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Diving off a cliff into second grade

Submitted by on Thursday, 9 September 2010 No Comment

It’s not so much the academics, though the weekly spelling list now is 20 instead of 12 and the words are harder for Big Guy to wrap his head around.

“Witch? That’s not W-I-T-C-H, because I don’t hear a T. This is just wrong, wrong, wrong,” he ranted, making me regret ever teaching him to sound out words.

The math, though, has been mainly review with a sprinkling of new concepts. The non-spelling portion of language arts isn’t substantially harder yet either, though I know from looking at the California standards that that’s going to change.

Still, there’s a big leap from first to second grade here that has little to do with the concepts studied or the material to be mastered.

The jump – and it’s of Evel Knievel proportions for Big Guy – is one of expectations. As in, you’re now expected to read the instructions and follow them, and the instructions are more complex than “write down your answer.”

For example, recent math homework involved solving the equation then circling each problem that had a double. Big Guy completely glossed over the second part. “Did you read the instructions?” I asked. “I don’t think you’re finished yet.”

A spelling worksheet at school told them to sort the words by consonant blends and then circle the letter blend in each word. Big Guy didn’t get a single one right, not because he didn’t know the blends. Clearly he did, because he’d sorted correctly. But he didn’t circle the blends because he hadn’t read the instructions.

I see hours of agony in my future, instigated d by a strong-willed child who’s resisted parental instructions since he was old enough to jut out his lip and say, “I’m not going to take it” when presented with his asthma medication. He was 2 at the time.

And if he doesn’t like a human telling him what to do, he’s even less pleased when a piece of paper is his task master.

“Why do I have to follow the instructions anyway?” he complained when I showed him the spelling worksheet.

“Because a lot of the time in life it’s important that we do things a certain way,” I said, not mentioning years of Christmas Eve trauma his Dad and I have endured because one of us who shall remain nameless prefers to start putting things together without first figuring out how.

“Why do we have to do it in a certain way? Why can’t we just do it the way we want?”

“Sometimes  you can. If you’re working on an art project or writing a story, you can create it however you want.”

“Then why do you keep telling me I have to capitalize the first word?”

Dang little future lawyer, I thought, hoping he doesn’t read any e.e. cummings anytime soon.

“Look, you don’t have to do anything,” I said. I know he sensed the trap, because that’s how I always start out when I’m trying to convince him that he does indeed have to do something. “But if you don’t follow the instructions, you’re going to get zeroes. Do you think a zero is a good grade?”

He shook his head.

“Then you think maybe you should try a little harder to remember to read the instructions?”

He nodded. I’m sure, though, that we’ll have the discussion at least a few more times through out the year.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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