Hothouse Kids by Alissa Quart

An overview of the “giftedness complex,” from Baby Einstein to kid Scrabble tournaments.

Hothouse Kids is my favorite kind of Sunday afternoon read–not too taxing, researched enough to make me feel like I’ve learned something, and provocative without being polemic.

As a mom-to-be, I’m trying to figure out what I truly need vs. what society/corporate interests think I need. I’m pretty sure I don’t need the kinds of supposedly intellectually stimulating toys that Quart talks about in the first chapter. I got labeled “precocious” because I learned to read early, but throughout my school years I always resisted being pushed towards super-achievement. I’ve just never been motivated to pursue things I didn’t enjoy, even when I was good at them, math being a great example. I was very, very good at math and advanced all the way to Calculus 2 in high school, but I hated every second of being in class. And I hated physics even more, and made zero effort to force myself to understand it. What I’ve always loved are reading and writing, and here I am, in my 30s, and I get to read and write just about all day long. I’d say my life turned out pretty great without anybody forcing me to behave like a “gifted” kid.

All that to say is that I’d rather my child feel free, even to the point of boredom, than worry about whether or not my infant is using his or her time productively. Productivity is really only important in a corporate environment, and there are so many more kinds of lives a person can live. Plus I hate anyone telling me I have to buy something or my child will suffer. Unless it’s books on pregnancy and childbirth–those I can’t seem to get enough of!

4 thoughts on “Hothouse Kids by Alissa Quart”

  1. I’m worried that my sister-in-law and my brother are turning their son into a hothouse kid — the boy can’t turn around without having yet another lesson to take. This has been going on for quite a while, and he’s only 6.

  2. Take it from me: Gifted children are a burden unto themselves, with unique battles, personalities, quirks, and more. Whoever said Gifted children were a blessing did not have one (let alone two!).

    Have fun with your baby. (For the record, neither of my kids watched any of the Baby Einstein tapes and were introduced to Blue and Dora et al. through the gym; I have the TV on rarely.)

    Here’s what you need to do with a baby to ensure proper development:
    1. Feed it.
    2. Change its diaper.
    3. Hold it.
    4. Talk to it (this includes reading the newspaper or your book. They’re too young to know that FUCK isn’t the sort of word they shouldn’t be saying).
    5. Go places. The more, the better. So WHAT if the kid can’t see the elephants at the zoo? It’s about the spirit of adventure — and it gets you out of the house.
    6. Make friends. For you AND baby. Social outlets are important.
    7. Use the proper carseat.
    8. Don’t shake the baby. Ever.
    9. Love it.
    10. Read to it. See? This is important. They don’t know from sex scenes, either.

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