Nat has been pretending she can't read at school. That is, she has been pretending to haltingly sound out three-letter words that she has known by sight since she was two. When she does this, the adult in charge (I think it all began with a week of substitute teaching) was praising her highly, not expecting her to be able to do it. Nat was eating up the praise, gathering that most of her peers (I think all but BFF, J) can't read--or are only just beginning to read and adjusting her behavior accordingly.
I got my first clue when we had new babysitter, W, come over for the first time. I had given Nat a very simple thank you note to copy out for my mother, for the presents she had sent the girls. I didn't expect her to copy it perfectly, but figured it would be nice for her to give it her best shot. It was along the lines of "Dear Grammy, Thank you for the dog, trucks, blocks. Love, nat and Selina." She could write all of those things and has done, on her own initiative with invented spelling. She has never written that much at once (unless you count her spontaneous ABC lists), but anyway, I was just gonna give it a try and see what she might be willing to do. In short, no pressure.
Step one, I said, "Nat, here's the note you can copy. What does it say?" Mind you, there's not a word on the note she hasn't known by instant sight for two years. But she looks up at new babysitter, W, makes big eyes, tilts her head and says "I don't kno-ow!"
I was dumbfounded.
So I told her, "W knows you can read, because she has seen you read the menu at the restaurant" (where W is a waitress we've known for a while). And Nat immediately switches gears, says, "oh," and reads the note out.
I itched about that all through the holiday trip East and back again via blizzardy Ohio and when we arrived home, Cole picked up all the mail and there was a letter from Nat's teacher, thanking her for her part in the class teacher gift. It was two pages long and chatty and written in adult-style half-print-half-handwriting, not at all intended to be read BY the child to whom it was addressed, but TO the child, right? Nat, however, tears it open with glee (she was super excited about getting a letter from her teacher) and reads it out nearly flawlessly (she got stuck on handwriting a couple of times) with great enthusiasm and perfect inflection and comprehension, etc.
Well, I had laid aside that thank you note to my mother, so I took it and the teacher's note to school and laid them side-by-side and told the story of Nat's experience with each.
Now the teacher was dumbfounded.
But she engaged me in a discussion about the whole thing for about half an hour (we had only scheduled twenty minutes) and to talk to her, I would have thought Nat was her only student and perhaps the only student she had ever had in her teaching career. She was fabulous.
I told her I don't want Nat accelerated or anything, but I certainly don't want her learning that it's not okay to be as smart as she is. Mind you, I actually believe that someday, it will serve her well to know when to let people know she's a genius and when to demur. But now? It's about peer conformity and social approval and that's not serving her.
Nat is in a three-six-year old classroom with a half dozen kids who come 90 minutes early for "kindergarten enrichment." We aren't putting her in the extra two hours (partly because it costs more) but the teacher has been encouraging Nat to work more with those older kids on more academic tasks and she's come home with some books she's written and shapes she's cut out and identified, etc.
The bottom line is, I am still over the moon about the school and Nat is even more so. And the fact is, with only a three-hour school day, we are still home schooling. We have "unschool" all morning in which the girls just play, play play in their rooms together (and get along about 90%) and I add little lessons throughout the day in drips and drops. For example, lately, we've been talking about water, ice and steam and other aspects of the water cycle. This emerged naturally when Nat and I saw all the ice on the lake while driving to school. Nat said it was silly that somebody put ice in the water, so I clarified for her how it got there. I got her a book about weather at our favorite book store and we've been reading up on ice and hail and snow and rain and clouds and--Nat's favorite--rainbows.
Nat can go for a half day (well, plus the extra kindergarten time) for another year before there's only a full day option. That will make her six and a half when she starts full days. Right now, I can't fathom it, but in another three semesters and two summers? I'll probably be more than ready, right?