February

9

2012

Don’t Tell Anyone! I’m Having An ‘Is My Child A Genius?’ Moment

Filed under: AMI Montessori, Montessori

I’m not proud of it but I have to admit that sometimes I unconsciously mine my children for signs of genius.

Last night Ella and I were sitting in our local Italian cafe waiting for Fi to finish her dance class. It’s a pokey little place with red checkered tablecloths, scenes from The Godfather on the walls, and Sinatra playing in the background. We’re regulars there and Ella loves telling the waitress, “I’ll have the usual, please.”

It’s one of the rare times during our week when we can just sit and talk, and I can ask her about what she’s learning at school. Right now their school is rehearsing for their musical, a Greek opera. I personally would have thought a Greek opera would be over-the-heads of 6 to 12 year-olds, but surprisingly they seem to love it. Ella is a nymph and Fi is a river goddess. For the past few weeks, at every playdate I’m seeing kids play games like, “Barbie goes to Hades,” or “Hide and Seek with Zeus” – so all the Greek myths are filtering down into their little psyches.

 

There was a man sitting at a table near us, reading a huge book – I mean it might as well have been The Book of Kells, or Encyclopedia Brittanica, it was that huge. And since the tables are close together, you can kind of hear what everybody’s talking about so I was worried that our pat-a-cake games would annoy him. Ella was teaching me how to play Concentration 64 – you pick a category and list as many things in that category until you can’t think of anymore things. I was sure she was going to pick ‘Animals.’

Ella began: ”Concentration (clap) 64. No repeats (clap). Or hesitations. I’ll start (clap). You follow (clap). Category is: Greek Gods and Goddesses.”

Well!

I was chuffed that she picked such a big category. I mean – she’s 7. I didn’t learn about Greek mythology until I was in high school.

Does this mean she’s a genius? Does it?

I often have these: But-clearly-this-means-that-my-child-is-a-genius moments. Don’t you? I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only parent who does this, who unconsciously mines their progeny for signs of genius. On the flip-side, I also have moments I call: But-clearly-this-means-that-my-child-has-<insert-latest-therapy-term-here> moments - so really, it all balances out, in the end.

We started the game. I pretended to run out of gods immediately because I wanted to see how many she knew. I figured she’d know three or five of them.

But no.

She listed: Hera, Demeter, Hades, Poseidon, Ulysses, Athena, Persephone, Aphrodite, Apollo, Hera, and Hermes. Not only that, she knew each character’s backstory – for example, that Poseidon is “the man in the water,” Demeter is Perspehone’s mom, and Apollo is the dude with the wings on his feet.

I was astonished, quite frankly.

I thought – clearly, this child is a genius.

I wished someone besides me had been there to witness it, the genius that is my seven-year-old.

Really, though, it’s Montessori. She’s learning this stuff through music and the arts, and stories. She isn’t learning about it so she can get an A on a test or to please me or to complete a scheduled module in a workbook – she’s learning it organically, out of joy and creativity and some hard work.

The man with the book got up to leave. As he passed our table he stopped and said to Ella, “Can I ask how old you are?”

Ella: “I’m seven. Can I ask how old you are?”

Me: “Ella!”

Man: “It’s okay – I’m 68.”

Ella: “You’re very old.”

Me: “Ella!” (I’m always saying “Ella!” in a somewhat shocked tone.)

Man: “You’re right, it is old. So how does a seven-year-old know so much about Greek mythology?”

Ella: “Well, I’m a nymph in the musical at school.”

Man: “I see.”

Ella: “And nymphs know a lot about gods and goddesses. But you can learn about them in books, too. Books are a good way to learn things, you know.”

Man: (tapping his book) “They are indeed.”

 

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Comments

26 Responses | TrackBack URL | Comments Feed

  1. Do you ever find yourself mining your child for signs of genius? Well, doesn’t every parent? http://t.co/VGF4fQ6e

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  2. I am smiling widely and nodding in agreement. I have my moments of but-clearly-this-means-my-child-is-a-genius. Joe is 6, and his knowledge and passion for learning is incredible. I’m curious to see how his younger brother will do when he enters 1st year. I also have moments of is-my-one-kid-as-smart-as-my-other-kid. (I know. Awful.)
    Great post!
    Twitter: lenore_diane

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    • We say it’s awful but I bet every parent does it. I bet we’re hard-wired to do it, you know? Witnessing evolution.

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  3. What a great story. What a great school. What a great mom. A great lesson for us all is not to be afraid of what our kids can learn.

    One of my favorite times as a parent was being reprimanded by a older “gentleman” in the grocery store for using “too big of words” with my then, toddler daughter. “She might respond to you better if you weren’t talking over her head.” Who are we to decide what that ceiling is? I say, keep building rungs on the ladder so your child can go as high as she can. -Ellen
    Twitter: sensiblemoms

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    • What a rude man! Did you use this grown up word on him: “Shutup?” Gosh!
      Can you imagine what kinds of words (and books) Victorian kids were using and learning? I think you’re fantastic to expand his vocab like that. Kids really do reach for the stars.

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  4. there is soo soo much i love about this little story. i love that you two share this time together, i love that she has a “usual”, i love that she’s sooo brilliant and even the old fart recognized it.. to prove that yes, she is brilliant. CLEARLY!! :)
    Twitter: finallymom

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    • Isn’t it cute that she has “her usual” (8 meatballs, 2 soft breadsticks, ice water w. lemon) at her “usual table”? (-:

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  5. HAHA. It’s nice that he learned stuff from her.
    Twitter: blogginglily

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  6. I love this! And how lucky you two are to have those dinners together!
    Twitter: wordsxo

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    • THanks Julia and BIG CONGRATS on your one year blogiversary!!

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  7. Wow! Impressive, that Ella. I do say, after what you have disclosed of her, Nymph seems to be right on!
    Twitter: notwifezilla

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  8. Oh I have these moments too! I’ve also had the “surely this means my child has such-and-such disorder” moments. And by the way, I think your daughter sounds pretty bright. Obviously that man thought so too! =)
    Twitter: camilleta

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  9. I think that’s fantastic! It’s the best way to learn, from interest rather than obligation.
    Twitter: AlisonSWLee

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  10. Okay, A) I love the word “chuffed” because it’s practically onomonpoetic or however you spell the word that means sounds-like-what-it-means (Ella can probably spell it). B) Do you know the big yellow book of myths, I think the D’Aulaire Mythology? Lovely illustrations, lots and lots and lots of myths. Great reading aloud (or alone) material. C) Your story illustrates *precisely* the problem with TEST TEST TEST TEST. Makes me insane, the emphasis on the test, when it’s so very clear that kids learn by doing, and reading, and drawing…by immersing themselves in the worlds they’re learning about. I’m betting also that these Montessori classrooms don’t have 35 kids in a room…Okay. Sorry for ranting in your comment box. Suffice it to say that also, of course, in addition to teaching methods & class size, she’s TOTALLY a genius.
    Twitter: mannahattamamma

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    • Ha! Thanks for the laugh! I’ve forgotten how to spell onomopoopetic myself too, must ask Ella.
      In regards to no. in the classroom – Maria Montessori said the ideal no. of children is 28 would you believe. For some reason that is the number they shoot for, although Ella currently has 20 or 22 in her classroom.
      I was taught traditionally myself and I can attest (pardon the pun there…) that teaching for a test does not mean the child will retain it. I sure didn’t.

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  11. I’m with Deborah above – D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths – it’s wonderful! (As is your daughter :))
    Twitter: SusannaLHill

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    • Thanks Susanna and Deborah my two literary friends, I haven’t even heard of that book! Will definitely get a copy! (-:

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  12. Wow… Ella is the same age as Miss Chatterbox, and the only Greek name she knows is Hermes because it’s a store that Mommy likes to go to (okay, now I’m having a ‘O m gawwwd, my daughter’s NOT a genius’ kind of moment) lol.

    That was really impressive, Ado! Honestly! Like you, I only learned Greek mythology in high school and even then had a hard time memorizing all the names. *sigh* Now you know where Miss Chatterbox got her ahem, not-so-genius trait. LOL
    Twitter: dosweatthesmall

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    • Little Miss Chatterbox and Ella can talk to each other a lot about fashion b/c they both share that passion!
      Honestly though I’m just poking fun at all this “looking for genius in our kids” stuff. And her knowledge didn’t come from me, or her genes, it just came from being in a musical. Kids are such sponges. I’m just so glad they didn’t do Cinderella this year. (-:

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  13. I think most of us have these moments. I’m afraid that now that I’m studying for my Gifted & Talented teaching endorsement, I’m going to have even more of them. It’s like when the med students become hypochondriacs!

    That man in the restaurant was lovely. What a great story.

    My two little guys go to Montessori, too for toddler and primary. It is stories like this that make me wonder if I should start looking into the Montessori elementary, too. But I’m a public school teacher, so I think I’d have to hang my head in shame at work. But still! Greek mythology!!
    Twitter: teamrasler

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  14. writing.there maybe days when you’ll manage to…

    write loads of articles and there maybe some other days when you won’t be able to write a single word due to lack of sufficient inspiration. however, it is extremely essential to hang in there and not get disheartened.many writers stay…

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  15. Don’t Tell Anyone! I’m Having An ‘Is My Child A Genius?’ Moment http://t.co/dgwxImhA via @sharethis (From the archives)

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