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When School Doesn't Offer a Gifted Program

Education Expert Advice from Barbara Callaghan

Q: My child is 8 years old and was in a gifted program in her previous school. We've just moved and my child is in a school system that has no gifted program. Anything we should do to nuture and challenge her?

A: There are certainly things you can do to nurture and challenge your daughter -- with an emphasis on nurture. There are a variety of ways that children qualify to be in a gifted program ranging from the score on a Stanford Binet test to having a strong interest in a particular topic and a willingness to devote time and effort to accomplishing a goal. Some schools have no gifted program while others schools have gifted programs that are very elitist.

You are most fortunate to recognize that you can play an important role in fostering your daughter's learning. Some things that help children gain confidence in their own abilities: exposing them to a variety of information; talking to them; taking them to interesting places -- like museums; encouraging them to experiment. While it is true that trips to museums, reading lots of books, and traveling are all very enriching experiences, it is also true that walking in the fields and learning all about the local plants, birds, or trees (noticing similarities and differences, and making discoveries) also sets the stage for learning.

When school is in session again, make an appointment with the classroom teacher and ask about the school's philosophy toward gifted education. The teacher may challenge and provide for quick learners and bright children in the very best ways and not have an official program. Every classroom is different and the dynamics of the students play a major role in determining what the teacher is going to do.

It is always best to see for yourself what is happening and then determine how you can supplement or support what is taking place. Your involvement as a parent is always beneficial.

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After teaching in California for nearly ten years, Barbara Callaghan moved to New Hampshire in 1985 and became a principal. After 10 years as a principal, she returned to teaching, her first love and true vocation.

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