He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark; and the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth a freshly plucked olive leaf; so Noah knew that the waters has subsided from the earth. Genesis 8:10-12
A few weeks ago, after completing his writing assignment and a few math problems, we headed straight into his social studies homework. He was having a test on the Declaration of Independence. I love history and, I must say, I was really excited to help Kyle out with his test. That is until I realized he didn’t know the material. There was four chapters of questions we needed to review. The questions included topics on Bunker Hill, Liberty Bell, The Olive Branch Petition, and of course the Declaration of Independence, etc. He needed to know important dates and names, such as the year July 1775 and Thomas Paine and he had to compare and contrast between the British army and the colonial army.
I like to have Kyle review the material briefly before we study together. I think this helps to refresh his memory, which helps to keep me patient. Not this time. It seemed as though Kyle’s never even heard of some of the questions. Then I realized he wasn’t seeing the bigger picture or was not paying attention. I mean, he didn’t even know that the 4th of July was our Independence Day, at least that’s what he claimed. I do believe in teaching through repetition, which I continued to do, but I also believe in overall understanding. I even started to make reference to specific movies I know he’s seen such as Independence Day and National Treasure. I was citing specific scenes in the movies to get him to associate the material. But nothing.
That is until I started to lose my patience. Something I noted at this time was Kyle standing up after he kept missing the answers. You see, I make Kyle stand to get the blood moving north and to capture his attention. I do the same just because I think better when I’m up moving around, getting the energy up in the room. Kyle automatically stood up and started fidgeting. When he does that, I know from experience that he is not focused and is going to be difficult. I was even prepping him for the next question by the way I was asking the current question. Nothing! I knew he was tired, but I explained this was important. I said, “At this point, Kyle, you’re lucky to get a quarter of the answers correct, which will fail you.” I could tell he started to realize the severity of the situation, at least in my mind.
After a while, the material started to stick. And I mean stick. I don’t just give him the questions in the same order as supplied, I completely ask the questions at random. I also don’t ask the exact same questions as they are written, I change them up slightly to get him thinking and to really own the information. Now I don’t do this until I feel comfortable with his knowledge of the material as to not discourage or confuse him.
As we went back and forth, there was something I realized he wasn’t getting. Every time we talked about the Olive Branch Petition he didn’t get it. He knew it was sent to King George III. Great! But he really didn’t know why. I explained it was to avoid additional fighting and to start making peace. I said, “That’s why they called it the Olive Branch Petition. You get it? The olive branch is a symbol of peace, along with the dove.” As his face contoured into an inquisitive look, he said, “It is? I thought the olive branch was a part of government?” I said, “No! Don’t you remember in the bible when Noah set the dove out to find land and it came back with an olive branch?” Yep, at that moment he had no idea what I was talking about. Then I took the opportunity to briefly explain the Noah’s ark story and the promise God made, eventually working my way back to the the American Revolution and how, even though they were fighting, they truly wanted peace and sometimes fighting is needed to keep the peace.
Well, I got through to him for his social studies test, but I have a long way to go. I guess that’s why we have a lifetime of learning, ’cause it takes that long to get it, if we ever do. I am proud to announce that Kyle received a ‘B’ on his test. He made sure, the next time he saw me, to let me know. Not exactly with excitement, but with content. I gave him a big hug and congratulated him, even though I wanted him to get an ‘A’. At least we had the opportunity to discuss history. I also told him we would go out to Philadelphia and visit Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, among other landmarks. He said, “Ummm maybe, we’ll see.” O my Kyle!