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#1 of 14 Old 01-31-2013, 01:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello all,

I am now faced with 2 choices for schooling for my child. Currently I am very happy with DS' current school but I do have a worry that he is not pushing towards his full academic potential. All other areas, I am totally in sync with. I love the arts exposure and DS is generally happy there.

 

I'm outlining the situation below for brevity as I have my 3 yr old who needs me but basically, I'd like your input on my situation. Which school? Why? What do I need to be doing? 

 

 

Child: 6 yrs old, 1st grade

 

Reading at middle school level, at least 2 grade levels above in all academic areas.

Very talented in the drawing, arts

Current teacher says that he is on the track for the gifted program with the district (starts at 3rd grade but we will talk about starting earlier during conferences next week)

Socially, he is ok. He likes being alone but is also ok with being in a group. If he feels the need to withdraw, he does. Which is what he does maybe 2 out of 5 days during recess. I'm not sure how I feel about that. On the one hand I am worried that he is not like the other kids socially but on the other, I kind of respect his need for space and the way he recognizes that.

 

Current school: It is a charter school with a focus on integrated learning through science and arts (movement, visual, music, etc etc). They have a thematic approach yearly throughout the school and there is lots of collaboration between teachers. The focus is on the whole child, multiple intelligence type of learning. From what I have observed, the learning is very casual. Almost conversation-like. Seating arrangement is in pods as opposed to rows of chairs facing the teacher. A lot of conflicts are resolved through their life skills program. Resolution happens between parties involved, facilitated by teacher if necessary.

 

Another option: Another charter school with a very high academic focus. They operate one grade level above (so 1st grade gets 2nd grade curriculum). Intensive focus on Math and Reading. Discipline policy is through a carding system (start with a green card depending on infraction may get a yellow, red, white card. White card gets child sent home).

 

 

Thank you in advance.

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#2 of 14 Old 01-31-2013, 08:51 PM
 
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Philosophically I hate a punishment- and shaming-based disciplinary system, so that would be a deal-breaker for me. 

 

But even beyond that I see the more open-ended nature of the current school's approach as a huge plus for differentiation with a kid who is ahead of the curve. My guess is because that the other school prides itself on being academically challenging and would be much less willing to entertain the notion that their curriculum is still not providing adequate challenge for very advanced kid like yours. It seems to me that "rigorously academic schools" tend to be quite lockstep in their demands. So your ds would end up with a much higher workload of work that is still not at his level, and offered less opportunity for interest-led divergence and exploration. 

 

Of course I only know the tiny bit you've written about the schools, not the details, not the teachers, not what actually goes on in the classrooms. But based on what you've written, I'd lean heavily towards the current school since he's happy there.

 

Miranda

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#3 of 14 Old 01-31-2013, 09:41 PM
 
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I'm not sure I'd concentrate so heavily on the discipline system.  I would imagine that teachers at school #2 do more than just flip a card and forget whatever happened, though what else the teacher does will depend on the teacher.  How does choosing school #2 affect entrance to the gifted program?  How close is school #2 to the gifted program?


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#4 of 14 Old 01-31-2013, 09:45 PM - Thread Starter
 
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No gifted program in school no. 2 because according to them, their model already addresses that. They do Saxon math and ability group for math
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#5 of 14 Old 02-01-2013, 07:36 AM
 
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All things being equal, personally, I like the first school better, but it's about what fits your kid.

 

My dd1 (6th grade) is in a charter school with thematic interdisciplinary units, an arts and environmental focus and a lot of flexibility for learners. It is 6th grade -12th so a different age group than your son's, but it sounds like there are some similarities in the schools. My dd1's school doesn't have a gifted program, but offers AP courses for the high schoolers. There are kids with a wide range of abilities there. We chose it because dd1 needed a smaller environment and less rigidity and structure. We were at a private school for early elementary and then one year of traditional public. Dd1 did not like the traditional public as much because of the rigidity to the structure of the school. She has some anxiety issues and they were actually exacerbated by the more structured environment (she was worried she wasn't doing stuff right a lot). Many kids with anxiety find structure comforting, but not dd1.

 

All that said, that traditional K-5 public school is where dd2 goes and she's doing great. She also doesn't have the anxiety issues that her sister does. Some of the teachers do have the card discipline system. Her teacher last year used it and while I didn't like the system I liked the teacher okay. She was a nice enough person although I don't think she was a great fit for dd2 and overlooked some of her abilities. This year, though, in 3rd grade she's got a great teacher and she's more appropriately challenged and enjoying her work much more. There's a high percentage of gifted kids at the school (college town). I think it's something like 30% of the kids in our school system are in the top 5% nationwide. They have 4 levels of gifted programming. So while the whole school doesn't have an academic focus with everyone working one grade level above, there are many kids who are one or two levels above their current grade. There is a nurturing gifted program that starts in K for kids who are not getting a lot of support at home, but the other 3 gifted programs (regular Gifted, Highly Gifted, and the Learning Environment for Advanced Programming separate self-contained program) all start in 3rd & 4th grade.

 

When dd2 goes to middle school I will probably let her choose between the charter where dd1 goes and our local traditional public middle school, which is awesome for a traditional public middle school and offers the same level of gifted programming. She may want to go to the traditional school if she has a lot of friends going there, but right now she says she'd go to the charter. 

 

I think switching schools can be hard on a kid. We have a neighbor whose daughter is the same age/grade as my dd2 and in 1st they were in a different public school, in 2nd they came to our public school and this year in 3rd they switched her again to a Montessori. I think they're just trying to find the right fit for her, but it makes it hard for her to connect to friends.

 

So, I think if you're happy and you think he will be challenged enough over the course of all his years at his current charter I would stick with that one. I like the philosophy as you described it. I would look at what gifted 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders are doing and check out their teachers. Last year dd2's teacher was just okay, but she was one teacher for one year and this year's teacher is great and the 4th and 5th grade teachers are great so I think one okay teacher to three great ones is a pretty good ratio. If your ds has made friends that can be pretty big, too. Do you know any of the other parents? I would try to pick the brains of parents who have older children also and see how they like the teachers of the older grades and you might be able to find someone whose child is in the gifted program you could talk to.

 

hth

 

 


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#6 of 14 Old 02-01-2013, 07:52 AM
 
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No gifted program in school no. 2 because according to them, their model already addresses that. They do Saxon math and ability group for math

 

Aha, as I suspected. And Saxon would be about my last choice for a gifted learner.

 

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#7 of 14 Old 02-02-2013, 05:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Miranda, can you care to expound on why Saxon Math would be your last choice for gifted learners? His current school uses Everyday Math and I’m not a big fan myself but I think that’s just mostly due to me being an old dog and therefore can’t learn new tricks.

 

I apologize also for the lack of details. Frankly, I do not know much myself about my son’s learning abilities. I know he is very, very bright and quite different from his peers but he’s really the only 6 yr old boy that I thoroughly know so I have no idea what the norm is. The only reason I am pursuing this gifted angle is a few things: (1) That I was a gifted learner as well, (2) my friends tell me that my boy is certainly exceptional and (3) his teachers have thrown that word around one or two times.

 

And it’s really reason #3 that is confusing for me. These teachers are very experienced, long years of teaching and higher education degrees. They often tell me how bright and exceptional my boy is. I am shown work that his teachers are amazed by (art, writing compositions, etc). However I am perplexed as to why he isn’t being referred to get an IEP. There is continued differentiation of his work but it still confuses me why we are not seeing the gifted teacher or at least the school psych. Gifted programs do not start until 3rd grade in the district but for someone who is definitely on the gifted track (as per kindergarten and 1st grade teacher), I wonder why we are not starting now?

 

And yes, I did ask that question last year during kindergarten and the response I got was that at that point, DS is learning other things (social interactions, etc etc). Now to be fair to his kindergarten teacher, DS does have a bit of a social challenge wherein he prefers solitude a lot of times. He does not exert effort to relate or understand his peers. If he does not like a situation, he walks away. Which, in itself is an admirable trait (I wish I had that myself), but I do want him to learn how to be flexible and how to adapt.

 

Don’t get me wrong, DS is very happy at school. The art and science program is keeping him very, very engaged. He has a best friend and he is now just recently able to play with other kids. But I always wonder if his potential is being wasted?

 

A speech pathologist friend of mine included DS in one of her studies. It required that he be tested (total of maybe 4 hours spread over a couple of days) and she was up to the senior high school part of the test by the time she was done testing DS. So clearly, DS is advanced.

 

With the new school my thinking is, at least the guesswork will be eliminated some. They test and the child advances (at least in Math) as necessary. However, I love the current school very much with lots of opportunities for DS to explore his creative side but I often wonder if I am indulging too much on the “fringe”?

 

Full disclosure, I suck very much in anything artsy and the mention of the word “crafts” is enough to send my heart into palpitations so that’s why I view it as “fringe” because it has never played a role in my life.

 

So thank you for reading this far. I appreciate all you have to say.

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#8 of 14 Old 02-02-2013, 06:22 PM
 
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I admit I don't have any personal experience using Saxon. And I do know one moderately gifted girl who did very well with it. But I've looked it over, and read lots about it, and talked to lots of parents who have used it, successfully and not-successfully, and decided that for my gifted learners at least it would be a very poor fit. 

 

(I will say that the early years, meaning K-2, seem rather different: they use lots of manipulatives and there's more that is conceptual and exploratory and such.)

 

Anyway, my reasoning: Saxon is a spiral curriculum, so it introduces topics and concepts many times over, adding a little bit more of the full complexity of the topic at each pass. I believe the reasoning is that it takes some students many exposures to really master a topic, and some others need consistent review to maintain their skills, and some kids may not be developmentally ready for a concept the first or second time, so they get another shot at it when they've gained a bit of maturity and abstraction. 

 

My kids get frustrated not getting the big picture, the whole story, the chance to follow things through to their logical conclusion at a first pass. They prefer to delve deeply and really understand something. Then once they understand it fully, and can put it into practice easily and accurately, they don't mind reviewing it once or twice a year just to prove they still have it at their fingertips, but they certainly do not want to be doing review work on an ongoing basis, week after week after week.

 

The other thing I noticed on looking over the program is how dry it is. Nothing but lists of problems. It is presented as just endless drill. Insane amounts of practice. I know a lot of homeschool parents only get their kids to do every other problem, but Saxon cautions you against that since that misses the so-called magic of the spiral approach, where tiny increments in difficulty are sometimes interspersed in places they might not be expected. 

 

Saxon tends to appeal to people who think of good basic math as being computational speed and accuracy, who put a lot of stock in standardized testing, and who like order and thoroughness in a curriculum. It isn't a really natural fit for deep thinkers, those who value "mathematical thinking" or those who resist repetition and drill of well-learned skills.

 

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#9 of 14 Old 02-02-2013, 06:31 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you again for your very thorough response.

May I ask what Math curriculum you use or have used for your children?

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#10 of 14 Old 02-02-2013, 06:50 PM
 
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We used mostly Singapore Primary Math. 

 

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#11 of 14 Old 02-02-2013, 07:10 PM
 
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Miranda, can you care to expound on why Saxon Math would be your last choice for gifted learners? His current school uses Everyday Math and I’m not a big fan myself but I think that’s just mostly due to me being an old dog and therefore can’t learn new tricks.

 

....However I am perplexed as to why he isn’t being referred to get an IEP. There is continued differentiation of his work but it still confuses me why we are not seeing the gifted teacher or at least the school psych. Gifted programs do not start until 3rd grade in the district but for someone who is definitely on the gifted track (as per kindergarten and 1st grade teacher), I wonder why we are not starting now?

 

...Don’t get me wrong, DS is very happy at school. The art and science program is keeping him very, very engaged. He has a best friend and he is now just recently able to play with other kids. But I always wonder if his potential is being wasted?

 

...With the new school my thinking is, at least the guesswork will be eliminated some. They test and the child advances (at least in Math) as necessary. However, I love the current school very much with lots of opportunities for DS to explore his creative side but I often wonder if I am indulging too much on the “fringe”?

 

 

Saxon is UBER repetitive. It's also very hard for kids to skip ahead because it has a spiral approach. Every lessons has several different types of problems, but the lessons from day to day repeat the exact same kinds of problems. So lesson 10 is very nearly like lesson 15 (but with different number plugged into the equations) and nearly like lesson 30. New information is revealed and built in very gradually. For kids who do not need a lot of repetition, it is a ton of busy work.

 

Some states don't do gifted IEPs at all, and in many states, the parent must request for a child to be tested in writing (real letter with a date and a signature). Since the gifted program doesn't start until 3rd, I wouldn't expect them to offer anything until then. I'm not sure what you can get by advocating -- it really depends on the district you are in.

 

I would personally never recommend removing a child from a school where they are happy and engaged unless there is a really compelling reason. The very things he likes about school would be missing from the school you are considering. The things you are considering as "fridge" are helping him develop as a whole person, and helping him figure out who he is besides a smart kid. There are so many things about him that are wonderful, not just his IQ. He is just a little boy, and his current school lets him be a little boy.

 

I'm a TA in a school and monitor recess. It's not unusual for children to vary how they spend the time from day to day. It is meant to be a complete break, and as long as he is getting what he needs from the break, then all is well.

 

My kids used Singapore for awhile when they were younger too, and you might look into it *if he would enjoy doing more math.*  I think that with him being in school, he should get to set the tone for how much time to spend on academics outside of school, but he might really enjoy doing more math.

 

There is really no hurry. For gifted kids, "happy and well adjusted" is sometimes more difficult that the academic work, and the academic work can come when they are a bit older.
 

(BTW, I think everyday math is silly program)


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#12 of 14 Old 02-03-2013, 02:23 PM
 
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And yes, I did ask that question last year during kindergarten and the response I got was that at that point, DS is learning other things (social interactions, etc etc). Now to be fair to his kindergarten teacher, DS does have a bit of a social challenge wherein he prefers solitude a lot of times. He does not exert effort to relate or understand his peers. If he does not like a situation, he walks away. Which, in itself is an admirable trait (I wish I had that myself), but I do want him to learn how to be flexible and how to adapt.

 

Don’t get me wrong, DS is very happy at school. The art and science program is keeping him very, very engaged. He has a best friend and he is now just recently able to play with other kids. But I always wonder if his potential is being wasted?

 

I would NOT make him switch schools as long as he is happy and engaged. If the social aspect is challenging for him, having to change to a school full of very ambitious high achievers might totally backfire. Having a best friend, being part of the group is very valuable for his intellectual development as well.

 

have you asked him what he thinks he is learning? DS1, 6 and in first like yours, does not appear to be learning much by your standards or mine, to be honest. I mean there are kids still working on blending sounds and he just inhales new books. His first math test recently appears to be full marks (I admit I didn't really check, but there was no red ink anywhere so I guess he got nothing wrong, and the teacher said she asked the kids who were done early to come up with their own problems and do them on the back of the paper, and he filled half the page, so I imagine he is way way ahead of the curriculum in math as well - I do not work with him on assignments or further academics, just check that he has done his assignments, so am not really sure). I think he would be ahead even in 2nd. But he is working hard on stuff like organizing himself, making friends, working neatly, forming letters, using math symbols etc. He will talk about learning the letter of the week, practicing the correct formation on the worksheet, thinking up volcanoes and dinosaurs starting with that letter and drawing pictures of them...he likes the artwork, the rituals, talks about learning new songs...For now it is working for him. We'll see how long it lasts.If it's working for your kid, don't fix what ain't broke! I'd find out more about what the gifted program might do for him come 3rd grade; this is not so long now.

 

I think it is a different question to ask whether he is learning enough. He should have some academic challenge, not all the time, but occasionally, through open-ended assignments, enrichment work and the like. It sounds as if the teachers have not quite understood that social learning, no matter how necessary for a kid, shouldn't be the only reason the kid is coming to class. It should not be so hard to provide this, at least occasionally, within this program. I would be very cautious about the other program and their "what we do is sufficient for everyone" approach. The mst iportant thing I feel for gifted kids is teachers who are willing to be flexible. It sounds as if the current school just needs to "get it" and they may come up with stuff. the other school won't budge.


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#13 of 14 Old 02-04-2013, 07:12 AM
 
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Don’t get me wrong, DS is very happy at school. The art and science program is keeping him very, very engaged. He has a best friend and he is now just recently able to play with other kids. But I always wonder if his potential is being wasted?

 

A speech pathologist friend of mine included DS in one of her studies. It required that he be tested (total of maybe 4 hours spread over a couple of days) and she was up to the senior high school part of the test by the time she was done testing DS. So clearly, DS is advanced.

 

With the new school my thinking is, at least the guesswork will be eliminated some. They test and the child advances (at least in Math) as necessary. However, I love the current school very much with lots of opportunities for DS to explore his creative side but I often wonder if I am indulging too much on the “fringe”?

 

 

 

I'll join with pp who like the first school where he is already engaged and happy. It doesn't sound like his potential is being wasted at all. It sounds like he is being exposed to a broad and diverse learning environment. It sounds like his current school will help him develop crucially important skills in creativity and collaborative learning. These are not "fringe" at all. These skills are highly sought and desperately needed. Regrettably, they are far too often over-looked and dismissed. 

 

I would be concerned that his potential would be wasted in a narrowly-focused, rigidly academic setting, which is what the second option sounds like. To be fair, it's impossible from this side of a computer screen to know whether that impression is accurate. You have to judge that for yourself.  

 

In addition, given what you've said about him socially, it may be wiser to avoid disrupting his developing relationships at this time. Generally, I don't think it's a problem to move schools. My kids have changed classes and schools often through the years. It's helped them become flexible and resilient and develop social skills. We've learned not to fear the idea of change. However, I might feel differently if we had concerns about social issues during their early school years.

 

One other thought about academics vs. "fringe". Both of my kids attended gifted programs starting in 4th grade. They've also attended "regular" school programs and homeschooled for awhile. The gifted program was a wonderful opportunity for them. There were many benefits. Yet, by the time they reached high school, they both decided to leave the gifted track and attend a performing arts high school (DS in music, DD in drama/theatre). I wasn't convinced that it was the best choice for them.  I was concerned that the academics would not keep them engaged and challenged and that they wouldn't develop those areas sufficiently. I'm happy to say that I was wrong. There are a number of other intellectually gifted students in their classes who made the same choice. The teachers work hard to provide an academically challenging curriculum. Best of all, thanks to the influence of their artistic community, even the work in the academic-focused subjects is challenging on another level for innovative, creative, outside-the-box thinking. I am certain that these students are receiving a more challenging, engaging, broader and more robust education than the students in the supposedly "academically challenging" school.  At the same time, they've enjoyed attending school with an eclectic, unusual - think eccentric- bunch of kids in an inclusive, supportive environment. It's a very happy school with a happy student body. It's made the teen years much easier here. 

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#14 of 14 Old 02-04-2013, 01:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My kids used Singapore for awhile when they were younger too, and you might look into it *if he would enjoy doing more math.*  I think that with him being in school, he should get to set the tone for how much time to spend on academics outside of school, but he might really enjoy doing more math.

 

 

 

I supplement a bit with Singapore Math. It's nothing incorporated in our routine. It's just one of those things saved up for when it's too cold to go outside. While he does not really ask for more Math, he finds math more interesting and more enjoyable when he is introduced to more challenging concepts than the ones they are learning at school. He did not like math very much until we started doing higher number addition/subtraction and multiplication/division. They're still doing money and time at school right now.

 

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have you asked him what he thinks he is learning? 

 

 

DS is absolutely into their science program. As I've mentioned, the school has a year long theme and it gets broken down into quarters. All the kids learn about those but in a manner appropriate to their level. Their overall theme I suppose this year are systems. I think for the 1st quarter it was all about bugs/insects and their systems. 2nd quarter was about the human body systems. 3rd quarter was space and solar system. So it is all very interesting to him and he is learning a lot. He is very inquisitive and the teachers do encourage a lot of questions being asked and a lot of ideas being thrown around. Their classrooms are all very active. At any given point, a teacher may decide to take her kids out in the hall and do some movement thing that corresponds to what they are learning in math or something.

 

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree View Post

 

 

I'll join with pp who like the first school where he is already engaged and happy. It doesn't sound like his potential is being wasted at all. It sounds like he is being exposed to a broad and diverse learning environment. It sounds like his current school will help him develop crucially important skills in creativity and collaborative learning. These are not "fringe" at all. These skills are highly sought and desperately needed. Regrettably, they are far too often over-looked and dismissed. 

 

I would be concerned that his potential would be wasted in a narrowly-focused, rigidly academic setting, which is what the second option sounds like. To be fair, it's impossible from this side of a computer screen to know whether that impression is accurate. You have to judge that for yourself.  

 

In addition, given what you've said about him socially, it may be wiser to avoid disrupting his developing relationships at this time. Generally, I don't think it's a problem to move schools. My kids have changed classes and schools often through the years. It's helped them become flexible and resilient and develop social skills. We've learned not to fear the idea of change. However, I might feel differently if we had concerns about social issues during their early school years.

 

One other thought about academics vs. "fringe". Both of my kids attended gifted programs starting in 4th grade. They've also attended "regular" school programs and homeschooled for awhile. The gifted program was a wonderful opportunity for them. There were many benefits. Yet, by the time they reached high school, they both decided to leave the gifted track and attend a performing arts high school (DS in music, DD in drama/theatre). I wasn't convinced that it was the best choice for them.  I was concerned that the academics would not keep them engaged and challenged and that they wouldn't develop those areas sufficiently. I'm happy to say that I was wrong. There are a number of other intellectually gifted students in their classes who made the same choice. The teachers work hard to provide an academically challenging curriculum. Best of all, thanks to the influence of their artistic community, even the work in the academic-focused subjects is challenging on another level for innovative, creative, outside-the-box thinking. I am certain that these students are receiving a more challenging, engaging, broader and more robust education than the students in the supposedly "academically challenging" school.  At the same time, they've enjoyed attending school with an eclectic, unusual - think eccentric- bunch of kids in an inclusive, supportive environment. It's a very happy school with a happy student body. It's made the teen years much easier here. 

Thank you for this. I think this is the biggest strength of his current school is the creative, outside the box thinking.

 

And thank you all for your wise advice. I did end up visiting the other school and while it looked good, it just did not feel right to me for all the reasons mentioned above and more. I suppose at the end of the day, I'd rather see him identify himself as a multi-layered individual than just someone who is taking year above grade level math and reading.

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