Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Intelligence "Quonundrum"


No, I take that back.  It isn't fair to you.  My exasperation has nothing to do with you.  It's just, I've been writing a post about 6 y.o. for weeks, and I can't seem to say what I want to say.  I've written lots of words, of course, but I can't seem to get my point across.  So, let me try again, this time using the K.I.S.S.(keep it simple, stupid) method that so many of my college professors were fond of pretending they invented.

Be still, my heart <3
A recent letter, conference with the principal, classroom change, conference with the new teacher, and lots of research have combined to bring up a lot of questions in my mind about intelligence, achievement, being gifted, and parenting.

Pride = Prejudice? I worry that showing too much pride in my children will lead to prejudice from their peers and teachers.  If I tell anyone who will listen about all the words Baby can say or about all the ways 6 y.o. impresses me with his knowledge, do those listening immediately feel defensive?  Like most parents I actually know (not those tv parents), I don't compare my kids to others.  However, I always think that they think I'm bragging, like, "Lookit what my kid does!  Does yours do that?  No?  HA!  I win!"  If that were the attitude behind my words, I think some prejudice would be justified.  It was this fear, of eye-rolling behind our backs and alienation of our son, that kept Husband and me quiet(ish) last year, when he was in Kindergarten.  I think we both felt that it was more important to go with the flow, to let the teacher lead, than to make a fuss about how bored he was, and how little he seemed to be learning in school.

Gifted?  I'm growing increasingly annoyed by the label 'gifted.'  Everyone is gifted.  Some are emotionally gifted, some are athletically gifted, some are artistically gifted, some are gifted at making friends, some are gastronomically gifted, and can eat anything.  The belief, which can be confirmed with an IQ test, that 6 y.o. has greater intelligence than some, does not change who he is, how he has been raised, or what he can eventually achieve.  We've taught our son that name-calling is wrong and can be hurtful.  Similarly, I feel that labels, even those intended to be positive, can be harmful in the long term.
Red oval marks the spot of my educated guess of his IQ.
When a new teacher meets him, I don't want them thinking, "Oh, here's the gifted 6 y.o."  I want them to think, "Here's a unique 6 y.o."  Is it so much to wish for his teachers to get to know him and to recognize and adapt their teaching to the ways he is "gifted?"  His current school doesn't have a gifted program.  Testing is done after 1st grade, so if he qualifies and we decide to enroll him in the gifted program next year, he would have to leave his friends and all that is familiar to go to a new school.  Is that fair?  Conversely, is it fair to make him sit in a classroom where he is repeatedly "taught" things that he already knows, just because he's sitting with people he knows?

Parenting 101: Husband and I both love reading.  We read to both of our kids, and have since before they were even born.  We talk to them.  We answer even the really hard questions that 6 y.o. poses to us.  They're smart kids, and we have always parented under the assumption that smart was a good thing.  We bought puzzles instead of video games (until quite recently), we play games instead of watching television (at least some times!).  When our son started preschool at age 3, we were thrilled that he already knew his colors and letters and how to count, which were the requirements for the end of the year.  Each year since, we've been less and less thrilled with what our child knows in relation to the standard expectations and in relation to his peers.  I feel ridiculous, even admitting that.  We should only be proud!  He knows the things he has been taught, so why do we now feel even the slightest twinge of regret at having taught him?  It's because we don't want him to be an outcast.  We don't want him to hide his intelligence in favor of seeming "normal."

Butterfly on his knee, on release to the wild day.  Oh, and those are Clone Wars Captain's bars (homemade, of course) on his shoulders.
I've started to worry that preparing Baby for school, teaching her colors and letters and numbers, is not as good a technique as is keeping her on the same level as other kids her age.  Should she have been watching inane television shows a long time ago?  Which is more important, early in life?  A sense of belonging, or academic achievement?  6 y.o. isn't lacking friends, and I do think he feels like he fits in with his peers.  But how long can that last, I wonder.  How long before he withdraws into his own head because his thoughts are more interesting than the chatter of the kids around him?

My fears ---> his fears? When I was in 8th grade, our class had a spelling bee.  I lost on purpose.  My teacher knew I had thrown the game, and made me compete against the rest of the school.  I won.  I went on to a larger competition (districts, maybe?) and came in 2nd, meaning I was one of 2 people who moved on.  The next step was a regional bee, wherein I came in 8th place.  I went out on the word 'tirade,' by the bye.  I refused to study the list of words I was given to prepare for the district and regional competitions.  I didn't want to win.  The point of that story is this: will my fear of achievement transfer to my children?  Would all of these academic worries and talk of gifted-ness be irrelevant if not for my own concerns about feeling braggy and making sure my kids are comfortable with who they are?

The truth of the matter is that Husband and I think we have the best son on the planet.  He's brave.  He's funny.  He's adventurous and oh-so-handsome.  He's smart.  He has traits that make me think he's going to out-think me by the time he has out-grown me.  His memory is remarkable, his problem solving skills are very advanced, he's artistic and thoughtful, introspective and curious.  He loves being challenged, and he loves puzzles.  He reads, and comprehends, as if he's been doing it for years (plural) rather than year (singular).  He's also short-tempered, complains of a headache when the coffee table is turned backward, and would rather not participate than not be first.  The truth is that YOU also have the best kid on the planet.  The best one for you and the best one for us are different, but by design, I believe.

Does any parent know the best way to parent?  No.  We need to teach when we can, take what comes, solve the problems we are able to, and make sure our kids know that they are the best on the planet.

Have you ever thrown a game in favor of your opponents?


  1. I have thrown a game before, but not often.
    The memory your post brought most to mind is that of sometimes hiding test scores from my friends. I didn't hide them because they were low, but because the were high. I didn't want to hear the comments that boiled down to "she always does well; she doesn't understand our pain." It made me feel ostracized. I still wanted to do well, but I tried to do it secretly.
    I am also bothered by the label "gifted." It is not because I was labeled 'gifted' (I wasn't.) I truly believe everyone is gifted in some way. My goal as a parent is to help my children discover and develop their own gifts while still appreciating other people's gifts whether they're different or similar.

    1. Very well said! Mind if I jump on that bandwagon and make my goal as a parent the same as yours?