Tuesday, August 5, 2014

I am excited to join with my friends from Kid Blogger Network and talk about going back to school. My daughter will be going to the third grade in California public school system. In this post I want to share some things we learned about public schools and gifted learners in our last three years and what we, as parents, can do to support our gifted students at home and in school. While this post is most relevant for US parents, I am hoping that readers from the rest of the world will share how gifted education works in their countries in the comments section.
Supporting Gifted Learners at School and at Home

1. Understand Your Rights

Gifted Educational Policy By StateIt always amazes me how one of the richest countries of the world is so split when it comes to education. Gifted educational policies vary widely from state to state and even from district by district in our state of California. Yellow is actually not that bad – it means that while gifted education is not mandated by state, “some” gifted funding is available. As a parent, you can check the status for your state gifted education policy and, as a voter work on having it changed. One of the problems with California gifted program is that it’s only available starting from the third grade. For the first three year our school was not obligated in any way to provide gifted differentiation to our children, which brings me to the next point.

2. Ask Questions During Back to School Night

In our school back-to-school night usually happens about 3 weeks into a school year. Hopefully in these three weeks your child shared some first impressions about his or her classroom and a teacher, and teachers had enough time to at least get the first idea of the strengths and weaknesses of students in their class. Don’t hesitate to ask some questions during school night about differentiated instruction and group projects. We wish we asked those questions last year, which would allow us to act sooner on some of the challenges we encountered.

3. Get to Know Your Child’s Teacher

If your district does not mandate gifted programming, a lot will depend on your child’s teacher. For the first two years of her school life Smarty had the same teacher (she was in a combo class for two years in a row). That teacher was very devoted to success of her students. She was working hard to ensure that each child gets “a full year of learning” regardless of where that child started in comparison to “expected results” for the year. In the second grade we were not as lucky. This second grade teacher was aware that Smarty is reading on high school level or is capable of doing 5th grade math, but she was still required to do the same worksheets and same homework. We met with this teacher for 1:1 conferences more than once, but every time her promises changed into implementations that penalized Smarty for finishing early rather than encouraging her to learn more. One lesson that we learned from the last year is not to wait for so long to bring the matter to the principal.

4. Negotiate Homework

Homework was another area where we learned some lessons that we plan to use during the third grade. I don’t mind the idea of homework, but I detest the idea of busywork. Our children were receiving pages and pages of homework every week and sometimes an extra “homework for parents”, where homework could not be completed without some sort of input from parents. I find “homework for parents” insulting and unfair to students with parents who for various reasons are not able to stay on top of the tasks that are given to them by school. We found out from talking to other parents that some of them renegotiated the amount of homework that their children would do at home. We will be doing the same this year or asking the teacher to differentiate homework.

5. Do Not Correct Your Child’s Homework

If you are reading my blog, you are probably an engaged parent. It’s common for us to check our children’s homework and very tempting to correct it. Do not correct your gifted child’s homework! They need to learn to make mistakes and to know that mistakes are not the end of the world. Moreover, many mistakes of gifted children are not the result of not knowing a subject, they are the result of being overconfident and not paying attention. Getting a corrective feedback from the teacher is something that might help them a lot more than your well-intentioned attempt to catch their slips before they get in front of their teachers.

6. Offer Help in School

Most schools welcome parent volunteers. If you have experience, you might volunteer to tutor kids who need extra help or, perhaps, organize a club where you and other parents can mentor students in an area of your strength. Last year a group of parents invested a lot of time and energy into our school’s garden, and children learned a lot about winter and summer gardening in California, about native plants and natural pest control from working in the garden every week. For a short period of time I had a once-a-week math club for second graders with advanced math skills – unfortunately, 30 min a week given to me and inconsistency of whether this class would even happen were really “too little too late”. Perhaps more luck this year!

7. Do Not Overschedule Your Gifted Student

It’s so tempting to “fulfill our children’s potential” by signing them out for a variety of after school activities. Resist this temptation. Our children already spend a lot of time in scheduled activities, and they need unstructured time to dream, play and do things of their own choosing.  We don’t mind for our daughter to go once a week to after school classes of her choice during the time she would normally spend in her after school Y program, but otherwise we try to keep her schedule as clear as possible, especially on weekends.

8. Expose Your Children to Something New

Our children might have some deep interests already, but it’s important to get them out of their “box” from time to time. This is why we keep weekends for trips, museum visits, science experiments, cooking food from different countries, etc. It’s great if you have friends or relatives that can take your children to their workplaces or introduce them to different jobs and skills needed for those jobs.

9. Focus on Life Skills

Sometimes our gifted learners are so preoccupied with academics and their other activities that there is no time left for them to learn critical life skills – such as cooking, cleaning, doing laundry or learning first aid basics. In our society that is so preoccupied with high achievement and extracurricular accomplishments, we all could do better preparing our children for independent life whether they are above or below average in their academic skills.

10. Don’t Stop Advocating for Your Child

There are all kinds of labels given by our society to the parents of gifted children. Nobody objects when parents of children with special needs are fighting for their children rights’ for individualized instruction, but many people think that “gifted children are already ahead”, gifted children are “children of rich helicopter parents wanting their class advantage perpetuated by taxpayers’ money” or that “everyone is gifted”. As a hero from Disney’s Incredible said, If we say that everyone is special, it means that nobody really is. Gifted children have very real needs, and it’s up to us to work with schools and other parents to ensure they are met. I will continue this work this year despite my overall reluctance of being “a thorn” – my efforts are needed not only for my daughter, but for other gifted children out there.

More Articles About Gifted Children From This Blog

Follow my Pinterest Board Resources for Gifted Children
Natalie Planet Smarty PantsResources for Gifted ChildrenLego Egg Racers Challenge - Planet Smarty Pants #stem #poetryPoetry for kids who don't like poetry. #poetryforkids #raisingreadersHow do I Know if My Child is Gifted? via www.RaisingLifelongLearners.comTangram Books And Activities for Kids #mathforkids #handsonlearningPlanet Smarty Pants: 7 Signs of a Good Summer Camp10 Ways to Foster Love of Poetry in Kids #poetryforkids #learningafterschoolGifted Children at Play from Planet Smarty Pants #giftedchildtenHoagies' Nibbles and Bits: Go out and play. Go Geocaching!Tips for Motivating Gifted Kids via www.RaisingLifelongLearners.comOnline learning for gifted students #giftedchildrenGreat tips on encouraging the little inventors in our lives...Gifted Girls and School50 Resources for the Parents and Teachers of Gifted and Talented StudentsMathematical CuriousitiesUnderstanding high energy gifted kidsDifferentiated math for gifted childrenHands On Logic Problems from Planet Smarty Pants #smartmarch #mathisfunCrosswords for KidsThe Ultimate Guide to Hands-on Learning Activities for Middle SchoolTangram challenges and variationsHow To Teach Multiple Science Curricula to gifted and struggling learners without blowing up the house or losing your mindAWESOME website for gifted and talented lesson plans, projects, examples, and printables for every content area!!!!Online Resources for Parents of Gifted and Talented Children50 Resources For The Parents And Teachers Of Gifted And Talented Students"The ABCs of Challenging Gifted and Talented Kids" on Virtual Learning Connections http://www.connectionsacademy.com/blog/posts/2013-04-08/The-ABCs-of-Challenging-Gifted-and-Talented-Kids.aspxThis website provides enrichment activities for gifted and talented students including the students creating a  Self-Directed Portfolio.100 Ways to meet the needs of your gifted childHow to Parent a Gifted Child - and How to Recognize if you have one.What Do IQ Tests Test?: Interview with Psychologist W. Joel Schneider | The Creativity PostOutstanding Science Books for Students K-12 published in 2013Fun math books for kids ages 7 and up. Elementary and middle school kids.learning styles visualized in pie chartINSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN Learning Technologies | Howard Gardner Multiple Intelligences | Learning Style Chart | CPLP100 Ways to Have Fun with Math from preschool days to #elementaryschool.How to Teach Your Child To Read Early from Afterschool for Smarty Pants (http://learningwithmouse.blogspot.com)Not All Children Are GiftedThe difference between a bright child and a gifted child. Everyone is gifted, it shows more the difference between paradigms, but for some this is helpful.Ways to Support Advanced Learners at HomeThe winter olympics are starting on February 3rd! This free product is meant to supplement your winter olympic activities in your classroom.   Students will create a brand new olympic sport to show case in the next olympics. They will be asked to design a name for their new sport, create the rules, give dimensions to the field, design the medals and more. This is a creative thinking activity that is a lot of fun!The Best Online Games for Gifted Children to Play at Home or SchoolEngineering is Elementary from Boston Museum of ScienceNAGC - Enhancing Your STEM CurriculumOnline Advent calendar to learn about Christmas traditions in different countriesGreat reading list for gifted readers categorized by topic and age (younger readers, growing readers, older readers)!27 Science Fictions That Became Science Facts in 2012!  Great for encouraging kids to make science their profession!Persuasive Writing: Holiday VS Holiday #giftedLanguage Arts Needs of Gifted LearnersPatterns in WritingUniversity of Cambridge Enrichment Math siteSee On


Dayna Abraham said...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this! Thank you for a great resource!

maryanne @ mama smiles said...

This is an excellent post, Natalie! Pinning.

Karen said...

helpful info, thanks - especially about not correcting homework.

Ticia said...

#7, so agree with it, I see too many parents filling their child's schedule so they have no free time (I just walked out on a discussion with my in-laws on this topic, I was rather frustrated with the whole "conversation")

I'm curious what are the "parent homework" projects? Occasionally when I was teaching we had family projects, but it was things like ask your parents about family traditions or learn your phone number/address and a family fire safety plans. What types of things are you talking about?

Alison P. said...

I am interested in the parent homework too. I find it interesting to not correct the child and make them fix there work but it is interesting because you do have to learn some how and there isn't someone to check your work for the rest of your life so it makes a good point. Also totally agree about life learning because no matter how smart you are if you can't do laundry and balance a check book then you probably are going to have a tough life as an adult. Great post!! I keep reading these books to try to help me because mine is going into Kindergarten this year and my state is blue so I read some of the links that you had and it is very interesting! Thanks!

Jhyrel said...

Thank you for all of this information! My son will be entering grade 1 in NY public schools (not NYC) and I would be completely lost without you!
Every day is a learning lesson for me as a parent and your blogs make it a little smoother!

Jessica said...

It is hard to believe it is already time to be thinking about heading back to school but the excitement is growing in our house. We all love new school supplies and exploring new books and making plans. Your list is so helpful in thinking of the new year-I find it easy to fill all our time with exciting opportunities and have to make a conscious effort to make sure we all have enough time to relax and explore the world in our own ways.

CJ said...

Thank you for this great blog and for the opportunity to win this giveaway.

mmir said...

Thanks for this article. I have a Kindergartener who is already reading at 2nd grade level and hoping she gets into the gifted program.

Deb Chitwood said...

What a helpful resource, Natalie! I pinned your post to my Back to School Pinterest Board. :)

Carrie said...

What a wonderful and resourceful post! Thank you for sharing at Sharing Saturday!

Katelyn said...

I love back to school time! That way when I take my preschoolers places it isn't packed! lol. No, but it's excited for kids to learn new things each year.