This is the post where I tell you how I got kicked out of my elementary school’s gifted and talented program.
In a nutshell, one year I qualified for it based upon test scores. The next year, I did not.
Math. It brought me down, y’all. I struggled to master fractions with the other gifted kids. At the end of the year, rather than being ahead of my classmates, I was at grade level–advanced, still, but grade level.
Oh, the horror!
A letter was sent home telling me that I would no longer be pulled out of class once a week for supplemental learning in a
shack structure up the road from our elementary school.
For a fourth-grade girl, this might have been a soul-crushing experience. Notably this is a tender age for girls, a moment when they may begin to “hide” their intelligence. Fortunately for me, both of my parents placed little value on testing. Instead–and I remember this vividly–they pointed out all the ways that I was unique and encouraged me to chart my own educational path. They reminded me that I loved to write and was still reading several grade levels ahead of my peers. I excelled in an after-school theatre program. I was imaginative. (I was eccentric, still am, but they didn’t so much play that up back then.) Rather than allowing me to wallow in disappointment, they encouraged me to set my cap for creative, out-of-school pursuits. And college.
Today I have not one but two degrees to my credit. I worked for awhile advising college students at a top-tier research university and then I made the leap to write as a profession. Most importantly, I’ve learned that learning continues throughout one’s life and that I still have so much more wonderful stuff to discover. In other words, I have no regrets.
Thanks, Mom & Dad!
In hindsight and thanks to a whole lotta research, I understand that today’s educators approach gifted kids differently. For one thing, they understand asynchronous development is as much a marker of giftedness as a brilliant vocabulary or accelerated math skills. Looking back, that’s what I experienced in fourth grade: a spurt of asynchronisity.
Parents, too, have new methods and mechanisms for providing gifted learners with optimal educational experiences. One of those approaches is homeschooling. Why is this approach attractive, you wonder, especially at a time when gifted/talented education has improved? For starters, not every school is great at serving this specific population. There are woeful disparities between schools with top-notch equipment and teachers. Moreover, not all gifted learners are the same–which means cookie-cutter pedagogy can fail. Note that although we came to homeschooling at our house primarily because of a peanut allergy, intensive
scrutiny study of modern approaches to gifted education have me feeling even more certain that we’re on the right path for our family.
If perchance you have a gifted child and are contemplating home-based education, then I’d like to wrap-up this post by encouraging you to get a copy of Making the Choice: When Typical School Doesn’t Fit Your Atypical Child. This extraordinarily informative and concise book by Corin Barsily Goodwin and Mike Gustavson will hit the high points of what you need to know. Definitions, perspectives, resources… it’s packed with stuff. And It’ll save you hours of research and expedite your ultimate decision–whatever that may be. I’d also recommend the non-profit Gifted Homeschoolers Forum (founded by Goodwin, aka @GiftedHF on Twitter), especially this page on their website.
Oh, wait… I can’t help myself… Mom & Dad: Thanks again for doing the right thing when I got the boot.