Thursday, September 16, 2010


As it happens every school year, the first week or two is when changes are made.

Last year we added French to Katherine's schedule and moved Rebecca into Extended Language Arts and Extended Math (she was bored senseless in her math class, even in Extended). Later in the year Nicholas added SIGNET to his week due to boredom in class. This year, Jonathon was already approved for SIGNET at the end of 3rd grade so he'll start on time, but when Rebecca's schedule came home she was only in Extended Math and not Extended Language Arts for 7th grade. Several emails to her counselor and the schedule is fixed. What's the difference? Well, for LA, I'm not really sure. But for Math it means completing 8th grade math/pre-Algebra this year, taking the 8th grade SOL in the spring, and moving on to Algebra next year. Hopefully this means she won't be too far behind her peers when we move abroad. The boys are both in SIGNET for much the same reason. They were approved for aptitude in math and though they still do regular math the SIGNET class is meant to challenge their thinking.
Yesterday was a long Discussion Day with Katherine. We talk with her a lot about so many things, some of it not welcome or enjoyable, most of it we try to keep an open mind. Yesterday's topics ranged from reinforcing "no friends over until homework is done" (she truly believes she does her homework at the same pace whether she's sitting along or whether she's surrounded by friends on the front lawn with music blaring) to "parents don't like grounding teens even more than teens don't like being grounded" (because few things ruin an adult's evening or weekend more than having to be a "guard" over a mopey annoyed child) to "breaking rules [home, school, public] and why there are rules in the first place." She is relatively ensconced in the teen angst of Power Control Parents whenever we set a boundary or enforce a rule. True, we have our differences over the music she listens to. In a way it's a comforting and normal disagreement we're thankful to have. She has been grounded all of twice in her life... once for something I don't remember, and last year for failing a class at interims (she brought it up to a B for report card). We talked about earning trust and how trust earns more freedoms. Breaking rules means tighter parental controls and fewer personal freedoms, following rules equals greater personal choices and more self-reliance. Another normal discussion. I have high hopes and expectations that by the time Katherine is of age to be responsible for herself she can truly be responsible for herself. One of the biggest goals we have for her is that she learn to be trustworthy to herself.
I know that none of this is news to any other parent of a teen.
Near the end of the evening she brought up a topic that obviously weighs on her mind. I was turning off the lights and locking up the house while she was off in the kitchen getting a before bed snack when she said "I get jealous of Rebecca."
I knew exactly what she was talking about. How together Becca is. Her good grades. How she's on top of things.
Katherine feels that Becca just gets it all.
What Katherine doesn't understand, and what I told her very clearly, is that Becca works, and works hard, for every single grade she gets. Becca makes the time for checking and double checking her work. She uses her agenda every day for homework assignments, she completes assignments and then considers if there's something she should add. She studies. A lot. She studies before tests, she reviews notecards all the time. She quizzes herself then has us quiz her. She searches for ways to make recall easier. She admits a lot of things are tough and those are the areas she focuses on and struggles through until she understands. American History is the bane of her existence and it was the class she worked the hardest on last year. She thinks ahead, does homework when it's assigned not when it's due. She does all the extra credit offered and argues with any teacher who deducts points she doesn't feel was fair (yesterday she lost points for omitting her name at the top of a sheet because she went to the clinic, you can bet she'll never do that again). And the biggest thing, she learns from her mistakes.
Katherine is gifted (and anyone who knows me knows I despise that word) in her ability to absorb information. She barely has to read anything to understand it. She gets things with minimal effort and I told her that repeatedly over the years a number of teachers told us that she is so smart, she just Gets It. Whether it's French or Math or Science or anything in between, little of it is a challenge.
Why is she jealous of Rebecca?
I told Katherine that if she spent as little as 10-15 minutes a day spread out here and there to review and ask herself at the end of the school day: "Did I write my homework down?" and "Do I have all my books for tonight?" - and at the end of the day: "Did I do all my homework?" - and most importantly at the beginning of each class: "Have I turned in my homework for this class?" she would get straight As without blinking.
That portion of "Discussion Day" ended with Katherine thinking aloud "Maybe I should try a little."
Yes, love. That's exactly what you should do.

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