Thursday, September 30, 2010

separation anxiety??

Allison is gone on a school camping trip and she won't be back until October!

Oh yeah ... October is tomorrow.

But it's still a pretty big deal because this is the first time Allison has been away from us overnight that she was not staying with relatives. The grade 7 and 8 Challenge students (around 100 in all) left this morning for an overnight trip to RKY Camp, about an hour northwest of Kingston, to return tomorrow afternoon. They'll be sleeping in a lodge and doing various indoor and outdoor activities like hiking and wall climbing. (I think the teachers will likely be the ones climbing the walls, actually.) This kind of excursion is a pretty big stretch for Allison, who is not experienced in camping, but she was quite excited about going.

Allison's first month in Challenge has now passed, and it seems that the early jitters have also smoothed out quite a bit. As the name suggests, it is a very challenging program that involves lots of group work and projects as well as considerable homework. (There are only 50 grade 7 Challenge students, divided into two homerooms.) Also, Calvin Park school is located in the top floor of a high school so they are on the high school schedule, with an 8:20 a.m. morning bell and a 2:35 p.m. dismissal time. They also have lockers, and they move from class to class for different subjects, so it's quite a change from grade six.

The first week of Challenge involved a lot of games and team activities and not much academic work, but week 2 was a different story. On the second day of week 2 Allison came home tearful, saying, "It's so hard to get organized and there's so much to remember!" Her teacher, Mrs. Hymmen, phoned us that afternoon to say that Allison was showing quite a bit of anxiety about transitions between classes, getting used to her locker and the busy hallways. Also, unknown to us, Allison's bus was getting her to school after the bell, which meant she was coming in to find her classmates already settled; even though they were just doing independent reading, Allison was upset about being late and possibly missing something important. The teacher did assure us, though, that most of the kids were feeling overwhelmed by the new routine and the level of expectations, so I think it helped Allison to realize that all of her classmates were in a huge learning curve too.

After that day things seemed much better: Allison seemed more organized and on top of things and there were no more tears. Then just this week we attended the school Open House and got a chance to check up on how things are going. Mrs. Hymmen said that there was a huge improvement since that first week: Allison is much more comfortable with the morning routine, she is able to quickly get over any minor upsets that happen during the day, and she has developed some friendships as well, which for her is a very significant accomplishment.

It was really fun to visit the Challenge classroom and see the place Allison is spending so much of her time. They do many very interesting and innovative things, and they are pushed to think and analyze at a higher level than they've been used to. The teachers have high expectations, but it seems to be a very supportive little community of enthusiastic kids. Allison's teacher also seems very suitable for Allison: very organized and structured, with a cool, unflappable demeanour.

All in all it seems like things are off to a good start. Now if October would only get here ...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

eight on the eighth

Jonathan is eight years old today! He spent his time before school enjoying his brand-new Cars puzzle and mini basketball net and balls.

Here is a nice photo of Jonathan with two of his best buddies from Extend-a-Family summer camp, counsellors Sam and Eric.

Happy Birthday Jonathan!

familiar faces, new routines ....

Yesterday was back-to-school day. Jonathan started Grade 3 at Rideau Public School. Although he has a new teacher and new entry door, he has the same EA, "Mr. O," so that made the transition smooth for him. He had a good day, although he doesn't look particularly enthusiastic in this photo taken before we left home!

Allison had more to adjust to yesterday. She started Grade 7 at a new school, Calvin Park Public School, in their Challenge program. For the first time, she will ride a bus to and from school. Her first day was great until the end, when a glitch with the bus list meant her bus left without her (strange, considering it picked her up in the morning). But this happened to a number of kids so Allison felt better knowing she was not the only one. Today things should go much more smoothly.