I just wanted to come back to MDC and share our journey. I feel we made some great choices for my gifted daughter and things are working out very well for her. There were a lot of choices to make along the way with schooling and parenting.
So DD was born in December 2000. She had very early milestones with everything. Every mom wants to think their child is special but she really was early. She was rolling over early, cooing early, and was crawling very well by 5 months old. By 12 months old she had a vocabulary of over 100 words and had put some words together. By 2 years old she was drawing objects that I could recognize (a round cat body with whiskers and legs and tail). She learned her letters and the sounds they made, and tried to write the letters. By her 3rd birthday she was reading Bob Books. She was building things that were complicated, using the computer like a pro, and had memorized entire movies (yes the whole things! Land Before Time was one favorite. She would play with her toys and have them do the entire movie for hours).
She also was socially behind quite a bit, had severe tantrums, walked on her toes, liked to spin round and round on things, shouted and squealed a lot, and has always been a terrible sleeper. We took her to a child psychologist about those concerns and was told she was not autistic because her verbal abilities were very advanced, but she had some of the same behaviors.
I bought a homeschooling package for her and by the time she was 5 she had completed the 2nd grade level. She also showed herself to be a gifted artist. I decided to go to nursing school and could not homeschool her. I was in class all day myself. So I shopped around. The public school said they did not test for giftedness or move kids ahead until 2nd or 3rd grade and she would have to just be a part of the normal Kindergarten program. I found a very small charter school where the teacher was amazing. She was with her same age peers (which I wanted) but was challenged with math and reading to her level. The teacher said she had never seen a child pick up on things so easily and in such an advanced way and felt my dd was truly gifted. At the same time she really needed to work on social skills.
At this point most of my mommy friends were sick of hearing about dd. And even though I learned to not talk about it, they saw her and many of them stopped being our friends. I felt I didn't have too many people to talk to about dd's needs and the options available to her.
The charter school worked out great until 2nd grade. They got a new principal who decided all children had to stay with grade level. My dd had been allowed to move to the classes 2 years ahead of her for math and reading, but spent the rest of the day with her same age peers. Her social skills were blooming. She was also diagnosed with Celiac Disease and malnutrition and getting on the right diet really helped her sensory and sleep issues. Anyway, after the principal would not budge on this, I moved her to another charter school that agreed to do this for dd.
When she was in 5th grade I got a job working nights at a hospital. I could no longer pick her up after school-- it was torture to wake up mid sleep-cycle to drive through a long pick up line. DD also had been playing piano well for a couple of years and I wanted her to be part of a school music program, which the charter school did not have. I looked again at the local public school. Dd's needs had changed by then-- she was older, more mature, and they had a gifted program she might be able to test into.
For 6th grade I put her into the public school. I did not have her tested because I figured she had enough to focus on with social issues being now in beginning puberty, a new school, and a bigger school. She rode the bus which was great for my sleep schedule, joined the band, made friends. And easily got all A's of course. At the end of 6th grade her teacher wanted her to sit for gifted testing. I agreed. Dd scored a composite score of 99th percentile which is the highest score a student can get. It means she scored 99th in all areas. We were contacted by the gifted program for the Jr. High and I did some research to see if it would be a good fit for her. She also had the option of being at a college prep school that was open to qualified children in the district (but that would mean no bus service once again, and no band program). A third option which the district only did for some kids was to put her ahead 2 grade levels. Not a chance. Dd is not that sophisticated yet to be walking with high school kids.
Basically the way that program works (even in the earlier grades) is those children are in a self-contained classroom all day. I was not sure I liked this idea, as dd had really made lots of friends and learned to do well in a "normal" social group with children of all abilities including some special needs kids. Dd's science project made it into a district wide invitational science fair at a high school. We went to see her display but also to check out kids who were in the gifted program, who I knew would be there. I talked to a few articulate high school students who had been through the gifted program. Across the board they said they did not like it much, it gave them way too much homework (hours of it). They felt the workload was just too great, they did not have time for sports or a part-time job. Their problem was not with the material taught but the workload. After speaking with some parents I found this seemed to be a major problem.
Based on that, I decided to enroll dd in the Honors program instead. The Honors program opens up to Jr. High kids and is above grade level but not with the insane amount of homework. It would mean she would not be doing 9th grade algebra which she was ready for, but instead would do advanced jr. high algebra. Same with language arts and science. She enrolled in band and art class as her electives.
So far it's a great fit!! She gets some homework but not an insane amount. She is being lightly challenged but not stressed out. She loves band. She has friends in the honors program that she had last year in school. I have heard of a couple families who chose the gifted program have now pulled their kids out because of the workload.
If you are still with me-- here's what I have learned. And I recognize that every situation is different.
1) It is a gift to be able to sail through school. Why ruin it by finding something that challenges them too much? If they are bored, then bump them up a level. But don't think it's a requirement that all children be challenged in school work. I was not gifted in school and was constantly stressed about falling behind (I now know I have a learning disability and have learned to compensate but learning has never come easy for me in the model of most schools)
2) Academics are not everything. It is so important to learn social skills, to survive in a world of many personalities and situations. Dd has struggled and finally overcome this. This was the challenge for her and there was no grade attached. My choice to find a comfortable place for her but not one that was too challenging allowed her to spend energy refining her social skills.
3) Finding a group for her to belong to that does not involve her skills in academics. She loves band. She's about average in her section. She gets nervous before band tests and I hear her pushing herself to meet the expectations of her teacher for the test. She also looks forward to being a part of a group rather than the shining star like she often was in the classroom. She sees the value of teamwork. I think team sports is great for gifted kids, especially if they are just average in that area.
-- My second child is average in school, but has great social skills. My gifted dd can associate with how it is to struggle to master something because of her band experience-- and she helps and encourages her sister with her school work.
4) Knowing that childhood only happens once. Why rush things? If the child wants to take college level classes and has a passion for it, great. If they don't, then just because they might do well in the college classes doesn't mean they should be enrolled in them. If they graduate early they lose those years of childhood. There is something to be said for holding them back until they are mature enough to handle being part of the adult scene.
-- In high school after I had mastered my learning problems and did well in school, I had the option of graduating early. Instead I took a bunch of fun electives and signed up to be a teacher's aide, and finished out my final year of track and field. I'm glad I did that-- I grew up a lot in that last semester and summer before college.
Thanks for listening. Would love to get your stories and feedback.