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Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

October 5, 2009 Humor No Comments

Are you smarter than a fifth grader? Maybe you are. Maybe you aren’t. I thought I was. But now, I’m not so sure. I’ve got a fifth grader and it is causing a lot of undue stress. Every day I feel like I have to explain something complicated, something I’m not even sure I understand myself. “What does explicit mean?” “What’s a primary?” “What was the Trail of Tears?” It never stops. Now the fifth graders are tackling persuasive writing. Finally, something I know. Persuasive writing is simply talking someone into something that if they were thinking clearly, they would never do. But if the words are lined up just so–like tequila shots in a Tijuana bar–everything will seem like a very good idea. Ole! Anyway that’s how it’s supposed to work, although it is not actually worded that way on the state writing exam.

My 5th grader’s assignment was to write her parents a letter of request. Apparently some of the kids were so persuasive the parents actually forked over the desired items: trips to Hawaii, BMWs, Botox Spa days, rehab with Britney…My kid asked for a kitten. She can forget it. She should have gone with the Botox option. I might have been persuaded, especially if they offer a “two-fer” discount. She made all the same old arguments kids have tried for a thousand years. I’ll feed it! I’ll take care of it! I’ll pick up poop! Yeah, sure. My husband, supposedly allergic to cats, read the kitty letter and said one word, “No.” I told him he needed to comment on the quality of the writing, the strength of her arguments, the thesis statement, not the cat issue. My daughter only wanted him to comment on the cat issue.

The next step was to submit the letter to a website that grades student writing and attempt to get a score of 6. If she got a 6, would they give her a kitten? I didn’t have to worry. She got a 4.2, barely proficient. The good news was she could get editing comments, revise, and resubmit her work as often as she wanted. She revised it 27 times. But she could only get to 4.8. We fixed some errors, added details and pulled it up to a 5.2. I was starting to take it personally. My husband helped too. Unfortunately, he dropped it back down to a 4.8. I called my sister, the fabulous 4th grade teacher, and asked how to cheat, how to beat the dealer. She suggested adding multisyllabic words, longer sentences, and sprinkle in some similes. We were back to 5.2 and exhausted. My daughter turned it in to her teacher. It was a done deal, but I couldn’t let it go. I needed a 6. For me, just to prove I could. I used her password and polished to the point where I was desperate for a kitten too. Finally I hit “submit.” 5.4. It’s clear I may need to repeat fifth grade.


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