Sunday, September 27, 2009

9/27/09 Work weekend

I think next weekend I'm going to feel liberated. This weekend, I've felt crushed under the weight of Gabriel's "Star Of The Week" presentation next Tuesday, and his book report and presentation due Friday. Ironically, preparing him for his 10-15 minute (that's long!) Star Of The Week presentation will make helping him with a 1-2 minute book report presentation much easier.

But the book report difficult. He has a ton of drawing to do, and all drawings of characters, and it's so, so hard for him. I'm doing everything I can to make it easier for him, like drawing the characters myself first to give him a model to follow. Tonight he was having such a hard time and was so frustrated that he started crying, and it's not the first time. Last week, after working on his book report all afternoon, he still had homework to do, and was so tired and burnt going over spelling words (that he knows) that he started to cry too. He doesn't whine or drag his heels or complain that much, he's really trying but it's just so hard. Gabriel is such a tough kid that when he cries out of frustration, it is heartbreaking.

Tonight we got through one more of the onerous drawings by me drawing it on another paper, and him following me, line by line. He keeps asking what the heck a book report is for, and my answers ring hollow when so much of the time and effort has been put into drawing.

Much of our effort has been good, though. We read the book together page by page, and I had him write a sentence or two summarizing the events on those pages. This took two 1-hour sessions on two separate days to complete, and in the end we filled up both sides of a paper with sentences. He just didn't understand the story until we did that.

Then we went through those notes and picked out the five scenes he has to draw, and summarized yet more to get the captions. I helped him pick the main characters to draw for the Characters page, and showed him how I'd draw them. I got him tracing paper and suggested that he trace the character from the book's illustration first, just to get some practice.

I showed him very basic drawing techniques (talk about the blind leading the blind!), like that a cat's nose is an upside-down triangle, or to draw eyes as ellipses first, then fill in the pupils to give the face expression. We're not talking anything remotely resembling art here, but he's never really been into drawing, and never people or characters or animals, so this is really hard.

And then there's Star Of The Week. This isn't so hard to do, but it's a lot to practice. I've had him write down, then rehearse, what he'll say about his family members, his sharing items (four of them), then things he likes to do with photos (BMX biking, ice skate, piano). Tonight he practiced in front of all of us, but clearly public speaking isn't something that comes naturally to him. He goes off on irrelevant tangents, looks down, mumbles, covers his mouth, picks his nose, or just spaces out.

Actually, there are good sides to all this. He is learning to speak in front of a group better. We're spending a lot of concentrated time together, and his behavior toward me immediately after we've been working together is markedly different. He's relaxed and wants to just hang out and talk to me. Despite the hard work, I think he likes the attention and working together. And he does know the classic story Puss In Boots very well now!

Another plus is that I got a rare family photo of all five of us for his Star Of The Week presentation, then a few shots of all three kids. Katrina was unusually cooperative, though that was because she wanted to hear the camera's self-time beep.

I think Gabriel and I deserve a big reward next weekend, a homework-free one!


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