Kindergarten Meets Geometry

Last evening at the dinner table, my just-graduated Kindergartner triumphantly announced that a square is made by cutting a rectangle in half.

“Yep!” he declared. “A rectangle is just two squares getting close together and kissing!”

“Or two triangles,” his now high-schooler sister responded.

“No! Not triangles!” he said, knowing without a doubt that she was wrong.

“Could be,” I said, before adding, “And a rectangle cut in half doesn’t necessarily result in two squares. It could be two rectangles.”

“Or two triangles,” his sister repeated.

“Depending on how you halve it,” his dad added in.

He insisted we were all wrong and soon everyone was scrambling for a piece of paper. Luckily, we are not tidy people which meant there were already both scraps of paper and writing utensils on the dinner table. With pencil and paper in hand, I drew the following:

shape1

“Well, I didn’t know you were going to draw funny looking triangles like that!” he said, and then after a pause, took the pencil and said, “Here! Let me show you how a man does it.”

“See?” he said, drawing his rectangle and dividing it.

shape2

“Um. Technically,” I said as gently as I could, “those are two rectangles, not two squares. See? These sides are longer than these sides so they aren’t squares.”

He glared at me. I drew a more exaggerated example.

shape3

“Well, but you drew it really long and skinny!”

“Yes, but it’s still a rectangle that got cut in half and resulted in two rectangles, not two squares. You don’t always get two squares when you cut a rectangle in half.”

“Well, look. I’m going to make a rectangle out of two triangles.” He then proceeded to make an equilateral triangle and then butt another up against it. He frowned.

“That’s a parallelogram,” his brother said.

“You are never going to get to a rectangle that way,” his sister added.

He pressed ahead and eventually announced that he had drawn a circle.

shape4

“That’s a hexagon,” I said. “It has six sides.”

“Yeah, it can’t be a circle,” his sister explained. “It has edges and circles don’t have edges.”

So he announced that he could draw a different shape and he did.

shape5

“It’s a scribblegon!”

For that, we had no response. He had drawn a shape that none of us could claim was any shape other than what he had named it. Geometry lessons were clearly over and silliness had taken control.

My Son, Author Extraordinaire

Hal is working on becoming an author. There is no reason that an inability to spell or even read competently should hold one back from such an endeavor. All you really need is a good imagination. The rest can be addressed by a solid editor.

Here’s the title page of one attempt:

The Hat Who Wanted To Fly

He claims the first two words are mistakes because, “they don’t make sense.” The title, in case you are not fluent in Kindergartenese, is The Hat Who Wanted To Fly. Personally, I think “I’m The Hat Who Wanted To Fly” works too, although I agree “Him” should go. But he hasn’t hired me as his editor. Yet.

The story ends rather abruptly on the first picture:

2015-02-19 20.14.52

This is Mr. Hattie, the main character who, presumably, wanted to fly. I never got to find out why he wanted to fly. Because Hal said bye to his hat fly guy. He let him die without giving him another try. And that’s no lie.

Ok, I’ll stop now. I promise. Too much Dr. Seuss of late.

My guess, based on his second endeavor, is that Hal, wise beyond his years, came to realize that a happy, feel-good children’s tale of a hat who desperately wanted to fly was simply not his destined genre.

This next one is a much more representative sample of the work that drives him:

2015-02-19 19.35.04

Angling for an award for longest title, he came up with The Death Book of Ghosts and Shadows: Evil Shadows, Evil Ghosts. If his writing gig doesn’t work out, I’m positive someone will hire him as an illustrator because those are obviously some evil ghosts and shadows.

This tale, he finished. And a grim tale it is. SPOILER ALERT: It does end happily even if it doesn’t look like it the first couple of pages. So don’t get too spooked out. It’ll all be ok. Ready?

Ok. Here’s the first page:

20150219_201301

It’s a sad and scary day in… well… I don’t know where. I’m just glad it’s not here because that (read this in a shaky, spooky voice) is… The. Rain. Of. The. Blood. Drops.

Duhn! Duhn! Duhn!

Or it might be The Reign of the Blood Drops. But I’m not sure he’s big on double meanings yet, so let’s stick with a literal interpretation. And just when you think things couldn’t get any worse, you are faced with the arrival of…

20150219_201318

The Death Square!

Please remember that I told you it’d end ok. I’m sure you are sweating it now. How can society possibly survive when The Death Square is terrorizing the streets and dancing in the blood rain?

Well, let me show you. I am pleased, relieved, so thankful and happy to introduce to you our champion:

2015-02-19 20.15.40

Super Circle!

Yes, yes! It’s Super Circle, come to save the day with his bright pink eyes and nose and that confident, assured smile. All is ok when Super Circle comes to town. Death Squares quake in his presence. The clouds raining blood drops retreat. The sun shines. And all live happily ever after.

The End.

There’s These Men…

So I’m driving down the road when Hal starts his longwinded manner of trying to tell me something.

“Mommy? You know that store? That one with all the books? The one with lots and lots of books?”

I have no clue if he means Hasting’s or Half Price Books or still some other place, but I make a slight affirmative noise and he continues.

“Well there’s a magazine I want.”

“What’s the name of the magazine?”

“I don’t know, but…” At this point, I know I’m going to get a very detailed description that likely won’t help me figure out the magazine. “…there’s these men. There’s three of them on the cover…”

I’m wondering if this might be some fitness magazine.

“…and they are holding guns…”

Whaaa?

“…and there’s this big red skull in the middle of them.”

Oh, my.

“But the scary stuff doesn’t show up until the middle of the book,” he assures me. “Although there is this really strange looking dog.”

I have no clue what this magazine is and I’m not sure I want to know. I am fairly confident that I won’t be purchasing it for my Kindergartner.

And What Happened Here?

I arrived home from work one recent evening and stepped into my bathroom for a private moment. Nothing looked amiss except for a little bag sitting on the floor in front of our sink. It was folded up tightly like it is when in its usual location: the far back corner of the center drawer of our vanity.

Puzzled, I opened the drawer. That’s when I noticed that my vitamins were where the extra soap should be, the soap was where the hair gel should be, and the gel was where the vitamins should be. The big bottle of vitamins was backwards from its usual orientation. The toothpaste was back where the little bag should have been, and my deodorant was on my husband’s side of the drawer. Oh, and the sponge for my blush was gone.

“Honey?” I asked as he happened to enter the room. “Do you know who’s been in our drawer?”

As I proceeded to list the problems, he picked up on the blush sponge and said, “Jane was probably in here.”

“No,” I said confidently. “She might borrow my stuff but she wouldn’t make this big of a mess. This was Hal.”

He glanced in the drawer. “Where’s my medicine?”

Annoyance and curiosity turned to alarm as I realized that his pill box was gone. He called out for Hal. I noticed that the pill box and his flossers were in the trash can under the drawer.

“Hal, did you get into this drawer?”

A solemn head nod.

“Why?”

“I just wanted to know what was in it.”

Long and short of it, he was looking in the drawer, pulled it out too far, dumped all the contents as it fell, and attempted to put it all back in. I adopted the new calm, rational, loving, non-yelling Mommy persona I’m working on and explained why he needed to stay out of the drawer. I explained how Daddy needed his medicine and how Hal needed to leave it alone. I explained that even though he shouldn’t be in the drawer, if something like this ever happens, he needs to come get one of us rather than leaving it for us to discover. He nodded and looked relieved that I wasn’t turning red and going hoarse.

Later that night, after basketball practice and as the boys prepared for bed, I glanced into “the big room”, our all-purpose office, gym, guest bedroom, library, junk storage room the size of a large garage. The pieces of a paper making craft kit were spread out all over the floor.

Confused, I walked into the room, which is when I noticed the doors to the craft cabinet were open. A glance into the cabinet revealed the top two shelves almost completely void of their usual packed contents. That’s when I realized that those nicely labeled and stacked boxes and folders were jumbled on the floor in front of the cabinet.

HAL!!!

Again, the boy joined me with a solemn look on his face. I shook with the attempt to stay calm. In a strained voice, I tried, but basically failed, to keep my new pleasant Mommy persona.

“What. Were. You. Doing?!”

“I was looking for something to do.”

“What did we talk about in the bathroom that would pertain to this situation?”

“Don’t get into stuff?”

“Well, yes, but what else? What are you supposed to do when you make a mess like this?”

“Clean it up?”

“No, not when you can’t clean it up right.” I pushed and prodded and eventually reminded him of the lesson before sending him on to brush his teeth. You’d think the discussion in the bathroom might have triggered his memory of this other mess and he might have told us about it. I can only assume that Kindergarteners are like dogs. After they make the mess, they forget all about it and they’re just happy to see you.

Reading Break-Through

Hal has been slow to show an interest in reading.  I see several factors in this, all of which are related to him being the baby of the family.

  1. We have not devoted nearly as much time to reading to him as we did for the older two.  Our evenings, more often than not, have been full of his siblings’ extracurricular activities.
  2. We have relaxed and not pushed so much to get him to read, trusting in both his basic intelligence and the school system to get the job done within an age-appropriate window.  No need to create another superstar.
  3. Electronic entertainment has been a reality for him at a much younger age than it was for his siblings.  Why bother trying to read a book (in his mind) when you can task various plants to kill attacking zombies?

The effect of this has been that he entered Kindergarten unable to read.  This is perfectly normal in the population at large, but a new scenario in our household.  The older two were reading, and reading well enough to take comprehension exams over the book, by the same age.  Daryl, at least, appeared to think this made his brother inferior in intellect.

And while I, of course, did not share his view, I did feel a little guilty for having not given Hal the same benefits as the others.  With the advent of the school year came the reading log, with the reward of a free Pizza Hut pizza if at least 25 books were read each month.  This motivated Hal to request reading time more frequently.  It did not motivate him to attempt reading himself, though.

When we would sit down to read, he was typically not interested in trying to sound out the words.  He just wanted us to read to him while he looked at the pictures.  If you paused at a word and pointed at it, he’d grunt and complain that he didn’t want to read it.  If you insisted, he’d scan the page looking for a visual clue on what the word might be.  And then he’d guess.  Even once he could correctly sound out the letters, he resisted putting it together.

In retrospect, this is not that different from when we worked with the older two.  The main difference is that he is 2-3 years older than they were.  And, unless my brain is playing tricks on me, much more stubborn.

So sometime last week, I told him to retrieve a book and he selected “Being Friends” – a book that Jane’s friend had given her for her fourth birthday.  I smiled when I saw the tracing of the girl’s hands on the inside cover and the awkwardly scrawled name.

Opening the book to the first page, I noticed the words seemed Hal-appropriate simple:  I like red.  You like blue.

And so I pointed to the first word.  He squirmed and protested.  I said, “Oh, come on.  This one is easy.”  He read it.  I pointed to the next word.  It was apparently a sight word because he read it.  And then the next one.  I helped him with “you” and then he finished the page.  Almost eagerly.

We progressed fairly rapidly through the book.  He squirmed and twisted and barely stayed on the couch next to me.  In fact, he often read while sitting on the floor, poking his head up somewhere near the book.  He told me that he would read all the shorts ones and “the ones I know” while I was to read the long ones.

His squirming made it difficult to hold the book.  When I said as much, he popped up onto the couch and grabbed the book.  He set it firmly in his lap and took over word pointing duty.  And read.  And read.  And read.

At one point, I jumped in for the long word in the sentence and he pounced on me. “I was going to read that one!”  Yes, sir!  I assured him that I would delay before reading any remaining long words, to give him a chance to try it if he wanted to.

Eventually, he showed the tell-tale signs of boredom.  When asked to sound out a simple word, he’d stare and then shout out an absurd answer.  I’d insist and he’d repeat.  Point to the word cat.  “kuh-kuh-kuh aa-aa-aa tuh-tuh-tuh… Poop!”

“Ok, so you are done?  You want me to finish reading all the words?” I asked.  He nodded.  I began to read.  I turned the page.  He grabbed the book and resumed reading.  Finally.  The joy of successfully decoding the words on the page had infected him.  Even when he tired of sitting still, he just couldn’t leave the task to me.

Finally.  He was reading.

20141113_180944

 

When Yellow Means Green

Our Kindergartner (and youngest child) is very proud of “staying on green” at school.  This was never a priority for his siblings.  They talked and did plenty of other disruptive things.  They weren’t problem children, but they typically weren’t going to qualify for the Good Citizenship Award at the end of the year either.

Hal, on the other hand, was getting a green sticker on his take-home calendar every single day.  These stickers were typically green smileys.  Sometimes it would be just a green dot made by a marker.  Something, each day, to signify that he had been well behaved.

And then… and then… one day, we saw this:

20141027_065630

 

A… yellow… sticker!

Shocked, I called Hal into the room.  “What’s this, Sweetheart?” I asked him, careful to keep the question curious, not judgmental.

He looked confused.

“Did you get a mark?!” I asked in mock dismay.

He studied the sheet for a minute.

“Mommy,” he finally said, pointing to the yellow sticker.  “Mommy, I think that that day was supposed to be green.”

“No, honey.  It’s yellow.  Do you remember what you did that day?”

“No, Mommy.  I think it was supposed to be green.  You see?  It has a smiley face.  So I think she ran out of green stickers.  I was still on green.”

“No, sweetheart.  When she doesn’t have a green sticker, she uses a green marker.  See?  Like all these other days.”

“But Mommy,” he said, earnestly trying to make his point.  “Look.  It’s got a smiley face.  If it was supposed to be for yellow, it’d have a straight line.” (At this, he moved his finger straight across his lips).

“Honey, it means you were on yellow.  She just has a book of stickers with all different colors and they all have smiley faces.”

He looked distressed.  “But why would she put a smiley sticker for yellow?”

“It’s ok, sweetie.  If the worst thing you ever do in your life is get a yellow sticker, we’ll be doing just fine.  Ok?”

“Ok.”

“Really, sweetheart.  It’s ok.”

He left the room with his head hung low, not convinced at all that it would be ok.  And also not convinced that that yellow smiley was really yellow.

The Boy’s Got Ink

My Kindergartner has tattoos.  Lots of them.  All over both upper arms.  He even had to have a discussion with the Principal at school concerning them.  He had placed one on his forearm and had to be told that all tattoos must be high enough to be hidden by his shirt sleeve.

This cracked me up.  For one thing, his dad’s tattoos are almost always visible from under the edges of his shirt sleeves.  I guess he sets a bad example, although he’s eagerly welcomed as a volunteer at the school.  For another, they are temporary tattoos, most of which he’s been getting from the treasure box at school.

Anyway, he’s very proud of them.  He’ll show them to anyone who asks and many people who don’t.  Check ’em out:

20140929_180356

The unfortunate thing about treasure box tattoos is that the ink doesn’t last as long as one might desire.  They don’t hurt as much either though, so I guess there are trade-offs.  Plus, you ultimately end up getting to have more of them because you get to reuse real estate on your arm.  Looks like Smiley’s space will be available soon.  And whoever that superhero is.

20141009_193638

This pirate skull has definitely seen better days.

20140929_180336

His left arm has quite a few.  I would have expected his right arm to have more since he’s left-handed and I’m pretty sure he puts these on himself.  I’m not sure what the text says and I don’t recognize the vehicle but it looks pretty bad-a**.

20140929_180329

The cat is my favorite.  It looks like it used to be very sparkly.  He was disappointed tonight when he realized he had left his backpack in the other vehicle.  He apparently had new tattoos to add.

Captain America was the most recent addition.  He accidentally ripped some of the ink off when he removed the plastic protector sheet so the “Captain America” text over the name didn’t stick completely.  He was devastated.  This was when I introduced the concept of tattoo removal to him.  He stood patiently as I scraped the not-yet-dry text from his arm.  You can still see the red in the picture.  He didn’t cry out though.  He’s willing to suffer for his art.

20141009_193744

He commented to his dad once that, what with the can’t-be-visible edict the Principal had handed down and all, he didn’t have room for more.  His dad then showed him the tattoos on the undersides of his own arms.  Hal’s eyes lit up!  More room after all!

Sometimes I think that the only reason he stays “on green” in the school behavior chart is so he can acquire more ink.  More power to him.

Doing the Math

“Mommy?” Hal asked, “Why can’t you buy a Transformers game for your DS for 10 cents?”

“Because it costs them more than 10 cents to make the game so they have to charge you more money to cover their costs and make a profit.”

“Well can you buy it for 10 dollars?”

“I don’t know.  We’d have to look.”

“Do you know how many 1 dollars it takes to make a 10 dollar?”

“How many?”

He smiled smugly and said, “Seven.”

“Um, no…”

“Oh, wait!  Wait!” He looked slightly abashed.  “I mean, I have 3 dollars right now so I need another 7 to have 10.”

“That is exactly right!”  Sometimes conversations with your Kindergartner can take you from feeling like they must not be learning anything at all to feeling like they’re actually pretty darn smart.

And then you talk to your husband and find out that yours was the follow-on conversation. He had had a conversation with the kid a few minutes earlier in which he had helped him figure out how much more money he needed to earn.  Then you think your kid is just really sneaky and wants you to think he knows even more than he does.

TBT: Square Peg in a Round Hole

The discussion on my post about my youngest child’s recent Kindergarten homework reminded me of my daughter’s struggles that year.  So this week’s Throwback Thursday travels back eight years.

She’s nearly 14 years old now and in the eighth grade. But eight years ago, she was the bright-eyed, excited Kindergartener in our house. She had a great teacher. The teacher was highly requested, was very good with the kids, taught them a lot, and even received the district’s teacher of the year award that year. I loved almost everything about her.

What I didn’t love was a facet of what made her so good. She ran a tight ship, which allowed her to produce solid results. However, she didn’t have much room for out-of-the-box thinkers on that tight ship. And that’s where my problem lay. Because my kids aren’t good at fitting into other people’s expectations.

On the first day of school, the teacher greeted each child at the door and encouraged them to find their chair and sit down. At each place was a big glob of gray clay. She cheerfully encouraged each child to kneed their “magic play-doh” and see what would happen.

Jane looked around the room at the children who had arrived before her, all gleefully squishing their clay and laughing in delight as it began to change color. Some had red, some blue, some yellow, and so on. She glanced down at her clay and pondered it for a minute. Then, as if she had a sudden inspiration, she tore the ball of clay open to reveal the drops of food coloring inside.

With her face lit up and expecting praise at solving the puzzle, she ran over to the teacher, “Look! Look! I figured it out! See?! I figured it out! There’s this stuff inside. That’s what’s making them change colors!”

The teacher was more irritated at the possibility of the cool activity being ruined for the other kids than she was appreciative of my daughter’s skills of deduction. She gave a quick “That’s nice, Jane. Now go sit back down.” before turning her attention to the newcomers. This left a bad taste in my mouth but I chalked it up to new-mom-pride on my part, bothered that the teacher didn’t seem to find my child as impressive as I did.

Several months later, it was time for “brown” show-and-tell day. They had gone through a series of colors, shapes, and letters over the previous weeks, each one being the criteria for choosing a show-and-tell item. Jane had been growing increasingly frustrated with a boy in her class who always tried to figure out what everyone else had brought. She wanted her item to be a surprise.

So for brown show-and-tell, she came up with the perfect solution – many days or weeks ahead of time, actually. She was so excited when she told me how she was going to bring her hair for show-and-tell: “Because that way, he won’t be able to see what I have because it’s my hair!”

I was excited for her on brown show-and-tell day so as I tucked her into bed that night, I asked her what her teacher had thought of her brown show-and-tell item. Her face fell.

“She didn’t like it.”

“What do you mean she didn’t like it?”

“I didn’t get a ‘good choice’ Kissable.”

“What do you mean?”

“When you do something good, she gives you a ‘good choice’ Kissable.”

“And you didn’t get one?”

“No.”

“Did everyone else who brought something for show-and-tell get one?”

“Yes.”

I was flummoxed. The best I could come up with was that the teacher thought Jane had forgotten her show-and-tell item and had chosen her hair while sitting at the table, waiting her turn. I thought a letter to the teacher would surely clear things up.

In the letter, I explained that Jane said the teacher hadn’t liked her show-and-tell item. I explained that Jane had not forgotten, that she had been planning it for some time and was very excited about it. I told the teacher that she had done it so the boy couldn’t guess what she had and that we had been proud of her problem solving.

The return note surprised me. First, she showed an inability to understand that children can tell when adults don’t like something even if the adults don’t explicitly say they don’t like it. “I never told Jane I didn’t like her show-and-tell item,” she said. As if withholding the treat for participation did not say it clearly enough.

Continuing, she said, “I told the children that they were to bring an item from home. Her hair is not an item from home. If I start letting them use their hair or eyes or clothing, then pretty soon we won’t have anything to show and tell about.”

To say I was disappointed is an understatement. I will concede that the teacher had considerably more experience with Kindergarteners and thus her concern was probably reasonably well founded. My problem was not that she didn’t appreciate Jane’s contribution (although taking the time to understand why she did it would have/should have caused her to appreciate it). No, my problem was how she handled the situation.

She didn’t need to shame Jane by denying her the same reward everyone else got. She didn’t need to hold her accountable for a very strict interpretation of “an item from home.” She could have achieved her objective of stopping the impending snowball of non-item show-and-tell presentations by simply saying this:

“That’s very creative, Jane, thank you. But when I said I wanted you guys to bring an item from home, I meant one that you don’t bring to school every day already. So let’s everyone keep that in mind next time. Here’s your Kissable. Joseph, you’re next.”

That night, I had one of my better parenting moments when I comforted her. I told her about how all my friends, some of whom were teachers, simply loved her show-and-tell item and her reason behind it. I told her I thought it showed tremendous creativity. “But that’s not what Mrs. Smith was looking for. And now that we know what she’s looking for, we’ll be able to meet her expectations next time, won’t we? I love you sweetheart. Good night.”

What I didn’t do, and now wish I had, was contact the teacher again. Then again, I had already explained the motivations of my child’s choice. All that was left was to tell her how she could have done her job better and that seems like a dangerous area to enter into. Maybe it’s best that I let it go.

But sometimes, looking back, I wonder how much the push to conform has changed my children. Are they as creative as they would have been if people hadn’t kept trying to force them into a shape that didn’t fit?

A Matter of Interpretation

I was looking through Hal’s papers that came home from Kindergarten recently. I took a special interest in the following paper:

20140910_071339

I wonder why he didn’t write an M next to the man… I thought to myself. Then I turned the paper over:

20140910_071247

Huh, I thought. Why an M next to the ball?

So when he came into the room, I asked him – as nonchalantly as possible. First I pointed to the ball and asked, “Why did you put an M here?”

He looked puzzled. “Next to the marble?” he asked, as if the only explanation for my question was that he didn’t understand which picture I was actually referring to.

“Oh!” I said. “I see. I thought it was a ball.” After turning the paper over and pointing to the man, I asked, “And why not one here?”

He began to look concerned about either my intelligence or my education. Perhaps he was thinking I should take some make-up Kindergarten lessons.

“Because that’s a Daddy,” he said.

“Oh, ok. I think maybe it was supposed to be a ‘man’ but I like your thinking. Daddy, it is.”

There were no red marks on his paper. I’m not sure whether this means the teacher didn’t grade the paper or whether she took the time to ask him about his discrepancies and then accepted his answers. I kind of hope the latter. I think perhaps we adults don’t typically take the time to ask kids about why they did what they did. The answers can be quite illuminating.