Saturday, August 14, 2010


Last night I checked the school website for the first time in months. I noticed there was still a link for gifted, even though the program has been eliminated by budget cuts. I clicked it.

“Due to budget cuts, the gifted program has been eliminated. Any differentiation for students will come solely from the child's classroom teacher. If you have any questions you can contact XX, former gifted resource teacher.” The former gifted resource teacher will be teaching fifth grade this year. At another school.

In a week and a half, AJ will start fourth grade. We've decided to leave him in his current school and grade, at least for now. It will be his fifth and last year at his elementary school (our district starts middle school in grade 5). It’s the first year we will have no formal assistance with his curriculum, the first year class sizes will top 30 (AJ’s grade will be one of the most overcrowded at 34 per class), the first year with a 5.75 hour day instead of 6.5 hours. We don’t really know what to expect out of this year or even what to hope for in terms of teachers. There are just too many wild cards.

On Wednesday, the class lists will go up and on Thursday, we’ll be meeting with whoever will be AJ’s teacher for the next nine months. At this point, it’s kind of a formality. The school has an enormous file on AJ. But it makes sure that the teacher’s seen that file and lets us get a sense of what to expect and how we might be able to help with his curriculum. And the preparation for the meeting gives us a chance to think about what we want AJ to accomplish this year. Now that AJ’s getting over, I want to include him in some of the thinking. What does he want to accomplish? Does he want to do some projects? Learn something new? Have more time to practice piano or make some art?

We are trying to view this period of change as an opportunity. The shortened day gives us time to do more work at home, which may ultimately be a good thing. I've always thought a combination of public and home school would be good for him and now we have a chance to try it. I suggested to AJ that we work on a foreign language and he picked Latin. He’s had some Spanish, so he’s able to read some basics already. Thanks to Percy Jackson, he’s interested in mythology, which we’ve approached to date solely from the Greek side. But he knows the Roman names from his interest in astronomy. His fascination with all things disaster led him to do some reading about Pompeii, so he knows a little about the culture from there.

Although Latin is not my strongest language – I had several years of it in high school, but didn’t much pursue it beyond the Latin I use as a musician or during the time I was a music director for a schismatic Catholic church that did the pre-Vatican II Mass where everything was Latin but the homily. But I didn’t have to think twice about a textbook. We’re using the wonderful Cambridge Latin Course, which unlike many Latin texts, teaches it as if it’s a living language. There is a ton of cultural information in the books and lots of beautiful pictures. Although I used the book in high school, there is nothing here inappropriate for a bright nine-year-old. Best of all, the series’ website (see link above) includes online activities for the books, including a feature called “explore the text” which lets you read the texts in the book with the option of clicking on any word to get a definition. These materials are free. If you’re not confident enough teach Latin yourself, there’s even a distance learning option for a fee. We had our first lesson today. I’m hoping it holds his interest. We’ll let you know how it goes!


FreshHell said...

The very best of luck. I think this year will present itself with lots of new "homeschooling" opportunities for you both. I hope it isn't (and I don't think it will be) a big waste of time. It might be exhausting but things will be different a year from now. Wish you could scurry down to my district and AJ and Dusty could be classmates.

FreshHell said...

And I don't mean that the things you do together are a waste of time, I meant the school as it now stands.

Harriet said...

Thanks, freshhell. I'm somewhat hopeful. if nothing else, there seem to be a lot of people -- parents, teachers, administrators -- determined to do anything within their power to make sure this is a good year for the kids. I do think there are opportunities to be had here. Still, I wish AJ could join Dusty too!

FreshHell said...

Finish that diss and get a job down here! You'll love our summer weather! :)