Saturday, June 26, 2010

Brag, Nag or just cry a little bit?

 As some of you may know Middlest is a super smart girl who rocks the Language Arts but......only if she feels like it. She just (almost) finished Junior year in high school where she was in an AP or college level Language Arts & Comp. class . She chose to be in this class rather than an easier one because she had the qualifications to take it. She has been submerged in this subject since 6th grade including extra writing and literature classes through 9th grade while she attended  a school for the arts. She transferred to a regular high school sophomore year.

Let's put it this way:

Her eighth grade class voted her most likely to become a Dictionary Editor!
Halfway through the year she decided to take a vacation. She said she had been doing this stuff since 9th grade and she was just sick of it. She was in class every day. She read all the assigned books and finished them in days while the rest of the class took weeks to read through them and do assignments in sections. She didn't do the accompanying work. I think she drew pictures instead. If she didn't do well on a test her excuse was: "I finished it almost two months ago how am I supposed to remember all the details now. She should have just given me the test when I finished the book."
If I suggested she just take her time and do it along with the class in stages her answer was: "Why? It's stupid. I'd rather just get it finished."

Early in the year I contacted her teacher by email about some issues she would face with Middlest and the best way to deal with her and tactics for getting the most out of her. I tried to give her a clear understanding of how Middlest operates from things Middlest has told me herself ( For instance she does not work well in groups and is capable of meltdowns when trying to deal with others ) and from what I have experienced while raising my child for 16 years. I told her that I expected Middlest to take responsiblity for herself and that I would not be hovering and passing the class for her but that I would be "paying attention to what her assignments are and whether she was keeping up" . I told her that Middlest would be obtuse and (tried to find a nice way to describe) arrogant and at the same time she thrived on praise but that she would flat out quit if she felt discouraged in her efforts. The answer I received-contradicted me,- "the quotes are my thoughts",- with an opinion on how she knew the kids should be responsible but sometimes just needed a little push, "no sh*t " and  that she seemed upset at working in a group the other day but appeared to get over it, "because she started drawing instead of doing the assignment," and that she could send home more progress reports if I like to keep up with how she was doing. "Can you read?"  So ok, never mind, waste of time. I'll be reasoning with and grounding her when necessary on principle even though it's pointless on this end while we just sit back and watch her fail your class.

The classes were concentrated on analyzing and finding meaning in the works and writing essays. Middlest often takes a different turn from what is accepted as obvious. She has very strong opinions and she isn't going to change them because someone else sees things another way. She is Masterful in composing essays.  She knows what the teachers are looking for but often she would rather get an F than compromise her own reasoning. She will enjoy arguing her point if it is taken in to consideration. She will not concede to another point if it is a matter of interpretation. Her reasoning, this IS what it means to ME. Therefore it can't be incorrect "for me".
  As an exaggerated example: If she decided Tom Sawyer was really an Alien she would write a perfectly executed essay with precise details and clear reasoning on how she came to this conclusion.
   So anyway.....If she is not getting credit because she is asked to write an essay that asks for an interpretation and then her opinion is deemed wrong she gets an attitude.  She will read the assigned work and skip doing all the assignments and just pass any technical tests because honestly she did learn all this stuff 3 years ago and she really is tired of it.

The result; She failed the second semester. Her final exam score was a 36%. Do I believe she scored this badly? I actually am not so sure. She has never scored that low on any test and she said that she wasn't presented with much she wasn't familiar with and was truly surprised with that grade. If she had done well on the test she would have passed the class with a D. Perhaps the grading was a matter of interpretation ; )
Did I question her score? No. It's possible she completely flubbed it but,
   She took her 1st round junior year SAT cold with no preparation or studying at all and scored Very Well.
 I will be very interested next month to see what she scored on the official AP exam for the class that gives them college credit if they pass it. It is a very difficult test and I am told they usually don't do well when they take them in Junior year but it's good practice.
  So while I am very proud of her smarts I am also frustrated as hell with her behavior.
She sat around while other students worked their butts off. She deserved some kind of repercussion. I don't know if her teacher felt this too or if the protocol was that a D would have set her GPA low and passing summer school which is a standard class would give her a much higher score in the end.
I didn't question it because of the reasons above.

She did summer school for math a couple years ago and really didn't care that she had to. Now she is older and had a little more to lose, like time with her boyfriend, OR Like our family vacation. Which we now cannot take because the classes started the only week we would have free. We are not always able to go on one but thought we could manage it this year. ( digression while I take a moment to weep in self pity) I am lucky to live where I do. Other people come to places like this for vacation. But I am ungrateful. I have been wading through heat and humidity 8 months of the year for my entire life. Endless greenery with no change in scenery. If I never saw another palm tree in my life I would be pleased. The first time I remember seeing a mountain I was 8 years old and I fell in love. I have been pining ever since. The thought of it can bring tears to my eyes. But no.
(We had to think of something else to amuse us and keep us busy, more about that next week)

Summer school is an online course where they can work at their own pace but are required to attend 3 hours at school in the morning and estimate at least 3 to 4 hours a day will be necessary from home afterwards to complete the course within 6 weeks.

I thought that since I was not getting out of here for awhile (which can seriously make me insane) she really deserved to have to get up early and be in class at 7 a.m. and spend her days doing English since she seemed to think she was above it. I figured if we were going to suffer she certainly Deserved To Suffer too. No sleeping in, No beach. School night hours. Pay for being a slacker. Since it was only one semester it probably wouldn't take her the whole time but at least she would be learning a lesson.

So she started the course this Monday and she called me an hour early Friday to pick her up because......
she was finished....
She scored an A. If she had goofed off for the entire year she could have fixed it in Gasp!...2 Weeks!

This whole thing is ridiculous. It was 1st come 1st serve and always ends with a waiting list so I knew to be there early to sign her up. Some kid who is really struggling could have used that seat. Hopefully one will get in without being a week behind making it more difficult. She also did ok in math this year but is very weak in the subject and would have benefited more from extra work in that.

4 1/2 months of slacking fixed by 4 1/2 days of work.
Just long enough to lose my vacation.

What did this experience teach her?

That She Really Does Know It All

She piddled around in Chemistry most of the year and passed  because this teacher has some radical ideas about individual learning and when he saw she wasn't participating and would certainly fail the class he actually accomodated her with extra credit work that would draw her interest, within his syllabus. She managed to ace the final and her teacher gave her extra classwork points for drawing him a frameable quality comic strip titled:

" How to Fail Chemistry."

Her German 2 teacher did everything he could by giving her extra points every time she wore cowboy boots to school and we had a pretty decent winter to give her the chance to wear them but not often enough, so that didn't work out too well. She will be giving up an elective next year to retake the class.

Bragging about her smarts doesn't make her use them. Nagging about her smarts doesn't slightly move them.
And yeah, I tried crying too but that didn't work either......

Someone tell me you have horribly frustrating kids too......otherwise I'll just keep whining.....because we have a whole Senior year to get through......

UPDATE: She made a qualifying grade on the AP exam. She passed it.

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  1. I really don't know what to say. She does need to "suffer", but like you said she got off easy on that, too. Does she worry about her GPA and how that will affect her college-wise?

  2. This story sounds like my 2 oldest mixed together. One minute my middlest is in a gifted program and now he's in summer school. The oldest goes from straight A's to Straight C's and all other kind of stuff. You have a senior year and I still have littlest that has to grow up. #%@$

  3. No- you are not alone in the frustrated with kids dept. I have a son who could do exceptionally well in school if he cared. He doesn't care about school and never has. This is also the child who believes that an in school suspension really isn't a suspension because he had to go to school. I am so thankful that I only have one out of five with this kind of mentality. I have always told my children that school work comes before ANything. Period! Hang in there. She will make it thru and one of these days she will realize why you kept pushing her (because thats being a Mom who cares). It's not easy~ I know, but giving up is not an option.

  4. If she was finishing everything way ahead of her classmates then that would be first frustrating and then boring. I am making an analysis purely based on what you have written about your daughter but she seems to be incredibly talented, intelligent and capable and maybe the issue is that she is not being challenged enough? The question I guess is does she want to be challenged further or is there something else going on. Oh my, reading your post makes me apprehensive about my own years ahead dealing with a teenager. They say the biggest stresses placed upon a marriage occur when there are toddlers and teenagers in the house.

    Sorry you are not going to get to go on vacation - as a lover of mountains who now lives in the flat desert I totally understand what that means for you.

  5. so so so stinkin sorry you could not go on vacation. that blows. i have THREE really frustrating kids, but they're still little. oh my teenagers scare me :-)

  6. i have said before that reading your blog gives me hope that all is not lost on my girls. my 12 year old is super smart. but lacks drive. and then does it way before everyone else but loses it. no amount of begging, bribery, screaming (yes i do), or money will make it change. she brought a 36 up to a 72 just in time to pass her AP class. irritated me to no end. she knows it she knows it. i think it may be part of the aspergers or it could just be laziness. she seems like a mix between your middle and youngest. and my youngest a mix of the oldest and youngest. *sigh* i do not know. i have no great insight.

    i have cried too.

  7. That is one tough situation. She's so incredibly bright, but man, she is STUBBORN! I don't really know how you work with that kind of temperament, because clearly she's running the show. I feel for you and wish I had some answers.

  8. I wonder if this is how Einstein's mother felt?

  9. do they have a gifted program at her school? I ask because this sounds like how my daughter was. once they tested her and placed her appropriately, she has done great. the classes keep her challenged just enough to keep her interested.

  10. my daughter was like that with math. she was my human calculator and phone book. anything to do with numbers In Jr. High she was in some trouble because she didn't show her work and would tell the teacher it slowed down the process. So she started to show her work still got the right answer even if it wasn't the way he wanted, he left her alone. In high school she would be done while the rest of her class as trying to figure it out. She asked her teacher if she could show the student next to her how to do the math problem. After watching him have trouble getting it right, she saw where he was doing something wrong! Then the teacher used my daughter to help the other students with their questions. She really like doing that.
    I think this help foster the desire to get a early childhood eduction degree. LOL

  11. Thanks for the commiseration folks!

    Liz: She is very good at not worrying about what happens next.

    Help Mama: I sometimes thinks the gifted kids are the most hard headed. Must be to keep all of those brains safe!

    Onreeone: I was happy you stopped by the other day! Your girls are gorgeous and it's nice to not be alone in the summer school boat!

    Aging Mommy: Don't panic. My kids are a pain. We learned and survived a lot with the first one and I think our marriage is stronger for it: )

    Elissa: Thank you for the commiseration;-)
    Don't be scared, I have 3 difficult ones too but if it wasn't for them I'd be blogging about what my cat ate today.

    Loco YaYa:Thank You for coming by. Hang in there.
    Sometimes all that works is time. That's what I'm counting on.

    blueviolet: Thank you. My favorite answer is chocolate;)

    mombshell: That's what I tell myself!

    Midwestern Mama Holly: She was in the gifted program through elementary and middle school. Our high schools do not have a separate gifted program they just use the accelerated courses which are not always the appropriate answer. In this case it was complicated: )

    Midnite Skys: Thank you! It is always nice to hear encouraging stories and she is considering Education as a career choice if she can keep herself on track. I think she would be a teacher who is very understanding of her students.

  12. Man, just when I thought four year olds were tough! I have to say I admire Middlest for knowing her own mind but sometimes these kids are way too smart for their own good. I guess I'm gonna be in trouble when my son is a teen 'cause he's already outsmarting me now! I'll definitely keep following to see how this all turns out...

  13. Okay, I will spare you the long comment because I spared nothing in comment length with your daughter. (I hope I wasn't too harsh-I had the teacher hat on and not the parent hat...) I hope she thinks things through for next year.


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