Jerry has been on school holidays for more than a month and still has five weeks before school resumes. It’s a long time to keep a little boy entertained, especially when I am also working from our one-room shared space. I remember last year’s Disney marathons and demands for his best friend to sleep over every other night. These school holidays are so much easier.
This past year has seen a lot of gentle changes within Jerry. It’s not a sudden thing, the changes sneak up on you and it’s a delight to witness his little ‘firsts’. Like magically watching him decide to paint, get out brushes and a colouring book, then create his own interesting designs. Or see him carefully arranging his Play-Doh set so the colours don’t get mixed up.
When I first met Jerry he really didn’t know how to play, he would just mix everything together, creating a mass of brown blob then crumple or tear and throw away. He is now finding enjoyment in creativity and can independently find ways to entertain himself without being destructive and attention-seeking.
A lot of his recent development I can attribute to a private tutor. I searched for over a year to find someone willing (and capable) to take on a hyperactive kid with learning difficulties. When you live in a poverty stricken rural area it can be quite a challenge. Jerry adores his tutor and responded immediately to someone who arrives on-time to every session and delivers a structured lesson. His tutor is kind but very firmly guides him back to the assignment if he suddenly jumps up and starts dancing, begins playing with a book or fidgeting.
About a month ago I rearranged our little room and Jerry now has his own ‘desk area’ for his homework and tutoring. I really think this has also had a big impact on his personal growth, and for the first time in two years Jerry is tidying up and neatly organising his things. This might seem strict or a bit neurotic, but when you have a little boy who is already at the bottom of his class wasting the first 15-20 minutes of every school day because he can’t find his notebook or he’s lost his pencil sharpener suddenly gain an interest in being organised, you know something wonderful is happening.
Jerry’s self esteem is expanding and he has more self-belief. Now that he is really starting to read English and Filipino with comprehension, his new-found interest in all his school work and learning is incredible. I guess believing in yourself gives you a reason to try. He is asking me questions every day now about the planets, or singing nursery rhymes and checking if he got it right. He’s also now especially interested in synonyms so he’ll say “Tita Mel, a coat is a jacket … right .. right Tita Mel”.
For me it’s such a relief that he can now work independently. This time last year Jerry couldn’t read any English at all and it would take him 30 minutes to write just a few words. I was doing all the tutoring myself and he needed constant supervision. An example is the incredible amount of time he spent erasing stuff. It’s like he would copy everything down, then for no apparent reason erase it all and write it out again. Yes, it used to do my head in.
At the beginning of 2017 I had pretty much decided to transfer us both to Iloilo City (about 4 hours from Estancia) and enrol him in a new school as well as an external tuition program. I was feeling quite desperate and that this was my only option. But now he has a dedicated (and wonderful) tutor right here in Estancia we are going to stay at least another year. It truly is a blessing because it is only today I realised that this is probably the longest Jerry has ever lived somewhere in his little life of 9 years.
He’s terribly excited about starting Grade 3 and I’m feeling excited too. With all the disruptions of the past two years, this next school year (beginning mid-June) is going to see tremendous growth in both of us. Our living space is finally setup perfectly and I have a dedicated work area. Jerry understands I have to work and it’s only in the past week or so that he will now quietly give me the space I need to carry out my projects. This blog is about celebrating our progress: I finally feel like a parent and this really feels like a family.
© 2017 Melinda J. Irvine