Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Black and White

We are having some issues with my son Sean. He is in 3rd grade and a very bright kid. He is in the talented and gifted program and made the A-B honor roll last semester, but lately he is presenting us with some difficulties.

On Monday night we discovered that he turned in a blank reading log for the previous week. This despite him assuring us several times that he had filled it out. We go through stages where we physically check it, but last week was one where we assumed he did. We know he read (he has to read for 15 minutes a night and record what he read) and filling out the log only takes a few minutes, but he totally ignored it (and us).

Tuesday evening he forgot his science book even though he had to do some science homework, and it was listed in his agenda. By nature he is a bit scatter brained (like his dad), but we have repeatedly had this problem and counseled him to check that he has all his books before he leaves the class. In the past, we were usually able to let him borrow his step-sister Christina's books since she is also in 3rd grade, but she didn't have it this time. We wrote a note to the teacher, telling her that we would have him do it tonight, along with any other "extra" homework she saw fit to give.

We also found out on Tuesday, that he had gotten behind in his TAG class. He is meant to make flash cards for a few prefix's and suffix's every month and learn them, but he was a month behind. It didn't take long to make them up, and I am reasonably sure he could memorize the years worth of words in two or three days if he applied himself. He has a good memory and has no problem learning his spelling words. I do have to admit that I hate his TAG program, because it's all enrichment and ran by a kooky art major, but I still expect him to do well in it.

Tonight he remembered his science book so he was able to do the missed assignment plus an extra assignment his teacher assigned, but there was a note in his agenda to work on a social studies composition. When we asked him about it, he told us that he had no idea what she was talking about.

Additionally, he often acts like... well a big dummy. Tonight he was answering questions and we had to make him reread it several times for him to get the answer. At one point, my girl friend got frustrated and told him that the answer was right there in "black and white".

He replied, "I see the black words, but where is the white?"

Later when Shannon had him read the sentence with the answer to the question, he replied "That sentence doesn't have the word 'why' in it."

He is not a bad kid at all. He is very sweet and pretty well behaved, but its like he has no common sense sometimes, either that or its laziness.

It's hard not to pile on punishment after punishment. We think we give appropriate positive feedback to encourage him. Our main problem is that because of the number of kids we have, it's very difficult to micromanage his homework and still teach give our other kids the time they need.

I would tear my hair out if it wasn't the fact, I have none.


Robert said...

Perhaps he does not respect some of this work. By third grade a bright student should begin to notice that a lot of what they are being asked to do is busy work. A lot of life consists of busy work at all levels, learning to do busy work is not istelf a bad thing. However is also not a bad thing to figure out how to side step the busy work so you can focus on the difficuly problems!

Perhaps talking to him about how he regards the work, what he thinks of it will reveal why he is finding way of avoiding it. At this point there are two alternatives, one agree that some of the work is nonsense and should be avoided. Help him to do so, and defend his correct judgements. Or set up a clear alternative (carrot/stick) that doing the work as silly as it is.. will be less trouble for him then acting to avoid it.

It sounds like you have implicitly choosen the later. Expect him to test the limits of of that theory. How far are you prepared to go to have him make artsy flash cards for trivial content?

It sounds like he has more to learn about the nature of busy work and its role in life, than he does with the content of the ciriculum.

Anonymous said...

I would give the child a break. Sounds like he has a lot to contend with in his homelife (your girlfriend getting frustrated with him and having step-siblings and whatever else). A divorce and remarriage along with new siblings are huge, huge issues for a child. Please keep that in mind as you help him adjust.