Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Report card time again

The second trimester report card was much better than the first. AJ improved in every area that had room for improvement. Moreover, since report cards went out, we've had more and more communication with his teacher. AJ is now in a math class of one. She's been pretesting him separately and giving him his own stuff to do. And while he's still been bringing home the same homework everyone else is doing which we adapt to his level, he's going to be getting separate homework too. I'm looking forward to seeing it when it arrives. In reading, it seems like his teacher is not only trying to find books at the right level, but also books he'll really like. She's been asking about what he likes and running titles by me. She's trying to pick things that fit in with the unit the class is working on and she's prereading the books before assigning them, to make sure they're appropriate for a second grader. This is above and beyond behavior, I think. I am grateful.

Meanwhile, at home, it seems as if AJ is having a bit of an existential crisis, one which is making me realize how much grownups -- even well-meaning loving grownups -- tend to categorize kids rather than really pay attention. AJ is good at many things and every time he gets good at and interested in one thing, it's assumed that that's his thing. I think this bothers AJ. For a long time he was into space. He always got space presents and books for presents. He liked them to a point, but at some point I think he decided he didn't want to be The Kid Who Liked Space. So recently, when we cleaned up his room, he asked to take down all the space posters. It made me a little sad. He's been drawing solar system pictures since he was two years old. I miss how excited he was about space. But he is on to other things. He doesn't have time for nostalgia. Similarly, when he became the Kid who Loves Science, he started focusing on sports. And when he became The Kid Who Loves Football, he decided not to sign up next year. I have total respect and understanding for his refusal to be boxed in by labels imposed on him by others. But I worry sometimes that he is sacrificing some things he really enjoys.

That is why I've been trying very hard to back off his new thing, the piano. He's been taking lessons for three weeks and is doing, by all accounts, amazingly well. I'm a musician myself, so of course I'm proud of him. But I'm trying to let him do his own thing. I remind him to practice and help when asked, but otherwise, I try to stay out of the way. He has his first recital tomorrow (after only three weeks? Yes, it's true, but it is just because of the timing of AJ's first lesson -- the recital was already scheduled) and he is even more excited about it than he was about losing a tooth yesterday. I'm impressed with how he's applying himself, how he runs down to practice before breakfast and again after school. How much he's learned in such a short time. But I'll be there clapping loudly tomorrow night. And I promise I won't let him be The Piano Boy. He'll just be AJ, playing the piano beautifully.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Testing 1-2-3

This week, all the second graders at AJ's school are taking the Otis Lennon School Ability Tes, or OLSAT. The OLSAT is not an IQ test, but it is often used as an entrance exam to gifted programs. It is the only aptitude testing that AJ's school uses. Third and fourth graders take a state achievement test.

The school uses the OLSAT to determine tracking and special services. Starting in third grade, students are clustered with others at their level within their classroom. Those performing well below or well above the norm will get special services. AJ's scores on this exam will determine whether he gets into the gifted program next year.

I'm not concerned about that. I'm sure he'll do well enough to get in, and even if for some reason he didn't, we have enough paperwork to get him in the back door. But I did want to make sure he knew how to take the test.

This will be AJ's first experience with standardized testing. I would like it to be a good one, for his sake. He will expect to do well. His teacher hasn't said anything about the test, what to expect, how to take it. I wanted to make sure AJ knew how to handle the mechanics -- finding directions when they are at the top of each page instead of by each problem (a known issue for him), coloring in the circles accurately, what an analogy problem question. But I wasn't sure if I should. I don't want to pressure him. I honestly don't think this test is all that important in the general scheme of things (if he does well, it will help; if he doesn't, it probably won't hurt much). I also don't want to prep him if we're not supposed to. In the end, I decided to walk him through the basics. I really don't know much about the test, so I don't think I could possibly give away much.

What would you do?