Is my child challenged enough?

Is my child challenged enough?

Dear Julie,

I’ve been reading what other moms are doing and realize I may be expecting too much from my son. On the other hand I don’t want to be so relaxed that he isn’t challenged and learning what he’s capable of doing. Two years ago I visited my sister in Colorado. I visited the school they (her children) attend and as I walked down the third grade hall they had three paragraph papers placed on the walls from each class. This was 3rd grade and I remember thinking, “Wow! We have a long way to go!” Well, he’s in 3rd grade now and he is nowhere near writing a three paragraph paper. He has taken this year to write a three page story on two brothers though.

So, that’s my dilemma. Could you give me your thoughts on this Julie? I know you’re a busy woman and I so appreciate the fact that you take the time to respond to each individual person. That is not only amazing it is a selfless act of love! I would love to meet you in person.

Brave Mom

Thanks for asking this question and letting me post it! Let’s skip to the point:

Seeing papers posted on the wall is not the same as reading those papers. We don’t know whether they were good to read, or were actually three dull paragraphs of sentences drummed out of bored third graders. We don’t know how many kids didn’t get their papers on the wall because they couldn’t fulfill that assignment. We don’t know how many of the kids have been labeled learning disabled simply because they weren’t “at the same level” as the scope and sequence expected.

Schools and homes have different goals and methods. Schools must organize children to learn according to standards set by the district, state and nation. Homes tutor children according to principles of personal observation, tailor-made objectives and love.

In my opinion, writing a three paragraph paper in third grade is no better or worse than writing one in sixth grade or tenth grade. The issue needs to be about the individual writer, not about the product. So if your child is not capable of a three paragraph paper (at any age), it is impossible to teach it until he is. We must start with the writer in the developmental stage in which he finds himself.

The goal is a confident competent writer by adulthood. You have about ten years at home to get there.

Challenged enough quote(1)

If you are worried about appropriately challenging your child, I suggest that you make as your goal joy in writing. It is far more difficult for schooled kids to fall in love with writing. Often by college, they really have little to say and many don’t even have a very good sense of what an essay is all about (despite twelve years of teaching). I know this because my husband has taught composition to college freshmen for fifteen years).

If you can foster and preserve a child’s joy in the writing process, in discovering how to communicate his thoughts and ideas on paper, in sharing his work with others, you will be far ahead of his schooled peers and you will find that you are both plenty challenged in the process!

Thanks for writing!

Image by Loren Kerns (cc cropped)

One Response to “Is my child challenged enough?”

  1. Susanne says:

    I absolutely agree!

    I’ve been helping teach writing in a first and second grade combination class in my son’s public school. The CA standards demand that second graders write three-paragraph essays. Well, half these kids can’t even write their last names, much less three paragraphs. And even if they can write, they are coming up with three very poor paragraphs, if they’ve followed the format correctly.

    But I still see three-paragraph papers on the walls at Open House. Why? Because the kids wrote their paragraphs, and the teacher re-wrote those paragaraphs for them, and then they copied her version. (To tell you the truth, they can’t copy worth beans, but they try.) I can tell that the work isn’t really theirs as I know each child and what they are capable of in their writing. But it looks good on the wall of the classroom!

    The point of the above is not to belittle the teacher; it’s to show us that these kids are still in the “partnership phase” of writing, just as our early elementary kids are! We can do a far more effective job with our kids in this phase because we’re teaching a few kids while this poor teacher has 27 children in her class. We can hone in on what interests our kids, what produces that spark of passion, and let them grow and develop naturally as writers.

    We should be grateful that we don’t have to teach to standards for each grade; we can teach to our children’s abilities and foster a love for learning and writing that will last. The traditionally-schooled kids get burned out on writing by junior high because they don’t know how to write from the heart and are sick of copying writing formats; we hope our kids will write for the love of words and expression — and for a lifetime.

    And it’s because of the schools’ methods of teaching writing that I’m bringing my kids home to be schooled again next year. A year in school has taught them some good things, but both of my school-aged boys complain that they aren’t learning enough in the schools. So home they will come.

    Susanne 🙂