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Bright Kids in Public Schools
What have people done with having a child in the public school system who is advanced, meaning that meeting the State requirements are super easy, and not challenging at all?
We're having our teacher conference soon, and I'd love to hear from parents about how you've encouraged your child's teacher to make sure she is being challenged for herself.
Yes, we're thankful to be in this situation, but it does seem appropriate that ALL children are encouraged to stretch, and we'd like to make sure that happens for her also. (No, we're not interested in bankrupting ourselves by attending private schools.) Lucky Parent
If they have a high level of under-achievers and no assistance, the best they can do for advanced students is throw extra handouts or assign more reading. If you are fortunate to have an innovative teacher with a more balanced class, they'll have their own suggestions on how to keep an advanced student moving. I know it's unfair and frustrating. My middle school child has unfortunately had more wasted class time than I care to count - hours of simply reading his own books while the teacher struggled with others.
But I don't think private is a guarantee either for the advanced child. Not all private schools are willing to put in time for advanced kids either. It's much easier to take a small group of average, willing-to-learn kids and push them together towards deeper learning. But any kid that's off the scale, either ahead or behind... it takes time that they don't always have or are willing to give. My kid would probably still be wasting class time, having finished way ahead of others, pulling out his own books to read or doodling or just tuning out because he already ''got it'' - only we'd be paying $$$ for him to do so... No Perfect School Anywhere
We also believe that kids do not need to fulfill their whole potential at school - and that their school years should have plenty of room for extracurricular activities, reading and (gasp) fun!!
Some parents have pressed their kids into advanced classes and high-level reading to augment their public school experience. But we found that our daughters read on their own (we did participate in a mother-daughter book group for one daughter in middle school); studied together with friends and socialized at the same time; did extra credit when it was offered.
Our daughters were involved with the wonderful YMCA Youth and Government program and with Build On (both very active clubs at Albany HS), did service projects with friends, traveled with our family and studied in Mexico for 3 summers each.
Odds are that your children will do fine, so long as they have interested, interesting teachers (that means 95% of the teachers in Albany), and are interested in learning. You won't have to find the perfect, advanced solution - they will find their own.
-- proud parent
I just came back from the parent-teacher conference at my son's public elementary school which is considered to be ''an excellent school.'' He's in 4th grade.
We talked about reading using Scholastic ''points'' for the reading comprehension. At first the teacher said my son answered only the minimum 90% to pass the test, and also said that the books he chose were ''too easy.'' When we looked on the computer, he got 100% on both tests with books at 4th grade 3rd month and 6 grade 9th month levels.
I asked for more advanced math and showed some of the work that he does at home for ''fun.'' She said that he may not work ahead, everyone in the class needs to work at the same pace. She said that if he works ahead he might not pay attention when she teaches a lesson. I asked if he has ever done that or been disrespectful to her teaching. She said no, but it could happen.
I ent to the principal with my concerns after Back to School night, he said that he would take care of it, but nothing has changed.
My husband is afraid that if I ''push the envelope'' the teacher will retaliate against my son and make it difficult to get into a public middle school that will meet our son's needs.
Our son is well-adjusted, likes school, says that it's okay that he doesn't learn too much at school because he learns over the summer. He likes his teacher and the students in his class.
So, what would you do if you were me?
I have a son in an Oakland Public Elementary School. He recently scored in the 99th percentile on the Raven's Progressive Matrices exam. All students have the same spelling words, math problems, social studies reports, science experiments, and the same expectations. I know this because I volunteer in my son's classroom and another 5 hours per week in the other third grade classroom.
When I reviewed the teacherms contract in Oakland it states that teachers will differentiate the curriculum to support learning at the childms level. When I asked the teacher about pre-testing spelling words and giving all students who pass with 100% an different set of words, he said "Open Court does not allow that."
I got a similar response when I asked about math (Harcourt Brace) and Science (FOSS) and both support advanced learners, but the teachers do not.
What do other parents do to help teachers give appropriate work? We have a GATE Committee and our teachers have said that unless the parents pay for additional curriculum development time away from students and provide professional development outside the regular school day including transportation and their day care costs they will not differentiate.
Has anyone successfully had the district pay for private school? Has anyone ever been able to have their student transferred to another district? What else is there to do for parents who work full time and cannot home school? Frustrated OUSD Parent
That being said, was I bored a good portion of the time in my (private) elementary school? Sure. But when I had an open-ended report or project to do, I could really let it rip. As a teacher, I tried to make sure that we did projects of this sort in a variety of subjects so talented students could really go in-depth.
Is this a perfect situation? No. Unfortunately, the alternative is tracking students by ability at a very young age and separating them into different classes. And that's not perfect either. anon
Testing can't be differentiated. The same test needs to be given to all students otherwise comparisons/grading can't occur across the classroom, school, district, state. However on things like spelling quizzes, a teacher can add say ''bonus challenge words'' that they are required to not only spell, but perhaps put into sentences or make a paragraph out of. The teacher may not be able to mark this advanced work into the official test score, but they can note it on the student's report card.
Speaking of report cards there is a place for every subject to be marked/gradedcommented on as ''performing above grade level''.
Keep in mind also that some Oakland schools are more supportive of differentiated instruction then others. When I say supportive I mean the administration allows the teachers to bend and adjust the curriculum more, and for teachers to collaborate not only within their grade level but beyond their grade level, to better meet each individual child's needs. Some principals however are very rigid and don't allow this and really enforce the curriculum not be adjusted at all. In general there seems to be more curriculum flexiblilty going on at higher performing schools than lower performing schools.
Finally is your son's teacher a newer one? More experienced teachers are generally more skilled at differentiating instruction. anon
By the way, private schools also usually do not provide differentiated instruction. To attract a large market, they aim for the slightly-above average child, and often do not want highly intelligent children because they make the children of the vast majority of paying parents look bad.
If you have a 99.9th percentile child and can't find acceleration for them here, you can try the Davidson Academy in Reno, a (free) public school for profoundly gifted children. http://www.davidsonacademy.unr.edu/ good luck
I'd like to have my elementary school kids tested professionally for math, language, and general academic/intellectual ability -- to learn where they are good, where they need extra, etc. But where to go for that?? I want someone to be completely honest with me, no matter what! The kids are at the top of their reading groups and math groups, but I get the sense the teachers just let them coast and don't provide them instruction at their level (their zone of proximal development as I've learned it is called.) Hopefully with a non-biased assessment of their abilities, I can help get them the classroom attention they need, even though they are not in the GATE program. Thank you all in advance! Mom of two
My son attends Oakland public Schools. I recently received a letter from his teacher stating that he was ''extremely advanced'' for first grade. He reads at a 3-4th grade level, is very analytical, his math skills are advanced (he can compute most math problems in his head) and overall just a mature kid for his age. My question is, what do people do with kids like this? I would love a private school education but with two kids it is just a bit out of reach. I'm not quite sure we would qualify for financial aid. His current teacher is working hard to keep him busy. He is doing mini research projects in the library. I just feel public education is a bit rote at times. I want to keep him challenged and stimulated. I want to hone this special gift. We are also considering moving. Any school districts that have special programs? Any ideas, suggestions, or similar experience would be greatly appreciated. We are in a quandry about moving to a better district vs. staying and some how dealing with a private school tuition. Also, insight on private schools would be great or any afterschool programs geared to gifted children would be great. Thanks.
My daughter has mastered her second grade curriculum before second grade as well as having mastered the first grade curriculum before first grade. A good teacher will indeed give projects that will allow a child to more deeply explore a topic. One of the things I have also discovered is that when children are learning about push and pull in science, my daughter is designing pulley systems from room to room in our house. She likes being with her age mates, but understands that she ''thinks differently, sometimes even faster than other kids.''
The great thing about public school is that it frees your resources for enrichment so that you can allow your child to really explore all of the things he is interested in. I know children in several private schools, St. Paul's Episcopal, Redwood Day School, Park Day School, Black Pine Circle, to name a few, that have the same issues you're dealing with in public school and they do not offer substantially different curriculum. The difference is that they build in their enrichment in the day; however, your son would have his enrichment paced the same as other children.
My daughter has also been given a great deal of freedom and play outside with the neighborhood kids about 1.5 hours a day. This creative play is great because she is able to ''build and think out'' things like pulley systems, building a fort with wood and nails, and learning how to ride a two wheel bike and skateboard using the ramps they've built.
You know your son better than any teacher. Give your son the opportunities he asks for - let him explore lots of topics - he'll figure it out.
My daughter's pediatrician asks every year what she wants to be when she grows up - at 3 it was a scientist, at 4 it was a stay at home mom with 10 kids, at 5 an actress, at 6 an engineer and at 7 she told the pediatrician she felt the question was ''very limiting considering I can be more than one thing and I have a lot of time to change my mind.''
Give your son time, space, materials and support. You're asking great questions . . . Mom of a Really Fun and Great Daughter
The real question is the best fit for your son. One of the things I cherish most about Berkeley Montessori School is that each child is met at her own level, presenting a unique set of gifts and challenges. The 1st grader whose understanding of math is at the 5th grade level -- not as unusual as you might think -- can find plenty of appropriate work to do in math; on the other hand, if she's struggling with reading, she won't be stigmatized, held back or have any reason to believe that she's lagging or slow. She will catch up, and it won't matter in the end when she became truly proficient -- whether in pre-school or 2nd grade -- something I've witnessed countless times.
I never really thought of (and his teachers never labeled) my child as ''gifted'' per se (or not any more gifted, each in his own areas, than his polite and talented classmates) until I received his first standardized test scores, but in practice it makes no difference -- the BMS approach results in a highest- individual-potential approach to education: year after year, my off-the-charts son has been perfectly placed in the mixed-age classrooms where I'm confident that he'll be stimulated and challenged until high school. Happy parent of a multi-dimensional child
If you have a child that you know is gifted (whether tested or not), what do you do about school? If your child is reading significantly above grade level, math above grade level, clearly working above grade level in most or all areas of a classroom, what do you do, particularly if both through your own observation, teacher opinion and your child’s opinion, your child is spending 2 -3 hours a day waiting for other children to catch up?
How do other families with Gifted Kids deal with watching the motivation for additional learning diminish because they are not being challenged in the classroom (first grade) and there are no pull-out programs or even district testing for this age/grade in Oakland? While we can make our daughter's home life stimulating, fun, age-appropriate, thinking-appropriate and activity- appropriate, what do we do about the summer and school year? We have enrichment activities for our 7 year old daughter, languages, music, art, drama, etc. Also, how does your child choose friends? Are they intellectual peers, or age peers, or both?
I've been scolded on BPN by families who say just let your kid be a kid. What do you say to people when they say treat them as a kid first, and then deal with the giftedness, when you know that your child THINKS differently? Would the same thing be said to a parent of a severely developmental delayed child, just treat them as you would any other child, then deal with the learning disability?
I thought having a intellectually gifted child would be a gift and she would be easier to raise because she could reason and speak early and often, and my daughter is a gift, but this is harder than I though it would ever be even after I've read everything I can get my hands on. Please help! Mom of a terrific (and gifted) 7 year old
As a sort of compromise solution I was able to get him to go to math with a higher grade class for one year, but even that had its limits. He now misses one morning a week to be with a math enrichment teacher who can move him along as quickly as he wants to go. It is not a perfect solution, and does not address his frustration with the rest of the school week but at least now he gets really excited about and looks forward to his one morning per week.
We are hoping that middle school and high school will allow him to take more advanced classes, and until then are relying on sports, books and outside activities to soak up his energy and attention. --Waiting it out
However, we really, really, think a gifted child takes his/her cues about attitudes about school from you. My daughter didn't come home and say, ''I'm bored.'' I think it's very easy to pass message on to your kid that reinforce their beliefs in their own superiority. Knowing how to read or being excellent in math, doesn't mean that the child has nothing to learn. We found in particular, that our daughter needed to gain social skills, as well as have more physical experiences, because she spent so much time sitting and reading.
The fact is, that learning phonics in kindergarten and first grade-- even though she was well past this-- allowed her to become a much more proficient (and prolific) writer. It also taught her to spell, which was very useful, since she had learned to read holistically on her own.
The other fact is... and I know you don't want to hear this either... is that lots of other kids have the same skills as your child. They really do. And they really learn to negotiate their own way through school, without their parents' guiding every step of the way. Give her this gift. Yes, continue enrichment outside of school, and for goodness sakes, talk with the teacher about trying to meet her individual needs within the classroom setting. Nobody-- NOBODY has ever held my daughter back academically. She still gets her tip-top test scores and still and achieves academically at the highest level.
She wants to say, ''If your child can read exceptionally well, give her/him more books. Many kids learn to read, just not to read enthusiastically. I got lots of books when I was young, and the library has been my almost favorite place on earth since. I just don't remember being all that bored in school. Now, I help out other students in math/reading when they don't get stuff. There's nothing boring about that.''
We aren't suggesting that you ignore her needs, but just that you understand that there's a whole world of skills to learn beyond reading and multiplication tables. Good luck. - we've been there
I'm coming from the standpoint of having gone through this myself. When I was in 1st grade, the schools tested me and identified me as gifted, and put me in what was then known as GATE (gifted and talented education). After a year in that, (which helped) I skipped a grade and went from 2nd to 4th. The initial social impact was HARD, I was lonely and had a tough time relating to 4th graders. But academically, I was fine. Fortunatley, by 5th grade I made one friend (and that's really all you need at first). By 6th grade, things were pretty normal. I stayed in gifted classes throughout and got out of HS at 17.
It sounds like this type of identification process is missing in your school district so that's why, if you really feel your child is not reaching potential, you need to take it up yourself. Are there other high achievers in your daughters class? There must be. As a starting point, perhaps you could tap those parents and as a group request some supplemental, accelerated learning. The school may be more receptive listening to a group of parents. Then see what progress you note and take it from there.
If you do have you daughter skip a grade, be prepared for the downside while she catches up socially. Best of luck another parent
My son is similar age and I am so worried about his losing interest and curiosity about learning. He has tended to gravitate to the other ''smart'' kids in his class as well as to the ones with similar interests. He is young in the class (and skipped a grade) so it has been good for him to be challenged with older kids, but I worry about this too.
From what I hear, the Berkeley GATE program is underfunded and minimal, since the focus is on bringing kids below standard up. This is admirable, but seems like if the advanced kids had opportunities to move ahead this might also help bring test scores up. It would be great to have more after school enrichment programs for all kids, whether ''gifted'' or not. Kids are sponges and given the opportunity to learn about all kinds of things will. There are just so many more kids who need help getting up to grade level that the advanced kids who aren't trouble-makers don't get anything to help challenge them unless they have a teacher who can provide a bit extra.
One argument I've heard against GATE programs is that they tend to benefit wealthy white kids. I read something refuting that which made sense to me that basically said not having access to a GATE program can hurt kids without means more than well-off because their families are less likely to have the money for all the after school enrichment, camps etc that middle class+ can afford. Interesting food for thought.
I did see a notice here a few weeks ago about the formation of a k-12 gifted school in Oakland and I'll be curious to see how that evolves. Alas, no answers
One quick way to do this is to google Oakland Charter Schools and find a list. Then separately google each school's name and find their website and check out their philosophies, curriculum, etc. See if you find something that makes sense for your daughter. I'm sure you will.
And don't worry about the other parents. People are often sensitive to the latest ''hyper-parenting'' approach to parenting and perhaps questions regarding a gifted child SOUNDS like those coming from that approach. If you are letting your daughter lead the way and she just has different needs, then just let the other parents be. You know your daughter best. Jenny
My advice would be to look into alternative schools for you daughter. Montessori allows a child to do their own work but still be in a context of a class with kids their own age. I've also heard that a charter school in Oakland for Gifted Children might open in a year or so. I'm going the private route with my child who has been reading for two years. My hope is that it will be easier to advocate for her but who knows. I do know that my own experience left me feeling taht my success in school was my greatest strength. It took me much turmoil to realize that life -- and happiness in life -- is more complex than academic skills. I think that there is great value in making sure you daughter isn't bored -- but make sure she isn't doing it just to get your praise. And that is probably the most difficult thing to navigate. anon
While my D is very bright & has had tremendous academic success, the primary difference between my D & most kids is not her intellect, it's her self- discipline & drive. She has always pushed herself to do her best even when it's uninteresting or difficult. School cannot make everything stimulating & fun. There is so much in school that isn't very interesting but is absolutely essential information to learn (ie. punctuation, basic spelling, grammer). For your D to excel, she needs to learn to apply herself even when it's boring. She needs to learn self-discipline & to push herself to be her best, always. That's what will pay off for her. Don't focus on what the school is offering or not offering.
Finding good friends can be challenging for any kid. Both my kids have been able to find plenty of friends their age that are their equals. Your D will too. anonymous
I can't tell you how many parents tell me their child is ''gifted'', as a way to excuse the kid's lack of effort or motivation ....as if some designation given in the third grade had any real bearing on someone's ability to learn and grow... I've also had tons of wonderful kids go through my doors, excited to learn and engaged in the world of ideas every day, kids who soak up everything, who learn from the mundane as well as the inspired, and often ''learn'' lessons teachers had no idea they were teaching.
These are just my observations... I don't know what the messages are that you are sending your child, but above all, remember that ultimately you want to raise a thoughtful, interesting, kind person who can function effectively in the world, right? Don't lose sight of that goal.
I also say this from the perspective of a parent of two gifted children ( who are now in middle school in this affluent suburb and have always functioned grade levels ahead). Yes, I do think they are extraordinary. I should think that; after all, I'm their mother. But I also understand that I need to allow them the opportunity to NOT be extraordinary, but just be anonymous ( ''normal?'' one of the crowd?), from time to time. Keep the big picture in mind.... - Just my two cents
This is what I've learned to look for to keep my child's whole being happy:
*Classrooms where the children are engaged. In an attempt to make my son's extracurricular life simpler, I observed classes at another school and was surprised at the difference. Kids were not fully engaged -- it was a nice school and the kids were nice, but I could see my son being bored and restless.
*Teachers who understand that a child who is a 'fluent reader' may also be equally competent at comprehending the material they're reading.
*Teachers who understand the emotional need such a child has for complex and challenging material *and* are willing to help that child find the information they need to satisfy their brain.
*Teachers who do not press boring, previously absorbed material on to such children. My son never finishes his language work. We know his spelling/reading/verbal levels are somewhere between 7th & 12th grade, so it's not pushed on him. If he were to self-motivate in that area, he could whiz though and move on, but he chooses not to, and since it's not a place he has challenges, the teachers are relaxed about it. He can help someone else with his extra time.
*Teachers who look to place children where they have someone they can bond with (similar interests). My son's teacher asked me who I thought would be a good friend for next year (as he changes classrooms), and we were delighted to find we were thinking of the same child. It's amazing, and what's best is they're learning appreciation for the children who are not bright in the same way. In short, teachers who understand every child has gifts and challenges and help each child learn where they need concentrate their efforts and how to utilize their strengths. I really love the fact that at BMS the administration and faculty are happily implementing this strategy. We've found our solution. Happy Berkeley Montessori Parent
Yes, you should try to balance the level of challenge for your child with her emotional needs. I think she should definitely remain with her peers. If you can find a more challenging curriculum within your budget, go for it. If you must stick with the current school, then do exactly what you're doing - allow her the experience with school (which builds other important parts of her personality as well) and then be her 2nd teacher at home. Discover what really interests her (for me it was music and drama), and give her opportunities to explore those things as well.
Yes, in a group setting, she won't be challenged and without your heavy involvement, she will learn to be very lazy with study skills, which will catch up to her later when subjects become challenging. It's amazing how many gifted children get poor marks as they age - they naturally learn to rely on their gift and don't adequately build academic skills.
You don't need to fill her every minute - in fact, she may thrive on some downtime to allow her to process all her thoughts. Perhaps you will require additional homework of her. Or work with her teachers, requesting plenty of extra credit or bonus things to work on. Be her advocate, and be willing to do most of the work finding her appropriate learning opportunities.
One thing that was fun for me (in elementary school) was mentoring struggling students. They set aside time for me to help others during one class period per day and I enjoyed it. anon
It is true that every child needs a challenge, but there are lots of realms for challenges beyond basic academics. His teachers have been great at appreciating his strengths and trying to build on those, but more important, looking at the areas where he needs work and encouraging him to focus there. For my son it is things like: taking turns, listening to others and valuing what they say, keeping his temper, fine motor control, etc. where he needs work. I also value what he learns at public school by making friends with kids from different backgrounds. These things he needs work on are important life skills, and my guess is most children have areas (that may not be strictly academic) where they can challenge themselves in a school setting. He's already great at academics - for him to be well rounded other areas need more attention.
Another thought: homeschooling vs traditional schooling doesn't have to be all or nothing. Our son went to preschool 3 days a week before starting public school, and I realized that without intending to, the two days he was home with us were really ''homeschooling''(in a preschool-appropriate sense), and that is part of why some of his academics are so advanced. He had lots of time to read, to explore, to talk about what interested him. When he started school we decided that if/when the academics of the classroom fail to stimulate him, we'll try to have after school time be for ''homeschooling'' again - supplementing in areas of interest. Right now he's still finding plenty to sink his teeth into in the regular program and aftercare, but when that time comes I think he'll get the best of both worlds again: parental attention and individualized study after school, and all those social areas that are so important at school. - hoping for a kid who knows more than math/reading!
My daughter has had a great time in first grade. She has learned a great deal and an equal amount of learning had NOTHING to do with reading, math, writing, social studies, etc. It had to do with social skills and different cultures, values held by her and others, how to use chop sticks, write in Chinese, speak Arabic, Spanish and German. She learned how to work as a team, help children in her class, write a five paragraph essay. Now she's looking forward to the summer, where she takes time off from all the structured learning to play with the neighborhood kids in the sprinkler (something she wrote an essay about), learn to play basketball and just hang out with other kids, older and younger.
BPN is a great forum for discussion, for getting real advice from real people even when you have temporarily blown things way out of proportion. Is my daughter gifted? Yes, I believe so. Has she been tested? No she has not. Does she enjoy school? Yes, most of the time, at least until April of every year. And yes, I need to supplement outside school and learning is about the bigger picture. Last summer it was riding a two wheel bike and using it for independence, learning to use Heelys and getting her ears pierced. Who knows about this summer?
Thank you to those who wrote, I feel fortunate to have access to a great Oakland public school and a teacher who teaches the required curriculum plus two levels up and a level down and who understands that seat-work for first grade doesn't work well, and real life assignments do. Grateful Mom
I get the sense from the teacher and principal that the needs of an academically advanced student are a non-issue -- i.e., nothing to worry about. While the school district was recently sued for their noncompliance and non-responsive attitude towards Special Needs students (the district is now bending over backwards to meet the needs of these students and their parents), I see little support at the district level for advanced students. The GATE program doesn't start until the third grade. What do I do until then, "supplement, supplement, supplement" and put up with decided indifference from the school? I would appreciate hearing from someone who's been there.
If she's reading at a second or third grade level -- shouldn't she start working on her writing skills? The worksheets she brings home are too easy for her. What can I do at home to teach her to write, if the school won't help?
The first poster said much of what I would have said. Let me just add that it would also be good to hear from parents with children in private or public schools, about what good activities they've seen kindergarten teachers do in class with kids that are reading. (Or how they've approached the issue.) I'd love to be able to bring some suggestions to my child's teacher, who I believe might be receptive to trying new things, especially since I think that my daughter's not the only one in her class that is reading.
Please keep in mind that a great deal of kindergarten is social and your daughter needs to be a part of this as much as any other student. Learning good study habits -- listening, following directions, working with others -- is important as well. If she's given too much alternate work she'll miss these experiences.
As an advanced student, if she's going to make the most of her school time, she's going to need to need to learn how to go on to something constructive, such as independent reading or writing, when she has finished the assignment as well as to get the most she can out of the assignments, rather than doing the minimum and then looking to the teacher to provide her with additional material.
I'm not sure what you're basing your assessment that she is reading at second or third grade level on, but please keep in mind that good reading skills are much more complex than just being able to say the words out loud. Comprehension is a big part of good reading. If the teacher is reading aloud a lot, and letting the children discuss the story, this benefits children at a variety of reading levels.
Most kindergartens are only half day, so there should still be plenty of time in the day for you to allow her to do reading and writing at her own level afterward. You needn't give her workbooks or specific assignments, just let her read books at appropriate levels and write on topics of her choice. Keep the editing and commenting on her writing supportive.
GATE can start before third grade, although many schools chose not to test much earlier. It's often difficult to tell who is truly an advanced student at kindergarten and first grade. Some students may read before their peers, perhaps because they were exposed to printed material at a young age, but not turn out to be GATE students. You may want to inquire about having her tested earlier, but late first grade or sometime in second grade may be a more appropriate time to raise this issue.
It is always good to help in the classroom, even if you have to juggle to do it. Its good for you and your daughter, and for the whole class. Also, it gives the teacher the impression (hopefully true) that you are concerned about the success of the whole group, not just your kid. This is a much better position from which to negotiate, and you will learn so much about the whole bunch. My younger child is now in 4th grade, and I know every kid in his grade. Its a friendly situation and a huge and positive part of his (our) education.
I realize that this type of school isn't affordable by most, but there are a very limited number of need-based scholarships available for extremely talented students. The enrollment process gets underway in December and testing is in January. The school is a k-12.
I started reading at age 3, apparently on my own. My mother couldn't see waiting until I was 5 for kindergarten, so she sent me to private school at age 4. (After that I attended public schools.) Consequently I was always the youngest child in my year, which never mattered until high school, when I was the last of my peers to get a driver's license.
I would say that my experience was very much dependent on the quality of the teacher and on my own ability to learn how to get along with my peers. My parents watched to see whether I was happy and challenged by school, and when I wasn't, they tried to intervene. We lived in a rural district where private schools were non-existent and changing within the public system was not an option. We were stuck with whatever teacher I got. Usually I was with the other kids for all subjects except reading/writing/spelling. Until high school I invariably had essentially an independent study for reading, in which the teacher assigned me books to read in addition to the regular stuff. The additional load was no problem, because I devoured books.
Most of my teachers were sympathetic--they liked having a bright student in class, and tried to challenge me. Most were fair to the other students and good at not constantly singling me out for praise in class, and I learned (eventually) that I didn't have to put my hand up for every single answer. This was a maturity issue that I had to work out for myself, and some teachers were more helpful than others.
I only had one bad teacher in the lot, and she set me back quite a bit. We had just moved to a new school district when I entered 4th grade with this teacher. The first day in class, she misspelled a word on the board and I raised my hand to point it out. From that day on it was war. She completely isolated me from my classmates and (I suspect) from participating in class where I could potentially embarrass her again. (Mind you, I did not perceive this at the time!) In the guise of challenging me, she gave me special independent projects to do, most of which were time-wasting busy work. One I remember with special horror was a project to do a map of the school in metric units. This required going from classroom to classroom with a trundle wheel (a sort of meter-long measuring wheel) and measuring the interior of every class, as all the kids stared at me. She also did petty things like awarding prizes for the best score on spelling tests, but making me ineligible for the prize, because she said I would always win. That year I turned from an outgoing, happy child to a shy, unhappy, school-hating child. I also had stress-related stomach problems that almost resulted in my being operated on for appendicitis. (The doctor couldn't understand, in 1978, why an 8-year-old would have ulcers.)
When I started bringing home C's in reading, my mother knew something was wrong. Unfortunately, she was almost powerless to change things in the classroom. The teacher was acting punitively but disguising it as being in either my best interest or the best interest of the class. At about the same time, the teacher became ill and had to leave the school, and we had a totally ineffective substitute after that. Fourth grade for me was an absolute black hole. Luckily, in 5th grade I had a wonderful teacher who turned it all around.
My advice to you is to monitor your child's classroom VIA your daughter's reaction to it. If the teacher assigns her extra work or more "broadening" work (as one poster to this list defined it), great--but help her figure out if this is really worthwhile educationally or just busywork to keep her from twiddling her thumbs in class. If she's truly gifted, she'll be dealing with these issues the rest of her life. Likewise, her relationship with her peers is something she'll have to put a lot of effort into. Teachers can help or hurt--make sure she's taught by a helper. But I wouldn't encourage you to shun any kind of activity that sets your daughter apart and simply hope to make up the gap at home. If you do, and the place where she spends 6-7 hours a day becomes a complete bore, what message will that send her about school? That it's simply a hoop to jump through? That nobody cares that she's special? Talk to the teachers to find ways that she can be challenged, and talk to your daughter about how to not be a know-it-all or a teacher's pet, and together you can find the best solution.
Groan. I'm finding myself where I never wanted to be: rethinking the decision to put my child in public school. My daughter is 10, in 4th grade, and has attended Oxford School in Berkeley since kindergarten. She likes her school, has a broad group of friends there and in her after school program, and is generally a well-behaved, well-adjusted, loving, and happy child.
My problem is that I am beginning to see her intellectual abilities and interests diverge to a fairly alarming extent from what's offered by the curriculum available to her. She has always been acknowledged by teachers, other kids, principal to be one of the two or three brightest and most academically oriented of the children in her grade and that's been fine. But the gap seems to be growing. She reads and writes at a high school level and has worked herself through an introductory algebra text aimed at middle school kids. I and the mother of one of the other "smart" kids in her class have worked with their teacher to assign more challenging homework and projects, etc., but I see that she's still becoming isolated and a bit lonely -- everyone else is at a different level and she has only one other kid (unfortunately, at this age, a boy) to really share her intellectual interests with. She's in GATE, but my sense is that her school's implementation of the GATE program is designed to democratize the program rather than really stimulate children like mine -- a decision I totally support from a political perspective, but it doesn't help me with my problem. GATE provides some additional curriculum, but not enough. My biggest concern is that now, as she is approaching pre-teenness and becoming more concerned with peer approval, she seems to be shrinking back and worrying about not fitting in or being "too" smart. I feel like I have some responsibility to create conditions where she can flourish intellectually and wonder if I'm doing that now.
So....my question is: have other parents faced this problem and how have they responded? I find myself fantasizing about some classroom where many of the other children are on the same level and she's encouraged to be as smart and creative as she wants to be; I imagine such classrooms to exist in private schools but don't know whether in fact they do. What do people think about leaving such children in environments where there's a risk they may be discouraged from achieving? What do people think about having children change schools at the 5th grade level? What schools do they recommend for such children? Are there supplementary programs or activities that I could get her involved in? I am *strongly* disinclined to have her skip a grade for all of the reasons raised in the "what age kindergarten?" debate: socially and emotionally I think she's *at* grade level, but not ahead, and I have no big interest in shaving a year off her childhood by having her start middle school, high school, and eventually college a year early. But I'd be open to hearing other opinions. Finally, I should add that in preliminary discussions about this, she's been upset about the prospect of changing schools. I take this opinion seriously, but in the end I still think it's her father's and my responsibility to make the decision, even if it's one that makes her unhappy in the short term.
Any thoughts any of you have about this would be most appreciated.
In response to Gifted Child - I personally think the transition would be easier between 5th & 6th grade, and would look at private middle schools and talk to them about their ability to let a child go as far and fast as they can intellectually. Middle schools tend to start in 6th grade, and maybe you could get your daughter involved in an activity or two with kids from that school once you have been accepted at one. The middle school at Windrush seems academically challenging and allows for a great deal of individualism, but my kids are only in 3rd and K, so I don't have first hand experience. They are very aware and concerned about how girls can fall off intellectually at this age, and have support groups for kids and parents. Middle school seems to be the most dangerous in terms of female self esteem and if your daughter is already feeling that being too smart is hurting her socially, I agree that you must get her in an environment where that can be overcome. Good luck!
I know a child who was the brightest in her class, even after being skipped. She was very unhappy and lonely at her school, where achievement was looked down upon. She wanted desperately to go somewhere else, but her parents couldn't afford to send her to private school. Eventually, when she got into high school, she started taking college courses. She finally was intellectually stimulated and also for the first time began meeting friends she could relate to (although they were many years older).
I think continuing to go to public school was a waste for this child, because she learned nothing AND was unhappy. However, if your child likes her school, why not get her special tutoring? Find out which subjects she enjoys and have a tutor set up a special curriculum for her after school. Maybe get together with other parents of bright children of various ages. Set it up as a fun thing, not additional homework. She might enjoy working through high school math or reading literature or studying a foreign language. Talk to her teachers. Make sure they let her know that she is special and shouldn't waste her talent, and that they encourage her to excel. Also, let her know that different is good! Good luck! Cecilia
By the time I got to college, I was convinced that everyone there (especially the guys) were smarter than I was. I dropped out of electrical engineering in favor of a literature major because I thought that I wasn't smart enough for engineering. I realize now that from age eleven to 22 I sabotaged my intellectual potential and my future in order to be accepted by my peers. What a ridiculous thing to do! I dont know if this helps at all, but I hope that you find a place that gives all the support and encouragement your daughter needs to grow as much as she can. Alain
My experience at HRS was very positive and I was significantly more challenged than I had been by 5th grade at Malcolm. I had very close relationships with my teachers who were a dedicated bunch. I did still graduate as the valedictorian of my class at Heads and was consistently at the top of my class throughout my 7 years there. The advantage was that there were some other students who were at a similar level and the teachers had plenty of time and attention to focus on me and other top students so I wasn't waiting around while other students tried to catch up. The down side was that the school was quite small (42 kids in my graduating class) and by the time I was in 10th grade, I had a desire to go back to Berkeley High to expand my horizons. I ended up not returning because they were in the process of undoing the gifted/tracking program they had at the time called Model School A. Unfortunately, this is the pattern in Berkeley where they introduce gifted programs to attract people back from private schools and then gut them when they decide they are unequal/racist/classist or whatever. A few years later they set one up again and then it lasts for a few years and they gut it. The recent changes they've made to the GATE program appear to fit with that pattern.
Now that I have my own children, one of whom is in 1st grade while the other is still in pre-school, I have opted to try the public schools and then switch them to private if and when that becomes necessary. The public schools don't seem much different academically than they did 25 years ago, although the class size reduction is an improvement, but there do seem to be fewer social tensions. Head-Royce has gotten bigger (75/upper school grade) which I see as an advantage. My daughter is at Malcolm X (that decision took some soul searching for me after my bad experience) and I think there is a reasonable chance we will move her out of public school around 6th grade, or possibly earlier, unless she's having a great experience. However, I would consider sending her back to BHS for high school if that's her preference and my safety/quality concerns are satisfied.
As for your situation, you have already missed the application deadline for what I would call the more academic private schools, Head-Royce and Bentley, and it is quite difficult to get a slot for 5th grade anyway because they don't expand the class size until 6th grade. I would suggest trying to find some supplementary activities for her for this coming year (do you know about the ATDP 3 week summer program run by UC's School of Educ?), leave her with her friends for her last year of elementary school, and then move her in 6th grade to a private school environment. I do think she has a better chance of being challenged and maintaining a positive attitude toward learning in that environment (although there are diverse influences at those schools as well). There may still be some schools you could get her into for this coming year but to do that for just one year if they aren't schools that go through middle school would be pretty disruptive especially if she doesn't want to.
We've had that problem all through school. He's now a Jr. in HS getting C's and D's because school's not important to him. So I'd do some things differently before he got into a downward spiral: 1. Don't expect that it will "work out" later. It never does. 2. There were only a few teachers/courses that challenged him and he still speaks fondly of them. 3. He ended up being bored in class, then not doing homework, then cutting off options. He'd let the deadlines for the exams for the honors classes slip by, then complain about being bored in the regular class. At first, I didn't even know they had to apply, then take an exam for an honors class, so I couldn't nag him. So another year would slip by. Now he feels he's wasting his time in school. 3a. I'd have jumped when he started getting B's as a freshman, then C's as a sophmore, now D's. 4. He did apply for private high schools and I should have made sure he got in and accepted admission. I had a preference for the public HS. Now I think the competition and general higher level of the other students would have been valuable. So if I had to do it again, I would give up on public school and move to a challenging private school. Between middle and high school is the best chance to do this. 5. In HS there is an option of Independent Study. It's often used by actresses, artists, etc. who have other things to do in their lives, but can also be used to set up a challenging school situation. It can often also be used in conjunction with some regular or AP or Honors HS classes so the student also has a social and athletic life. It's good for a very self-directed student. 6. Supplemental after-school or summer activities are fine, but won't replace school since she'll need to spend her 6 hours/day in school. And school provides the grades for further education. Her school and most of her courses have to challenge her so she doesn't feel she's wasting her time. I hope you get other suggestions also. I didn't handle our situation well and can only really say that you have a valid concern and it won't "just work out." I have another child who does very well in middle school, and I've never heard her say she's not challenged. She needs to work to get her homework done and pull her A's. So we'll not have the same problem with her and the system will work for her. Good luck. Anonymous
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