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Patch’s High Intensity Schooling

I chose the school program that Patch is in with my eyes open. It is a gifted program, academically accelerated. Since it is an opt-in program the teachers ask a lot of parents in the way of support. In making the choice to put Patch and Gleek into the program two years ago, we weighed a lot of factors and ultimately decided that this was the best possible one. Even though it would sometimes be hard and other times it would be harder. So I choose this. I’m not sorry I did it. I know that it is still the right choice for our family. But I’m still going to complain a little.

Monday an explorer story was due. In order to write this story, Patch had to read a biography about the assigned person, include three try-fail cycles, have at least two characters, one character required to be native, and feature the major geographical landform for which the explorer was famous. Pretty exacting, but doable. Particularly since we’ve known about it all month. Patch was assigned Louis Hennepin, about whom no one has ever written a biography. Hennepin is usually a footnote or paragraph in books about La Salle. So we checked out an encyclopedia of explorers where Hennepin was mentioned more than once. Patch wrote a two page story.

Tomorrow the explorer game is due. This is a board game based on the story. It must have a map, the major landform, give information about the landform, and information about the explorer. Playable by 2-4 kids. Patch likes this sort of assignment, which means I did not have to do nearly as much work as I expected. Mostly I helped make sure all the information things went into the game.

Two projects in a month is fairly standard for this class. Usually there is a lighter one in the first half an a bigger one for the second.

Next week Booko is due. This is bingo filled out with books that Patch has read. Since he enjoys reading, all we have to do is make sure he can get five in a row. This month was Mystery, poetry, 900s book, Beehive award book, and Story collection. Then there is a book report on the genre of the month. These book reports can be anything from shooting a video commercial to bringing in treats based on the book. It isn’t hard, it is just a project we need to remember to get done.

Next week is also Halloween. The kids are requested to wear costumes based on characters from books. This is one way for the teacher to acknowledge that Halloween has become tricky ground for 5th graders and to give them all a socially acceptable excuse to still dress up. But, putting together a costume is an additional project.

Then there are the regular rounds of spelling, math, writing etc. Most of which Patch can accomplish in 20 minutes or less on a daily basis. If Patch pays attention to homework and projects for an hour per day, he can definitely keep up. No problem. In fact he has enough hours to spare that I sometimes feel guilty over the quantity of time he plays video games.

Guess who has to make sure that hour per day happens every single day? Most days I’m fine with that. All I have to do is nudge and Patch goes and gets his work done. The projects require more focused attention. Which is hard to come by on a day like today when I’ve spent all of my energy making sure all of my own projects are being moved forward. Add to that the impending end of term on Friday, which means making sure that Link and Gleek are on track. Which they are, but Link also has about an hour of homework each day and half the time he needs me to participate in some way. I suspect that I’ll be able to back off as the year progresses, but for now, this is how it is.

It is a lot, all of this school support. Yet when I think about what my kids get to do, I know I’ve chosen right. Patch got to make a game. He got to write a story. Later in the year he’ll participate in writing a declaration of independence, write and perform an opera, and a hundred other amazing things. Those things would not happen for him without this high intensity program. The idea of doing such things on our own is attractive, no grades, no pressure, but the truth is I would never get them done. I am far too pressed by projects to voluntarily pick up more. I have as evidence the past few summers when my children did almost nothing academic because I was too busy with business things and with being so very glad to rest a little bit.

So, the abundance of projects is driving me a little crazy this week. Next week will be better. By the week after that, many of the projects will have begun to clear. Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it is the wrong choice.

7 comments to Patch’s High Intensity Schooling

  • Jen Jen

    Sometimes I call this feeling being trapped by my own good choices. I know what I am doing is right- it just feels so hard some days.

  • Did the teacher actually use the term “try-fail cycles”?

    • Yes she did, along with “show don’t tell”, “narrative story format”, and “problem then resolution.” Even better, she spent time teaching the meanings of all of these things before putting them on the assignment sheet.

      • Those three don’t really surprise me, although I don’t believe I was taught about “show don’t tell” until 6th grade. Try-fail cycles have never been mentioned in any of my English classes. She must be a very well-educated teacher.

  • Mike Barker

    Just wondering — does Patch do a schedule/calendar for getting all those projects done? Seems like a natural place for learning project management skills (which I end up teaching kids in Grad School, far too often — no one showed them before that!). The nice thing about having it on a calendar is that it’s visible, and learning to do self-tracking sure helps later.

    • We’re not doing calendar tracking. We’re doing list tracking though some of the lists are attached to days.. And yes I’m making him do it rather than doing it for him.

  • Ooh… I love the way the teacher is structuring learning into cool shapes like board games and book bingo. I’m going to stash those ideas away for potential future use.

    Totally empathize with the aggravation of having teachers arbitrarily pile projects into an already busy month. Maybe it’s my inner control freak talking, but it really bugs me when demands are made on my time in a context that does not allow me to say No.