Last weekend, we sent Noah on a bus to Ottawa with a group of his swim teammates (and their coaches) to compete in the Division 1 Team Champs meet. For this meet, the swim club required all of the participating swimmers to travel, stay in a hotel, and eat with the team, not their parents. Matt drove down to Ottawa on his own (as did many of the other swimmers' parents) so that he could watch the meet and cheer our swimmers on, but he stayed at his sister's house and had very little contact with Noah over the course of the three days, and Noah had to be more responsible for himself (and his stuff -- yikes!) than ever before. In the weeks leading up to this significant event, Noah was both nervous (this was his first real trip on his own) and really excited (this was his first real trip on his own!!), and admittedly, so was I. He handled the whole thing very maturely and responsibly, and had an excellent meet and a fun time, and I was so proud of him for taking this big step and proving to himself that he could do it.
It became even more obvious to me in the past week just how quickly Noah is growing up when I attended a meeting at his school last week with him, his classroom teacher, and the Itinerant Teacher of the Gifted for our school board. We were there to discuss an accelerated math program that the enrichment teacher had proposed for Noah as a means of alleviating some of the boredom he's been feeling at school in recent years. The program involves him completing all of the grades 7 and 8 math curriculum by the end of this school year (he is currently in grade 7), and then in September, he would attend a local high school for one period a day to complete his grade 9 math credit. (This program would also allow him to complete another grade 9 credit in a different subject during the second semester, so by the time he actually started high school full-time, he would be two credits ahead. Taking this route would open up his schedule in later years to study some additional high school courses he's really interested in, or to begin studying university courses in grade 12 through the University Cooperative Education Program.)
While everything I know about Noah should have led me to expect having to consider some unique educational experiences for him to keep his mind challenged and happy, I was somehow still not prepared to think about him starting high school a year early. There is not only the academic side of things to consider; Noah's emotional and social well-being are important to me, too, and without a crystal ball, it's hard to know how choosing this path will affect him in the future. I didn't want to push him to do something if he didn't feel ready for it. Apparently Noah had some of his own reservations about this really interesting, but potentially stressful opportunity. He loved the idea of being able to move through the math curriculum at a much quicker pace, but he felt worried about how the older kids in his grade 9 class next year would perceive him, and about what his peers at his own school would think of what he was doing. These are things that weigh heavily on a 12 year old's mind, especially one who is more of an introvert and doesn't like to draw too much attention to himself.
In many ways, I was very excited about the idea of this program for Noah; I saw it as a way for him to find challenges that would allow him to enjoy math again, and to be able to dip his feet into some of the other interesting learning opportunities a high school environment can provide. I had no doubt that he was capable of handling the academic side of things, but I wanted him to feel good about all aspects of the experience. He and I discussed at great length all of the pros and cons we could think of if he decided to go the acceleration route, and I told him that ultimately it was his decision, and that his dad and I would support him and be proud of him no matter which path he chose.
Noah has bravely decided to go for it -- he will begin the accelerated math program when he returns to school in the new year, and come next September, he will begin his journey into high school. I think he's made a wise and mature choice for himself, and I hope that his experiences in the years ahead will keep feeding his passion for exploration and discovery and motivate him to always keep reaching for the stars. (And when Will heard that this was what Noah was doing, he exclaimed, "Hey, I want to do accelerated math, too!". No doubt I will have two boys in high school before I even know what's happened!)
The other night I watched out the kitchen window as Noah and Will were playing together out in the snow. It delighted me to see them tumbling down the hill on their sleds in the dark, hearing them shrieking gleefully as they flew by me. People say that the childhood years pass by so quickly, and it's true -- sometimes it takes my breath away when I suddenly notice how grown up both of my boys are in so many ways. I'm glad for the moments where I still catch them playing with such youthful joy outside in the snow; that sight makes time stand as still as the frozen landscape for me. It's a welcome reprieve for this mom's heart when everything else seems to be moving so very quickly.