Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Adventures in Home Schooling: The Kick-off

NOTE: THIS IS AN UNFINISHED DRAFT. I rediscovered this recently and decided it was worth sharing, despite the woefully incomplete state...you'll notice I never actually even made it to a mere mention of the subject the heading suggested. (Originally I was going to do a post about that first week and how it transitioned into our homeschooling...but it was long and unwieldy and I spent more time working with the kids than writing about it, which ended in my neglect of this post.) At this point (a year and a half later) I no longer feel I would be able to complete it, so I am back-posting it to the original date when I last worked on it and leaving it as I found it. Enjoy.

Hazel in her element: right at home once again at the Blue School
Last week, I took the girls on a Megabus adventure to NYC so that they could have a chance to get to know their teachers and classmates from the get-go, as everyone else was getting to know one another, in the hopes of establishing a close relationship with the classroom and reducing the "new student" stress once they return full time in the new year.

It was a very full (and exciting!) week, and while I'd hoped to do a day-by-day breakdown in real time, the reality of the couch-hopping-and-friend-seeing-AND-school lifestyle we adopted during that time made it pretty impossible, and unfortunately this will have to be a less than thorough summary of the awesome events that took place during Cadence's first week of Kindergarten and Hazel's first day of school ever.

Partially due to the nature of our couch-hopping existence and the fact that we ended up running late on our first day (facepalm!), I didn't really get to do the "first day of school" photos that I had been hoping to catch.  One of our gracious hosts snapped this photo for me as we waited for the bus Monday morning:

Cadence with Mama & Meimei, on her way to her very first day of Kindergarten!
(Ignore Hazel's backwards shoes.  She insisted.)
It was kind of exciting (and exhausting) to suddenly be jolted back into the "get-up-and-go" schedule of  the school-year routine.  But the kids were thrilled - Even though Hazel's first day wasn't until Wednesday, she was SO HAPPY to be going back to blue school and seeing all the friends she has there.  We got to try several different commutes and methods of transport during the week, and we kicked it all off with what is affectionately referred to as the "party bus" by many of our friends...it's simply a certain route of the city bus that a bunch of Cadence's classmates happen to live near, and due to the nature of schedules, many of them end up on the same bus in the mornings by chance.  Clearly, our ladies loved it:

Ridin' the bus to school! 
Unfortunately for us, we arrived late and missed the community meeting, and I just had time to tap Mara, one of Cadence's new teachers, on the elbow to let her know I was there before Cadence hopped into the line of her classmates that was already disappearing up the stairs and they were gone!  In true Cadie fashion, though, she took it in stride and rolled with it  - and when we picked her up at the end of the day, teachers Mara and Nancy informed me that she gleefully integrated into the class without any problems at all.  I'm never surprised by reports like this, but I am consistently amazed.

Hazel and I then got to go to JACK'S!!!  (She was more than a little happy about this.) Luckily for us, our friends Josie (who is sadly not in Hazel's class, but is in the one immediately prior and has the same teachers) and her mom Kate were able to meet us there, and we all walked over to the Imagination playground, where Hazel and Josie got a jump-start on the water curriculum their classes will be delving into.  On the way there, we happened to run into Dina, one of their teachers!  She was between home visits (the 2s program kicks off with the teachers visiting the children in their own homes, which is great, as the kids get to meet their new teachers in a safe, familiar environment where they are in control, and also get to share their favorite things, activities, places, etc. with this person who is going to be so important in the coming year...Hazel, obviously, didn't get to have this experience since we're out of state, but this isn't a huge tragedy since she's known Dina for two years now, and she got to know her other teacher, Tara, last year, and already likes them both.) Anyway, this was a particularly nice run-in since it let Hazel reconnect with Dina before being dumped into a room with a bunch of new kids, and have a 'fake mini-home-visit' where she got to tell her about living in DC and coming to NY for school...it was a brief encounter, but a very positive one, and it was especially fun to go from that to this:

She didn't want to get her dress wet.  Pants, evidently, were fair game. She would jump off the deck there and then run to try to catch the water, and seemed fascinated by the blurby bubbles of low-pressure jets.

When we picked Cadence up at the end of the school day, she was all smiles and was SO pleased to be there, and to show me her 'mailbox' cubby where we could pick up her work, and to tell me all about getting to meet the kids who were new to the school and reuniting with old friends.  All in all, I'd have to say that her first day was a huge success, even if I can't provide details about what made it so awesome for her.  And as much as that is strange to me, it's awesome that she was able to have such a great experience just being sort of unceremoniously plopped in like that.  I was very proud of her.

Moving on to Hazel's first day, things didn't go quite as smoothly, but I think the results were still positive in the grand scheme of things.

First off, I should preface this by pointing out that, while this was Hazel's official first day of school, she has technically kinda been coming to classes here for the last two years.  She was a mere 4 months old when Cadence started at the blue school (as part of the 3s program), and due to the geographical distance & timing of everything, there wasn't really enough time for me to actually go anywhere while Cadence was in class, so most days Hazel & I would kick around the school...we'd hang out in the multipurpose room and 'help' Connie at the front desk, or read books and play in the "parent nook", or, if there wasn't anyone in the space already, we'd explore the "glow hall" together...and the more we were there, the more we got to know the staff, faculty, and families that made up the community.  By mid-year, we were invited to join in a class or try out some new activity almost daily...it was a gift I will forever be grateful for.  Hazel got soooo much out of that first year, what with all these amazing people strolling by, who would watch her exploring whatever new aspect of her development was currently capturing her interest, and then sit down and interact with her - the mutual inspiration was often palpable.  Some teachers even started talking about how much they longed for the school to start an infant program and would let hazel 'test run' some of the ideas they had for such an endeavor!

While we got to see and know kids from all of the age groups hard at work, there were two major strongholds in Hazel's "school" experience there:  One was, obviously, Cadence's 3s class.  At that time, the teachers made a point of bringing the grown-ups into the room for the end-of-the-day transitions, so we'd get to join them in a circle on the rug and hear about all they'd done that day, and sing the goodbye song together.  Since she was always with me, little bitty Hazel was always part of this, too, and it wasn't long before she'd show interest in what the 'big kids' were doing, and favoring the companionship of the teachers over me for the few minutes we were in there...and it was always difficult to get either of those two out of the classroom.  They loved being there SO MUCH.

The other major stronghold of her experience was the welcoming environment established by the 2s teachers at the time.  They first began to include Hazel just when we happened to be in a space they arrived in-music class in the multipurpose room, for example.  But as time went on, and we all got to know each other better, we started getting invited into the classroom itself pretty regularly...It was mutually beneficial, since many of the kids in the 2s that year were expecting new siblings at home, and the teachers recognized that it might be useful (and of interest) for them to get to observe and interact with a baby before the big arrivals, and Hazel, of course, didn't see herself as any different from those big kids and jsut wanted to play and get to do what they did...and as any parent can tell you, kids learn more and faster from peer-to-peer learning than they do from mom & dad saying "hey look here" 'til they're blue in the face, so getting to see how they all behaved and explored was pretty awesome.

While I tried not to overstay our welcome during any one visit or be too presumptuous or in the way during those visits, Hazel quickly came to see the kids in the 2s classes (there were two separate classes that regularly met during the time when we'd be hanging about) as 'her kids'.  Two years later, we are still happy to see those kids when they pass us in the hall, or get to join them at the playground...it's pretty amazing to watch them growing and blossoming.  Some of them are still very attached to Hazel as well, and always make a point of greeting her whenever they see her.

When Cadence joined the 4s last year, we figured we'd actually have time to go home between drop off and pick up.  This didn't end up working out in practice, in part because the school moved into its new, permanent home, and the newly extended commute meant that Hazel and I would have spent about three hours a day riding the subway...and that seemed like a disservice to her.  So, instead, we got to know the new waterfront neighborhood very well, taking advantage of the early warm weeks to wander around and explore, watching the boats and visiting the historical locations. When the weather got cold, we began to stall a bit, waiting for inspiration before just wandering, and over time we fell back into our previous pattern of putzing about the school, visiting with people there, observing the kids as they transitioned from one space to another, taking advantage of the new library, construction lab, terrarium displays, peg-board, and glow halls when they were not being used by classes.

There is a really cool playground near the school called the Imagination Playground. It was designed by the Rockwell group, the same architecture firm that is designing the interior spaces of the new school building.  They're a pretty cool group who are committed to studying the effect of environment on the developing brain and putting their findings into practice!  The school uses The imagination playground as its go-to outdoor space for the kids to run and play - but it is a short walk from the school building, and as such the youngest groups must have extra adult supervision to safely (and legally) make the trek over there.  Since we were almost always just kickin' around there anyway, Hazel and I began to go to the park with Cadence's class every time they went

It's hard to get Cadence to tell me about her days, but she did report back to me about a number of things that she enjoyed, which I am hoping to be able to incorporate into our own studies...Specifically, she enjoyed getting to do drama, music, resting, playing, gym, the whole class going to the park, the roles within the classroom (like door holder) monday journals and science journals...

"mine had a lot of music!"-Hazel