Thursday, January 06, 2011

The Trouble With the Gift

My three oldest children participate in a gifted program. They are all several years ahead on their reading and ahead in math too. They have enjoyed the additional challenge and depth of projects offered as part of the gifted program. So, in theory, I should have been ready for Annika.

Annika started reading at 22 months. She could read Mama, Daddy, Annika and Baby. She never got them mixed up. So we just kept adding more words. It was hilarious to see her read as a two-year-old. You know when you watch those movies with animals talking and it looks weird because the lips are moving? It was like that. You just couldn't believe what you were seeing.

It would be cool if I could lay some kind of claim to Annika's skills, but I can't. She simply came this way. She is fascinated with academics. At four, she reads on a high 3rd grade/low 4th grade level, she is working her way through first grade math and demands spelling words and writes regularly in a journal. Some of our biggest fits come when I help the older kids with their homework rather than teach her something new because their assignment is due, while Annika's is merely self-imposed.

I've had people suggest that I put Annika up a grade. I haven't really entertained that idea for a few reasons. First, she has a late March birthday which puts her in the younger half of the kids in her own grade. Second, I expect that she would want to play with kids her own age. Third, by being academically so far ahead of her classmates, she would have the advantage of being a leader. Other students begin naturally looking to you for answers. When EVERYONE is older than you (some, a year and a half or more) how do you develop leadership?

So it seems that my mind is made up. Not so. Annika had a recent playdate with a girl in her preschool class. They way they wanted to play and the kinds of things they wanted to play were vastly different. There were times that you could see the wheels turning in Annika's head as she realized that this friend didn't understand what seemed obvious to Annika.

She kindly opted to play along at her friends level, and they had a good time. But I've seen her playing with neices of mine or Wendell, who are 6 or 7 and she plays much more like the older kids. I'm concerned that socially, Annika would benefit of being put ahead a grade, an idea that seemed proposterous to me before.

As Wendell and I consider our options, and there are many, do you have any experience of putting kids up a grade? Or were you bumped up? Did you like it or not? I'd really like to know.


Kari said...

I don't think I was technically bumped ahead, but by today's standards, my husband and I would be in a grade younger then what we graduated in. My husband had no problems a all.

Ironically I went between gifted class and resource. In third grade I ended up in resource over times tables. After training to be a teacher I know why that happened. There are certain switches in the brain. Most people's goes off at similar times. Mine went off at the same time, but because I was so much younger it put me behind for a bit. BUT when it did go off, it went off with a vengeance. I went from the bottom to the top.

I have a daughter whose switches are all delayed (let me tell you how much I hate this) and I spend huge portions of my time trying to catch her up, but I know until the switches go off she will not catch up.

Annika is different, her switches are all going off early. So I would like to suggest that she would probably be just fine academically speaking.

Biggest complaint I had about being younger was driving and dating. And I was a little immature. Please don't agree with me here. lol. I can see it now, but I couldn't then. But I don't know if that was a bad thing. But I didn't turn 16 until my Junior year. My neighbor was a day younger than me and a grade older than us. So we are talking her senior year. It was hard.

I hope this makes sense. It's really hard to know, but most people I know were fine. Starting college at 16-17 isn't too bad. :)

Jenna Wood said...

Driving and dating, even going to stake dances at 14, would all be delayed and are my biggest cause for not wanting to bump her.

With this "switches" thing, it means that the other kids' will get there. If I just hold on a few years, they'll probably all be playing at the same level.

Decisions, decisions...

Kari said...

Okay, so I mentioned this to my husband and he is a counselor. He has a big concern, based on clients, with older kids playing with younger kids. It is one of the primary reasons that "things happen" between kids. Even though mentally she is older, her size is still that of a four year old and older kids are going to be bigger. This can intimidate a smaller child. Another of our daughters is socially more mature than other children her age. And she fights us a lot on this. But when my husband works with sex offenders and sees age as one of the primary similarity factors between clients we have to take is seriously.

By no means do I want to scare you or tell you what to do, but while I don't have a child THAT smart, we have thought about these issues and these are the arguments we've seen. I've decided that gifted kids are just as much work as special ed. kids. There are more services for Special Ed kids actually.

Jenna Wood said...

I have to admit, that I'd never thought about that before. I suspect (although I could be wrong) that little boys are more likely to "act out" sexually than little girls, I hadn't really considered the risks.

But there would also be the issue of maturation programs/sex education all of which she would have at a much younger age.

This conversation has me leaning toward some of our options. At our school, the whole school has literacy at the same time. We could leave her in her regular grade, but bump her up a grade (or two) for the hour, fifteen of literacy time.

It's possible we could also coordinate on a class by class basis for math and she could bump up a grade there as well. (Although this would take a lot more coordination.)

Even with that, she would be able to spend the bulk of her day with her regular class. Hmmm.

Christy said...

I thought that you should know that the little one she played with the other day is very immature for her age. Both of the little girls in the family are very socially and emotionally behind for their age. Our number 3 has a very hard time playing with their oldest because of this issue. So, I wouldn't base too much on the one play date with this particular family. We have the same problem. I am so eternally grateful that we didn't bump our oldest. She is a natural leader and the grade just ahead of her has some unique problems that I am grateful that we did not put her ahead. The girls in that grade are so naughty and we didn't even really see that until her 5th grade year. She is excited that she gets to be the first in her grade to go to dances, date and drive. Our biggest reason was really YW's. I have seen so many problems with being in a different grade than the rest of the girls in the YW's class. Teenage girls can be cruel. I would agree to supplement at home, join clubs or gifted programs and slug through elementary school. There are so many more options in jr. high and high school were the age in class isn't as big of an issue. There's my two cents from someone older and wiser (ha, ha!)

Unknown said...

Is she big/small for her age? If she could pass for a child a year older, than I would seriously consider bumping her up a grade. I'd be more hesitant if she's petite.

My neice skipped first grade. She was just more suited for second grade in all areas. She has thrived. Not only was she bored academically, but she is very mature for her age (emotionally, socially, and physically.) She is 14 and can easily pass for 16. Easily.

With what you've said about Annika, I can't imagine her in a kindergarten class. She sounds like she'd handle first grade well.