Sunday, December 12, 2010

Having a Gifted Son - The Downside

No one feels sorry for a parent who has a gifted child. Usually, people say "well, that is a good problem to have." When you want to talk about your gifted child it feels like bragging and I am sure it comes off as bragging, but it is worrying. Are we doing enough for our child? Do we really have to pay 20k a year for the rest of his life to make sure he gets a proper education. It is weird that there are no parents that I can turn to with gifted children, probably since most of them just go to private school. This is Marin after all.

Then I am wondering whether he is gifted, or just advanced in comparison to the curriculum. Maybe the curriculum is just too slow. Do you know what I mean? If he were in a different school district, different state, or different country, would he just be normal? 

Before my son started school, random strangers would come up to me and tell me their tales of how pubic schools in Marin were not good enough for their kids and that they had to go to private schools. It was weird that I would get this unsolicited advice. I always thought it didn't make sense to pay 20k a year for elementary school or middle school. We could supplement whatever the schools couldn't.

Our son was always bright, but when he got into Kindergarten, we started noticing that he was picking up things easily. He was placed in an advanced reading class and as soon as he was told the phonics rules, he was off running. Math came easily to him and we were able to challenge him with harder addition and multiplication problems with carrying.

Now he is in First Grade and he reads beyond his comprehension because he knows how to decode. We along with his teacher are trying to get him to work on comprehension. He does several times more work than his peers, but he is still not challenged. He reads manuals for the video games he plays an hour a week, if that. He loves reading, chess, and playing all kinds of games. He also is a jock. He plays baseball, soccer, basketball, swims, and is committed to tae kwon do where he is almost a red belt. We want him to be a well rounded kid. Fortunately, he has this ability to adjust and play with almost everyone as he is very easy going.

The problem is that since they have a wide spectrum of learning abilities, the school has to break information in manageable pieces so everyone has time to learn concepts, when our son can absorb more information. In First Grade, he has a perfect report card and perfect score on his First Grade math test. First Grade math is below what he used to do in his spare time in Kindergarten. I work in his classroom and I do see the difference, but try to downplay it because there is nothing we can do about him being so ahead. Two separate parents have said we should have him in a gifted school. Again, do we really have to spend 20k a year for the rest of his life to get an education? Will paying for private school just put him with smart, rich kids who may exclude him because he is not rich? Paying for private school means we would not be able to see our son as much as he likes, because we would both have to work full-time.

We could promote him, but then that is one less year we will have him around us. Most of his friends are younger than him, it would be a social adjustment. Plus, it would thrust him faster to all the mindless testing that wouldn't tell anything about him. We have no idea whether Second Grade would challenge him either.

There is always homeschooling, but part of school is the relationships and interactions with peers. Homeschooling robs him of that even though you can go to homeschooling socials. My other concern is that the majority of parents would home school for different reasons than I would be.

What is missing is having peers that challenge him and having material that engages him and finds the outer limits of his capability. We have no idea how to do this. There are plenty of services for kids who are struggling, but nothing for kids who excel. This totally sucks.


Deni Dithyrambic said...

I have looked in the the G.A.T.E. program in our district and it seems we would have to wait until he is in third grade.

Deni Dithyrambic said...

It is difficult to find anyone to talk to about this especially if they have kids. It is hard for other parents to support you when they have kids who are where they are supposed to be or are having difficulties. I find myself trying to come up with flaws of my son to make them feel better.
It is like I am being petty by complaining about his strengths, when there are parents who really have to work with them.
You usually have them say, "Just go to a private school, or have him skip a grade."
Then you start reading the Internet about how kids who excel do not get supported in public schools anymore. I start hyperventilating.
Now I question whether I should have fought for him to start school early and buck the trend of kids starting later. He was three days from the cutoff date.
I feel very alone.

Deni Dithyrambic said...

Another thing I am thinking is that I want my son around kids with all kinds of backgrounds and learning abilities and develop relationships with them.
I agree that all kids are gifted, but just open their gifts later than others. The question is what happens when your child opens it earlier than others and what happens when it is inconvenient for your child to open their gifts earlier than the curriculum allows. No kid is superior to any other kid.

My son could easily go ahead in Math, but he isn't allowed to in his math book, so we get around it by having a separate book. Ugh.

Deni Dithyrambic said...

It turns out he might be bright not "gifted" and therefore may not get any help from "gifted programs." I am so unhappy about this. Despair, really. Further reading suggests that my son, will probably get less and less help as classes and resources for kids who are ahead get cut to save classes for those who are struggling. Plus, the era of No Child Left Behind, puts more emphasis on kids learning the basics to pass these tests.

Meryl Jaffe said...

Hi Deni. I have three gifted kids and know EXACTLY what you are going through. My kids are grown, but until they got to college, school was challenging because it was so meaningless and boring for them.

We discovered Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth (CTY). It was an incredible experience because not only were my kids finally challenged, but they were able to meet and interact with other kids who were a lot like them. They made great friends for life there and their issues were validated.

Check it out and feel free to ask me more about it:

All the best,
Meryl Jaffe PhD