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Q: My son is in kindergarten and his teachers are having him doing first grade work. He is also in an advance learning class. I don't want to pressure my son too much to advance so fast in school. Am I doing the right thing?
A: You are very wise to consider the benefits and costs of your son's advanced work in kindergarten.
A child-centered desire for more knowledge, however, is not always the basis for a teacher assigning advanced schoolwork or for a parent wanting a child to be more challenged academically. Often, teachers and parents see children who they believe should be more challenged academically because of their "potential." After those expectations are communicated to the children, they are then expected to live up to these expectations and academic demands. Especially at younger ages, kids feel guilty if they do not take on whatever their teachers and parents expect of them academically. They are eager to please and enjoy being praised for their advanced academic accomplishment. Unfortunately, they may often feel that they can't object to this work. They fear a loss of this special status and a withdrawal of their parents' and teachers' approval and appreciation.
You must find out whether your son is comfortable with his present advanced status. If this schoolwork content and schedule is a natural extension of who he is, then you can be assured that it's healthy. Be watchful for signs that he may feel pressured or overwhelmed by his present accelerated studies. And always let him know that your love for him is not tied to how much he accomplishes in school.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.