For the past few years, our preparations for the school year begin by having a discussion with our kids about whether they want to go to school at all. Our default is to discuss full-time homeschooling, since we could get learning done in less time, and not be constrained by the school calendar. We both have flexible jobs where we could make it work. But the kids have their own ideas.
Our kids all still really, really want to attend school – for at least part of the day. Of course, our kids really, really want to have ice cream for breakfast, but we don’t let them. So I suppose I’d have to clarify that they really, really want to go to school, and we have researched this option and think that it’s a good idea.
To be fair, we have a good situation as these things go. The public elementary school they attend has a full-time gifted program, and all of them are accelerated an additional year within the program. The district and the school have been very flexible with allowing E (profoundly gifted) and H (highly gifted/2e) to both homeschool part-time. The teachers, kids and parents in the program are great, too.
But, we’ve learned from our mistakes and discoveries. E’s learning speed is so fast that we have to reevaluate every 3 months where she is at. (Dave describes it as running full-speed from a train and throwing furniture back to try – unsuccessfully – and slow it down.) Last year, she homeschooled in the morning instead of attending for literacy and math, and she and Dave covered an incredible number of topics and projects, all fueled by her desire to learn. I taught her some basic science, too. When we sat down to document what she had covered over the nine month period, we discovered that she had completed most of a freshman year of high school – at age 9. We were stunned.
As I said, it would actually be easier for us to homeschool full-time, but we would like our kids to attend school for as long as they want. I don’t want to pull them out unless it’s something they really, really want. Which so far they don’t. So, we live between two worlds for now, and it’s doable. (Our only rule: no whining about school.)
So, we’ve decided – based on the above- that it’s a good idea to send them to school at all. The next question we discuss is: what do we all want to get out of the time spent at school?
The school has its own goals: to have our children perform well in class and on their standardized exams. To socialize them, and to teach them gym, music, art, science and social studies. To have them eat lunch and get exercise. It’s also to keep the kids stimulated and occupied for the better part of the day until their parents can come and pick them up.
What are our goals and our children’s goals for school? They are usually not the same. There is some overlap, certainly. Our kids want to see their friends, play at recess, read, learn some interesting math, do some cool art, and bond with their teachers. Dave and I want our kids to discover passions, learn from teachers and classmates, and be as social as they’d prefer to be. We try to communicate that our expectation is for them to be respectful at school, but also allow that we, as a family, have different priorities. Off the yellow brick road, so to speak.
In addition, we continue to work with all of them on nurturing and managing their multiple intensities. E is managing how to relate to other highly gifted kids who may not share her exact level of intellectual intensity about a subject. At the same time, teaching H not to take on emotional water during the day at school is a huge challenge. She’s like a gigantic sponge taking it all in as the day goes on, and it makes it challenging for her to get anything done at school. A, meanwhile, is learning to balance his need to be social, active and imaginative while at school with his desire to learn subjects they don’t teach much – like science and robotics.
The outcome of the discussion is how we get ready for the school year. E is starting some high school classes in earnest this year, and she wants this to be her priority. So we’ll probably skip some elementary school days when she’s focused and wanting to complete a project. H is trying a creative writing class for gifted kids more at her level, and a math class specifically for kids with a math LD. She’d like to feel more comfortable with her talents. A is excited to have one of the girls’ favorite teachers this coming year, who thankfully also likes to teach lots of math. He also knows he’s going to have to work hard to keep his intensities under control at school.
So far, our kids have responded in a positive way to the discussions. It helps that we are supporting them in something they would like to continue, as opposed to forcing them into a decision. We plan to keep wandering along in the grass, keeping the yellow brick road in sight for now, but not taking it.
Oh, and we still have to get school supplies, clothes, shoes and haircuts. Because, highly gifted or not, they’re still kids.