First Day of School

Once again, the coronavirus pandemic hits home — literally. On Wednesday, Benji started second grade at his new school… from his little closet-office in his bedroom.

First Day of School 2020 - Ready to start 2nd grade
Ready to learn.
First Day of School 2020 - Remote learning
Second grade online.

One interesting thing about this is that I get to be a fly on the wall if I want. I can hear what the teacher tells the class during synchronous learning time, and then follow up with him during asynchronous learning time. Asynchronous is a heck of a word for second graders to absorb, but the kids will learn what it means through direct experience. Continue Reading >>

It’s Official: No In-Person School in the Fall

In a characteristically epic message, yesterday evening our school district’s Superintendent has confirmed what we all suspected: Schools will open in the fall with only online learning. Students will not attend in-person classes for the foreseeable future.

A couple weeks ago, Dad asked, “What would you change if you knew you’d have to keep doing this for another year?” I’ve pondered this question ever since, because it makes a good point: We all kind of stumbled into this routine. There was no plan. We can all tolerate a lot of mild inconvenience for a while, but when “a while” turns from six months to nine months to a year, those mild inconveniences may become serious irritants that we need to deal with before they get worse. Continue Reading >>

Pandemic in Pictures: Painting the Closet/Office

I mentioned a few days ago that we moved a desk into the closet in Benji’s bedroom to give him a little office space of his own. After using it for a bit, we came up with the idea of allowing Benji to paint the space to personalize it a bit more.

Because of my wrist injury, I didn’t go for a big Saturday bike ride like usual. I seized this opportunity to execute the painting plan.

First, Benji and I went to the paint store to pick out his paint. We meticulously wore face masks and (mostly) stayed far from store employees. Benji homed in on the color he wanted almost immediately: Rumba Orange. I had already decided to let him pick any color he wanted, so even though it wasn’t what I would choose, we went with it. Continue Reading >>

A Very Kindergarten Week

It started with Benji laughing hysterically. He wanted to tell me a story about something that had happened at school, but it cracked him up so much he could hardly get the words out.

Finally, he managed to calm down enough to gasp out the facts: When they got their turn with a school iPad, he and a friend took a picture (or pictures?) of Benji’s bottom with the camera app. I laughed, too — and then suddenly a sobering thought struck me.

“You had your pants on, right?”

“Yeah, like this –” …and he proceeds to drop his drawers and give me a full moon. Continue Reading >>

Picture Diary: December 9-14

December 9

Snow Day!

We made a snow man in the back yard and I pulled Benji on a home-made cardboard sled for a little bit. I also went for 90 minutes of walks before the snow went away.

December 11

Sleeping in the  Nest

Only for nap time, and only on the rare occasions nap time actually involves napping, does Benji sleep in his “nest.” He has so many snuggles, plus a half-dozen blankets including one down comforter, that it’s probably similar to his mattress.

December 14

Benji Christmas Program 1

Benji Christmas Program 1

Our Redeemer Christian School’s Christmas program. Benji loved his angel halo, even though he didn’t sing for any of the songs. He’s the one in the turquoise shirt with stripy sleeves in the front row. It was exactly like you expect preschool singing to be: adorable for parents and fun for the kids. I would probably have appreciated it more if I hadn’t spent most of the time struggling not to cough up a lung.

Aaand this is where I confess that I actually wrote this post on the 16th and then back-dated it to fill in some gaps.

A Metaphor for Something

I saw this while dropping Benji off one day, and it made made me smile. Some kind of metaphor for how the Christmas season can feel, perhaps?

Last Day of Preschool, 2016

Yesterday/today were Benji’s last days at Bucky Beaver Preschool. I hedge a bit because Thursday was his official last day, and he ate his “end of the school year Popsicle” on Thursday. But all the T/Th kids were invited to come for an hour on Friday to watch a magician perform. We went to that, which makes today kind of the last day, too. So, Thursday first.

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In case it wasn’t clear, this was the silly picture of the Tuesday/Thursday class, comprising mostly the younger kids. Mommies got to come early and eat a special Popsicle; when that was done, most of the kids played, but Benji gave me a comprehensive tour of the school, including his favorite outside toy, the climbing area:
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Alas, the interior was pretty much a bare, neutral room since Molly had to sell the house and get rid of all the preschool decorations and equipment in the process. I feel that the biggest loss was the really amazing kid-sized lofts built to give four little discrete areas for a store, a house, a coloring area, and something else I’ve forgotten. The lofts, very sturdy built-in furniture, were ripped out, as were all the toy/storage shelves that had previously lined the walls. Truly agonizing, even though Molly’s retirement is a happy event, to see 30+ years of accumulated preschool decorations and equipment disposed of. Guess Molly isn’t the sentimental type, or she’s found a way to keep mementos that don’t take up an entire downstairs.

But, on the bright side, filed under “get rid of all the preschool equipment,” is this: We inherited the train room carpet. They were going to take it to Goodwill, because nobody wanted it. Well, WE wanted it! Yesterday, our library looked like this:
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Today, after some heavy lifting and vacuuming on my part, it looks like this:
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Benji spent all afternoon doing train/car races, driving our cars on the roads, and humming/singing made-up theme music to himself when he wasn’t narrating his vehicular activity. It was a pretty tight fit, even in the library, but I’m glad it worked out. This carpet will be much appreciated here.

Where was Benji while I did all that lifting and vacuuming? Because let’s be honest; he would’ve been freaking out to see me demolish our previous, super-cool arachnidaceous track.

Funny thing… He was back at Bucky Beaver watching a magician. Yep, a magician for preschoolers. Lucky for me, they started late, so I got to watch the last 20 minutes or so of the show.
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This guy, Kirk Charles, was wonderful. He did tricks that were fun, but his routine was so perfectly age-appropriate for these kids, they followed right along and were amazed without it being far beyond their understanding. Benji literally peed his pants when he saw the first trick (and had to borrow a spare pair for the rest of the show! Oops), and kids were saying “WOW” and “How did he do that?!!” out loud. Almost the entire time I was there, they remained rapt, in their seats. Even the grownups were enthralled.

The tricks were good, too, so it wasn’t completely obvious to the adults how everything worked either. Yet at part of the show, he actually taught the kids how to do tricks with their hands — make their thumbs disappear, pull their thumb off and suck on it, make their thumbs longer, that kind of thing. Benji enjoyed it, and I’m seriously thinking of seeing about hiring this guy for Benji’s birthday party this year.

So we finished at Bucky Beaver and said goodbye to Molly on the porch one last time. My heart feels a little bit sad, I must admit — I wish Benji had two more preschool years with her, and I’m sorry her experience, wisdom, and approach to preschool are being lost. But I’m glad she’s getting to retire and be closer to her family, and that Heidi is moving on. Hopefully they do well.

We’re on to our next adventure, too: A totally open summer schedule, followed by a new school in September.

One, two, free, here we go!

What’s Next?

Benji has been going to a pre-preschool, Stepping Stones, at Kindering since January, receiving early intervention in motor and speech. This is mostly paid for by the state (our taxes at work!) as part of what’s called “early intervention.” The goal is to help kids be ready to succeed when they reach kindergarten by fixing issues while they’re very young. Benji has made huge leaps, especially in language use especially, but somewhat also in physical skills.

This has worked really well for us, but the kids age out of early intervention at age 3, a milestone rapidly approaching for us. The therapists have evaluated Benji and confirmed that he’s within the normal range for motor and speech now — which is great! What a huge improvement! The only area Benji qualifies is in articulation, meaning how well he enunciates what he says. Right now he talks a lot, using relatively complex ideas, but most people can’t understand much of what he’s saying – that is, even less than you’d expect for a kid his age. Little kids do tend to be pretty incomprehensible.

Anyway, this dramatic improvement means that Benji will not qualify for the school district’s preschool program, which would be the next step if he still needed help. Now we’re pondering what to do next.

Option 1: The Kindering teacher invited us to stay at Stepping Stones after Benji turns 3, and Benji already knows and loves those teachers. But I’ve noticed that kids who turn 3 soon outgrow the class activities: The class is geared for 2-year-olds, and much beyond that age, the kids seem to get bored. After age 3, the kids are just ready to move on anyway. So even if we did stay, it would be for maybe 6 months, maximum, and probably much less.

Option 2: Even if we don’t qualify for school district services, we have the potential to send Benji to the school district preschool as a “peer model,” basically a normal kid who shows the early intervention kids age-appropriate normal activities. Tomorrow we have a meeting with the school district to see what our options are, regarding preschool and any other intervention services for Benji. We’ll find out then about the availability of peer model spots in their preschool. Also, this is much cheaper than private preschool.

Option 3: Finally, we do have Benji signed up for a regular preschool starting in September — we set that up before we got involved with Stepping Stones. We’d have to cancel that soon if we decide to not to go there. The caveat of that school is that it’s run by a lady out of her home, and she’s retiring after next year. Only this one year is guaranteed, and it’s likely we would have to find a new preschool for Benji in fall of 2016. Plus, while this isn’t the most expensive preschool by any stretch, it’s going to have a significant (though manageable) impact on our finances.

Until tomorrow’s meeting, we won’t really be able to make any decisions. But right now, I’m feeling that Benji would benefit from going to the school district preschool, with all the specialist teachers, even if he doesn’t receive services specifically. Benji’s speech therapist agrees with this idea. We’ll see.

Never get comfortable. Just when you think you know what’s going on, that you’ve got a routine, it’s time to change again.