I am not crazy

In an earlier couple of posts I bemoaned the problems that one has with some people when one’s child is doing more than their child is.  In this post, I talked about how I hate it when they put their own kids down, how much I hate comparing kids against each other, and some of the problems I have with other people feeling like their kid doesn’t measure up to mine (and I do think mine is wonderful, but I expect everyone else to feel the same about their kids).

In the original post, I mentioned an experience I’d had at a birthday party and how it made me uncomfortable, and how I grew to be silent early on about many things that my kid could do.  Some of the comments were heated and at least one was derisive in a way in which I have grown to be familiar over the past few years.  And it again caused me to question whether or not I was imagining things and if I was the only person who has ever felt like I cannot talk about (and possibly need to hide) my kid’s accomplishments because some other parents frankly get jealous, if I’m being uncharitable, or are “concerned that I’m not allowing my child to experience childhood,” if I want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Anyway, I’ve been reading a lot about parenting a gifted kid because some things involved with that have seemed a bit overwhelming recently.  There’s a post on preschool perfectionism somewhere in the queue waiting to be finished, and I haven’t written one on the challenges of having a kid who is always on the go, never sleeps, etc. but maybe I should.  Little bits of that have made it into (previous and future) RBOC, like my kid’s “why” song sung to the tune of Frere Jacques.  Plus there’s the preschool running out of things for hir and making hir a little teacher to keep hir occupied.

Reading these books has been great because my kid is NORMAL… for a gifted kid.  Not an above average or below average gifted kid, just, you know, average gifted.  That’s nice.  Not at all like reading the baby books.

And reading, I’ve discovered that only am I not crazy, but I’m not alone.  Even if it sometimes seems like I am.

Here’s some quotes from Gifted Children : A Guide for Parents and Professionals.  2006.  Edited by Kate Distin.

See, even if the previous commenter has never met any fiercely competitive parents, they exist somewhere besides my imagination.

One of the more baffling attitudes that can be encountered is the fierce competitiveness of other parents, about everything from their babies’ first words to their first teeth, from when they can wave to when they can begin to get dressed. We describe this as baffling for several reasons: because many of the arenas for these competitions are matters of pure physiological accident (no amount of parental encouragement or infant genius can affect the age at which she cuts her first teeth); because these sorts of people tend to relish the competition only when their children are the winners, and would prefer not to know that your child’s development is incomparably more advanced than their own; and because they so often resort to blatant scepticism if a gifted child’s parent does recount her achievements. Connor could not walk independently until he was 14 months old, but had been able to walk if he was holding an adult’s hands from when he was just four months old: his parents just did not bother to tell anyone else what he could do. Their elder son, Patrick, had done the same at five months, and they had quickly learned to recognize the expression of disbelief when they mentioned it.  (p. 105)

As do the comments about pushing even when we’re not.  (S)He’s just the way (s)he is.:

‘You shouldn’t be pushing him to do so much,’ ‘I wouldn’t be happy if my child spent so much time with his nose buried in a book,’ and so on. All of this can conspire to make it feel easier, much of the time, simply to keep quiet about a child’s giftedness. This can involve a big personal sacrifice by parents. It is a rare parent who does not enjoy sharing anecdotes about her children, their achievements and the things that they have done to make her laugh. The parents of the gifted child, however, are hardly ever able to share their delight and pride in his gifts. (p.106)

And my loneliness is real, and my reaction (to not say anything) completely normal:

Parents of gifted children can slip into the habit of isolation without even realizing it. When they spend time in groups of other parents who do not appear to be thinking and feeling the same things as they do, the natural response can be to keep quiet, to hide their differences and to be reinforced in their existing feelings of being cut off from the majority. (p.109)

Anyhow I think I’m not crazy.  Not on this subject anyway.  And I think I’ve gotten over the embarrassed silence.  I’m still not going to go out of my way to brag, except among a select few relatives and childless folk, and maybe occasionally on the blog.  But I’m going to stop trying to hide.  (Admittedly this is a bit easier now that DC has figured out (s)he can read silently.)

So that’s my experience.  My question is, “Have you ever felt isolated in real life and found a community, even in a book, to which you felt you belonged and were normal?”  (Bonus points if you mention Ender’s Game.)

47 Responses to “I am not crazy”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    I’ll admit that I feel a little abnormal being a working professional mom. It seems that the norm is still that once you start plopping out kids, one parent stays home, at the very least part time.

    I understand why because sometimes it’s very hard to juggle it all and a lot of activities are setup in the middle of the workday (PTA meetings, sports, school doesn’t start til 8:30, etc). I can’t say I’ve found a great support system besides some of the fellow bloggers.

    I do have a question. How do you differentiate a gifted child vs a child exposed to more. For example, my son had head start and pre-school, so he already knew most of his kindergarten material before starting school. The teachers all say how well he’s doing, but I doubt he’d be in the same spot if he didn’t have the extra classes at ages 3 +4.

    Perhaps this is an additional benefit of being a working mom. You have to pay for daycare anyway, so they get exposed to more stuff than a normal kid would.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I do like being in a college professor town– although there are a lot of SAHM around the community, I work with a ton of professor moms just like me. Most of our administrative staff and the daycare staff are moms who have to work to get the second income. It’s really only around the neighborhood and playgrounds that I’m exposed to SAHM.

      Well, I’m of two minds about this on the nature vs nurture. A lot of the gifted books focus on the nature part, and complain about how some kids are gifted and some are “just” academically talented. They focus on gifted kids having different rates of learning and different ways of thinking about things. They talk about how gifted kids have a pattern from birth (though not all kids exhibit the same signs) of doing specific things (being alert from the womb, hitting milestones early, NOT NAPPING etc.), but even these could be encouraged by care-givers and circumstance. (Many) Gifted kids definitely have specific challenges. The danger of burnout (from not being challenged enough) is huge. They also tend to be more sensitive, always active and questioning, and don’t get along with kids their own ages as well as they do with other kids. We’ve been seeing these more and more as (s)he gets older.

      At the same time, my own mother pushed a lot of the research on how to develop intelligence on me as I was growing up. Intelligence *is* fluid and it *is* something you can build or lose, even if some of the gifted books are a bit behind on that. You build dendrites, you make connections. There are ways that a parent can interact with a kid that help or hinder that. In the end for achievement, persistence matters a lot more than natural ability. I have seen so many kids burn out in technical school when they hit college because they’ve never had to work before and don’t know how to do it. I cannot believe it is all something you are just born with.

      Personally I don’t think it matters if someone is achieving at a high level because they’ve gotten more exposure to it and are more motivated to study it or because they’re gifted. If someone is willing to take the extra time to figure things out, more power to them. As a teacher and tutor myself, I think a lot of people are a lot more intelligent than they’re given credit for, and there are a lot more kids who could benefit from being taught as if they were gifted than we realize.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Added: Oh, and as April mentions today in the GRS post… Perfectionism is a big problem! Man, nobody talks about something and then all of a sudden it’s all over the internet.

  2. Everyday Tips Says:

    You have a long (and exciting) road ahead of you with a gifted child. Schools are not set up to handle overly bright kids. Even a lot of private schools do not do a good job of it. These kids don’t need more work, they need interesting work.

    I could write on this topic for a month straight and just scratch the surface. Maybe people will think you are just lucky to have such a smart child. But smart kids have their own challenges.

    To Sandy in the comment above, a gifted child quite often has a zest for learning, and may be curious about topics that ‘typical’ children are not. Sometimes, the ‘giftedness’ may not be noticed until the child is a little older if they are a very energetic child that has not found that ‘need to learn’ yet. I don’t know that it is so much about being able to do basic math and such before others as much as it is the ‘whole person’. Quite often, gifted youngsters have a hard time fitting in because they just think on a different level.

    Exposure does matter, just like a 7 year old may be a great soccer player because he played since he was 3 whereas others just started that season. However, with intelligence, I think you could expose a lot of kids to the same thing, and some just wouldn’t ‘get it’, no matter how much they are taught.

    I better stop now.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah. If DC passes some tests, then we’re all set for kindergarten. We have to stay private for at least two years if we want to transfer to public a grade skipped. The public schools don’t even do what is reported to be their weak pull-out stuff until third grade anyway.

      Unfortunately, the first grade teacher at the only school willing to work with us is kind of cold and her room isn’t set up for all sorts of learners with stations like the Kindergarten room is. And she yelled at us when I explained to DH that Saxxon math is great for average and low-achieving kids… their website said they were using UChicago so I had asked to confirm, and was surprised to hear they’d switched. (I’m not against hir doing repetitive math in school even if (s)he doesn’t need it to remember concepts like most kids… it’s not ideal, but if (s)he is like me (s)he’ll be able to pick up patterns and discover the joy of numbers on hir own… but it isn’t ideal and we’ll have to supplement at home. No biggie.) So we’re just taking it a year at a time right now.

      • Mom of Five Says:

        I also have at least one child who is academically gifted – I suspect I have 2 others, but I have been a different parent to those 2 than I was to my first.

        Our oldest was miles ahead academically, but socially she was completely inept. Her K teacher was wonderful and kept her interested and engaged. Socially, she came along miles that year. First grade was brutally boring although she continued her foray into the mainstream. We found her engagement in the classroom went year by year and depended more upon the teacher than anything else.

        After fitting in for a few years, she once again began to have issues as she and her peers hit puberty. At that point, she came in first on an entrance scholarship test at a 6th thru 12th grade private school where she now fits in very well with a small group of kids. She’ll remain there through 12th grade – she’s currently in 8th.

        Even with the half scholarship, we are on the hook for an eyepopping 8k (and rising) in tuition every year. At this point, it’s worth every penny.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I totally agree that the teacher is what’s most important, especially in these early years. Some of them are good at teaching any kid, and some are not as good with various segments. The kindergarten teacher we’ve found is amazing, but I’m worried about the first grade teacher, who seems cold and isn’t really set up to teach kids of different abilities like the K teacher is. (Her classroom is really sterile with no learning stations.) Right now we’re going to take it a year at a time.

        Socially, we’ve been lucky that DC has been in a mixed-age classroom with well-behaved kids. The teachers are very good at stopping any bullying or exclusion before it has a chance to start. We haven’t been so lucky in some playdate settings and mean kids really upset DC. I can see how if (s)he’d been forced to be with younger and less well-behaved kids that hir behavior would become inappropriate just like the books say it often does when kids are out of step with their peers. I fear middle-school.

        That’s awesome about the private school. Though I feel you on the cost… ours, if we get in, is going to be around 10K/year. Only a moderate increase from preschool, but not something we had really been planning on paying, you know? (And almost exactly what instate tuition at the university I teach is!) But it is definitely worth it to keep hir happy and healthy and challenged.

      • Everyday Tips Says:

        Do you really want to skip a year of childhood for your child? Could you keep him/her in private school without skipping a grade?

        (I don’t mean to offend, but I am not pro grade advancement. What you make up in academics may be lost in other areas. Plus, I think kids need to be kids as long as possible. Just food for thought, not judging. I have just already been down this road, 3 times.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It’s not skipping a year of childhood, just a couple of months of it. Either (s)he’ll be one of the oldest kids in the class or (s)he’ll be the youngest by a couple of months. If hir birthday was right before the cut-off rather than right after it, we wouldn’t need to skip at this point.

        (S)He’s already made the decision that (s)he prefers playing with kids who are 6 months to a year and a half older rather than kids hir age. We go to birthday parties for kids hir age and we recognize hardly anyone… birthday parties a year+ older and it’s all DC’s friends that we hear about and see playing together all the time. Even in preschool (s)he’s being used as an additional teacher, which does not play well in terms of making friends, always being the one that the teacher uses to tutor and explain things. (And (s)he’s crazy good at it too– asking instead of telling, getting the kid to show instead of showing. It is surreal watching this little person teach.) We think socially that skipping will work out a lot better than staying.

        Add to that, we’re in a part of the country in which academics are not valued and sports are (specifically sports that lead to high state rates of full paralysis and head injury because the coaches don’t do a great job of protection)… it would really be criminal not to. If we were in a state that had a stronger education system, we might not need to either.

        Most of the gifted books have a section on when to skip/start early and when not to, and (s)he’s hit the “do skip” in each one. We’ve given this long and hard thought, but (s)he really cannot stay another year at preschool. Our original plan was to stay in Montessori until first grade and then figure out what to do but we can’t do that. They’re out of material. All hir friends are going to kindergarten. I want hir to be constantly challenged so (s)he doesn’t crash and burn in college or graduate school or life. There’s also tons of stuff that a kid can do if he or she wants to take a gap year before college. At that point (s)he’ll have a better idea of what (s)he wants to do.

        And if this doesn’t work out, then (s)he can just do two years of kindergarten with the amazing Kindergarten teacher and do first grade elsewhere.

    • First Gen American Says:

      Interesting. His teachers specifically said that he’s one of the most inquisitive of the group. Hopefully the stuff we expose him to at home can supplement his learning at school to avoid boredom/burnout. He loves our little workshop in the basement and is always wanting to build things.

      I also specifically remember the big adjustment I made in college as well. My school was too easy, so it was a wake up call when I had to bust my tail all of a sudden to get good grades.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I put off reading and labeling for a while because I’m not crazy about labels. But I’ve found reading about this stuff to be helpful because there are useful tips helping with some of the main challenges, burnout being one of them.

      • Everyday Tips Says:

        Sandy, you will know if school isn’t working out for him. Quite often, bored kids will start to act up, or actually have bad grades because they are disinterested. I think one thing that is very important is teacher/student ratio. You want that teacher to understand your child as much as possible.

        Supplementing at home is great, but that may be too much ‘schooling’. Being bored for many hours at school may not necessarily be compensated for at home. Just keep an eye open.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        p.s. Engineers are awesome. DC and DH’s current milieu is cardboard. So far they’ve made a giant rocketship (from a big box) and a ball drop from a bunch of paper towel and toilet paper tubes and a sheet of cardboard that came with a painting. They can also turn DC into a robot using cereal and other foodstuff boxes.

        Someday we may also have gorgeous metal pipe robots!

  3. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom Says:

    Ah, the joys of asynchronous development…
    I think I’ll be doing a guest post on another blog (the website is for the adult gifted) some time in the next couple of months on this very topic. Well, maybe… The site owner understands my aversion to performance pressure so he’s not pushing me. :-) Yay internet cuz there’s a forum for everything nowadays, so it seems the outliers in any area can find each other much more easily – and realize they’re not crazy.
    Your child is very lucky to have the support that they’re getting at home. I’m glad you’re not hiding their light under a bushel.

  4. Perpetua Says:

    Yes! About the competitive parents! Or their twin – thin-skinned/ feeling judged-judging parents! I have a relative who is constantly comparing our children, turning everything into a competition even the weirdest things (who eats what foods, etc). Did you ever read that section in Bridget Jones’s Diary on the AGPARs? It’s like that. I mean GOD I cannot imagine anything less to do with anything than a baby’s AGPAR score, or when they get teeth, or sit up, or wave. My theory is that this has become an area of competition because parents (read: mothers) are bombarded with so much guilt and blame and responsibility – everything our children do and become is supposedly from us, so somehow many parents think that every trait of their child is something that needs to be compared in terms of success/failure – because it’s really about their OWN success or failure as a parent. And because our society judges mothers so constantly they feel like they always have to perform their good parenting. My kid sat up, crawled, and walked early – I don’t think this has any coded meaning except he’s physically strong. He was literally born that way. He wasn’t squishy like newborns usually are, and he was constantly moving. But I have found myself, when the subject comes up with fellow parents, quickly following any statement that could be construed as a “brag” with something that’s not – as in, he walked early but was slow to start talking. Quickly, just so they don’t start a mompetition with me. Since having kids I have to say I find myself much more strongly on the “nature” part of the spectrum. I mean, I realize that a child’s environment can profoundly influence her development. But I’m astonished every day at how completely their own my kids are – I can’t “make” them inhabit some ability or personality trait if they don’t have it. I’m thrilled with their accomplishments, but I don’t feel ownership over them, and I think that’s helped me to avoid a) competitiveness; and b) constant self-doubt about my parenting skillz. But so far my kids seem to be on the normal (ie not-gifted) spectrum. It must be a challenge for you – delightful but still a challenge – to figure out how to facilitate their heightening curiosity and intelligence through social quagmires and the educational system.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ha! Yes, we also had a gross motor junkie and I was constantly telling folks, “but (s)he’s slow with talking” to avoid competition.

      We totally agree on the maternal guilt thing. We’re against it.

      With nurture there are extremes… around here I see parents (and the occasional daycare provider at places we visited) leaving their kids in seats without any interaction for long periods of time. “Why” questions are answered with “Because I said so, now shut up.” Soda in baby bottles is also popular here. Some parents hit their kids in public. Thankfully there’s not much in the realm of pregnant women smokers, but in DH’s hometown there are a lot. I think these behaviors do have something to do with nurture, as do opportunities available inside school and outside of it. There are probably a lot of smart kids who will never reach their potential. But if you’re being the standard decent parent, differences are more likely nature.

      • Perpetua Says:

        nicoleandmaggie: That’s hilarious that you did the exact same thing I did! See, there I thought I was alone and it turns out we’re a community of “oh my kid talks slow”!

        (oh, and random data points – I just found your site yesterday and I’m delighted. Am also untenured, w/ kids. And grumpy occasionally!)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We have a lot of exciting archives too! Feel free to browse. :)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I remember the first (and last) mom’s group I went to. It was moms from our Bradley class and we all had little infants. One of the moms commented that my kid was holding hir head up (as were a couple other babies, though the minority). Conversation then went something like this.
        When does that happen?
        Um, I don’t know. (S)he was just born that way.
        Why isn’t my baby holding her head up? What’s wrong with her?
        Um, nothing? My family just has strong neck muscles?

    • Mom of five Says:

      Since having kids, two of whom are adopted, I’ve also come to lean heavily toward believing Nature is a much bigger influence than nurture. It’s a very freeing thought, really.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        At some point, DC’s own ambition and desire to do things is going to be a lot more important than anything we do or have done. We just do what we can.

        I do think both nature and nurture are important. If you’re bringing up different kids the same way, then it will seem like nature is more important. If you’re talking about separated twins in completely different family situations, then nurture will seem to be more important. And of course, there’s a lot of things that can happen in the womb that seem like nature but are actually nurture… and there’s new rather frightening genetics research about how nurture can actually change the genes of our children… It’s all very interrelated.

        But, of course, all this genetic research is at the extremes… if you’re not starving your kids or force feeding them or keeping them in a perpetual state of stress through violence, it probably doesn’t make a whole lot of difference.

  5. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I have almost always felt left out of Mom circles for one reason or another. I was the youngest, the poorest, the weirdest, and now the singlest. I just never seem to mesh. My three kids are all completely wildly different and yet awesome. A long time ago I learned to tune out the Mommy comparison chatter and just shut up about what my kids can and can’t do or will or won’t do. It just seemed senseless to waste time on that. These other moms aren’t going to do anything to help my kids along. If there’s anyone to discuss their abilities/inabilities with, it’s the teacher. And I’m not the one who brings it up either, the teachers do. BTW when married, I found the same phenomenom applied to husbands, i.e. “My husband does this that and the other” or “My husband NEVER does this that and the other”. We women are really competitive I think. Do Dads sit and compare the way we do? I wonder.

  6. Renee in BC Says:

    “Schools are not set up to handle overly bright kids. Even a lot of private schools do not do a good job of it. These kids don’t need more work, they need interesting work.”

    Well said by Everyday Tips.

    This is my first visit to your blog. Lots of food for thought. Hey, I didn’t know other moms of sparky little ones felt isolated too.

    My daughter did a couple years a private schools. KG at a tony girls school (a cruel and stifling place for free thinkers) and 1.5 years at a small school for gifted kids. Both places were problematic for different reasons. We pulled the kiddo out two years ago (at age 7) to homeschool and haven’t looked back.

    Getting away from the psycho-competitive moms was such a relief. Especially at the girls’ school. All the kids (ha, well not mine) had “secret” tutors so they could all out do each other. Nightmare.

    Great blog. I’m looking forward to spending some time on it.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      “Sparky little ones.” I love that!

      We’re definitely taking it one year at a time right now, one teacher at a time. It seems like most of the folks with bright kids around here do home school and there’s a lot of stuff set up for homeschoolers, but we kind of need the daycare…though I suppose DC could just go ahead and get an undergraduate degree followed by masters in the subjects we teach if we can’t find a first grade that we like. (Kidding!)

  7. Kellen Says:

    I was lucky enough to grow up in an area where almost all the kids in my school got the good kind of intelligence nurturing you mentioned here. Also, I had small classes, because we just didn’t have that many kids in my town.
    It wasn’t until I moved schools briefly (father’s work visa expired and we had to move to canada temporarily) that I was called “gifted” by a school.
    However, I remember that my friend and I, in 6th grade, would “get” the math much quicker than everyone else, so they would put us in a different room to get “extra” math lessons once the teacher was done with the other kids. Those “extra” lessons didn’t seem to end up happening much, because I remember the two of us having a very long-term game of boggle with the score recorded into the hundreds…

    I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to go to private school for high school and middle school, because I think it would have pushed me to work harder – high school was pretty easy, and I learned that you can do well without really putting a lot of effort in. Not a good life skill!!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      My parents put my sister in a Catholic high school 30 min away because she would do the minimum to get an A and the minimum wasn’t very much in public school. It was amazing watching her blossom under the challenge. (And kind of a relief when all her old friends from middle school got suspended for underage drinking when they were in high school.)

      I also often wonder what it would have been like if we’d stayed in the city where I was going to an amazing magnet school and had kept learning and being challenged. But things turned out ok anyway. In the end, I bet you turned out just fine too!

  8. frugalscholar Says:

    I would guess that in a college town, the competitiveness among parents is acute. I wonder of other parents perceive you to be competitive.

    Both my children were classed as gifted early on: they are what they are. I teach at a school where most students are average or a bit below. I am amazed at how successful many of them end up being. Hard work goes a long way.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t know that I’ve noted any more competitiveness among university parents… if I recall correctly the floppy head kid’s mom was a graduate student who had married her several decades older adviser. The woman at the party wasn’t a professor… I have it in my mind she’s some kind of administrator. A lot of women I’ve gotten it from have been SAHM. One sees it a lot on mother’s forums too, especially when folks compare milestones. God forbid someone’s baby crawl early. I wish there were a little more caring about K-12 education in this town– then we might have more options for gifted kids besides home schooling and a pull-out program that starts in 3rd grade. (There are some additional options at the high school level, but that is years away.)

      My mom does say that she never noticed any of this kind of competition when my sister and I were little. She blames the current culture of overparenting. But who knows. We were also not living in upper-middle-class neighborhoods when I was growing up.

      Hard work is definitely what’s important in life. That’s one of my big concerns… gifted kids often don’t learn how to work hard. We saw a LOT of crashing and burning among the best prepared and “smartest” students who slacked their freshman years when we were resident assistants, but the ones who started out behind and knew they were behind worked hard consistently and did much better than their peers by graduation. Graduate school was pretty awful for me until I adjusted to not needing to understand 100% of the material.

  9. Money Reasons Says:

    I’ve found such kinship with fellow bloggers in the ole blogosphere.

    There are a few that are almost mirror copies of the way I see things and think. It’s a wonderful experience!

    As for my kids, my daughter is the one that worries me. I think she can already out read me, and soon she’ll be able to out spell me. I still have her beat in math, for now…, although we’ll see, she’s good with math too.

    With my daughter, she mostly just picks things up, we don’t even have to teach her stuff. It’s bizarre.

    I might be naive, but I think I’m just going to let her grow up normal.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ha! I’m not sure I would want a mirror copy of me… oh wait, I guess that’s what #2 is, except on the subject of mushrooms. And shoes.

      One of the big challenges when you have a gifted kid is letting them grow up “normal.” Because they’re not normal and their experiences are not the average experience. One of the books I read recently said that there aren’t really problems with kids who are above average intelligence… they even mapped out an “ideal” range of IQ points to be maximally successful, and it wasn’t the top 1% (I’m not crazy about the books that rely on IQ to that extent, but that’s what they do).

      Gifted kids really are special needs kids… they ARE more likely to crash and burn, be perfectionist, be over-sensitive, not get along with their peers and so on. They often do need special accommodations just to have a normal healthy childhood experience. We’ve been hitting some of those challenges, so I’ve been doing the reading so we can help. Normal would turn my curious happy popular little person into a cranky depressed socially-isolated one. (DH worries (s)he would act out, but given hir personality, I’m more worried about depression.) It’s already turned the kid of a colleague into a little boy who acts out and doesn’t get along with his peers. (This is a little boy who knows math and asks questions like, “Who made God” and does great with with 8 year olds, even if he doesn’t get along with his fellow 5 year olds.) His preschool teachers are telling his parents to red-shirt (delay starting a year) which is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing. Bored kids that nobody understands can get depressed or act out.

  10. Jacq @ Single Mom Rich Mom Says:

    I don’t know about the skipping idea. My 2 sisters and I both skipped a grade. It was not a positive experience for me and not really for them either. Maybe it depends upon how far ahead the kid is compared to his peers as well as their social skills and particularly the environment. I grew up in a rural area much like you describe where academic ability was not valued. A good teacher is great, but they can’t protect you all the time from the other children.

    In the case of my sister, putting a kid with an IQ over 180 into a class of grade 2’s or grade 1’s was kind of irrelevant when she was doing algebra at that age rather than basic addition or multiplication. Having said that, I think she may have had Asperger’s as well, so who knows.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      It’s not a huge age difference… instead of being older than 5/6 of the class (s)he’ll be younger than 6/6 of the class. We’re making this decision based on social preferences that our child has already made for hirself– (s)he plays with kids who are going to kindergarten next year, not kids who are going a year later. (S)he’s incredibly popular in hir mixed age preschool. The last birthday party we went to for someone turning DC’s age, (s)he spent the entire time playing trains with an 8 year old cousin of the birthday girl. Going to birthday parties for the next age up is a completely and totally different experience…DC has long conversations and plays and interacts with hir friends and shows a great sense of humor. That uncomfortable silence is something we want to avoid by keeping hir with hir social peers.

      Gifted kids often do not fit in whether they’re skipped or not. Middle school is traumatic for everyone (even the not gifted). I think a lot of people don’t consider the counterfactual… how bad would it have been if they hadn’t been skipped. (I was talking to a mom who regretted starting her daughter early at a tony private school, “All the girls in her class are only interested in boys and movie stars and make up.” “Is she only going to be interested in boys and movie stars and make-up next year?” “Well, probably not.”) Would they still have the same problems if they hadn’t been skipped? #2 and I and our partners will tell you that not being skipped also sucked. It is really hard being out-of-sync with one’s peers. It is difficult being isolated from an entire class or being hated because you always know the answer or you’re going through phases before everyone else and so on.

      This report: http://www.accelerationinstitute.org/Nation_Deceived/Get_Report.aspx is an incredibly detailed and in-depth examination of the social aspects of grade skipping. Maybe sometimes the social problems are because there wasn’t enough skipping, though there’s a lot of controversy in the literature about that. And of course there’s the problem of undiagnosed other kinds of special needs (like Aspergers), because really smart kids are very good at compensating. Don’t worry– (s)he won’t be going away to college at age 16 unless (s)he really really wants to. That would also require 2 grade skips, not just one. (And our handful 16 year old freshmen when we were RAs at the technical school actually did great socially and academically, though the 16 year old sophomore with Aspergers that we inherited was definitely a trial socially. It was actually the two red-shirted frosh that ended up drinking to excess and flunking out after we graduated, come to think of it.)

      Honest guys, we have spent a long time agonizing over this decision and so long as the kindergarten teacher (who is a DREAM) judges hir to be ready (this involves some testing both academically and socially), we are going to start hir in K next year. Based on our discussions, the director and K teacher both think (s)he’s a good candidate and similar to the students they’ve had success doing this with in the past. They probed long and hard about whether we were pushing (which I am sick of getting accused of… DC is what DC is) or whether this was something we were doing because (s)he was really ready and it would be worse not to. If this is ever a mistake, there is always the option of staying in the same grade two years in a row, no harm no foul. We are taking it one year at a time.

      Man, I’ve already written like a million blogposts worth of explanation at this point. Maybe I’ll have to update in a post once (s)he gets tested. Though if I’d known I was going to do that I wouldn’t have returned all those library books!

  11. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    I skipped an early elementary grade, and in retrospect it was clearly a very bad decision. I was completely unable to relate socially to my peers until late in high-school. And this social dysfunction made me so miserable in school, that I avoided it in every single possible way: playing sick, cutting class/school, playing hooky.

    Of course, when I was playing hooky, I was engaged in an autodidactic reading and writing program that ended up preparing me extremely well for college. By the time I was a senior, the powers that be of my prep school had become accustomed to turning an intentional blind eye to my inattendance at school, and I graduated with membership in our honor society even though I was marked absent over a third of the days of my senior year.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Right, and would you have been relating socially to your peers if you’d been held back a year? Would you really have been more likely to attend class had it been even more boring and you even more out of step with your peers?

      Somehow I think you’re not paying attention to the counter-factual here either.

      • Comrade PhysioProf Says:

        Yeah, maybe if I didn’t skip a grade, I’d have missed over *two* thirds of my senior year!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It’s likely (plus the third of your junior year that would have been your senior year). In any case, I promise you that if we’re sending DC to an expensive fancy prep school and (s)he isn’t going, we will totally pull hir out and let her homeschool. Or take a full undergraduate load at our uni as a special student… it would cost the same.

  12. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    I would also like to note that in some states starting kindergarten this upcoming year would not be considered a grade skip. Just not in this state. And my mom, whose birthday is a few days after DC’s started when she was 4 and a half as well without skipping (because she’s from one of those states). She did just fine, although this was back in the day when her kindergarten teacher chewed her mom out for teaching her to read before starting school (which, of course, my grandma, with a baby born each year and a full-time job, hadn’t, my mom had just picked it up). Whatever your individual skipping experiences, think of this as more like your friends with the August birthdays if you were in a Sept 1st start situation. Some of them were more immature, some of them weren’t. Some of them were shorter, some of them weren’t.

    If we ever do get our 10 million and our Mountain View or SF place, the age difference will only be a few days. And if we move to various New England states or Hawaii etc. ze’d be behind a year if we let hir start regular age here.

  13. Rumpus Says:

    I watched all but one of the other highest achievers from my junior high stop taking education seriously in high school. Counter-culture ran extreme, with various methods of disconnecting and antisocial behavior. I changed schools in high school, but had I stayed there and had the school officials thought outside-the-box, I believe a “pod” of us may have survived against the glacial pace in the classroom and the continual social hazing (conscious and accidental). Skipping a grade, from 3rd grade on, would have been even better, if only to get it over with faster.

    I’ve seen all sorts of people in the wrong learning environment: relatives with below-average intellect, college colleagues that were hard workers with average intellect, and blindingly-gifted people in graduate school. (For that matter, I’ve taught students covering a good chunk of the gamut.) In the wrong learning environment they started acting out or withdrawing, whether after an hour or a year. Either response was disruptive to themselves and others around them. Learning is *fun*, at age 4 or 40 or whenever. Sitting in class bored because you already know the material being repeated (yet again) is so not-fun.

    The closest summary of the way I feel about public school is Paul Graham’s collected essays, perhaps best encapsulated in http://www.paulgraham.com/nerds.html :
    “While there, the authorities fed you, prevented overt violence, and made some effort to teach you something. … And, like prisoners, the culture we created was barbaric.”

    I think socializing is tough for all “asynchronous learners”. Their only shot at being “normal” is to be somewhere with others like themselves. Personally, I always socialized better in school with older kids because they were more interesting.

    Less dramatically, I think it all works out in the end for most people, regardless. Give happiness a shot, and keep seeing if the plan is working or if something else might be better.

  14. Lindy Mint Says:

    My first son is not gifted, but “spirited.” :) He feels things stronger, reacts with more emotion, has higher highs and lower lows. Every year we would think, maybe age 4 will be better, maybe age 5…But the reality is, he is just that way. When I found the book Raising your Spirited Child, I felt like we were normal. I’m glad you’re starting to find the resources you are needing. As soon as we start to feel like we’re all alone, we’re reminded that this is a big world with lots of folks and someone’s bound to have been through the same.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’ve heard a lot of people having great experiences with that book– so you’re definitely not alone!

    • Molly On Money Says:

      Someone gave me that book years ago. If my memory serves me correct she had about 10 items to determine if your kid is spriited or not. My non gifted child hit all except the one about being gifted. At any rate it gave me tons of help in how to relate to her and tools to help her.

  15. Molly On Money Says:

    I was raised by one gifted parent and one non gifted. They had two gifted children and me, the non gifted one (and stating I’m non gifted is generous!).
    I have two children, 6 months apart (not biological) where one is gifted the other not.
    Although I don’t have a lot of answers I’ve got perspective. As a child I often resented my siblings because most everything seemed to come so easy. My parents went between praising me for the most ridiculous accomplishments so I would feel appreciated to making it clear I would just have to work harder than the rest of the kids. To make it worse our next door neighbor had 4 kids whose IQ’s were off the charts. They were my closest friends growing up! I was totally alone in a sea of very smart people. When I went off to college I finally realized that there were people with my kind of intelligence (as my mom use to tell me, I had ‘social intelligence’) As an adult I think the fact that I had to struggle gave me the tools to not give up when things got tough. I have one sibling that won’t even try something if she thinks she can’t do it ‘perfect’. She’s incredibly bright and talented.
    As a parent I feel lucky that both kids have found a talent they like and excel at. I didn’t find that until I was a late teen. I feel like I’m stumbling through parenting them trying to meet both of there needs. With my gifted child I’m working with her how to be accomplished at things. When she was younger she would gravitate to interests that came easy to her. I told her that often the things we end up loving to do are not what we are necessarily talented at.

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