Show Me “A”

Dylan will be starting Kindergarten this fall. The signs are not propitious. He resented his 4-year-old kindergarten where he had to learn all the letters and numbers and reproduce them on paper. Did I say “resent”? How about “actively resisted”? In four weeks, he’s going to be in school where he will be expected to be capable of reading small words, able to write well enough to copy things on the board, and to, well, sit quietly. Hoooo boy.

I’m going to step aside from the subject of Dylan and kindergarten here for a moment to observe that SwampMan and I did NOT attend kindergarten. We went into first grade where we were not expected to be reading and writing. We were expect to be blank slates, and some of our classmates truly were. Yet somehow we mostly all managed to navigate ourselves through the educational system such that we graduated high school with better educations than many students today have once they complete their first two years of college.

Personally, I think it has to do with flying erasers (WHOP upside the head with a well-aimed eraser for the person screwing off with a Robert Heinlein novel instead of conjugating verbs) and paddles. If I would have told the teacher to “fuck off, bitch!” instead of writing down the numbers for my spelling words in elementary school, I’d have had my behind swatted all the way to the principal’s office and when my parents came to get me (after the principal had finished with the paddle) I’d have been killed on the spot.

Now the student is taken to the assistant principal’s office (no such thing when I was young!) and the parents come in and they get into a discussion about the teacher’s failures such that their little precious was forced into saying those rude things because the teacher wasn’t sufficiently sensitive to their little darling’s needs. But I digress.

SwampMan was supposed to be working with Dylan over the summer. SwampMan did not. I know for sure they had a couple sessions because I saw them working together when the kids first came for the summer but, when I asked casually how things were going, SwampMan told me that in his opinion Dylan was not ready to sit still for that long. Not being ready is not an option, however. The State Says that little boys are ready NOW, damnit, whether they truly are or not. MeeMaw thinks they are not and should be out catching frogs and running around like banshees for another year. The State does not ask MeeMaw’s opinion, however. It is now MeeMaw’s turn with Dylan.

I showed Dylan a dry erase board with preprinted letters. I know Dylan and Papa had been over this, plus he had a year’s worth of preschool experience.

“Dylan, show me “A”. Dylan could not show me “A”. In fact, he could not show me much of anything. Jacob decided to “help” him. I told Jacob that I knew that Jacob knew his letters, and he can go. This is Dylan’s work, not Jacob’s.

Dylan was a late talker, mostly (I suspect) because Jacob talked for him. Jacob told everybody what Dylan wanted, so Dylan didn’t have to say anything. Once he was actually forced to speak on his own by parental and grandparental units not giving him anything that he didn’t request, he could speak in complete sentences with advanced vocabularly. Example: Jacob asks if they can have chocolate milk because “they” are thirsty. Jacob gets a glass of milk. Dylan gets nothing. Dylan cries. “What do you want, Dylan? Use your words.” Dylan cries and points. “What do you want, Dylan? Use your words.” At the time, of course, we did not know that Dylan had so very many words stored up inside him. He hasn’t stopped talking since except occasionally when he’s asleep. I think the schoolwork may be the same type of deal. He’s perfectly willing to let Jacob do it for him.

“Dylan, show me “A”. Blank stare. Is this really a blank stare, or acting? I dunno. I sing “where do we start our letters?” and he sings back “at the top!” I use the Handwriting Without Tears instructions for forming the letter “A”. He starts at the bottom. “Where do we start our letters?” “At the top!” “Show me the top where we are supposed to start!” We make a line of A’s.

“Dylan, show me “A”. Blank stare. “Oh, I’m so sorry that you forgot. Let’s write more so that you remember. Every time that you write “A”, I want you to tell me “A”. I want your eyes to see “A”, your hands to make “A”, and your ears to hear “A”. Let me make you some lines. I will make the top blue, the sky color. I will make the bottom green, for ground color, to help you remember top and bottom. There are dots in the middle. Let’s look at “A” again. It looks like a teepee, doesn’t it? I do not want your teepee to fall down, so I want the top straight up in the air and not leaning. You may begin.

It took three lines before he was able to “show me A” on the chart. He had to cross out those pesky leaning As that were on the verge of collapse. Hmmmmm. We progressed to “B”. Then back to “show me A”. He had forgotten. More lines of A. Then he couldn’t remember “B”. More lines of “B”. Then he could remember A. And B. We moved on to “C”. Then I would point to random letters A, B, or C that he had written, and he had to “read” it to me. We ended it on a positive note of accomplishment, and he got his Yoohoo chocolate drink as a reward for his hard work (only hard working people get a Yoohoo around here–Jacob had to rake up sticks and mow grass for his).

After lunch, he “forgot” again. Genuine, or acting? I dunno. Doesn’t matter, he still has to learn. Another session. MeeMaw never gets mad, you see. MeeMaw merely has little boys repeat the exercise until they get it right. It could take all day, or all day and night. MeeMaw does not mind the time. He “remembered” much more quickly this time.

We’ll see what today brings.

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8 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    kcduffy said,

    Little boys…you know some well-meaning, well-educated teacher is going to suggest he needs some sort of chemical ‘help,’ don’t you.

    Little boys…probably smarter than any well-meaning, well-educated teacher…and made to pay for it in so many ways…

  2. 2

    swampie said,

    Right now, I’m thinking that he *might* have a learning disability. He can’t seem to remember the names of the letters (and I’m only doing about three) five seconds after he practices writing them multiple times while simultaneously saying the name of the letter.

    However, it could also be sheer stubborness. It is hard to tell the difference! Late talkers often have learning disabilities. He does have problems following multi-step directions, but most boys his age do, IIRC.

    Or he may just need an additional year to mature.

    • 3

      kcduffy said,

      I’m guessing stubborness and needing extra year…because he DOES learn…that much is obvious.

      • 4

        swampie said,

        Interesting. He couldn’t remember A through F earlier today; however, when he wanted to get on the computer and play a video game, we zipped right through the flash cards we had made.

      • 5

        kcduffy said,

        My point exactly…

      • 6

        kcduffy said,

        It’s not a ‘learning disability’ to learn things in a different way than other children. Most times it’s merely different, which in this education system means ‘wrong.’ Over-educated well-meaning ‘instructors’ see “WRONG” where there is none.

        He’s a boy, they learn differently. I learned that from my grandmother, who taught elementary children – including the truly disabled – for more than 60 years. If he’s like my dad – and it sounds like he may be – he will NEVER fit the mold that Society and the Educational System have created.

      • 7

        swampie said,

        Interestingly enough, kc, SwampMan and I spoke about that last night. SwampMan said that “I wish you could homeschool him. School will crush the life out of him.” There are kids that have given up and consider themselves hopelessly stupid by third grade when it has more to do with curriculum and learning styles.

      • 8

        kcduffy said,

        If there is a place for him to stay while everyone is at work, I agree whole-heartedly with homeschooling him. The system will either destroy his spirit or create a monster.

        Homeschool is not 6+ hours every day, y’know. An awful lot of it is ‘self-school.’ I have Twitter friends who are GREAT at it – one homeschools the oldest 4 of her 5 children. An hour or so of lessons, then they do their own work.

        Kaylee will not attend public school if we can avoid it. I don’t want her spirit crushed like the system tried to do to her mother, and I have the power now to say so.


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