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How could I miss this great article by Jessica Lahey? She writes about a childhood book about a little tiger who was very upset that he wasn’t as good as other little tigers. He couldn’t read as well, write as well, speak as well, or do anything as well as his peers. Children who read this book can identify because almost everyone feels unsuccessful in some way.
Lahey describes her concerns about her own children and how they caught up and matched their peers.
“We all watch our children as they grow, for signs that all is well. We crave evidence, both of their healthy development and of our own competence as parents, and lacking any other source of information, we scan the playground for comparisons. That boy can count to 100 in Spanish while my son can barely speak his native tongue. That child can traverse the play structure with the athleticism of a spider monkey, while mine needs help climbing up the slide. That girl can eat her healthful snack with chopsticks, while my child eats his boogers.
“Relax,” the psychologist and former teacher Michele Borba reminds me when I email to fret about the swim coach’s observation that Finn’s “a sinker,” or Ben’s inability to ride a bike well into his tweens. “Einstein didn’t say his first word until he was 4. Stop rubbernecking on the playground, Jess; childhood is not a race. Stay calm and support your child. If you are really worried, talk to his teacher or pediatrician, but kids bloom at their own rate, in their own sweet time.”
“She is right, of course. A big part of my job as a middle-school teacher was to prepare my students for the complex demands of high school. Every year, there were a few students who caused me to fret, students I was positive would never be ready in time. They lost their plan books 10 times a day and left lunches in lockers until swarms of fruit flies betrayed the neglected hoard. And yet, somehow, some way, and just in time for ninth grade, they bloomed.”
This is good advice. Parents worry that their children are not keeping up. Government policies re-inforce this anxiety by insisting that all children must be proficient on tests that ration proficiency and spread it out on a bell curve. The Common Core assumes that all children develop at the same rate. The point of Lahey’s article is to remind us that children bloom at their own pace.