Discussing giftedness with my kid - musing aloud - Mothering Forums
Parenting the Gifted Child > Discussing giftedness with my kid - musing aloud
moominmamma's Avatar moominmamma 01:56 PM 11-12-2011

Dd8 has, like her older siblings, been unschooled. They all started school part-time or full-time at the high school level. She's the only one still at home full-time. It's been a big shift in our home life: last year we had four kids home most of the time. This year dd17 is living across the country, ds15 is in school 3/4 time and dd12 is in school full-time. We've done pretty well at filling youngest dd's life up with interesting occasions, travel, projects, field trips and social opportunities but there has been a big change.


This week she was part of a fabulous all-day art-and-outdoor education workshop. It was held at the local K-12 school and was just for the homeschoolers. She had a great time. But because she was at the school most of the day it got her thinking again about "when I go to school." We've talked about this in the past. She would love a challenging school program -- she's a performer, a social kid, likes producing output, likes teacher approval, isn't terribly perfectionistic or anxious. In many ways she's very well-suited to school. But because of the academic mis-match, I'd always told her "school won't really work so well for you until you're at a high school level," and explained that high school students are able to take courses at a variety of different levels according to their need for challenge. Which is true in this school, and has worked well for her siblings. 


Yesterday she had heard some 10-year-old girls in the hallway quizzing each other on basic division facts and it brought home to her how vastly advanced she is compared to what is typical.


"How am I ever going to fit into school if I keep learning math? If I'm four years ahead when I'm 8, and I keep doing math, I'll still be four years ahead when I'm 12. I'll never fit in! Maybe I should stop doing so much math."


Well, the reality is that she spends maybe an hour a week on math, if that. Often weeks go by with no math work at all. I reminded her how much math classroom time her school-going brother and sister spend, and made it clear that compared to school children, she's doing very little work on math.


"Then why am I so far ahead?" she asked. "What makes school-learning so much slower?"


Compared to my other kids, this one is far more curious about how she fits in (or doesn't) with the rest of the world.


I explained that the difference isn't so much in the type of teaching, or the amount of time spent, but in the different ways people learn. She learns academic things with great leaps of understanding, rather than with repetition and practice. She got it. She's had experience with having to work at things. Sight-reading on violin, for example, has come gradually and with consistent work, not all in a rush. But she had thought that her "great leaps of understanding" were a typical learning trajectory, and the "repetition and practice" thing more an exception to the rule. It was kind of a revelation to her to realize that her learning is on rather a different plane than is typical for the majority of children. Her frame of reference has been her gifted older siblings. 


She found the whole thing a little depressing, as she was looking to envision a way that she might fit in at school. I could sort of see the cogs and wheels turning in her mind as she processed this. I wonder what will come of it? I'm sure she would love a gifted school, but that's really not an option.


I do feel that a bit more excitement and challenge in her life would distract her from the question of fitting into school, but it's hard to provide that without furthering the academic mis-match. What to do?



Tjej's Avatar Tjej 02:56 PM 11-12-2011

What a great conversation. 


I don't have any ideas for you besides perhaps any particular winter sports she could throw herself into?



Roar's Avatar Roar 05:21 PM 11-12-2011

It has to be really hard to transition to suddenly be the only child homeschooling. It is a big shift for both of you. Is part time school an option where you live? If she is really social I'm wondering if she would be okay with less academic challenge at school just to get the rest of the stuff about school that might be appealing.

purslaine's Avatar purslaine 06:56 PM 11-12-2011

Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post


I do feel that a bit more excitement and challenge in her life would distract her from the question of fitting into school, but it's hard to provide that without furthering the academic mis-match. What to do?



I think there will always be an academic mismatch between her and others.  In many ways it isn't about what you learn, it is about how easily and how deep you learn it - and that isn't going to change whether you provide excitement and challenge or not.  


Meet her needs now and deal with tomorrow, tomorrow.  


I vote for more excitement and challenge if you feel she needs it.

moominmamma's Avatar moominmamma 08:03 PM 11-12-2011

Part-time attendance becomes an option in 10th grade when a different funding model kicks in. I think that's part of what was so depressing for her: 10th grade seems astronomically far away. Even if we could get the school to agree to a radical acceleration of two grades (which they might), that would be almost five years away.


I've seriously considered putting her in school full-time but it's really difficult so see where to put her. The classes here are multi-grade, divided 2/3/4 and 5/6/7. In many ways the 5th/6th/7th grade classroom would be a good fit for her both socially (she has several friends there) and academically. We also know the teacher very well, and she is fabulous. But ... that classroom comprises the Outdoor Education Program, with tons of heavy-duty physical activity involved: multi-day bike tours over mountain passes, two-hour morning snowshoe hikes, wilderness canoeing and kayaking trips. Even the smaller 5th-graders struggle. Dd is a very petite 8-year-old, not yet 50 pounds. She wouldn't be able to cope with that stuff, and not partaking fully would leave her forever on the outside of the classroom dynamic. And the 2nd/3rd/4th grade classroom is not going to satisfy her. She hangs out with a couple of the 7-year-olds in that class, but that's in the role of paid mother's helper a.k.a. babysitter. She would have no interest in being in that classroom.


Winter sports is a great idea but a challenge here where there is little to nothing organized in a "kids' sports program" kinda way that would grab her with its social appeal and structure. There is XC ski program that may be taking shape to the east of us. I'm trying to pique her interest in that, but it'd be a lot of driving.


More excitement and challenge now is kind of how I've been dealing with it this fall. Focusing on lots of enrichment, rather than forward progress, but of course I'm not kidding myself, this still increases her mastery and allows her to move ahead even faster when she is introduced to more advanced stuff. But now that she herself is expressing concern about moving farther ahead, it's giving me pause.



Tigerle's Avatar Tigerle 09:52 AM 11-13-2011

I wonder whether there is any way to ever cope with the huge achievement gap that your kids must be having in respect to their peers in math. Did your two older kids ever take math classes in school? It strikes me as the most linear subject of all - once you're at a certain level, there really does not seem to be much "broadening" or "deepening" that you can do, whereas it appears to me that you can always find a different angle to look at things like literature, art, history or social studies (I may be wrong about that - people have talked a lot in this forum about wanting to give their gifted kids a broader or deeper understanding in say, arithmetic, in the loads of time they have to spare waiting for other kids to catch up, and I have never really gotten it. Maybe because it's not my subject at all, unlike your daughter, it's the one I actually occasionally had to work forwink1.gif. Maybe I am just a bit jaded about the whole notion of trying to keep a kid moving sideways- as you have observed in your post, people who think you can stop gifted kids advancing that way are kidding themselves). Maybe math is just really the one example of subject in which school will never do anything for her. But you have written about your son loving and thriving with part time schooling, for instance -  he must be doing other things that enrich his experience. And while you haven't written that enthusiastically about your DD2's full time experience, she must be getting something out of it, and at least enduring math. Maybe your youngest will have to understand now, once, and for all, that in math, she will only ever be doing interesting stuff with you and maybe her older sibs and if she decides to do full-time school at some point before 10th grade, just go through the motions in class. maybe if you focus on all the other things school has to offer - you can back it all up with her siblings RL experiences. And in the meantime, build up her stamina in the outdoor sports she'd have to do with the 5/6/7th graders in case she decides to go that route.

moominmamma's Avatar moominmamma 11:14 AM 11-13-2011

I don't see math as quite as linear as you. I'm kind of a math-y person and now, by the fourth kid, I feel like I've developed a fair number of ways to work laterally and on para-math learning rather than moving relentlessly forward into Algebra I and II. I think we can do that with dd8 for a year or two -- though as I say it will probably just make the high school stuff come that much more quickly and easily when she finally does tackle it.


As for how it worked for my first three kids, they did eventually pick up standard high school courses just a year or two ahead of their age-grade. However, they were not quite this advanced at age 8, and had not so much enthusiasm for math and workbooks and school-like learning. They finished pre-algebra at age 9 or 10 and were definitively not ready for Algebra I, not from a maturity and motivation standpoint ... so they set aside regular math work for a year or two or four and did adolescence instead. And music. Tons of music. By age 12 to 14 or so they were ready to start picking away at math again, but they were able to sidle into the school system at that point, take courses just a year ahead of their age-grade, and move relatively slowly through relatively unchallenging stuff without too much annoyance. Dd12 had done the entire Grade 9 math curriculum and much of the Grade 10 as a homeschooler, but has been happy to re-do the Grade 9 stuff this year, so that's the course she's in and of course it's a cakewalk. But there's a difference between a non-math-keener going back a year and a half at a high school level after a long gap, and a math-keener going back four years at a primary level.


With respect to the Outdoor Ed program, she's got good physical stamina for her age and size (she runs 5k in about 35 minutes, which consistently puts her in the top 10% for her age group) but there's a difference between pushing a 30-lb bike over a mountain pass when you're 50 lbs. vs. 100 lbs. The bike issue is a biggie: she's still on a kiddie bike with 16" wheels (and will be for another year) while all those kids ride youth- or adult-sized mountain bikes, most with disc brakes and 18+ gears. 





Roar's Avatar Roar 02:11 PM 11-13-2011

Does the outdoor education program continue to be as rigorous in 8th grade? I'm wondering if it would be an option to grade skip a couple of years to eighth in a couple of years.


I don't have an answer to the problem of academic fit, but I do think that as time goes the best bet is going to be for everyone to be honest about what's happening. Even though it worked for her siblings, high school may not work academically for your youngest. It might still work IF she enjoys doing it primarily for social and other reasons even if the academic part isn't a fit. Your daughter's plan of not doing "so much" math or your plan of going horizontally may not ultimately slow the pace. The process of development may largely be one that is more internal than something that is really about external factors that you or your daughter can control. We attempted to do go wide not deep but you know some kids can take anything and make it deep. You think you are cheerfully just doing light enrichment about fractals so you don't have to move on with the math sequence and then you see that even your happy little enrichment activities have just provided more fuel for the engine and the child is making gigantic leaps anyway. Short of hitting her in the head, there may not really be a lot that slows her down. Even if she somehow got "even" to where the curriculum is at school, she is likely going to continue to be a different learner.


If your daughter's current life consisted of hours and hours of desk work with a structured curriculum, I'd have a lot more confidence that "going wide" might change things significantly because there might be more chance what got her to that place was the pace of instruction. But, the reality is that it sounds like she's already got the "going wide" lifestyle with music, foreign language, outdoors activities, crafts, cooking, etc. and that hasn't stopped her.


moominmamma's Avatar moominmamma 03:02 PM 11-13-2011

Originally Posted by Roar View Post

Does the outdoor education program continue to be as rigorous in 8th grade? I'm wondering if it would be an option to grade skip a couple of years to eighth in a couple of years.


No, Outdoor Ed. is just 6th and 7th grade (and this year, due to a demographic blip, 5th as well). From 8th grade on they're just back to a traditional school program. A skip to 8th is sort of what I'm wondering about. But she's only technically 3rd grade age now, so a double-grade skip into 8th is still almost three years off. That seems a mighty long time to her.



Roar's Avatar Roar 07:28 PM 11-13-2011

Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post


But she's only technically 3rd grade age now, so a double-grade skip into 8th is still almost three years off. That seems a mighty long time to her.



I'm sure she will have many good experiences in the meantime but it is a long time to wait.

Tigerle's Avatar Tigerle 07:33 AM 11-14-2011

Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post


No, Outdoor Ed. is just 6th and 7th grade (and this year, due to a demographic blip, 5th as well). From 8th grade on they're just back to a traditional school program. A skip to 8th is sort of what I'm wondering about. But she's only technically 3rd grade age now, so a double-grade skip into 8th is still almost three years off. That seems a mighty long time to her.



Hmm...I was thinking that it was rather ambitious to design a rigorous outdoor ed program that is supposed to be still challenging for 7th grade boys who may have had their growth spurt but not actually physically hazardous for petite 5th graders. So they weren't originally planning to be quite as, um, inclusive (I'm thinking crazy but don't want to knock the original intent of physically challenging adolescents and introducing them to all these wonderful outdoors activities which sounds brilliant)? Do you feel that they might be saying already "what were we thinking? next year, it's going to be back to just 6th and 7th graders for sure!" Then you could have her try out school as an official 5th grader, have her do 7th grade work in everything but PE and, if she wants to stay in school, have her skip into the 8/9/10 after one year or two, whatever feels right.


moominmamma's Avatar moominmamma 09:23 AM 11-14-2011

I don't want to over-dramatize the Outdoor Ed program. It's challenging, but the teacher is amazing at finding the sweet spot where the challenge feels like just a little too much, but the kids can push through and feel a great sense of accomplishment ... and that goes for the 75 lb. 5th graders as well as the growth-spurt 7th graders. I've been along on one of the bike tours as a safety rider / chaperone. It's an amazing experience and it isn't too much for the younger kids. But ... my dd is such an outlier for size and age, younger than the youngest of them, and also on the 10th percentile for size for her age.


If 5th grade weren't part of Outdoor Ed next year, that would be because the classroom splits had gone back to K/1/2, 3/4/5 and 6/7, with the latter comprising the Outdoor Ed program. So if she was registered just a year ahead as a 5th grader to avoid the Outdoor Education program, she'd be in the 3/4/5 classroom which is the same cohort of kids who are this year in the 2/3/4 class, not an appealing fit at all for her. And subject acceleration doesn't work at this school in the elementary program because the teaching is cross-curricular and project oriented with no separate subject blocks scheduled into the day. 


There are some very good people at the school. At some point I will probably arrange to have a talk with them about the possibilities for the years to come. Our homeschooling program is umbrella'd under this same school, and so they are very familiar with F's abilities and personality. I don't doubt there are creative possibilities I haven't yet thought of which would add more options and more food for thought.



Tigerle's Avatar Tigerle 04:53 PM 11-16-2011

Serves me right for thinking I might have seen a solution that you yourself have overlooked! So I suppose the best idea would be to sweet-talk them into keeping up the 5/6/7 split for next year whatever happens demographically so she could try that one being a year older and having more outdoor experience under her belt (and having a spiffy new bike with gears! though I know it's hard finding the right size bike for kids who are outliers - DS is way tall for his age and nowhere near ready for the "real" bikes with gears that he could theoretically ride on, so we bought the biggest kiddie bike available which looks a bit incongruous but is enough challenge even so). And you could go along as a chaperone on the trips you feel she might need your help for...maybe you could ride a tandem;). And she'd probably still need for you to bring workbooks in at her level!

If she is still really interested in schooling that is. She may not be. Your DD13 might come home disillusioned and there will be more life at home again.