Need guidance for a little one

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-22-2010
Need guidance for a little one
7
Sun, 03-17-2013 - 5:09pm

I am a gifted teacher and recently completed my doctorate in gifted studies... But my own child has me all twisted up on what to do and how to continue challengaging him at such a young age as my experience is at the middle school level. He has not been formally tested for gifted because he is only 4, but as a professional I know there are some things that I could be doing at this stage to foster his ability, even if he turns out not to be gifted in the end... I am not a hufe proponent of testing early because sometimes things even out, but I at least want to maximize what I see in my own child  (like we all do)

Here is my issue:

My son is 4 years old and has what my state sees as a late birthday since he was born after September 1. This means if he goes to public school instead of going on to kindergarten, he will have to repeat pre-k. To add to this issue, my son seems to be showing signs of high intelligence. Upon getting frustrated with his current school, we began investigating other private schools and are startled (in a positive way) with his test scores. We knew he could read and his current teacher has him doing addition and subtraction, he has begun teaching himself how to do double digit addition, but hasn't quite mastered regrouping. Anyway... His reading comprehension test came in at a late 2nd grade or early 3rd grade level, but his maturity level is still very much a precocious 4 year old. Having said that, we are trying to configure if we should go ahead and hold him back or continue to push and find a setting that will allow him to amtriculate on with his current class that is on time??? He only missed the cut off date by 2 weeks. He NEVER gets into trouble at school. And the one time he did, it was because he told his teacher that he already knew his addition facts and wanted to work on the more advanced addition on his ipad. And of course, myself and husband reprimanded him because at the end of the day he still must follow his teacher's orders.

What are some additional things or programs that we can do to continue fostering his (for the lack of better of terminology) high ability????


Lilypie - (qM8b)

 

Avatar for turtletime
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-1998
Mon, 03-18-2013 - 12:49am

Let me make sure I have the details. Your child is 4 and currently in preschool. Because he misses the school entry cut-off by 2 weeks, he can't start this fall but must wait to start K fall of 2014. That right?

Whether to push for early enrollment or start on-time but be ready to advocate is really up to your child's temperment and your family situation. If your child can be home, I wouldn't hesitate to just wait and send him on time. If daycare is an issue, well, maybe starting him early would be more beneficial than another year in preschool if it's already not working out. 

Personally, we chose to send our kids when they were scheduled to go. That meant DD was an older 5 and 2 to 5 grade levels advanced all around. She was moved to 1st grade after winter break and had various accomodations throughout the years. She's now 16 and in an early college program. DS started as an older 4 because he just made the cut-off in our district (it's very common for parents to hold their children back in our area and so he was still almost 2 years younger than many of his classmates.) He was only about 2-3 years ahead and fiercly social and sought group activity. He pretty much just played his kindergarten days away. His teacher didn't even know he could read but he was happy and we knew there was nothing academic in K that he needed to learn. We moved hom to an accelerated tri-lingual school for 1st grade to accomodate his longterm obsession with ancient civilizations. He is now doing well in 7th grade. My kids were able to be home and in part-time play-based preschools do that is what we did and haven't regretted it.

I'm not one that really feels high ability preschoolers need to be fostered in a formal, school setting. We avoided worksheets and traditional academics. It didn't stop my kids from being advanced but it did seem to broaden their interests. They spent little time in preschool but lots of time running around the zoo, local museums, taking nature hikes, reading, doing messy kitchen experiments, lots of creative play, ect. They learned about what they were interested in... sometimes that would mean they did nothing but read, talk, draw, and research elephants for a week. Sometimes it was all about Mayan temples. Sometimes they just wanted to bake cookies and play dress-up. So, I'd not worry about maximizing his abilities. He's 4 and wired to learn no matter what he's doing. When they get older and the structured learning they are forced to adhere to is a mismatch, then yes, time to dig in and make it right. At 4, all you need to do is let them go.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-23-2002
Mon, 03-18-2013 - 9:22am

I love Turtletime's reply and agree with everything she wrote. My own family's path looks rather different on the surface but we held to the same principles and with my eldest two now 16 and 19 it's great to see what happy, well-rounded and interesting people they are.

My kids were unschooled (the unstructured child-led flavor of homeschooling) until high school, when they began attending a small public high school. We made no effort to maximize their potential or to push for more opportunities. As youngsters they played full-time and we encouraged lots of physical activity and outdoor pursuits. We encouraged them in creative stuff, in the arts, in imaginary play. Curriculum didn't figure at all until age 5 or 6 and then it was only fun math stuff. They were always years ahead of their age mates. They ended up grade-advanced eventually, but if they'd gone to KG I would not have chosen to start them early. They were better off, IMO, having that year to play and be in charge of their own learning. My eldest, who did a year of preK actually told me "It's okay, but it takes up too much of my learning time," by which she meant she preferred just to play and hang at home where she knew she was learning like crazy just by living life.

Miranda

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

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-18-2005
Mon, 03-18-2013 - 11:45am

I have a youngest in grade kiddo (born the week prior to the cutoff date).  There are pros and cons to being youngest or oldest.  How much it really matters depends a lot on whether your school offers academic differentiation in the early grades.  Most schools expect and accommodate variation in reading levels in K and 1st, for example.  And, if a child is really gifted, he or she will be somewhat out of sync no matter how old they are when they start.  Heck, my kid is even out of sync with himself, depending on which area of achievement you're looking at.  The whole world is a learning experience at 4, I wouldn't overthink this.

Gwen

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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-16-2001
Wed, 03-20-2013 - 9:50am

This log in thing is still frustrating!!  Three tries to leave a comment!

Welcome.  This is not an easy answer.  I have one son that is young for grade (pretty much the youngest boy in the grade, even though his birthday is a month before the cutoff) and one that is older for grade (birthday a couple of days before the cutoff and we waited with him).  In both cases, there are positives and negatives, but the reality is that most (not all but most) kids adapt to where they land.

In our district, there is a testing procedure to have a child start K early.  My understanding (at least in the past) is that the student has to score at least 2 grade levels ahead in ALL aspects of standardized tests.  I know someone in the same position whose kid missed it in one area and so couldn't skip.

The district also wised up about parents putting their child in private K early and them moving them to 1st grade.  They added a priovision that new to the district first graders had to be 6 by the cutoff.  Thus, parents have to send their children to private K and private 1st to get them skipped (I think if you came in the middle of first grade the district would let them stay there, regardless of age, but private schools usually require the entire year of tuition be paid up front so that is probably an unusal situation.)

In our district, like Turtletime's, it has been very common to "hold back" summer birthdays, especially with boys.  If that is true in your district, your son will be over a year younger than a number of kids.  I would try to find out if that is the case.  Also, is your district high performing?  In ours being a K reader or being a couple of years ahead is not that unusual.  The cutoff for the GT program is a WISC score of 140 (with some exceptions for the confidence interval).  Thus, there are a lot of bright kids and the schools reflect that in that the level of instruction is fairly high, as is the competition for the gifted program and, later, grades in the top classes.  If you district is not oriented in that way, I would h

The up side to skipping is that it is more likely your son will be challenged.  If he has the maturity and drive to meet that challenge, that could serve him better than gliding through school with no effort.  I think my middle one suffered in that it was a bit too easy for him.  OTOH, the youngest one might have been more of an academic star if he had had another year to mature (although I wonder if the maturity comes from the grade level expectations, rather than the chronological age).  But maybe not as the main factor in achievement has been working too quickly and thinking he knows enough which is more of a personality trait than anything else. 

When my youngest did not go on to K we enrolled him in a 4+ preK program at out preschool.  This was specifically designed for kids that had already done 4yo preschool but who would not be going to K because they missed the cutoff or were too close to it.  It was a great year for him.  If you don't send him to K next year, you may want to look beyond the public preK program and see what else is available.

Some have said that summer boys are held back for sports.  In our case, that has worked agains my youngest.  Who knew he would be athletic?  Certainly being one of the oldest would have been a plus for him in that regard.  OTOH, he has been on a great team in his sport and he probably would not have gotten that experience if he was held back.  Overall, it has a been a good fit.   

Avatar for mahopac
iVillage Member
Registered: 07-24-1997
Thu, 04-04-2013 - 1:48pm

DD has a friend who missed the cutoff date (in December) by just a few days, so her parents sent her to one of the private kindergartens in our area.  Then she was able to start first grade in the public school along with DD, who also has a December birthday but is almost a full year older.

This girl is our school's valedictorian this year.  Obviously she was able to keep up.

DD is probably fifth in her class, and I suppose she would be considered gifted, but more than that she was always more mature than most kids her age.  She is one of the oldest in her class which may have something to do with it.  Since she turned 17 she's been mistaken for a college graduate, mostly based on her poise and appearance.

Obviously you have to do what seems right for your child but I am *generally* in favor of keeping kids with their social peers.  20yo DS was highly gifted (college reading & 10th grade math in third grade, extraordinary artistic ability and fine motor skills) but emotionally not nearly as developed or secure as some of the other kids I read about on this board (only as an adult has he been diagnosed with Aspergers).  We were constantly reminding people that even though he had the verbal ability of kids years older (and an oddly mature moral understanding), he was still only 4 or 6 or 10 or whatever age he was at the time.  We found it just as important to advocate for emotionally appropriate teaching and materials as intellectually appropriate.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-10-1999
Mon, 04-15-2013 - 1:46am

My daughter is currently in kindergarten.  Her birthday is January, so mid year.  We have spent her JK and K years letting her be a kid. 

My BFF has a May birthday & skipped second grade so she was almost 2 years younger than many peers.  She graduated 2nd out of 550.  Never cracked a book and was in the gifted program.  She has had constant social issues. She has trouble getting along with others.  For us this has played a huge part in not pushing to advance our daughter.  We know that she needs to always be able to get along with others.  Our oldest is in 3rd grade and YD keeps up with her and the 3rd grade pals just fine, but we have noticed that now YD has been able to really form friendships with her peers as well.

To give YD what she needs we have her in a private school.  The JK was play based , rich in music, arts, science, PE, lots of play and exploration.  There were many opportunities to differentiate.  Luckily her teacher was not only willing, but excited to do so.  YD has a ton of energy.  After a  full day of school with PE (4 days a week), Music, art, Spanish (4 days) and technology she is in afterschool clubs- French, Cooking & soccer, She has a weekly swim class and plays the violin. She hs some other activities that she does from time to time, but she loves to do these things and wants to.  She still has energy  left and keeps us on the go. 

With your child so close to the cut off I would see if you can get him into kindergarten.  If not public, a private one if you can find one that works and you can afford it.  He will still be with his peers. Encourage him in activities that  he enjoys. Ones that will keep with his peer group. So important with his maturity is that of a 4 year old.   

My BFF tells me that she was always so bored.  Her parents didn't encourage non academic or extra curricular activities of any sort.  She said once she learned to read she just knew she always had to have a book on hand.    
I hope you find the right situation for your son! 
 

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Registered: 06-07-2004
Sat, 05-25-2013 - 8:42pm

You've had some great input already. One point not  yet raised is the idea of helping him develop his potential by broadening his experiences rather than guiding him to learn academic skills he will spend the next years reviewing. You can focus on play, exploring and engaging reasoning.  This is likely more difficult than straight academic learning, but if you have the resources, it can be really wonderful.

There are so many pros and cons to the question of when to start school and in what manner. If he lags socially it may be worthwhile to wait to engage in the academic environment, but even that depends on his personality and the suitability of the school path available to you.