Ask the grumpies: When did perfectionism start?

Chelsea asked:

I was wondering when you began to notice DC #1 struggling with perfectionism – like how old ze was and how it manifested. I have a bright 3 year old who gets so incredibly upset if any little thing is not “right” – food, toys, clothes, the order things are done in, etc. But maybe that’s totally normal 3-year-old “threenager” behavior…

Honestly?  DC1 has ALWAYS been a bit of a perfectionist.  Like at 3 months zie crawled a little bit but hated it so much and it was so hard that zie refused tummy time angrily unless it was on daddy’s tummy after (crawling did not happen until much later, and then it happened perfectly and almost instantaneously).  I mean everything has been like that with DC1, something phenomenal happens but happens poorly and then months pass without it happening again and then suddenly DC1 is doing it perfectly without any apparent struggle.

DC2 isn’t like that.  We see DC2 learning and growing. The process isn’t hidden from us.

But, DC2 is also 3 and is totally being a “threenager” as you say.  With the everything needing to be the way it’s ‘sposed to be or zie lectures us about things being ‘propriate like one of hir preschool teachers must do.  3 year olds are just OCD by nature.  I would not worry about that kind of perfectionism at all.  Most likely you’ll be telling hir to clean up thoughtless messes and reminding about putting underwear on before the pants again in no time.

Note also that you can use this (temporary) rigid adherence to structure to your advantage by say, instituting bedtime routines and asking, “What comes next?”  DC1 also responded well to the tyranny of the clock at this age, “It is 3pm, time to go!” we would say.

And we’re also seeing DC2 getting the other kind of perfectionism where zie doesn’t like us to see hir struggle with learning (for example, zie will refuse to sound words out when zie hits a hard word and sometimes says zie hates books rather than read with us).  We suspect zie is picking it up at daycare.  DC1’s perfectionism has waxed and waned– a lot seems to have to do with specific teachers at preschool and school, but we’re not sure what they’re doing wrong or right.

Perfectionism does seem to increase when the work they’re doing at school is too easy.  When they don’t get challenges.  When they’re praised for being smart and not encouraged to make mistakes during the learning process.

But if it’s just fussiness about things being in the “right” order… DC1 grew out of that too soon and really I think DC2 has just recently grown out of that, like in the past week (in fact, DH and DC2 are currently having a conversation about DC2 not ‘preciating DH stepping on hir stuff that was lying in the hallway and DH not appreciating hir leaving things on the floor in the hallway to be stepped on).  (Update:  I take it back, DC2 is still a rules-monger.)

Age 4-6 are LOVELY, and then age 7 is kind of obnoxious (or so has been our experience and so I have been told by others).  We’re enjoying 8 and 9!

Good luck and don’t worry too much about threes.  Here’s some more tips (do read the comments in that linked post as they’ve got a lot of great suggestions as well).

More on math and perfectionism

Combating perfectionism and its sequelae is an ongoing battle at houses with gifted youngsters.  It is hard to provide continual challenges for smart kids that allow for failure but also allow for recovery from said failure.  When life gets too easy, failures seem to become that much more devastating when they do occur.

I really like math.  And math is nice because it comes in different levels which can provide different kinds of challenges and generally there’s going to be a solution.

We really enjoyed the workbook, Hard math for elementary students, though when I say “enjoyed” it was kind of a love-hate relationship for DC1.  There were sometimes tears.  But in the end, zie always triumphed, and that was exciting for DC1 and created true pride (though an odd consequence was that when DC1 cranked through a page easily, zie decided that page was too easy!).  It truly was a hard math book.  We were thinking of going through it again, but DC1 hasn’t wanted to.  Since DC1 just got into brain teasers and is spending hours on them on hir own, I ordered Aha and Gotcha and am going to let hir explore by hirself.

One of the really good parts of math for perfectionist people is that sometimes in order to get things right, you have to get them wrong a lot first.  There’s a method of solving things called “brute force” in which you just methodically try all of the possible answers to see which one(s) work.  You *have* to get things wrong.

The game Mastermind is another example of needing to get things wrong in order to find information that gets to the right answer.  You guess and then get feedback that helps you guess again until you narrow down the answer.  The game just isn’t that much fun if you guess right on the first try.  This game too initially caused tears in DC1, but coming back to it later it has been fun.

Finally, a fun (free, online) game recommended by school is fire boy and water girl.  This is another one where you learn about the world and have to try again and again in order to get the solution.  This one has never caused tears to my knowledge, though zie has stopped playing in frustration and come back later, which is totally valid.

It would definitely be nicer if there were never tears, but the pride that happens after figuring out something that previously seemed impossible might be worth it.

Do you have any suggestions for challenges, math or otherwise?

preschool perfectionism

Hm… I started this post about a year ago and kindergarten is about to start, so maybe I should finish it.  I don’t have the books on hand that I was going to cite, so this’ll be a lot more hand waving and a lot less quoting (watch me not be a perfectionist!).

One of the things we want for our child is that ze be able to take risks (measured ones, anyway), and able to achieve at hir desired level.  We don’t want hir to be paralyzed by fear as so often the best and brightest are.  We want hir to be used to making mistakes and not scared by the prospect of sometimes being wrong, so long as ze learns from those mistakes.

Perfectionism is a scary thing.  It can keep us from achieving our goals.  It can make us afraid of taking risks, even measured ones.  In gifted kids, perfectionism can start young.

About a year ago we started noticing signs of it in our child.  Ze would be terrified of making mistakes, ze would say, “I don’t know” to things that ze did know, especially if we misheard the first time ze answered and we asked hir to repeat.  If we’d say, “just guess,” ze would refuse to guess.  At school the teacher told us DC could read just fine but couldn’t comprehend, which we knew not to be true as ze would rush into our office in the evenings with long explanations of whatever exciting thing was happening in the latest Magic Treehouse book.  Ze would rather be silent than be wrong.  And sometimes ze would completely collapse trying to tie a shoelace on hir shoelace book, sobbing uncontrollably.  (It’s ok if you don’t know how to tie a shoe!  You’re only 3!  I couldn’t tie my shoe laces until I was 5, and we didn’t have velcro in those days.)

These tendrils of perfectionism, particularly the tantrums, are what started my reading of gifted books (I’m done now), years before we thought we’d have to dig into them.  Turns out some of the less fun aspects of gifted kids can show up before school, even if the public school doesn’t test until 3rd grade.  (And not just lack of sleep!)  There’s a lot of scientific evidence on the causes and consequences of perfectionism.  Even if gifted books don’t always help with techniques to mitigate perfectionism, most of them do note it as a side-effect, or more often as a sign of giftedness.

Naturally it’s a side-effect we want to treat, if possible.  The big thing that’s suggested is that we want to push EFFORT, not intelligence.  Gifted kids are often told how smart they are from the moment they open their bright eyes.  That means that when they make a mistake, they often take it as evidence that maybe they’re not smart.  (If you’re always right, you’re smart.  If you’re not always right, you’re not smart …  It’s not true, but it can feel true.)  This can lead to shutting down, giving up, cheating, and other negative behaviors that gifted kids don’t need to do and that can ultimately hurt them in the long run.  Carol Dweck’s Mindset book also has a chapter or two on growth mindsets for kids.

Perfectionism is especially a problem when kids are way ahead of their classes at school.  Inappropriately red-shirted kids, or gifted kids who need but are not getting accommodations are especially likely to fall prey to perfectionism.  If everything is always too easy, when confronted with something difficult, cognitive dissonance sets in and the kid shuts down.  Also when bored, trying for a perfect can be a way to create one’s own challenge.

I’ve definitely grappled with perfectionism myself, as has DH.  But I didn’t understand why DC was grappling with it in preschool.   When I was DC’s age I already believed that effort was important and I didn’t fear failure… I just knew I needed more practice… Some day I would be able to blow a gum bubble, or whistle or turn a cartwheel.  Part of that was knowing that other kids were older and had worked hard practicing before they could, and I’d be able to do what they could do some day too if I just tried hard enough.  These days there aren’t so many roving bands of mixed age kids playing outside.  So you don’t see the practice so much.  And DC doesn’t have that bucket list I had… ze’s probably never even seen a cartwheel.

So every time DC fell into a fuss or refused to do something we knew ze could do, we would explain how important practice is.  How when I was hir age, I wanted more than anything to be able to stand on one leg, and I practiced and practiced and finally I could.  We would pull out the little engine that could and read it again, hoping some day ze’d believe us.

I suspect that my mom was better at promoting that message than I am.  I will work harder at it and I will not give up.  Thus I hope DC will do the same.

update:  DC “I practiced and practiced and now I can stand on one leg, see?”

update:  The joy of erasers!  DC’s teacher drilled in that when ze makes a writing mistake, ze can just use the eraser to fix it.  This is a miracle in hir willingness to write anything down.  (Problem:  DC thinks it is hilarious to make silly mistakes on purpose. ex.  3 + 5 is M)

update:  Word World’s Sheep learned to ride a bike, falling over and over and over again.  (A realistic montage, unlike most shows where it seems like you get things on the third try.)  So did DC!

update:  After 8 weeks of lessons 4 days/week, DC can swim!

Play fight repeat has two great posts on this topic.  Paying kids to failTeaching kids persistence.

Do you or does someone you love struggle with perfectionism?  Do you have any suggestions for how to combat it?

What we’re trying with the terrible 7s

DC1 always gets phases late and DC2 seems to get them early.

Luckily when DC1 hit this phase, Wandering Scientist told me it was a normal age and stage (I think her pediatrician’s office had an ages and stages graphic) and the internet strongly agreed with that assessment.

With DC1 it meant sullenness and occasional bouts of tears and ramped up perfectionism, IIRC.  There was also some acting up at school.  And lots of silence when questioned.  Fortunately it was short, although we did get several emails from one of hir teachers who couldn’t handle it because zie was used to teaching college students, not elementary schoolers.  (Another more experienced teacher, when questioned, said there was no problem and her son had gone through the same thing a year prior and she knew it was normal.)

DC2 has become very emotional.  Meltdowns, temper tantrums, not wanting to do things, being scared of everything (ex. being unable to sleep because zie was afraid of Ancient Egypt), feeling stupid for not reaching hir own impossible standards.  It’s very much like a repeat of the terrible twos, except DC2 is less easily distracted from bad behavior and is more self-aware.

First up:  unlike the toddler years, DC2’s refusals to do things seems to be responding well to threats of punishment.  Taking away privileges has gotten hir to stop tantrumming and to do whatever it is zie needs to do.  Giving a 5 min or 1 min or count to five warning about having to stop screaming and put on hir clothes or play piano or go into the gymnasium for camp on pain of losing screen time privileges or not getting to eat out at hir favorite restaurant has been effective.  I suspect bribery may also be effective, but I don’t want to incentivize bad behavior.  I guess technically we already have rewards in place for things, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to take them away as privileges.  Adding on beyond that in the face of bad behavior may not be a great idea.

The next thing we’re trying to do is to add more attention and more quiet time and make sure zie has eaten and all those things we did when zie was a toddler and seemed to need more attention or less stimulation.  DC2 at age 7 wants to talk about hir feelings and hir fears a lot more than zie did at 2.

And finally, we’ve gotten some books about elementary schooler anxiety and have been working through them with hir.  The best of these for hir level has been What to Do When You Worry Too Much by Dawn Huebner.  It’s basically cognitive behavioral therapy at an elementary school level.  It also relates worries to tomatoes, and DC2 hates tomatoes, so it resonates.  After going through the book once, DH was able to get DC2 through the Metropolitan Museum of Art (even the Egyptian room that DC1 wanted to see) even though zie had refused to set foot in the Museum of Fine Arts a week or two prior.

Things seem to have settled down a bit with the start of school.  Hopefully the phase is winding down and DC2 will be back to hir normal self.

Have you gone through the terrible 7s?  Have there been other ages with these kinds of stages?

 

link love

Brilliant

This week in police brutality

Turns out that pretending to harass someone is strangely identical to actually harassing someone.

Reading non-white authors for 12 months.

Another really interesting article about measles

Find out how much your medical bills should be

Science finally answers whether or not you should avoid peanut products with infants and toddlers (answer: NO).

Sick leave and being a liberal

A fantastic article well worth reading by a student at Michigan.  (And remember this the week after next when we post our own article that sounds like the article she’s commenting on.)

Are corporations really putting feathers in your food?  (The answer may not surprise you)

combating perfectionism in kids

The downside to long term travel

Happy public sleeping day!

Fecal wizard.

this appeals to me, probably because that’s what golden ratios are supposed to do

adorbs, if you like crows (or maybe if you don’t)

cats n cats

Have you ever wondered why butter sticks are differently shaped in the West?

to fall out of love

a guy complained no one wished him happy birthday on twitter

More one pot pasta recipes.

Leonard Nemoy writes to a biracial kid.

Updates

  • Mean kitten has been tamed.  Now we still have 6 cats and no idea what to do with 4 of them (we’re keeping our original two!).  The kittens are rapidly losing their kitten-hood.
  • DC1 still loves school and has requested to stay at the same school another year.  Ze has a new math/reading teacher because the one ze had first semester was a college student who is doing student-teaching this semester.  The current one has a lot of experience and loves the kids and is better at cluster grouping than hir predecessor.  Her daughter is also a children’s novelist, which is pretty cool.  At our recent p/t conference we talked about perfectionism *again*.  It’s a constant battle.
  • DC2 is loving hir new daycare.  That last week when we were transitioning, ze would not want to leave the new place to go to the old place and ze would scream when we left hir at the old place.  Ze is all like, “buh bye” at the new place.  It’s just like it was back before our first daycare went out of business.  Whew.
  • The guy who stole all that money from the first daycare (turns out to be the ex-husband of an employee, not even the employee herself) did get caught, but he used the money for drugs, so I don’t think we’re going to see any of our prepayment back unless insurance kicks in.  DH doesn’t want to deal with small claims court now that he has a job and we don’t have much time and the director needs that money more than we do even if she has it.  So we’re probably just going to mentally write it off as a loss.
  • Last we heard, the relative’s oldest daughter doesn’t want to go to community college anymore because it’s hard and has gotten a job at Wendy’s (the economy must be picking up), but is still going to school even though she doesn’t want to.  The second daughter is working two jobs (both fastfood) while her step-mom takes care of the baby.  They’ve figured out paternity, and the father’s family wanted to work something out under the table rather than telling the government, but the relative talked his daughter out of that.  (Because it would be fraud and illegal and she’d lose her benefits entirely if caught.)
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Stupid “opinions” on gifted kids

A lot of people seem to think that they are entitled to spew their opinions on gifted kids, parents of gifted kids, and gifted education without having read *any* of the research or without even ever spending time with gifted children.

Here are some of the things you should stop saying on the internet, behind people’s backs, or to their faces:

1.  Why do gifted kids need to be challenged anyway?  Why can’t we let kids be kids?  What’s the rush?

Gifted kids who are not challenged are at a greater risk of dropping out than normal kids.  They’re also more likely to have bad behavior than gifted kids who are sufficiently challenged.  And, if they’re not challenged early on, they can flame out spectacularly when challenged later as young adults.  (All of the previous statements are verifiable from pretty much any research-based book on gifted children.)

On top of that, most children find learning to be fun and to be part of childhood.  It is only adults who seem to feel the need to make learning not fun.  Fight that.

2.  It’s so important for kids to be with their same-aged peers.  It may not be important in elementary school, but just wait until they’re old enough to drive/go to prom/go to college.  Then you’ll see.

Gifted kids are often out-of-synch with their same-aged peers.  It would be great for them to hang around other gifted kids their same age, but many populations don’t have a large enough population to support gifted classes, and tracking is not currently in vogue.   A Nation Deceived makes a clear and convincing case that gifted kids actually do *better* socially on average when accelerated than when with same-aged peers in a normal classroom.  As for driving and prom… those are not the end-all and be-all.  Not all kids go to prom.  Many freshmen go to prom with seniors.  If a freshman hangs out with juniors, hir friends will be driving anyway even though ze can’t, and not all kids have cars or get licenses at 16 anyway.  In terms of college, there are many possibilities not limited to going early, taking a gap year, taking courses at the local college or community college, and so on.  There’s an exciting world of possibilities that may be even better than the status quo.

3.  I knew a kid who skipped grades and ze was totally messed up.

Correlation is not causation.  Gifted kids are often odd and out of synch compared to other kids.  Chances are they’ll seem messed up in the view of some subset of the population whether or not they’re accelerated.  Compared to gifted kids who are not accelerated, those who are accelerated do better academically AND socially, according to A Nation Deceived.

4.  Being bored/miserable/picked on/the only person doing work on a group project is a part of adult life.  Kids need to learn to get used to it in school.

When you’re gifted and do well in school, you can often sort yourself into a profession in which you’re more likely to be surrounded by other competent hard workers doing interesting things.  Being picked on is not normal as an adult.

5.  I’m so sick of hearing X complain about the problems she’s having with her so-called gifted kid, if the kid is actually gifted, which I have my doubts.  Gifted kids don’t need special treatment, not like real special needs kids.  She should just shut up.

It is not easy being the parent of a gifted child.  Gifted children are often intense.  They often do not sleep much, are energetic, are sensitive, act out, get depressed, can be crippled by perfectionism, and many other things, particularly if their needs are not being met.  And society is not set up to help meet their needs in many places.  Additionally, parents of gifted kids often do suffer from isolation.  They often cannot talk about their kids to other parents.  It is wonderful being a parent of gifted children, but there are also challenges.

6.  Kids aren’t really gifted, they’re just hot-housed by over-achieving parents.

We don’t believe there is a such thing as over-achievement (that’s an opinion).  However, gifted kids often achieve quite a bit without the least bit of hot-housing (that’s a fact).  Parents do often provide more academic enrichment for gifted kids because that is what the child needs to help behavior and happiness, but there are generally no flashcards or pressure involved.  Gifted kids often teach themselves to read.  And reading is fun!  All kids are sponges, and gifted kids seem very eager to soak things up.

Remember, opinions and facts are not the same thing, and sometimes incorrect opinions that are not based on actual facts can do real damage.  Do you really want to be one of those people who hurts an entire group?  Well, we know that none of *our* readers would, but occasionally people find their way to us via google.  If you’re in that situation and you say stuff like this, knock it off.

What are incorrect “opinions” that you find annoying, gifted-related or other?

RBOChildren

  • I now understand why my parents let my sister tear up my stuff.  If tearing up the receipt that came with DC1’s library books keeps DC2 happily and safely entertained for 20 min, that’s worth the confetti and loss of a “bookmark”.
  • This early potty training is AWESOME.  Seriously guys, I cannot tell you how absolutely cool it is do to this part-time pottying with diapers the rest of the time.  DC2 prefers pooing in the potty and we prefer dumping it out of the potty to cleaning it off hir rear.  It is SO much easier getting started than it was with a 15 month old who had already been diaper-trained.  Just like the book said it would be.  Wish we’d had the book when DC1 was 6 months old.  If you have a baby who can sit-up, get a potty and just try putting your baby on it as soon as ze gets up in the morning (or after a nap).  It is addicting and totally awesome.  (Also saves diapers and lessens the ick factor.)
  • I think we discovered one of the anti-perfectionism tactics that DC1’s first grade teacher used last year.  Last year when DC1 got a problem wrong and we’d ask hir about it when the homework came home, ze would shrug and say, “Yeah, the reason I got that wrong was [this silly reason], I know it’s [correct answer] now.”  This weekend I wanted to discuss a comment hir teacher had left on a math problem, saying that DC1 should have rewritten the (Saxon math) problem and done borrowing, which DC1 had done one of the Singapore math ways in hir head instead (and gotten incorrect).  DC1 said ze had never looked at the homework and never looks at hir returned homework(!)  So ze has had no clue about what ze has gotten wrong or right or why (except on spelling tests, for some reason).  And it isn’t discussed in a growth mindset way, but is treated as a fixed mindset thing– you do the work and it’s done and that’s it.  So I guess we’re going to start going through homeworks to talk about and to demonstrate learning from mistakes.
  • DC2 waves hello and bye bye.  It is SO CUTE!  Update:  and claps!  Update:  first word [older sibling’s name]  Ze also sounds like a happy little puppy when ze gets excited.  *pantpantpant*
  • DH said, “It wasn’t so much an accident as an out of potty experience.”  Then he started talking about the pottygeist.  He tried to make a joke about the excretionist, but it failed.  DC2 thought it was hilarious, but who can trust what the potty gallery thinks?

Schooling update: Spring Semester

I was looking through blog posts I wrote last year about DC’s schooling dilemma.  It’s crazy to think how much has changed since then.

At the time, DC was in preschool, all hir friends were heading to kindergarten (almost), and hir (quite excellent) preschool had run out of things for hir to do.  They suggested that DC become a teacher’s helper the next year as hir main activity.  At home ze had whizzed through all the magic treehouse books and done increasingly more math.

We were worried about DC’s increasing perfectionism.  DC slept very little (~7 hrs/night, no nap) and was bouncing off the walls while awake.  Ze was even starting to have little behavior problems of the type that a child trying to entertain hirself often gets into.  I read approximately a zillion books on giftedness for solutions to these problems, and they were pretty unanimous that starting K early would be the answer for our situation.

So we looked into schools in the area and decided on the one that called hir in for a second round of testing after ze passed the first kindergarten entrance exam.  They suggested, based on the testing, that DC start K a year early and spend half the day in first grade for math and reading.

Several readers had concern about the acceleration.  Were we destroying DC’s childhood?  What about when ze got to middle school or high school or college.  Etc. Etc. Etc.  And you know, there was that one kid who was accelerated and ze was WEIRD, so obviously acceleration (and being weird) is a horrible thing.  [Note to people:  Correlation is not causation.  That kid would have been weird ANYWAY, and probably would have been perfectly normal surrounded by kids who were more accepting of differences instead of by assholes.  Oops, were we projecting again?]

DC has flourished this year.

The perfectionism is gone.  The first grade teacher is a miracle worker.  DC is no longer afraid to try things ze doesn’t know right away.  Ze comes home with the occasional 80% exam and grins and tells us what the right answers should have been, and ze knows that now.  Ze tells us ze will get things.

Ze is learning things and excited and tells us all sorts of interesting science and history and theological and mathematical ideas.  We discuss lines of symmetry and ze stumped me on a parallelogram (they don’t have a line of symmetry!)  Ze love love loves school and learning.

At school DC has practiced the things ze didn’t want to practice at home.  Hir printing looks a lot nicer than mine did as a second-grader.  Double-digit addition is no problem.  It’s nice being able to pick and choose to only do fun stuff at home without being limited by what DC can write or compute.

DC now sleeps 9 hours per night on weekdays.  (Still less than that on weekends, but what can you do?)  That extra grown-up time is wonderful.  At home ze is so much calmer (again, not so much on weekends unless we get that hour of exercise and hour of thinking in).  We don’t have to do homeworkbooks on weekdays because DC doesn’t need extra thinking to help hir settle down, just on weekends.  (So we’ve greatly slowed the pace we’re getting through Singapore Math, and I am fine with that.)  We don’t think this is just getting older– when the 1st grade teacher was gone for two weeks, DC started reverting to previous behaviors.

All reports tell us that DC is an angel at school.  So far ze has gotten two “yellows” all year (every other day is “green”).  One for rolling off hir mat during naptime (during the horrible 2 weeks that the first grade teacher was out with a family emergency), and once for leaving the room without permission (“I didn’t know what that meant”) to go to first grade early.

All the kids are pretty well-behaved and DC is something of a pet among the older grades.  They love to ruffle hir hair.

Socially, DC isn’t even the youngest in hir class.  Though, as always, ze prefers spending time with the older children.  Hir best friend is a 6 year old who moved here mid-year and goes with hir to first-grade for half the day.  DC likes to use the word “noodle” in place of everything and hir best friend has played along and decided to be a meatball.  The V-day card was adorable– to Noodle (picture of noodle) From Meatball (picture of meatball).

Of course, all has not been smooth sailing.  The school has sucked hours upon hours of our time and thousands of our dollars in donations.  The headmaster is afraid of numbers but also can’t let go of control… and most recently has quit (long-term a good thing, short-term a bad thing).  The board is weak and also not so good with numbers.  In fall, the school came out with press announcements that it was going out of business unless they raised 500K (the actual number needed turned out to be closer to 400K, and would have been less had they been capable of cutting anything that the finance committee suggested cutting).  Because of poor management going forward, we opted not to give them the second installment of the large donation my father had offered.  We’re still not sure if the school is going to be around next year.  The finance committee told the headmaster she needed to come up with a bare bones budget that ensured the school would be around next year without assuming an increase in students.  Instead, her budget assumes an enrollment increase of 20 students.  That isn’t going to happen.  And it isn’t going to happen because current students cannot recommend the school to their friends if they don’t believe the school is going to stick around next year, which they could believe if the head had listened to the finance committee.  This is why not being afraid of numbers is so important.

The first grade teacher will not be returning next year.  She wants to get paid more than 23K and to have job security.  We’re bummed about this.  The replacement teacher, the current 2nd grade teacher, has a good reputation and DC would have been spending half the day with her anyway.

So we filled out the form next year, and would have put down the deposit had it not been waived.

We’ve looked into a local preK-6 Montessori and we think this will be a good option if the school does go under, assuming we can get on the list quickly enough.  (And as members of the finance committee, we may get insider information in that respect.)  They’re on board with DC starting in the elementary room as a nominal first grader next year (rather than K with the 3-6 room), and they are completely self-directed and have materials up through standard 8th grade.  I love their New Math curriculum (combined with more traditional Singapore math workbooks).  You should have seen me drool over their units on math with different bases. The main problem with them this year was that they closed at 2:30, but for the first time ever next year they’re adding an after school program until 5pm.  Which is still cutting it close, but since the Montessori turns to be very close to my work it should be ok so long as I do pick-up.  (Sadly, it is far from our daycare Montessori for #2!)

Starting in public school kindergarten next year cannot happen.  That much is pretty obvious right now.  Going back to a year of learning letters and numbers and colors after this would be frustrating for everyone, especially in a large class with a lot more kids with very different needs from DC’s.  Heck, it would have been frustrating for this year!

Did we make the best decision (or at least a good enough decision) based on our options?  Unequivocally yes.  All the things people warned us about with acceleration would probably have happened had we not accelerated.  Instead DC fits in well, is challenged, behaves well, has friends, and loves school.  This year has been a good one for hir, and by extension for us.  The sacrifices we’ve made have been worth it, though we wish we would not have had to make them.  We hope the school is still around next year, but all we can do is one year at a time, one month at a time, one challenge at a time.

Ask the grumpies: What do you say when people in public say your kid is smart or shy?

Ree asks:

I would love advice on what to say when your kid is in earshot and another adult says something like “Ze’s so smart!” or “Ze’s shy!” Because I often hear both, especially the latter, and I do NOT want to reinforce that in my four-year-old. I am both gifted and socially awkward and have no idea what to say in these situations…

This question is great.  According to research by Carol Dweck and others we do not want to help foster a fixed mindset through praise of intelligence (or other fixed traits).  Praise for effort is good, praise for smarts can lead to the bad kind of perfectionism, fear of taking risks, and so on.  Similarly, saying that a kid is shy may reinforce that behavior.

With the “smart” I always focus on, “Oh, yes, DC LOVES to read!” or “The Magic Treehouse books are really exciting!” or “Ze’s been working really hard on hir handwriting.”  I try to enforce that these things are fun and that practice is important, and get away from the “smart” with a gentle correction that way.

In preschool we also talked to the director about teachers not saying that kind of thing and praising effort (which she already knew about– she teaches childhood development at the community college, but some of the newer teachers needed reminders), and that helped a little.

When DC was much younger I admit to rounding up hir age when asked, not so it was incorrect, but giving the most generous rounding I could do (almost 3, rather than 2 years 6 and a half months)… I’m not sure how I feel about having done that.

Over the past year we’ve been avoiding situations with DC’s same-age peers… ze fits in much better with kids about a year older.  This is easier to do because ze started K early (when people ask, we say, “Ze just missed the cutoff, and all hir friends were going to kindergarten,” which is true, for some definitions of “just.”)   People just assume ze is small for hir age.  That has helped a LOT.  Ze doesn’t seem quite so abnormal around other kids when the other kids are at similar levels, even if they’re not really the same age.

In terms of shyness:  We usually get that DC is mellow, which I don’t mind so much, and I always say ze takes after hir daddy.  Ze definitely likes to check out the situation before jumping into it, and the teachers at after-school recently told me ze is always shy at first but then warms up.  So maybe, “It generally takes hir a little while to warm up to people, but ze will be fine.”

Dear grumpy readers:  What would you do in these situations?  What advice would you give?