Three Out of Two Children Have Trouble With Fractions

Mom considers the consequences when the child who is neither gifted nor troubled skates along quietly, unnoticed by most.

Is there anything more frustrating or saddening than watching a child struggle?

If there is, then I'm not aware of it.

My daughter is an endangered species in . She isn't a "TAG kid." (Yes, I know they don't call it TAG anymore.) Participating in the school play interests her not at all. (She was horrified when I suggested it.) Chorus? Thanks, but no thanks. ("Really? Mom, I am a terrible singer.") She doesn't play chess. Her grades are respectable, mostly 3s, scattered 4s, and the odd 2.

Rather, The Girl's interests focus on her cat, soccer, art, reading and writing -- but not necessarily in that order. She loves listening to music, and is slowly embracing her choice of instrument, the flute. She has a million friends, and an astonishing sense of humor cushioned in a zesty belly laugh and bedroom eyes. 

Anyone lucky enough to catch this girl will have to meet pretty high familial expectations. They'll also have to scale a pretty big electric fence, which my husband swears he is building soon.

She's the whole world to her family. To everyone else, she's just your average kid.

It took me almost ten minutes to bring myself to write that sentence.

Math, to my great sadness, has become her mortal enemy. She struggles at home and performs "fair" at school. For a while it seemed like she was improving, but this year we are back to square one. One year, I pushed insistently for extra help from school, and got it -- for a little while. Then the help disappeared, and her brief progress receded, like a bathtub slowly losing water.

After she recently handed me a blank sheet of homework with tears in her eyes, I could no longer stand watching her struggle. I fired off a pretty angry email to anyone I thought would have an interest in reading it -- six people, in my estimation. I have faith that something will come of it.

The average child, not unlike the middle class, is becoming an endangered species in this country. Neither "special enough" for advanced schoolwork nor extra tutelage, these children coast along because everything's "fine." 

It's my firm belief that these children need the strongest advocation of all, lest they pass by unnoticed. Behavior problems? Nope. Academic issues? Well, maybe they could practice their "math facts" more. Social problems? Well, maybe that one bullying problem a few years back. But otherwise, nothing. No red flags, no "issues," nothing that would appear on a progress report as a leading indicator of future trouble.

But you know, don't you? Can't you feel it inside when the grades don't match the child? In our case, it definitely doesn't help that I am the worst tutor of all time, but that also means I can tell quickly when a problem becomes chronic.

Listen to your little voice. When you know something isn't right, speak up. Don't let teachers or administrators assuage your fears when you know in your gut there's an issue. Be your child's squeaky wheel. Demand to be heard. And don't stop until your child gets the help he or she needs. 

Mostly, remember that the "3" is the most dangerous, overlooked grade of all.



Too little too late December 29, 2011 at 01:51 PM
I couldn't have said it better..."oh, he's just a boy", "oh, he's such a sweet kid. So polite. So well-mannered." "we just adore him...he'll never be a good studier. Probably always be one of those kids who crams." Years of sliding by and now we are now playing catch up with a diagnosis of add, executive functioning, and a language processing disorder (the school won't recognize this one though the ways they are now helping him are all directly related to it). "listen to your little voice"...something I wish I'd done years ago.
Lisa Bigelow December 29, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Glad you enjoyed it, although I am sorry for your consequences. Good luck, and keep paying attention! -- Lisa
RIGHTfromWrong December 29, 2011 at 07:23 PM
As a parent of a now 3rd year student in a prestigious PA engineering college, BUT also as a CT professional educator, I find your note troubling not only for parents who struggle to help their children, but for teachers who struggle to help their students' parents. You are exactly correct that parents must be part of the effort, not only as a "squeaky wheel" but as a tutor, a taskmaster, a yes a teacher. YOU MUST help us with helping your child "learn how to learn." The self discipline and focus of an adolescent student has today become a battleground fought over by entertainers, athletes, animated action figures, and numerous other social distractors. Yet both parents and a teachers must compete with these glittering luminaries with only their dedication, smart board and eternal love. Do not abandon the fight! Lock arms with the purveyors of math/social studies/science...etc. in your child's class, and explain to your child that Ms./Mr.______ is "on our team" and "whether you get an 'A' or a 'D'... Tell them that a properly trained and certified professional CT educator must never ignore or not notice any student... And if they (your child) feels that way "TELL YOUR TEACHER! SHOW them you are trying to learn, SHOW them you made the effort... and by the time you get to high school, you will show all of us, you've learned how to learn."
TD Pepper March 14, 2012 at 07:28 AM
In the future, kindly provide explanations as to the obscure terms used in your article. We get the jist of where you're coming from, but what the heck is a TAG? And what in the heck is a 2, 3 and 4? Do you mean C, B and A? If so, say it. Mind you, I'm not frustrated at you particularly, but at a (excuse the expression) retarded education system that can't seem to grasp that we did far better by our children when we taught them how to read, write and do math properly, rather than all this progressive, read by sight instead of phonics, touchy-feely, I'm ok, your ok baloney. When will we finally come to our senses and realize that for all the social engineering we are trying to accomplish in the schools, we have sold our heritage and future down the drain? The nation burns while the hippie generation plays their fiddles in our schools, universities and government. I feel badly for your daughter and mine. What a shame.


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