Monday, November 12, 2007

Maggie #3 -- School Daze

So Maggie breezed her way through elementary school. Her first grade teacher found her so academically advanced that there was actually consideration of skipping her ahead a grade. I was just talking to Mrs. M. (who is still a friend) last week, and thanked her one more time for NOT doing so. She had carefully observed Maggie on the playground, and felt that she was such a typical first grader socially that it would be a shame to put her in second grade and make her both odd for her brains and odd for her age. So Maggie sailed along, loving school when her teacher was a good fit, and not so much when the assignment was unfortunate. (Mrs. S., her fourth grade teacher, was a disaster for Maggie; she was great with slow learners, but hadn't a clue how to challenge this phenomenon.)

Whenever Maggie was bored or unhappy in school, she would let me know by asking "Why can't I be homeschooled?" A number of her friends and relatives were being taught at home -- some with more success than others -- and she figured that this was the solution to whatever problem she was having. Now I have nothing against homeschooling, as long as the parents are well enough educated to pass on what they know. I know of one particular little boy (now a college grad) for whom it was a godsend. "DJ" was a very active child, and he thrived learning his multiplication tables while standing on his head, which his mother could allow but a teacher certainly couldn't. On the other hand, in another homeschooling family the mother can't write a coherent paragraph -- how could she teach her children?

I like to believe that I am literate (and numerate!) enough to teach my children, at least everything but specialized science. But I am and was NOT a good fit for homeschooling Maggie. Of all my children, she and I have the most disparate personalities AND learning styles. We would not have survived two weeks of homeschooling. Even when she was in elementary school, there were times when my homework help was "wrong." Fortunately, we live in an area where our assigned schools at all levels were above average, and when the teacher fit was good Maggie did well. Also fortunately, she was able to learn more things than reading on her own. Although both Arwen and Rosie had taken advanced math in sixth grade, pre-algebra in seventh grade and algebra in eighth grade, by the time Maggie got to middle school the advanced math had been eliminated. And Maggie was already completely competent at the ordinary sixth grade math.

There was a brief suggestion that she be allowed to take math with a seventh grade class, which was squelched by the school when other parents started to complain that their children should have seventh grade math too. So Maggie was given a pre-algebra book, sat in the back of the sixth grade class, and taught herself pre-algebra. The seventh grade teacher made out assignments for her, and would check her work once a week and give her quizzes and tests. I don't remember her asking for help even once. The result? Straight A's, and algebra in seventh grade. (The teacher couldn't quite believe she was doing this on her own. He asked us several times, and her repeatedly, whether her parents were helping with her math. Nope.)

This post is going to be continued tomorrow, because my kitchen still needs to be deep cleaned, and Rosie isn't here to help. I can only stall for so long, no matter how great the alternative activity is!

1 comment:

Jen said...

I had some teachers where the match was less than ideal. I remember one who accused me of reading baby books when I showed her my sponsor sheet for the book fair. She didn't think I was smart enough to read that many books. She was wrong. But she hurt my feelings enough that I stopped adding my books to my list. I kept reading of course, but I did poorly on earning donations because I hadn't written down any of my books. That was almost 20 years ago and I still remember that moment. I wish teachers would realize how much they influence children. Of course, they are human too and make mistakes. But that teacher was pretty consistent in her mistakes.