"How's school going for Young One?" we are asked over and over again. I get it. It's a question I frequently ask of my friends as well. I think we all silently seek reassurance that all is good or look for the opportunity to share the problems when all is not good.
Young One absolutely loves her school, so far. The first couple of weekends, the kid wanted to go to school on Saturday. We've had a couple of meetings at the school already, and I remain convinced that we made a good choice for her.
The "dreaded hours of Italian homework" that we've heard of from both Americans and Italians alike doesn't exist for her, yet. The teacher saves assignments for the weekends, and though it took her 90 minutes to write her name five times the first weekend (while she insisted that I sit next to her), this weekend she took the initiative and completed the homework on her own in 15 minutes. The letter "u" was the subject.
She experienced her first "interrogation," which is a method of assessment not practiced frequently in most American schools. Essentially, it's oral assessment carried much further than a quick check for understanding. Luckily, Young One felt confident in her memorization of some rhymes (yes, I know them by heart, too), and did not experience any anxiety. My girlfriend told me her (usually very confident) son cried for an hour the night before the big day. Young One reported back that she reversed a couple of words, but that the teacher clapped for her nonetheless. She's content. My very studious Italian friend told me that anxieties related to these oral assessments plagued her from the time she began school until she was eighteen. While this first assessment was a simple recitation of memorized lines (nearly 20 in all), these can, indeed, be intense Q&A sessions, in front of the entire class. I am totally minimizing them in our house: "No big deal. You know your stuff. You'll do fine. Just do your best and all will fall into place." Totally.
I've met some of the parents of the kids in the class at a birthday party: interesting bunch, but not very diverse. I did learn that many of them speak English rather well, so Richard and I need to be careful of our whispers in English.
Young One seems to like her teacher well enough. No complaints -- except that the teacher, a traditionalist, insists on calling her by her given name rather than her nickname. Young One doesn't like that because her given name is difficult for Italians to pronounce correctly. She has reported that this teacher is "calmer" than the ones at the asilo and that she raises her hand above her head for silence -- better than raising her voice. Really naughty kids get their names written on the chalkboard and those just absolutely awful ones will have "to return to asilo." (Funny, it sounds very similar to something I'd say to my high school freshmen when I'd become irritated with immaturity: "You are not in middle school anymore, it's time to stop acting like it, unless, of course, you'd like to go back.")
We haven't seen anything new or unexpected in terms of the curriculum -- a huge focus on reading. Word has it that this teacher excels in the area of mathematics instruction; I'm happy about that. Other subjects include art, physical education, science, social studies, English, and religion, with a total of four teachers and varying degrees of contact time in each subject. (I think it's state mandated.) Each Friday Young One brings home the work from the week for us to review and sign. Very familiar, isn't it?
No complaints about the lunch, which is served family style with a few choices available for the children. No complaints about the long break after lunch.
So far, so good. It's early yet. I know.
Today she is off to school as usual as I sit at home and type on this crisp fall holiday morning. Grazie, Cristoforo Colombo.