Getting squared away

Published 8:32 am Friday, June 26, 2009

I have a feeling I’m going to be spending a good bit of my summer drawing triangles.

That’s because during my eldest son’s recent kindergarten readiness assessment at S.P. Morton Elementary School, I was told he was good to go — except that he didn’t draw a triangle or hop on one foot during the session.

Being the pushy mother that I am (I prefer the term “motivational”), I asked Charlie to hop on one foot right then and there.

Check. He can do it.

Triangles? Not so much.

I was nervous going into the assessment, even though I know that he has been blessed with a wonderful pre-kindergarten teacher at The Children’s Center and what I hope is a healthy dose of fun learning at home.

I kept thinking of that Smart Beginnings Western Tidewater advertisement that says, “One in five kids isn’t ready for kindergarten. Five out of five parents don’t think it’s their child.”

That makes the irrational part of me want to sit the kid down for triangle drills every night. After all, where does this lack of triangle drawing ability lead?

First he can’t draw triangles; next he’s a high school dropout?

“Scientific data now proves that more than 85 percent of our brain is wired together in the first five years,” writes Scott Hippert, president of the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation. “Environmental and health factors, combined with early learning experiences, determine our lifelong capacity to learn, to relate with others, to be productive in the workplace and to be fully engaged citizens. It all begins in those early years.”

From the time he was born until now, have I really done everything I can to prepare him for school, and, in turn, life?

My mother-in-law tells a funny story about my husband (sorry, honey) and his first foray into formative education.

She was called to a special meeting with his pre-school teacher to discuss her son’s development.

Charlie, it turned out, didn’t know how to skip.

Skipping and other rhythmic movements, the teacher told her, helps children prepare to become readers.

“Who skips around the house with a little boy?” she would ask me 34 years later, still miffed at the implication that she wasn’t doing enough to prepare her child for his schooling.

Well, I do now — especially after I Googled it and found out the teacher had a point.

And I’ll be drawing triangles with my son this summer, too.

But, more important than that, I’ll be reading to him, talking to him and encouraging him to explore.

After all, I want him to have a smart beginning, too.