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Should Gifted Daughter Skip into Middle School?
Q: In our new town, there is only one fifth-grade class provided for exceptionally gifted kids and it is full -- we're eighth on the waiting list. Should we consider placing our gifted daughter in middle school a year early? I am extremely concerned about her being bored, which is very frustrating for her. She responds well to a challenging learning environment and is very mature for her age.
A: My main concern about moving her to middle school is that she will always be one of the youngest students in her class. You mention that she is mature, but how does her maturity manifest itself? Sometimes children can be mature around their families but not with their peers. Is your daughter used to being around older kids? Is she physically as well as psychologically mature? Are her interests and abilities more like those of her chronological peers or those of older children? It is true that boredom might be a potential problem in a classroom that does not accommodate the needs of gifted students; however, I am more concerned about the problems that might occur if she is thrust into social circumstances that she is not yet ready to handle.
Perhaps you can find a happy medium. I understand that the program for the gifted is full, but are there some activities, projects, or services in which she might become involved for at least part of the time, either on a daily or weekly basis? Might the teacher of the gifted program be able to assist the regular classroom teacher in creating opportunities for your daughter that are commensurate with her needs and abilities? What about the children who are ahead of her on the waiting list? Might the principal be willing to assign a teacher or a parent to work with them as a cluster group if the regular teacher cannot accommodate them on her own? This kind of multiple "menu" of tiered services is available in many gifted programs, so the situation might not be as bleak as it appears. And remember, you can do a lot to enrich your daughter's education at home. Good luck!
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Felice Kaufmann is an independent consultant in gifted child education. Kaufman has been a classroom teacher and counselor of gifted children, grades K-12, and a professor at Auburn University and the Universities of New Orleans and Kentucky, where she created teacher training programs in gifted child education. She has served on the Board of Directors of the National Association for Gifted Children and the Executive Board of the Association of the Gifted.