Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Doing Right By Jena

There have  been so many times that I've wanted to write this post, but have stopped. Why? Because it feels like a taboo topic to me.

It feels like if I write about it, my concerns, our struggles as parents to guide Jena in this area, that I will offend someone, just for sharing this part of our journey.

I've read other blogs & message boards where just sharing your child's current progress, or even your struggles, in this are, is viewed as "bragging", when the other moms were really just trying to share what's going on in their lives.

And that's it, isn't it? The fact is that it is part of our life, part of our journey. The older Jena gets, the more frequently this topic dominates mine & Jason's conversations about how to parent Jena, how to progress, what the next step is.

The older she gets, the more worried I am that we will fail her somehow in this area, that we will make the wrong decision, that we will hold her back instead of guiding her forward.

And so I've decided to share this part of our parenting journey, because it's there, staring me in the face on a near-daily basis. And hopefully my dear readers will get that I'm not bragging, I'm worried. That Jason & I are doing our best to do right by our child, and this is just one part of that effort.

So, here goes.

My daughter is smart.

Seriously. She is incrediblyintelligent. Freakin' crazy over-the-moon smart.

So smart we don't know what to do with it.

Her preschool utilizes DECA assessments to rate how they are progressing. While in motor skills & social development she has solidly maintained scores at her age level or slightly below, in academic areas she regularly tests at years above her age.

Years. Plural.

Her school is finishing up the latest round of assessments, so we should know her most recent progress in the next few weeks.

Last year (at age 3 1/2) her preschool teachers contended that she was 90% ready for Kindergarten. The 10% that she needed to develop being her social skills.

She will start Kindergarten thiscoming Autumn, two months shy of her 5th birthday, at her preschool. This is technically starting her early. Here in Kentucky she misses the deadline by less than 10 days (ie. she "should" wait another year to start Kindergarten). But we are blessed in that her incredible, private, Montessori preschool continues thru Kindergarten and will progress her based on her abilities, not an arbitrary number.

When it comes to looking ahead to the days she will enter the traditional public school system (as that is still currently the plan), Jason & I have seriously discussed things like:
    - skipping a(nother) grade,
    - the school's gifted program,
    - supplementing her instruction with homeschool activities, and yes, even
    - pulling her out altogether and homeschooling her.

I don't know how to navigate this area. I feel woefully unable to make the "right" decision. What do you do, what decisions do you make when your child appears to be progressing years ahead of her peers academically, but lags behind them socially? How do you continue to encourage her intellectual development without pushing her into social situations that she's not ready to handle?

I don't have the answers. I so wish I did. Some times I think maybe this is one of those areas in which there is no "right" answer, that whatever we decide will have it's good points and it's struggles, and she'll just turn out fine in the end no matter what we do.

But as a parent, no matter what the topic, that's not always a strong comfort. Because we all want to do what is best for our child, we want to make the right decisions, give our children the best opportunities to succeed in this little game we call Life. We all stress and worry and contemplate outcomes for one thing or another.

Well, right now, this is our thing.

So that's where we are in a nutshell. As always, thanks for checking in.


Tracy Anne said...

I don't have any experience, I just wanted to say you're doing a great job! It's hard enough to parent when you're constantly second guessing yourself. We don't need others judging us as parents too. Big hugs! Your worry proves you will do what's best for your daughter. I have no doubt!

Steph{anie} said...

How dare you for "bragging" about your child's exceptional abilities ;)

Seriously, this is a really tough issue; you want to give her all the opportunities she needs to excel and thrive. And, not that it really matters what I think, but I think you are doing a fabulous job.

S said...

My sons are only 15 months old, so I am not yet at the point of having to worry about such things for them. . . but I did want to share my insights and my own experience as a child who was "gifted" and skipped a grade in school and whose sister did as well.

It really is a difficult balance to make sure that your child is academically challenged while at the same time not placed at a social disadvantage by being with children older than her. I will say that, at least for me, I didn't find the age difference (of anywhere from 1 to 3 years) between my peers and me to be that big a deal when I was in elementary school, but I *did* find it to be a bigger deal in junior high and high school. (One small example: everyone else was able to get a driver's license 1-3 years before me. Not an insignificant thing when you live in a small town where everyone drives.)

In an ideal world, my sister and I would've grown up in a bigger city that had magnet schools for the gifted, or at the least, a robust enrichment program to supplement our regular curriculum. Sadly, we grew up in a small town, in a mostly rural state, and neither option was available to us.

This comment has already gotten way too long, so I'll stop and just say that I'd be happy to chat about this with you over email if you want to read more of my thoughts on the topic. ;-)

Unknown said...

My stepson was "gifted" intellectually, but socially awkward. He also went to a Montosorri school. Home schooling her will not help her socially awkwardness. In the end, she will be fine, I'm sure.

Unknown said...

I forgot to tell you I was just stopping by from SITS. Hope you can return the visit!

'Yellow Rose' Jasmine said...

You are only seeking what all parents would do best to seek: the right fit for your child as she learns in her own way. Above all, do whatever feels right to you and yes, it WILL all work out.
However, as one who grew up in our local gifted program in the public schools I can clearly see now that something outside the public schools would have certainly been better for me. Also, the option of skipping grades was avoided in our programs and having met others who did this I can say that many struggle when they get to the outer ages and higher levels with social issues.
You will find that there are many things that your child can do that are amazing and other things that seem so easy that she doesn't seem to master. The gifted ones often have strange learning patterns. Do not be alarmed.
There are many good books on the subject of gifted kids and I might start there.

violajack said...

I was a "gifted" child who was told I was "a smart kid" - Please read this

The biggest thing I learned from teaching violin/viola to several kids who fall in the range of advanced to prodigy (I taught pieces I learned in high school to an 8 year old and had another than I had to ship off to the conservatory because I could barely keep up with him at 9.)is that whatever they're doing is their normal. It's not normal to have an 8 year old playing Kreutzer etudes while working on three octave scales and double stops, but that was the next thing to learn so we learned it. I never told her it was hard or super advanced, I just showed her what to do and she did it.

If Jena does amazing things, praise her for accomplishing the task (without personal value judgements) then make the next task just a little bit harder.

Also, formal schooling (public or private) will not fix social issues. I speak from experience. I wish I had been homeschooled.

Michelle said...

Its a tough dilemma to be in. We want to do the best for our kids, make sure they are challenged and at the same time make sure they are fine socially as well. If your school has gifted programs at the younger ages, that's certainly helpful. Where we are, there is a very limited gifted program (which my daughter is in) but she is not particularly challenged in her regular classes. However next year she starts high school and has signed up for all honors and AP courses. I have no doubt in mind she will get the challenges she needs. There simply is no easy answer, but you need to go with your "gut"'s usually right! Good luck!

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