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How do I advocate for my son's learning needs without appearing as if I am just bragging?

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

As a once special education teacher, I spent a lot of time advocating for other people's children in order for them to receive the education rights those children deserved.  As a mom, I now find myself in a weird situation.  I'm hoping someone can give me advice. My eldest son, who is now 5, started kindergarten last fall.  It became apparent after the first conference that he is doing really well in school.  Much to my amazement, he is now reading at the 2nd grade level and is doing well in all of the other subjects.  At his conference this past spring, his teacher stated to me "there isn't anything I ask of him that he can't do."  I wish so much I would have used this opportunity to ask what the school is doing to provide him with additional instruction in order to encourage his learning beyond kindegarten, but I chickened out.  I am not someone who likes to bragg about anything and although internally I am unbelieveably proud, I also don't want to give the impression that I am one of "those" parents that cause the teachers to run when they see me coming.  I'm worried that he is going to not be challenged enough if I don't speak up, but I need to figure out how to do so in a way that invites the school to join us in this challenge.  Any advice?  Thoughts? 

post #2 of 7

Well, my first question is: how does your son feel about school? Also, how much school do you have left this year (we end next week!). I also have a son (now in second) who is quite advanced, and was quite vocal (to me) about not wanting to be singled out too much (so, for instance, he has been adamant that he does NOT want to go up to third grade for reading group). My son is also quite extroverted, has had fantastic teachers, and LOVES school, even when it's really too easy for him.

 

Our district has very little in the way of G&T funds, so here's what we've done: His first grade teacher made up separate math packets for him that were at his level (so he did those while everyone else did easier worksheets. It was almost all self-teaching by him, though.). After she and I spoke, I made sure DS always had at least one level-appropriate chapter book to read stashed in his desk. When he finishes it, he brings it home and I send another in his backpack.

 

Since it's pretty late in the year, you might be able to have a conference with the teacher about plans for first grade. In my district, first grade is a pretty huge step up with a lot more differentiation. Do you know any first grade parents at your school who have gifted kids? That's another good resource to get the real scoop on what's available/ which teacher is best for advanced kids (this is paramount at our school -- some really work with you; others, not so much).

 

Also, you should visit the Parenting the Gifted Child board here. There are a lot of similar threads there.

 

Good luck!
-e

post #3 of 7

Agree with the response above. Whether or how you should advocate depends very much on how your ds is reacting to his school situation. There is wide variation in when reading "clicks" for kids, so there is usually a huge variation in ability level in K/1/2 classrooms. Teachers are often very adept at dealing with that variability. In addition, the kindergarten year is often more about getting used to the routines and rhythms, social demands and expectations of a institutional learning environment. In flexible classrooms where open-ended assignments are common, there is often little that is needed to accommodate even very advanced kids at the KG level. If your ds is basically happy, if he is finding things at school that interest him, if he feels valued and is developing friendships, you may not need to do anything.

 

On the other hand if the classroom is more rigid, more focused on worksheets and grade-level standards, if your ds is unhappy, if he's acting out due to lack of engagement, then you will likely need to become his advocate.

 

Typically school expectations get more lockstep as the grade levels progress. Since it's late in the school year, and you may not have noticed major difficulties, I would suggest turning your thoughts to future years. As other children's basic math and literacy skills begin to click, you may notice a narrowing in the gap between your ds and his classmates as they move from 1st to 3rd grade. If, however, you notice the opposite, an increasing mismatch between his ability level and his age-grade, you'd do well to establish a mutually supportive relationship with his future teachers. Give them time to get to know him on their own terms in the fall, and then approach them about 6 weeks in (without ever using the word "bored") to talk about what you can do as a parent to support them in finding him more challenge and opportunity for self-directed learning. Present it as a teamwork type challenge. "We both know he is ready for more challenge. I know it's hard to teach to multiple levels in a single classroom. Is there anything I can do as a parent to help him get more out of the curriculum and to deepen and broaden his learning? Do you have any other creative ideas?"

 

But remember that if he's happy and engaged, he may not need to get additional learning challenge within the bounds of school. Perhaps extra-curricular learning like music study, second language learning, competitive sports or self-directed hobbies could be places for him to learn to apply himself and solve problems.

 

Good luck!

 

Miranda

post #4 of 7
I think you need to decide what outcome you want for him then bring it up with the teacher. In my district they do grade advancement, g&t, and differentiation within the classroom. There are tests for the first two options and the third is an expectation the district has of the teachers. If you want grade advancement or a g&t placement then I suggest just asking the teacher about the testing procedure and how you formally request evaluation.

Our district does a half day kindergarten and first grade is a very big adjustment, the kids also begin to even out in math and reading so I agree with the pp's who say to wait and not push for a change if he is happy now.
post #5 of 7

I would gently touch basis with his current teacher before the end of the year -- may be just send her an email stating your concerns and asking her for her feedback.

 

Our situation was that one of my DDs started school in 5th grade after having always homeschooled. It took her a little while to adjust to school, but it was toward the end of that year the teacher started talking to me about the next year, and advocated that she be tested for the gifted program.

 

I really think it's wise to get started with the current teacher, because the next teacher may hesitate to give herself time to asses and make her own judgment. Getting the backing of the CURRENT teacher could save months next year.
 

post #6 of 7
Quote:
I wish so much I would have used this opportunity to ask what the school is doing to provide him with additional instruction in order to encourage his learning beyond kindegarten, but I chickened out.

 

while the others all give good advise, why don't you just write your inquiries in letter form and start from there- make the requests for the information and take it from there- sounds more like this might work at first instead of another face to face

our local districts have most of what is being mentioned online at their sites- does your?

post #7 of 7

I always approached teacher's from the social-emotional side. My own kids are very unhappy and tend to disengage socially when they aren't given open-ended work or at least material closer to their working level. Teacher's saw this too and so were pretty open to discussing options. It's really easy to disregard "my child is bored." Not so easy to ignore "my child is unhappy." I also volunteered pretty extensively in and out of the classroom tutoring struggling students. This sort of helped my reputation as clearly, I wasn't just out for my own kid's best interest.

 

Of course, like others have said, if he's not unhappy, then you may find that now isn't the time for advocating for more.

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