I remember when my oldest son, then a whimsical and sweet 4-year-old, taught himself how to read. One day, as we drove down the street approaching a sign, we heard a small voice from the back of the car. “Road closed.” My husband and I looked at each other in amazement. He was a freaking genius! This began the sight reading. The kid never sounded out a single word.
No, we didn’t sit and read to him every day. We didn’t have flashcards. He played a lot of Reader Rabbit. And I think he’s just one of those naturally smart kids, inheriting some gene from someone other than myself.
Given that my kid was a genius, I was on a mission as his mother to make sure he was given every opportunity possible. As I registered him for kindergarten, I strongly suggested that my genius child should be tested as I believed he could skip right over kindergarten into the first grade. His teacher nodded and smiled at me. She had heard all of this before. She took him into the classroom by himself and gave him some tests. Once he returned, I expected her to say, “Yes, Mrs. Smith, you were right. Kindergarten would be an utter waste of time for this Einstein child of yours. How about we place him in the second grade? And he should be practicing medicine by 16.”
Instead she returned with the same smile and said, “Well, he indeed is a great reader. He is reading at a second-grade level.” I beamed with pride. I knew it!! He’s brilliant! She smiled again and said, “But…”
But…you don’t have the facilities at this school to keep up with my smarty-pants child? But…you think he may get bored even in the second grade?
“But…I tested him in other areas too. Like math. He didn’t know what two plus two was. And then I asked him to draw a picture of myself. This is what Derek drew.”
She pulled out a piece of paper with a small circle head, a triangle body, and two little sticks for legs.
Well, who needs art anyway?
I said, “Well, he’s five. No five-year-old can draw.”
She replied, “That’s just it. He is five. And even though he is reading at a second-grade level, he is at a kindergarten level in everything else. And usually by the end of first grade, all of the kids are pretty much at the same level anyway. I believe that Derek would be better off being the big fish in a little pond than the other way around.”
I was put in my place. Derek began kindergarten with his rightful age group. He did excel in school and eventually was placed in the accelerated learning program. He is 14 and a half, well-rounded, athletic, but he won’t be practicing medicine any time soon. Or ever, I am pretty sure of that.
In the last couple of years he has discovered a new love: Flying. On his 13th birthday we bought him an intro flight lesson. My kid can fly a Cessna. He can take off and land a Cessna. It is exciting and terrifying for me. I cannot even go to his lessons. I tell my husband to text me when he’s landed.
He has goals. He wants to do something with flying. Whether that includes the Air Force or commercial pilot remains to be seen.
Fast forward to the reason for this post. I am so long-winded. I was told recently by a friend about a teen flight program in our hometown. It is for high school kids. They are recruited based on grades and character. It is a huge commitment. Every Sunday and Monday nights for a school year. But what an opportunity. These kids get to build an airplane by themselves with very little direction from supervisors. Once it is built, they get to learn how to fly the airplane and attain their sport pilot license, all for free!
We went to the open house meeting last night and learned all about it. It was originally touted as being for high school kids, but the one thing that kept getting brought up was that it was for grades 10 through 12.
Derek is going into the 9th grade. In junior high. The gears in my mind began to spin. Yes, he is not in high school yet, technically, but he is considered a freshman and he is getting high school credit. For all intents and purposes he is in high school. If we lived pretty much anywhere but here, he would be in high school.
After the man gave the spiel about the program, he asked if anyone had any questions. My hand shot up out of nowhere. I hate eyes on me, but this about my genius kid, for which all of my typical introvert laws cease to exist.
“Are there any exceptions made for a mature ninth grader?”
I could see the hesitation register on his face.
“Mmmmm, well, we LOVE visitors.”
Okay, what does that mean?
“Anyone can come by any time we are building and watch, and younger kids can get involved too, but we ask that parents accompany the kids for a while until we get to know your kid. This isn’t a daycare.”
I’m pretty sure my face scrunched up into something resembling a lemon-tasting face.
In my mind: “Uh, yeah,so you obviously don’t know MY kid at all. He can hang with all of these older kids. I don’t even know what you’re talking about with this daycare business. My kid could probably supervise these kids.”
Isn’t it amazing what goes through your head as the ultimate advocate for your child? I am really not that cocky about my kid. Really.
He kept talking for a bit, but I tuned him out because it was obvious that he wasn’t going to consider taking a 9th grader. Then my head went to: “We’re going to get an application anyway, and once they see the essay answers he writes and sees his references from teachers, they will accept him.”
After the presentation, we walked around and looked at the two previous planes that these high school kids had built. Someone came up to us and finally explained why they want the kids to be in 10th grade to begin the program. After one year of building the plane, the kids then take the flying lessons. They have to be 16 to solo. Basically Derek wouldn’t be able to participate in the solo flight portion once he was finished building the plane. It was reiterated to Derek that he is more than welcome to attend their build nights throughout the year and help out, and then that way they will know him and he’ll be likely to get a spot next year once he is old enough.
It was a good lesson for my son – and myself frankly – that many times in life we have to wait for our turn to do things. You’d think I know that by now. I don’t have such a problem when it comes to myself, but something weird kicks in inside when it deals with my kids. We want good things for them. We want others to know how great they are.
As we left, I told my son, “You know, we didn’t have opportunities like these when we were kids. And it stinks that you can’t do it right now, but at least you have that in front of you. You get to look forward to all of these opportunities. You are young and have so much time to do all of these things. You aren’t looking back on your life thinking, ‘I wish I had.'”