When the girls started kindergarten, they complained a lot about the work. The typical complaint on the way to school was, "Do we have to go? It's so boring. We already know all this stuff. Can't we just stay home until school is harder?" So, I waited to see if it moved towards more challenging work, but it never did.
The school district uses the ISEL test to measure where each child is at the beginning of the school year. The children take it again at the end of the year to measure progress. When we received the girls' ISEL scores, we decided it was time talk to their teacher. Given their scores, we didn't know what progress could be made -- and we didn't know what they would be doing all day in class while the other children were making progress.
The conversation started well, but quickly deteriorated. When I suggested the girls might be ready for more challenging work, she took this as an insult. She suggested giving them more work, but I countered with, "We know they already know the alphabet, so giving them more pages where they identify and circle one letter isn't what we had in mind. We're not looking for busy work; we're looking for more challenging work."
In my mind, nothing good comes from the girls being bored in school. It is a waste of their time to sit through work they could easily teach the other students. A cousin who is a teacher told me that the bored children in her classes tend to get into more trouble. A girlfriend, who tests completely off the gifted charts, talks about how much time she spent in the principal's office because she was so bored in school -- even in the advanced program. I don't know if the girls will test into a gifted program, but I do know their ISEL test scores clearly indicated they needed more challenging work. And, I don’t want them to start getting into trouble just because they are bored.
Given my personality, I'm not the Mom who is going to say, “Oh, honey, you should just sit quietly while the other kids do their work. Maybe you can help some of them.” I am the one who will fight to make sure the girls get what they need.
There was some grumbling, but eventually the school designed a program to keep the girls challenged. They decided to have a teacher’s aide pull them out for about 20 minutes and do more challenging work with them. We were happy that they did step up and meet the girls' educational needs. The girls enjoy the more challenging work. They don't complain about being bored any more. They talk a lot about their "pull out" time and what they learn. It's been very good for them.
Somewhere, though, I think their teacher is standing in the office copying homework for the girls with a bit of vengeance in mind. We've been buried in homework. The girls have an average of six pages of homework Monday through Thursday evenings. Seriously, six solid pages of first grade level homework.
Before my chat with her, the girls averaged a page or two of homework each night. I think she decided that since we wanted more challenging work, she was going to bury us in it.
Most nights we're up to the challenge. We get it done because the girls love to do it. They usually read the instructions and start doing the work before I can even supervise. There are some things like word search puzzles they will do completely without me.
Some nights it just doesn't get done. We might finish part of it, but not all of it. On those mornings when I'm filling the backpack, I just put in a note letting their teacher know we did not finish the homework.
One thing I do know is that as much as I want to, I won't ask her for less homework. They are always up for the challenging, even if I'm not.