In Celebration of Average

It’s been two years since Charlie first stepped foot inside a classroom and ever since that very first month of protesting preschool, it has become clear that his first love is not formal education. We’ve spent two years encouraging and cheerleading and praising and cajoling and threatening and all of the other things you do and say to a child that needs to learn but doesn’t want to learn. We know Charlie is entirely capable of mastering reading and writing and math facts. Our middle child is bright and inquisitive and personable. He is good at many, many things. The problem is, Charlie would just rather be doing all of those other things instead of schoolwork.

I can’t really blame him. We moved him to the country, bought him a pint-sized Gator, a BB gun (THANKS, BOB) and a coonskin cap and then set him loose. Charlie is living his best life (well, his best Daniel Boone-esque life). He is in his element at home, with his backyard and the trails and the mountains and the tractors that go rumbling by. He loves the outdoors with his whole heart. But you know what isn’t outdoors? First grade.

Bob and I knew going into this current school year that it was going to be a Big Year for Charlie. Since kindergarten is still a half-day program in our county, first grade has been his first exposure to a full day of instruction. The second half of first grade was also when reading really clicked for Henry so we knew that some of the big fundamentals seem to come together during this grade and at his age. No pressure or anything, Charlie.

So, understandably, I was filled with a substantial amount of trepidation as the first grading period of the school year came to an end and parent-teacher conferences approached. I was worried that Charlie wasn’t going to be progressing, wasn’t going to be reading on grade level and I was worried he was going to be falling behind his peers. Not for lack of ability but for lack of effort.

Proving that it’s always best to keep expectations super low, I was delighted to learn that Charlie seems to be doing just fine in first grade. He’s not necessarily excelling at anything but he’s also not outright failing at anything either. Total middle-of-the-road report card. They don’t hand out letter grades in first grade but if they did, Charlie would be pulling a C average. And, I’m absolutely thrilled with that. Way to be totally typical, son of mine!

Outside of a perfectly average effort in school, we’ve also noticed an uptick in creative work at home. Charlie’s been pulling out pen and paper to make lists, draw pictures or write notes to us. This is really encouraging behavior for a kid that couldn’t have cared less about communicating in this manner only a few months ago. We recently found this note taped to his door:


Decoded, it reads, “New TV going to Henry and Charlie’s room.” When we brought an extra television up from the basement recently, this was Charlie’s plea to have it delivered straight to his bedroom which, no, that’s not going to happen but I applaud your effort at persuasion, son. It doesn’t look like much – the spelling is all wrong and there’s no punctuation – but this note is a big deal. It’s exactly how people learn to write – phonetically. It’s one of the first times I can remember (outside of forced in-school work) when he’s had an idea in his head and communicated it on paper. That’s just never been his jam. In the past, Charlie has done all of his best persuasive work through non-stop talking.

A few days later, Charlie drew this for us on a Friday evening:


In case you have questions, let me explain that it’s an illustration of how a daffodil bulb grows. His class had spent the day planting daffodil bulbs around their school and the whole concept fascinated Charlie (probably because it took place outdoors). He came home regaling me with stories of how daffodils are not planted as seeds, they are planted as bulbs and they have a nice, warm home in the ground over the winter and emerge refreshed in the spring (this is how I hibernate, too). I think he nailed down the process quite accurately in the picture.

We can see the wheels turning in Charlie’s head. The connections between concepts being made. We are so encouraged to see him writing and reading willingly. These are things that have taken awhile to make sense to him and his progress delights me.

You know those bumper stickers that brag about someone’s child being on the honor roll at school? I think I need one that says “My Elementary Student Is Wonderfully Average” because I am crazy proud of my totally normal, typical, non-honor-roll-achieving first grader.