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Why parenting sucks… May 25, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, math, teaching, younger son.
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Now that the school year is over, I can finally discuss one thing that’s been driving me nuts for the past couple weeks.

Most of you know that I’ve been volunteering to work with a group in my son’s class that’s slightly ahead in math.  The teacher was doing some grouping to help the kids who were struggling and more or less leaving the other ones to do “enrichment activities” for an additional twenty minutes outside of normal math time every day.  I was going in once a week to help with the advanced group, although that evolved into reading math stories to the whole class every other week.

One day was very odd.  As I sat down to work with the ‘advanced’ group, the younger son started talking.  He started explaining addition and multiplicative identities to the other kids, but it was obvious they didn’t know what he was talking about.  At first, I tried to get back to what I’d planned on discussing, but I also didn’t want to make him feel like he was being shushed.  So when the other kids started this eye-roll, “here he goes again” type of body language,  I tried to augment what he was saying.  I wondered how often this type of thing was happening.  I felt bad about the whole thing because the kids seemed interested when I was talking about it.  However, here’s the younger son, feeling like he can talk to these other kids about some of the math he was doing at home, and they don’t understand and are blowing him off.

Unfortunately, I know how he feels because this happens to me as an adult, almost always when I’m talking to my kids’ teachers.  I have always gotten the feeling that they think I don’t understand children or how they work.  I obviously am just one of those parents that’s overestimating my child’s intelligence and pushing him beyond  his ability.  If my children really were ‘gifted’ (always said with a sneer, if the dreaded word is even spoken at all), then they wouldn’t behave the way they do.  (I think this means they expect my kids to sit still and be compliant.)  And I’m most definitely not competent enough to handle educating my own child.

In fact, it happened again very recently.  The younger son’s end of year test scores came back, and all of the focus was on one subtest where he’s “right in with his peers”.  That is, a full year ahead of national norms.  They’re very concerned about his progress because of that subtest and wanted him to spend next year in the normal classroom to ‘get him back on track’.  (Because working a year behind his current achievement level helps him how????)  Very conveniently, they ignore the subtest where he’s four years ahead…and the other two or three where he’s still very far ahead of his classmates, as well.  They use that one subtest as evidence that I’m doing a lousy job teaching him math at home.

The good news is that they’re going to let him continue to use his current math curriculum, only he will be doing it at school in the fall.  I have a few reservations (mostly that he won’t get the help he needs), but I have hopes that just maybe they’ll start believing me.  I know it’s hard to believe a kid can go from getting teary-eyed about getting subtraction problems wrong to gleefully manipulating fractions and decimals in a single year.  On the other hand, I am pretty sure he’s said things that would make them realize he knows some of this stuff…but I suspect they just blew it off or attributed it to his “overactive imagination”.

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1. nicoleandmaggie - May 25, 2012

Man that sounds frustrating! So far we’ve been doing well with teachers, but it’s taken a lot of effort and money for that to happen. There’s a long road ahead though and we’re taking it a year at a time.

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nicoleandmaggie - May 25, 2012

We’re probably also helped by the extreme classism (classicism?) in the South– as University Professor PhDs, we seem to outrank K-12 teachers. If we were in the Midwest that would definitely not be true (but we could also socialize with teachers, so there’s that trade-off).

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2. mareserinitatis - May 25, 2012

I guess I never realized how bad the whole “all children must conform” thing was here. I knew it was bad with my older one because he was an octahedral tangerine being forced into the good ol’ round hole. I thought things would go a lot more smoothly with the younger son because he’s a lot more willing to conform than his brother. I guess the frustrating thing was that we were trying to make sure that by doing something different with him, we weren’t adding a burden onto the teacher…but all we seem to have gotten was a whole lot of mistrust instead. It just seems like there’s no right way to handle these things…

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3. nicoleandmaggie - May 26, 2012

I had kind of thought that our son might even be popular because he’s so conventionally good looking and amiable. But no, already at age 5 the nerd is overshadowing that. He’ll never get nominated for “Best boy” at school.

(Guess who spent a painful 2 hours at an end of the year awards ceremony today. DC also only got one award, “progress in handwriting” despite the K teacher giving out 4 awards for every subject, which is a lot of subjects, plus listening skills and only having 9 students. Thankfully at age 5 he was proud for just getting the promotion certificate and didn’t notice he was the only kid who wasn’t called up at least 3 times. Ironically, his end of the year handwriting grade was lower than his previous handwriting grades.)

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4. Charles J Gervasi - May 26, 2012

It’s too bad the kids will listen to a scientist volunteering in their class but not to a peer. I guess you kids has to learn how to deal with and motivate this type of people because he might be trying to hire and train them in twenty years.

Regarding the school dismissing your concerns, I would not tolerate that for a minute. I’ve been thinking about this lately because our kids are a year or two away from school. If they can’t provide what we think he needs, we’d drop them in the middle of the school-year if necessary. We’re not paying them to tell us whether we’re doing a good job teaching math at home or go tell us whether we understand how children work. We’re paying them educate our kids how we want. Fortunately there are four major schools in the Madison area, not counting the public school system and homeschooling. I don’t want them to spend even a day with someone who sneers at us.

This hit a nerve because our older child is turning four and the younger is turning two. We know at some point they should transition to school, but we haven’t decided which one. I hear these stories where schools do stuff our nanny wouldn’t think of doing.

IMHO the way to handle these thing where the provider isn’t give you what you want is to drop them immediately and try to be magnanimous and not to sneer back.

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5. ArduinoMom - June 12, 2012

I went through this, especially with my older son, who just graduated from 8th grade. God forbid a child should be recognized as being “special” because of academic talents. And it’s not just at the local school level. Did you know there is no US federal funding for gifted education? Zero. From budgets to teacher training, gifted kids get the short end of the stick, or maybe it’s more appropriate to say they don’t even get the stick.

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Charles J Gervasi - June 13, 2012

It seems like the public schools mostly suck. I can’t imagine using them. That’s a crying shame because I think they used to be better, and education is so important. I love the notion of poor kids being in school with engineers’ kids, all getting the same education, but right now it’s a model that just isn’t working in most places. At least it’s not working in my area, and I keep hearing stories like this. My older kid turns 4 in August. We’re unfortunately not even considering the public schools.

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mareserinitatis - June 13, 2012

You know, it’s funny because I am constantly fighting myself as to whether I ought to homeschool the younger one. He actually seems to be doing pretty well where he is, but it’s not a public school. Still, there’s part of me that hates how much structure is there and thinks it would be better if I schooled him the way I did the older boy (learn the three Rs and then let them have at whatever they love).

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Charles J Gervasi - June 14, 2012

I’m hoping Waldorf will let them have at whatever they love. I know part of it is they don’t push reading but rather wait until they’re curious about stories and motivated to read. http://madisonwaldorf.org/

It doesn’t seem strong on science. People who question scientific medicine (e.g. vaccines, medical interventions to ease childbirth) go there. No place is perfect.

I know all this b/c my wife is into school. If it were up to me I’d foolishly not think about it until a few weeks before they were required to go to school.

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mareserinitatis - June 13, 2012

I understand where you’re coming from. I live in a state that doesn’t mandate gifted programming, and the pickings are pretty poor. Probably one of the lowest ten states.

I just don’t get our culture on this topic, though. It’s okay to recognize kids’ athletic or musical talents…but not academic? Makes no sense.

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6. Not working… « FCIWYPSC - October 4, 2012

[…] Not working… October 4, 2012 Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, math, younger son. Tags: gifted, gifted education, math, younger son trackback Last spring, we came to an agreement with the younger son’s school that he’d be doing his online math course at school. […]

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