A few weeks ago I was reading this article about the little British girl who at age 2 has joined MENSA. It got me thinking about giftedness and parenting.
When I was at primary school there was a girl called Despina who had no friends at all. She was arrogant and pushy in the playground and very annoying in class. One day I got chatting to her, I must have been about 9. She told me she was a genius and in a few months her parents were sending her overseas to a special school for extremely gifted children. She knew her IQ and went on to tell me all about the yearly testing she had been having since she was 3. I remember feeling rather perplexed and quite sorry for her when told me that she had no friends because "other children will always be intimidated by my intellect, that's why my mum and dad are my friends instead."
I have never had my IQ tested, unless you count those wacky quizzes on Facebook that end up costing you money and sending you weird text messages. I don't think my score would be very high. In fact I think I'm pretty ordinary when it comes to most things. Except folding towels. I'm quite talented with that. Oh and I'm definitely a whizz when it comes to saying the wrong thing. I've got that down to a fine art. In fact if you looked up "foot in mouth disease" you'd see my pretty picture staring back at you.
My daughter, however, is very bright. She is 18 months old and knows most colours, counts to 10, knows most shapes, shares nicely, shows empathy and learns very quickly. She is very funny, she has a cute sense of humour. She is very articulate and asks the funniest and surprising questions. People sometimes tell me she is gifted. I'm not sure I agree with that. According to my family, I was the same at Tinker's age and I'm no bloody genius. I don't think doing things months before other kids makes you a genius. In fact I don't think being extraordinarily bright is a gift at all.
From what I've read, most true genii become academics, many are lonely, most find school very difficult socially and many suffer from depression. Doesn't sound like much fun to me. I wonder what became of Despina, she was so bright and so very lonely. She was awkward and dark beyond her years. I wonder if her parents are happy with the approach they took to raising her. Ruth Lawrence the hot-housed British girl who went to Oxford at age 12 had a tough time and is now completely estranged from her parents.
Kate Hilpern wrote an interesting piece for the Guardian last year. You can read it here. One of the key points I took away from her piece was simply asking the question why? What is the point of accelerating our children so fast that they enter university in their early teens? How does that help them as individuals? In the end when the 19 year olds have their doctorates aren't they then on par with the 40 year olds? What kind of advantage does it give these kids entering the race early when we all end up at the same finish line eventually?
Parenting magazines are full of adverts for companies offering to test your child for giftedness, early entry to school, they offer various approaches to IQ testing. I don't know, I think I'd be very wary of going down that path with my precious girl. What do you think? Of course I'm not saying we should go all Pol Pot like and cripple the clever, but I wonder if things are going a bit too far?
Now I'm the first person to admit that I want Tinker to have the best education we can afford, I want her to be exposed to as many fun new things as she likes. Knowledge is definitely power. I don't want Tinker to be bored at preschool and I set about to find a really special toddler class for her to attend. She starts Mandarin next month and, and yes I do enjoy teaching her new things all day. I think the sky is the limit as far as play based learning is concerned. This is why I am not a lawyer anymore. This is why I choose to be at home with my little bunny. I love teaching her things and watching her grow and learn. It is fun. Hot-housing isn't fun, making your children do things they don't love isn't fun. I guess that's the issue.
Tell me your thoughts on this issue!