Getting Real With Veronica Ibarra

When we had first looked into schools for my daughter before her beginning kindergarten my husband and I had many concerns and differing opinions. He had been an Army brat and, for reasons that he could never really explain clearly, he believed that the schools he had attended on the various bases his family had been would be his first choice for our daughter. However, since neither of us was enlisted–him having served his eight years prior to our having kids–private school seemed his second ideal choice for our daughter. That too was not a viable option for us, and neither was homeschooling, so we went to the local magnet school fair.

The options seemed wonderful, with everything from a school focusing on science and technology and Spanish immersion, to Montessori, as well as other schools offering some exciting specializations. We picked our top three choices with our daughter being allowed to pick the order she liked them in and filled out an application for the lottery. As with any lottery we have ever played, we did not win, leaving us with the local public school.

Neither of us were really fans of the public school system in general, but as I had survived my entire public school education from K-12 and managed to get into college and graduate with a bachelors, I knew it wasn’t going to be the worst thing for our daughter. Her public school was highly structured. At first I didn’t think much about it one way or the other. Our daughter was making friends and she seemed to be doing well with all the target goals. Talking to my parent-friends at other schools they seemed very impressed with her curriculum. Even in kindergarten she had reading homework and spelling words to learn, with a spelling bee!

However, towards the end of the year our daughter had a mixed feelings about the prospect of first grade. We applied to the magnet school lottery again, but as before we were left with allowing her to continue on with her public school education. Behavior issues began to crop up. Her desire to socialize with peers was at times interfering with class activities, and she began to struggle with the structure of things. The reports were never horrible, but I got the distinct impression that we needed to do more at home. That’s when I started instituting the behavior/chore chart that was similar to the one they used in her class. It helped, but I could see the strain it put on her and us to be consistent.

Once again we applied to the magnet school lottery and lo and behold we won! So now she is in her second week of second grade at a Montessori school.  I know it’s still too early to really tell anything, but we’re all excited.  She liked her teacher so much that after her first two days she came home and began writing a story she wanted to share in class. Chapter one has three pages. She only ever wanted to draw pictures for her other teachers, and would refuse to write a message on the picture when encouraged.  She is going to have homework, but we haven’t seen any yet, so I’m hoping it will not garner the tantrums of the previous years–I realize that hope may be in vain, but I’m hoping anyway.

In honor of her new school with its differing teaching philosophy I’ve developed a new kind of chore chart at home. Instead of the grid with columns for each day of the week and rows of chores to be done I’m getting more creative. She still needs to be fulfilling her responsibilities and participating in the daily maintenance of living, but I’m trying to be more flexible. I found this Complete the Picture book with 12 different designs and I’m using it to make the charts. This week’s chart–I use that term loosely– is a goldfish jumping out of its fishbowl. Inside the fishbowl I listed all the various chores from daily teeth brushing to the as needed toy pick up. Every time she completes something she puts a sticker in the bowl. The number of stickers at the end of the week will determine our family activity on Saturday, which could be a trip to the zoo, museum, park, or something around the house.

We are going forward with a new attitude, or at least a more hopeful one. My daughter is hoping to have more fun and learn lots of cool things. My husband is hopeful that with our daughter enrolled at the Montessori school that enrolling our son will be easier when his time comes. I’m hopeful for all of the above.