27 March 2007

Creativity & School Tests (A-mazing)


My 7 year old daughter Bethany is a fantastic reader and a fantastic speller. Pardon me for bragging, but she has been getting 100's on her spelling tests for as long as she's been taking spelling tests.

However, this past week she got an 83 on the weekly spelling test. Why, you might ask? Well, for starters, she wasn't paying attention and ended up writing the same word twice (correctly, I should point out).

See, the spelling words are always given in the same order. So, she memorizes them in order, then gets ahead of the teacher... and was probably so far ahead she zoned out for a while, then reengaged but came back to earth slightly off keel. Thus, the repeated word. Oops!

Then there was the doodling, right there on the side of the paper. This was not just any doodling, but a doodle of a maze, complete with "Start" and "End," conveniently labeled.

At the risk of reading too much into it, creating a puzzle for yourself in the middle of a test strikes me as an indication of boredom. It seems to say the spelling words just aren't challenging enough, so she adds to the challenge by memorizing the words in order, racing the teacher, and creating a maze.

I know every parent thinks their kid is a creative genius (and they just might be right!). I also know it's important for Beth to learn to pay attention and follow directions. But as my wife and I were doing the responsible thing and talking to Beth about what she should & shouldn't do during spelling tests, part of me wanted to tell her to forget the spelling, the rote memorization & the tests. I wanted to applaud & encourage her creative attempt to challenge herself, even if it means more 83%'s and fewer 100's.

It's an interesting balancing act, this parenting, trying to teach our kids responsibility and discipline without smushing out the creativity and joy.

7 comments:

Michelle said...

Gosh, I hate that balancing act. We've been debating these exact issues around here. It's made me much more understanding of why a lot of parents are homeschooling. I think the key to making school work is to provide plenty of additional creative outlets and activities at home and make sure their other interests are fed. Way to go with the maze, Bethany!

Kim said...

I just love every creative, genius bit of that little girl. Discipline, scmiscipline - you go girl! :)

Deb said...

I admire her brilliant creativity, it's hard to smoosh that! I'll be waiting for this chapter in your parenting book please!

Gabe Mounce said...

Dan, I received an e-mail recently where all the words in all the sentences were jumbled except for the first and last letter of each word. Amazingly, you could still read it.

Challenging issues you face as a parent. Like you, I think I'd be much more inclined to say "Who the heck cares about spelling." On top of this, how do we teach kids not to worry so much about things of little significance and how to figure out what is and isn't significant? Hmmm.....

Dan said...

Thanks everyone - I thought her little maze was pretty cool. She's a very creative & clever kid!

Kim said...

You know, maybe the issue here lies more with the teacher's quizzing method. She could shake up her word list and throw in an extra (new) bonus word every now and then to give that extra challenge to kids like Bethany.

kimberly said...

I'm always so happy when parents of supersmart kids are, themselves, active and engaged parents. You are doing your daughter a great service by looking into her motivations for what she does rather than, say, assuming she's just misbehaving or suffering from ADD. Keep challenging her and you'll all reap the rewards! :)