Full-time gifted program - are you happy with it? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 20 Old 05-25-2010, 12:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My daughter's assessment results are in and she's been accepted to a full-time gifted program at our local school. I've met the teacher who at first flush seems very kind, organized and open. The class is mixed 1st and 2nd grade.

Up to now we have always thought of ourselves as home-schoolers. I had made the assumption that I would home school any children in our family, for all the typical reasons including a very strong "hold on to your kids" family-centered philosophy.

But.

I have an only. And to me she seems lonely. But I am having a hard time figuring out if it's the typical, "I'm bored and have no one to play with" feeling that even I had as a child with siblings. Or a more fundamental "I really need more than this, mom."

Now that she has been assessed as gifted, I also feel like that brings another complication to the mix. Can I offer her what she needs? I'm not gifted and don't have that perspective. I guess you can say my faith in my ability to meet her needs has been shaken - on both the social and academic level.

My daughter and I are going to visit the class later this week for half a day. I'm wondering if this will help in our decision-making.

Please tell me what you like and don't like about your full-time program. If you had the opportunity to home school instead, would you?
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#2 of 20 Old 05-25-2010, 04:43 PM
 
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My dd is just finishing K in a gifted elementary (public) school. I think it is fantastic. The teachers are wonderful, but I actually sent her to this particular school because I was very impressed by the principal. However, you should understand that it was always my intention to send her to a public school, and I never had any intention to home school.

Back in the Stone Age (the late 1970s) I was in a full time gifted classroom for 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. It was the making of me. I really blossomed in it.

So I am a big fan of the full-time gifted program.

That said, don't sell your homeschooling short. I am not an elementary school teacher, but I don't believe that you have to be gifted in order to homeschool a gifted child. (I'll have to figure out how to articulate exactly why I think that in a later post.) I do think that you will need to change your approach to homeschooling, to adjust for the fact that your child is gifted, but I would think that you can figure out how to do it. Plus, my dd is in a class of 25 children so how much individualized attention can her teacher realistically give her?

I have an acquaintance who had to stop homeschooling because of financial necessity. She sent her 7th grader to a gifted middle school. I think she said that he is doing great, but she wishes she had waited until 9th grade because her child started to pick up that yucky middle-school attitude from the other children.

I have a friend who home schools. If you talk to her 3rd grader for just five minutes, it is obvious that she is brilliant. I think my friend is doing a great job with homeschooling her.

So my gut feeling is that I think home schooling your child will be different and challenging, but I think that you can do it just as good, if not better than the school, as far as meeting academic needs are concerned. But you must understand that I have never homeschooled my child, so you should take my opinion with a grain of salt, and that means that I don't think I can give you a good opinion about addressing the social needs. (But I know my friends who homeschool make use of other homeschool-related, church-related, and other activities to give their children their social fix.)
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#3 of 20 Old 05-25-2010, 04:56 PM
 
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We love our gifted (public) school as well. But, like emilysmama, homeschooling was never an option for us for any number of reasons.

I like that they test the kids level before begining instruction to try and place them in the optimal grouping (actually wish they pretested more than once a year).

I like that he has gifted peers around him.

I like that the faster pace is a better fit for my kids learning needs

I love his principle and feel that the administration at his school gets gifted kids

I liked the relationships I have formed with his classmates parents

The type of parents who choose a full time gifted program in my town are the same parents who tend to be more involved so there is a high level of parental involvement and influence which is nice.

I didn't like his specific teacher. There wasn't enough positive reinforcement and I don't feel she got to know her students as well as I would have liked. So basically, like in any school, there are teachers who are better fits and more skilled at certain things than others.

I don't like that there can be a bit to much focus and competition amoung the students (I'm so smart type of stuff), but the parents and teachers try to stay on top of that

I don't like the lack of diversity. His school is mostly upper middle class white kids with only a few minorities or different socioeconomic classes (indicating to me that our identification system is flawed and something to work on)

I don't like that my son had to be in the gifted program to get ability grouping and pretesting. These are practices that I think can benifit all kids and it bothers me that only this specialized program is utilizing them.

I think a decision between homeschool and a full time gifted program would be much harder than the decision betweena neighborhood school and a gifted school. At home you can do alot of the things that gifted programs do right by vertue of being able to follow your childs pace and focus just on them.

Mom to DS 4/24/03 and DD 4/17/06
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#4 of 20 Old 05-25-2010, 05:53 PM
 
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We're homeschooling an only almost 6-year old and have no immediate plans to put her into school, gifted program or otherwise.

What does your DD think? Does she want to go to school? DD has been in pre-K, and she didn't like it. She knows she doesn't want to return to school, at least in the immediate future. But, if she was really interested, I'd let her try it again.

When I think about all the things that I feel DD misses as a homeschooling only child, I really think it just comes down to completely unscheduled free play. That kind of play that really only comes from having a sibling or a best friend next door. Fundamentally, that has to do with being an only child, though, not a homeschooler. We live in a large neighborhood but the lot sizes are large so until she is older, it's not possible for her just to roam the neighborhood. So, even free play with friends has to be scheduled--park dates, get togethers, etc. It's the type of play/interaction that would not be solved by going to school. But, she sees friends several times a week, either at outings, classes, parks, etc.

But, she honestly does not interact much with other kids when she takes classes or organized activities because she focuses intently on the class/activity.

She's also the type of kid who truly hates to by herself. So, she is constantly interacting with me or DH all. the. time. So, in our case, her particular type of boredom would not be solved by going to school.

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#5 of 20 Old 05-26-2010, 10:51 AM
 
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My gifted son was in a 1st/2nd gifted class (going into 3rd now). His teacher was organized, calm and had extremely high expectations. It was a perfect fit for him and for many of the kids in the class. My son was relieved to be somewhere where he wasn't being asked to do work that was sometimes years behind his abilities. He was so frustrated in pre-K and K because, he said, he didn't learn anything and wants to learn. He's now accelerated by many years in reading and math and that suits him fine.

I think a 1/2 day tour of the class should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect. My son's teacher says the gifted kids always find each other, so it's good they're in the same class. In first grade my son didn't find any good friends. There was a different mix in 2nd grade and he found a couple buddies, but still hasn't found that inseparable friend. But many of the girls have formed tight bonds.
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#6 of 20 Old 05-26-2010, 01:04 PM - Thread Starter
 
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When I think about all the things that I feel DD misses as a homeschooling only child, I really think it just comes down to completely unscheduled free play. That kind of play that really only comes from having a sibling or a best friend next door. Fundamentally, that has to do with being an only child, though, not a homeschooler....
One of the aspects of home schooling that I've really come to appreciate is all the free play my daughter has. I mean - completely free. If she has an idea, it never gets squelched or ignored or sidetracked or taken over, by teacher or peer. It has room to bloom. I think she has done absolutely brilliant things in this last year that she would never have gotten around to simply because of not having room. Of course she would have done other things in school - ideas from other kids or teachers - that she otherwise wouldn't have done. But all in all I think what's more important to me right now is that she be able to know what is inside her and hear it and follow it up. She's just turning seven and there is plenty of time to be exposed to other ideas. I suppose I think this is also one of the benefits to being an only. She has TONS of space! Of course being able to integrate and follow another person's lead is important. Because she is socially so needy, I have seen her able to do that quite well. The balance between the two....? Well that's a trick we're all probably working on even as adults!
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#7 of 20 Old 05-26-2010, 04:05 PM
 
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does she want to go? I don't think these decisions should be LEFT UP to kids, but on the other hand, I think they can have some input. My son has been quite clear about which schools he did and did not want to attend so far. Sometimes I worry his reasons are capricious, but I also think he grasps something intuitively and has a hard time explaining it in adult terms (he's 5). we've toyed with homeschooling but there are legitimate reasons we haven't done it, and we've so far fallen into very good school situations for him. And he's loved school. We haven't ruled it out either; could always end up being something we do at some point for our kids.

dissertating mom to three

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#8 of 20 Old 05-26-2010, 04:08 PM
 
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If you want to homeschool her, then I'd say go ahead. There are a lot of schoolteachers who are not gifted themselves, but they are teaching gifted classes. I don't think you need to be concerned about academics. A lot of gifted students teach themselves, and the best thing a good teacher can do is provide resources and opportunities, a little direction if needed, and support, and then get out of the way. For the loneliness/social aspects, you'll have to decide how to meet her needs and whether school is the right answer.


What I like about the full-time gifted program:

- supportive administration

- access to learning resources - special programs, community mentors, labs, equipment and technologies

- teachers who understand giftedness and gifted students, including 2E and "quirky" students. They readily accommodate for differences and even welcome different approaches.

- peer group with socio-economic and ethnic diversity on one hand, and a common enthusiasm for learning on the other. This is probably the most important aspect. My dc have learned a lot from their friends' interests and passions, they've been motivated and inspired and challenged, they've cultivated tolerance for different learning styles.
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#9 of 20 Old 05-26-2010, 06:04 PM
 
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One of the aspects of home schooling that I've really come to appreciate is all the free play my daughter has. I mean - completely free. If she has an idea, it never gets squelched or ignored or sidetracked or taken over, by teacher or peer. It has room to bloom. I think she has done absolutely brilliant things in this last year that she would never have gotten around to simply because of not having room. Of course she would have done other things in school - ideas from other kids or teachers - that she otherwise wouldn't have done. But all in all I think what's more important to me right now is that she be able to know what is inside her and hear it and follow it up. She's just turning seven and there is plenty of time to be exposed to other ideas. I suppose I think this is also one of the benefits to being an only. She has TONS of space! Of course being able to integrate and follow another person's lead is important. Because she is socially so needy, I have seen her able to do that quite well. The balance between the two....? Well that's a trick we're all probably working on even as adults!
I don't think I was very clear. We're basically unschoolers (I have some agendas but it's as close to defining what we are as anything) so DD's life is also actually FULL of free play. She just doesn't have another child available at all hours of the day to do it with her. That is the one thing I miss for her as a homeschooled only. To be honest, she doesn't seem to care so I should probably stop caring either.

Holli
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#10 of 20 Old 05-27-2010, 12:52 AM
 
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If you want to homeschool her, then I'd say go ahead. There are a lot of schoolteachers who are not gifted themselves, but they are teaching gifted classes.
But why should this matter? If a gifted class has an average emotional age of 9, an intellectual age of 17 and a physical age of 6 then the teacher just needs to have an age greater than all of those to be a suitable teacher...and it shouldn't matter if her chronological age matches her intellectual age. A teacher could be chronologically 40, but have an intellectual age of an 19 year old and be a good GT teacher.
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#11 of 20 Old 05-27-2010, 01:05 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't think I was very clear. We're basically unschoolers (I have some agendas but it's as close to defining what we are as anything) so DD's life is also actually FULL of free play. She just doesn't have another child available at all hours of the day to do it with her. That is the one thing I miss for her as a homeschooled only. To be honest, she doesn't seem to care so I should probably stop caring either.

Holli
I appreciate your clarification. We've been on just about the same path, it seems. I've informally introduced a few things here and there, but for the most part my daughter is self-directed and I'd consider us unschooling as well. The difference is I think my daughter does seem to care that she doesn't have kids available to her at all hours. I'm not sure how much of this is a "grass is greener" issue for her, where the novelty of it might wear off after a time. But I'm getting pretty clear indications from her that she wishes she had more time with other kids.

It's very interesting how strongly different people feel about homeschool, gifted programs, public schooling. For me the answers are not coming very easily.
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#12 of 20 Old 05-27-2010, 11:09 AM
 
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But why should this matter? If a gifted class has an average emotional age of 9, an intellectual age of 17 and a physical age of 6 then the teacher just needs to have an age greater than all of those to be a suitable teacher...and it shouldn't matter if her chronological age matches her intellectual age. A teacher could be chronologically 40, but have an intellectual age of an 19 year old and be a good GT teacher.
Um, yes.

Insahmniak wrote that she was worried she could not do a good job homeschooling her gifted daughter because she is not gifted herself.

I pointed out that even in a gifted school program, the teacher often isn't gifted him/herself.


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Can I offer her what she needs? I'm not gifted and don't have that perspective. I guess you can say my faith in my ability to meet her needs has been shaken - on both the social and academic level.

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If you want to homeschool her, then I'd say go ahead. There are a lot of schoolteachers who are not gifted themselves, but they are teaching gifted classes. I don't think you need to be concerned about academics. A lot of gifted students teach themselves, and the best thing a good teacher can do is provide resources and opportunities, a little direction if needed, and support, and then get out of the way. For the loneliness/social aspects, you'll have to decide how to meet her needs and whether school is the right answer.

In my view, it doesn't matter whether the parent isn't gifted, if homeschooling is what the parent and child prefer.

A homeschooling parent can provide resources and opportunities, a little direction if needed, and support - just like the teachers in a gifted program.

I don't know why you have raised the issue of age. It seems irrelevant.
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#13 of 20 Old 05-27-2010, 07:25 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My daughter and I visited this morning and stayed for three hours. Everyone seemed nice and was very welcoming to my daughter. And the students were very curious about her.

The teacher seemed quite interested in honoring the students' individual viewpoints. I appreciated that. But gosh they seemed to waste a lot of time. Lining up. Waiting for quiet. Waiting to be called on. And then there was time when they were supposed to be working on something by themselves but there are so many distractions in the room - other groups working on things together, students asking other students questions - that you could see the kids had a hard time concentrating and keeping on task. It seemed like of the three hours we were there, at least half the time was spent on management issues. Not that the kids were poorly behaved or that the class was out of control. They weren't. But that time seemed necessary to keep things from going that direction. One quarter of the time was waiting for others to have their say or their turn. Maybe - very generously - one quarter the time my daughter was there she was actively participating in a learning type of activity. And that's probably much too generous, actually.

This is not to say that learning to wait, to take your turn, to cooperate, to listen to others - that that's not learning. I can see how that's valuable. But that the kids end up spending so much of the time on that kind of "work" caught me off-guard.

Then when we got home my daughter busied herself in another room. I could hear her making up some song and singing to herself as she created projects with paper and tape and markers. And I found myself glad we didn't stay the whole day.

I'm starting to think for us the ideal school away from home might be just one or two days a week. The other days would be open-ended time for being moved by what's inside, or for responding to what's been encountered. And that would also be time she could have with me to help dive deeper into the things that interest her, or for concentrated one-on-one learning. And for free time with friends.

Now where's my magic wand?
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#14 of 20 Old 05-29-2010, 11:12 AM
 
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We have homeschooled our only girl for the past 6 years. This year she did half-time at a charter high school with a rigorous, accelerated curriculum. The only advantage I can think of with a school situation would be the chance to build a peer group. That and a little down time for your brain to rest! LOL We are returning to homeschooling full-time after next week. For our dd, not being able to dive deep into topics, having to keep to the pace of the class average, was just not very rewarding.

We have found it necessary to piece meal situations that work. She has a great friend who goes to an expensive private school that we work hard to maintain the connection and several good friends from our homeschool group that join her in flights of imagination. We do a mixture of following her interests at home and online classes for homeschooling. In a couple of different online classes she has found great academic connections and enjoyed intensive online discussion in areas of passion.

You might check out Athena's Advanced Academy for your daughter. They have online gifted classes for younger kids and a moderated forum for them to hang out.
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#15 of 20 Old 05-30-2010, 06:29 AM
 
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But gosh they seemed to waste a lot of time. Lining up. Waiting for quiet. Waiting to be called on. And then there was time when they were supposed to be working on something by themselves but there are so many distractions in the room - other groups working on things together, students asking other students questions - that you could see the kids had a hard time concentrating and keeping on task. It seemed like of the three hours we were there, at least half the time was spent on management issues. Not that the kids were poorly behaved or that the class was out of control. They weren't. But that time seemed necessary to keep things from going that direction. One quarter of the time was waiting for others to have their say or their turn. Maybe - very generously - one quarter the time my daughter was there she was actively participating in a learning type of activity. And that's probably much too generous, actually.

This is not to say that learning to wait, to take your turn, to cooperate, to listen to others - that that's not learning. I can see how that's valuable. But that the kids end up spending so much of the time on that kind of "work" caught me off-guard


Yes school is alot of 'waiting'. School is also dealing with classroom mgnt issues. Gifted or not there will be mgnt issues. A 'gifted' room is no different with those 2 things than any other classroom I'm afraid. What you may find is more hands on projects and group activites in the gifted room which could require more mgnt time and re-direction and such.

Im glad you went for a couple hours to 'interview' and observe the school. I would honestly try to find a way to make homeschooling work and look for outside classes to supplement. My son is an only child and we homeschool. He is 9 and loves every minute of it.!

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#16 of 20 Old 05-30-2010, 10:11 AM
 
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The teacher seemed quite interested in honoring the students' individual viewpoints. I appreciated that. But gosh they seemed to waste a lot of time. Lining up. Waiting for quiet. Waiting to be called on. And then there was time when they were supposed to be working on something by themselves but there are so many distractions in the room - other groups working on things together, students asking other students questions - that you could see the kids had a hard time concentrating and keeping on task. It seemed like of the three hours we were there, at least half the time was spent on management issues.
Yup. School is like this, though some teachers are better at the management than others. I don't plan to homeschool unless I really can't avoid it, but this particular reality does loom rather large in my mind.

My DD is a major extrovert, though, and would be very unhappy homeschooling in most ways. She would have to have a very busy social schedule to be happy, and that isn't possible for us for various reasons. DD also benefits a lot from the "specials" at her school--Spanish, art, dance. Thought I think I could do basic academic instruction, I don't feel I would provide these extras well, and so we would need lots of classes on the side. I also feel the larger school community is an important thing for her to be part of (I really like our school community, though--I might feel differently if I didn't).

grateful mother to DD, 1/04, and DS, 2/08

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#17 of 20 Old 05-30-2010, 11:00 AM
 
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The teacher seemed quite interested in honoring the students' individual viewpoints. I appreciated that. But gosh they seemed to waste a lot of time. Lining up. Waiting for quiet. Waiting to be called on. And then there was time when they were supposed to be working on something by themselves but there are so many distractions in the room - other groups working on things together, students asking other students questions - that you could see the kids had a hard time concentrating and keeping on task. It seemed like of the three hours we were there, at least half the time was spent on management issues. Not that the kids were poorly behaved or that the class was out of control. They weren't. But that time seemed necessary to keep things from going that direction. One quarter of the time was waiting for others to have their say or their turn. Maybe - very generously - one quarter the time my daughter was there she was actively participating in a learning type of activity. And that's probably much too generous, actually.

This is not to say that learning to wait, to take your turn, to cooperate, to listen to others - that that's not learning. I can see how that's valuable. But that the kids end up spending so much of the time on that kind of "work" caught me off-guard.
I've always been impressed by the learning that happens between students in a gifted classroom (not that it doesn't happen in a regular classroom too). We often talk about the passions (obsessions) of these children, and how enthusiastic they can be about their interests. They tend to capture the imagination of other students. I've also been impressed by the diverse viewpoints that are expressed by these children. It's been amazing to observe how much my children learned from their classmates and how their eyes have been opened to so many things.

One inspired teacher incorporated it right into his daily routine. Each student was assigned a date to prepare and deliver an "interest talk" on whatever subject they desired. The schedule rotated through the class, so at least once a month, each student delivered a short presentation about something close to their hearts.

I suppose it is very different from a homeschooling or unschooling situation where the child solely pursues his/her own interests. I don't think it's a bad thing though.

The rest of what you describe is the daily grind of classroom management. There's no question that it's an unavoidable part of the school process. You'll have to decide whether the advantages of a peer group make it worthwhile.
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#18 of 20 Old 05-30-2010, 06:51 PM
 
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We have been very happy with a full-time gifted program, and both kids love it. Like love it to the point of crying because school is almost over for the year. If I would have judged it by how I felt about school back in the day, they would have missed out. Homeschooling wouldn't suit us (wouldn't suit me, honestly), so I am so pleased to have found a program that meets their needs.

With regard to the waiting/turntaking/etc. Is this a lot different from how things are at home? I know for us, there is plenty that I need to do at home that is not active engagement in kid-centered activities, you know? If the kids were sitting around doing nothing productive for 75% of the school day, I would have a problem with that, though. In my observation at my kids' school, there is a lot of breaking into smaller groups, a mix of group activities and individual work, so that a small group will be working directly with a teacher and other kids might be working on independent projects.

If you want to homeschool and it is working for you and your kid, then I'm not here to tell you not to do it. But school can be awesome. It is for my kids, anyway.
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#19 of 20 Old 06-04-2010, 12:10 PM
 
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I just want to thank all of you for this thread! We are in the process of thinking ahead to 2012 and the possibilty of a ft gifted school. I have been readiing the input here and have some things to mull over, and some kind of standard to look for, whereas before I was sort of floating the idea around. Feeling a bit more grounded, thanks!

Joy, mama to Aquaboy (10), Goldilocks (8), Squidge (4)
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#20 of 20 Old 06-04-2010, 12:21 PM
 
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My dd is in a full-time gifted program and it's okay, but I am not sure that it is truly a "gifted" classroom. What they do seems pretty average. So, I think that it depends on the school and program.

If you are in Anchorage, I have friends who have kids in the full-time gifted separate school and are very happy with it, but I don't know many details.

- Sky
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