Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Getting Schooled

School has started again 'round here, with all the changes that go with it. I have to get up earlier, but on the other hand, there's no worrying about keeping Jacob entertained all day. We're riding bikes to school, which necessitated getting a cheap adult bike and a less cheap new kid's bike. We needed an adult bike because, well, we didn't have one, and a kid's bike because his old one had a flat tire.

Well, okay, not just because of a flat. I can fix flats fer cryin' out loud (I am Tool Man, Grrrr). But there was also this odd problem with the steering wheel. It was supposed to be adjustable. But the pin that was supposed to hold the handlebars in place had an annoying habit of coming partway out and allowing the handlebars to flop around. Jacob didn't seem to mind, but this made me and Trish crazy. Me especially because I had to keep putting the pin back in place, and Tool Man or no, I couldn't make it stay.

So the flat tire on the first day of school caused me to bite the bullet and take his old bike to a nearby bike shop. Of course, it turned out that a problem that was essentially caused by a bit of metal I suspect cost a nickel (if that much) was going to run around $60 to truly set right, involving ordering a new steering wheel/handlebar assembly thing. So we got him a new bike instead, for about $30 more. He was truly getting a bit big for the old one, anyway. And now we can ride to school.

But that isn't what I am writing about, though in a way it makes for a potentially interesting metaphor. Read on…

Very near the end of the previous school year Jake was reading with Trish when he asked her if maybe he could skip a grade? Because he was bored a lot? "Oh, really?" She asked. Yeah, really.

So she told me and I was also very surprised, because while I had heard him getting a bit antsy as the summer approached, I hadn't caught anything about his being bored all the time. And we both felt that he a good and flexible teacher. Actually, he thought so too, as he said he liked her a lot, he just already knew a lot of the stuff they were doing. Rut-ro.

So we set up a meeting with his teacher and the principal. It was very helpful, and to me it seemed clear that in most cases, the decision to skip was as much as social/maturity thing as an academic one. We got the info we needed to proceed if we chose to, which involved getting some tests taken, essentially credit by exam for the third grade.

We talked to Jake about it next, explaining what skipping might mean in term of his friends not being in his classes, and he definitely lost some enthusiasm for it, but it was decided that he should take the CBE tests anyway, for informational purposes. I pursued that while Trish began talking to various people who had skipped, or whose kids had skipped, including several members of her family (her dad skipped TWO grades).

In the end, it was the interview process that Trish conducted that did us the most good. That was because Jacob aced the first three tests. Only the social studies one had a low score -- 59 out of 100. The tester suggested we re-test that one, given the other scores. Well, we did, and he aced that one as well. While Trish had her doubts about the ability of an hour-long test to gauge someone's knowledge of a year of course material, it was clear that Jake was well ahead of the game.

I confess, I found the whole thing pretty unsettling and was hesitant. I didn't know anyone who had skipped up a grade. In my town, you either went up one or were held back. None of this skipping business. Possibly I could have skipped a grade (Trish too, for that matter), but I lacked something Jake had; namely, two parents with graduate degrees. That and the History and National Geographic Channels on cable. Anyway, this was out of my experience. So it was very helpful that Trish had found these other people and gotten their stories. The upshot of their contributions was that some skips went great. Some were a bit of a struggle. Not skipping was both great and the occasional struggle. But everything turned out okay in the end. People still got in to Harvard Medical School. No axe murderers turned up. Which was a big relief, since it seemed to mean that even if we made the wrong choice, we weren't going to be Screwing Up Our Child's Life. Forever (dunt dunt DUH!).

So, with test scores in hand and double-checking with Jacob, we called the principle and told her we wanted him to skip. And so it was done. And so far, so good.

Last night, Jacob was complaining a bit with some math stuff he was trying to deal with. If he had gone to third grade he said, he would already know it, and not have to spend "fun time" trying to catch up. True, Trish replied, but then you would be spending months on this. He considered that for a second, and said that this way was better. So I think we'll be all right.


Mike said...

I skipped Kindergarden (was pushed to 1st grade after a week of it) and then the Floridians wanted me to skip from 5th to 7th (my parents declined that offer).

You may want to file this one under "cautionary tales".

DSK said...

I never skipped any grades. In my case it might not have made much difference since in most elementary school classes it seemed like they repeated the same thing every year. I'd have lost my friends and *still* be going over stuff I already knew.

That your son is needing to spend a little extra time "catching up" now that he's skipped is a good sign that he really is learning new stuff.