Back in the School Groove

Well, we’ve been back in school for about 4 weeks now and it’s all seeming very familiar. We get up, get dressed, have breakfast, and get out the door to make our tram. School has been reported as “fun,” “mostly fun,” and “pretty good.” The teachers have been labeled as “nice.”

E has even gone so far as to declare his expectations that this year will be even better than the last!

All positive signs.

Groove #1: Homework

Not much homework has appeared yet.  Reading books from H. French and German homework from E along with dinner table talk about his first Unit of Inquiry: Our Bodies. It’s making me edgy that no math or unit of inquiry work has made its way home.

But it turns out that home learning is different this year for 4th grade.  Each day at school E has to chose a goal, write down what he needs to achieve it, and then try to do it at home. His teacher has been having her students practice this in the classroom this week.  They are also choosing their own spelling words to practice for the spelling test.  That’s one way of preventing copying and cheating, I guess.

The point of doing home learning this way is to help the kids practice self-assessment, goal-setting, and have routine attempts at experiencing success and failures – all of which teach grit. (Click here for more about raising gritty kids!)

H’s class, being in 1st grade, seems to be continuing to focus on reading mastery, picking out books that look fun rather than having books assigned to them, getting the basics of math, and their Unit of Inquiry which is Our Histories.  We just had to send in pictures of them from birth to current age so they can build their own timelines.

Groove #2: Packed Lunches

I’ve also been researching/rediscovering different lunch box ideas. I basically overdosed H on PB&J sandwiches last year and has refused all attempts to reintroduce them into his diet. E needs something that he can eat quickly while talking to his mates. So, I am channeling my SuperMom and all creative, nervous energies into thinking about food and lunches.

So far I’ve gotten fancy short skewers to make little fruit or salami and cheese kebabs to put in their lunches. I’m coming up with rice, couscous, and pasta dishes they will eat instead of sandwiches. I am cutting the melon into star shapes and mixing them with blueberries to make them more fun to see in the container. Trust me when I say this is going waaaay overboard.

But so far they are both pleased and the lunch boxes are coming home empty.

Groove #3: After School Snack

I have found that having a good snack to greet the kids with after school is incredibly important for their attitudes for the rest of the afternoon.  With my kids their blood sugar seems to crash about 3:22 (Dismissal is at 3:20.)

I have also found it is best if I have small bits of about 3 different kinds of foods. So far this year they eat get half a banana, either celery or carrots, and then something like a yogurt, half a Shoggliweggli (chocolate chunks in bread), or a skewer of salami.  We are about 4 weeks into school now and it really seems to be smoothing out the attitudes and keeping them happy through homework until dinner.

Groove #4: Bedtimes and Wake-up times

This is the hardest groove of all to get back into. The boys had such a great time staying up later and having loads more time during the week to play with Mark once he got home from work.

H, our boy who is usually asleep 15 minutes after his head hits the pillow has been making noise until closer to 9:30pm.  E, who has a hard time courting sleep anyway, has been trying numerous tactics to put off bedtime. My favorite so far is, “I’d just like to read this passage of Lord of the Rings to you.”

Morning time is just as hard. They clearly need more sleep and really don’t want to get out of bed. We start the radio playing at 6:30 and it’s all down hill from there. Clothing is pulled onto bodies. Food is forced down into gullets. Backpacks are shoved full of whatever is needed (with the guarantee that something vital will be forgotten). Children are vaulted forth from the home.

Maybe this groove will get better with time, but hopes are not high.

I do have high hopes for the rest of it. Best of all, their teachers are enthusiastic about teaching. There is nothing like a teacher with a sense of excitement about their subjects to help to kindle a love of learning in their students.

I am totally thrilled that the kids are back to school after an 8-week summer break.  It was so wonderful to have the luxury of traveling whenever and where ever we wanted, but it is also so wonderful to have them back with all their school friends and to have more time for writing.

And with that I’m on to writing all about our trip to Pisa and then our exploration of Italian beach lines.

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