school…her first full week of school.

She goes to preschool at a very nice Baptist church down the street.  (In Tennessee, there’s a very nice Baptist church every mile or so it seems.)  It’s five days a week and on two days she stays a couple extra hours for “Stay and Play.”  She gets to eat lunch with her friends and play for a little bit.  Last week was her first week of stay and play and it’s the longest time I’ve had to myself in quite a while.  Although I have to admit I was a little lonely at lunch.

So far she is having a great time at school and always has something to tell me and show me when I pick her up.  She is even doing made-up “homework” in the afternoons when Jack has to work on his homework!

1st Grade!

Jack started 1st grade on Monday!  He was very excited about going to school and riding the bus.  He didn’t seem to be nervous at all.  I guess I need to try not to project how nervous I would be if I were him onto him 🙂  New school, new teacher, new friends, new bus experience…and it didn’t phase him! 
After pictures and getting to the bus stop nice and early, he hopped right on the bus without a second thought.  The driver had to get him to turn around for a picture.  Casey and I had a nice long day together and then walked up to the bus stop to get Jack.  We waited for 20 minutes before we even saw a bus in our neighborhood.  It drove back and forth on the cross street below ours a couple times like the driver didn’t know where to go.  Then I saw some people walking from the other end of the neighborhood towards us.  It turned out to be Jack and another family from the bus stop where he decided to hop off the bus.  He got off about 3 stops too early.  The nice family decided to walk with him to make sure he got to our house.  When I asked him why he got off so early he said, “I didn’t know how close it was going to get to our house, so I just got off!”  Brave kid!  It didn’t upset him in the least.   
There’s since been a week of school and I’m not quite sure what he’s doing for 7 hours a day.  There’s “early bunch” in the morning which means they color until everyone gets there.  There are announcements, two bathroom breaks, lunch, and recess (if everyone is good).  I think maybe the learning starts this week? 
He brought home some homemade play-doh that his teacher made and he said, “It’s just like regular Play-Doh but it tells the future.  Isn’t that great?  This one said we are going to have a great year.”  
I think he’s made a few friends but he’s iffy on the names.  He said, “The one boy that I expected was going to be my best friend said he didn’t want to be my friend.”  It makes my heart break and makes me laugh all at the same time.  I’m not sure why he “expected” someone was going to be his best friend…it’s kind of cute.  And I’d like to hope he just misunderstood the situation and that boys are not that mean.  Luckily it didn’t seem to bother him too much.  And then we talked about making sure he was nice to everyone and friends with everyone. 
So far he’s enjoying the experience but he said the homework starts this week.  I hope he still likes school after this week 🙂 

School Registration

Today was registration day at Jack’s new school.  He starts school next Monday!  August 6th is pretty early but he gets done around the 3rd week in May.  That’s why we had to miss International Festival and our two weeks of August in Maine and visit earlier.

Pat asked Jack if he was nervous about starting school and he said, “A little bit.”  When pressed further, he said he is nervous because he hasn’t really done as many worksheets as he should have done this summer.  Not because he’s going to a brand new school and has no idea where his classroom is or who his teacher is and not because he doesn’t know anyone at the school!

I’ve tried to get him to do a few worksheets and some reading this summer so he doesn’t completely forget how to read.  He’s been very resistant to it for the most part so I may have tried to guilt him into it by telling him he needs to remember what he learned last year or he’ll be behind.  Then I read something on Jack’s 6-7 year checkup from the doctor that said not to push them into reading because it can interfere with his interest in learning.  So I backed off.  Mostly I really want him to love reading like I do but I think that will come in time.

Anyway, I was probably more nervous for his registration day.  I had all my questions written down so I wouldn’t forget anything.  I had the most questions about the bus system.  The only elementary school experience I have is my own and I had 10 students in my class, there were 4 classrooms and only one bus.  This school has seven classrooms of 1st graders alone!

After driving home for a few more pieces of paperwork, Jack is officially registered for 1st grade.  He met the principal and despite our coaching, when she asked him a question he responded with his typical “Yeah.”  At which point she said, “He’ll be saying ‘Yes, Ma’am!’ in no time!”

I was really looking forward to back-to-school shopping but the school puts together a box of all items required for his class and it’s one-stop shopping.  I think Jack would have enjoyed the scavenger hunt of finding all the things on his list and filling the shopping cart, but Pat convinced me this would be much easier.  We still have to go out and find a lunchbox though.

Thursday night is parents’ night for Casey’s school although she doesn’t start until late August.  It is also a movie night at Jack’s school.  He should find out his classroom and teacher then.

And so the school years really begin!!!


Kindergarten Graduation and End of Year Show

Last week, Jack’s preschool held their End of Year Show and Kindergarten Graduation.  Both Jack and Casey were very excited about the show.  They each had songs to sing with their classes and had been practicing for weeks.  Jack especially was excited.  When we talked about missing his end of year party a couple weeks ago so we could go to Philly for Mother’s Day Weekend he said he was fine with that, but he wanted to make sure we weren’t going to miss the end of year show.

The day before the show they practiced for the graduation ceremony and had their pictures taken in their caps and gowns.  Jack told me there was a special song that they were going to play and that he was going to smile really big when he heard that song and walk down the aisle.  When I started singing a bit of Pomp & Circumstance for him he was very impressed that I knew the song already.  And just like he said, when he walked down the aisle he had a huge smile on his face.  I couldn’t capture it with the camera or the video because we were too far away, but it was there.  Even his teacher commented on it.

I spent $60 at Target the day before the show so that Jack would have a nice outfit.  I was tired of him not really having any dress clothes.  At first I just went to get him a new shirt.  Then I decided he needed pants that matched better than the others I had already bought him.  I went to get in line and realized that he had no dress shoes and this was not an occasion where his crocs would do.  Oh, and I suppose he needs dress socks and a belt to go with that.  I bought them all in a size 6 and the outfit was a bit too big for him.  But I hemmed up the pants.  Actually, I taped them up with masking tape.  We cinched in the waist and he looked good!  And, since it’s a little big, he can wear this outfit for every dress up occasion for the next 3 years…and totally justify the money spent 🙂

Casey sang two songs with her class and did a really great job.  You could tell she was having fun and excited to sing the song for everyone.

Jack’s class joined the group and they sang a few songs with the rest of the school.  (Good thing he was in a few numbers without the cap & gown so everyone I could appreciate his nice outfit.)

Then Casey sat with her class and the kindergarten class got ready to graduate.

They all marched in and took their places on the stage.

There was a little bit of time for silliness.

They sang their special kindergarten songs.  I am so proud of Jack because I know I could hear his voice when he was singing.  That’s a big deal for a little guy who wouldn’t do any singing with his class two years ago.

Then they got their diplomas.  Jack thought he had been tricked because there was nothing actually written on the paper they got.

Jack and his teachers…

And we got one bad family picture 🙂  Doesn’t Pat look nice in pink though?

Jack was very excited to graduate from kindergarten.  He had a great year with his teacher and friends.  They showed a video of the kindergarten students at the end of the program.  They asked each one what they favorite part of kindergarten was and what they were going to miss next year.  Jack said his favorite part was playing on the playground and that he was going to miss his friends Jon and TJ.  One little boy said, “I’m going to miss my friends…some of my friends!”

I thought I was going to cry through the whole thing but once the show started and I was trying to capture everything on camera and video while still enjoying the show I was distracted enough to forget the tears.  I’m so proud of the wonderful year that both Jack and Casey had at school.  They learned so much and grew so much.  On the last day of school when we went to pick them up, I really did tear up.  We’re going to miss this school next year!

Jack’s Easter Party at School

I was the party planner for Jack’s Easter party which was held the Thursday before Easter.  Thankfully I had other moms helping out with the food but I put a lot of time and thought into my craft and the egg hunt.
I sent a note home with the parents to have everyone send in 14 eggs.  Jack’s teacher had mentioned 14 since that’s how many kids are in the class.  Not 30 minutes after I sent the note home, I realized that it didn’t matter how many kids are in the class as long as they all send in the same amount of eggs.  Because I really didn’t think they needed 14 eggs filled with candy.  But that’s what they got!  
I learned that they now sell eggs already filled with candy and you can get Star Wars themed eggs.  Brilliant.  But I’d already bought my empty eggs and candy and stuffed my own.  
Now what to do with almost 200 eggs.  It seemed too easy to just throw them all in a field.  Last year they each got six and I numbered them with the intent that they all get one of each number but that was a little confusing.  I was going to put their names on the eggs or their initials but that seemed to easy also.  I ended up numbering them again and then assigning each child one number.  It worked out great.  The kids had a fun time hunting for their numbers and helping each other. 

I made miniature brownies with cream cheese frosting and raspberries on top for dessert.  This was the second batch of brownies and I had barely minutes to spare before I had to be at school for the party but it worked out.  I figured they didn’t need a huge dessert on top of their 14 eggs full of candy.

And here is my craft:  a little sock bunny.

This is the version I made for an example.  The ones that the kids made were cuter and they had some different colored ones.  We filled the bottom of a child’s sock with beans, put an elastic around his neck, then stuffed his head with cotton stuffing and another elastic at the top.  We cut the rest of the sock in half for his ears.  Then we added eyes, nose, teeth and tail.  I found felt with adhesive backing in black and white so the eyes and teeth were easy to go on.  The tail (a white pom pom) and nose just needed a little tacky glue and stayed on there fine.  I spent forever putting all the supplies together for these and putting kits together for the kids but it went really smoothly and I think everyone had fun with it.

I also made these cute carrots out of napkins and silverware.

Jack was not cooperating with the camera but at least there is evidence that he is eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich again.  After eating two a day for a couple years, he got tired of them and went on a sandwich strike for about a year.  But he realized that he likes jelly again and has been eating jelly sandwiches lately.

After all was said and done, this was one of my favorite parties to do.  I was so glad when it was done but it was satisfying to see the kids have a great party and we now have three cute little sock bunnies to decorate with next year.

2011 Pumpkin Patch Class Trip

Bright and early this morning, we headed to another farm for the school pumpkin patch field trip.  Casey started whimpering halfway there and told me that she didn’t feel good.  Eventually she asked for something for the yuckies to go in.  Luckily there was a nice little bucket she had gotten at McDonald’s this weekend and sure enough, she threw up into it two minutes before we reached the farm.  Thankfully, it all went into the bucket and didn’t make a mess.  And since she had no other illness symptoms, I decided that she got carsick from all the turns and stoplights I manuevered through while trying to avoid traffic and get there on time.  She was ready to go into the pumpkin patch as soon as we stopped.  Since she threw up all her breakfast, she was hungry all morning but other than that, you would never know she was sick.

We started out with a hayride to the field where the pumpkins were.  The kids got to pick a little pumpkin and play in the field.  They had a bouncy house, a haystack slide and a teepee out there.  The haystack slide was pretty neat and the kids spent most of their time on it.

Jack was a different person from last year to this year.  Last year he didn’t interact with any of his classmates and he clung to me.  I might as well have taken them there by myself for all it felt like a class trip.  This year, he found his friends and was pretty happy playing with them.  He certainly wasn’t concerned about where I was.

The hayride then brought us back to the main area.  There were all kinds of wooden structures for the kids to climb and play on and picnic tables galore for snacking.  We went into a goat pen and hung out with the goats for a bit too.  It was a great area for the kids and they had a great time.

Casey liked pointing out all her classmates to me and I finally have faces to go with the names that she recites every night during snuggle time.  Before everyone was about to go home, we did some class pictures.  Jack’s was fun with all the kids in a wooden train.  And Casey’s was hilarious.  There were at least two temper tantrums occurring and I’m pretty sure there isn’t a single picture of them all together, let alone looking at a camera.  I think all you could do was laugh, but then it wasn’t my child having a tantrum.  She was actually sitting with a couple of the other little girls and they acted liked they had no idea there was a tantrum happening right in front of them.  They were adorable.

Check your camera settings before taking what would have been a great picture!

Navy jets flying over the pumpkin patch…Jack loved it!

Kindergarten Class

Casey and the girls!

Casey and her teacher

Casey and her Friends

Casey finally made it back to school yesterday.  Poor girl was sick on Friday and missed her second day of school.  With my free time yesterday, I made it to three grocery stores and got the groceries put away before I had to pick up the kids.  It’s amazing how fast I can scoot through the commissary when I’m not driving the big rig that Casey still calls the “car cart.”  I didn’t have to stop numerous times for someone to walk or to get back in the cart or to pick out fruit snacks or to look at all the random crap that only Jack can spy and ask for.

After the commissary I headed to the Natural Heritage Market.  I got a groupon for it back in June and was just waiting for school to start so I could look at things at my leisure.  I’m pretty sure it was the greenest, crunchiest, granola-iest store I’ve ever shopped.  Any item I’ve ever come across in a recipe and could never find at any other grocery store is there.  I’ve been looking for months for unsweetened coconut and no other store has it but I finally found it.  There is a great collection of bulk items and it’s worth shopping for them, but everything else was highly overpriced.

I wasn’t really intending to write about grocery stores, but it’s already done 🙂  Back to Casey.  Unlike Jack, she is more than willing to share with me what she does at school.  Unfortunately, I’m trying to figure out how many grains of salt I need with her stories.  This summer, she began telling me really nice stories about her “friends.”  Her friends are named Neela, Keela, Darma, Karma, Katie, and Caroline or maybe its the group with Nasa, Lacey, Meena and Kumba.  She starts talking about these girls and the random names just roll off her tongue.  If we’re driving somewhere, she’ll tell me that a friend lives in a house we just passed or down a certain road.  She also has a special friend who lives in a house near the beach we visited in Maine.  She talks about her a lot.  It was too rainy for her friend to come out and say hi while we were there though.  Needless to say, all these stories are made up but if you didn’t know her and you didn’t notice the suspicious names, you might actually believe her.

Now that she’s in school and I’m not with her to know exactly what happened, I’ll have to decide whether it’s a true story or not.  Luckily I know the names of a lot of the kids in her class.  Hopefully she’ll tell me some real stories about them!  I’m already trying to figure out if someone gave her a piece of cheese on her first day or she just made that up.

School Days

Jack started kindergarten yesterday and Casey started preschool today!  Jack is liking his class but it’s Casey who is very excited.  Although I’m not sure if she is more excited or if I am.

Jack is going back to the same preschool he went to last year and has the same teacher for kindergarten as he had for preschool.  She moved up with the class.  He has several friends back from last year and some new friends to make.  He starts 20 minutes earlier than last year so he told Pat he was worried that he might not have time to play in the morning before school.  So far that hasn’t been a problem.

Casey has been talking about going to school all summer.  If ever anyone was ready for school, it was her.  I think she would rather have started yesterday when Jack did, but she had her first Little Gym class of the year yesterday and a new haircut and a donut from Dunkin Donuts to make her feel better.

When we met her teacher a few weeks ago, Casey was very shy and wouldn’t play with the other children or talk to the teacher.  She was so excited today that she just walked into the classroom and couldn’t wait for me to leave so she could start school.  She practically pushed me out the door and waved goodbye enthusiastically and that was it.

When I picked Casey up, she skipped out the door and was so excited to tell me that she got to go to the playground two times today and she met a girl named Olivia.  Interestingly Olivia is not in her class so I guess she met her on the playground.  She made a picture of a school house, had snack and someone gave her some cheese.  Overall, I think it was everything she had hoped it would be.  She can’t wait to go back on Friday although she thinks we should go shopping tomorrow while Jack’s in school.

And now I have some time to myself for the first time in 5 years!  I have a bazillion things planned for all this time – which is really going to be less than 9 hours a week.  I plan to make the most of it.  Today I did some grocery shopping in peace and went to the dentist without having to ask someone to watch the kids.  Boring, but so much easier without kids!

Summer Learning

I decided to try my hand at a little homeschooling this summer.  I want to try to keep Jack from losing any of his preschool knowledge and for him to be well prepared for kindergarden.  I think he is just on the verge of learning to read and I’m hoping to help him along with that over the summer.  But really the catalyst for the homeschooling was that I found a blog called Sun Scholars and she created a great summer program.  

This is her description:
Sun Scholars is a fun, simple educational program designed specifically for stay-at-home parents and caregivers to use with their children over the summer months.  Use the Sun Scholars Summer Program to enrich your child’s summer, for summer school programs, daycare activities, childcare co-ops, and more.  This program has been created with primary school children in mind, though you will find that these activities can be altered to fit the needs of all the children in your care.  The goal is to keep your child’s mind active through the summer, when skills learned in the previous school year are often lost.

So far, I’ve worked on two weeks of the program and I think the program is great.  It’s taking a little longer than a week to do each unit because we’ve been so busy.  But I’m struggling a bit to get Jack interested in it.  I think sometimes he is just not interested in anything that resembles schoolwork.  I’ve seen him go through learning phases before.  Sometimes he wants to sit down and write his letters and make words and sometimes he doesn’t.  But it’s been a little frustrating.  I’ve used the cliched phrase, “Do you listen to Miss H when you’re at school?  …  Then why don’t you listen to me?”  I’ve sent him to time out for not writing a 2 correctly.

I realize that sending him to time out is not exactly an effective way of teaching and is not likely to get him interested in any future learning.  So I had to step back a little and try to be a little more creative and decided I don’t need to force him to do anything.  (Although I know he was refusing to write that 2 just to make me angry.)

One of the projects last week was to draw some numbers out of a bag, count out the same number of beans and then draw another number and add the two numbers.  Jack was not at all interested in the numbers in the bag or the beans.  But we brought the bean bags with us to the car dealership and while we were waiting, he started tossing the bean bags into a big box.  He started telling me how many times (out of three) he was getting it in the box and I started writing it down.  After four turns, we took a break and added the numbers together.  After another four turns, we compared numbers to see which was bigger.  He loved it.  He kept wanting me to write down numbers long after it was really necessary.  Yesterday we played a ring toss game and as soon as he started playing he asked if I could write the numbers down for him.  Later on, while I was cooking dinner he was adding them up on his own.

While I’m very happy to be sending him back to school in the fall, this has already been a learning experience for me and I think he is actually learning too.  Casey is also following along a little, doing things her way.  I’m looking forward to getting a little more work done before our first trip of the summer but I’m also looking for ways to add some knowledge into our everyday lives.  Jack can now read numbers in the 80s, 90s and 100s because we try to guess what the temperature is going to be in the car when we get in it.  He’s getting pretty good at it!

End of Year Program

We just got back from Jack’s end of year program.  I’ve been listening to him sing some of the songs for a month or so and I was looking forward to seeing it in concert.  We were all very excited about going to the show.  Jack started getting ready at 12:30 this afternoon.  I had to keep making him take his white shirt off when he was eating.  Casey put a dress on around this time too but she must have changed her clothes 5 times before we got back to the dress.  At 4:45 this afternoon she decided to put on pajamas.  Then she got them wet so she put on a different pair.  She also had a dance outfit, a Cinderella dress, and blue polka-dot pants on at various points in the day.

You’d think we’d be quite prepared to get to the show by the time it finally got here, but I got a little distracted by a big storm that blew some crazy winds at us when it rolled into town.  I had just gotten out of the shower and noticed that Tugger was acting a little funny and the sky was getting darker.  I ran to the front window to see what was going on and trees were bent over and it looked like a big dust cloud out there.  I decided I need to throw some clothes on and go close the garage door.  Then I started making sure there were no big funnels heading towards us and trying to check the weather.  Jack told me, “I don’t think there is any hope left for us.”  Maybe he’s watching too many dramatic Star Wars episodes.  Thankfully he was wrong and the winds only lasted for about 15 minutes and then a little rain and thunder rumbled through.  But it threw off my schedule.  I forgot to grab shoes for Pat and forgot the camera.  And the kids were being crazy up to the moment we left the house.  Luckily Pat had time to get home and grab the camera.

I spent most of Jack’s concert trying to figure out the best manual setting to take pictures because I knew from the last time he was one stage that the automatic settings didn’t give me great pictures.  I eventually figured it out, but long after Jack was on stage.  I got some decent pictures of the 2 year olds.  Too bad I don’t know any of them.

I spent the other time trying not to cry.  They had videos with sentimental music and cute little kindergardeners in caps and gowns and I think it was just designed to make mothers cry.  I didn’t even have someone “graduating.”  Up on stage one of the kindergardeners was crying and she was even prepared with tissues.  It was adorable and made me want to cry.  But I didn’t let any tears escape and now I’m prepared for next year.  So I can try harder not to cry…or bring tissues.

Casey spent the entire show pretending the center aisle was a hopscotch game.  She hopped up and then ran back to Pat.  Repeat a dozen times.  After Jack was done singing though, she was my only photography subject.

It was a great program with a nice little smorgasbord of snacks after the show.  I am so proud of Jack for standing up there and singing his heart out.  A year ago at the rec center preschool he wasn’t sure of himself enough to sing with the group.  He has grown so much this year.  And next year, both Jack and Casey will be on the stage!