Friday, August 31, 2012

The Problem with being Smart

HB started recognizing capital letters before the age of 2.  At the time I thought "this is so great.  He's so smart!"  And now at the age of 2.5 he can recognize not only capital letters but lower case letters (and match them), numbers up to 10, shapes, colors, some of the phonetic sounds of letters, and the first letters of words.  His favorite book is Eric Carle's The Very Lonely Firefly because he can recognize that "firefly" begins with "f" and what sound it makes.  I've recently started pointing out that the book has a lot of other words in it that also begin with "f" like "flashlight" and "flew."

Despite having a hard time understanding what he says (and when you do it's pretty cool what he knows), his teacher figured out over the summer that he has a special love of letters.  She came up to me amazed that he was able to recognize the capital and lower case letters and told me that she was trying to get him to tell her which was which (but he's 2 after all).

HB is not a savant.  He's not even a genius.  There are preschool aged children who have been inducted into Mensa because they are reading at first grade level.  HB is a normal bright child who tells me that there's a Blue's Clue on the door of his closet (it's a brown smudge).  What he's learning is not abnormal for his age.  He's learning what interests him.

He gets this interest in letters honestly.  The gentleman he's named after, my grandfather, when I was in grade school bought a set of encyclopedias with a dictionary and thesaurus.  He read the entire thing.  My father tells me that he was always reading.  Always.  HB's parents also are book worms.  It also doesn't hurt that we have a small children's book library which I keep in rotation and that for a long time I used to take him to the library for baby story time.

But now that he's 2.5, I'm afraid.  Strange, yes?  I keep seeing that his interest in letters will lead to one of two things:  1)interest in something else or 2) that we will have to keep him from tearing up my house by continuing to up the anti.  What I foresee is having a 4 year old who can read.

What's the big deal?  Although it's doubtful we'll be living here when he's four, my state has strict policies with kindergarten.  He can't skip it.  If his birthday landed before the start of school and he was five, he could start school at age five.  If his birthday landed before the end of December, he could also take a test at age 4.5 to enter kindergarten early.  But HB's birthday is January.  The end of January.  So he can't start kindergarten, at least here in a public school, until he's 5.5.

We started HB in a program (through my mother's help) at age 2.5.  Okay 2.7.  It's not an academic pushing program.  They are through the psychology department.  They teach the children social skills and how to show things like empathy since those are the biggest indicators of academic success.  The other component of their school is that they are there to teach the college students.  Some sit and observe.  Others are in the classroom with the children.  The ratios are extremely high.  HB has always got an adult buddy sort of hanging around to help direct him.  It's a good fit for us.

Right now his classroom is supposed to be for  children ages 2.6 to 3.6 years.  But because the 3's class (which is 3.6-3.11) is small, they added some older children.  There's also a girl whose only 2.4 who was placed in his class because she had already "graduated" through the parent/toddler class.

They get that children come at all different speeds.

The public school system doesn't.

So my fear is what to do if he's unchallenged.  Because an unchallenged child will find other less constructive ways to challenge themselves if not channeled in the right direction.

Hubby and I have talked about this extensively.  My pensiveness over dumb teachers.  My concerns about his lack of ability to sit still (which as I've said has nothing to do with just how smart or quick he picks up on things).  My biggest concern is that being in a traditional public school will hamper his potential because some of his classmates will start kindergarten not recognizing letters at all.  And they teach to the middle, the average students, in the classroom.

We do have some alternatives.  In this state at least, they will let him skip first grade regardless of age.  They just make everyone start kindergarten.  I can contact a parochial or alternative or charter school and see if anyone is willing to test him regardless of when exactly his birthday falls to enter kindergarten early (if it proves of course that he has mastered preschool level instruction).  The other alternative is to home school him for kindergarten/1st grade and then request that the public school test him for second grade (again if he's mastered kindergarten/1st grade concepts and if the public school proves that its a good school).

I'm not too crazy about home school for kindergarten.  Knee is two years younger than HB so he'll be 2.5 when HB is 4.5.  In other words, Knee will be starting preschool here at home like HB is doing now.  I know parents teach two different grade levels just fine, but it really all depends on Knee's disposition.  Can he handle being left with an activity while I supervise HB?  Or will I have to teach HB the day's lessons in the 2 hour nap time Knee may or may not be taking?

I know I'm probably being a little crazy about thinking of what the future holds 2 years from now.  For all I know, HB may develop an interest in frogs and so we spent a lot of time doing science instead of reading.  But it bothers me....

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