Ask the grumpies: What acceleration to prioritize and what about when they return to school?

Chelsea asks:

We are homeschooling because of high rates of transmission in our area and because my kids don’t sit in front of computer screens and pay attention well (TV on the other hand…). I have a question about a kid with mismatched skill levels. My DC2 just started K (will be 6 in Nov) and has very mismatched math and language levels. He’s a pretty normal Kindergartener as far as reading and writing goes (can write simple words but handwriting is terrible, can read sight words and is learning word families) but he has very good number sense and will probably be ready to start Singapore Math 2nd grade in a few weeks.

I guess the question is… should I care or try to do anything about the mismatched skill level? Like back off on math time and push reading and writing more? Or just roll with it and figure that his reading skill will catch up? DC1 made huge strides in reading in 1st grade so I assume this will probably happen for DC2…

Also, both of my kids are working ahead of their grade – at least for some things. DC1 is in 2nd grade and doing Winning With Writing and Growing With Grammar 3rd grade, etc. What should I do when they go back to school? Should I try to maintain what we’ve learned through homework (which is unappealing because they will have school homework, too)? Not really worry about it? I don’t think grade skipping is something that is done here, nor do I really think it’s what we want because I’m not sure they are ahead in every way (especially in maturity).

Thoughts?

I’m of two minds about letting kindergarteners just explore their interests and… helping give kindergarteners the skills they need to be able to discover new interests.  I mean, learning how to read is BIG and opens up huge wonderful worlds to explore.  It’s basically necessary for everything else.  So, I’d say in this case, so long as the kid is happy with it, add some phonics.  Since he likes TV, get a copy of the Leapfrog DVDs and learn their wonderful phonics songs by heart.  Sing them while doing chores.  As you continue to read to your child, putting your finger under the words you’re reading while you do it, reading may just happen on its own without additional upper-level instruction (We loved the Step into reading readers, like Too Many Dogs and Cat Traps — way more interesting than the dreadful Bob books).  A good phonics foundation is important, but there’s no reason not to start off in a way that is easy on you and fun for the kid.  No need to add any upper-level workbooks unless you and the child want to.  We also had some fun phonics puzzles where the kids matched a picture of an animal with the name of an animal, that sort of thing.  And definitely no need to cut back on math to make room for reading– just swap in some educational videos for TV and reading together for family time.

In the more general question… should you try to keep everything even, or allow single subject acceleration… What we have generally done:  If we think there’s going to be a grade skip, we push on anything that is not on level for the next year (like memorizing facts about who “invented” the steamboat in the US).  If one of the kids is behind on something (like spelling or grammar or Spanish or handwriting or typing) because it wasn’t picked up in the schools, we supplement for that, at least up to grade-level.  For acceleration, we mostly focus on making it so they’re not bouncing off the walls.  I love math and both my kids are interested in math, so it has been easier to push them on math than on other things (though DC2, the only artist in the family, has been using youtube to help explore that side of creativity, and DC1 has an extensive and growing knowledge of magic tricks).  So, for the most part, we have a baseline level of what we expect them to have, and we make sure they’re at that baseline, then we accelerate in things they (or I) find more interesting.  But a lot of it is about getting rid of some of their energy so they don’t start moving things with their minds like in Matilda.

When they get back to school, play it by ear.  You may want to talk to the teachers about if they do single subject acceleration or if they do differentiation and clustering within the classroom.  They may need to have new placement tests.  Also look ahead:  testing out of fifth grade math is REALLY common in our school district… in DC1’s year they had two full classes of seventh grade algebra because of it.  If something like that is common, you may want to make sure you keep up with the math and fill any missing gaps.  If school is challenging enough, then only supplement if they want it.  Currently we have DC2 doing a full set of workbooks on weekends, but only Singapore Math (on grade level currently) during the week.  Since zie only does a page a day instead of a full lesson a day it doesn’t generally take that long after everything else is done.  When school wasn’t challenging enough, we had more supplementation during the week.  DC1 finished a round of handwriting practice this summer because hirs was atrocious but zie doesn’t have any other outside-of-school assignments because zie gets enough at school (as a sophomore) now and isn’t super behind on anything.

Grumpy Nation, what are your thoughts?  Anyone in a similar situation, what are your plans?  Philosophically, how do you feel about whether to allow a single subject to be super accelerated vs. making subject learning levels more even?

Getting a gift-card for DC2’s teacher was even harder this year

DC2’s virtual dual language teacher continues to be amazing.  So we thought, why wait for teacher conferences (and will we even have parent teacher conferences this year?), let’s donate to her classroom now.  And since there’s only one teacher instead of two, we’ll just give her the full amount.

I figured we’d just go to giftcardmall (not sponsored) and order two $500 cards as per usual, but alas, they only allow up to $250 now.  There is one company that does still allow $500 cards, but Walmart doesn’t accept purchases over $50 from them and the internet is full of complaints about numbers being stolen and the cards being made useless.

We emailed the principal at the home school for the teacher and confirmed that gift cards are still the best way to donate and that we could donate anonymously through her.  Yes and yes.

After a lot of going back and forth, I decided that the risk wasn’t worth it and paid the extra money to get 4 cards for $250 each instead of 2 cards for $500.  That also meant I had to pay extra for shipping, but shipping was safer.  The cards came a few days later.  I stuck all 4 giftcards into one of the greeting cards they sent, added a note explaining, taped up the greeting card envelope, stuck it in one of those pronged envelopes which I also closed and wrote the teacher’s name c/o the principal’s name on the outside.  Then DH dropped it off at her home base elementary school.

Shipping + fees = $34.75.

I feel really silly for having to do this– four cards seems silly.  Spending $35 to convert money into (riskier) plastic money seems silly.  But… doing it this way does allow the teacher to circumvent having to use approved suppliers or get bids.  And I’m so short on time this semester that I was willing to pay it just to stop having to think about the best solution.

This will probably be the last time we do this since 5th grade is in middle school and there are multiple teachers.  Donations will go back to being in the form of kleenex/paper towels/wipes, assuming there’s a vaccine by then.

RBO Virtual learning with the kids

  • DC1 got into all hir classes because hir programming teacher is in the age range in which covid is super dangerous, so zie is teaching from home.  I am glad that our district is following ADA guidelines and allowing this for teachers.  And that DC1 doesn’t have to take AP physics on top of pre-AP chemistry and AP US History.
  • Two of DC1’s classes are being taught synchronously (programming and history) and the rest asynchronously.
  • From the video streams of DC1’s history class, it looks like social distancing and masking guidelines are being followed at least in that class.  There are only 12 kids in it in person and like another 12 online.
  • DC2’s virtual teacher is AMAZING.  Simply amazing.  Fourth grade is such a formative year and I think maybe it’s lucky we lucked into her for virtual learning because we wouldn’t have had her otherwise.  She’s from another elementary school and taught third grade last year.  She’s smart and cheerful and organized and understanding and it’s no wonder when she asked kids on their first day what they were looking forward to most, all the kids who had her last year said having her as a teacher again.
  • The video DC2’s teachers sent out for in-person learners showed lots of skits with not social distancing going on among the teachers.  Another reason to be glad we kept hir at home.  At least the high school video had all teachers appropriately masked and social distanced (though the principal’s mask slipped down below her nose a couple of times during the video).
  • At schedule pick-up (where DC1 did not actually get hir schedule– someone made a mistake) zie got a really nice quality mask from the high school.  Waaaay better than the mask that our university sent us over the summer along with a very tiny thing of wipes and sanitizer.
  • I have been teaching in person.  (I assume we’ll get shut down at some point, but haven’t yet.)  We are expected to bring our own wipes to class to wipe off keyboards and markers.
  • DC2’s class has some small synchronous components.  We’re still ironing out the kinks in those.
  • DC2’s Spanish weeks have been taking more of my time because zie isn’t as comfortable with Spanish and because DH doesn’t know Spanish.
  • I had hoped that me not being in my office would stem a lot of the “just one quick question”s (that are never one and never quick) about the homework, but they send emails asking for zoom meetings outside of office hours with vague “walk me through what I’m doing wrong” on the homework.  If you have a specific question, ask it on the course website.  If you don’t have a specific question, come to office hours.  If you can’t come to office hours… then figure out a specific question to ask on the course website.  Or get a private tutor.   There’s a reason I have office hours instead of being available by appointment for all my students.
  • DC2’s frenemy whose little sister got a positive test for covid ended up doing the in-person schooling in the end. So two of DC2’s friends are in person and one is virtual.
  • So far DC1 has been getting to sleep earlier than last year.  Zie says zie doesn’t waste as much time in class doing nothing.
  • Even though (according to DC1) English still sucks, DC1 is glad that zie is using video-editing and powerpoint skills instead of coloring skills.  Zie thinks they may also be taught grammar and sentence diagramming instead of not being taught those things.
  • I think we’ll send a $1K giftcard to DC2’s virtual teacher.  Not quite sure how to get it to her.  I guess one of us will have to actually go into her school?  It’s a different elementary school so we will need to email that school principal to see what to do.

For those of you with school-age kids, any schooling updates?

We decided on Virtual Schooling

In the end we decided not to send the kids to in-person school in the fall.

In our last post, we’d already decided not to send DC1.  The risks are larger at the high school level and all but one of hir chosen classes is going to be offered online (Programming II will have to be swapped out with either AP Physics 1 or AP Statistics).  DC1 was also on board with this, as zie is an introvert and while sociable enough in person doesn’t even know some of hir friend’s last names and certainly doesn’t have any contact information.

DC2 ended up being a harder decision, but we finally brought the question to hir.  Zie asked what virtual schooling was going to be like, so we showed hir the district webpage.

While there, Zie also looked at how in-person schooling was going to be different while zie was there, which we hadn’t really thought about.  Zie didn’t like that zie wouldn’t be allowed to play on the playground with friends from other classes.  Zie didn’t like having to wear a mask all the time.  Zie was a little weirded out by the going to the restroom as a group rather than when zie had to go.  Zie also didn’t see much point if zie couldn’t go to after-school with hir main friends.  Zie pointed out that in-person school didn’t sound as fun as usual.

Then zie added up the amount of time spent doing school virtually (90+90, that’s 3 hours, right?) and liked that it was low.  Zie liked the flexibility.  Zie liked being able to eat whenever and not wear a mask and use the restroom whenever.    Zie also found out that at least one of hir good friends is going virtual and had hopes for zoom and maybe even Minecraft realms on a regular basis like we’ve been doing this summer.  (The four of them piloted out Minecraft Realms for DC2’s birthday party with a couple weeks of one-on-one playing in anticipation so that hir two friends who weren’t already immersed in Minecraft could learn how to play the computer version.  One amazing thing is that zie can even play Minecraft nicely with her frenemy(!)  They’re a little snippy at each other but nowhere near as much as usual.)

Adding that DC2 will still be considered Dual Language (meaning instructions and lectures will be in Spanish alternating weeks) and will still have GT (zie promises not to be a jerk on zoom like last year), it seems like virtual will be the best option.  We’re going to have to figure out how to make it work with our work schedules, which is always the problem, but at least there will be less worry about illness.  And DC1 will likely be getting more sleep than last year during in-person high school (hopefully).

And as the weather gets less hot we’ll be able to kick them out of the house again.  Other online people are setting up beautiful welcoming home offices for their kids.  Maybe we can set something up in the backyard instead.  I wonder how far out the wifi reaches…

Are we going to send the kids to school in the fall?

The answer is:  I don’t know but we have to decide by July 30th.  We have the option to send the kids to school or have them virtual school at home.  We don’t know what either will look like but it also sounds like we’re not going to know until the school knows how many kids they’re dealing with.

I do think we will be sending DC2 [update:  things have gotten worse in the South– now we’re not sure].  Zie is still in the age range where there’s not a lot of transmission and cases tend to be mild, with a few exceptions [update:  some new articles have come out suggesting transmission rates may be higher than previous articles suggested, but it is still unclear].  Hir pediatrician is very good and we trust him to be on top of things and the nearest city has a top rate children’s hospital should it come to that.  And zie has been a handful this summer.  I suspect we won’t be using after-care like we usually do and I’m not sure if we will be using the bus.

It’s harder to decide for DC1 [update:  we’ve pretty much decided DC1 will virtual school for at least the first grading period].  Zie is 13 and in high school.  Kids these ages are much more like adults in terms of transmission and effects.  Plus, DC1 doesn’t get sick very often (zie has perfect attendance awards almost every year of schooling), but when zie does get sick and it’s something zie didn’t contract back in daycare many years ago, zie gets really sick.  Hir tonsils and adenoids have also become less protective overtime (which is good because it means hir teeth straightened out and zie doesn’t need to have surgery to remove them, but also means they’re not as protective.)

Plus, DC1 is young for hir grade and could take a gap year and still be early for college.  I don’t want to have hir skip a year of math, but precalc is one of the less useful years, and we could in theory get it somewhere else and waive it somehow.  And… DC1 has been pretty good at entertaining hirself and doing schoolwork hirself without interaction.

The big thing is that no matter what we do with the kids, I am still going in to teach two days a week.  I will still have classes of college students, and these classes are going to be bigger than usual because the other people teaching the section are all teaching online, so suddenly my 8am section looks attractive.  Even though they’ve added another section so there are more teachers than usual.  So… I’m fairly sure I am going to get it even if I opt out of all of the conference travel I currently have planned.

If I get it, it is likely my family will too.  I suppose I could quarantine myself in the house and not see my family for the duration.  But even so it’s likely I will transmit it to my kids.  And if they get it from me, does it matter if they get it from school?  Should I be worried about them transmitting it to their classmates (again, less concerned about DC2)?  These are really hard questions.  I don’t have an answer yet.  I do promise that we will be very good about not sending kids to school with the slightest fever or drippy nose, but that doesn’t help with pre-symptomatic spreading.  Maybe we keep them home if/when I get sick?

The NYTimes recently posted a survey they did back in May in which they asked a bunch of epidemiologists if they planned to send their kids to school.  Most of the ones who had kids said that they would.  Most of the ones without kids said they would not recommend it.  Having had DC2 home for months, I empathize with the epidemiologists willing to take the risk.

Update:  This more recent article from NPR suggests numbers you should look at while making the decision.  The numbers for our county suggest that we should be keeping both kids home.

We’ve also gotten some more information about the way that Virtual learning will work at the high school.  It looks like DC1 will be able to take all but one of the classes zie has requested.  Ironically the class not offered online is computer programming.  We may see if we can work something out for that class since DH can easily teach any lesson if DC1 is allowed to just do the work.  The alternative would be to take AP Physics 1 which wouldn’t be so bad if zie wasn’t already taking AP US History (which is a lot of work) and Pre-AP Chemistry (hard and a lot of work).  Another alternative would be to take AP Statistics , but then zie doesn’t have a math class for senior year.

Right now (as of last Friday) I think there’s a 98% chance DC1 will be staying home at least for the first part of the year.  I give DC2 an even 50%… I want to check the numbers again before July 30th and I would like to know how dual language will be addressed.

We’re also allowed to switch from virtual to in-person at the end of a grading period, so that may be the right thing to do– see what happens in the first 6 weeks of school and then send them in.  There’s a non-negative possibility that all of school will be shut down by then.

Grumpeteers with school-age children:  How are you making the decision about sending your kids back to school in the fall?  Has your school district made that decision for you already?

Ask the grumpies: Why are you mostly against red-shirting?

J asks:

Do you see any benefits for me holding my daughter back from starting kindergarten? Her birthday is a few days before the cutoff.
Reasons for holding her back in my head: another year of relaxed preK learning, slight advantage for her getting into gifted programs, more confidence (potentially). Drawbacks that I see: 1) she might be bored academically if she is the oldest and this might lead to behavior problems, 2) it would cost more money to pay for another year of full-time preK.
I don’t see much research on girls being held back. It’s mostly about boys.

So… this is really the wrong place to ask for positive things about red-shirting (the term for starting a kid late in K).  #1’s kids are both grade-skipped (even the one whose birthday is a few days before the cutoff) and #1 and #2 both wish they’d been grade-skipped.

Kindergarten programs vary tremendously across the country, but most of them are still a transition into first grade even in the places where kids are expected to be reading and doing simple addition by the end of the year.  That’s because a lot of kids still come in without having had any pre-K and they need to learn how to do things like sit still, take turns, follow instructions, stand in lines, and so on.

On this blog, we don’t see learning as inherently a bad thing.  The idea of not getting to learn when you could is anathema.  Why start a year behind when you don’t have to?  If not already reading, why hold back the phonics tools to read and all the joy that comes from that?  Why not get challenged while you’re still young and it’s still fun and you’re not expected to know everything already?  Starting later always seems less relaxing because there’s more pressure from expectation.  It is easier to drop back than it is to jump forward should troubles arise.

Academic advantages from redshirting tend to disappear by around third grade (athletic advantages persist).  For kids on the margin of finishing high school, redshirting can make the difference between not graduating and graduating simply because of compulsory schooling laws– that is, a kid who is a senior age 17 is more likely to graduate from high school than one who is 18.

I’m not entirely sure what the advantage of being in a gifted program is for someone who doesn’t need to be in a gifted program?  If a kid needs to be in a gifted program, then they should be, and if they don’t, they shouldn’t?  The idea is to address a special need.  Depending on the tests they use, an additional year may or may not help because many gifted tests are age adjusted.  I guess there are arguments for it if it’s not actually a gifted program but a program for academic achievement, but so much more would be gained in terms of learning by being on grade-level rather than being behind.

Schools are also more likely to diagnose special needs than preschools and get kids with special needs intervention, so that is another benefit of starting on time as most interventions work better the earlier they start.  (I vaguely remember my sister getting speech therapy for a lisp.)

In terms of confidence, I don’t know about the research, but I do know growing up, we knew who was a year older because they “flunked kindergarten” or started late.  That was definitely worse than being on the younger side.  People against grade-skipping are always asking about what happens when our kids hit puberty age etc. (answer:  it has not been a problem for DC1), but being on the earlier side of physical development also has the possibility of being unpleasant… much better to not be the first person in your cohort going through it.  Similarly with grade-skipping folks are always asking “what happens when it’s time for college” (answer:  we’ll figure that out), but as someone with a PhD, I can say I had more options for timing fertility than my friend in the same program who had started kindergarten late (and I needed that time since it turned out I was infertile).  And… if something goes wrong in K-college (ex. mono), there’s more options if you are on the younger side than the older… nobody wants to be 19 or 20 and still in high school.  It’s easier to delay going into the labor market during a recession with a masters degree or stay another year in college to pick up a different major etc. if you’re younger rather than older (unless you have wealthy parents willing to support you for years, of course).  There’s just less room for mistakes and changes when you’re older and wanting to start an adult life.

And that’s why I don’t see the point in red-shirting unless there’s a really good reason, or sports are super important (like, professionally important) for a family.

In terms of actual advice:  Take things a year at a time.  It is far easier to drop back if things aren’t working out than to get back to a normal grade.  Since your kid has been in pre-K (and thus knows how to sit in a circle, not hit people, etc.), it is probably going to be just fine.  If it isn’t fine, then you can decide then and try again later.  (And if the kid is hyperactive in preschool, she may blossom in Kindergarten with more challenges–that’s the main reason we started DC1 at 4.)

RBOC

  • We cancelled the summer family trip to the popular Midwestern destination, taking advantage of United’s “cancel before May and reschedule sometime in the next 24 months at no extra cost” opportunity.  We still haven’t cancelled the Portland anniversary trip because we went through another airline and we have to figure out how to do that, though we will need to cancel the AirBNB by the end of the month to get our money back.  DC1’s summer camp hasn’t been cancelled yet, so I guess we’re holding off on that as well.  Also my big summer conference is online-only this year.  So we’ll have a bunch of airline miles and suddenly instead of having 3 weeks of travel this summer, I don’t.  DH is regretting not taking his birthday off from work since he no longer needs to use 2 weeks vacation for summer travel.
  • The Walmart in DH’s (small rural) hometown got completely bought out– literally emptied from food to clothes to large appliances— after the stimulus money came in.
  • The kids’ schools have been cancelled for the year and they’ve started having grades and new material again.  The idea is that grades will appear on the transcript but will not be included in the GPA.  For students without internet access, they’ve made free wifi available in school parking lots and have handed out tablets.
  • There’s now things that need to be turned in for grade three, which is a subset of things that are assigned.  We’re just doing the things that need to be turned in, and not any of the assigned stuff that doesn’t.  It’s not technically optional, but who is to know?  Plus a lot of these things that don’t need to be turned in are either things DC2 doesn’t need more practice on (ex. zie is about a year ahead in math) or that require a ton of parent involvement and things that we don’t have access to (ex. specific gardening projects).  So for folks who are struggling with make-work projects and unnecessary projects in grades where grades don’t matter… just don’t.  I give permission.  You getting your stuff done is more important.
  • That doesn’t mean that we don’t have stuff for DC2 to do.  Zie is still doing hir full set of weekend workbooks every day except Monday.  On Monday zie does schoolwork.  Tuesday-Sunday are the weekend workbooks.  Piano practicing is every day.  We’ve also added 15 minutes of room cleaning along with regular chores of putting away the silverware and folding/putting away any of hir own laundry.  With all this home time, DC2’s room was becoming an enormous disaster area.
  • We’ve had to start waking DC2 up earlier because zie would get super grumpy about not having time for a full two hours of videogames/shows and then have trouble getting to sleep at night and the cycle would repeat.  So… apparently 7 year olds are a bit like toddlers?  We’re now making sure zie is up by 9, though we really haven’t been able to enforce bedtime because zie keeps sneaking books under the covers no matter how many times we cut hir off.  We don’t have the energy to do a harsh enforcement, so forcing a wake-up seems easier.
  • DC2 has also noticed that zie can will baked goods into being by just announcing that zie wants them… putting it out into the universe.  I worry zie will move to LA and become a proponent of The Secret.
  • DC1 has been working diligently mostly on school work and studying for the new modified AP exam.  We’re not quite sure what to do to help but we’re figuring it out.  Hir history teacher has required class meetings 3x/week at 1pm which is irritating because they’re not supposed to have any required meetings and ALL the teachers want to meet at 1pm so DC2 can’t go to optional meetings from other teachers.  This wouldn’t be so bad if she posted the information/material/deadlines/ways to turn in assignments any other way.  But she doesn’t.
  • DC1 has been overall much more relaxed– getting to bed earlier, having some time to play video games (zie is on the third go-through of Undertale).  The best part is there’s no art projects for English anymore, just writing and content.  Still, DC1 managed to get a low grade on a timed quiz because zie thought scene 1 was the same as Act 1 and hadn’t read the entire first act of Romeo and Juliet.  So we’re back to getting low grade warnings via email.  But at least they’re more deserved?
  • The relative’s kid who got into college ran away from home (because of the quarantine) to live with the much older married woman who has/had been abusing him and is not doing his homework so he is not going to graduate from high school after all.  I always worry what would have happened if we hadn’t interfered– would he have finished high school?  Or would he have dropped out earlier?  Or did we really have no effect?  Are we helping or making things worse?  Or just too far away to change anything?

What does it take to go to college: An update on DH’s relatives

One of the things known by economists is that a lot of people have some college, but only ~30% of people in the US have an actual college degree from a four year school.  People go to college or start college or take classes at the local community college.  Most don’t finish a full four years.  Many don’t finish any sort of terminal degree (like an associates or vocational degree).  There’s some controversy in economics right now about whether starting and not finishing is worse than not starting at all– the answer seems to be complicated.  Some college does increase earnings even if there’s not a degree… probably causally, but not as much as finishing, and the disruption that going to school can do to finances in terms of loans and earnings potential in terms of not working is real.  It’s hard to say if it’s worth it.

DH has a relative with 5 kids.  We have tried to get all 5 to get a degree.

The oldest dropped out after having a baby a year and a half into a two year degree.

The second, who was the only one who was state flagship eligible (close to a 4.0, high SAT scores, a full year of dual credit from the high school under her belt) got pregnant at 17 and again at 19 and college was out.  She’s currently married, living in another state, and the family breadwinner (and had baby #3 a couple weeks ago).

The third is legally blind and has not started any education yet at 21, though this year his friends have been taking the train with him to places with public transportation and it’s figuratively opening his eyes to worlds where he doesn’t have to be driven everywhere, which is helping with his depression.  We still have some hope that he’ll go to college.  He has high grades and reasonable SAT scores — maybe not flagship eligible (though with an essay he might be) but should get into any of the regional schools without having to write an essay.

The fourth is in the middle of her second year at community college.  Her SAT score was too low to be able to go to their closest state schools– she just needed 10 more points to make their minimum cutoff.  There was a kerfuffle with one of her required math classes last semester and the school gave everyone their money back and struck the class from their transcripts, but now she’s behind on credit hours.  We asked about transferring to a 4-year school as had been her initial plan, but she says she wants to do a sketchy sounding program at a private school that would enable her to get all of her classes at the local community college but call it a four year degree from their school.  She has some friends who did this 10 years ago and are teachers at the local elementary.  I wonder how much this will cost compared to finishing at a state school.  (Her father wonders if this program still exists.)

DH’s relative had told us a couple years ago that it wasn’t worth trying to do anything with the fifth.  He wasn’t sure he wanted to even graduate high school and ran with a bad crowd and was flirting with getting in trouble with the law.  But a couple months ago he went to a presentation at school that clearly laid out how much people without high school diplomas make compared to those with and to those with bachelors degrees.  He decided then and there that he was going to be staying in school.  DH and I naturally pounced on this.  Unfortunately, we don’t know what his GPA is– he thinks somewhere in the Bs since he gets mostly As and Bs on his report cards (but who knows), and his SAT score is pretty low.  Fortunately for him, one of the state schools nearby no longer requires the SAT and if he does have the GPA he thinks he has, he should get in.

So this break, we dragged him over to our in-law’s house and pulled out my laptop and sat there while he applied to the two closest 4-year colleges.  Then we paid for his applications.  He talked about how he decided on a business major because everyone said engineering was too hard but there are still jobs in business.  He talked about the dorms.  He seemed excited and to have done a lot of research about the school closest to them.  We talked a little about the second closest school as well.  Then we printed off the checklist for what he needs to do with his counselor after school gets back in session to complete his application in time to be eligible for financial aid.  (We will be sure to check on that with his dad as well.)

It’s especially important for him to go to one of these schools instead of the local CC like his siblings because he’s been being preyed on by a married woman more than 10 years older than him.  There has been some drama there and the police somewhat got involved but won’t prosecute etc.  But removing him from the situation will be a good thing.  We pretended we knew nothing about this situation and just focused on the $$ and jobs and learning etc.

I hope he gets in.  I hope he completes a degree.  I hope he drags his brother to school with him.

I don’t know if going to a 4 year school is better than starting at a 2-year in terms of completing (there’s a lot of selection into who does that so the correlation is that it’s better but we don’t really know).  I know his siblings have gotten horrible homesickness when they’ve been away from home even for a week (the second is the only one who has moved out of the house!).  And he didn’t want to apply to any of the farther away schools, even though we’re told that he’s been threatening to move out once he turns 18.  I hope he pays attention to his schoolwork and doesn’t have to drop out.  I hope that the kid his dad thought least likely to start a four year degree finishes one (not first– I’m still hoping for kid #4 to complete and she has a 2 year start on him).

But other than paying for it and these periodic nudges, I’m not sure there’s much we can do.  As my MIL reminded us, they’re not our kids.  We can only do so much.

Ask the Grumpies: Schools in the SF Bay area that are good for mathematically advanced kids?

Mover:

I am moving to the SF Bay area for a new job from a city across the country.  My six year old is currently several years ahead in math at school and I would like to find a school supportive of continued enrichment/acceleration.  Any words of wisdom?

What we’ve had to do when doing sabbatical moves is to call up the school districts of all the places we’ve been thinking of moving to and just ask what is done in DC’s situation.  This has been very informative as some districts are much better than others.  In our case, we didn’t ask about single-subject acceleration which is what it sounds like you need, but instead whole-grade acceleration.  I know we posted on our process, but I cannot for the life of me find that post.  Essentially we looked at a map of a reasonable commute to my sabbatical place and called all the school districts and explained and just asked what their general policy was for our situation.  Some said they would obviously put DC1 in the next grade, some said they’d test DC1, and some said they’d put DC1 in the grade for hir age level.  You would likely want to be asking about single subject acceleration.

In terms of the Bay area specifically, I don’t know if this is still true, but Berkeley schools have always had a reputation for being anti-intellectual.  They’re very into “letting kids be kids” which means bored out of their skulls.  There used to be a forum that you could find online with lots of parents complaining about it.  Sunnyvale is another district that is not great in that respect.

In terms of out of school math enrichment:  Math Circles are great.  DC1 started going in middle school.  Our DC2 hasn’t gone to one yet, but DC2 is only doing third grade math right now.  These are usually on Saturdays.  They get to do fun stuff that often isn’t done within school.

Good luck!

Do any members of grumpy nation have experience or insight with single-subject acceleration at the elementary school level in the greater SF bay area?

How does GPA work in your local high school?

So today I discovered that if DC1 gets a 90% in a non-honors class (like JV orchestra), that is a 3.0.  Not a 4.0.  Not a 3.5.  A 3.0.  DC1’s 99% in orchestra this semester is a 3.9.  A 90% in an honors or AP class is a 4.0.

When I grew up, any kind of A was a 4.0 if there weren’t + or -.  If there were + and – then an A+ and A were both 4.0 but an A- was like 3.67 and a B+ 3.33 or something.  That’s the same way it still works in most colleges I’m acquainted with.

So at DC1’s high school, a kid can get straight As and have a 3.0.

That seems so weird to me.

Are all high schools doing it this way, or is DC1’s different?  And will everything have to be recalculated when applying for colleges?