One thing that we hope for in this new school is the promise of an education that is personalized to a child's level. Smarty loves learning and wants to be challenged. She would really love to take AP Psychology this year, because she is seriously considering pursuing a degree in Psychology. She also wants to skip Algebra 1 based on the results of her SAT and her online Integrated Mathematics class and proceed directly to Algebra 2 and/or Geometry. Technically, she could skip geometry as well, but she thinks that she would like to learn more about proofs. On my end, I would really like for her to be able to take music and foreign language - her previous school did not offer foreign language in middle school at all, and music was a year long elective that Smarty did not want to take, because then she would have missed on all other electives.
Smaller Class Sizes
Smarty is noise sensitive, and constant noise of the classroom of 27 people all engaged in "project-based learning" exhausted her on a daily basis. She also resented having to move with the speed of the slowest learners. She often came home with her hands and other parts of her body covered in pen or marker drawings - her way to provide herself with some sort of sensory input while surviving boring times of her school days. In this new school, her class sizes will shrink to 6 to 12 people - a size where students can actually have a moderated conversation, which, hopefully, will allow her to stay more present and more engaged with what's going on around her.
Smarty enjoys hands-on learning very much, and her old school had plenty of it, but... a lot of the projects were in the areas that she had no interest in. Her new school has somewhat more "practical" hands-on learning - like restoring a habitat on a stretch of Guadalupe river right on school property or doing marine research on a real research vessel on the bay. I hope that her desire for hands-on learning will be met sufficiently in this more traditionally focused school.
Of course, this is more up to Smarty on how she will do in making new friends. This one factor might completely make or break her experience and completely outside our control. But... there are other middle school students starting this year, especially 6th graders that are technically Smarty's age. With the school this small, everyone will get to know each other, and most kids who come to this school are coming because they need something that a public school is not able or not willing to offer. I keep my fingers crossed that Smarty will run into kids who will understand and appreciate her quirky personality and who will draw her out of her shell. Only time will tell.
Personally, I think that we will know within 2 weeks whether Smarty's school will rise to the challenge of having a highly gifted, but equally highly asynchronous 11 year old 8th grader. We will see how easy or hard it will be to get an appropriate math placement for her. We will see if she is going to get challenged in English and in science. We will see if she can fit the electives she wishes to have into her schedule. We will see if they will allow her to count her taekwondo practice as PE, therefore giving her more hours in a week for either an additional subject or study time. I want to stay optimistic, but it's hard. We've been burned so many times in the past. But... I am telling Smarty not to fret. We will always step in, if needed, and advocate for her. I just hope that it won't be necessary, and that, by itself, will mean that her school fulfills its promise.