She ran to her backpack and got the worksheet. I told her, "Sicily, I've already seen the note. We've got two weeks. You need to pick out a book, one over 32 pages, to read. That's what we will do tonight. Then you can write it, I will help, and we can practice the presentation and get the outfit so you can dress up like your favorite book character. It doesn't all have to happen tonight."
She grabbed a book I bought for her over a year ago - Hope For the Flowers. I read it to her a few months back. I bought it because I remember reading it when I was little and loving all of the pictures. It was well over the 32 page limit, and it had a nice moral, one that I probably failed to pick up on when I read it as a little girl. Get out of the rat race - it is pointless. Follow your heart and you will fly.
I told her, "You have plenty of time to read it on your own." She is reading chapter books well into the late evening now - lots of Amelia Bedelia and Junie B. Jones. Her reading level has shot up by leaps and bounds in first grade this year. While I was reading and singing to John, she had her own agenda. I entered her room after I settled him down.
"Mom, I've got the report almost done. Will you check the spelling?"
I noticed she had basically copied the first few sentences of the book in her summary. It was her first book report - and she clearly didn't have the rules down. I explained to her gently, "Sicily, you can only write a book report about a book you have read yourself. Remember, the characters had names? Stripe and Yellow, I think? You have plenty of time to re-read it, and I'll teach you how to summarize it in your own words. I know a little about writing, so I can help you."
She barely contained a total melt-down, but she contained it well. "What do you know about writing, mom?"
"Well, I write a little on the computer. That is what I do at night, while you are getting to sleep. Lots of people read what I write, and I get a lot out of it. A sense of community."
"Is that what all that clicking on the computer is?"
She went to the task of picking out her own book, even though we were well past bedtime, now. I told her she only had to pick her book tonight, and the rest had time. She entertained and rejected a few Amelia Bedelias. At about 10:30 at night, while I was on the couch reading, she sneaked in the living room. Kept her distance, and quietly announced, "Mom. I found the perfect book. Hello Kitty. It is 42 pages. I read it and I wrote a report. Please read it for me?"
"I'll read it tomorrow, Sicily, and we'll talk about it then. You really need to get to bed. It is a school night."
Ever since she started reading well, she stays up way too late. She is like a teenager in the morning, grumping around and wallowing in the covers until I lose my temper and start ordering her around like a prison warden. We both hate it. I have a hard time outlasting her stamina - she is like the Energizer bunny at night. On Easter eve, I accidentally fell asleep on the couch reading. When I woke up, I worried that I had missed my charge, and frantically looked at my watch for the time (midnight, thank goodness - still time to head to the attic and get the baskets - fill them with the goodies I had stashed in the basement). When I was supposed to be the Tooth Fairy a couple of months ago, and forgot, I had to frantically put some $$ under John's pillow and make up a story that the Tooth Fairy got confused.
When she is not reading at night, she is performing elaborate art projects on her bathroom counter. One morning last week she had nothing short of a sheer masterpiece - a beautifully decorated jewelry box full of original art (glue, colored stones, glittery tiles, etc.) for her first grade teacher.
My heart goes out to her, because I remember reading with a flashlight under the covers on the top bunk of my sister's and my bunk bed, long after lights out. She is very different from me - way more extroverted and spunky, but once again, the apple does not fall far from the tree.
My question to any readers is, what do I do? How do I draw boundaries, here? Do I draw boundaries? Mornings are so rough - I feel like I need to try, but I don't want to stifle her creativity and thirst for knowledge. Anyone have similar experiences with a 7 year old in their house - present or past?
In the carpool line the next morning, after she and her brother fought the whole way there (some mornings are more difficult than others), she got out of the car, and I told her I loved her. To have a great day. I promised her I would read the report, and we would work on it. I told her I would search for a good Hello Kitty costume, for her presentation on April 15th.
"Mom, I don't want to be Hello Kitty. I want to be the puppy. Look for a puppy costume, OK?"
I told her I would try.