Thursday, October 22, 2015

But it's optional...

Homework is a source of friction in many families, and we are not immune to this. Let’s just say that learning to be organized about the homework’s location and completion is a skill that takes time to master.

But one source of friction I hadn’t really anticipated is what to do about optional problems.

My oldest son’s teacher gives weekly homework assignments, and often they have optional harder math problems. In general, my kid likes a challenge. However, when he handed me the homework this morning to sign, I noticed that he’d done all the required problems and none of the optional ones. I asked him about it and, as he has done in the past, he acted like I just didn’t get it. “Mom,” he said. “They’re optional.”

Which is true. Optional does mean that you don’t have to do them. Of course, I was the kind of kid who would have done the extra problems. My husband claims he would have made up extra problems beyond the extra problems just to do them. So what do we do when our kid wants to do exactly what is required and nothing more?

On one level, I get it. Homework isn’t particularly fun, and the problems aren’t so challenging that he really has to struggle with them. He creates his own challenges in terms of dreaming up characters and then creating whole timelines for their lives and their extended families’ lives. Indeed, in his timelines, he’s writing about someone who lives from 1837-1904, and will tell me how old this person was when various life events occurred, which is basically what the extra problems are too (3 or 4 digit subtraction).

I also recognize that my husband and I might benefit from chilling out a bit on the “above and beyond” front. I explained this situation to a fellow parent at a birthday party and she pointed out that my son was already well-versed in the 80-20 rule.

That said, I also told my son that doing none of the extra problems sent a message that he was simply not interested in efforts to do more challenging things. Whereas doing at least a few of the problems would be a show of good faith. It’s more a social message than anything else. We compromised on him doing 5 of them quickly at the breakfast table this morning.

What would you do?

Friday, October 09, 2015

What should you tell your kid?

As promised in my 10th anniversary post, I'd like to re-raise some of the issues from the most-discussed posts of the past. A particularly thorny issue for many parents is what to tell their kids about giftedness.

Parents always have to figure out what's worth sharing with their kids and what's not. I generally don't tell my 4-year-old daughter about playdates until shortly beforehand for a few reasons. One is that she has little concept of time, and so every day I would have to keep explaining that no, it's not today, and deal with that disappointment. Also, sometimes kids get sick or have to cancel, and she'd be devastated by that. So while, as an adult, I know that anticipation accounts for a major chunk of the happiness gleaned from an event, I generally make a strategic choice that she will have less anticipation but also less disappointment by not knowing far ahead of time.

Playdates are one thing. But what do you tell your kids about their own giftedness? Kids pick up on many things. Children may hear other adults say "you're so smart" or realize that adults treat them as curiosities when they do something advanced for their age (like write words in sidewalk chalk as a 3-year-old). If there are lots of meetings with teachers about appropriate challenges, they will pick up on that.

If you have them tested, that will introduce a whole new set of questions. There is nothing normal about going to sit in a psychologist's office to take the WISC. You have to figure out how to explain that one, and then how to explain the outcome. And many children will want to know the outcome. If the child figures out it's a test with numerical outcomes, he might want to know that. So, would you ever tell a child his IQ score?

I'm very curious how Gifted Exchange readers have addressed these issues with their children.