Here I am, back for more immersion therapy. Leeann asked a question on yesterday’s post:
So, I have a topic that I’d love you to bring up on your blog because I am curious about how other people handle it.
I have three kids. Two are total meant-for-school students- they sit and listen, have great memorization skills, work hard-ish etc. They just do really well at the whole “going to school thing.” My third child, however, is not a meant-for-school kid. He is super smart but to sit and listen, to do redundant worksheets etc is NOT his thing. He works hard-ish but his hard-ish gets him low Bs and Cs (in advanced classes) while the other two get straight A’s. I’m never quite sure what to do when report cards come around. One is clearly not like the others. I don’t want to take away from the first two by minimizing their awesome grades but I don’t want to make child 3 feel inferior for his grades when I know his effort was there, it just that school doesn’t measure his particular strengths like it does theirs. Does anyone have any help for me in this issue? We do talk about making efforts and individual strengths etc but it feels a bit forced to my ears.
I’ve run into this, too. I’m finding it especially difficult with the twins, because they’re in the same grade and getting tested on the same things, so the comparisons are pretty obvious and exact. All of last year, they had the same spelling list, and Elizabeth was getting a much higher grade every single week than Edward; I didn’t want to praise her in a way that made him feel bad, but I also didn’t want to NOT praise her.
So far I’ve been doing a mix and match of these things with all the kids:
1) Emphasizing individual strengths, as you’ve been doing, whenever it comes up. We do a lot of frank “Well, Elizabeth might just be better at you than spelling; you both spent the same amount of time studying, so it might be that it just comes more naturally to her. Other things come more naturally to you. [Giving example or not, depending on whether one comes readily to mind and/or exists.]”
2) Praising privately. I’ll wait until Edward isn’t around and then say, “Wow, Elizabeth, you did GREAT on your spelling test!” Sometimes I’ll mention to the praised child that I’m not making a big deal about it in front of another child, and I’ll re-emphasize the “People have different strengths” along with the “We don’t brag and make other people feel bad, especially if our strengths are inborn as opposed to coming from hard work.” Then I can also praise Edward separately, saying things like, “You did really well on your spelling test this week!” (if he did, for him), without Elizabeth pointing out that it’s not good compared to HERS.
3. Praising everyone publicly at times when things are more even. “Wow, Elizabeth, look at your spelling test this week! And Edward, good job getting your orange belt! William, this is a great painting!”
4. Finding other things for the doing-less-well child to thrive at. This one’s not always an option. But if the not-as-academic child could do really well at, say, karate, it gives another way to make accomplishments feel more balanced.
5. Just not discussing it much. It does feel bad to minimize someone’s academic accomplishments just because a sibling is getting lower grades—but on the other hand, there have been a lot of mixed reports recently on how abundant praise affects children. Looking at all three report cards and then saying an enthusiastic “Nice job, you guys!” (with no sharing around of grades) might make everyone feel happy. (And this can be combined with #2, speaking privately later to each of the two who got great grades, as if just bringing it up again as you would with any of them: “I just keep thinking of that great report card you got!”)
6. Additional private discussions with the child who gets lower grades can also help: saying that you know the child tries as hard (or harder) for less result, and that his effort is as important to you than the specific letter grade might help considerably. Rob has a lot of trouble with writing, and on his most recent report card he got a non-excellent grade in language arts—but accompanied by a note from the teacher that he was trying hard. I told him that was my favorite part of his report card—and it really WAS. (I’m not sure this method would work if it weren’t true.)
7. Sometimes it’s better to get A’s and B’s in regular classes than C’s in advanced classes. I’ve felt like there’s a lot of pressure from our school system to put kids in the highest possible level their test scores indicate they can handle—but as you’ve noted, some kids are just as smart but don’t do as well with the sitting down and worksheets type of learning. My plan is to whenever possible put kids in the classes where their grades reflect their effort. If that means letting them go down a level, I’m willing to do that. The GPA can even end up being exactly the same (I don’t know if all schools divide things the same, but at our school a C+ in honors/advanced class is the same GPA as a B- in an A-level class—but the B would feel a lot better, and be more comparable to his siblings’ grades).
How do you handle it with your kids?