Variables

Three more weeks, and the new school year begins.  The Kid is an 8th grader — more than that, she is an 8th grader with ambitions.  She has a reputation to maintain, if not enhance; she will be taking algebra this year.  Over the summer, she has been working on-and-off — and not all that successfully– on mastering the basic concepts of pre-algebra.  Stuff like constants and variables:  “What is 0.5x + x ?”  “0.5x. “What happened to the other x?”  “Oh, it canceled out.”  Then there were the occasional forays into the recent past, like percentages, or even further into the more distant past, like addition and subtraction.  If she were not my child, I would have been entertained by the instances of brain infarcts: “If a woodchuck chucked wood for 8 hours a day, how many hours did the woodchuck chuck wood over 3 days?”  “84 hours.”  Her academic brain is something of a mystery to me.

That she might fail used to haunt me; I thought her failure would be my failure, and surely that was  something I must not let happen.  More recently, I began to realize that by her school’s standards, she most likely will not ever come anywhere near failing, and that is actually a much more appalling possibility.  When the Kid was 5 years old, she was part of a skit put on by the children (ages 5-10) attending a weekend “camp” at the Environmental Learning Center.  It was a very informal affair, and the children read their lines from a cheat sheet.  The Kid was the youngest one there and did not, of course, know how to read — yet there she was, sheet in hand, “reading” her lines, just another kid.  Even then she understood what it was to belong, and that sometimes, it is all pretense.  DH wonders whether the concept of variables will “do” her in.  I think not.  After all, even an honours class has a lowest common denominator.

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