03 November 2018

italian education :: 30

It's been a while.

Well, life has marched on for all of us. It's never really perfect, but we have been fairly fortunate.

Young One started high school this fall after delightful years of middle school; all of the tales of hellacious middle school experiences never really panned out for her. (Boy, was middle school an awful time for me.) In fact, she thrived in a way that she never really seemed to thrive in primary school. I suppose she was a bit lucky with the teacher lottery, the one where you hold your breath and cross your fingers before that first day of sixth grade. She looped with her class and teachers for three years and had several stellar middle school teachers, particularly an Italian teacher who connected with her, who found her strengths and inspired growth and acceptance. It was a beautiful thing to witness; I might even say it changed her life.

She exited with a top score in June and started high school or "liceo" in September. As a successful middle school student, she had many choices for high school. While I initially hoped that she would choose a path that would allow her to study languages, with choices like French, Chinese, German, Russian and Latin and Greek, she opted to follow her passion and audition for a school whose focus is music. So, for about a third of the time she attends school each week, she is immersed in the study of music with classes like theory, analysis and composition; chorus; music technology; history of music -- and she also has a small group ensemble class. She continues with the flute and has also picked up a second instrument, the classical guitar -- she has private lessons at the school on both instruments each week. (Richard is over the moon with the classical guitar choice.) Of course, the heart of the curriculum includes the core -- Italian, math, science, social studies -- and also courses like English, religion, physical education and art.

The system is different from the American model in a few ways, the most significant being that students attend five years of high school and attend school on Saturday morning.  Although her schedule varies each day, her school day is done around lunch time. Another contrast is the set plan that students follow -- there are no electives, no choices beyond the choice of "major" at the start.  Also, the class stays together for five years as they progress through the set program -- all day, every day -- the same students together -- for five years. And, in many cases, the teachers loop too.

It's A LOT for a fourteen year old.

She is experiencing a mostly smooth transition, learning to navigate life as a high school student. The social part with peers is always the biggest challenge for her.

I think I'll leave it at that. She probably wouldn't appreciate that I share much more. It's a good start. My fingers are crossed that it continues. As someone who works with teens, I've learned that success is a delicate balance, a balance that can be disrupted easily. We continue on and hope for the best for her.

09 December 2016

Is this blog dead or alive?

There once was a time that I was a regular blogger, with a mix of posts sharing the details of our days and posts sharing my novice photography obsession. Those were good times.

And then I eventually transitioned to blogging mostly in my head, with sporadic, unpredictable appearances here. The stories in my head have been fantastic.

And then I fell silent. Or, really, switched to micro-blogging with Instagram.  Some days I scroll through my Instagram feed and seriously question that pursuit, before quickly reminding myself that hobbies are healthy. They are indeed good for us. #longlivethehashtag

And here I am, back to 3inGiro, attempting to write. I have good cause to sharpen my long-dormant composition skills, cause that I'll leave purposefully unstated today, and am here again to give it a shot.


24 February 2016

Italian Education :: 29 :: after six months

Six months into the middle school experience and the kiddo is faring well. The first (of two) report cards was issued online a few weeks ago; there were no surprises for us and the grades were a bit lower than the elementary grades.

Most of the grading / progress is fairly transparent, even if we don't have an online grade book to consult obsessively each day.  Major grades are recorded in a little blue book that we check, for both grades and other communication, and initial nightly. There are no grades for homework or participation...simply assessments (mostly summative), both oral and written. Young One brings the written assessments home for us to review.

Despite the fact that there are no grades for homework, the kiddo would rather die than go to school without completing the work. The dreaded "crocetta" or x mark keeps her honest. A collection of x marks warrants a note in the little blue book; no one wants such a shameful note to be sent home. And, yes, there is a constant flow of homework in all of the subjects, much more than I ever had to complete. It consumes the evenings and some of the weekend. This philosophy of homework and assessment is very much in tune with my beliefs.

While we did receive warnings that middle school would range from very difficult to nearly impossible, our experience is that the work is rigorous and the expectations high...but none of it is impossible. It does require an enormous amount of organizational and time management skills, much of which is likely not yet developed in most pre-adolescents. Lucky us...our girl is a well on her way to mastering those skills. It could be a nightmare, a complete nightmare.

She is thriving socially in a way we never could have imagined. Grazie Dio. 

Music is her thing and, thankfully, she has connected well with her flute teacher. We believe that these connections in education matter, a lot. The public performances during the holidays were impressive, and the students in the music sections (grades 6-8) are currently working on a play about the life of Mozart. The music instruction moves at a very fast pace.

I hope this positive experience continues for her. We did recently hire a tutor for her Italian studies to attempt to mitigate the disadvantage of having non native speakers as parents. The first appointment is this week.

14 October 2015

Italian education :: 28 :: differentiated learning, perhaps

I recently shared the subjects Young One will study during her first year of middle school. While there are a couple of unexpected differences compared to American middle school education (two foreign languages, technical drawing), most of the subjects are fairly familiar, on the surface, at least.

What is glaringly different, however, is the variation of the time! Not all subjects meet for the same amount of time each week. Check this out:

Italian: 6 hours 
Italian Grammar: 2 hours
Italian Literature: 4 hours (This is further subdivided in ways I don’t yet understand entirely.)
Mathematics: 4 hours
History / Geography: 4 hours (It isn't clear how these two will be divided.)
English: 3 hours
Science: 2 hours
Art: 2 hours
Technology / Technical Drawing: 2 hours (I have a sneaking suspicion that this will not include computers.)
Physical Education: 2 hours
French: 2 hours
General Music: 2 hours 
Flute & Music Theory: 2 hours *
Orchestra & Music Theory: 1 hour *
Religion: 1 hour
* These three hours of music are extra for those students enrolled in the music section. 

And what do we think about that differentiation?

Disclaimer: I hate generalizations as much as you do, probably more. This is my limited experience at my sixth grader's middle school lost in Northern Italy. If you have a different experience with this, please share!

30 September 2015

italian education :: 27 :: hello! middle school

Anybody out there?

Young One has transitioned to a local public Italian scuola secondaria primo grado or middle school where she is enrolled in a music-specific section, which means that in addition to all of the subjects of the regular sixth grader, she will also study music, intensively.

It's the perfect inspiration to get me back to this blog because, well, it's a bit different.

The first most interesting thing about all of this is the number of subjects and teachers my sixth grader encounters each and every week. She attends school five days a week, each day with a completely different combination/schedule of courses.

1. Italian Grammar and Literature
2. History
3. Geography
4. Mathematics
5. Science
6. Art
7. Music
8. Physical Education
9. French
10. English
11. Religion
12. Technical Drawing
13. Flute / Music Theory
14. Orchestra

Most notable about this is that the child has TWELVE teachers...plus a couple of extra music ones that may or may not work with her from time-to-time.

So far, so good.

Have a nice day!

Disclaimer: I hate generalizations as much as you do, probably more. This is my limited experience at my fifth grader's middle school lost in Northern Italy. If you have a different experience with this, please share!