Our 5th Grader's Spelling Season Ends Early

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Around 3 weeks ago, our 5th grader (and eldest) informed us that he was vying as class rep for the spelling bee. I asked him if he had time to do so considering his many activities already. He is part of the student council, is leading a group for a book club competition, has a violin class, taking part in Math competition, and always vying for a top10 spot at the church’s AWANA program. He said he’ll find time to learn some spelling.

He found a book we have at home on interesting English words. For the first few days, he was really into it. He got to know some English words derived from foreign languages. He had fun learning the spelling and meaning of some of the longest words there are including "antidisestablishmentarianism" and "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis". I was surprised to know that "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" was even a word. And, he laughed out loud when he was telling me about the meaning of "floccinaucinihilipilification". (Before you get too impressed with how I’m spelling these words, do know that I’m just copying and pasting from Google.) Yep, he amazed me with how he can say these words in a straight manner when they all seem like tongue twisters to me.

On a separate note, he said that a particular classmate whom he bested when they both run for class student council representative literally begged him not to take part in the spelling bee so others can also have a chance to represent the class. This girl apparently told him to “please, please not join the spelling bee”. Others were also already telling my son that he’ll surely get one of the 2 slots for the class. So yep, my son knew that he was a frontrunner early on.

Days passed by and we barely noticed it. Pretty soon, my son was cramming one Wednesday night because his class spelling bee was the next day. On hindsight, I can say that my son fell to what we Pinoys call the “ningas cogon” mentality. He failed to follow up on his initial super-enthusiasm. It probably didn’t help that the bee fell on the last week of the calendar year, a relatively busy week in a 5th grader’s calendar.

On Thursday evening, I learned that he didn’t get one of the two slots for his class. He fell in the second round. More surprising I guess, is the word where he made a mistake. He spelled "casino" incorrectly. Upon hearing that, our 3rd grader looked up from a book he was reading and said: “I can spell that – c-a-s-i-n-o”. I’m sure that didn’t sit well with his older brother. At his class, our eldest spelled the word with a double "s".

As a very competitive person, my son dislikes not coming out on top. But what really got into him was the ribbing he got from his classmates. "I couldn’t believe you didn’t know how to spell that!" were one of the friendlier lobs that were sent his way. His mother had a consolation for him – "it just means our family is not really into gambling". Way to go, mom. That night, he had to focus on something else. He joined other 5th graders as they performed in a winter orchestra – the first of three that they’ll be performing for the school year.

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On Sunday evening, we were singing some Christmas Carols to pass the time. I was telling my sons how we as children changed the words of "Feliz Navidad" to "Bilis Binigat". Loosely translated, that means "dried fish (bilis) every breakfast (binigat)" in Ilokano. Not knowing Ilokano, my eldest enthusiastically said that he knew what I was singing about. He thought it was about telling a heavy child to hurry up. I looked at him, puzzled. He explained - "You know - bilis is fast, bigat is heavy". Hehehe, poor child. He was using Tagalog to translate the phrase. I cracked up. I was about to tease him on "casino" but not wanting to spoil the mood, I stopped short of doing that.

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On some long-ish drives, the boys would amuse themselves by imitating a spelling bee. Recently, they asked me to give them some spelling words.

Me: "Ok, spell this (don't remember the word but it was a non-English one)."
Eldest: "Can you give me the definition please?"
Me: "It means ***definition of word***".

Eldest: "Can you give me a different pronunciation, please?"
At this point, I'd give a different pronunciation in my best foreign accent.

Eldest: "Can you give me the origin, please?"
Me: "It's ***name of language***".

My eldest remains stumped. At this point, he starts giggling. In his most innocent tone, he asks,
"Can you give me the spelling please?"


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