Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Miseducation considered....

I recently finished the book "Miseducation: Preschoolers at Risk" by David Elkind. Before starting the book, I had some doubts as to whether I would consider any of it useful knowledge since my kids are all past preschool learning and the title sounded more to me like parent bashing for those of us with gifted children.

It really turned out to be just the opposite however. The author was firmly against the "superkid" syndrome as he termed the introduction of early academic knowledge, sports, music, etc... He discussed the reasons why this has become so prevalent in our society as a whole and different parenting styles that fall into the trap. He discussed how young children learn and develop psychologically and why pushing children, who may be capable of retaining early knowledge, can be harmful to them.

After reading through that much of the book, my shackles were rising but then he got to the gifted child. He explained that giftedness is not what a child can do or is capable of doing but the way they learn and their advancement in intellectual/learning styles as well as psychological development that makes them the pushers in the relationship. For these gifted children who lead the learning, it would be poor parenting to not provide them a stimulating environment in the areas of their giftedness. For example...teaching a young child to read using flash cards, worksheets, or daily drill is not good but providing a child who is already teaching himself to read opportunities to practice is good. At one point he was downing Suzuki music lessons for the average preschooler but then went on to tell the story of a child who already was showing musical giftedness and early lessons were very beneficial to her.

I understand where the author is coming from because I have had these thoughts before when asked why people always say, "All children level out by 4th grade whether or not they were taught to read early."

When people make this claim, I think they are discussing the child of average intellectual abilities. Sure, the child can be taught to read early but because of psychological and intellectual limitations does so with more difficulty than they would have had they been taught later. (It may take the child 4 years to be able to read well if started at 3 but had they waited until 6 it may have only taken a year because they were more ready and that is where the leveling off occurs. This is just to illustrate a point not a real example as far as I know.)

I think of my oldest and youngest, especially my youngest, who took the early lesson on how to sound out simple words and then taught herself how to read everything within a two months once she was ready and with no additional lessons. My oldest has never "leveled off" with his age-peers and it is because he was ready to learn to read and initiated that learning. That is the difference.

So, the book I started out hating actually ended up being pretty good.

Phantom of the Opera

I just realized that I neglected to write about our trip to NYC to see Phantom of the Opera. We had a wonderful weekend. Mommy, Daddy, and Haley went to NYC while the boys stayed with Grammy and Poppop to do boy things like shoot and fish.

We drove to Jersey City on Friday afternoon, spent some time shopping at the mall (for nothing really), went to dinner at a Chinese restaurant with excellent food, and then returned to the hotel for a quick swim and early bedtime.

Saturday morning it was an early rise then on to the PATH train for the trip into the city. We had to walk many blocks to the American Girl Place where we had brunch then Haley was able to shop with her giftcard. The brunch was very cute and the food tasty. There was a little seat for her doll and she had her doll's hair fixed as well.

After brunch we walked around for awhile. I had forgotten my comfortable shoes so my feet were killing me in my heels. We stopped at a shoe store and bought some CROCs for Haley and I. Unfortunately the only color they had in my size were bright orange so I spent the rest of the day very comfortable but looking like a duck.

We visited Times Square, the Disney Store, and walked around a sidewalk fair where we bought a t-shirts for the boys. By then it was almost time for the show so we stopped at Bubba Gumps for a quick lunch--this is a really cute restaurant. Haley was so excited waiting in line to enter the musical. We finally got in and she had to potty so I took her. The line was enormous but we finally made it and after washing her hands she was so excited she exclaimed, "Oh, Mommy, I just can't wait to see the Phantom!!!"

Most of the ladies still in line laughed at her cuteness but I heard a miserable old voice say, "She'll probably be scared to death." Now, I understand that taking a 5yo to see Phantom would not be on most parent's lists of things to do but Haley is not most 5 year olds and she was enthralled. She sat intently watching every moment. Occasionally, I heard her quietly singing along. She loved the special effects and was amazed by the experience.

What a great time we had!!!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Starting another year of violin

Every week Haley's fiddle teacher plays a new song that I record for Haley to listen to during the week for the next lesson. Every week Haley figures the song out in her spare time and her teacher is amazed. Well, the latest song she gave her for this week was full of slurs and after Haley played it for her, she told me that Haley is by far the youngest child she has ever seen understand slurs and how to play them. This week she didn't give her a new song because she wants to teach her "ornaments" (I think she called them) which are the little sounds in Irish music that makes it sound really cool (I don't know how else to explain them). She said she has never tried to introduce them to a child under 10 or 12 before but she thinks Haley will be able to get it so she will show her.

We also got in touch with Haley's Suzuki teacher and had a wonderful first lesson for the new year. She was impressed with a lot of the things Haley had been working on and is having her play a mini concert next week with all the songs she knows to "graduate" her to the next level. She said after this she will speed her through the rest of Book 1 and get started on Book 2. She said that if Haley was with another teacher, she would be halfway through Book 2 by now but she wants her to have perfect technique rather than just be able to play the songs.

I was a little nervous about telling her about fiddle lessons because you never know how a teacher is going to react to you going to someone else too. She said it was a brilliant idea and she even had Haley play some of her fiddle songs for her and is allowing her to play fiddle songs for their first concert at the retirement home next week.

I really love Haley's Suzuki teacher. She always seems to have Haley's best interest at heart and though she is strict on a number of things like technique (things she must be strict on for proper playing), she also allows Haley the freedom to be creative and try her experiments.

Her fiddle teacher is not used to teaching little children so she also is really experimenting and goes with Haley's flow which is wonderful for the fun aspect of her instrument. I am just so happy with the way things are going right now.