I recently volunteered, like a sucker, to be a Brownie troop leader. The kids are adorable and the job is easy. What I did not expect is the recent onslaught of people that question why I am currently home-schooling my daughter. I am having a hard time defending it. Frankly I don't want these parents to think I am a religious nut, idiot, or that I do not think I want my child learning with theirs. The local schools are not capable of teaching Fi, and the schools that can teach her adequately involve a commute of more than an hour each way and about $25K in tuition (Plus my lost income in commuting). Sue me if I think this is a bit steep for the k-3 grades.
I know that there are a lot of parents that are eager to believe that any talent makes their child "gifted." In fact, I am sure that each child probably has some gift. I have started to hate the term "gifted." What I have on my hands is a child that clearly a genius or what they call "profoundly gifted." What I also reject is the notion that this means that my child should somehow rocket past her early childhood and start picking out a college curriculum. She may well discuss how we are hurtling through space and traveling in time but she is still only six years old. She is equally thrilled with sledding, building with legos, playing with stuffed animals and collecting butterfly stickers. I am forced to defend her childhood while getting her a curriculum that meets her intellect.
When Fi was 4 months old, she began to speak. I thought I was sleep deprived and hallucinating. Here was an infant that still did not hold her head up on her own and words were spilling from her mouth. A couple of weeks in I told my mother. She said "No honey, they do not talk this soon." Not hours later her father walked into the room and the baby said really quite clearly "Hewo Dada." My mother admitted that she heard words, too. I explained that she seemed to prefer to call me "Hungy." I was her food supply, so it was fitting. She also said words in Finnish. Aiti, Aurinko, Tutti, (Mom, Sun, Pacifier) were all part of her repertoire. She also said something that took me 4 years to figure out. We even tried to get her to tell us what she meant. It started as "meeps n' moips." We would ask her about six months later "what is that?" so she replied "meeps n' moips, what is that?" The mystery continued until one day I was packing away the long disused changing table. I slapped my forehead and realized she was saying "need some wipes."
So fast forward to the pediatrician asking me at between 9 months and 12 months if Fi could say Mama, Dada and a couple of other words. I said no, she has about a 100 word vocabulary. The woman looked at me disbelieving. I asked Fi to identify what she saw in a painting on the wall. She pointed to and identified trees, sky, birds, grass, flowers, and even identified some colors. The doctor dropped into a chair with her mouth open. I looked down at her and said "but she will level out with her peers, right?" "No, I'm sorry," she said. Not long after, full sentences with really good diction and grammar were bubbling from Fi all day long. We knew (and still know) when she was awake as she was talking.
She started spontaneously reading at age two. This is about the time she announced her desire to work for NASA. This was a big jump since at age one she announced that she wanted to be a fire truck. Thank God for the small ways she is completely a child. I still regret each time I corrected her diction in the early days. Mispronounced words like "Pukky Dogs" and "Hibiscuits" were few and precious.
Tests at age four showed that she works intellectually at twice her age. The local school superintendent said to me "Well, we would have the kindergarten teacher evaluate her and decide where to place her after school starts." I insisted that placement would have to be decided before school and she was not to be yanked from classes. My discussion with this teacher showed that she had no experience with highly skilled children. She said "I think probably she would end up in third grade this year." She was 5, and destined to be the freak? Nope. I was left with little choice but to find resources to teach her at home for a while. I ended up spending only a little less than the "gifted" schools would demand in curriculum materials ($480 a credit hour plus books!), consulting fees and a classroom. She is just too young for the commute. I would have loved for her to be able to fit in with the local schools.
I do spend a lot of time ferrying her around to classes to offer her social interaction. I am hoping that Brownies will be fun for her. Hopefully the other Moms and I can come to an agreement that we're doing what we think is best for our kids.