Friday, January 28, 2011

A Lesson Learned...

Lil has been a real teaching tool for me over the last few weeks. Which is true most of the time, really. Being my oldest child, I learn a lot through the trials and missteps of parenting. But this last week has been a real eye opener.

Lil's teacher is amazing. Let me start there. She had tested each kid in her class during the first two weeks of school on the High Frequency words that all 1st graders are expected to know. Then, she would keep track of the one's that the kids hadn't spelled right, and turned those into their spelling words. Lilia is a fantastic reader. She is one smart cookie- though, we did notice that even though she can read all the High Frequency words, she couldn't spell them all. For example, she can read "who" but when asked to spell it, she would say, "H-O-O." So the spelling homework was 5 words that belonged in the same family (ie. cat, fat, hat) and the first 5 words she couldn't spell from the HF list. When she passed them off on her spelling test, the next week would be another 5 "family" words, and the next 5 words from the HF list. At the beginning of the school year it became obvious that her homework was too easy. She was breezing through her whole week's homework in a day, and wasn't the slightest bit challenged by her spelling. Even though she had spelled them wrong, she needed only to look at them, and be told once for her to spell them right. Her first week of spelling homework, the words were:


These were way too easy for her. So I talked to her teacher. Turns out there were two other kids in class who were bored as well! So after some thought on how to handle it, her teacher set Lil and the other two kids up with 2nd grade spelling words. This was a program that one of the second grade teachers used, and the words were not the High Frequency words. Just words found at the level Lil had tested at (Level K). The first week of 2nd grade spelling, her words were:


Talk about a difference! Lil went from getting 100% on her spelling to 30% that first week. It became apparent to me that Lil would be able to handle these harder words, but not without a little extra attention being spent on them. Soooo- I talked to my cousin (A super fab school teacher) and I went back through my childhood to some of the techniques I was taught, and came up with extra spelling assignments that would help her remember and spell her words. Though the new assignments were fun (as fun as homework can be) they also took time. Lil went from spending about 10 minutes a day doing homework, to nearly an hour (though part of this could be because she would take her time and let her attention wander). Instead of spelling the words 3 times a week (like her homework insisted) I had her spelling them 6-9 times a week. MY only concern was this: I worried when she moved to 2nd grade spelling that by skipping past all those 1st grade words on the HF list, that she would never understand spelling because she had skipped over the more basic spelling lessons. Even if they are easy and require very little brain power from my braniac kid, I think it is still important to learn those lessons. Either way, she began passing her tests. Eventually (like 7 weeks later), Lilia was moved up to the next level's spelling as she had passed all the previous level's tests. Level L spelling was (as expected) harder than Level K, and it began to wear on Lil. And though she didn't mind the extra work when it paid off with passed spelling tests, it was now too much for her. Not only was she having a harder time with the homework, but she was spending an hour a day doing her spelling and was not passing the test.

Finally- she snapped. She sat at the table, in tears, because she hated her homework, and she didn't want to do it, and "what's the point, I am not going to pass my test, anyway..." I got upset and left the room. As I was pacing in my bedroom I kept thinking how maybe I should talk to her teacher, but darn it! I didn't want Lil to get behind the other two kids doing the second grade spelling! ... ... ....

Ohhhhhhhh crap. I am an AWFUL mom! I am pushing Lil too hard! And why? Because I wanted her to be the best. I didn't want the other kids to be ahead of her... I didn't matter to my mind that Lil was wearing down. It didn't matter that she was unhappy. She HAD to keep up! They say the first step in fixing a problem was realizing there IS a problem. I was GONNA fix this. NOW.

I instantly dropped to my knees and said a prayer. Then I talked to Joe. Got his opinion on how to fix the problem, and after talking with him I wrote her teacher a letter. Than I deleted the letter, and ended up talking to her teacher on the phone. I explained how Lil was doing too much. (The teacher had said at the beginning of the year that she only expects the kids to do 40 minutes of homework a day and 20 minutes of that should be the required reading that the whole school participates in) I explained how she was doing an hour of homework, plus the 20 minutes reading. I then went on to tell her how stressful it has made my life, and how frustrated Lil is with homework and spelling tests. She completely agreed that Lilia is too young to hate her homework so much, and that she was spending too much time doing something that wasn't reaping any rewards... After a nice talk she presented us with a solution that was EXACTLY what Joe and I had come up with, and we couldn't be more thrilled.

The plan is basically, that Lil will no longer do the 2nd grade spelling program, but she will not be moved back to the 1st grade program either. She will be somewhere in between. Instead of having 5 "family words" (sit, hit, pit...) she will have all 10 words from the high frequency list. Instead of just the 1st grade list, she has now been tested on the second grade list. This way she will get a solid foundation to build on. Her words this week:


MUCH better. And lesson learned.

The lesson I learned here?

I need to be more aware of what is best for my daughter vs. what I WANT for her.

Is there a lesson for anyone else to learn?

If we don't stand up for our children, who else will? If our kids are not challenged enough, or are too challenged, we need to be willing to talk to the teacher. And I did both. In the same year. Ugh! But at least Lil is where she needs to be. And what do ya know, she likes her homework again!


Ben and Heidi said...

I think this is a very good lesson learned.. glad she is enjoying her homework more again