Friday, September 18, 2015

The complicated academic world of August

August, age freshly 5, is home from a day of not-quite-pre-k, not quite Kindergarten.  I'm sick in bed and he's buzzing around.

 "Mama, can you teach me 'times'?"

"You mean, like, multiply?"

"No. Like 3 times 2. What does the 'times' mean?"

"Well, it's kind of like adding the same number a bunch of times.  Like 3 times 2 means 'do 3 two times'".

"Oh. 6. easy."

"Right.  And it also means 'three times of 2'"

"2,2,2,?  Easy. 6."

"Right.  Ok.  So...hang on."

I grab about 10 pair of earrings out of my jewelry box and clear a space on the bed.  "Let's do 4 times 3."  I lay out 1, 2, 3, 4.  "How many fours do we have?"


Ok.  I lay out 1, 2, 3, 4 near them.  "now how many 4's?"


"Right.  And how many total?"  8.  "And how many sets of 2's do we have?"

He looks carefully. "4.".

"Right.  So two 4's is the same as four 2's, see?"

"right.  But we're doing 4 times 3.  Do one more row."

And thus begins my math geek.  We notice squares.  We talk about re-arranging 4x3 into 2x6.  I lead him downstairs and pour a bowl of honey nut cheerios.  It's time.  I tell him to explore his numbers and that, if he wants, I will give him a question like "find five times six."  He's content just exploring patterns on his own for nearly an hour.  Explore, discover, snack.

He comes to find me when he's feeling lonely.  "Mom?  Three times six is eighteen.  And so is nine times two.  And then I ate one of the sixes.  Three times six minus a six is only twelve."

So, you know, he's brilliant.

But.  But!  He's a mess at school.  He can't focus, he abandons work half way through, starts doodling and throwing pieces at the wall, distracts others, and spins long half-fantasy tales of confusion and amusement.  He's in the Montessori school so he's got a little more freedom to set his own pace, but they do try to get kids to commit to and finish whatever work they've chosen and be respectful of the space.  Last spring there was a hard meeting where the teachers expressed that he shows early warning signs of ADD: inattentive, low impulse control, constant movement and talking, long dreamy fantasy ramblings that change course mid story, and so much more.  But ADD--as many scientists and we as parents believe--is less of a diagnosis of a single problem as it is a symptom of a problem. It's the rattle that gets you to look for the problem deeper in.  We looked at a lot of stuff, and landed on "let's just hope he gets a maturity boost in a few months".  They generally won't even try to label it until an older age, but they were concerned about his ability and confidence if he went into Kindergarten the way he was acting late last spring, because he'd likely feel discouraged or overly structured.    But, at age 4 and now freshly five, he reads and does math at a comfortably first grade level and understands science at a 2nd or 3rd grade level.  So another year of pre-k seemed wasteful.

Which brings us to today.  This silly curious sweet boy was home from school today because we finally had an appointment at the pediatrician.  After realizing he had symptoms of sleep apnea this summer and that this could explain his ADD symptoms (and to stop me freaking out when I find a not-breathing-child everytime I check on him).  The doctor checked his tonsils and referred us to an ENT for analysis of the adenoids.  Most of the time, sleep apnea in kids is due to those being too big for the kid's body, so a simple removal may mean all the difference.  We'll follow up with the ENT in a week or two and go from there.

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