Thursday, September 27, 2007

Spelling perfection: an after school special

Now that the school year is getting off the ground, I've been trying to lead the household into some sense of normalcy. No more late nights, hours on end in front of the computer (for the boy, that is :), PS2 or Nintendo DS. Establishing a homework routine, attempting to get everyone to sit at the dinner table for at least one meal together a day, so we can all gather around and play Pictionary after dessert, the parents with their tea, and kids with their chocolate milk and cookies.

Sad to say, this is only in my June Cleaver dreams.

The hard part about having a son who is social (both kids, for that matter), is well, that he is so social. Usually we don't get home after school until 4:30, as both kids play in the school playground with their friends, setting up impromptu playdates. Which I am very in favour of, as there hasn't been a bucketload of homework yet, and the weather has been wonderful. So we've had a playdate here, a playdate there. One of the major benefits and flexibilities of me being home with them - they can have more of an "out of school" life.

Once he gets home he wants to see what his other friends are up to. Cutting him off the computer actually cuts off his means of communication with his "homeboys" who live on and up the street. The computer is the preferred medium these days to the telephone - he chats online to set up playdates as follows:
"Are you coming out now - I'll meet you in 2 minutes?" to his pals across the street; or "Did you want to take our bikes up and get D and B?"

And then he's prancing out the door. While I'm making dinner and keeping the little girl amused. Just like he did all summer. Smart kid that one. Striking while the iron's hot. Trying to rein him in after he's out is like herding cats. Unless I make it clear to him before he's out, that he's to be home by a certain time. He's pretty good with rules - that firstborn trait is alive and well in my boy, thank goodness. The toughest part for me is that it doesn't appear that these other boys eat dinner at all. Or at least they don't eat until well after 8PM. Which is the new dinner time that L wants for his schedule too. Uh, let me see, let's think about that .... NO!

I do feel badly for him when his pals ring the bell right at dinner time and L' s food is just being set, or dinner is just coming off the stove. Because he's the youngest, I never let him head out unless he's with another boy. So if he doesn't get to go with them right away, he panics. And has a huge freakout, tears, yelling, stomping of feet - all the tantrums that he's bottled up from when he didn't have them as a two year old. My boy, who is so even tempered and the sweetest thing. I've told him that his friends will wait for him (and they always do, or they come back for him - they're actually all wonderful boys). But OUR dinner time is non-negotiable.

The other non-negotiable is of course, homework. One new item on the agenda in grade 2 is the weekly spelling test. Ahhh, spelling, my specialty! I like to brag about the good old days when I would get perfect on all my tests, all year long. My favourite tale is about my grade 5 year. Mr. Gilmour, what a great teacher. Even thinking back now, I remember what a "cool" guy he was. He used to teach us poetry through songs such as Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"; he had longer hair, John Lennon type glasses and he lived in the Beach with his wife, no kids.

Mr. Gilmour had this tradition of sorts. We also had weekly spelling tests, and for any student who managed to get a perfect score on all the tests in a term, he would take them to McDonalds for lunch. That was such a huge deal, and for me, junk food junkie even to this day, it was nirvana! So I got perfect all three terms, with the fringe benefit of getting my hands on some of those lovely greasy, never-decomposing-fries. This was so long ago I don't even know if they had Happy Meals. But the best was at the end of the year, everyone who'd ever gotten perfect on any test (so the whole class), was invited over to his place down in the Beach, for a barbecue!

L loves this story. The words they've been tested on have been quite easy, but there are always a couple thrown into the mix that tie into their latest learning units. Week 1, the difficult word was September. L's difficulty was remembering the capital "S". But he did get perfect. Week 2, the words were "tradition" and "ancestry". Wow. But he got perfect again. As a treat, then, he wanted to go to Toys R Us, as his version of a treat is significantly more expensive than a Happy Meal. But with my fabulous negotiation skills I managed to get it down to a chocolate chip cookie at Tim Horton's. L reminded me that it had to be not one, but two cookies, one for each week that's he's maintained a perfect score.

This week's words are "relatives" and "culture". I bet he'll score a third cookie... or if he catches his Dad in a good mood, likely a new Pokemon game.

All in the name of perfect spelling!


Kellan Rhodes said...

This was so familiar and funny. I loved the "herding cats" reference (Ha!). My youngest (in kinder) has a spelling test today and one of her words is September. She was so worried that she would forget this one - hope she remembers. I also love that he talks to his friends on the computer - my oldest girls text constantly on their phones. It's funny how they don't need to hear actual voices - so different than my generation. Good post - I enjoyed it.

Family Adventure said...

They must recycle those words, because I seem to recall them from Christopher's grade 2 spelling tests. Too cute about his reward.
I am glad he has so many friends up and down the street. Unfortunately, there's not as many on Glenayr, but I suppose it won't be long until the boys can make the trek across the park to meet up, too.
And I am kinda in favour of messaging as a way of communicating - within reason of course - because it forces them to practice writing. Until they get to the age where abbreviations and slang become de rigeur, of course. KWIM?! :)
I will try to check in from Cyprus, but if that is not possible, then I will definitely catch up with you upon my return.
Mike LOVED your reply to his posting, btw. He was worried that no one would get the irony...Thank you!


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