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May 2017

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We had a milestone here Friday - Baby's First Parent-Teacher Conference.

Sophie started at her (Montessori) school in December, a week shy of her third birthday, shortly after we had moved across town - the options were to find her a new nursery that she would be in for only eight months before going to this school anyway, or starting school straightaway. So she was a little bit young at the time, and it was a big adjustment for her, and I spent much of last school year secretly thinking the teachers must think we're crazy pushy parents for starting her in kindergarten so early and wondering if she was being really unusually disruptive given her young age, but we got through it.

The new school year started two weeks ago. Right now she goes for half the day plus lunch, and then gets picked up by a childminder for the rest of the afternoon. So I mentioned to one of her teachers last week that I'd like to have a chat about how it normally happens with kids switching from half days to full days; the teacher realized that we hadn't yet had any sort of progress report / meeting with them since Sophie started, so scheduled us in for one. These were the highlights:
  • She made a lot of progress last year, but gosh she's so much more well-adjusted to the classroom routine this year. (This corresponds to what we've observed - one afternoon in August, the tantrums just stopped. It's like a switch flipped in Sophie's brain and, although she can still get pretty frustrated and upset, she learned how to keep control. That was pretty magnificent in itself!) However, she is pretty wiped out by lunchtime, so there is no question of her going full-time just yet. We can re-evaluate next autumn.
  • When she came to the school she pretty much stopped speaking Swiss German entirely, mostly because she realized that (unlike at nursery) the staff understood her English. This bugged me pretty much instantly, but it didn't really bug the teachers until May or June, when they started gently suggesting that maybe putting her in the German tutoring groups this autumn would be a good idea. Now, though, she is starting to make baby steps toward making an effort to speak German, and it's clear to everyone that she understands the language perfectly well, so we get to hold off on the tutoring for now. Whew.
  • The teachers basically never have to nag her to find something to work on. (The Montessori system is, the children choose what to work on - for a pretty free-form and flexible definition of "working" - and whether they are working together or by themselves, but during classtime they are always supposed to be working on something.) She knows what she wants to do and, since the new school year started, she has laserlike powers of concentration. The flip side is, sometimes they want to show her something new, but they can't get an opportunity because she's so engaged in what she's already working on!
  • This doesn't always mean she's using the materials for their intended purpose - orthodox Montessori is pretty clear that the kids don't get to "play" with the things in the classroom, and that each material has its proper function(s) and isn't supposed to be used for anything else. Fortunately, her teachers aren't dogmatic about this, so long as she isn't risking loss or damage or disrupting others. So sometimes what she's busily engaged in is some elaborate pretend game in her mind! But as long as she's engaged, it's all good. And just like at home, anything vaguely oblong is a microphone/trumpet/guitar/saxophone/violin.
  • So yeah, she is crazy about music, as long as she gets to do it on her own terms. We were told a story about this: her classroom is on the upper floor so has a balcony that looks out over the school entrance, and one day Sophie was occupied with singing and dancing Very Loudly. So in order to preserve the working environment for the other kids, they opened the door to the balcony and said "Sophie! The stage is over there." Genius.
  • She gets along with other kids, but at this point she still mostly prefers to work alone, and she is pretty resistant to going along with group activities. Apparently the only time she reliably doesn't want to sing is, you guessed it, the group music sessions. She will happily sit with other kids at lunch, or just as happily sit by herself, and she doesn't seek out any particular friends yet. But then, she is still pretty young, and as long as she's happy that's okay.
  • There was talk of possible future music lessons, since she is so musical and the guitar teacher apparently takes kids from the age of 4. I'm still in two minds about this - on the one hand, yes, she is crazy about music! On the other hand, she has never seemed even remotely receptive to learning anything from anyone else about the music she is making, and the very last thing I want to do is trigger this resistance / rebellion and cause a backlash against her musicality itself.
Somewhere during the course of the conversation, I was reminded why this is totally the right school for her and us. When we were talking about Sophie's stubborn resistance to being pushed to do something other than what she wants to do, one of the teachers came out with "She's really a sort of non-Newtonian fluid." And took for granted that we would get it. And the more I think about it...that is totally true, especially since the End of the Tantrums. As long as you are matter-of-fact and low-pressure and positive about what you want her to do, she's cheerfully cooperative. This includes things like tidying away her toys before bedtime, or coming to have her bath after this episode of Charlie & Lola has finished. But push too hard, and she will push back even harder.

Yep, my kid is Oobleck. It all makes so much sense.
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