Spelling Bee Lessons

The school spelling bee was yesterday. It was epic. I should’ve worn stronger antiperspirant.

Spelling beeWe’ve not had good luck with school spelling bees. The first was in 2nd grade but she was young having skipped 1st grade. She didn’t really get that there are no second chances in spelling competitions. Spell it wrong and you’re gone. HORIZONTAL did her in.

It was one tough lesson.

The next spelling bee didn’t come until 4th grade at the new school she’d started just a few weeks prior. By this time she knew the rules but though she’d win – no problem. She rushed and got the word wrong. We think it was CATERPILLAR that made her stumble but can’t remember for sure.

Another tough lesson.

Which brings us to today. She’d already won her class spelling bee and the school competition determines if she goes on to the regional bee.

She studied but I wouldn’t say she studied diligently. What she did work on was slowing down. Making sure she hears the word correctly, visualizing it and carefully and deliberately spelling it aloud.

Considering her history, she just didn’t want to go out in the first round.

And then she did.

The principal called the word – GRADE – without the benefit of a microphone. Not sure why because it was right next to him. He needed it as you can imagine in a gymnasium full of wiggly little kids.

She heard the word (so she thought) and even asked him to repeat it so she could be sure (so she thought).

And then she spelled – RAID – and she was out.

And my heart broke And my poor sweet girl, who could’ve spelled that word way back in preschool, had bombed yet another spelling bee. As she pushed her seat back I could see the chin quiver. You know how that happens right before you cry? It was rough.

She managed to hold it together until the end of that round and then there was a February miracle. One of the teachers, not her own teacher who was actually on the judge’s panel, but another teacher contested her elimination because she hadn’t correctly heard the word because the principal didn’t use the microphone. Thankfully, all the powers that be agreed and she rejoined the spelling bee.

And the principal started using the microphone.

One of the best parts for me as a mom was hearing the school cheer for her when she rejoined the competition. Even her fellow students knew she got a raw deal.

And then she won.

I think my husband may have let out a whoop. He’s been saving up from all those never played basketball and soccer games, the dance recitals that never were and the gymnastics meets that never will be. He wanted to cheer for his kid. One of the sweetest things I’ve ever witnessed.

Yes, I’m proud of her for winning the spelling bee. Not because spelled the words correctly (finally!) but because she learned from her past mistakes. She didn’t let the first-round snafu rattle her confidence. She showed grit.

She won that spelling bee like a boss.

But more than feeling prideful I’m feeling happy. It’s not often that she’s recognized for her accomplishments. You can’t really run around showing everyone your straight A report card or IQ score – unless you really don’t want to have any friends.

Winning the spelling bee is giving her a moment of glory and she deserves it.

What are your experiences with academic competitions or spelling bees? Share in the comments or on Facebook.

Museum Manners – Ten Tips

We visited an art museum last weekend. Visiting museums, whether they be art, natural history, children’s – whatever, is a foundational method to expose children to the greater world around them. We’ve found museum trips can be a lifesaver when raising a gifted child as they help quench their thirst for new experiences. Tips for visiting museums

Visiting museums can provide so many topics for discussion. Not just on the artwork and exhibits but even the architecture of the museum itself. How can you visit the Guggenheim in New York and not talk about Frank Lloyd Wright? Or the Guggenheim Bilbao and not discuss Frank Gehry? That one’s on my bucket list of museums to visit.

One recent conversation was about the philanthropy that has traditionally supported so many of the great art museums. If you had the money to make a substantial donation to support the arts, would you? Or would you choose to support another worthy cause, say education or healthcare?

Personally, I’m a fan of the way the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works out these decisions.

As we wandered the galleries there was an amazing lack of manners and common courtesy shown by fellow museum goers. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just the kids who were acting inappropriately.

I know I sound like a grumpy old(ish) woman but there would be some serious repercussions if my child behaved the way some of our fellow patrons were acting. Yep, I’m that mom.

My guess is it’s because they’ve never learned what’s appropriate and what’s not. Probably lots of reasons for this but one I keep coming back to is the lack of field trips in elementary schools.

I know there are plenty of school districts that schedule meaningful field trips but the one we’re in isn’t one of them. We’re in a moderately rural district that isn’t well-funded. Pretty sure this district isn’t so unique in that regard.

This year the only field trip scheduled for my daughter’s class is to the local roller-rink. Now, I’m all for a good time with classmates (despite the grumpy old(ish) woman thing) but I think it’s a shame that students aren’t getting those rite of passage experiences that school field trips should provide.

I know you can hear my frustration. Is there a frustrated font? It probably looks like that sarcastic font I know we’re all dying for.

Who knows what inspiration a child may get from gazing on a Matisse or Mondrian? They’ll never know until they get to go and have the time to enjoy the experience.

I firmly believe that everyone should enjoy our museums. Not just those who are up on Miss Manners. But please, let’s all follow some basic rules of civilized society so we might all enjoy the experience.

Museum Etiquette Tips

  1. It’s a museum, not a playground. Unless, of course, it’s a children’s museum then it probably is a playground. But I’m talking about museums that hold priceless works of art or irreplaceable artifacts. These places are not playgrounds even though those long galleries make foot races incredibly tempting. Just say no.
  2. Don’t over pack. Seriously, leave the backpacks in the car. Most museums won’t allow them and they’ll be checked. You really don’t want to knock something over because of an overloaded backpack. Hmm…I wonder how maybe the Venus de Milo lost her arms.
  3. Eat the snacks before you get there. Lots of reasons for this, like no one wants to see or smell your burritos. Or see your Diet Coke spilled on the Picasso. Did you just get mustard on a Van Gogh? You see where I’m going. Not to mention the trash and crumbs that would be generated and that could mean vermin. Yuck.
  4. You don’t have to whisper but it would be so nice if you did. Museums usually have lots of hard surfaces and high ceilings which means sound travels. Yes, you should discuss the art – that’s why we’re all there! Just think of a museum as a library for artworks and use the same tone of voice you would there. Please.
  5. Stay together. I find museums confusing places and routinely get lost even with the help of maps. This is tricky to do when visiting with children but trying to track them down without yelling and running is tougher. See points 2 and 4 above.
  6. No flash photography. More and more museums are relaxing the rules on photography since the proliferation of smartphones with cameras. However, flash photography is still considered a no-no. Over time all those flashes can diminish the vibrancy of colors in the paintings. Not good.
  7. Most museums will allow you to sketch if you’re so inclined. Sometimes this is limited to certain days or times or particular galleries. One common caveat though is that sketching is only allowed in pencil. Not ink, markers, or paints. Makes sense.
  8. Plot your visit in advance. Talk with your children and have them involved on the front end. They’ll be more interested if they have a say in the itinerary. Allow for plenty of just ‘wandering’ time but doing research can give them something to look forward to. Part of learning to appreciate art is learning the back story and symbolism. Help them learn why a certain piece of work is significant.
  9. Different museums have different rules. I haven’t checked them all but all the ones I have looked at have visitor policies available online. Check them out before you head out the door.
  10. Be respectful. Good tip for just about anything. Be cognizant of fellow patrons and don’t ‘hog’ a work of art. Let someone else get close to see it. Practice common courtesy and you’ll be good. Always.

Full disclosure: the picture is of my daughter a few years ago at Crystal Bridges Museum. She spent more time reading about the artwork than looking at the artwork. Oh well.

What are your favorite museum experiences?

The Activity Gap and Gifted Students

A recent article in The Atlantic, The Activity Gap, struck a nerve with me and got me thinking. The article is about how kids living in poverty are at a disadvantage from not being able to access the enrichment opportunities. I believe and agree with this.

What the article doesn’t mention but what I also believe, is that gifted children living in poverty are doubly disadvantaged and this is also an issue for consideration. Activity gap and gifted children

One of the only ways to break the cycle of poverty is through education. When you’re poor a good education is a tough thing to come by let alone the enrichment programs that give you a competitive advantage. I’m sure there are lots of studies to document this but I’m not referencing them. I know this is true because I’ve seen it first hand as a volunteer in the elementary school on the ‘wrong’ side of town.

Nope, it wasn’t helping gifted students. It was helping 1st graders learn to read. Most, not all, of our gifted kids are reading chapter books by the time they get to 1st grade. The kids I was working with were struggling with sight words.

If you want to see what poverty-stricken students go through, spend some time helping teachers in an inner city school. I promise you they’ll welcome any help you can offer. I promise you an experience you won’t forget.

When schools struggle to provide just the basics tools of instruction, like current textbooks – don’t even think about tablets and laptops, the idea of after-school enrichment programs is nothing but a fairy tale. Yes, maybe they offer some sports but probably no much else for those students not athletically inclined.

Forget about it if you’re looking for chess club or a debate team.

Giftedness does not, contrary to the belief of some, occur only in affluent families.

So what happens to the gifted children in these schools? Where they don’t have access to an academic environment that meets their intellectual needs nor do they have potentially life-changing enrichment opportunities?

Their lives don’t get changed.

Sometimes it doesn’t take much to change the trajectory of a life. It could be a teacher who actually sees a student, a class that sparks the imagination and ignites a passion, or maybe it’s a field trip to Harvard.

The recent story of Mont Hall Bridges Academy (grab the tissues) is an example of an educator fighting to give her students life-changing experiences.

I don’t know how many gifted students attend the school but I’m willing to bet they’re there. Probably not identified and probably feeling a little hopeless.

Imagine you’re 12 years old, you know you’re ‘smart’ but you don’t feel like you fit at school. Then you get to visit Harvard and all of a sudden you realize there’s a path – your future isn’t fixed. There are possibilities. It gives me chills thinking about it.

We’ve recently moved to a rural county and the enrichment programs that we’ve come to rely on to supplement school (because my daughter needs *more*) are nowhere to be found.

I take that back, they are to be found about an hour away. That might as well mean the moon on some days.

Thankfully, we have options. No field trip to Harvard but we’ve got options.

One of the reasons we have options is because we have high-speed internet and computers at home. Sounds like a small thing to many of us but I’m realizing in some communities that’s still a luxury. Because of this we can take advantage of things like Khan Academy. Heck, even being able to Google anything and everything whenever we want.

We have flexible schedules so we can spend hours in the car driving o weekend math classes, academic competitions, and museums.

We can take advantage of free or low-cost programs like the talent searches and Davidson Young Scholars because we know about them.

We’re still benefitting from our previous school district that was gifted friendly. We’re finding our tribe online.

We feel lucky. We are lucky.

But the gifted students who aren’t able to avail themselves of the opportunities that are out there are already behind. They simply don’t know the possibilities and sadly those responsible for their care and education probably don’t either.

I feel for all children living in poverty but the gifted kids in that situation – I feel just a teeny bit more for them.