Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Winter B's

The problem with an Acclerated GAT program is that the program is really hard, and it's full of really smart kids.   For those of us who cheated their way in, this is a problem.

My son wakes up 6:30 am.  The bus comes at 7:15.   He gets back at 4:15 and is usually done with his homework at 5:30.  Piano and reading happen after dinner.   This is a very long day for a little kid.  In my culture, we need at least 16 hours of sleep a day.

Each winter, he gets worn down and one or 2 B's appears on the report card.   Part of the problem, I think, is sickness, lack of sleep and just being worn out.   However, the teacher is very reasonable of what she expects, and there's no reason why any child couldn't earn an A.   Write legibly, concentrate, explain, check your work.

Each winter, there is another factor besides exhaustion.  The bar is raised.   Last year, it was science.  This year, reading.  There are technical aspects of reading comprehension that slipped by without notice.   The challenge for us this year is a test consisting of questions about a written passage (or a book that they are reading in class).  My son likes to see if he can write 3 words or less and get the test over with.

So guess what we are doing in this house for home schooling?  A crash course in creative writing.   First, we take all of the technical things aspects of his course, whatever these are.  Plot, main character, climax, I have to google these.  Then I have to show him how to read a story checking off these things in his mind in preparation for the questions that follow.  This is just like the SAT.   Then we just have to practice writing long sentences that have the word "because" in them and a clause that elaborates on who what why when and whatever.  Yesterday, I found a page in my Vocabulary Workshop book that requires the student to write 19 sentences.  That's what we did.  It was hell.

This year, another surprise.   He bombed a math test and ended up with a B, because, in his words, he ran out of time.   This child is doing pretty well studying 6-8 grade algebra.   I see focus and diligence, and he tends to start and finish his math homework in one efficient tour de force of concentration and purpose (for a 9 year old boy).  Clearly, this is a horrible injustice and a cruel twist of fate.

I need to diagnose this issue:  First, I can rule out that he's a genius because he's not.  Next, he might have been sick that day.  Or, he may just be slow and plodding, which is fine in math.   But the 2 most likely options in this scenario are a) he needs to practice arithmetic because it's slowing him down on the test and b) we should just give up until math turns more analytic and becomes more interesting.  I'm going with a).  I'm not a huge fan of Kumon, but each year we spend at least 3 or 4 weeks practicing the basics ala Kumon.

It's great having a child in an accelerated program where he's challenged on the right level.  This is the level that the rest of the world is at (read the Smartest Kids in the World) and is age appropriate.  The challenge is that we have to constantly address gaps and new skills to keep up.  This level is for families working together that put education first.

Finally, after coming up with a weekend program to address the reading issue, I let him know what to expect from me if he gets all A's by the end of the year.  I told him exactly what his teacher wants and why, how much work it would be, and what I was willing to do to show him my appreciation for a job well done.

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