Monday, September 10, 2012

Can't we home-school him for a while?

It’s very quiet here today. We’re trying not to be sad. You see, it’s Augie’s first day of kindergarten; his mom took the day off work to escort him. It’s full-day kindergarten, not half-days like when we were kids. And that's the rub.

age 9 months, reading Moo Baa La-La-La
As grandparents who’ve had this child and his sister in our home five days a week, we always saw our role not as babysitting but as helping prepare these two terrific little people for life, and of course for school. We always knew today was coming, and we're happy for him. But the transition feels abrupt. No wonder moms cry with their little ones start school!

It could be worse. Augie’s going to be here for a little over an hour each morning before Grandpa drives him to school, and we’re thankful for that. But we’ll miss spending long, unstructured days with him.

The transition will be especially challenging for ViMae, who has one more year with us before she, too, starts school. Augie has been the center of her universe. Much of the time, the thing she most wants to be doing is whatever Augie is doing. We are looking forward to helping her discover her own interests and passions while she has our undivided attention. But just for the moment, we’re looking back.

age 2, pretend-baking
Last evening (Grandparent's Day at that) we went out to dinner and talked about how we’ve contributed to Augie’s development as the amazing little person he is. He has great parents—both teachers—who give the kids all kinds of attention and experiences. But it’s satisfying to know we’ve added a lot to the mix.

Our first priority was always to be sure the kids know they are loved—by their parents, by us, by their other grandparents and family members. When Augie was two, we were singing “Old MacDonald.” Augie sang, “And on the farm he had a Grandma.” I held my breath. What would Grandma say? “With an ‘I love you’ here, an ‘I love you’ there….”. I posted on Facebook, “My life is complete.”

age 3, with official umpire's cap
Peter introduced Augie to the alphabet early; before the child could talk he could point to any letter you asked for. And Augie always loved to be read to; you’d finish a book and he’d say “Again!” until you couldn’t do that one any more and he’d crawl over to get another. Today this boy walked into his first day at school able to read at a third- or fourth-grade level, if not higher. On Friday he fluidly read me this flyer: “Shockingly fast Internet…Connect any device anywhere in your home with wireless home networking options.” We all contributed, but we think basically Augie taught himself, using tools we provided.

When he was eight months old I handed him a baseball; by the end of the day he could roll it straight to me, every time. At two he batted buckets of balls off a tee every day and hit live pitching besides. At three he sat in the stands and called balls and strikes—accurately. At four he tried to learn to keep a scorebook. Last week at five he turned his back to the game and read a Star Wars book! You can provide opportunities; they decide what to love and when.

age 4, at drum set
Over the years we helped foster his passion for varied music—Peter and the Wolf, the Nutcracker, old-school drumming by Gene Krupa, rock classics by the Who and the Stones. He loves the dancing of Fred Astaire but emulates the dancing of Donald O’Connor in Singing in the Rain. He makes his own music on guitar, piano, harmonica, violin, and most of all drums. We showed him that music can be read but never pushed him. Last week he studied some sheet music and said aloud to himself, “This is going to be hard.” Then he placed both hands on the piano keys and played a lovely, gentle piece very different in style from anything he has tried before. The music is in him, and as he gets older I know he’ll find new ways to express it.

age 4, making salad with ViMae
If you’re still with me, pardon me for bragging. But I am astonished by the way a child’s mind can absorb and keep information. He knows the world’s major wild animals and keeps the carnivores away from the herbivores when setting up his Lego zoo. He can identify dozens of Minnesota birds, and knows the details of all 70 dragons in our Dragonvale game. He sets up fire scenarios with his massive Lego fire department, and plays them out with great attention to details that he has pulled together from many sources. He knows every character, battle, weapon, vehicle, planet, droid, and episode title in Star Wars, and in which order the episodes were made. He keeps several other fictional worlds spinning in his mind as well, including the Hobbit and the Bone graphic novels. With Star Wars and those other worlds, Augie is the one who teaches us, and he does it patiently, repeating information that Pa and I just can’t quite keep straight.

He’s a planner. He has talked for a year or more about having a smoothie shop, so I decided to help him develop a business plan. I thought it would be a cute thing to pull out some day after he’s forgotten all about it. Well, this kid dictated a plan that includes the layout, location, staffing, menu, target audience, and even the tools he’ll need to build the place. Pa sketched elevations and floor plans to Augie’s specifications, and I’ve made menus, both hand-written and typed. He’s frustrated that he hasn’t been able to get a contractor working on it yet. When a teacher assigns him a project, he’s likely to carry it out pretty thoroughly.

age 5, with new Lego fire plane
Friday was Augie’s last regular day here for daycare, and we celebrated with a new Lego fire plane and his favorite Chinese food for lunch. As he happily skipped out the back door at the end of the day, Abby said, “And so it begins.” As a teacher, she can envision for better or worse the process on which he is embarking. I didn’t tell her that I was thinking, “And so it ends.”

But it doesn’t end. We’ll still see him every morning, and other times as well, most likely. And we still have unfinished business.

On Friday, he told Peter, “You need to teach me all your life lessons before you die, so I can teach them to my grandson.”

14 comments:

Teresa Evangeline said...

Big tears forming here. You have done remarkably well with your time as his teachers, to have taught him so much, with so much love... That's true learning. For him to already recognize the value in passing it on...What an amazing job you've done. I've followed much of it through your posts, and am wishing Augie nothing but days full of more learning, and love.

Miss Dazey said...

This post needs a great big LIKE BUTTON.

Chartreuse said...

Every time I read one of your posts I rejoice that someone else's experience proves that my own devotion to grandma-ing isn't as far-out as I sometimes think. I, too, follow my grand-caughter's development with total awe, and I devote whatever time I have with her to helping in, or just witnessing, that growth. Honestly, I don't remember being this love-struck when her mother was the toddler. But then I had so much more going on in my life and probably didn't have this much energy left over for just her. I only see my grand-daughter every few weeks but when I'm with her my life feels complete. And no one else has ever captured for me the joy of grand-parenting as you do in your writing. I, too, was a teacher and I often think the experience of grand-parenting is the logical culmination of years of learning about child development. Now I have the time and the energy to put everything I've learned into practice. And the fact that I love my little charge to distraction is just the icing on the cake. Your grand-children are very lucky to have you. And you are even luckier to have them.

Stephen Hayes said...

Beautiful grandchildren. You are truly blessed. Mrs. Chatterbox and I don't seem to be getting any closer to having grandchildren. The son is thirty-two and can't seem to find the right person. I'm still keeping my fingers crossed.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Aw.. the last sentence says it all! You and Peter have done good, so good I hope Augie is not bored with school.
Vi has you all to herself now for the better part of the day..what fun that will be! :)

Jeanie said...

I know it must be sad and a real change to not have Augie there all day....that is quite a change for all of you. Hopefully a whole new world will open up with the one-on-one (or two-on-one) with just ViMae there. You have certainly done a wonderful job of opening up the world to Augie.

DJan said...

Happy Grandparents' Day! You two have done more for your grandson than most, and he is the beneficiary for all that love. The Old MacDonald song said it all... thanks for sharing your grandkids with me, I am so happy to hear all about them! :-)

DJan said...

Happy Grandparents' Day! You two have done more for your grandson than most, and he is the beneficiary for all that love. The Old MacDonald song said it all... thanks for sharing your grandkids with me, I am so happy to hear all about them! :-)

Retired English Teacher said...

This was just a very heartwarming post. You both must be so sad to see this bright boy head off to school. He is going to blow those teachers away! Good for you for giving him this great start. He will treasure the times spent with you as he grows older. Thankfully, you have documented it all so well. Even this blog post will be a treasure. Print it out and put it in his baby book.

Jenny Short said...

You have found the joy of giving and the joy of living. xo Jenny

Ms Sparrow said...

What an amazing little boy you have raised! It's obvious that your loving influence has contributed tremendously to his intelligence and creativity. There are great things in that little guy's future and you can be very proud of yourselves for the leg-up you have given him!

Grandmother said...

Well done! How lucky Augie is to have such a strong foundation. Your title is more than a wish at this point. He's a remarkable boy and schools do not necessarily do well with gifted students. Home schooling is a viable option when school fails. He'll let you know and I know you're listening.

Daughter Number Three said...

I'm in the midst of driving Daughter Number Three-Point-One to her freshman year of college, so I'm identifying enough with you to have the sniffles. Hugs.

Beatriz Skeens said...

I love how you describe him and the fruits of your labor. I always the feeling that when I have to let my grandchildren go back to their home, whatever I will be doing will not be as important as my time spent with them. You make me wish that I was also babysitting all the time for them! But I know that I am not made like that, so I give of myself totally to them whenever I have them even though I still want more! www.filledwithretirement.blogspot.com
Bea

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