Beau February 25th, 2009
It’s a beautiful day today and I have grand ambitions for taking care of many outdoor chores. By the way, that little shrub that I mentioned the other day in the picture is an Elderberry. How it grew there I don’t know, but it blooms in May and June with pretty white flower clusters- and I love the berries for jam and jelly that mature in late August or September. Here’s last summer’s efforts at making jam– the elderberry jam never set up, but the sauce is wonderful on pancakes or biscuits. We’re almost out of the elderberry sauce now, and I’ll have to pull some more berries out of the freezer. Maybe I should trim around the elderberry bush so it has a little more space to grow? Last year I was stuck in a patch of briars trying to reach the elderberry clusters. The good thing is they were blackberry bushes… but ouch!
We’re still feeding the birds- they go through almost four feeders full of seed every week or so. I think we’re finishing the second 40 pound bag of mixed seed, and the second 15 pound bag of thistle for winter and that should be it. I love having them here, but you’ve got to keep the feeders full. The young boy helps me with that and loves seeing the birds. I’d like to think it helps some of the birds make it through winter that would otherwise have a difficult time. And yet with days like today in the 60’s the birds are off exploring for insects and other natural fare. Soon it will be time for them to disperse to nesting sites, and for birds like the Junco to head back north. We don’t have them here in summer- they leave in March and come back in November. Here’s a Junco on the Mugo!
By the way, have you seen the math the second grade kids do these days? I’m amazed by the expectations that schools have and how much work they are assigned. Overall it’s a very good thing, but it seems like so much more than we ever did as youngsters, and I have to wonder if the strategies are really effective at times.
Between the reading, weekly book summaries and reports, spelling tests, composition and math, it’s a wonder they have time to be kids. At least his school still has recess, music, art and PE. But our little guy is having a tough time being fast enough with his “math facts.” That’s where the kids are timed- and he has to do 25 addition or subtraction problems in 2 minutes! He knows it really well, but it takes him 4-5 minutes to finish them. We even practice them every day on paper and with a little electronic gizmo to help memorize them, but he’s at a plateau and not getting much faster. So his grades show a 35% or 40% even though he’ll finish the sheet in 4-5 minutes with only getting one or two wrong.
Personally I think it’s a shame to force the speed drills on kids so young- and to grade them poorly even though they know the math. In fact he’s very good in math, but because he sees himself finishing slowly and getting poor grades, he thinks he’s “not good at math.” Kind of sad, but I try to help him understand that he is good at math, and with time he’ll get faster. I just want him to continue learning- remaining receptive to it, and to understand that it’s not all about speed. Skills he learns now are important as building blocks for the skills he will need in later grades, but some children develop more slowly in certain areas. Obviously the standardized testing is a big part of it- and those tests begin in 3rd grade where he will start taking the timed tests that will be part of academics for the rest of his school days.
What’s very strange is that he can naturally remember the words to poems, jokes and songs without even trying- he’s far better at that than I am. And yet he doesn’t remember numbers the same way, or doesn’t think he does. Contrast his math with his reading… he’s already at a 5th or 6th grade reading level, and simply devours books. I’m so proud of him, and feel like lots of effort really paid dividends. I used to sit with him for hours as a 3, 4 and 5 year old, going over sounds and sentences every day to develop phonemic awareness, and practice his reading skills. And he always had mom or dad or grandma to read to him as well at bedtime. But the reading practice wasn’t easy, and he didn’t always enjoy it. At one point he really didn’t like the book/program I had, so I gave it a few week break and switched to a more fun phonics reading approach. He loved it.
But I remember at one point wondering if he would ever get it, and finally around age 6 he just took off. To this day I still remember the first little phonics book he read on his own- afterwards I said “Guess what?… You just read that all by yourself!” He didn’t believe me at first, and then he was surprised at himself. Now he knows he’s good at reading, and he really enjoys it and is proud of himself. I hope he can develop his skills and appreciation for math and such to feel the same way. Yet who knows, maybe he’s just more of a word person than a number person… everybody is different.