Friday, October 17, 2014


Parenting Helen and Connor can be a study in contrasts. Where one sees opportunity, the other finds obstacles. One skips, the other walks with a steady pace. One smiles when she sees anyone, one hopes he can remain in the background.

And so it was no surprise to me when Helen came home with her first spelling test two weeks ago. Teaching Helen to spell is like teaching a dolphin to walk. She is trying to figure out a system, but then all these words come at her that break the rules! So then even the words that follow a system baffle her, because she's expecting them to have a trick. While Connor can memorize pretty much anything, Helen memorizes things with meaning. Ask her to retell a story, and she can do so brilliantly. Ask her to spell "saw", after spelling it several times, and she will look at you with a blank stare, try and sound it out, and tentatively say "S-O-W?". Spelling a word once correctly is no guarantee that it has been learned.

The first spelling test had 8 words on it. Helen gleefully showed me her paper and proclaimed "I got TWO RIGHT!". And she was super proud, and I, of course, told her to "rock on, sister", because I don't worry about this stuff. Ed laughed and said "she is your child", because we both know Connor, who shares more of Ed's demeanor, would have come home and said "ugh, I got six wrong".

Neither Ed nor I can recall Connor taking spelling tests this early in school. We're wondering if they're new since he was in first grade, or if his teacher (who is the same as Helen's) just exempted him until he knew how to read, sensing that they would be a terrible thing for Connor.


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