Gifted preschoolers reading list
November 20, 2015 12:28 AM   Subscribe

We're preparing for plans B, C and D for our just-turned four year old now that her preschool no longer fits, and I'm trying to do the research. Most of what I can find online and at the library is aimed at grade school kids or kids who are moderately advanced. Basically, I need recommendations for books, experts, and discussion groups (preferably closed) for parents and families of young asynchronous/weird and very smart kids.

It's becoming isolating to not be able to explain why oh yes, hah it's funny how she tried to pick the lock to the door because I have caught her trying to cook her own breakfast in the kitchen after watching master chef junior, and she pretends she doesn't know words at school because "the teachers like me to be happy and play kid games, mummy, so I feel like a cowgirl alone on the range sometimes," and then at home she will spend an hour building a lego town and making little songs that rhyme for the people inside and spell words, but refuses to read because "then no-one will read to me again." She's just so exhausting and intense and slowly getting angrier and sadder about being bored and lonely at school - they moved her up a year recently which helped, but she's a year younger now and it's just not working. She's desperate to homeschool, but I don't know what the current research or best practices are as I last homeschooled special needs kids on the other end of educational needs. She's just so unhappy at home, but hides it at school and we can't talk about it to anyone because it's seen as humblebragging even though she is miserable. Or we're exaggerating special snowflake helicopter parents. Until they meet her.

posted by dorothyisunderwood to Education (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
High IQ Kids went out of print, but if you can get it, it focuses on the truly asynchronous outliers more than the moderately-to-highly gifted kids that most books cover.

Lisa Rivero's Creative Home Schooling is a popular resource targeted at parents of gifted kids. There's a second edition now available as an e-book only.

Free Spirit Publishing and Great Potential Press both publish many resources for and about gifted children in addition to the books above.

You might like the Davidson Gifted Issues Discussion Forum. Their Young Scholars program targets kids in the 99.9+%ile. You have to be a US citizen or permanent resident to apply for that, but anyone can use the public forum in the first link.
posted by Flannery Culp at 4:21 AM on November 20, 2015

Step 0, what does the school have to say for themselves? Because this is bullshit. They should not be putting her down. If what they actually mean is that she needs to come out of the book corner to join music class, that's different and something you can work on together with them.

There are 4 year olds in the world who read. Real books. I had one until just recently, when he turned 5. Are there other schools in town? If you have a very nurturing Montessori school available, that might be a good fit because they'll let her work at her level. I wish she could come to our school.

Step 1, you reassure her that you will ALWAYS READ TO HER AND LEARNING TO READ DOES NOT STOP THAT. Read her chapter books (Magic Treehouse series, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and The Night Fairy) have all been well received at our house.

Step 2, If she's still nervous about reading, try the Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems with her. They're set up as a dialog, so we've been playing one part and Micropanda's been playing the other. They lend themselves to very fun, very dramatic together-readings.

I'm frustrated on your behalf. Me mail if you would like to chat offline.
posted by telepanda at 4:30 AM on November 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

There is a large Facebook group called "Gifted Unschooling." There is some nonsense on it -- how do I homeschool my 1yo who is very bright and took her own diaper off even, etc -- but there is also a fair whack of experience.

Unschooling is what I -- a perennial victim of the "highly gifted" label -- wish I had had, and it is working very well for my daughter (8).

The best advice I can give parents of gifted kids based on my experience is to ask the child what the child feels would be best. Even at 4 I had quite good and reasonable ideas as to what would be the best fit for me. That's a thing that makes raising very bright kids easier -- they're bright! They know these things. My daughter has taught herself all sorts of things; my job is mostly to stuff the house with resources and act as a facilitator.

Also on FB and the web: "GHF: Gifted Homeschoolers Forum." I can't tell you much about it as I left for reasons I don't entirely recall. FB is quite stuffed with these sorts of things, local "Yourcity Gifted Etc" groups included.
posted by kmennie at 5:59 AM on November 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum has good resources and a variety of online groups (yahoo group, Facebook, google+, etc.).

Mensa for Kids might also give you some ideas. I ran across their Excellence in Reading program yesterday and am going to start working through the book lists (bottom of the page) with my kids.

My kindergartener knows how to read but often pretends she can't because she's afraid we won't read to her anymore. I think this is a common fear. We do a lot of reading together, where I read one page and she reads the next. That seems to help.
posted by belladonna at 6:07 AM on November 20, 2015

As far as homeschooler her goes, especially at this age I would avoid any kind of curriculum. Just read to her a lot and do crafts and cook together and play with lego and watch interesting documentaries online. If she's particularly enthralled with a topic, focus on that for a while. (My oldest was fascinated with Ancient Egypt when she was 5, so we spent several months learning about it. She checked out a billion books from the library, watched Egypt documentaries on Netflix, and mummified her Barbie doll.)
posted by belladonna at 6:11 AM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

So my kiddos may not be as advanced as yours, but I have had similar problems with mine, especially my older (now 6 year old). In general, it is a fight to get highly performing kids what they need at any school, because so much is focused on making sure the kids that are behind are brought up. Every new school my oldest has gone to has involved lots of discussions with his teachers about where he is and that if they don't challenge him, he will start to have behavioral issues as school (he's the stereotypical smart kid that acts out and goofs off when bored). In some schools we've been this has been one or two discussions and then they've made good changes that helped him flourish. His current school has been a much larger fight, but after many meetings I was able to get his teacher to get him in higher math and reading groups and just this week she told me that the change in his behavior has been spectacular since they started this. Usually a large amount of the advocating goes into to convincing them that he is advanced, because, like your daughter, he tends to hide it at school (those his is more from a combination of anxiety over doing anything he isn't perfect at and a form of laziness). And he does do this while also noting at home how bored he is with the material at school.

My younger one is going to be more of a problem I think because he has more of a desire to do more and more advanced things than his brother and will be less willing to simply hang back. I am not a big fan of homeschooling, just because I think most people don't have the skills to do it well, and teaching is not as straightforward or easy as it seems. But you have to do what works for your family and for some homeschooling does work. But before committing to that route, I would try both talking with the current school more and really advocating for what your daughter needs, and starting looking for other schools out there that might be a better fit. Just prepare yourself because this is going to be an issue you are going to have to fight with for the rest of her schooling likely.
posted by katers890 at 6:20 AM on November 20, 2015

If she is lonely at school I am afraid that she is struggling socially and homeschooling would not be a good solution for that. Gifted kids often have uneven growth when it comes to emotional and intellectual growth.

If the school play based? I think that may be important.

More and more studies are coming out about how important unstructured play is for children. Kids that are pushed academically have a boost in the beginning but it evens out later. The kids who have social play in these years are advanced socially and they retained it to their college years.

There are terrific programs for home schoolers at places like farm schools, museums, audubon.

Perhaps Fridays could be a no preschool day and you both could do museums, zoos and farms.

Her intellectual growth is important but I think you may want to look at books about teaching social behavior to gifted children. There are a lot of books out there about this and I know lots of now-adult "gifted children" that would be a lot happier in their adult life if their parents considered this.
posted by ReluctantViking at 8:21 AM on November 20, 2015 [6 favorites]

2nd the recommendation for a Montessori school, particular one that might have a lower elementary school as well. Montessori schools typically have mixed-age classrooms, which means she would be in class with kids older and younger than her, and have access to study materials for a wide range of stages. The curriculum and materials don't top out, basically.
posted by bq at 9:31 AM on November 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh my. If at all possible, get her out of the public school system and let her move as fast through curriculum as she wishes, with plenty of interest-led stuff to keep her busy... and let her thrive.

Make sure she knows what things are off limits (for safety reasons) unless she has an adult supervising - and encourage her to bring the ideas for things she wants to try to you. Make sure you follow through with allowing her to try them in a safe way. Start a project list - I bet it'll grow faster than there is time to do things, and as long as she sees that you're trying to get through them (and allowing her to choose which ones to do next, when possible), she'll get in the habit of bringing those ideas to her list instead of just acting on them on her own. Make the project list a big, cool, exciting deal, in whatever over-the-top way will appeal to her, to start with.

You have my sympathy. I have one that lasted half-way through public school kindergarten before I yanked him out - he was just operating at too high a level for them to be willing to adapt to.

And his two-years-younger sister, I knew better than to even try.
posted by stormyteal at 9:55 AM on November 20, 2015

She's in a reggio-emilio school, and the montessori schools here stop at age 5-6. We can't afford the schools beyond that age, and the next subsidised gifted/accelerated program starts at the earliest possible age for a 9-10 year old. The problem with the school is that she's very adaptable. Her social skills are excellent and she's deliberately concealing abilities to avoid work or negative attention, so they see her as a sweet bright girl only, and that we're crazy pushing parents.

I'm not so worried about the specific curriculum (although I'm leaning towards just your basic five-in-a-row with plenty of family maths games for now, the rest of the time to be outdoors or group activities) as the framework - mix the ages? Look for a similar peer group? And how do people talk about their fast kids' struggles and successes without getting pushback from other parents? Just accept that this will be something to keep quiet about except to a very few people who get it, or reframe her situation?
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:07 AM on November 20, 2015

My understanding is that this kind of things gets easier to deal with as your kid gets older. When your child is four and reading chapter books, the gap between her and other kids can seem huge. When she's six and seven, her peers are reading as well, and she's no longer sticking out like a sore thumb. At that point you can focus on offering enrichment activities and extending the curriculum that she's working with in school. It doesn't become as much of an issue socially.
posted by bq at 10:37 AM on November 20, 2015

I am on a tablet, so links are a pain, and I have a busy day ahead of me. My apologies in advance for the lack of links.

Google "Hoagies Gifted." There are a lot of resources listed there. I feel some of it is pretty negative, but given how negative your experiences are, that may resonate.

I will second Lisa Rivero's book. I met her in person at a conference, iirc just before it was published. Her book was pioneering work.

In addition to the Davidson list and the GHF site/forum, the TAG Project is still around. Their homeschooling list is called Tagmax. Their list for kids like yours is called TagPDQ. I was a moderator when it was founded. I am technically still subscribed but haven't participated in years.

I have a private blog still trying to get its sea legs. You can email or memail me, subject "Memoirs of a mom" and I can send you an invitation.

Also, google The Gifted Development Center in Denver Colorado. They have some resources online, particulary for visual thinkers. They used to do phone consults. I am assuming that is still available, but I am very out of the loop.

You could also google for the Learn In Freedom website. The author is a school teacher who homeschooled his own. It may be a tad out of date. His kids are grown and the site languished for a time while he tended to other things. I know he had plans to update it. We talked a bit at the time. I have no idea if he followed up.

My old homeschooling site can be found on the Wayback Machine. The url was There isn't much there, but it is free.

If you cannot find links, memail me and I will get them for you as soon as I can.
posted by Michele in California at 10:52 AM on November 20, 2015

In re.

If she is lonely at school I am afraid that she is struggling socially and homeschooling would not be a good solution for that.

...homeschooling has been great for my asynchronous smartypants kid. She's 8; her BFF is 11. Homeschool co-ops and other group what-nots have a lot less segregation by age and nobody snarks if you hang out with kids who are older or younger than you. All my experience with homeschooled children has been that their socializing skills are miles ahead of their regular-schooled peers. They are able to politely and fearlessly converse with adults, and able to be kind and friendly to littler kids in a way rarely seen in places where kids are grouped by age for everything.

I was a bit lonely at school when very young and before being skipped. I did not struggle socially; the problem was that I didn't have loads in common with the other kids, who were barely stringing sentences together while I was reading chapter books.

In re. "And how do people talk about their fast kids' struggles and successes without getting pushback from other parents?" -- meh -- it's not an interesting topic of conversation unless you are talking to the parent of another similarly flavoured kid. I have a few parent friends with bright kids I can talk freely about my kid with. Find those other parents! (It shouldn't be too hard; they will likely be the parents of your kids' closer friends.)
posted by kmennie at 11:09 AM on November 20, 2015

At the age of 4, there is a lot to be said for aiming at breadth rather than depth.
posted by Idcoytco at 12:59 PM on November 20, 2015

Our montessori schools also stop at kindergarten, but I'd submit that you have a lot to gain from getting her in a better environment now. I think a good montessori preschool would be a much better fit for a kid like yours than reggio-emilia, for the following reasons:
1) Kids are encouraged to progress through a series of works ranging from easy to really quite challenging, and the structure provides no incentive for kids to hide what they can do. If anything there's an incentive to master things so you can move on to the next tier.
2) It's a mixed age group, so it's perfectly normal for some kids to be working on harder things and some kids to be working on easier things. It's much less obvious if a kid is way ahead in a particular subject.
3) During work time, kids are generally supposed to be working on something - there's no "stop using your brain and go play". Our school has work time from 8:30-10:30, line time (where they do group stuff like run around a bit, sing songs, have birthday celebrations, show and share, what have you), go outside and play, eat lunch, have story time, and take a nap. For kids there til 5 there's an afternoon outdoor recess and then another work time.

I'm a bit worried myself about the transition to public first grade, but we've decided to cross that bridge when we come to it. For now, if you've got another 1.5 or 2.5 years of preschool and kindergarten ahead (depending on your school's age cutoff) I think it's worth it to try your kid in a different school.

The tl;dr is that your kid doesn't sound to me like she isn't suited for school at all, but she definitely sounds like your current school isn't a good fit. Whether you choose to homeschool or try a different school is totally up to you, but I don't think homeschool is your only option.
posted by telepanda at 2:05 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Far from the Tree might be of interest.
posted by alms at 2:31 PM on November 20, 2015

I'll update in another two weeks with the other expected changes, but I spoke with the school and she is now bringing a "homeschool" folder to school with worksheets, 1-2 books and some materials, that are for her to independently play/learn with during school time. She doesn't seem to do much with it yet but is very very intent on having it each day and it seems to be a bridge for her to indicate to the teacher when she wants to do more or something else. The school is not competitive, but she is very competitive and self-critical, and so they're going to look for ways to help her get past that trap where she's constantly disappointed because her standards outstretch her abilities (You are four! of course you can't draw a realistic looking apple! It is okay for it to be squidgy shaped, it is a lovely blobby apple!) and she is picking up or imagining judgement on her work. It helped enormously that she agreed to let me bring her new book on death (a YA book about graves and funerals - she looks at the pictures and I read edited parts to her) and disclose her at-home eclectic interests to her teachers who have only seen the very narrow slice of "fairies, princesses and nice things" she felt were allowed at school.

One unexpected thing that came up was the school talking about how many risks they challenge the kids to take - screwdrivers and scissors, tree climbing etc, and we were able to explain that all those were well within her comfort zone already. They're going to think of riskier things for her in particular as a result.

She's much more relaxed about school now and while she still wants to homeschool, she's not as desperate for interaction now. Just seeing that her teachers were willing to listen and respond and didn't shame her for the book about death, as she worried, made a big difference, and she's not hiding her academic abilities now either.

Next step is cutting down to four days a week in January, and enrolling her in a mixed-age activity on Homeschool Day, and then seeing how we can balance. We're hoping for a mix of 2-3 days homeschool, 2-3 days at school, as the school is willing to work with us on challenging her and she is still little, but it's now clear that it's more than just boredom and about how she's taught. She's a lot more fragile about her intellectual curiosity than I had thought, because she shuts down very quickly outside the house where it's a 'safe zone'. She's so resilient in other ways but silences her questions and thoughts already.

Thanks to the people who memailed about this.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:42 PM on December 5, 2015 [3 favorites]

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