Posted by: canthold | February 3, 2007

There I Go Again…

I did it again. I spent an afternoon socializing with other parents from my daughters school today. When I got home, I had this sinking suspicion that I should have kept my mouth shut.

I just can’t hold my tongue.

I know that my daughter is exceptional. I’ve been aware of this for a while and have been struggling with what to do about it. And I can’t help but wonder, why do I feel like I need to keep her ‘smarts’ a secret? Why do I feel like I’m bragging when I talk about how intelligent she is? Why don’t we, as a society, celebrate specialness more than mediocrity?

I’ve really been tuned into my need to advocate for her at school so that she can actually learn something these days. After spending two years repeating the same lessons, she’s changing in a way that I don’t approve. She’s essentially learning to dumb herself down. She’s learning to fit into the normal mold.

So today in conversation, I mentioned that I’m about to embark on a journey to place her in a better learning environment. I’m not sure what that means, but it lies somewhere between establishing a gifted program in the early grades (it normally begins at third grade) to skipping her from Kindergarten this year into second grade next year. A couple of people seemed to really understand. Another looked at me like she was holding back from saying that I was nuts.

I’ve done a lot of reading about grade acceleration – also known as skipping a grade – and I’ve learned two interesting things:

1. Everyone that I know is against it.
2. All the studies that I can find are in favor of it.

How can this be? I know that some of the nay-sayers think that all kids equalize at about third grade, which to me is preposterous. How can an above-average smart kid suddenly catch-down, unless they’re completely stifled until then? And likewise, how can a bunch of average kids suddenly catch-up to above-average smart kids in the course of one year? Am I dumb that I can’t make the leap here?

In the report entitled A Nation Deceived, there is a quote that really hit home:

“Acceleration is about appropriate educational planning. It is about matching the level and complexity of the curriculum with the readiness and motivation of the child. Acceleration is about letting children soar.”

I don’t know if my daughter will accelerate next year. I don’t even know if she’d be ready to. I do know that now that I’ve spoken it out loud to more than my tightest inner circle, I wish I could take it back. I almost wish that I had kept my thoughts to myself and held my tongue.

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Responses

  1. Its kind of scary watching your child dumb down. I still remember my own moments of failing tests on purpose so that I could be “normal”. I made myself a habit, that I still fall into now and again, of knowing the right answer yet giving the wrong one. Its hard to be the smart kid.

  2. Acceleration or tracking is probably the thing that’s good; skipping grades into a different set of social skills is bad. Having the smartest/youngest child in the grade is torture in middle school. (as in it’s bad at other years but it breeds suicidal thoughts in middle school.)
    As far as I can tell, public school rankings are better if they can get children into classes that they will ace rather than be challenged at. Take a look at private schools that select for bright kids.

  3. One more thing – skills needed in K-3rd are very different than those needed later. It is very possible that a late reader will far outstrip his or her classmates in critical thinking later.
    In placing your gifted child it can be very helpful (but somewhat expensive) to get a private evaluation of learning strengths & weaknesses. Private schools are not all things to all kids – they tend to specialize in the type of learner that they do best with. Getting professional help ensures that you understand the code of the school’s self-descriptions and that your child gets the best match.

  4. It’s hard to be a parent under special circumstances. It’s easy to second guess all the decisions, but ultimately I just have to trust that I’m doing my best. It’s scary to watch the negatives, but they are the impetus to change for the better (I think). I understand there are pros and cons to every situation and I’m just going to keep working on it.

    Thanks to both of you for your insight. This stuff keeps me awake at night!
    ~Carol


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