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should parents take some responsibilty

(75 Posts)
mangochutney Wed 19-Aug-09 18:45:29

OK I was just thinking and wondered what people thought about the idea that gifted children (particularly in Primary schools and particularly in maths), are partly as advanced as they are because of parental input/encouragement and therefore it is perhaps unreasonable to expect schools to cater for that completely.

Children who are very creative or who have a large vocabulary and good grasp of language are usually this way because they have absorbed/aquired this knowledge from the environment (through day to day conversations/TV/books etc)and it is also much easier to cater for children gifted in Literacy without requiring a whole new syllabus/moving away from peers etc.

Maths however seems to me to be a different kettle of fish. Young children don't aquire terms such as "Multiplication" or "Square root" etc from their day to day environment and interactions - this is something they have been taught, arguably earlier than is necessary. Encouraging a healthy love of numbers is one thing, but I think it is a shame when there are so many other things to learn about before school, that some parents encourage more narrow interests and create this problem for their children and for teachers.

I'm not saying that all gifted children are a result of pushy parents, but they are definitely out there and don't do the cause any favours imo.

Anyone prepared to admit to being one?

TheDMshouldbeRivened Wed 19-Aug-09 18:47:31

if a child is ready to learn and eager, why wait till the school curriculum says 'you must now learn X on Y day'?
I just taught my kids what they asked. But then we were home edders and not contrsained by anything.

KembleTwins Wed 19-Aug-09 19:49:51

I agree with TheDM. My DTs are only 3, but I do answer questions when they ask, and if they are interested, I will make the effort to help them explore things further. If, in the future, this extends to maths, or astrology, writing poetry, or whatever, I don't think I'd stop them. I don't think that makes me pushy.

mangochutney Wed 19-Aug-09 20:25:16

Answering questions when a childs asks them does not make anyone a pushy parent I'm just not sure how many pre school children actually do ask "what is multiplication" or "how do I find the square root of" etc etc.

As to why wait for the school curriculum - well I'd say why not? Children are born ready to learn and eager but there is easily enough knowledge in the world to occupy a small child without straying early onto the school curriculum (which also spoils it a bit for the child once they do get to school imo). If however you have forged ahead reading all the books in the reading scheme, or doing KS2 numeracy with your pre schooler then is it bit unfair to expect the school to cater?

We all know this type of parent exists - I just wondered if anyone would be prepared to admit that they do do this - maybe they would see it as giving their child an advantage or because they see the world as competative etc etc

AMumInScotland Wed 19-Aug-09 20:46:11

Schools ought to cater for the range of children in their intake. If that includes some children who know words and concepts like "multiplication", then the school should deal with that. Equally if their intake includes children who don't have English as a first language, or who can't count, or whatever.

I don't think parents who "hothouse" their children are doing them any favours, and any benefit they get from it will "balance out" to the child's actual ability over time.

But parents shouldn't feel they're forbidden from mentioning things just because it's school territory.

In some families, maybe there are day-to-day conversations about maths - if the child has a flair for it, and the parents are happy to explain, then why shouldn't they?

mangochutney Wed 19-Aug-09 21:06:55

In some families, maybe there are day-to-day conversations about maths - if the child has a flair for it, and the parents are happy to explain, then why shouldn't they?

Day to day conversations about numbers maybe which are easily answered without moving onto more structured school curriculum maths.

Maths is a learned discipline - it is not aquired in the same way language is - surely "teaching" it early spoils it for the child when they do get to school, makes it harder for the teachers, and only serves to widen the gulf between kids who have been "hothoused" and those children who don't have English as a first language, or who can't count, or whatever.

Do you think competative parenting comes into it at all? - what's wrong with "Oh that's exciting you'll get to learn lots more about that when you go to school/move up to juniors etc etc.

senua Wed 19-Aug-09 21:36:10

So, if Maths is only a learned discipline, what are all the Professors of Mathematics doing? They can't possibly be investigating and inquiring and working out new things for themselves surely ...hmm
It doesn't take much of a stretch of the mathematical imagination to think 'Taking away is the opposite of adding up. Dividing is the opposite of multiplying. If a times a is a-squared, then what is the opposite of that' and hey-presto you are at square roots.

KembleTwins Wed 19-Aug-09 21:50:17

mango I have to say I disagree with you. Surely telling a child "that's interesting, you'll learn more about it when you go to school" is a real copout. Are you suggesting that parents shouldn't do anything at all with their kids, in case it's covered in school? And what about different schools doing different things at different times? Should I contact the school my 3 yr old DTs are most likely to go to in 2011 to check that I don't inadvertently stray into forbidden territory?

I do think that "hothousing" is wrong. But my assumption about that is that it involves parents pushing kids beyond their own natural limits, and often imposing their own interests on their children - I seem to remember watching a programme on TV a while ago about a father who had pushed his boys so far in maths that they were doing A Levels at 10 or 11. When asked, both boys said they wanted to be actuaries when they grew up, but neither really knew what that was. That's wrong IMO, but encouraging a child who is interested in a particular subject, and helping them to find out more about it is absolutely fine.

snorkle Wed 19-Aug-09 22:07:03

With ds, although mathematical terms don't crop up in normal conversation, he always asked questions that elicited mathematical answers when he was young & then read (by choice) mathematical books (that he had chosen from the library) when he was a bit older. For example, when he was 5 we got a new fridge freezer that had a lcd tempurature display on the door. He stared at it fascinated & then said "I always thought the freezer was colder than the fridge" & so I explained briefly about negative numbers which he grasped straight away. At around the same age when faced with the inevitable 'are we nearly there' questions on a long car journey, he became increasingly distressed once he'd established we were 'more than 1/3 of the way' but 'less than '1/2' eventually exclaiming 'well where are we then?' Seeing how upset he was & wanting to end the conversation I said I thought we were 3/7ths of the way. Absolute silence - then in a small voice "I didn't know you could get sevenths" shortly followed by a barrage of questions all about fractions. By the end of that journey he could add, subtract, multiply and divide simple fractions.

I really don't think I pushed, but I did support in lots of ways (bought him the whole set of murderous maths books, once I realised how often he was choosing them at the library for example) and was able to answer his questions accurately as I have a mathematical background. (Ds was described as borderline gifted in maths by the way, but I can see from the way he learned that a gifted child doesn't have to be the product of a pushy parent)

snorkle Wed 19-Aug-09 22:12:39

and on mangos point, I got into trouble with his teacher for explaining negative numbers to him (think he went to school the next day & asked for maths questions on them) - apparently it was going to hinder his development if he didn't learn things in the right order! But really I wasn't happy leaving him thinking the freezer at -17C was hotter than the fridge at 5C. And it didn't hinder his development either.

paisleyleaf Wed 19-Aug-09 22:25:42

It should be a good thing when children are interested and want to work these things out.
My DD is determined to read a clock, organize her coins etc
a ten pence is 10 pennies, without using the actual term 'multiplication' an understanding of it is coming....I don't properly understand what you mean about maths not being acquired.

hatwoman Wed 19-Aug-09 22:35:11

mango - I think your line of thinking is premised on dividing learning into what gets taught formally in school and what gets taught/discussed/used/incorporated into games/read about at home. children wouldn't make that distinction and I think it's an unhealthy one.

You said "Maths is a learned discipline - it is not aquired in the same way language is" I'm going to post you a link to a small but very interesting thread about this some time ago.

You also said "surely "teaching" it early spoils it for the child when they do get to school, makes it harder for the teachers, and only serves to widen the gulf between kids who have been "hothoused" and those children who don't have English as a first language, or who can't count, or whatever."

Sorry but I disagree with so much there - firstly you assume that children who have acquired mathematical knowledge at home have been hot-housed. nonsense. they may well have been surrounded by books, be lucky enough to have intelligent parents who can explain stuff or innovative ones who will look for resources to use to explain stuff - but that doesn't mean hot-housing - plenty of children get ahead just by having parents who meet their natural inquistiveness.

secondly - the idea that meeting natural inquisitiveness spoils anything is really untrue. the opposite is the case - anyone with more than a passing interest in education will tell you this. saying "wait until year 1/2/3 etc" is a sure way to curb an appetite for learning.

thirdly - I'm not a teacher, but I expect that teaching children of wider abilities is hard - but I expect also that it's balanced out by teaching children with an appetite for learning

and fourth - yes it may widen the gulf but you seem to be suggesting that the gulf is narrowed by, in effect, dumbing down - rather than through ways of giving the kids that need it more of a hand up.

and then in another bit of your op you refer to "so many other things to learn about before school" - why are numbers/maths any different from these "other things"? they can be just as interesting, exciting, and fascinating as lots of "other stuff"

hatwoman Wed 19-Aug-09 22:38:49

this is the thread on which some of us ended up talking about maths and language

piscesmoon Wed 19-Aug-09 22:40:16

I think you just follow the lead of your DC-it is normal life and I wouldn't call it pushy. There are lots of really bright DCs in school-schools can cope!

IOnlyReadtheDailyMailinCafes Wed 19-Aug-09 22:50:46

My dp is an engineer, my grandfather was a mathematician and my mum is also good with numbers. DD loves maths, it is her favourite subject and will sit with dp and so things not yet covered in class. At school she is taught a few years above her chronological age for maths and they have never had an issue with it. On the contrary dp has been into school and observed maths lessons and has helped out in class.

If dd has ever shown an interest in anything we have never said to her that is interesting you will learn about it in school later. I see myself as a partner to her teacher in educating my child.

IOnlyReadtheDailyMailinCafes Wed 19-Aug-09 22:53:34

I dont think dd's school cater for her completely tbh, and it has always been an issue for dp and my family - to the extent that I agreed reluctantly to her entering independant education but managed to pursuade them otherwise. I noticed in her SATS results that her level did not match her real ability because she was not given opportunity but I dont expect the school to cater for her completely. As I said I am a partner in my dd education and I have a role to fulfill as well.

hatwoman Wed 19-Aug-09 22:59:36

dh's family is a long line of engineers and mathematicians. both dh and his dad have PhDs, his Dad was a lecturer, dh's grandfather was an engineer - in fact I'm looking at a picture of him atop a submarine he helped build as we speak. There's just no way that dh could not impart some of his fascination with numbers to dds.

hatwoman Wed 19-Aug-09 23:00:50

what awful English. I do apologise. Obviously he didn't help build the submarine as we speak....

IOnlyReadtheDailyMailinCafes Wed 19-Aug-09 23:03:46

Exactly hatwoman, it bores me stiff, but children like to be like their parents. She sees that someone she loves is fascinated by something and wants to be like him.

Karam Wed 19-Aug-09 23:34:10

Sorry but I disagree with you on this. I think a good parent is one who follows the child's needs and interests and supports the child in their explorations (read more on the work of child psychologist Vygotsky about this - I love his work!). If a preschool child loves maths and is fascinated by it, then the parent should be supporting that, at whatever level that should be. Vygotsky even suggests that to not follow it up and provide adequate support to the child is potentially damaging to their self esteem. Therein lies the difference between hothousing and supportive parents - A pushy parent pushes a child beyond his/her ability (potential and actual, he termed this zpd), and an unsupportive parent does not bother to encourage their child within their zpd. However, a good parent /pedagogue etc works with the child within their zpd, encouraging and supporting their child as they develop their skills.

This is the principle I follow with my DDs, who are both bright with stacks of self esteem(if sometimes a bit too much blush)

mangochutney Wed 19-Aug-09 23:47:36

I would only divide learning into that taught at school and that learnt at home for purely practical reasons - and I think children do make that distinction - we don't do SATS at home!!

Given the huge abundance of things I could teach my children I would just prefer not to focus on structured "school like" learning (and by this I mean paper/pen/sums etc). I am not suggesting that anyone who discusses numbers as a concept is a pushy parent that would be ridiculous.

I would say if a child has intelligent parents who themselves have a love of maths and choose to encourage or foster any potential their children might demonstrate by explaining mathematical concepts in order to answer questions, then fine. My question would be is it fair to then expect schools to cater for this if it results in a child starting school significantly ahead of their peers? Like IORTDM has found, schools are not always able to do this.

I'm not suggesting all gifted children are "hothoused" (in fact I think truly gifted children are less likely to have been but that's another thread!) I imagine plenty probably are though.

I think it is fine for children to have to wait to cover certain topics so long as the reason is explained to them and they have plenty of other things they can learn about. If a child is truly distressed by this then that may be a different matter but ime It often seems to be parents who want to hurry things along.

I do believe there is a fundamental difference between maths and Language. The human brain is pre programmed to aquire language from birth - understanding of number and quantity and the relevence of that is learned in a very different way despite language playing a fundamental part in that learning.

I actually have always enjoyed and been reasonably capable at maths but stand by what I said - there are so many other things to learn - not better/more interesting things but different things which won't be covered in school. I would just prefer to spend more time on these.

paisleyleaf Wed 19-Aug-09 23:53:18

ow there was a documentary on a couple of months ago where they showed babies had an understanding of maths. I wish I could remember it properly and find it for you.

Do you mean parents are setting their children worksheets and suchlike?

piscesmoon Wed 19-Aug-09 23:54:20

A pushy parent is the one who decides that the DC needs to be hothoused in maths-that is quite different from playing maths games with a DC who is fascinated by the subject.You can't hold back a gifted DC and I don't think you can make one, not long term.

paisleyleaf Wed 19-Aug-09 23:57:33

Ah it was that David Baddiel thing, when they said that the worst thing you can say to your child is that they are 'clever'.

bruffin Thu 20-Aug-09 00:00:42

"ow there was a documentary on a couple of months ago where they showed babies had an understanding of maths. I wish I could remember it properly and find it for you."

I have a distinct memory of DS when he was a baby sitting up, so probably 8-10 months.

I was throwing some giant soft dice at him. There were 5. Afterwards he looked at each one in turn then looked around for another one which was behind his back. I swear he was counting them

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