I don’t know if you’ve maybe picked this up over the years, but we place a pretty big value on academic achievement, ’round these parts. Knowledge is power, and a big brain is a terrible thing to waste. Both children qualified for gifted education when we moved here (despite my bumbling) and yes, okay, according to their test scores, they’re freaks. Both of ’em. And I expect them to work hard and perform up to their potential.

But. I never want to be That Parent. I don’t want to be the parent who believes that Precious Snookums is the very smartest and bestest and better than everyone else. I don’t want to be the parent haranguing the schools (actually, I can’t say enough good things about the gifted curriculum here, anyway) because my precious snowflakes need something befitting their SPESHULNESS or whatever. And I MOST ESPECIALLY don’t want to be the parent who teaches her kids—purposefully or by implication—that the only thing that makes them special is being smart.

It’s possible that my baggage in this particular area would NOT fit under the seat in front of me, is what I’m saying.

[I grew up completely self-identifying as A Smart Kid. There are ways in which that was awesome. For example: When I started college the week after I turned 17, I really did believe I was all that. I have a vivid memory of visiting my freshman composition teacher in office hours to argue about the A- he’d given me on an essay. It was A level work, I assured him. (Proof positive that smart does not equal humble or even willingness to learn. Heh.) (He assured me that I was an excellent writer but that I could do even better. I learned a ton in his class.)

There are also ways in which that was terrible. Example 1: I’m simply not as good at higher-order math as I am at other things. And when I began to struggle in calculus I honestly believed life as I knew it was OVER because it turned out that really, I wasn’t smart at ALL and my entire life had been a lie. Example 2: When I arrived at Stanford for grad school, after a lifetime of being the smartest kid in the room I was arguably the dumbest and definitely the laziest… which meant that my entire life had been a lie. Example 3: School used to be fun, but then it was That Thing I Must Be The Best At and that sucked every last particle of joy out of it. Example 4: When I became an adult and it no longer mattered that I’d been a smart kid I had no idea who I was anymore AND MY ENTIRE LIFE HAD BEEN A LIE.

Also: Although we’re both plenty smart, there are ways in which I think my brother and I were compared to each other that were detrimental (in different ways and at different times) to both of us. And I can already see differences in my kids that make me hyper-vigilant about not wanting them to feel compared to each other, ever.

See? Baggage.]

The immediate result of my particular baggage here is that—particularly with Chickadee—my expectations are high, but I Do Not Push. I am very reserved in what I say to her teachers. I am always concerned about her taking on too much.

So last year, when a handful of her classmates were skipped up a grade in math, and she came home and complained bitterly that no one had asked HER if SHE wanted to advance, I waved my hand and assured her that this was for the best. You’re just getting adjusted to middle school, I assured her. You’re already in advanced math. You have enough on your plate. Don’t worry about it.

I forgot about it until the last month of school, when she suddenly became obsessed with wanting me to talk to the gifted coordinator about skipping her up THIS year. Finally we scheduled a meeting and I politely inquired as to what would be required for her to make the switch.

“Well, she’d need to spend the summer learning the entire 7th grade curriculum,” she told me. “Then she’d have to take the competency test, demonstrate mastery of the material, and then she could potentially be moved up.” Chickadee swore up and down at the meeting that she wanted to do it. We discussed study guide recommendations. And then we left.

Summer arrived and Chickadee never once asked to do any math. So I let it go, because honestly? I didn’t want her to move up. Part of what had been made very clear to us at the meeting was that doing 8th grade math in 7th grade was rarely a problem, but because they don’t have a 9th grade class at the middle school, in 8th grade the students on that track take math via Virtual Academy and can expect to spend three hours A DAY on math homework. That sounded like a special circle of hell, to me.

School started again and with it came the complaints: We did this last year. This is too easy. I want to move up.

I told her to bring me a 100 average on her first progress report and we’d discuss it.

Not only did she bring me that 100, she came home begging me to mail the gifted coordinator to ask for her to be tested to move up.

I sent the email. And I may have said, “I’m not convinced she’ll pass, but she’d like to take it.” Chickadee was furious. “YOU THINK I’M DUMB!” Half an hour of trying to explain that there’s a big difference between “I think you’re dumb” and “I think you may not already know this entire year’s worth of material because you haven’t finished the class yet” did nothing to soothe her ruffled feathers.

She harumphed around the house for a week, grumbling about how I think she’s stupid.

That… may be where I realized that my “don’t put too much emphasis on being gifted” philosophy was somehow being interpreted as “oh honey, you’re SPECIAL just because you’re my precious little daft doodlebug.”

Chickadee took the test. The gifted coordinator called me in for a meeting. I said, “Sure, but the suspense is going to kill us, you know!” She chuckled and told me that Chickie had qualified to move up, but we had to “go over the implications.” I congratulated my daughter on having a big brain. She replied: “Thank you! YOU THOUGHT I WOULDN’T PASS.”

I sighed.

I went to the meeting. They showed me her changed schedule, the curriculum for the new class, the overview of what happens next year in the virtual class. They gave me a sheet titled Math Track Options and showed me that the switch means Chickadee is now on track to be done with high school math by 10th grade, freeing her up to take two full years of AP math before she graduates, if she’s so inclined. They reminded me that this track is only advisable for kids who plan to pursue a “science-oriented or other technical field.” I joked that Chickadee is currently planning to go to veterinary school but that just a few years earlier she wanted to be an elephant, so I wasn’t going to hold her to it. No one laughed.

I signed where they told me to sign. And then the gifted coordinator asked me if I’d registered Chickadee for Duke TIP (some paperwork had been sent home about a month ago and I had thrown it out). I replied that no, I hadn’t bothered, because from the paperwork they’d sent it looked to me like a prime opportunity to 1) pay $70 so that 2) my 7th grader could freak out over taking the SAT and then 3) Duke could offer to take all of our money to send her to some enrichment program.

[For the record: Both kids qualified for the 4th/5th grade program, and that was all it was. “Give us money, then give us more money.”]

Well. When I said I hadn’t registered her, I honestly feared the gifted coordinator was going to have a stroke. “You MUST!” she sputtered. “This opens up all sorts of educational opportunities for her! It gets her into a national database that could mean the difference when it’s time to apply for college scholarships! SHE NEEDS TO TAKE THE TEST!”

I repeated—albeit with a bit less sureness, now—that it seemed silly to me to make a 12-year-old take the SAT. Particularly if it was only going to qualify her to attend some $300/day program we would never send her to.

Now BOTH teachers in front of me launched into an impassioned plea to register her immediately, there are grants available and depending on her score she may be invited to special programs free of charge and college and scholarships and achievement and YOU ARE A TERRIBLE MOTHER!

Okay, I made that last part up. No one actually SAID that. Though I’d be willing to bet they thought it.

When I picked Chickadee up from school yesterday, I told her I had good news and bad news. Her face immediately tensed. “The good news is that you start your new math class tomorrow,” I began. She did a triumphant fist pump, which may be the first time I’ve ever seen anyone demonstrate unfettered physical joy in response to math. “The bad news is that apparently I’m not attending to your education properly.” She quirked an eyebrow at me. “I’ve been informed that you MUST register for that Duke TIP thing and take the SAT. You up for a really long test?” She grinned and nodded.

“I TOLD YOU I needed to do that,” she couldn’t resist adding.

“Yeah, well, I misunderstood,” I said. “I’m sorry. And for the record I still think it’s stupid to make you take the SAT in 7th grade. But whatever.” Chickadee was still grinning. “Also for the record,” I continued, “I never for a MOMENT believe you are anything other than brilliant. But I never want you to get so caught up in all of this stuff that it stops being fun. That’s all. Okay?” She looked at me for a moment, absorbing this, and then nodded.

Middle school is complicated, man. Particularly if you’re a smarticle with a neurotic mother.

*Smarticle rhymes with particle, and is a term Monkey and Chickadee coined to designated those with both big brains and a penchant for silly words. It is high praise in our house.


  1. Otto

    This is all well and fine, but if the Dog Emailer says Licorice needs to take the PSAT (Puppy Sad-eyes Attention Test), well … I may just put my foot down and say that not everyone in the house is allowed to be a smarticle. They don’t need to be dumbicles, but averagicles are people, too.


  2. michaela

    I took the SAT in 7th grade, and it totally didn’t kill me. I did pretty well on the verbal – especially considering I was, you know, TWELVE – and not well at all on the math. But it did open up some opportunities that we did not take (read: expensive summer camps at Johns Hopkins and the like) and made me much more comfortable taking the PSAT in high school… by which time I aced it, got a National Merit scholarship and got a full ride to college.

    So, umm… no pressure on Chickadee – but it could be really awesome for her. ;)

  3. Kristin

    I also self-identified as the Smart Kid, and the pressure is making me twitch from here. Good luck to Chickie, but good for you for keeping things in perspective!

  4. Leandra

    I wish you had gotten the math joy fist pump on film because I think it would be one of a kind and worth something some day. Your description of your Smart Person “baggage” could well have been written by me, for what it’s worth. My husband (who is not from my hometown) met an acquaintance of mine once and when he told the guy he was married to me, the guy said “Oh yeah, I know her. She’s smart as sh*t.” So, now when our kids do something above average we say “He/She is smart as sh*t” (out of their hearing, of course!). I think I prefer smarticle. It’s less profane.

  5. Amanda

    I also self-identified as a smart-kid, which hosed me down the road with the laziness (didn’t help that I had blue-collar parents who had no idea what to do with me).

    I took the SAT in 7th grade, and it was fun/awesome to do pretty well for an 11-year-old. Plus it did open some doors for me (went to a special program at the U of MN two summers in high school, which counted as college credit and was super amazing).

  6. Jenn

    Ugh – we are going through the same thing except without a decent gifted program. That leaves me all alone in trying to figure out things like “should I pay $700 for a two week gifted summer program?” p.s. my answer was “Hell no.”

    Also, Because she wants to go to the good charter school for middle school I am currently trying to balance hounding my daughter about that B+ in social studies with “keeping it real.”

    As one who was also the smart kid BUT who managed to let the pressure get to her and flamed out in college, this is all way too familiar. Smart children are exhausting. I should call my mom and apologize.

  7. Jennifer B

    I also did the Duke TIP program, but i took the ACT instead. When college time came around, I def. got some head nods from schools that probably would not have looked at me otherwise :)

  8. Ani

    Smart-kid baggage? Boy I gots me some doozies.

    Mostly because I was so bored and frustrated with my schooling, until I went off to my high-falluting undergrad school and it kicked my butt (in a very good way).

    I am happy for her that she gets the chance to stretch her efforts with the math class.

    I am highly amused at the coordinator/teachers’ reaction to the SAT thing. FWIW I hope she aces the SAT and gets a scholarship to a summer program for gifted kids. She will love it and you will get a break from the adolescent DRA-MA! :-)

  9. Annie Mouse

    I did the TIP thing – and it DID afford me some rad opportunities that, in all honesty, changed my life.

    But I thought tests were fun, and it was something that I liked doing. I liked that I took the SAT in 7th grade and scored well — it gave me something to shoot for when I took it “for real.” Plus, the scores go to really good schools – it’s a talent identification program, so I was able to start daydreaming about all the amazing things that I might be able to do, in a very real way that I wouldn’t have recognised elsewise.

  10. Katherine

    My son took the SAT with Duke TIP – reluctantly at first, but now he is glad he took it (and wishes he had tried a little harder). He did wonderfully on the verbal, but only so-so on the math (he missed the cut-off by 10 points to take some really interesting math classes). He did take an online class in computer game programming, which he really enjoyed. He thinks it is way cool to be getting personalized mail from boarding high schools (which we are not considering, but still…) who go so far as to set up websites for each potential applicant.

    From a parent point of view, I thought it was useful to see how he really did comparatively on math/verbal, since he aces both on age-level tests. I will definitely have my 6th grader take the SAT next year when he gets a chance.

  11. bad penguin

    I’m pretty sure I did the early SAT thing, and clearly it made such a big impression on me that I can’t even remember how it turned out. However, that was a long time ago and they’ve made great strides in the programs for gifted kids since then.

    I had the whole smart kid thing too! It was a shock to get to Wellesley and realize just how smart all the people around me were.

    Hooray for Chickadee and her unfettered physical joy in response to math. :)

  12. diane

    I am worried that someday I, too, will be a Smarticle parent with baggage. I alternate between wishing my parents had pushed me harder in math so that I’d pursued a science career, and feeling bad that all that gifted education goodness got my butt in a cube like everyone else.

  13. AngstyJen

    I was “the smart one” too, and boy howdy was I tightly wound. I made one B as an undergrad, and it was in my last semester, American History. I came unglued. I truly think the professor gave me a B just to prove something. I still hate that woman!

    I, too, took the SAT in 7th grade and thought it was kind of fun. I also spent the summer before my junior year studying for it constantly and enjoyed the tutorials. Today, when my husband and I get a rare night away, we bring the Scrabble board. All hail nerds!

    Seriously, though, it sounds like you’re striking the right balance between “Be perfect or the world will fall apart” and “Like, go to school or don’t, whatever.”

  14. Mandee

    Another proponent of the TIP program. I didn’t qualify, but my best friend did. The second summer she went, she did their marine biology program. She now has a PhD in Marine Ecology and credits that summer for leading the way. She also ended up getting a full ride to UNC where she did the honors program, so maybe the $700 investment would be worth it.

    I also took the SAT in the 7th grade- our math teacher encouraged us to take it once a year starting in the 7th grade so that it would be old hat when it got to the point when it mattered.

    But, I admire your parenting philosophy. In my experience, a lot of smarty pants already put too much pressure on themselves. It’s great to help them keep a balance.

  15. Karishma

    Hahahaha. Oh, Mir. Those first few paragraphs about self-identifying as the smart kid and the implications thereof? And the weird comparisons to siblings? Spot on, that’s me. There are days your posts are just too perfect, this being one of them.

    But if it helps…. I was quite literally exactly in Chickie’s situation when I was in 7th grade, and can tell you from the student perspective that this could work out just fine, and be something for her to be proud of, in a good way. I did the whole take-a-class-over-the-summer thing, and ended up in 11th grade honors level math in 9th grade. Then I took a class in 10th grade that was AB Calc and BC Calc all in one year. And then I took AP Stats in 11th grade. And then I took a Higher Level IB Math class (the international version of AP classes) in 12th grade. Meanwhile, I took a full load of AP classes, plus an extra science, and gave up lunch hours to take more classes. Yeah. My schedule was notorious in the registrar’s office for being completely impossible to create.

    Like you, my mother was not thrilled. She thought it was too much. She thought being a 9th grader around 11th graders (who were resentful, b/c it made *them* feel stupid that I was in their class) was not a good idea. (She was partially right, but I hate backing out of commitments, so I stuck it out.) She thought taking AB/BC Calc together was stupid. (Untrue.) But she’s also Indian, and puts UTMOST importance on education and related achievements, so she let me be the driver in the situation.

    Which is all to say – let her do it. My mother was not happy about it, but also knew that I had to try it for myself. And if she hadn’t let me, I would have resented her for it – much in the same way as “YOU THINK I’M STUPID!!!11!!1” – and held it against her, just a little bit. My sense of accomplishment in taking that AB/BC class was worth the world to me, and completing all my college math credits by the end of 11th grade was just the icing on the cake. Let her try it. It’s going to be hard, but if she’s motivated, and sets herself to it, she’ll push through.

  16. Lori N

    oh Lord — I know nothing about all of this, but may need to investigate it sooner than later because my now 5th grader has a goal to learn all of the 5th & 6th grade curriculum so she can skip to 7th grade and be with her friends. I am definitely one of those Does Not Push Parents so am waiting to see how this all falls out. :)

  17. Mom24@4evermom

    I, too, am a bad mother. My children are brilliant, no lie, but I don’t care. I don’t push. I don’t put them in MIT’s summer school, I’ve never allowed them to take the SAT in 7th grade, much to the consternation of the gifted ed program at our school. And…I’m completely comfortable with all of that. Teach my kid, make learning fun, challenge them, there’s time down the road for them to shine for their brains. There’s so much more that goes into the equation than just that.

  18. Aimee

    I love “smarticle” and will be using it frequently henceforward.

    I too self-identified as a smart kid, or as they called it in the Boston suburb where I grew up, a dexter. Pronounced dex-tah, of course. And no, that does not mean I’m a serial killer.

    Good for Chickie witih the math, and good for you for making sure she keeps it fun. You both rock!

    And Otto? I’m sure Licorice would totally ace the PSAT, but I bet she’ll be happy if you just rub her tummy, too.

  19. Rebecca

    Your post title and note crack me up! My 9th grader uses smarticle all the time! Must be some new catch word.

  20. Karen

    I took the SAT in middle school too. And I remember being asked to attend a special gifted boarding school, which I turned down. While it was nice to feel smarter than half of all high shcool seniors and get recognized, I did not want to leave home. And I can honestly say I do not know of this helping me when I applied to colleges.

    Also, I support your way of handling the situation. Burnout is a real possibility. I was excited to be able to take higher level science classes in high school. Then in the middle of 11th grade I decided it was all too much for me. It was not that I couldn’t handle the work, but I realized I was stressed out and depressed and generally not happy. My mom claimed that she had asked me over the years if it was too much and if I wanted to change schools, but I never heard her. When she asked me again in my junior year I finally heard her, and within a week we had found another school. I can say that I probably did not learn anything new in my last year and a half of high school, but I was happy and do not regret my decision for a second.

    So keep being supportive of Chickadee and keep being the mom who wants her to enjoy life. Someday she will hear you and I promise she will appreciate it more than you know.

  21. Brandy

    I took the Duke SAT in 7th grade. I didn’t move forward to do any further classes, but that might have been because my folks would never have been able to afford them. I might have been invited without them telling me. Who knows. But, taking the test was a cool thing. Chickadee will enjoy it!

  22. Cathy

    Eh, my friend did the 7th grade Duke program. She was able to get a scholarship to go, or else her family wouldn’t have been able to afford it. She says that in retrospect it was a good experience but not so good that she’d spend actual money out of pocket for it.

    This friend and I had identical grades, similar experiences, etc. We got into the same schools and I somehow got a full scholarship and she only got half.

    I feel that if the student in question gets good grades, takes AP courses (or better yet, joins the IB program), and has good extracurricular activities, they’ll get into a great school with a scholarship. By the sounds of it, Chickie is smart. She’ll be fine.

  23. mbbored

    I did the Duke TIP SAT and did pretty well. Granted I was a slacker who never studied for anything, but I did stress out over the results. There were lots of cool programs then available to me that showed me life at an elite educational institute that I would never have considered before. However, I still hate Duke with a passion. Go Heels!

  24. liz

    That is a tough line to walk on. And you seem to be doing it pretty well.

  25. diane

    I knew I was a smarticle (LOVE that word), but had a mother who constantly told me I was lazy. My temperment is such that rather than try to beat that expectation, I just said “Fine.” So without any undue effort, I graduated sixth in my high school class and with high honors from college, and passed the CPA exam on the first try (back then, it wasn’t computerized and we could not use calculators!).

    Is it any surprise that in my adult years I do cryptic crosswords (in ink), teach myself foreign languages for fun and read voraciously on almost any subject? Part of me wants to go back to school (I work for a univeristy – seven credits per semester free!), but not only can I not narrow down what I want to study from the plethora of subjects available, I’m…you guessed it – lazy.

    Chickie is an incredible young woman, and I pray that this always stays fun for her – not only the learning, but the eventual career choice and doing.

  26. Groovecatmom

    Dang it, Mir. You had to go and pique my interest and now I am investigating Duke TIP (although I think we are too far away but there are other similar programs closer). But seriously? The SAT in 7th grade? Lord have mercy. I had never heard of such a thing before.

  27. MomCat

    Kudos to Chickie! Hope her pride can maintain her zeal for that extra work. It gets to be a lot, but since it’s something she’s insisted upon, instead of you, then you can’t be the bad guy!

    My daughter took the TIP SAT in 7th, too, and I think the best thing she gained from it is that the SAT isn’t going to be a mystery when the time comes. She knows she can do it. I was appalled to pay all that money,too, and also rather shocked to find out that she scored better than lots of seniors do. Good for her, but sad for the system.

    Next year she takes the PSAT (but not quite the same one that Otto mentioned) and lots of her friends are already doing cram schools for it. I’ve offered to pay for one if she wants to do it, but I’m not going to force her to go.

  28. Kathy

    and middle school is even MORE complicated if your child is not one of the “smart” ones, but doesn’t quite qualify for special ed services – then they get to high school and all KINDS of fun begins.

  29. k.mayer

    I can’t help but think it’s not a race, and smart or not-so-smart, kids need to be kids. PSATs? SATs? All fine and good, but how about some tree climbing, lego building, lemonade stand selling, dress up, cannonballing fun? A little flirting and perhaps some cotton eyed joe? Your kids sound awesome, and good for you for making it (mostly) their decision (sans checkbook). I call no bragging at Open House, okay?

  30. Tina

    Hey, I was *gifted* as well! (Having fun reading all your comments of other smart kids now grown up…you have very smart readers! :) It took me going to the Gifted and Talented HIGH SCHOOL to find out there were lots smarter people out there then me. So college was an easy transition. Seriously, it was frustrating to have friends study as much as me and get As while I got the Bs/Cs. But it did a great job preparing me. Anyway, good luck with raising smart kids. My oldest is only in 1st grade and I’m trying to walk the balance of not being one of *those* moms as well.

  31. Frank

    “Smarticle” made me snort… good thing there was no beverage nearby. :) It also made me think…”Hey, I was one of those!” Unfortunately I used it to make myself lazier instead of take advantage of the doors it had cracked for me. College was an eye-opener.
    Now, I know you wont do this… but if I didnt say anything i would totally fail as a vigilant reader. Take it from someone who walked the ‘Easy” path and regrets it: PLEASE dont take TOO much of a “Laissez-Faire” approach. Its a difficult line to find, and a more difficult one to follow, to balance the 2 extremes. Although, I think you are well on your way to finding the medium that works for you and Chickie. Good luck!
    By the way.. we live in the Triangle area. So if you are expected to visit Duke at some point during the TIPs, I could provide a version of the nickel Email tour of the area Attractions…

  32. Karen

    My son took the SAT in 7th grade, and attended John’s Hopkins CTY program (and loved, loved, loved it), but our situation is different from yours. Our school district is overcrowded and underfunded, and the empahsis is more on getting students through than on any enrichment. Regular classes are at least 2 years behind surrounding districts, and the “TAG” classes are barely at grade level. The one uber-advanced program is the equivalent of the regular classes in other districts.

    So my son thirsted for something that would challenge him, and CTY fit the bill. It was worth the money to see him so happy. He lived for those 3 weeks during the three summers he took the program.

    At the time my son did CTY (almost 20 years ago), there were some stories going around about students cracking under the stress of the program. There was a suicide in the session before my son attended. In every case that I know of, these were students who had been pressured to spend hours studying for the SAT, so they would have the honor of making it into the program. The program is geared toward students who can get those SAT scores without intensive studying. Students who had to spend hours studying to get those scores were in over their heads during the classes. If they knew how important it was to their parents that they excel, it put a horrible burden on them. Something that was supposed to be a wonderful experience instead made them feel like a failure. You are very wise to avoid setting your children up for that trap.

  33. Alice

    Ah, smarticles. Great word. I agree with others – I did the Duke thing, though only did the (cheaper) local summer activity – it was nice for me to do something academic with people I normally didn’t interact with, and the other girls and I in the math class formed a mini cabal, which was fun. Interestingly, advanced calculus was where my math brain started to falter as well, and then the previously neglected verbal side of things raced up to the fore.

    At this point in life, though, I *completely* identify with your Smart Kid Baggage, and applaud you mightily for working to ameliorate its effect on your ‘icles. (My baggage comes with an additional side of ‘wish I’d learned better (any) study habits, so that I’d be less reluctant to pursue legitimately hard endeavors’, but the desire to avoid passing it along to offspring stands.)

  34. My Kids Mom

    My older sister was The Smart Kid, which left me to be The Popular Kid. My parents never implied any of this, but it had somehow been absorbed anyway. My abilities were about the same as my sister’s, but I never much cared about my grades. Even in college (where I was no longer the top of the heap) I”d sacrifice an A for a fun night out. B’s were fine. But…. I always felt, growing up, that I was failing in the Popularity test. I couldn’t hold up that end of it, and when I finally acknowledged my Inner Geekdom (that I was a Smarticle) I finally found real friends who I still care about and still enjoy. I wish I knew the answer to this, because I see it with my own boys already. Identifying as Smart or Popular or Sporty or Whatever -and not understanding that you can be All of the Above- seems to limit kids. But how to not let it happen?

  35. Rasselas

    Read Heinlein’s “Have Space Suit – Will Travel” if you haven’t, yet. I think it’ll give you a giggle, with the crazy laissez-faire parenting suggestions and worldviews.

  36. Crisanne

    I took the SAT in 7th grade. Surprised everyone and qualified for the summer program, even. I was always a terrible standardized test taker. My parents couldn’t afford it, and I’m not sure I really wanted to be away that long. I had some friends go and they had a great time.

  37. Becca

    I ended up participating in what sounds like a similar program to TIP, though it was just in the summer. I took the SATs in 7th grade (with little studying) and was accepted. It was one of the best experiences I had in in grade school, to be among a group of my peers who were just as interested in academics as I was, where suddenly that was “cool.”

    I think it probably helped that while I went to public school, it was a school that was known to be strong in academics, so to a certain extent people who moved to the district self-selected. While I always knew I was smart, I was surrounded by a whole bunch of people who were smarter than I was, so college wasn’t a shock. Doing a summer program filled with smart kids might have a similar effect.

  38. ramblin red

    I soooo get this. When I, and a girl whose mom died when we were in elementary school, my mom and her dad went to Seattle for us to do the SAT for 7th graders at University of Washington, I had a great time. Of course I was secretly hoping for a parent trap between her dad and my mom, but the test part was fun too. Sadly, my family moved away to rural CO 2 years later and those opportunities that everyone else has mentioned slipped away. I just went to college the old-fashioned way of paying an arm and a leg ;)

    My daughter (9) has just been placed in the talented and gifted program at her school and the baggage I have is manifesting itself very similarly to that which you describe.

  39. Erica

    I thought *I* would have been that parent until I MET that parent at a school tour. Our kids are going to be starting kindergarten, and she was asking so many questions you’d think it was graduate school. She literally kept pushing other parents aside so she could be in the front.

    At that moment, I vowed never, ever to become that mother.

  40. Darcie

    We got the Duke TIP thing in the mail too. My 7th grader does NOT want to do it.

    I asked the school curriculum coordinator about it and she recommended it but did mention what ulitmately they are promoting are the summer programs that costs money we don’t have. We are already maxed out trying to pay for his private school. I decided not to push him to do it, but now reading all the comments I am feel like I am being a TERRIBLE parent. Sigh.

  41. Loonytick

    I was invited to do the TIP thing and declined. Several of my friends did it.

    I didn’t go to Smart Kid Camp in middle school, but my grades kept up with theirs despite having 100% nonacademic summer., I got into my college of choice with a big chunk o’ scholarship money. I kept up just fine. I have never regretted not buying into the hype of “you MUST do this or you’ll MISS OUT!” not that there’s anything wrong with TIP or those camps, it’s just that they aren’t a neccessary route to success.

    My parents had a similar attitude to yours, Mir, and I thank them for that. It really did help me avoid the Smart Kid Letdown or burnout later on. I witnessed a number of high school friends hit a major emotional wall from all the pressure, and several cracked. Permanently. It just isn’t worth it.

    Moderation in all things, right?

  42. Karate Mom

    Smarticle! I love that! I also love Otto’s comment, and think that our house is pretty much full of averagicles…which is great because I homeschool and I don’t know how I’d do it if my kids were super smart. I mean…wait…that sounded weird. What I mean is that I have enough on my plate teaching regular, grade level subjects and don’t know how I’d handle teaching GT ones.
    On another note, my husband works with boxes all day long, making his fingertips really dry That means that his cuticles are ANYTHING but cute! So they’re uglicles.

  43. Janette

    There is nothing wrong to be a smarty pants. I do think it is ridiculous to be forced to take the SAT at such a young age. It is simply uncalled for.

  44. the celt (jessica)

    I took the SAT in 7th grade and did well, but it only opened up opportunities for me to go to a really wonderful summer camp with the Illinois Math and Science Academy. The PSAT got me a ton of college interest, but it was that along with my ACT and class rank when I graduated that got me a full ride at a few colleges (of course, I only went to one ;) ). I’m looking to go back to college right now, actually, to get a second bachelor’s (several years later — only I won’t say how many several) and (so I hope) eventually on to an MLS degree (if jobs ever open back up for that again in the future). Here’s hoping my first class (you guessed it, calculus!) will come back to me, since I haven’t had it in over a dozen years. (I’m self-reminding by going through a couple algebra course books and taking tests over algebra/trig/pre-calc.) I’m staying optimistic, but nothing about being the “smart kid” in HS or college means it’s all going to go well when you go back again.

    (Did we have the same freshmen English teacher? And was his goal to make us all feel like we weren’t living up to our potential? And did yours end up becoming your favorite teacher in the end, because you learned the most from him even if he wouldn’t bump your A- to an A when you talked to him? I ended up requesting an independent study from mine my senior year, and I think he was the hardest, toughest nut to crack — and he taught me so much about writing that I can’t even begin to thank him for it.)

    I really don’t think I could have used anymore parentheticals if I tried, Mir…

  45. Amy

    I also took the SATs in 7th grade. I LOVED it. I’ve always enjoyed taking big tests. I was just a turd that I would get a huge kick out of finishing before anyone else AND scoring better than any of them. I remember the realization that my 7th grade SAT scores were higher than the average of one of the local high schools and I thought I was hot shit. I think I was eligible for the summer program at Johns Hopkins, but there was no way we could have afforded it, which bummed me out, but I understood. I was pleased that I was smart enough to even be invited.

  46. Eric

    Oh boy.

    I’ve worked in Admissions/Financial Aid for half my life, and there’s no free lunch, folks.

    Every parent expects some sort of college discount (read: scholarship) these days because everyone knows their kid is just *so* special. Everyone thinks their child went to a fantastic high school, where an “A” is *so much more* meaningful than an A from the neighboring school. After all, their guidance counselor swears it is.

    But in my experience, guidance counselors and parents don’t know squat about what did, or didn’t lead to a scholarship.

    Part of what guidance counselors know is that when they visit a college the Admissions staff fawns over them with praise about how *important* they are and offers them pens and t-shirts from the school (read: payola).

    Every college in the nation is panicked about how their hedge-fund-heavy endowments have shrunk. But someone has to pay for all of those new rec centers and residence halls. If you think that having your child take the ACT or SAT obscenely early is the ticket to ensuring that *someone else’s* special child pays more so that *your* special child can go to an *excellent* college for free, then go ahead and send the College Board $43. The College Board greatly appreciates your business, especially these days as fewer colleges are requiring the SAT as an entrance exam. In this new economy, you can’t blame the College Board for wanting to move into new market. Especially seeing as they totally missed the boat in not rolling out the “SAT Pooh” theme to compete head to head with the “Classic Pooh” line of baby nursery decor. (sigh)

    Look, here’s the Cliff Notes on college scholarships:

    Scholarships offered by colleges through the admissions RECRUITMENT/SALES process are not charity and they are not recognition of how *special* your child is. Those awards are bait. Think of them as the rebate offered towards the purchase of a new car.

    Sticking with the new car analogy doesn’t get us far, because you purchase the same car just once. You purchase a college education 4 times over (You tackle the bill for the Freshman year, then Sophomore year bills, then Junior year, then Senior year bills.) The price can (and likely will) go up each successive year as tuition, room or board rates increase. It usually gets worse, because…

    (!! SPOILER ALERT!! ) Many colleges award their most attractive aid package up front, for the Freshman year. Unless those grants/scholarships are guaranteed to be renewable amounts for subsequent years, they can and often do shrink in subsequent years. So not only do we have to contend with higher prices, but we could also see shrinking aid to boot. What it all means is that sometimes colleges look at freshman year as a teaser, or a loss-leader, to get the student in the door. And believe me, they know just how much they can squeeze parents so that the hurt to the checkbook for each successive year is less than the guilt moms or dads would face at having to tell their kid that they can’t afford to let them return to that *special* college. I mean, not when they’re doing *so well* with their (grade inflation) courses and are dating someone special to boot… To tell them that their parents can’t afford to give them their 4-year dream of Rec Centers with climbing walls and Student Unions with Starbucks and WiFi everywhere? It’s like telling her she can’t have the wedding of her dreams, isn’t it? In other words, time to suck it up and finance just a little more of the Junior year. After all, she’s just now chosen a major…

    And here’s why guidance counselors know very little: All that guidance counselors know from parents in regards to paying for college is the size of the scholarship offer (read: discount rate or rebate.) It’s that scholarship amount that gets announced at senior year award banquets or at graduation. Most students attending competitive colleges commit to a college as of May 1 with some sort of deposit. But the bills for the first semester or quarter don’t come out until afterward that – maybe not until June, July or August. Anyone have a lot of contact with their guidance counselor during the summer AFTER high school? Most people don’t. Think families are following back up with guidance counselors two years after h.s. graduation to talk about how easy or hard it was to pay for college in the later years? Again, most aren’t. My point is that most guidance counselors, unless they themselves recently put a child through college probably don’t have much of an idea of how much families are paying (or borrowing) these days. Think anyone is coming back to their guidance counselor 6 years after h.s. graduation and saying “Yup, got my degree. Only had to borrow $23,000 to get it.” There isn’t a complete feedback loop between guidance counselor working with the parents of seniors and that same student after college. In other words, guidance counselors just don’t know.

    (Not to knock too hard on guidance counselors, who are way-overworked and really can’t be blamed for listening to what the College Board and Admissions RECRUITERS tell them. After all, they have to contend with all that, plus the need to schedule courses, on top of having to make a difference with kid emotional issues. It’s a tough job, for sure. And as a rule, they don’t know what you think they know in order to advise you about college costs.)

    Of course, don’t take my word for it. Take the word of other parents. Ask them about how they paid for college (recently) for their kids. After all, I’m sure your neighbors are in the business of complete and full disclosure of their financial lives with you, right? I know my neighbors are an open book, financially. I know about their second mortgage, just like they know my credit score. C’mon, if they never saved for college and assumed that federal aid and scholarships would be there to cover the difference, they’d tell you. There would be nothing to be embarrassed about, right? Why, you’ve probably already chatted with them about how pleased they were to find out about the federal PLUS loan for parents, or those (variable rate) private loans through Sallie Mae and the like. “Thank our lucky stars for a wealth of attractive financing plans to fall back upon!” is what I heard at the last neighborhood cookout. You too?

    To recap: Colleges are not philanthropic organizations. They exist for two reasons – – to educate, and to persist in perpetuity. In order to persist, they need to collect revenue. They are very expensive, and they won’t persist if they keep giving away their product for free.

    You can expect that your kid will be offered a scholarship (discount) from most if not all colleges. That’s just the reality these days. Everyone expects a rebate and colleges are meeting consumer expectations. (Ever wonder why tuition increases? Part of it is because everyone expects an even larger rebate over time. Now you know.)

    Do you think that having your kid take the SAT at a tender age will lead to college scholarships? (By “tender age” I mean you’ve sat them down to have the big SAT talk before you’ve had the big STD talk) You could be right. But you’ll never know, because schools aren’t usually telling you why they offered that award. They keep you guessing. Chances are, if your kid can correctly spell all the words which make up the acronym SAT, they will probably get some sort of scholarship from a college somewhere. It’s just the nature of the game. Could putting your kid through years of violin lessons lead to a scholarship? It might. Again, you’ll never know whether it did or not, because chances are, a kid who practiced an instrument for years is probably getting a scholarship. Much like their non-violin-playing friend is getting one too. And you don’t know why.

    Don’t hate the (non-violin playing) playuh. But go ahead and hate the (college scholarship bait) game.

    If you want your son or daughter to really clean up on the scholarship chase, have them search out private scholarship awards from the college foundations and private awards. I’m talking about the sorts of awards that actually require hard work of writing and re-writing essays. Those awards are usually given out for the right reasons, not given out as inducements to enroll as part of the college admissions recruitment sales pitch. Couple that hard work with the absolute best effort in the classroom (cumulative GPA) and standardized tests (PSAT, SAT and ACT). I’ve worked at 4 universities. None of them have done anything besides look at GPA and the highest score on the PSAT, SAT and ACT.

    If taking the SAT early breeds comfort and familiarity with the test, so much so that it leads to a higher score, then maybe it’s a good thing. Meaning that maybe someone really should bring out “SAT Pooh” nursery decor for the baby’s room. But don’t for a moment think that either one will result in a debt-free college education.

  47. Christina

    I was a smarticle too, though opportunities were limited where I grew up. My daughter is on track to be one too. Hubby is a belated smarticle – screwed up a lot as a kid, but is actually really smart and now has an MBA. I say way to go for not putting the pressure on (I still remember being chastised for anything less than an A, including an A-), letting her make the decisions for herself. She’s much more likely to continue with something if it is her idea. Way to go Chickadee for being such a smarticle, knowing what you want and are capable of, and not taking no for an answer! :)

  48. Sarah

    I’m currently 24 and a high school English teacher, and I have to add to the numbers saying that I took the SAT in 7th grade. It served me pretty well. I became so comfortable with the test that when everyone else was taking it with high stakes, it was no big deal to me because I’d had practice with it (and, like someone above, I loved playing the standardized test game. So much so that I’ve now been recruited to teach an SAT/ACT prep class at school). I also did Duke’s TIP in France–that was my one big program–and loved their approach to me and the other students in that group.

    Most of all, though, I appreciate your attitude towards all of this! :)

  49. styleygeek

    I was a smarticle too, and my parents thought like you. They made a big effort not to let me take on too much, not to push, and not to let me “get big-headed”. The sad consequence of that is that I missed out on a lot of awesome opportunities that I only found out existed when I talked to peers later at university (“You never went to math camp?” “I studied Greek by correspondence course, how come you didn’t?” etc etc). And by not getting involved in (or even hearing about) these advanced opportunities, I also never met any other smart kids until I was at university, so spent my whole high school years feeling like a total freak.

    I think there’s a middle ground between pushing academically and enabling kids to reach their full potential. It sounds like you are doing a good job of moving towards that now.

  50. traci

    Being “the smart one” (at school, at home, everywhere) was such a part of my identity growing up that in my mid-20’s when I suddenly realized that my stress over constantly trying to be perfect in school was all for nothing… I had a serious mental breakdown. (Little side-note.. I actually gave up art — something I had loved my whole life — because in college I recd a B+ in an art class which I felt RUINED my entire college career. Not only did I quit taking art classes, I quit drawing and painting because OBVIOUSLY I wasn’t perfect at it.) I was always sure someone would find out what a fraud I was because, even though everyone considered me smart, I knew I wasn’t really.
    now, as a stay-at-home mom, I’ve realized how pointless all that stress was. Only now, I have a 10-year-old son that is proving to be brilliant and I am also having to walk that same tightrope that you are tiptoeing across with your kids. My husband doesn’t always understand why I allow my son to slack sometimes, even when I know he could easily take on extra work and complete it perfectly. It is hard to make sure he doesn’t relive my overstressed childhood while making sure that he is challenged enough to keep school interesting. So… I insist that he study the optional “challenge” spelling words each week, but I don’t push him to attend the extra gifted classes afterschool. I know I could have him tested into special programs all over town, but then I think, why?! When he’s forty, with a good career and a family of his own, will he really be thinking — oh I’m so glad that I learned middle school math in 4th grade?
    I’m sure as he ages this will all get more complicated, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to save him from some of the stress that has taken me years to get over.

    I would tell you “good luck” but I honestly think you have this all under control and are handling this better than I could ever hope to. You’re an excellent role-model. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences!

  51. Rasselas

    I’ve been giving this a bit more thought. I think, in a way, what you’re doing is awesome, because Chickie has to *prove* she’s smart. The worst thing that can happen to gifted children is that they know they don’t have to try too hard. Even if she hates you for it at the moment, you’ve done it in such a way that she has to make a considerable effort in order to reaffirm her smartness.

    I was one of the smart and lazy kids, and it’s never brought me anything good. Potential which is not put to use never develops, and falters at the first obstacle. Providing her with a challenge is a great thing, especially when she’s picked it herself and committed to it of her own will.

  52. Rasselas

    At the peril of being considered the most badgerful of your commenters, I have to link to this article that your post made me recall. It deals with the issues of praising gifted children and effort and overcoming obstacles.

    It’s not necessarily an article I agree with completely (though mostly I do), but it brings up points and examples which are great food for thought. It’s a whole other perspective on the issue. This article describes a lot of what had gone wrong with my own upbringing.

  53. Flucky Mom

    I think your daughter will thank you one day for the approach you’ve taken. I think sometimes as kids, we are more ambitious than our parents. When I went to college, I thought I wanted to become an attorney and considering the long road ahead, I took more classes than my fellow students and graduated in 3 years (instead of 4). My parents pleaded with me to “enjoy” college and not put so much pressure on myself. And sure enough, once I graduated, I decided that I no longer wanted to be an attorney and in the end, never even went to grad school. School and academics is part of what makes us “special” at that age. Then you find out there’s so much more to life.

  54. karyn

    i was the smart girl in grade school and my mom wouldn’t let me be in the gifted program. I was the smart girl in middle school and was bored out of my mind and i begged to take the test to get into our program. She arranged it and they were like she should have been here for YEARS! I missed alot of oppertunity because my mom didn’t let me make the decision (even though i was young). I was the smart kid in highschool, and by my senior year i had an english class (took the easy road and didn’t do AP in grade 12), band, and gym. I had 5 study halls, which i spent in the GATE (gifted) room, in the band room, or on the stage when it was musical time. There weren’t programs yet where you could go take college courses the 2nd half of the day in place of the study halls.
    I was in alot of AP classes (History, English, Biology, and Math) and in our first year of AP English we took the PSAT’s. IT IS SOOOOO HELPFUL! The first time her scores won’t mean much because shes too young for them to mean much in the college world. But it prepares you for the real deal. It takes all the stress of that test, and lets you spacce it out over years instead of over months. It gives her time to see her strengths and weaknesses in the test, and take practice tests.
    I found that the easiest thing to do (because i was really into school and learning and being the smart girl- and vocab and reading was my weakness- i too loved math!) was to do a vocab word a week from an SAT practice book. I used it in sentences, and practiced it’s spelling, all that. I ended up doing really well the 2nd PSAT i took (the were required as part of the AP courses) and i got a perfect in the math. (yes, over achiever- and i still can’t spell to save my life!)

    Its definately worth it. Also the interaction with other smart kids is invaluable. We did competitions at other schools with thier gifted programs, and it was awesome to see that there are kids out there that are smarter than you are. It prepares you for college when you probably won’t be the smartest in the class, and shows you that its ok.

    From one smart girl to another i say let her go for it! As long as its her decision. :)

  55. Brigitte

    Heh, there were enough comments I couldn’t get through all of them. Enough to see that lots of us have Smarticle baggage as well! ;-)

  56. karyn

    oh, and i ended up helping to create a tutoring program where we went to elementary schools and helped the younger kids with math and reading and all that. it was rewarding and awesome.
    I also helped a few seniors pass algebra when i was in 9th grade. That was kinda fun.

  57. el-e-e

    It makes me think of the Mom who told me that if my (then) 5-year-old wants to play baseball in high school, I’d better get him on a traveling team by the time he’s EIGHT.

    And it’s just like Halloween displays being put up in August.

    Why does everything have to start so EARRRRRRLY? *whine, whimper*

    Good luck to both Chickie and you with all this exciting stuff! (MATH!! Woo!)

  58. jwg

    Why do you suppose it is that all those opportunities for gifted kids seem to be in math and science? What about the artists and poets, the politicians and dancers? The next great playwrite is out there and nobody is searching her out for special programs. Anyhow, I think you are taking the right approach.

  59. Kristi

    Your kids must use their “smarticle” word so often that it has spread throughout the land. My son, an 8th grader, started using it one day about a year ago when we were living in VA and continues to use it here in WA. And even more crazy, is that we are currently struggling with the advanced math placement should we or shouldn’t we dilemma. Coming from Fairfax County, VA, where he was in the gifted program and scored a perfect mark on his SOLs, to here, where he is learning what he did last year in math, but advancing him means going to the high school, I am just not sure what to do. Let him have an easy year?

  60. diane

    @jwg Because we haven’t been a culture/society that values the arts in a very long time.
    /still bitter

  61. 12tequilas

    [usual disclaimer about possibly repeating because I haven’t time to read these comments much as I’d like to]

    I took the SAT in 7th grade. It was a bit stressful but I knew it didn’t “count.” I took it again in 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th, and then I stopped. Each time it was easier. I didn’t do super-amazing on the one that counted, but most likely better than I would have.

    And: I can’t BELIEVE no one laughed at the elephant comment. That is HILARIOUS.

  62. Amelia

    I did the TIPS program. I opted to take the ACT. I did well on it (for a seventh grader), though I’m not sure that it opened up any opportunities for me. However, it did make me much less nervous about those tests when I took them later.

    Like you, my parents believed in emphasizing the whole person rather than just the “smart.” I think you’ll find that your (healthy) attitude is much more important than the programs your kids are enrolled in.

    I did all those gifted programs, but when I did a nonacademic program with kids from another local school and won the award for academic achievement at the end of it, one girl exclaimed, “I DIDN’T KNOW YOU WERE SMART!” I took it for the compliment it was ;).

  63. Heidiho

    I read your post and Otto’s first comment. So if you are a smarticle, and you have to take the SAT, is it ia test….icle?

  64. Stacy

    You’ve got some great advice / comments here.

    I did the Duke program when I was in 7th grade – it was kind of “new” then (this was…gulp…over 25 years ago). I did really well, and I ended up attending a summer program 2x – both for math.

    I finished Alegbra I & II the summer between 7th & 8th grade – and Geometry & Trig the following summer. I entered 9th grade – with no math to take. I ended up doing some one-on-one math stuff for a year and then entered a nearby Junior College. I got my AA a few days after getting my high school diploma – played sports, babysat, and “enjoyed” things, too. But, it wasn’t “hard” for me – it came easily ,and I needed that extra challenge to stay engaged. I didn’t spend hours doing homework – just enjoyed doing what little I needed.

    Good luck – I have a little one that I anticipate will be going down that gifted path, soon.

  65. tiffany

    My 6th grader is part of the Duke Program…all I have figured out is that she gets solicitated to take learning enrichment trips overseas to the cost of way too much money,which she begs us to allow her to do….ummm nooooo

  66. Kethrim

    I took the SAT in 7th grade, and not only did I enjoy it (and was proud of how well I did- 1070, back when the max score was 1600), I also learned things from the test. Since it was only 7th grade, I felt no pressure to get a great score (after all, I hadn’t yet been taught a lot of the things on the test!) and I never felt that it could adversely affect college, etc.

Things I Might Once Have Said


Quick Retail Therapy

Pin It on Pinterest