Saturday, January 14, 2012

Please Don't Label My Child

We received a letter in Cate's schoolbag this week to inform us that the school was going to put each child into one of two categories: Gifted or Talented. Children who excelled at academics would be put into Gifted and those who showed promise is art, PE, dancing, etc would be labelled Talented. I do not like this. Not one little bit.

I don't want Cate being labelled anything other than 'student.'  I feel that if she is told she's gifted she will feel pressure to be smart. If she's told she's talented then she won't try to study because she's 'dumb' or not 'gifted.' I don't want her to have to uphold any expectations at the age of 4 1/2. I just want her to learn to read, write and master the basics of mathematics. I want her to enjoy art, PE, dancing and whatever else she feels like doing.

She's only 4 1/2 and her homework is off the charts. Her attention span is approximately 10 minutes for any given task. Doing homework with her is one of the things I dread completely. I've written about this before. Funny how, when I was childless, dreaming of one day having a darling, beautiful daughter, I had visions of us sitting on a sofa reading a Dick and Jane book with me encouragingly and lovingly coaxing her to sound out words as she bravely, and correctly, worked her way through her books. It was an ideal scene straight out of Leave it to Beaver. The truth is far, far from this. I get frustrated as she loses interest, doesn't pay attention and just guesses at what words are. It's maddening. They don't even have Dick and Jane books here (I just seriously dated myself. Ah well)

I've forced Fen, at gun point, to step in as I need a break for a bit. We're now tag teaming her through the weekends to get through the majority of her workload. I constantly remind myself: SHE'S FOUR! But we received a note saying we needed to step it up as Cate needed more help. Jaysus! I've repeated over and over to myself the mantra: She will eventually read, she will not be living with us as a 30-year-old illiterate. And we press on.

We now have flash cards, we're sounding out letters day in and out, we're spelling signs, magazine headlines, anything at all. How much more can I do?

And now they want to label her. At this rate they are going to give her a big scarlet T for 'talented' which may as well stand for 'thick as a post' or 'tupid arse'. I can't have it. I told the school they can label her for themselves but I do NOT want her knowing her label or being expected to follow that rule. She's got enough on her tiny, little plate to deal with as it is. And if she comes home saying some gifted kid said she was 'talented' I'll have a freakin' cow on them.

Perhaps I'm over thinking it. Whatever the case, I had better go. Fen is helping Cate with her homework now and I can hear he's about to jump off a cliff. Better go tag him out...


  1. I dont agree with that either and I think 4 is far too young to be given so much homework to do as well. Surely it should be of enjoying being a child and getting to grip with the basics of reading writing dancing cooking and whatever else takes their fancy along with playing and having stories read to them and really just enjoying the joy of childhood, trips to places and seeing what the world is really like. They dont need to be labelled at that age. Just because someone seems more academic it doesnt mean that they are not good at the other things, I was so say academic and look what happened, I became a makeup artist lololol, never judge a book by its cover. Oops sorry think that post touched a nerve with me am so glad my children arent children any more.

  2. This post makes me so sad. I was a primary school teacher in the US for 9 years and this just goes against everything I know to be true about how young people learn.
    Reading is a developmental skill, and kids learn to read when they are ready. No amount of homework or flashcards is going to change that. I have a daughter who was reading novels at age 4 and a son who is just mastering the letter sounds at age 5. Every kid is different! Four year olds learn best through play and they should be running around outside and using their imaginations not sitting at a table doing homework. Makes me really glad we send our kids to an American school where four year olds are still treated like four year olds. Good for you for making your voice heard and not letting their labels define your child!

  3. Wow, sounds like quite a strange policy on behalf of the school - I don't think it's fair at all to label children as anything at this age. Maybe you should talk to them about it. As for reading, my boys started school at age 5 here and my older one, at 6 and a half, is only just reading now - it doesn't worry me because now he's started it's coming really quickly. 4 and a half sounds very young to be reading fluently.

  4. I will have to get you the link to this really good site my son uses. My husband set up all sorts of reading lessons for him and he was reading quickly. Email me and I will get him to tell me the one son likes the best.

    As for the labeling...reason 493 I will be homeschooling.

  5. Wow, maybe you need a new school. My kids didn't have ANY homework at four! And they are doing just fine in elementary school!

  6. I also think 4 years old is far too young to be doing homework. It's hard enough anyway for a child of that age to get through a normal school day without the added pressure of extra work when they should be playing.
    And as for labelling...Attaching labels to anyone, not just children, makes my blood boil!

  7. Don't the schools learn anything? Seriously. When I was in primary school we had the 11+ (Eleven Plus) which basically tested kids in much the same way, sent them off to completely different types of schools and ruined half the kids' lives usually forever. If you passed the 11+ you went to a nice grammar school, and often to university. If you didn't, you went to a secondary school, and although some of the kids made it out the other end, it was clear that most of the kids were supposed to follow a different path.

    I used to be a champion of the UK school system, but the more I see of it from afar, the more I realise they put far too much pressure on children at a ridiculously young age.

    And calling them "talented"??? - Is that really fooling anyone?

  8. What a ridiculous system! What about the kids who are good at maths but not reading, or vice versa? Do they not count as Gifted? Why on earth do they feel the need to label kids that way?? And why on earth are 4 year olds getting homework??!

  9. My nieces were in the U.S., as their dad was stationed at a major U.S airbase.
    The kids loved the placed, but hated school. Both were classed as disruptive, and badly behaved.

    That all changed when they were assessed as "gifted" and moved into a far more intellectually challenging school. It seems to me that "gifted" and "talented" are not helpful labels. I was "gifted", so I was told, it just gave me an excuse for being a slacker. What would have helped in both scenarios would have been better teachers.

  10. I'm sorry that your UK school "... doesn't even have Dick and Jane books ...", but I'm sure they have a more-than-adequate equivalent. Furthermore, I always understood the Gifted & Talented scheme to be an attempt to try and help the exceptional child and their parents, rather than be something that applies to every child. Perhaps you ought to have a word with your child's teacher, whom I am sure could help put your mind at rest. In the meantime, take a look at the UK Government's webpage regarding the G&T scheme - it might provide you with some reassurance also.

  11. Thanks for your support. I'm chatting with her teachers tomorrow to get to the bottom of it. Anonymous: They don't have Dick and Jane books anywhere anymore! But thanks for the link.


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