Sunday, March 9, 2008

Making connections

In the last few days, a couple of incidents have reminded me how much I value community when dealing with the navigation of AJ’s education. For a long time, I have been feeling very, very alone in this venture. It’s the chief reason I started this blog, in hopes that I could gradually build a community of other parents going through similar things, a community that could share ideas, argue about controversial issues, support each other when needed, help each other figure things out. One of the most challenging things about parenting a child with advanced academic skills is that you’re afraid to mention to anyone. They think you’re bragging, don’t understand how challenging it can be, and sometimes get competitive.

This is why I was overjoyed to hear from N’s mom on Thursday. N is a boy in another first grade class who is paired with AJ for reading. AJ’s a little more developed, but N is a little more focused – AJ still tends to speed through things a little too fast and can’t always recall the details. The two of them work extremely well together and they’ve become good friends. When we sent out the invitations to AJ’s birthday party last week, N’s was one of the first ones we addressed. His mother called me as soon as she got the invitation, even before N had gotten home from school to see it. “I’ve been meaning to call you for so long,” she said. Although we’ve never spoken before, save a cordial hello a few years ago when the boys were in gymnastics together (so long ago that none of us really remembers it), we ended up talking for 45 minutes, 45 minutes filled with “wow, your son too?” moments. AJ and N both love chess and books and Pokemon. N memorizes infomercials, which is something AJ would do if we’d let him watch them. Just because he could. They are both picky eaters. And perhaps weirdest of all, they both have the same birthday. None of these coincidences may have anything to do with their giftedness of course, but we two parents were just so happy to have someone to talk to about it. It is difficult to think you’re the only one. And now that our kids have found someone to work with, we have too. N’s mom is also an ex public school teacher and like me, has been doing some more academic volunteer work in her son’s classroom. I think that if there’s lobbying to be done, she will be an excellent partner in crime.

We also learned this week that AJ has another modified curriculum buddy, this one in math. And this one happens to be one of his best friends in his class. AJ’s school experience is suddenly getting a lot more social. And consequently, so is mine.

The last epiphany on the importance of community was last night, when our whole family went to the home of friends for a sort of informal reunion with a bunch of us who knew each other in my first years of graduate school. The hosts were my friends Mr. and Mrs. Unfocused. AJ and their daughter Unfocused Daughter (UD) have known each other, well, since they were in utero, really. Mrs. Unfocused and I were working together when we both became pregnant. Mrs. Unfocused recommended her OB to me and we all took our childbirth classes together. AJ and UD were born a couple of weeks apart at the same hospital. Logistics of scheduling and geography mean we don’t get together as often as we would like, but every time we do manage a visit, I always wish we did it a lot more often. AJ and UD were inseparable all night long. As I wrote in my post at spynotes today, whenever they get together, I picture in my head the two supermagnets AJ has that when you put them down on the floor, whiz towards each other with a convincing “clack.”

AJ was so excited to be with a kid his age who likes the things he likes. The kids he works with in math and reading at school are great, but neither is where AJ is. UD and AJ appear to me to be much more in the same place. Meanwhile, although we didn’t have much of a chance to talk about it last night, I love having Mrs. Unfocused to bounce ideas off of and even just to share our frustrations with educational systems that often seem counterproductive. Community is just as important for the parents as for their children.

All of this has renewed my interest in having more writers here. I’ve written to a couple of you this week in hopes that you might join in this project and I’ve asked Mrs. Unfocused if she’d consider it as well. If anyone else would like to participate, leave a comment or email me at harri3tspyATgmailDOTcom.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Georgie Porgie

I've got a new post up at spynotes on the article in Sunday's New York Times Magazine on the debate over single sex public schools. Please read it and add your two cents.