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Hi, I am new here, hoping for some thoughts on our school choice for the fall.<br><br>
I am looking at a new charter that is opening up in the fall. The charter will be 150 kids K-6, and 5 teachers. Much of what they are doing sounds very much in line with my thinking on education: theme-based units, project-based learning, minimal homework, testing of each child as they enter and then every few months so they can be given appropriate work, mixed-age classrooms.<br><br>
But at this point, I am pretty soured on the gap between what teachers plan to (or want to) do, and what actually happens. I have been visiting around schools, and *everyone* says they differentiate, but then I see all the kids dispiritedly working at their long I worksheets.<br><br>
It’s math that has me most worried. I don’t want him sitting at a table working from a math workbook on his own; if he’s in school, for me the point of that is the peer camaraderie, I want him with a group of other kids exploring concepts and playing off each other’s interest and enthusiasm. Is this even possible in such a small program? DS is several years ahead, and in this district there aren’t going to be a lot of other kids moving so fast or deep.<br><br>
I should say, I’m coming from a place of homeschooling wistfulness myself-- wanted to homeschool this year, but DH pushed for public at the last minute and I wasn’t convinced enough to fight for homeschooling.<br><br>
Academically, it’s been terrible. All the kids do the same district worksheets, and if they finish they are allowed to do their challenge work. BUT, DS is a quiet, dreamy worker, and often doesn’t bother to finish his worksheets—and the challenge work is the same for all the kids and doesn’t have any relationship to what he knows and is working on with me.<br><br>
And he’s just… something isn’t right about it. He occasionally wildly overperforms, but mostly underperforms—there was a long period this winter where he was writing (correctly) words like “shooting star” and “mingle” for me, but writing the same “I see a red cat” over and over for his teachers. There’s something about the work of school and especially the pace of it—fast and superficial that doesn’t give him anything to dig into. If he’s not specifically given challenging work, it’s not clear that he needs it. His K teachers spent most of the year worried they were pushing him too hard.<br><br>
But now DS loves being schooled and wants to stay in school, which is why I am considering the charter, although DH thinks he mainly just dislikes change, that he likes being schooled because that is his life now, but when he is home over the summer he will enjoy the freedom of down time, of being able to study what he wants.<br><br>
So… I don’t know. I want my kid back, mainly. He has such a deep curiosity and (this was especially clear when he was younger) an amazing, amazing attention span—but he needs time to linger.<br><br>
After writing this long post, I'm not sure how much my hesitations even have to do with giftedness, except that I think that's the biggest part of the challenges in finding a school setting that would engage DS. Does anyone have thoughts to share on what a good school can offer/What questions to ask that don't immediately brand me as That Parent, but still give me some sense of exactly how the differentiation will happen?<br><br>
Heather
 

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I have found that visiting schools and seeing the kids in action, combined with talking to teachers (and other parents) is very interesting. B/c as you say, there can be a big gap between what a school says it does, and what is really going on.<br><br>
So, w/ a brand new school, hard to know. Can you find out where the teachers are coming from? The admin? what schools did they work at before? Other families planning to go there? Who is starting this charter and why? Those would be some of the questions I'd be trying to ask, in the absence of any track record to go on.<br><br>
I've heard from various people that the first couple of years in a new school are always kind of rough. And potentially, also exciting- the first families may be able to have a really active part in establishing the culture of the school.<br><br>
To me, it sounds like maybe you don't have a lot to lose- is the current school your zoned school? If so, why not try the new school (assuming it sounds good). that sounds like big classes though- 30 kids per class? In a totally brand new school?<br><br>
We'll be sending our son to a school in its second year for K next year. Part of me is really nervous with that! And part of me is excited as well.
 

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We took a chance on a new charter school this year, and overall, have been pretty happy. Much better then where we were at this time last year.<br><br>
For me it helped that the school is a Montessori school--so it has a long tradition and lots of well-trained teachers. The administrator runs a private Montessori school, so it isn't like the people involved don't know how to run a school.<br><br>
We've certainly had some ups and downs building something new, but this hasn't really affected the kids.<br><br>
And socially *all* the kids being new helped, in a sense, because there weren't groups formed already that my son had to break into. On the downside, he is in a class of 1-3 graders, so finding intellectual peers has been challenging. But he has made some friends, and has a lot of freedom to do what he wants, and he can work at his level (his guide is trained to teach through 6th grade, and the format is super flexible or him to write, explore create beyond that level).<br><br>
And I can't express what a relief it has been to have teachers who don't look at gifted education as more paperwork. His GIEP (gifted individualized learning plan) is not just a form. Every child has a different learning path, so it isn't like we're pushing for something more--it is just that way for everyone. No more stupid meetings with the principal, and I can use my energy for better things then asking for my son's basic educational needs to be met, yk?<br><br>
So I guess there are school and classrooms where differentiation is built into the whole system, and it is assumed that this will happen, and schools where it is too much to ask for... and it isn't more then a pull-out program, or an extra worksheet, etc.
 

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Not all gifted children are going to get that "round table" sort of education where they can bounce ideas off eachother and grow as one. My oldest wanted it desperately but even at 13 with a full grade acceleration, additional subject accelerations, GATE clusters, advanced/honors classes, compacted and differentiated curriculum... she has yet to find it in school. Her schoolmates just aren't there. In elementary, they weren't able. In middle school, most are so lost in the social angst of the age that they don't even bother trying. Thankfully, she found it in theatre, in music, in Girl Scouts with kids who share her passion and drive. Passion and drive go a long way to bridge ability gaps. Now, DD doesn't lament about not having those peers in school. She is unusually close to her teachers and they talk to her as if she were a peer as opposed to a child. This has always made school worth it to her.<br><br>
Most people we know with children in charters love them. Our youngest is in a specialty program (not officially a charter but looks and feels just like one.) It's not just about the curriculum. Charters tend to attract parents who are seeking a particular education for their child that goes along with their children's style and their parenting beliefs. This means that even if your son is more able, he'll at least be with kids whose families are similar to his own. Teachers tend to be more engaging when they have the freedom to be more creative in the classroom and charters tend to offer them this. It's certainly worth trying out since your son wants to be in school (and I understand... both my kids always insisted on school despite us being open to homeschooling, knowing tons of homeschooled friends, ect.)<br><br>
As for differentiation, it's OK to ask for details. Go down your list.... "what can we do for spelling, how can we bring up math without iscolating him?" Come in with ideas. "We" means you are working together. Find out what you can do to help... offer to tutor struggling students once a week to take some of the pressure that teacher is feeling to get ALL those kids up to to standard. Some areas you have to be open to bigger accomodation. If you don't want your child working on their own curriculum, then a subject acceleration might be in order. This allows him to go to a higher grade for math. Yes, it's complicated when you run out of grades but you take it one year at a time and do what's best for each moment.<br><br>
Staying positive is really important. So many parents go in negative and assuming that everything will fail. This does not help your case and it doesn't help your child. It doesn't make your family a pleasure to work with and it's confusing to children. Think about it, when do you do your best work... when someone truely believes you can accomplish what you set out to do or when someone is just waiting for you to fail? Let them know when something works... "Harry really LOVED that writing assignment you gave him." That way, when the higher level worksheets don't work out, you can be honest about them without seeming totally unreasonable.<br><br>
The charter sounds great. If it's new, even better as parent opinion often has more weight in that situation. What's the worse to happen? You pull him out and homeschool? Kids can recover most anything if they know you are listening to them and willing to change when things don't work.
 
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