on enjoying raising educated children

I should visit my local library daily. First, it is a relatively safe and brief bike ride for us. Second, there is a lot to do at the library even when I have my children in tow and don’t necessarily want to spend all my time there working with them. There are not only books and toys for kids, there is a puppet theater, coloring sets, board games, and displays (dollhouses and animal habitats – currently gerbils and Australian stick bugs). The area for children is located next to the areas I most often frequent. I can find a book while leaving my children to their occupations in safety and within earshot.

My daughter’s ability to read really floors me. Today we picked up a pamphlet entitled, “100 books every child should hear before starting school.” What immediately struck me is my daughter, pre-kindgergarten, can read these books herself, with very little stumbling. Not only are her reading skills impressive, but her ability to concentrate and figure out words she does not easily recognize has improved.

Wednesday my friend A. pointed out Sophie would likely be far more advanced in reading than the other children in her class. As a way of illustration, A. brought out the kindergarten workbooks her own daughter had used the year before at the school Sophie would be attending. I was quite surprised at the level of academia, which was such that might be more appropriate for where my three-year old’s interests and abilities lie (yes, letter recognition and simple word structure is “academia”, whether you’re comfortable using that word in a kindergarten setting or not). Of course I see the sense in teaching at a level that is inclusive of all children. I was in gifted or advanced classes my whole life but I don’t remember feeling “bored” in the regular classes, although my father often says I was.

Ralph and I are fully aware our participation in public school precisely means we are not requiring that our children receive special dispensation and kid gloves. Why this early-and-proficient reading is relevant to me is that I always worried about teaching a child how to read. It seemed like a painstaking process and I thought I was going to have to learn how to teach them. But as I’ve watched my children I see that the mechanism for reading and motivation for reading exist inside them. I did not aggressively work on teaching my first child to read. If anything, the primary measures in my household facilitating their reading are passive: we do not have television in my house, and I myself read quite a bit.

While looking up typical reading timelines for children today I fell across this treatise on “spoiled children”. It just made me depressed. It’s like reading what a childfree person might write, or a more old-school parenting style that surely gets results – and at what cost, I wonder? I lump the term “spoiled” along with the various other put-downs I hear older folks sometimes level at children – “throwing a fit”, “trying to get his / her own way”. I can hear my FOO’s voices in my head. They thought children were a subspecies – delightful when they were doing things right, suddenly denigrated when deviating from what made life easier for the adults in the room (“bossy”, “slow”, “ugly”). Yuck.

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