Monday, March 22, 2010

More Alumni News - Mathematical Maestro

Today, the mother of an alum student sent me this account of his continued adventures in the world of mathematics. She asked me to omit names (I don't think she wanted to feel as if she was bragging about her kid in public), but those of you who know him will probably recognize the description. This child was one of those SK kids who was in constant need of challenge and stimulation for his amazing math brain. I am posting his mother's account here, partly in answer to the question I am asked periodically: how will students who are racing in math at SK ever be able to cope with the boredom and repetitiveness of math that is not at their level when they leave? This is a living example of how one family makes it work, taking advantage of the opportunities this wonderful city has to offer, and keeping their astonishing math student inspired and challenged. (It also speaks a little to whether a low-testing environment like SK prepares students for tests after they leave.) The child is in 7th grade. He's an exceptional kid. But all our kids are exceptional, in their varied, different, constantly astonishing and individual ways.

"We've been very blessed that many opportunities have come by since our son became a Davidson Young Scholar (DYS). That includes many scholarship opportunities, as well as opportunities to take Math classes at the University of Michigan. Both his SAT scores (and numerous awards following them) and just being a DYS member have helped a great deal in establishing his credentials, including getting the permission to take U of M's most rigorous & demanding Honors Math program for the Math undergrads. He aced the course last semester, and he's been doing pretty well so far this semester too, and most importantly, he really enjoys the materials and challenges there :)

And yes, he's still currently doing his 7th grade at middle school, and both my husband & I are taking turn to take him to UofM for his classes, then drop him back at school after UofM. It's a lot of work, but luckily, we manage to juggle all these so far with our flexible work hours. We're just extremely thankful that both his homeroom teacher and principal have been extremely flexible and accommodating to allow us 'tweak' so much of his school-day in order to allow him the opportunities to take classes at U of M."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Save the date: Eudaimonia, June 5th!

Remember Eudaimonia, our fantastic book launch/silent auction fundraiser last May? We are doing it again! We'll be using the same warm and beautiful venue, the Ann Arbor Art Center on Liberty in downtown Ann Arbor. Imagine a beautiful arty building, filled with interesting auction items and a really gorgeous book display, and you and your friends having the time of your lives along with other parents from our school, teachers, alumni parents, and members of the wider community. Last year it was a blast. I'm really looking forward to it. (Note: this is a party for adults and alcohol will be served. Children will need to stay at home.)

(It's called what? Eudaimonia? I hear you ask. What is that word? Eudaimonia (you-day-moan-ia) is a Greek word for happiness, used by Jefferson as the meaning of the pursuit of happiness in the Declaration of Independence. The meaning as he interpreted it is human flourishing, self-actualization, knowing who you are and what you believe and having the courage to live according to your beliefs. We call our event Eudaimonia, because this is the kind of happiness we encourage our children to pursue at Summers-Knoll.)

The children have been working on illustrating another book under the guidance of our own Ruth (this is well on its way to being a tradition). This one is called "Salmon of the Sun", and it is currently at the stage of having illustrations and words put together into book format by the indefatigable James Marks (Amelia's father). Thank you, James! Just like "Moon Wolf" last year, "Salmon of the Sun" will be launched at Eudaimonia, and we will celebrate the creative vision of our amazing children.

Karen Bayoneto is managing the event, and has established a committee of wonderful parents that is currently putting a lot of work into gathering items for a really great silent auction. Last year it was a huge success, with amazing art work, great vacations, wine tasting and all kinds of other goodies. We'll be looking for your help! We all know people, and know people who know people, who could contribute something really fun for this, to make the evening a success and raise funds for the school. A packet will be going home to you from the parent committee for the auction detailing all the ways you can help.

So don't forget! Mark your calendars! June 5th, 7 pm, at the Ann Arbor Art Center! Celebrate our wonderful children, support this great school, and pursue happiness!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Billy Jackson, Alumnus

I had a wonderful surprise this morning. A former Summers-Knoll student came to visit out of the blue! Billy is currently at the University of Michigan majoring in Film with a minor in Mathematics. He had left SK by the time I arrived nearly eight years ago, but we had a lovely time this morning trading stories and looking around the school.

A brief background on Billy: he attended Emerson for Middle School, Pioneer for High School, and now he is at U of M. This is his first year at U of M, but he has entered directly into his Sophomore year because he covered so many accelerated classes at Pioneer, including a bunch of college math and science at U of M alongside college students. ("Math was always what I was best at when I was at Summers-Knoll," he said.)

I asked Billy how he fared with the transition from SK's small, warm environment into the larger schools he attended later. He said that, for him, he felt as if the transitions were stepped really well. From here to Emerson took him to a larger, but still very manageable size. Pioneer was a step up from that, at 3,000 students. U of M has 14,000 students, and he said smilingly that he is perfectly comfortable there.

So why Film? Well, said Billy, he had assumed that he would study Engineering at college level. He is good at math and science, and it seemed the obvious thing to do. But then he took a class in Film, and a passion was born. He lit up when he was talking about it, how it incorporates math, art, technology, philosophy, business, language... "All things I love!" He is writing a screenplay - a cool goal for a math and science guy.

Billy reminisced about various things from SK ("I was a trouble-maker! I spent a fair amount of time in the office getting to know Dr. Cole [the head of school at the time].") He also remembered a particular project - a self portrait with writing that everyone in his class contributed to a class book. I thought it was fitting that a student from this school would remember an expression of the community bonding which has always been so important to us here. "I still have that book," he said.

You may be seeing Billy this summer - he is a Taekwondo instructor and may be training young Jedi to channel the Force at our Star Wars camp - maybe also to make their own original Star Wars movie. He made an instant connection with the kids here at school; it gave me a huge kick to see this former student and our current students chatting together.

Welcome back, Billy! It was wonderful to meet you, and to reconnect with a member of our family in such an delightful and unexpected way.