Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Proving Ground: Keepin' it Real.

"For profoundly gifted students who have unique needs, there’s a myth that parents are actually the ones pushing the child, when in reality it’s the child leading the parent and letting them know exactly what they would like to learn." ~ Jill Adrian, Davidson Institute, on NBC's Today Show

An Afternoon in Tahoe
I had the pleasure to spend Friday before Easter lounging with a bunch of Moms and our kids while the kids dyed eggs, ran around with tree branch swords and generally acted like 8 and 5 year-old hooligans - which is perfect for the Friday before Spring Break.

We had moved up to Lake Tahoe from the San Francisco Bay Area in June of last year, to begin an adventure living in our log cabin.  My son and daughter started a new private school in August, and these women were some of the mothers of their classmates...  a group I had previously not spent much time with socially, actually practically never hung out with them, but who were fun gals.  

I was on the Parent Association Board of the school with two of them, and saw all of them daily at drop-off and pick up.  I didn't know any of them very well, but took this Friday as an opportunity to get to know them a little better.  Being a mother and meeting new moms can be a bit like high school...  or dating.  Only as you grow older, you become a lot more picky about your friends, and don't care about the popularity contest.  These were the popular moms.  And I was not "in".  I knew why, and it was nice of them to include me in the afternoon.

Pushing It
After we'd thrown together some fridge trash dinner (whatever is in there, serve it up!), and put the kids in the living room with a movie, we all grabbed our wine glasses and went to sit around the fire pit in the back yard.

A juicy gossip session ensued, and we had some more wine.   One of the moms sitting next to me leaned over, soto voce, and said "REALLY, Celia?  Why do you push your kids so hard?  Is it REALLY necessary?"  Ah.  Here it comes.  The reason I'm not "in".

This was a bit out of the blue, since while we were discussing the school and curriculum, we were not discussing my kids or where they are scholastically.

I am normally the most un-politically correct person on earth.  My husband is very sweet about it, he calls it "high integrity".  I call it not beating around the bush.  I am blunt, and at times crass.  I don't pull punches... but with this group, I didn't care to burn any bridges - I had learned enough from my Parent Association experience that these women could make life great or miserable for you.   They are also the cheerleading squad for the school.   It's a small town.  Being a bitch about stuff wasn't going to win me any points.

So, I took a breath, and played dumb, "What do you mean?"

"Well, you know, you insist on having them moved up in math, and are not happy with the schools' class subjects, all that, you know,"  she said.

I thought for a moment before I opened my big mouth, "Well, I have to disagree with you that I'm unhappy with the school.    I think it is a unique environment for the kids, and they are loving it. "

I paused, took a sip of my wine, thought a bit more, "When we chose the school, it was marketed to us by the headmaster that they catered to the individual child.  I don't agree with that statement, or with that as a marketing hook for the school... since while they do have a few programs, they do not cater to individual kids, and frankly, they don't have the resources to do so."

I asked her a question, although I already knew the answer, since her husband raced, "If your child was a phenomenal skier, you knew he was capable of racing at a competitive level and he loved it, wouldn't you push for him to have that experience, regardless of the fact that he was younger than most of his peers at that racing level?"

She did the head toss, "Well, duh, of coarse!"

"My kids are advanced learners.  I need to be an advocate for them, since I'm aware of what they are capable of.  Before coming here, Jay was already learning at a higher grade-level at his other school.  That school was set up for that kind of learning environment.  

This school moved him up in math within a month of school starting.   Yes, I had to speak to the teachers about it and to the headmaster.  But as soon as he tested into 4th grade math, they moved him up.  

Alexandra was invited in March by her kindergarten teachers to be accelerated into 2nd grade math.  I did not push for that, but I did advocate to the teachers that I thought they should keep an eye on her, and I did get the 2nd grade math books to teach her myself when they refused last fall.  She just sits down and does it.    Prior to these changes, the kids were bored in those subjects."  

I did not go into the the fact the both kids were invited to the Advanced Cohort program for gifted kids at the new school a few weeks after school started... without me requesting it.  Jay, who is in 2nd grade, is in the 4th and 5th grade Cohort program and Alexandra, who is in kindergarten, is in with the 1st and 2nd grade Cohort program.  I also didn't mention that at their previous school in the Bay Area, the kids had to take an IQ test to even qualify to apply to the school... and that their IQs were quite high.  Totally pointless to mention these things to her, it would not make my case any rosier.

"I just think it's ridiculous, all this rigamarole about teaching the kids at a higher learning level and all that,"  she replied.  "They're just kids."

I shrugged, "I agree, for a child learning at grade level, it seems a bit much.  I don't want to be that crazy parent that believes her kids are amazing when they really aren't.   But my kids aren't grade-level learners.  Just like your kid isn't an average skier.   I feel like it's my responsibility as a parent to make sure they are exposed to experiences that nurture their abilities.   The fact that they can understand things easily and quickly, as well as excel without trying too hard in the accelerated classes leads me to believe we made the right choice insisting that they go to a private school that can support them.  It is the only reason we are sending our children to private school."

We got steered off-topic, and I did not pursue the subject further.  

The Scholastic "Beauty Queen Contest" Mom
It is difficult for me socially to talk about my kids accomplishments, although I am tremendously proud of them.  Not only does it put people off, but it gives them the idea that I'm one of the scholastic "beauty queen" moms.  Which is so far from the truth!     While it makes me a bit uncomfortable that there is gossip about me behind my back (small town, whatcha gonna do?), I could give a rat's ass what other moms think...  the important thing is what my kids get out of the school, not what the moms think about my mothering.

Truth is, I'm lazy, not as smart as my kids are, and I want my kids to get from the school what my husband and I paying for. I don't want to create an environment where I have to teach them at home because as the kids grow older and more capable, it is not a sustainable situation.

I am NOT smarter than a 5th grader.  But my son will be doing 5th grade math next year.  Pretty scary for a dumb mom.

Next from the DumbMom:
  • Stressed-out and Over-scheduled:    I absolutely refuse to over-schedule my kids.  Baseball, piano, gymnastics, horseback riding, karate and school work?  No, thank you.  They do one extra-curricular activity a week outside school.  And then they play.
  • Playtime - Let Imagination Run Wild:  The kids free time is spent freely, Jay likes to write short stories, playing with friends or just each other, building forts, creating space ships with lego, and playing video games.   Alexandra likes reading out loud, painting, playing with toy horses and her PetShop dolls.  They get bored inside?  "Go outside!"
  • What do you do with two large brains and 3 months of vacation?


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  2. Hi! You've just belatedly popped up in my feed reader. Nice to have found's great that more moms are blogging on the experience of raising gifted children. Solidarity!