Don’t you hate it when parents complain that their child is just not challenged enough in class? The kid might be failing, might be a bully, might be making paper airplanes when he should be working, and it seems like the knee-jerk parental assessment of the situation is that little Johnny is simply too smart, and that’s why he is having trouble. Because, you know, every parent thinks their child is brilliant, me included. And also, every parent is tempted to brag on every good thing their child does, me included. I don’t think that this is necessarily bad; children need people who think they are amazing, after all. I just think that it gets old quickly to the people who are not the parents of said child.
Thus, consider yourself warned: this post might have some, um, facts that could be construed as “bragging.” But to the nay-sayers, I say, “I’m not actually bragging; I’m complaining.” Because that is so much better, right?
When we first talked to Luke’s new teacher back in November, I was one of “those moms” who fretted that her child might not be challenged in class. To his teacher’s everlasting credit, she suppressed her eyerolls and said that she would do her best to see that he was challenged. She was true to her word: within a few weeks, she sent home a permission slip for him to be tested for gifted services. I signed and returned it the Monday after Thanksgiving break.
On April 17, I have a meeting to discuss the results of that test.
That is almost five months later. In the meantime, my child has been making troubling comments such as,
“I have not learned one thing in school this year.”
“We just do the same thing over and over every day.”
“What is the point of school?”
These comments vex me.
Thankfully, I am not alone in my concern and frustration; Luke’s teacher feels it, too. In fact, the reason Greg’s and my homeschool conversations got cut off in February was because his teacher scheduled an S-Team meeting for Luke. Apparently, the first wave of results from his testing had come back, and he was deemed by the out-of-school tester to be “brilliant.” In reading, he scored in the 99.8th percentile for five-year-olds across the nation. In math, he scored in the 95th. He didn’t do as well in “academic knowledge” (78th percentile), but still, the tester said it had been a long time since she had seen scores that high. His teacher, being wonderful, immediately kicked it into high gear and called a meeting with the principal, the school psychologist, and the school counselor.
The meeting really impressed me. Even though there are hundreds of students at that school, many of whom are ELL students, everyone in the room seemed genuinely committed to giving Luke a quality education. We brainstormed different ways to enrich his learning experience and came up with the following: 1) he would meet daily with a first-grade reading group, 2) he would work with both his teacher and the reading specialist to keep advancing in reading (the benchmark level for kindergarten is level 4, and he is working on level 28), 3) he would be given independent writing projects to work on, and 4) he and I would do special social studies projects on the different cultures in his class.
Part of the reasons we came up with all these ideas was because Luke still did not qualify as “gifted,” because the test was not complete. Thus, he could not participate in the gifted program at school because there was not that piece of paper that deemed him eligible. Furthermore, as I looked through the test results, I saw that there was a good chance that he might not qualify as gifted, despite his sky-high reading and math scores. Those were just two elements in a variety of testing areas. One area that he seemed not to do well in was called something like, “Observable Behaviors.” I asked the psychologist about this and she explained that those were actions that the tester observed while the child took the test. Unfortunately, some of them were tricky. For example, one behavior that indicates giftedness is the unwillingness to move from one subject to the next since the gifted child tends to get engrossed in his tasks. However, that behavior contradicts the norms of politeness, and the tester had said that Luke was extremely polite. Thus, the psychologist concluded that Luke probably lost points if he quickly obeyed the tester when she said it was time for the next subject.
When I came away from that meeting, my one annoyance was how much depended on the results of this specific (and it seemed to me, highly subjective) test. Otherwise, I was highly impressed.
Unfortunately, reality soon intervened, and much of our plan ended up falling by the wayside. For example, Luke was not too keen on leaving the classroom for a first grade reading group, so when the first grade teacher had to take an extended leave of absence, Luke’s teacher didn’t think he was socially ready to go to another one. I agreed with her decision, but that scrapped the reading group part of the plan, which was supposed to be a daily thing. Then, he was too shy to present his story to the class, so we stopped getting those assignments. She had also been sending him home advanced homework assignments, but those ended up falling by the wayside, as well, probably because she has nineteen other kids in her class. I didn’t press the matter because I figured I’d been a big enough pain already. Instead, I went to the library every week to get readers on his level, and we would read them together at night. I would also remind his teacher to send home the higher level books so that he could keep progressing that way, and we practiced those, too. In addition, we worked on our social studies projects, and also spent time each night practicing writing numbers at the teacher’s request…since apparently being brilliant does not include knowing which way your sixes go.
For me, the end result was that I felt we were spending way too much out-of-school time on schoolwork, and became increasingly frustrated that he still did not qualify for gifted services during school hours. When I got a permission slip to have him tested for “talent,” in order to be invited to the gifted program next fall, it kind of pushed me over the edge. Maybe it was because the night before Luke had cried in frustration about how bored he was all day at school.
One reason his frustration bothered me so much was because back before Luke even started school, before we even knew where we would send him, I had spent a lot of time thinking about what it meant to be truly “educated.” After much consideration, I settled on three simple characteristics of an educated person. The first and most important characteristic was
a love of learning.
Right now, my son has a love of learning. He is full of questions, and we are always talking about what something is, or why a thing is so. The other day, he was blown away by the idea that humans can only live on planet Earth, and not the other planets in our solar system. Even though I explained it to him thoroughly, he would not give up hope that scientists have simply overlooked something: “But have you seen how close Venus is to Earth? I bet we could live there.” “Or what about Saturn? It’s so big!”
Already though, he is beginning to despise school. And my fear is that one day soon, his dislike of school will begin to snuff out his love of learning. And when he is on a third grade reading level and still learning basic alphabet sounds in class, I fear that day will come sooner rather than later.
That’s why, the morning after his breakdown, I started researching homeschool curriculum.
And that, my friends, concludes our three-part, epic saga detailing why we are considering the homeschooling lifestyle.