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Familiar story, probably. For some reason I can't get to a solution or just need some help with what I should approach the teachers with. DS is 8, in public 2nd grade, one of the oldest in his class, but not the oldest emotional maturitywise, and we've begun OT weekly for his activity level and body awareness issues. (In other words, they do not consider a grade skip as making sense at this time.)
He has two teachers at school, one for math in the morning, one for literacy in the afternoon. Social studies and science figure in there somewhere, I hear. The main problem is math. For months and months now the homework he brings home is a worksheet for drilling 2 or 3digit multiplication. Over and over. There was some discussion of him moving onto some long division (he wants to! and he asked me how so I showed him and he wants to practice). I hear he's doing some singledigit division at school. The homework has stayed the same. Arrrg! He loves math, gifted in math (we did test this past summer  he's at the level of understanding of a 7th grader in math and is at least a few grades ahead in reading level). This is not cutting it, and we have talked to the teacher a few times about it. She points to standardized tests that show he has improved (from way above average to wayway above average) in these math fact skills this year, so what she's doing "is working".
I am now considering (planning?) to pull him out myself for an hour at least a couple times a week during the regular class math time. Has anyone does this before? Should I do our own math at that time, or give him a break to just run around at the playground or at home! We live a 2minute walk from school. Do you think I need to officially get permission to be partially homeschooling or just let them know "I'm taking my kid out for an hour 2x week by the way"...
The afternoon is literacy. There are two group levels, with a lot of new english learners in the lower level, and more than half the class in the upper level. This is not exactly individualized, the way they have claimed to be. He told me last night that they have to wait and listen while many other kids get a chance to read out loud... and that they read so slow and choppy it's hard to even understand what the sentences are when kids read, and it's boring, so he reads ahead. But then he doesn't know where to stop reading and gets bored waiting, so he does something else (doodling, etc.) and ends up not having read enough. Or the teacher sees him reading ahead and tells him to go back to the page that the class is reading together. The book is a fine level, probably, for working on the depth and skills they are aiming for (questions about character, themes or whatever) but that huge group and the way they do it is really holding him back. If it were me, I'd have pairs of two kids of similar reading level/speed reading to each other maybe? But I can't change the whole way they teach! What would you do or say to the teacher here?
This was long, sorry, but in my head I go around and around with this, and never know what to really do about it. I can't homeschool right now. My husband just started his own firm, working from home, and with kids in the house (brother is in K and of course would also love to be homeschooled  his teacher this year is generally better at meeting his need for challenge though), he wouldn't get any work done. I am also helping out with the firm, so I need work time too. Also, ds creates so much noise and energy wherever he goes. His speed and intensity all day is another reason I don't think I could homeschool him, even if I had the time, just for my sanity, really. An hour here and there, though, I could probably handle. So  any words of advice or ideas on how to structure my own "pullout" program? I'm starting to just tire of the whole idea of public school.
Editing to add another question: I'm blanking on what math he *could* be learning. I've showed him almost everything I know!...He's not going to do calculus or geometry proofs right now (apparently I don't remember much that I did before high school!), but is algebra next? Is there some cool math that I'm forgetting exists?
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Answering the question on what to teach him next is the easier question for me. I can answer it in two ways: (1) Look through the Common Core Standards and see what's next and teach that (I think DS did fractions again after long division), or (2) teach him things that are missing from the standards. I would personally favor the latter. Logic puzzles, fractals, read Number Devil and Penrose books, investigate infinities, patterns, imaginary numbers, properties of pi, watch Joy of Math DVDs together (our library has a set) and play with things in there, tesselations, etc.
I personally prefer the latter. It provides the child with something they wouldn't otherwise be getting, and it doesn't (at least in the near term) make the problem at school worse.
In parallel, when a grade skip might not be in order, you might be able to advocate for a subject acceleration in math. Here, the state law on the matter with regards to age is only that the child be able to function in the higher grade level classroom. For us, the issue hasn't been behavior so much as handwriting size, but we have had to point to this provision in the law when maturity issues have been brought up. It is also a lot less difficult for a public school to swallow than a wholegrade skip.
As to the singlesubject homeschooling, in my state, it's a nonstarter. The core subjects (language arts, math, social studies, science) go as a block. I can homeschool these and send my kid to school for the specials or the other way around, but not piecemeal. (Our situation would have been different, where my kid would have to remain in the school building during math time to do math "homework", and we would have homeschooled the math on evenings/weekends) Which is why what we've done is #2 above.
Finally, you need to be very careful as to how you word his math level. You almost cut it too close to the bone. Be clear that he's not testing as able to do 7th grade material, but the average 7th grader would have gotten the same number of questions right. That's not quite the same thing as being able to do 7th grade math. Also, my DS' grade level equivalents on the comparable subsection (concepts and applications) of the KTEA and the WJIII were wildly different, but the scaled scores were about the same percentile wise. The grade level equivalents are a crap shoot once the child is much above or below level.
Good luck. These issues are difficult and require creativity and flexibility.
I'm in Canada and homeschooled my kids at that age and stage, so I'm afraid I can't suggest much about the school differentiation issues.
But about what you could be doing with him mathwise that wouldn't necessarily just accelerate him through the school's curriculum, here are some suggestions:
Math / critical thinking puzzles. Brainteasers. You can often find neat books of these. The story of the seventeen camels is a good example of the type of problem I'm thinking of. A book that has a lot of these in a wonderful presentation is "The Man Who Counted" by Tahan.
Further in the math stories vein ... books like Theoni Pappas' "Penrose the Mathematical Cat" and "Math for Kids and Other People Too," or Hans Enzenberger's "The Number Devil."
Geometry activities: tesselations (there are some neat apps, and M.C. Escher's work has always been appealing to my kids, but you can have fun making them by hand with cardboard and paper), weaving and knitting (for the patterns), geometric art with compass and straightedge (learning to make 90 and 60 and 45degree angles with just these two tools, making complex mandalas), geometry and patterns in nature (the golden mean, Fibonacci series, etc.), origami (topology), tangrams.
Vi Hart's mathandart videos are quirky and incredibly fun! The hexaflexagon ones are a great place to start.
HandsOn Equations is a neat system for introducing algebraic problem solving and negative numbers. Should be easily accessible to your ds. My dd did most of the program in KG and 1st.
Music notereading (especially the rhythmic component) is highly mathematical and patternbased. If your ds is interested in learning an instrument, the sightreading will stretch his mind mathematically.
Projects and activities that use graphing and probability typically really entice mathkeen kids, yet without directly accelerating their transit through elementary school scope & sequence. Learn to use spreadsheets and create graphs from them. Measure the growth of something. Follow weather measurements. Plot the day length, or the moonrise time. Do a survey and plot the results. Do a randomevent experiment and figure out the probabilities.
Learn about scientific notation, and look at how it's used to better understand the scale of things microscopic and astronomical.
Learn about exponents and logarithmic scales and their applicability.
Explore hexadecimal and binary number systems.
Learn about Roman numerals and the importance of zero. Try to do multiplication with Roman numerals.
Explore the relationship between fractions and decimals ... and then learn about irrational numbers.
Learn about fractals, cryptology, compounded interest, investment math.
Do some computer coding and scripting.
Play board games that involve critical thinking, patternprediction, computation, visualspatial planning or probability.
Revisit some of the basic arithmetic he has learned, but with more depth and breadth. For instance, explore finger math, alternative algorithms (using negative numbers rather than regrouping, partial quotient division, lattice multiplication ... and help him learn *why* these all work).
Hope that gives you some ideas!
Miranda
Mountain mama to three great kids and one great grownup
MIranda....that is an AMAZING reply!!!
Beth . wife to DH and Mama to DD1 (May 109) and DD2 (Nov 211)
As far as what kind of math to do, I think Miranda and Geofizz are right on, both in terms of getting interesting mathy math and in terms of working alongside rather than in advance of the curriculum. I'm taking notes on both of those replies!
When DS was in public school, the teacher was much happier to have me give her something and say, "Please give him this when the other kids are doing their work," than to have me ask her to put together something on a particular topic. (No criticism of the teacher; she had her hands full with that class!)
A few of our favorite resources that might be possible to send in for your son to work on independently:
Historical Connections in Mathematics
Mathematics: A Human Endeavor
Living Math historybased curriculum
Calculus For Young People
And a few mathy games that might work for him to play with other children if you're able to take the time to put the pieces together ahead of time, or even come in to supervise:
Math Around the World
Family Math
Heather
Thank you everyone for all the amazing math resources and ideas! Miranda, yes, what a list!
We have had some pretty fun conversations touching on some advanced concepts but my knowledge doesn't run all that deep I think. He knows about negative numbers, fractions/decimals and the relationship between them, the concept of algebra though we haven't much gotten into solving equations on paper, a little about pi, some probability stuff. After the basics I draw a blank, so it's great to have the list of books & ideas here! If I do end up pulling him out for math I could use these ideas for sure. It may well be that I can't bring him home during school time officially, guess I better check. But maybe I would just do a little pullout in the hallway as a "class" volunteer? Maybe that's what I should ask the teachers or principal.
I guess tackling the reading group problem is harder. The teacher sounds really frustrating. Like ds tells me he asks the teacher when he doesn't understand what to write, or HOW to "write more" when she has asked him to fill out his answer more on openended questions (he is like I was, my book reports in 2nd or 3rd grade tended to consist of "I liked the book. I recommend it." I never really got the concept of WHY I'm writing it or WHO I'm writing for, etc. But I digress.). He says she doesn't answer, only says she already told him, or to go back to his seat. Doesn't she want to him learn? The questions on the reading aren't a test  they should be a learning opportunity. So, the issue isn't that he already knows everything they're teaching, but he could be spending time learning it and doing it, instead of waiting for other kids to read out loud to him. I just don't see how to bring this up with the teacher.
In parallel, when a grade skip might not be in order, you might be able to advocate for a subject acceleration in math. Here, the state law on the matter with regards to age is only that the child be able to function in the higher grade level classroom. For us, the issue hasn't been behavior so much as handwriting size, but we have had to point to this provision in the law when maturity issues have been brought up. It is also a lot less difficult for a public school to swallow than a wholegrade skip.
Subject acceleration  I would love that. I feel like something needs to be done NOW, this year, and not wait for next year. Maybe they could even do this for the rest of the school year. I will ask about it again, though now I'm remembering that I think he would still need individualized instruction if he did regular 3rd grade math. Maybe there is an advanced group of 3rd graders that he'd fit in with though.
Finally, you need to be very careful as to how you word his math level. You almost cut it too close to the bone. Be clear that he's not testing as able to do 7th grade material, but the average 7th grader would have gotten the same number of questions right. That's not quite the same thing as being able to do 7th grade math. Also, my DS' grade level equivalents on the comparable subsection (concepts and applications) of the KTEA and the WJIII were wildly different, but the scaled scores were about the same percentile wise. The grade level equivalents are a crap shoot once the child is much above or below level.
Good luck. These issues are difficult and require creativity and flexibility.
Yes, the wording of "he's at the level of understanding of a (an average) 7th grader" is accurate but I'm not putting it that way to teachers generally. I know it sounds like I think he knows 7th grade math and should skip to 8th. I only mentioned it to show that I feel he could be stretching his mind and his skills and enjoyment so much more than his school curriculum is allowing. I think you understood, and I appreciate your words of caution about wording it that way.
   
The piece that was most helpful for us to bring to school officials was proof of mastery of a particular set of learning objectives, even though my own understanding of learning is broader. "Achieved 95 percent on a 5th grade exit exam" would mean more than "is fascinated by 8th grade math topic," for instance. I know our state has printable sample tests by year (I believe you can even select only "advanced" questions), and there are also textbook companies like Singapore that have printable shortish exams that could show mastery.
For writing, how about sending in a list of about ten questions he could be answering about a book, and asking the teacher if she would like to cross off any or add any. I am all for making as little work for the teacher as possible (and, also, having as much of a voice as possible myself in what is being learned).
Heather
Or, there's always the Lucy Van Pelt approach:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZEmxby8g8A
(Sorry, OP, I don't mean to make light of the teacher's crummy response. Do you think that she wants him to already know the formula she expects, or that she isn't clear herself what a good answer looks like?)
IMO, the point of a report is that the reader figure out his or her response to a book, and figure out how to put that response into words. So, What kind of a book is this? And also, What kind of things do you like to notice? Maybe in a classroom it's also, to some extent, Did you read it? And, Practice writing paragraphs about something!
I've been trying to come up with a list for my DS, and I hope you don't mind my posting it below:
Why was it appealing (or awful)? To whom would you recommend (or not recommend) it? Mention an example!
Did it remind you of another book? What was similar/different?
When and where was it set? How did the setting change the story?
Break it down into segments: First, then, finally. Why was the ending satisfying (or unsatisfying)?
Pick a character to describe. Point to a scene or detail to explain.
How do the characters react to the events?
Heather
The teachers did see the results of his academic testing, so they do know exactly what level he is at in math. The math teacher just seems convinced that the best curriculum for him is to drill multiplication ad nauseum. I really don't feel like I'm going to convince them to do much different. I loooove your list of questions for him to think aboutfor the openended questions about the reading. They also help me in helping him understand what the teacher might be looking for.
The piece that was most helpful for us to bring to school officials was proof of mastery of a particular set of learning objectives, even though my own understanding of learning is broader. "Achieved 95 percent on a 5th grade exit exam" would mean more than "is fascinated by 8th grade math topic," for instance. I know our state has printable sample tests by year (I believe you can even select only "advanced" questions), and there are also textbook companies like Singapore that have printable shortish exams that could show mastery.
For writing, how about sending in a list of about ten questions he could be answering about a book, and asking the teacher if she would like to cross off any or add any. I am all for making as little work for the teacher as possible (and, also, having as much of a voice as possible myself in what is being learned).
Heather
DS was getting some extra reading things to do at home, and I mentioned in passing that he now dreaded the assignments. His teacher scolded me for not telling her sooner. You never know.
Oh how I love Peanuts! I've never seen You're a Good Man Charlie Brown  what a great clip that was!
But anyway, I think if ds's teacher is not getting the answers she wants, I suspect it's mostly because she's not explaining what she wants! Yeah, I think she expects him to just know. Part of the problem (at least the part in ds's control) is he is not very assertive in asking for help. It's not easy to stand up to your teacher after you've already asked once and been brushed off, and say "No, I really don't understand what you want here and I really want to know!" He also doesn't tell his math teacher that he already knows what she's teaching him. It is really hard to speak up about it  even as a parent. I've brought it up with them a couple times now, and even I've not been insistent enough in conferences, because it's not comfortable having a confrontation, and they sound so sincere at the time about wanting to challenge him. That's why this time I want to give them a clear and strong message of what I'm looking for.
Or, there's always the Lucy Van Pelt approach:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZEmxby8g8A
(Sorry, OP, I don't mean to make light of the teacher's crummy response. Do you think that she wants him to already know the formula she expects, or that she isn't clear herself what a good answer looks like?)
Miranda, may I save that fabulous list? Great, great stuff. Geoofizz, too. I agree with all the posters who recommend sidecarring the school curriculum.
Prufrock Press happens to be having an amazing clearance sale this month, which might come in handy for you in finding supplemental materials for your DS. I sound like I own stock or something  I don't, I promise! We have a few of their workbooks and the kids have had lots of fun with them.
http://www.prufrock.com/CLEARANCESALEC1240.aspx
I just paged through and a lot of it has sold out, but their regular price stuff is something to dig through too  we have Logic Countdown, for example. It'd be a great way to go sideways with your DS's learning.
If you want to volunteer to do a fun pullout with your DS and a couple of other kids you could become a real asset to the teacher for math or reading. Instead of expecting more of her you can shoulder some of the load  and get to know some of your DS's peers at the same time. Winwin.
Besides Prufrock, another neat publisher is Royal Fireworks Press.
There is a lot there  I use the age index or subject index. Suppose the Wolf Were and Octopus is one that looks very promising for Language Arts.
Teachers have to check boxes for learning outcomes (around here anyways). If you can look at your state's expected outcomes or standards and see how what you are thinking would fit that boxchecking, you can make what you want seem helpful and good to the teacher, instead of burdensome.
I think if you come with some easily workable ideas, and an open mind to the teacher's ideas, you can likely come up with something good. And as a side note, I have found that in anything where people say they will do things, having some date as a deadline makes things happen much more effectively than some ambiguous "in a few weeks" or "as soon as possible" or even "right away". :)
HTH.
Tjej
Geofizz and Tjej, thank you for your encouragement and ideas. Yesterday I sent an email to follow up on this with the teacher  I actually did write her an email about a month ago asking what's the deal (I put it a little nicer!) with the homework I'm seeing, and that I'm hoping for some more challenging material as we had talked about in the previous conference. In the email yesterday, I put all the ideas out there  that I could come in and do a little pullout, or maybe he can go to a 3rd grade group for the rest of the year for math. It was implied that a third option would be that she give him more challenge herself  but I've pretty much given up on that, as she's probably just not really able to do that in that setting. I will take a look at the links to the cool books that you have listed, but my first priority right now is to get the schoolwork and homework tedium (doesn't sound all that much better than boredom, does it!) to improve as much as I can. His best, freshest hours in the day are during the school day, and we don't get to much supplemental "fun" stuff anymore except on vacations or maybe weekends.
So  the conversation with his teacher is started on the math front. Now on to the literacy. I think my best and only real plan for that right now is to suggest to the teacher that the kids read in a smaller groups aloud to each other? Or asking if kids can have the choice to read the chapter themselves before joining the group discussion that follows.
I hope you see a positive response.
I have a general approach in addressing problems with my kids during the school day. My approach is to give the teacher information about what I perceive to be the issue. I generally say things like "DS reports that..." "DS is resisting the homework and complains to me that it's getting tedious." I do not make suggestions to the teacher about how to change things, I simply discuss what we perceive to be problems and what needs to be changed. I then suggest that I trust the teacher's judgement in dealing with the information I've presented.
My outline for an email: "My child reports that... I observe at home.... Is there a way to meet my child's needs in the classroom? Let me know if there's anything I can do to help."
I cannot see all the factors the teacher must consider. As an example, DS' math is currently executed the way that it is because of other moving pieces. From the perspective of a parent, it seems obvious that another schedule would be simpler. However, it appears as though there's another child receiving special education services that then fixes the classroom's schedule and the other teacher involved has to come from another campus. Another time, when I mistakenly floated that DS do just to math 2 hours a week (everyone knowing he'd still make at least a year's progress doing this as it would have been 1on1 with the gifted teacher) I discovered that it's actually against state law. Every child must have 5 hours a week of math instruction.
I don't really want to tell the teacher how to structure the class or what she should do specifically with ds  but this is my impatience coming through after starting the conversation *before* this schoolyear began, in August. We have had numerous meetings and conversations about it since, with the last being a friendly reminder/question a month ago. I guess I'm just tired of this dragging out. I take your advice to heart, and I'm sure it's a good approach with a new teacher or at the beginning of the year. I am assuming there are lots of good reasons the teacher can't just easily change things around or individualize the lessons for him. So I'm now on "I'll come in and do it myself". I am trying to help them, or at least not further burden them.
As a small update, I did just get an email in response, from the principal whom I cc'd on it  she said they want to consult with the G&T coordinator (they have one for the district) about further assessing all the facets of ds's math understanding. I will remind her that we had a full academic evalutaion done last summer and gave them the results!
FWIW, the reason I suggested the books was so you could buy one and have the teacher give that as homework instead of whatever she is doing.
I think Geofizz has a point about the teacher having a very different perspective on the classroom and what will work. I don't have classroom experience. I report to a teacher for our homeschooling, so I am familiar with what they want done and how they need to do it/report it here, but managing a group of kids is a whole other ballgame.
Your frustration comes through loud and clear. With my approach to advocacy, things happen quite slowly, and we've had a few lost years. However, I've managed to maintain a positive relationship with the school and the end result is that my kids are broadly well placed. We may have another few iffy years here and there. For DD, we did indeed write off most of 2nd grade as lost. It's sad to think that way, so instead I choose to view it as an experience that helped hone the advocacy skills that ultimately got DD an appropriate placement.
I'm glad the principal responded. That's what matters as in another couple of weeks this year will be effectively done, and it's more an issue of placement for next year. If the G&T coordinator has now been brought in, one approach would be to contact the coordinator to ask for a meeting so that you can show her the test results you've got. G&T coordinators can be hit or miss, but the good ones see opportunities where many teachers see "problem."
I'm in Canada and homeschooled my kids at that age and stage, so I'm afraid I can't suggest much about the school differentiation issues.
But about what you could be doing with him mathwise that wouldn't necessarily just accelerate him through the school's curriculum, here are some suggestions:
Math / critical thinking puzzles. Brainteasers. You can often find neat books of these. The story of the seventeen camels is a good example of the type of problem I'm thinking of. A book that has a lot of these in a wonderful presentation is "The Man Who Counted" by Tahan.
Further in the math stories vein ... books like Theoni Pappas' "Penrose the Mathematical Cat" and "Math for Kids and Other People Too," or Hans Enzenberger's "The Number Devil."
Geometry activities: tesselations (there are some neat apps, and M.C. Escher's work has always been appealing to my kids, but you can have fun making them by hand with cardboard and paper), weaving and knitting (for the patterns), geometric art with compass and straightedge (learning to make 90 and 60 and 45degree angles with just these two tools, making complex mandalas), geometry and patterns in nature (the golden mean, Fibonacci series, etc.), origami (topology), tangrams.
Vi Hart's mathandart videos are quirky and incredibly fun! The hexaflexagon ones are a great place to start.
HandsOn Equations is a neat system for introducing algebraic problem solving and negative numbers. Should be easily accessible to your ds. My dd did most of the program in KG and 1st.
Music notereading (especially the rhythmic component) is highly mathematical and patternbased. If your ds is interested in learning an instrument, the sightreading will stretch his mind mathematically.
Projects and activities that use graphing and probability typically really entice mathkeen kids, yet without directly accelerating their transit through elementary school scope & sequence. Learn to use spreadsheets and create graphs from them. Measure the growth of something. Follow weather measurements. Plot the day length, or the moonrise time. Do a survey and plot the results. Do a randomevent experiment and figure out the probabilities.
Learn about scientific notation, and look at how it's used to better understand the scale of things microscopic and astronomical.
Learn about exponents and logarithmic scales and their applicability.
Explore hexadecimal and binary number systems.
Learn about Roman numerals and the importance of zero. Try to do multiplication with Roman numerals.
Explore the relationship between fractions and decimals ... and then learn about irrational numbers.
Learn about fractals, cryptology, compounded interest, investment math.
Do some computer coding and scripting.
Play board games that involve critical thinking, patternprediction, computation, visualspatial planning or probability.
Revisit some of the basic arithmetic he has learned, but with more depth and breadth. For instance, explore finger math, alternative algorithms (using negative numbers rather than regrouping, partial quotient division, lattice multiplication ... and help him learn *why* these all work).
Hope that gives you some ideas!
Miranda
That is a great list and I am so happy to see that our math teachers use many of these ideas! DD's advanced math class was rewarded for finishing their state tests with a project on tesselation. I need to find those apps.
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