Sunday, November 6, 2011


We did something this weekend that I never expected to do: we had Anna tested using the WPPSI-III. I won't know the results for awhile, and I'm not sure her actual score is even relevant. I find IQ tests to be both fascinating and annoying. It's easy to focus on the number, which is supposed to be an accurate assessment of intelligence (whatever that is). But let's face it - Anna already has an advantage over many children in that she comes from a stable home, gets enough rest (theoretically), and a healthy diet. And as far as I know, IQ isn't terribly correlated with future success or happiness. So what were we doing there?

It started this past August as I was chatting with a neighbor about the charter school her child attends. This was similar to other conversations I'd had with other parents: hearing the pros and cons of this school, the application process, why this school was chosen, how much her child enjoyed it, etc. Previously, my reactions went something like this: "I do not wish to drive that far," or "I just want Anna to have friends," or "Anna will do just fine no matter where she ends up," or "I'm more concerned about which high school she attends." But this time a switch flipped in my brain. I felt like the Holy Spirit whispered: "Just look into some other schools, already!"

And, heaven help me, I did.

Turns out, parents have quite a few options around here. There are charter schools, magnate schools, and choice schools. There are gifted schools, STEM schools, and schools teaching core knowledge. Schools with half-day kindergarten or full-day only. Schools near, schools far, schools old, schools new, and schools about to move. Schools schools schools!
In the midst of this chaos, Jon suggested I make a list (he often suggests I make a list) of our priorities for the kids' education. So here are a few, in no particular order:

1) Friends. I want Anna and Isaac to have friends at school. They don't need to be popular, but one or two close friends can make the difference in any school at any age. Anna's highly social personality makes it critical for her, I think.
2) A love of learning. This statement has become cliched, but I feel it deeply. In retrospect, I do think the traditional school system and my own anxieties were a bad mix, and I suspect that the kids' learning styles are similar to my own. For Anna, I think a love of learning will be fostered through personal interactions with caring teachers, hand-on activities, and practical applications. If I can find an option that emphasizes such things, I'd like to take advantage of it.
3) Proximity. Realistically, nothing is really within walking distance. But I would rather not drive very far.
4) Recess, physical education, arts, science. Kids need to move, create, and explore.

None of this directly explains why Anna was taking the WPPSI - III. What I can say is that we're less interested in whether she meets the "gifted and talented" criterion, than in gaining a better picture of who she is intellectually. Her strengths, her weaknesses, things like that. She's obviously verbally precocious, and I'd wager she's gifted in an emotional sense (very empathetic, encouraging, etc.), and possibly in a dramatic sense. But were we missing something? And don't we owe it to her to get as much information as we can? There are many aspects of my daughter that remain an enigma to me, and I'm hoping that her scores offer insight into her and guide our educational choices. In short, I know about the schools and now it was time to know more about my daughter.

The irony is, after all of these tests and applications and parent information nights and general data collection.... after all of this it comes down to a lottery selection. I apply to these schools and they pick names out of hat. Which means it's quite possible she'll end up going to the local school. Will that be frustrating, after all this angst and thought? I hope not. I'm prepared to admit that the whisper from the H.S. that sent us on this adventure may have been for my own benefit. So that eventually I could say that we at least looked into other options. So now we "cast lots" and let God do what He does best - His own thing. And hopefully I did what I do best - listen.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sugar High

It's All Saints Day, and approaching 7:30 a.m. Usually by this time, Isaac has been up about 1.5 hours and Anna is groggily lounging on the couch waiting for the warm milk to hit her blood stream. But today they are barely stirring. The excitement (or the sugar?) kept them up past 9 last night, and now they are sleeping it off.
Part of the excitement was that we had another family over for dinner and trick-or-treating. I made a yummy pinto bean and mole chili and a baked pumpkin filled with rice, raisins, apples, and cinnamon. Almost a dessert, really. Our guests brought an excellent chicken soup and bread, which was very fortunate since neither Jon nor the kids actually liked the chili. Was it the kale I snuck in there? The kids didn't eat much anyway -- too excited. So after the grown-ups quickly ate we headed out the door.
The actual trick-or-treating was good fun, as always. We know a lot of the kids on our block, and it's great to see all the costumes and wander around with everyone. Anna's Winter Queen outfit was lovely and sparkly and served as a nice contrast to Isaac's deep and dark Darth Vader. Jon also wore a Vader costume, so they were a funny pair.

This year, we noticed that Anna and Isaac have very different approaches to candy collection. I believe Anna's stream of thought went something like this:
"I am a beautiful Winter Queen! I am skipping/floating along to each house, I love seeing my friends, and enjoying the wonder that is this annual candy-coated event. I AM EXCITED!"
Isaac's stream of thought was more like this: "It is time to go to work. I have donned my costume and am ready to receive the candy that is due me. This is my job. This is what I do. This is what I was born for. I am serious about this endeavor."

All that to say Anna loved the event-aspect, whereas Isaac loved the candy-aspect. To further illustrate this point: Once we returned home, Anna delayed candy consumption in favor of drawing in a little notebook she got at one house. Meanwhile, Isaac held on to his candy basket like a drowning man holding a life raft, yelling in protest if anyone came too near. "I got it FIRST!" he would announce.

Over the course of the week we also managed to carve four pumpkins, including the mega-squash, which we proudly displayed. The two little ones ended up as Minnie Mouse and a Storm Trooper, while the big guys were a little harder to recognize. One was the classic Snoopy sillouette, as he rises up out of the pumpkin patch. The other was Pumpkin Pi: a pumpkin outline with pi carved in the middle. I wonder how many people "got" that one? Anyway, Jon did a great job carving the big guys with the saw - I didn't need to do much detail work after he got through with them. I'd post pictures, but that's just one step too many today. Maybe tomorrow. In the meantime, I have some chili to heat up for dinner (because it literally took all day to write this post). And they all better like it. (But if not, I saved some of the soup.)