100 Days Into The School Year and Here Are My Thoughts

Today Reece celebrated his 100th day of kindergarten, along with Groundhog Day. I never did this when I was in school, but it seems to be the norm at least around here these days. To celebrate the occasion, each child in his class made a poster displaying 100 items of their choosing.

100 days of school poster

Since he loves wearing rubber bands around his wrist, we thought that was the perfect thing to collect. With the help of our neighbors and friends, we were able to collect more than we needed and he’s very happy to build a collection from the leftovers.

Aside from the celebratory aspect of today, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on his first several months in the California public school system.

You may recall that prior to his first day of kindergarten, I was feeling rather anxious. I was afraid that his natural creativity and curiosity would be stifled, that he wouldn’t get enough time to play, that there would be too many worksheets and too much homework.

We are supporters of the public school system and never dreamed of considering private school for our kids, so I surprised myself when I seriously considered keeping Reece in his preschool for its kindergarten program in order to preserve his love of exploring and experimenting.

California schools don’t have the best reputation, but fortunately for us, we’re in a decent district and our local school is known for being pretty good. In the end, we decided to be a part of our immediate community and stick with the school we can walk to.

I’m glad we did.

The education system in this country has plenty of faults, but there are a lot of things to like about the choice we made to keep our son in his assigned school.

Walking to school is mostly everything I dreamed. I grew up having to take a bus to school or get driven there and I always envied the characters on my favorite TV shows who could just walk. It’s a little more than a half-mile and with Reece the slow walker that he is, he actually rides his bike while I jog with Emme in the stroller, otherwise we’d never get there! It’s a great way to start the day with our bodies moving and our blood flowing. When we’re forced to drive to school because of the weather or otherwise, I try to do jumping jacks or something else with Reece instead.

He gets adequate recess time. The official kindergarten schedule lists two recess periods, but lucky for us he has a teacher that more often than not throws in a third recess towards the end of the day. I see so much on Facebook about kindergarteners barely getting one 15 minute recess a day, so I am very thankful that Reece gets so much time to move around as 5-year-olds should.

His teacher is the child-whisperer. While not the stereotypical bedazzled-sweater-for-every-holiday type of teacher, his teacher is soft-spoken, calm and structured. She gets the kids in a routine and speaks to them sternly when needed, but without raising her voice. The kids know what to expect and it works well.

The class sizes are small. I am thrilled that we got so lucky this year and Reece’s class only has 21 kids. I have heard horror stories of classes being packed with more than teachers can handle, so I feel fortunate that we got a good year with less kids.

We are a part of the community. This was one of the biggest reasons we decided to keep Reece in this school when we could have either kept him at his preschool or applied for a transfer to a “better” school within the district. I wanted to see our neighbors as we walked to school. I wanted to get to know the people who live around us. I love that when I find out where his classmates live, it’s always right around the corner. It’s a good feeling to be a part of the community where you live.

And now back to those faults I mentioned.

There is so much sitting. This has been one of Reece’s major complaints from day one, even though he’s more used to it now. Yes, he has adequate recess time and gets to move around throughout the day. His teacher is good about rotating the groups of kids so that they are moving every 10 minutes or so, if only from one table to the next. But still, they are sitting a lot of the day.

There are so many worksheets. This was a major concern of mine going into kindergarten and sadly, it’s true. Reece comes home with about 20 worksheets every week. At preschool, he loved the outdoor learning areas, like the science center where they could explore with their own hands the concepts they were learning about. In kindergarten, science is more about worksheets. Sure, they look at bugs or cut open an apple, but after that they are doing worksheets about it. I know they need to practice writing and math and all that, but a more hands-on exploration would be nice. Guess I’ll have to sign him up for outside activities to get more of that. Which leads me to…

Kindergarten is overly academic. Just as I feared. Watching your kid learn to read, write sentences and do math is pretty cool, but I still think five years old is too early to push it. Reece loves to learn, but not in a sit down and let’s do this worksheet sort of way, and I’m concerned this is going to discourage him and lead him to think learning is boring. This boy wants nothing more than to build and create things like real working robots, rocket ships and tree houses (and is crazy disappointed when we tell him that we aren’t skilled enough to do any of that), so I’m trying to use the approach that he needs to learn all this stuff to get there. I never want to see his desire to create fade away.

So there you have it. One hundred days in and not too shabby even if it’s not everything I ever wanted. I’d love to hear from you about your child’s kindergarten experience!

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Fa La La La La

Happy first post of 2016! I’ve missed you all! Lots on my mind I’d like to write about, but I’ve still been choosing to do other things instead of write them down…like coloring!

Secret Garden Coloring Book

 

The Secret Garden (referral link) is a beautiful coloring book with lots of tiny details, making it both fun and time consuming. I’ve really been enjoying it, though–so much so that Ellie and I had a coloring and wine night last week! Wine and coloring makes staying within the lines a little trickier!

Anyway, I’m late with a holiday post, but I wanted to make sure I put this out there while it’s still January. Honestly, it’s mainly for me, since it’s fun to look back on these sort of posts, but I hope you enjoy it as well!

Christmas keeps getting more and more fun with both kids old enough to really enjoy Santa. Leading up to the holiday, we took our annual picture with him of course.
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Smiles from both kids this year! I labeled Emme as shy in a previous post, but with Santa and other costumed creatures, Emme is definitely the more outgoing of the two.

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Each year we enjoy driving around to look at lights, but it’s also nice to get out on foot. The kids really enjoyed the neighborhood walk we did one night, candy canes in hand. I remember taking just Reece out to do this when Emme was tiny and he was 2.5 and it was such a struggle to get him to walk just a few houses down the street. How far we’ve come!

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Of course, there was also the annual Christmas cookie baking tradition. One of the few times during the year that I bake.

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The kids were a little more precise with their decorating than in years prior, but I still stuck with the plain ones since I’m not a fan of icing.

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Elfie showed up again this year for his nightly hide-and-seek. The kids really get a kick out of finding him each morning. We don’t get super creative with his activities, but he does like to do things to make them laugh. :)

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We kicked off the Christmas celebrations on December 23 with a special dinner for just the adults in our families at the amazing Greek restaurant Evvia Estiatorio in Palo Alto. Fish just like in Greece!

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On Christmas Eve, we intended to go to an early church service, but got the times mixed up, so we just had more time at my in laws and the kids enjoyed their Little People Nativity set (referral) and a few new gifts.

Little people nativity scene

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Then it was home for Christmas jammies and bedtime so Santa could come!

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Playing Santa is such a fun part of becoming a parent. The kids were really excited this year and while Emme slept through the night (unusual), Reece woke up around 2am, ready to start the day . It was tough convincing him to go back to sleep, but eventually he did and then they were up at their usual time of 6:30am.

We have the tradition of Santa leaving a book on each of their beds, so that’s the first gift they see. Usually, they feel pretty “eh” about the books at first because they are so excited to get to their other gifts, but this year, they both really enjoyed them and spent time look at them in bed. Emme climbed up to Reece’s bed so she could look through her veterinarian book while he checked out his new space book.

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When they made it out to the living room to check out their toys, Emme took it in quietly, while Reece exclaimed over everything. It was so cute to see how excited he was about his huge Lego sets because he hadn’t been expecting them to be that big. He started working on one set nearly right away and we took Emme out to practice on her pedal bike.

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It will be a few months before she can do it on her own, but since a bike is such a big gift, we wanted her to get it for a special occasion like Christmas. She loves it and is excited to learn to ride like Reece (who picked it up closer to age four).

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Later that day, we headed to my dad’s house to celebrate with him and my sister and then the day after Christmas we celebrated again with just my in laws.

We had a quiet New Years at home, not even sure we would make it til midnight.

New Years with kids

We popped the champagne cork off the front porch and the kids enjoyed their sparkling cider while we looked at pictures from the last year and then toasted to one of the Netflix countdowns. They ended up in bed right around their usual bedtime and I ended up staying up til after midnight finishing up season 6 of Parenthood! :)

It was a fun holiday season and I hope you enjoyed yours as well! I’m looking forward to what 2016 will bring!

 

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Emme is Three!

I wasn’t sure when I would be in the mood to settle down and write Emme’s birthday post since I’m so out of my blogging rhythm these days, but today on her birthday, about 1.5 hours before she was born, I have all the feelings (written on Friday, her actual birthday).

I never wrote out Emme’s birth story like I did Reece’s (although it remains unpublished), so here it is in brief. I’ve mentioned here a few times that Emme came a full two weeks late, but that worked out well since now both of my kids have the 27th as their birth date–easy to remember!

Eagerly awaiting her arrival, we showed up at the hospital at 7am to be induced, stopping for coffee on the way, of course. It took her 15 more hours to make her way into the world, but that was half the amount of time as brother, so I was happy. The last few hours were long and incredibly boring with the epidural, just waiting for when they would finally give me the ok to push. Once I got that, she took some convincing to come out, thanks to her being turned a bit, requiring me to work harder. She entered this world a true bundle of joy and she melted onto my body as we enjoyed skin-to-skin and I nursed her with ease.

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Her easy and happy personality stuck around for about a year. Although we had realized she was a determined one as a baby with how quickly she reached milestones, now at three, her intense personality with contrary tendencies is showing more than ever. She seriously says negative things that she doesn’t even mean just for the fun of it. Example: Did you have a fun birthday? No, it was awful. :/

Even so, I’m still trying to figure out who this little person is. Underneath the sillies, the disagreeableness and the screams (still the screaming!), who is she under there?

If it could sum her up in pictures, these are the ones I’d choose:

Emme tutu ladybug boots

This picture is EVERYTHING!.

Serious Emme

No, I’m not going to smile at you, just stand here and stare.

Emme playing

Playful and happy

Contrary Emme

Pouty and contrary. Can’t you just see her with this same face when she’s a teenager??

This girl is a silly goose if there ever was one and I have plenty of pictures to prove it. Her little scrunched up face gets me every time and she’s a crack up with how much she loves to be tickled.

Silly Emme

She’s a natural-born leader and loves to direct. She knows exactly how she wants to play and will make that clear to whoever she’s with. However, even with her extensive vocabulary, she does not know how to communicate her wishes very well and one misinterpretation over something she’s spoken will send her into an indefinite screaming fit.

Despite both of the above, she is surprisingly quite shy, turning away from people and hiding behind me with frequency. She wouldn’t even look at us when we sang her happy birthday nor did she blow out her candles because she doesn’t like all eyes on her (if you know me, you’ll know exactly where she got that from)

Shy Emme

Don’t look at me!

She is also quite physical. Head butting, jumping on people, she is hands on and rough. She’s not at all afraid to get dirty and I think this adventurous part of her personality is why she excels so much in areas involving gross motor skills, like climbing and riding her balance bike.

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She’s also quite girly and loves mermaids, princesses, ballet, you name it! She loves pretty clothes and they certainly don’t slow her down with the above mentioned activities.

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We are looking forward to seeing how Emme’s strong personality plays out as she grows. I’m sure some of the qualities that make parenting challenging will be beneficial to her in the future even if it’s hard to imagine right now. Except for screaming. I don’t imagine that will ever be a good quality. :)

We love you, Emme baby and happy third birthday!

Keep in touch with me:
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