A. took a test last Spring (2013) to ensure that he really belonged in the Johns Hopkins University math program for talented youth. It’s an above grade level standardized test and, honestly, we did nothing to prepare for it. This probably doesn’t surprise you, if you’ve followed our journey of parenting A., at all.
Anyway, he took the test and a month or so after, we got his scores. His verbal score was very, very good. His math score was even higher. Still, we didn’t know much about what it all meant other than, according to the accompanying paperwork, he qualified to do coursework across the board with them, should we choose.
We did not choose that. We chose to keep him in their math program, but continued handling reading, language, etc. through the regular school. It is so, so important to me that our child have abundant teacher and peer interaction.
A few months after that, we received notice that A. would be honored in a ceremony for the top scorers on that test. It’s kind of complicated, but it goes basically like this– in order to be eligible to even TAKE the above grade level test, one needs to score in the 96th or higher percentile on a regular standardized test. Of those qualified to take the test, the highest scorers are culled and recognized. I don’t know exactly how great an honor it really is, but, since one of the ceremonies was taking place at Yale University, right here in Connecticut, it wasn’t too hard for us to reply that “yes, we’d be there.”
We went yesterday.
As we sat among these other families, it was super interesting to take in the wide array of children before us. I would say that, in comparison to the general population, there was a disproportionate number of homeschooled children and also only children. Other than that, however, they all really ran the gamut. There was lots of social awkwardness and some clear discomfort on the stage. (Not my kid– he lives for the mic and stage. )
I listened to the master of ceremonies and was fasincated to learn the history of the program. She pointed out that they thought it was critical that the truly gifted high academic performers be recognized much the way top athletes should be recognized. It was well-said and well-received. Of course, we were, admittedly, a good audience for that line of thought.
She went on to talk about how the program has spread all over the world and why that’s important. She ended with the statement, “the opportunity to take this coursework has impacted children of all ages and nationalities– we’ve had a child as young as three doing our math curriculum.”
(What A. was doing at age 3.)
I smiled with the crowd and said nothing.
Until late last night.
Well after the kiddos were sleeping, I tucked my legs up under me on the couch and turned to my husband. I asked him, “Is it bad that it made me sad to hear that a three-year-old was doing Johns Hopkins math online?”
“No,” came his blunt reply. (Can I just stop and say that I find it both wonderful and maddening how simple men can be in their responses? No elaboration necessary! Ha!)
“But, I mean,” I went on (<– because: GIRL), “does that make me hypocritical? Am I sounding jealous? Because I’m really not. I know what it’s like to have a gifted preschooler. And, you know, I’m not at all saying that A. could have handled that level of math at age three. This child could be absolutely off-the-charts genius and maybe I don’t understand that?”
I paused. He waited.
“But… I mean… THREE. I just think that there has be something other than a university computer program for a child who’s three. Surely there are ways to keep him happy and engaged and learning without being so serious and structured. Wouldn’t you think? I mean… there’s just so much time for this. It’s like I always say about why we don’t have A. work on his program at home. How far ahead does he really need to get? Why are we rushing that?”
He blinked. Gave me a half-smile. And finally said, “No, you’re not a hypocrite. You remember age three. You remember the wonder and fascination and exploration and all that goes along with it. You remember having to write algebraic equations in the steam on the shower door to keep him interested. You remember guiding a dimpled, chubby hand to form the numerals to answer the questions that he could already solve, but didn’t know how to write. A computer program can’t do those things.”
We sat there, in silence, just thinking about it all.
I’m really not judging this family. I can’t really fathom having a three-year-old who needs a college’s math program to meet his needs. It’s strange enough having a child who started it in second grade! So, I know I haven’t walked in their shoes.
But, man… three?
I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t still make me feel a little sad.
Of course, there are times it makes me sad that my nine-year-old does his math on a screen instead of with other live people.
So maybe it’s just my problem.
I don’t know.
Why don’t you tell me what you all think? Recognizing that none of us really know this family or their exact situation (and I’m not going to accuse you judging– just of having an opinion), what is your gut reaction to hearing about a three-year-old doing an all-computer math program through a university?