Transitioning to First Grade
February 9, 2004 8:04 AM   Subscribe

PublicSchoolFilter! My son is entering the local public school system in the fall (1st grade). He's currently in a Montessori kindergarten, and is reading, writing, doing addition and subtraction. The question is, should we push for gifted and talented designation for him? [more inside]

I just talked to a G&T liason for the school system, and she was poo-poohing the idea that we needed to pursue this for him at this early age. The lady said that he'd need to be tested and go through a couple rounds of committee review of his scores to see if he meets their requirements (all because he's not currently in public schools).

I think he's pretty far ahead of the curve, but I'm his dad and my perspective is (obviously) skewed. I hate sounding like the typical suburban "my kid is so special!" drone, but I want him to avoid the problems I had in public school because I was never challenged.

Thoughts? Experience with this kind of thing? The school system is the Fairfax County Public Schools, in Virginia
posted by Irontom to Education (48 answers total)
Response by poster: if that's important.

(my anxiety over this question makes my fingers too quick on submit)
posted by Irontom at 8:05 AM on February 9, 2004

Is he gifted and talented? Montessori does not count toward answering that question.
posted by mischief at 8:06 AM on February 9, 2004

Just make sure you let your kid be a kid. All else is relatively unimportant.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:36 AM on February 9, 2004

I'd check out just what the testing and screening would entail. I would always say let a kid be a kid, but against that backdrop, if you and your SO review the screening, and make an honest assessment on how you'd think he'd respond to and handle it, it may not hurt to have him go through it. I'd also try and talk to the parents of some children in the program.

I'd also ask if kids are routed into the G&T program from the "regular" classes if they show promise, and if so, what's the schedule and procedure, etc. If the testing seems onerous or particularly pressure-packed, you could let him get started and see what happens.
posted by jalexei at 9:05 AM on February 9, 2004

What fff said. He's a little kid entering grade one, "pushing for gifted and talented designation" for him at this stage seems silly, and may be running a wee bit close to the edge of overdoing the parenting. If he's actually gifted and talented to the point of needing different teaching, it will become clear soon enough, and you can take whatever steps seem appropriate then. Don't push, and don't be disappointed if he's actually NOT gifted and talented according to public school definitions, that doesn't mean he's not gifted and talented anyway. The G&T liaison sounds like she's being very sensible to me.
posted by biscotti at 9:06 AM on February 9, 2004

As a public school teacher, this post sends up oodles of red-flags. Montessori? Gifted? Grade One? Oh dear. Please, Dad, do yourself a favor, let your child progress naturally in public schools for a few years before you jump the gun on this. There are so many reasons NOT to push your agenda that range from the obvious 'what if you are wrong,' to 'getting a teacher to become belligerent towards your child'. Yup, really. Be patient, if your little kid is that great, placing him in testing situations and before committees this young wont help, and he will shine anyhow.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 9:09 AM on February 9, 2004

I would give it a year. Our first-grader qualified this year, but I factored in his comort level (how settled he was in the school and classroom) before we nominated him. He has been at this school since kindergarten, plus it is very small (240 kids for K-6th, which is small for Texas), so most of the teachers and administrators know the kids. very cozy.

Plus, every parent thinks their kid is smart, which is as it should be. Observing him with his peers in a public school setting will give you some idea where his talents lie. His teacher will be a great source of information as well.

I am, however, an advocate of taking care of the nominating and testing process early in elementary school, before they are inundated with standardized testing. If the child doesn't qualify, he or she is less likely to be disappointed than older children who "know what's at stake."

And at this age, when handled well, it's just an activity they get to do with the counselor and a few other kids from time to time, in a fun and non-competitive environment.
posted by whatnot at 9:12 AM on February 9, 2004

Based on the information I have available, I think that nothing short of the School of Athens is appropriate for your progeny.

Languishing in normal-kid classes with the paste eaters and mouth breathers will stifle his creativity, dramatically slow the pace that he acquires new information (the one and only purpose of education, am I right?)., and minimize the number and frequency of "challenges" he encounters.

The mere mention that you might listen to a trained public school official about the suitability of such an ambitious program of education for your child casts serious doubts on your ability to parent such a wunderkind. What good is her Master's degree in gifted child education when contrasted with the steely reason of an impartial parent?

After studying the phenomenon of "children of baby-boomers with a perverse collective memory of 'not having been challenged in school'" for many years, I feel uniquely qualified to recommend my newly formed (and school voucher compliant/eligible) Academy for Challenging Youngsters.

Every monday morning the children are put in (or near) the center of a large maze of 12' tall, impossibly smooth and unclimbable, lexan panels. They are instructed that if they are to survive, it is only going to be by confronting a truly awesome series of challenges. They usually run around for a few hours before running into one of our "Gatekeepers" who will tersely shout out the rudiments of some academic concept while the child nervously and skittishly tries to copy it all down on the crumpled sheets of loose leaf paper crammed into his or her pockets.

Immediately after the lesson, there is a test. If the child passes, he is given half a sandwich and ushered to a new and more challenging section of the maze. The penalty for failure is that the child is given a quarter of a sandwich and led back to the middle of the maze.

I very much hope that you contact my office to arrange an in-home meeting with the goal of establishing a mutual interest in our new challenging educational practices.
posted by cadastral at 9:17 AM on February 9, 2004

I can remember being bored in first grade. But. If your child is smart, he'll have every opportunity to learn and be challenged--by you. Throw some books at him. At least as important at this stage is social interaction, which may or may not be hampered by special status.

Do keep in mind that I have no children and am largely talking out of my ass, though.

on preview: settle down, Cadastral--he was asking for advice, not touting young Einstein. Nor is questioning a public school official at all a bad idea (though Fairfax has a good reputation)
posted by mookieproof at 9:22 AM on February 9, 2004

cadastral - bitter about eating all that paste?
posted by jalexei at 9:25 AM on February 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

I third FFF and - why not have an extended discussion with your son, to present him with some possible options ? Explain to him that mainstream schools would be very, very different from the Montessori style of education he's accustomed to . Find out what he feels and thinks about it.
posted by troutfishing at 9:39 AM on February 9, 2004

more to the point... bitter that my paste-eating days were abridged by the actions of an overzealous (but good-intentioned) parent hell-bent on correcting the (perceived) shortcomings of the educational system that had "done her wrong."

Between that and little league baseball, I have quite a few battle-scars.
posted by cadastral at 9:40 AM on February 9, 2004

Irontom, if you push too hard your kid will end up as bitter as cadastral.

Just giving you fair warning.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:45 AM on February 9, 2004

posted by cadastral at 9:50 AM on February 9, 2004

Speaking as an adult who was a child who was pushed as "G&T" from a very early age (kindergarten) because of a high reading level, my honest advice is --- leave it alone for a while. Stay involved with the teacher, supplement classroom activities with learning at home, and let your child make the social adjustment to public school before you begin to push the whole academic side. Keep him interested in learning, but also help him to understand both that not all his age-peers are good at the same things he's good at, and also that every person is good at different things.

I honestly believe my early G&T designation (in a small, rural school) was one of the worst parts of my entire public school experience. Right from the start, it set me apart as somehow different than my peers. In retrospect, my entire elementary experience would have been better if I had been allowed to make friends first -- when the other kids saw me as "just another kid" rather than as "a smart kid".
posted by anastasiav at 9:51 AM on February 9, 2004

Whoa. It's getting a little heated in here.

I've access to three kids who did home-schooling, private schooling, and public schooling, ranging from grade 3 to 8 for this year.

The homeschooling was impossible to perform well without making it one parent's full-time responsibility. Children's brains are suitable for learning the basics of natural survival. They are not wired for modern society. Children below a certain maturity level can not teach themselves the necessary rudiments for this society: ie.) one that needs to read, write, think logically, etc. They need a teacher, and teaching requires a lot of time, skill, and knowledge/material support.

After a certain maturity level, I believe children could very well benefit by homeschooling/self-education.

The private school is not a wealthy one, and thus can not attract the cream of the crop. It was also a religious one, which further restricted its supply of teachers.

While the children received more attention and support, they had fewer resources and a very limited selection of friends. They were, in a word, very unhappy at this private school.

The public schools have turned out to be wonderful. The teachers are well-trained, they have endless resources on-hand, our school support staff are excellent, and there are tons of kids for them to befriend. Our worries about bullying, peer pressure, and poor morals have been proven completely foolish. The one kid who was struggling so much in the home and private schools has bloomed into a conscientious student who is surprising himself with his abilities.

Anyway, that's what happened to us.


But certainly, there is no need to "accelerate" his learning for quite some time. No kid needs advanced maths before he becomes a teenager!
posted by five fresh fish at 9:54 AM on February 9, 2004

I was in the G & T program as a kid. I was put in there in the 3rd grade. This was after taking the State mandatory testing and scoring exceptionally high. I am not trying to brag, just trying to indicate that IT should wait until his child has been tested with everyone else and see where he falls overall - some states do this in the 2nd grade and some do it in the 3rd.

But, what I would suggest what I did with my son before entering (and during) this year, 1st grade. Because I had been in the program, I tend(ed) to really watch how he was doing and try not to be the pushy mom. I kept tabs on his progress by talking to his Kindergarten teacher and getting her reccommendations as to which 1st grade teacher would be best for him in terms of keeping him challenged and interested instead of getting bored because he had already mastered things. I was able to submit a teacher request form for this year - not by name but by qualities and the counselor tries to accommodate those requests. You mentioned that you had talked to the G&T liason, but what does his current teacher think?

Luckily, he was able to get the teacher that his K teacher and I had discussed, and I have good communication with her. The G&T topic came up and she said that it didn't meet often enough to do any real good at this age and to wait until the standardized testing before pursuing it any further. So, I would really say, have good communications with his teachers and hang out a bit before going any further with the G&T things until later. Make sure they are still really interested in learning right now - pressue'em later. ;)

on preview: pretty much what ana said
posted by thatothrgirl at 10:01 AM on February 9, 2004

Not sure what the UK equivalent of G&T is, but I'll say this: I preferred being "normal" as opposed to being pushed into any kind of special scheme, or being sent to a private school. Maybe I could have had a better education at somewhere other than my bog-standard comprehensive, but I certainly wouldn't be a half the person I am now.
posted by Orange Goblin at 10:11 AM on February 9, 2004

Fair enough cadastral - I ended up doing pretty well in school but was fairly aimless for a while because of (despite?) parents who were almost completely laissez-faire in their unconditional support ("don't worry hon, we know you'll do better next time").

Looking back, a bit more structure and expectation would have done some good. I suppose the key here is balance. And while I'd hate to see any kid pushed into being some warped "fix" for a parent's shortcomings, I think you'd be remiss not to at least explore any option that might get your child a better educational experience.

As to Little League - 1 hit in three years.
posted by jalexei at 10:12 AM on February 9, 2004

The G&T liaison's reaction sends up red flags to me. So they'd have to test your kid -- so what? That's their problem, not yours. The liaison doesn't know your kid from Adam's housecat, so why would you believe much of what she thinks is appropriate for your kid?

I'd go back and ask the people at the Montessori school for their frank assessment of what they would do in your shoes. They're the ones who have some knowledge of your kid's abilities and learning style, not the G&T liaison or anyone else in Fairfax County.

I'll go against the grain here and note that the G&T times I spent in the first few years of school were invariably the best parts of the day/week. It was the times when I could be just another (smart) kid, instead of being the odd kid out in regular class by virtue of being Mr. Smarty-Pants, and times when we did something more interesting than practicing making letters. If anything, I'm bitter about the reverse -- coming back from DoD schools in Germany and then a year of private school, I got mistracked into the regular classes for 8th grade, and it was utterly and completely awful and
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:17 AM on February 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

...and miserable. The degree to which anyone who knew an answer was ostracized was shocking and painful, and I spent the next couple of years intentionally doing things wrong to try to fit in. Bleah.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:19 AM on February 9, 2004

just for another perspective -- i was placed in the gifted and talented program in kindergarden, and i loved it so much.

but i do remember classmates who were just shy of the official iq designation, and how sad they were.
posted by sugarfish at 10:22 AM on February 9, 2004

I have to agree with what most everyone has said here. In fact, anastasiav hit pretty much everything I'd say--I was pegged as G&T for pretty much the same reason as she was, but I struggled to get into the G&T program--which was mostly due to me being a kid and having an off day on the day of the test.

My mother screamed for years to get me in, and when I finally got in, it was into a program where all the kids had known each other for years and with a teacher that was not inclined to cut the new kid any sort of slack. It was awful, in other words.

Let your kid be a kid. What I wouldn't have given to have been just a kid--both among my peers and in my family. Instead, I was always the smart kid and there were expectations. My parents had ghosts that they tried to exorcise through me.
posted by eilatan at 10:29 AM on February 9, 2004

I'm with ROU_X on this one. I was in TAG classes starting in 2nd grade (when they began the program) and it was my favorite part of the week. All of the other kids were my friends anyway, and at that young age (in rural Iowa in the 70s) it wasn't yet uncool to be smart. Moving away in 6th grade to a school district that had no program started a long stretch of being absolutely miserable in school. Luckily my parents always made sure I was challenged in other ways with afterschool programs and the like.

If your child is indeed at the smarter end of the scale, why hold him back? A good G&T program is not like some of the stories you've heard here, but about encouraging the kids to explore their creativity and develop problem solving skills. It's also about a safe environment for wee geeks.
posted by mimi at 10:32 AM on February 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

This is Amazing.

My son has been in a Montessori school since he was two and a half (We are in Canada, and it is subsidized by the Government as a day care - up to kindergarten).

He is also entering Grade 1 in this Fall, and he has the option of going through to Grade 12 in the Montessori school, or to put him in a "regular" public school. We have been hemming and hawing, but have decided to place him in the public school. He is also at a high level of reading/writing, but we are putting absolutely no pressure on him to "succeed."

From my own life, growing up in a "gifted" program, there was a lot of pressure on me to "succeed," and I ended up rebelling pretty badly during my teenage years. For a long time, I told myself I was "too smart" to be in school, and ended up barely making it through high school. (I came back around eventually in University, where I am finishing up a Masters degree).

Moral? Help your child make a decision that is right for your child, not for you. Which doesn't mean steering him away from gifted programmes etc, rather letting them occur naturally. If your child is as talented as you believe him to be (as I do mine), he will rise to the top no matter what.
posted by Quartermass at 10:38 AM on February 9, 2004

Give it time. Let him go in and see how well he does. My sister's kids go to school in Fairfax County and my understanding is that the kids there are generally ahead of the game, and I suspect more than a few of them started out in Montessori.

There's always time later to reassess and have him tested if it turns out that he's bored and not challenged.
posted by stefanie at 10:44 AM on February 9, 2004

I have pretty strong feelings on this subject. I grew up in Fairfax County public schools (Greenbriar West elementary to be exact, which was (is?) the magnet school for the GT program). I was classified as "gifted" in first grade, but my parents decided to put me into regular classes for the socialization. Best. Thing. That. Ever. Happened. To. Me. The GT kids are *weird*. They are so sheltered and strange-acting that the "regular" kids absolutely despise them. They have no idea how to interact with children who are in the normal classes. I can't count how many nasty incidents happened over the years during our "mixed" gym classes and recess, all because the GT people were completely unable to relate to the regular children.

There is nothing wrong with being around slower children! I feel like I had the best possible education in elementary school because I got to learn how to deal with all sorts of people from every background, level of intelligence, etc. The GT kids only learned how to interact with each other, and badly at that. Fairfax County is such an incredibly rich school system; you get excellent field trips, crafty creative projects, etc in the regular classes... there is no benefit that I can see to GT. I never felt shafted when the GT people went on their trip to Williamsburg, because our class got to go to the National Cathedral, etc.

I started taking honors classes in junior high, and it is *only* at that point where it really starts to matter. I was suddenly in classes with all the former GT kids, and I was just as well prepared for the classwork as they were, yet I was FAR more prepared for dealing with the real world (and real people), and all the hellishness of junior high interpersonal relationships.

If it were my child, I would only put them into GT as a last resort. If the child is so bright that he is being ostracized by its classmates, or he is so bored that he is doing poorly, then GT would probably be a great option. I think for the majority of kids, however, it is a horrible program that is badly run by the school system. In a perfect world the GT kids would be socialized more with the rest of the school, but if Fairfax Co still runs it the same way as they did in the early 90s, then I would be extremely hesitant to put my child through that.

Sorry if this sounds really forceful, but now that I'm older it really pains me to think about what those GT kids went through. When I became friends with many of them in Jr. High, we discussed these issues at length and almost all of them felt exactly the way that I do.
posted by gatorae at 10:47 AM on February 9, 2004

Response by poster: Some additional background: I was a bright kid, way ahead of the normal curve when I was growing. Unfortunately, we lived in a series of small towns in Texas, with nothing like G&T. I was thoroughly bored in school after I learned to read.

By the time we moved to a city large enough to support a G&T program (6th grade), I didn't know how to handle challenging work in school. My grades fell pretty dramatically because I had no idea how to balance the workload. Of course, a year later we moved back to the same tiny little town that we started in, so I went right back to being bored.

I am aware that I have big ghosts lurking in my head about public schools as a result of my experiences. I don't want to make the mistake of trying to handle my ghosts through my son (as a number of people alluded to above). But, right now he's got 10 kids in his kindergarten class and loves going to school. I don't want to be a textbook example of the kind of over-aggressive parenting I see all around me, but I also don't want him to grow up with the same issues I had with public schools.

[on preview] thanks gatorae - I really appreciate the insight into the system. Email me if you are willing to share more information I have lots of questions about the mechanics of the program that the liason lady didn't seem too interested in answering. Maybe I wasn't asking the right questions, but the conversation with her was very hit-or-miss. (my addy's in my profile)
posted by Irontom at 11:00 AM on February 9, 2004

All of these points are valid, and as a mostly happy survivor of the "gifted kid" experience, I have only one bit of advice: If you are ever faced with the decision to skip a grade or stay the course, stick with the grade progression as it is. While your child might come out of the 1st grade ready to tackle the 3rd, but once he hits junior high or high school the age difference will put an added pressure on him that he could do without.

Just my two cents. Or one year.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:05 AM on February 9, 2004

Again with the "challeng/ed/ing/es" rhetoric!

There is nothing more challenging than finding a way to gain approval/distinguish yourself in a large social network with arbitrary and changing tastes!

You can throw all the chemistry sets and 100-in-one electronics kits and books that you want at a kid... those challenges are a drop in the bucket.

The challenges I relished most in high school came in the form of much more pedestrian and petty (quasi)sexual conquests and gaining acceptance of my peers. Shallow, perhaps... but satisfying.

Having to 'reprioritize' and 'relearn' was what caused a particularly morbid and uncomfortable few years for me. But I'm glad I did. The synthesis of these divergent value systems turned me into who I am today (an unemployable cynic with narcissistic tenancies, sure... but goddamnit, within the range of average human perception, a well adjusted one).
posted by cadastral at 11:05 AM on February 9, 2004

To add to my eariler comment: I was in Montessori until the public-school-equivalent of grade six, and I loved it, I was ahead of most of my classmates, but because it was Montessori, that didn't matter. Regular school was awful and boring by comparison (mind you, I went to private girls' school) and I ended up barely doing well enough to scrape by and trying to avoid calling attention to myself by knowing answers until I ended up in alternative school. I'd have dearly loved to be in a G&T program, and I think it would have made a real difference to my education, but there was no such animal in the schools I was at. However, I don't think grade one was when I needed G&T, and that's why I'm saying wait and see how he does. Labelling a kid too early is as bad as identifying changing needs too late.
posted by biscotti at 11:15 AM on February 9, 2004

Languishing in normal-kid classes with the paste eaters and mouth breathers will stifle his creativity . . . and minimize the number and frequency of "challenges" he encounters.

It will also teach him what he's "up against" in the real world, and will force him to challenge himself and seek creative outlets individually and out of school.

Just sayin'. "Gifted" programs go a long way towards stigmatizing the kid, as well as forcing an unspoken undercurrent of pressure on the kid to be something different and better than others.
posted by Shane at 11:18 AM on February 9, 2004

Hah! If only you could talk to someone whose child is in the very school system about which you're asking, and can give a recommendation about the specific school to which your child will likely attend....

Email on the way.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:18 AM on February 9, 2004

For those who care, a summary:

Standard classes until second-grade, G&T thereafter. That's the case with LittleMissMoonPie.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:39 AM on February 9, 2004

IMO, the best path is probably to enroll him in regular public school (provided you have access to a public school that's worth a damn; from some of the horror stories one hears, that could be a challenge) and provide him with out-of-school challenges of all sorts.

Might also be worth gandering at The Wonder of Boys, which I'm currently reading through. It makes some very cogent points regarding the male brain and male hormones, and how we fail our male children by disregarding the need for boys to be boys.

I'm not sure a gifted program would provide the social and emotional structure needed to raise a truly healthy, happy, and ultimately productive young man.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:43 AM on February 9, 2004

GT kids are a separate school population in the elementary school? This seems bizarre to me.

I went to two elementary schools...

The first was my local public school, three blocks from my house. We had an "Alpha" program for GT kids, but it only met one morning a week, with a handful of kids. We all were in normal classes except for this one time a week when we came together in a different classroom. It was mostly enhanced learning type things - we were able to program (in BASIC), we did a special exhibit on dinosaurs in the library, we did simple Mr. Wizard science tricks, etc. It wasn't really meant to be an accelerated curriculum, but rather an outlet for the kids who (like me) were bored with their regular school work.

In 5th grade I moved to a science and math magnet school, which was wonderful. There again, the GT program was basically a once weekly session outside our regular classroom where we were able to do interesting side projects not related to the regular curriculum. Some of us were able to take pre-algebra (essentially algebra 1) instead of the regular sixth grade math, but that was only for one hour a day outside of the regular class.

Once I got into junior high, we were able to choose GT sections of courses (i.e. you could take either GT English or regular English). This was also a magnet school, where probably half of the students were in GT classes.

I don't remember what qualified us for the GT programs that I was involved in, but I suspect that it was simply a teacher's recommendation along with parental permission. I woud definitely want my (future?) child to participate in those types of programs at the elementary school level. I don't think that putting GT kids on a separate track from the rest of the school population is such a good idea, mostly for the social adjustment reasons elaborated above.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 11:44 AM on February 9, 2004

I was a 'gifted and talented kid' right from the get-go (I was so young when I was tested I don't even remember it) and I have to say that I think I probably disagree with most of the folks in this thread. Get your kid tested right away. I mean, that's what the test is for, right? To measure if your kid is gifted and talented (as measured by the test)? Presumably the school district has determined that for some kids it's better to start these things in 1st grade, and that's what the test is designed to accomplish. I mean, there's a reason there are GT programs, right?

It's strange for me to hear comments about how 'gifted' programs go a long way towards stigmatizing the kid. Seems to me that generally a kid is going to be more stigmatized if he's way ahead of everyone else classmates, instead of one member of a group of students who are ahead of the rest of the district. Furthermore, a gifted kid in a gifted program seems less likely to develop an attitude about being gifted, since he/she will probably be around people who are clearly smarter than he/she. In an ordinary class, you run the dual risk of developing arrogance+impatience, or more likely, completely boredom followed by burnout. Thanks to my gifted classes I think I can say that I was way more social to other people (gifted and non-gifted) than I would have been growing up in non-GT classes, and developed socially at a reasonable speed. God knows what would happen to introspective, weird old me in a non-gifted classroom. (you may read some xenophobia in this paragraph. Shoot. well, there you go, I guess there are some drawbacks. Though I think I can be objective and say that in a normal classroom I would've been sullen, bitter, completely antisocial, and would've eventually dropped out. No, really.)

Finally, let me just add that from what I understand, my education was at least 4 or 5 times better and more comprehensive in the seattle public schools gifted program than it would've been elsewhere. Starting in grade 1. And they way you learn at that young age seems to me to set the tone for much of the learning you do the rest of your life.

[On preview, more people disagree with me about the social benefits. My situation: a bunch of gifted kids housed in a non-gifted school with other students. Some tensions arose, but I can't believe it was any different than the tensions that would arise normally in a school. And let me just be frank about socializing with the other kids: yeah, OK, it didn't happen much. I know they had a lot to offer. But there were enough kids in the GT program to provide a social network and all the social stimuli we needed to turn out well-adjusted (or not.) As for putting kids on a different 'track', it may not be a good idea ethically, but practically for the kids involved, we gifted kids sure were glad we were doing what we were doing, even in the very low grades.]

If you're not being objective here and your kid is nothing special, the test might tell you that, if you can believe the results. And I don't want to contribute to any unrealistic ideas about your child's potential. But in this case I think worries of getting your kid to socialize are not well-founded, and trumped by the need to provide the best possible education.
posted by evinrude at 12:06 PM on February 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

When my son was small he had a kindergarten friend who had gotten into the gifted program early. His mom pressured me to try to get my son in the same program but I demurred. Long story short, she'd made her kid almost a nervous wreck pushing him too hard. He was brilliant but burnt out. Mine was recognised as gifted and placed into the gifted program in 3rd grade. But all the program amounted to was extra schoolwork. I homeschooled him from 5th grade on and then placed him in public high school (plenty of honors and AP classes there.)

My point is that getting into a gifted program is no guarantee that he won't be bored. Just try to keep an eye on him and follow his interests. Homeschooling makes that easier but not always possible for every family.
Whatever you do don't pressure him. Counterproductive in every way.
posted by konolia at 12:49 PM on February 9, 2004

'zactly. Konolia's got it figured right, IMO: there are extra-curricular ways to challenge the boy, and there is no need for special programming until the kid is in high school.

Kids need to really enjoy themselves in elementary school. It's what's going to get them excited about the possibilities in learning and being.

I say it's best to wait until the child expresses a lack of enjoyment with school: if he thrives on challenge and regular school isn't doing it for him, then he needs the gifted program.
posted by five fresh fish at 1:24 PM on February 9, 2004

"Gifted and Talented" is a class-based system of course, and if you are rich, or comfortably middle class, then your child will be more comfortable with similar children. You don't want your child packed in a room with 40 little dummies. Go for it!
posted by Slagman at 4:29 PM on February 9, 2004

Slagman, when my kid was in the gifted and talented program, we were living in Section 8 housing.
posted by konolia at 4:49 PM on February 9, 2004

Anybody know if there have been any decent studies on the effect/non-effect that such programs have on kids?
posted by shoos at 4:53 PM on February 9, 2004

Like biscotti, I was in Montessori schools (not that my parents could afford it, but we bounced around the country so much they wanted some consistency in our education) until moving into public middle school for 7th grade.

For the next four years, for whatever reason you care to theorize, I was utterly miserable and bored out of my mind, until I transfered to a magnet school for math and science. Normal public school just wasn't enough for me, socially or intellectually, and I knew it. It was therefore my own choice to seek other options. I chose the challenge of college-level classes at 16, I chose to surround myself with other geeks, because they were my peers, because I was ready for more than my regular high school could give me

My parents always let ME make that choice, and in all honesty, despite my own nasty experience with public school as a "bright student," you have to let your son make his own choice too. Many people have wonderfully positive experiences with public school, it really does depend entirely on the individual, and the school system. If he really is outstanding, his teachers will notice and/or it will come out in his first standardized tests. Until then, just let him be a kid (heavily reiterating everything Konolia, FFF, and evinrude have said) and let him tell you when/if what he's getting at "real school" isn't enough. Good luck!
posted by nelleish at 5:28 PM on February 9, 2004 [1 favorite]

Anybody know if there have been any decent studies on the effect/non-effect that such programs have on kids?

One apparent effect is the overwhelming compulsion to join a contentious community weblog and post regularly.

everyone on metafilter is gifted! whee!
posted by whatnot at 9:33 PM on February 9, 2004

My school had separate math and general G&T programs, and I was in both from first grade to third, when I moved to a school district that did not offer those programs. For the three years I had the option, I loved my twice-weekly G&T classes. It was a little extra work and a lot of stimulating activities. Posters above mention letting your kid be a kid, well, my G&T classes were where I got to be a kid. We played math games and word games and had interesting discussions and wrote stories and used computers. I won't go into the details of trying to cope with the loss of that opportunity in my new district, but suffice it to say that I think it is just as dangerous to fail to provide adequate stimulation as it is to push a child too much. In both cases, they will come to hate school, and I don't mean in the way that all kids "hate" school. I mean real hate. Avoiding that is perhaps the most important thing you can do in facilitating a good education.
posted by Nothing at 9:54 PM on February 9, 2004

If you are ever faced with the decision to skip a grade or stay the course, stick with the grade progression as it is.
Seconded. I was moved up a level in my early years of school and then, six months later, moved back again and I never really caught up. On the bright side, it gave me something to blame all my subsequent academic failures on.

As others have said, let the kid be a kid for a while - if he is really that smart, it will become apparent without you trying to force the issue. My eldest daughter was slated for a G&T program when she was in the first couple of years of school, but it turned out that she simply started off ahead of the other kids because she already knew how to read and write before starting school. They caught up after a few years and the G&T program would have been a disaster for her.

Growing up is tough enough without putting huge pressure on kids to grow up faster and "be more".
posted by dg at 10:22 PM on February 9, 2004

I always thought that G&T classes were much more fun and stimulating, personally. I started first grade after Montesorri school and almost immediately starting going to reading and math classes with the 3rd grade. Around Christmas time I was in 3rd grade full time at age 6. I stayed at the two-grades-up level through elementary school (during which time I got picked on a lot for being the youngest, littlest kid all the time). But one day a week I got to go to a different school for the G&T program and that day was so much fun. We built radios and used computers and wrote stories and went on field trips and got extra attention and got to be smart without being laughed at - it was definitely the high point of my elementary school experience.

After sixth grade we moved and I started 7th grade in a new school system. I began to fail algebra and social studies and got knocked back to 5th grade with kids my own age. It was a strange experience. I don't regret going back to fifth grade, but I missed the extra challenges of the G&T program.

I think a lot depends on how challenging the school system is... Also, grade levels seem like mighty coarse separations. Different kids in any grade read and do math at wildly different levels.

I don't have any real answers to solving the problem of socializing gifted kids, especially grade-skippers. Being younger than classmates was hard at times (Lauren Whatshername wouldn't let me play with her Barbies in 4th grade!), but I also think I would have been bored in regular classes. My mom tells me that she and my dad had no idea what the best option was, so they just picked one.

I do wish that I had learned more about motivation and avoiding procrastination and trying harder and how to deal with failure: I think that those skills can be even more important than "book learning" and they certainly would have made my education/life easier.
posted by bendy at 1:45 AM on February 10, 2004

A crappy GT program is no better than a crappy regular program. A good regular program is something everyone benefits from.

If the local kiddie culture is to give a hard time to the "smart kids", time to fire the fools running the school system. And I am not joking. That attitude is a cancer on society, and needs to be removed.
posted by Goofyy at 8:01 AM on February 10, 2004

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