Monday, September 01, 2008


Well, we took the plunge and pulled Neo from the public school. It's been a while in coming -- I've been asking them to enhance her program there since last fall. I asked again this spring. I asked again over the summer. I asked the week before school started. I asked on the second day of school. I talked to the VP at the Middle School and spoke to the Principal at the High School.

Even though the Middle School sends advanced Math students to the High School to take High School level classes, the same cannot be done for Neo. It doesn't matter that she's in the gifted and talented program (GATE). It doesn't matter that the High School Math department easily incorporates eighth graders into freshman classes. It doesn't matter that NO ONE in the school system can design an independent study program for her in English and History. It can't be done.

(So far, as a GATE student, one who was identified in fifth grade, my daughter has had one field trip to a science museum, one field trip to a paint-your-own pottery studio, one trip to an ice cream store, and a step aerobics class. Sigh. Last year the teachers said they would assign her extra work, and then partway through the year admitted that they didn't know how to. Sigh. Surely there's some other book other than A Christmas Carol you could ask her to read? Right? Beuller? Last year Neo read the references at the back of her World History text book and read, on her own, two classics of Japanese literature, The Pillow Book and The Tale of Genji, both of which are considered to be standard required texts for college level students studying Japanese history. "Isn't that wonderful!" the teachers exclaim. Yet none of them can think of a single book to assign her for extra work in any of her classes. Didn't you all READ anything when you were in college? Sigh.)

So after years of going to one meeting after another, I gave up. No more meetings. Enough.

Neo has been asking to be homeschooled for over a year. I tried to make this work in the system, I really did, but no more. There's a local charter school with a "learning center" here in town which is home-based. You must follow the CA curriculum, and you meet with a credentialed teacher once a month, but the learning goes on at home. Neo will be taking an Algebra I class at the charter "learning center" in a classroom setting, and she will be working with a local artist. Other than that, it's up to her and me.

Of course, now that I've pulled her from school, the district's falling all over itself to try to set up a program for her. I'll still go to meetings on it -- if they can prove to me that it will get done, I'll consider putting her back in school. But I have very little confidence that they'll actually do much for her. The High School is actively blocking her advancement, so nothing will get off the ground.

In the meantime, the charter school adviser would like to advance her into high school. That's fine with me. We'll get a curriculum set this week.

Since she's been home, I gave her a copy of Thomas Paine's Common Sense, which she read with great interest. We talked about persuasive writing, the multiple meanings of the title, and why Colonists might have gravitated to Paine's pamphlet. (American History is an eighth grade subject.) We watched Obama's speech together on Thursday, and she heard Dear Butcher and I say over and over, "What a great speech." In the shower on Friday morning I came up with an assignment.

I pulled a transcript of the speech off the web and printed it out with no paragraph breaks. Then I had her listen to the speech again and mark on the transcript where the paragraph breaks should go. I also had her put the last third into an outline format.

"OK, so WHY is that speech a good speech?"

"It's logical."

"And how do you know where the paragraph breaks go?"

"He tells you. He sets out what he's going to talk about, and then when he's done talking about that idea, he goes to a new paragraph."

"So, persuasive writing is the most highly constructed form of writing. And speaking. You can't go off on tangents, and you have to use facts to convince the audience. Right?"


"OK, so talk to me about topic sentences. Why do your teachers always talk about topic sentences?"

"Well, I guess they help with outlining?"

"Sorta. We did this backwards. We looked at a speech and pulled it apart to look at the structure. But can you see how you could build UP to a good speech or a good essay if you worked on your structure a lot first?"


"And do you see why transitions and topic sentences are a good idea?"


"Good. Let's save this stuff you printed for the teacher when we see her."



"You're not going to make me write a forty five minute speech, are you?"

Oh, how the evil wheels of parental punishment do turn when offered that lovely inspiration. "No kid. We're done. I just wanted to make a final point about WHY you should should learn this stuff. That' s all. Now let's go on to reading something fun and writing about that."

She just finished reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I may have her start examining descriptive passages.


Lyvvie said...

Can I take your class too?

Suisan said...

Sure. Read the first chapter of Shane. I've written up a bunch of questions about it.

By the way, I HAVE to read this book again. I forgot how amazing the opening is. (Although I remember not really staying impressed with the rest of the book? I think?)

The I think we'll move on to either Ray Bradbury or some Mark Twain. At least, that's what I'm thinking right now.