second graders

Second graders are painting and sculpting polar bears. They’ll be learning about various indigenous peoples and their customs, perhaps making papier-mâché Inuit masks and building musical instruments tying in their knowledge of how insects make sound. They’ll be learning about Native Americans and the importance of mammals to their culture. In the newsletter I’m asked to prepare for my child to inundate me with stories about what he discovered. In math, the second graders will be focusing on a strategy of bar models that will help them decide how best to find solutions, and will begin working with decomposing numbers. My second-grader, Calvin, will likely be doing none of it.

Some kids are writing about way they would change the world. Others are creating cut-paper collage penguins to paint. Calvin is shuffling pigeon-toed down the hallways in his walker. As he motors along his hands are not free. His loving aid is close by his side—always.

A staff member writes about the truly amazing depth, breadth and creativity of the children’s endeavors. She includes this quote by an unknown author:

To remain calm amidst the chaos of life requires a tremendous amount of focused energy. Be calmly active and actively calm.

For years I’ve wished in vain for that for my boy Calvin, but the side-effects of the drugs he takes to dampen his seizures makes calm completely impossible.

The second graders will be performing some skits and singing in choir. Soon they’ll be discussing discrimination and learning about history and, of course, they’ll be reading—a lot. They’ll be starting seeds indoors, watering them and composting in preparation for planting a garden in the spring.

Until we find a cure for epilepsy we’ll be indoors trying to avoid bumps to the head, broken teeth and bad falls. We’ll be working on Calvin’s balance like we have since he took his first steps at two years old, already under the dizzying effects of anticonvulsants. We’ll be giving him twelve pills and capsules every morning and every night, and we’ll have to coax them in by squeezing his cheeks ever so slightly—though sometimes harder—because he doesn’t want to open for them any more. And we’ll try our best to get him to sit still while we read to him from one of his old favorite, chewed-up board books, and hope one day he'll delight in them again.

January 2011: back when Calvin used to enjoy books

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