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Dec 17 2009

So what IS the best educational situation for gifted kids?

The charter school’s application was denied. The steering committee is appealing to the state Board of Education. This is where we stand right now. The school I think would be best for our sons is in limbo. Still.

I know every gifted and twice-exceptional learner is different…ohhhh, do I ever know this!…but does an ideal educational situation for such a child exist? I know every school and teacher is different, but I’m convinced that public schools aren’t the best option for divergent learners, gifted, or 2e kids. My sons attend a “Gifted and Talented Focus School”…public, our neighborhood school…and it is a terrible fit. I see my 3rd grader’s love for learning ebbing dramatically. The ONLY thing he talks about is the 1 hour A WEEK he goes to the GT pullout program. Last week A created a podcast, reading aloud to kids. Next he wants to upload it to iTunes. Everything else is boring, or stupid, or just not talked about. Can’t say I blame him. If I had to learn to skip count to 100 for the third year in a row, I’d be bored to tears too. The school appears to be achievement based for giftedness, not ability based, and that’s just wrong.

Is homeschooling the best option? On the one hand, I’d never have to deal with the unholy homework battles again, or doing the school’s dirty work in forcing him to do more of things that he’s already done a gazillion times before. On the other hand…frankly, for my own sanity, I need them to be someone else’s responsibility for a few hours a day. Tiffani, at Child’s Play, had this to say about 2e kids and learning today:

One thing I know is that if you have a 2e kid–creative, right brained, divergent thinking, gifted with significant learning differences–regardless of where they go to school, you are a homeschooler. You have to take their homework and then reteach it so they understand. You have to work, hard, with them to help it make sense and stay relevant. They may go to school every day, but the real learning probably only starts once they’re one on one with you.

She’s absolutely right, of course. I’m already a homeschooler, I just don’t get to choose the curriculum. Right now I’m making A learn what the school wants him to learn, while the school ignores the things that interest him, such as science. This morning we sat down to watch Bill Nye’s new educational series on algebra. How much do my boys want to learn? They RACED through their morning chores so they could watch a DVD on algebra before school. They loved it. A was excited to learn about exponents, and ratios, and how negative numbers are just numbers on the number line, on the other side of zero. What will he do in math today? Drill and kill on multiplication and division, where he’ll maybe hit 60% accuracy and feel like a failure. Here at home? Watch out, he’ll smoke you in Monopoly, using those very same skills and not know it.

Winter break is going to be a break from the homework battles (and really, is there a better way to kill the love of reading than filling out a reading log?), but an increase in actual learning. Museums and learning games and reading for fun (RULE #1: NO.READING.LOGS.). If you think you’re playing me in Spore on Facebook, um, no, you’re playing an eight year old who hijacks my account every afternoon.

I’m still 100% behind the charter school as it goes through the appeal process, but I’m also actively investigating private schools and homeschooling. If it wasn’t such a raging PITA, I’d consider moving to be closer to a great school.

I’m just sick of sacrificing my sons’ education at the alter of their schooling.

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  1. ChiTown Girl

    Tiffani hit the nail on the head, and I completely agree with both of you. However, I’m just afraid for your sanity, like you said. If you start officially homeschooling, there will be NO respite for you during the day. That’s a hell of a huge commitment. Not that I’m saying you can’t handle it, it’s just that the stress would be pretty high, I think, and I know that I, personally, couldn’t do it. Which is precisely why I didn’t homeschool my own gifted child. However, I was blessed with the fact that he tested into one of the regional gifted centers in the city. And, I truly consider it a blessing. If he didn’t get in, I have NO idea what we would have done for those 8 years. Sheesh, I don’t envy you right now. I’ll be praying that it all works out best for you and your family.

  2. cursingmama

    We did some beginning investigative work on Connections Academy (not because we aren’t thrilled with our current situation but for athletic reasons and then we came to our senses). Seems like a great program from what I learned – also, our YMCA offers homeschool phy-ed classes which gives the teachers a great break.

  3. Missy

    Do I even want to know what a reading log is? I’m sure it would piss me off.

    I agree with chitown girl – think long and hard about homeschooling – it’s a major commitment. But then again, it might be way more rewarding than you imagined.

    So hard to know.

  4. Nancy Campbell

    I am convinced that the truly gifted—not the Honors–but the small percentage–often twice exceptional—need their own, self-paced world. A world of discovery that doesn’t necessarily fit in the public school paradigm.

    I imagine you’ve read or heard of Joe Renzulli at the University of Connecticut, but in the event that you haven’t google him. He has a lot of interesting things to say.

  5. melissaz

    I hadn’t ever thought about it, but yes, I guess I do homeschool my 2e kids. Sigh…

    I’ve thought about HS as well, and Austin has some great half/half programs, especially for older kids. I’m just not so sure about my sanity. But at the same time, I feel like I’m about to lose my older one…

    It’s so hard. Hang in there and enjoy your break. 🙂

  6. Denise

    Sorry. That really does suck. I think you need to also consider arts & science focus schools. I think once you see education in a different way, that even though “gifted” isn’t necessarily the focus of the school the way the children are taught has a huge impact. I’ve found arts based schools to have a wonderful way to reach all kids, that traditional education really drops the ball on.

  7. Karin

    The short answer is: I don’t think there exists an “ideal” learning situation for ANY child in a non-homeschooling environment. That’s because kids are generally pretty adaptable and are able to have some measure of success in the generic school models that are out there even though those models are not perfect.

    The long(ish) answer is: The “ideal” learning situation for every kid is one that is individualized. That is something that doesn’t happen except for the exceptional child and even then, a parent has to fight tooth and nail and the teacher can only do what he or she can do with the time and resources available to him or her. In a homeschooling environment, education has no choice but to be individualized. Why else, after all, would you homeschool? Does that mean I think the education system is doomed and pointless? No, of course not. But exceptional children have a much tougher time fitting into the box that our education system forces them to fit into. I think that a lot of change is needed, but the infrastructure for that change is going to be a long time coming. So in the meantime what do you do? Well, unfortunately, I suppose, that’s a question you have to answer for yourself. You are the only one who knows if the homeschooling model is something you want to take on. I wish it was easier! *hugs*

  8. Lynn from For Love or Funny

    I can totally relate to your plight. The public schools in our state are good for kids with various learning problems, but they are very very bad for gifted kids. Out of desperation, we have been sending out kids to private school. We are lucky that an excellent school is only 4 miles away from home. However, if we couldn’t do that, I would definitely homeschool. I hope the charter school works out for you…but homeschooling is an option I would definitely consider. Every homeschooled kid that I meet is quite brilliant.

  9. kim/hormone-colored days

    Ugh. We’ve turned out lives upside down more than once looking for a best fit, the best fit for the boys, the best fit for the family- it doesn’t exist. It’s really more of an issue of what’s good enough, and that can be hard to define.

    If homeschooling seems like the right solution for your child(ren), but it’s not the right fit for you and your husband, that’s not a good thing. Our country isn’t paying for gifted education now, but it will pay in an entirely different way for cheating this population. just give it a few years. *sigh*

    Off to track down that Bill Nye series…..

  10. Wendy

    You pretty much summed up homeschooling. A lot of parents are already doing it, but trying to fit it in around the assignments that school sends home.

    In my experience, taking out the assignments has resulted in much deeper learning.

    Also, thanks for the heads up on that Bill Nye series! Netflix, unfortunately, didn’t have too much Bill Nye, but the library had a ton. I had to stop myself before I put 15 dvds on hold.

  11. M&M

    Many of Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes are available on YouTube (not sure about the algebra shows though) . Check out “virtual schooling” for a bridge between public school and homeschooling. I homeschool through an online public school; though I still have to work around a public school curriculum, I can supplement (and skip over) lessons to fit my kids’ needs. Each child is different. Public schools were created to produce in the box thinkers. The world needs people who can solve problems and engineer change. we also do need button pushers, but our 2E kids arent destined for that are they? All you 2E gifted mommies out there are helping to provide our future with creative leaders. Just keep up the exhaustive struggle. You’re not alone. Childhood races by, but we can spend a lifetime trying to undo childhood traumas. For some 2E kids school is that trauma.

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