Friday, May 23, 2008


Here it is. Summer has started. And I'm thinking about next year already. I've been reading AJ's Clubhouse and Mrs. Spy's concerns for AJ's education. Talking about gifted kids is always tough. You want to discuss the issues without sounding like you're bragging. However, a kid who gets bored with school is likely to find his own ways to be entertained. These are not necessarily good. A kid who isn't challenged may lose the love of learning. They may be unable to tackle difficult problems if they aren't taught to try. To keep them challenged might make them ostracized by their peers. So there are plenty of issues to deal with for gifted education, just as there are for kids who struggle.

AJ's family is trying to get an alternative curriculum for him. She has all the worries I mentioned above, and is doing something about it. I'm wondering if we're doing enough for our kids. Based on testing at the beginning of first grade, Pook started in the gifted program at school this year. It isn't an accelerated program, just supplementary. He is also responsible for any work the class does while he's out of the room. In light of the posts about AJ, I recently asked Pook if school was ever boring. "About half the time," was the reply.

I'm a strong proponent of public schools, whenever possible. I know their limitations and there are many. We made a decision to save for college instead of using the money for private school now. The way I see it, at age 18, kids have the option of not attending college. Since we don't like that idea we hope that the offer to (help?) pay for it would make the difference. I tell other parents that they should try to think of public schools as dinner at McD's. If you want a healthy diet, you probably want to supplement it. It isn't exciting, but it is pretty consistent for children across the U.S.

I really haven't been very involved with the content of the school's curriculum. I was a teacher in our county for ten years, all Before Children, but I taught Special Education, that other end of the normal curve. Since I wasn't yet a parent, I didn't see what the other teachers could teach me that might be useful down the road. Now I wish I'd paid more attention to methods and materials for teaching my own brood.

I do have one great bonus in his education. The Gifted Ed. teacher is retiring and an old friend and former coworker is taking her spot. Nancy is full of energy and ideas and will be fabulous for him. She'll also be a willing listener to my ideas. I had hoped Pook would get her as a second grade teacher, but now I think her move to Gifted will be even better for him.

Homeschooling isn't for me, and my sister's family is "unschooled", which is also not for me, but we do do some "afterschooling". Many dinners involve "Let's play math/spelling!" requests, and we toss in educational snippets often in our daily lives. Both kids love learning and even want to do "homework" this summer. We supplement a lot. But I'm not sure that really makes up for being bored in school.

Pook brought home math papers from the class's assignment book each week. In addition, he brought home "Challenge Math". He didn't need to do the class' math if he did the Challenge work, which was always. But, the Challenge work had nothing to do with what they were learning in class. They take a pretest before each math unit and the three first grade teachers split up the kids based on their needs. But, why, when he's at the Mastery level, wasn't he given Mastery level, on topic homework? I will check on this further and try to improve the situation for next year.

And we'll do it all again for Bug. He has been offered a position in a "Young Fives" class for fall, even though he's a middle of the year Four. We turned it down. We'd rather he stay in a room of same aged kids and play and have fun for one more year of preschool. I wouldn't have skipped him a grade anyway (smart and tall does not equal more mature) so a year of advance work seems like it would just make kindergarten boring. And we don't need more boredom.


  1. The challenge math problem is exactly what I am trying to address with AJ's school. Challenge problems are all very well and good and I'm not saying they are a waste of time, but neither are they a substitute for a real curriculum. I didn't realize your sister is unschooling. I think it's a great idea when used as afterschooling, in addition to some more organized program. The projects I devised for myself on my own on summer vacations -- one summer I wrote a novel (terrible), another I tried to teach myself Russian (unsuccessful, but it helped me out when I took a real Russian class in college) have probably served me better in my academic life than most things I learned in school. It sounds like you've got a good start in the school. You are very lucky to have a gifted program of any kind that starts in grade 1. Most schools don't start until 3rd grade, like ours, because of testing issues. Our school does not pretest or divide up levels in math as yours does, so you're ahead of the game there too. And you're even luckier that you have someone coming into the gifted teacher position that may be able to do some new things. I say run with it! As I've gotten into this process of advocacy, I'm learning that part of my passion for the work is because it's about my kid, of course, but part of it stems from my own feelings and experiences as an educator. I strongly feel that even with large classes and minimal resources, with some creativity, every kid can get the education he or she deserves, the one that's right for him/her. End rambling comment.

  2. Interesting...I remember when I was in kindergarten, and a friend and I were identified as being ready for a more advanced curriculum. So our teacher was proactive and sought out extra supplemental activities for us to keep us engaged. She sent us home with homework (and we thought we were special because no one else got homework). We went to the 1st grade classroom for reading instead of being bored with the reading lessons she offered in the kindergarten class.

    Perhaps that's why I remain so committed to education as instilling a love of learning (as opposed to rote academics). If a kid loves to learn, the academics will fall into place. But if not, it doesn't matter how well they do with the academic side, it won't necessarily serve them well in life.

    I'm cynical enough about the state of public education these days to expect that my kids will be instilled with that love of learning without me taking responsibility for a lot of it myself. I too am a huge proponent of public schools (as is hubby), and that is what we anticipate doing for our kids. But I'm expecting to have to shoulder a huge part of their education myself. Not through homeschooling, but the supplementing after school, during breaks, and any time an opportunity presents itself.