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Archive for Friday, March 30, 2001

Extra year can benefit some young students

March 30, 2001

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My 6-year-old son has always been an energetic child with some of the symptoms of hyperactivity. He has a short attention span and flits from one activity to another. I took him to his pediatrician, who said he did not have attention deficit disorder. However, he's beginning to have learning problems in school because he can't stay in his seat and concentrate on his lessons. What should I do?

It sounds like your son is immature in comparison with others his age and could profit from being retained in the first grade next year. If his birthday is between Dec. 1 and July 1, I would ask the school psychologist to evaluate his readiness to learn. Retaining an immature boy during his early school career (kindergarten or first grade) can give him a social and academic advantage throughout the remaining years of elementary school.

However, it is very important to help him "save face" with his peers. If possible, he should change schools for at least a year to avoid embarrassing questions and ridicule from his former classmates.

You have very little to lose by holding back an immature boy, because males tend to be about six months behind females in development at that time. The age of a child is the worst criterion on which to base a decision regarding when to begin a school career. That determination should be made according to neurological, psychosocial and pediatric variables.

Let me add one other suggestion that you might consider. Your son appears to be a good candidate for home schooling. You might want to keep him in the safety of your care until he matures a bit, and then if you choose, place him in school one year behind where he would have been otherwise. He will not suffer academically and will be more secure for the experience.

Home schooling is especially helpful for the immature child usually a boy who is just not ready for the social competition and rejection often experienced within large groups. It is also beneficial to children who do not have this problem, if the parent is committed to it. That's why home schooling is the fastest growing educational movement in the United States today.

When it comes to education, you have said that the right factual information can and should lead to conceptual learning. But aren't you putting too much emphasis on the memorization process, which is a low academic goal?

The human brain is capable of storing some 2 billion bits of information in the course of a lifetime. There are many avenues through which that programming can occur, and memorization is one of them.

Let me put it this way: If you ever have to go under a surgeon's knife, you'd better hope that the physician has memorized every muscle, every bone, every blood vessel and every Boy Scout knot in the book. Your life will depend on his accessibility to factual information during the operation.

Obviously, I strongly oppose the perspective held in some academic circles that says, "There's nothing we know for certain, so why learn anything?"

Those who feel that way have no business teaching. They are salesman with nothing to sell.

Is it inevitable that sexual desire must diminish in the fifth, sixth and seventh decades of life?

There is no organic basis for healthy women or men to experience less desire as they age. The sexual appetite depends more on a state of mind and emotional attitudes than on one's chronological age.

If a husband and wife see themselves as old and unattractive, they might lose interest in sex for reasons only secondary to their age. But from a physical point of view, it is a myth that men and women must be sexually apathetic unless there are disease processes or physical malfunctions to be considered.

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