This probably isn't unusual although I don't really have much to compare it to, but I do know when she started Pre-K (Head Start in our area), she knew all of her upper and lower case letters and could count to 100, much to the amazement of her teachers. They praised me for what they assumed was our diligent attention to NG's learning at home.
I, of course, knew the truth: She was learning spelling and math from her iPod apps.
She seems to really enjoy writing her letters and figuring out words as well as adding and subtracting. Should I be encouraging or discouraging this? I never really now what the right thing to do is as a parent, but I tend to take the approach "If it doesn't harm her and it is basically a good thing - and she likes it - I'll allow it."
This parental approach extends to things like "if she wants to wear stripes and polka dots to school, let her. It doesn't hurt anything." And I've watched her develop her own quirky, exuberant style. Even my dad commented about the freedom I allow her in her expression through fashion - something he doesn't recall me having growing up.
The other day, NG's grandmother bought her a Princess Activity Math Book. You know the princesses - Belle, Snow White, Princess Aurora. Each page was filled with pictures of apples and other items in piles and blanks to fill in numbers that progressively moved into simple addition and subtraction equations.
And NG loved it. She dove right in, asked me for instructions, and proceeded to work on adding and subtracting on princess-emblazoned pages. Each time she finished a page, she asked me to grade her, and I did. She was ecstatic when she got things correct, crestfallen when she was wrong.
My main struggle with this activity was trying to explain to her that as we are learning, we will get some things right and some things wrong, and that all of it was okay. That is learning, I told her. She didn't really buy it and continued to pout when she got something wrong.
Have I created a Type A Child? An overachiever obsessed with being perfect?
My secondary concern was the whole Princess thing. I must confess that I personally love the Disney princesses, I really do. When I've watched the Disney princess movies, I don't really worry about the fact that they end up with a prince. I just love the way they each have their own personalities, strong wills, adventurous spirit. Sure, the princess from my day (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty) were a little wimpy, but since then, they've gotten stronger and more interesting:
Belle as a girl who loves books, rejects the advances of a dolt, defends her father against the beast.
Pocahantas who is an independent spirit, adventurous and in love with nature.
Mulan who goes to battle in lieu of her father.
Jasmine who is strong-willed, smart, and not really so interested in finding a prince.
Ariel who wants legs...okay, she really wants that prince. But she sacrifices her voice to save her father.
Wow, now that I'm thinking about the Disney Princesses, they seem to be less about finding a prince and more about girls' relationships with their fathers. Interesting.
But I digress. The point is that I like the princesses but worry that I'm creating a weird learning situation for NG. Not all math involves princesses. And princesses on everything may not be a good thing.
Is the princess thing like putting ketchup on everything to make what may not be tasty more palatable?
Or is it more insidious? I'm about to read Peggy Orenstein's book Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, and I'm interested in what she has to say.
Maybe the issue is the Disney Princesses are the gateway characters to the Bratz and other completely inappropriate, overly-mature images that prime little 4-year-old girls for more than their young minds can handle. We shall see.
How do you feel about the princesses and their infiltration of our daughters' worlds?
Clip art released into the public domain by the Open Clip Art Library