Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Iris is bored

Iris started the first grade, and she complains of boredom. Everything is too easy for her, she says. Socially, she's happy; she has made at least one new friend. But she's bored, and she complains.

This week, we received her first homework: "sight words" we are supposed to practice with her 10-15 minutes a night, such as "likes" and "give." Ummm... Iris just read out loud, with no hesitation, the words "crustacean nation" last night. Her ability to read words fluently and pronounce them correctly, with no sounding out or hesitation, is at the "crustacean" level, not the "likes" level.

Today I asked her what she did in math.

"I wrote in my math journal."

"You have a math journal? What do you put in it?"

"You write your thoughts and feelings about math. We were supposed to write what we are looking forward to and what we're nervous about." (Iris's tone conveys her disappointment in her mother's lack of acumen and imagination and also Iris's fatigue at having to spell things out).

"What did you write?"

"I wrote that what I am looking forward to is playing beachball subtraction. And what I am nervous about is that it will be too easy."

This is bringing back all kinds of bad memories for me. I was so painfully, painfully bored out of my mind throughout all of elementary school. It was just all so fucking braindead and monotonous, and when I was Iris's age, I wasn't even allowed to use the school library yet. So I brought a book from home and just sat at my desk, quietly reading. All those years of mindmelting boredom...

Unlike me (who attended a public elementary school in an extraordinarily small town in Maine), Iris attends a fairly large private school in a big city, which is chock-a-block with enrichment programs. It's known for having a demanding academic program. I felt when I enrolled her that I had ensured that she'd be consistently challenged or amused, and I think that later on, she most likely will be. But right now, she's bored. She's not going to be challenged with the current assignments, given that she can multiply already and is working her way through Lemony Snicket's Unfortunate Events series of novels. She does like her teachers, and she loves her music, gym, and art classes, not to mention trips to the library, the computer lab, and recess.

Anton and I are not sure how to handle this. We do not like to be high maintenance parents, demanding special treatment for our child. But on the other hand, we want her to be challenged.

There is a school of thought that boredom is highly valuable for children. The child's mind cogitates and works as the child festers about, and presumably the child then bursts forth from a cocoon of boredom into a world of purposeful, exciting activity. It didn't happen for me, though. I think my childhood of scholastic boredom trained me to sit still for long periods of time silently reading to amuse myself, while around me others worked. That hasn't exactly paid off for me in my adult lifestyle. Anton gets very pissy if he's doing housework and I'm lounging on the couch, engrossed in a novel.


M.Amanda said...

Sounds like we had similar experiences in school with similar results, although I didn't even have the motivation to go to law school.

Maybe the rest of the class will catch up with Iris. Otherwise, you might discuss with teachers and administrators whether she is mature enough to handle skipping a grade.

the Drunken Housewife said...

I'm a little afraid to think of advancing her, because she fits in so well socially with this group. There could be a big downside to advancing if she is socially less successful.

You might be interested to hear a statistic I read last night, which is that ~20% of gifted children (defined as children who already know 50%+ of the material being taught in a scholastic year) eventually drop out, primarily due to boredom.

Green said...

I vote for looking into skipping a grade. It's totally common in NY, while in CA it seems everyone wants to hold their kids back, and have 8 year olds in first grade.

While I agree that it's good for kids to be bored sometimes, I think that means bored at home. Like having no plans on a Sunday other than "eventually, we'll get up and eat something. After that, wherever the day takes us..."

Bored in school IMO, is a very bad idea. Bored at school means Iris will have books shoved in her desk that she's quietly reading. She'll get busted for it frequently, and get in trouble. Or, the teachers will recruit her to help the slower kids, which would be fine once in a while, but I believe should be her choice, not her job.

I think you may know my older brother skipped first grade. He did swimmingly socially in first grade. After he was skipped he also did swimmingly socially in second grade. Nobody ever teased him for being younger, or shorter. When his Bar Mitzvah happened in 9th grade my mother fretted over whether in inviting his friends she had to put "and date" on their invitations (the answer is no), but that's all.

I vote for looking into skipping. School is not the place to be bored. The school is currently not meeting your daughter's academic needs, and they are as important as the kids who are failing - what do they propose they'll do to fix this?

Anonymous said...

I could have been part of the statistic you gave.

When I was in school I would blow those standardized test out of the water but my grades were always just above failing.

I wasn't lazy or a trouble maker (as my parents and teachers thought) I was bored and unchallenged as we found out my senior year, thanks to a very kind counselor. By then it was too late I hated school.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking this school might not be a good fit. I live in a very...ummm...quirky town with very...demanding parents and everyone's child is "gifted"-- Much like 70% of the population thinks they are above-average drivers. If anything, the complaints I hear are that the kids have too much homework (I have a second grader) and too much is expected of them and their weekends should be for relaxation.

I don't think they have time in the day to be bored, it's very fast-paced and structured -- so much so that in first grade the teacher was worried that my offer to make Native American headbands for Thanksgiving's Feast would interfere with their studying for MCAS tests. She allowed me to do it, but it was like, "You have 25 minutes...GO!" As MIssy said, they break the kids up into groups so no one is bored. In kindergarten, Josh's teacher brought in a specialist to work with Josh because he was a reader and none of the other kids were. I thought she was going to tell me there was a problem, instead, she felt she couldn't meet his needs and pulled in a specialist to ensure boredom didn't set in. I was relieved about that -- since boredom was my constant companion in school!

Is there a charter school near you? Can you find enrichment programs outside of school? I'll talk to you later about this...