Sunday, May 23, 2010
Farming Five Year Olds
This past week I had the wonderful opportunity to accompany my O's class on a field trip to Dodge Nature Preserve/Farm. 16 five years olds, 5 adults and a toddler (mine of course!) set out to see the farm, with the help of two knowledgeable guides. For me this was a chance to see my son in action among his peers and in a structured group setting. We (his teacher and I) have been working with O all year long to get him ready for kindergarten next fall. A task that has not been an easy feat and in which we have encountered many, many bumps.
This has been O's first experience in a structured group setting, where there are expectations of behavior and learning, and peers his age. At the beginning of the year O could not hold a pencil in his fingers, he still held it in a fist (not that I didn't try for years before to teach him, it was just he didn't want to)- now he writes his name along with other words. And keeping his hands to himself has been another tough lesson to learn.
O has, since birth, been high-needs (not special needs- but high-needs, if you've ever had a high-needs child you know the difference, and for those who haven't keep reading). Upon awakening he's "on" and going at full speed- not turning off till his head and body have come to rest on his bed. (Imagine giving a child an energy drink or two after he's had a whole chocolate cake to himself- this is my O.) Transitioning from one thing to another is never a smooth thing- no matter how much prep and warning you give him. And getting him to sit still for a time out- so not going to happen.
I've read books, joined groups for support and talked to his teacher and doctor about all this and we've found things that work but mostly acceptance of who he is and how to work with him. Will he grow out of it? I doubt it, in those exact terms but I do believe we all will find whats right for him.
So this past week's field trip gave me a look into his world, outside of home and how he interacts with others. What I found amazed me- yes my son likes to move but he isn't much different than other 5 year olds. I will insert here that I probably didn't get the best view because we were outside the classroom setting and he was able to move freely- and for the most part we went a the childrens' pace, so transition was not an issue. But he listened well both to the rules and to the lessons.
Here I feel I must speak little about O's teacher, Miss C. She's been the best teacher any of my kids have had, but with 30 years of experience you can't really be surprised by that. Miss C deals daily with kids that come from very different backgrounds (especially since O's school is a public preschool, funded by the local school district and state, so that kids who won't or families who can't afford preschool are ready for kindergarten) but most of her students at least qualify for some sort of state aid. Don't get me wrong there are plenty of kids in his class that don't and their parents pay a small tuition. But it's pretty much 50/50.
Miss C's approach is loving but also no-nonsense. Hugs and kisses daily flow freely with calling out bad behaviors and punishments fitting the crimes. She's not doing her job because it's her job- she does it because she loves it. This year, on top of my O, she has 2 others that (from what I've talked to her about and witnessed) that are high-needs and/or have behavior problems. They all (my O included) have had issues that normally would lead them to being asked to leave school or the teacher just giving up on them- but Miss C keeps sticking it out and trying to work with us parents to help our kids to succeed.
Back on the farm.....the class was divided into 2 groups (7 kids & 2 adults in one, and 8 kids, 3 adults & the toddler on my back!) . We each set out with a tour guide and a mission to get it all done in an hour! (Note: this is a half day class of total 2.5 hours and the drive time 30 mins one way, gave us just an hour.) Our guide N has only been working on the farm a few months but was pretty good with the little ones just the same.
We saw Highland cows (twins- sister and brother), baby goats born just this February (got to pet them too!), counted 10 piglets and learned mama had lost one too, Big Red was a favorite (the rooster), and I got to panic a bit about the kids putting their fingers into the chicken fence (those buggers are mean!). No one got lost or hurt and only one boy cried ( he was scared of the farm).
Miss C said the weather was THE NICEST it had EVER been for our trip to the farm- and she's been going for years this same week in May. Clear blue skies, sunny and 80! Maybe the beautiful weather helped our trip to the farm succeed so well- all that Vitamin D going in and cheering us up! Rain or shine this was a great opportunity for me to see my son in a different light and just enjoy being in his presence. And to glimpse his future and his world.