Category Archives: school

Time Out for the First Day of School!

Back to School!

As the days approached the first day of school, I started worrying a little bit about how Malachy would react to going back to school. We had such a great summer, and I didn’t want him to feel that he was going back to something that he wouldn’t enjoy. I also started to get anxious about all the testing that he’s going to have to undergo this year for Kindergarten next year. Ai ya!
Anyways, we all psyched ourselves up with excitement for his first day back at school. He woke up feeling really excited today, and that was just awesome. He tossed and turned for over an hour last night, and it would take a bit to wake him up. He actually woke us up! 😉

When I got home and asked him how his day was, he said that it was great. WHEW! Turns out he was more ready than I was! 😉  The name of Malachy’s class last year was, “LOVE.” Oddly enough, the name of his class this year is, “TRUST!” That one word captures it all. It will be a constant reminder to me of what a great kid he is, and that we just have to trust that he will make it happen. Sure, there will be some rough days ahead, but with the right attitude and frame of mind (and his Gong Gong would add Self-Discipline 😉 ), we can be sure to have another great year!  No worries! 😉

Graphic by Chris @ Daddy Doctrines

Time Out from Killing the Spirit of Education!

This compelling video featuring Yong Zhao, a University Distinguished Professor at the College of Education, Michigan State University, really makes you think about what is going on with education in America. Is American Education really going backwards? Are we heading in the wrong direction when it comes to educating our students? Are we missing the target?
Why is so much money going into testing and nationalizing what is taught to our children? How does testing bring out our kids’ creativity? How does this motivate our students to learn?
Is our education system heading towards conformity and elitism, while other countries are moving towards innovation and celebrating individuality?

The good thing is that there appears to be a BUZZ around education and it’s getting louder.

School starts for Malachy tomorrow, and we’re trying to psych him up for a great year ahead for all of us. Let’s just hope we’re not psyching him out in terms of the future of his education. We want most for him to love learning. That’s what living is about. 😉

Time Out for Education…

Show me the Berries!

I think many people equate education with school, and there is much to be learned in school. But, an education shouldn’t begin with school. Our children shouldn’t wait until age 4 or 5 or 6 to start learning. An interesting Washington Post article/blog post writes about how our public education system is out of whack beginning at age 5, and yet so many studies emphasize the importance of learning from birth to 8. It might not necessarily mean our kids should start school at 2 or 3. I think it means that we, as parents, have a big responsibility in being our kids’ first teachers. Summertime shouldn’t be a time out from learning. On the contrary!
We had such an incredible experience last weekend in the Poconos with Harriet. (Thanks so much, Harriet! 😉 ) We spent about an hour walking in a trail in the woods, and it had a great impact on Malachy. I just finished reading Boys Adrift: The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Men (an excellent read!), which also stressed how boys (children) learn so much better when they are able to use their five senses.

Thousand Legged Worm... a Millipede! YUCK!
In the woods, Malachy was able to see, hear, touch, feel, and taste! Harriet introduced us to huckleberries, Indian Pipes, and minty wintergreen leaves! 😉 Then Malachy found a thousand legged worm… a millipede… EWWWW! 😉 He loved being outdoors with nature.

Time Out for the Beach…

Loving the Beach!
Loving the water!

Malachy was invited to a classmate’s birthday party last weekend to a private beach club… in Queens! 🙂 I never even knew such a place existed in Queens. It was literally in his classmate’s backyard. This was Malachy’s second time at a beach, where he got to play near the water. Both times, if we didn’t stop him, he’d probably just run right into the ocean. 😉 He LOVES the sand and he LOVES the water. I’ve never been much of a beach-goer, but he and Mommy really like it. Unless I’m playing golf, I usually prefer being indoors. 😉 Never liked putting on lotion, having sand all over, and just baking in the sun with half-clothed people all around. Seeing Malachy so comfortable and enjoying himself so much definitely makes it less about me and more about him. The weather was pretty awesome, and we had a great day! 🙂

Time Out for Apologies…

Apology Letter 1

When I picked up Malachy from school today, his teacher had an icy popsicle in one hand and his school bag and lunch bag in the other. I think I said, “Yay,” out loud but she said, “Nope.” She told me how Malachy got in trouble twice today. He ran off during Sports Day and didn’t listen to one of his teachers. Then, instead of listening to his new art teacher during art, he just did what he wanted. So, the teacher said he couldn’t have the popsicle until she talked to me. I agreed 100%.
It’s never easy punishing Malachy, but at the same time, if we don’t, then he’ll think it’s okay not to listen. It was a quiet walk back home, as he rode in his stroller (since I told him not to talk to me just yet). He knew how upset I was and apologized when we got home saying, “Dad, I apologize. I’m really really sorry.” After a shower, I had him write a few apology letters. He wrote four. He was really good about that. He knew how serious his violations were, and he definitely showed remorse.
I made a deal with him. If he has a good report tomorrow, then maybe, just maybe, he’ll get his icy… 🙁

Apology Letter 2
Apology Letter 3

Time Out for a Dragon…

So, we took Malachy to his first movie on Saturday, How to Train Your Dragon. Shien didn’t think it was necessary, but I really wanted to watch it in 3D. So, instead of 13 dollars, it was 17 dollars for adults. (EACH!) And, for Malachy, it was $13 instead of $9. Took a cab there to make sure we got there on time.
I played the trailer for him before we went, just to see if he really wanted to go. He said it was “so cool,” so it alleviated my fears that it would be too scary for him. I asked him if he was sure, and he said he was sure, so we decided to go for it. 😉 I absolutely loved it. Great story, great effects. It was about trying to fit in. It was about abandoning stereotypes. It was about taking risks. It was about facing your fears. It was about finding yourself. Finally, there was the father/son relationship, where the father struggles with who is son is and what he is becoming, and the son wants so desperately to please his dad. I guess I was able to identify as a son and also as a dad! Powerful stuff! 😉
As for Malachy, Mommy had him use his whisper voice, because he had so many questions and was using his regular loud voice in the beginning. But, oh how he LOVED the popcorn, the Raisinettes, the Gummy Bears, and the pink lemonade. Oh, how he LOVED the junk. After the movie, he was ready to pounce on Shien for more and more junk, but I made him watch the closing credits, as Shien ran off to discard of what little was left. Ai ya! In a way, Malachy is our Dragon. So much is unknown, and everyday is an adventure. I think he “trains” us as much as we “train” him. 😉
Already, we have to start thinking about where he will go for Kindergarten… Sometimes, having options makes things a bigger burden, but then again, it’s good that we do have a choice… I think. 😉 Like the movie, it’s definitely easier if things are decided for you, but, oh so empowering when you’re able to decide for yourself. I guess we’ll have to wait and see… 🙂

Time Out for a Birthday and a Report Card…

Having a child around when it’s your birthday definitely livens up the party. Shien got me the biggest balloon, thanks to Malachy’s direct orders. Speaking of direct orders, we had his Parent-Teacher Conference on my b-day today (now, yesterday). His teacher’s comments on his report card read, “Since our last meeting, Malachy has shown a greater interest in art activities. He is adding more details to his art work. Malachy is reading above a kindergarten reading level. His comprehension of the text is also advancing well. Academically, Malachy is progressing well. I would like to see his social skills continue to develop. For example, Malachy often refuses to participate during movement and singing activities. He enjoys play activities when he is leading the playing. However, when asked to play or join in activities where there may be a prompt for him to follow through on, he often refuses to participate…” To me, that means that he’s doing well academically, but he needs to learn that he can’t be in charge all of the time. 😉
As soon as he wakes up, he has a plan, and starts telling Shien and me what he thinks should happen. “Dad, take all of my stuff out to the living room. I’ll go to the bathroom first, and then you can make me a snack. Mommy can sleep longer…” So, it was no surprise to learn that he loves to be in charge at school, and when things aren’t “right” for him, he’ll let you know. His teacher told us that last week, they had a birthday party for one of the authors they were studying, Rosemary Wells. They made cupcakes. Well, when it was time to eat the cupcakes, Malachy just sat there looking at his cake, while everyone else was eating. When asked why he wasn’t eating his cupcake (about 10 minutes had gone by!), he told her that they had to sing a birthday song to her first. Otherwise, it wasn’t a real birthday. So, the teacher had everyone stop and sing happy birthday to the author. Then, Malachy was okay and started eating his cupcake. Unbelievable.
This morning, he thought EVERYONE should stay home because it was my birthday. After all, Mommy’s birthday was tomorrow, and since it was on a Saturday, there wasn’t school. So, logically, on my birthday, there shouldn’t me school either. He didn’t want to let me go to work, and he thought he should stay home and Mommy, too. We’re always trying to explain to him that things can’t always go according to his plans or reasoning. His response is often, “Why?” Our response? Aiya!
In terms of his academics, the teacher assessed his reading, and they had reading levels up to the end of Kindergarten. So, Malachy passed that level, and since they didn’t have assessments for past Kindergarten, they weren’t sure exactly what level he’s on. He also got a spelling assessment, and he spelled almost every word correctly! Scary. 😉

Time Out for Writing…

(Pulled from my YouTube archives…He was 2 years, 2 months at the time…)

I came upon this online article yesterday, Your 3-year-old timeline: Name writing | BabyCenter, and it disturbed me quite a bit.  It addresses writing for 3-year-olds and starts off by saying, “It’s exciting when your child’s scribbles begin to look more like real letters.  Some threes even start writing their name, or a few letters of it.  But writing is one of those developmental milestones that varies from child to child.  Don’t stress out if your child isn’t even interested in writing.”  It goes on to say a parent might still not know the child’s dominant hand for another year or so, and that it’s hard to control a pencil due to lack of fine motor skills.  In terms of child development and literacy, I feel that we grossly underestimate what our children are capable of.

To me, it’s about exposure and practice and expectations.  If a child isn’t given the independence to try to hold a pencil or to feed him/herself at a young age (before 24 months), then those skills will not have the chance to develop as quickly.  If you provide them with the opportunity, they will embrace it.

I had to look back at our library of photos to see when we first let Malachy scribble away.  He was less than a year and a half.  Before he was two, we knew he was a lefty.  He started eating with his left hand and writing with his left hand.  We never forced him to write.  Pens, markers, crayons and lots of scrap paper (found a use for junk mail!) were always around for him if he chose to write.  And boy did he choose to write! 😉  When he started school, his writing was way better than his coloring and drawing.  In fact, he had to practice his coloring and drawing MORE THAN his writing!  Most kids draw a picture and then try to write something.  At school, he would write something, and then try to draw it!  😉

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Lately, he’s been writing lots of notes to people.  On Sunday, he was upset that Grandpa and Uncle Chris had a father-son brunch.  They wound up coming to the same restaurant we were eating at, about an hour later, but sat at another table.  Since he couldn’t sit with them, he wrote a note to his uncle saying, “Dear Uncle Chris, I wish you were over here.”  He proceeded to get out of his booster chair and handed him the note.  Then he wrote a note to his Grandpa.  “Dear Gong Gong, I wish you were over here.”  Again, he asked to be excused and handed his grandfather a note.  In a way, it was therapy for him, too, helping him to get over the anger he felt earlier that they were not eating with him.

Two weeks ago, after we came home from school, he wrote me a note telling me he hoped I took care of Jimmy, and just handed it to me.  I think kids get it.  If you show them that writing has a purpose, then they’re going to want their voices to be heard.  Before long, they find their own reasons to write.  Gotta’ let them write, and believe they are ready BEFORE they’re 3!  If they can talk, then they can write.  🙂

Sometimes, when he goes to Whole Foods with Mommy, he’ll write a Grocery List while she gets ready, and then he checks off the items at the store.  He writes countless notes to his uncle and his girlfriend about how he misses them and loves them.  One evening, he made a label for each of us.  On my note, he wrote, “Dad is a fixer.”  On Mommy’s he wrote, “Mom is a good friend.”  Every day, on his way to school, he’ll ask Mommy for scrap paper and his clip board, and he’ll just write notes on his way to school.  Age 3, and he’s writing more prolifically than Daddy.  Aiya!  🙂

Malachy's Note About Jimmy
Shopping with Mom at Whole Foods

Time Out for a Read Aloud

A couple of weeks ago, I believe Uncle Chris was having a conversation with Malachy about sharks and whales and dolphins.  (I wish we tape-recorded all of the conversations they have had!) That made me think of a non-fiction book that I had read once to Malachy.  So, I took it out, and asked if he could read it to his uncle.  He started to read with lots fluency and inflection, and I was like, “WOW!”  Where’d he learn that?  I guess it was from me and Shien reading to him night after night, watching Sesame Street every now and then, and having amazing conversations with his uncle and family and friends.  And now, with going to school, he’s just surrounded by books and language.  He’s always loved his letters and words, and talking, too!

So, that night, before bedtime, I asked him if I could film him reading (Uncle Chris had requested it, too), and so, he read and read and read, and made all sorts of connections and conversation.  Another Malachy Classic! 😉  I had to break it into 3 parts on YouTube, because they only let you have 10 minutes at a time. 😉

Reading at 3, better than me!  Ai ya!   🙂

Time Out for Lost and Found!

What a Friday for Shien.  I was at work, and I got an e-mail that she lost Malachy’s Lunch Bag!  I was like, “How did you lose something so monstrously big?”  She had put it under the stroller because she was carrying so much stuff, so it must have fallen off to the side.  Otherwise, she would have tripped right over it!

So, in the freezing cold, she went back and forth from home to school twice, asking about it in every store that was opened, retracing her steps and hoping that someone picked it up.  She made 30 copies of a flyer and posted them all over the street.  We pretty much expected it was gone forever, but decided we at least had to try…

I went to pick up Malachy after school, and lo and behold, I was approaching his school, and what did I see right on the top of the staircase legde?  THERE IT WAS!  Everything was in tact!  Case solved, but mystery continues.  There’s no way she could have missed it on the top of the staircase, could she?  Did someone feel bad after taking it and decided to return it?  No one will ever know.

All I know it that it was an awesome feeling to take down every sign with Malachy as we came home, retracing all the steps that Mommy had taken in her quest to get her son’s breakfast back!  Thank goodness for happy endings!  🙂