Monday, December 14, 2009

I'll give you homework

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.


Rachel said...

I am so happy to hear that you stood up for your girls. I encountered something similar. You would think the teacher would be excited to see children excelling so easily and not to put it on your shoulders to keep them going strong. Our teacher told me to go to walmart and get one of those school workbooks for C. That totally blew me away. C is in level 3 reading already and is the only student that is out of level 1.

I hope they continue to work with on the girls needs.


KUDOS to the girls for being so excited about learning and doing homework!!

Julie K said...

So they do 20 minutes of challenging work in school and the rest at home? How long does it take to do the homework they are sending now? Would seem to me that if it takes more than 20 minutes at home, then they should at least do the same amount of time on challenging work at school. Wouldn't you expect the bulk of challenging work to be under the supervision of a teacher?

melanie said...

i hope that your girls can get into a gifted program. i know it has made an incredible difference for my daughter. i have heard some horror stories from people with gifted kids who are incredibly bored in their classes. i'm glad that hasn't been the case for my daughter.

the other thing i learned after my daughter tested gifted is that the gifted child much different personality issues than the average kid. reading some books on parenting gifted kids has really opened my eyes to some of the challenges that i have been facing without realizing why my kid was "different." i feel like i understand her much better now.

i am also glad that she can be in a program with other kids who are like her. she finally has a whole set of good friends--unlike her year of kindergarten where she was misunderstood by the other girls.

i hope something good works out for your girls!

Noelle said...

Julie K has a good seems the bulk of it is falling on you now, cleverly disguised as homework.

It's great that you stood up for the girls, though! This is where No Child Left Behind is flawed...because it has kindergarteners doing what they should have learned in preschool, because not every kid in the class went to preschool. I'm all for making sure every kid has the opportunity to learn. But there should be accomodations made for advanced kids, too.