Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's okay to be smart (and different).

When I took Liam out of mother's day out, I immediately started looking for other options to fulfill the structured school part of his life (I think we used to call this "mommy's me time" but it's been so long I can hardly remember). We visited preschools and dropped in on a couple extracurricular activities like dance and gymnastics (that's as macho as it gets for the 3 and under set) and I requested an application for Encore - the gifted and talented program offered in our public schools (kids as young as 3 can attend).

It's been a year. And aside from a brief moment in time when he was this close to starting a new mother's day out, he has been at home with me. No wonder I am just now getting around to finishing the Encore application. Mama's got her hands full!

I have tried filling it out several times but each time I pick it up, I hesitate. More than half the packet is information about Individuals with Disabilities. Because apparently, being smart makes you different and being different makes you disabled. I know I shouldn't care. It doesn't really mean anything. But it still bothers me.


I'm probably just remembering how awkward it felt when I was sent away with the other smart kids to dissect cows' eyes or learn how to etch glass once a week. It made me feel different from the "normal" kids in class but since I didn't quite fit in with the "smart" kids either (sorry but dissecting cows' eyes is not exactly my idea of fun) I had no choice but to feel like a weirdo. That's a far cry from fitting in (which is all I ever really wanted).

Maybe it's because I was a girl. Or because I was super self conscious. Or because there were not that many "gifted" kids in my class. Or because they always pulled us out on the one day a week we got to do art. Or because I was waaaay shy and never made friends with the smart kids (or so much as opened my mouth to speak). Maybe it's because I was lazy and didn't want to learn more or try harder. Quite possibly it was all of the above.

But Liam is not me. He's a lot like me, but he's not me. And I need to remember that. He might love Encore. He might not. He may or may not even be given the chance to find out. But none of that is up to me. By filling out the application I'm not casting a vote or making a choice. I'm just opening a door, allowing an option to be explored. It's sort of like a job interview. Sure you want them to like you but it's just as important that you like them. No one wants to be hired for a job they hate. But if you didn't put on your best suit and check it out, you'd have no way of knowing either way.

So, I'm going to send the application today. And we'll see. If it's the right fit, we'll move forward. And if it's not, at least I got a big pile of Individuals with Disabilities crap out of my house!

Liam makes a sentence! "Go up the sky."
He knows it's backwards; he likes it that way.
And he couldn't find an "S" for "Sky" so he used a "C" instead.
Because "Sky" with a C is different. And different is good.


rachelj said...

Wow! Maggie, Liam is really advanced...Ian has only gotten as far as spelling his name! I think you are doing a great job with Liam and I love reading about you guys! Hopefully we can stop in for a visit when we come to Nashville this summer sometime. --rachel

rowena___. said...

several times as a child--back in the late 60's/early 70's--our classes were given tests to determine various IQ levels. on the one that gives a number i scored 161 and 163. on the test that scored on a scale, i scored "two standard deviations above normal". DEVIATIONS. but i wasn't told this until i quit school and asked for my records.

and that is how this smart girl was labeled a deviant. that explained so much of how my educational institution failed me--they thought of my intelligence as a deviation and didn't know what to do with it.

and that is also how this smart girl ended up homeschooling her own smart girl.

ae said...

This really resonates with me - I was in the Fulton County, GA version of Encore called TAG (Talented and Gifted) from the time I was eight until I graduated High School.

I had some really great experiences through TAG, and some were mediocre, and some were downright crappy. And yeah, it branded me as different, but I realized even as a kid that different wasn't bad, it just was.

I also think it's important to realize that there are so many different kinds of gifted. I can't read maps or pass College Algebra, but at the age of 10, I tested having a college level vocabulary, and I can read quickly and retain what I've read.

I don't think you're going to set Liam up for years of therapy by putting him in Encore. And if he does it and it sucks, pull him out.

But I will tell you, I was in TAG, my sister wasn't, and to this day, it's a family joke that whenever I come up with a good idea, she'll say, "Oh, well, yes, you were in TAG."

The Listers said...

maybe he's the next e.e.cummings with his creative sentence structure! :) the cky's the limit for this kid!

Dawn said...

re "deviation" oh srsly. Do you understand NOW about standard deviations, and their meaning in statistics? You're not a deviant because your iq number is two standard deviations above the median. Wow. Time to let that go, I think.

And no, schools don't know how to cope with kids that fall outside the bellcurve bump, on either side. That doesn't make the kids "deviants" and it's unlikely anyone ever ever referred to you and the other kids like you in that way. It just means that there's a larger group of kids under that bell curve who tend to take priority in a grouped educational setting.

hezza said...

Liam has awesome parents.
Liam is awesome.
The end.