Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Yesterday, we drove to San Francisco for Smarty's finalist interview for Caroline D. Bradley scholarship. There is a part of this interview when one of the interviewers talks with parents a little bit and shares her impressions of a student. In a conversation with us, a lovely Ms. R asked, "Your daughter has so much energy and such diverse interests. How do you keep up with her?"
This question caught me by surprise. I never thought that it might be difficult to "keep up" with Smarty. Yes, she has a lot of energy but she is not destructive and not using her energy to disassemble things or conduct questionable experiments without asking for permission. She has a cooperative personality and she generally wants to please adults she is with - even though she is likely to ask a lot of "clarifying questions" which sometimes might come off as challenging authority. She is not "sassy" or rebellious (knock on wood!) and both of us actually enjoy her company and her insights.
We also never really struggled to meet her intellectual needs. When she was younger, we just "met her where she was" by reading "real books" early, helping her learn to read, exposing her to math concepts several years ahead and doing a lot of science experiments at home. She also saw her father using his amazing skills in 3D design and making useful things for the house, heard him talk about his hobby electronics projects and listened to me "talk shop" about my work in the evenings.
In the past few years, we actually slowed down additional "enrichment" at home while advocating for her needs in school. I felt something was fundamentally wrong with the situation when Smarty would have to spend additional hours on math or science at home while being trapped in the classroom for the major part of her day and not learning anything new. We wanted to give her more time to spend as she pleases, even though for her it usually means sticking her nose in the next fantasy book.
While we felt justified in asking to accommodate Smarty, we could see that her public school has more pressing needs and no additional funds allocated for learners like her. Also, it felt that every year we had to "start from scratch" with no real continuity between teachers and classes. So far it feels that our decision to move her to a small private school in the fall of last year has really paid off. For the first time, Smarty felt that her teachers could actually challenge her specifically, not her general cohort. She bonded with several teachers and, due to the nature of her school, she will continue to have them for more years in high school. It's good to know that she now has an amazing English teacher who can stretch her way farther than we ever could do at home or than her (pretty good) public school English teachers did in the previous years. It's good to see her excited about a page of "mysterious" formulas in her calculus textbook and listen to her talk confidently how she is looking forward to mastering them this year. We don't need to be the only ones "keeping up" with her. Her teachers are actually happy to have a student in their classrooms that thirsts for knowledge and they are not burdened by 10-15 other students who need significant help in catching up to a grade level.
Smarty also made great progress in her social development this year - something that CDB interviewers picked up on since it was her second chance to talk to them. She has more desire to engage with her classmates because her trust was rebuilt last year. She is more able to rely on others rather than trying to control the situation entirely and she is no longer put off by group projects. She loves conducting school tours talking to prospective students and their parents about her school and she is slowly maturing into a leader who tries to engage with different types of kids. All this is exciting to watch, and I can't wait to see how she will grow and change this year.

Your Turn

How do you "keep up" with your kids?


MaryAnne said...

Interesting question! My kids are also very well behaved and easy to parent (so far, at least!) and I wouldn't consider them hard to keep up with. But maybe that's because when I find them being demanding I give them more responsibility for their own lives?

Joyful Learner said...

Hmm...I don't think I try to keep up. I just let her be. I don't pretend to know everything she is interested in. Sometimes she gives me the look like you don't really get it but that's okay. She knows I'm trying. Thankfully, she's self-directed so she's pretty good about getting what she needs through books. I just need to supply her with the books she needs (even driving to Sunnyvale to borrow them)!

It sounds like you made the right decision for Smarty by switching her to a private school. We have two very different kids. I realize that even after applying to CDB and not getting accepted, it was a blessing in disguise because K is happy where she is. I'm so thankful for the public schools where we live. They offer enough enrichment classes and opportunities to socialize that I've seen growth and change as well.

Ticia said...

It's a balancing act, but it's fun and keeps me busy.

Unknown said...

Is this the same scholarship that is for current 7th graders? How were you able to have your daughter apply two years in a row?

Natalie PlanetSmarty said...

@Unknown: She did not apply twice in a row. She was "deferred" by CDB as an exception and asked to participate again despite being an 8th grader this year.

Unknown said...

Oh ok, I did not know that was possible. I am not too familiar with CBD, but I had heard it's for seventh graders. But it's nice to have another chance. I am sure she will be successful in high school either way!