Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fifty-One Months

Dear Peeper:
You are fifty-one months old today. Four-and-a-quarter. I've got to remember to teach you to say that when people ask.

You don't actually know about this (other than what you might have picked up from our conversations), but last week, we turned in both admission and financial aid applications for the local Montessori school, for next year. Mommy and I visited it last month, and it's amazing. If you get in, and they give us enough money, you will love it!

We had to answer a lot of questions about you, and some of them had to do with what you're like at school, so I met with one of your teachers to get some answers about that. I gave her a list of things that I wanted to know about you, and she wrote everything down, and talked to me about it.

As it turned out, you were in my lap the whole time, but I explained that I was just finding out about all the cool stuff you're learning and fun stuff you're doing at school.

Here's what she had to say:

January 23, 2013
Peeper Shrike-Whozat
Although Peeper won't be going to kindergarten for another year, we are starting to investigate our options, and trying to find a school that will be the best fit for her. To that end, we'd appreciate if you could give us some feedback about her behavior and performance in your class, as well as your professional opinion as to how that compares to where she "should be" at her age (4 yr, 3 mo). 
How is Peeper's behavior in class? Does she follow directions and cooperate with teachers?
Peeper has wonderful behavior. She follows directions well for her age. She is always pleasant and cooperative.  
Does she participate in classroom activities or "do her own thing?" Does she participate in class discussion? Does she volunteer answers without being prompted?
Peeper is paying attention and takes everything in. She will participate in class discussions if asked, but does not initiate discussions on her own.  
How self-reliant is she? Does she need more help from teachers that is expected at her age?
She is pretty self-reliant. Normal in all ways for her age. We do still remind her about going to the bathroom, as requested by the parents. 
How does she interact with the other students?
Peeper gets along with the other students, but often engages in parallel play. If another student asks her to play, then she will join in. We are encouraging her to ask the other kids to play.  
What would you say are her strengths socially? Areas of concern, or where growth is needed?
Peeper has the personality where she can get along with anyone! She never has any problems or complaints! I would like to see her grow in her communication with the other kids, volunteer her answers without being prompted and "come out of her shell," so to speak! 
How is Peeper doing relative to where you would expect her to be in the following areas:  
Reading Readiness - Knows all letters. [And you can read words with them, but they've not asked you to, so they've never seen you do it.] 
Math / Math Concepts - Identifies numbers 1 - 10. Still working on writing her numbers. [She didn't write it down, but she commented that you "Can count to ten." Actually, you can count to 29 consistently, usually to thirty. With some prompting about the 10s, you can count to 100, and you can also count to 100 by 10s. Again, they don't know that, because they've never asked you to do it.]
Writing / Fine Motor Skills - Fine motor is still developing. Proper holding of the pencil, writing her name. her drawings are still developing. Same with scissor skills. 
What activities are you doing in these areas, and what can we do at home to complement and reinforce your instruction?  
Reading Readiness - Letters make sounds, sounds make words.  
Math - Counting objects, more or less than, writing numbers, estimation 
Language - We work on a nursery rhyme a month, play with words, identify letters and sounds.  
Give plenty of opportunities for free cutting activities. Cut various objects from paper, crepe paper, straws, newspaper, playdough. It will exercise and develop those muscles. Practice holding pencil properly, writing her name and other letters and numbers.  
What would you say are her academic strengths? Areas of concern, or where growth is needed?
No areas of concern. On track - above average for her letter and number identification.  
*Would recommend three days next year. 

And here's what we had to say about you on the Montessori application:

1.  Please describe your family:  applicant’s siblings, relationships, and activities of the family unit.
Peeper lives with her mothers, Whozat (Mama) & Shrike (Mommy), and her two dogs, PerfectPut and BigGaloot. Peeper was conceived by in vitro fertilization using Shrike’s egg and anonymous donor sperm, and Whozat  carried the pregnancy. She has had this information since birth, and can tell you the whole story, from “The doctor took Mommy’s egg,” to “Mama puuushed me out!”

Whozat's family of origin lives in Southeast Texas and she and Peeper travel to visit them four times a year, so Peeper is quite experienced at air travel. To date, she’s made 16 round trips! When in Texas, she visits her grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins, two of whom are in their twenties and two of whom are twins a year younger than her.

Shrike’s family of origin lives in the area, and Peeper enjoys spending time with her grandparents, great-grandfather, aunts and especially her cousins who are 12 and 15.

Shrike works evenings and Whozat has been a fulltime stay-at-home mom until recently, when she began working a few hours a week.

We are very active in the local MOMS Club; Whozat  has been a board member for three years, and Peeper attends activities regularly and has formed many friendships with the other young children in the club.

Peeper currently attends Mother’s Day Out at XYZ Presbyterian Church two days a week, and takes gymnastics and dance class weekly. She also enjoys going to SuperCool Children’s Art Studio, but spends more of her time in the play area than the art area.

We try to attend story time at the library each week. Peeper loves to be read to (and is right on the cusp of learning to read, herself) and enjoys checking out books, both fiction and non-fiction, on a variety of topics that interest her.
2.     Characterize your child’s social characteristics (sense of humor, assertiveness, self-reliance, shyness, etc.).

Peeper is usually a pretty easy-going kid, who adjusts well to about any situation, as long as she’s with us. She’s had a more difficult time adjusting to being away from us for MDO. She is fine once she’s there, and has fun, but “the bye-bye is hard.”

Her teachers at MDO report that she “pays attention and takes it all in” but does not usually volunteer information, or initiate discussions on her own. She does respond to questions, both during formal instruction and informally.

Peeper seems to be well-liked by her peers. She has several “special friends” among the MOMS Club kids, more than one of whom have claimed her as their “best friend.” She says she’s not, and when asked who her “best friend” is, she says, “You, Mama.” We have explained that “you can have lots of best friends.”
Her MDO teachers say that she gets along well with her classmates, but often engages in parallel play, rather than interacting. If another student invites her to play, she will join in, but rarely asks the other students to play.
When she is “out and about” with us, though, and is not put “on the spot,” Peeper is happy to converse with just about anyone; she recently got up in front of a classroom full of college students to show off her new pink sparkly cowboy boots, when prompted by the professor. At other times, such as a “What do you say to the lady?” situation, she’ll clam up and just giggle.

The MDO teachers also report that she follows directions in class, is “pleasant and cooperative” and can “get along with anyone.” They note that she seems to be quite adaptable to changes in routine and new situations.
Peeper has a great sense of humor, and loves to be silly and make jokes. Usually, they are the kinds of things that you’d expect for her age, but occasionally she’ll come out with something that makes us ask “Did she  hear that somewhere? Did she really just make that up?!”

She especially enjoys retelling real-life stories that she’s heard, recasting herself - or her fictional puppy - as the protagonist.

Being an only child, with a stay-at-home mom, Peeper may not be as self-reliant as some other kids her age, because we are usually there to help her with things, and not having anyone to compare her to, we don’t always realize what she should or could be doing on her own.

There are many things that she can handle just fine on her own when she wants or needs to – like going to the bathroom independently at MDO, or putting on a full set of clothes and shoes when creating a costume of her own design – but would prefer help with when she can get it – such as going to the bathroom at home, or getting dressed in “real clothes” to go somewhere.

Recently, we’ve been trying to encourage her to do more things for herself; I’ve set up a couple of “snack stations” for her in the kitchen, where she can help herself to some simple, relatively healthy snacks, I try to hand her clothes and shoes and ask her to put them on. Sometimes she goes with it, but she still wants quite a bit of help with things.
3.    Are there any family circumstances about which we should be aware that might affect your child’s adjustment/performance?
Whozat has been a stay-at-home mom since 
Whozat has been a stay-at-home mom since Peeper's birth, and has just recently begun working part-time.
When she began attending Mother’s Day Out this school year, Peeper had a tough time adjusting to leaving Mama and going to school two mornings a week. Although she is always fine within minutes of me leaving, and she very much enjoys it while she’s there, it was mid-December before we had any “no tears” morning drop-offs, and tears are still the norm both there and at dance class.  
I suspect that there will be an adjustment period at the beginning of the next school year, especially going from two mornings a week to five, but when she starts Kindergarten the following year, I think she’ll do much better if she’s going from five mornings to five full days in the same classroom than from three mornings at MDO to five full days at the public school.
4.    Has the applicant undergone any special educational testing?     YES     X   NO
If yes, please submit results and reports from testing with this application.
5.    Please make any additional comments about your child and/or your family which you feel might be helpful to us.
Peeper is very imaginative, and loves to act out stories, and has an extensive cast of characters that she plays or with whom she interacts, both ones that she’s read or seen in videos, and original ones, being made up as she goes. She especially enjoys bringing inanimate objects to life, and some of them have ongoing storylines. Every evening at bedtime, I witness the interactions between the members of the Toothbrush family and their neighbors, the Combs.

She also enjoys dressing up and has several “costumes” that she’s created herself for certain characters. She especially enjoys pretending to be Santa Claus, and has asked for a “real Santa suit.”

She loves to learn things. I’ve done some home-preschool with her, and she will ask to do “Peeper School at Home with Mama” and play with some of the materials that I’ve put together. Last summer, we did some unit studies, based on just asking her “What do you want to learn about?”

We ended up reading, talking and learning about bears, birds, insects, gardening, African animals and Australian animals for a couple of weeks each.
Peeper's interests are rather eclectic. Like most kids her age, she’s into Sesame Street and that sort of thing, and she fell in love with The Wizard of Oz and The Nutcracker after seeing them performed, then her Nutcracker obsession led to interest in ballet in general. She loves animals of any kind, especially our two dogs, and she very much still misses our cat that died a year ago.
She enjoys helping me cook, and is very into “eating a rainbow” of fruits and vegetables, at least in theory. In the summer, we enjoyed visiting the farmer’s market and tried a few new things, because she picked them out. She’s looking forward to planting a garden again this spring.

Over the past several months, she’s become very interested in the US Presidents, and was very interested in the recent election. It started with asking “Who’s that guy?” when looking at coins, and after several trips to the library, and a couple of sets of president flashcards, she can probably identify more of them by their portraits than most adults can.
6.    Why do you want your child to attend Montessori Academy of Hometown?
When we toured the campus, we didn’t see anything that we didn’t like. Especially when observing the primary class, but even when talking about the curriculum and activities for the older students, we lost count of how many times we thought, “Oh she would love that!” or “That would be perfect for Peeper!”
We think that the individualized learning atmosphere of a Montessori school would be a very good fit for her. She seems to be ahead of her peers in many areas, such as reading and math, but a bit behind in other areas, primarily fine-motor skills.

We are somewhat concerned that at her current preschool or in a public school, she might not be adequately challenged in her strong areas, or receive the needed extra help and adjustments in instruction that she might need to address her areas of concern.

We are told that she follows directions and is well behaved at MDO, but from what we’ve seen in other classes that we’ve attended with her, she is often the kid who isn’t quite doing what everyone else is doing. While the class is marching in step, she’s dancing to the beat of her own drummer.

For example, during “Sporties for Shorties” class in June, everyone else was standing in line for another turn to shoot a basket, and Peeper was lying on the gym floor, flailing her limbs about. When I asked what she was doing, she said, matter-of-factly, “I’m making snow angels!”
Another time, at a mommy and me art class, she was supposed to be painting a flower pot, but the first time she rinsed her brush off and saw the water change color, she completely lost interest in the project. She spent the rest of the session experimenting with mixing different colors of paint in the water.

She wasn’t “misbehaving” in either of those situations, just doing her own thing and following her own interests, which is something that we see as a positive trait, but which we recognize can be a poor fit for a traditional classroom.
She seems to use role play and dramatization to process new information, and often begins acting-out what she’s learning, almost as soon as she’s heard it. For example, when I read her a book about bears, and how they give birth while hibernating, she jumped up mid-story, and declared “I’m a pregnant bear! I’m going to have my babies!” and crawled under her easel, into her “cave.”

We very much want her to be in an educational setting where that kind of a learning style is not only accepted but encouraged. We also like the small class sizes, and the emphasis on individualized learning, while also being a member of a community.
We also very much like the idea of Peeper attending a school that is more diverse, in many ways, than our neighborhood public school, and where we know that our “non-traditional” family will be respected and honored. 
And, as always, here are your greatest hits for the past month:

Peeper: mmmaaaaeeeehh
Mama: Are you an elephant? Or are you just whining?
Peeper: This is an elephant (trumpet)
Mama: Then what are you?
Peeper: I'm a flyin' whinin' monkey!

You were in the shower with Mommy. I don't know what was going on, but I heard say "Whoa! Slippery! That was a cleaning mistake!"

"Bok! Bok! What's under me? An egg? Seriously, an egg? Seriously? An egg is under me? Seriously?"

It was the night before our trip to Texas, you'd been saying "I'm so excited about Texas!" and "I wish Texas was today!" for about three days, and I thought I'd never get you to sleep.
During a trip to the potty, (after telling her that "No, you are NOT going to sleep in the closet," I asked if you were having trouble sleeping because you were excited about the trip, and told you that if you could settle down and sleep, then morning would come faster, and then it would be time to get ready to go to the airport.
You said, "So, let me see if I've got this right. You're saying that I need to get unexcited, then I can sleep, then it will be time to go to the airport?"
Yes. That is what I'm saying.
As we were getting back into the bedroom, I saw you yawn, and right after that, you told me, "I'm not so excited any more."
You were asleep shortly after that.

The next morning:

Mama: Peeper, we need to get up and get ready to go to the airport.
PeeperYAY! YAY! YAY!

The night we got home from Texas, you were on a roll.
After having stopped for both pizza and ice cream on the drive in from the airport (at 7ish) you walked into the office at 10 pm, and asked, in all sincerity, "What's for lunch?"
A bit later, while trying to snuggle in bed with Mommy, Galoot was in your way. You tried to move him with your feet, saying, "Ugh! You big beast!"

AuntyKay gave you 3 sets of BOB Books for Christmas. The first time we tried one, you read half the book herself!
(Technically, that means that you sounded out 4 different words, multiple times. Then you wandered off to play and said she'd finish it later.)
You're really starting to get the idea of decoding (sounding out words), and have a few sight words. You are getting so close to reading. If I just figure out what it is I should be doing with you to help you out, you'll be there soon!

While on your third two-week-old sugar cookie (we made them Christmas Eve), you were going around singing "Sugar is so yummy, I can't stop eating it."
Yes, exactly. That would be the problem.

You woke up the morning after we got home from Texas, asking "Why was today the day to come home from Texas? I LOVE staying with Grandma!"

When I came back from getting you a cup of milk, and found her sitting at my desk, scrolling through Pinterest. I asked, "Whatcha doin' there?" and you said, "I quit. It's for you now," and went back to what you were doing.

Mommy was annoyed with you for getting water all over her desk.

Peeper: Mommy, calm down, just calm down.
Mommy(through clinched teeth): Am I yelling?
Peeper: Not now.

Rules I Didn't Realize Were Necessary:
You may not but water in a bowl and carry it around the house.

You had been bugging me to make sugar cookies since we got back from Texas. You started up with it again and I told you that "I'm just not up to sugar cookies this evening. And besides, I don't think we have the stuff to make them."
A few minutes later, you came over, rubbed my arm and said, "Mama, Giant's always open."
I pulled you into my lap and ask "What?"
You leaned over, cheek to cheek and whispered in my ear, again, "Giant's always open."
"Why are you telling me about Giant?"
"I thought you didn't know."
"Why do I need to know about Giant?"

Again, with the cheek-to-cheek whisper, "We can get cookie dough."
You're nothing if not persistent. I bought cookie dough the next day.

While pretending to be the Cowardly Lion:
If I had courage I'd be King of the Wood.
But I'm just a coward. This lion is no good.

You claim you made that up on your own.

You were playing a word / reading game on my phone, with pictures and 3-letter words. The word was "man" and it was illustrated with a fellow wearing and suit and tie. You identified him as "a president."
When I told you it was a man, you argued with me, saying "But he has a collar! I thought only presidents had collars."
It's possible that by "collar" you mean "tie," but at any rate, perhaps we should be hanging out with a classier crowed.

Mama, your hair's kind sticky-uppy. In the morning, you should put some, some...
Yeah, gel. 'Cause nobody wants to see your sticky-uppy hair.

Mama, I started to sneeze and it turned into a yawn!
(Later): Now I call that a yawn!

You found a Chuck E. Cheese token\, and I explained it to you, so you started pretending that you were "Baby Chuck E. Cheese." Then we had this conversation.

Peeper: I want to know: Is Chuck E. Cheese a boy or a girl?
Mama: He's a boy.
Peeper: Sooo, he has a penis?
Mama: Um, yes?

We were trying on hats at Target, and they all seemed to be too big for me. I asked "Do I have a really tiny head? Peeper, am I a pin head?"
You told me, "No, you have only the greatest head in the world!"
I guess my hair isn't too sticky-uppy that day.

Are you still whining about Goldfish?
Noooo, I'm whining about Cheerios!

You picked up your toy phone and says, "Hello, what seems to be the problem? You're out of milk? That's embarrassing!"
Then you said to me, "Moo-cow, somebody's running out of milk!"
I said, "Moooo," and you replied, "Yes, Cow, I know you're hungry, but somebody's running out of milk."

In the tub one evening, you were pretending to be a fish who'd just been stung on the fin by a jellyfish. You had a washcloth "bandage" on it, and various other fish kept swimming by to ask about your injury.
At one point, you said, "I'm thinking about all the things he can't do with a boo-boo fin. Like juggling, or eating sausage."
Later you added "typing."

Mama: Please stop whining!
Peeper: But you said I'm whining because I'm grumpy.
Mama: Well, are you grumpy?
Peeper: My belly doesn't feel like it usually feels.
Mama (concerned): Oh. How does it feel?
Peeper: It feels like it needs to whine.

You're something else, kiddo. And we sure do love you.


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