Monday, September 16, 2013

The Mesopotamian Mind

Remember when you first learned about Mesopotamia? Cuneiform? Gilgamesh? Ziggurats?

Me neither!

Was it junior high? High school? College? I'm not sure I ever actually learned about Mesopotamia. I definitely don't remember learning anything about a guy named Hammurabi. And I could not point out Ur on a map.

But it's a new generation. Hello, Core Curriculum. Just a month into 1st Grade, my son brought home this study guide...

Yep. He had a test on Mesopotamia.


Now, I've been pretty positive so far about Core Curriculum. I like the idea that if we were to one day move to another state, Little Dude wouldn't miss a beat in school. I like the math that he's been doing (basic algebra right now). And I like the amount of time spent on reading, spelling, and writing.

But seriously? A test on Mesopotamia? I can't even pronounce "ziggurats" and he's supposed to know what it is? Shouldn't 1st Grade Social Studies be spent learning something more general instead of delving into a subject that college students spend an entire semester studying?

So last week, I found myself having to make a decision... whether to just help my kid memorize the answers to get through the test or to actually make sure he understood the subject. Hmm...

On one hand, I've survived this long without any academic knowledge of Mesopotamia. Unless Little Dude plans on completing the $800 question in the Mesopotamia category on Jeopardy, I'm sure he'll be fine with just memorizing. But on the other hand, with the way Core Curriculum is structured, what if this is the foundation for future lessons on Mesopotamia or other ancient civilizations? What if he gets into 3rd Grade and regrets having just memorized the answers because he now has to truly delve into the subject? What if he has to take The History of Ancient Mesopotamia in college and is behind all his peers... because mom just let him memorize the answers?

With nightmarish visions of my child's future failure in my mind, I sat down and starting quizzing him. Luckily, he knew most of the answers AND how to pronounce them. In fact, he even corrected my pronunciation a couple times.

Apparently I was worried for nothing. He knew the subject. We even Googled some Core Curriculum lesson plans on Mesopotamia and had fun looking at the pictures and PowerPoint slides as Little Dude taught me about Mesopotamia. He even told me the story of Gilgamesh.

Crisis averted!

This time.

Hopefully next time I'm facing a memorization vs. understanding choice, I'll remember this moment. The moment I realized my kid actually learns stuff in school. The moment I realized that memorization is also an important tool to learn and that my kid doesn't have to be an expert in every subject. The moment I realized that my title as the "Crazy Mom" at school is pretty secure because I tend to over think everything.

EPILOGUE: Little Dude went on to ace the Mesopotamia test. He didn't have to spell ziggurats or Euphrates. It was multiple choice. :-) He is now studying the Scientific Method. And Crazy Mom over here can't wait delve into that subject!!!

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