Friday, June 9, 2017

Today is the last day of what feels like a very long school year. I felt it would be good to write down my reflections of how grade acceleration is working out for Smarty so far.

Academic Skills 

Smarty came to her 6th grade with a burning desire to prove herself and she certainly accomplished this goal as far as academics are concerned. She did not miss a beat in any subject, even in those where we did nothing to fill her real or imaginary knowledge gaps. She stayed on top of her class and even pushed herself hard enough to earn an A in her hardest subject - PE. We are very proud of how her straight As  but we contributed to her success somewhat by helping her with executive skills - see more on that later. 

Social Skills

Socially, this year has been tough. As many gifted kids, Smarty is very asynchronous in her development - very mature one minute and acting like a 5 year old next. She can be rigid in following rules and very honest in her corrective feedback. She also does not share the same interests or even the same challenges of puberty as her older classmates. She struggled to make new friends, especially with girls, but some of the struggle was entirely her own fault. For example, she was sitting alone for lunch for half a year, because she was not willing to join any groups and was kind of waiting to be invited in. Once she started to reach out to others, they accepted her, at least during school hours. After school, she did not hang out much with her new classmates. She was not invited to any birthdays except a birthday of her closest friend from the fourth grade. At least, she had three kids from our street to walk to school with. She plays occasionally outside with them, but, again, she does not make the first move unless I kick her out of the house telling her to see if they are available. I really hope that she forms stronger relationships next year.

Emotional Skills

We consider ourselves lucky that Smarty does not really suffer from anxiety. She is generally fairly even tempered and enthusiastic about life. But... she is a tween girl, so she does have her emotional outbursts. Usually they happen when things don't go her way. We work with her on calming techniques, reframing, and we also find taekwondo practice to be very helpful in teaching her how to deal with her emotions. Honestly, I think emotional turbulence will only get worse in the next couple of years before she gets better, and both my husband and I are steeling ourselves for this wild ride.

Executive Skills

No, executive skills are not about being bossy - Smarty has that skill in abundance :) As for organization, time management, impulse control.... well, she she has ways to go. She relies heavily on memory to manage her workload and extremely averse to any sort of planning, which pushes all sorts of buttons for me and for my husband. The only thing that kind of works is setting expectations for what we expect to be accomplished every day and having her write a plan for a day or an afternoon on our white board in the kitchen. This year I was also checking her school progress via Powerschool account and had to remind her more than once to turn in her missing work. I want to brainstorm with her this summer on how she can have fewer of those Oops! moments when her work is fully done, but she simply forgets to turn it in.


Smarty definitely rose to a challenge of a grade skip, but... we expected more from a school that we sent her to. We felt that expectations were low. For better or for worse, Smarty adjusts herself readily to expectations of her coaches or teachers. She started this school year with a better and neater handwriting and ability to organize her time. She ended the year with disorganized, careless notebooks, with getting her projects done just in the nick of time and with acute awareness that she is still ahead academically in comparison to her classmates. Some of this "slide" is probably due to "brain remixing" that is typical of puberty, but some of it is simply because she realized that she did not really to have to try hard to meet school's standards. "Everyone is doing it" seems to be a pretty standard phrase in our house nowadays. This is why we are not 100% certain that she will finish middle school here. Either we see some significant improvements this year or we might start looking for a more rigorous environment for her, hopefully in the form of 7-12 school where she could finish her middle school year and start high school. All options are very much on the table at this point, and we will see what the future year holds for us. 

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maryanne @ mama smiles said...

Emma is homeschooling this fall to counteract some of the sliding behaviors you observed in Smarty. I plan for it to be a one-year solution to re-start things, but we will see...

none said...

I have not read all your posts about the new school, but I thought that it was a STEM project-based schools with interesting projects and challenges? My son would love those things! He is in a traditional middle school because we were not allowed to go to the school in our district that is brand-new and similar to yours. Do you have positive things to say about the STEM project-based part?

Ticia said...

I was always one of the "go with the flow" students and my Mom was dealing with other stuff, and so didn't really push me. It's interesting to see what it's like from the other side now.