Last week we had a parent-teacher conference with Matthew's grade one teacher and learning assistance teacher. This is the second conference since he started grade one, and it's reassuring and QUITE hilarious that they report he continues to be very quiet, well behaved, and responsible in the classroom. My son MATTHEW was described as RESPONSIBLE!!!
[insert large grin of pride, and hysterical laughter at the contrast here]
It's not actually that he is irresponsible, but more that he needs constant reminding in order to exercise impulse control. Part of that is being a part of a larger family; there is SO much going on all the time that he wants to keep up with, and his nature is fairly competitive so he's generally trying to get or stay ahead, that impulse control goes out the window. Because it's low on his priority list. If Matthew were an only child, he would be very lonely, but he would probably be more easily described as responsible!
So the teacher was describing how Matthew takes many repetitions to internalize something new, and how if he doesn't care about a task, he just doesn't do it. I laughed and said, "This is not new information for us about Matthew!" Which made her laugh too, and we agreed it's good we are on the same page. Matthew is needing lots of one on one time with the teacher or the learning assistance teacher in order to understand instructions, but there are quite a few kids who fit that description in his class, including a little girl with Down's Syndrome who doesn't have her own consistent assistant (probably due to lack of funding, which makes me angry on her behalf).
It's tough because as Brent and I were discussing it later, we were saying how Matthew is a very bright kid whose intelligence doesn't easily and smoothly fit in the conventional education system like Ayden's does. I would guess that he will read well eventually, but that literacy isn't necessarily his primary intellectual language, and in the early primary years, school is ALL about literacy. Even math is basically literacy, because they learn to write numbers and memorize the basic 10's system and do basic addition and subtraction. Matthew is very good at building things and taking them apart, like a little engineer, which is an important math skill that is hardly touched on in grade one. They do some pattern work, but otherwise not much building.
He's also not that interested in art (though he's getting much more interested than he used to be); he'd rather be theatrical or dramatic than draw or paint, but regular school generally focuses on drawing and painting for imaginational development. Also similar to literacy skills.
Solutions included allowing him the time he needs to learn at his own pace, while ensuring he doesn't get left behind. We are to work with him at home as much as possible to give him that one on one learning he needs, and go in after school to the learning assistance room to have him spend 10-15 minutes per day on a computer program that teaches early literacy skills.
The most reassuring part of this meeting, for me, was how both teachers responded to the possibility of his emotional reaction to being a late bloomer. They both expressed independently that these early years are vulnerable ones for kids who have a slower timeline, and that how he feels about himself and about his ability to learn are very important. That was my greatest fear; that being pushed before he's ready, or needing extra assistance at school, would cause him to internalize a feeling if inadequate intelligence that will follow him for years. I know many very intelligent adults who have had that experience, and it was very painful for them.
I also expressed that it seems unfair, but for Matthew it feels as though if there is an obstacle or difficulty to be had in life, he has it. Immature bladder. Chronic ear infections. Allergies. Allergic reaction to antibiotics. Snoring. Fainting. Chronic colds/illnesses when he was little. Being very small for his age (which will become more evident as he gets older, and because he's a boy). Chronic eating issues. Crowded teeth which will mean braces. Speech pathology. A stutter. Any kid who has an active relationship with an Ear, Nose, Throat specialist, a urologist, and a speech and language pathologist AT THE SAME TIME has had fate weighted against him. Not to mention being born so poor he was relinquished to an orphanage and lost several mommas, his culture, country of origin, language, and family heritage as a very small child. This kid is resilient beyond measure, I'm constantly amazed by his persistence in overcoming difficulties in life. And he remains optimistic, energetic, positive, tenacious, accepting, and lives with his arms wide open to embrace life and the world.
I learn a lot from this kid. If he can do what he's done, I can do anything.
Including learn how to support my kid's education at home without drowning him in extracurricular school work!
Look at my kid: he's a hero already, and he's only six.