July 07, 2008,
R.M. asks from Bozeman, MT on July 03, 2008
Above Average 4 Year-old
Anyone out there have experience with handling the education of a very gifted child? My son just turned 4 yesterday and he's reading very well already. He is very articulate and asks very interesting questions. I put him into a Montessori preschool for a while, but the teacher suggested that he had ADD, which I know is not an issue with him. I think he was not being stimulated in the right ways. I have heard a lot of children have behavior problems when they are not challenged enough in the classroom. I am starting him in a more play-based preschool part-time next week, just so he can have more time with kids his age. I just wonder what's going to happen if he's reading at a 2nd grade level at the time he's supposed to start kindergarden. Will I have to home-school him? Would love to hear from moms who had kids who were advanced in their abilities, and how things worked out.
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S.W. answers from Denver on July 05, 2008
My daughter is gifted. She's always been in regular schooling with children her own age up until now. The teachers have just always recognized this and supplemented her learning to keep things interesting for her. I also supplement for her at home...always have because that's what she likes. She's 7 now and starts a gifted program next week. She will be with other gifted children her own age.
J.B. answers from Great Falls on July 04, 2008
My daughter, who is now 9, was a lot like that. She was reading at a third grade level (tested by the school) when she was four and was doing some basic multiplication/division the summer before kindergarten started. It is very challenging to have a child like this in many ways, so I understand your concerns. But is also incredible! We were very worried about how school would go and how her needs would be met. We talked a lot to the school (that's when we had the tests done - so they would believe us!) and they were great. She was put into a kindergarten class with a teacher who had more experience with gifted kids, who recommended she skip 1st grade and go right to second. We did that and it has been the best decision ever for her. She did have more behavior issues when she was bored, and I couldn't imagine what would've happened if we went ahead with 1st grade. I was afraid she would hate school. Anyway, she is going into 5th grade this year and is at the top of her class. The school also has her in some gifted ed classes and tries to individualize some of the lessons for her. We have had lots of talk time with all her teachers so far and I think that makes the difference. Don't be afraid to let any teachers know what works and doesn't work for your son - you are the expert on him! But you also have to take in their input - they will be spending a lot of time with him in a different environment than home - so their perspective is vital too. We also make sure to really feed Maddie's interests and creativity at home. Like this year, her class was studying planets - she was very interested in astronomy and wanted more than the class was learning. So we got her a telescope, spent time at the library, and went to "Star Parties" where she could talk with astronomers. We don't homeschool, but we do provide and look for lots of opportunites for her to go as far as she wants with learning.
I hope this helped. It is a blessing for both you and your son, but can be a hard gift to have! It can be very hard for other people to support you - they just don't always understand! I think a lot of people have thought my husband and I were just bragging, when we were really looking for some ideas, help, whatever. If you need that kind of support, I would love to talk more with you. Let me know.
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J.N. answers from Salt Lake City on July 04, 2008
I have been a kindergarten teacher for the last 3 years. First of all I have to say it was a GREAT move to put him in a play-based preschool - kids learn more by playing at this age anyway. As far as kindergarten, I agree with others who suggest talk to the teachers at the school so they understand his situation. But I would caution against advancing him in grade too soon. Many academically gifted children have delay in social or emotional development, and it is VERY important at this age for him to learn to get along with peers and manage his emotions -- especially if he is gifted. This may have something to do with his previous teacher's ADD assessment (most kids with ADD are also quite smart!) but I think it is definitely too early to diagnose and you know your child. I would also say, don't home school, again because of social/emotional development, but feel free to supplement at home so you know he is learning as much as you want him to.
Be an advocate for your child at school. Be involved in his classroom if you can. But don't be pushy about it, and be very willing to listen to what the teacher sees as well. That will help her to be on the same page as you.
A.H. answers from Salt Lake City on July 04, 2008
I understand what you are going through to some degree. I have a almost 3 yr old, that is very advanced that will miss the cutoff for K (Sept birthday - Sept 1 cutoff), and on the flip side I have a almost 7 yr old that made the cutoff (Aug b-day), that I considered holding back this year. They are night and day (amazing they come from the same parents really.
I guess I can't tell you how things have worked out - yet... but I will say I think it's great that you are thinking about these things, and being proactive. I'm quite surprised at the response from the M school, as we are considering a wonderful M school for DS when he turns 4. I wonder if it simply depends on the school/teachers, etc, or perhaps our child's personality's are different. (or maybe I/DS won't like it either).
Do you volunteer in the classroom? I do with my oldest and it has made a huge difference for DS. I can see how he is behaving, give suggestions to the teacher, and the school is more willing to help me/DS because I am showing an interest in his education.
I don't think there is one easy answer. It depends on you, your child, your schools (options, etc.).
I frequent BabyCenter.com's Gifted Preschoolers (and there is a Gifted Kids board too). They have a lot of parents in your same situation. You should check it out! Good luck!
S.M. answers from Casper on July 04, 2008
I googled home preschool program and came up with a few good responses. Try homeschooling with one of these and you will soon see where to adapt your son's education to play on his strengths. Good luck!
K.M. answers from Boise on July 05, 2008
Being advanced will help your son in a lot of ways, but it also requires a lot of work from you. I would encourage you to work with him on different skills where he may not be as advanced, that way he will be more well-rounded and also able to function within the classroom. It is so important that he not start out with a reputation for being unable to handle a classroom setting. This sets him up for all kinds of problems later on with peers, teachers, and his own self-image. Work with him on sitting quietly for periods of time, on following directions, listening respectfully, etc. While not academically stimulating, these skills will go a long way toward making him successful and will make teachers more willing to work with him. A big part of helping your child receive what he needs educationally will come from you, whether or not you home-school. If he is already advanced, you are probably doing a lot of these things in your home, but make everything into a learning activity. Cooking, shopping, gardening...anything you are involved in can be an opportunity to challenge him and will keep him learning. Gifted education differs from one school district to another and you will have to look into your specific district to see how they serve gifted children. When the time comes, I would recommend being very involved with the classroom and always look at your child's education as a team effort with you, the principal, and the teacher. My older children have all been academically advanced to one degree or another, and their teachers have been able to accomodate them in different ways. Some teachers are better able to work with gifted children, so a positive working relationship with the principal will go a long way toward having your child in a classroom equipped to handle his abilities. I hope this helps a little.
M.M. answers from Salt Lake City on July 04, 2008
Having a gifted child is both a blessing and a curse! It is great that you recognize the issue now and are being proactive in looking for solutions. I raised three very intelligent children and have had different experiences with all three. The best was the third who I made sure was entered into gifted and talented programs at a young age in public school to keep him challenged and interested. The other two struggled all through Jr. High and High School because they were bored. Don't wait until your child is bored! By then, the establishment has labled them and they don't have the grades to be accepted into the gifted programs. My daughter (the 2nd child) finally just started early college concurrent with high school. This helped her in the high school years, but she still has had to deal with the feelings of failure early on, even though she knows it was the system that failed her.
We now have a "2nd family" and we have been very proactive with our daughter who is going into 3rd grade. Although she is smart too, she is not on the level that the others were. However, we have chosen to put her into a charter school where she can get a more one on one type of education. She is excelling and constantly being challenged.
One of the biggest problems we had with regular public ed is that it is geared to those who are slower. Therefore, kids who are bright get bored and either get labled "ADD", act out, or just don't do the work because they think it is a waste of time. Your son is not likely to have real "ADD". He probably needs more to keep that wonderful creative mind active. Just remember, you are raising one of the great leaders of tomorrow. He's the type of kid that grows into a president or CEO!
S.L. answers from Boise on July 04, 2008
My son is also 4. At his check-up, his pediatrician said he'd look into the resources available to gifted children in the area. He couldn't find any (in Boise). He suggested calling the GATE program and see what they suggest. I will also talk to the schools around here and see if they have some sort of accelerated kindergarten. We're stuck in a rental 'til Spring, so I havesome time to rsearch them before we buy a house.,
My friend's daughter was so boredd inn kindergarten thatshe would sob everyy morning..I'm really worried about thathappeningwith my boyss. My friend has really laid off the academic stuff with her other children sothey have something to learn in kindergarten. idon't push my boys, but they learn this on their own, and I'm notabout to try to hold them back.
E.B. answers from Salt Lake City on July 05, 2008
My very gifted child is 24 next week. Having done this, I have a few observations.
1. Keep some perspective, just because he is brilliant at a couple of things doesn't mean he is at everything. There is a lot more to success in life that high verbal and logic IQ scores.
2. Find a good GT program (gifted and talented). All school districts are required by IDEA (federal law) to provide an appropriate education for ALL children. A great place to get information on this is the Council of Exceptional Children.
3. Don't discount the ADD theory out of hand. My gifted child suffers from both ADD and OCD. He "under performed" for years until we got a good diagnosis and therapy for him. He is so much better now. Teachers, because they see MANY children of te same age sometimes see things that are not apparent to the parent. I'm not saying she's right, but it might be worth considering if he has difficulty integrating into a school setting. Your pediatrician has some simple tests that can help.
4. Home schooling ought to be your last option. Your brilliant child needs all the socialization and opportunity to practice social skills he can get. The world can be a brutal place to the brightest. Having a peer group and lots of practice at working within the socail systems that he is going to have to negoitate as an adult is n important gift you can give him.
5. Give him opportunities to fail. Make him do some things he is not good at whether it be music or soccer or stepdancing. Having the expereince and frustrations that are experienced by "normal" kids will build empathy and perserverance. These are important skills for his future.
My gifted child has become a a fun and wonderful adult. I hope some of what we learned along our journey will help you with yours.