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Learning is a Journey, Not a Race

 

Learning is a Journey, Not a Race     

The new school year has just begun in the US and with a few weeks gone by, its time for their first round of evaluations. As a parent of child from the Indian sub-continent, the question that is asked most often by other Desi parents is "How is your kid doing academically?". Its not about how your child is doing overall, its mostly about the academic aspect. I fortunately, have been blessed with a child who demonstrates intelligence at a slightly higher level than most of the students in his school and attends some extra classes called the "Challenge Program". When other parents find that out, their first question is "Will you get him tested and pushed to a higher grade?". My reaction always has been and will continue to be a BIG No!.

 

As someone from the Indian subcontinent, I have found that a large number of my friends and colleagues have falsified birth certificates just so that they could attend school early. I never made much of it but now I wonder Why? What is the mad rush to get your child into school early? Should education be treated as a race? Is it really about intellectual maturity or is there more we should consider before pushing our child to a higher grade? All the questions spin in my head.

If you are parent, you would have realized that a child will change tremendously over the course of 1 year, especially at younger age. A child at 4 is much more mature than at 3 and even when they hit their teens, the maturity year over year is noticable.  In my opinion, a child's maturity needs to be considered in the following  3 areas.

  • Physical Maturity - Physical maturity among young kids changes a lot over the period of 1 year. At age 4 and 5, kids learn to write, kick and throw a ball, swing a bat. Within the period of 1 year, you will see significant improvements in their physical ability. Kids will be bigger and stronger in the space of 1 year. According to the US CDC growth chart, an average boy will grow about 2 inches taller and 4 lbs heavier between the ages of 4 and 5.  Why then would you want to push your child to a higher grade with kids that are physically more mature?
  • Emotional Maturity - Similar to physical maturity is emotional maturity. A child will show great improvement in their emotional maturity in the space of 1 year. A child at age 4 is more attached to their parents, tends to cry more for small reasons, has a hard time separating from their parents. As they reach age 5 & 6, the emotional maturity is much higher. Another aspect of emotional maturity is their ability to think before they act. Younger kids are typically more impulsive and do not have an understanding of their actions. Why then would you want to send your child early to school, when its unlikely they can adjust emotionally?
  • Intellectual Maturity - Last but not the least, the child must demonstrate intellectual maturity. Your child may be a prodigy in one or more areas, perhaps its reading, mathematics or something else. One needs to evaluate if the child is performing at a level higher than just their peers or performing at a level of the next grade. Keeping in mind that there are other kids in the higher grade that also have above average intelligence, your child could fit in the average group for that class. Would you like your child to be average in a higher grade or above average in his or her grade?

If you child is perhaps above average in their class, they may end up being just average in the next grade. In the long run, this may impact the child negatively. They could have been at the front of the pack in their assigned grade but may end of being in the middle of the pack in the grade above. If your child is showing higher levels of maturity in all the areas above and you truly believe that the child needs to move to a higher grade then you should speak to your school.

I am sure many parents may disagree with my views and thats fine. I do see value in pushing the child and driving that sense of competition. I have seen him push himself harder when he does activities (swimming in his case) with bigger kids but I also see him feel a bit down about it when he is unable to compete. He does go through ups and downs but its only in his swim school. I would much rather he undergoes those emotions in a controlled environment for a limited time during the week than to go through it every day at school. The worst thing I would want to ever hear from him is "I hate going to school".

With every passing year, I see so much growth in all levels of maturity in my child that I would never consider pushing him to a higher grade. While he demonstrates a higher intellectual maturity and could perhaps do well in a higher grade, he is very much on average in his physical and emotional maturity. At the end of the day, he is just a regular 6 year old. This reminds me of something someone said to me that always rings true - Learning is a Journey, Not a Race. My journey was slowing down but now that I have a little partner with me, I am back on that journey. Sometimes its down the same old roads, sometimes its down new roads but the journey still remains gratifying. Hope this journey never ends.  

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