Thursday, May 31, 2012


Last night was my daughter's first rehearsal at a summer youth wind ensemble. Fortunately, a friend went with her, and two other kids from her school were there. This was important because after an hour or so of rehearsal, my daughter was pretty well convinced it was too hard for her. However, thanks to her friend being there and her being able to talk about the difficulty, I think she and her friend will persevere. She's only just eligible to join this ensemble; she is entering 8th grade next year, and the ensemble ranges from 8th to 12th grade.

Neither of my children has been challenged very much in their lives, and I desperately want them to have those challenges. It works better, because of their contrary natures and my husband's and my easygoing natures, for them to be challenged by others rather than us. But it is so hard to find things that challenge them and to motivate them to see the challenges through.

My husband would say it's genetic--we're both somewhat lazy and underachieving ourselves. And I can't really argue. Here it is, the last day of May, and I have a long list of summer projects, yet I can't seem to get myself up out of this bed and get started.... So much easier just to stay here and read.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Smart Kids

Laura's post on the six-year-old spelling bee contestant is coinciding with a nostalgia burst I've been having lately about my early childhood. I was a bit of a child prodigy in my little world, but with young, financially struggling parents, I didn't get homeschooled or anything like that. I drove my parents crazy with my curiosity and knowledge (Mom: "She drew on the wall!" "Gail, she wrote the alphabet, and she's only 2!" "But it was black crayon!"). My dad was working a few jobs and trying to finish college, and my mom was in her early 20s and spending all her time at her mom's house with her crazy (literally) father and 5 younger siblings, including a sister only 4 years older than I was. In a different environment, would I have been coddled into more prodigy-like behaviors? Who knows. In 1969 my mom was pregnant, my dad went to Woodstock, and I was more a curiosity than anything.

After chatting with my 12 year old (almost 13) about something last week, I went looking for my old diaries and ended up going through that box of childhood mementos we all have. I went to a neighborhood elementary school for the first 3 years, spanning years K-3. (I was accelerated to 3rd grade 3 months into 2nd grade.) I have only a few scraps of memorabilia from those days: my kindergarten and 3rd grade report card; my 1st grade class photo. And very very dim memories. It reminds me how much memory is based on shared experiences that we discuss with others. My three younger sisters didn't attend this school; two hadn't been born, and the other didn't start Kindergarten till we moved the summer after 3rd grade. My mother always chuckles over this, the only bad "grade" I ever received in elementary school:
OK, I got a B one term in science. I never liked physics.

On Facebook I recently found a group for former students of the school. I've posted there asking if anyone remembers some of the things I do, can help fill in/sharpen these misty memories. I wonder if I stand out at all--the kid who was "smart," who skipped a grade. I learned real quickly in my transition from 2nd to 3rd grade not to step on anyone's toes by acting too smart, even though I learned in one week the same times tables it had taken the other kids 3 months to learn. My main memories are of the Christmas plays. I was in them twice, probably to get me out of the classroom because when I was there, I finished all my work early. My mom says that in one play I was asked to fill in last minute because another child couldn't perform. I had memorized all the lines in the play anyway, so I could fill in anywhere. All I remember was wanting to be one of the elves in the cute green costumes with the jingly bells. I would kill to find someone who remembered those plays and could tell me more about them.

Yesterday I got a call from the "adjustment counselor" at E's school. She meets with him in a lunch group for social skills on Tuesdays. She thinks he would really enjoy some sort of acting class. He loves role-playing exercises, and he's goofy and really quite funny. It would be a great way to channel his energy, and memorizing lines wouldn't be a problem for him. I wish they had plays in E's schools the way we did when I was in school. We did 1776 when I was in 5th grade, and then Oklahoma the next year! There is a summer acting program nearby that takes place in 2-week sessions. But he hates doing anything new. But it would be a real trip to see him perform the way I always loved performing (and still do, to be honest, as a teacher).