Tuesday, October 20, 2009

another entry in the "this is going to come up in therapy" bad parenting files

So I've had a problem for a couple of years, which is that my Iris uber Alles, currently in the fourth grade, is scarily advanced academically and bored and underchallenged most of the time by her schoolwork. When Lola began school, she was also ahead of grade level, to the point where it seemed ludicrous. Last year when I went by the kindergarten, I would see some perfectly written, perfectly spelled, punctuated paper hanging up amongst all the regular kindergarten work. Amidst all the "i lov mi dg" sort of things, there would be something by Lola, saying "I wish everyone was a vegetarian" or "I would not like 100 Irises."

It is so tedious when parents of smart kids go on and on about how smart their children are, and I'll spare you. I hate hearing that kind of self-serving bragging, too. But the children's lack of challenges and boredom at their elite private school (I learned today that one of the gubernatorial candidates sends her child to this school) is currently my top problem as a parent. Iris has lost her natural curiosity and love for mathematics; Lola is upset with the sight words she is supposed to be learning (this is a child whose sight words include "crescent" and "vegan", and she's being sent home flashcards with "the" and "to" on them).

Iris's teachers do try to give her extra challenges, but there is so much they can individuate the work for a particular child. Each child in the classroom has parents who are paying top dollar for that child to get special attention, and there is so much a teacher can do for Iris (even when, as last year, she really was the teachers' special darling) as she needs to also be meeting the needs of all the other people's little angels.

As part of my dealing with this situation, I went down to tour a school for the gifted down the peninsula. Many people thought I was insane for even looking at this school, and I had a lot of qualms. I had met some parents from this school before who were pretty hellish, and I hated the idea of labeling my children as "gifted." I'd done some research on gifted children, and it seems pretty clear putting that label on them can have some terrible consequences later in life. I was disarmed when I said this to the admissions director, who told me that she'd had some issues with the label as well. And then I toured the middle school, and I fell madly in love. In one room, they were studying the Holocaust. In the next, Japanese. In another room, they were studying chocolate, and this struck me as the most fascinating. The children were looking at the packaging and asking, "What is the company trying to tell us with this wrapper?" They were looking at the history, geography, and agriculture behind the chocolate. They were considering the social justice aspect: they remarked to the touring parents that the cacao bean pickers were horribly underpaid but that some chocolate growers are now paying a fair wage. It wasn't just the workers' point of view that concerned them, though; they had also watched a videotape of an entrepreneur explaining how difficult it is to start a chocolate company. And finally, they were eating a lot of chocolate. I was enthralled. Also, the parent volunteers accompanying the tour were all delightfully normal and friendly. I felt besotted with the school.

Of course this school is significantly more expensive than the children's current school, and of course I am determined to apply for them. And here we enter the annals of crappy parenting: this school screens its applicants with an IQ test. Children must have an IQ of at least 130 to be considered for admission. I have signed my children up for IQ testing next month. My nightmare is that one tests over 130 and one falls short (I shared that fear with my friend Joyce, who told me how funny it was that she and her brother had exactly the same IQ, so coincidental!, and then she realized that obviously her mother must have been lying about that to spare one's feelings and to diminish sibling rivalry. Joyce resolved on the spot, laughing, to call her mother about the IQs).

What if one of them has a bad day? I don't think I myself would score 130 or better. It seems ridiculous to have a big decision riding upon the outcome of a two hour test (I note that scoring 130+ only gets them the right to complete the application process; it is no guarantee of a space in the school). I feel very queasy about this whole IQ test thing, but yet I have signed them up for it, and they are eager to go. I would have just called it "meeting with a teacher" or something, but the Sober Husband, believing in full disclosure, spelled it all out in vivid detail. "And if you fail, that means for the rest of your life.." he launched merrily, and I cut him off sharply before he could finish his thought. "Don't talk to them that way!"

Many a person has suggested to me that I solve my problem by home schooling, but that is no solution, in my opinion. If I were to home school those children, they would major in computer games and minor in sibling rivalry. Also, they have friends and really enjoy spending time with other children out of the home. I just need them to get more challenging work and try not to create too long a list of Things They Will Need To Discuss In Therapy.

23 comments:

hughman said...

130 seems pretty high for a child! i say that cause mines only 141. i skipped two grades in school and graduated from high school at 15 and look how i turned out! so yeah, don't do that.

Claire M. Johnson said...

This seems like one of those damned if you do, damned if you don't scenarios. I would ask myself: do you see your kids becoming an object of scorn among their peers because they are just so damn smart? I have a friend whose kid had a handful of learning disabilities, and she told me that aside from actually getting real help that her school district couldn't provide, the biggest advantage to pulling her kid out of a mainstream school was the fact that her daughter was with her peers. She wasn't failing. She wasn't the object of whispered scorn. She realized that there were other kids like her that were smart, but couldn't read. So I don't see why the flip side wouldn't be true. Because children have a perfect pitch for cruelty, I can imagine as your kids progress through the grades that there might be serious backlash. Or not. But maybe a school where all the other kids have a similar "handicap" might be the place.

Amy said...

Oh for crying out loud. You would definitely test to over 130 because I've always managed to do it and you're measurably smarter than me. I've little doubt that so will both of the girls. But if you're worried about it, test both of them at home so you'll know. If both pass, you needn't worry.

Also, the girls' youth will assist with their scoring, as IQ was designed as a ratio of mental/physical age. I tested as 165 in childhood, because my reading (& etc.) skills were that of a much older child. That's nowhere near the score I get as an adult, because I'm not actually that smart, I just developed early.

Joyce said...

you guys ARE the simpsons. I can't figure out which is Bart or Lisa though. Ray Charles is Maggie. Anton is definitely Homer.

Joyce said...

HA HA HA Amy, same here, I tested all high as a child just because I was precocious. Now as an adult I'm just barely above average. hee.

Anette Moore said...

Amy, I've only taken online IQ tests, and I always get a crappyish score of about 120 or so or lower. This irks me because I feel smarter than that and that is not a high enough IQ score supposedly to go to law school. Weirdly I test very well on other standardized tests, but I don't do that great on IQ ones. On the PSAT I was in the top 99.98th percentile and on the LSAT I got a perfect score, 99.99th percentile. I did pretty great on the SATs also (don't remember the numbers or percentiles -- was much better on the Eng. side than the math side). I never had my IQ tested as a child.

I think the iq tests really bug me because I actually really do have brain damage (from all this meningitis and also from a couple of head injuries, one which caused nerve damage & led to physical therapy). Maybe when I got into law school I was smarter and I've become stupider over the years, with all the meningitis murdering brain cells. In any event, the children really are smarter than me anyhow. Also, I think you are probably smarter than me. You seem very smart to me, so I would expect you to score higher than me on an IQ test. I suspect there is just something about the LSAT which was just right for me and how I think, and that is why I was so good at that one.

Joyce, the husband is so much a weird Homer/Prof. Frink blend. If you gene spliced those two characters, you'd have him. Me, I relate to Mrs. Krabapple and Moe Szslak, ha. Also the hetero sister of Marge...

hughman said...

who is anette moore?

the Drunken Housewife said...

It's Iris. She uses every computer in the house, and if I'm not careful, I post as her.

hughman said...

she sure has a lot of blogs!

pie_ho said...

My mom wouldn't tell me what my IQ was, but it was tested for my public school's version of GATE, so I know it had to be higher than 135. I am certainly stupider now than I was then, tho. Brain lesions? Whippets? Kidlets? Who knows....

You have the option of declining to tell them the numbers, or whose is higher. You can just tell them that their numbers verify that they are very smart kids, but it's up to them to work and learn to use their intelligence.

Does Iris play a musical instrument, or study a foreign language? (Lucy, too.) When I was acting out from boredom around her age, my mom signed me up for piano lessons. Music and language are fantastic time-consumers and brain-developers.

I'm having a terrible time with the Q's public school. It all seems to be readers and worksheets, when I would love to see some experiential learning like you described at the gifted school. (I'm also having a terrible time because the Q is extremely bright, but extremely erratic in her willingness/ability to do any work without constant supervision - we're having her worked up as a possible Aspie girl.)

Anette Moore said...

Okay, there is not a chance in hell that I wouldn't know my IQ more than a week after the test, even if Momdude didn't tell me. Also, IQs are designed so that they're supposed to stay the same all your life, and that alone proves how faulty they are. pie_ho, I took spanish when I was five, I took piano for a little while, and now I speak bits of various languages. Like I know how to say "I accuse you" in french.

pie_ho said...

lol, Anette! Great to see your actual voice when I was expecting that of "Momdude". Also good to see that you are very clear on the inherent bogosity of IQ tests.

So piano didn't float your boat? Choisi un autre! (sorry, somehow that doesn't feel like accurate francais, mais tu comprends)

And my next challenge to you: learn Japanese or Chinese, and see if learning thousands of characters is enough fun for your "brain the size of a small planet" (and figure out what I'm quoting). Gambate!

the Drunken Housewife said...

That child is so disrespectful, isn't she? She's had piano, writing classes, art classes, etc... on the side... now she's joining the girl scouts plus doing a jewelrymaking class. Iris also writes fiction on her own time, fiction I am not allowed to read, as well as doing pleasure reading. Part of why she wants to go to the gifted school is that they teach Japanese there; at her current school, the choices are Mandarin, French, or Spanish.

pie_ho said...

I'm used to disrespect from smart little pukes (sorry, that's a Daddyism from my own disrespectful youth).

Mandarin is probably more useful, frankly - and more difficult for someone used to inflected language. But I love Japanese.

Quirin has been taking guitar, which would be great if she wanted to practice. I could see Iris jamming hard....

Silliyak said...

Is IUA "joining" the girl scouts or planning a coup de tat?

the Drunken Housewife said...

I asked her, and she didn't give me a straight response.

The Japanese interest is due to an interest in the culture of Japan, especially personified in the cat named Maru (run a search for that cat on Youtube). Iris uber Alles likes Japanese fashion, answering the phone "mushi mushi", and Maru, and it all adds up to wanting to go there and learn the language.

Pie-ho, this gifted school is near SFO if you wanna check it out for the Q...

pie_ho said...

Kawaii neko-chan! (cute little kitty)

Actually, the Japanese answer the phone "moshi moshi".

Our budget does not extend at all to private school. :( Even if we got complete financial aid, the idea of being surrounded by the affluent terrifies me. And the idea of getting the Q up for a long commute, sheesh! (Ray works nights anyway, so they couldn't commute together.) I do love the sound of their curriculum, tho, and wonder what I could find closer to home (other than homeschooling) to replicate it. Sigh. All the extracurriculars and enrichment activities are great, but the kid spends so much time in school, she needs some play time. That's why I'd like the school time to be more stimulating than readers and worksheets.

Denise said...

Quite a comical dialogue! As a parent, I think it is extremely important to make sure our children are challenged in school.

Lola seems very advanced for her age. If she enjoys playing board games, she may benefit from our game called Erudition.

This award winning game helps children learn to read, spell and understand the most common words in the English language while playing an entertaining board game.

For additional information, please visit our website at www.sightwordsgame.com .

stumbledhere said...

I just stumbled upon your blog this week when I was looking up ways to create my hair for my Halloween costume (Medusa--appreciated the tips, by the way).

This topic was particularly interesting for me to read and I felt compelled to comment. I have a post-graduate degree and work in academia and yet I've never considered myself particularly gifted. I was tested as a child and my mother refused to provide me with the results saying she just wanted me to do my best and that she didn't want to label me. To this day I do not know my IQ. We moved a lot growing up and I tested into gifted programs at several schools and all were very different and were highly positive experiences. Again though, given that I had those experiences, I never felt singled out or smarter than anyone else and I actually have to sometimes remind myself that I was in a "different" class (because I still just consider myself of average intelligence but of superior motivation and work ethic). If given the opportunity, I would likely pursue those kinds of experiences for my children.

p.s. We also did a module on chocolate in my 5th grade class. It was one of the most fun and educational things I've had in school to this day!

Heather said...

I grew up in schools specializing in gifted education, and I can tell you that your children might still need some outside stimulation. The other children, while intelligent, may not have the social awareness that it seems yours do. I also suggest checking out your local mensa chapter's gifted childrens programs. FYI - 130 is really not THAT high. I'm sure they'll get well above that.

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