doing the advanced work vs being happy/low stress - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 33 Old 11-16-2011, 01:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Update post 14, some good some not so good

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We just switched our 2nd grader to a new private school (for a couple of reasons, high on the list being he was completely, utterly stressed out at the first school he was in).  He was in the top 5 in the entire 100 kids in that 2nd grade (large public school).  He reads on a 5th grade level; he was doing 3rd grade math etc etc, he knows all his multiplication tables, etc.  But he was misearable.  He went from the kid who had unending confidence and loved school (or at least, never ever complained about going) to crying before school, having emotional breakdowns, angry outbursts even on the weekends, and even going to far as to say he hated himself and didn't want to grow up (b/c he interpreted growing up to having to do all this work every day).

 

So I visited his previous school and observed, we talked to the teacher multiple times, even his pediatrician.  My observations was he held himself together--participates well, etc--in school, then was getting it all out at home.  I noticed that in the mornings when they did all the hard stuff (reading, spelling, math, etc) he was working literally from 8:55 until 12:45 pm with NO break, other than to change classes.  The snack they got was a "working" snack.  The options his teacher gave us were pretty good--reduced homework, less classwork, but overall it didn't really change him back into the kid we knew for the previous 7 yrs. 

 

Fast forward to this school, and he LOVES it.  It has 3 recesses a day; his school day is less hours overall, and with not riding the bus and having such a small class (7 kids), he is coming home refreshed even and gets all his homework done without complaint.  We even have an extra hour that we previously didn't have with the longer school day plus riding the bus.

 

The reason for my post is that the work at this school is easier, and I'm trying to figure out if thats a good thing; I can tell the spelling words are 2nd grade words, the math is 2nd grade, etc.  My kid is flying through obviously, and I don't know if that is the main reason for his happiness.  This school being as small as it is I know will do whatever they can to meet him where he is at.  But I'm not sure if I should even encourage that being how things went at the first school. 

 

Have any of you had similar kids and situations like this?  Where either the easier workload worked out or didn't end up working out like you thought?  Thank you!!

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#2 of 33 Old 11-16-2011, 04:20 PM
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As a high school teacher, I've had kids like yours as students.  My older dd is also gifted.  We just moved her across the country and her new school does a good chunk of the curriculum she did in her multi-age class last year at her current grade level, so she's seeing some repetition and some work that is a little easier for her.  

 

In my opinion, both as a parent as a teacher, it's important to remember that the work of school is not just learning academic material.  The work of school encompasses executive functioning skills like organizing yourself and making plans, and social and emotional skills, like managing relationships with peers and managing stress.  

 

Your son wasn't managing stress well at his old school.  It sounds like his social and emotional functioning is improving markedly at the new school.  From your description, this seems to be facilitating growth in his executive functioning.  I would keep things as they are for at least a full school year, and possibly longer.  There is plenty of time for acceleration later on, ideally when he expresses a desire for it.  

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#3 of 33 Old 11-16-2011, 06:33 PM
 
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My 2nd grader sounds like yours in academic terms.  So far, it's the laid-back non-accelerated route for us.

 

Part of the reason is something that the PP mentioned - I'd like her to explore different topics and to figure out what her interests are.  I'm hoping that when she really finds something she likes, she'll go deeper on her own, unprompted.  Once in a while, she does get interested in the more academic stuff, like reading/math/etc - then, yes she'll do the more "advanced" work, again, totally by her own initiative.

 

So, bottomline, we're going for breadth rather than depth for now.  Depth will come later based on her personal interests - hopefully, anyway.

 

Another reason - I just want her to have fun.  Since she's "ahead", she can afford the time to do so.  The gift of time, time to play around, time to explore - it's just so precious.  She's lucky in this respect and I want her to take advantage of that.

 

Edited to add: 

In our case, her teacher has been very supportive with her exploring her interests even within the classroom setting.  So, if she's done early with her work, she is allowed to do other things. 

 

So, her teacher is not giving her any extra or more advanced works or anything.  But, for example, if she's done early, she can go to the library and get whatever books she wants.  Or, she can work on some independent project on whatever she's interested in.  

The teacher has been okay with this so far since there's no need for extra works on her part, KWIM?

 

I don't know if anything like this is an option for you.

 


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#4 of 33 Old 11-16-2011, 07:22 PM
 
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Kids need different things at different times. Sounds like he's getting what he needs right now even if the work is below level. I'd certainly let it go for now and just get him back to a solid and healthy place with school. 

 

My youngest is one who really doesn't like to be pushed. He has confidence issues and resists really putting out full effort due to fear of failure. He does not work well under pressure at all. He was in a challenging school environment BUT it was non-traditional and they still had 2 recesses and a P.E. period daily through 5th grade. As he aged and gained confidence, he started taking on more challenge. He's in middle school now and in all the GATE and honors classes getting top grades. He chose to push himself in math and is almost finished with a years worth of pre-algebra. He'll be in Algebra as a 6th grader after winter break. He even voluntarily added a "0" period an hour before school so he could continue Mandarin. He's certainly an example of a kid who took the slower path in early elementary but moved into a high achiever position later. The trick for him, and maybe your son, is being in an environment that offers acceleration but didn't require him to always take it.

 

Sounds like there could be several reasons your son is doing better now... work that he can complete confidently, smaller class, more free time. I'd just let it ride for awhile and see where it takes him. I would perhaps ask his teachers to keep higher level reading material in the class for him. I'd ask that they have higher level options available but I do believe it's OK for him to take the slow path for awhile. He may seem to stagnate on skills for the time being but many kids (mine included) are spurt learners anyway where they will seem to be at one level for 6 months only to gain a full year in ability in 2 weeks.


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#5 of 33 Old 11-17-2011, 03:50 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone.  This is certainly something that has been keeping me up at night.  Reading your posts makes me feel like we've made the right decision to switch his school; it REALLY makes me feel better to know that he most likely will choose to do the harder work when he is ready.  I pray thats how this all turns out!

 

"In our case, her teacher has been very supportive with her exploring her interests even within the classroom setting.  So, if she's done early with her work, she is allowed to do other things. 

 

So, her teacher is not giving her any extra or more advanced works or anything.  But, for example, if she's done early, she can go to the library and get whatever books she wants.  Or, she can work on some independent project on whatever she's interested in."

 

Yes--this.  This is exactly what I hope can happen with having an easier workload.  My son loves building things and thinking about things to invent.  In one of his first days as a student at the new school he got a chance to write an entire page about something he'd like to invent!  He loved it!  There was almost no chance for independent work or work related to something they are interested in at the public school, which constantly kept them moving from prescripted lesson to prescripted lesson.

 

stik--Yes, I agree with you.  Ironically, though, up to this year, his preK, K and 1st grade teachers always said he was the most mature kid in the class.  He's also well liked by his classmates and has a lot of friends (in terms of social adjustment).  I wonder how that plays into what happened this year.  He's definitely a type-A perfectionist kid.

 

Inside, however, I'm secretly worried the lower-level environment will make him think thats all he's capable of, or it will stagnate him, encourage more immaturity (the other school was very big on independence), or that we're not encouraging him to work through adversity by staying and making the public school work.  Truth be told, I had talked to quite a number of other parents of boys at that public school whose kids also felt crazy emotionally overwhelmed in 2nd/3rd grade there.  So at least I didn't think it was just my kid and his response to the work...some of the kids who were also getting totally overwhelmed weren't even in the GT-tracked classes.  But some of those parents just responded with and I quote "we're not feeding into their tantrums when they come home."  I know in a mothering forum I don't want to seem to harsh but I think there will be times where we have to help our child through difficult situations since as really smart kids, they are USED to things being easy.  That was where I wasn't sure if I was only creating another environment at this new school where he gets back to things being easy.  I also want him to learn that its okay to make mistakes and have to work hard, too.  In this situation--the way my son was being so emotional and saying such intense things about himself--I know the line was crossed between just having to work hard and being a situation that wasn't healthy for him.  I can't help but wonder though if other parents on this forum had similar kids but their kids also stayed in the more intense environment.  OR from parents maybe who tried the easier workload route and it didn't work out as they thought.  I'm just a realist, I like to have the big picture of what could happen.

 

This parenting thing can be so hard.

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#6 of 33 Old 11-17-2011, 04:59 AM
 
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This is an issue we are struggling with here as well. My son has been ill a lot lately. He's had a lot of gastrointestinal issues that we are working to resolve, in the meantime he has missed a lot of school. Being behind is causing him to stress out. It has been suggested that the stress may be causing him to be ill (not by any professionals). Of course this idea comes from someone who is anti-grade-skipping in general and my son is grade skipped and in a full time gifted program.

 

I took a really good look at his work load and found that he completes it quickly and relatively easily. I know the work is not too hard for him, though it is not easy either. The environment is fine as well. They get a morning recess and a lunch recess. They have specials such as orchestra, PE, Music, Art. He has friends. He's just stressed out from missing so much school. So, the school counselor is working with the teachers and him to make sure he gets all assignments and work through a plan to get it all done. We have scheduled some meetings with a play therapist to work through anything else that might be bothering him.

 

I left him in the higher stress environment, because I honestly feel it's something he can handle with a bit more support.

 

I would not have left my son in the situation you describe, as he would not be able to handle that. He needs breaks, he needs distraction, he needs movement. I would probably let him enjoy a break from the academics. If he starts to seem frustrated or starts asking for more challenge I would then work with the school to provide that is an appropriate manner.


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#7 of 33 Old 11-17-2011, 07:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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JollyGG, its funny you mention a GI thing.  Our ds went through something similar for 2 weeks...by the end of it I really didn't know if it was a true stomach thing or a response to stress.  Then his younger 2 brothers got it (far less severe), so I think overall the GI thing was true, but I don't know if he exaggerated it any to get out of going to school.  

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#8 of 33 Old 11-17-2011, 04:01 PM
 
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Inside, however, I'm secretly worried the lower-level environment will make him think thats all he's capable of, or it will stagnate him, encourage more immaturity (the other school was very big on independence), or that we're not encouraging him to work through adversity by staying and making the public school work. 

 

....  But some of those parents just responded with and I quote "we're not feeding into their tantrums when they come home."  I know in a mothering forum I don't want to seem to harsh but I think there will be times where we have to help our child through difficult situations since as really smart kids, they are USED to things being easy.  That was where I wasn't sure if I was only creating another environment at this new school where he gets back to things being easy.  I also want him to learn that its okay to make mistakes and have to work hard, too.


 

I really understand where you are coming from with all this. I wonder about some of the same things myself. I have a 13 year old who did very well in public school -- straight A student, gifted program, chosen to be in the high school musical while only in 6th grade, and on and on. She had friends, her teachers loved her, and she was happy.

 

As part of a cross country move for my DH's job (so she HAD to leave her old school) she switched to a very cool, small alternative school (which is perfect for her sister). Sometimes I have wondered the exact same things that you are right now -- is she getting to used to things being easy? Will she learn to work hard?

 

This is her second year, and she is very different at the school this year than last. Last year she wanted to know how little she could get by with, this year she is all about packing in as much as possible. She decided to add Latin, but didn't have any room left her in schedule. Since it is taught by an outside teacher rather than regular staff, she asked if she could have it tutored during lunch. So now a couple of days a week she eats her lunch with a Latin tutor. It's pretty amazing the turn around we've seen in her attitude toward learning. I think she needed a year that was really easy before she was ready to really plunge forward again, but this time it is being driven BY HER rather than her being driven.

 

I can't say it would work this way for all kids, but when it does, it is lovely thing.

 

good luck with whatever you decide. I think a poor fit in a school is like having a job you hate. Sometimes, the best solution really is leaving and going some place that works better for you.


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#9 of 33 Old 11-18-2011, 03:52 AM
 
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The schedule at his old school that you describe sounds absolutely gruelling for a second-grader. "Working snack?" For seven year-olds? I am appalled. I am sure you did the right thing by taking him out of that school asap, and I imagine that the turnaround you are seeing im him has very little to do with how easy the work is at the moment and very much with the developmentally appropriate schedule and the small class size and not having to be hyperorganized as you'd have to be switching classes in a school this big, as well as with the possibility of doing independent work. I'd bet, for instance, that the page he wrote about what he'd like to invent was NOT second-grade work. I am also wondering whether you can really tell that the work he is doing at other times is second-grade level. In a school with classes this small, it is to be assumed that the children come from a fairly high socio-economic background, with most other children working at least at an above average level - not necessarily his level, but not what an average second-grader would have been doing at the large public school he was at before.

I iknow that small class sizes do not necessarily mean good differentiation, because that depends on the teacher, but if the teacher is at all open to it at least it will be easy to implement.

It sounds like your son really needs to decompress and the teachers are probably aware of that. If your son is happy right now, I wouldn't press for more differentiation at this point but rather observe whether the level of his work is being ramped up by the teachers at some point or not. If he feels bored or stifled at some point I am sure he will let you know - you know the symptoms now of your child being unhappy. If he is happy and well settled at this school and demonstrates constant above level achievement maybe the school will be open for a grade skip later, which sounds like a good option for a child that is normally a consistent high achiever.


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#10 of 33 Old 11-18-2011, 04:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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"I think a poor fit in a school is like having a job you hate. Sometimes, the best solution really is leaving and going some place that works better for you."

 

I went to his pediatrician describing his outbursts, how he had never ever been like this before, and one of the first things she said was "don't do anything drastic like change schools or something."  I said, "What??  If the school is the sole thing--or at least the main thing--causing this, why in the world wouldn't I change his school?"  That made no sense to me, and Linda, like you wrote I actually even said, "if I was coming home from a job complaining to my husband that I was being worked to death, and that I had gone the standard route of talking to my boss etc, but the situation didn't improve for me, dh would say Its time to find a new job!"  The pediatrician actually recommended we talk to a child psychologist first, even though she admitted that she could easily tell my son wasn't a depressed kid, or bipolar, etc.  I did in fact talk to the psychologist on the phone a few times (unofficially) and even she agreed that smaller class sizes, more time for recess and more individualized attention was always a good thing for young kids.  She actually off the record told me she has kids in the school that are patients, and seeing things like what I was seeing in my son, from her experience tends to be clustered in community-specific schools (i.e. wealthier areas with blue ribbon highest test scores-schools).  Which again, made me feel as if changing that would actually be the BEST thing to do.

 

My son is a perfectionist (as described by every one of his teachers he's ever had) so I'm also aware I need to work on helping him with that aspect of his personality, as well as his responses to stress and handling himself when he doesn't get every question on a test correct.  I'm going to read the book "raising Cain" as well as one about anxiety in kids...does anyone here have any recommendations about perfectionism in gifted kids?  For the record, though, I've never had him tested, and I'm wondering if I should do that...thoughts?  My second son is even more advanced than my first, so I'm not sure my older son is as gifted as some of the kids I read about here.

 

Tigerle, yes the kids at that school go just shy of 4 straight hours in the morning doing seat work, or switching classes, or sitting on the carpet; at the end of that time they have "jobs" to do, which sounds lovely doesn't it (like watering flowers or something!), but in fact they go to a 9-drawer bin and need to pull worksheets to do, so on average 2 worksheets/day.  After they have sat and worked for 3 hours.  No surprise, my son was NOT able to concentrate by that point, and one of the issues was he wasn't getting his "jobs" done.  He kept staring off and watching the other reading group (whom the teacher works with during that time) and not concentrating.  The teacher even went and had him wear earphones (unplugged in to anything) and put up a desk "office" (3-sided cardboard) to keep him focused, but it didn't work like magic or anything, though I think its a pretty good idea considering there are 28 kids for her to deal with, some of which require a lot of 1:1 attention.  Comparatively speaking, though, just about all of the other kids, boys or girls, WERE able to just get it all done (girls, when I observed were WAY better and faster at it).  It did require Tigerle like you describe "hyperorganization" and when my son realizes he is falling behind, he freaks.  He just doesn't have that capability yet. 

 

Thanks so much again everyone.

 

 

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#11 of 33 Old 11-18-2011, 06:47 AM
 
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I think some of the current trends in education are insane. Hopefully, our society will evolve a little more and stop treating children like robots being programmed.

 

With everything you've described, I wouldn't push for more challenging work right now. I'd just let things ride for awhile and let the little guy find his center. It may become obvious when it is time, and eventually just one subject may be appropriate.


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#12 of 33 Old 11-18-2011, 12:38 PM
 
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I think some of the current trends in education are insane. Hopefully, our society will evolve a little more and stop treating children like robots being programmed.

 

With everything you've described, I wouldn't push for more challenging work right now. I'd just let things ride for awhile and let the little guy find his center. It may become obvious when it is time, and eventually just one subject may be appropriate.



Sometimes it appears to me that they dump it all on the littlest kids in elementary school because they can so easily bullied into doing the work, then when some of them become disaffected as adolescents, they just give up on them and concentrate on the rest. After all, engaging disaffected adolescents is more work than training second--graders.

 

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#13 of 33 Old 11-21-2011, 08:53 AM
 
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I think lots of open ended opportunities for learning can present challenge by your child's own standards without the stress of grueling, more "academic" work.  I've really worried about my own daughter riding through everything the easy way, especially when I compare her to her 2E brother who has to struggle so much.  What I noticed , for her, was that if teachers give her opportunities for projects, creative works, group problem solving, etc, she'll choose to challenge her own self by diving into the project in depth and really exploring all the angles.  Before moving, the school she was in seemed to just pile on extra work on top of the regular for enrichment.  She really ended up with higher volume rather than more depth, and a lot of it was higher level rote work rater than expanding horizons. There were a lot of teary nights and she really wasn't liking school. Our new school is small, rural, really hands-on and most of the teachers love projects and creative group work as a teaching tool. My daughter takes so much pride in conceiving her project plan and carrying it out creatively that I find she challenges herself and doesn't need any prodding.


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#14 of 33 Old 12-15-2011, 01:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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--Cough is gone.  Thanks again everyone!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have an update, some good and some not so good, with another few questions.  My son's behavior has improved the last month he's been at the new school.  He still complains about homework here and there but nothing like what we had at the other school.  He's formed friendships, its easier to have both my boys at the same school (its amazingly small, all the grades have recess at the same time, so my boys are able to play together and have friends of all ages), and I personally just love it.  My son doesn't complain anymore about going either.  Now for the not so good part...when we were with some families from the old school, the kids asked my son why he switched schools.  He told them "it was too hard for me."  That just breaks my heart--like I mentioned before, he was one of the top of his class.  Because the work at this school is easier, I guess he's internalized that he couldn't do the work at the old school?  I did talk to him and explained--again--that he was an excellent student, his teacher loved having him, he was doing very, very well, we just felt like the new school was a better fit for him.  But at 7 yrs of age, and being a smart kid, he's obviously going to have his own internal opinions.

 

Also, since Thursday last week, he's started having a cough while in school.  A very dry, disruptive, seal-barking (croup-like) cough.  When I say in school, I mean ONLY while in school.  It seems when he goes out for recess for the first time then comes back in, it kicks in and doesn't stop.  When the nurse will call me, I can hear him in the background.  When I show up there at the school to get him, its already stopped.  He has no cough at home, running around, at the store, at night, etc etc etc.  But his teacher has emailed me and told me directly she does NOT think he's making it up.  She says he looks exhausted.  When I've come to pick him up he doesn't look exhausted because by then he's been in the school front office because the cough was disrupting the class and the teacher can't teach.  The two days he came home early with me he ran around and played like normal.  I took him to his pediatrician, who said it could be the new school dust, heating system, etc.  She gave him a spirometer test, which actually came back lower than it should (25% below normal output).  She gave me a rx for an albuterol inhaler (he missed all yesterday of school just in case he really was sick.  No coughing).  So today I take him back to school...and I get a call again around 11 am.  I go to the school, and again he's not coughing when I am there to pick him up.  I took him outside to talk to him--I kept gently asking, is there anything going on?  Do you need to tell me something?  Are you not happy here?  He says everything is fine, that he is happy.  He did say "Mom, I do miss my old school, but that is not why I'm coughing."  I gave him the inhaler, then he went back to class.  The coughing started up again though and lasted until 3 pm :(

 

Any thoughts mamas?  I'm really at a loss here.  Maybe we really made the wrong decision and though he says he's happy, this cough is a sign of underlying feelings.  Or maybe he's ligitimately allergic to the new school?  Then there's my husband who honestly thinks its a cry for attention.  I think his teacher would probably pick up on it if it was, since he has been coughing for hours by the end of the school day!

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#15 of 33 Old 12-15-2011, 02:32 PM
 
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Now for the not so good part...when we were with some families from the old school, the kids asked my son why he switched schools.  He told them "it was too hard for me."  That just breaks my heart--like I mentioned before, he was one of the top of his class. 


 

but he's 7 -- his ability to articulate that the old school wasn't a good fit in such as way that his peers will understand is pretty limited.

 

When my kids switched from traditional school to an alternative at ages 12 and 14, they had a hard time stating why to their peers. I wouldn't read into what he is saying that he thinks he isn't smart -- there are lots of ways for things to be "hard." 

 

I've no idea on the cough.


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#16 of 33 Old 12-16-2011, 12:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks Linda.

 

Today, the cough has magically disappeared.  I told him I was going to observe him in class, b/c I just hadn't seen what these episodes were like.  His teacher is a serious asthmatic, I wonder if her reactions to his cough have anything to do with what happened.

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#17 of 33 Old 12-17-2011, 05:34 AM
 
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Originally Posted by aim4balance View Post

Hi everyone, 

I have an update, some good and some not so good, with another few questions.  My son's behavior has improved the last month he's been at the new school.  He still complains about homework here and there but nothing like what we had at the other school.  He's formed friendships, its easier to have both my boys at the same school (its amazingly small, all the grades have recess at the same time, so my boys are able to play together and have friends of all ages), and I personally just love it.  My son doesn't complain anymore about going either.  Now for the not so good part...when we were with some families from the old school, the kids asked my son why he switched schools.  He told them "it was too hard for me."  That just breaks my heart--like I mentioned before, he was one of the top of his class.  Because the work at this school is easier, I guess he's internalized that he couldn't do the work at the old school?  I did talk to him and explained--again--that he was an excellent student, his teacher loved having him, he was doing very, very well, we just felt like the new school was a better fit for him.  But at 7 yrs of age, and being a smart kid, he's obviously going to have his own internal opinions.

Well, in a away it was too hard for him - only it wasn't the content but other demands. You can chime in and add "yes, I really felt the hours were very long" or "yes, they really piled on the worksheets" or "yes, in such a big school there was a lot of noise and stress" or whatever you feel would be an appropriate way to describe the actual problem so a 7 year old (both your DS and his friend) can understand (and so another parent, listening in, won't feel judged by you for leaving their own kid in that school). LIke LInda said, the concept of "good fit" is very abstract for a 7 year old. He may have realized that other kids handled the stresses at the other school better than he did (some perfectionism in order to be at the top of the class may have played a part, too). Knowing your own comfort levels and stress limits (and being able to articualte them, as opposed to acting out or possibly developing a psychosomatic cough) can com in useful later, as in "some kids like being in large groups and can hnadle it, others not so much."  


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#18 of 33 Old 12-17-2011, 01:47 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Interesting thoughts, Tigerle.  Yes, the other demands were too hard.  I'm not sure who it would be easy for though.  In case you were wondering (since you bring up other parents feelings as well as how other kids were handling the stress) many, MANY other boys at that school were/are having problems.  I wish I could say there were girls having hard times--I heard of one--but most of the parents I spoke with were parents of boys.  Two families of kids I know brought the school counselor in to observe the classroom and work with the boys 1:1 (both of those boys I"m talking about are older than my son, so they are in 3rd and 4th grade this year).  Nothing changed overall--the parents didn't think the counselor helped at all, and the boys still do well academically, but they also hate school and have meltdowns a lot.  A number of families also took their sons to a psychologist.  Also, the ways kids are tracked here is very stealthy since all the parents are aware of the levels.  So the testing for tracking the students happens frequently and takes many forms.  For example, in Kindergarten, (in addition to being thoroughly tested for reading and language arts) they are provided with a situation, and their responses are graded according to 4 levels of response.  The top response will be considered for GT tracking.  An example would be putting a paper bag filled with something unknown in front of a child.  The child is told to ask a question that could help clue them in to what is in the bag.  The quality or creativity of the question they ask, such as "Is it something in this room I can see?" as opposed to "Is it blue?" gives them a higher level.  Then in addition to that, they perform activities, such as creating a boat out of foil.  Not only does the boat have to float, but it also has to be able to hold pennies.  The better built the boat, the more pennies it can hold, etc the higher their tracking score.  And this evaluation happens constantly for K-2 and is all in addition to a regular curriculum in a big school like you mention that has lots of noise and distractions, but only 25 min of recess a day for 1st and 2nd grade.

 

We have very close friends who we don't want to offend who keep their kids there.  None of them love the school--they all know about the stress and the tracking and ALL have said they think there is way too much work.  Its talked about all the time.  But thats not why I personally tell them we switched--I tell them the new school is a better fit for us, having 2 children going to the same school (and logistically it IS far easier!)  So though we don't rehash the issues we used to discuss any longer, they know our feelings all the same.

 

And having thought about it more I think the psychosomatic cough was because of me being TOO on top of his feelings--such that he was exaggerating the cough.  He freaked me out with his feelings earlier this year, I'm probably being too overcautious a mom right now. 

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#19 of 33 Old 12-21-2011, 01:34 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aim4balance View Post

Interesting thoughts, Tigerle.  Yes, the other demands were too hard.  I'm not sure who it would be easy for though.  In case you were wondering (since you bring up other parents feelings as well as how other kids were handling the stress) many, MANY other boys at that school were/are having problems. 

I was wondering. The mind still boggles at the concept of a "working snack" for second-graders.

"Community-based" is an interesting way of describing the issues...sounds like you are handling this particular "community-based" minefield very well!


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#20 of 33 Old 12-21-2011, 06:39 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aim4balance View Post
 In case you were wondering (since you bring up other parents feelings as well as how other kids were handling the stress) many, MANY other boys at that school were/are having problems.  I wish I could say there were girls having hard times--I heard of one--but most of the parents I spoke with were parents of boys. 


 

I think girls are more likely to suck it up and just make it work, but that some of them are still feeling intense stress even though they aren't showing it. When we switched to the alternative school, one of my kids *needed* the switch, but we been equally amazed at the changes in our DD who seemed to excell in a pressured, traditional setting. She's so much happier. She's more comfortable in her skin. She likes her peers more. Dh and I think it will make a difference in how she turns out in life, even though she looked like she was doing fine with all the stress and pressure.

 


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#21 of 33 Old 12-21-2011, 10:31 AM
 
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I agree he was probably indicating that the old school was too hard on him.

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#22 of 33 Old 12-21-2011, 12:38 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post


 

I think girls are more likely to suck it up and just make it work, but that some of them are still feeling intense stress even though they aren't showing it. When we switched to the alternative school, one of my kids *needed* the switch, but we been equally amazed at the changes in our DD who seemed to excell in a pressured, traditional setting. She's so much happier. She's more comfortable in her skin. She likes her peers more. Dh and I think it will make a difference in how she turns out in life, even though she looked like she was doing fine with all the stress and pressure.

 



I wonder what kind of later employee these kinds of school are creating, teaching children how to disregard their own legitimate needs, and what kind of bosses...

 


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#23 of 33 Old 12-21-2011, 02:43 PM
 
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I was going to suggest going in to observe the cough. Glad you had that idea. 

 

I would be much happier with my kids in the second school than in the first one. I think kids can achieve, (especially when they're young and don't need specialized labs, etc) wherever they are if they are intrinsically motivated and it sounds like the external motivation (work assignments) at the other school were dampening his internal motivation.

 

On the coughing, gosh, I don't want to sound like all those parents who accuse children of being manipulative, but it does sound to me like he is...um... figuring out the effects his actions have on others and he is playing around with it to see if he can make things happen.  I hope that doesn't sound too bad. I think it's probably developmentally appropriate. 

 

I have two dds and the first one doesn't have a sneaky bone in her body, but the second one is a little imp and enjoys being mischievous and trying to pull one over on people or see what she can get away with. She's a very sweet kid, though, and doesn't really want to hurt anyone or really get in trouble she just thinks it's fun to be sneaky. I try not to go overboard with correcting her or catching her, but I do try to not let her get away with it and restate our values (telling the truth is very important) and state what the consequences could be if the action were escalated.

 

So for example on the coughing thing, if it was my kid I would probably say something like, "Sometimes kids will fake being sick to see if they can get out of school (maybe throw in a reference to a book or movie where this happened), but it's not a good idea. Did you know that if a kid misses too many days of school he has to repeat the second grade and can't go to third grade?"

 

If you think there's a chance he really might have exercise induced asthma I would explain about the need to go to the doctor and maybe have some tests run. They might have to take blood or go to another doctor for more tests, etc. It's not _really_ a threat, but it's not running down to the school every time he coughs, either, which is what it sounds like he wants you to do. I would explain that if he did have asthma he would have to take medicine, but he'd still have to go to school and that there are a lot of kids and adults (like his teacher) who have to go to school and work with asthma.

 

I'm really a fan of letting kids work at their own pace with some gentle prodding here and there. The first school wouldn't have been a good fit for me as a parent, much less for my kids! Hope you can continue to get him on track at the second school.


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#24 of 33 Old 12-21-2011, 05:12 PM
 
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I'd take him to the doctor.  A cough like that from outdoor recess could be exercise-induced asthma. If your weather is cold, that can contribute. Some kids cough, rather than wheeze. 

 

It's probably nothing, but I'd have it checked out. 

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#25 of 33 Old 12-23-2011, 12:54 AM
 
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cough - yes, a doctor. It's really hard to fake a hacking cough that goes on for half an hour, much less over an hour.

 

I had a similar experience with my ds1, also 7, and I was humbled/embarrassed/horrified to find out that he was really unwell after months of complaining. I knew he didn;t really like school, plus he had no recognisable symptons. No headaches, no coughs, nothing. Every morning, he would tell me he couldn't go to school because he's sick. He even went to the teacher a few times to say he felt sick and wanted to go home and his teacher was as skeptical as I was.  It went on for two months with him badgering me to take him to a doctor, and explicitly telling me NOT to take him to the usual doctor because he was sure the doctor would not find anything. Instead he wanted me to take him to a specialist (right, like for what??). I finally took him when he readily agreed to do a blood test if necessary because in my limited experience, it's either a put-on, or it may be cancer.

 

I took him to a new pediatrician with a good reputation who didn't laugh in my face when I said we were not sure why we were there. She said it was unusual for children to complain so insistently and gave him a complete check. It turned out his airways were very inflamed and he was getting limited air. He was put on a course of antihistamine and his items are now included in our antidustmite regime.

 

Bad mum alert: There were other instances when I did not take him seriously because there were no clear symptons, but when I did finally take him to the doctor, there was always a valid medical concern which was treated. And we don't go back to our old pd anymore.

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#26 of 33 Old 12-23-2011, 05:20 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Linda I know what you mean.  The parents we know who have both sons and daughters say things are SO much easier with their daughter, even if the teacher/school/system hasn't changed.  And I hope my son comes around fully like your dd.  I can tell he still misses his old school; but overall he is WAY calmer and easygoing about things.  He even came home with a B+ on a math test (his first ever!) and he wasn't that upset.  To most parents maybe that would seem bothersome, we want our kids doing well, but for me I'm so happy he wasn't melting down completely since he didn't get them all right!  My dh and I want our kids to know that failure is a great way to learn new things.  To not be afraid of it.  This school may not end up being a rock star academically, but as my husband says, we'd rather have a happy working at grade level kid than a miserable GT one. 

 

Speaking of rock-star academics though...the principle told me once the kids at this school are in 4th/5th grade, they are testing 2 grade levels ahead on the private school standardized test.  I had a couple questions (since its break now and I'm not able to ask the principle himself)...do any of you know the differences between the public state tests and the private school ones?  Also--I know my son is working at grade level in 2nd grade, and at this point I don't know how far ahead the grades ahead of him get with curriculum.  Say they really are testing 2 grade levels ahead; any chance that by having very, very small class sizes (my son is 1 of 7), and working at grade level with enrichment, they are able to gain a more comprehensive understanding, such that they can apply their knowledge to curriculum material not yet covered?  Which would result in the advanced testing levels.  I do know that the majority of the kids from this school when they leave for middle school (it only goes up to 5th grade) are qualifying for the public school GT.  I guess now that I've seen what the public school was doing--working grade levels ahead very quickly, I'm wondering if that is the best way to go about learning at all.  Meaning--my son was learning 4th grade spelling words in 2nd grade, and acing the tests.  However--when he'd be tasked with writing a paragraph about something, he'd misspell tons of words, even easy ones.  As in he's memorizing to pass the test, not to gain the knowledge. 

 

Or possibly, that happens to all kids regardless of the level they are working at to some degree?

 

And thanks everyone for your advice about the cough.  It has gone away, and I do think he had one ligitimately but at some point started greatly exaggerating it.  I remember faking sick when I was young to get out of school too, and I actually loved school. 

Beanma--we did stress the importance of being honest and we did tell him the story of the little boy who cried wolf.

deminc--I have not given enough attention to illnesses too.  I think we all do both at some point, either feed into something or not pay enough attention to it.  We're human after all ;)

 

Thanks again!

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#27 of 33 Old 12-23-2011, 10:57 AM
 
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Speaking of rock-star academics though...the principle told me once the kids at this school are in 4th/5th grade, they are testing 2 grade levels ahead on the private school standardized test. 



You have a translation problem here.  Your principal may or may not understand it either:

 

Generally when testing tells you that the kid places at, say the level of 6th grade in math, that means that your child did as well as the average 6th grader on that test.  That doesn't mean that your child knows what's taught in the 6th grade, just that the average 6th grader -- who is likely to make some mistakes, not be super solid on some older stuff -- would do the same as your kid given the exact same test, even if given the test designed for 4th graders.  My guess based on what you say is that, yes, the close attention and enrichment does allow the kids to do very well on these tests through mastery of the material. 

 

Grade level equivalents are tricky things.

 

There's another effect here with effective instruction:  In my family, we have also noticed that math curricula, through their spiraling nature, will allow a kid who intuitively understands the material to naturally extend beyond the instructed material without even realizing it.  Both my kids learned single digit addition, for instance, and really saw no difference when they got to double digit addition, whereas other kids needed direct instruction on how to deal with the extra digits.  Both my kids look at it and just see more addition.

 

Private school standardized tests could mean anything.  Some private schools use dozens of tests, and all quite different.  They probably aren't very comparable to state tests (and that will vary by state as well).  There are a few that give you a clearer sense of how far a child has extended themselves, but generally percentiles, scores scaled (100 as the average by age/grade and st dev of 15 -- equivalent to an IQ) are most useful and comparable.

 

Which leaves you where? 

 

Our mantra in our house is:  Is the child engaged?  Learning?  Content with school?  We change things up or intervene at the school when the answer is no to one of those criteria.

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#28 of 33 Old 12-23-2011, 04:54 PM
 
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I don't know about the cough, except for one thing: when my DD1 was younger (maybe six or so- like your DS), she had coughing that was a symptom of strep throat. While the strep throat went away eventually, the coughing became more of a tic that lasted for a year. I don't know if that's what happened to your DS, but that's what happened with mine. And by the way, I don't know how you can exaggerate coughing- it's not that easy to create a realistic-sounding, hacking cough like your DS's- usually you know when it's fake by the way it sounds. And I don't think you would want to cough all the time, every few seconds, every day like my DD1's was. Believe me, you get really tired of it eventually, but you can't do anything about it. You HAVE to cough. Maybe ask your DS how he feels, ask him about his throat or cough and see what happens. If his throat aches or something, ask him if it hurts when he swallows only, that kind of thing. Just ask about it, that's all.


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#29 of 33 Old 12-27-2011, 03:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Geofizz, I am in agreement with what you wrote; I understand the percentile grading.  Sorry in my previous post I didn't explain exactly what the principle told me--yes, they are scoring on the standardized test what the average 6th grader scores when they are in 4th grade.  I think thats pretty good, considering it doesn't seem like they are moving that far beyond grade level (that I can tell yet for 2nd grade), though I do know they have pretty cool and fun enrichment activities for the kids who finish the assigned classwork early.  

 

 

"Which leaves you where? 

Our mantra in our house is:  Is the child engaged?  Learning?  Content with school?  We change things up or intervene at the school when the answer is no to one of those criteria."

 

Yes, and this is what we chose to do when we switched him from the public school.  Hopefully we won't have to go this route again, that is if he seems to be challenged enough at this school great, if not that they are willing to work with us to see that he can be.

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#30 of 33 Old 12-31-2011, 09:00 PM
 
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In second grade, my son transitioned from a challenging Montessori school to a good public school where the work was much easier for him. We supplemented with extra-curricular learning to make up for the easier work and we also made sure he was fully responsible for his homework, and doing as through a job as possible for each assignment.

 

In middle school, the curriculum stepped up -- many more opportunities for gifted kids -- and that is where we've really seen the benefits:  he is not burned out from grade school, has always felt confident to actively participate in class, and has long been in the habit of being responsible for managing his work. So, what we learned is that a happy, confidence-building school experience in the early grades can really set the stage for future academic achievements.

 

 

Also, regarding the cough, two questions:

1) Are there any animals in your son's classroom? If so, there might be an allergy trigger.

2) Does he ever cough at night (while sleeping?) If he coughs at night that is a strong sign of asthma, and if so, will likely need something other than an inhaler for long term management. 

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