How to advocate for a bright kid in a state with no gifted funding
October 16, 2014 7:43 AM   Subscribe

My son is going to kindergarten next year in Boston Public Schools. He is very bright and I am concerned that he will be bored. How can I advocate for him given the restrictions I am under?

I previously asked this question and ultimately decided not to place him in a private school for the various reasons mentioned.

So he'll be going to BPS. Children are placed in schools by lottery here, although I will have a choice of which schools I would like to bid for a seat in. (There are seats here for four-year-old kindergarten, which is called K1, though a seat is not guaranteed. Assume that we get a seat.) There is no funding in Massachusetts dedicated to teaching gifted children, although there are "accelerated work classes" in some schools beginning in 4th grade.

He's currently in a "community partners" private preschool K1 class that uses the exact same curriculum (OWL) that BPS uses in their K1 classes. BPS has an extremely strict age policy and apparently will not place him into a K2 (five-year-old kindergarten) class under any circumstances. So he's going to be doing the same curriculum twice unless there's something I can do.

I'm planning to talk to the principals at each of the five schools I'm planning to bid for a seat in so that I can rank the schools appropriately based on their answers. One of the schools is a well-respected, totally bilingual school (English/Spanish), the Hernandez, so I think that would be great for him if he were to get a seat there, as learning a new language would be a challenge.

The child turned four two days ago and is reading Level 2 readers and doing simple math. How can I ensure that he isn't bored at school and doesn't therefore lose his love of it? We supplement a lot outside of school, but I think it's really unfortunate that he's going to basically repeat a grade because of his birthday, especially considering how accelerated his learning already is.

I spoke to someone at the superintendent's office, who kindly suggested the bilingual school but let me know they do not budge on the age policy under any circumstances. She said there's a possibility that his individual teacher can give him more/different work. I'm skeptical of this given what I know about how overworked teachers already are. She also said he can be moved to a different grade once he is placed in a school, if his teacher, principal, and I all agree.

The above seems like the best option for him that I can see, although I am concerned about him having to deal with yet another transition. I would like to do this early so that he can begin school with his cohort. People like to talk a lot about the social aspects of skipping a grade, and I'm a little concerned about the social stuff--mostly about how the teacher and principal might view it. He is not the most well-behaved child, often because he is bored. (I was similar to him in acceleration as a child, but was not skipped for social reasons. However, this doesn't seem to have helped me. I was both bored and socially stunted until at least high school.) At this point, I really feel strongly that keeping up with his ability to learn new things is more important than worrying about social skills, especially given that he won't be that much younger than his peers in a K2 class. If you disagree with me about this, why? What social skills should a student entering kindergarten possess?

How should I talk about this to the principal of a school and to his teachers when they are assigned? What words should I use to convey the level of acceleration? Should I have him tested just so I can prove to them that he is above average? (My mother told me she had to do this for me.) How can I most strongly advocate for my son's best interests in a public school?
posted by woodvine to Education (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Two initial thoughts on this:
1- principals generally have a limited relationship to the classrooms, and
2- most teachers will quickly identify the major strengths and weaknesses of their students, especially in the small kindergarten-sized classes.

This is not to say that principals have no role in the classroom, but when it comes to day-to-day activities with the kids, it's all on the teachers. Principals may talk a good game, or poorly represent the capabilities of their teachers, so start by talking to the teachers.

From here, there's also the fact that teachers change, and even with the same teachers, class dynamics change how classes flow, so even with the same curriculum, your son will be experiencing the same general information in a different way.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:58 AM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I really feel strongly that keeping up with his ability to learn new things is more important than worrying about social skills

Learning social skills is a new thing, a big part of early education.

What social skills should a student entering kindergarten possess?

I'm a a parent and classroom volunteer, not a teacher; what I've noticed is that the ability to sit quietly at Circle Time without bugging and/or distracting the other kids is a huge one. Can he do that?

Should I have him tested just so I can prove to them that he is above average?

Sure, if you can afford it and it's not a stressful experience for the family. I've found test scores to be useful when advocating for one of my kids, who otherwise might not be getting the support he needs.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:00 AM on October 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

A huge part of school for children this young is indeed socialization. And art projects. And recess. I went to a school district without any special gifted education for younger kids. Lots and lots of us have graduate educations. You are worrying way way way too much about this. Consider seeking a therapist to give you a new perspective. It's great to care about your childs education, but pushing way too hard and helicoptering can cause a lot of damage to your kid. I know you want the best for him and a third party may help ensure you're giving it to him.
posted by Kalmya at 8:06 AM on October 16, 2014 [27 favorites]

Parent of a Massachusetts public school 3rd grader here. My son has always been years ahead of his peers in math, but not in other subjects and not socially.

Our school system uses differentiated instruction rather than having a gifted program. Based on my experience differentiated instruction doesn't work very well for math. It lets the kids do slightly more complex problems within the same domain, but it doesn't really let them expand their horizons and learn more. I think D.I. would work much better for reading and writing. It is straightforward to give a child reading material at their level, and obviously they can write and express themselves at their level.

You may also want to look for resources and activities outside of school that can keep your child learning and growing. I know, it stinks to think that your kid might be bored in school, and outside activities don't address that. But they can still be very valuable.
posted by alms at 8:06 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Even for a bright kid, I would suggest not skipping a grade -- yes for social reasons -- and here is why.
Remember when some babies could talk at age 1 and others couldn't, and the one year old babies who could talk were more advanced than the other babies? Perhaps that was even your son.

Well, a year or two later, all the babies could talk. And the previously nonverbal ones were often great talkers, all of a sudden. Suddenly it does not matter who was an early talker. It matters how you use your words.

The exact same thing happens with reading. In a year or two, the kids who now can't read will be able to read. And many of them will be brilliant, fluent readers, writers, great students who happened to learn how to read at 6 or 6.5 instead of 3 or 4. *PLUS* they will be more mature socially -- just because they are older (sitting still, sharing, understanding social cues, etc.)

In other words, although your son will always be very bright, the rate of learning will not remain staggered in an even way throughout grade school. He will probably not remain ahead in reading at this exact rate once others begin to read. Reading is a developmental skill like talking or walking, and once others kids take to it (sooner or later) many of them zoom ahead.

At this age, it is hard to see, but by 2nd grade or so, as kids' brains continue to mature, the academic playing field will shift in ways you can't anticipate now. But age does affect social skills in many kids, and kids who have a hard time "behaving" get singled negatively out by overworked teachers, and a difficult cycle can begin. So my vote for this kind of situation is still to keep the child in the right age group.
posted by third rail at 8:11 AM on October 16, 2014 [15 favorites]

Yes, he does sit quietly during circle time. Right now he struggles more with things like using his words to express his feelings.

Just as a data point, by the time I was tested at 6 years old, I was reading at a 7th grade level, and at this point, my son's skills are developing more quickly than mine were at his age.
posted by woodvine at 8:16 AM on October 16, 2014

I think this is a challenging situation. I was put in school a year early, and it definitely affected me socially, though perhaps other factors affected me much more. I probably would have had social difficulties no matter what. It did kind of suck that by the time I hit any given milestone (learner's driving permit, for example) it was old news to all of my classmates. But it wasn't a dealbreaker for me. For whatever reason, I did not develop what I would now consider acceptable social skills until college.

My younger brother was skipped out of 3rd grade into 4th grade because he was bored and becoming a major discipline problem. It worked well at the time, but backfired in high school, because there are major maturity changes from year to year as kids start to hit puberty, and he was simply not capable of behaving to (say) 15 year old standards when he was 14. He frustrated the hell out of his teachers and got a lot of detention. It probably affected his grades and thus his choice of colleges. Certainly affected his recommendation letters.

We're both productive adults with respectable jobs and postgraduate degrees now, though. So whatever you do, it'll be a struggle in certain ways, but it'll probably come out in the wash.
posted by telepanda at 8:21 AM on October 16, 2014

I would first caution you on the use of "gifted" unless your child has been tested by a psychologist. There is a lot of evidence that a lot of skills even out around ages 7 or 8 as kids grow, change, and learn different kinds of skills (some non-academic). There are reasons there aren't "gifted" or "accelerated learning programs" until 4th or 5th grade and they are very sound.

Secondly, the best thing you can do --- and I say this as a parent who also lives in MA with a child who is on an IEP and also stands a possible chance of being ahead of peers in some academic areas --- is engage in activities at home that support learning and play and to remain in touch with your child's teacher off and on throughout the year for updates. Engage in social events and situations and just continue to foster love of learning and natural curiosity at home.

I would honestly also say nothing about his acceleration at this point. Your child's job is to acclimate to the classroom and your teacher's job is to facilitate that acclimation and to get to know students as much as it is instruction time. Your child also has to demonstrate to the teacher his ability to do these things, which is a separate skill from doing them. My kid was refusing to do math worksheets at school "because [he] already know[s] it." We had to explain to him that may be true, but his teacher doesn't know he knows it so he has to do it to show her what he knows. That's not the same skill as simply knowing it.

For now let your kid develop as he will. Rather than worry about the academic side of school, I'd let him be a kid and work on his social skills. If he's as far as you say he is, then he'll be fine academically -- but social skills are also really important as we know from experience where our child is concerned.
posted by zizzle at 8:23 AM on October 16, 2014 [24 favorites]

Maybe it might help to understand that even if he is not being stimulated in an optimum manner at all times, and is sometimes bored, this will not keep him from excelling. It really won't. As he gets older, if he needs to skip a grade, that option is available to you. Or possibly a new private school option, or magnet school (do they do those in Mass?) might be a good fit for him. But a little boredom, especially in early grades when socialization is also a big part of what's actually being learned, will not lead to burnout or delinquency or whatever you are fearing. And that's assuming he will be bored.

The thing is, there is no perfect fit for any child. All children have to adapt, in one way or another, to the schooling they receive. Even private tutors won't always click with each child. The important thing is that he keeps learning, which he will. He will take different things from different teachers and experiences. All of which is valuable.

Let him go to K1, let him see how he likes it, give him a little breathing room, and then decide what you need to do, if anything.
posted by emjaybee at 8:28 AM on October 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

To clarify: my son will turn 5 in October of the year he enters school. I believe he'd be more appropriately placed in a K2 classroom instead of a K1 because he misses the cutoff date by only six weeks.

I'm not so much concerned about "academics" as I am about giving him the opportunity to learn new things at his own pace. I don't push him to learn things, although we learn about lots of different things at home when he asks questions about them, and only continue as far as his interest is kept. For example, although we read a lot of books together, he taught himself to read. I didn't do anything special in that regard.

I suffered academically because I wasn't given the opportunity to be challenged, so I mostly tuned out. I am indeed perfectly successful by now, but my school years were miserable, and I'd like to avoid that for my son if possible.

Any answers to my question of how to advocate for my son would be especially appreciated.

posted by woodvine at 8:34 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I say wait and see what happens, and involve him in the decision process when the time comes. Don't ask him if he's bored every time he comes home from school. Different teachers implement the same curriculum in totally different ways regardless of how they've been trained. You might find that his new teacher extends his learning more adeptly than you think. You will have more success making a change later if you do your due diligence and give this situation a chance first. Your son sounds resilient and adaptable. He will be okay if he spends a month or two in not as stimulating environment. It won't ruin him.

/elementary educator, experience with kindergarteners, former "extremely gifted" kid
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:39 AM on October 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Advocacy for your child starts by not letting your experiences dictate how you act on behalf of your child.

The second piece to advocacy is to first see where he lands, then see how he does, THEN when something isn't working, approaching his teacher about it if he or she hasn't already approached you. Advocacy, when done well on all sides, is forming a working partnership with those involved in your child's education.

My younger child misses the deadline for kindergarten by two weeks. She's three now, but she really acts well beyond a three year old in many ways until she acts three again. We have a school in my town that admits kindergarten students in September, December, and again in March. We may choose to put her in kindergarten the December or March after she turns 5 rather than wait a full year. But we will make that call when we're there.

You may see if Boston has a school like that as well. They're called Innovation Schools.
posted by zizzle at 8:43 AM on October 16, 2014 [10 favorites]

I volunteer weekly in my son's kindergarten class. My kid is a fall birthday too, as are most of his friends from the 'older class' of preschool last year.
The kindergarteners vary a lot. Some can read. Others don't know their letters. Some can sit still. Others are putting markers in their nose.
All the activities are designed so that kids can go at their own pace.
Personally I wouldn't stress about this just yet. If the kindergarten teacher feels like your kid should skip a grade, you'll be told. For now keep on providing him with extra stimulation and activities.
And try to arrange an opportunity to sit in a kindergarten class to see what it is like. In my brief experience it is SO not like preschool or like how kindergarten was back in the day.
posted by k8t at 8:52 AM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I was a gifted kid, with an IEP and all that - which turned out to be once a week we played scrabble with the smart kids, and sometimes went to drum sessions. I was also ESL, so they didn't throw me into a bilingual school (though I wish they did). So I wouldn't worry terribly much about the lack of a gifted program, there are some really garbage ones. (Admittedly, probably plenty more that are good.)

As a kid, I challenged myself. Yes, school was boring, but that was a minor part of my day. I finished homework in 10-15 minutes, and then went off to read or draw or build stuff, or whatever.

During recess, and during 'quiet time', I would read books like a nut. I was reading Crichton's Jurassic Park by grade 2, and my teachers were cool enough to not bug me about reading that kind of stuff. I'd practice drawing perspective, I'd copy things out of "How things work" books. I had a little rock collection I fostered during recess from the playground - I'd pick out different grains of sand and ID'd them in my little rock book. (I'm a geologist now, so that's kind of funny.) I had a little pocket computer thing I would write BASIC programs on. (I'm lucky enough to be a girl, so I was just ostracized for being this much of a nerd, not beat up constantly like some of my guy friends.)

Foster interests, foster a healthy questioning attitude. School isn't the be all and end all, and encouraging life-long learning is way more important (I think) than a learning on-off switch. School is boring? Well, sometimes life is boring. Sometimes you need to get through life's boring moments, and learning that is plenty valuable too.
posted by aggyface at 9:02 AM on October 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Some very broad and, IMO,inaccurate generalizations in this thread. Boredom is, in fact, a huge problem for gifted children and it does affect their learning and behavior. Even beyond that, being bored is miserable. There are gifted elementary age programs in many locations, notably, NYC public schools have them. Some kids that age are simply very far ahead o>f their peers. It may very well even out after 4+ years of schooling, but if that schooling is inappropriate, that's four years of boredom and frustration, and four years of material that didn't get learned. Sure, some parents can afford the time and energy to supplement, many cannot.

Of course skipping can be problematic; that's why specialized gifted programs can be great--the teacher expects the kids to act their age, but also teaches closer to their abilities.

All that said, I agree that seeing how things go is a good idea. Reinforcement and mastery of previously taught subjects can be a good thing. You might also look into after school academic enhancement programs like Kumon or similar.

(I was reading at a college level by age 6, and suffered years of boredom. It was actually quite a big deal. I'm not sure how being bored taught me social skills, or maybe the boredom is supposed to function as a punishment? Either way, I blossomed socially when I had access to people who knew what the fuck I was talking about more than half the time--ie other gifted kids.)
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:11 AM on October 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

The other problem with unchallengin material is that you become the smart kid in ckass, not because you do more, but because you finish first and it's "easy". There are many gifted people I know who feel literal shame, like they're stupid, and/or like frauds when they need to do actual work to master new material because they spent years and years doing nothing because that's what the smart kids do! They crash and burn and have zero study skills, they pick topics based on avoiding any kind of challenge--it's really depressing to watch.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:32 AM on October 16, 2014 [24 favorites]

One resource that hasn't been mentioned is your son's current school. Do they have other students that have essentially repeated the K1 curriculum? Can they put you in contact with other parents that have been in your position and can give you advice, and possibly suggest modifications that worked for them?
posted by fermezporte at 9:49 AM on October 16, 2014

She also said he can be moved to a different grade once he is placed in a school, if his teacher, principal, and I all agree.

This sounds like your best bet, since the entering age cutoff is nonnegotiable. Send him to K1 and see what the teacher says. If s/he doesn't say anything, bring it up at the first parent/teacher conference. Usually those are about a month into the school year, long enough for your son to acclimate to the new school and for the teacher to observe his ability and maturity level and form an opinion on whether moving up to K2 would be appropriate.
posted by Flannery Culp at 9:59 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

If the OP's child is gifted in the commonly accepted use of the term, then the OP should seek appropriate testing from outside the school to verify this independently. And then the OP could approach the school about scheduling a meeting to discuss the development of an IEP appropriate for the OP's child, which may include more challenging work in a related classroom.

But being advanced in one area may not necessitate the child skipping a grade when performing grade level in other areas. There was a 10 year old in high school when I was in middle school. He was doing his sister's third grade homework when he was two. It was practically unbelievable. But he was still a 10 year old boy, and to that end, he had 10 year old boy troubles around the troubles of 18 and 19 year old high school seniors. He had a lot of non-academic challenges that went with that. Intellectually, he was brilliant. But emotionally he was 10 and couldn't handle certain texts that were beyond a 10 year old's emotional understanding of the world. It's worth balancing that with academic ability.
posted by zizzle at 9:59 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of the biggest challenges I've had to overcome as a parent is to realize that no matter how much my child may look like me or act like me at the same age, my child is not me. They have two different sets of parents and a completely different dynamic than I did as a child - it's going to be a different experience.

So that said, I would urge you not to borrow any worry until you have to. If your son seems content now, then that's good. Don't worry about what might or might not happen in the future.

My daughter is in kindergarten in a public school in Greater Boston, and honestly, the stuff she's learning now, I could easily teach her myself. But she is getting great and wonderful experience in making new friends, figuring out playground politics and dynamics and that kind of thing. Right now I think that's more valuable for her than learning how to write.

My husband and I focus on enriching her life after school, and the great thing is that you and I live in a fantastic area with tons of resources for learning. I took my daughter and 2-year-old son to the planetarium on Monday and they were both spell bound and we went home and looked up all the information we could on Saturn and the universe. We are at the library weekly; she takes karate twice a week; we take hikes and bike rides - there is just so much to do in the Boston area and so much to offer. Kids her age are naturally curious and it's fun to help her see new things and learn new ideas.
posted by sutel at 10:11 AM on October 16, 2014

The bilingual school can be AWESOME! I'd push for that.

I was a December baby and my mother did everything she could think of to get me in kindergarten the September of the year I turned five, the state of California was having NONE of it.

So when I finally did enter kindergarten, I was taller than all the other kids, reading books and basically running around like I owned the joint. It didn't bother me in the least. I liked the stories, finger painting, etc. While the other kids fiddled around with the alphabet, I'd read a book in the corner.

When we moved out of California to Arizona when I was 8, I was half-way through 3rd grade. So Arizona decided to put me in with 4th graders (where I was also bored.) Skipping a grade didn't hurt me any, since I was pretty much the same age as the other kids. I was a reader, so I'd do whatever work was given to me (as quickly as possible) and then I'd read. This has been my strategy since forever. FOREVER.

I'd say all of this made me more social because I didn't really need to concentrate so much on the actual school work. Every report card mentioned how talkative I was. do my performance reviews.

At any rate schools aren't really set up for any exceptional students. Not really. It's a really broken system.

So some strategies for what to do when bored (read a book) and enrichment like music education, dance, robotics camp, tumbling, karate, soccer, etc.

I survived, you survived, your son will survive.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:16 AM on October 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

So my son just started kindergarten this year (in MA, so I feel your pain about the gifted stuff) and I had many of the same concerns (he was an early reader, knew some math already, generally bright, but prone to getting bored in slow moving classes and acting out). In fact, you can go back and read my question about where to put my kid for kindergarten, if that interests you. What we decided was to put him in the local (poor performing) elementary school so he could be with all his friends in the neighborhood. He is, currently, the only kid reading in his class, and many seem to still be struggling to learn shapes or letter sounds, many also struggle behaviorally (my kid has always been very well behaved at school, sitting still, etc). I got the same sort of statements from the principal when I met, that you did. What I did was try to sit back and let my kid interact with the teacher for a bit, before adding any of my opinions about my kid. I did note to her a bit earlier that he could read, but that's because I"m not good at the sitting back and waiting, but that was it. At the back to school night a couple weeks into school, I talked briefly with her and about my worries about him being bored, etc, but she had already figured all of that out on her own. She had noticed that he was advanced in some skills and that when not challenged started to act out more. She had a couple solutions that she was going to try with him once everything got more settled and we are waiting to see how that works out. So far he's been really enjoying himself. He loves being with the neighborhood kids and is really developing a lot of good friendships that are easy for us to support because the kids live next door. He's been proud of what he can do more than the other kids and I think is enjoying showing off a bit (though we are cautioning him on that side). He's also started to really pick up math stuff quickly, along with writing, which were things he wasn't super advanced in before (mostly because that stuff isn't as natural to do with your kids as reading sometimes). We are still in the wait and see mode and know we will likely have to do something more in the future, but so far, kindergarten is new and different enough in so many ways, that he is still engaged and enjoying himself, which is what I wanted out of the experience.

So what I'd say is use kindergarten as a year to figure out how your kid will thrive in the education system. Keep in contact with the teacher, and help them to work with your kid where possible, and support more advancement at home. If, during the year, you continue to feel strongly about him being too advanced for this sort of school, deal with it then, either through private schooling, or advocating for advancing a grade.
posted by katers890 at 10:56 AM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think that, if your child has not started school yet, you should wait and see how it goes and not make any assumptions that what is available will not be what your kid needs, or that your kid will be like outrageously bright and too good for public school or whatever. Not that your kid isn't gifted, because I'm sure they are.

I'd also say that Kindergarten isn't like, say, ninth grade, and curricula aren't really "repeated" in the same rote "yeah whatever we read To Kill A Mockingbird last year ugh boring" sort of way. Kindergarten is more about building skills and having experiences.

Anecdote: I spent pre-K and the first half of kindergarten at a boutiquey parochial school that started us reading very early and had a vaguely montessori-esque "learning through play" approach. I was challenged, loved school, jumped straight into the whole reading thing, etc. Then we moved, and I ended up in the local public kindergarten, which started teaching pre-reading skills much later and had a less "teaching skills through play" outlook.

Needless to say, not only was I less challenged, but I found it boring, and being an insufferable jerk, had trouble making friends in my new school because I spent all my time being all "ugh this is so babyish, you dumbasses don't even know your alphabet yet wtf?????" instead of learning important social skills. This is probably the worst case scenario you're picturing when you imagine your kid basically "repeating" the Kindergarten curriculum.

So my parents tried to skip me a grade. It did not go well, because I really was not cognitively, socially, or emotionally ready for first grade. I was a five year old who already knew how to read. That's all.

I'm not sure what I would have advised my parents to do in that situation. The answer, in hindsight, is probably that they should have reminded me that reading isn't the only important thing about going to school, and urged me to work on other skills I needed much more help with. But I'm not sure how you nudge a five year old in that direction. You can't make someone work on their social skills and stop being a jerk to the other kids, or do math because they need more practice with math, even though they hate math.
posted by Sara C. at 11:12 AM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

For what it's worth, my older daughter is likewise very bright -- legitimately reading and retaining the Harry Potter series at six, later winning Mathletes competitions, she was in the gifted program that starts in fourth grade, and now she's looking forward to taking classes at the high school next year, when she enters 8th grade.

We've never had a problem with boredom and acting out in school -- so don't assume that's going to be a problem just because your child is smart. Being bright doesn't mean you can't get a lot out of the school experience, and especially in the early grades, when a lot of what you spend time learning is how to be in a classroom and pay attention, how to resolve interpersonal disputes, and motor skills like how to hold a pencil and work a pair of scissors so they do what you want them to.

Don't borrow trouble. A bright kid can do very well in a regular classroom. There's no reason to worry until you actually start seeing problems manifest.
posted by Andrhia at 11:19 AM on October 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

Former BPS Special Ed teacher here.

I understand your concerns.

Any answers to my question of how to advocate for my son would be especially appreciated.

If you want to use the word gifted or ask for special considerations, then you have to have your kid tested. With those results saying "gifted," you then approach principals and ask how they can accommodate your kid. Without testing, you're just another parent with a special snowflake child.

I'm going to be blunt. Administrators always hear from the parents of incoming parents about how smart and gifted their child is and how they need their kid to get special services. They hear it ALL THE TIME and they're largely immune to this type of plea. They need testing, not a parent's say-so.

Without testing, administrators will suggest letting your kid start and see how it goes. BPS will be incredibly responsive if they see your kid is advanced and bored. But what they can only offer is skipping a grade.

I suffered academically because I wasn't given the opportunity to be challenged, so I mostly tuned out. I am indeed perfectly successful by now, but my school years were miserable, and I'd like to avoid that for my son if possible.

And repeating what zizzle said for truth: Advocacy for your child starts by not letting your experiences dictate how you act on behalf of your child.

Memail me if you want more inside skinny on specific schools.
posted by kinetic at 2:28 PM on October 16, 2014 [15 favorites]

First, I also hope your son gets into the bilingual school as it'd most surely provide a rewarding mixture of social, cultural, and intellectual experiences!

Second, as a teacher, I want to give you some advice like kinetic just did. Regardless of your son's placement, I'd recommend trying to keep an open mind and positive tone when communicating with the principal, teacher, etc. They all WANT your son to be engaged, challenged, and successful and most all will do all they can to help him succeed. You are the expert in your son and they are the experts in teaching large groups so together you can probably work out an effective approach. However, if you sound patronizing or disrespectful of them or the other learners, then you will negatively effective your son's learning. (They would still try their best for him but have to put their energies into dealing with the emotions rather than finding workable solutions.) That said, you know this and I hear you on the frustration. I do hope it works out! If you'd like to practice some wording, we could try some here.

Might it be possible for you to volunteer once a week at the school, helping out in the classroom or in general? That'd be a great way for you to casually get-to-know the environment and give you a chance to influence things in a low-key way. Likewise, you and other interested parents could host after school enrichment activities, sponsor a Destination Imagination or Odyssey of the Mind team, or do something similar. I'm sure the school would welcome it and your child would find the social and intellectual dynamic you're looking for. I also recommend 4-H Cloverbuds for more hands-on activities, and there are urban, suburban, and rural clubs.

Third, I want to especially encourage you to help your son to be empathetic and patient with his classmates because there's always give and take. If he does seem bored or disengaged after the first week or so, the two of you plus his teacher could brainstorm ways for him find enrichment on his own, like doing special projects or reading while others finish or even lend a hand to others. (Yes, it's not his job to teach but helping others can be a mutually beneficial and empowering experience of its own!)

Fourth, as alms said before, the modern public school classroom is super diverse academically and a good teacher will find ways to differentiate instruction so it's appropriate for struggling, on-grade, and advanced learners. Your son will likely be fine and you can make sure by doing occasionally check ins and supporting enrichment outside the classroom, too. I wish you luck!
posted by smorgasbord at 2:47 PM on October 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Skipping a grade is not a cure for boredom. I skipped kindergarten and I was still bored. I was later placed in gifted programs in my advanced grade. Eventually, even these were boring. School is boring for smart people.

I don't think it really mattered that I skipped kindergarten, except I then graduated and moved out at age 17. I think my parents would rather I was 18 leaving home given my behaviour demonstrated in the dormitory. Your end game is something to think about too.

I think that kindergarten is a great place to learn to articulate feelings with words, and to get practice with this skill somewhat unsupervised out on the playground. Kids, boys especially, need the time to work this stuff out. It's to his advantage to be the oldest in sports programs. And it gives him an extra year under your watchful eye to mature.

As mentioned upthread, see how it goes and then advocate appropriately for your son. If he needs a gifted program, get him one.
posted by crazycanuck at 4:35 PM on October 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

And it's way down the line for you, but you want to be thinking about Boston Latin for seventh grade and up.
posted by kinetic at 3:31 AM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

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