Looking Forward to First Grade

Unhappy Kindergarten Boy
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If you are the parent of a gifted child, you know that what your child experiences in school can be not only hurtful, but harmful. My son's kindergarten year was not a good experience, especially since it followed such a wonderful preschool experience. As I've mentioned a few times before, my son was a self-taught reader, who was reading fluently by the time he was four years old.

Strangely enough, though, he was a late talker.

He didn't really start talking until he was two. Then he just started talking. It was as if he just hadn't had anything to say. Just a few months after he started talking, he was reading his first words. I was really blown away. This doesn't seem to be unusual for verbally gifted children. Learning to talk is a natural process that all children follow and in the same stages, although many gifted children may go through those stages more quickly. 

Learning to read, however, is a pretty complex procedure. There's quite a lot a brain needs to be able to do. One of the things it must do, is coordinate the written symbols with the sounds of the language it represents. In other words, children need to learn the alphabet, the sounds the letters represent, and how the sounds blend together. And that's just the beginning.

This is why for language arts in kindergarten, and sometimes in preschool, teachers ask kids to focus on the "letter of the day." In my son's kindergarten class, the children were asked to trace letters on sand on their desks to help them learn the letters and the sounds.

This was torture for my son. Remember, at this point, he was five and he had been a fluent reader for at least a year already. He was at this point also reading books on his own on his favorite subjects: the universe and dinosaurs. At home he was reading about quasars, but at school, he had to trace the letter B on his desk with his finger.

The school year was nearly over. It had been a horrible year. I had fully expected my son's academic needs to be met. After all, this school's motto suggested that every child's needs would be met. What I didn't know at the time, of course, was that the principal and founder of the school didn't believe that any child could be advanced. Children were either average or in need ot help to perform tasks of the average child the same age.

I had tried everything as I advocated for my son. I was in the principal's office so often, I thought she might set up a desk just for me. She always listened patiently and at first seemed sympathetic. However, by the end of the school year, it was becoming clear that she thought I was one of "those" parents. She was clearly growing weary of my insisting that my son be given more challenging work than he was getting.

What I didn't know at the time, but learned later, was that all I had managed to do in all my talks with the principal was to convince her that I was pushing my child and depriving him of his childhood.

To remedy this evil, she would take my son out of the kindergarten class, bring him to her office and let him play for an hour or so. She was determined to give him back the childhood that I was evidently stealing from him. She never asked me for permission to do this, not did she ever tell me she was doing it. I learned about it from another parent the next year.

I couldn't wait till the school year was over. We had just a few weeks left. I remember one day at this time when I went to pick up my son from school, he was so very angry with me. He said, "They're making me learn things I already know!" Because it was near the end of the school year, I told him that things would be better next year. In first grade, he would learn something new. I actually believed that. After all, the children wouldn't be tracing letters in the sand with their fingers. Sadly, that turned out to be the wrong thing to say.

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