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First Grade Picnic 001Another year of school wraps up today, and it was, in a word, perfect.

I don’t toss that word around lightly, but it’s hard to find a better way to characterize 2013-2014. This was the year in which Simon never missed a day from illness, didn’t have any weepy days brought on by his own imperfections or the misbehavior of others, and skipped his annual mid-winter emotional slump.

On the friendship side, he did well in terms of quantity and quality. His class was loaded with the type of nice, sensitive, well behaved, and smart boys he gravitates towards. But that’s only half the story. He also got to know and befriend a bevvy of smart, nice, and well behaved girls. He loved nearly everyone in his class, and so did I.

I attribute some of this year’s wonderfulness to luck. Some goes to time and maturity. But the lion’s share is owing to his talented and resourceful teacher. Mrs. Thomas was new to Brandeis this year, and when I first saw the teacher assignment I groaned “ugh, the new teacher.” What I didn’t know then is that this “new teacher” was soon to be nationally accredited and had taught herself a workshop-focused method of instruction. For a (formerly) timid and perfectionist kid like Simon, working in small groups was just what he needed to overcome his hesitation to participate. In a year, Simon went from being the kid who didn’t raise his hand to being the one who had his hand up most of the time.

What makes this year of growth and happiness all the more surprising is that Matt and I asked a lot—too much in hindsight—from him. First grade is year when many kids struggle to work independently in the classroom. So what did we do to help him prepare for new expectations? We had him continue drum lessons and play soccer and tennis with a pack of third and fourth graders. Worse still, he got stuck on one losing team and another that didn’t start to win until half-way through the season.

Just a few days ago, a friend of mine was recounting Simon’s recent activities:

“Geez, Jessica. Extra soccer practices, drum lessons, tennis tournaments* against 9- and 10-year-olds, advanced math. He’s only 7! Pull back on the throttle a little.”

She’s right. Except it’s hard to know when and where to pull back when Simon handled everything we threw at him with grace and equanimity. We saw very little stress. The math is self-directed, the soccer and tennis are passions, and he seemed to love socializing with the older boys. In fact, if it weren’t for friends like Katie, Apurv, Jacob, Rhyse, and Tanay, I think he’d self deport to third grade if they’d let him. (Katie is the Caroline of the group: super smart, sweet, and laid back. Simon was as excited to watch her win the best reader award at awards day yesterday as he would have been to win himself. Apurv and Jacob are pictured above.)

Third grade will have to wait, though. Next up is second, which, if it is half as good as this year, will be a resounding success.

*Simon plays in his first USTA Futures 10 and under tournament tomorrow. We entered on a lark at a pro’s suggestion and are excited and nervous to see how it plays out.


2 Responses to “A First Rate Year in First”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    Take my advice. Go with your gut. Don’t let other people (no matter how well-intentioned) tell you what’s best for your kid. You and Matt have very good instincts.

  2. blg says:

    What your mom says. Trust your instincts. You seem to know when it is all getting to be too much.

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