Is a Gifted Program Right for your Child?
Are you fearful that your gifted child is stifled in school? Are you convinced that her stunning talents will wilt and wither for lack of a special program?
There's a good chance your school already has a program that will develop your child's special assets. Schools have moved away from programs labeled "gifted and talented," but there are still fast tracks for fast learners.
Is there an elementary teacher who doesn't, at some point, divide her pupils into different math skill groups? Good high schools offer accelerated courses in every major academic area, and often the chance for a college course or two at a nearby campus. And many cities have magnet schools for exceptional students.
As after-school programs proliferate to cover for working parents, there are more opportunities for gifted children to pursue their special abilities. But make sure it is your child's choice to go to ballet or violin lessons. Remember, we don't always want to do what we're good at, and you can turn your budding geniuses into raging rebels if you apply too much pressure.
Elite or Exclusionary?
Other factors have lead parents away from the traditional "gifted and talented" program. The following concerns cause parents and educators to be more cautious about pulling kids out of mixed programs to join an elite group:
Educators are wary that parents may force a child into a stressful environment. Just whose success is at stake here? Horror stories abound of the child who joins an accelerated group at the insistence of a parent, overriding educators' judgements and then the poor child flounders in the more demanding environment. Then the parent hires a tutor for the put-upon child, and the stress builds. These children can feel trapped and betrayed by the people who should be their biggest supporters, their own parents.
Schools often struggle to define appropriate eligabilityfor all their groups, but sadly, many parenst misunderstand those standards as some kind of barrier. More schools, trying to maintain fair access to all programs along with the integrity of the program, are requiring interviews, applications, recommendations in writing, portfolios, and other explicit criteria to reduce the fuss about access to accelerated learning.
Real precocity in children is rare, and many parents might have to face hard facts: their children may not be the right candidate for an accelerated program. And truly "gifted children" may require special testing and special care, since they often have special needs.
Many schools will extend themselves to help parents seek appropriate opportunities. Stay close to your child's teachers and counselors, and listen to their comments. With their help, you'll be able to create a better learning experience for your child, whatever his or her special gifts may be.