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September 18, 2013

When is "Good Enough" the right answer?


At our house, we're struggling with homework capability vs. homework motivation. Does this sound familiar to anyone else out there?

We have a really intelligent third grade boy. He is lucky enough to be able to accomplish the brain work, without much strain. Right now, he is merely investing the time in the "busy work," because he does not have any struggle for understanding.

Herein lies the problem.

Yes, he spelled the words correctly. No, this is not his best penmanship.

Yes, he breezed through the math worksheet. No, he did not remember to put the date at the top of the page.

Yes, he chose 12 vocabulary words to illustrate. No, he did not take more than 25 seconds on each illustration. No, the illustrations are not colored, simple pencil is fine. 

Yes, he answered the reading comprehension questions. Yes, he easily read the story and could have a long discussion with anyone about how it compares to ten other books he's read. No, his answers aren't in complete sentences. "Mom! I know what I mean!"

Much heavy sighing and eye-rolling.

Much frustration on both sides.

Is any of his work incorrect? No.

Is any of his work, his best work? No.

Should we referee this battle, or not? The jury is still out.

It seems to us that he is the one who must answer for his "good enough" work. If he gets a lower grade because the teacher couldn't read his writing, so be it. If he gets marked down for missing dates, fragmented sentences and bare-minimum assignments, we'll just have to see if he cares enough to improve.


But, it's hard for us, as parents, who know what he is capable of doing, to watch him walk off to school with "good enough" work. Only three weeks into the school year, his teachers don't really know him yet. The impression they're getting might not be what it could or should be. 

Then again, these teachers are third grade experts, right? Specifically, they have surely seen their share of third grade boys who are less than motivated to "wow" their teachers. Nearly all advice is consistent: Let him be responsible for his work and his actions. Let him experience the consequences and the rewards, when HE chooses how to complete his work. So, thus far, we're staying out of it. 

What happens next? Stay tuned. 


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