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?
PURE GENIUS.


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

Hello.
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!
xoxo
Dana

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!

01 June 2015

present participle | may 2015

I'm jumping on the monthly "present participle list" bandwagon this year, partly because I'm excited that there are people who can identify present participles and partly because I'm hoping it will end this blogging break I seem to have permanently taken. 

This is what we've been up to in May 2015...only one present participle needed:

SURVIVING our crazy month of May, by the numbers:

Six performances of Aladdin Jr. the kiddo's debut performance in a musical. (I am so damn proud of that girl.)
One mother visiting. 
Four nights in Paris. 
One pea festival.
Two old friends visiting from Rhode Island.
One huge project deadline met.
One first talent show completed. 
Two extra kiddos for a week.
One fantastic piano recital. (Three-and-a-half years of lessons is looking good!)
Countless hours of flat picking guitar practice.
Two even older friends visiting from Florida.
One dozen oysters.
One missed book club night. (The Round House by Louise Erdrich. Loved it.)
One new car battery.
One cherry festival.
Eight tomato plants thriving.
One cruise on the Seine River, one cruise on Lake Garda.
Two wineries, one day.
One surprise visit from a father.
One week-long birthday celebration for the kiddo. 
Four dozen cupcakes, plus five dozen more.
Ten loads of laundry waiting.
281,197 steps.

Twelve more days until summer break.

Too many bottles of wine...how else do you expect we could make it through?!








01 May 2015

present participle | april 2015

I'm jumping on the monthly "present participle list" bandwagon this year, partly because I'm excited that there are people who can identify present participles and partly because I'm hoping it will end this blogging break I seem to have permanently taken. 

This is what we've been up to in April 2015:

DOWNLOADING new-to-me podcasts. I go through phases and stages with podcasts, and right now I am hot on them. A new-to-me one this month that I am thoroughly enjoying is Radio Lab. (Thanks, Lucia!) Have you listened in yet? The most recent one I listened to had me sobbing while out on my walk, but they aren't all so emotional. They do, however, make me think. I like that.

LISTENING to this classic album: Ella and Satchmo. I mean, really, do I ever need anything else if I have this? 

REVELING in the turntable (that's been sitting in the garage) that is now set up in our living room. We are loving the vinyl, baby! Vinyl, as in records.  Did you know that it is possible to buy newly-pressed records? Well, it is. Richard is quickly developing a (habit) collection.

IMBIDING. The cocktail du jour for sipping while we spin the vinyl: the Negroni. Another thing new to us, inspired by Instagramming peeps in Rome. Simple & strong.

TRAVELING to another European capital: Zagreb. We went because we were curious and because we all had time off simultaneously. We especially enjoyed the chance to stay at this lovely hotel and the opportunity to just take a break.

WALKING daily again. Spring in these parts is pretty good at inspiring that. 

CULTIVATING our small patch of this earth. The veggie "crop" (Ha! tomatoes, zucchini & herbs)  is in the ground and the potted flowers on our patio are many. I do enjoy this activity that has become our ritual to welcome the summer.

CRUISING with the scooters. We are certainly fair weather scooter riders, and it's finally (sort of) warm enough to put the scooters on the road again. I am still having fun with the VicenzaViaVespa Instagram account, though I'm not posting as frequently as I'd like. We went on what Young One deemed "an epic ride" and headed over to the Colli Euganei  recently. Again, Veneto is just lovely, folks.

ANTICIPATING the cherries and peas. It's is just about that time. Also looking forward to the arrival of my mother in 10 days. She will be with us for an entire month!