07 October 2013

Elementary School is Hard Work...For Parents

At story last week I had a very pleasant conversation with another 1st grade mommy.  For reference, her son was in Charlie's class last year and while they are in separate classes this year, they see the same reading teacher when the classes split for specialization.  She and I were chatting about how the kids were settling in and she asked if we were liking her teacher.  Apparently a friend of hers has a son in Charlie's class and was worried that her kid "wasn't being challenged enough."  Sticking with my resolution to just let my freak flag fly I replied "I think that is a very trendy thing to think."  Honestly, it is.  Worrying that your kid isn't being "challenged" is just a handy catch phrase to make everyone think your kid is so advanced.  Thankfully she laughed and agreed and all was well, but the point stands.

What does that even mean anyway? Since "challenged" is such an ambiguous word, it also means you never have to actually specify what you think your kids does need.  Basically it is all the one-ups-manship of parenting with none of the tricky "having to actually do something about it."   Then the second kids actually are challenged, like if heaven forbid they should struggle with material for even a second, parents are all up in arms about self-esteem and specialized learning plans. Personally I call BS.  I should mention here that I also know a ton of people who are convinced that the new common-core standards are ruining school for their kids.  Basically common core asks kids (and by extension teachers) to integrate what they are learning beyond pure memorization and this is a change, perhaps even a challenging (Ha! See what I did there?) one, for many. Now I could wax nostalgic about how overly dramatic everyone is being about these changes, teachers and students/parents alike, but that is a topic that requires its very own post.

So I just have to ask: Which is it then?  Are all our kids so fricking brilliant that there exists no curriculum under the sun that could appropriately challenge them or are we so challenge averse that any time our kids aren't coasting through we are going to lose our minds? 

From where we are, Charlie is loving school.  She finds the current material to be well within her skill set and she is really enjoying the novelty of moving between classrooms and the addition of art, music, and health classes.  (In Kindergarten art and music were incorporated into the classroom activities and/or library sessions. ) She says the work is not hard, but the stuff she is bringing home shows nice progress and I can see where the teachers are really doing a great job of working the common-core methodology into all the lessons.  Of course, Charlotte has the advantage of starting public school the year that common-core was adopted, so she has no other instruction style for reference.  None the less, she is doing well, both academically and socially.  I am very pleased with the district and her particular elementary school. 

Of course, just to add another layer to all the parental angst. the school is in the process of selecting kids for the "Elementary Enrichment Program."  It is a pull-out program for "highly capable" students and while the letter makes it quite clear (at least to me) that the school will be selecting kids based on recommendations from teachers and staff, parents are able to refer their kids if desired.  Of course I filled in the forms, because why not?  It was an exercise in hilarity and man I would give anything to be on the selection committee and read all these applications.  I am sorry, but if you give gen-X/millenial parents a form where there is a box for "please give examples of this child's exceptional learning abilities" then you have soooooooo asked for it.  This will be special snowflake comedic gold. 

I have no idea if Charlie will make the cut, or how I even feel about it given my mixed feeling regarding the whole gifted child phenomenon, but we shall see.  I am sure she would like it, but then again, she will live without it.  It would certainly stroke our egos, but I feel pretty confident that Charlie will do just fine with school either way.  I can honestly say that I pack her onto the bus every day confident that she is getting a good education in a very pleasant and safe environment.  What more can a parent want really?