Saturday, September 3, 2011


I went to the school last night to learn about the curriculum. My grandson has two teachers. His home room, math and science teacher is a man. Jonah says he is the best teacher ever. He has math homework every night. They are doing graphs. I met his language and reading teacher for the first time. She seemed very nice but I am worried.

Jonah has struggled with reading. He repeated kindergarten. His teachers have been involved and caring. He has gone to summer school for reading every single summer. He has had tutors. We knew he had some learning difficulties but it took a long time to get him tested. When they finally tested him, the results were inconclusive. He didn't have dyslexia but he had a very difficult time staying on task. Finally, my daughter took him to a doctor and insisted that he take medication for ADHD. He started on a small dose of Concerta and that has helped a lot. But by then he was in fourth grade.

To make things worse, his younger cousin, Jill, is one of those children who seems to read very naturally and easily. She is in the gifted program at the same school.

I have helped in his classroom every year, come in for lunch sometimes and chaperoned many field trips. He likes that, but it was only in the middle of last year when he finally started really letting me help him with his homework. We worked on a long project on the computer and he got an A. After that, he started to cooperate. Every afternoon he came to my house and we did his homework. I was horrified. He had great ideas and a good vocabulary, but he couldn't sound out words and his spelling was almost unreadable. I think the final straw was when he kept spelling the word "make" as "mack". I admit to freaking out when I realized the depth of the problem. Even then we did start having success. His behavior was perfect and his grades improved a lot.

I made him write sentences. "I bake a cake and take it to the lake." and "I pack it in a sack and take it back." That got to be a joke with us except that I still see him do it. Just the other day, I saw it again - "mack". I also made him correct every single paper he did for spelling and grammar. He resisted a little but he did it. Sometimes his teacher gave him extra credit for that. He had a tutor at the beginning of the summer who seemed to help. I took him and stayed for the lessons. She said things like, "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking." I was feeling hopeful, but then it came time for his annual visit with his dad in Tennessee. That trip was very important to him. He didn't get back in time to make up the tutoring. Now I'm wondering. Am I sure he knows his vowels?

His mother tries to help him but she has her hands full working all day, taking care of Jonah's little sister and making supper every night. She investigated a special school last year that seemed tailor made for Jonah but it was very expensive. There was a possibility for a scholarship, but then his grades improved and she let him stay on with his friends in the neighborhood school.

So now I met the language teacher and this is what she said.

She said they were doing a lot of independent reading. She talked about the importance of finding the right level book and the book they read at school should be the same book they read at home. I have never been able to get Jonah to finish the most simple book. Even when I read to him, he loses interest. He loves books, but he wants the encyclopedia-type books about snakes and dinosaurs, etc. The teacher said that they meet in small groups or one on one while the class reads independently. She said she doesn't want to know what happened in the book in these meetings but how the child feels about what he read. Jonah can read a page or two and have lots of feelings. She said the school library will be open next week. She talked about AR where they get points each time they finish a book and take a test on the computer. Then she said this is an FCAT testing year which is pass or fail to go to the next grade. She said they don't worry about spelling at this stage and they don't have spelling tests. They study the structure of words such as endings, etc. Spelling tests and the grade that followed seemed to be the only time he learned to spell new words.

One mother raised her hand and said her son kept spelling little words wrong. The teacher said, well, they shouldn't be making mistakes on sight words. So, Jonah is not the only one. Time was up. I didn't bother to ask any questions. I am going to write a note to the language teacher and explain why we are correcting all his papers and ask her to be supportive.

I have some flash cards for sight words and multiplication tables. They are going to grow a garden in science class and do their science projects at school. Jonah will like that. I feel like this year is our last chance.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mom's Crazy Clock

I bought this clock as a present for my mother. It chimed every quarter, half and full hour for a while. For the past twenty years, however, it only chimes two or three times a year - always at 1:00, 1:15 and 1:30 - sometimes a.m., sometimes p.m. It startles us. We've long since become accustomed to its silence.

Once when it was new we had a mishap. My ex-husband was remodeling the kitchen in my mother's condo. He did a beautiful job. He always said the free jobs he did for people caused him the most problems. He was hammering away to remove an old cabinet when the clock on the other side of the wall fell down and sliced the back of the picture tube off of my mother's beautiful console television. I found out then that a beautiful and HEAVY piece of furniture with a broken television is essentially worthless. There was nothing we could do but buy her a new television from our own tight budget. The clock was fine. Maybe that was when it stopped chiming. I can't remember. It hangs on my wall now secured by a very large and sturdy hook. Someday, I guess this inexpensive, quirky clock will belong to Jaime or Cory.