Monkey is doing a Big Project on the Holocaust for school. He’s been “working on it in class” which means, of course, that this weekend we’ve discovered he’s done… next to nothing. Monkey is many fine and wonderful things, but one of his dubious “talents” is the ability to appear extremely productive when, in fact, he is simply working on spitball origami or dreaming up the five hundred latest characters in the pseudo-Pokemon world of his own creation.
Needless to say, we’ve been a bit busy with other concerns about Monkey, so I’ll be the first to admit we haven’t been as on top of his schoolwork as we probably should. When we got his last report card—the one with perfectly mediocre grades and an apologetic note from his teacher about how she doesn’t feel he’s “working up to potential”—I’d merely sighed and set it aside. Because shortly after I’d written about how hope is dangerous, we’d begun the slow slide, again, into more bad days than good. And as we struggled with that, then we had the possibly-a-seizure, and yeah, it’s hard to care about homework when you’re just grateful for any day that seems halfway normal and calm.
But we’ve had a few good vacation days, so we decided to dive into getting him caught up.
Let me just preface this with GOD BLESS OTTO, because that man is brilliant. Monkey has to do all kinds of little mini-projects as part of this unit, and one of the things he had to do was make a map of Germany and label the concentration camps. (Cheery fun for everyone!) Monkey’s fine motor skills are… well, to say they’re poor would be putting it kindly. Also, his ability to look at a picture and then draw it is EXCELLENT if you’re hoping for a Picasso-esque rendering, but not so very fantastic if you wanted the result to, you know, look like the original. But Otto knew exactly what to do, and my boys went off to work and later, the solution was revealed: They’d found a map online, blown it up, and tiled it and taped it together. Then Otto taped it to the window with the larger sheet of paper on top, and Monkey traced it. So he ended up with a map of Germany that ACTUALLY LOOKED LIKE GERMANY. (It shall hereafter be referred to as the Thanksgiving Miracle.)
There was more planning and working and eventually Monkey laboriously typed out various statistics for each death camp, printed it all out, cut them into rectangles, and the rest of the map was labeled.
There was a brief scuffle over Monkey wanting to use “little frowny faces, because it’s sad” instead of circles to mark the pertinent locations. My attempt at explaining why that would be disrespectful completely boggled my son’s mind. “I’m not making FUN, I’m SAYING, it’s SAD!” he protested. Still, I nixed the frowny faces. Because I am MEAN.
Next, it turns out he was supposed to be writing a report on The Diary of Anne Frank. But he’d left the book at school in his desk, and he hasn’t finished reading it yet. Of course.
“I’m almost done,” he said.
“Really? How much do you have left?” I asked.
He thought about this for a moment. “About half,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said. “Those words ‘almost done,’ I do not think they mean what you think they mean.”
Meanwhile, the core activity he’s supposedly been working on in school is reading a book called Daniel’s Story and doing “guided responses” in his journal. This is the stuff we’re not even supposed to worry about, here at home. But I made the mistake of taking a look at how he’s doing.
Digression: I’ve taken to reading a lot of books about Asperger’s, lately. I’ve yet to find the one titled Why Is My Aspie Suddenly Weird And Angry And Largely Incomprehensible To Me And When Is He Going To Stop It?, but I’m ever hopeful. Within the last few days I JUST HAPPENED to read a section on how the rote memory skills of Aspies often give them these huge stores of factual information and giant vocabularies (sounds familiar), and then this makes it seem like they have higher-order reasoning and comprehension abilities when they do not. Monkey’s latest trick, you see, is that he’s taken to getting a C on every reading comprehension test he takes, even though he can quote the whole damn book back to you. Because if the question is anything where he has to THINK or INFER absolutely anything about the story or a character, he just guesses. I’m not entirely sure if he CAN’T do it, and just gives up, or if the mere idea of it is so distasteful to him he’d rather not bother, but either way, the result is the same.
So. We look over Monkey’s journal responses to Daniel’s Story. We found this gem:
Here is what happened in the book today:
Daniel tells about how his family was forced from their home.
How does what I read relate to me?
I own a book about the Holocaust.
Brings a little tear to your eye, doesn’t it? I mean, the compassion, the depth of empathy?
Before the weekend is over, Monkey is supposed to write about why or why not the Holocaust could happen again. I am REALLY looking forward to THAT. I think I will ask Otto if he can help him with it… you know, maybe just tape something up on the window to get him started? Have him trace out some higher-order philosophical arguments to support his position? No…?
Well, look. Otto did such a good job with him today, it’s his own fault that I’m going to put him in charge again tomorrow.