Saturday, January 12, 2013

Talented and Gifted?

Jacob and Matthew both have been described as very bright. Jacob's teacher described him as "having a very neat brain" and wanted me to know how "cool" she thought his brain was. Of course, I think every part of him is "cool" so I can't disagree. I have always encouraged my children academically but never really needed to work hard at it.

Jacob has always been in the highest reading group but he has also had to work at reading and is usually number 2 or 3 in his class for reading level. He is always in the top tier for math and math comes easily to him. His kindergarten teacher first commented that everything she presents to him he masters immediately and she was impressed with his abilities. His ability wasn't really an issue in kindergarten though since math was a fairly small part of the day and they focused mainly on counting.

Jacob was complaining that school was too easy earlier this year and I asked his teacher to look into challenging him more. She agreed to try to challenge him a little more and stated they had just finished evaluating the kids and would start to work with them more. She said she was still having him use the same workbook as the rest of the class but was working with him and two other students on harder material also. Then a little over a month ago, Jacob began telling me about the new math book he has at school. He stated only he and two other students have these books and they work independently in them. I told him I wanted to see the book because I was curious about what he was working on. I enjoy seeing the kids' work but since Jacob's work was mostly in his workbook at school, I didn't get to see his work at home.

Last week I had the opportunity to stop in his classroom and see his math book. He normally completes 3-5 worksheets a day in it although some days he is a little more challenged and only completes 2 or 3 pages during their math time. I decided I should see exactly what he was working on since the sheets he brings home are the sheets the other students are working on and he finishes them in less than a minute most days.

I asked his teacher to see his math book and she immediately stated, "You can see it but I know what you are going to say. It is obviously too easy. I spoke to the district and they want him to finish this book before they consider other options." I wasn't sure what that meant and assumed this was a district policy regarding harder work. I was complaining to a co-worker about this "policy" and that Jacob tests at a 3rd grade math level so why isn't he doing at least 2nd grade work in the classroom. She suggested I look into talented and gifted services. I had briefly thought about it but hadn't really done much research into the district's TAG program or our options if he continues to struggle with being challenged.

I started looking up the district's policies for talented and gifted services (TAG) and actually feel much better about Jacob's education now. Apparently being given the separate math book is the first level of TAG services (general curriculum changes given by the teacher). If the child does not appear to be challenged adequately with the advanced material, the teacher or parent can then request guidance from the district TAG coordinator and possibly refer for additional services outside of the classroom. This appears to be where Jacob's teacher is at. She stated she has talked to the district a couple of times about Jacob so I am assuming she is talking to the TAG coordinator. It makes sense that the district would want to wait until Jacob works through the "advanced" book before seeking additional services to challenge him. Especially since he is in 1st grade and most of the testing doesn't start until 3rd grade. I am relieved his teacher is starting the dialogue with the district and that they are considering whether or not he is getting his needs met through the normal curriculum despite only being in 1st grade. I don't want his first 3 years of education to be wasted.

I am not sure how I feel about additional services. I know Jacob is not challenged as much as he could be. He loves doing more challenging work at home and asks me to buy him math books at the book store that are for higher grade levels. I want him to be challenged and have his needs met. I don't want him to be bored or the teacher frustrated because she is having trouble challenging him (which I get the feeling is happening at times now) . I also don't know how I feel about him being given different work outside of the classroom and possibly stigmatizing him. It's a lot to think about and if he continues to excel at this speed it is one the district and I may consider in the near future.

I never knew having children who excel could be almost as stressful as having children who struggle. I will take the stress though and continue to research and advocate. After all, I could have much worse problems.

Desired Teachers

I am like most parents and have teachers I secretly hope my child will get. There is a teacher at Matthew's school who really seems to click with him. She goes out of her way to say hi to him at school and in the community. His face lights up when he sees her and they both seem to enjoy being around each other. She even said today that she would like to be his teacher next year.

Now the only problem is that Matthew doesn't know this teachers name. I may have to do some research so that I can figure out who she is. I don't normally request teachers but I may have to make an exception despite the school district policy. Matthew needs a teacher he respects who also likes him and finds enjoyment in his antics.

I won't know who his teacher will be until next August but I would love for it to be this wonderful woman who really seems to enjoy being around him.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Where Does She Get Her Money?

Jacob seems to be growing up way too quickly lately (well both of my kids if I want to be honest). Jacob came up to me last night and we had the following conversation.

Jacob: Where does Grandma get her money?
Me: What do you mean?
Jacob: She doesn't work anymore (she retired 2 years ago).
Me: She saved money for retirement and Grandpa has what is called a pension. It's money he is paid by his old boss after he retires.
Jacob: So they just pay him without him working???
Me: Yes. It's less than when he was working but they do continue to pay him every month.
Jacob: Are they going to pay you when you retire?
Me: I have a retirement pension and I also have been saving for retirement.

I'm not sure how much Jacob really understands but then I'm not sure how much I completely understand about pensions either. At least he knows that Grandma and Grandpa aren't stealing their money.

All In His Head

I know my children are intelligent. I have no question about that. Or at least they are both as intelligent as most other children. I see it every day when I practice reading or work on flash cards with them. Yet sometimes I wonder what that really means.

Matthew's latest line is that he can do things in his head only. I am amazed at what he can do in his head only but not out loud for anyone else. Here are some examples:

-Matthew has some beginning reader books at school. When asked if he can read the words (they are in Spanish and he is still learning the language), he stated "only in my head." I asked if he reads them to his teacher and he stated "No. I can't read them out loud. Only in my head."

-Matthew checked out an adult level Star Wars novel from his school library. When asked why he chose that book he stated, "So I can read it." I explained that it was a little too long for me to read it to him in a week. He stated, "No. I can read it to myself." I asked him to show me and he stated, "I can only do it in my head."

-Matthew is convinced he swims well enough to join swim team. I asked him to show me that he can swim the length of the pool. He stated, "I can only do it in my head." I told him he will need to be able to show me outside of his head and in the pool before he can join the team.

Matthew is a smart kid and reading will come to him. He is in a dual language program where they teach literacy in Spanish. Since Matthew is just beginning to learn Spanish, he doesn't always know what the word he is reading means so picture clues don't really work. He can read many of the words for objects he knows such as colors, numbers and a few items he uses every day. The rest will come as his Spanish improves. He does understand a lot more Spanish than I thought he would at this time. I speak Spanish to him occasionally at home and he seems to understand a lot of what I say. The reading will come. The experts state the children should be caught up by the end of 3rd grade and most are advanced in reading by the end of 5th grade with the goal that the children will be fluent in English and Spanish by the end of 5th grade. Matthew is in kindergarten so we have a few years to wait to see what happens. Of course, I will continue to work with him over the next few years and he has an amazing teacher who will also continue to work with him.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dedication or Too Much?

I was at the Y today for open swim with the kids. We love to go to open swim and make it almost every week for at least an hour. This time is just for fun. I want the kids to be able to just play and figure they are improving their swimming skills just by chasing each other through the water and experimenting with different ways they can move themselves. I try to leave the coaching/teaching for practices and lessons.

Today I saw a mom with her two children at the pool. They came in with their fins and kickboards. The mom asked the lifeguard if the kids could swim laps and then gave the children instructions for what to swim. She sat on the side and occasionally came over and gave them additional instructions. I have seen these children and this mom at swim meets but have no idea how well the kids swim. To be honest, I don't really pay attention to the kids in the pool unless it is someone I know. I don't even know what team these kids swim for and it may be the same team Jacob is on. It doesn't matter.

My concern with what I saw was whether or not the children wanted to swim laps. Did they have the choice? I don't know. It's possible they were having fun and wanted mom to run her own practice. Jacob will sometimes choose to swim laps during open swim and really enjoys racing me in the pool when I have someone who can hang out with Matthew in the shallow end while we race. The difference is that I don't tell him what to swim or how far. I believe that should be left to the coaches at practice (which is later today so really no reason to make him practice twice in a day).

Again, I have no idea what this mom and kids were doing other than swimming laps. I definitely don't want to say that what they were doing is wrong since it may be what they all wanted to do. I just have seen too many parents who put too much pressure on their kids to excel at sports and it stops becoming fun. Children need encouragement and lots of time to practice their new skills but it should be in a fun manner. Especially outside of practice and team functions.

So if you see the kids with me at the pool, don't expect to see me telling them how many yards to swim or what strokes. Other than giving little reminders or enforcing safety rules, you won't see them "practicing." You will see them playing tag, racing each other or me and just having fun. There is plenty of time for working hard later.