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Is this unusual or not? (36 month old reading and doing sums in head)

(15 Posts)
Yamchovy Sat 02-Mar-13 23:12:43

Not sure what I'm asking really. DS is an only child. He's just turned 3 and likes numbers, letters, and learning about the world and how everything 'works'. The sort of sums he can do in his head (although he does sometimes use his fingers) are things like 2+2, 4-3, 3+3, 5+2, 10-5, and he managed 9+3 = 12 in his head the other day.

He's started reading short sentences like "the sun is hot" and "Daddy is a big man - he does this by sounding out the letters phonetically, although he now recognises some words by sight. He talked in sentences quite early, and now is quite pedantic in his use of language (he sometimes corrects his father's regional pronunciation of words!), and readily uses words like 'clambered', 'shattered', 'complete' etc, although these are more likely to be used in scenarios where he is playing with his toys and narrating the action.

He seems interested by most things, although is particularly keen to know more about how our bodies work (he knows about red and white blood cells, and what they do), animal life and, recently, space.

He's understood 'theory of mind' for some months now - i.e. is able to imagine how other people/things see the world (a typical test for this is the 'Sally Anne' test, which I did with him on a whim having read about it in a magazine).
He has a good sense of humour, and likes to tell jokes containing puns (and appears to 'get' why they're funny). Socially he seems developmentally on track; he happily talks to other children and enjoys playing co-operatively with them. He is very loving and can be quite 'needy', although has grown in confidence over the past few months.

On the other hand, he is not very physical (quite small and not very strong), so perhaps he is just focusing on the 'academic' side of things? I am trying to work on improving his confidence with physical things.

I'm just wondering if any of this sounds unusual. He is starting pre-school in September. The main thing I want for him is to make friends and be happy playing (which, quite rightly, is the thing he likes to do most of all!), but I would also like him to be encouraged to do more challenging things if he's interested (e.g. reading/maths etc). If I say anything, will the pre-school think I am just being ridiculous, and one of 'those' parents who wants their child to be advanced?

anonymosity Sun 03-Mar-13 00:32:12

Its wonderful he can do those things. You don't need to tell the preschool. And you probably don't need to tell anyone else.

Goldmandra Sun 03-Mar-13 00:34:26

He does sound very clever but pre-school isn't about learning those academic skills. It's about social skills, independence and learning through exploration and experimentation.

I wouldn't ask the pre-school to offer him reading and maths. It just wouldn't figure in their curriculum. You can do those things at home with him. You could tell them what his abilities are so they know that he might not find activities based on number or letter recognition a bit boring but TBH they should not be doing very much of that anyway.

I would be asking them to focus more on supporting his gross motor skills development.

Nodecentnickname Sun 03-Mar-13 00:45:22

Sounds like my daughter who has also just turned three. She is pretty bright - her preschool is not in the least bit interested though! They are more concerned with the fact she has started wetting herself despite being trained for nearly a year. No ideas why at the moment.

I would do what Gold has said above which is get them to focus on the areas you think need strengthening such as his physical skills. As far as reading and writing go, they do very little at preschool. He would probably benefit more from you doing it at home with him.

duchesse Sun 03-Mar-13 00:47:44

Yam, yes highly unusual for a just 3 year old! He sounds very advanced. But (speaking as a former "gifted" child), I would entreat you to focus on the social skills you mentioned. You may have an interesting time at nursery. I suggest you go in and explain that you want to develop his social/physical/cooperative skills etc and that they are absolutely not to make a performing monkey nor draw attention to his special talents in a way likely to embarrass him. They should treat him absolutely as naturally as they do the others.

The really important thing is that he does not in his head develop the "gifted kid" USP, as eventually everyone else will be able to count and read and he will not be special by the time he's 7/8. The come-down from that would be very hard.

If he supernaturally gifted rather than merely very advanced- ie if his intellectual development continues to streak ahead of his peers', that will harder to manage and you may have to have specialist help in "managing" it later. And of course he would keep everyone involved in his upbringing on their toes for many years.

So I would talk to the nursery- say something like "look, he's taught himself to read and count but I would appreciate it if you didn't make a big fuss about it and instead treat him just like all the others". Make sure he's not within earshot when you talk to them!

blueberryupsidedown Sun 03-Mar-13 16:03:57

Yes it is advanced but it is still within the normal range. DS did that (more with numbers, but not so much with letters - although he could read fluently at 4). The thing is, do you ask him to add these numbers? In what way?

DS could for example walk down the road and 'predict' door numbers so if we'd walk down, he would say: door number 19 (walk a bit) door number 17 (walk a bit) Next door, 15? So he could count backwards in twos but we'd never ask him to add sums in his head. He just did it at his own pace.

Also, he look at a car and shout '12!' - we figured out after a while that he was adding up all the numbers on the car numberplate!

He is now 5, and doing well at school, probably in top 5 but I think that his 'gift' in maths will show up later. We do maths with him at home, on top of what he is learning at school, but he is not an any program. I just don't think it's worth it, he can carry on at home and on his own, and follow his own pace.

Inclusionist Sun 03-Mar-13 17:17:55

It is not the case that no pre-school goes in for academic stuff. My DS is going to go to a Montessori pre-school in Sept where the children start daily 1:1s with a specialist reading teacher (actual qualified teacher) as soon as they show they are 'ready' i.e recognising letter sounds and being able to 'hear' the sounds in words. He already knows all his letter sounds, many diagraphs and can spell his own name. He sight recognises some words and is starting to hear the initial letter sounds of words. He is 2.6. I expect him to start with the reading teacher straight away in September. He is good at number too.

I haven't 'worked' on any of this with him. He's just quite a bright little boy. He has good social skills and a broad range of interests as well.

I am quite sure his pre-school will pick up where he is and build on it. Certainly not ignore it or sad deliberately not work on areas where he has strengths.

Biscuitsneeded Sun 03-Mar-13 18:59:14

I think you have a clever boy! But being (probably) a clever mother yourself, you have correctly anticipated that if you go in all guns blazing on Day 1 of pre-school you will certainly be deemed one of 'those' parents. I would keep reading with him at home, and get some books that he can read to you (you can buy a big box of Oxford reading Tree books from Red House/the Book People for about £15), and quietly let him progress. The pre-school will have lots of books for him to look at/borrow, so if he's reading by himself they will soon notice. I'd let him settle in at first and not mention the reading and sums thing, then when you know them you can mention what he does at home and see what they have to offer. It won't matter if he doesn't do all that at pre-school, if he does it with you, and he will benefit in many, many other ways from the pre-school experience.

exoticfruits Sun 03-Mar-13 19:14:03

He sounds like a bright child who spends a lot of time with adults. I would just enjoy him and not worry about it.

SavoirFaire Sun 03-Mar-13 22:40:18

Doing phonics at pre-schools isn't all that unusual, so you can check in with the one you plan to use and find out what they do. Round here many also send reading scheme books home. But yes, many many many other things important at this age. However, if he is leading it then I would follow his lead.

ImperialBlether Sun 03-Mar-13 22:55:53

My daughter could do the same at three and yes, I was really proud of her. She's done well academically, with a First and now an MA. My son was different and struggled with Maths and with essays. He is the happiest, most chilled out person I know. Everywhere he goes, he makes friends. Nothing worries him, yet he has a great work ethic. He's at university, studying a course that could have been written for him, yet if that course didn't exist, I don't have a clue what he would've done. He certainly wouldn't do anything he didn't want to do. My daughter is full of angst. She's so clever, but suffers so much more than my son.

Being clever, whilst it seems so amazing when they're young, is great - no doubt about it. But to have friends and to be genuinely happy is far, far more rewarding.

Celebrate his achievements but make sure you encourage him to mix with a wide range of people and to develop a love of sport and reading and social interaction and art and all the rest.

He sounds lovely; I'm jealous - that age is so nice.

Yamchovy Mon 04-Mar-13 21:20:18

Thank you everyone for your responses. Blueberry, it all started about a year ago when he saw me counting using my fingers (to make it easy for him to follow what I was doing - I don't normally count that way! grin) He really liked the idea of fingers being used to represent the number of something else. He now likes to ask me questions - e.g. Mummy, if you had 10 biscuits and Daddy ate 4, how many would you have left? I will answer, although often I will take a while umming and ahhing (to try to let him work it out for himself without any pressure) and he will answer for me.

Out of all the great responses, I'd like to thank ImperialBlether in particular for such a lovely post. It brings me down to earth about the relative non-importance of this, yet in a wonderfully gentle and positive way. I won't waffle on too much, but your DD's academic record and accompanying angst sounds much like my own (I've had a few severely depressive episodes, though things are wonderful right now). I am self-critical and to be honest, feel like my academic achievement (I didn't pursue my subject after doing an MA, instead getting into an unrelated job and then becoming a SAHM currently) means pretty much nothing now. I hope things are going well for your DD and that she too manages to leave behind any anxiety and enjoy a relaxed and genuinely happy life. This has reminded me to work extra hard on helping DS build friendships and staying happy. Thank you smile

ImperialBlether Mon 04-Mar-13 22:23:02

Thank you, Yamchovy! It upset me to write it, to be honest, and I'm really glad it helped.

If there was any reason to wonder whether depression can hereditary, it disappears when you look at her, her dad and her grandmother. She says now (at 23) she won't have children but will adopt, and I think, though she hasn't said, that she doesn't want to pass this on. A friend of hers took an overdose the other day and I've been crying since, not so much for the girl, as there was no way it was intended to end in suicide (though desperately sad she felt that bad), but because it's always been my biggest fear.

About the sport - she finds exercise a really great help and I think it's something that should be encouraged in all teenage girls.

I'm so sorry you've had depressive episodes too but really glad you're well now. Please don't underplay your current achievements. I know some people have a head start but you can't do really well without working hard and for long hours and you do need to appreciate that yes, you're cleverer than most maybe, but you really did make the most of your education.

Do you think you'll look for some sort of rewarding career when your son is older?

ImperialBlether Mon 04-Mar-13 22:41:30

Sorry, I wasn't clear there. I didn't mean to say depression was always hereditary, not by a long shot. I remember though going to the doctor with my (now ex) husband and asking whether it could be, given his mother's problems. I was told it couldn't be. Then when my daughter developed it (actually at a very young age, though it didn't come back for many years) it seemed clear to me that there was a family problem. My son, who is very like me and my side of the family, doesn't have a problem with it and I think if he did it would be because of an actual problem, such as an illness.

I really didn't mean to say that the fact you'd had a problem with depression would mean your son would. Sorry if it came across that way.

Yamchovy Sat 09-Mar-13 18:37:29

Sorry Imperial for the late reply - in the midst of potty training, which is a delight not!. Thank you for your repy - please don't worry, of course it didn't come across that way.

Sadly, there is no question with us either that depression is hereditary: several family members across the generations have had it. My sister and I have discussed this before now, and are worried for our chidren, so I totally understand your fears. I had a course of CBT that help to change my pattern of thinking, and things have improved massively (although I had specific OCD-style depression), so that might be something for your daughter to keep in mind?

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