Saturday, March 12, 2011

Just the facts, ma'am

A recent discussion on the gifted homeschoolers mailing list centered around IQ testing.  It has been a fascinating conversation for me, in part, because I know very little about it.  From it, I've started to get a sense of what all the acronyms mean and what they specifically test for, etc.  One parent asked if it was really necessary -- especially if a child has no learning disabilities (which these tests can also show), and the parent is not trying for a grade skip or to qualify for a special program or service.  I was interested in this aspect of the discussion - this is exactly our situation!  Would it help me teach Peanut better if I knew her IQ and what percentile she is?  Would this test tell me more about her learning style, which up to this point, I've been guessing (seemingly correctly) about?  Even before this conversation started, testing crossed my mind a few times -- I just never got to the point of researching the options and the costs (which I understand to be quite high).

I waffle between needing the cold, hard facts and just letting my instinct and Peanut drive the boat.  On one hand, I wonder if I'm doing everything that I can for her.  Am I holding her back by insisting she finish up that phonics book?  Are my homemade science units doing enough to satisfy her curiousity?  Am I going to somehow screw her up for life because I've opted to homeschool an only child?! 

On the other hand, Peanut is pretty good at showing me when her brain is "full" and what she wants to focus her energies on.  If I'm listening to her and not having a "but we need to cover X and Y more before we get to Z" moment, I can roll with it.  This is probably the toughest thing for me -- remember in school where we had to do something 20 times just to prove we know it?  Much of the homeschool curriculum available still uses this concept and it's easy to get sucked into this notion.  Sometimes Peanut needs the reinforcement.  Sometimes she gets it on the first or second try -- and when she's got it, she's GOT IT. It does help to regularly remind myself that she's just shy of 5.  We're in no hurry here. She's already doing stuff that kids 3 - 5 years older than her are just starting on.  If there is a hole somewhere along the lines, we have plenty of time to fill it. 

I have a direction for our future -- it's something I do frequently think about.  We subscribe loosely to the Classical method of teaching.  The big tenets for this style are the focus on logic and rhetoric, learning from the classics (including learning Latin), and teaching history in order.  Obviously there's a little more to it than that, but those are the big things.  The over-reaching idea is to give them a solid foundation to that they can teach and think for themselves.  This methodology doesn't completely work for us since we need to accelerate and compact the curriculum we use for her, but it gives me a nice framework to work from.  I ultimately see a need to supplement with outside resources as she gets older - whether that be community college, a tutor, or a co-op program.  I do not see us sending her to a 4-year college before her 18th birthday - I have some strong feelings about this, in fact. 

With that said, I try to bear in mind that this direction might change a whole bunch of times even in the next year.  It helps me plan to have some sort of general direction so long as I don't get so caught up in the details that I lose flexibility.  The one thing I cannot anticipate -- and I'm not sure testing would help me with this or not -- are the developmental leaps.  In two weeks time Peanut's reading abilities jumped several levels.  She literally went from reading easier picture books with some help to reading whatever you put in front of her with little or no help.  She's done that in other areas as well, at seemingly random times.  We go from plugging away little steps at time to one hee-yuge change.  (And of course, that hee-yuge change usually means that everything changes in terms of how I approach educating her).

During all of this, I also think some about my childhood.  My parents weren't big believers in gifted program which they thought fostered snobby, elitist kids.   I'm also pretty sure that they didn't believe me gifted because I had to work hard, especially at math.  I have since learned that this didn't make me less gifted.  In fact, I think a lot of my own giftedness is in the musical realm since that's where stuff comes more easily to me.  Academically, I did end up excelling as well.  I wasn't, however, one of those kids who didn't need to study before taking the test.  Anyways, I wish my parents had taken it a little more seriously.  I understand that they worked with the info they had available to them, but had they pursued it, I think I would have been a little more comfortable in my own skin earlier in life.

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