I frequently get emails from parents seeking advice about their children. It’s nearly impossible for me to give good advice without knowing a lot about the situation, so I’ve created this as some general parent advice.
Often, the best thing you can do is support your child at home. Take them to libraries, museums, ballgames, parks, hiking, etc. Expose them to many, widely-diverse experiences. They’ll discover interests. Devote your time/money/resources to those interests, no matter what they are. Interests change – that’s to be expected. The art of “being interested in something” takes practice.
Support projects based around what your kid is interested in. Help them limit scope so they can actually finish. Creating a 2hr stop-motion movie leads to failure and frustration. A 5-minute video can be great.
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of finishing and publishing. Publishing can take many forms. Put it online (you can do this in a limited way if you’re scared). Share it with friends and family. There are huge benefits to finishing and publishing. Nothing is more satisfying than being able to point to a finished product and say “I did that.”
Model learning at home. Read. Not just with your child, but in front of them. Let your kids see you learn. Turn the screens off and have family reading time. If you’re making kids practice math, you should also practice math.
Nothing at school will match the power you have at home to create a love for learning and creating.
Schools work best when teachers, administrators, and parents are all on the same page. Understand the difficulties facing teachers and their bosses, and you’ll be able to work out better solutions.
Of course, this isn’t always possible and you’ll need to think bigger.
“We Meet Everyone’s Needs!”
If you’re told there’s no gifted program because the general classroom teacher reaches all learners, ask to see specific examples of this in action. If it’s true, you should be able to walk into classrooms and see evidence of different kids working on significantly different work all over the walls.
Spoiler: I’m skeptical that you’ll see this. I was a teacher who worked with only gifted kids and even in that situation I couldn’t always reach my highest and lowest learners. The wider the ability range, the more impossible this task becomes.
If you’re told that the school “doesn’t believe” in acceleration or compacting (two ways to move through material faster), read A Nation Deceived and A Nation Empowered – these are massive study on the benefits of acceleration, when kids are ready for it (when they’re ready). This might mean grade-skipping, but more often it’s one subject (ie, math, reading, etc), or even just one unit (ie, fraction multiplication). If kids already know something, there is no benefit to sitting through more of it.
Schools can be weirdly resistant to any kind of acceleration despite how cheap and simple it is to implement (Johnny grabs his notebook and walks to Ms. Kim’s class for one hour a day during math. Done.)
Find A Group
Join a gifted parent group. If your district doesn’t have one, start it. Believe me, if the parents of gifted kids start making noise as a group, people will listen.
In my district, we had no gifted program in middle/high school. So parents started moving their kids to a nearby district that did. Suddenly, a gifted program in secondary appeared! Your student’s high test scores are a currency valued by a district’s real decision makers. Regardless of how sad and gross that statement is, you can use it to your advantage.
This isn’t encouragement to be a jerk (I was a teacher and some parents were indeed jerks – it didn’t help). Rather, understand the power that parents have in education. Don’t be intimidated into sitting on the sidelines.
- A video of me talking about why gifted kids are different than just “smart kids”
- Related: how being repeatedly called “smart” can become a burden.
- Does your child seem anxious? This is common.
- Why your gifted kid shouldn’t be tutoring other students in class.
- Gifted kids can be squirmy, fidgety, have high energy… and that’s ok!
- Be thoughtful about how you praise students.
- How gifted kids are like the X-Men.
A general overview of common traits of giftedness from the National Association for Gifted Children
- Living With Intensity
- Turn Your Worrier Into A Warrior
- Why Smart Kids Worry
- When Gifted Kids Don’t Have All The Answers
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