Money cometh, money goeth

snookumsJuly 6, 2006

So I've been working EVERY DAY for the past 10 days taking care of two pugs and the money is pretty good for my time. Pretty excited about that. My dh also just completed a consulting gig and will soon be paid for that.

But just yesterday I forked over a pre-payment for 16 sessions of $40/hr for a private tutor for my son. He just graduated from 5th grade and is going into 6th and was placed in 6th grade math because he didn't pass the placement test for pre-algebra. Well, NOT! because he got all A's last year in math, and he had 6th grade math (advanced math for 5th graders) last year! So I spoke with his teacher and she gave me a book that they used and showed me the two chapters he struggled on (in which he got a B, rather than an A) and was highly represented on that placement test. So 14 thousand phone calls later to the distict and the GATE coordinator they are giving him the test again in August, and we now have a tutor to make sure he masters those two chapters and passes that test, so he can move onto pre-algebra with his peers and not have a year of review.

Yes, I used to teach, but I only taught up to 4th grade BECAUSE of the math. Beyond that, I'm helpless. My 10 year old can do circles around me in math, and so we felt a tutor was needed for the summer to work on those issues he struggled with.

She is great, he adores her, and she thinks that he will pass this test no problem, but all I can do is look at my checkbook and all of our hard work trying to keep our heads above water and sigh...

I have a diabetic cat this weekend and again two weeks from now (same cat). Hopefully the business will pick up especially when the kids are back in school, and I have more time! I also booked two maltese puppies that aren't home yet (just born about a month ago) that I will walk 5x a week while their owners are at work starting in September. That will bring me about $500 a month alone, so I am really excited about landing that one.

Hopefully it won't go towards paying for a tutor! ;)

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Ok--I'm sticking my neck out here---

One of our kids took pre-algebra as a 6th grader. That's where he was placed as a 6th grader. His teacher was AWFUL--so we had him re-take it as a 7th grader. Good thing, too. Because that VERY year the state legislature mandated that all children take four years of math in High School--no matter where they were on the math track. Which means The Boy would have had to take AP calculus or AP stat as a Junior and Senior. While this would have been fine for Elder Son (who just finished his Junior year as a college Physics major) it would have been pure misery for The Boy, who just graduated HS and is headed for a BFA. (Elder Son's middle school didn't offer pre-algebra to 6th graders, so he missed that opportunity. We moved right before 7th grade.)

My advice (though you didn't ask for it!) is to check the HS requirements carefully. You don't want to permanently trap your kid on the superfast math track. Just because a kid is good at arithmetic, doesn't mean their brains are wired for algebra and such. In fact, that is where math LD's can suddenly show up--when kids shift from the concrete adding, subtracting, division,etc. to the weird world of x's and y's. That's where MY math issues reared their ugly heads. (So you can see why I'm sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong.)

NOT that a tutor is ever a bad idea. Just that you want to be careful before you permanently put your kid on the super-fast track. Here's how that track goes in our school system:

6th-pre-algebra. May be repeated in 7th--even if you get an "A." (Which The Boy did.)
7th--HS level Algebra. If you pass with a "C" or higher there is no turning back.
8th--HS Geomoetry
9th--Algebra II
11th--AP Calculus--either AB (first semester college calc taught over the full year) or BC (full college course)
12th--AP BC Calculus (if you took AB) or AP Stats

It's ambrosia for the math lovers--and pure torture for the kids who are merely competent but don't LOVE math.

It would be different if a kid could, say, quit TAKING math after pre-cal and take other electives, if they weren't math lovers, but they can't. They NUST have 4 years of math--and the math MUST be of increasing intensity. They did finally invent a couple of post pre-cal courses, that aren't calculus. That's what The Boy took for his senior year--but the courses were pretty worthless.

SO...I'd advise looking ahead and finding out what the policy is in your school system. Forewarned is fore-armed. You won't BELIEVE how fast HS gets here. And then is gone.

Seriously, hope I didn't offend. Just been there and done that...


    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 2:44PM
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Really Good Point Melanie!

My son also had trouble with math starting in 7th grade. He's gifted overall, with a special talent in math - scored in the 99+ %ile in the GT math aptitude test. But he failed Algebra in 7th grade, even with tutoring during the second semester. From what we can tell, for him, it was a question of partly developmental readiness (he just wasn't...) and partly (IMO) his dyslexia, which made it hard for him to understand the exact language of the problems. Unlike 'straight math' where you're doing a whole batch of similar problems, algebra gave you certain 'pieces' and asked for other pieces -- not always the same.

Now for him, we really had no real hint of a problem at the 6th grade level. And he just ended up re-taking algebra in 8th grade, and dropping from the GT math track to the 'Honors' math track -- and now, after 9th grade, he's doing well in math again. I think his brain has caught up with the work. In his case, not moving him forward in 6th grade would have been a big mistake. But not holding him back after 7th would also have been wrong.

I'm just suggesting you keep your eyes open and know inside and out how your particular school system works.

And by the way -- Congratulations on your great results so far with your new pet-sitting business!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 2:57PM
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Thank you for the advice. What we figure is this - if it wasn't meant to be, he won't pass the test, and that will be the end of that! He did say that he did space on the test and got stuck on one problem (it was a timed test). He scored a 12 when most kids his level scored in the 30's (out of 45). He has to score a 27 to be placed in pre-algebra.

I know that we'd be doing him a disservice if we didn't give him the chance to try it again. He is in the GATE program (Gifted and Talented Education) and math is his best subject. There is no way that he only knew 12 on that test. The GATE coordinator agreed, and they said they certainly don't want to miss anyone that should be placed in pre-algebra and wasn't. So we will give him that, and if it wasn't meant to be, he won't pass, and that will be that!

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 7:15PM
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I also want to say that he has to maintain a B average in order to stay in the advanced classes, so if he struggles at it, he won't move on. They will move him down to regular 6th grade math, regular 6th grade science, regular 6th grade English and Social Studies at any time if he isn't keeping a B average or above. (per GATE program requirements, though he'd still always remain identified as gifted) And I certainly wouldn't want to keep him in a class that he isn't meant to be in, so I have no problem with this.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 7:20PM
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Sounds like a plan! I'm glad y'all are so flexible about it. Some parents aren't... And it's good that YOUR G&T program is so flexible.


    Bookmark   July 6, 2006 at 7:49PM
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snookums, does your son really need 16 tutoring sessions to help him with two chapters of math? That sounds like overkill to me, especially since he did well (Bs are not shabby!) on the chapters.

If he's good at math and his tutor is good, a few sessions may be all it takes to get the concepts to 'click'.

Of course we'll do all we can for our kids, but I hate to see your hard-earned $$ paying for more than absolutely necessary.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 9:21AM
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The reason why we chose 16 sessions (twice a week for the rest of the summer) is because the test is an achievement test, not an aptitude test, based soley on the 6th grade math concepts out of that book. Basically his teacher told me that she wants him to start at the back of the book for reteaching and then move forward as a review/reinforcment, since it will be just before school starts when he retakes the test. There are 12 chapters - they are starting with chapter 12, then going to chapter 10 (the 2nd one he struggled with), then back to 11, then 9, 8, 7, 6, etc. They'll probably spend July on 12 and 10, then August on a review of it all.

I just want to give him every chance that's available. If it keeps him from sitting there bored and counting the ceiling tiles in math next year, it's worth every penny to me.

I was able to secure a credentialed middle school math teacher who he adores (young, super "cool") for this. She comes to my house and it couldn't be more convenient.

But really though, this thread was me complaining about the cost of a tutor! :) We had enough funds to keep our heads above water this month, until this came along...

    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 11:01AM
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echo of pecanpie's and melanie's thoughts here....

You explained that the placement test results were "off", he really knows the material, he "spaced" the test taking, he got stuck on one problem, etc. etc. - that all sounds like he should easily be ready for the advanced placement into pre algebra. Without tutoring. Or with just a bit to freshen the material before the test. The alternative is that those "two chapters he struggled with" are genuinely more challenging for him, and a signal that accelerating through that stuff might not be the best thing. My concern is that if the material from those chapters weighed so heavily in the placement test, it might be because it is the critical foundation for the next level.

BTW, I speak from experience. I was a math prodigy back in the 60's and the public school system accelerated me through a bunch of grades, dumping me in with older classes in patchwork scheduling. Unfortunately, I somehow skipped parts of Trig, which led to some real problems years later as a college math major. (Never did quite right the ship and ended up a shrink instead. Too bad, as I really loved mathematics.)

So I am obviously not a fan of accelerating coursework just because it can be done. For a lone student or a whole classroom of students. It needs to be done well, and not at the expense of a really, really solid foundation. Miss a cinderblock or two and things can crumble years later.

I do know that acceleration is commonplace now. But I wonder: when the schools keep pace with the smartest kids' brain capacity by accelerating the material, do those kids ever 'learn to learn on their own'? Growing into the responsibility of managing/maximizing intellectual gifts used to be a key challenge if you were really smart. School was too easy. Today my brain power would be completely tapped out by the volume and intensity of school work, and I'd never get around to that challenge. Like with sports and leisure, we may structure too much for kids.

Whew, I digressed off topic there....Just my 2 cents.

Back on topic: How about just 5 tutoring/freshening sessions instead of 20? Then pass or fail the "readinesss" test and let the chips fall. Would that be so bad?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 12:01PM
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Well, let me just share that all kids are different. My son is different from everyone else's child and his experiences will be different from theirs. He is identified gifted, not just your average student, and I am not just going to settle for him sitting in a review class for an entire year for fear that I might be "accelerating" him. His teachers (regular classrooom and his accelerated math teacher) and the GATE coordinators at both his elementary and middle schools all feel that he belongs in pre-algebra next year, so I am going to give him a chance to make that happen. I'd be doing him a disservice if I didn't. The rest is up to him.

Please understand that I am not making the decision to hire him a tutor for the summer out of ignorance - I have a current California teaching credential and a master's degree in education, with my specialization being in curriculum and instruction.

And really, this thread was just to complain about the cost of a tutor.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 4:03PM
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Yup, tutor's are 'spensive. PARTICULARLY when they come to YOUR house. If it's any consolation--I've had the money saved up for my kitchen remodel at LEAST twice--

Once it ended up going to a new furnace/AC unit and a new minivan.

Once it ended up going into a VERY expensive rock retaining wall. (Can't let the hill slide onto the house...)

Now it's all going to college tuition payments...and the fact that I've been off work for seven months with my thyroid.

My guess is that the next disaster will be the roof...
I hate my kitchen.

You have my sympathies!



    Bookmark   July 7, 2006 at 7:05PM
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The children that I know who are truly gifted (and not just very smart, like the ones described on this thread)), mathematically speaking, are taking college level math courses in junior high. I think that for the rest of the smart kids, that is children taking algebra or geometry in junionr high school, math is an area that is just a "strength." A good strength, no doubt, but the word "gifted" is overkill, in my opinion.

I loathe all of this extreme pressure on both parents and children to put kids into a "gifted" or honors or fast-track type of category. In general, this sort of competition is unhealthy and devisive. The fact that someone mentioned that a school moves a child forward with a "C" average is ridiculous. That child hasn't mastered the material but is moving forward at an advanced rate? What are these people thinking? What is the rush? Our children have a life-time of stress to look forward to, why begin now?

Furthermore, even at the most elite private schools in my area, the brightest children generally take only Alegebra I in the eighth grade and finish the rest in high school. And these schools turn out lots of National Merit Scholars. These kids are getting into places like Harvard and Princeton. Don't forget: SAT scores in math don't reflect how far a child progresses in math, but how competent they are with applying basic principles (through geometry) to test problems. Though this might not apply to Snookums child, it is far better to let a child retake material not mastered than push them through the various levels of math. As middle schoolers become teens, you need to choose carefully what things are the most important for you to push on. Most of them can only handle so much stress generated from academic pressure.

I have many children in with a range of average-to-smart intellectual capabilities (none are brilliant and none are LD). All of them are rather nerdy. I guess that's the track my children are on: the nerdy geek track.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 6:31PM
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I think the term "gifted" when used by an educator is describing specific criteria. When I was in school it meant an IQ of around 140. In my daughter's school it means scores in the top 1% nationally. To me, if a 13 year old is taking calculus that's genius level, definitely beyond gifted.

I was wondering about the pre-algebra in 6th grade. I remember that when I took Algebra 1 in 8th grade all my peers where in pre-algebra. If you plan on a technical track in college, taking calculus freshman year really doesn't set you back at all. Even if you take AP calculus in high school, if you get into a really good technical school then it's worthwhile to retake the actual college calculus.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 8:09PM
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I agree with Chiefneil whole-heartedly. When it comes to math, there are people who are very smart, gifted even. And then there's a whole 'nother level of people whose brains don't even work the same way. If you've ever seen an autistic savant do math, you'll know what I mean. Different neural pathways, different processes. They just "get it" in a way most 'mere mortals' can't.

Evil Ex started out as an engineering major at a top-ranked Ivy League school. Because he had come from a top high school, he had already taken calculus and done well in the class. He also scored well on the AP test, and was able to place out of freshman calculus. He took the AP credits and went on to other classes. BIG MISTAKE. Most colleges design the freshman year suite of science and engineering classes to work together. His chemistry and physics classes all tracked alongside the freshman calculus class, and had he retaken it, he'd have had a much easier time in ALL of his classes. Instead, he struggled in all of them, landed in academic probation, and ended up switching out of engineering. Of course, he was garden-variety smart - not a math prodigy.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2006 at 9:32PM
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"Gifted" in our school district (Capistrano Unified) is identified by placing at a 95th percentile or above on the Otis-Lennon test (an IQ-like test). Prior to that, in order to qualify to be nominated to take that test, he had to score at a 90th percentile or above on both reading and math on the CORE test (a standardized test the district gives to all students in addition to the SAT9).

At the end of 5th grade, all of the students are given the Math Challenge Test (the placement test for 6th grade). Typically, about 80% are placed in 6th grade math, 20% are placed in pre-algebra (including ALL of the GATE students, such as my son), and 1% are placed in 7th grade algebra. The pre-algebra class is the 7th grade curriculum but the classes are all 6th graders so he will always be with his peers.

I also want to say that he had 6th grade math LAST year and got an A on his report card in every trimester. He scored a B in two chapters and spaced on the test. He still mastered those chapters, technically. THIS CHILD does not belong in 6th grade math AGAIN next year. The tutor is there to make sure he knows those chapters up and down and inside and out. Bottom line, if it's beyond him, he won't pass.

He has one of "those" minds. Last year, when they were working on three and four digit long division, he came to me with a completed homework assignment. Just answers, nothing written out. I said "hon, you can't use a calculator - please go write out all of the problems." He swore up and down that he did NOT use a calculator and challenged me to test him. So I flipped the paper over and wrote out a few new problems. He stared at each one for about two minutes, then gave me the answer. *I* then had to check them on a caculator, and he had each one correct.

You know, everyone told me when he was in preschool that I should hold him back for kindergarten because he was born in the fall (cutoff in CA is Dec. 2, he was born Oct. 22) and he was a boy. I heard countless stories of their kids and their friends kids and the milkman's kids who were either held back and they were glad, or the child repeated kindergarten, or started on time as a 4 year old ("early" in their minds, on time actually) and they regretted it. But I knew my child. I also knew kindergarten - I was teaching it, after all. I knew that kindergarten is designed for the 5 year old, not for 6 year olds, and I also knew that I could not tell a difference between the kids that had started at 4 (and turned 5 by December) and the ones that had spring birthdays. Where I did see a difference was with the 6 year olds, who did exceptionally well in my class, but for good reason - because they were too old for the curriculum. They weren't being challenged. Thank goodness I knew my child and I knew kindergarten because I might have been tempted to listen to them. He was ready and wanted to go more than anything, and academically he was ready as well. He did start kindergarten at 4 1/2, did amazingly well, and has been ever since. I am glad I chose to challenge him rather than wait and put him with younger kids so I'd have a "guarantee" that he'd succeed. That's what I'd feel that having him repeat 6th grade math would be. It would be pointless at this point. Sure, they may be times when something might need to be repeated if he truly struggled. This isn't one of those times. And if it is, him not passing that test will make that known.

Here is a link that might be useful: GATE/AAA program in Capistrano Unified

    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 5:00AM
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I have two boys. One has a late August birthday--the other is at the end of September. People were astounded that we didn't hold them out. We couldn't--they needed to be IN SCHOOL. (And I'd have killed 'em if they'd stayed home another year--even in pre-school.) Yes, Elder Son had some fine motor control problems. Guess what--ES just finished his Junior in college--and he STILL has fine motor issues. He has dyspraxia and SI issues--even after 3 years of private OT. Holding him back would have accomplished NOTHING. The Boy just graduated HS--and he is SO ready for college. The idea of having him home for another year, and 18 for his entire senior year in HS, is terrifying. Thank goodness I didn't listen to "everyone."

Someone has to be youngest. Sounds like you know your kid and are giving him the tools/opportuinity for him to achieve what he needs/wants. As you say--if he doesn't pass he doesn't pass! Sounds to me as if you'd be perfectly FINE with that.

Good for you.


    Bookmark   July 9, 2006 at 11:06AM
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Slightly OT but- What is it about boys being held back? I hear again and again from parents that their boys are too easily distracted and less able to learn than girls and must be held back a year. Honestly, I think Pre-K was created entirely for boys. Visiting the classrooms, it certainly appears that way. The new cut-off for Kindergarten is 6 yo by Aug.15. so a whole slew of summer birthdays boys won't be starting K until they're 7! That's just crazy to me. When I was in school (Class of 89) it was very common for girls and boys to graduate before your 18th bday. Some of these boys now will be 19. Heaven forbid they get held back at some point later. Can you imagine being 20 yo in HS?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2006 at 9:39AM
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As the dad of a girl, I have to say the growing trend of holding boys back a year really annoys me. DD had some huge (relative to her) boys in pre-K, K, 1st, and 2nd grade because these boys were a year older than their classmates. IMHO it's not fair to the others in the class, as kids a year older are more physically imposing and socially assertive. Besides making things ripe for outright bullying, it can cause lots of less obvious intimidation for the younger kids. Everytime I hear a conversation from a proud parent who held their kid back about how happy they are about it and how well the kid is doing, I get really upset thinking that their child is doing well at the expense of their classmates.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2006 at 11:05AM
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angc--you have to be 6 to start kindergarten in PA? Seriously? That is INSANE. Here one has to be 5 to start kindergarten now--under the new rules my older son would have "missed"--my younger would have squeaked by. And I'd have sent him.


I hear you. It aggravated me as well--and I had two boys! Younger son (generally reffered to as "The Boy" on the forums)has always been on the smaller side--and some of those "red-shrited" boys might have intimidated him if he'd been a first-born. Luckily he had an older brother (who has always been tall for his age) to keep up with.

I think part of the probelm is that kindergarten is now first grade. My sister tells me that if youaren't reading by the time you leave kindergarten you are labeled and put in "reading recovery."


Wait until the folks that held their kids back realize they've got a HS kid who is LEGALLY an adult...with all that entails!


    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 9:23AM
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It's a circle... With more kids in daycare, the original 'K as teaching basic classroom skills' role is being replaced with early academic work. As kids hold their boys' back before K, the kids entering K are older and more ready for reading. So, since they're ready, they start teaching reading in K now instead of first. And since they teach reading in K, parents of kids who aren't ready choose to hold their kids back...

This one's been brewing for years...

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 1:38PM
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I stand corrected, the age for Kindergarten is 5 by Sept. 1. That makes way more sense, but for some reason our DD's who have birthdays in August are by far the youngest kids in their classes. Last yr, they had boys in thier classes who were a full year older. All the late Spring and summer birthday boys seem to be held back.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 2:51PM
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The scary thing about holding boys back is that someday, one of these way older boys will ask your teenage daughter out. Egads! I don't want my girls going to dances with men! Give me the awkward, immature teenage boys any day. God made boys immature vis a vis girls for a reason, because teenage boys make lousy fathers. With older boys in the classroom, the dynamic changes for everyone. The same can be said for older girls, too.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 3:15PM
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Actually (regarding reading in kindergarten) - the California state standards (and most other states are similar) only require that the child be able to decode blends by the end of kindgergarten, and that's where first grade picks up. Of course, good teachers will move children who are ready onto reading, and with more and more kids being held back, this is more and more common. At the end of kindergarten my son was decoding blends - right where he should be, and that's where my daughter is now (she just finished K). He came home from school one day in the middle of first grade and said "Guess what, Mommy? I learned how to read today!" And whattya know, something had clicked that very day, and he was reading pretty much anything from that point on. Right on time too according to the standards. He reads at an 11th grade level now.

I remember one year teaching I had only one reader at the beginning of the school year, and it was my youngest kid - he turned 5 on November 28, so was four for almost half the year!

But I hear you regarding those older kids who have been held back. There is one boy in my son's grade who was born in April 94 and was held back - 18 months older than my son who was born Oct 95. That should not be allowed. That boy will turn NINETEEN two months before high school graduation! Him dating a high school peer is borderline a crime!

I have always felt it was better for my son, when given the choice, to be around slightly older kids and be challenged, rather than younger kids where he'd regress both in behavior and do schoolwork that was too easy for him.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2006 at 4:09PM
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