Gifted Kids and Elementary School
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Gifted Kids and Elementary School
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
I hope that helps!
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
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
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?
School for profoundly gifted 12 year old
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!
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
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.
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?
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!
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
Thank you very much.
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,
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.
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.
Gifted students in public schools
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
Schools for academically gifted but ''spirited'' k
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.
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
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
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.
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 $???
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
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:
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
Very happy mom at the Academy!
Education law for gifted child
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
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
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!
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
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!
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org), 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.
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
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
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.
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
After happy and not so happy years in a very good public
school, we decided to send our gifted child to
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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
-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.
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
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
Anon School Volunteer
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
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
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
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.
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:
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
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
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
The Early Childhood Campus (for ages
3-6) is located across the street from
Berkeley on the corner of Hearst and
Scenic Avenue. The Elementary and
school campus (Upper Site) is in El
Cerrito. A shuttle transports children
the two campuses.
I encourage you to explore the
Montessori method which allows children
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
fourth and fifth grade! Actually the
preschoolers and kindergarteners are
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
individualized curriculum and over the
course of time, they develop amazing
awareness and time management skills
that will serve them well for life in
This is an extraordinary education and
we are grateful to have discovered
Montessori and the Montessori Family
School. Montessori Family School is
and we like the community a lot. All
children have their strengths and
and what we like about this particular
school is that the academics are strong
the social/emotional education and
experience is also as good as it gets.
At Montessori Family School there is
little teacher turnover because the
is vital, happy, supportive and
challenging. We have taken note that
many of the
alumnae of this school are happy,
focused, self-aware, socially
successful individuals making a
difference in the world. We are
in a program to reach out to alumnae
now in college to document outcomes
Visit the website at
Please feel free to contact me with
We went through a similar thought process and are happily at
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
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
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
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
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
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
Are there any towns in the area that have separate GATE classes?
Redwood City has an entire elementary school that is for
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
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.
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.
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
I would like to find a school for him anywhere from Richmond to
Berkeley with curricula that accomodates different learning
I would appreciate any comments, thoughts or suggestions.
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
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
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.
Walden Center & School in Berkeley might be a good fit. 510-
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
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
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.
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
For 4th-5th grade, research schools that have GATE programs and
then talk to the principal or other GATE parents to assess the
By middle and high school, more students will emerge as bright,
and pretty much all these students will be grouped together in
-- a mom
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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,
be five by September 1, or sometimes even August 1. This means that
might be one of the youngest in his class. In local public schools, on
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
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
gather information about schools, begin to take tours, and make
November or December or January.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
over 15 years I can tell you that your child seems very normal (albeit a
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,
exploration, singing, playing, joy, and of course social skills. Any
teacher will be able to challenge your child academically, and coach
them on needed
Pre-kindergarten anxiety is normal. I would advise you both to visit the
playground and the kindergarten classrooms this year to familiarize
the place. Most schools give tours, and you can make appointments with
principal, and or the kindergarten teachers themselves to get more
advice on how to
best prepare your child.
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.
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
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
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
Is there any school for my 7th grade son who loves math and
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
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
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/.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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)
Gifted, public or private: For us, the dual curriculumat at Oakland
School has guaranteed a challenging school experience, and no
boredom. We chose to send my son to Oakland Hebrew Day School, first,
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
creative, insightful questioning, probing, debating, are inherent in
the approach to
studying Jewish thought through text-trying to find solutions to
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
Parent of 99.9th percentile Albany dropout
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
Black Pine Circle
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
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.
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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