Ask the grumpies: Dual-language neighborhood school vs. Gifted school

Azma asks:

I’m curious to know what you’d do in my situation. I live in the outer boroughs of NYC in a diverse, urban neighborhood with decent (but not great) public schools. My 5 year old got a spot in a dual language program (Spanish/ English) at our zoned school. He also tested very highly on the city gifted and talented test with minimal prep and got into an excellent program several neighborhoods away (he’d take a school bus to get there). There’s been a huge push in our neighborhood to convince educated, middle class families (like us) to keep their kids in the neighborhood schools. Many have historically sent their kids to charters, g&t programs, or private schools. We love the g&t program our kid has a spot in, but we also love our neighborhood and worry that we’re contributing to NYC’s problematic school segregation problems. What would you do in our place?

Right or wrong, I always put my kids ahead of general social spillovers.  So I try to decide what is best for them first, and worry about the ripple effects as a secondary concern.  Not that I ignore spillovers, but the spillovers would have to be larger than they are in this case and I would have to know for certain that the spillovers from removing my child from the district were negative.

What I mean by knowing for certain that they are negative– while we do know that having higher SES kids is good for schools (and having kids whose families have domestic violence is bad for schools) and many other network effects, the benefits to having gifted kids are not as clear-cut.  That is, it isn’t always clear that keeping a gifted kid in a non-gifted school is actually better for the school. Gifted kids are special needs and as such tend to draw resources, act up if their intellectual needs aren’t being met, etc.  The same isn’t true of kids who are high achieving but not gifted– they are more likely to provide positive spillovers. So most of the studies that find beneficial effects of, for example, cooperative learning, remove gifted kids from their experiments.

Still, worrying about neighborhood schools is still a really valid concern, and there are things you can do about that even if you don’t send your child there, *even if you don’t have kids*.  Personally, I donate a lot of money to education-related charities.  Donors Choose is a big favorite of mine. Using Donors Choose, I can also pick districts that have greater needs than the one we’re zoned in, which has even more positive effects than would donating to our relatively well-off district.  Before I had children, I supported schools more than I do now because I had lots of time to volunteer and could tutor in low income urban districts.

All of this is an argument to say, take that spillover concern out of your calculus right now.  If you’re worried about the school, there are ways you can have a bigger more positive impact than you would by sending your child there.

That doesn’t mean that you should automatically choose the G/T school, of course.  There are lots of things to think about when making your decision that only you and your family can place weights on.

  • If you feel you’ve made a mistake with either choice, how easy it is to switch?
  • How do you feel about the administration and teaching at both schools?  Do they seem willing to work with parents?
  • If you’ve visited the schools, do the kids seem happy and not acting up?
  • How will the school schedule work with your work-life?  Are there after school programs?  What happens if your child misses the bus or wants to do an after school activity?
  • How strongly do you feel about foreign language acquisition and are there other ways to get it?
  • How do you feel about the curriculum at both scohols?

If you love the G/T school I would be very tempted to stay with it.  From folks I’ve talked with, dual-language is great for keeping GT kids occupied until 2nd or 3rd grade and then they start needing more acceleration.  Hopefully that would not be a problem at the G/T school.  On the other hand, the G/T schools in the city closest to us have a reputation for not actually being very good for G/T– their main purposes is for white parents to segregate their kids without paying 40K/year for private school, which means that they’re not actually geared towards G/T.  That’s not true everywhere, and is probably not true in NYC given how competitive the testing is, but I don’t know for sure.

Here’s a related question from jlp back in 2014!  And here’s one from Sarah back in 2015.

Grumpy Nation, what have we missed?  What elements would you put on your list to help with decision-making?

 

How to keep a gifted kid challenged

The other day wandering scientist talked about the difficulties of keeping a gifted elementary schooler challenged.  That inspired me to write this post and also to ask the Grumpy Nation for suggestions.   These suggestions aren’t tailored to Wandering Scientist’s kid– they’re a bit more general given that there’s lots of individual differences in circumstances and interests.

At school

The first suggestion is to ask the school for help.  This will not always work– it is very school dependent.  #2 and I grew up as tracking was going out of fashion and our parents had an extremely uphill battle trying to get the schools to make any accommodations.  DH and I have not had as much trouble, although part of that stems from us so far avoiding working with the high SES K-4 schools that have refused to accommodate our friends’ children (we sent DC1 to private school and the dual language programs are not in the high SES zones).  The private school we sent DC1 to tested and anticipated our needs and made suggestions to us for keeping DC1 engaged.  The middle schools here have been very helpful when we’ve asked for help.  One of the main suggestions when talking with schools is to avoid at all costs saying that your child is bored– instead say that the child needs more challenge.

What schools can do will vary on the district, the school, and sometimes even the teacher. We talk more about options with a few links to research and books in this post here.

Single-subject acceleration allows children to stay with their same peers but to spend part of the day, usually during Reading and/or Math in a classroom a year older.  I did a lot of single-subject acceleration for math and/or reading when it was offered as a child (it varied by school and by year) and always enjoyed it.  DC1 did single-subject acceleration in K, going to 1st for math and English and is currently doing single-subject acceleration for math, though because 30-40 other kids in his grade are doing it as well, there are only same-grade level kids in hir class.

Whole-grade acceleration, in which the child skips a full grade, is another option.  DC1 has technically skipped two grades– zie entered K early, then did K and 1 at the same time, effectively skipping 1st grade.

Classroom differentiation is fantastic for students if teachers can pull it off.  Teaching Gifted Kids in Today’s Classroom (an update from Teaching Gifted Kids in the Regular Classroom) is a great resource for teachers.  Great teachers can give the same project assignments but have some kids dig deeper than others.  They can also do things like set up stations for independent learning at various times.  For teachers who aren’t as comfortable with differentiating, you can still talk with the teacher and come up with things that your child can do if zie finishes tasks early.  This could be something as simple as allowing the child to read a book of his or her choosing, or could include more complicated work.  Often teachers have various kinds of fun logic puzzle worksheets they can give out as a first pass and today’s schools often have purchased software that can be used for individual learning.  We talk about some options for additional work below.

Gifted pull-out is better than nothing.  We’ve been less than impressed with it and the research is kind of meh on it.  I assume how it is done is important– I like to think my students got something out of it when I did pull-out math for fourth graders (especially the lesson on adding in different bases!), but who knows.

Outside of school

Enrichment outside of school doesn’t do anything about the “bored at school” problem, but it can help after school and on weekends.

After school activities will vary by what’s in your area.  These were great for us in paradise because they were held at school and effectively extended the school day allowing us to get more work done before DC1 got home.  Where we live now, they require chauffeuring which is a pretty big drain on our time.  Still, playing a musical instrument, learning a new language, doing a sport, art class, academic competition, and so on can allow a gifted child to experience challenges and growth that zie is lacking from school, especially if allowed to learn at hir own pace.  Challenges are especially important for gifted kids so that when they hit an academic wall for the first time they don’t give up.  Classes like robotics, drama, math circle, etc. can also be fun.  Some tutoring programs will also have programs for gifted kids or on topics not taught at school.

At home

Workbooks

At the #1 household, we are big fans of workbooks.  My sister and I grew up doing workbooks and I learned a lot from them.  DC1 has been doing them since zie was 3 (mostly on the weekends and holiday breaks) because zie desperately needed at least an hour of mental stimulation (along with at least an hour of exercise) or zie would be literally bouncing off walls.

There are a couple of directions you can go with workbooks.  First, you can accelerate– introduce knowledge that won’t be introduced until later that year or in future years.  Acceleration is especially useful (in my opinion) for mastering basic materials that are the building blocks of more complicated learning (phonics, addition, etc.) and for when you’re not sure that your student will be getting foundational material in school (because of grade skipping, school absences, poor teaching, or changing school districts).

For acceleration, we really like the Brain Quest series which cover K-6 and now also have special summer workbooks.  DC1 worked through grades K-6, and DC2 is currently on their Grade 2 (also we’re concurrently doing the Summer between Grades 1 and 2 book).  Scholastic also often has great workbooks available for sale, but their stock seems to vary a lot.

The second thing that you can do is go deeper and/or sideways.

I strongly believe that learning math different ways is important.  So we can cover the same basic material and will do it traditionally in school and in the Brainquest workbook, but will do it from another direction using the Singapore math books (Singapore math link not an affiliate link– they’re not really available on Amazon).  If your school uses Singapore math, then you could instead supplement with more traditional US math.  Again, DC1 went through K-8 in Singapore math and DC2 is currently on grade 2A.  The material is the same for each grade, following essentially the common core, but the methods and what is emphasized in the two curricula are different.  My children will be learning different ways to get the same answer and thus gaining a deeper understanding of how the number system works.

For more challenge, I cannot say enough good things about Glenn Ellison’s Hard Math for Elementary Students.  It’s best if you get the textbook, workbook, and solutions (3 books).  We’ve had DC1 go through the workbook twice over a 3 year period with a break in between.   We’ve also done a few of the Zaccaro challenge books and they’re ok, but they’re not as good.  We never finished going through the Flashkids Math for the Gifted Student books I got, so I can’t recommend them at all.  Sometime next week we’ll start Hard Math for Middle School Students which finally has a workbook to go with the textbook (solutions without hints are in the back of the workbook, so there’s no separate solutions book).

For just plain deep and sideways math fun (without workbooks) get used copies of Martin Gardner’s Aha! and Gotcha!  They’re even better than Math for Smarty PantsFamily Math is popular for younger kids (we have it but nobody really got into it, but lots of people recommend it).

I don’t have as many recommendations for workbooks outside of math, so I look forward to people’s suggestions.  We are going through Spectrum Writing Grade 7, but that’s more of a remedial thing than acceleration or depth.  We like it.

Online

Just like with Workbooks, you can go accelerated vs. deep/sideways with online programs.

Khan Academy is the easiest way to accelerate (or review!).  It is also a popular way for teachers to deal with kids who get their work done early.  DC1 finished K-8 math in Paradise as a 5th grader (though they have since added some sections).  I would say zie didn’t really master 7th and 8th grade math via Khan Academy, but it did help DC1 skip 6th grade math by passing the relevant exam when zie got back to where we normally live.

Some schools will also have access to a fun (but expensive) program called ST Math that lets kids go sideways or deep on math.   I’m not sure it’s worth buying yourself for $200 for a one-year subscription (though there are discounts available online for home schoolers), but maybe.

Your school may have purchased other online programs that you can access from home– they’re worth checking out.

Less expensive and just as fun (though not as extensive) are Dragon Box products.  We loved Dragon Box Algebra and Dragon Box Geometry (called Elements).  Even DC2 (almost age 5) can do some of the earlier puzzles.  These are well worth the $5-$8 they cost as apps.  (I stayed up late one night finishing up Elements myself– it was pretty addicting.)

Reading

There are lots of great books for kids, fiction and non-fiction.  Kids can also enjoy some books for grownups.

DCs this summer

This summer our 10 year old is doing:

2 weeks regular daycamp (canoeing, archery, etc.), playdates with friends, 1 week game design (got permission even though zie is younger than the limit), 1 week grammar and flow daycamp, 1 week electronics daycamp, 1 week orchestra camp, 2 weeks math daycamp.  Some of these daycamps are half-day only, some are 9:30-3:30, give or take.  Some weeks we signed up for before/after care, some weeks we didn’t.  1 30 min piano lesson each week, 1 30 min violin lesson each week.

Each day:  1 page hard math workbook, 1 page writing workbook, 15 min piano, 30 min violin (it had been 15 min violin, but his violin teacher insisted on upping it), typing (required class for middle school that can be taken over the summer, finished last weekend), Stata (finished the basics last weekend), 1 hour video games (optional), rest of the time is free unless zie is needed for household chores.  On weekends there is unlimited video game time.  Zie has been spending free time reading, creating games, modifying already existing games, playing games, and writing.

Our 4/5 year old is doing:

Preschool, 1 week of children’s museum daycamp (when the preschool was on break), 1 15 min piano lesson each week, 1 30 min swimming lesson each week.

Each day:  5 min piano practicing, on weekends and when zie requests it or is bouncing off the walls 1 page Singapore math and 2 pages Brainquest (1 math, 1 reading or science or social studies) either from the regular book or the summer book.  Zie has been spending free time reading, playing with toys, doing The Magic School Bus science kit with DH, playing games, watching shows on amazon.

I was a bit surprised when I googled “how to keep a gifted kid challenged” how little concrete advice there was in the first couple of pages of results.  The advice that is there seems to be pretty contradictory (praise vs. don’t praise, let them decide vs. remember you’re the grown-up, etc. etc. etc.).  So, grumpy nation, I’m asking you, what concrete recommendations do you have for keeping a gifted kid challenged?  Any specific programs, books, materials?  What did you do as a kid?  What do you do for your kids (if applicable)?

Ask the grumpies: Skipping K?

The frugal ecologist asks:

Our LO is in Montessori but started early so she will do the 3 years before she’d be eligible for K. (3rd year Montessori is K). I’m intrigued about having her skip a grade and start in 1st at 5. What are factors to look for about being ready to skip, any particular grade better to skip or not, etc etc?

You may want to find the Iowa Acceleration Scale.  Here’s Hoagie’s gifted talking about it.  It basically provides questions that will help you think about what’s important in terms of skipping vs. not skipping.  For example, if your family is really really into sports, then skipping isn’t as good an idea as if you’re ok with your kid not being the star athlete at school.  It’s a bit pricey and may not be useful without having taken concurrent IQ tests, so it might be worthwhile just to read up about the general ideas it covers online without actually getting a number.  (But if you want to do testing, that works too!)

It sounds like in your LO’s case, that your child will not actually be skipping K– she will be getting K at Montessori, which is pretty common (something my sister did back in the day!).  So basically you’re asking if she should do K a second time in public school after having done it at Montessori.

I would look into what K is in  your state.  If you’re on the core, then they’re going to expect more than if you’re in a state that doesn’t require K, doesn’t have full-time K, or is in one of the states that refused to go on the core.  For schools on the core, you’ll want to make sure that your LO has mastered the K skillset, which may include reading and simple arithmetic.

IIRC, you’re in a state in which K is mainly for all the kids who didn’t go to preschool to learn how to play nicely with others and reading isn’t really tackled until 1st grade.  (Though your individual school district may vary.  Definitely check the K learning objectives for your district for the year.)  Given that your child went to preschool, I would be very tempted to skip out.  Unless, of course, you’re in a situation like ours in which you want to do the dual-language option and you have to start at K.

This website discusses details and research about acceleration.  One of the things it mentions is that they recommend not skipping the year before starting at a new school.  So if your elementary school is K-4, they recommend not skipping 4th grade.  I’m not sure how big a deal this is in practice, since kids get moved around from schools because of their parents’ jobs all the time.  But maybe it matters in marginal cases.

We chose acceleration for DC1 because zie was bored and starting to act out and hir preschool had run out of materials and was suggesting that the entire next year DC1 would act as a teacher’s aide.  Zie had already mastered all the K skills (except cutting, but zie mastered cutting in the summer before K).  Our private school tested hir and suggested to us doing K and 1st concurrently.  That worked out quite well, though in retrospect, zie probably didn’t need the K at all.

So, I guess I would think about the following:

  • Was the LO in preschool?  If yes, then that aspect of K is unnecessary.  Zie knows how to line up and listen to the teacher etc.
  • Has the LO mastered the skillset that will be taught in K?  This will vary by your LO, the preschool, and the school district.  If not, then there’s less value to skipping K because there’s less chance the LO will be bored in K.
  • All that other stuff on the Iowa Acceleration scale like sports and siblings and so on.

There are a lot of misconceptions people have about grade skipping– there are plenty of reasons not to skip for most kids, but for kids who can skip, the things random “helpful” people will suggest to you are just not real concerns.  So… I would not worry about your LO’s size.  DC1 has skipped two grades and has still not been the smallest kid in hir grade in public school even though zie is of exactly average height.  People also have been pretty nice to hir– hir social experience has been very different than mine was and has been much more like my experience in my single-subject skipped math classes.  I would also not worry about drivers licenses etc.  The trend right now is for kids to put off driving until they’re much older than 16.

In general, it’s easier to start out in 1st and say you’re trying it out and then drop back to K midyear than it is to start out in K and do a mid-year skip up to 1st.

In general, I’m very pro-skipping for kids who have mastered the material prior to the year starting.  For kids who have mastered most, but not all, of the material, it is going to depend on more stuff, like how much they act out when they get bored, how quickly they can pick up what they’ve missed, and so on.

For our kids, we’re still taking it a year at a time.

Update:  Before another person posts about grade skipping being bad based on one anecdote for which they do not know the counterfactual (note:  research suggests that on average, the counterfactual would have been worse!), please read this post here.

Random life updates

Do any of you follow the story threads of our lives and then wonder what happened since we forgot to update?  Here’s some updates:

Little Kitty’s IBS and health:

  • She had idiopathic elevated calcium levels (meaning they don’t know why).  This was the best possible outcome since the other outcomes where they know were all bad.  First she got steroids for two weeks.  Then she got taken off the hydrolized diet and put on a low calcium diet and now her tummy seems to be all better.  No more IBS even when she steals her favorite people food (chicken).  It is mysterious.
  • Once her calcium levels got balanced, she got to have her teeth cleaned.  Unfortunately 7 teeth also had to be pulled.  Also it is insane how even though these costs are expensive, they are waaay less expensive than costs of the same thing in paradise.

DH’s relatives:

  • The one with the abusive baby daddy has moved back home.  She’s not getting along with her dad because he says she frequently does dangerous things when taking care of her son and he tells her not to.  Her step-mom is doing well with chemo and is really enjoying taking care of the baby while her step-daughter works at the Walmart a few towns over.  I have no idea how the menu planning stuff went down or if now that the oldest girl is back she’s taken over some of the responsibilities.
  • The other one who was a teen mom is still living with her two kids with her husband near her biological mom across the country.  She seems to be doing fine.

Kitty saga:

  • I don’t think I ever mentioned this, but my sister ended up taking a second kitten from our back-yard cat saga since we were only allowed to take two cats with us to Paradise.  Her two still love each other and my sister seems to have bonded with them.  Problem:  her new roommate brought a bully cat and boy kitty started peeing on things in protest.  So now her two cats stay in her bedroom suite during the day, mostly sleeping while the bully cat roams the rest of the house.  :(

DC1 at public school:

  • In the end, DC1 transitioned well to public school for 5th grade in Paradise.  I think it was good that it was still an elementary school.
  • Zie seems to be doing fine at middle school for 6th grade so far this year.  Zie has to do some testing to get admitted to the GT pull-out program.   One of hir friends from private school is in orchestra with hir, which helps.  They should both transition from 5th grade orchestra to 6th grade orchestra at the semester.  (DC1 decided against another year of trumpet, which means zie has to have weekly violin lessons to ease the transition since zie is a year behind.  Zie is surprisingly not that awful– much better than my memories of that first year of my sister practicing.)
  • Zie tested into 7th grade advanced math, which is really nice.  This and orchestra are two big advantages over private school.  I do miss having a foreign language though.  DC1 had Spanish as an after school program last year (they also had French, but only for native speakers(!), so we dropped that), but it doesn’t appear that anything like that is available here.
  • The after school program is cheap ($115/mo and goes until 6:30pm) and the bus stop is literally at the corner of our house.  For now we’re doing after school instead of having hir take the bus home so we don’t have to worry about hir being latch-key when DH is out of town for work.  The law in our state is vague… it basically says, you’re ok so long as something bad doesn’t happen, but if something bad happens you made the wrong decision.  If we still had a home phone I’d feel a bit better about a latch-key situation.  If we do go latch-key DC1 will need a cell-phone.

DC2:

  • Returning to the Montessori here has been great.  So great we decided not to start K this year and to leave hir in Montessori another year.  Then we may skip K next year if zie doesn’t get into the dual-language program.  We’re playing it by ear a year at a time.
  • Zie really does miss hir friends, but many of them were heading off to public school anyway (either K or Pre-K), so…  And we’re happy zie is back to more academics and less of the creepy religious stuff.  (Nothing against non-creepy religious stuff, but even though DC1 and DC2 both attended a year of preschool from the same Lutheran branch, DC1’s was not at all creepy and DC2’s was full of not preschool appropriate stories.  Just comparing the children’s bibles they each got was pretty crazy.  Like, it wasn’t our imagination.)  Hir reading and math abilities have skyrocketed since we got back.

I think those are the big things in my online blog persona life.  If anybody cares.

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?

Am I a tiger mom?

Eh, maybe a little.  DH and I push our kids.

We’re not so far up the SES ladder that our kids can rest on their laurels– we both broke into the upper middle class this generation (DH from the rural working class, I’m first-gen on one side and come from a long line of middle-class working women on the other).  And OMG is it nice to be upper-middle class.  The stresses we don’t have that our parents had and that DH’s siblings and cousins still have, I can’t even.  Every day I’m mindful of (and thankful for) this miracle.

We got here from climbing the academic ladder and playing by the rules (and, of course, luck).  From pushing ourselves, and maybe being pushed a little bit too.  Well, not maybe, definitely.  (DH’s siblings, while not upper-middle-class are definitely doing much better than his cousins.) Definitely from being pushed a little bit too.  Our kids will have more freedom and latitude to maybe not play by the rules, but having that academic ladder cleared will certainly help if other ventures don’t work out.

A’s now mean life is easier later.  Challenges now mean that there’s less likely to be complete melt-downs in college.  So we push.  Not to breaking, but occasionally to leaving the comfort zone.  So far the discomfort (often followed by breaks, and then by trying again) has always led to epiphanies and growth, just as it should.

There’s no shame in getting a B, but a B also means that the material hasn’t been mastered.  There’s room for improvement and that’s a target to work on.  So, in that sense, Bs are addressed.  Material is mastered and then some.  Even if it’s not that interesting.  Even if school sometimes has arbitrary rules.

Granted, our kids are truly brilliant, and they’re highly capable of mastering many many challenges.  So it’s easier to have a home with the underlying belief that Bs aren’t good grades.  We have justifiably high expectations.  I have students who, as hard as they try, won’t pull off As in four classes a semester.  But it’s my job to get them to master as much of the material as they can, and it’s their job to try.  If my kids go someplace where they’re truly challenged, then even Cs may be fine as long as they’re still getting where they need to go, but they’re not there yet.

For K-12, A’s are pretty important.  Especially if they’re not going to fancy high schools that colleges know by reputation.  I trust that my kids will work hard and if they don’t get As it won’t be from lack of trying, but I also know that we will work hard to stem any damage by filling in knowledge gaps should a lower grade occur so that it won’t lead to downward spirals down the line.

DH and I have both gotten Bs in our high school and college careers, but not that many.  I think DH even has a C on his college transcript.  And, possibly related, we haven’t always gotten into our top choices for things.  But we keep working and we keep trying.  And that’s the message we want to send to our children.  That’s how we push.

Did you get pushed as a kid?  Do you feel like that affected your adult life?