testing 1 2 3

Our kids are good. They’re fun, and they’re nice, and they’re kind. They are respectful, they do not get into nor do they cause trouble. They are curious and imaginative and sometimes obstinate but mostly amenable. They are good sports, as long as they have had enough food and sleep. They’re pleasant to be around. They’re healthy.

What more could a parent want? Well.

Today our daughter’s piano teacher asked me whether our daughter was in the school’s gifted program. I said “no.” He asked whether she had been tested in grade school. I said “no.” He was shocked. “I’ve worked with gifted kids for over 30 years. I can see ’em a mile away. Get her tested!” He’s known our daughter for roughly 85 minutes. 

And, he said all this in front of our daughter. What happens if I get her tested, and she doesn’t pass the test? And what if she does? I ask because I just read this:

No big deal, but this researcher’s theory explains everything about how Americans parent.” Key quote: “We’re on the verge of trying to export very ethnocentric ideas about what competencies children need to develop at a very early age, which is really unfortunate,” [Harkness] says. “The U.S.’s almost obsession with cognitive development in the early years overlooks so much else.”

I guess the upside is that I didn’t focus too much on the children’s cognitive development in their early years. All I wanted was for them to eat the food I gave them, without a fuss. (Getting better at that.) And go to bed when I tell them to. (They do.) I focus a lot now on making sure they remember to clean their rooms (most of the time they do), resolve their fights (working on it), be respectful to grownups and their peers (99 percent of the time) and lately, how to navigate social politics during second grade lunch (she’s a quick study).

Important stuff. She’ll learn how to punctuate her hand-written stories and master her multiplication tables in due time. Right?

I can guarantee you that I’ll relate all this to my husband and he’ll say, “Get her tested, for God’s sake.”

All right, all right, I’ll ask about it. Of course, at the beginning of May she and her classmates will be taking the Stanford Achievement Test. Maybe I’ll see how she does on that, first. Still not sure whether she’s a warrior or worrier.

Not sure why I’m reluctant, other than the fact that my parents just didn’t get terribly involved in my education. They went to conferences and signed report cards and said “good job,” but that was about it. Maybe any extra effort seemed unfamiliar, or unnecessary?

Maybe it is necessary now. Certainly, schools like parents to be “involved.” As long as “involved” doesn’t turn into “insane.” That’s a slippery slope for me, because I have big dreams for our kids, and I can be really, really pushy… I don’t know. I just want our children to be encouraged to do their best, at home and at school. If being tested for “gifted,” regardless of the results, sends a signal to the school that I want my kids to receive more attention than they already do, then yeah, I guess I want them tested. 

As long as the attention is warranted by some objective measure beyond my own tremendous (though correct) bias.


Tomorrow I have a PTA executive committee meeting with the kids’ school principal. He’s a nice man, works hard, and “gets it.” He likes our kids. He likes me. I don’t want to give him grief. I’ve been asked to attend the meeting because I’m chairing the PTA’s fundraising efforts, but also, and I quote, I “keep things light.”

Easy to do. It’s the PTA, not Middle East peace talks.

When we move abroad, I’ve been told that many corporate wives/trailing spouses end up getting involved in their children’s school (read: PTA). Great. I’ll be ready.

In reviewing the international school the children will likely attend in the future, I must admit (finally) to a little bit of anxiety with regard to this move. Our children are currently being educated in a good public school, but not a great public (or private) school. The school year starts August 20; our son will begin kindergarten and our daughter will start second grade. There’s a good chance they’ll start attending the international school in the spring.

Will they be able to keep up in their new classes? Are we pushing it, to assume that they can receive instruction in a second language (native to the country) while acclimating to their new environment? Are they going to be okay?

Our kids are lovely. They are bright, enthusiastic, independent, right on track academically, they please their teachers. I can only assume that these attributes will serve them well. Their current teachers seem to think so, so my assumption is basically a firm belief.

But I have not been a parent who has… pushed? encouraged? gently nudged? our children to do more than is required when it comes to academics. My daughter has been able to read for well over a year now, and she reads herself (and her brother) bedtime stories, and daytime stories too. They like math games. We have them play “school” games on the iPad. They don’t watch a lot of television–maybe two hours a day if it’s rainy outside. (Not a lot of rainy days here.) I’ve purchased some age-appropriate workbooks, which they work on, sometimes, if they feel like it. All of this is more than my parents ever did for me.

Actually, I don’t recall my parents doing much to encourage or enable explicitly my academic achievement. My mom recently said of me at age 7, “You played by yourself a lot.” I sort of breezed through public school. The first time I freaked out about grades was in grad school. (The episode was beyond embarrassing, worthy of another post entirely, but only if I’m feeling especially masochistic.)

Now, in the children’s current school, there seems to be–and I could be terribly wrong–but there seems to be a very strong desire among some PTA moms to get their children into the “gifted” program. If I think about it, last year, nearly every PTA board member had a child in the gifted program. Last year in fact, the PTA president told me to get our daughter tested to see if she would qualify.

I said, “But her teacher has not indicated that she demonstrates any ‘gifted’ tendencies.”

She responded, “You have to be an advocate, the teachers don’t pay attention.”

Now, I understand the sentiment, to a point. Our schools are underfunded, and if you can get more out of the school, go for it.

But I looked at the school yearbook. 63 children, from Kindergarten through the fifth grade, are in gifted studies at the children’s school. The student population? 685. Nine percent of the school’s population is gifted. Wow. According to the National Association for Gifted Children, only six percent of the student population between Kindergarten and 12th grade is gifted.

Maybe we shouldn’t be filtering our tap water.