Why Just Summer?

Have you seen this story in the NYT yet? Here’s a slice:

In 7 weeks he’ll go back to school, to a 5th grade class we can only hope will be more suited to his nature than the previous grade. His new teacher is supposed to be strong in math and science, to which he’s looking forward. I’ve promised him no after-school test prep this year, no tutor. It’s the 4th grade tests that matter for middle school, and he soldiered on for several endless months of prep last year: from the writing tutor to the school’s after-school test prep program to classroom test preparation that consumed all other subject matter. Last year’s teacher assigned hours of mindless homework. At some point, she decided our son was bright (her term) and thus eligible for enrichment — but she was in no way capable of providing it, in a class of 29 children with extremely mixed abilities. Our son isn’t the only child in the class who survived 4th grade with a perfect report card and his self-concept deeply shaken.

The thrust of the piece is that children need summer as a time to recover and just hang out. In other words, children need time to just be. So true.

It was hard not to read it as an endorsement of homeschooling: school has “hours of mindless homework,” kids trying to stay in top schools are on a “treadmill of achievement,” summer is a respite from the “endless, numbing school year.” We aren’t living that life, and I am so glad.

But it was hard not to read the piece as a lament for gifted children: her son was told to stop reading the Iliad and start reading Deltora Quest, he does most of his real learning at home. The author is pushing her son to get into the good NYC schools, but as far as I can tell it’s not because she is competitive and achievement-obsessed. It’s because she hopes that if he gets in, he’ll get something better and the treadmill feeling will go away, and she fears for him if it doesn’t.

I think in the comments someone points out something parents of HG-EG-PG kids– and creative kids — know well: the tests don’t go high enough to distinguish exceptionally smart kids, and they may penalize the creative or sophisticated thinking of kids who are several years beyond grade level. Who could blame a mother for being afraid?

I just felt moved by the kid’s story — a kid the same age as mine, a kid who could excel at all things school and still be miserable there in every way. I know this mother is doing just what we are doing — taking a hard path, making sacrifices to try to offer her son something better. Maybe homeschooling really isn’t for her, for reasons known only to herself. But shouldn’t she, and he, have some other option?

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5 Comments

Filed under Gifted Ed, Gifted Heart and Soul, In the News, Learning Styles, Why Homeschool?

5 responses to “Why Just Summer?

  1. That broke my heart. It sounds more like her son is being trained than is learning . I feel her pain, it’s got to be a very difficult place to be.

  2. Wow. . . . I agree this is heart breaking. I feel for the boy and his parents and again remember how incredibly fortunate I am that I can stay home with our boys for now.

    The article reminded me of something that happened this past May. I was talking with another mother who commented that all of her children were going to summer school. Since I was planning to spend every possible moment I could having fun with my sons while I didn’t have to play teacher, her comment caught me off guard. I asked why, and she said that it was too hard for them to transition back into school in the fall. I think her point was that they lost time getting used to the routine again in fall. Although I refrained because everyone needs to make their own choices, I wanted to say that her children were missing the best opportunity for fun, unstructured learning and simply enjoying life. Later, we received a picture of one child in school, and it was simply sad to see these children sitting at table, holding a pencil, looking miserable.

    I realize that I don’t have all the answers by any means, most parents are trying their best to do what they can for their children, and some don’t have a lot of choices. However, it certainly seems we need some better options before we end up with a generation of children who never had childhoods and have no clue about the joy of learning.

  3. lapazfarm

    He’s in 4th grade and already on a “treadmill of achievement”? How utterly sad.

  4. Wow, so sad, the sense of desolation in this quote 😦

    What makes me saddest is that the “gifted options” made available in our public school system are really very poor options, and so often they mean gifted children are missing out on what they really need, but no one listens because the options are in place. This was especially true for my daughter, who found the highly reputable special gifted class a complete bore and waste of her time – because it was established for mildly gifted children (the biggest pool). There is such a lack of understanding of, and resources for, the exceptionally gifted in my country. Although statistics say there are only about 20 such children in the whole country, so I guess it’s not surprising.

    Individualised education is the only hope for children like these – and, dare I say it, for ALL children. But that’s never going to happen. It COULD happen. Now that I’ve had experience teaching a class of many children I see clearly that individualised learning is entirely possible in the classroom situation. It’s only the administrative work that makes it too difficult to contemplate for most big beauracracies (oops I mean schools).

    Sigh, sorry, what is it about your posts that always encourage me to write long ranting comments? Imagine if I ever met you in real life! I love the way your intelligence sparks my (much inferior) mind.

  5. Angela, QueenBee

    How a child like this could benefit from a vibrant curriculum, tailor made to him. I find it most sad that with all the awareness and concern of the present situation, that one’s mind doesn’t even consider this option as viable for the situation. It’s sad really, how many kids have to suffer on until their fire for learning is all but extinguished.

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