I just left the hospital room of the newest member of our LAAS family. Our kindergarten teacher gave birth three weeks early, and mom and baby are doing fine! How appropriate it is that I came from someone in his first twenty-four hours of life straight to writing a blog on “age.”
This August I pass the half-a-century mark. That’s not even feasible to me! I still feel like a young married, and JT and I will have been married thirty years this year! They say you are only as old as you feel, so I guess I’m doing fine if I still feel young.
Age is one of those terms that we consider “relative.” Like, That’s old – for a dog. or Very few six-year-olds can do the math she can. All over the nation, students of the same “age” attend the same class(es), whether they are mentally the same age or not. One of our former students missed the cut-off date for kindergarten at his new school by 96 hours. This kid is extremely bright, but an age limit is an age limit. This kid has been reading since three, is learning Russian, and can tell you every moon and satellite of every planet in our solar system. But, by all means, keep him in the pre-school class; I’m sure there’s something in there he missed in all his studies!
The truth of the matter is that age does not mandate behavior or cognitive ability. If we get a student who is very sharp, we place him where he will be challenged. Because of this policy, we have a sophomore who is only 12. He’ll be 13 in November. When he took the ACT at age 11, he scored a composite of 32 and a 35 (nearly perfect) on the math section. This kid needs a challenge. Before advancing him, though, I did make sure the mother understood the consequences of promoting him early (i.e., wouldn’t be able to drive when classmates do; might need a permission slip to go off campus in college, etc.).
Conversely, there are students out there who take longer to grasp ideas at first. Since we teach all at Lawton Academy as if they are gifted, often these students catch up and sometimes surpass their classmates by late middle school.
Don’t get me wrong: there are some things that seem to occur at the same time in each child. For instance, eight-year-olds seem prone to promote their own independence more than second graders. Sixth graders, maybe in flux from a rush of hormones, tend to be discombobulated for almost the entire year! Kids cannot articulate the “th” sound till around seven. Sixteen-year-olds have the ability to operate a car (according to the State), and eighteen-year-olds are ready to help pick our politicians.
Or at least they should be. That’s my point. Some kids aren’t ready at these bench marks. Others run ahead and are ready to move to greater marks. As a parent of a gifted child, be impressed with the abilities of your child, but be careful not to associate actions completed early as signs that your child should automatically move to the next grade. What’s the rush? He has all of his life to be “grown.” Let him spend as much time as possible in the present… enjoying what kids his age do with kids his age.
There’s a movie with a really interesting concept at its core. Every person stops aging at 25, and each has a clock on his/her wrist that tells how much time he/she has till death. It’s set for one year, but time is currency. The wearer can barter with the time left, sometimes gaining thousands of extra hours. How very different we might live our lives if age was a countdown rather than counting up.
So today, I encourage you not to act your “age;” instead, act your intelligence level… or act your physical ability. Don’t let what is supposed to happen at your age be the guide for your life. Do the same for your children. Gifted kids tend to recognize their own mortality. If your child is deathly afraid of water, but you are just sure that he should be swimming like all the other pollywogs at the YMCA, step back. Look at what’s really going on here. There’s a reason your friend’s child is standing on tippy-toe to make the height requirement for the largest rollercoaster, and yours is begging to go to the restroom instead, and it has all to do with the fact that he understands he could die. Don’t push him. He’ll get there… at the right time… whether that be at age eight or age thirty-eight.