Thursday, November 10, 2011

Paying the price

The 9-year-old boy is bored.

This is becoming quite a problem, and he's complaining about it more and more.

First of all he's bored in science class. This particular problem started when I decided to be sneaky. I noticed that "The Magic School Bus" was airing on TV, commercial free in the mornings, so I set our DVR to record it. If you don't know about this show, it is a science-based cartoon where a magical teacher takes her third grade students on science adventures. They might shrink to the size of cells and enter a body to see how the immune system works, or they might go back in time to see the dinosaurs. The episodes are well done and actually informative. If you watch all of them, you really would have a good elementary-school level knowledge of science. When I began recording the show, I didn't tell him to watch it, or even tell him that I was recording it. I thought he might find it on his own on the DVR's menu. He did. It became one of his favorite shows, and he's watched each episode several times.

The problem is, now everything he is supposed to be learning in science class he has already learned from "The Magic School Bus," so he's bored in class. I still think there are valuable things for him to learn in class, and the teacher is one of the best in the school, but most of what he's being taught he already knows. The one good thing on the horizon is the school science fair. In third grade they present an animal (he did Great Horned Owls) and in fourth grade they present either a recent development in science or a major historical invention (his sister did the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity). That project should start up in the second semester, and should help alleviate his science boredom.

The second problem is in math class. Because he's been working on Aleks, and has done a sizable chunk of the 4th grade standard curriculum (in 2 months), everything in his math class is going to be review. The other day they started to work with variables in his class; he said he'd done this already, and the teacher asked him to help her present it. That was nice for him, but he's still bored and frustrated that he isn't learning anything new in math class. As far as I can tell, this problem is permanent. I'm going to keep him moving in math at home regardless of what happens in school. (I spent some time this morning creating and finding some supplementary material on multiples, primes, and factoring.) He needs to spend some time outside of Aleks solidifying some skills that only come through practice: standard arithmetic algorithms for addition, subtraction, and multiplication. Lots of practice with long division (which his school's text book literally doesn't believe should be taught at all.) And lots of work with fractions. But I see him getting to the 5th grade curriculum within a month or two.

That's fine by me. The school's curriculum moves too slowly and they allow no opportunity for kids to work ahead. But moving ahead will make all math at school from this point on review and, thus, boring.

I guess the kid will just have to be bored.

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