Monday, February 23, 2009

Starting the Holiday

Today didn't get off to the best of beginnings - seems as though everyone turned up at exactly the same time to catch the lift, and with all the ski school kids getting priority, we had a long wait. Christopher has the worst time - how claustrophobic it must be to stare at a sea of mid-sections. But he and Annika managed to find a bit of space where they could sit, and he begged to have his picture taken.
The rest of the day was awesome. Great snow, great skiing, and fun with the whole family, plus two - Simon and Daniel. Keeping track of seven was not an easy task, and trying to get us all on the lifts relatively together, coupled with the French queueing system, made for some real challenges.

But all in all, a great day. And 5 more to go and sun on the way!
I'll add this picture of Christopher from our Christmas holiday - one afternoon when he fell asleep on two chairs in the bar at the bottom of the hill. Like father like son!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

HADD - Hockey Attention Deficit Dressing

Hockey this week was a actually quite smooth. Although Benjamin complained vociferously both morning and afternoon, stating as we got out of the car that he absolutely, positively, 100% without a doubt would not participate, he then got dressed with no complaint and had a good time on the ice.

We were even somewhat early, so the dressing process was not so stressful. I try to jump from boy to boy, encouraging them to help where they can, and move the process forward. They usually get stuck in their shirts, tangled around shoulder pads, and then caught up with leg pads on padded shorts. While I was untangling Benjamin at one point, Christopher put his skates on himself (a first) - I just had to tie them. Unfortunately, it wasn't until I helped him take them off that I realized that he had skated the whole session... with the skates on the wrong feet!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Brushing His Tooth

The image, which I failed to capture with my camera (a timing issue), was Benjamin, furiously using his electric toothbrush on his newly lost tooth, cleaning it up for a visit from the Tooth Fairy. I am sure she will be very, very impressed!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Future Hockey Star?

We had a great day today, skating on the local lake. Best of all, I actually tried hitting a hockey puck around with the boys for a few minutes, and it was really fun! Of course, Benjamin and I have the same problem - we both have the wrong clubs. I didn't even know there was a difference, that some curve left and some curve right... and David's club (that I borrowed) is as wrong for me as Benjamin's is for him.

And now, after a brief post-skating shopping trip, we both have the correct clubs! Just wait - we'll be stars on the ice!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hockey Guys

The hockey highlights today were:
  1. Benjamin didn't throw a fit about going to hockey - at least this afternoon. He was angry last night, angry this morning, but somewhat subdued this afternoon. Once we got there, he was remarkably helpful about getting dressed and hurrying out on the ice.

  2. We weren't late. At least not more than a minute late. And both boys helped with the process. I'm finally getting the order down - shoulder pads, neck guard, elbow pads, shirt, shin guards, knit pants, padded shorts, skates, gloves and helmet. Times two.

Which makes it all much more fun.

I volunteered to take Luke home today, and the three of them were sitting together, looking so cute, until I pulled out the camera and they started hamming it up. Oh well - boys! (And the iPhone is still no substitute for a real camera, but sometimes it has to suffice.)

A New Teacher

Annika started first grade with a wonderful and friendly teacher. A first-grade teacher is supposed to stay with the class all the way through the third grade - three years - so you hope you get a good one - and we did.

However, this is Sweden, and all babies come with 450 days of leave, split between the parents. Annika's teacher hadn't used all her days for her child, so now, 2 2/3 years into the 3-year plan, she has decided to use 90 of her remaining days of parental leave. So no teacher from the 9th of February through the 9th of May. Three months of a substitute. Great.

But somehow, the school has found an outstanding solution - a teacher who's last position was as principal of a junior high, with more than 30 years of teaching experience. Why she was available to take a temporary job was somewhat worrying, as was the sales pitch the school offered - strongly pushed to both parents and children.

We are now four days into the new regime, and the results are outstanding. I thought the children would be upset, and even tearful, at the loss of their beloved teacher for three months. But they are really appreciating the change. She's tough - no more "one more chance" - but fair, according to Annika. And best of all, she lets them work as much as they want. As Annika points out, she "sees that we are different". Cool.

Annika had a friend over to play on Tuesday, and they had big plans. All the way home, they discussed which Wii games they would play - Sports or Singing Star first - and when they would go on WebKinz on the computer. But they disappeared up in Annika's room almost immediately, and stayed there the whole time. I listened at the stairs and heard a lot of giggling and laughing... but when I went up to see what was so funny, I found them in hysterics... over their math books. Together they accomplished 10 pages, and were excited (!) about starting division.

Maybe a change is a good thing...

The Cow Defense

Benjamin has always been a challenge, and "laid-back" is not a concept one would pick to describe him. With the start of a new school, he had been a bit down as well, and seemed to be unable to find joy in his day-to-day. So I thought I would try talking to someone at BUP (the children's psychology service) to see how we could help him. (With his other learning difficulties now becoming more clear, contact with BUP may also help in getting him appropriate support in school.) Anyway, after meeting both me and David, it was now Benjamin's turn...

We were ushered in to a room with a sandbox and a reported 362 toys to play with in the sand. Benjamin immediately launched into an elaborate fantasy world (in which he excels) with a house, a monkey and a group of evil crocodiles who had captured a small duck and were holding it hostage. After building a house for the monkey and his friends, complete with bed and bedcovers, Benjamin then identified more small animal hostages and set about freeing them. He set up guns on both sides (good and evil) and the proceeded to fire... ducklings, which had devastating effects on the evil crocodiles. The crocodiles were then reinforced by a bear, who had been on the good side, but like Darth Vader, had been turned from good to bad. A few cars were brought into the battle, fighting for the good, of course, but then came the secret weapon - the mad flying cow. She charged into action, flying into both bear and crocodiles, and upending the enemy weapons, rendering them useless.

In the final 15 minutes, the psychiatrist tried to chat with Benjamin about life, happiness and his state of mind, but only got the response that he has evil parents who make him play hockey...

I only wonder what the psychiatrists take was on the whole experience...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Knew He Was Exceptional!

Benjamin just completed a second series of tests to determine his speech delays, if any. He did the tests in Swedish, and came out at well below his age level on passive and active vocabulary. Somehow, he didn't know words like swamp (trask) and rodent (gnagare) in Swedish, but had no trouble in English - in part thanks to movies like Shrek (swamp) and Alvin and the Chipmunks (rodent). But he sailed through the test in English, actually coming out above age level - 8 on one test and 9.1 on the other, despite being only 7.6.

But the really awesome news (I'm trying to be positive) was on the second series of tests, where he managed to fail so spectacularly that he is barely on the scale. I always knew he was "off the scale" creatively speaking, but to manage to be in the 1st percentile on the test of grammatical completion really says something. That means that 99% of the kids doing this test managed to do better than him. 99%. Ouch.

"His low score appeared to be influenced by his use of his own fantasy in completing statements rather than answering according to reason and given information..."

So in other words, he didn't bother answering any of the questions... just let his fantasy take flight. I can see that. In fact, I see it every morning when we try to get out the door to school... His creative writing teacher will be thrilled, though getting to that point may take some work...

Where to go from here? Well, the tests seem to do a good job of identifying problems, but we will have to see what resources we can muster to curb the creativity enough to get to the point where it will be appreciated.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

First Words

Benjamin has (finally!) started reading. Since he's now 7, but still in zero-class, the expectations are pretty low. In fact, the only formal goals Sweden has for the end of zero-class is that the children should write their names, recognize shapes and colors, and count to 10. But the school I picked for him is Montessori, and the kids are pushed along a bit more than in the normal system.
We're working on 3 and 4-letter words right now, like ful (ugly), gul (yellow), låna (to borrow/lend) and so on. But getting him to sit down and concentrate is always difficult. I have been printing out cards and pictures and playing matching games, but we haven't really made any headway.
Enter Peggy Kaye (figuratively) who wrote, among others, "Games for Learning". Her books are wonderful. She uses examples from real-life tutoring to create fun activities to support all elements of learning, from math to reading to logical thinking. Her reading "snake", which we play with M&Ms, has given us three wonderful days of effort. The idea is simple - read the words on the snake to get an M&M, as many times as you want. And now, we're finally getting somewhere!

Of course, that's just three days, and we have a whole lifetime of homework and learning in front of us, but for now, we'll take the good where it comes!