Dear 5th Grade Families,

I hope your camper arrived to you happy and not too tired, and that they shared with you some of their fun experiences from our amazing trip to the Angelo Coast Range Reserve. Our stay at the Reserve was indeed quite magical, and I think every single child left the place a bit changed.  I can speak for myself in saying that I experienced your children in an entirely new way as well, and during our last moment on the reserve my eyes were wet with wonder and amazement at how incredible your children are.  When I got back home, completely exhausted and worn through, I sat down with Jennifer and shared with her some of the highlights from our stay at the Reserve. We shared an emotional and profound realization about how powerful this kind of activity can be for a child.

For many parents the "letting go" was the difficult part; the loss of control was quite a hurdle for some. Who would drive my child? What would my child eat?  Who would comfort her when she could not sleep?  Who would nurse him when he was hurting, or give her medicine when she needed it?  Who would make sure he was warm enough, or cool enough when it was hot?  Would my child's experience match my own expectations for the trip?  The "letting go" challenge was very real and palpable, as was evidenced by the flurry of email questions/FYI's I amassed as the departure date approached, and the large number of special notes I (and some parent chaperones) received detailing special concerns or directions for specialized care.  Letting go WAS INDEED difficult, and as we departed on Tuesday, and throughout the week, that thought was ever-present in my mind and heart.  It was no surprise then, that the Botany Trip page on our class website was hit 345 times on Tuesday, with parents checking in over and over again to relieve their anxieties that we had indeed made it.  As the week progressed, the number of people checking the site dropped dramatically, and I hoped that this was evidence that the feeling of "loss" was replaced even a small bit by a feeling of excitement and joy for the adventure your child was on, and a proud nod towards the huge step your child was taking.  For that was truly what was happening.  Huge steps were everywhere.  Your letting go allowed your child to grow, and grow they did.  You gave them a gift.  And it was truly a gift for me as well, to play a small role in it all.

Of all the wonderments the Reserve had to offer the children, the best was the gift of silence; silence from the busy schedule and chatter of modern life; silence from oversight of their parents; silence from all the patterns and routines of day-to-day existence that serve to screen out so much of what comes our way.  As real silence materialized--and it took a while for some--the children began to see the world around them quite differently, and also hear their own unique voice inside--maybe for the very first time. And during our last sharing circle, when asked to speak aloud a challenge they had faced while being on this trip, the things the children spoke about were astonishingly deep and profound.  I realize this perhaps sounds woo woo and maybe even cliche' to some, but it's entirely true.  Something very important happened in that silence.  These children had taken a HUGE step towards growing up.  Huge.  It was a wonderful way to begin the new school year.

I will be posting on our web site the first batch of pictures that I amassed from the trip, and as I receive more from other Chaperones I will continue to add them to our collection.  Lizards were everywhere, as were deer (astonishingly close to us).  I will also make an effort in the coming weeks to upload all the photos to the Shutterfly page so that they are accessible to you in that venue as well, in case that is the best way to get copies.

I would like to deeply thank the adults who helped to make this trip such an amazing success as well.  Between squeezing their cars and trailers down the very, very skinny skinny access road, driving large numbers of bouncing, excited children in their car and not developing a split personality disorder, shopping for huge amounts of food, cooking, cooking, cooking, caring for every child in such a loving, ever-present, even tempered and hands-off manner, helping children with late-night bathroom trips and extra blankets around sleeping bags and such, namely doing what needed to be done at every turn, and always, always keeping a sense of humor, you did it all.  Thank you Michele, Brent, Lisa, Tiffany, Leigh and Greg!  I honestly feel kind of indebted to you.

Thank you also, Annie for helping hugely with the shopping, food planning and preparation, and thanks as well to all you bakers out there who sent in far more cookies than I thought was possible.  We ate like kings, and I was surprised that I did not wake up on Saturday morning with chocolate chip eyes and snicker doodle arms and legs.

Extra Luggage?  Missing Luggage?
If your child came home with a bag full of mysterious and unfamiliar items, please bring the item to school tomorrow and put it in the bin sitting under the window.  Items that went missing include (so far): a sleeping bag (Mora), and stuff-sack (Quentin), and a small black Magnalight flashlight (yours truly).  Extra unclaimed items are currently sitting in the very same bin, or in the event that there was a name on it, on your child's desk, and so can be retrieved in the morning.

This Week:
Thus ends our first Main Lesson block, Botany, and begins Michele's time at the helm of the Starship 5thgradeprise. Though the completed main lesson books for the block and all other work was due on Monday, before we left to the Reserve, many children unfortunately did not meet that deadline and will now be pressed by Michele tomorrow to complete their work ASAP.  That way I can begin reviewing it for the end-of-block report that I hope to send out to you all.  Because this will be the first report of this kind, it will take me a bit of work to arrange the formatting and such, but my hope is to send along something to you by the end of the week so that you know how your child did as well as what they could be working on in the coming weeks and months.

I would like to mention one more thing before I zip off.  With only two or three exceptions, every single child in the class could use a review of their multiplication facts.  I gave an end-of-block math test to see where everybody was at in regards to remembering 4th Grade Material that we had reviewed, and nearly everybody stumbled around the issue of multiplication facts.  It affected their ability to work at large digit multiplication, long division, factoring, and all things related to common denominators and the simplification of fractions. Forgetting the multiplication facts is not an unusual phenomena, and though there will be a very small bit of review of it in class, this is something that will for the most part need to be done primarily at home in some way.  Whether it is by flashcard, vocal quizzing, online drilling, or some other painless method, any review your child can get will almost certainly be helpful. I encourage you to make space in your child's evening for this kind of thing so that they can hit the ground running when we go deeper into fractions and decimal frctions in the coming weeks.

With that said, I now will pass you onto Michele who will take things from here.  Have a wonderful Autumn.  I know I will see you soon.


And now… Michele...

Dear 5th grade parents,

I truly agree with the sentiments that Justin so eloquently presented at the start of this email. The field trip afforded me the time to interact with the students and to learn their names (not an easy feat with the particular selection of names in this class!) and their unique personalities. What a wonderful group of students!

Our next main lesson block is Ancient Civilizations. All other subject classes will continue as usual (a note for those who come on Monday for math - take a break this Monday I will be giving an assessment, but your help will be welcomed starting on Tuesday.). Violins still need to be practiced and brought back to school daily, and signed homework sheets will continue.

I look forward to taking the helm of the Starship and steering them to our first stop...Ancient India!





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