My son just turned 10 and has finished 4th grade in a highly gifted school where he was in all 5th grade classes (highly gifted classes). The elementary school ends in 5th grade, and kids can choose one of several middle schools to attend. After meeting with his teaching team, including the principal and a district GT rep, where we discussed what he would learn next year (since he's already done the 5th grade curriculum), they came up with options for independent learning next year in elementary school, or (after the IAS), he was approved for a skip to the gifted middle school.
Fine, but I talked to the gifted middle school principal this week and she told me she doesn't believe in skipping. She was highly skeptical of my son's abilities (he's profoundly gifted and tests in the 85th percentile among 8th graders as a 4th grader), and was pretty uninterested in receiving him as a skipper. She said the one child she agreed to skip was under duress and she didn't think the kid was smarter than anyone else, but the principal did admit the child did fine after the skip. When I asked her what she thought about the research regarding profoundly gifted kids skipping, the principal admitted she's never seen any of the research and her opinion is based solely on the kids she sees at her school. So that's not very helpful to me; considering my son's IQ, it's likely she's never seen a kid like him.
Because of her attitude and lack of research-based information-- and the fact that she's the leader of the gifted school-- I feel like this school probably isn't going to be a good fit for my son and I'm really disappointed. I had hoped we would feel really good about sending him there, but now I think they really don't understand that gifted kids can be on a spectrum of abilities. I think it was the best option for him and now I'm a little worried that we'll have to homeschool. It's not that I'm totally opposed to homeschool, but I think he needs the social interaction of school.
So... would you let your child skip into a school where the principal was admittedly uneducated about the benefits of a skip, and was actively opposed? (The school would have to accept him-- the district GT office has approved and supports the skip.)
If I felt it was the right thing to do, I would definately proceed. My daughter was in a school where the principal was antagonistic towards gifted education in general and it didn't really make that big of a difference.
Does your son know kids going to the middle school (if he's doing the 5th grade curriculum this year, is he in classes with them)? Since you don't have another option easily available and this option makes sense to you, I would go for it. In reality, the principal probably just doesn't realize how many children are out of grade age (I say this because while everyone emphasizes how much redshirting there is in our area, by asking around and looking at birth dates I have realized there is also a lot of early entrance--- many people just don't realize it because they only focus on the people having problems and don't realize that there are many kids who are just being quietly successful).
Thanks for your response tiredx2. You're right about the other skippers-- she doesn't know of any, but there are two kids that were skipped early (1st grade) in the 5th grade class, so the principal WILL be getting skippers. My son is just doing it later than the others.
The thing is, I don't entirely support a skip. He's small, for one thing. But I was hoping for an educated discussion with the principal about the pro's and con's of skipping to that particular school. But there was no discussion about it as the principal wasn't interested. She did say that if we wanted him to see a counselor every couple of weeks to make sure he was doing OK once school started, she would arrange it, but that was the extent of her "helpfulness."
So I feel like if we skip him, we're doing it somewhat on blind faith.
Something else I would consider is how long you think this will be a solution for. Specifically, do you think if he skips a grade into a gifted middle school then he will be set through high school? Or what is your plan going forward?
I know with DD, she admitted after sixth grade that academically she should have skipped either 5th or 6th grade (she is one year ahead in a full time gifted program) BUT she was very comfortable socially and didn't want to leave her class. Her two years in junior high have been good socially and she has learned things without it being too hard academically. For *her* I think leaving her was the right choice. She has a friend who is contemplating a skip from 7th to 9th right now and that is really the last grade that can be easily skipped.
Have you considered a back up plan? I know you mentioned that DS is small--- are there other small kids, too? We actually had DS retained in 2nd grade for social reasons with mixed results. I really believe you just have to do what is right *right now* and simply hope for the best. I'm sorry you're not getting a lot of information/support from the principal--- can you reach out to other parents with kids in the program?
I would not accept an independent study plan unless he's highly driven, focused, and they have a solution for him to get high-quality, regular feedback and instruction when necessary.
Is there another middle school for him? A K-8 school that could serve him in house as a 5th grader?
To that end, is your only reservation about homeschooling the social interaction piece? If that's the case, I would strongly urge you to reconsider homeschooling as an option. His homeschool experience really can be as social as you decide. Depending on what your area has to offer, you should have plenty of options:
@ you can enroll him in a full-time academic co-op (essentially a private school where a parent team of administrators decide on the curriculum and then either teach or hire teachers.
@ You could enroll him in a part-time academic co-op where you select classes to cover your weak areas.
@ You could do academics at home and enroll him in a part-time enrichment co-op that meets once or more a week.
@ You could join home-school specific social gatherings : park days, rollerskating, book clubs, etc.
@ You could continue whatever extracurriculars he has going on now: violin, 4-H club, soccer, etc.
All that said, there may be other reasons you do not want to homeschool, but since socializing was the one you mentioned, I wanted to make sure you were aware of how varied the options are out there.
How much do the teachers know about teaching kids who are profoundly gifted and skipped? I'd honestly worry more about that than I would the principal. The teachers are going to be what make or break his day to day interaction.
The other thing to think about is how the school is set up. Our 5th grader is going to middle school next year. The 6th grade is essentially a separate unit. They do not change classes with 7th or 8th graders, they don't lunch with them, they don't come into contact with them much at all. They're in their own little sheltered world in the 6th grade corridor. That, to me, is a good set up, and it works well for kids who are a little smaller than average because they're not around the 7th and 8th grade boys who are going through their growth spurts. Ethnic make-up may make a difference too in terms of how comfortable he feels. We have a high proportion of children of Asian and Mexican/Central American descent in our district, and so the height variance among the kids is pretty huge. I just did the t-shirts for the 5th grade party and we have 11 year old kids wearing everything from a child's small (6-8) to a men's L.
It sounds like he has already completed the skip. It might have helped if the current school had acknowledged it formally and officially by designating him as a 5th grade student this year. Am I correct in thinking that he wasn't officially declared a 5th grade student? If he had been, the skip would be a fait accompli and the opinion of the middle school principal a little less relevant.
It's preferable if the administration is whole-heartedly on board, but I think it's possible for a student to have a good experience without needing the principal's involvement other than at a distance. In this case, if you think that a 6th grade gifted class is the most appropriate situation, then I'd be a little more concerned about the 6th grade classroom teacher's attitude. If the teacher is welcoming and willing to support him with any ongoing developmental/maturity adjustments, then I'd be inclined to send him to the gifted middle school. He's more likely to find a few sympathetic peers, a few understanding teachers and some appropriate curriculum accommodations than he would in a regular program.
Having said that, have you also visited other schools and met with the administration and teachers? A school without an official gifted program, but with a supportive principal and an enthusiastic 6th grade teacher, may surprise you with what they can offer. Are there any special programs that might provide a different kind of challenge - language immersion or arts-based learning or alternative community schooling etc.?
It's difficult to answer when we do not know what your son is interested in. He certainly would benefit from a homeschool curriculum created especially to meet his unique needs supplemented by outside activities (sports, mentoring programs, apprenticeships, etc.). Is the public school prepared to assist him in learning about what he is interested in?
I have just recently decided that I did not want my son to be entered early in into an elementary the principal of which made no bones about disapproving of early entrance (I had been asking her general opinion, she did not know anything about my child).
That said -
This was the local public elementary I had other concerns about, and there are other issues with the principal I have heard about from parents. There is no gifted program whatsoever.. We had a good alterantive solution with a Catholic elementary,where he took part in a trial day and saw the principal and where they were actively welcoming, and at least in theory, promise differentiation (asin actually gving children different stuff to learn, not just learn the same stuff ina different way). The principal at the elementary is likely teaching one of the incoming grades herself and apparetnly has a lot of influenceon what the other classroom teachers do. DS is five.
I think middle school is a very different situation. The pirncipal most likely won't teach him and he will have more than one teacher, most of which hopefully will be supportive. While the principal may not have been aware, you said yourself there are other grade kipped kids and probably always have been, she just didn't notice. And the other kids did fine, or she would have noticed.
He has completed the fifth grade curriculum, presumably with other fifth graders. The district has approved the skip. Don't expect her help either in making the choice or in what happens after, but I wouldn't be afraid of what she can do to make the experience bad for your child. I wouldn't even bring up the counsellor anymore. Tiome for that if there really ARE problems. Just move him on into 6th grade where he belongs and hope she'll basically forget about your questions. She does not sound too "with it". frankly. He's 11.
The beauty about homeschooling is you can always pull him out and just do it. Why not try this school out?
I wondered about the teachers, also. Are there are great teachers who get giftedness and differentiating within giftedness? That would largely ease the day-to-day workings.
However, at some point, if he is past the point of other students, you may need her support to get appropriate resources. What about math, for instance? Would he need to do work at a different campus eventually, or an online program like EPGY or Alcumus? She sounds pretty rigid about grade level expectations--if she can't wrap her head around a child working two grades ahead, you may have a hard time getting appropriate materials for a profoundly gifted child.
Another consideration--how easy is it to advocate for your son's giftedness? Is he flashy, social, good with output? (I ask because one of my kids is much more obvious about abilities than the other, and the one who is quiet is much harder to advocate for.)
We homeschool after a year of public kinder, and have been very happy. The social piece does need work and facilitating, especially as children can get older (not that it's not possible, but it takes mindfulness), but the academic piece has been fantastic. If you are thinking about it, I'd recommend _Creative Home Schooling: A Resource Guide for Smart Families_.
That's exactly what I was going to say. My 13 y/o dd just finished her freshman year of high school having skipped 5th grade as well. While it hasn't totally met her academic needs and she is further subject accelerating and just coping with the fact that some classes, like English, are not going to be a fit academically, it is much better than it would have been without the skip.
We were fortunate, though, that the middle school she skipped into had a GT coordinator who was spearheading the push to get dd skipped. One thing I did want to mention was that principals can and do change. I don't know how long this principal has been at the school, but we wound up surprised to find that the principal at the middle school dd was entering changed over the summer before she started 6th grade. I never loved the new principal, but we didn't ever have to deal with her much. Dd's interactions, as well as ours, were with the GT coordinator and teachers. Unless you think that the principal's attitude is shared by the teachers, I might still consider it. Have you had opportunity to talk with any of the receiving teachers?
I know that things are different for boys in that they often grow later and stand out as younger physically longer than do girls, but no one really knows that my dd is younger at this point although she is about 18 months younger than the average kid in her grade and sometimes as much as two years or more younger than some of the older kids. She was in the same spot as your ds in 4th grade -- testing around the 85th percentile on most parts of the EXPLORE (8th grade test) and meeting her needs in grade really wasn't working.
I really appreciate everyone's thoughtful comments.
To answer some questions, I was able to meet only one teacher and he was great, but he was the art teacher. My son is especially good at math and science and I imagine if we don't skip him, he'll place into the 8th grade math class. The middle school apparently has a fantastic math teacher, so that's good. I don't know if they do skips in science. Language arts is easier to differentiate. I have several friends with kids at the school and they love the school, so that's also a plus.
I don't think this skip will totally meet his needs. He's already frustrated with the 5th grade curriculum, so if he went to 6th it likely would be the same issue. We should really be looking at a skip into 7th, but I don't think they'd allow that, plus I wouldn't consider it. ChristaN, our situation is much like your dd's-- he scored 85th on the Explore overall, but higher in math & science as a 4th grader. At least if we stay at the elementary school, he'll be able to accelerate and be at his own pace for another year.
We're open to homeschooling, so maybe we shouldn't worry about dealing with any potential future negatives because we would have homeschool as an option. (Thanks for the book recommend-- I'm going to order it today!) Socially, he has a tendency to be a loner because he doesn't want to be around kids that don't interest him. But I think he'd actually rather be with a bunch of kids. His brother has a wide circle of friends, and I think homeschooling would limit his ability to make and sustain those friendships. He is involved in a year-round sport where he has friends his age and older, so that's a good thing, but it's not a wide circle-- plus, the kids live quite a distance away. I'll have to investigate gifted homeschooling groups in our area.
We have the summer to think about it and make a decision. Thanks again for your great ideas and questions.
I don't think my situation is precisely the same as yours, but my 6th grader is just finishing taking Algebra I. Her 5th grade teacher noticed a high aptitude in math in a cadre of his students, and he ended up putting them through the equivalent of pre-algebra as well as finishing the 5th grade curriculum. All the 5th graders took the algebra readiness exam, and about eight 5th graders from her school showed aptitude for Algebra I. We dialogued extensively with the math department at the middle school, talked about how she had hated math/felt bored/etc. until 5th grade, and she has done extremely well in algebra I. We heard from her 5th grade teacher that the math dept chair at the MS was extremely against 6th graders taking algebra, as she felt that most 6th graders make a cognitive shift between 12 and 13 years that makes it easier to retain the algebra skills right through high school. I was quite worried about whether she would take it out on the students, but that has not been our experience at all. In spite of having strong opinions about 11 and 12 year olds taking algebra, the math dept chair (was my daughter's teacher) was professional and caring, and didn't coddle the 6th graders (would have made her mad anyway). We were worried a bit about gaps in her education, but between working through stuff at home and occasionally using the teacher's after school hours available, she has gotten A's in algebra I and is looking forward to taking geometry in 7th grade. She will need to take Algebra II/Trig at the high school in 8th grade, but that is not unprecedented.
The takeaway for me is that we went ahead and worked for that effort that we thought together with our daughter would be most interesting and challenging, and were pleasantly surprised at how the teacher comported herself. Both my 8th grader and 6th grader had the same math teacher. It's been a math kind of year. :)