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Gifted Kids and Elementary School

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > K-12 Schools > Gifted Kids and Elementary School


Questions & Advice Gifted Kids at Specific Schools Related Pages

2010 - 2014 Recommendations


Elementary School for advanced learner?

Sept 2014

We're starting to look for an elementary school for our four-year-old, who is academically advanced (reading well prior to age three, perfect pitch). I know this question has been asked before, but I'd still love to hear where parents of advanced/gifted kids have found good school environments for their kids recently. Have you found a school where your child learns to overcome challenges by actually being challenged? Does your child have several classmates who are advanced enough that your child doesn't have the first answer to everything? Does your child feel like s/he belongs? Does your child's teacher encourage risk-taking or stewing in perfectionism? Is differentiated instruction a consistent option or an afterthought? Do you have to get lucky with the right teacher, or are the teachers consistently supporting and challenging your child? And of course, if you tried a school for your advanced child and were disappointed, that would also be quite valuable for us to hear. We live in Berkeley but will consider schools a reasonable distance away. We are considering gifted schools, language immersion schools, various private schools, and BUSD.


Hi! I just wanted to share my experience with Montessori schools, and with my son's current school, LePort School in Emeryville. My son is going on 5, and he has been in Mandarin immersion Montessori schools for three years (this is his 4th). He's a strong reader and writer, and just voraciously curious about everything. This kid likes to read a natural history encyclopedia for his bedtime story.

Anyway, the whole core of Montessori is individualized learning, meeting each child where they're at, and giving kids agency to make a lot of their own learning choices. They're also mixed-age. My son is in a class of 5 (or nearly-5) to 8. So, he has every opportunity to take lessons alongside older children, and he does constantly.

I highly recommend taking a look at LePort in Emeryville. It's a Mandarin immersion option, if you're interested in bilingual education, and I've been blown away so far. Everything from the learning opportunities he's had (he was going on and on about prepositions last night), to the elated look on his face everyday after school, to the high level of service we have experienced as parents, has been exceptional. Our son has had the benefit of socializing with peers in his age group, while being unlimited in his learning potential.

The great thing is that with our son in a Montessori environment all this time, I've never even thought of him as ''gifted.'' He's simply being offered the opportunity to learn at his pace, and it's been great for him. I hope that helps! Patti


You should check out GATE Academy in San Rafael if you want advanced, accelerated academics and meaningful differentiation. This place has been phenomenal for both my kids and so far our experience has been that all the teachers are excellent. Besides academics every day the kids do mediation and PE. Since starting there I have much happier, calmer, better behaved kids. We commute from Oakland and are not the only East Bay family. happy Gate parent
I think you're asking all the right questions; it sounds like you're looking for a school that really gets gifted kids and doesn't just talk the talk. I encourage you to come visit GATE Academy in San Rafael (a drive from Berkeley, but we come from Oakland, and a lot of GATE families have long commutes from all over).

We moved our two PG kids to GATE after a few years at a private school in Berkeley. We've found that there is a world of difference between a traditional school that may (or may not) make some accommodations for one or two highly gifted kids and a school that is actually designed for and filled with highly gifted kids.

The academics are top notch at GATE. Every child is challenged because almost everything is self-paced and adapted to his or her abilities. In each of the school year's six sessions, the classes study a particular topic. Each student in the school comes up with a research question related to the class's topic, researches the answer, develops the research into a project, and then presents that project to the entire school. The emphasis is on developing the skills to be a learner, rather than memorizing facts.

The math program is similarly self-paced; the teachers work very hard to continuously assess the students' progress so that each kid can move ahead as soon as he or she masters a concept (unlike in most schools, where everyone has to wait for the entire class to finish learning a concept before anyone can move on). There are some very young kids taking advanced math with the big kids. At the same time, the students aren't pushed to just move quickly through the material; on the contrary, the teachers devote a lot of math time to out-of-the-box challenge problems and math games and other activities that make math a community experience.

The other thing about GATE that goes to the heart of your questions is that the teachers and administration really understand the particular social/emotional challenges that gifted children face. They know how to help kids who struggle with perfectionism, or who are asynchronous, or who have oversensitivities or overexcitabilities. There is a heavy emphasis on mindfulness and on the idea that failure is ok because it leads to more learning. The kids have daily PE and foreign language, and they have weekly art, science lab, music, and theater. All of the kids are excited about learning and are really interested in each other's projects. And even though they are a really bright group of kids, the atmosphere is not competitive at all. It's been a haven for my kids. Happy GATE Mom


You definitely should check out The Academy in Berkeley. Our son started kindergarten three weeks ago and couldn't be happier with the combination of challenging academics and a nurturing environment. He literally glows every day when he comes home from school.

When we were in your position a year ago, we visited several fine schools whose kindergartens did not seem to be much ahead of our son's excellent preschool. The Academy was different. The kindergarten teacher is as challenging as she is warm, a gem. The students plunge into reading and writing (at their different speeds) while learning addition and subtraction with a little pre-algebra flavor. We are astonished at how much our son has soaked up in so little time.

The core curriculum is more or less a year ahead of the norm, using first grade materials in kindergarten and so forth. I don't think anyone in that class has the first answer all that much; they are all very sharp. And the classes are small--capped at 12--so differentiated learning is real, not just a slogan. And there is just one class per grade, so you always get the right teacher.

Among the best features are the specialist classes. The kids have a science specialist once a week in kindergarten, twice a week in the other grades (in addition to the science they learn from their homeroom teacher). They have art and music twice a week, tapping into other forms of intelligence. Even the kindergartners have French four times a week; our son has learned enough to keep his grandmother and me on our toes trying to recall our high school French, and his accent is way better than mine ever was. And he has PE every day. You don't see that much any more. This is truly a school for the whole child.

The school's small size results in a family feel. The teachers are as warm as you will find; the kindergarten teacher is off the charts in that respect. And the older kids are exceptionally nice and gentle to the younger ones on the playground.

When we enrolled our son for this year, our only misgivings were about the administration and management, which seemed below the quality we observed in every classroom when we visited. That has changed. Now there is new and far more dynamic and responsive management after the parents created a nonprofit and literally took over the school (retaining the teachers).

It's well worth a visit to see if The Academy might be the right fit for your child. Academy dad


If your child is an advanced learner, you definitely want to check out The Academy in Elmwood. It is a great place with a small and nurturing environment and outstanding teachers. It offers an advanced curriculum, which is ideal for motivated learners. The Academy also offers specialist teachers in science, French, art, music, and PE. My son went there and is well ahead of his classmates in middle school. My daughter is thriving there too. Check it out. Very happy Academy parent
I saw that several people mentioned The Academy as a place for advanced learners. My 2 cts: My son went there for elementary school and was bored to tears. The curriculum was *not* challenging for him, and his teachers were not doing anything to challenge him, either (with a couple of exceptions, of teachers who have since left the school). His interactions with some teachers at The Academy increasingly turned him off of school, despite his excellent grades. Whenever we tried to talk to his teachers or to the (then-) head of school about what we were seeing, we were told that The Academy had ''always'' been excellent, and that was that.

My son has since moved to a different school. He is still well ahead of his classmates, but at his new school, teachers keep him challenged. He loves going to school now.

Of course, things can change.

I don't have a good answer to your question about an elementary school for an advanced learner. One possibility might be a Montessori school with mixed-aged classes, meaning your child can act his or her age socially while tackling whatever academic material he or she is ready for. Montessori Family School has mixed-age classrooms, but I can't speak to their success or otherwise. Or GATE Academy in San Rafael? YMMV


School for profoundly gifted 12 year old

Feb 2014

I have a 12 yo daughter who has been identified as profoundly gifted, esp in math and science. She is technically a 6th grader at a very good public intermediate school but takes 8 and 9th grade math simultaneously and 8th grade science. Core and band are in 6th so she can be with some kids she knows. She has received A's in all classes however frequently misses classes ( due to anxiety, mainly) and no longer completes most homework (she has a 504). She has just a few friends she has lunch breaks with. She has known these girls for several years. She reaches out to no new friends. Next year she will be in high school for part of the day (math and science and possible one elective). She would like to go but I am concerned about the reality: a kid who refuses to do homework/big assignments, refuses to go to school. Basically, she is academically very advanced and socially/emotionally delayed. I am looking for any thoughts on schools for her that would suit both her academic and emotional needs. Many schools for gifted kids seem to be best for high-achieving types. I've been trying to sort this wonderful girl out for years (!) but am getting to the end of my rope. Thx! Anon


First, I think you should read ''Far from the Tree,'' by Andrew Solomon. It talks about kids of all types who are profoundly different than their parents. It sounds like even with your joy (excess intelligence may be less burdensome than some other issues), it's a difficult journey.

My first thought in reading your post is that you might want to consider a school that goes from K-12, or at least 6-12, at the same campus. Which means, probably, private. Off the top of my head, I'd check out Head Royce, if it's in your neighborhood. That way, your daughter can take her high school courses without having to be picked up and driven somewhere else. And you won't have to look for a high school in a few years, if you're happy. And they are a good school for academic achievers. From what I've observed, they're also pretty good at addressing social/emotional needs. You should give them a visit.


I would be very cautious about sending a young student who isn't able to do homework and projects to high school because grades matter in high school. In most classes homework/projects are a significant part of the grade. Also, I wonder if not doing the work is a way of telling you/her teachers that she isn't emotionally ready to be in a classroom with older children. There are various on-line (Stanford) and in-person enrichment programs in math and science (Math Circles, programs at science museums) where she could make progress in problem-solving (the central skill for college mathematics/science) without necessarily being accelerated in computation. There are also summer camps for mathematically gifted students -- you can find listings at the MSRI website under math circles. I think it might be a good idea to step back and look at her education as a whole picture, and really give her a chance to work on the social-emotional skills since that is where she is struggling. Obviously, at 12, it is important to see what she would like to do next year. anon
I don't have a school suggestion though I do have a thought about finding that school. You say that most gifted schools are for high achievers and suggest that your daughter doesn't rise to her challenges. Let me counter with this from my own PG kids - they are high achievers when they are engaged and challenged in their work and are disengaged when taught beneath their level. So you may just find that your daughter becomes a high achiever when you can place her in an environment that challenges and engages her interests. Are you a member of DYS or PGR? PG mama
Hi, Our son sounds a little like your daughter. We had a bit of a time finding a school for him because of his asynchronous development, several years behind emotionally, ahead intellectually. Our son's case is a little more complicated by some learning issues. These were undiagnosed for a time as he was able to compensate for them keeping them hidden, (but at the cost of his self esteem). You might have your daughter tested to see if there are any hidden issues like these. We have a bunch of little ones, no huge smoking gun, but learning about them has really helped. However, the biggest change for us came from finding the right school, which turned out to be Tilden Prep. They are lovely, and have a campus in Albany and one in Walnut Creek.

Most schools just aren't made for or accepting of kids with these kinds of extremes. They should be, everyone is different. Tilden really does a respectable job in this department. Our son was miserable in public and a school for gifted kids ended up only highlighting all of his weaknesses. Tilden teaches one on one, or rarely, in very small groups, so your kid can be at their comfort level all the time, learning the way that works best for them. Your daughter could do AP classes there. They gradually worked my son up the homework ladder so to speak, being careful not to overwhelm him because that is something that can really frustrate him. It's a small school, but there are group electives and they have clubs and other activities that are well suited to our son. They really work to get a good fit for your child in terms of teachers and types of classes and they are very responsive to our kid's needs. I have only had cause to bring a few things to their attention but all were compassionately and almost immediately resolved. He's quite happy there. Now that we don't have drama around school, we've had time to find some other activities and outlets for our son that he really enjoys and we are all of us, much much happier. good luck to you!


Private schools for gifted child

Feb 2014

Hello, We have been at Prospect Sierra for six months, and among other concerns, we are worried our bright child won't be challenged enough. Transferring would obviously be a big deal to our child, so we would REALLY APPRECIATE advice and comparisons from parents who experienced both Prospect and other independent schools in Berkeley or West Oakland. (We are also looking at our local public school). I know every family's child and experience is different, but I still find parental opinions to be hugely helpful. Thank you very much. parent


Though my very bright child has never been at Prospect Sierra, he has been at Park Day School since 2010. I have found that all his teachers, from core classroom teachers to specialist enrichment teachers, have found ways to challenge him or deepen the curriculum wherever it suits him. Many of his core teachers are already experts in differentiating their curriculum so that everyone in the classroom is challenged at their own ''just right'' level - sometimes even without the students noticing these differences.

Aside from making sure your bright kid is sufficiently challenged academically, it's important to remember that even very bright students, and perhaps especially very bright students, also need a place that will support their social and emotional development. There are many ways to get academic enrichment for a bright kid who needs more than they get at school. But it is very hard to find any setting that presents a good balance of academic, social, and emotional learning that is so aware of each kid in their charge. I know my kid is incredibly fortunate to attend a school that not only understands this, but is able to deliver it, year after year. Good luck with your decision, Another parent


I don't think any of the east bay private schools cater to the highly gifted kid. We are at another Berkeley private school and feel that there is very little meaningful differentiation. I think it is geared well for the bright achiever, but not gifted kids! They do some differentiation but I think this is more for those who are struggling. It has been my impression that Prospect Sierra has a good writing program and a more developed and integrated social emotional curriculum. Our current school does not have much in the way of social emotional learning, though they are trying to add it this year.. Social bullying continues to be a big issue. I think a strong social emotional component is really important for gifted kids. Anon
My son was way ahead in math and we found a good match for him at Black Pine Circle. My kids each switched schools at least once during elementary school or middle school, it really wasn't a big deal. They both found kids they already knew at their new schools, made new friends and continued to be friends with kids from the old school. anon

Gifted students in public schools

Dec 2013

A group of parents in a local public school district is looking for examples of effective California public school programs for gifted/advanced learners (GATE - for lack of a better term.) I would appreciate any feedback, even it is just a limited practice rather than a complete program, for adequately challenging bright students during the regular school day. We are already aware of outside programs (Stanford EPGY, Johns Hopkins, etc) and have after school activities that often work for these students but really want to find out if any California school district has a good program or practices. Many district websites (including our own) claim a program, but often fall short in practice. public school mom


You can find a good deal of this info on the hoagies website, as well as by contacting your CA Association for the Gifted (CAG) reps. Districts which have solid GATE programs, including full day standalone classes for highly gifted kids, include Los Angeles (they have programming for both gifted and highly gifted), Davis, Sacramento, Long Beach, and San Diego (although I hear San Diego's program has been greatly reduced). San Ramon is the closest area that offers something along those lines. I have visited a number of these districts on a quest to find something for my own asynchronous, 99th+ percentile kid, who does not fit into the standard framework. It's really a shame and incredible to me that we don't have something for our kids in this area, given the cost of living we all suffer to live here. Oceanside in SoCal is reputed to also have very good gifted programs. JB
While I haven't attended elementary school in California in over 30 years, I was in the gifted program in Riverside Unified S.D. (Southern Cal), which had a separate all-day program back in the day. It made all the difference for me in my schooling, and I'm currently frustrated with the lack of programs as I look at Berkeley public schools. Anyway, with any luck they have maintained the program and it might be worthwhile to check. - Former GATE-er

School for Gifted and Twice Gifted

Nov 2013

We need a new school for our two children. Both are gifted and one also has dyslexia as well. The current private school never noticed the dyslexia and is not being a partner in addressing this now that we have spent/ are spending huge dollars on testing, remediation, etc. I have a real problem with the fact that with all the zone of proximal development talk they never recognized that my child was struggling- instead we have been patronized as if we parents were imaging problems! Needless to say very little true differentiation has happened there.

We need a school that will be a partner in dealing with learning challenges as well as offering acceleration for the giftedness. Is there a school that can actually do this? We need a school that will not be blind to what is there and can assess and differentiate. And, one that can help a child overcome anxiety induced by current school- so social emotional learning also a major plus. We need a school that will celebrate the gifts yet work around the challenges.

We are also willing to cast a wide net although we live in Oakland. anon


I also have a gifted child attending an East Bay private school which touts its attention to the ''zone of proximal development''. I also have been made to feel as though I am the problem when the school has ignored my child's needs, and one of the instructors has been downright hostile. I have learned that this is not uncommon at my child's school, and parents of other gifted children at the school have been met with similar indifference. I have asked that my child be allowed to do higher level grade work and been told ''no'' because it doesn't fit with this one instructor's philosophy. If you are at the same school ( which I suspect you may be) maybe we can find a way to get in touch. I am hoping that as a group we can persuade the administration to do something to help our advanced children. Berkeley parent
I highly recommend Tilden Preparatory School in Albany. My gifted 11 year old son has been attending for over one year and it has been the best school possible for him. All the classes are taught on a one-to-one, teacher to student ratio. My son has been able to work at his own pace in each of his classes, soaring ahead in all of his academic subjects. They also offer group classes in subjects such as P.E. and art. The staff and all the teachers are phenomenal, they really help the students to master all their subjects. They are very sensitive to individual learning styles and they work with the parents to provide excellent subject matter which is challenging and satisfying to my child and to me. I highly recommend Tilden Prep! Tara

Schools for academically gifted but ''spirited'' k

May 2013

We are beginning to look at kindergarten options for our daughter and are lucky enough to be able to at least consider private school. I am at a loss, though, as to what kind of private school is going to be most appropriate for her, as she's a tough kid to pin down. She shows signs of being highly gifted academically (she's not quite four and is reading at a level where she can get through a chapter of Charlotte's Web comprehending most of it, and this is largely self-taught; she's exceptionally curious about math, science, geography ''big questions'' like death and why the year is cyclical, and conversation with adults generally). OTOH, she's also proven to be a different...and difficult...kid in school environments. Some of this is due to social trouble...she's had a hard time getting comfortable with other kids and tends to zero in on grown-ups instead ...and some of it is due to her personality (emotionally volatile, strong-willed, often attention-seeking).

As a family, we're sympathetic to the idea of a more ''traditional''/academically rigorous school...especially if we're making the sacrifice of paying for private school. But we worry about our daughter faring poorly in a relatively strict environment where teachers and parents are concerned from the get-go with getting everyone up to a certain standard and prepping for the next step educationally (what I think of as a ''Kumon environment''). We ended up pulling her out of a highly academic Montessori preschool, which was a disaster for her, and placing her in an easygoing, social-skills-oriented, play-based school earlier this year; and she has thrived at the latter. This made us think a ''progressive'' school might be the answer. I suspect, unfortunately, that for her early years progressive would work far better for her (she can continue to grow academically at home, as she's very self-directed in that area) but that in a few years she would be underchallenged in an environment that, well, isn't about academic challenges.

I'd love to hear about experiences other families have had sending similar kids (brainy but ''spirited''/academically advanced but emotionally less mature) to either type of school. We're no longer in the Bay Area, so specific school recs won't help; but I'd love general advice and anecdotes. Thanks so much in advance. First world problem, I know


I have a daughter who is SO like what you describe. She has made 8 school moves in 7 years and has been in a wide variety of schools. I'm happy to share our experience. It is really valuable that you are asking these questions now before she has started school.There is too much to say here. If you'd like to talk, please ask the Moderator for my contact info. Best wishes
I think you have the female verion of our son. Tested as PG, very curious, highly verbal, all-around great kid - and also spirited, intense, extroverted - easily frustrated without lots of creative, intellectual, and emotional stimulation. The good news is that, whle preschool was really difficult, it's gotten so much easier in elementary school, for many reasons.

At two or three, our son wanted to talk with his fellow preschoolers about all kinds of things, including why it was dinnertime in Scotland but morning here and how they should build a train that would go so fast as to transcend time zones and maybe even backwards to negative infinity and well, that kind of thing was kind of a nonstarter. He ended up spending a lot of time talking to the teachers, who (understandably) couldn't give him their full attention. The result: acting out at school and home, telling me he felt ''like a misfit,'' etc. We pulled him from preschool and ''homeschooled'' for a year.

Luckily, other kids' verbal skills blossomed in the next few years, making that aspect of things much easier. Still, we did a lot of thinking and research when it came to elementary schools. We realized that for our paticular kid, traditional academics with lots of emphasis on rankings and single standards, however high, would be a terrible fit - he'd either be bored or would get overinvested in being ''the smart one,'' with all the perfectionism and rigidity that can generate. We also wanted somewhere where his natural curiosity would be encouraged. He asked for a school ''where I can do a lot of projects.'' Montessori was out - while it works great for many bright kids, it wouldn't fit a kid whose joy is in learning the academic rules mostly in order to break them in interesting ways.

We ended up at Aurora in Oakland, whose motto is ''academic excellence in a progressive setting.'' They really walk the talk when it comes to progressive education, and the school seems to attract - and be able to serve - a good number of very bright, sensitive, imaginitive, and sometimes quirky kids. Several of his classmates came into K reading chapter books, others love science or building or imaginative play/writing, so his passions are not seen as strange or unusual. Because the school is multiage (K/1, 2/3, and 4/5 classrooms and lots of cross-grade activities), he has good friends ages 5-11. As for academic challenges, they've so far been able to meet many of his intellectual needs - and helped him with his struggles as well. Occasionally he wants to go deeper into a subject, and does so at home, with support and understanding from his teachers.

One thing you'll want to be sure of when looking for a progressive school: find one that isn't afraid of your child's strengths, or of intellectual challenge in general. If you find a school that sees each child as an individual, that can differentiate adequately (no school can do so perfectly), and that puts real energy into social/emotional learning as well as academics, I suspect your daughter will do quite well there.

Good luck - it does get easier! Happy (and relieved) parent


My son is not only a quick learner, but also loves to learn. He is, however, quite independent and impulsive (eventually diagnosed with ADD as a senior). He has attended both public and private schools. What I learned were several things 1) During the early years -- until 6th grade actually, the emphasis is on the 3 R's, esp in public school, and behavior. This is tough on spirited, academically quick kids. Starting in 6th grade the content in the classroom is much more interesting and the emphasis switches to learning real content. 2) My child did best in a school that emphasized diversity in all areas - not just socioeconomic and cultural, but also learning styles. There he was valued for what he individually contributed to the community- rather than trying to be pushed into too small a box. He also did better socially in a school that was not too small, where teachers liked him. In the end your daughter will learn the academics. She should be in an environment where she is as comfortable as possible; where her unique strengths are fostered and her challenge areas addressed. Somewhere where her innate curiosity won't be squelched. em
You could have described my son! Brilliant AND highly-spirited. I strongly encourage you to check out Beacon Day School in Oakland. They really understand all kinds of kids, and especially get that young kids just aren't meant for sitting still all day with their hands folded on a desk! See beaconday.org for more information Very Happy Beacon Parent
From all that I've read and observed, ''high-achieving'' and moderately gifted kids who follow the rules are often a better fit for traditional academic schools. Usually, the higher the IQ, the less likely the child will fit into a rigid program. My own 99th percentile kid is far too curious and quirky to sit still and follow a fixed teacher-driven program. He needs to be able to explore, ask a million questions, and yes, he'll test the rules. Also, he needs to connect emotionally with the teachers / adults in charge, and he generally does better with older kids.

I have looked for schools willing and able to offer the most flexibility in both placement and curriculum, as well as mixed-age classes and teachers who are able to connect with the kids in a mutually respectful way. If you can find a gifted school in the area to which you are re-locating, that would be ideal. They cater specifically to kids like ours. If not available...it takes much more digging to find a fit.

This year we had a wonderful experience with a progressive private school, which is, unfortunately, closing. Next year, we are trying out a public school with a Spanish immersion program and a welcoming, flexible principal, who is both willing to honor my son's acceleration (he started a full year early), and work out a program for him, where, for example, he may attend math in a class yet one grade higher...we'll see how it goes.

Best of luck! Another gifted & spirited kid's mama


Place for highly gifted kid w/no $???

March 2013

My highly gifted (reading at 20 mos) kid is having a great year at Archway School...the only place which was willing to admit him to their K/1 class at age 4, where he's been soaring thru the 1st grade curriculum. Only problem is Archway is now closing. I applied to 5 other schools for next year; all rejected us. Apparently, my child is too far outside of the usual paradigm for most programs, being that he is not yet 5, and already enjoys 2nd grade math.

Is there a private or public school in the East Bay I've not yet discovered, which really appreciates highly gifted/quirky kids? I need a school which won't shove my son back into kindergarten simply because of his birthday, and which will also offer significant financial aid.

Better still, is there a homeschooling / co-op group of gifted kids which might want a new member? I'm a single / only parent, so I can't quit work to homeschool on my own (would if I could).

If you've got a school for my child, please let me know!!! Exhausted single mama


First of all, congratulation to your wonderfully bright son! And you did exactly the right thing - not holding him back, but supporting his eagerness to learn. Having said that, I realize how difficult it is to keep supporting your child when all odds seem to be against you. Unfortunately, I also don't have a quick solution for you right now - you are and will stay on a journey that is often difficult, sometimes rewarding, and always worth making. There are parents out there who are in similar situations though, and they can be a great support. I am not sure where you live, but there are several parent groups in the area that educate and advocate on these issues, and where parents support each other with ideas and examples what worked for them. Here in Berkeley, we have founded BALSA (Berkeley Advanced Learner Support & Advocacy) - you can find more information about us or links to other regional groups on our new website:http://berkeleyadvancedlearner.weebly.com/index.html You are cordially invited to contact us or come to one of our meetings. All the best, Another challenged mother
Try calling Catherine Cook at The Da Vinci Center in Alameda. Here is the website: http://ourgiftedchildren.net/

Which private elementary for highly gifted child?

Jan 2013

We are considering switching our highly gifted child from a public school to a private school in Oakland/Berkeley and would love recommendations, especially from parents of very gifted children. We are considering Walden, Park Day, Aurora, Black Pine Circle, St. Paul's, but are open to others we may not know about. Thanks! Anon


I think Park Day would be a great choice for your gifted child. I've found that their teachers and approach support my kids' growth in a way that has them love learning so that they make the best of their talents without getting drawn into the cut-throat competitive world too early in their schooling. Park is a gentle, loving place with very high expectations. Park Day's teaching staff is an extraordinary blend of long tenured teachers with amazing energy, newer teachers with real wisdom, and second career teachers that have life/work experience that really help my kids learn to learn in the ways that are best suited to their interests and aptitudes. I guess there are other schools that tout their academic rigor more forcefully, but it is clear to me that Park Day holds my kids' growth in all areas (academic, social, emotional) in a way that will have them beautifully prepared to take their gifts to the highest, happiest levels through their formal schooling and beyond. You didn't say what grade your child will be switching from, but I'd also say that the community at Park is pretty remarkable in the way new children are welcomed and held from their first arrival so that they enjoy the learning and their new teachers and friends from the start. anon
Hi there, I wanted to strongly suggest you consider Black Pine Circle -- it sounds as though you already are. I have two children at the school, a 3rd grader and a Kindergartener, and I cannot say enough wonderful things about our school. We looked at all the schools you mentioned, as well as a number of others, when my first son was entering school. I felt that BPC was the one that truly combined outstanding academics with a deep and thoughtful arts program -- so that in addition to wonderful math and science enrichment classes,, students also are inspired by a terrific music and arts program, strings lessons starting in K, etc. After 4 years there, I am so happy with our choice. Because there are 2 full time teachers in each classroom, there are many opportunities for small group and 1:1 teaching, and opportunities for enrichment abound for kids who are advanced in different areas. Even better, the school is extremely non-competitive and very collaborative -- kids want to learn, get excited about learning, get used to working together a ton, and generally don't really know or much care who is ''ahead'' and who isn't. The focus on socratic inquiry means that there is always something more to explore -- which is great for a gifted kid, or really for any kid -- rather than just trying to get the right answer, teachers are always probing kids to think a little more deeply about their answer, to take things to the next level. We haven't gotten to middle school yet, but I am really looking forward to that as well -- in many ways, I think that those are the years where the ''socratic'' teaching really takes off, and the work that I've seen from the students there is pretty impressive. I think it's quite hard to pull all this off -- to create a space that nurtures each child's individual personality to the fullest, while maintaining a very high level of academic excellence in a positive and engaging manner. BPC really pulls it off. BPC parent
You might consider touring Crowden (4th-8th grades) in your search for a private elementary school to serve the needs of your gifted child. Because the school and classes are so small, teachers can (and do) differentiate learning and class curriculum for each student. Teachers in both the music and academic faculties are highly trained, thoughtful, funny, kind, curious people who encourage intellectual experimentation and risk-taking among their students. They mix with the children at lunch and recesses, playing chess, soccer, or just hanging around interacting with them. The teacher-student ratios are extraordinarily low, which as you know is very important in schooling a gifted child. Many parents have remarked that Crowden comes as close to offering all the benefits of homeschooling one could hope for in a school environment. We've had teachers write different tests to meet the needs of each student in a class or use a different teaching materials for subsets of students performing at different levels.

There is a natural affinity between music and math and many of the school's students are strong mathematicians and perform in very the highest percentiles on standardized tests (in math, and other subject areas too). Music instruction isn't tied to grade level and students can (and are encouraged) to rise to their level of ability and capability. Some of the world's finest musicians pass through the school and work with groups in master classes and other forums. Students have musical (and other) skills that they can use to make and create, and they use these skills to put together extracurricular musical ensembles, compose, or undertake other independent, creative projects, which can be very satisfying, especially for a gifted kid looking to channel ideas and energy. Crowden is a very happy, special place that serves the needs of a variety of children, particularly the gifted set, extremely well. Enthusiastic Crowden Parent


I'm a Park Day parent and an educator who worked at a school for gifted children for ten years. I chose Park Day for my kids because of the school's extraordinary teachers and we have been incredibly happy there. The class sizes are small so the teachers are able to differentiate instruction to meet the range in the classroom. The teachers are truly outstanding, and the school is committed to meeting the individual needs of each child. Additionally, the school is exceptionally equipped to meet the social and emotional needs of its students -- often key with gifted children as they may require additional support in this area. I'd recommend Park Day without hesitation -- it's a remarkable school! Park day parent
I would encourage you to consider GATE Academy in San Rafael (formerly Dunham Academy),www.gateacademy.org. It's a very small school for highly gifted kids (about 35 students in K-8), and they follow best practices in gifted education. My kids started there this past fall after spending their first few years at a private school in Berkeley, and we've been really impressed and happy with GATE. Being in a school designed to meet the needs of gifted kids is very different than trying to adapt a traditional education for a gifted student, especially if you have a kid who is several grade levels advanced in one or more subjects. The classes at GATE are mixed-age and limited to ten students, and most of the work is self-paced. When my second grader started, his teacher did a number of assessments in math and figured out what level was appropriate for him, as well as what gaps in his knowledge he would need to fill in order to work at that level (topics that he hadn't been taught yet in his old school). She then created a workbook for him that had the exact materials he needed, instead of just giving him a second grade book and ''challenge sheets.'' My fourth grader, who had gotten used to working alone on a computer for math while the teacher taught the rest of his class, now collaborates with older students on math challenges.

In addition to allowing each student to proceed in traditional subjects at his or her own pace, GATE also provides specialized gifted instruction. The school runs year-round and is organized into six ''inquiry'' periods. In each inquiry, the entire school studies a topic in depth. Right now they are learning about physics, chemistry and energy; in the November-December inquiry, they studied the rise of civilization. During each inquiry, each child selects a particular area of interest to research and then prepares a final project and presents it to the whole school. The students not only learn a ton about a topic of their choosing, but they really learn how to learn -- how to gather, organize, and present information to a group, six times a year, starting in kindergarten. Both of my kids love this part of the program.

Finally, the teachers at GATE really *get* highly gifted kids and the challenges that they often face -- perfectionism, sensitivity, etc. The school has mindfulness and ethics classes, as well as daily P.E., and it provides a very safe and supportive environment where it's ok to be different. And even though everyone is working at a high level, we've found it to be very non-competitive; the kids love learning for its own sake.

I know San Rafael sounds far from the other schools you're considering, but we've been commuting from Oakland, and it really hasn't been bad (about 30-40 minutes). There are several other families that come from the East Bay, and others that come from the city. It's also been entirely worth the drive to find a place where my kids can truly be themselves and can learn without limits. Happy GATE Academy mom


Supporting gifted 1st grader in OUSD?

Oct 2012

My first grader is bored to tears, as his teacher spends several hours each day covering material he mastered at age 3. Until now he has been an enthusiastic, engaged student, but now he resists going to school, saying that he hates it and that it's way too easy. He is socially normal for his age, and is very advanced at reading (maybe 3 or 4 years?), and a little advanced (maybe 1 year) in other subjects. His teacher says that he needs to learn to be a part of the group and participate, and that ''other gifted kids make it challenging for themselves.'' She seems to differentiate only the tiniest bit, and the only idea she has offered is letting him read. I know there are kids in other classes who are at his level, but none in his class.

We are having an SST meeting this week, but I wonder if anyone with kids in a similar situation has any advice on how to help make school stimulating and challenging. I am willing to bring resources in for him to work on, so any specific curricula would be great. I'd love for him to find writing projects he's excited about, books that can teach creative problem solving, collaboration ideas for working with other kids his level. Also, strategies on getting the school to help would be great. Thank you. Anon


As the parent of a highly gifted child (started reading at 20 mos), I made the preemptive decision *not* to send my son to OUSD, because I knew he would experience exactly what you are describing happening to your child now.

First, I would suggest you get your hands on as much literature as you can re gifted kids, what they need, and how to advocate for them. I learned that kids like ours are very much at risk when kept with age peers in classes not designed for them. It is so important to get them what they need early on. Some books I like: Academic Advocacy for Gifted Children, 5 Levels of Gifted, Genius Denied.

Get in touch with your local rep thru the CA Association for the Gifted. Join some listservs. You can find a lot of good info athoagiesgifted.org. Also, many good books are published here: http://www.greatpotentialpress.com/

You might want to consider having your son tested, both to give you a clearer sense of where he is and what his needs are, as well as so that you can use his test scores to help advocate for him.

The state of CA no longer has any gifted funding for public schools. Some individual districts do offer programs, but OUSD is not one of them. Teachers are overwhelmed with: classes that are too large, a lack of basic supplies for their classrooms, students with various learning disabilities, and/or students whose home lives are in complete disarray. I speak from experience; I am a former OUSD teacher. When I taught (at the so-called ''best middle school'' in the district), there was nary a mention of gifted students. Furthermore, in all of my teacher training (and I had full credentials), I got no instruction on how to recognize or respond to gifted students. All the emphasis was on saving those at the bottom (which is also important). Unfortunately, rather than helping all students where they are, there is a desperate scramble, with meager funds, to at least meet minimum standards. Nobody is worried about kids who are several years ahead. In fact, when you seek help for your child, you may very well be looked at as some sort of elitist. It sounds like you are getting just that sort of response from the teacher, who wants your son to just ''learn to be part of the group.'' In other words, he is expected to hide who he is, accept boredom, and pretend to be like everyone else. There are pretty negative consequences for that expectation long-term (and even short-term, as you are seeing).

I found the one private school in the East Bay (Archway) that was willing to evaluate and admit my child a full year early to kindergarten, as well as offer us some tuition assistance. He is in a small class there, where the teacher and staff have time to see him, as well as the other students, as individuals, who are all in different stages of development in different areas. He's in a mixed K/1 class, and able to be cognitively with the first graders (at age 4), while getting to work on his fine motor skills with the kindergartners. Thus far, knock on wood, he is excited to go to school every day.

You might also consider a Montessori school. Montessori has mixed age classrooms, and students all work at their own pace / own level.

You might find a charter school able to work with a gifted student better than the average public school. I was impressed with Lighthouse Community Charter School when I visited a couple of years ago. In general, though, I would not hold out much hope for an advanced child at OUSD. I'd seek out a better fit for him sooner rather than later, before he tunes out completely. Another Gifted Mama in Oakland


School for ''gifted'' learners?

May 2012

We are toying with the idea of moving to Berkeley (or thereabouts) from NYC. Major consideration is finding a good (public) middle school for my son, who has been bored in his elementary school and needs a school with an accelerated curriculum for gifted students. Is there such a place in the area? What about high schools? Thanks for any help you can offer. Tracy


BUSD is generally a good place for ''gifted students'' as there are quite a few of them in the classes (not a surprise considering the education levels of the parents). Starting in middle school there are some acceleration/honors options -- taking a foreign language as an elective, and advanced math. In high school there are many AP/IB classes which students can take beginning in 10th grade for AP classes and 11th grade for IB classes. That said, I think school is only part of the picture for a gifted student and the bay area has many resources in both the arts and science for enrichment. My gifted student has been enrolled in BUSD, and has also taken a variety of classes that are available through UC-affiliated programs, the libraries, and community resources. Her PSAT scores were quite high (and the STAR test scores have been advanced as well), so presumably the combination of what is available through the school, and the outside enrichment have been working. anon
Dunham Academy in San Rafael, but it would be a good 30 minute drive, maybe more. Also Baywood School http://www.baywoodlearningcenter.org/ The Berkeley School -- visited it and it looks great for GATE, but can't confirm. Not sure if any of these has a middle school or not. You could also check in with Summit Center in Walnut Creek, great resource.http://summitcenter.us/ I can tell you that West Contra Costa County USD (just to the north of Berkeley, not Berkeley's school district) has no GATE program and a negative attitude toward GATE. Jasmine
You are wise to ask about about a school for gifted learners prior to moving here. First, whether or not you can find a good fit school for your child may depend a lot on how gifted they are. There is a very big gap between some gifted students, and profoundly gifted students. I have a profoundly child for whom we have not been able to find any kind of challenging and appropriate school situation, and I know some gifted kids who have found enough challenge in local Berkeley schools. Do know that 1) the Berkeley school district no longer has any GATE program period, 2) that California is ranked close to 50th of the 50 states in the US in terms of support for gifted education (see website for the Gifted Development Center), and 3) there is no really functional school for the highly gifted within manageable driving distance of Berkeley.

The schools which claim to be for the gifted are a)The Dunham Academy in Marin which has a couple of good teachers for the youngest kids, but it has had a huge turnover of teachers, director, and students within the last 3 months. Actually the turnover there has been pretty steady over the last few years. b)Baywood Learning Center was open for a few years, closed for 2 or 3 years, and now appears to be trying to resurrect itself; it is also to be very carefully researched. c) The Nueva School is over an hours drive away and does not meet our needs for our profoundly gifted child nearly as well as it does for closer-to-the-norm gifted kids.

If it were me, I'd get a very clear picture of just what kind of gifted my kid is: Where on the gifted spectrum do they fall? Does their giftedness include asynchronous development, and if so, in what way? Are they twice gifted (with learning disabilities too)? Boy or girl (easier to find communities of gifted boys due to the tendency of gifted girls to ''dumb-down'' and hide their giftedness, etc. The best way to do this by far is to have your child tested at the Gifted Development Center in Denver. You may want to think carefully about moving to the Berkeley area with a gifted child. Struggling to educate a gifted kid here


You may want to check out The Academy school in Berkeley. It does not claim to be a school for gifted children, but depending on how your child is gifted, he or she may thrive there. The school is clearly academic. They have small classes (max 16) and GREAT teachers. They are also starting a differentiated instruction program in math and language arts at the elementary level to better place advanced students where they need to be. Most families I have met who transferred to The Academy said that their child was bored in his/her previous school, but not at The Academy. Having said that, the school has a friendly atmosphere and kids interact across grades (K-8) in a very positive way. Very happy mom at the Academy!

Education law for gifted child

Oct 2011

My highly gifted son, 7, is really struggling in school. He says it is too easy, he doesn't understand the point, the other kids aren't interested in anything he is interested in, etc. He used to like school and his peers and trying out things, but not anymore. It makes me really sad. I don't want him to hate learning or become alienated from other kids. I know he isn't saying it is too easy because it is secretly too hard for him. He is still doing all his work and getting 100%, but it's stuff he did in preschool. It is getting harder and harder to get him to do it. I understand he'll need to jump through some hoops but 7 seems a little young for that to be all he is doing. One thing my husband and I have been talking about is pulling him out at lunch every day and doing partial homeschooling. We're hoping this will provide him the best of both worlds. Before I approach the school about this, I would like to talk to a lawyer who knows educational issues. I'm not sure if we need to make a big deal of it or if the school will pretty much just sign off on it. Is it best to approach this as the school isn't meeting his needs (which it totally isn't)? Are there things we need to have in place (IQ test, an evaluation from a doctor or psychologist)? Looking at options


A good resource for you would be the gifted homeschoolers forum at giftedhomeschoolers.org. You will be able to access parents who have faced similar issues through the online community, articles and other resources. Ilene

Current state of GATE availability?

Jan 2011

I'm confused about the current state of GATE testing and family notification, funding and classroom application in the public schools around here. Anyone with a child currently qualified as Gifted and Talented who can shed some light on this? Or better yet, any school district folk who can provide more info than I have been able to find on your websites? We're not sure where we'll find a rental and are looking in Berkeley, Albany and parts of El Cerrito/Kensington so information on any of these districts is welcome and much appreciated! Also, if anyone has had a great experience with a highly gifted child in any local public schools I would love to hear from you! -Perplexed Parent


The short answer about BUSD is there isn't much by way of GATE classes, and they don't start until 3rd grade when the children are tested, because the state gives almost no funding for them. The long answer is look for a school with a flexible curriculum and flexible teachers. Many of the best assignments for our child were open-ended so she was able to write (and read) at her own level. Most teachers were quite happy to encourage her additional research into the subjects the class was studying, and usually had good books on hand. Her school had a wonderful science teacher, who was able to work with different skill levels. Sometimes she was grouped with older children in math, sometimes the math got pretty repetitive. We kept math interesting by doing games at home (Lawrence Hall of Science is a good source for books and games), ATDP, and Sports and Science (through CAL). The main thing a gifted child needs is a teacher that will let them go more deeply into a subject, and not stop them. So, what I would suggest is that you avoid schools that spend a lot of time talking about test prep and basic skills, and find one where the teachers are excited about the curriculum they are teaching. The other central part of elementary school is learning how to be with other people, and to hear their ideas, so you want a school where the teachers think about how to help the children be happy together. Also, there will almost certainly be other gifted children in a BUSD school (given the large number of highly educated parents in the community), so your child will find some intellectual peers. You'll probably get a lot of recommendations for private schools, but from what I can tell, it seems that a number of them might accelerate the curriculum a year or so, but don't actually provide much more flexibility.
Each school district gets to decide whether to continue with their GATE plan/program or dump the meager funds into the general budget. As a member of Piedmont Gifted/GATE Parent Support (www.PiedmontGPS.org) we have succeeded in keeping the funds for GATE students while raising money to send administrators to the upcoming conference by California Association for Gifted (www.cagifted.org) You are very wise to dig beyond the school websites to find out what schools are doing. Gifted students have unique academic, social and emotional needs. I recommend checking out the services at Summit Center for more resources (www.summitcenter.us) Feel free to contact me off list if you have more questions. Kathleen

Elementary Schools for ''gifted'' children

Oct 2010

Our daughter may be very gifted and several people have told us to look into putting her in a special school. I have no idea where to start. Should I get her evaluated by an Educational Specialist? Who would that be? Which public schools have programs geared toward ''gifted'' children? Which private schools do this well? We are told she needs to be with other ''gifted'' children. We are flexible in terms of where to live but we would need aid for a private school. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! needing guidance


We just had our now 10 year old son tested, after hemming and hawing about it for a long time. While things are fine, I see that it would have been very helpful to have done it sooner. I strongly encourage you to look into a place called the Gifted Development Center in Denver. Even if you don't go there, their website is very informative. There is also a local woman affiliated with them, named Ann Beneventi (childrenevolving@gmail.com), who does testing locally. The reason I think it's important to go through her or the GDC is that they take into account children who might test beyond the regularly used IQ test (the WISC-IV), as happened with our son. I'm now very grateful we went with them for the testing, and feel very empowered to advocate for our boy. (After a day of testing, and being asked how it was, he said: ''It was fun!'')

I was hesitant for years to test our son, thinking that this might change something somehow. I'm so glad we did it, because now we have something to help us figure out what he needs, and people to ask questions of. We are just now looking into the Dunham Academy in San Rafael. There is also a co- op school forming in Alameda, if you want to contact me for info. (I'm learning about it too.) So, I don't have a lot of school names for you, but I think clarifying what the needs are would be the first step. With this, your direction becomes clearer. Feel free to email me if you wish. J.


Two perspectives:

1. As a parent: Our daughter was/is extremely ''gifted'' in her language abilities. To our total surprise, she began reading at 3, could read chapter books by 4 and had already read most of the Little House on the Prarie and Oz series, as well as Harry Potter BEFORE she had even started kindergarten. Truly. We decided to send her to our neighborhood Oakland public school. And believe me: kids have PLENTY to learn in kindergarten (and 1st and 2nd grade) besides just how to read. Because she had learned to read whole words, just on her own, the initial phonic instruction there REALLY helped her learn to spell and her writing skills emerged in a way I'm not sure they would have otherwise. Plus, she just needed to time to do things like play on the bars and negotiate the playground scene, which was something she was just less naturally skilled at. I was glad she had a chance to focus some of her energies on just being a whole person, rather than creating some idea that she was supposed to be studying nuclear physics at age 6. And don't misunderstand me-- she advanced academically in leaps and bounds every year, never scoring less that 99% in every standardized test since then (she's now in high school). Going to a ''regular'' school never held her back in any way at all-- she still read zillions of ''advanced'' books (who could stop her?), created entire languages with friends, sent her work off to be published in various children's publications...

I'm not suggesting that you don't recognize your child's talent, but I want to encourage you to cultivate her whole self first and foremost.

I have taught upper-middle class high school kids for 25 years, many of whom have been extremely talented (perfect scores on the SAT,etc...) and many of whom have gone on to attend the most prestigious universities in the country (every Ivy, Stanford, MIT, Northwestern, Duke, Cal- Tech,West Point, Berkeley, UCLA, whatever,you name it).

I have never, ever met a child who was well served by a parent who spent oodles of time catering to their child's ''giftedness.'' I'm not saying that we shouldn't provide our children opportunities to grow and develop their passions and skills-- both during school and outside of school time. Of course. But believe me... many, many kids somehow receive the message(from ther parents, I believe) that being born with certain language or mathematical skills somehow make them better (? more interesting? morally superior?) human beings. Some kids grow up thinking they have absolutely nothing to learn from anyone else-- not other kids, not adults... which is such an unlikable and unhelpful quality. (Reminds me of the line in the recent movie ''Social Network'' when a woman breaks up with the Mark Zukerberg character and says something like, ''you are going to leave thinking that girls break up with you because they are jealous of your math skills and your intelligence, when the truth is they will break up with you because you are a real a--hole.'' When I hear little kids say ''I'm bored'' with school, I really, really believe that a parent has somehow overtly or subtly sent them the message that they don't have much to learn from other children or other adults.

And even though I've had some of the brightest minds in the state, and yes, in the country, go through the doors of my classroom-- many of whom who are WAY smarter than I am, no doubt about it-- I have yet to meet a 15 OR 16 year old that still didn't have a lot to learn. And that's what you try to do as a parent(and as a teacher): give them opportunities for challenge and growth... not just academically, but personally. They need both of these to thrive in life.

And just as another aside: there actually were a number of other kids who came to my daughter's kindergarten class as readers... so although your child may indeed be ''gifted,'' there are actually others who share such abilities. This is not to minimize or lessen her abilities, but just to reassure you that she actually isn't all by herself on this one... and to stress that it isn't worth putting her in a different universe because of it. I'd encourage you as a parent and as a teacher to give your child any opportunity to grow as a person, just like any parent should: books, games, social experiences, cultural experiences, travel... these opportunities will also help her intellectual and academic skills grow as well. Don't try to create some artificial world based on her language or math abilities at age 3. That's not a long term strategy for a child who needs to grow up as a well balanced adult some day. -teacher of ''gifted'' children


If you're not sure about whether your daughter is ''gifted'', the first step is to have her assessed. This can be done by a wide range of professionals. You might consider contacting Dunham Academy (www.dunhamacademy.com) and talking to the folks there about the process they recommend. In case you're not aware, Dunham is an amazing school just FOR gifted kids. Even better, the people there are incredibly warm and helpful, and they can help make sure you're on the right track to take care of your daughter's special needs. mom of another gifted kid
Have you considered Tehiyah Day School? Tehiyah is a wonderful, engaging, warm, excellent K-8 community Jewish day school in El Cerrito. Our son is in 2nd grade and does work far beyond grade level. His teachers and the head of school are great at challenging, supporting, stimulating, and loving him. Come take a look and talk to some of the teachers and parents at the kindergarten information night on October 28th. Details are on the website, tehiyah.org. Good luck on your journey.
I also question the need for different schools for highly gifted children -- my child has been in BUSD, and has continued to develop her gifts (a number of publications, continued high test scores). I think there is a myth that all learning happens through formal, school instruction. Much of the learning for a gifted child in school, comes from taking what they are learning as a starting point and taking off from there (reading more books, conducting experiments in the backyard, making strange constructions.) Small groups of children may come up with projects together, and many of the teachers my child has had in BUSD have encouraged those projects. Another aspect of learning consists of working with people who are different from you, and negotiating the playground. This is not to say it has been perfect, there are definitely times a gifted child is going to know much of the curriculum, but most teachers have been willing to let my child do other things when that has happened, or have had open-ended projects. In middle school, there was some teasing about being smart; and although I wish that wasn't the case, my thought is that if it was teasing about being smart, there would have been teasing about hair, or clothes, or something else. The high school has so many kids and so many activities that kind of teasing doesn't seem to be a problem anymore.

What's worked in our family was combining public school with a quality after school program and enrichment programs (ATDP, 826 Valencia St., Science and Sports at LHS, foreign language classes, drama classes,) along with an enriching family life -- reading, playing math and language games, visiting museums, going to theater (fun for the parents as well!). There are an awful lot of gifted children in Berkeley, and your child will have peers. anon


School for Gifted 6 Year Old

March 2010

We need recommendations on what to do about school for our very gifted 6 year old boy who is presently enrolled in a private school. We chose his present school because it has small classes (11 - 12 students)and we thought the school could do differentiated teaching in a meaningful way. Now, we are having doubts as to whether the school is the ''right fit''. Our son is clearly years ahead academically compared to all of the other classmates but deficient on the social and emotional development. Any suggestions? We will consider any public or private schools so long as it's a good fit. We've pulled Thousand Oaks in the BUSD lottery. We are exploring The Dunham Academy, Baywood Learning Center, The Berkeley School, The Academy, The Nueva School. Would love input from parents of gifted kids who have gone down this frustrating road before us. We may stay at the present school but not sure if it's what's best for our son. Home school is not an option. anonymous


After happy and not so happy years in a very good public school, we decided to send our gifted child to Black Pine Circle for middle school. It has been a great fit. I think the school's focus on inquiry frees kids, and especially gifted kids, to learn and explore in a deep and meaningful way. The school seems to be able to meet and challenge kids wherever they are. Although I haven't had experience in the lower school, I would strongly recommend taking a look. happy parent
True Montessori education should allow your child to develop at their own pace, and is quite specific to the needs and readiness of each child. However, most Montessori schools are not a good fit for a child who has lots of difficulty focusing or is sorely lacking in self-discipline. You might check out The Renaissance School in Oakland or any other Montessori elementary program. I have heard that The Renaissance School has an excellent arts program (in both visual art and music) if that is important to you. Good luck. anonymous
I would be glad to talk to you about this topic. I don't prefer to do a long, drawn-out public email. We faced this topic much the same as you seem to be. Our student is now a 23 year old and thriving. I would be happy to give you some of my insights. Best of luck (if I don't talk to you). Empathetic
We should talk, I am in the same situation. My 6 year old highly gifted daughter was at Baywood Learning Center until its recent ''reorganization'' and now we are faced with finding a new school at an odd time for admissions for a girl whose needs are not easily served. Would love to compare notes. Please feel free to email me. Best of luck. S

Challenging Progressive School?

Jan 2010

We have a 4 year old who is reading at 1st grade level, doing simple math and simply loving learning! He soaks up everything that he is exposed to. We are wondering where the best schools are for a child who's ahead of other kids their age? We're not just concerned with academics, but also where our child will be socially and emotionally well looked after. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated! Looking for a good school


I read with interest the post about your 4 year old. Isn't it amazing? Our daughter was a super-early reader as well (started at 3 and 1/2 and was reading pretty sophisticated chapter books like Harry Potter, The Wizard of Oz series and The Little House series before kindergarten even started).

And...we sent her to our local neighborhood public school! (Chabot, in Oakland)I want to reassure you that she still progressed dramatically as a reader every year in school. I felt that the learning-to-read instruction the class received only helped her writing and spelling emerge-(she had somehow learned to read whole words, not phoentically.) and she never lost her enthusiasm for learning; no one ever held her back... When asked how her schoolday was, she'd say things like, ''We're learning to read today!!!'' She absolutely loved the whole scene-- sitting in circle, the hands -on projects, etc... Truthfully, the social part of school was always harder for her, so we wanted to do whatever we could to help keep her connected to other kids.

I say all this to encourage you not to do too much to separate or isolate your child further. Ok- he reads. You'll find, as we did, that other kids come to kindergarten as readers, too... and you'll also find that reading is just one piece of your child; a whole, balanced child is social, physical, etc...I am also a high school teacher in a school full of super skilled, ''gifted'' students, and I can't tell you how many children I come across who honestly believe that they don't have anything to learn from anyone else...which is such an unlikable quality-- and one that doesn't actually benefit the child in any way. I'm convinced that a lot of this attitude comes from parents who early on reinforce ideas that something like reading early should make them separate and superior to other kids. 5 year olds are not bored... they LOVE to learn and attitudes that develop this way are passed on by parents who think that something like reading early requires separating their brilliant child from the learning experiences of other kids...

Our daughter is now in the 9th grade and is still an avid/obsessive/''gifted'' reader who breathes books and writing every day.

I know this wasn't the advice you were seeking at all. I just want to suggest that while of course you find the best educational match for your child, you keep the ''big picture'' in mind... and reassure you that early readers don't need a separate, different education, just one that helps the child develop into a balanced person. It's an exciting journey! -parent and teacher


Our academically gifted children have thrived at Aurora School. It is a wonderful school for all kinds of kids. My earlier comments on this topic, as well as other parents' are in the archives at the BPN website. More info on Aurora is available at www.auroraschool.org
I would resist picking a school on the principle that your child is ''gifted.'' A 4-year-old who reads and is doing simple math may or may not be gifted. Most kids like that are smart, and they may always excel in school, but so will many of their peers whose brains develop a little later. A truly gifted child is not just an early learner. A ''gifted'' mind is a different kind of mind, and often is a mixed blessing. Resist labeling your child's mind and find a school where he will have fun with friends, learn interesting things, and can grow into whoever he is without the expectation (and maybe burden) of being ''gifted.'' Mom of Teenagers My gifted son, who is now in the 3rd grade, has truly flourished at Tehiyah Day School. He was reading chapter books when he was four, and I feared that I would never find a school that would challenge and interest him.

At first, I was unconvinced that Tehiyah's developmental approach would suit him, but I am glad to say that it turned out to be a good fit. For one thing, so much of the subject matter expands to fit a child's interest. For another, every single teacher that he has had there has been very generous in providing my son with extra challenges. This year he is getting one-to-one math instruction at the 5th grade level. The Hebrew language instruction opens up another path for challenging gifted kids -- it is new and can be satisfyingly complex. Above all, though, is the quality of his peer group. At Tehiyah, my son has surrounded himself with other bright, creative, well-mannered children who manage to feed each other's curiosity. The quality of the community is exceptional.

Tehiyah has done a great job in attending to both of my older children's social and emotional development. They stress many values that we practice at home, and help the kids to develop a strong sense of respect for each other. I will be sending my third child there in the fall.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have. Elisabeth


How wonderful that your son is doing so well! There are many great schools and none of them are ''best''. Each kid and family has different and specific needs and prefereneces, and within each school there are differneces between teachers and grade cohorts. Many kindergartens (public and private) have students with a very very broad range of skills. And more kids than you may realize are very advanced.

When one of my children entered kindergarten she was quite advanced in reading and had a great aprtitude for math. She still got a lot out of kindergarten. We worked with the teacher to keep her challenged, and worked with her to learn to challenge herself. By the end of kindergarten and certainly in 1st grade several of the other kids caught up to her in reading and math and then she had a great cohort to learn with. She is now well beyond elementary school and still loves to learn.

Kids who are advanced academically can have more energy left over to deal with other issues. And some of these kids need extra time to learn to deal with their social challenges. It is good, IMO, that you are looking out for the social well-being as well as the academic.

So since no school is best, do what you can to research and get a feel for your local public schools, as well as private schools that are within your driving and financial range. Dont' take second hand rumors as truth, and remeber that your experience may end up being VERY different from another family in the same school with the same teacher.

When you do land in a school, please do your best to find time to volunteer in the classroom to help the teacher meet all the students' needs; as this will help the teacher have more time to help your child, give you an understanding of the range of skills within the classroom, and put you in a situation to more readily get feedback form your child's teacher. It will also remind you of what a challenging job teaching is and hopefully maintain your appreciation for teachers. Anon School Volunteer


2007 - 2009 Recommendations


Challenging Progressive School?

Oct 2009

Hi there o font of Bay Area wisdom,

I'm a believer in a progressive education, the antithesis of drill-and-kill. That said, I've got a 4-year-old who is currently reading 3rd grade chapter books, writing extended and coherent text messages, and doing simple arithmetic. Kindergarten -- which is still a year away -- and for that matter 1st and 2nd grade, are already quite far behind her academically. Where can I send her a year from now where she'll enthusiastically grow academicaly while continuing to do so without pressure or load? Of course I know that things besides academics are important, but I'm having much less difficulty finding places that are strong re: social/emotional development than I am with this other conundrum -- finding a place that will academcally challenge her without being pushy.

We live in the East Bay and are considering both private (which we can't actually afford, but earn too much for scholarship) and public. Many thanks for your thoughts! East Bay parent


I really think you should look at Archway School. My two children have been there for 3 years and I find that the culture and teachers do a wonderful job of balancing a strong academic program with social/emotional growth and inspire a love of learning at every grade. Archway values creative thinking and learning through real life experiences and the kids at the school are confident and happy. My kids can't say enough about their teachers and the school. Their small class sizes allow for great peer and teacher relationships and flexibility within the curriculum. I believe they are beginning tours and it is never too early to start looking. Archway has two campuses: Grades k-4 at 250 41st Street, Oakland 510-547- 4747 and grades 5-8 at 1940 Virginia Ave, Berkeley 510-849- 4747. Good luck! beth
A good progressive education can also (should also) include appropriate challenges for academically-oriented kids, and Park Day School excels at this. My spouse and I come from brainiac backgrounds - Harvard (him), UCB Law (both), Nat'l Merit Scholarship (moi) - and wondered whether the warm and fuzzy Park Day School culture could accommodate our unusually gifted but shy third child. Let's just say, in talking to our son about second grade this year I have learned how to spell microchiroptera (and the particular attributes of this half of the bat world, as well as the other, megachiroptera) and seen an exciting version of pre- algebra (using shapes in place of variables). PDS's small class size makes it possible for teachers to really understand what makes each kid tick, and they support their little Einsteins beautifully. Check it out! Park Day School nerd-mom
I have a very similar child -- reading at 3 1/2, chapter books by age 4, long division and Harry Potter books in first grade ...

When I toured the Berkeley Public schools, the heads of school emphasized that their first priority was to make sure each child was reading at grade level. This is a worthy public policy goal, but promised very little for my son. There were some private schools that I looked at that also seemed daunted by the challenge of educating my son.

We are now at Tehiyah Day School. My son is in 3rd grade, and my daughter in 1st. We are extremely happy there. This year my son's math teacher has created an individualized program for him, and his Hebrew teacher has moved him to a class designed for native speakers (which we are not). His general studies teacher is also very accommodating, as have been all the teachers we have had up to now. We are a Jewish family, and are very active in the Jewish community, so it is a huge benefit to us that Tehiyah had been able to meet our needs academically.

I will note that in Kindergarten, our son's teacher made many efforts to give him advanced projects, but he often spurned them because he wanted to do what the rest of the class was doing. I think that forming a peer identity is a big part of Kindergarten.

As the children grow, they begin to value having a true learning partner -- other children who can understand them and work at their level. We have been pleased to discover several good partners for our son at Tehiyah -- kids who can keep up with him, inspire him, and challenge him in many ways. This is key to making learning a social experience.

I would be happy to discuss our experience at Tehiyah further, if you have any questions. elisabeth


It sounds like your child is gifted in some areas and will need a school that will accommodate and be flexible to meet his academic and social/emotional needs. It can be a huge challenge to find that. You might want to check out Baywood Learning Center in Oakland, a private school for the gifted and a resource for homeschooling gifted kids. How do you know if your kid is gifted? Check on the FAQ page for parents on the California Association of the Gifted website: http://www.cagifted.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=12#1

Also, I co-facilitate a time limited and open group for parents of gifted children. We use the Supporting the Emotional Needs of Gifted (SENG) Model. There are groups in Oakland and Walnut Creek. visit http://www.giftedhelp.com for info on the Oakland group and http://www.summitcenter.us for info on the Walnut Creek group. Best of luck! Kathleen


Just want to point you to a resource that will offer riches as you and your child pursue an education: Search online for the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (http://giftedhomeschoolers.org/) whether or not you have any interest in homeschooling. There's a good online forum and lots of useful resource listings, and participants seem open to helping with school-related issues as well as those applying directly to homeschoolers. Lorelei
Well, how has your child's preschool supported her advanced academics? Probably by lots of creative play and singing the alphabet song and all kinds of things that are age-appropriate but ''below'' her apparent reading level, etc.

So she will continue to read at home with you, and will get to do art and music and creative work and social development at school just like now. And she will work on following directions and working in a group and figuring out how to deal with the fact that she's sometimes faster than her classmates at coming up with the answer.

Unless you homeschool her she is always going to have to figure out how to navigate school activities she may already have mastered. Make sure there is individualized assessment and differentiated reading levels, and then just let her go to kinder and enjoy it and try not to make it the be-all and end-all. If it doesn't work out, you will find something else. Been there as student and parent


We are at Black Pine Circle in Berkeley at Addison and 7th. I think this could well be what you are looking for. It is progressive while maintaining high academic standards. We are very happy with it. My daughter is currently in the 1st grade and could not be happier. There a lot of early readers and really bright kids there so I don't think your child would be usual there. Another school with a similar reputation (so other parents tell me) is The Academy. andrea
You should check out The Berkeley School (formerly Berkeley Montessori School) in Berkeley. It is the only school I found that clearly stated and embodied that it had ''no floor AND no ceiling'' in their classes. They will be responsive to your child's unique needs or, if they cannot meet them, they will not admit him/her. They are one of the only schools that do not just accept for as many spots as they have (or ''over accept'') -- they accept students/families that they can serve well and are a good fit for their program and community. I think you'll be pleased with what you see. TBS is far beyond your typical good progressive school. If your child is really gifted (sounds like s/he may be) then you may also want to check out http://www.baywoodlearningcenter.org/ and also http://nuevaschool.org/ Good luck! anon
You must approach this with an open mind; there is a school which may fulfill your quest located in the East Bay. Your child is gifted but you do not seek a conformist, routine method of learning. Consider a private school where she will receive an excellent modern European education, she will be fluent in two languages and upon graduation from the High School receive a bilingual European Arbitur and American high school diploma which will qualify her to attend American and European universities. The teachers will work with your child based on her abilities and requirements.

Although it is a little late, children can enroll in the school any time during the school year and there is no birthday restrictions so if your child at 4 is ready, she could try this for a year and if it does not work out she will still be the correct age for kindergarten at another school next year.

Take a look at the German International School of Silicon Valley Berkeley Campus (GISSV). There is an open house on November 10, 2009 at 6:30 pm. Ralf who is the head of school would be more than happy to discuss with you how a program will be set up to keep you daughter intelectually stimulated while in kindergarten. The school is affordable as tuition is partially subsidized. Even though we do not speak German, our daughter in kindergarten was fluent in German after 6 months. The style of education is somewhat play based which will hopefully instill in her a life long quest for learning. Old Sage (i.e. wise guy)


Park Day School is a progressive school that is incredibly challenging. Their emphasis on critical thinking and work with abstract concepts with hands on learning creates a curriculum that leads children to own their learning and love it. The staff at PDS is mindful of the scope and sequence of the curriculum through the grade levels - they have even mapped their social justice scope and sequence curriculum, as well as math and science. Children's learning is deep and builds from one year to the next. My two children are also known for who they are, held in their emotional/social selves and who they are as learners. PDS talks about differences among people (race, gender,learning styles) and honors each person's contribution. This isn't just pretty language - they really do it - Even when it is not easy and when the community is challenged by the difficulty of finding ways to grapple with issues of diversity. PDS does't just talk the talk but they walk the road. anon
I encourage you to check out Tehiyah Day School. Our son is in first grade there and is thriving. We couldn't be happier. He is reading far beyond his grade level and far beyond anyone in his class, and his teachers are wonderful with him. He is challenged, supported, and encouraged. We feel that the school provides just the right balance of strong academics, a nurturing and supportive social and emotional environment, and a lovely Jewish framework and community. Tehiyah is definitely worth exploring for your talented daughter! Best of luck to you. Debbie
Wildcat Community Freeschool in the East Richmond Heights is a progressive school where children are taught in small classes with other kids who are at a similar level, rather than a similar age. Your daughter would be able to learn at her own pace. You can choose to go 3 - 5 days a week; some of the families are part-time home-schoolers. Some parent participation is expected which gives the school the feeling of a supportive community. Much of the time is unstructured and the children are free to choose their own activities such as art, pottery, cooking, games, gardening etc. Our son is very happy there and is always eager to go to school every day, which is wonderful. Their website is wildcatcommunityfreeschool.org Freeschool family
Montessori Family School provides an excellent, progressive Montessori education. The Early Childhood Campus (for ages 3-6) is located across the street from UC Berkeley on the corner of Hearst and Scenic Avenue. The Elementary and Middle school campus (Upper Site) is in El Cerrito. A shuttle transports children between the two campuses.

I encourage you to explore the Montessori method which allows children to delve deeply into the learning process at their own pace. Exceptional children are able to go as far as they need to go. We have seen examples of mathematically gifted children at this school eating up high school level algebra and trigonometry in the fourth and fifth grade! Actually the preschoolers and kindergarteners are doing pre-algebra (e.g. ''Fill in the blank...5 + ___ = 7''). Children become critical thinkers, write well in many styles and write expressively from the heart. Children receive an individualized curriculum and over the course of time, they develop amazing self- awareness and time management skills that will serve them well for life in the 21st century.

This is an extraordinary education and we are grateful to have discovered Montessori and the Montessori Family School. Montessori Family School is fabulous and we like the community a lot. All children have their strengths and challenges, and what we like about this particular school is that the academics are strong and the social/emotional education and experience is also as good as it gets.

At Montessori Family School there is little teacher turnover because the environment is vital, happy, supportive and challenging. We have taken note that many of the alumnae of this school are happy, focused, self-aware, socially responsible and successful individuals making a difference in the world. We are personally engaged in a program to reach out to alumnae now in college to document outcomes from the school.

Visit the website at www.montessorifamily.com Please feel free to contact me with questions. -Sharon


We went through a similar thought process and are happily at Aurora School in the Oakland Hills. The most impressive aspect is the coherence of the program throughout the grades(without relying on simple textbooks) with specialists well integrated into the daily experiences. Highly skilled teachers and specialists. Yes, wonderful attention to the individual social-emotional development which is tied into the self-reflection part of a strong academic program. Creativity is valued and supported as part of the learning process but not at the expense of developing sound study habits. Individual strengths and needs are clearly recognized and addressed. It's a small school with a great family community, well worth a visit. -Parent of a second grader
Six years ago, we were in the same situation you are in. Our daughter was way ahead academically and our public schools (several Berkeley elementary schools I visited) told me that their approach would be for her to be a teacher's helper. She is now a 5th grader at Aurora School, where she's been since Kindergarden, and I don't think we could have made a better choice. We chose Aurora because its philosophy was that children learn in different ways and at different paces and it had the structure (teacher and aide in the class plus volunteers) to realistically implement that philosophy. We also chose it because there was a palpable sense of joy there, an emphasis on learning being fun (which does not mean unrigorous!), and a commitment to children's social and emotional development. As for rigor, all the kids are learning things years ahead of when I did them (e.g. expository paragraphs and essays, learning ''base'' number systems). Aurora puts a great emphasis on in-depth knowledge and understanding; this is particularly great in math, where kids understand why things work not just how to do them. I think for kids like ours, this is particularly good because there is so much they can get out of it. It being her last year, I also appreciate that the teachers have seen her as a whole person, not just an academic star. The greatest proof that this was the right place is she is upset if she's sick and can't go to school. She still has a great enthusiasm for school and for learning. You can learn about Aurora at www.auroraschool.org.
The three challenging progressive schools that come to mind are, in no particular order North Oakland Community Charter School (NOCCS), ParkDay, and Aurora, with a caveat, I would recommend Redwood Day. Each school has its pluses and minuses. The great thing about NOCCS is that it is free, as it is a charter school. For a kid who is really strong in math I would not recommend Redwood Day. My kids who are strong in math were way past (2 years) what was happening at Redwood.

All four of the schools really work hard on the social emotional side. NOCCS is probably stronger in math than the other schools. All the schools try to differentiate the instruction for the stronger students, to varying success. Visit the schools see what would be a good fit. Count your blessings on having a kid who is inclined in the academic area. anon


If you are looking for a challenging progressive school, you should definitely look into Windrush School. It is progressive education at its best. The curriculum is very carefully developed integrating progressive principles with a clear goal of academic excellence. The teaching is age appropriate and engaging for the kids in each grade. Windrush has a new Head of School who is in her third year and she has really brought up the academic standards of the school. In addition, some other great things about the schools is the outstanding before and aftercare program (the kids clamor to stay longer when we get them), Spanish beginning in Kingergarten, they are now offering Mandarin, they have a really nice gym and great space over all and it is K-8. I recommend you look at the website and read the strategic plan and information about their progressive approach. I have two kids there who are thriving academically and emotionally. It is a great community of diverse families too. Good luck, Windrush Parent
We have a daughter in 8th grade at Redwood Day School, who entered in 6th grade after attending Chabot Elementary. She is very bright, an especially high achiever in math, but also has a wide range of interests. In choosing a middle school, our main concern was that she would be academically challenged. We selected RDS because it seemed to have the best overall balance of academics, arts, athletics, activities, and social development.

RDS has turned out to be an excellent experience for our daughter, and she has been challenged on many levels, including academics. In math, 6th grade was a fair amount of review, but her 7th and 8th grade math teacher has differentiated the instruction to create an accelerated pace for our daughter and a couple of other advanced students, and she has definitely been challenged. In science and Spanish, our daughter feels that the classes are much more rigorous than the curriculum that her friends have at both public schools and the exclusive private schools in the area. And in English and History, she has been very engaged and stimulated by the creative assignments those teachers have provided.

Beyond academics, our daughter has taken up a new sport, played in a string quartet and the lunchtime rock band, and has had a leading role in several school plays. Her class is a tight knit group of kids that all get along and is not at all clique-ish. It may seem like a cliche, but RDS does educate the whole student in both academic and non-academic areas, and they think a lot about how they educate. RDS has an excellent, progressive thinking head of school who provides great leadership. The yearly parents university is a stimulating experience for the parents.

We are now in the process of touring a number of high schools, ranging from Oakland Tech to College Prep, and as our daughter shadow tours their 9th and 10th grade classes, she reports back that she feels totally prepared for the work ahead, and expects to place in any and all of their advanced classes. I guess the best proof of our satisfaction with RDS is that our younger daughter just started 6th grade there, and she is flourishing too. - very satisfied RDS parents


Schools with separate GATE classes?

Sept 2009

Are there any towns in the area that have separate GATE classes? -Anon


Redwood City has an entire elementary school that is for GATE kids.
No, and we've looked. Schools were forced in to the No Child Left Behind Act which means No Child Gets Ahead either. In talking to the different school districts I found out for funding reasons they had to make sure not get got left behind or loose money. The money for Gate goes to tutoring the left behind kids or the mentaly challenged kids being mainstreamed. By the way this is not the teachers fault. They are outstanding - It's the school administraton and Government that's keeping gifted kids down. We finaly made a deal with school and our kids teachers. In elementry school they took on-line classes from Standford (we had to pay) and in middle school they took classes at the community college.
Just wanted to give you a little general information. Money that is given to ''GATE'' (Gifted and Talented Education) is not used to tutor ''left behind'' kids or ''mentally challenged kids.'' My info is based on having a kid in public school for 13 years. There is always a ''GATE'' budget. It is not used for any other purpose.

Don't know how ''gifted students are kept down'' in public school. My approach has always been that ''gifted'' kids (they all seem like average good students to me--nothing more, nothing less) certainly must have some motivation to pursue academics on their own--aren't they supposed to be a little more self-directed? I recall that 30 years ago, before parents told their kids they were classified as ''gifted'' those who were motivated simply asked to work on extra projects in addition to the regular work. Didn't need a budget for that.


Lafayette has separate GATE classrooms for highly gifted 4th and 5th graders, as well as advanced programs in middle and high school. They also do a good job at differentiating curriculum in the lower grades. We switched from a very good Berkeley private school to the Lafayette elementary schools, and have been happy so far. I would say they do a better job at differentiation than the private school our daughter attended, although we were also happy there (except for the tuition!). I skipped multiple grades and went to college at an early age, and unfortunately one size fits all does not meet the needs of all students, nor does the approach of simply giving extra work or having gifted students be ''teachers aides''. Parent who's been there
Parents who have concerns about how categorical funds (those that are designated for special purposes such as GATE, ELD, and) Title 1) are being spent at their children's schools should attend the school site council. You can even join the SSC as one of the parent members. As a parent and teacher I have been a part of these meetings and I can assure you that the spending of this money is strictly regulated. What you will also discover is that the funding for GATE students is minimal. At our middle school of 700+ we had less than $1000 to spend last year which was then frozen and taken back due to the budget crisis. This year after the giant cuts to K-12 schools there is no longer state funding allocated for GATE students. In fact we no longer receive any categorical funds from the state. Our only ''extra'' money comes from federal sources. It is both disappointing and devastating for many families and students. If we want better schools parents throughout the state are going to have to let our state government know what we want. We are also going to have to make it clear that we are willing to put our money where our mouths are. We are going to have to raise taxes to get out of this morass because we are running out of programs that can be cut. teacher mom
Check out http://www.cagifted.org/, especially the FAQs page. It is a great organization that has been around forever. They might be able to help you find what you are looking for.

I would also like to point out that giftedness can show up in a lot of different ways (NOT just academically), and many gifted kids are underachieving, as opposed to an earlier post where one person thought that gifted kids might be more self- directed. It's often quite the contrary...

Finally, a good school differetiates the curriculum so that the student that is falling behind gets his or her needs met, just as much as the child who is gifted in some way. We're in an Oakland public school that meets and exceeds the needs of my gifted children while they learn in a classroom with kids of all different intellectual and emotional levels. We couldn't be happier, and would like to add that we left a prominent private school to get the kind of challenging education our children needed and craved. an advocate for gifted education


GATE programs in public schools are a polite nod to students whose ability range from gifted to highly gifted. One huge problem is that the schools do not have a good way to assess all who are truly gifted and every parent wants the bragging rights to say their their child, qualified or not, is in the GATE program. (It's okay to be average!) A gifted child is about 1-1.5 level above the average. A child who is highly gifted will have an IQ about 140 or higher, which is about 1:10,000, and 2 or more level above the average child. Example would be a child reading Harry Potter in first grade. Most experienced teachers can provide challenge to a gifted child with differentiated learning, but in a classroom where the abilities range from below average to way above average, it can be near impossible to challenge those highly gifted children. It is especially frustrating if one has a teacher who is not familiar with highly gifted children or does not believe that they exist. Most schools offer GATE programs as an afterschool program and are woefully underfunded. California has a most peculiar, pathetic way of treating the talent of tomorrow. Cupertino and Los Altos are known to have programs for GATE children or separate GATE classes due to the large no. of gifted children in those communities. There may be other school districts with good GATE programs. Quality schools will be reflected the price real estate in these communities (ex $$$$$). However, even within these districts, children who are highly gifted/profoundedly gifted have found greater satisfaction with home schooling or private. Gifted children, however, can generally be successfully taught within an average classroom. Good luck. Anon.

7-year-old: Bright, bored and having some problems

April 2009

My seven year old grandson has all the characteristics of a gifted child with learning differences. He is primarily a visual-spatial learner. He presently attends Washington school in Point Richmond which has been a fairly good environment for him but his teacher tells me he is like a ''square peg in a round hole.'' I would like to find a school for him anywhere from Richmond to Berkeley with curricula that accomodates different learning styles. I would appreciate any comments, thoughts or suggestions. D


My children attend Oakland Public Schools; both tested gifted using the Raven's Progressive Matrices tests. Both tested at the 99th percentile. Further testing indicates that both children have IQs in excess of 150.

When my son, now in middle school was in elementary school, we began pushing for the legally mandated GATE Council at the school. This council makes sure that teachers differentiate instruction every day in every subject.

Of course we worried that teachers would hold it against the kids - us pushing and pushing to get a reasonably adequate education. Our daughter has benefited from our work on behalf of our son. What we found out is that for my son it was rough for about a year - but not any more rough than being bored stiff.

Here is what we found out from a specialist - your grandson must be challenged. Until you can do this at school, you must get him involved in competitive chess, ongoing foreign language classes or musical instrument lessons where he learns to read and compose music. This is because the drop out and lrisky behaviorn rate in middle and high school depends exclusively on excellence without effort in elementary school.

You're lucky he attends Washington as this is the school where Berkeley's Academic Talent Development Program has its three week summer program. At ATDP your grandson will meet lots and lots of square pegs - my kids included. A Houseful of Square Pegs


Your description of your grandson sounds like my two gifted sons who were bored, frustrated and having some behavioral problems in their public schools in Orinda, considered the best public school system in the state based on standardized test scores. They just did not fit in. Despite all of my advocating for them and best efforts, the Orinda schools failed to meet their needs.

Most schools are just not set up to teach gifted kids and only respond to the needs of academically motivated children, not the same as giftedness. Gifted children learn differently, they do not need as much repetition, they ask a lot of questions, want more in depth instruction and as you said sometimes have learning differences such as visual-spatial. Being gifted can be very threatening to most teachers/schools. Also, gifted kids are the most at-risk.

For your grandson to reach his potential, be himself with true peers and have the best chance of happiness and fulfillment in life, he needs to be understood, supported and challenged. He needs to be in a school for gifted children.

For my two gifted sons, I looked at the four gifted schools in the Bay Area: Nueva, Odyssey, Baywood and Dunham Academy; as well as other schools not for the gifted: Hillbrook, Bentley, Head-Royce, The Academy, Black Pine Circle School and Athenian.

Bar none, Dunham Academy was the best fit for my two sons. The Dunhams are not trying to create some exclusive, status symbol of a school. Their passion, their lives are to meet the needs of gifted children and they do that exceptionally well. http://www.giftedschool.org/ Sheila


Walden Center & School in Berkeley might be a good fit. 510- 841-7248, walden-school.net Jennifer

Public school for gifted 2nd grader

Sept 2008

Hi - I have a gifted 2nd grader at a good Oakland public school who is 2 grades above level in math and reading. We are going to be moving out of our too-small home and am hoping to kill 2 birds with one stone by finding a better home as well as a better educational fit for my child. I've toured many private schools in Oakland and found them to be lovely but unaffordable (I have two children), and also the academic gap was still an open question at these institutions. I know that some public schools have gifted programs of some measure, where children receive some extra challenging work or small group projects - at my child's school, if a child tests as gifted then the school receives $50 or so extra from the state, but that's all. It hasn't been much of an issue yet, but as my child gets older I can see that it might very well be. I'm not an idealist - I understand the staffing ratios at public school and I'm not looking for a custom-made, individually tailored curriculum either. I'm just wondering if there are others in a similar situation who have found some kind of solution and if you would be willing to recommend your child's school. I am open to suggestions all the way from Lafayette to Marin and in between. Thanks, and VERY grateful!


I've tried to solve the very problem you describe, and would like to warn you against making the same mistake I did, which was to put my children in the Piedmont Public Schools. The school district does get GATE funds (about $20,000 a year), but has never had a program catering specifically to gifted children. (Such a program would be difficult to administer, given that the District makes no attempt to determine whether any individual child is ''gifted.'')

Teachers and principals say that they serve gifted children by offering differentiated instruction, but in my (extensive) experience, it's limited. Differentiation for one of my sons consisted of being told to leave the classroom during reading lessons, and go to the library to work, unsupervised, on a report. Another teacher allowed us to substitute our own list of spelling words for the official list. More relevant and more exasperating is the obstruction throughout the school system of children's efforts to advance to higher level classes. The Middle School principal has reversed a long-standing policy of allowing children with previous exposure to a foreign language to begin their study at a more advanced level, and now offers those children the choice between waiting to begin taking a language until the other students have caught up, or beginning in the most elementary class. After a parent revolt in the High School, select students were allowed to take two science courses simultaneously so as to be able to take all the available courses before graduating, but current students are again complaining that science and math courses are rationed. Middle school kids are allowed to advance one year in math, but the advancement criterion is so strict that only a tiny number are eligible.

In short, there's an outright disregard of acceleration, and a surprising number of Piedmont residents wind up sending their gifted children to private schools. (I've just learned that yet another of my friends has moved to Piedmont to put her learning disabled child in the public school, while sending her academically gifted child to a private school.) I'm avidly awaiting the answers you'll get, in the hopes of finding a better option for my children. In the meanwhile, I'd suggest that you not give up too easily on private schools. One of my children got a scholarship that completely transformed her life, and I only wish I hadn't been so pessimistic and had let her apply years earlier. Not so gifted when it comes to gifted kids!


I live in Lafayette, and can tell you what is offered in our district. In third grade, children are given the OLSAT. The top 20 or so children from the four elementary schools are offered a place in the AIM program at Burton Valley school for 4th and 5th grade, where they are taught in a combined classroom for those two years. After that, they would be placed in regular classrooms in middle school (of course, if they are still advanced in math, they would be placed at a higher level). This program only takes a very few kids (I think it is less than the top 1% of all children tested), and there are many here who would be considered a grade or two above level in reading and/or math. However, many who are offered a place in this program opt to stay at whatever school they are already at, to avoid disruption and because most people are very pleased with the education their child is already getting. When funding is available for aides, there are often pull-out math groups for more advanced students, as well as ''differentiated instruction'', which I have not been overly impressed with. Hope this helps. Lafayette Mom
GATE (gifted and talented) programs begin in 4th grade because it is at that point that the abilities of speedy bright learners and average-speed bright learners get more equal, and the kids have had two years of standardized tests. That is, just because a student learns to read younger than average doesn't mean that he/she is gifted or will still be so far ahead by 4th grade. Not all public schools have GATE programs, and they are not all equal among different schools. For now, check schools for 2nd and 3rd grade teachers who teach ''differentiated'' learning, in which the teacher presents small group challenges for the few students who are well above (or well below) the bulk of the class.

For 4th-5th grade, research schools that have GATE programs and then talk to the principal or other GATE parents to assess the program's quality. By middle and high school, more students will emerge as bright, and pretty much all these students will be grouped together in advanced classes. -- a mom


Wait a year for kindergarten for gifted child?

Aug 2008

Has anyone held back a gifted child from starting kindergarten?

My son just turned 4 and we were going to start him in kindergarten next fall, right after he turns 5. He has been reading for more than a year, can write words properly using upper and lower case, can do simple math (on the order of 8-3 or 9+4), etc. His social skills aren't great -- he can't always figure out how to join groups and acts inappropriately sometimes. We haven't worked with him at all on academic skills, he's just picked them up. We do work with him on social skills.

Lately he has been saying he doesn't want to go to kindergarten which has gotten us to thinking that maybe we should find a bridge K program for him, mostly to give his social skills a chance to catch up. Will we be condemning him to a lifetime of boredom in school if we do this? Anyone else done the same? Or did you place your similar child in kindergarten and have a success (or failure) story to share?

I know we have a year to decide, but I also know we need to start looking at bridge K programs soon if we're going to go that route. Worried mom


If I were you I would probably hold him back for a year. We did the same thing for our son and it worked out great. He just finished K and is entering 1st grade this fall. Other boys in his K class who were on the younger side, had behavioral issues that clearly stemmed from underdeveloped social skills. Also, they just weren't ready to sit in a classroom all day. I'm an advocate for giving kids, especially boys, that extra year to play and develop their social skills. Once they enter K, there is not a huge emphasis on social skills. Since your son is so bright, I would suggest looking into private school (if you can afford it). A private school will help stimulate your son's academic abilities, despite him being on the older side. Once they start school, they go straight through for 18-20 years so don't worry about holding off for 1 year! It will benefit him. Good luck anon
Do not hold your gifted child back! Yes, he will be at risk for not just boredom, but acting out in class, becoming a troublemaker, dropping out of school, etc. Many studies have confirmed this.

You could put him in a bridge K now and move him into 1st grade next year (sounds like he won't have any problems with the academics). Just don't hold him back for social skills -- it's often been shown that underchallenged children appear immature; once they're appropriately challenged, the immaturity issues disappear. So holding him back because of ''social immaturity'' can actually make things worse. good luck!


I don't have advice, but I'm in the same boat as you. My son is doing 1st grade math now at 3 1/2. But my son misses the age cut off by 12 days so I'm almost gonna have to hold him back. From my research and what I've been told by others in this situation, it seems that if there are social issues, it's best to wait. Do classes at Chabot or Lawrence Hall of Science to keep him challenged. If you'd like to get our kids together for a play date, drop me a note. It might be nice for both of them. Rachel rachelalong@gmail.com
I started my girl in kinder with a late October birthday when she was four, and it worked out just fine. Something to think about - there's no way to give him a March birthday, so there will be trade-offs either way. So don't worry, you'll have something to deal with regardless! Academically, my girl was very advanced - reading quite well, good at math etc. Socially she was behind. As the baby of the family, she'd cry easily. There weren't any other four year olds in her class - I was surprised by that b/c my older kid has so many her year. She caught up with her social skills by 2nd grade, I think. However, everyone (teachers especially) made such a big deal of her b/c she was so advanced academically and that gave a huge boost to her self confidence. She was very proud that she knew so much more than her classmates (some were basically a year older on the other end). However, almost everyone (middle class) thinks that boys should be held back. But, if you go to public school, chances are you'll find quite a few 4 year olds. A parent of an older kid advised me at the time I was making my decision that eventually it became an issue of self-confidence that she wasn't started early - she felt like she was ''held back''. But hey, you can switch schools if the K @ 4 doesn't work out and he can do K over again as an older kid without other kids knowing that. Eventually, she became the oldest on her sports team (their birthday ranges are very strict) so I was glad she did have that experience later. Of course she's short for her grade, but she'd be short anyway. Like I said, trade offs either way. Elementary school does have a powerful way of teaching social skills .... even to kids who are older.

I have no idea if this applies to you - but once I realized that my decision was being clouded by the fact that I just didn't want her to grow up so soon - I thought that it would be fine. And cried a little. anon


Is your child in preschool? If yes, then his preschool teachers hopefully can give you individualized advice about what they believe is best for your child. If not, then might you consider getting him into at least a part time program this year? That would help his social skills to develop. As a preschool teacher myself, I often have discussions with parents about what is best for their fall-birthday children. One important thing that I ask parents is whether their child will attend private school or public school. For most (but not all) private schools in the Bay Area, children must be five by September 1, or sometimes even August 1. This means that your child might be one of the youngest in his class. In local public schools, on the other hand, the cut off date is December 2, which means that quite a few children will be younger than yours. Also, there is likely to be a far bigger range of skils and abilities in a public school classroom.

You are not beginning to think about this too early. Unless your child is simply going to his neighborhood public school, no questions asked, you will need to gather information about schools, begin to take tours, and make decisions by November or December or January. Anonymous


I read this article that everyone thinking of ''red-shirting'' their kindergartener should at least consider. It talks about the larger societal issues of the practice and studies that have been done that show that older kids in the class don't always do better academically. http://www.slate.com/id/2196423

I also think we think a lot about how our kids will do now in school but don't consider the 18 or almost 19 year old who will have to be a senior in high school with a lot of younger kids. I'd imagine that would be socially difficult. anon


I was held back from kindergarten because my birthday was 3 months past the cut-off date, then I skipped 3rd grade. Even so, I was bored to tears all through school. I had good social skills, so I can't speak to how best to support your child's development in this regard, but if a private school, like Montessori, is a possibility for your family, I would check that out as an option. I know many private schools offer scholarships. . Best wishes. Anon
I suggest you get him evaluated by a gifted child specialist. There are private schools for gifted children where you can get him evaluated, and a major part of what they look at is not just what the kid knows, but how they act both physically and socially. They will be able to tell you if your child is really just ''bright'' or is truely ''gifted,'' as well as observe for signs of autisim, aspergers, etc. I know this because a friend just went through this process. Her three year old has been doing math way beyond her age having figured it out mostly on her own (multiplication, adding & subtracting double & triple digits, understanding fractions and negative numbers) as well as teaching herself how to read and spell having figured out phonics. She has been writing letters and numbers clearly since she was 2.5.

Once you get a true sense of where your son is at, you'll be better equiped to make a decision versus discovering once he is already in kindergarten. This topic of holding boys back for kindergarten came up in a parenting support group I belong to. Everyone's experience was that there were regrets from some of those that put their sons in K early/right when they were 5, but everyone who waited that extra year had no regrets. anon


Please read A Nation Deceived... Holding back a gifted child will not help with social skills! It sounds like your son needs radical acceleration, not being held back. But then what do you do with a child who can 't write like a 3rd grader, but has the mind of one?

For us the answer has been to homeschool. You can look at programs like Baywood, but homeschooling has worked well for our son. This way he can work on social interaction with parents there to guide him and prevent bullying, and his mind is fed.

Read hoagies about asynchronous development (which is the definition of giftedness, to many). A play-based preschool would be a good place to learn social stuff, but not have him bored to tears by the academics. Do the academics at home. mom of profoundly gifted children


From what you described, your son is indeed gifted, most likely highly gifted. While I understand the need for social skills, I would warn that you may indeed be sentencing him to 13 years of ''I already know that.'' The kind of writing he is already doing is something many children do not master until at least 2nd grade, often third. In a year, considering his rapid learning pace, his skills will probably have extend far beyond that. The idea of putting a child who can, say, read chapter books, in a classroom with children still struggling to recite their ABC's is bound to cause frustration and boredom.

Also, the possibility of social isolation for gifted children is already high. Putting a child where he is even more advanced than his peers increases that risk, and it can be a devastating thing to deal with--the feeling that no one around you understands the way you think or act, and can lead to feelings of superiority and the general feeling, consciously or not, that everyone around you is ''stupid.''

Of course, you know what is best for you son. If he is truly not ready for a formal school environment, perhaps the best thing for him really would be to hold him back. I advise you to remember that many people have forgotten: This is Kindergarten. There is no Ph. D., strong network of connections, or lifelong friends to accompany you required. Best of luck with your son. If he is anything like mine, you will need it once he enters the public education system. Mother of a Gifted and Bored Boy


I don't know much about ''bridge programs'', but as a primary school teacher for over 15 years I can tell you that your child seems very normal (albeit a bit academically advanced) for a 4 year old. Worried about social skills? Let me tell you, 95% of all kindergarteners have social skills issues. Developing good social skills is a MAJOR part of any kindergarten program. Kindergarten is not only about academics but also discovery, working on gross and fine motor skills, artistic exploration, singing, playing, joy, and of course social skills. Any good kindergarten teacher will be able to challenge your child academically, and coach them on needed social skills.

Pre-kindergarten anxiety is normal. I would advise you both to visit the school playground and the kindergarten classrooms this year to familiarize yourself with the place. Most schools give tours, and you can make appointments with the principal, and or the kindergarten teachers themselves to get more advice on how to best prepare your child. A.L


If your child truly is gifted, I would imagine a school is the last place you would want to send him. Did you know that over the years, childrens' art becomes more and more uniform? School kills creativity, and monthly GATE field trips to the museum aren't exactly thrilling. THere are many in the world of education who believe that school is primarily about socialization (learning to conform to society's expected standards of social behavior) rather than education (learning to critically engage with ideas). I understand what it means to be a worried parent, but I think you're worried about the wrong things -- start him now or hold him back, eventually he'll conform. kevin
Holding back a gifted child?? Most parents of gifted children ask about skipping a grade to keep their child challenged, happy, and among his intellectual peers! Why would you want to commit your child to 13 years of social isolation and boredom with children who aren't his intellectual peers? You will impede his social development even more!

Sometimes a gifted child might seem hesitant to try something new because s/he's accustomed to always being perfect (or expected by his parents to always be perfect) and is afraid of making a mistake. Although your child is academically ready for first grade, he needs to learn to feel comfortable about new experiences, and he needs to learn how to feel comfortable when he isn't completely perfect.

You say his social skills are behind. What have you done to improve his social skills? Have you tried enrolling your child in a class with other boys his age? How many times has your child been in a play group with other boys his age? Why hasn't he spent even half a day in pre-K?

And, what have you done to help him prepare for Kindergarten? Have you arranged for a tour of his new Kindergarten? Have you arranged for him to watch a class in progress? Have you introduced him to any of his future classmates? Have you rented a movie about Kindergarten?

Maybe some family couseling could help figure out why your son's social skills are behind (if they are) and what you're doing to make your precocious son afraid of taking the risk of trying something new.

A good resource to help parents of gifted children support the social and emotional needs of their children is SENG ''Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted'' at www.SENGifted.org.

A good article explaining how to help gifted children face new situations is: http://www.sengifted.org/articles_social/Delisle_RisktakingAndRiskmaking .shtml Ex-gifted child


I did not see the original post.... but here are my two sense about children who are clearly gifted early on....Our daughter (much to our surprise) started reading when she was 3 and a half, and was reading books like Harry Potter and Little House on the Prarie to herself at least a year before she even started kindergarten. She started school with her same- aged peers and has continued on that way ( she is now in the 8th grade)...and she continues to be an unbelievably avid reader, who spends just about every spare minute reading and writing for pleasure. No one has EVER held her back academically. She has never complained of ''boredom'' ( I honestly think that 's a term little kids learn from their parents who take some sort of peverse joy in their children being ''SO advanced...'') Work with the teachers to help meet some of your child's academic and intellectual needs--but also help your child learn to adjust to what he or she is given each day... because dealing with people- - one's peers and adults, including teachers-- is the single most important social skill for us all, isn't it?

We've have always had concerns about our daughter's social skills, because even now, she is truly happiest by herself, with her books or with her writing. We don't want to change who she is, but we also understand the value of having true friends, of learning to be comfortable in a group, etc... and we have always just tried to encourage any opportunity she has had to socialize. She has always had some friends-- although in some grades, she really just had one good friend, and we did our best to be sure they had opportunities to be together. It's a constant balance to encourage who she is and help her develop all her talents, while understanding that we also want to raise a well rounded human being. Her talents are not all that define her. We try to encourage some physical activities and some artistic ones. She seems to have a very strong sense of who she is ( which has been very important for her middle school experience), and is aware of her ''otherness'' while still understanding the value of the group. So, even though it's exciting to watch a very gifted child discover her talents, as a parent you also need to keep in mind that your job is to help your child grow up healthy. Balance is the key. -parent of ''gifted'' kid


7th grader who loves math and science

Dec 2007

Is there any school for my 7th grade son who loves math and science? I find many schools and programs that address children with learning differences, learning disabilities, ADD, ADHD, ASD, NLD, and special education. We don't need (or want) these programs. My son is atttentive, studies hard, loves academics, and wants an academically challenging environment. We live in Oakland, and haven't much money. Suggestions? Parent of a nerd


I haven't found that the Oakland School District makes it a priority to address the needs of academically precocious children. They aren't legally required to, and it's up to each school to decide if they want to have any sort of (usually very limited) GATE program. Some private schools are also philosophically very opposed to accelerating students. Other private schools are more open to meeting the needs of more academically advanced students. We've been very happy so far with Black Pine Circle in Berkeley, which has a fabulous math/science program and a lot of very talented teachers and students. They offer financial aid and are less expensive than many other private schools. You may also want to consider a school like Head Royce, which is quite expensive, but has a generous endowment and offers financial aid to many families who wouldn't qualify for aid at other schools. They struck me as a bit more competitive and intense than Black Pine Circle, but for a motivated smart kid I think it could be a good match. A sympathetic parent
Check out courses for gifted and talented students through Stanford University http://epgy.stanford.edu/. On line course catalog includes Mathematics, Computer Science, etc. Also look at Berkeley Math Circle http://mathcircle.berkeley.edu/. Good luck. Happy Parent of EPGY OHS student!
You should check out Aurora School. They have mixed grade classrooms (i.e. 2nd graders are in with 3rd graders). There is already an assumption students are at various learning levels with strengths and challenges in different subject matters.

2004 - 2006 Recommendations


Public or Private for gifted kindergartener?

Sept 2006

Our 4 yo old son will be starting kindergarten in about a year and we are trying to sort out what would be the best environment for him. He taught himself to read quite early and now reads fluently at about a second grade level (and understands as well); he seems generally academically precocious, but his reading skills are the most obvious. Socially and emotionally, he's quite age-appropriate. He is doing well now at a Montessori preschool which provides a mixed- age environment and allows kids to progress at their own rate, but we are not sure where to go from here. We had always hoped to send him to Berkeley public school, but are wondering whether he would be sufficiently challenged.Can anyone comment on this? Also, if we were to explore private school options, are there any which other parents out there feel do an especially good job with intellectually gifted kids? (the archives are a bit dated on these questions) Thanks. anon


Honey, I feel your pain! I spent six solid months last year trying to find the right school for my advanced son. He began reading at 3 years 8 months. By the end of his pre-K year he was reading at a 4th grade level. Now (the day before kindergarten begins) he is exploring short division of 4-digit numbers and also fractions. He entertains himself by reading the sports section of the Chron. So, as you can imagine, I searched high and low for a program that I thought would accomodate him. I found nothing. Granted, I was constrained by not looking at any school that had a strict September 1st cutoff (My second child has a 9/9 birthday), and I also rejected some schools for social reasons (too distant, too snotty, etc...) In the end we selected Tehiyah Day School, for 2 major reasons. First, our family is deeply involved in the Berkeley Jewish community, and second, we got feedback that the staff there is remarkable flexible in dealing with a wide range of student needs, including the highly advanced ones. Black Pine Circle was a close second (in fact, I preferred it for its academics, but found it less flexible overall). In the end, I would be shocked if you find a school with a whole class of advanced learners to match your child. We decided that the best approach was to look for flexibility and hope for the best. I wish you luck!! Kindergarten starts tomorrow. We will soon see our son at his school, and will develop some impressions over time about the school and how it fits him. Wish us luck too. Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to discuss this further. Elisabeth K
Hi - I think it really depends on your academic/parenting philosophy. Here's our situation with our gifted (though not as extreme as yours it sounds) son: He also thrived at an excellent Montessori where his academic abilities were encouraged and enjoyed but where attention was also given to the areas he needed to develop (self control, fine motor, etc.).

Last year he did kindergarden at Malcolm X in Berkeley and it was a great experience for him - he learned a ton. Was he challenged academically all the time? Perhaps not, though his academic skills did advance significantly. He learned a ton about interacting and negotiating with children and adults of different ages, from different backgrounds and language groups, he worked on the areas he really needs to improve: listening to others, allowing others a chance to answer questions, emotional maturity, fine motor skills. He's like a sponge for knowledge and eagerly soaked up the rich offerings from the many adults who became part of his life (garden teacher, drama teacher, classroom teachers, etc). He's clearly not bored (I want to watch for this in the future though) and there's so much new to learn in terms of topics that he's challenged even though he already has the mechanics of reading and math under his belt. I feel like by being at a public school he's working on the areas that aren't already ahead, which will hopefully make him a more well rounded individual, instead of focussing on the areas where he is already ahead, which might help him excel even further in those areas but might overlook other important areas. That's why I feel public school is best - I may have to supplement with academics as time goes on to keep him challenged, but for me it's easier to supplement there at home than it would be for me to provide the rich environment school does in other areas. - Good luck!


I have an early reader and an overachiever in language arts, but not gifted that I know of. I thought about this issue at Kindergarten, but given that it is a short day anyway (out in Contra Costa anyway) and she needed the socialization, and we have an excellent public school, that I would just wait and see. We are continuing with public school for now as she is not bored and enjoys the school. In the end, I wouldn't get overly concerned about Kindergarten and wait and see how you and your child enjoy the public school. Anon
Our daughter read-- REALLY read at 3 and a half... and was reading chapter books like ''Little House on the Prarie'' and Harry Potter in Kindergarten. We sent her to our neighborhood Oakland Public School (Chabot) and never regretted the decision. We too had concerns that she might be ''bored'' or uninspired, but honestly, I think kids pick up on their parents cues regarding this. ''Boredom'' is an excuse, or a cop-out really...or maybe something parents sort of hope for, in a perverse kind of way (''my kid's SO smart, he's just bored in school all day long!'') Kids have SO much to learn at that point. Even though the academic focus is reading, it was clear that our daughter needed to learn to balance all the other parts of her personality (physical, emotional etc...)and the whole school experience was essential for that. Our daughter even came home all excited in kindergarten and said, ''we're learning to read today!'' (The phonics instruction, by the way, was actually really useful in her emerging spelling and writing skills, as she did not learn to read phonetically). She was never ''held back'' by anyone, teacher or student, in public school. Her reading skills continued to improve dramatically every year, because she spent so much time or her own reading. Aa a parent, you can do a lot to enrich your child's curriculum. And it's important to keep a perspective on who or what a WHOLE child should be. Our experience was that most teachers were very responsive in trying to meet her individual needs, and we also understood that some of the responsiblity for this enrichment was ours. She's now in 6th grade and still an extrememly avid and gifted reader.
parent of early reader
This is also a reply to the ''gifted preschooler'' posting. My child just started first grade. When she was in preschool I also thought she was gifted and had the same questions as you, and even thought she should begin kindergarten a year early. I carefully reviewed the kindergarten and 1st grade state curriculum and observed her friends who had completed kindergarten. I decided that she was gifted verbally and an overall bright child, however in many ways age appropriate. I sent her to an ''average'' public school, and was prepared to supplement her schooling as needed.

It turned out that public school was the right place for her and I learned that children, even bright and gifted, develop their skills at different rates in different areas. My child was able to learn from children who were learning faster in math and to help children whose verbal and reading skills were developing a little more slowly.

I believe that most children's skills will all even out by about 3rd grade, and by 7th grade, there will appear many bright and gifted children in Gate and advanced public school classes. -- public kindergarten, good stuff


I can only answer from the public school perspective, as that is where my kids go. I recommend that you read the discussion in BPN archives on when to send kids-with-birthdays-on-the-cusp to kindergarten, and also any stuff on skipping a grade. There may be a lot of good info there for you. In our experience in BUSD kindergarten, there was a wide range of reading a math and social abilities. One of my kids was advanced academically, so we worked closely with the teacher to make sure that kid was being challenged. He progressed well and was not bored. He learned how to challenge himself. It got much easier in later years when at least 25% of his fellow students hit their reading and math stride and caught up. Now he has a great cohort of academically focused kids around him who love to learn. So you may find that kindergarten is the most challengeing year academically for you as a parent, in that you'll need to be more involved with your child's teacher. I recommend that you check out public schools in your area, talk with the principles and parents of academically strong kids. The money you save on tuition could be used well on enriching classes and travel. (and if you end up in a public school, please remember to donate some of those tuition savings to the public shool - thanks) Anon.
Gifted, public or private: For us, the dual curriculumat at Oakland Hebrew Day School has guaranteed a challenging school experience, and no complaints of boredom. We chose to send my son to Oakland Hebrew Day School, first, for the opportunity to learn a second language; not just to speak it but to be literate in it. Second, traditional Jewish learning develops non-linear, right brain thinking; creative, insightful questioning, probing, debating, are inherent in the approach to studying Jewish thought through text-trying to find solutions to problems where there are two opposite yet valid points of view. In addition, the small class size is incredibly beneficial, as social issues can sometimes be a problem for gifted kids, as we all know (my son is very shy and socially not with it). With the small class size, teachers are really able to fine tune and differentiate learning for all the students. For any family, I think these qualities are worth looking for in a school. Laura L

Gifted kindergartener, can't afford private school

Sept 2004

Hi my son just started kindergardten and loves it. many of his preschool friends are i his class and he enjoys the after care at the cedars room with them also/

we live close bye to the school and i too have many parents who are friends of longstanding. being a single parent there support has been invaluable for pick ups and drop offs when a crisis arises.

however i dont feel my son is learning much. until now i was quite complacent simply because i have enough problems without looking for more.

however over the weekend i spent 30 minutes teaching him to read and today he went to class and started writing sentences spelling correctly 4 letter words. i was amazed as was his teacher who told me what he did. he has the vocabulary of a 9 year old and is very analytical and articulate. thing is he is also a mischevious little kid who if left to his own devices would happily play all day.

should i move him to a private school, which means we would not be able to buy a home,but have to carry on renting or leave him where he is. is it possible to get him extra tuition where he is challenged at the weekend s?? am i being negligent? everyone i know tells me how bright he is, i just dont want to short change him. he makes friends easily and i dont think he will have problems adapting apart from initially. any advice? amber


Hi, I can't help you much, but I can tell you as a parent of a gifted first grader in a highly-regarded, developmental, expensive private school that private school is not necessarily what your child needs. Many private schools are so ''PC'' that they won't even use the term gifted, considering it elitist. I cannot tell you how much ignoring their special needs harms exceptional children who really NEED differentiated curriculum as well as an understanding of their non-academic selves (ie emotional intensity and sensitivity) in order to do well in school and life. Giftedness is not a moral term or a value judgment, and it is not a given that the gifted will be ''fine'' because they are so ''smart'' when their different learning needs are not met. It also in no way implies that these kids are any ''better'' or ''more important'' than anyone else... only that they are different and no less important. I wish I had an answer for you, but the only advice I can offer so far is that it probably isn't wise to spend your money on any private school that does not acknowledge and make at least some attempt to address the special educational needs of gifted kids, which are just as important as the special needs of kids on the other end of the bell curve! So I would suggest you ask upfront before making any changes. Our child was adopted, so we have no personal experience with this issue, and the last couple of years have been quite an eye-opener. anon

Gifted & Talented Prog (GATE) in Albany or Berkeley

May 2006

I have an 8 year old son who is in the Gifted and Talented Program in Davis , CA. We're moving to Albany in June after school is out. I'm looking for a GATE Program (for the Fall) in Albany or Berkeley ? Does anyone know anything about GATE near the Albany area ? I heard there's no GATE in Albany schools. Is that true ? Is there a GATE Program in Berkeley ? Thanks for your help. Kim kimberly


Although there is no formal GATE program in the Berkeley schools, usually the more project-based teachers work well with the GATE kids. Many of the schools also have science or language teachers, and afterschool classes. Remember, your child's learning is a package, and you can provide a combination of school with afterschool and summer programs, along with games and family trips to keep him/her intellectually stimulated. I would also strongly suggest signing your child up for the Academic Talent Development Program summer classes through UC. It has been fun for my child to work with other kids who love school. The projects have been interesting (we've tried science and math, this year will try writing), and the teachers very well-prepared. LHS also offers good classes at a high level for younger kids
parent of a GATE child
GATE in Berkeley public schools--what I have learned is kids are identified as GATE in 3rd grade, and each school gets not very much money (elementary schools get less than $2000 for academic year) and that each school makes its own plans for GATE. The district as a whole gets very little money for GATE. My suggestion is to talk with the principal of each school in which you are interested, and also make sure to talk to GATE parents at that school to get information from their perspective--are their childrens' needs being met? Please feel free to contact me and I can give you more details Sally
GATE in Albany? Albany doesn't need GATE because *all* children in Albany are gifted. A school board member with an interest in gifted kids hasn't been able to make headway in the past 4 years. Albany works well for compliant, hardworking students and has educated its share of geniuses who would have succeeded anywhere. However Berkeley's meagre offerings don't make it better: can you even find GATE on the BUSD website? Albany High and Albany in general works for self-motivated academically strong kids and serves the middle 68% quite well; Berkeley High has more opportunity for creative/artistic genius and academically strong kids in the upper grades. Tour the elementary school halls to see the strong art programs; Cragmont has one for example, as long as Joseph doesn't retire - I'd be inclined to send an artistic elementary school kid to a Berkeley school with great art. The middle schools are all kind of a wash, but for a gifted kid probably only King or Albany wouldn't be deadly. Albany is low on bullying, so that's a plus. Berkeley High is rough for quieter kids in 9 and 10 (or any who want to really focus on learning for that matter) but the small schools might be worth some investigation. Personally, I'd probably send a gifted kid to Albany schools through 10th grade, pushing for whatever grade skips you can get (not easy) and supplementing outside, then move to Berkeley for the last two years of high school. Just my (educated) opinion, generally familiar with the schools in both districts.
Parent of 99.9th percentile Albany dropout

2003 & Earlier


School for highly gifted 7-year-old

November 2003

I am desperately looking for a school for my highly gifted 7-yr old son. Right now he is utterly miserable and frustrated in ''conventional'' school. He needs a place where there are other kids like him and teachers have experience in dealing with highly gifted children. Any schools you can recommend? We are willing to look at public or private schools anywhere in the Bay Area. Thank you.

Recommendations received:

  • The Academy
  • Black Pine Circle

    Other advice

    In response to the parent looking for a school for a highly gifted child - you don't say in what way your child is gifted but here are some schools to consider. At The Academy in Berkeley there are a few children with unusual talents in math, chess, and so on. Their needs are met in a supportive and understated way. The Crowden School would be a good place for a musician. The Chronicle recently had a piece on a gifted young composer at Black Pine Circle. I'm assuming that by ''highly gifted'' you mean a genuine prodigy. With a more relaxed definition probably half the kids at schools like The Academy could be considered highly gifted. Academy parent


    Look into Montessori education. It allows kids to work at their own level and deeply explore their innnate interests. Interestingly, it is a method and philosophy of education that works just as well for those with learning challenges and average learners as well as gifted students. My child learned to read by himself (and Sesame Street) at age 2 1/2, and is also very advanced mthematically. Montessori has allowed him to speed along at his own pace. He is in fifth grade now and reads adult level science fiction for literature in school. We are at Berkeley Montessori and have found both the social and acedemic sides to be great. A place that can offer your child truly fertile soil in which to grow. parant of gifted kid
    In response to the parent looking for a private school for their highly gifted 7 year old: We are currently looking for Kindergarden for our highly gifted child. We are most hopeful about Aurora and Park Day. It seems like they have a real range of kids, but aim to tailor lessons to meet individual kids needs. I am curious what has not worked for your child in a ''conventional'' school. Which school was he in? What do you think would meet his needs? If you are able, please respond to me at email below. Thanks. s
    To the person who was seeking a school for her/his ''highly gifted'' child: you may get the best feedback if you explain how you define highly gifted. For instance, some parents mean their child is emotionally gifted (highly socially evolved, talkative, etc.). Other parents are referring to their child's cognitive aptitude. Still others are referring to statistically measurable IQ. These are important distinquishing characteristics and no one school is right for everyone's child. You noted that your child was ''miserable'' in his current situation. Does that mean he's bored with the curriculum or that he is perhaps book-smart, but not really socially adept? Do children tease him because he doesn't have the emotional capacity to deal with certain social situations? Does he have a form of Asberger's, even though he tests off the charts? Or perhaps he is socially evolved and his classmates don't stimulate him. To really service your child, you may want to give some thought to what highly gifted means in your eyes. I'm sure there are parents out there that can steer you in the right direction with a little more information. All the best.
    -- current professor
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