Talking about giftedness, and the future, with dd8

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Talking about giftedness, and the future, with dd8
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Tue, 11-15-2011 - 1:58am

Dd8 has, like her older siblings, been unschooled. They all started school part-time or full-time at the high school level. She's the only one still at home full-time. It's been a big shift in our home life: last year we had four kids home most of the time. This year dd17 is living across the country, ds15 is in school 3/4 time and dd12 is in school full-time. We've done pretty well at filling youngest dd's life up with interesting occasions, travel, projects, field trips and social opportunities but there has been a big change.

Last week she was part of a fabulous all-day art-and-outdoor education workshop. It was held at the local K-12 school and was just for the homeschoolers. She had a great time. But because she was at the school most of the day it got her thinking again about "when I go to school." We've talked about this in the past. She would love a challenging school program -- she's a performer, a social kid, likes producing output, likes teacher approval, isn't terribly perfectionistic or anxious. In many ways she's very well-suited to school. But because of the academic mis-match, I'd always told her "school won't really work so well for you until you're at a high school level," and explained that high school students are able to take courses at a variety of different levels according to their need for challenge. Which is true in this school, and has worked well for her siblings.

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

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iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999

I know you've done some of this already, but what about some virtual schooling?

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002

We don't need academics for this kid. That stuff she's doing just great with, and we have loads of resources. What she's craving is the "going to school, hanging out with people, raising your hand to answer the teacher, taking a lunchbox, doing group projects, playing indoor soccer for PE, reading essay answers aloud to the class" kind of experience. The social and cultural experience.

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-13-1999

I agree, the sort of virtual learning that involves learning alone isn't what your dd is missing.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006

"I explained that the difference isn't so much in the type of teaching, or the amount of time spent, but in the different ways people learn. She learns academic things with great leaps of understanding, rather than with repetition and practice."

I think the notion that most students learn in a linear way is promoted in order to justify treating classrooms of kids as if they were all on the same timetable.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002

I really don't think that Skyping kids from an on-line course would make her happy. She has a bunch of friends from summer music programs (mostly ages 12+) whom she keeps in touch with on-line, and that just doesn't fill her social-needs tank. She still feels like a lonely kid at a keyboard in a cabin in the mountains.

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002

Yes, I agree that the linear, lockstep approach many schools use contributes to the illusion that learning is steadily linear and requires repetition and practice. Much of the problem is that schools are unable (or unwilling) to await true readiness. If you push a child to memorize the timestables or read fluently before the architecture of their mind is really up to the task, it will be a long gradual process for them to achieve that milestone. So that's what we see in schools much of the time: long gradual processes, and lots of steady, incremental teaching with plenty of repetition.

While many kids benefit from "gestational time" and "achieving full readiness" in their learning, thus allowing them to subsequently leap ahead, my kid seems to require little gestational time, her readiness comes early, and she often seems to bounce from one leap to the next without pausing for breath.

The reality is that kids in school do tend to learn gradually and incrementally, whether by nature or by design. It seemed the simplest way to explain it to my dd.

I'm not quite as pessimistic about the possibility of her "fitting into school" as you are. She is accustomed to "fitting into violin group class" in a way that doesn't seem harmful or stultifying. Our "all-together group classes" involve a cluster of Suzuki Book 1-2 kids who are aged 6-10, plus a scatter of more advanced kids. Dd fits in the middle of the beginner cluster by age, but in the middle of the advanced cluster by ability. We focus mostly on playing early repertoire ... but the advanced kids are valued for their leadership abilities, their ability to improvise and harmonize, to support the younger kids, and simply add their greater musical sophistication to the mix. From time to time we let them rollick through Fiocco Allegro for fun or some such thing. We play fun multi-level games, and have social and pedagogical rituals that everyone looks forward to. She has to "fit in" by playing Gossec Gavotte, but she does so cheerfully, with extra attention to using excellent posture, using vibrato and introducing novel shifts and bowing techniques.

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-09-2006
Ah, the small town thing. We've lived in a very remote area for the past four years, and dealing with dd13's social needs has been an ongoing issue. It has taken a long time for her to develop some semblance of a "peer group", and hers includes people from 8 to 15, and most of them live at least 40 miles away, in the biggest town (pop. 6,000) in our area.

I think your last sentence encapsulates the crux of your dd's dilemma. Her social development shouldn't come at the expense of her intellectual growth, or vice versa.

I know that part time school isn't an option, but...is there ANY way that your daughter could attend one or two non-academic classes, say art & PE, that might allow more interaction with other students, wouldn't underline the differences between achievement so starkly (even if she's very good in art, people tend to admire that sort of achievement in a "you're so good at drawing" way, rather than "you're unapproachably smart"), and wouldn't waste her time on things she mastered years ago? I enrolled my dd in one class (band) when she was 12, and she discovered a) that it was quite rewarding and b) that full time school probably wasn't her best option, and that c) the after school jazz band (which she also joined) was better than the regular band, because the other students were there because they wanted to be...not because their moms made them or because band was thought of as an "easy A".

Regarding "fit", I would note that, unlike the grade levels at school, the students in the Suzuki group class are all valued for the levels that they are presently on. A fifth grader learning algebra would have nothing to share with peers who are not ready for the multiplication tables...a kid who can model good form and musicianship can make a material difference in the progress of much less advanced peers. I still love playing Suzuki Twinkle...I love all the "foundation" stuff that I use with my students...but it's been a long time since I studied the multiplication tables...there are lots of things that I don't know how to do that I'd rather spend my time on.

Deborah
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002

"A fifth grader learning algebra would have nothing to share with peers who are not ready for the multiplication tables..."

See, I disagree! My dd has done simple algebra with manipulatives in a board-game-like program ("Hands-On Equations") since she was 5, and she would be thrilled to introduce other kids to this skill-set. She could teach them the rules for legal moves, and set up problems that involve only addition and subtraction, or at most halving a small number. And yet at the same time algebraic manipulatives can be used to solve two-variable functions and polynomials, so she could be working on her own stuff in parallel.

I think that "unofficial" part-time attendance for a couple of non-core classes may indeed be possible with this school. Unfortunately while art and PE are obvious choices, and have the further advantage of being taught as blocks at particular times (the rest of the subjects being unscheduled and often taught in an integrated, cross-curricular way), the two teachers who run those classes are the least skilled and the least inspiring. PE is taught by the principal, who is a "yeller" and tends to use a fair bit of shaming, and art is taught by the high school Home Ec teacher who has almost no personality or creativity. Those classes would be pretty misery-invoking if they were the sum total of the experience a kid was getting at school. In 5th grade, though, PE is no longer taught separately as morphs into the outdoor ed porgram.

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-1998

Hugs to her. Those are difficult ponderings.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002

I was with her at the school during the art workshop so I know which kids she saw talking division facts, and the school and community are so small and open that I have a really good idea of the level of the kids and the level of the work. The girls were a 6th grader who was helping a 5th grader who is on an IEP for both severe behavioral and mild learning disability issues. Definitely not typical of 5th grade classroom work. And I did tell her that, saying something like "I don't think the grade 5's are new to division. Kids often do review."

But I do know what they are doing in the classroom because the school umbrellas our homeschooling program and we are free to borrow surplus classroom resources. As dd has worked through her math program I've borrowed copies of the school textbooks. The math material my dd is doing is similar to the 7th grade textbook, but I prefer the greater complexity of the problems in the Singaporean text we have, so we use that. Here is an exercise she did out of her workbook this week by way of example, and it goes way beyond the geometry they do in 7th grade here.

Miranda
in rural BC, Canada
mom to three great kids and one great grown-up
unschooler, violist, runner, doc 

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