Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What if my child is not "identified" as gifted by my school district? (Part 1)

There are several routes you can take if you find your child in this position. How far you want to pursue it is up to you and your child.

If you haven't done so already, research the guidelines used by your district to identify gifted students. Ask questions. The district should tell you specifically why they believe your child should 'not' be in their program. Challenge all non-quantitative measures. Document everything. Your best defense is a well-documented offense. This can be notes taken from a conversation with your child's teacher, examples of your child's work, standardized test scores, report cards, and your own personal observations. Remember that this is a very subjective process.

If your child does not get into the gifted program, you still have several options. You can choose to move your child into a charter school or cyber-school, but this is a highly individualized option. You know your child best. Let them be a part of the decision-making process.

Other options that will be discussed in Part 2 of this post include steps parents can take outside the school district to foster their child's gifts. Universities and summer programs for gifted students and over-achievers are good places to start. Many kids prefer online options and these can be very cost-effective if you know they will appeal to your child. And don't discount the value of providing your child with 'life experiences' such as travel, cultural experiences and exposure to the arts, participating in competitions, and visiting libraries and museums to name a few.

In my next post, I will expand on these possibilities. Any comments you may have are always welcomed.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Identification

I recently read an article by a college professor who stated that the best thing you could do for a gifted child is to never 'label' them as such. He made a few salient points about the labeling process, but overlooked many valid points for identifying academically talented youth.

School districts seem to fall all over themselves trying to decide how to address gifted students and provide services. Some administrators embrace their gifted program and some abhor the entire idea of servicing these students at all.
If you think you child may qualify for the gifted program in your district, insist that they be tested early. Do your homework and learn about the identification process. Inclusion in a gifted track can be highly subjective in many parts of the country. Politics and personal involvement by your school board often influences the process.

Why is this important at all? Many people think that the gifted will rise to the top and therefore do not need the districts' scarce resources allotted to them. In an era of educators asking "what's gone wrong with America's educational system", it seems pretty short-sighted that we ignore the best and the brightest.

I like to use the analogy of a school's sports team. Everyone who wants to play may make the team, but not everyone is going to be in the starting line-up. Coaches, booster clubs, and school boards want a winning team and few would ever consider playing the bench just to boost those players' self-esteem. It's not fair to the players who sit on the bench, but few in our culture would sacrifice a win and change the system.

So why is it okay to do this to those who are intellectually talented? These kids are often ignored by the system and bullied by their peers. Parents of gifted students more often than naught have to fight for the right to an appropriate education. Studies revealed in the report, A Nation Deceived, warned of the consequences of not challenging gifted students and providing opportunities for them outside the traditional curriculum.

As I said in an earlier post, you should never rely on your school district to provide your child's entire education if they are identified. The most advantageous scenario comes when parents organize and work 'with' their schools to educate administrators and teachers about the importance of gifted education and the benefits it can offer to the district.

Identification is key when it comes to gifted education. Once a program is established, you will want your child to participate when opportunities are presented. Involvement by parents can make all the difference. It is a choice that often requires parents to sacrifice time and effort to inspire their child to become the best they can be.

Gifted Education Begins at Home

Think your school district is going to do all the work? Think, again. All the advocacy in the world will never replace what you as a parent can do for your gifted child. And not all educational experiences take place in the classroom!

I often hear that all children are gifted and that may be true. However, not all are academically gifted. These children need to be challenged and classrooms are not always the most ideal place to challenge them. Parents can be the best teachers in the world. They have the experience and the education to open new horizons.

You know your child better than anyone else in the world. Explore, expose, expound! Provide opportunities for intellectual exploration on the Internet, in your community, and through travel. Think in terms of finding the best nearby library, museum, cultural event, and higher educational resource. Expose them to books well above their grade level, a wide variety of music and art forms, and lectures by experts on topics in which they express an interest. Enroll them in classes and programs where they will meet other kids who are gifted.

In the end, it will pay off dividends that cannot be measured monetarily; but you will see a difference!

Gifted Parenting 24/7

Let's face it. Parenting is a tough job, but gifted parenting is 24/7 365 days a year for a multitude of reasons. This blog has been created to give support to parents of gifted children who sometimes find themselves overwhelmed by the responsibility.

Chances are that if you are the parent of a gifted child, you're probably quite bright yourself. Sometimes you're aware of this and sometimes this realization thrusts itself upon you. At first, you'll be thrilled when you discover that your child has been 'labeled' gifted. But then, the harsh realities of life will set in. And when you least expect it, you'll become cognizant that your offspring has grown smarter than you. All of your nurturing and advocating will come to fruition and it will be time to let them fly!

Hopefully, you will find some helpful information when you need it, some inspiration when you become overwhelmed, a few laughs, and a shoulder to cry on when it seems like nobody cares. As a former substitute teacher and the mother of two gifted young adults, I bring to the table a unique skill set that has allowed me to sit on both sides of the table.

Your comments and questions will always be appreciated. I will be integrating this blog with a page on Facebook and Twitter.