Wednesday, December 21, 2011

What Kind of Academic Setting Is Best For Gifted Children?

Academy for Gifted ChildrenImage via WikipediaBy Stephanie Foster

Many people assume that school is just a breeze for gifted children. They're so smart, it's really not that difficult, right? But parents of gifted and talented children know better. Gifted children need the right academic setting in order to really do their best.

While many don't find it to be the most flattering term, being gifted means your child does have special needs. It's not the kind of special needs that slows down a student, but rather accelerates. And while few would suggest taking away accommodations to students labeled special needs in the usual sense, all too many are willing to ignore the accommodations needed by gifted children.

Lack of Accommodations Can Mean Boredom

A gifted student whose learning needs aren't met is likely to be bored in school. That doesn't sound so bad to some, after all, lots of kids are bored in school. The problem is that gifted children are bored because they aren't challenged, especially in early grades.

That means they don't learn early on how to deal with challenging academic work, which is a disadvantage when they come across something that is challenging. They've learned their entire lives that school comes easy, and may not deal so well with it when it's not.

It takes practice to know how to deal with challenging schoolwork. That practice should begin when your child is young. If your school isn't providing it, you should find out what they can do to provide it, and if they don't have such a program, figure out if you can manage it yourself. With the availability of workbooks from bookstores and online, it's not too hard to help a gifted child supplement their education from home when needed. The hardest part is finding the time to get it done.

Social Problems

Gifted children can also face social problems in school. It's certainly not exclusive to gifted children, but some of the particular problems they may face can be dealt with if the right accommodations are available. A program for gifted and talented children at the school, for example, gives them a peer group that is more interested in academic achievement than they may get from their other classmates.

Choosing the Right School

Depending on where you live or are considering moving to, you may be able to choose a school that is well able to care for your gifted child. Some districts have better programs for gifted children than others. Some lack them entirely, having cut them on the theory that gifted children can do it on their own, a terrible theory, but one that is not uncommon enough.

If you have the chance, don't just rely on school test scores and school websites. See if there are parents of other gifted children you can contact. Get real opinions of what will be available to your child.

If you can't get your child into a school that will accommodate his or her needs as a gifted student, think on what you can do on your own. Is homeschooling an option? I pulled my daughter out of the neighborhood public school for a year and signed her up for an online charter school, which turned out to be a great choice.

We returned this year to the neighborhood school only because it's now an International Baccalaureate Candidate Charter School, and that program has a really great reputation. It's working out better now, but I still need to see about gifted classes for her because much of the basic work is mostly too easy still.

Supplementing is a good option for those who can't get their kids into a school with a good gifted program and for one reason or another can't homeschool. It's not perfect, but if you can find other parents whose children also need their educations supplemented, you may be able to work together. Working with other parents who are supplementing gives your kids the chance to know how other gifted children learn, and that can be a real benefit.

Whatever you do, don't give up when your child doesn't have the right academic setting for his or her needs. It's better to see what you can make happen than to give up.

Stephanie Foster blogs at Encourage Their Talents about supporting talented children. Learn more ways to support your gifted and talented child at

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