Seattle-area schooling options for gifted kids? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 10-23-2009, 05:09 AM - Thread Starter
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***I'm not sure which category to put this in, so mods, please move if needed!***

I need to compile a list of options, with pros and cons, for DD's education, and I need to do it asap. We are heading into parent/teacher conference week next week, and we want to know our options and our preferences before our meeting.

A little background: DD is in 2nd grade, in a 2/3 split. She turned 7 in May, so she's a later birthday/younger 2nd grader. She has always been quite advanced academically. Her kindy teacher told us to request a certain other teacher for 1st, so that we'd get her into a 1/2 split and she could work at a bit higher level. We did, and that teacher (the 1/2 split) helped us get her into the 2/3 split she's in now (but didn't tell the 2/3 teacher about how far ahead she is.) The 2/3 teacher assessed her and has her in the highest math/reading/writing groups, but, for example, it's not even November and she's almost done with all of the 3rd grade spelling words. Everyone said the other kids would "catch up" and DD would "slow down", but if anything, it's going the other direction. I can't forsee keeping her with her age-mates being a good thing for her long-term. (I was a frustrated gifted kid who wasn't challenged, and got really, really bored... so I'm sure my own emotions about what could be in store for her are also playing a part here. )

Our first thought was whole-grade acceleration - so treating her like a 3rd grader the rest of this year and skipping her to 4th next year. Or even to 5th next year, if 4th is just incredibly below her academic level by the end of the year. But, she's only 7... she'll have just turned 8 at the end of this school year. If she goes into 4th next year, most of her classmates will be turning 10 long before she turns 9. And if she goes into 5th, most of her classmates will be 11 before she's 9. And sending a just-barely 16 or 17 year old to college is honestly kind of terrifying.

My next thought was to homeschool her. But DH, as a public school teacher, has some "issues" with that idea. His biggest issue, though, is that DD is an only child, and he's afraid she'd become too isolated and lonely. We wouldn't have a large budget for lots of expensive group classes/activities, so I can see where that could be a factor.

We've looked into private schools, but the ones I'd want to send her to are all a good 45min. drive away (which would mean 1.5 hrs in the car for her each day, and 3hrs for me... ), so that's less than ideal. Not to mention that they are extremely expensive.

Her PS does have a gifted program, but all they really do is take the gifted kids in each class and put them in a "cluster" together. I still can't get a straight answer out of anyone as to what happens after they cluster up. I'm thinking the answer is, not a whole lot.

DH's district has a separate classroom gifted program, which would probably be better, but he says it's really not very good, either, and doesn't think it would be the right choice for DD.

I read another thread about CVA, and I'm not totally sure what that is, but it sounds intriguing if it would allow DD to work at her own pace. However, it has the veneer of "homeschool", which has the problems addressed above.

Are there other options I'm missing? Other pros and cons to these options I'm not seeing? I know WA doesn't have a charter school option, so I can't really think of anything else, but I'd love some perspectives/opinions from some other WA mamas (or any mamas of gifted onlies, for that matter!)

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#2 of 10 Old 10-23-2009, 11:54 AM
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My baby is still only 9 months old, but I am looking into her schooling options. Currently I am leaning towards homeschooling. Mostly because I feel that public school and fail many children either by leaving them behind, not keeping up with them, or forcing them to focus on topic/subject matter that is not of their true interests.

I hear your concern about the socialization factor. If you are thinking about paying for a private school I would look into the cost of doing regular inexpensive lessons (swim lessons, maybe some sports teams, possible group music lessons, art). Most cities have some sort assortment of classes that are usually relatively inexpensive. Also, there are homeschool groups that get together to teach and go on field trips. I know that there are groups in my area--I would look into potential groups in yours.

Another thought, as you are concerned about the possibility of a 16-17 starting college. My youngest brother just started taking college classes at a community college--they are technically homeschooling him--and he is 16. So far he love it. I don't think that I would want to send my 16-17 year old off to college, but having them attend classed at a community college could be an option to think about for the future--especially if your DD remains advanced and eager to learn. Just something to keep in mind for the future.

I'm not sure if that helps I just wanted to share some alternatives

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#3 of 10 Old 10-25-2009, 02:20 AM
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Another online public school/homeschool option in WA is WAVA, which uses the K-12 curriculum, and you can move ahead at your own pace, I believe. You can ask on the K-12 thread in the Learning at Home and Beyond forum.

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#4 of 10 Old 10-25-2009, 05:02 PM
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You could try here: Parenting the Gifted Child

Also, I started community college at 17 and later transferred to a 4 year school (actually a few, plus a semester abroad, so it took me 5years to graduate--but I loved the school I graduated from).

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#5 of 10 Old 10-25-2009, 07:25 PM
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In Seattle itself, there's a self-contained gifted program for kids who test in the 98th or 99th percentiles. In Bellevue and many of the Eastside suburbs, there's a self-contained gifted program for kids who test at something like the 99.7th percentile. I think Bellevue does a pull-out program for kids who are not gifted at the above level. Shoreline has a gifted program, but it had some issues a few years ago, though those may have been resolved (they used to occasionally acquiesce to parent pressure and accept a child whose test scores did not qualify them - I saw them accept a child with scores at the 80-something-th percentile. For private schools, there's Seattle Country Day in Seattle, Evergreen in Shoreline, and Open Window in Bellevue. I've heard good things about one in Tacoma, but I don't know the name.

Feel free to PM me if you want some more information or have some more specific questions.
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#6 of 10 Old 10-25-2009, 10:24 PM
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Originally Posted by AahRee View Post
My next thought was to homeschool her. But DH, as a public school teacher, has some "issues" with that idea. His biggest issue, though, is that DD is an only child, and he's afraid she'd become too isolated and lonely. We wouldn't have a large budget for lots of expensive group classes/activities, so I can see where that could be a factor.
<snip>, but I'd love some perspectives/opinions from some other WA mamas (or any mamas of gifted onlies, for that matter!)
I have no experience with WA, but I am the mom to a gifted only girl!
We found the mismatch between what our dd could do and what the public school could do for her to be too much in elementary school. We pulled out when she would have entered K to homeschool. (She was a just past the cut off kid, so would have been old for grade) She had completed preschool and K stuff at a private Montessori. A reasonable conceptual match would have been several grades up, but I think the writing would have been too much and the much older kids socially difficult. We homeschooled and it has been great! We found it so much easier to make friends and arrange playdates, etc. in the homeschool community. She soon said that homeschooling was so great because she got to spend so much more time with friends. We found hs'ing to make having an only easier and easier for her not to be lonely.

However, eventually she did crave more group learning experiences. We did online classes (can get pricey) and while she thoroughly enjoyed them, she wanted more. Homeschool co-ops were difficult because often other hs moms were every bit as opposed to acceleration as the public school system! Also it can be difficult to get interests and schedules to mesh without the artificial construct of the school system. Anyway, we made the radical choice to allow her to attend part-time high school starting this past August. She was 10 and turned 11 a few weeks ago. She's taking high school Biology and Geometry and is at the top of her classes. It is a small, rigorous, accelerated charter high school. I believe she acquired the confidence to walk into classrooms filled with kids up to 5 or 6 years older through homeschooling. She is treated well and met eagerly by many 8th graders she eats lunch with and her classmates. She will do the part-time school, part-time hs dance until she is ready to do part-time college as dual-enrollment. We hope to keep her happy and learning until near typical college age that way instead of radically accelerating her and sending her away very young.

From parents of other gifted kids, I hear that elementary school can be particularly difficult. By middle school there is some opportunity in many districts for early high school classes (usually math and foreign language) and by high school there can be even more options. Perhaps your dh might think about hs'ing or virtual schooling until she's past elementary age?
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#7 of 10 Old 11-07-2009, 08:08 PM
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Here's a list of Public schools in Seattle , you can see what schools offer gifted programs and see how it goes, the private schools are here

DD is only and gifted, but she's not in a gifted program, she's been taking some first grade classes since she started kindergarden in September and they are going to see if they transfer her to first grade in January as the school that she's in doesn't offer a gifted program but has options for the gifted children.

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#8 of 10 Old 11-07-2009, 09:03 PM
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What are your goals?

I agree that the two SDs I'm most familiar with (LWSD and NSD) on the Eastside have very limited gifted education capacities, depending on what you're looking to get out of it. And unfortunately the UW young scholars program (or whatever the heck it is called now) doesn't start until middle school (though it would be a good place to call for ideas).

All of my kids are academically talented, some more than others. We are in NSD's PACE program and adore it. It is *not* a gifted program like EAP (the elementary gifted program in Northshore), but because of the extremely high adult-to-student ratio they can do more individualized instruction. I know quite a few people who have pulled their kids out of EAP to go to PACE, or left PACE to go to EAP and regretted it--but I also know folks who enjoy the EAP program immensely. Unfortunately EAP operates on sort of a lottery system as well, they cannot serve ALL gifted kids. You have to pass the tests, and then compete for the available spaces. I believe LWSD is not able to serve all who qualify either, but I could be wrong.

Anyway, our kids are extremely happy in PACE despite the spread of academic ability in each class. I as a formerly gifted kid love the program too, I wish that I'd had something like it rather than the gifted programs I was in (keep in mind though none of them were innovative--just busy work and extra reports, ect. NOT individualized instruction. I have heard that many gifted programs are moving more towards individualized instruction, which is great).

I don't know what SD you are in or how much you really want to reveal on a public message board. And unfortunately PACE is a big time committment on the parental side of things, I would say I probably spend MORE time at the school than I realistically would spend homeschooling. (PACE was my compromise with my partner, I wanted to homeschool initially. Kind of funny, huh?) But please feel free to PM me if you would like more info on PACE. I also know many, many EAP parents as well and would be more than happy to see if any of them would be willing to answer questions/give experiences in that program as well.

So keep in mind, you CAN shop districts, but be *sure* to check the fine print when it comes to priority listing and how kids get in. I think most SD gifted programs here operate at least partially on the lottery system. We simply do not have the funds to serve ALL children who qualify, which I think is really crappy. If you are technically out of district, you probably will get placed at the bottom of the priority list. So be sure to ask about things like that, when you're doing your research! Especially since the economy is going into the toilet, I know that our program has seen a huge increase in interest because people are needing to pull their kids out of private schools, and we're not even a gifted program. I can't imagine demand is LESS for a gifted program. Still, it's not without hope, we've got a few people from out of district in my kids' program. I don't know if EAP or other programs like it elsewhere have the kind of flexibility that we do, though.

ETA: For those outside WA state who may not know, unfortunately charter schools are banned in WA state at the present time. There are some special programs that are kind of similar (called choice programs), but all of the choice programs and many of the gifted programs still are chained to the district curriculum. They can supplement it, and enrich it. But they are much more tied and limited than a typical charter school is.

Also, re-reading the OP, you already know about priority crap since your DH is an educator, so I didn't give you any new info. Sorry about that. Though maybe teachers' kids will get priority in the teachers' district I hope? That would be nice.
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#9 of 10 Old 11-07-2009, 09:18 PM
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Hmm, also, if you are primarily worried about the age aspect of "going off to college" at 16 (17 is not uncommon, especially for kids who barely squeak in on the K cutoff!), why not encourage her to do a foreign exchange program after her senior year (or right before it)? Or encourage her to do an internships. Or travel. Or a service/volunteer trip of several months (you could even do that one together)? There are so many options for bridging the gap there, that will both get her ready maturity wise if that's what you're worried about, and certainly will be a very enriching life experience that few people get to experience.

I know no matter what age they are scheduled to graduate, we do plan on strongly encouraging our kids to do a cultural exchange program or extended service/missions trip prior to college enrollment. Many institutions will offer a deferral as well so that your child can apply to college her senior year, accept the offer, and then just not go for a semester or a year in order to do whatever it is she's doing.
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#10 of 10 Old 11-09-2009, 04:39 PM
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I lived in the LWSD for five years, and started researching gifted options when my toddler started telling me all the sounds that the letters made.

If we ever go back there (still haven't sold the house), I'd probably time the move so that we were resident in the district in the fall when they test for Quest, and let him try that the following year if he passed the tests. Otherwise, I'd keep homeschooling or try to pay for a real-deal Montessori school like Arbor Schools.

Honestly, for my kid as he is now, I'm not not sure that any program could come close to meeting his varied-level academic needs the way homeschooling does. And it's way cheaper than Montessori, which would be the next best thing IMO. You should probably make a deal with your husband to homeschool for a year and then assess whether your dd is better off.
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