Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Even this Late in the Game

'Tis spring, when a young mom's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of "What are we going to do about school next year?" During the February Open Enrollment period, we decided to apply for enrollment to IQ Academies for Klaus and the Monroe Virtual Middle School for Wolfie and Xavier. IQ offered, along with guidance counseling, free online classes and loan of a laptop, a partnership with our local brick-and-mortar school so Klaus can take a couple courses with his friends (i.e., gym, shop, Japanese) but work at his own pace on the academic stuff. The local school said all he had to do was come down to register for classes, couldn't have been more accomodating. :D

Monroe Virtual Middle School has been less so. They offer a huge variety of online classes, including classes through the University of Missouri which offers accelerated classes for gifted middle schoolers. Great yes? I've spoken with the principal and one other woman on behalf of the principal about taking these classes (called GOAL-Gifted Online Accelerated Learning). Principal wants me to send test scores for Wolfie and Xavier to prove they can handle these GOAL classes without "getting in over their heads". Even though Wolfie is already accelerated in math and science at the local school. Sigh. Packet of proof pending.

The title of this essay refers to adjustments we're making to Wolfie's sixth grade experience, even this late in the school year. His grades have been uneven at best. It took him a good six months to tell me his 7th grade science class was new material but not moving fast enough and that English was deadly dull. We made arrangements with his science teacher to give him the unit review questions at the beginning of the unit, when he's still interested, rather than waiting until the end. She's been very helpful and even offered to accept homework early so it doesn't get lost.

At conferences last month, I had a number of talks with Wolfie's English and Reading teacher. She was very concerned that he had stopped participating in class and wasn't turning in his work. She suggested he was acting out because his need for freedom wasn't being met. But she needed to know that the class curriculum standards were being met as well and she just couldn't think of any alternatives--could we suggest some?

Haha, little did she know I am now the Queen of Educational Alternatives! :D

At the first meeting, it sounded to me very much like she was trying to manipulate him into hanging his head and saying, "Okay, I'll do what you want." Particularly when I mentioned that in order to demonstrate that he's meeting the standards, we would need to know what the standards were, and she looked at me funny and changed the subject.

She gave him the weekend to see if he could come up with some alternatives. I discussed partial homeschooling with Wolfie and he brought the idea up with her. To her credit, she asked me to drop by conference hours that night so she could show me the standards. She actually gave me her copies, to make copies for my own records, said she couldn't recommend the EPGY class I was suggesting as an alternative because she'd never had a student take one but if I could show how the standards would be met, we'd see what we could do.

So I wrote up a two page proposal that Wolfie skip his first hour of school (English) to work on homework for the EPGY class, listed the curriculum standards the class addressed and Wolfie's significant lack of achievement in reading relative to other subject areas on the ACT. We also asked that Wolfie be excused from homework and classwork for the rest of the year and we would substitute the EPGY work for her to grade.

To my surprise, Wolfie's teacher called me at ten am the morning she got my proposal, said she thought it was a good idea and so did the gifted coordinator, but that she didn't have the authority to excuse him from the curriculum but the counselors/administration did and they had forwarded the proposal to them! Hallelujah!

In the meantime, we've signed Wolfie up for the class, it starts a week from Thursday. I really think this is the best way for him to learn critical reading and writing, since that was Klaus' lowest scoring area on the ACT, too, so obviously things don't get much better in 7th and 8th grade. Is this going to make a huge difference in his grades for this year? Probably not. But if the administration goes along with it, we've set a precedent, and then maybe we can work a similar deal for Wolfie and Xavier next year and maybe eventually partial homeschooling or taking online classes at school will be suggested as an option to other underachieving gifted kids. Wouldn't that be swell?

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