Schooling

So – many of you have already been through this. Some of you may be teachers. Hopefully you can give me some insight.

I can now see one reason to homeschool, but I will NEVER* do it!

I help out in Julia’s first grade class once a week. Normally I help with reading. I have been absolutely shocked by the wide range of abilities in reading. There are a few kids who read at a high level – can read any word, any book pretty much. There are far more kids who still cannot read three letter sight words. Julia’s teacher has a parent come in for reading most every day. I can’t imagine if she didn’t. There is no way she could have any kind of group lesson with the range of ability. I have felt comforted that there are 4 reading groups and parent help. Plus the excellent readers get pulled out twice a week for the talented and gifted program and work on reading comprehension.

Yesterday I was asked to do a pretest on telling time and recognizing/counting money. Once again, I was shocked by the difference in abilities. There were plenty of kids who did not know the names of the various coins, let alone their value. Then, there were about 4-5 kids who knew all the coins, could add them up and could tell all the times. One of them looked so surprised at the worksheet and asked me why one earth were they being tested on this, surely all the kids knew it! I had to tell him that actually, no, they don’t all know it!

So, now I am trying to imagine this next math module. How do you teach the kids who don’t know what a penny is and also teach the kids who can look at 6 quarters and tell you after a few seconds that they add up to $1.50?

*I am a believer in public schools, and like I said before I would never homeschool for many many reasons most of which have to do with the various personalities in my family. I am not against homeschooling, just not for me.

So – where does that leave Julia? She is in the top group of kids and I just don’t know how she isn’t bored out of her mind. On the other hand, she LOVES doing well and I am sure she is thrilled to have such easy work and do so well at it. Some challenges would be good for her though.

She actually doesn’t have homework. She did for about three weeks and then it stopped and I don’t know why. Maybe it is time for homework provided by me….I’m not sure where to start on that but I just don’t know.

I am not the type who is worried about Julia being some great success in life. I don’t care what kind of college she goes to. In fact, I don’t care if she goes to college as long as she is pursuing a career that she can support herself with and that makes her happy.

However, while in school, I still want her to at least have the opportunity to achieve and learn to the level she is able. I just don’t know.

I am hoping that as they go up in grades, perhaps the gulf narrows? I have no clue – maybe some of you can clue me in.

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6 responses to “Schooling

  1. It does narrow, alot. First graders are so young, and some younger than others. Julia is one of the older kids, but for kids like my DS with a late summer b’day, he was in first grade when your girl was in Kindergarten, even though he is only 5 months older than her. Had she been this age now and in his class this year, she would likely have been farther much farther ahead of him. But now at 7 years and 6 months, he is in 2nd grade and doing very well, above grade level in math and reading, where as last year he was behind. I could have followed the trend and held him back a year, but that didn’t seem right either. He would be beyond bored this year in first grade, but easily at the top of his class. Kids just develop differently at different times, but by 3rd/4th grade, it pretty much even outs, except for the truly gifted and the ones that have disabilities and really struggle.Rita B

  2. Oh, this is not easy. I see lots and lots of gaps in achievement at school (even 4th graders that can’t tell time). What I’ve found that seems to work is to direct the group instruction toward the upper-middle of the group, then work with kids individually or in small groups who need extra help. Hats off to you for helping in Julia’s classroom. You make it possible for her teacher to spend more time with those who need it. I LOOOOVE the volunteers that help out in my classroom!

  3. I am so glad you now see one reason to homeschool! ; ) Seriously, that is one reason we are doing it. Gwynneth had a great kindergarten teacher, but yet I saw all the ways she was being held back intellectually. She is just now 8, but is reading at about a 5-6th grade level. Of course with math she is just average, although we are going to pick up the pace on that this next month–which we have the luxury to do! But it is too bad our nation long ago moved away from the “one room schoolhouse” model–there were lots of structured, orderly ways that students of all ranges and abilities were taught successfully by just one teacher. I think your idea to supplement at home is great. Scholastic has some good grade level workbooks that cover a range of subjects in one book–we use those in the summer and on Fridays and G gets so excited about doing them, as if they were a special treat. (I think it is the color graphics) Or pick a topic you would both enjoy exploring and do a unit study–this is how we mainly learn, and you can run with one topic and fit all kinds of learning into it. For example, learning about penguins in Antartica can lead to math (figuring how far they have to walk to get to the nesting site, how long each parent is there total, etc.), geography (where is Antartica on the globe, anyway? What are all these little numbers on the globe, anyway?), writing (essay about one thing that was interesting about that penguin documentary you just watched), art (illustrating the essay). . . you get the idea. Whew, that was a long comment! Clearly this is a topic I get excited about. : )

  4. I share the same feelings as you, 100%! I have been doing some grading for Maxx’s teacher and I see a HUGE gap between many of the kids. The ones that do horribly on the tests almost always do and I can’t help but feel sorry for them because IMHO at 2nd grade, if your child is getting consistent F’s, YOU as the parent need to step up and help them out for God’s sake! – So no advice, and I am sure you didn’t want to hear that there is such a big gap in 2nd grade, but thats how it is in Maxx’s class.

  5. I believe the ability absolutely narrows as they get older. You have kids will all kinds of different parent involvement, and you have kids will all kinds of different preschool experience. I also found that James and Katherine also moved a bit as they developed. At different times it seemed like they were not being challenged and then it would seem like they were doing well, but not as well.(Of course, this is why we are such proponents of Montessori. It allows the children to remain in a group and be socialized, while at the same time providing for the individualized learning.)Final note, we have so many more choices about what to do with our kids than my mom and dad did. And it can be really nerve wracking because it feels so important. But, I think it is probably not as all important as we think. Bright kids will get what they need. We can certainly supplement, but I think engaging in challenging conversation and playing thought provoking games is the best way. I don’t think they need us to give them extra worksheets. Particularly so young.

  6. Your observation requires more than just a paragraph answer, it goes to one of the core issues with education. As a society, we have an assumption, that all children should or will be at a certain level at a certain age. This is unrealistic and not true. As a teacher who has taught from first grade through high school, I can assure you that children always are at different levels in their learning and development. A good teacher will be able to teach to the various levels, using a variety of techniques. The use of direct whole group instruction is really going away, so the teaching to the middle is not as necessary as it used to be. And, if it does need to happen, children are given small group help at both the upper and lower ends. It is a rule of thumb, that at any given grade, there will be students at least one grade level below, at level, and one level above. In addition, learning to read is not linear. Students who may not know many sight words, may have more phonological awareness. Teachers are not taught to teach for the students’ needs, not necessarily just thier “level”. So, a good teacher is does quite a bit of informal assessments, and changes her small group and center materials based on the students’ reading needs and math needs for that matter, not just their “level”.I believe that we need smaller classes to help the students get the more individualized instruction that they really need. We cannot expect children to mature and develop at the same level, and in trying to do so, we don’t always meet their needs. I do see some wonderful changes in education and instruction, moving more towards individualizing instruction. Good for you in helping out in the classroom. It really does help the teacher, and helps to emphasize some of the issues with education. So, the short answer is that the gaps will continue, but that the teachers will continue to use all their resources to meet the individual needs of the students, and sadly some students will fall through the cracks. It happens.

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