Not So Smarty Pants?


I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty intelligent guy.  I’m not genius level, many  would probably say that I’m not quite as smart as I sometimes think that I am, and I’ve met many stupid people over the years that also considered themselves clever, but academics were never a struggle for me.  My wife would undoubtedly make the same claims about herself, and I’m inclined to agree with that assessment. ( Told you I was smart. )

With such sterling genetics it was hoped that our daughter would be as equally brainy. Early indications were that she was, her pediatrician even going so far as to predict that she would cure cancer one day.  It seemed a pretty heavy responsibility to lay on a three year old, but we were proud nonetheless.

Her kindergarten teacher seems as though she might recommend pursuing a different career path.  A very pleasant woman that Alaina adores, she sent home a reminder this week that by month’s end, two days away as of this writing, she should be able to count to 100 unassisted and identify 80 “sight words”.  These are commonly used words that are memorized so that they can be automatically recognized without having to sound them out or use other reading strategies.  The idea is that since these particular words make up 75% of early reading material, the child is then allowed to concentrate on comprehension and the meaning of particular sentences.

According to the letter we received, Alaina can currently count to 29 and knows 42 sight words. We were encouraged to keep working with her and continue doing her flash cards every night.

Was I concerned?  Did we spend the whole weekend cramming for her next testing?  Not with weather like this.


Smarty Pants
great day for a hike


My daughter starts talking approximately thirty seconds after opening her eyes in the morning and stops about thirty seconds after they close at night.  It was a welcome change Thursday morning when the school run was a relatively quiet one.  Before exiting the truck she informed me that there were 48 raised circles on the back seat floor mat, a number I quickly verified. Four rows of twelve circles. Why she had spent the ride counting them I couldn’t say.

She still gets where and were confused, this and these.  She’s rightfully frustrated about letters that sound differently depending on what they are paired with or are sometimes silent.  Their and there and right and write really piss her off.

They won’t be on the test, but she’s known “pow”, “vroom”, “smash”, and “up, up, and away” since she was two.  She can identify every hero and villain in the DC Universe and about half of Marvel.  While scrolling through the television guide list she can read what ‘s on all fifteen of “her” channels. Don’t bother trying to tell her that Spongebob isn’t on right now. She’ll see those two S’s from across the room.


Smarty Pants
next up – War and Peace


She loves books.  She loves being read to, loves making up her own stories for the pictures and calling it “reading.”  She hates flash cards, sitting still, and being momentarily separated from her classmates to be quizzed.  If she thought for a second that other kids knew more words than she did, her competitive nature would have her at 200 by the end of the week.

I’m not going to tell her that though.  I understand the need for a quantitative means of evaluating teachers and early identification of children that may require extra attention going forward.  What I don’t understand is the need to place academic pressure on a five year old.  She won’t be getting that from me.


53 thoughts on “Not So Smarty Pants?”

  1. Awesome post! That is the problem in our society today, everything is about academics. Where is your child academically? Blah, blah, blah! My son is in pre-k and I am getting this already. They haven’t known my child as long as I have, they haven’t seen how far he has come in the last 2 years, so I say he is above and beyond. Every child learns on a different level, in a different way and at different times. Some kids may learn to count from a book at school, my son learns to count by playing with a 100 matchboxes or counting all the sticks he picks up in the yard because he loves the outdoors. haha

    1. I agree. Things at that age don’t need to be so standardized. I get that there are things that have been proven to work, but that doesn’t mean every child will use those methods

  2. It is WAY too early to worry about this. I didn’t read until second grade and went to an Ivy League school. Kids learn at their own pace. Free time and fresh air are better teachers than word lists.

    1. I was a very early reader, reading Hardy Boys books by 2nd grade, but had no interest in numbers until much later. Its hard sometimes to temper expectations and remember that everyone is different. There is a temptation to push that I try hard to resist

  3. Schools (and some parents) are so competitive these days and childhood seems more about achieving and learning than doing or playing. It’s a shame

  4. I’m with you 100%. Clearly, she is inquisitive, engaged,and sharp. Kids develop differently and we all have our own strengths. It sounds like you have little to worry about – unless you are counting on her curing cancer.

  5. I love this! There’s so much pressure on children to perform to an arbitrary academic level. I don’t know any child who wants to sit around and count to 100. Your daughter sounds incredibly intelligent. I wouldn’t worry about her. Thanks so much for linking up to #fridayfrivolity! Xx

  6. It has come to my attention that little people will learn what they want to learn and ignore everything else. I have been trying to get Peachy to say mama on command. I point to myself, say the word, and she walks away from me. It’s the most effective way to get a few mintes of peace that I’ve discovered. But she knows the names of our cats and doesn’t hesitate to practice that every time she sees them. #KCACOLS

  7. As a drama teacher I have a strong view about students being judged on their level of academia and I find it sad that a child who may be more creative than academic is not seen as intelligent. I completely agree with you in this post and think that only you know your daughter and know what works for her. Funny thing is, her teacher would probably agree but they’re too busy jumping through the hoops given to them #KCACOLS

  8. I sometimes worry that I’m not doing enough with my kids for them to excel at school. Then I remember that I hated when my mom tried to play math games of Scrabble with me. What you write here resonates. The kid’s will be fine.


  9. What a great post – so many years ahead of academic pressie from secondedy schools and collage, right now they need to be allowed to be little and have fun!

  10. I totally agree with you on this. Every time I go into preschool I can see that each action my eldest does is tracked and categorized into different skill sets and “age benchmarks” and it baffles me! Like you I can appreciate the need for evaluation of some sort, but to have such rigorous and regimented goals for a 5 year old just doesn’t seem right to me. They will each have their strengths and should be allowed to develop in their own time without such pressures. Thanks for linking up with #DreamTeam.

    1. It was unseasonally warm here today and every parent at the park was complaining about all the homework their five year olds had to do when they went home

  11. Couldn’t agree more. My son loves reading and writing but we only support him in that, not push him. He finds the behavioural aspects of school difficult and I have tried to point out to the school that he’s only 5! In many countries – ones with the most successful educational outcomes – kids don’t even start school until they’re 7. #kcacols

    1. I would have been OK with starting a year or so late, but mostly for selfish reasons. I like having her around

  12. So much pressure on children those days and they end up not dealing with it… I think you are right in so many ways and what about this obsession to put people in a box… When the weather is hot and nice let’s go out and discover the world! Thanks so much for linking up at #KCACOLS. Hope you come back again next Sunday.

  13. I started reading your post and got the familiar twist in my gut. Then you threw the curve ball and let her be a kid. Bravo! My son could read at 3, but if you straight up asked him he would hide his knowledge. He would much rather be completely covered in mud, and that is exactly where he needs to be.

  14. I think it’s great that you’re not putting pressure on your daughter. She’ll do things in her own way at her own pace, and that’s totally fine. There’s so reason to test kids so much, especially at that age. #FamilyFun

  15. This is a great post. I think there is too much pressure on young children to know certain things by a certain time. Let them be kids while they can.

    1. They will all get where they need to be. The path doesn’t need such predetermination. Thanks for reading Ali

  16. Oh I totally agree. They are 5 for crying out loud, they have so much pressure in life as they grow up they certainly don’t n need it at 5. I understand why the school feel they have to but like you, I don’t think I would be enforcing it too strictly at home!

  17. It sounds like your daughter is doing fantastic! And your clearly doing a great job of parenting. All children are different and I’m sure your daughter will develop at her own pace #KCACOLS

  18. Thanks for this – I’ve already had the health visitor bring up that my daughter’s vocabulary isn’t quite where it should be and she’s only 18 months! Just going to take your sensible approach and trust my instincts that she’s doing fine! #TriumphantTales

    1. There seems to be such an emphasis on achieving these specific benchmarks by certain times. I think its ridiculous at such an early age

  19. That is such pressure from the school to put on a young child. My friends six year old was given spellings to learn for the next week and it was words even we struggle with in adulthood.
    The English language is very complicated and to expect a five year old to do all of that in two days is simply unachievable.
    I think there is wayyyy too much pressure on kids nowadays and I hope this is changed sooner rather than later!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales

    1. Its funny how we don’t realize how really hard it is to read English until our kids start trying. There are so many spellings and pronunciations that simply don’t make much sense

  20. Oh that seems like a lot of pressure! Why do they do that these days?! I remember having a spelling test and a times table test once a week at primary school and that was enough. I learnt to read, write and do sums! I think I’m doing okay! Well done you – she sounds like a really intelligent little girl anyway. Thank you for linking up to #TriumphantTales, please do come back again tomorrow!

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