Is your kid smart? My kid is very smart. Sorry, not sorry. PROUD. So why do I feel guilty saying it?
People brag about their kids constantly. Essentially every post on social media can be construed as a form of boasting: ‘Watch my kid swim across the pool, ride without training wheels, score a goal, place in a gymnastics meet or beauty contest. Check out this awesome piece of artwork she did. Look what a great big brother he is. Check out this DIY project. Look where we went on vacation. Or simply, see how cute my kids are in this picture.’
However, for some reason talking about your child’s academic intelligence is more taboo.
My son started kindergarten this year, and I keep seeing posts in my newsfeed bashing kindergarten for moving too quickly and expecting too much of our children at such a young age. Posts about how detrimental it can be to force kids to read too early. Research supporting the importance of play. As a certified teacher with a M.Ed, I agree: this is true for SOME kids.
But what about the kids who are ready? What about those who, like my son, taught themselves to read by watching a few episodes of The Letter Factory and Super Why? The ones who tend to absorb knowledge faster than you can spew it?
I have never forced learning on my son. He plays all day long — he just happens to absorb and process things at a different level. At age three, when his friends were grappling with 25 piece puzzles, he was doing 300. He started kindergarten reading at a fourth grade level because he keeps himself up for hours at night reading books and carries them with him wherever we go. He builds complex Lego constructions. Just the other day, with no prior discussion or research he said “Mom, I’m not sure if Pluto is really a planet.” He is just smart. That’s how his mind works, where his interests lie. (Give him a pencil and some crayons and he will begrudgingly draw something that only Miro fans would consider a masterpiece.)
When he found a caterpillar on one of the plants in the garden and was keenly observing it wondering if it would turn into a butterfly, was I supposed to withhold teaching him about the life cycle because it isn’t in the public school curriculum until third grade? I am certainly not going to hold him back or detract from his motivation so that others can catch up. Just like a coach isn’t going to stop a player from hitting a home-run simply because some of his teammates are still learning to hit the ball at all.
It makes me sad that we live in a society where I’m embarrassed to say these things out loud out of fear of touching upon someone else’s insecurities.
I feel like it makes other people uncomfortable if their kid isn’t reading yet, much like some parents get anxious if other kids walk before theirs. Some kids draw and color far better than mine. Some are better at sports. Some excel at music. THEY ARE ALL UNIQUE AND HAVE THEIR OWN TALENTS. We should celebrate them, whatever they are. Every individual has their own strengths and is smart in their own way.
In reality, our children spend the majority of their days in school, TO LEARN. We WANT them to learn, and grow and develop a lifelong love of learning. This is such an influential time in their lives. They are eager, excited, and complete sponges. This is the time to light the flame for a love of learning, to instill confidence in their abilities, and to help them develop lifelong habits. If you lose them now, it will be much harder to get them back later on.
Just the other day, my son randomly quoted this from his favorite Calvin and Hobbes comic book: “The secret to having fun in life is to make your own challenges.” Once I picked my jaw up off the floor I realized he stumbled upon exactly what I’m always trying to say!