Surreptitious assessment of smart 11-year-old?
August 6, 2013 4:31 PM   Subscribe

I occasionally hang out with a smart 11-year-old girl, am a friend of the family. She's ahead of her peers in reading and math, starts 6th grade in the fall, but is not especially challenged by her public school. A few years ago in a different school district, they offered to skip her a grade (this option was not chosen).

Without going in to endless detail, suffice to say she needs some outside influence to get her on a fulfilling and challenging educational track.

I'm looking for online games, tools, etc. that are somewhat fun for her to play but will also give me an assessment of her abilities. Something she can play that doesn't feel like a test.

I'd love to return to the family and say "look, your daughter has a 140 IQ - she needs a challenge." I know that's not realistic, but it would be helpful to have some measure of her abilities. I'm not even sure if she is aware of her own potential.

Ideas?
posted by 4midori to Education (43 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Be careful. Probably the worst thing my parents ever did was tell me that I was destined for great things because of my IQ score.
posted by thelonius at 4:37 PM on August 6, 2013 [88 favorites]


I'd love to return to the family and say "look, your daughter has a 140 IQ - she needs a challenge." I know that's not realistic, but it would be helpful to have some measure of her abilities.

Since even you don't think that's realistic, why not give her a chance to actually demonstrate her abilities? Rather than assess her for a measurement that purports to measure something intangible and ill-defined that may or may not be predictive of anything in her case?

I suggest teaching her programming. Then if she creates something awesome you will have something tangible to bring back to her family and say, "See??"

If you are interested in going this route there are a lot of resources online that people could link for you.
posted by cairdeas at 4:42 PM on August 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


It doesn't seem like her intelligence is in debate if her teachers thought she should be skipped forward a grade. What are you trying to asses? It sounds like you're trying to change her parents mind about what sort of schooling they should give her, which is a different problem.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 4:43 PM on August 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


Why not just encourage her to pursue her interests whether it's learning programming, building a robot, artistic projects, reading and going to author events, a supplementary program at a local science museum, or whatever strikes her. You can assist by helping with logistics of bringing her to events she wants to attend or by helping her get access to equipment she may need. Facilitate her being challenged rather than fixating on a number.
posted by quince at 4:43 PM on August 6, 2013 [23 favorites]


Why not talk to her and see what she likes?

Sixth grade is about where I started to build from basic skills to being able to have specific interests in different areas. I could read adult books, so I did -- and I really could have used some good adult influence in figuring out what those books should be. Because of my advanced reading skills, I started getting into theatre, writing, and other literary type stuff. I also started combining my smart kid skills with other forms of expression, so I would do things like make music videos with my friends.

These are all things that you could facilitate with the sixth grader in question. Wherever her interests lie. If she is like that, but for math skills, you could point her towards programming. If she's into science, there are all kinds of science fairs, space camps, etc. out there.

If you have access to info about age-appropriate activities or summer camps, that's definitely info you want to share with her parents.

For what it's worth, eleven years old is pretty far past the "someone should tell that girl's parents that she's smart" point. Which isn't to say I don't think you should tell them you think she's smart, but the "Her IQ is X", "she needs Y types of challenges," etc. are probably things they are aware of and have heard through school and other activities that she does. I was funneled through various gifted programs as a child*, and this was all stuff that started coming up around 4-5, not 11-12.

Also, LISTEN TO HER. Support her. Have long conversations about whatever crazy stuff she's interested in. Answer her questions. Supply her with reading material and resources. Make her mix tapes. Around that age it suddenly became really interesting to hang out with aunts and uncles, if only because their houses were full of a whole different set of reading material and they weren't particularly worried about me rifling through it.

It's probably more useful for you to be an advocate for her pursuing her interests and having the access, supplies, and breathing room to do so, rather than just blanket informing her family that she's smart.

*Just because she's not been skipped a grade or put into accelerated programs RIGHT NOW doesn't mean she hasn't been involved with this stuff or her parents don't know about her potential. I spent all of my upper elementary years in a perfectly ordinary classroom with regular students, despite being in and out of accelerated programs at various other points.
posted by Sara C. at 4:43 PM on August 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


Buy her a few good books and maybe board games or a musical instrument or something and offer to take her to the museum.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:43 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd love to return to the family and say "look, your daughter has a 140 IQ - she needs a challenge."

Given that her parents were presented with the opportunity to skip her a grade, what makes you think they're not already aware of her intelligence? The fact that they didn't let her skip a grade doesn't automatically mean they don't realize she needs to be challenged. Skipping grades can have negative effects on children's socialization, emotional maturation, etc. (I was a candidate for grade-skipping after 2nd grade and my parents opted not to do it, for which I am grateful given the near-universal emotional and social challenges faced by virtually everyone I know who did skip grades.) Her parents presumably weighed the potential pros and cons and made the decision based on what they felt was in their child's best interests.

Also, seconding thelonius's observation about IQ. My parents and grandparents also did me absolutely no favors by going on and on about what a genius I was at that age.

I think the only appropriate thing you can do as a friend of the family is to encourage stimulating/challenging pursuits, books, etc. that this girl enjoys for their own sake -- without any ulterior motive of measuring her IQ or anything like that.
posted by scody at 4:45 PM on August 6, 2013 [21 favorites]


Inspiration.

Execution!

Don't expect anything like this from her classes. No matter how many grades she skips.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:48 PM on August 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


There are plenty of perfectly valid reasons not to have a child skip a grade or otherwise enter special schooling for the academically gifted. Why not mentor her, or at the very least, show her that learning doesn't have to be limited to the classroom?

The programming suggestions are awesome! So sayeth someone who wrote her first computer program on a TRS-80 model III as an 8-year-old girl, armed only with a library book on BASIC and her own wits. If you can make this happen -- or find some way to show her how to make and build things instead of just consume them -- do it.
posted by trunk muffins at 5:01 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Be careful. Probably the worst thing my parents ever did was tell me that I was destined for great things because of my IQ score.
posted by thelonius at 7:37 PM on August 6


I'm giving myself whiplash nodding in agreement.

My advice to the OP: 1) stop waving this girl's IQ around - it's dangerous, and no good whatsoever can come of it. 2) If she has access to the Internet and a library card, she's 99% of the way to a fantastic lifelong education that will challenge her to no end, and do so exactly in the way SHE wants. Don't fall into the trap of conflating "school" with "education."
posted by deadmessenger at 5:05 PM on August 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


First, I think your intentions are in the right place in that you are recognizing an exceptional child. But, I have to join in the comments that the parents are probably already aware of their daughter's intellectual gifts in that she was offered to skip a grade.

Beyond that, I am a fairly well-educated layman when it comes to general intelligence, and there is no game you could have the child play that would translate into a reliable IQ/general intelligence score. General intelligence needs to be measured under controlled and monitored conditions. That is one reason why those "test your IQ" sites are such a joke.

To give a countering anecdote, I was identified and tested very early because my grandmother was a teacher. I never skipped a grade but I started a year early. My family never "went on" about it but it wasn't hidden, either. Her parents can definitely appreciate and facilitate her gifts while not blowing them out of proportion. People go on about smart kids being bored in school but I never minded it because I could spend a fraction of my mental energies on the schoolwork, leaving the rest of my mind free to think about whatever I wanted. I was autodidactic and continue to be so. My life thus far has been better than I deserve.

As long as her parents aren't trying to stifle her, I think she will be fine without the sort of intervention you have in mind.
posted by Tanizaki at 5:11 PM on August 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


N'ing that you shouldn't be rewarding her IQ number, or even bringing it up in a congratulatory way. Knowing I had a high IQ has never helped me succeed in life. It has kicked me in the butt when I've failed though, particularly when it was thrown in my face by "well meaning" adults in my life. ("How could you have gotten such a low grade?! The test said you were intelligent!")

You should be rewarding and encouraging hard work and perseverance. It will be of much greater use to her as an adult.

(I'm also not sure what you mean by "she is not even aware of her own potential". She's 11. She should be exploring the world and enjoying her childhood, neither of which are assisted by people demanding she live up to some nebulous "potential". Just ask my therapist!)
posted by Dynex at 5:13 PM on August 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


I totally agree with the comments about encouraging any intellectual pursuits on the part of this kid, and facilitating her ability to participate in challenging activities outside of school (maybe a gift to some sort of summer program she expresses interest in if her parents cannot afford it?) I also went to a school where the curriculum was not especially challenging to me except in a very few classes with particularly awesome teachers, and I turned out just fine. Why? Because my parents and other adults in my family encouraged me to go after whatever crazy interest I had at various points. Lots of trips to the library to pick out millions of books (maybe drive her if she can't get there herself?), encouragement to enter a website competition, listening to me ramble on about medieval art, etc. Actually this can be a pretty nice thing because the kid in question can spend less time on doing whatever the state curriculum mandates and more time on whatever cool thing catches their fancy!

Also - who cares what her IQ is? If it happened to be lower than you're guessing, she would still appreciate being in a fun and challenging intellectual environment with people who support that! I don't see how the number changes anything.
posted by rainbowbrite at 5:15 PM on August 6, 2013


Please be aware that administering tests is a specialized skill and it is easy to screw up. Especially if the test is administered by someone looking for a particular result.

I'm another one who was assessed as "gifted" and the gifted program didn't help me one smidgen.
posted by janey47 at 5:22 PM on August 6, 2013


I had gifted children.

Sometimes it's better to encourage them outside of school and let them not have a label slapped on them IN school. Just saying. I have seen other people with scary smart children pressure them, put them in every conceivable thing, and seen burnout in those same kids.

That girl has you to challenge her-in fun ways. You see her potential. Be that friend and encourage what you see. The rest will take care of itself.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:23 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


From experience, I know that IQ is only one part of the equation - motivation is the other part needed for success. To help her, expose her to a variety of learning experiences. Science museums (or a "weather field trip" after reading together about the subject), kitchen experiments (culinary and otherwise), learning to sew, travel to a new location - these creative endeavors and others you will think of can help her learn what she likes.

A hard part of growing up for a number of high-IQ people has been their reluctance to narrow their choices in life for fear of becoming bored. The wider her experiences are, the more likely she is to discover what she's passionate about - which will help her find and follow her passion.

Kudos for taking an interest in her!
posted by summerstorm at 5:25 PM on August 6, 2013


2) If she has access to the Internet and a library card, she's 99% of the way to a fantastic lifelong education that will challenge her to no end, and do so exactly in the way SHE wants. Don't fall into the trap of conflating "school" with "education."

Keeping in mind that not every smart kid is also an autodidact, maybe look into extracurricular enrichment opportunities. I have read great things about 4H, for instance - it's not just for farm kids! They have environmental science programs, robotics programs, stuff like that. And I know you don't really mean it this way, but I kind of cringe at the thought of making a kid "prove" she's smart enough to deserve access to broad and deep educational opportunities. I know you feel you're trying to make a point to her parents, but kids pick up on stuff so easily.
posted by rtha at 5:27 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


You should be rewarding and encouraging hard work and perseverance. It will be of much greater use to her as an adult.

Oh boy, I totally second this, too. There are studies that show it's far more important and useful to praise children for their effort, persistence, creative problem-solving, etc. than it is for "being smart."
posted by scody at 5:30 PM on August 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


As an aside that I haven't seen yet addressed, there's a fair amount of controversy about IQ testing and what the results really mean.

I know that in public school education we only accept IQ results if the test was the administered by a psychologist and the assessment was the Weschler Intelligence Scale for Children and even then, those numbers don't mean much to us. What matters is how well a kid can learn, high IQ or not.
posted by kinetic at 5:36 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


It depends on your relationship with her and the family, but I tend to agree it's way better to engage her directly and find out what she's into, and offer her a tailor-made challenge yourself. And come right out and present it that way, don't try and orchestrate some secret assessment or means of getting her to "realize her own potential"; 11 years is old enough to know that a grown up is up to something and be weirded out and/or really resentful of it. Kids of really appreciate when adults interact with them on the level.

Personal anecdote: A class being "challenging" doesn't automatically equal better. I got skipped head one class level in high school French, and it was really stressful on both academic and social levels.

In French 1 I picked things up quickly and got consistently high marks. I found it interesting and enjoyable, and I was learning a lot. Based on this it was suggested that I should move to French 2. I was super self-conscious of being the only 9th grader in the glass. It was just a little beyond my ability to keep up, it was hard and frustrating and all the sophomores treated me like I was putting on airs or something. French went from being a subject I really enjoyed to being one more subject to muddle my way through. I can't even imagine what it would have been like to skip an entire grade level across the board, and I imagine that she and her parents took that into consideration when the choice was presented.
posted by usonian at 5:41 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm going to offer a different perspective. I was in a gifted preschool, and my parents pulled me out because of fears that they were "pushing" me -- not because of anything they picked up from observing me, but from external ideas about "letting kids be kids" and that sort of thing. When I was clearly miserable, they let me go back. I also skipped a grade, and although I never fit in with my classmates, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have anyway, and I was always grateful for one less year between me and college. There is massive social pressure not to treat academically talented children as special in any way, although no such pressure exists for musically or athletically gifted kids, and if her parents didn't let her skip a grade, they may buy into some of these ideas. Consider that girls in particular are prone to "impostor syndrome", especially those around this age.

People are going to jump all over you for even mentioning IQ, and perhaps it's not the best measure of anything, but puzzle-type games are exactly the right kind of thing for people of a certain intellectual bent -- for the fun they offer rather than for "proving" anything about one's aptitude. Have you looked into the National Puzzlers' League? Maybe a local Scrabble club? Or if she's into math contest-type problems, you might consider contests like the AHSME (just do the problems for fun; they're for high schoolers, and it takes a lot of practice for most people to get good at these kind of problems.)
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:41 PM on August 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sixth grade is the point, in many school systems, where serious tracking begins -- a girl who is not aware of her talents who has parents who declined a grade skip may also slip into a lower track, and that would be a true disaster if she is in a socioeconomically diverse school system, where the top track is bound for good college, the next track is set for community college or a good enough ASVAB score to enlist, and the rest of the school they are just hoping to keep out of jail or maternity wards.

Do some research about the school system, and have a very focused conversation with her about the tracks and how she can make sure she's on the top one.
posted by MattD at 5:57 PM on August 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


She is probably already well aware that she's smarter than her peers. I wouldn't belabor it.

Don't spend too much time lamenting the missed opportunity to skip a grade. I skipped 7th grade, and proceeded to spend high school more or less bored out of my mind. It's not a cure-all. (Also, the teasing! God.)

The best thing you can do for her is give her new experiences and expose her to new ideas. Take her to a museum and discuss the exhibits with her. Watch nature documentaries. Teach her to cook. Sign her up for a club -- someone above mentioned 4H, which sounds fantastic. Book clubs, creative writing classes, volunteer activities -- anything to expand her universe. That will be far more valuable in the long run than any sort of "measure" of her intellectual capacity.
posted by baby beluga at 6:14 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was a so-called "gifted" child, and in hindsight, what I really wanted was just someone to work with on things that I found fun. My idea of fun was probably pretty different than most kids my age. I liked problem solving games (Myst was a big computer game in my household), I loved the puzzle books of logic problems, I liked learning chess and being able to think in longer terms than just one move. I read some great and challenging books, but I also read fluff like The Babysitter's Club and Sweet Valley High. I didn't just need to be challenged, I also needed to be socialized, and I really needed to gain cultural literacy. Gifted kids are often interested in a lot of different areas, and the best thing you can do is to support, encourage, and allow exploration in all of those areas, no matter how challenging or easy they appear to be.

This girl probably knows she's smart, smarter than most of her classmates. So let her lead the way, and support her and encourage her in every endeavor she attempts.
posted by JannaK at 6:14 PM on August 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


What's the endgoal here? She apparently has already been evaluated to the point where the school wanted her to skip a grade. She likely takes enough standardized tests that her high aptitude is apparent.

Don't assume that her parents are going to change their minds just because you come up with some alternative assessment method. If she needs to be more challenged, tell her parents or in some way suggest it. If they want to, they will. If they don't, they won't.

Think of all these suggestions like puzzles and introducing her to programming as enrichment for her own benefit.
posted by bright colored sock puppet at 6:25 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Please let her parents do the parenting. They've chosen to not advance her grade, and they do not need tests to understand their child's intellectual ability. For their prepubescent daughter to be assessed by a man who sometimes hangs out with her is kinda creepy. You need to take a step back.
posted by Houstonian at 6:44 PM on August 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


When I was in high school, I was offered a place in an advanced program at a prestigious college in Manhattan. I chose not to take it, because it would have meant a physically wearying commute each day, more work, and I felt like I was already spending every waking hour on school or homework. You should find out if she wants more enrichment and more challenges. Sometimes a smart kid needs time to just be a kid, too.
posted by Soliloquy at 6:44 PM on August 6, 2013


See if she would enjoy having a mentor. Ask her what she is interested in, offer to help find resources, discuss it with her, etc.

If she doesn't want 'help,' well -- don't.

One great thing about gifted kids is you can ask them what they need and want. They know! (Probably often works with other kids too.)
posted by kmennie at 7:03 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have three children and I can tell you that the one who is probably the smartest also gets the worst grades. Big deal. I am very comfortable with the fact that he will be very happy with his life whatever it is he chooses to pursue. And, it is likely not going to be some very academic.

If you want to challenge this girl, suggest she pursue something she is interested in whether that is learning more about physics or learning to rebuilt a small two stroke engine. I can assure you that she already knows she is smart. She needs to be self motivated enough to challenge herself. No amount of telling her or special classes or special handling will do it.

"You ain't going learn what you don't want to know." Weir/Barlow
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:10 PM on August 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


How about Girl Scouts?
posted by Carol Anne at 7:26 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would be furious with you if you surreptitiously measured my kid's intelligence. It's none of your business how well she scores on tests.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:27 PM on August 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


You yourself might want to read Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers". It convinced me (FWIW) that people who accomplish great things just need to be "intelligent enough" just as basketball players need to be "tall enough". It also speaks to the many other somewhat random characteristics, skills and events that go into making people successful. And also to the different kinds of intelligence testing (for convergent and divergent thinking), etc.

This does not dispute your desire to see that an exceptional young girl be challenged, but does speak to the different ways you can look at her gifts or development.
posted by forthright at 7:29 PM on August 6, 2013


There are studies that show it's far more important and useful to praise children for their effort, persistence, creative problem-solving, etc. than it is for "being smart."

Indeed. And if you dig deeper, there are also well-researched gender disparities on this subject. Girls are particularly singled out for praise along the lines of, "Gosh, you're so smart!", while boys are told, "Hey, great work!" In other words, with girls it's even more important and useful to praise effort, persistence, and creative problem-solving rather than innate ability.

Having said that, I'd echo some of the cautions in this thread. Your profile indicates you're male, and your post uses the word "surreptitious" to describe your desired interaction with an eleven-year-old girl. I'm sure your heart is in the right place and everything is on the up and up, but you don't live in a social vacuum, is all I'm saying. Be careful.
posted by cribcage at 7:42 PM on August 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you can find out what fascinates this girl right now and, with her parents' permission, facilitate her access to the object of that fascination, that's terrific. What I mean is, say she's fascinated by Egyptian archeology and you have the resources to take her for a weekend to a museum with an excellent Egyptian collection she otherwise wouldn't have access to: you talk to the parents and make the offer.

Many, maybe most, gifted children have this kind of very intense focus on a particular subject or discipline. Sometimes it's something classy like Eqyptology and other times it's something you might regard as silly or trivial. The subject, though, is not particularly important: the vital thing here is in having the opportunity to experience the flow of problem-solving in a fascinating area of interest.

The problem-solving can be as simple as your posing questions to the child while she's perusing the hieroglyphs: "I wonder what kind of writing this kind of language would be most appropriate for. It seems like it might not be handy for reporting news, but what do you think?"

There's no intellectual risk in this, actually: even a child of middling intelligence has interests, and it can't hurt to be treated for a change like a sentient being and not just a pesky kid. But this kind of extracurricular stimulation is particularly valuable for a gifted child.

It's not really your business to worry about educational tracks and there's a lot more that goes into the best way to school a child than "she needs to be challenged." What you can do, though, is (as described above) demonstrate that learning and problem-solving are exciting, valuable activities, a message a gifted child does not always hear in school.
posted by La Cieca at 8:20 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Be careful. Probably the worst thing my parents ever did was tell me that I was destined for great things because of my IQ score.

One of the worst things my parents did was not back me up at a parent-teacher conference when I wanted to be in 8th grade algebra, the advanced option at the time. This meant there was no way for me to take Calculus in high-school.

Does she use a computer or have a smart phone? Start out by playing Words With Friends or something like that with her. Chess.com is free, too, if she might be into that. At that age, just knowing someone gives a shit about her intelligence will be enough to make it not seem like a "test." Her interests will out in time, there's no hurry for her to choose a college major.
posted by rhizome at 8:26 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have an 8-year-old daughter that does have a 140 IQ, and one of the most negative things that people do is tell her how smart she is. It causes her a great deal of anxiety and frustration when she doesn't master something on the first try. In her mind, if she's so smart she should be able to do whatever you ask of her, right?

I encourage her to work hard and to keep trying and I never default to telling her that she's simply smart. She's so much more than a number!

That said, one of the things that my child enjoys is making short animated films using Toon Boom Studio. She took a class this summer. Making a short cartoon involves coming up with a plot, writing out the story, coming up with backstories for the characters, illustrating the backgrounds and characters, recording voices and sound effects, adding music, etc. It's very challenging but not boring -- it hits on a lot of the things that she enjoys doing. Maybe you could mentor the 11-year-old and help her make a short animated film? Then she can share it through social media -- kids enjoy that.

Good luck!
posted by Ostara at 9:01 PM on August 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that they didn't let her skip a grade doesn't automatically mean they don't realize she needs to be challenged. Skipping grades can have negative effects on children's socialization, emotional maturation, etc.

This. The earliest stage i think i'd consider it is as a junior in high school, where lots of areas in the US allow you to start taking college classes early at a local community college. And that's only because high school is fucking bullshit and nearly every person i've ever met who was a kid like this when they were younger grew to ultra hate it.

I myself was pulled out of elementary school to be homeschooled because i was "gifted". I was reading at a 9th grade level in 1st grade, bla bla bla. I have close friends who were sent to fancy private schools for smart kids, or got extra tutoring/extracurriculars or grade skips or whatever because of it. Every single one of them experienced series burnout somewhere in their early-mid teens. I myself grew to seriously resent constantly just having the feeling that i had to be applying myself and doing something "GREAT!!1!" from a bunch of adults in my life and ended up spending a bunch of my late teens from the end of highschool to the middle of college just smoking weed every day, watching anime, playing video games and giving them all the finger.

I have a bunch of friends who did the same thing, coming at it from the same situation.

The kids who did ok? they're the ones who were just left to their own devices. One of the smartest guys i ever met dropped out of highschool to go to community college, and ended up in college studying all kinds of crazy nanotech stuff. He taught himself to program and applied all his weird knowledge to doing weird backend dev stuff for companies that handle research and such. He's 21 and he's already getting close to making six figures.

All the gifted kids who've been "pushed" or just generally given a leg up because of it, with all the baggage and freight that comes with it seem to grow to resent it. The ones who are allowed to just do their own thing seem to turn out great.

And if she just wants to do her thing? well let her do her thing. It's the pushing that fucks things up.

If you're going to do anything, offer to teach her things or just give her information. Or just talk to her about stuff. My favorite adults i remember from that age are the ones i could just ask questions about things that interested me. The ones i hated were the ones who wanted to push me down a specific path. If she's really interested in some specific subject/field like photography or recording her own music or art or programming or something then just talk to her about that and tell her what you know, or put her in touch with someone cool you know who can. But don't push her or encourage her parents to.

I'm still kinda climbing out of my "fuck you i wont do what you tell me!" slump that hit REALLY hard in 10/11th grade.
posted by emptythought at 9:32 PM on August 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


At a young age my IQ was tested and was quite high and that has more or less correlated with my actual abilities later in life. Yay for that. But I hated hated hated that number because I had extended family who felt very competitive with me/my parents for some reason who kept asking me for it so they could compare me to my cousins and I grew up feeling weird and awkward around those family members. So please do not harp on her IQ.

That said, I never skipped any grades -- I had already started kindergarten early and I think I would have been a bit miserable being even younger relative to my peers. Plus, my year, for some reason, had a very high concentration of similar kids, whereas the years ahead and behind me did not. So perhaps her parents, by not skipping her, are keeping her with a peer group. (FWIW, those peers, both from my public school days and my private school days, have remained some of my closest friends much later in life even as we've all gone our different ways. A girl I met in my public school G&T class when we were 7 is now my estate planning attorney!)

I do feel your pain on the public schooling front, which is why I ended up at a private school when I was 12. My parents had started applying for me much earlier than that, but I wasn't given the financial aid I needed to attend until I was entering seventh grade. Are you sure her parents haven't looked into an option like this and just can't yet make it work? That can be a difficult thing to admit.

In your position, rather than try to convince her parents about anything, I think you should try to be an outlet for her. Challenge her. Buy (or, if that is not financially possible, recommend) books for her. Find a way to get her access to a LEGO Mindstorms kit, or show her some simple programming online. I have a 6 year old niece, with two older brothers, who I recently discovered is way more into science and engineering-type things than her brothers are, which hadn't really been apparent to anyone before -- so we've been taking apart and reassembling little cheap robots, playing games on my iPhone, and talking about dinosaurs and animals and what a "mammal" is while I do the dishes. All I do is give her a chance to ask questions, and answer them (or look the answers up with her if I don't know them). She seems very interested and I'm thrilled to pass on some geekiness. If the time comes that she asks her parents how she can build robots or do science experiments, then I'll be happy to advise them on kits, camps, school programs, etc, and get her set up. But I'm happy to let her lead that, and keep my role to helping her discover things she's interested in. She's a lot better than I am at getting her parents to do things than I would be -- maybe your young friend is the same way?
posted by olinerd at 12:36 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Best answer: As cribcage says, there are gender differences in how girls' and boys' ability tends to get praised and rewarded, though my reading and experience indicates that it's the opposite of what cribcage said. Regardless, this would be a good topic to do a little research on. Also consider that this is about the age where many girls start feeling social pressure to play down their intelligence and abilities, which seems to be related to your concerns for her. I agree with other posters that measuring her abilities likely isn't going to help; that being a supportive adult who helps her explore her interests, maybe outside of school and its social context, is the way to go; and that there's a balance to be struck between trying to counter negative messages this girl may be receiving (about her abilities, or about how un/cool it may be to pursue said abilities) and pushing her in a way that may lead to burn-out. Fortunately, the last is easy to resolve by listening to her, and providing a space where her pursuing her interests is accepted and praised (eg., "That's really cool that you're interested in how x works. Want to see if we can find out more about it?"), without it being a required thing that she has to do, or feels guilty about letting you down if she doesn't do. Also, being proactive in finding outside of school opportunities (summer camp, after school stuff) for her to pursue things that she has expressed an interest in, and making sure that she is exposed to a wide variety of happy and accomplished women as role models.
posted by eviemath at 4:02 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was one of the kids who skipped a grade. I was grateful to family members who took me to museums and art galleries. I was also grateful to receive book tokens and dictionaries. But I have never stopped feeling like an outsider and socially awkward - some school memories will stay with me forever.

So, stop fretting about the kid's "lost chance" to skip a grade and just give her an outlet to talk about the stuff she is interested in. Take her to the science museum or the art gallery. Discuss newspaper articles with her. Buy her great books. But also let her be a kid. Learning how to interact with others is as important as nurturing her intelligence.
posted by kariebookish at 6:55 AM on August 7, 2013


Best answer: I skipped a grade. There's more to it than IQ. There's also social savvy. The differences in age are more marked the younger the kid is. I skipped 3rd grade. It was hard for me. I never really solidified learning the times tables.

My parents were all about the enrichment. Art, museums, domes, archetecture, concerts, etc. Reading was expected. Once I had a teacher tell my mom that I read too much. My mother never thought very much about that teacher.

I remember school as being very slow paced and boring.

Some kids will never feel at home in school, not in a gifted program or in another classroom. Parents may choose to keep their kid with the kid's friends, feeling (rightly) that school is as much about socialization as it is about education.

Public schools are serving fewer and fewer students. Mostly school is a place to go with some structure and a hot lunch.

At the end of the day, you have to learn how to navigate in a world where you're likely to be the fastest thinker in the room and where patience is a virtue.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:56 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I could have been her. I wish my parents had let me skip the grade - but they said yes to the 3rd suggestion by different teachers to allow an extension program type thing.

Options you have: online course that teaches her programming. Music lessons. Puzzle books/problem solving books. Memail me if you want specific recommendations.

A family friend once emailed me a few brain teaser/puzzle questions. When I answered them, he followed up with more - and occasional books, ideas that matched my interests. There was never a requirement or expectation that I had to do any of it - if there was, I may well not have.

What not to do: labels, pressure to meet your expectations, and if you're thinking of a more school type test: don't.

The only kind of test I would consider: give her one of those options, and find out if she is enjoying it/doing it. If she's not enjoying it, or doesn't do it, consider your test failed.

*Addendum: if she makes a request to do something at school, without it being previously suggested by you: back her up. This means things like doing a math class a year early, or AP classes, etc.
posted by Ashlyth at 10:39 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: For anyone who has returned to this thread - thank you all for your answers.
posted by 4midori at 11:23 AM on August 7, 2013


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