Reaching Your Gifted Child’s Education Potential

I am the parent of four children. Two are still infants, so it is too early to tell if they are gifted. The older two, however, ages 6 and 8, are gifted children. Furthermore, I have a BA and MS in elementary education and I teach enrichment classes for gifted students at a nearby university. So, my experience with gifted children and gifted education is somewhat extensive.

As a parent of a gifted child, the most important thing you can do is to closely monitor your child’s education. Many educators are not schooled in teaching gifted children, as this is not a mandated component of teacher education. So, as a parent, you may find yourself educating the teacher on how to best service your child.

One method that you may suggest to your child’s teacher is differentiation of the curriculum. What this means, is allow your child to work ahead of other children in his classroom. Some teachers are apprehensive about such an approach because they fear angering teachers in higher grades, since their curriculum is being taught early to your child. If this is the case, you may want to meet with the school administration and ask about your child receiving part of his schooling in a higher grade level. For example, your child may be gifted in mathematics, but not gifted in language arts. Talk with your administration and see if your child can leave his regular classroom during math time to go to a higher grade classroom to receive instruction in math.

If your school and teachers are not receptive to this idea, another proposal you can make is to allow your child to work on an independent project of his choice during work time. For example, if the teacher presents a lesson in, say mathematics, then assigns a 30 problem assignment to the class, all of the children in the classroom should have the opportunity to “Do the hardest questions first.” What this involves is the teacher picking the five hardest problems from the assignment. Any student who can answer all five questions accurately can use the rest of the classroom work-time to work on a project of his interest, such as researching a topic he is interested in, drawing, writing a book, writing poetry, etc. The child then receives an “A” for the assignment. You may want to even suggest that the child only needs to answer four of the five correctly, in order to avoid developing a perfectionist quality in the child. If a child can successfully do these problems, then the assignment is simply busy work. Allowing the child to work on an independent project of his choosing allows him to develop his own gifts further and to make productive use of his time at school.

Another similar method is to give every child a pre-test before introducing a new concept. Any child that earns an “A” (or a “B”) is excused from the classroom discussion and classwork. Again, the child receives an “A” for all work that he would have been expected to do. Not only does this also allow the child to make productive use of his time, it also helps to prevent boredom in school.

Also, discourage your teacher from using your gifted child as a tutor for other kids. Research shows that this does not benefit the gifted nor the struggling child. Both become too easily frustrated. Rather, an average to high average child tutoring a struggling child is more helpful for both. The process of teaching helps to reinforce the concept to the tutor and the struggling child can better understand the average to high average student. The gifted child generally receives no benefit from the teaching process, as he already has a great understanding of the concept.

Other things you can do as a parent is to try to get your child involved in activities that are geared for other gifted kids in your area. Giving your child an opportunity to interact with other gifted kids will provide him with the challenges that he desperately needs.

Also, be sure not to ignore the areas at which your child is not gifted. It is not unusual for a child to be extremely gifted in one area, yet struggle in another. In fact, some gifted children can also be learning disabled. Be sure that your child receives the support he needs in other areas, while still helping him to develop the area in which he is gifted.

Lastly, help your child to develop into a good, caring human being. I have witnessed gifted children who are unwilling to share or to work cooperatively because no one can do it as well as they can or because they don’t want someone to get the credit for their work. Or, they refuse to work with other children because they feel they are better than the other children. This attitude is sometimes perpetuated by the parents who view “normal” kids as beneath their own children. The best thing you can teach your child is to be humble about his gifts, to help others and work cooperatively with others. If these lessons are not learned, your child may grow up to be a brilliant, yet lonely, adult.

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