Tuesday, March 30, 2010

So you’ve got a gifted kid- now pick a school

I’m going to take a leap and guess that most parents of gifted children feel the need to get them into a program sooner than later. At three, I welcomed the break of constantly feeding him information and started hunting for a pre-school. Do you know how many pre-school programs there are? It’s pretty much an overwhelming chore to sort through the many types. You can choose from: a structured curriculum, focus on the arts, Montessori, free range, you name it, it's out there. It was safe to say that B had down the skills needed to test out of pre-school, if there was such a thing. There were other needs to consider. At the time he was an only child and had some social issues. I was also sure that he had ADHD because the boy couldn’t even sit to eat a hot dog. We decided on a more structured program with services available, if needed. Our local school district met our needs and he enjoyed two years there.

Let me share with you some of the things I have learned about choosing a school for your gifted child.

1) Don’t bother looking at the curriculum. Your head might explode. Depending on how gifted your child is, chances are they completed the “basics” in the curriculum 1-2 years prior. Instead focus on special units they will explore. Most programs will have special units on nature, science, or arts.

2) Don’t assume that your child will NOT learn even if they are going over the alphabet. Find out how the basics are taught. Some teachers do a better job of manipulating information into interesting ways. Though my son could do math pretty well, he often enjoyed some of the manipulative math and number games introduced in class.

3) Do find out if a program “clusters” groups of kids based on ability. I have noticed that if there is at least one or two other kids in the class with similar abilities it allows the teacher to spend some energy at their level. If your child is the only one, then they might not be given as much attention because their needs are not as urgent as a child who is struggling (not true, but that’s another post).

4) Find out if the school has gifted or advanced programs set up. If so, ask for an overview of them. You may be surprised that some states have a gifted education mandated. How the program works is also important. Some programs might be integrated into the classroom. Sometimes the kids are pulled out during certain subjects. Other times your child will be placed in a class with gifted children.

5) Find out how your child qualifies to take advantage of services available. Parents have gone to get private testing done just to find out that the findings will not be accepted by the school. Some schools will do their own upon request. Sometimes a school will give you a list of professionals they will accept testing from. It’s great to hear that a school has a gifted program, but if you don’t know how your kid can qualify, it doesn’t mean a hill of beans. Just because your child is gifted does not mean they will test into a particular program.

6) Does the school allow teachers to stray from or expand on curriculum? This is often referred as “differentiation.” Some schools are rigid on keeping to the standard curriculum. Some teachers are better staying to the curriculum. For a gifted child you need to find the right balance of what a school will allow a teacher to do and a teacher that easily and readily manipulates and expands subjects.

This is just a few things to consider. Do we want our gifted children to learn, expand, and live life fully enriched? Well, of course. Is every school year going to do this for your child? Maybe not. One thing that is important to me is the opportunity for B to help others. It’s going to be a given that in any particular school year he will be one of the brightest. I always encourage him to help others and to be a leader in learning and teaching. I want him to contribute to society even at this age. What good is being in the top 2% if he never reaches out to the other 98%?


  1. Great post, lots of helpful info. I also really like the part about not every school year being particularly challenging, and that there are other areas you can concentrate on in those times, like helping others and focusing on leadership. Awesome... sauce.

  2. I am soooo lucky. I didn't have to worry about my youngest son getting pushed to the side. He got the same k5 teacher my older son had and I already had a great relationship with her. She pulls him out on her own and borrows leveled reader books from the upper grade levels to work with him on reading. She does special activities with him in Math as well. She also uses him to help teach the kids who are struggling which makes him feel important and helps deal with his boredom. The kids really look up to him and like him "leading" their group. Of course, if they were older they would probably resent him. But at this age, they think they are part of his group and like it. It's a constant struggle to keep him humble though when everyone is telling him how smart he is and pointing out his accomplishments. I worry about that when he gets older. That might be a good blog post for you some time. :)

  3. Yay! Thanks for the great info! I'll keep everything in mind when I go to Colin's Kindergarten roundup on the 15th. I've obviously never been to such a thing before and have ZERO idea of what to expect ... but at least now I'll know what questions to ask. :)

  4. Great info for parents, nice work! I'm always curious to read things like this because from what I understand, the schooling system is very very very very (LOL, you get the point!) different for Americans than up here in Canada, & it seems like a good idea to help parents navigate it all with a blog like this, especially if looking for a specific program to suit the needs of their child!

  5. I didn't have to worry about the gifted part, so far my kids are just above average!Although my 11yo is showing talent in writing and my son is excelling in math (first grade).
    Where I live, there are only two private pre-schools which only take 10 kids each part time class, two day care type full time pre-schools and the school run program which takes kids with special needs first. When I sent my kids I ended up with only one available. Luckily it turned out to be a wonderful program with a great teacher.

  6. All I can do is suggest this mantra: There is no edutopia.

    Repeat as needed for as many years as it takes.

  7. That is great information. Thank you so much! I've just enrolled my daughter in pre-k (she's currently at a preschool/daycare) and it is overwhelming. The pressure to be sure you put them in the right place and get all of the opportunities they need is insane. I appreciate the info.

  8. It is SO important to find the right place for our children!! What a blessing to have healthy children and the opportunity to invest in them!! I am SO happy that we can be more involved in their eduction and definitely support their gift!! Great Post! :)

  9. So great to find your post. I love the last line. That really is what it's all about.

  10. my son is gifted - thankfully his school had a gifted program in Kindgergarten. He is now in 2nd grade and BORED.TO.DEATh with regular class work. he only sees his gifted teacher for 30 2xs a week. Next year, finally, he will see her strictly for Math and Science and reading. This will help him immensely because he has basically been sitting in a classroom for the past 3 years years ahead of his classmates. Oh, and he totally does not fit in b/c he is the weird kid who knows everything. No friends, he is miserable. Once he is able to attend a strictly gifted and accelerated school - not until 4th grade. I don't believe he will be happy!


  11. T-T
    I agree that sometimes it's hard on B to relate to others. Luckily in his current class there is another boy just as bright as him. They team up every time they can on projects. He takes enrichment courses on the weekends and it is night and day the attitude and feelings towards it vs. regular school. Sounds like the current school is doing everything they can but it doesn't hurt to ask what ALL the options are.