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Thursday, January 19, 2006

To Bee or Not To Bee

Two weeks into second-grade, which he started the Monday after Thanksgiving, seven-year-old Jack came home with news.

“I’m going to be in the Spelling Bee!” he announced.

I was still getting used to the idea of Jack being “gifted,” and if not quite feeling remorse over making a mid-year move up to the second grade, was still insecure about it. What with the Spelling Bee, I felt both a sense of confirmation and of curse: clearly if he already knows enough words to qualify for a Bee, he’s ready for second grade; on the other hand, I am so not ready to prep him for a Bee.

But, what’s done is done. Jack brought home a study book with words for the national competition (second graders only compete locally). There were maybe 1,000 words to study at the beginner level. The study book was set down in the office for safe-keeping.

Fast forward to yesterday afternoon. Pick up kids at the elementary school and the first words out of Jack’s mouth were, “The Spelling Bee is tomorrow – I have to study for it tonight!”

Keeping in mind that The Book has been opened only once in the past six-weeks I tentatively ventured, “Isn’t it a little late to start studying?”

Jack disagreed, promptly seeking out his book in the office (where it had fallen behind the computer desk). He studied for about five minutes.

Then it was: chasing Evan in circles, wrestling with Sabrina, forts with Ellie. Fun stuff.

At seven o’clock, just minutes after tucking Ellie and Evan in to bed, I found The Book, once again abandoned in the office.

I sought out Jack. He was in his bedroom playing cars and Army. “Son?” I showed him The Book.

Jumping to his feet: “Hey, come on Mom! Let’s study!”

I laughed aloud. “Jack, we’ve had almost two months to work on this. Now, with one hour of studying time to go before the Bee; on a night when my dog is in shock, vomiting and unable to walk; at a moment when all I want to do is collapse on the couch and read; you want me to drop everything and help you learn 1,000 words?”

He nodded enthusiastically.

“Jack, I don’t think so.”

His face fell.

I made a suggestion. “Why don’t you get all ready for bed, and study by yourself for a while?”

I don’t know how long he actually studied last night, but this morning he seemed confident.

All day long I fretted just a bit, a little remorseful that I wouldn’t be there to watch him. Though I had asked repeatedly, he had never bothered to find out if parents were supposed to come. So neither Bruce nor I went.

This afternoon, Jack bopped into the van, a-twitter and a bit maniacal.

“Mom! I got out on the first word!” he exclaimed.

“Oh, Honey! That’s too bad. What was the word?”

“I have no idea. I got really bad stage fright, and couldn’t even speak!”

He was grinning from ear to ear.

Sabrina was crying. “My class didn’t get to watch!”

I ignored Sabrina. “So, but, was it fun?”

Jack: “Yeah! It was great!”

“So, did you, like, learn anything!”

As if his father and I had paid him to say it: “I sure did! Next time I need to study!”

“Do you think you’d want to do something like that again?”

“Oh yeah!”

So, there you go. If it had been me, I would have been traumatized for life. But Jack just keeps on going. During the remainder of that ride, I listened to him plot and scheme about how we can have a “Family Spelling Bee” and use The Book to prepare. He also made plans for a Family Game Night some time this weekend, for which he would make trophies for the winners.

We only have so much time in a day. As a family of six, we are divided in what we can do. If something is important enough, like making trophies for Family Game Night, or making Yu-Gi-Oh cards from scratch, or writing another installment of the Captain Smartypants comic strip, then it will get done. As a mother, I am responsible to feed, clothe, clean up after, snuggle, encourage. I will militantly ensure required homework gets done. But I will not spend my valuable time making any of them do “free choice” things they are not truly passionate about.

In recognition of the courage it takes to be in a Spelling Bee, or any other public competition, Jack got to choose dinner tonight. I was quite prepared for pizza, grilled cheese, or hamburgers.

His choice? Chicken noodle soup.

At least it wasn’t alphabet soup.


At 9:03 AM, Blogger Gateway School and Learning Center said...


At 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jack rocks! I am so excited to get these two boys together for some quality time. I have a feeling there will be paper creations everywhere. I will try to pack an extra ream or two.


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