What Is Gifted Acceleration?Here is The official position of National Association of Gifted Children on acceleration:
Educational acceleration is one of the cornerstones of exemplary gifted education practices, with more research supporting this intervention than any other in the literature on gifted individuals. The practice of educational acceleration has long been used to match high level student general ability and specific talent with optimal learning opportunities.
American Psychological Association agrees in this article on academic acceleration saying that skipping grades or working ahead in a particular subject--can be one of the best methods to meet the needs of gifted youth. While not a panacea, acceleration gives students access to true peers and challenging work. However, they also say that students can struggle when they are accelerated without effective study habits, access to similarly talented peers and a supportive family or encouraging mentor, such as a teacher or counselor.
Could Academic Acceleration Be a Race to Nowhere?
When our children were still in preschool, my friend and I went to see a very thought-provoking movie – Race to Nowhere. It was filmed here in Silicon Valley and explored a culture of high achievement and high stake testing that drives children to depression and even to suicide. You can watch trailers from it here. My friend also has a very bright son who is one year older than Smarty. He goes to a public school in a highly competitive school district, and she was telling me recently how much time kids spend on homework and busy work that is supposed to prepare them for future achievement. So, when you consider acceleration for your child, you need to ask yourself the same question I asked in my post on dilemma of gifted testing – Why do you want to do this? Is your child very unhappy and disengaged? Could it be that he or she struggles with some other issues, such as sensory processing, which might make it difficult for children to be “present” in the classroom? How socially adept is your child and can he or she stand up for themselves in front of older children? Does he or she have study habits and organizational skills needed for higher grades? Simply speaking, acceleration has to benefit the child, not to bring him or her to the breaking point of stress.
What Did We Do?
Acceleration is the topic that we thought long and hard about, especially last year when Smarty was not happy in school. We met with our school principal several times, and she asked if we would be interested in “skipping” Smarty one year. My husband and I discussed it at length and also asked our 7 year old for an opinion. She did not want to do it. Despite being bored in the classroom, she enjoyed social aspects of it and had a lot of friends in her year that she wanted to hang out with. Also she was fixated on learning cursive and worried that she would miss something too important for her future success in school. From our point of view, we were focused on letting Smarty have her childhood. She is not exactly a driven child and she enjoys leisurely time that she has at home – time to read, daydream, and try things of her choosing. Her homework takes her 10 minutes to complete, and we have no desire to move rapidly to the grades where it will require more time. Also, technically, she is already accelerated. She started school at 4, 2 months shy of her 5th birthday, and she is the youngest child in her grade. Moving her one more year up would mean that she would be 10 starting middle school, and only 13 in high school. We do not want her to grow up too fast – and so we chose to keep her where she is now – perfectly happy this year in the third grade within a gifted cluster and making friends with her age peers.
Do Not Confuse Acceleration with EnrichmentIn short, acceleration is working ahead. A well-constructed enrichment is exploring the material deeper and could also be very beneficial to gifted children. Our school groups children in language arts, and verbally gifted third graders have their own language arts group where they read more complex stories and learn to do some computer research. Unfortunately, math classes are not constructed that way, but our teacher uses materials for independent work where children can choose work on their level. This comes with a caveat that some gifted children might deliberately choose work below their abilities (some in Smarty’s class certainly do!), but our daughter enjoys math challenges and is motivated to choose harder tasks. She also attends after school GATE (gifted and talented education) program for grades 3-5 twice a month where she gets a chance to mingle with older students while working as a team and solving problems together. If you don’t have access to enrichment classes through your public school, you might do some research and consider online programs such as Stanford Educational Program for Gifted Youth.
More on Gifted TopicsFrom my blog
- Dilemma of Gifted Testing
- Book Series About Gifted Children
- Game Recommendations for Brainy Kids
- Back to School for Gifted Learners
- Beyond Common Core – Math for Advanced Learners
- Gifted Advocacy for Beginners
- Why Brains Are Not Everything
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