When George was born, the first boy after three girls, everybody was quick to make sure we knew -- boys are different from girls! We'd had kind of an inkling that might be so, and there was certainly one way (aside from the obvious ;-D ) that we could tell right away. This was George's hair. Right from birth he had long, stiff, spiky hair. When we took him on his first outing, to our church picnic, a friend who was a hairdresser took one look and said "Oh boy, that's going to be interesting". This was at a time when rebellious teens were wearing their hair spiked high, and George looked just like them. It shouldn't surprise anybody that one of his first nicknames was "Spike".
George was never rebellious or strong-willed in the classical sense (read "bratty"), but essentially from birth it was clear that his personality matched his hair -- somewhat unruly, and with a mind of his own. He took his own sweet time about potty-training, for example, wearing diapers long after most kids his age were proud members of the "big kid club". But when he decided to do it, it was done in a week, No problems, no accidents. Done. (I am very grateful to my mother-in-law, who had seven kids in ten years, for the advice that two kids in diapers, even cloth diapers, is much easier than one in diapers and one only half potty-trained. It saved my sanity!)
It was when George went off to school that the strength of his personality became even more apparent. He is very bright, and had no trouble at all with kindergarten, since the very wise kindergarten teacher who had all six of my kids didn't expect him to be just like his quiet, compliant sisters. We did put him in afternoon kindergarten sessions, though all his sisters had been in mornings, because it was clear that he was not a morning person! Neither am I! ;-D When he got to first grade, however, things got a little more complex. The content of his work was fine, except for the handwriting issue -- he obviously inherited his handwriting skills from my father, who was notoriously illegible. But the amount of his work -- even in first grade he didn't always finish his assignments on time, or at all. His teacher (who was the same one who decided not to skip Maggie ahead) would keep him in at recess, or make him do worksheets while everybody else had free reading time. (He loves to read.) But no matter. He did what work he wanted, when he wanted to.
At the school our children attended, students in the first few grades don't receive letter grades, just plus, check, or minus, showing how well they are mastering the grade level work. Since George was smart, the only minuses he received were in Study Skills and Penmanship. But we knew, and his teachers knew, that he was not a model student.
Due to a quirk in the grade assignments of teachers, George had the same teacher for both second and third grade. She was fairly good at getting more than the minimum amount of work out of him, but he was definitely still marching to his own drummer. Then in fourth grade, through another quirk, he once again had Mrs. M., who he had had for first grade. He was maybe a little more cooperative. Fifth grade, however, was his stellar year: he was assigned to Mr. P's class.
Mr. P is an award-winning teacher favoring a very hands-on style for learning. His classroom is full of aquariums and cages and models of this and that. For the traditional school Halloween parade each year, his whole class dresses as something educational. One year they were all Bob the Builder carrying pictures of simple machines. George's year they were all Statues of Liberty, with robes and foam crowns and torches, each carrying a copy of a Constitutional amendment. George loved Mr. P's class.
Aside from the good fit in learning styles, Mr. P had another attraction for George -- he had been in the Coast Guard. My husband came to our town when he was stationed here in the Coast Guard -- we have both a land station and a cutter assigned to this very boat-oriented area -- and although he was no longer a "Coastie" by the time we met, some of our friends were former shipmates of his and their families, and "Dad's time in the Guard" was a frequent and always fascinating topic at our house. And one of George's favorite toys as a preschooler was a model Coast Guard cutter, with sailors in life jackets, and radar antennas, and a small boat to lower.
So whether it was the Coast Guard connection, or just a good match of styles, George did well in Mr. P's class. So well, in fact, that he was co-winner of the coveted Science Award at the fifth grade graduation. We heaved a sigh of relief; George had found his academic niche.