I spent part of Saturday looking through the elementary school curriculum for B’s new school (which is helpfully supplied online). I had finished reading through the list of things which we need to bring to school and filling out the pile of forms required before school starts (emergency contacts, health history, school lunch forms, payment information, authorization for the administration of Potassium Iodide — gotta love life in Austria), and I thought I would take a quick look at what they’re actually going to be working on and trying to achieve this year.
First, let me say that I think teachers are AWESOME. And I mean that literally — I am in awe of them. Looking at this 134 page book on the elementary school curriculum, and realising that each teacher is basically trying to teach 1/7 of that book (the book covered pre-school, kindergarten and grades 1-5) to 30 whole kids every year was overwhelming. *I* was overwhelmed, reading it, and I only have ONE kid to worry about. I have no idea how they manage to teach all of that, plus have snack time, recess, lunch time, field trips, play time and so on . . . plus they deal with sick kids, field questions from parents and do 100 other things that I haven’t even thought of. I don’t know how they do it. (And this is at a well-funded private school with small class sizes.)
As parents do, I read the long list of tasks and goals for the year with Benjamin in mind (and, to a lesser extent, Liam — he’s not attending this school this year, but I’m keeping an eye on what they would be expecting of him at this school if he were going there). I started with the language section, which includes reading, writing, speaking, information collection and use of technology. These include some of the areas where I’m the most concerned about B keeping up with his class. I don’t really have an idea of exactly what’s expected for entrants into first grade at this school, but compared to my friends’ kids of the same age in the US, he’s behind. He’s not reading yet, his writing has only extended to single, capital letters (plus his name). Most importantly, he doesn’t like working on reading or writing at this point. I imagine that reading will sort itself out in the near future (I think that once he’s able to read, he’ll discover the joy of reading, and he’ll be off to the races), but I worry about it being a bit of an uphill battle, especially if he’s behind the curve. (I don’t actually know that he is, though. His school seems confident about his placement.) So, I worry.
And then I took a look at the math curriculum. In math, I’m not worried about him being behind. I’ve always felt like this was a strong skill for him, but I didn’t have much idea of what’s typical for a kid his age. But, he won’t be behind (he’s taught himself most of the skills through 2nd grade in the curriculum already). (And, looking at the kindergarten chart, it looks like Liam’s ahead in math, too.) And, that’s great. But though I would have thought that I would be able to feel great about that, I’m surprised to find that I’m nearly as anxious about the areas he’s way ahead on as I am about the stuff he might be “behind” on. Because, though I’m very impressed that he can add double digit numbers, and that’ he’s starting to do multiplication, now I worry about the challenge of keeping an exceptionally bright math brain (there, I said it) engaged and interested when he’s so far ahead.
I know I’m getting ahead of myself. School hasn’t even started yet. And, I expect to find that the teachers (who, as I’ve previously stated, are akin to super heroes in my eyes) have lots of experience and good strategies, for helping him with the stuff he needs to work on, and keeping him happy about the stuff he’s great at. But, staring into the face of our first year of “real” school, this mom is feeling just a little intimidated by the magnitude of the tasks ahead.