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Friday was parent-teacher conference day at school, my first at Brandeis. Since Simon isn’t having any academic or behavioral problems, the conference was much for free-flowing than I expected. In fact, Mr. Sowder’s opening gambit was “Do you have any questions or concerns you want to discuss with me first?” To which my response was, “Oh. I thought you were going to tell me a bunch of stuff. I don’t know if I’m prepared for something less one-sided.”

At which point in time we laughed and plenty to discuss. Namely:


Sowder realizes that Simon’s math, and that of a few other students, is far ahead of the kindergarten curriculum. Because he has to make sure that Simon can demonstrate his knowledge in very specific ways (related to the Core Standards Kentucky has adopted and the testing to begin in Grade 3), he can’t just bump him up to another level. So instead he works more sophisticated math into calendar or circle time. He also suggested I look into a math camp for the summer. Which means that after a year of talking but doing nothing, I think the Russian School of Math is finally going to become a reality. And it’s time to have some fun on the Khan Academy website as well. (Sidenote: How I wish I could claim them, but alas the founder is a Khan by way of Bengal and not a Kahn by way of Moldova.)


When we left off, Simon was finished with his official Lexia online reading program, and was distressed that some of his classmates were getting ahead of him. Thankfully, this has calmed down with ever fewer students being sent to the computer lab for Lexia. It needed to stop, too. Simon had reached the Lexia second grade level and was becoming increasingly frustrated by concepts he hadn’t mastered and that were not being taught in class.


When the going gets rough, Simon is ready to throw in the towel. For example, he might take a guess at a sight word, and if he’s wrong, he’ll guess a few more times and then say “I don’t know; I can’t do it” instead of sounding the word out. I was a little bit this way, too. Actually, I was quite a lot this way, as I can still remember the panic that accompanied not understanding how to borrow when doing subtraction problems. What finally broke me of it for good was translating Akkadian from the cuneiform. When it takes an hour on average to figure out a sentence, you learn to be patient. I have an entire other post about this coming up soon as relates to Simon’s drumming, which he wants to quit and which Matt and I aren’t allowing. (This makes me sound crazy, I know. I’ll explain more in a few days and will sound less crazy. Promise.)

and the biggie…

Social Interactions

My earlier fears about bullying had been quelled, but we still needed to discuss Simon’s class interactions, as he’s less likely than many¬† to raise his hand to ask or answer a question even when he’s really curious or knows the answer. Sowder has worked hard all year to make sure Simon knows that class is a safe place for him to speak. Simon isn’t shy at all, even if he sometimes uses that word to describe himself. But he is quiet and reserved, to use Sowder’s characterization, and he hates hubbub and large crowds, which I’ve known since he was a toddler. The day of this year’s Valentine’s Day party, for example, I asked Simon if he had a good time, and he responded as follows:

“Here’s the funny thing about me, Mom. I don’t really like school parties. They’re too noisy. I’d rather do math and science.”

Sowder burst out laughing at this and told me that whenever he lets the kids be kids in class—whenever he lets kindergarten be what it once was—Simon is one of the first to cover his ears and give Mr. Sowder the “make it stop” face.

“I know we have to take it seriously,” he assured me. “But I hope you can appreciate how completely adorable that [what he said] is. What I would say about Simon is that he is in many ways an old soul and wise beyond his years. That’s part of what you are seeing in his social interactions.”

In other words, throwing more boys at Simon wasn’t a complete solution. The better solution was to give Simon a larger pool of boys to get to know, figure out which ones he’s most compatible with, and do more to arrange play dates with those boys. In reality, not including girls, that means Simon has one great friend from school this year, one great friend from outdoor soccer, one great friend from indoor soccer, and one great friend from his preschool. Ironically, the preschool friend is not a boy Simon considered a close friend while at preschool, as he was always in the thrall of other boys. But the other boy, G, always liked Simon, and when they did get together, it was always great. Simon saw him for the first time this school year at a birthday party two weeks ago, and Simon talked about G for days afterwards. We’ve already another play-date over the mini-break last week, and we’re scheduling the next one soon.

How funny is it that Simon had to leave preschool to realize how well matched he was with other boy from the same?

The question of the moment is what is Simon’s temperament exactly? Is he an unusually social introvert like his Dad, who will talk you to death in small groups but wants to crawl in a hole at larger gatherings? Or is he an extrovert who hates loud noises and needs time to observe before diving in? I’m not sure. Nor am I looking to pigeon-hole him, but there are strategies to help either and I’d like to make sure I’m deploying the right one.

The other question of the moment is why others assume I have a problem with Simon’s temperament? I can’t tell you how often a teacher or parent of another child will reassure me that “it’s OK” for Simon to be how he is. I know that! I don’t want to change him, just help him cope with noise and change better. All I can think is that I’m such a raging, in-your-face extrovert that others assume I think something is wrong with Simon. But I married one introvert and am friends with many more. I am quite fond of introverts, in fact.

But I’m guessing that many extroverted parents are not, and thus the constant reassurance.More on Simon’s social interactions and contradictions shortly. I’ll just end here with a promise: I promise that I will always respect Simon’s need for quiet and gentle transitions. Whatever I may say about him later, rest assured that I wouldn’t have him any other way. In fact, I’m quite protective of his gentle soul and am relieved that his teacher is, too.


2 Responses to “Typecast”

  1. Amanda says:

    My mom made us take two years of piano, no bargaining, no discussion. I loved it, my brother hated it an quit on day 730. But the formal learning was worth it, and my brother is now a much better musician than I am.

  2. goldsteinrita says:

    These other people don’t realize how easy Simon is to get along with. If they did, they would be jealous, not sympathetic. He is a pleasure to be around and very funny. I know I’m the Bubbie and everyone will say yea, yea, but I have been around lots of kids and had three of my own. He’s easy.

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