Saturday, November 21, 2009

The First Week

We are moving along the "First List.". The good news is that the First Thanksgiving and the First Christmas will be lumped in early with the First Month. HAH! The bad news is that we have the First Month, the First "other holidays", the First Birthday, the First Quarter, the First Half Year, the First Year, and the First Day of School...etc etc etc. Ok. You get the picture! LOL!

Ms Chen the Nanny started on Monday afternoon. Ok. Can we talk about Asians and DOGS? Our dog is on the large side. I have seen grown men cross the street to avoid her. Little do they know that all Cass wants to do is sniff you and then ignore you. Of course, you do have to get over the fact that the first time she meets you, she comes up running, barking and snarling like she's going to tear you from limb to limb. Hmmm. Ok. She pretty much does that every time she sees you. And it can last for years. All I gotta to say is "poor Ms Chen." LOL. Took about 10 minutes for everyone to calm down. I did warn her that Cass will pretty much bark every time she comes over. LOL.

Anyway, Ms Chen started and I have to say, "thank God for Ms. Chen." She is a PhD University professor from Beijing who is here with her husband, who is getting a post doc at MIT. The minute she came in JJ started talking and pretty much didn't stop until she left. Ok. He pretty much talks from the time he gets up until the time he goes to bed in general but while she was here, he sped up. He must have been starved for conversation. Imagine being plopped into a strange place where no one looks like you, nothing looks like your home, and no one can understand you. I think it was a good outlet for him and I knew the first hour in that it is worth every penny to bring her in. His language will advance by talking to her in Chinese. As opposed to his Mama who talks in short idiotic sentences that isn't even par with a 1st grader. I also got a bit of a mental reprieve and managed to go to the store, finish up some phone calls, etc.

JJ took this opportunity to ask me questions. He had Ms Chen write them down and he marked them off as I answered. He asked a lot of questions about school. Do they have chess class, basketball class, ping pong class, gym class, etc... He asked about the "curriculum.". Seriously. That's the word he used in Chinese. Hmmm.

He kept saying he should go into the first level. Finally, we pulled it out of him that he thinks he belongs there because he doesn't know English.

When we ask a question, sometimes he says he doesn't know. So Ms Chen and I looked at each other with the "well, that is not acceptable" look. So she told him if he knows the answer, he must say it. If he doesn't know the answer, then he must ask. It could be that it's too hard for him to communicate.

He asked about going to a place to pick veggies and fruits (a farm). Next year. Check.

How about "wet mud?" Can he get some? Uhhh... Clay?? Eureka! Yes but it's play dough. It's not like we have a pottery shed out back. Ok. Check.

How about watching cartoon movies like Calabash Baby? Uhhh... No. Of course I was informed we can watch it from the internet. Sigh. Ok. Maybe. Check.

How about bubble sugar? Huh?? Oh. Bubble gum. Uh... He had never had bubble gum and would like to try it. Hmmm... maybe it will help strengthen his jaw. Ok. Maybe. If you are good. Check.

And a couple of other things I said "no" to. LOL.

Tuesday we went to the Pierce School for ELL testing. This is the first thing required before we can enroll JJ in school. Brookline schools are wonderful. Basically, Brookline is an education-centric town. All teachers and aids must have a masters degree. At first, we thought he would be going to Devotion which is in our district and 3 blocks away. No. Ms Tang (the ELL teacher) had different ideas. Each of the five elementary schools has a nationality. Devotion is the Hebrew School. Pierce is the Chinese School. There is also a Russian School, a Korean school and two Japanese schools. Two. For Japanese. Huh.

Each school has an ELL program - goes to show what the student population is like around here. But each school is geared toward a certain population. Ms Tang said something about how she could help him with homework if he went to Pierce but Devotion doesn't have Mandarin speaking teachers so they can't. Hmm. Ok. And her recommendation was to send him to Pierce. Hmmm. And there is a bus for ELL students. Really! A BUS?? Oh! Well.... So it's ben five minutes, what is your decision? Oh. Well, it guess it's Pierce! Why do we all cower in front of teachers? Must be early training when we were kids.

Anyway, the bus is a lifesaver. It picks him up in front of Devotion and drops him off every day.

He will be taking ELL classes twice a day until he reaches a certain level of proficiency. Then they go to once a day, then weekly, etc, until he is fluent. The range of time is 1-3 years with some taking longer but the average is 2-3 years. After that point he can't take the bus. They kick him off! LOL. And we can move him to Devotion. But he will be in the 6th or 7th grade so we'll see what happens. I would hate to move him away from his friends but...

JJ met his teacher, the guidance counselor, the nurse, and he saw the classroom, the cafeteria. And he also met some ELL students from China who could speak English really well. He is so excited about going to school.

The Guidance counselor is responsible for JJ's educational health and welfare. She will make sure that he gets total coordinated services geared toward enabling his learning. When he is ready for speech therapy, she will get the special ed teacher involved, etc. And it was decided to wait on speech therapy until all his medical evals and procedures are done and he learns English.

The classroom is open. There are no walls. Classrooms are separated by cubbies and shelves. There were less than 20 desks in JJ's class. It will be interesting how the open concept works for JJ since he is so linearly organized.

And we noticed that he is taller than other 3rd graders and some of the 4th graders we saw in the cafeteria.

So we went shopping for school supplies. And that was that. Now I am on the hunt for chinese workbooks and Math and English Spelling books. And I'd like to get him into a weekly Chinese program. I need to talk to Li Laoshi.

Thursday, JJ started first day of school. Joe and I delivered him and I had a hard time saying good bye. He met a teacher in the classroom next door who teaches 7th grade and Mandarin. Of course she is fluent and talked to JJ for about 10 minutes. He just looked up in awe for a long while but then loosened up. Of course it could be that her blond hair and blue eyes threw him off!

After school, I picked him up along with all the soccer moms. I waited on the sidewalk with a lot of other parents as kids streamed out of the building. He saw me and I saw him, he came running up and just flew into my arms. He was so excited to tell me about the class and the big lunch and how delicious it was and he was so full (3 times) and how he liked school and now he has friends.

We got home and the First Homework Battle took place. I have a sneaking suspicion as to why the orphanage said he is "not student material" or "isn't a 'good' student". He wrote the alphabet the first time through. Gawd! The talking, the distractions - how many times do you re-write the letter "m"?? And then the two or three sentences. So I told him he needed to do the alphabet again, this time faster. Hmm. Didn't seem to like that. I went back to the kitchen to keep cooking dinner while Ms. Chen helped him. I heard a lot of chatter, then quiet and about 20 minutes later I go back in and he is sitting there.

Alrightee... He basically didn't want to do it. And he started crying. Ms Chen pointed it out and I shook my head. We had a brief lecture about why he needs to do this, and more crying. Good grief. I am NOT a crying-child-break-my-heart-let-me-hug-you-and-give-you-what-you-want kinda mom. In fact it downright pisses me off. There will be NO WIMPS IN THIS FAMILY!!! LOL. Not to mention stupid people!! Haha! I think he got the picture. Then Joe walked in from work, took in the situation, and he told JJ to keep writing. He should know that studying is not negotiable. Ever.

And so, JJ did his homework. And there was success, a better looking alphabet, a sense of accomplishment, knowledge that Mama and Baba stand together, and the I am serious when I tell him that "his only job is to be a student" and that I will not cave into histrionics. Ever. After hugs and kisses for a job well-done, I presented him with a "bubble sugar" (bubble gum) for all efforts, something he has never had before in his life. And that caused jubilation and dancing.

I hate to tell him that Mama bought 3rd and 4th grade math practice books and 1st-3rd grade spelling and writing books. I think I'll wait for the weekend! Gotta stock up on bubble sugars! LOL!

So, Friday's homework was better. I picked him up from school and we started right after we got home and Ms Chen arrived. He wrote his assignment. And then he had to say the alphabet at least once. Well, he didn't make it past the letter "e" and got stuck on f, g, h, I, j, l, m, q, u, v, w, y, z. That's a lot. So I told him he had to do it over and over again until he got it right. At first there was some pouting. But this was tangible. He could SEE that he needed to practice so there was less pouting. I told him how this was vital. "If you don't know the alphabet, you can't read. If you can't read, then..." And I gave him a look that said, "it's hopeless if you can't read.". So he started again. He marked the ones he didn't know and kept at it for 2 hours getting down to only 4 letters he didn't know. He did so well and I was so proud! I mean, it's only the second day of learning!

Then Ms Chen started on Chinese homework! Yeah! He definitely needs to keep up his Chinese. I think Ms Chen is getting more relieved with this whole thing as we get into some sort of routine. She is helping him refine his pronunciation as much as possible given his palate and lisp. This is good. I doubt that anyone has ever given him this type of attention so we don't know what he can do. And it will also help exercise his mouth and tongue. I notice that when he forms words, his tongue doesn't hit the back of his teeth I don't this that is a palate issue!

Anyway, I walked Ms Chen to the bus stop where she will be picking him up. She said that she thought he was really really smart. And that he will learn quickly. We both notice he is a perfectionist. This is really good but it can be really bad, too.

Today, we will go over the alphabet again. Kids forget over the weekend! Then we have a play date with his friend Niles that he doesn't know about. We will tell him that it's because he studied his alphabet or hard.

Hey! A parent must use everything we have in our arsenal! LOL!

That's it for the First Week.

Get ready for The First Thanksgiving.



Blogger Chris Hughes said...

Get the Toot and Puddle ABC Book for JJ. Its all about learning the alphabet and learning to read and write. At age 11, this is still one of Logan's favorite books!

11:00 PM  

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