Gifted Children

Gifted Children

I have a laundry list of things I want to blog about. I think I have five half written posts just sitting in my drafts folder. But first, before I even get back to those, I want to talk about “gifted” children. I’ve actually be percolating this post over the weekend.  I started this post in February. of 2013. Weekend my arse. I’ve been sitting on this for over a year, and find myself with the same problems with a new child. Calming myself down never quite seems to happen. Looking at it rationally doesn’t really work. And I keep coming back to the same points in my mind.

My oldest started sixth grade last year. He just graduated seventh grade. I’ll get to that in a moment. In sixth grade he went into the “advanced” classes, as suggested by his teacher when we signed up for his classes around this time last year. He was coming out of the advanced/gifted fifth grade class. Our local elementary has the advanced & gifted students are combined into one classroom and do the same work all year long. When we signed up for classes I didn’t think much about this. I just listened to a teacher who gave me nothing but heartache for a year, and proceeded to do so again the following year with my special needs gifted child this year and I suspect will do it again in a few years time if my youngest has her too.

In retrospect, was he doing (and succeeding in doing) gifted work for three years, or were the truly gifted children only doing advanced work? Following that line of thinking, it got me to wondering, how do they decide where to draw that line, between “only advanced” and “truly gifted”?

D was tested for the gifted program in third grade, missed by a few points, went into advanced/gifted anyway, as I said, it’s combined. The ESE gifted advisor at his current school just explained to me that the screening (what D was given) is set up as a 20 – 45 minute “quiz” and depending on how a student performs on that, they go on to take a more in-depth test that is essentially an IQ test. So instead of the 127 he would have needed on the screening quiz he got something like a 125. No big deal, I know my boy is smart. He lacks drive, but he’s smart. I’m the same way. To this day I will spend more time trying to avoid something I don’t want to do than it would take me to just do it in the first place. Some habits are ingrained from conception, I think. 

So let’s fast forward a bit here. The boy has been complaining all. freaking. year. about how bored he is, and his friends are in gifted, and we’re doing the same work as gifted, except they get better projects and whine whine whine. So I’ve been telling him all year to go into guidance and find out how to transfer or request a transfer into the gifted program. He has not done it. So he brings home next years class registration and he is still whining about advanced vs. gifted and I told him I was holding his class registration hostage until he finds out how to transfer.

Bingo. I said the magic words. He came home the next afternoon armed with the information that *I* have to get in touch with ESE and request it. No problem! My issue was if he didn’t want it enough to find out then he didn’t want it enough to succeed. So I email back and forth for a day or two, finally getting the person I actually need to speak with. She was super helpful, explained the difference between advanced and gifted and said I just have to sign some papers to give permission for a new screening.

And then she asked if we were on free and reduced lunch the year D was tested.

Erm, I can’t remember? Why does this matter? Apparently poor folks can score as low as a 115 and qualify for gifted.

There it is. That pissed me off. What in the living hell does my income have to do with how smart my kids are, or their potential to be smarter than average? I still can’t figure this out. I’ve been stewing over it for days years. I get that I am kind of unusual. I do stuff with my kids a lot. Their earliest math lessons were cooking with me in the kitchen and learning how to add fractions because I double or triple so many recipes. Hell, I can’t work with fractions on paper, but in the kitchen I’m a genius! We read. We play. We do fun edutainment activities. I didn’t think we were that special in doing that stuff with our kids. I like to play and do fun things with my kids.

So after I calmed down, and the ESE gal said she too didn’t agree with this but did explain it in detached clinical terms like socio-economic and the like, and we had a very nice chat. She mentioned that gifted was very self motivated and what not. She told me about their Cambridge program (which advanced actually uses too) and that if he stays in gifted that in high school he will have the opportunity to take classes for college credit.  I let her know that he has maintained a 3.5 GPA this year and that I feel he could do better in a more challenging class. So the papers came home, I signed them, and we’ll go from here.

On the flip side, my (a t the time) current fifth grade special needs/gifted child was placed directly in that program based on an IQ test he took when he was four (that was well above the 127 minimum, potential smarty pants!). I have no idea how that is going to pan out next year as he is ASD and Gifted and has a crazy IEP we need to go over.

And because I ignored this post for the better part of sixteen months, I can now comment on what happened this year. This year my seventh grader took his advanced classes again because he was unable to transfer the few classes he wanted into gifted and keep the classes he wanted to keep advanced the same – schedule conflicts. He is currently signed up for two gifted classes next year, and the rest advanced (or appropriate level, like for foreign language). He took two classes for high school credit this year, and as far as I know passed both. My newly graduated sixth grader has been dropped from gifted to advanced, but has more support in place (including, but not limited to the ability to email work in, access to a netbook in class, etc.. I’ve written about it in other posts). My third grader had the worst year ever. She was dropped into a class I didn’t want her in from the start of the year, and we’ve officially requested a change for next year. She spent the year being bullied and barely doing her work because (IMO) she just didn’t want to be in class anymore. I didn’t blame her. She had an “A” average all four quarters, and I wasn’t disappointed in her work, but she could have done better.

So, gifted? Screw gifted as a label. I want my kids wherever they are going to do their best. But while one child might try their very hardest and barely scrape by with a “C”, my kids barely do any work and get “B”s. I remind them constantly, imagine if you tried! Imagine if you did a little bit more work! So, this is what sixteen months has taught me: labels still piss me off, my kids are ridiculously smart when they want to be and when it interests them, that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and that sometimes, even if they are smart enough to be in the uber-dork class, that might not be the best place for them.

2 Comments

  1. I like your post, and agree with your take on labels. Call it Gifted, Advanced, etc… regardless of socio-economics, a child will ultimately become what they will as a result of their upbringing. It seems you are doing a great job so far. As a parent of a “gifted” child also diagnosed with autism, one thing I had to learn the hard way is teachers in “gifted” classes, as well as others not often familiar with teaching autistic individuals see everyone as having equally balanced IQ and EQ. For the children with lower IQ’s the teachers go out of the way to sugar coat correction, and overly exaggerate praise, expecting a matching low EQ as well. “Wow!!!, that Is such a beautiful triangle you drew, etc…” My son just finished the seventh grade, and next year will be taking Pre-Calculus math class. Last school year, as a “gifted” student, his teachers and school administrators as well had a mistaken impression that since his IQ is high, his EQ is balanced equally as high. This proved tough for him, because this isn’t true in his case. He would do well over an hour of homework daily, but in a couple of his gifted classes, the learning objective was ignored and he was given zero credit for silly little rules he would forget like “you were told to put your name on the top right of the paper and hilight it in yellow. You put your name, but did not highlight it, so the assignment was given a zero.” He still managed to scrape an A in the class, but this was only due to extensive work on extra credit projects.

    • I find myself, more and more often, wishing I had the disposition to homeschool older children. We homeschooled them when they were younger, but I don’t have the ability (desire?) to motivate teenagers who aren’t interested in independent study in things they aren’t interested in. (Hello department of redundancy department!) We’ve also tried private school (not a good fit because of autism needs), public school, and now the boys are in a charter school (the littlest is still in regular grade school). It works for us, but when all of these problems come up, I imagine a beautiful homeschool day where everyone studies what they want and gifted is a term we don’t need and if we don’t feel like studying algebra today we can skip it in lieu of a practical math class. Words like bucolic and images of vintage school houses converted into modern “this is what interests me today” schoolrooms invade this daydream too ;)

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