So I haven’t yet reported in about the parent-teacher conference this morning. I’m absolutely thrilled with how it went and I’m very happy with what Brennan’s teacher is doing with him. She has taken away the worry we had about keeping him in kindergarten… something that eases my mind greatly. Not only is she managing to incorporate differentiation into what he’s learning, but she’s actually excited about seeing how far he can progress during the time he’s with her.
I guess that’s what I’d really like to express to people who are outside this, who don’t have to deal with a child who might be considered gifted (although, it really remains to be seen if that’s the situation or not). Parenting a challenging child is tough… it’s easy to constantly second-guess yourself, to wonder if you’re pushing too hard – supporting too little – not meeting their needs. Now you can do this with any child, but with a child on the upper or lower end of the spectrum, it feels like there is an expectation that you should do more.
Maybe it’s an internal expectation… I don’t know. What I do know, from my own experiences, is this: being smart or intelligent or whatever you want to call it does not guarantee success. I know there are those folks out there who believe that the higher level kids will do just fine on their own, that the focus should be on getting the lower level kids up to mid-point.
Here is the flaw in that theory – if you don’t meet the needs of the kids – the individualized kid – you run the risk of losing them. For the gifted kids it can mean a sense of isolation, of being different and not accepted. There are coping skills and mechanisms that kids need to learn, no matter their level. Do NOT expect that simply because a kid is academically advanced, they will be equally advanced in all areas – including social.
My son is a prime example. He is gaining by leaps and bounds – academically. Socially, he is a sensitive little boy who wants to play with legos and his friends. He wants to be accepted. He wants all kids to be treated fairly.
He isn’t even 6 yet and he’s reading between mid-second and mid-third grade levels. I guarantee he was probably at a first grade level 6 months ago. I can’t begin to guess where he will be by next June when kindergarten ends. He’s on a steep curve and the only limitation on him is the one that those of us around him place on him by not meeting his needs.
Now some would say, “Well, that’s fine. Just let him do his thing.” That’s true, because I want him to be the truest to his little self that he can be. Where it’s difficult is as he progresses, he leaves behind more and more, the things he has in common with his peers. One little boy, that is Bren’s friend, told his mum that Brennan does things that the other kids can’t. Now luckily Bren’s teacher is working to minimize how apparent that is in the class, but it’s there. So my answer to those kinds of comments is that care has to be taken… it isn’t such a simple thing as just let them be, they’ll do fine.
I don’t mean this to sound so cautious though. It is such a fun and amazing thing to watch, the way he simply absorbs things around him. What he wants most of all is just that we spend time with him, do things with him and be ourselves fully engaged with him. Yeah, he gets the “gimmies” just like any other kid and yes, he can drive us nuts with the candy from Halloween. But he’d rather do laundry with me and play the sorting and counting competition than play his Nintendo. I know those days are numbered, by the way… I’m not naive! Someday I’ll be wishing for the days when he wanted to spend all his time with us.
Anyway, the meeting was great and it really validated all of the suspicions we’ve had about his development. It makes me feel like we, as his parents, really DO know our son. Maybe, just maybe, we can stop second-guessing ourselves and trust in our intuition about him.
I’m looking for projects for him – things that will help him see beyond perfectionism into the realm of open creativity and problem-solving. I’m going to try to find things to do that will give him that “AHA!” moment of discovery… whether it’s experimenting with baking soda and vinegar to watch it bubble and ooze, or going to the Warhawk Museum so he can see real WWII airplanes. I need to find things that he can explore and find his confidence.
One final huge thank you goes to his teacher for matching him up so well with a friend to play with outside of school…. There is another little boy in his class who will be starting the advanced reading program too – where Bren is slightly ahead of him academically, this little guy is ahead socially… The two of them would make great buddies and they’re already friends. It almost makes me cry to know that Bren isn’t alone – that was one of my big worries.
I’m SO glad we didn’t push for him to go into first grade. He’s right where he needs to be. He’s got a great teacher that he loves and he’s got his friends.
We’ll just step up and do our best at home. And in the end, isn’t that what all parents have to do for their kids?
Have a great evening…. signing off – moonfire.