Thursday, September 11, 2008


I hesitate to get into a whole screed against my adopted countrymen and women whereby I serially highlight the uniquely Norwegian weirdness I experience everyday. It just doesn’t seem prudent, or very fair. I mean, obviously Americans do weird pretty well themselves. To wit: the cereal aisle of any American super market, or the root beer float, or the Republican presidential ticket. That alone, coupled with recent tracking polls, equals scary; Americans are rather better at ‘scary’ than Norwegians.

Nevertheless, my loyal readership—one of you anyway—has asked for more news of the weird. And, after all, the subject does lend itself to some particularly easy writing. So…just this once…

Elementary Weirdness

This is a close-up of Elder Miss’s homework schedule for this week—the 3rd week of the 3rd grade.

Allow me to walk you through it. They’re to read pages 12, 13, and 14 of their reading books (one page per night lest the little scholars be overwhelmed). Page 12 they’re to memorize by Friday. ‘Utenat’—this is new and ambitious work. I had to look it up, means ‘by heart’. I’m intrigued; it might require actual effort.

Page 12 turns out to be the first third of a silly little alphabet poem (pages 13 and 14 being the remaining two thirds). A is for Apple that B Bought—that sort of thing, only in Norwegian. Which means the apple is actually an orange.  Which, now that I think about it, is rather a perfect metaphor to sum up the subtle yet insurmountable differences between the American and Norwegian cultures. But, never mind. Maybe we can get into that later, in 10th grade Sociology.

In addition to the reading, for Tuesday they are asked to copy the alphabet into their notebooks using their nicest handwriting. Then on Thursday, after having read the last page of the alphabet poem, the schedule boldly announces, “Now you know the alphabet!

The alphabet, folks. In case it’s unclear, I think it’s more than a little weird that they spend a week learning the alphabet in the 3rd grade. I know when they start teaching letters and sounds in the 1st grade, they start with the easiest letters to form, then they move on to the most common. By the middle of the 2nd grade, all the students can read, but apparently it takes until the 3rd grade to get around to asking them to memorize the letters of the alphabet in any sort of consistent, universally acknowledged order.

I thought it was a joke, an absurd and insulting waste of time. Elder Miss can read—well! In two languages for crying out loud! Why are we dicking around with the alphabet at this late stage!

But rather than malign her teachers’ judgment, I said, “You’d better do it EM. At least it will give you a chance to practice your penmanship.”

There was a brief argument about big versus small letters. I said all small. She said a mixture of both because some letters are prettier to write big. I could genuinely give a shit, so she won. Then she got started, “a___ B___ c___ d___ E_______________ What comes after E?”

I’m speechless.

“Oh yeah, F” she quickly remembers, “g___ H___ i___ J______________um? “

She has to sing the song to get to K. U she leaves out all together, and her Z is backwards.

I feel compelled to remind you all—most vehemently—that she can read in two languages at, or slightly above, grade level. She is not an idiot.

But still. The 3rd grade! Norwegian secretaries must be the worst secretaries in the whole world.


myyearonline said...

sorry for being a bad influence, but i think it's only fair (quite apart from the fact that all those things ARE weird!). with all the effort you put into fitting in otherwise, surely you must be allowed your completely neutral observations too! ;-)

hexe said...

I appreciate your observations about Norway. My husband spent a year there (Haugusund) growing up and would gladly pack our family up and move if a suitable job was found. It helps to hear about all of norway - the good, the bad, and the strange!

Amy said...

Tell you what. Let's do a little foreign exchange program amongst family members.

I'll send Ethan to Norway where it sounds like it might be a little more his pace. And you can send Em here, where I was informed at Curriculum night last night that in the 3rd quarter of Second grade they begin multiplication. They also start cursive this year.

I'm getting panic attacks and I'm not even the one is school for god's sake!