I’ve sometimes wished that I might have a crystal ball to look into to help make the best decisions for my kids’ future. I sometimes feel like their academic career is like a game of chess. If you make a wrong move in the beginning, you might be doomed in the end. But we live and we learn. And there is no crystal ball. So this post is dedicated to all those parents who are visiting 100 schools trying to find the perfect one like a needle in a haystack. Take a deep breath. Relax.
I’ve always thought my kids were pretty smart. As do most parents. We had no issues in school- lucky us- they were pretty normal. They did well learning their letters. They had an easy time learning to read. Math became a simple number game that also just made sense. So in the 1st grade, a few friends of mine had their kids tested for the gifted program. (Yes, at the ripe age of 6 your kid can be labeled as a genius.) I must admit, I was slightly jealous. Why wasn’t my kid in there? They were just as smart as their kid, so why wasn’t my kid in there?
After a few more calls and information sessions with my friends, I found out that my kid failed the gifted test. WHAT?! Seriously? How? But that was that and they wouldn’t be testing them again. However, if I wanted to, I could have them tested at my own expense. Being the persistent parent that I am, of course I spent the money. (Mistake number 1.) Buying into the “my child is definitely smart enough and should be in there” mindset, I inquired as to whom might test my kid and found someone to come to my home and do the test. I was’t allowed to be in the room with them while they were testing. I would get a report in a few days and that was that. $250 later. Money now, I wish I wouldn’t have spent.
A few days went by and the test results came in the mail. He failed. By 2 points. Seriously? I still have no clue what the tests ACTUALLY mean (or what they were really testing him for) but I did eventually come to terms with my kid not having the label. Yes, I knew he was smart, but he just wasn’t gifted. I do admit, I was disappointed. But WHY was I so disappointed? And why was there nothing I could do about it.
But here’s where I made mistake number 2. I actually put value in the test. I know milestones and benchmarks are important to help guide us through their growth, but the really fact of the matter is that we are all different. Every child will learn at their own pace and we can only be along for the ride to help them do their best and cheer them on for all the small accomplishments too. (I should have know this as my 4th child took 24 months and over a year of physical therapy to walk. I should have known better than to buy into the testing thing.)
Here’s what I forget to ask myself:
Did my son know he failed? Nope. Was he upset that he didn’t have THE label? Nope. Did it effect his academic desire to learn more and continue to learn? Nope. Did my vision of future success for my child change because of that test? Not at all. If anything, it has fueled my desire to teach my children more about the world around them, help them with their school work, encourage them to learn about things that interest them and fuel their love of learning. If they want to learn, then I have done my job.
Here’s what I do know 5 years later about my smart kids and what I hope you realize about your kids too:
Tests do not define kids. Kids are so much more than just a test grade or number. I loathe these test. They do not define my child, their worth or their value in society. I see the strengths in each of my kids and the differences that make each of them unique. We all do as parents- that’s our job. To see the best in them and to help them excel in whatever that might be. I want them have the confidence to know that tests are just tests. Sometime we rock them. Sometimes we fail them. But we will always learn something and try our best the next time.
Having a label doesn’t mean anything. My kids are smart. Your kids are smart. All kids are smart. Labels don't define us. Please don't buy into them.
Your kid is still smart, no matter what that test says, or any other test for that matter. Weather they get good grades or not, there is so much more to growing up. Are they are polite? Are they are nice to their friends? Do they enjoy school? They are being raised to be good people and THIS is what matters. Does it matter that they didn’t score high enough to be in a special class? Nope. Does it mean that my child isn’t smart? Nope. Does is mean that their academic career is over at the ripe age of 6? Nope. Does it mean I should just give up on academics? Definitely not.
I’m proud to report, 5 years after my son failed this “gifted” test, he’s got an outstanding academic record, has just been accepted into the Junior National Honor Society, loves student council and is a good kid (and this makes me the most proud). I couldn’t be prouder and his future couldn’t be brighter. And all my other kids are some of the best kids I know. I think we all think that about our kids (as we should)!
So to all you Mama and Papa’s out there stressing about not having the “smartest” kid in the class or the most perfect report card, take a deep breath. What really matters is far beyond what any piece of paper can tell you about your child. Enjoy the moments and teach your kids about so much more than just how to ace a test. Someone’s bump may seem like a mountain to someone else. But the sweet view of success will always be the same no matter who you are and when you climb that mountain.
You can follow along with my adventures of raising 4 good kids at AdventuresofTampaMama.com