Friday, November 19, 2010


When i was a kid starting out in school, advanced was a word i heard often. My teachers would say to my mom, "Courtney is really advanced for her age", or "Have you ever thought of advancing her a grade".

When i started Kindergarten, having never attended a preschool, i already knew how to read and do basic math. I could write my name as well as other small words and sentences. Back then (20 years ago) that would have qualified me to go straight to the first grade completely skipping kindergarten.

My Mom refused to advance me. She felt that it was important for me to have that kindergarten year to become accustomed with how school worked since i had never attended a preschool. In other words she wanted me to be socially smart as well as intelligent smart.

I had my problems in kindergarten. I got bored a lot since i already knew a lot of what the other kids were just learning. I was given special assignments to help keep my attention. I was aloud to go to the library and read if they were doing something that i already had mastered. It made me feel a little separate from the other kids, but over all i can not complain about my kindergarten experience.

I had the best kindergarten teacher in the world (and still hold her as my favorite teacher to this day). And the school dealt with me in what i would call a perfect way. They did what they could to help me excel and gave me things to do that both helped my education and my social abilities.

Now 20 years later i am facing a similar problem only in the position of my mother.

Phabian started Kindergarten back in June (year round school). After about 3 months of school we came to realize that he is a little more advanced then the other kids. He is pretty much reading now and writing wonderfully with little help. He can count and do simple math. Socially he is even doing great. I accredit this to his 2 years in preschool with the worlds best pre-k teacher and aid. They however accredit it to me. 

Now as we approach the end of the 2nd semester he is starting to get bored. He is losing focus and getting in trouble a lot. Not anything major but little things that insinuate he is bored with what he is learning. Unlike the school where i attended as a kid, his school is apparently not prepared to deal with this. He is forced to sit through things and grin and bear the outcome of his boredness.

After a parent/teacher conference with his teacher a month ago i confirmed i am not happy with his environment. She pretty much told me that he should have been skipped a grade but it was too late now since we are already half way through the 2nd semester and the 1st grade curriculum would be too advanced. I was a little furious. We have known he was advanced since the year began back in June so why was this option not mentioned to me earlier.

I am not ok with my child constantly getting in trouble because, essentially, he is TOO SMART! How is that teaching him anything? To me it is telling him, " Hey your too smart, so maybe if you weren't smart you wouldn't get in trouble".  To top it off they have a daily grading system. It goes from a Paw (best behavior) to a D (worst behavior). If at the end of the semester they do not have enough Paws that child will not be aloud to attend the field trip planned for that semester. So once again Phabian might lose out on something fun because he is too smart.

Yes i understand he still has to learn to behave and follow instructions. I get that, i promise. But what would be wrong with giving him something more advanced to do if you are working on something that you already know that he knows. If you are working on the letter F and you know he already knows that, why cant you give him a book to read or something else to work on? Is it that hard to give him busy work so that he doesn't get in trouble?

So here is where the big dilemma comes in. I have talked at length with MJ (and Phabian's) pre-k teacher. She knows all about Phabian and the trouble he is having. She suggested to me that i might want to go ahead and have MJ tested to be advanced to 1st grade instead of starting in  kindergarten because he is also showing signs of being very advanced for his age.

I don't want to face the same problems with MJ that we are having with Phabian. MJ is already starting to read. He is learning from his brother and is almost on the same scale as his brother in some things. If i have him tested i don't know if there is a down side. If he passes the test (which i have been told is pretty hard) he will have proved he is smart enough and mature enough to be advanced, if he doesn't then it isn't any skin off anyone. He will just go to kindergarten and no one knows the wiser.

I hesitate because i worry how Phabian will feel about this in the long run. Phabian has always took pride in being the older sibling. He is older in age, he got to play football when MJ wasn't old enough yet. He got to start "real" school first. He gets to do homework. If we do choose to skip MJ a grade he will be right there with his brother. Possibly (even though i doubt it) in the same class. I just don't know how Phabian will feel about that or even how to ask him about it. They attended pre-k together for a year and never had a problem but they are older now and have had a whole year apart in separate classrooms.

So help me out here. I need opinions from everyone. If you know a teacher send her/him over so i can get that opinion too. I am just so confused as to what i should do. Advance MJ or don't? How can i help Phabian? What suggestions would you make if you were in this situation?


Anonymous said...

1st - I was younger than everyone in my class as a kid and truly the social stuff was a problem. A year makes a big difference socially at that age (and really until they are in high school it can be a big difference)

2nd - I think you are going to create huge social problems in your first child if you allow the 2nd one to be in the same grade.

3rd - why don't you work with the school to find busy work for your child. Talk to the teacher and say you would like to send him with books and other things to keep him busy when the class is working on things that he already knows.

Mom24 said...

Oh Courtney, I've had this swirling around in my head all day long. I've definitely been thinking of you. What a hard problem!

The thing is, my answer and anyone's answer is colored by our experience, by our school, please remember that and take it with the appropriate grain of salt.

My kids are really, really smart. Truly. But, social behavior is every bit as important. Fair or not, you are not going to succeed in school or life, if you don't play by the rules. The younger you learn that, the better off you'll be. Jacob has a summer birthday, we chose to have him delay starting school until he was 6. He could have easily handled the work, he would definitely have been up to that, he's currently 10 and reads on a 12th grade reading level--no lie. BUT, we knew that was only one piece of the puzzle. Having the maturity to manage his behavior is also a part of it.

I think you need to be a burr in their tush. Demand more, demand better. Constantly. You also (and I know you didn't ask for this, I hope it doesn't upset you), need to come down really hard on Phabian. He needs to know that it is unacceptable to get in trouble at school. Period. Please don't reinforce the idea that he's in trouble for being smart--nothing good can come of that. Yes, he's bored, yes, he might act better if he had more challenging work, but bottom line is he gets in trouble because he does things he shouldn't and he needs to know you know that.

Good luck with MJ. I think I agree with the above comment that it really could create all kinds of problems for Phabian if you put MJ in the same grade. Personally I don't think I would go there.

As I said, advocate, advocate, advocate. Make them do more, show them you'll be willing to hold Phabian accountable for his behavior, but you want them to fulfill their responsibility to him as well.

Good luck hon. This parenting thing is not easy, is it?

Mom24 said...

OMG! Google determined my comment to be too long to post. Grr.

1. You need to stop sending Phabian the message he gets in trouble b/c he's smart and it's not really his fault. It is his fault. It has to stop. It's destructive to his future and it will be a label that follows him. Come down really hard on him and let him know he's in big trouble at home if he gets in trouble at school. Not acceptable.
2. Advocate like crazy for the school to do more for him. You're right, some kind of assignment on his level would be completely appropriate. Maybe if they see you address the behavior more they'll be willing to try harder with him. Good luck.
3. I wouldn't accelerate MJ. I think it would probably lead to all kinds of problems between him, Phabian and you, and it's really not worth it in the long run.

So sorry you're going through this. We've struggled big time with our kids begin bored in school. It's not easy.