I was reading an article this morning about a new educational curriculum and the difficulties that some of the parents and children were having with it. I spent close to 20 years of my life chasing three kids through the gauntlet of their educations. I thought I would share some of our adventures with you.
Christi came bouncing into the kitchen one afternoon happier than her usual happy little bouncy self excitedly waiving a paper from school in the air. She was very excited because they had to write their spelling words with crayons for homework tonight. Perfect, I thought to myself. She inherited her cute little blonde hair and blue eyes from me but her spelling and hand writing skills were all her daddy’s genes.
Every day since she entered kindergarten and was sent home with her first written homework assignment, it had been a struggle. Christi could tell you in words anything you wanted to know and then some but to get her to translate that information into some form of intelligent written word was a whole other matter. We spent hours working on her handwriting so that the letters looked at least similar to the English alphabet instead of hieroglyphics used by some long lost ancient civilization. We went over spelling words in the car, in the bathtub, while brushing her hair and getting ready for bed until she could spell every word on the list verbally. But when it came time to regurgitate all our hard work onto a piece of bright white paper she just struggled. It was a full time job to get this kid ready for her three letter spelling tests each week.
This night spelling homework time was a disaster. I made the ultimate mistake of pulling down the box of 64 crayons from the top of the refrigerator. With such a vast variety of colourful choices Christi couldn’t decide what color each letter should be. Long serious debates were had on the merit of each and every color as it related to the letter that it was going to be assigned to. I was unaware that the letter “L” was inferior to the letter “M” and therefore should not be written in a more important color. I was also unaware that there was a hierarchy of color in Christi’s cute little brain. But alas, there was and so it took forever to just to get the first word on the paper.
I understand the concept the teacher was attempting to get through to the child. If you attach a meaning to an item you are more likely to remember it. But when you have a child that is lovingly referred to as “Our butterfly brain” the only thing attached to this experience was frustration. We tried the color shock method for a several weeks and Christi scored the lowest ever on her spelling tests. When we got the last test back with all its red checkmarks and the big frowny face at the top, I sent the teacher a note explaining our difficulties and requested that we revert to the 1960’s method of writing each spelling word 10 times on a piece of notebook paper with a plain old number 2 pencil.
For some kids in Christi’s class the experiment had increased their ability to retain the spelling words and therefore it was a glowing success. From the Allen family perspective the color shock experiment had unintended consequences. To this day, David and I both shutter just a little every time we see words written with each letter in a different bright sunshiny color.