I’m a teacher. All parents are teachers. But, I am an educator and have a teaching license. Granted it is to teach Special Education, but much of Special Education is modifying the regular curriculum. In my book, that means that I can teach anything. Ok, not anything – but many, many things. I have my BA in English with a History Minor and my Master’s in Special Education. I have taken Anatomy and Physiology. But nothing has prepared me for teaching David.
David has always been interested in History. He has a love of ancient history and I am not sure where it began. But his love of history appeared when he was very little. At 2 he told me he wanted to be an Egyptologist or Paleontologist. He wasn’t sure. He was sure that he was going to discover a new sarcophagus. I don’t know that there are many 2-year-olds who know what a sarcophagus is, let alone how to say the word. But David did. My mother delighted in teaching him the plural of sarcophagus: sarcophagi. Both of them enjoyed showing off that knowledge.
David’s interest in Ancient Egypt was only part of his passion. Paleontology was also something he had a great interest in. We would go to the public library almost every week and David would have the librarian help him find books that were about Dinosaurs.
It isn’t all that odd that a little boy would have a passion for Dinosaurs. The odd part was that David knew their names, what they ate,how they lived and he had a thirst for more. Let me tell you, I didn’t care much for Dinosaurs. I had (and still have) difficulty pronouncing their names. Even when they were spelled out phonetically, I couldn’t say them. But David could and if I got it wrong, he would correct me. In fact, his 2nd grade teacher was upset with David because she was teaching them something about Dinosaurs and she said it wrong. David corrected her in front of the entire class and then proceeded to tell her everything he knew about the specific Dinosaur. He was correct, but she wasn’t happy about how he did it in front of the class, embarrassing her.
As David got older, his passions expanded. He was interested in the Middle East and Archeology. He was interested in American History and artifacts. He was fascinated by Biblical History and the existence of God. He wanted to know it all. He began watching the History Channel every day.
He was learning so much and making connections. I’m not sure that I understand everything he has extrapolated from his learning of History. It is an amazing thing.
Chris and I have encouraged David’s passions. We have spoken to David about the requirements of earning his PhD if he wants to be a good archeologist. We have bought him books and any other materials he has asked for that relate to his passions. We have sat through more History Channel programs that we have found boring than I care to count. And we have expected that his passion would wane just a bit. But it hasn’t.
David knows more about History than most adults. He understands how events in the distant past have impacted the more recent past. He has detailed knowledge in many areas. He knows about things that I have never heard of. And remember, I have a Minor in History. I took AP American History in High School. I love historical fiction (yes it is fiction, but it is historically correct). And David knows more at 12 than I know at 40.
His knowledge has created a problem, though. And it is a big one. He knows more than many of his teachers in the area of History. Especially in the area of Ancient History. This is a problem. Not so much for the teacher, but for David. For example, last year in 7th grade he took “Social Studies.” Social Studies, in this case, was really geography. And a bit of History thrown in. The class watched a video about Judaism. The video showed the symbols of Judaism as a menorah and a yarmulke, but not the Star of David. This greatly disturbed David: leaving out a major symbol of the Jewish religion.
David relates to Judaism, but that was not the reason for his distress. His distress came from none of his peers understanding that a major symbol was absent in the video and his teacher not validating his observations. He is right, the Star of David is a major symbol of the Jewish religion and to omit it from the video was negligent. Then for the teacher not to realize that this major symbol was absent and show the video without mentioning it was even more negligent. The final piece was her lack of validation David’s statements. He was so frustrated.
What to do about it? In High School, David will have the opportunity to take 4 AP classes in History (US Government, US History European History and World History). That leaves us only 1 year that we will have to manage. Last year I explored the options available to David and there weren’t many. He could take 8th Grade Social Studies or I could home-school him. There is no Honors or Advanced Social Studies for 8th Grade students. And 8th Grade students cover US History. For David, this is a recipe for disaster. Since he is so versed in History and he reads and understands at a collegiate level the pace of the class will seem super-slow. Then there is the lack of enrichment in the curriculum. In all fairness, this is due to the fact that there are 37 or more kids in some of the classes and the teachers don’t truly have the time to individualize the curriculum for every student.
What we are going to do about it is this – David is going to try 8th Grade US History. If he feels that it is not working for him, we will withdraw him from History and home-school him only in History. That means that I will be David’s teacher for History and he will have a lot of say in what we cover. We will start with what the curriculum expectations are according to the district and move through them as fast as David would like. Then we will be able to move onto a more in-depth study. I am hoping to work with him exploring Religion in America starting with the colonies. This is a subject that I found fascinating and I think with David’s grasp of Biblical History, he will enjoy it. Of course, I have forgotten much of what I learned in college and will have to re-learn it in order to teach David. Teaching David scares me half to death, maybe I should call it what it will really be: a cooperative learning experience.
(This post approved by David prior to posting.)