Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

I consider myself an intelligent woman. I came through high school and college respectably. I survived graduate school.

I wasn’t sure, however, that I would survive fifth grade (round two).

I remember fifth grade (round one). I had fun. Even though I don’t SPECIFICALLY remember what we studied, I know I did well academically.

This year, I studied spelling, math, geography, science and language arts. The difference, of course, is that I was the secondary learner, as The Tweenager was the one actually attending class.

When The Tweenager started school, I knew that I’d be working with him and helping him with homework, projects, etc. It’s what parents do.

I was so naive.

It never occurred to me that I’d actually be LEARNING (or re-learning, as the case may be) right along with him.

I remember being quite surprised that he had homework in kindergarten. REAL homework. Like, worksheets and reading nearly every night sort of thing.

But it wasn’t until third grade when reality slapped me in the face.

I was at a business conference in Las Vegas (yes, I was really there on business) and we were at a social event (I’m an EVENT planner. It’s what I do. Of course we have social events at our conferences.). My cell phone rang. It was DH, calling from homework central.

DH: “What is a solid cylinder called?”

Me: “What?” (It was very noisy.)

DH: “A solid cylinder. What is it called?”

Me: “Uhm…can a cylinder even BE solid? Doesn’t the word mean a hollow tube?”

DH: “I don’t know. It’s on his homework.”

Me: “Let me call you back.”

So I asked around. Nobody knew. Nobody. A room full of educated, professional adults and nobody knew what a solid cylinder was. I called DH back.

Me: “So nobody knows what a solid cylinder is called.”

DH: “What are we supposed to put for his answer?”

That was the moment I knew I was in deep trouble. The Tweenager was a mere babe of 8, and two adults (assisted by several others) couldn’t figure out the answer to a third grade math question.

Fast forward two years and now we’ve all but survived fifth grade. This year, I was amazed that my 10 year old had to learn mean, mode and median in math class. Now, I learned mean, which simply means the average of a series of numbers, in grammar school. But mode and median? College stats, baby.


I also learned ALL about killer whales this year when The Tweenager did his endangered species report. For the record, we learned that killer whales have been removed from the endangered species list.

And his teacher was very gracious when he pointed that out in his presentation. She didn’t know that either.

I was able to share my extensive knowledge about the Great State of Ohio when he had to do a state project. Growing up in Ohio, we studied Ohio history in fourth and eight grade. Did you know that there are 88 counties in Ohio and its greatest natural resource is its people (taken directly from the state tourism brochure, circa 1982)?

I learned all about Greece (but not its economic problems…that’s saved for high school apparently) and how to say “Merry Christmas” in Greek (“Kala Christougena“). We made unknown quantities of Greek Christmas cookies (kourambiedes).

I had my largest stumbling block, though, in geography. A requirement of fifth grade is apparently to learn all fifty state capitals, abbreviations and be able to place the states on a blank map.


Now over the years, I’ve learned the abbreviations, perhaps 75% of the capitals and could probably place about 60% of the states on a blank map. But everything? Wow.

Geography was never my strong suit.

I did everything I could to help The Tweenager remember that Maryland was not two words. That most (but not all) state abbreviations were either the first and second letter or the first and last letter of the state. We created silly mnemonic devices, like the capital of VerMONT is MONTpelier. Or that a rich man (Richmond) went to Virginia.

There were stumbling blocks, and he had to retake the abbreviation and capitals test once, but we survived, and it looks like The Tweenager will pass fifth grade. His reward will be a series of “Fifth Grade Activities”, like going to Coldstone Creamery and roller skating.

My reward for passing fifth grade (round two)? Sixth grade (round two).

Thanks, but I’d prefer a vacation.

Maybe Hawaii. Honolulu. HI.


2 thoughts on “Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

  1. My guess is cylindrical prism. I know you shouldn’t use the question in the answer, but I’ve seen said prisms on worksheets. Of my 4th grader.

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