Assessment, Fall 2017--The Early Elementary Set

Whatever bug we have, it's not nice.  I'm almost a week into this thing, and while the death grip it has on me may be looser, it's still gripping.

And it's spreading.  (Of course!)

We've taken to cleaning everything in the house with disposable disinfectant wipes . . . probably a pointless and landfill-filling gesture, but no one has the energy to keep up with the laundry required to keep us stocked in clean washcloths and dishtowels.

We just might be celebrating Thanksgiving on our own this year.  We'll see what my sister says, but even though I'll miss her, I'll still be encouraging her to keep her family away from our germ-infested household.

We're still limping through Morning Meetings, some reading, and as much one-on-one time as we can handle without crying from exhaustion.

But mostly, we're trying to get well again with a little sunshine, herbal teas, fresh garlic, rest, a movie or two, card games, and soup.

Baymax says, "I haaaaaaate soooouuuup!"

Soup, however, is much better than snot.


On to the assessments!

Sweet brother is a hop, skip, and a jump away from turning 6 years old.  He's been less sweet of late--perhaps because he does not feel well--but we're all feeling that something is bothering him.  His tantrums have quadrupled (at least), and the level of the tantrums is something terrifying.

But we've seen enough to know that his true self is sweet.  He's naturally compassionate, caring, and concerned.

This current state of fury could be:
* his annual gearing up for the holiday season of turmoil
* related to the time change and his inability to cope with change
* emotional growing pains
* fighting illness
* any number of as yet unidentified triggers.

We're giving two calming strategies a try:
1.  Belly breathing
2.  Feelings bucket (many, many thanks to The Chaos and the Clutter!)

Just this week, he was lividly angry with Mister Man for interfering with a clean-up assignment.  He was losing it, and he was getting violent.  I called him over and got him to look me in the eyes and talked about his bad feelings.  We ascertained that this batch of bad feelings were in his head, and because I didn't have a bucket at hand (note to self:  fix this problem!), we took them from his head and threw them away.  He seemed very confused because he is an incredibly literal kid, but I persisted in the action, and he eventually followed my lead and did calm down.

No time out needed, and some good positive interactions between Brother and Mom.

That's an emotional win.

On the academic front, Brother has been so enjoying The Reading Game.  And he is memorizing words.  Because he needs rules to be true 100% of the time, I've worried about phonics.  It's a great way to learn to read, but there are so, so, so many exceptions to the rules!  The Reading Game focuses on word recognition, and Brother loves the game.

However, it's not working for him to learn to read.

The memorization part is great; but put the words into a sentence, and the work of recognizing the words and trying to comprehend their meaning is waaaay too much for him.  I don't know if this is simply a matter of letting his brain mature longer, so that he is more ready, or if it is going to be a permanent problem.

Either way, my personal inspiration regarding Brother has been that he can learn, that he will learn, and that learning will always take a very, very, very long time, so just keep on teaching him gently.

That said, we've gone back to Eclectic Foundations Level A.  We simply picked up where we left off last spring, and the reading expectation is so much simpler, the comprehension needs so much milder, and the activities so repetitive and satisfying for Brother, that even though it is a phonics program, he is very safe and happy using it.

We are not doing any formal math right now.  He intuits a lot of math information--at least age-appropriate math information.  That's good enough for now.

Neither are we doing any formal handwriting, though that will be changing in the coming weeks.

Brother loves Morning Meeting and Academy.  He loves the stories, the poems, the songs, the narrations--all of it, but especially the songs.  I think Brother has a pulpit voice.  It resonates in ways that I've never heard in a kid before.  He loves to sing, and if the damage he's done to his vocal cords during his screaming fits heals, he'll have the voice of an angel--"a voice to shake the earth."

His gross motor skills continue to be higher than average, and his fine motor skills are on the low end of average.  He is either unconsciously graceful or unconsciously clumsy--it's intriguing how he vacillates between the two.  I haven't figured it out.

He sincerely desires to do what is right.  He wants to obey and be joyful.  He struggles to do so for a variety of reasons that go beyond our human nature.  Suffice to say that he's got a tender heart trying to survive the tangles and briars of his earliest childhood.

Mister Man
This kid is so freaking bright I don't actually know what to do with him.  But in a conversation with a friend my flippant answer to a joking question revealed some truth: he needs to learn to write and to have compassion. 

He can read.  He can calculate and understand mathematical concepts well beyond his years.  He reads voraciously and extensively across all subject matters.

But he can't write--because he's just barely turning 6 right at this moment, and his fine-motor skills are age-appropriate.  He can form letters and words, but he can't fill out a reading comprehension worksheet by himself . . . nor do I want him to.

But he's learning how to write because writing will open even more doors for him.

And we're working on helping him develop compassion because he's begun using his busy brain to manipulate/tease/entrap his more literal siblings. 

It's a wonderful gift to be smart.

It's an even better gift to be kind.

So his lessons focus on kindness.

And I think he'll be just fine.

Ladybug is learning how to read . . . like actually learning enough to open up first readers on her own and figure out what the words say.  She is so very proud to call a preschooler over and offer to read a story aloud.  The Reading Game has been perfectly perfect for her!  She's working on the 5th (out of 6) stories right now, and we'll just move on to the reader I started her on in September using the same flashcard/game system that The Reading Game does. 

She's thriving.  It is NOT easy.  She forgets words from day to day or even minute to minute.  She forgets letter sounds that she learned 1, 2, or even 3 years ago.  She has to review and review and review.  But we accept that, and we just do it.  And she is truly thriving.

She's working on phonics/spelling with Explode the Code

I still have Rod and Staff Math 1 on hold for her.  She is utterly stumped by numbers and how they work together.  Given how much energy she's putting into learning how to read, I've felt that math was best left on the back burner for now.

I should have kept up handwriting, because it has taken a major hit in the past months.  She's not allowed to use any writing implements except during supervised school time because she has done so much damage to our home with those implements.  Usually kids get all kinds of informal practice in the independent writing and drawing projects that are a given in our home.  I forgot that she's not been getting that!  I'll be looking into some tracing and copywork to help her get back what she lost. 

Emotionally, I feel she is trapped and not progressing.  She can function with major direction and redirection and with everlasting structure and forgiveness.  I hope more is happening in her heart and mind than we can see.

She can be such a sweetheart!

I so long for the sweetheart in her to triumph.

One recent change has been allowing her to sit across the kitchen island to watch me prepare meals.  Even though she is a quiet little soul, I cannot tolerate her being too close to my work , she has a way of being in the way . . . if that makes sense.  If she stays on the opposite side of the island, she can see what I'm doing, ask questions, and feel that she is sharing in my responsibilities, and I can still get a meal prepared without tripping over her.  This seems to be very important to her.  Given how much Lola loves to be near me when I'm cooking, I think there's something genetically wired in these girls--and boys, too!--to connect in the kitchen.

I'm so not good at sharing my kitchen!

I'm having to take deep breaths and share my (previously) personal space with them.

But I trust that by doing so, we will all be blessed.


  1. Your assessments are fascinating to me. And I find myself relieved by your use of healthy boundaries.


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