As a writer, I'm all about vocabulary. I love words that say exactly what I mean. Words are cool, right?
My son is in 5th grade. As I may have mentioned before, this year chance has provided him with a team of maniacal homework-loving 5th grade teachers. On Monday night, he had four hours of homework, not including reading, and not including weekly packets. At least he doesn't have time to get into any serious trouble...but, wait, 5th graders don't actually have any serious trouble to get into, do they?
My son is a very good student; he works hard and really cares. He's the kind of kid that forgets only one homework assignment in a school year. It's been more often this year because, well, there's easily twenty times the homework.
Despite his hard work, he isn't really keeping up with the 'challenge' vocabulary. When I hear the word 'challenge' related to the classroom, I think it's extra work, simply meant to...well...challenge the students without counting against them if it's too challenging. Not so much for my son's class. The challenge vocabulary is required. And it's cumulative - old words show up on new tests. They are expected to remember the definitions of the words forever, or at least until the end of the school year.
My son dropped the ball, didn't learn the old words, and is having a hard time learning the new ones while struggling with the volume of in-class work and homework. So I emailed the teacher and asked for the list of vocabulary words. She sent me a packet that was something like 14 pages long. And apparently she didn't send me all the words. I remember quizzing him on 'irksome' but it's not in the packet, which really is irksome. It appears she only sent me half.
The packet has words like amalgam (a word only my dentist uses - it's his favorite word to describe fillings), ignoble (very helpful if my eleven-year-old decides to read some Jane Austen), and jingoism (my 10th grader's vocabulary word for the week).
I told my daughter quagmire is one his words. She said, "That's a word?" She thought it was just the name of a character on Family Guy - apparently jokes are lost on kids that didn't go through my son's 5th grade boot camp.
The last page of the packet has sample questions for these SAT words. That's right, SAT words in 5th grade. Part of me thinks it's good to develop a strong vocabulary early, and part of me thinks it's absolute overkill. What do you think?