Bright Kids in Public Schools

Parent Q&A

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  • Our daughter is not getting academic direction or opportunities geared to her skill level or interests in the Berkeley public schools. Do you have examples or experiences where academic advanced students received support and opportunities in the Albany public schools? I am especially interested in the elementary grades.

    Thank you!

    I have experience with AUSD and I would say that you're not going to get anything outside of the basic curriculum. Sorry!

    Albany school district has the same format. Has your daughter been assessed for any learning issues? ( honestly I hate that sediment). She may need to Have an assessment to see if needs an IEP 

    I would also take a look at Montessori schools where kids can learn at their own pace. I’m not sure how to explain it but worth your time to look into it. 

    My daughter is in 5th at one of Albany elementary schools. There's really no differentiation. A bulk of the teacher's attention goes towards those students that are struggling.

    Public schools simply do not have the resources to differentiate learning for advanced learners in CA. We were in OUSD and the school psychologist told us that there is no program for gifted children unless they have also been identified as having learning difference, or  sensory or mental health issues that are negatively impacting the child’s achievement at the grade level. In other words, if a child is performing at the grade level, we were told that areas that have been identified as different won’t help our child get a special program. In fact, we have friends who have had to hire an advocate to get IEPs and other accommodations made for their kids. The entire system is designed to bring up the students to the state standards. If your child is at or above grade level, the teacher doesn’t have time and resources to differentiate to help them advance. Once in a while, you may encounter exceptional teachers who can differentiate but it’s rare.

    We ended up moving to a private school. If your child is profoundly gifted, you may need a special school for the gifted. Our friend whose profoundly gifted child was in Albany school district ended up leaving the district. The teachers told them there was nothing they could do for the child. My child who is highly creative /artistic and is about 2 grade level ahead was also told that there was nothing the teacher could do. We asked the teacher if they could let her work ahead and the teacher said “no, not in school, but she can work ahead at home”. After the teacher told us that she knew our child was bored in class but she still expected our child to do the same work as everyone else and our child can draw in class while waiting for others to finish their work, we left the public school system.

    Berkeley and Albany are thought to be a better public school system than Oakland but they are all CA schools. You may want to look into charter schools or private schools. Good luck!

    Thank you so much for posting this question and to the anonymous commentor who gave such insightful info on gifted learners and lack of differentiation from public schools.  To the anonymous commentator, I would love to hear what private schools you have found that offer gifted learners more academic challenge/differentiation.  We are doing that search right now.  We are in the Piedmont school system and it is not any better here, it's exactly as the anonymous commentor described.  Even for families with an IEP it's a fight.  We loved Albany and lived in Albany before our kids were school aged so we always wondered if it was a mistake we left.  But from the comments here I think our question is answered.  Thank you for the insight. 

  • Parents of kids who are bored in school

    (10 replies)

    My child complains he's bored in his public school because after he finishes his work he has nothing to do while he waits for others to finish. He triple checks his work and still just waits. He says the work is too easy or just not interesting. We will be asking his teacher for more work or other opportunities but I know public schools are rarely able to do much more. If you have kids with this experience in public school, what do you tell yourself to be ok with this? It pains me to imagine him being bored for half his waking hours. (Well, ok, I know he's not bored the whole school day, but at least half of it!) I know there's enrichment after school etc etc but how do you cope with the feeling that their intellectual curiosity is not being met for hours every day? Thank you.

    Can he bring a book to read? That's what I did when I was a kid in school. 

    I had this issue in elementary school (although my daughter did not, she was about average in terms of time taken to complete classwork). Usually I would read or do creative writing until the rest of the class was ready to move on. You don't mention his grade level, because by the time I got to 7th grade, the work was much more interesting and challenging (French! Lab science! Real PE in sports I had never tried before!).

    Yes, talk to the teacher; I recommend however, not making it about just your kid - be inclusive with other kids who may also finish faster and try to think of an alternative that they can quietly do together, such as work on a skit with a script, or draw a progressive cartoon that a few kids work on taking turns with the next frame. That said, boredom is part of life (hello checkbook and mopping). Good luck.

    I was that kid and my son is that kid as well. First he got bored and then he started acting out, distracting others, etc.  I started making sure that there is always a book, a workbooks, and some worksheets from home in his bag.  The teacher knew about it and every time she saw him being done and starting to get antsy she will remind him to do the books/worksheets him mom sent from home.  Then I reviewed the workbooks/worksheets at home with him to make sure he is getting it and marked new pages for him to work on the next time he has free time.  It worked really well.  The teacher did not have to worry about him since he stayed occupied doing work interesting for him without her having to prepare it or review it, and I get some control over my son's education and allowed me to ensure that he is getting to do some interesting advanced learning and getting the differentiation he needed.  We still do it now since he still needs it but it is no longer a requirement as he gotten older (upper elementary) and the books/papers are just there for him to do when he wants (he is only required to do it if teacher noticed him distracting others in class) but he still prefers it to boredom and finds it interesting so usually will work on it at least every other day. 

    At our son's Berkeley elementary school, teachers did a couple of things to accommodate fast learners. Usually in-class assignments and tests had extra credit stretch problems to keep those kids occupied or teachers allowed kids who finished early to do Khan Academy on the class Chromebooks. Maybe you could suggest those options to the teacher.

    Surely his teacher would allow him to read a book or work on a drawing while he waits. Or maybe he could help other kids. 

    Hi there - When my son was in 2nd grade at a school in Richmond he had a similar issues.  He would be finished first and wait around.  At first the teachers gave him work from the third grade, but that presented other problems.  After looking around we found The Berkeley School (On University ave).  Its an independent school that does an amazing job of differentiation in the classroom. We were able to move him in third grade and the results were pretty amazing.  He was able to be challenged with age appropriate material and encouraged to do more with his work.  He is now in the 6th grade there and thriving.  If a school isn't set up to already provide this type of support it is hard to get it into place but I hope this helps either give you the language to use in discussing this with the teachers or possibly a place to look at that may be a good fit for your childs education. 

    Same story for my son.  You are the best advocate for your son.  Our schools and education system is in such a mess right now, don't expect the school to help.  Our schools and administration is focused on and rewarded for bring low test scores higher.  The reward for my son finishing his work early was to tutor the "kids" who needed extra help.  This was a disaster for him because he wanted to be in school and learn.  (Not be a tutor or a teacher.)  We were lucky in that my son had an older sister, (three grades ahead) and on his own stated doing the same work she doing.  Lucky for us the teacher like him and would grade his work and give him quizzes and tests.  This caused problems with his current teacher as she would get mad at him for doing other work in class even though he had finished the work for her class.  She felt he was being rude and disrespectful to her.  This eventually turned into a behavioral issue because our son was bored out of his mind.

    There are programs out there for "smarter" kids but it's up to you to find them and get your son enrolled.  We looked into the program Stanford University offered.  Stanford would teach classes online to students in math, English, sciences, etc.  The students would go to library every day to attend the classes they were enrolled in.  Don't blame the teachers or the principal for the "mess" our schools are in.  For the most part they are doing a incredible job for very little pay.  What I do is approach the principal to see if they have any suggestions.  (They probably won't.)  Then contact Stanford, and look online to see what programs are available.  They are out there but you will have to do the work and work with the school.  Now you also have to remember the school is a "business" and the school will want your child to be there. everyday to receive government funding.  (So they might work against you.)

    Again not knowing the age of your child I would highly encourage you to get involved.  If you don't chances are very good this will lead to behavior issues and other issues.  Get involved and stay involved (from a distance) to ensure you child stays challenged.  We have seen other bored kids where there parents didn't get involved not do so well.  My son's best friend who was also bored in class didn't do so well.  His grades went for A's to D's in just a few months. 

    Best to you and your child. 

    Probably not what you want to hear, but we ended up moving to private (a nearby Catholic school). My child said the work at the public school was too easy. The teacher’s response was to play more on the app they have access to at home. This was from one of the best teachers at school, didn’t address in class boredom and made us concerned about coming years. At private, those done early do a quality check, then read a chapter book of their choice they keep in their desks and/or do more fun worksheets (word searches, color by math problem, etc). Perhaps the book is an option for you? It wasn’t for us as the class had modular seating and it would have been too “distracting” to the class to go to a backpack or shelf to get it. Plus we’re finding the addition of extras (Spanish, music, science/stem lab) are much more challenging and interesting.

    Bring a book works.

    That said, to learn the material is one thing, to know it well enough to tutor others is the next level up.  Perhaps the teacher will let him get to that next level.

    And keep in mind he may be bored now, but don't let it be a habit.  The time and teacher will come when it won't be that easy.  We don't know what subject or when, only that it will come.

    Note my child treated "extra worksheets" like "extra chores".  He was interested in able in doing higher level work, but not "extra" work.  He would on occasion go for "extra credit", but when you already have an A that too seems a little hollow.  I encourage your child to stick through it: not all classes will be slow.

    We've encountered this issue with my academically advanced 1st grader. A child therapist recommended that we encourage the teacher to allow our daughter to help others learn the material which, in addition to offering more mental stimulation, has the added benefit of encouraging empathy and building social/emotional skills. Our teacher's been on board with this and our daughter has thrived under this approach--we've seen her boredom-driven anxiety drop and her peer relationships blossom. Good luck to you!

  • Academic Enrichment for Public School Kids

    (3 replies)

    Looking for advice about ways to do academic enrichment while staying in Berkeley public schools.

    I have 2 kids that are looking for more enrichment academically than what is provided in the public schools in Berkeley--a rising 4th and rising 8th grader.

    I'm committed to public education, but my kids are both bored in various ways. I've done what I can by offering them any book possible (older one reads the New Yorker weekly and reports reading over 900 pages of fiction and non-fiction a week), younger is deeply interested in adult history so we are reading that together as he reads adult books on military strategy on his own. The Berkeley library system is an amazing resource, but my kids want more than just reading and one has a strong science interest. They want to go deeper, but they can't totally self-teach and I don't have the patience to home school either.

    My kids are away most of the summer so things like Quantum Camp are not an option. I'm looking at online options and getting them tested for "giftedness" to see if they qualify for the Johns Hopkins or other programs.  I can't see affording private school (not sure any are that much better), and I'm not yet ready to bow out of public school anyway.  But I was thinking of maybe hiring each of them a tutor. Maybe to meet 2 times a week to read, write, and discuss literature or home-teach a single science course from one of the many online curricula.

    Notably, my kids are not 2E, get along well in school, seem to have a safe and friend-filled environment. They just want more. and it is starting to weigh on my little one in terms of battles going to school each day (though he is fine once he gets there).

    Has anyone tried something like this?  If you did, what did you learn/how did it go?  If you tried and stopped, why?  Any other approaches I might take?  


    We are in El Cerrito so a different school district, but this probably still applies. A couple thoughts. You don't need to test for giftedness. The district determines that and will send a letter at some point in 4th grade following the 3rd grade assessments. WCCUSD was very behind on this this year as they were changing their criteria to give more weight to teacher evaluations relative to test scores, but scores are still a big factor. Anyway, we just got the letter for my 9 year old rising 5th grader. But, that itself means nothing as our district doesn't fund GATE and we knew our son was advanced in certain topics anyway. I had previously (when he was midyear in 3rd grade) gone through the CTY testing process with him with the same thought you are having, an online class from home. I still think this will be great - but for schedule reasons, we haven't committed to it yet. I'd strongly advise you to consider it - we are going to try to find the time for it next school year (balancing it with "fun" afterschool pursuits). I would also strongly suggest making the time over the summer for your older one to do the sleepaway CTY (or TIP through Duke) academic camp. I did this when I was a young teen and will absolutely have my kids do them too. We're trying ATDP for the first time this year and will see if it's as good as I recall CTY being for me.

    Aside from spending the big bucks with CTY, our kids (also have a rising 3rd grader who seems on the same trajectory as her brother) have done Khan Academy missions for the next grade up, and we have a lot of tinkering/art supplies on hand for free play and exploration. Reading of course but as you say that is not a challenge per se for some of these kids. I anticipate the older one will probably tap out in grade-level math curriculum in junior high and start trotting over to the high school for math, and in high school will probably take math at the community college. We'll see. The younger one already skipped a grade so that has helped her not bump up against boredom yet (she just finished 2nd grade). I also have them enter lots of "contests" (county fair, Scholastic contests, etc.), for project-based challenges but also to get used to the idea that they AREN'T always the smartest kid in the room, and they will lose sometimes. We are more concerned about them developing grit and resiliency than always being academically challenged in everything.

    Finally, in the classroom, both their teachers this year recognized their advanced skills and made a real effort to differentiate some learning, which I appreciated. I also recognize they are not advanced in everything, and there's plenty for them to work on inside the classroom. So of course I advise connecting with the classroom teachers at the beginning of each year.

    I am in a similar situation though my kids are a bit younger (early elementary).  I did look into private schools but the ones close to my house are not that much better academically -- they differentiate themselves by smaller class sizes and more attention to emotional well being of child and more art offerings, but as my kids are very social and love being part of a large group, I did not think there is value in private school for my child.  We are sticking to public and using the money saved by not paying private tuition to pay for enrichment at home.  Here is what we do so far:  (1) we bought memberships to museums (both art and science based) and go regularly and spend the time to really explore with the kids, i.e. we read all of the signs/labels/notes, do the experiments, discuss the how's and the why's, and carry a notebook to take notes and make predictions prior to experiments and write conclusions, etc.; (2) we buy books that are at their level and focus on non-fiction that educates on topics they are interested in (though it seems you already do it); (3) we buy those educational experiment sets to do at home and ask them to keep a notebook of their work (they love it), we also buy those electricity, robotics and other science and engineering sets for home and let them build and tinker with them, which is great for their science and math learning; (4) we are paying for several apps/computer programs that are great educational tools for home, i.e. IXL is great, my kids also love Khan academy videos, and other apps and computer programs (my kids each have a device (computer for older one, a tablet for younger one) and they are allowed unlimited screen-time for educational purposes.  We considered a tutor but did not find anyone who was good at simple enrichment, as most tutors focus on helping those lagging behind or helping get advanced in a certain subject or prepare for a test, and I was looking more for helping my kids learn by doing and learn that learning is fun.  My kids are very self motivated so providing them the tools and resources and letting them be works best for us.  Both parents are highly educated and we do spend a lot of time with the kids in evenings and weekends discussing their experiments, helping explain certain concepts that they did not fully appreciate from online program or by doing the work themselves, discussing books they read, etc.  If you can find a good tutor to take that role that would be great, but I could not find someone so we are combining family time with fun learning time. 

    If your kids are interested in math, consider Berkeley Math Circle,  The coursework is very challenging and far beyond what is taught at school.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Advanced child in the public school system

Nov 2011

What have people done with having a child in the public school system who is advanced, meaning that meeting the State requirements are super easy, and not challenging at all?

We're having our teacher conference soon, and I'd love to hear from parents about how you've encouraged your child's teacher to make sure she is being challenged for herself.

Yes, we're thankful to be in this situation, but it does seem appropriate that ALL children are encouraged to stretch, and we'd like to make sure that happens for her also. (No, we're not interested in bankrupting ourselves by attending private schools.) Lucky Parent

Countless number of advanced children go through our public school system, and unfortunately is it neither practical nor fair to expect teachers to cater to individual students according to their abilities. My older daughter is a school teacher, and while she tries to give extra work or challenge certain high-achieving students, with 30 students in her class, she doesn't always have time to do it regularly or effectively (despite a 70-hour work week!). Consequently, that responsibility ultimately falls on the parents, and on the students themselves as they get older. I've seen numerous kids from Albany High go on to get their degrees at top universities, and a good number of them were first-generation college kids. So rather than attempting to find ways to encourage the teacher to challenge your child, you should seek the teacher's advice on how you can help your child challenge herself. Former Albany parent

I don't have an answer for you but just want to give you a shout-out. I love the fact that you acknowledge you are lucky and are ''not interested in bankrupting'' by going the private school route. You're the kind of parent I want to be! I will wait for wiser BPNers to come up with suggestions. Another Parent

What a great question! This is quite a topic for discussion. I have wrestled with this question first as an officer of my school PTA, and then as the parent of an ''advanced'' child. How is this issue addressed on a district-wide basis? Not at all. At a school-wide basis? We tried to press forward with a spirit of goodwill, and some teachers on our side, in offering PTA-funded opportunities for educators to learn about differentiated instruction. Even tho we funded the opportunity via PTA, no teachers availed themselves of the training. On a teacher-to-student basis? This is your best shot to enhance your child's experience. Some teachers are quite proactive about challenging more advanced kids. Some teachers are not. My 'advanced' child has had both types of teachers. The thing is, he is quite happy right now, and he is not sufficiently mature to warrant skipping a grade. I make sure that we create a stimulating environment at home and on the weekends. So far, things are okay. My older, less precocious child has had a marvelous experience in BUSD schools. I do have faith that the younger one will also get what he needs, although some school years are better than others. Contact me via the moderator if you want more of the back story. Hopeful BUSD parent

We chose the route of homeschooling rather than spend all our time advocating in the classroom. That said, we researched a lot before choosing this route. One oft-suggested B idea is to give your child's teacher ''teaching gifted kids in the regular classroom'' and see if s/he will meet you child's needs. There's also the ''iowa acceleration scale'' which helps access a child's suitability for grade acceleration. As mentioned, we homeschool, which, for us, means virtually no time at home - the kids take classes during the day at facilities which allow them to pursue their interests and focus in depth. I'm a bus driver. The state pays us money to educate them via There are also online support group for parent of advanced learners, it's nice to not be alone wicked smart mama

I think that's almost impossible to answer for California public schools. It comes down to the individual teacher - their time, skills, current class composition, willingness, ability.

If they have a high level of under-achievers and no assistance, the best they can do for advanced students is throw extra handouts or assign more reading. If you are fortunate to have an innovative teacher with a more balanced class, they'll have their own suggestions on how to keep an advanced student moving. I know it's unfair and frustrating. My middle school child has unfortunately had more wasted class time than I care to count - hours of simply reading his own books while the teacher struggled with others.

But I don't think private is a guarantee either for the advanced child. Not all private schools are willing to put in time for advanced kids either. It's much easier to take a small group of average, willing-to-learn kids and push them together towards deeper learning. But any kid that's off the scale, either ahead or behind... it takes time that they don't always have or are willing to give. My kid would probably still be wasting class time, having finished way ahead of others, pulling out his own books to read or doodling or just tuning out because he already ''got it'' - only we'd be paying $$$ for him to do so... No Perfect School Anywhere

Our child has been in the same accelerated shoes. While there have certainly been times where we have wished that the whole classroom instruction was pitched at a different level, our experience with BUSD had been very positive. We've been fortunate in that the teachers that our daughter has had have responded encouragingly to her excitement about learning. Whenever possible, the teachers at her school (John Muir--not that it matters much) have differentiated the curriculum, sometimes by saying something as simple as, ''If you're done with that spelling word, write down your own challenge word.'' Our daughter's teachers have universally encouraged her to experiment with thoughts and ideas and have been supportive of her own initiatives to go beyond the basic requirements of assignments. Some examples of extended learning our daughter had engaged in at school have included: working with other accelerated math learners on math extensions; allowing a small group of students to write a play based on ''The Hunger Games'' during lunch recess and earned free time; having a parent work with a small group on a social studies extension project in the library; encouraging students who have finished their work to spend time on art projects or other projects like creating a full blown city out of paper; allowing students to make PowerPoint presentations on subjects that they're interested in that have not been assigned. And another simple method: allowing my daughter to do her homework in class if she finishes the assigned work early. This allows her to enjoy her free time later and to have time to talk with her parents at home about a whole range of subjects (politics, history, literature, etc). One year, she was also assigned a GATE trained teacher--which was very helpful. In this class they studied opera and art. All of her teachers have had ''spark,'' and that has made a huge difference in helping her innate love of learning to flourish. My advice: stay involved; support the classroom; ask for projects that allow accelerated learners to work together at times. Find out what the district guidelines for serving the needs of GATE learners are, and work cooperatively to make sure it happens. Have I ever wished that she were in a private school where there was less focus on basic standards? Sure. But her experience has been rich and rewarding--and her teachers have done a great job doing the best they can with the resources they're given by the district. Parent of an accelerated BUSD kid

We found Albany schools challenging and interesting for our daughters -- both of whom are successful in college, and reported that their college classes (at Sarah Lawrence and UC Santa Barbara) were easier than their Albany HS classes.

We also believe that kids do not need to fulfill their whole potential at school - and that their school years should have plenty of room for extracurricular activities, reading and (gasp) fun!!

Some parents have pressed their kids into advanced classes and high-level reading to augment their public school experience. But we found that our daughters read on their own (we did participate in a mother-daughter book group for one daughter in middle school); studied together with friends and socialized at the same time; did extra credit when it was offered.

Our daughters were involved with the wonderful YMCA Youth and Government program and with Build On (both very active clubs at Albany HS), did service projects with friends, traveled with our family and studied in Mexico for 3 summers each.

Odds are that your children will do fine, so long as they have interested, interesting teachers (that means 95% of the teachers in Albany), and are interested in learning. You won't have to find the perfect, advanced solution - they will find their own.

-- proud parent


My 4th grader's teacher says my son can't work ahead

Oct 2009


I just came back from the parent-teacher conference at my son's public elementary school which is considered to be ''an excellent school.'' He's in 4th grade.

We talked about reading using Scholastic ''points'' for the reading comprehension. At first the teacher said my son answered only the minimum 90% to pass the test, and also said that the books he chose were ''too easy.'' When we looked on the computer, he got 100% on both tests with books at 4th grade 3rd month and 6 grade 9th month levels.

I asked for more advanced math and showed some of the work that he does at home for ''fun.'' She said that he may not work ahead, everyone in the class needs to work at the same pace. She said that if he works ahead he might not pay attention when she teaches a lesson. I asked if he has ever done that or been disrespectful to her teaching. She said no, but it could happen.

I ent to the principal with my concerns after Back to School night, he said that he would take care of it, but nothing has changed.

My husband is afraid that if I ''push the envelope'' the teacher will retaliate against my son and make it difficult to get into a public middle school that will meet our son's needs.

Our son is well-adjusted, likes school, says that it's okay that he doesn't learn too much at school because he learns over the summer. He likes his teacher and the students in his class.

So, what would you do if you were me?

I think it's great that your son is willing to adjust/adapt to different learning enviroments. He won't always be challenged or get exactly what he needs in life (no one ever does), but his willingness to adjust shows aptitude for the variety that life has to offer. You may not think he's learning, but I see a lot of character development going on. I would be more concerned if he were to stomp his feet everytime a need was not met - but it sounds like he's a great kid who is willing to be flexible, which is certainly something to be happy about. His easygoingness and depth of character will certainly come in handy in life. It's not all about academics

We were in that situation last year. Good you alerted the principal to it. However, in our experience, the best tactic was to simply not rock the boat, let school be, supplement at home. It is very unlikely that your supplementing at home will really come up in class, so you won't be ''caught''. Sad but true, there are teachers that don't appreciate kids that are ahead and like to do other work besides what is required for that year. In fact, we experienced some mild punishment for this, from the teacher to the child, and it really made me feel awful. I do wish I had gone to the principal (I only told him much later when I was afraid the same thing would happen the next year). While he was sympathetic, I didn't get the idea he would do anything concrete about it. So why bother complaining and be labeled as a complainer. Very sad but true. The exciting part is that it caused us to pour more effort into what is going on at home, with more variety, and the results have been great. ignore the naysayers

In short keep advocating, and/ or find supplemental work on your own. I have no idea how ''pushing the envelope'' could keep him out of a good public school later on- that does not seem a realistic or possible outcome. Public school records show grades, test scores, and attendance records, not the level of parent involvement or ''pushiness'' and teachers have no pull in acceptance (or not) into another public school. Even if she is needed to write recommendations in the future, I would still advocate for your child's current needs now. Keep up your good work! no fear!

I would listen to your son, if he is happy and comfortable in the class, I wouldn't worry about moving him; or attempting to transform the teacher. However, I think finding mathematical recreations for him is an excellent idea -- Have you seen the Marilyn Burn's books for kids? Has he read The Number Devil? He may even be ready for the Martin Gardner books on problem solving. School mathematics is a very narrow segment of mathematics -- even if he were to be accelerated by a year, or two, it would just be more sophisticated computation(my child did spend a year with an older grade for math, and while the problem-solving enrichment activities were useful, the computation was pretty much the same). In terms of enrichment and preparation for college mathematics, I think you should concentrate on the topics that aren't covered in school mathematics -- topology, number theory, geometric thinking, problem solving. There is a Berkeley Math Circle, which I think is starting to have a section for elemenatary students -- you might want to visit. My own tack as a parent of a ''gifted'' student has been to help the child pursue interests outside of school, and treat school as only a fairly small part of the intellectual landscape. math nerd


Differentiated instruction for bright kids in OUSD?

Feb 2009


I have a son in an Oakland Public Elementary School. He recently scored in the 99th percentile on the Raven's Progressive Matrices exam. All students have the same spelling words, math problems, social studies reports, science experiments, and the same expectations. I know this because I volunteer in my son's classroom and another 5 hours per week in the other third grade classroom.

When I reviewed the teacherms contract in Oakland it states that teachers will differentiate the curriculum to support learning at the childms level. When I asked the teacher about pre-testing spelling words and giving all students who pass with 100% an different set of words, he said Open Court does not allow that.

I got a similar response when I asked about math (Harcourt Brace) and Science (FOSS) and both support advanced learners, but the teachers do not.

What do other parents do to help teachers give appropriate work? We have a GATE Committee and our teachers have said that unless the parents pay for additional curriculum development time away from students and provide professional development outside the regular school day including transportation and their day care costs they will not differentiate.

Has anyone successfully had the district pay for private school? Has anyone ever been able to have their student transferred to another district? What else is there to do for parents who work full time and cannot home school? Frustrated OUSD Parent

I'm sorry to hear that you are frustrated with your son not being challenged in school.The sad fact is, CA public schools are 48th out of 50 in the amount of money spent per pupil, and it's just getting worse. I'm sure you have heard about how, after 2 straight years of cuts to the schools, there are even more looming. I teach in a small district and our budget has been cut something like 11 million, and 7 more million to come. What that means to children like yours and parents like you, is you are left feeling like your child's needs aren't being met (which may or may not be true. Are you sure the teacher doesn't challenge him in other ways you are just not aware of? The statement about how the teachers don't support advanced learners is really unfounded. How could you know that? I don't mean to be harsh, but if I had a parent come in to my room and tell me to change my spelling program, or whatever.. in ANY WAY... I would politely tell you to get lost. Why? Because teachers are professionals who put a lot of time, energy, passion, patience, and yes money, their own money into their lessons. We have taken hundreds of hours of professional development training, classes, etc to learn how to teach effectively and we don't need parents coming in to our place of work and trying to tell us how to run it. (Even if you volunteer in the class.) Your son's teacher doesn't come in to your work or home and make suggestions. That being said- you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Ask for a meeting and tell the teacher how you feel. Ask him what he suggests you do at home to challenge your child. Ask him how he is helping your son reach his full potential and how you can help him. Ask him how you can work as a team. These are valid concerns, but often it's about how you ask. Every teacher wants to help every student, but sometimes in a cash strapped, politically charged district like Oakland with many English Language Learners and Title 1 kids (poor kids or kids from ''broken homes'', etc,) the teachers are spending a lot of time with the struggling kids. Your kid is lucky, you care enough and probably have the resources to extend his learning at home. One last thing- why would you try to force an underfunded school district to pay for your kid's private school? That just hurts every other child in that district by taking more money away. If they can't afford to pay their teachers to stay after school and teach the GATE kids for 2 afternoons a week,why would they hand you thousands of dollars a month to take your kid somewhere else? irked

Having been both a fifth grade teacher and a 99th percentile student, I can see both sides of the situation you are in. It is very, very difficult in a class of 20 or 30 students whose ability levels can range from the first grade to the tenth grade level to create the individual curriculum that you are asking for. If there is a reasonably sized group of similarly gifted students, the situation is somewhat easier. But the logistics of giving multiple spelling tests, math lessons and simultaneous hands-on science lessons are challenging, to say the least. Usually, students are separated for reading groups, but teaching all subjects at multiple levels is a lot to ask of someone with no prep period.

That being said, was I bored a good portion of the time in my (private) elementary school? Sure. But when I had an open-ended report or project to do, I could really let it rip. As a teacher, I tried to make sure that we did projects of this sort in a variety of subjects so talented students could really go in-depth.

Is this a perfect situation? No. Unfortunately, the alternative is tracking students by ability at a very young age and separating them into different classes. And that's not perfect either. anon

As an ex OUSD teacher, I can tell you what differentiated instruction means and looks like for an OUSD student and how a teacher might implement it in his/her class. For starters there is the basic core intsruction that all students must receive (regardless of their academic level) through Open Court, and Harcourt Brace. However within the structure there is room for the teacher to ''enhance'', or ''modify'' the curriculum depending on each individual student. For advanced students a skilled teacher should be able to either make the current assignment more challenging or add extra work at that student's level. (Please note, when I say make it more challenging this does not mean replace the assignment entirely with something else). The teacher may not be able to do it for every single assignment, but should be able to do it a lot of the time.

Testing can't be differentiated. The same test needs to be given to all students otherwise comparisons/grading can't occur across the classroom, school, district, state. However on things like spelling quizzes, a teacher can add say ''bonus challenge words'' that they are required to not only spell, but perhaps put into sentences or make a paragraph out of. The teacher may not be able to mark this advanced work into the official test score, but they can note it on the student's report card.

Speaking of report cards there is a place for every subject to be marked/gradedcommented on as ''performing above grade level''.

Keep in mind also that some Oakland schools are more supportive of differentiated instruction then others. When I say supportive I mean the administration allows the teachers to bend and adjust the curriculum more, and for teachers to collaborate not only within their grade level but beyond their grade level, to better meet each individual child's needs. Some principals however are very rigid and don't allow this and really enforce the curriculum not be adjusted at all. In general there seems to be more curriculum flexiblilty going on at higher performing schools than lower performing schools.

Finally is your son's teacher a newer one? More experienced teachers are generally more skilled at differentiating instruction. anon

Why do you think that this wouldn't be an issue in private school? I think it is a challenge for any teacher in any school or district that has to teach 20 or so children a vast amount of concepts in a limited time frame. Maybe you can provide your child more challenging activities at home to supplement the core school curriculum. Teachers do not have superpowers! Anon

As previous posters have mentioned, public schools are underfunded in California, and with 20 or more students in a classroom, it's hard for most teachers to provide differentiated instruction. That being said, there is a no-cost method with a great deal of research behind it that has been demonstrated to help provide highly intelligent children with appropriate academic challenge -- acceleration. Please go to to read more -- they have a free book summarizing all the research showing that acceleration can help some (though not all) children.

By the way, private schools also usually do not provide differentiated instruction. To attract a large market, they aim for the slightly-above average child, and often do not want highly intelligent children because they make the children of the vast majority of paying parents look bad.

If you have a 99.9th percentile child and can't find acceleration for them here, you can try the Davidson Academy in Reno, a (free) public school for profoundly gifted children. good luck


How to get my kids' teachers to give them challenging work?

Feb 2009


I'd like to have my elementary school kids tested professionally for math, language, and general academic/intellectual ability -- to learn where they are good, where they need extra, etc. But where to go for that?? I want someone to be completely honest with me, no matter what! The kids are at the top of their reading groups and math groups, but I get the sense the teachers just let them coast and don't provide them instruction at their level (their zone of proximal development as I've learned it is called.) Hopefully with a non-biased assessment of their abilities, I can help get them the classroom attention they need, even though they are not in the GATE program. Thank you all in advance! Mom of two

The Ann Martin Center, on Grand Avenue in Oakland (835-8333) is a non-profit, where you can have your children tested for cognitive and academic achievement levels. You will find professional, caring staff there (I work there myself sometimes), who have no other agenda than providing information to you and your child about their abilities. Carrie

It won't do you any good to get them tested. Even if they are in GATE,I have only known one teacher who gave those kids extra, higher level work, and that was just reading a different book in history. Teachers are required to differentiate but they don't do it, especially for higher level students. It takes too much time and effort. Most GATE programs are a joke too, just taking kids out for a day of some extra activity. Instead, I would work with them at home. Have your children read books that they wouldn't be assigned at school. For example. my 8th grader just read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and is now reading Alexander Dumas books. Play Geography games at the dinner table etc. I am a teacher by the way. Karen

I believe that you as a parent can request that your child be tested for GATE. My daughters were not identified until late elementary school until they had a teacher motivated enough to pursue the application for them. I knew they were very bright, but didn't know that I could advocate for them in this way. anonymous


First grader's is extremely advanced - how to keep him challenged?

Sept 2007


My son attends Oakland public Schools. I recently received a letter from his teacher stating that he was ''extremely advanced'' for first grade. He reads at a 3-4th grade level, is very analytical, his math skills are advanced (he can compute most math problems in his head) and overall just a mature kid for his age. My question is, what do people do with kids like this? I would love a private school education but with two kids it is just a bit out of reach. I'm not quite sure we would qualify for financial aid. His current teacher is working hard to keep him busy. He is doing mini research projects in the library. I just feel public education is a bit rote at times. I want to keep him challenged and stimulated. I want to hone this special gift. We are also considering moving. Any school districts that have special programs? Any ideas, suggestions, or similar experience would be greatly appreciated. We are in a quandry about moving to a better district vs. staying and some how dealing with a private school tuition. Also, insight on private schools would be great or any afterschool programs geared to gifted children would be great. Thanks.

I asked a similar question in the Spring. Some of the best advice I got is that there are a lot of things kids learn that are not necessarily education related. That said . . .

My daughter has mastered her second grade curriculum before second grade as well as having mastered the first grade curriculum before first grade. A good teacher will indeed give projects that will allow a child to more deeply explore a topic. One of the things I have also discovered is that when children are learning about push and pull in science, my daughter is designing pulley systems from room to room in our house. She likes being with her age mates, but understands that she ''thinks differently, sometimes even faster than other kids.''

The great thing about public school is that it frees your resources for enrichment so that you can allow your child to really explore all of the things he is interested in. I know children in several private schools, St. Paul's Episcopal, Redwood Day School, Park Day School, Black Pine Circle, to name a few, that have the same issues you're dealing with in public school and they do not offer substantially different curriculum. The difference is that they build in their enrichment in the day; however, your son would have his enrichment paced the same as other children.

My daughter has also been given a great deal of freedom and play outside with the neighborhood kids about 1.5 hours a day. This creative play is great because she is able to ''build and think out'' things like pulley systems, building a fort with wood and nails, and learning how to ride a two wheel bike and skateboard using the ramps they've built.

You know your son better than any teacher. Give your son the opportunities he asks for - let him explore lots of topics - he'll figure it out.

My daughter's pediatrician asks every year what she wants to be when she grows up - at 3 it was a scientist, at 4 it was a stay at home mom with 10 kids, at 5 an actress, at 6 an engineer and at 7 she told the pediatrician she felt the question was ''very limiting considering I can be more than one thing and I have a lot of time to change my mind.''

Give your son time, space, materials and support. You're asking great questions . . . Mom of a Really Fun and Great Daughter

Just in time - they are testing for gifted children at Baywood in October...I dont know much abut it but it is a small new school/program for gifted children (not academic based)more like following children's needs for learning. Here is the link. mom

Don't be so sure that independent schools won't be happy to make a place for you. We all -- including admissions directors and financial aid committees -- know the realities of living in the Bay Area, and families whose income might seem high somewhere else might well qualify for tuition assistance here.

The real question is the best fit for your son. One of the things I cherish most about Berkeley Montessori School is that each child is met at her own level, presenting a unique set of gifts and challenges. The 1st grader whose understanding of math is at the 5th grade level -- not as unusual as you might think -- can find plenty of appropriate work to do in math; on the other hand, if she's struggling with reading, she won't be stigmatized, held back or have any reason to believe that she's lagging or slow. She will catch up, and it won't matter in the end when she became truly proficient -- whether in pre-school or 2nd grade -- something I've witnessed countless times.

I never really thought of (and his teachers never labeled) my child as ''gifted'' per se (or not any more gifted, each in his own areas, than his polite and talented classmates) until I received his first standardized test scores, but in practice it makes no difference -- the BMS approach results in a highest- individual-potential approach to education: year after year, my off-the-charts son has been perfectly placed in the mixed-age classrooms where I'm confident that he'll be stimulated and challenged until high school. Happy parent of a multi-dimensional child


What do parents of gifted children do?!

April 2007


If you have a child that you know is gifted (whether tested or not), what do you do about school? If your child is reading significantly above grade level, math above grade level, clearly working above grade level in most or all areas of a classroom, what do you do, particularly if both through your own observation, teacher opinion and your child\x92s opinion, your child is spending 2 -3 hours a day waiting for other children to catch up?

How do other families with Gifted Kids deal with watching the motivation for additional learning diminish because they are not being challenged in the classroom (first grade) and there are no pull-out programs or even district testing for this age/grade in Oakland? While we can make our daughter's home life stimulating, fun, age-appropriate, thinking-appropriate and activity- appropriate, what do we do about the summer and school year? We have enrichment activities for our 7 year old daughter, languages, music, art, drama, etc. Also, how does your child choose friends? Are they intellectual peers, or age peers, or both?

I've been scolded on BPN by families who say just let your kid be a kid. What do you say to people when they say treat them as a kid first, and then deal with the giftedness, when you know that your child THINKS differently? Would the same thing be said to a parent of a severely developmental delayed child, just treat them as you would any other child, then deal with the learning disability?

I thought having a intellectually gifted child would be a gift and she would be easier to raise because she could reason and speak early and often, and my daughter is a gift, but this is harder than I though it would ever be even after I've read everything I can get my hands on. Please help! Mom of a terrific (and gifted) 7 year old

If you haven't already read it, pick up a copy of ''Teaching the Gifted Child in the Regular Classroom'' and then give a copy to your child's teacher and administrator of school. Then you have to continually be on their back, asking what specifically is being done. There is ALOT that can be done without much effort by the teacher. After 3 years in a private school, continually bugging the teachers, my daughter has a teacher now, who not only read ''the book'' but went to the workshop given by the author. I am pleased to say that my daughter is finally being challenged. It is sad that people have this attitude about ''gifted'' children. Every child no matter what end of the spectrum needs to learn something new DAILY. It is a big problem in both the public schools (even if they have a ''gate'' program (which i hear doesn't do much) and in the private schools. I felt bad about being a ''squicky wheel'' at my daughter's school, even though I've been paying alot of money for her education. But someone told me, that I have to fight for my child. I even spoke to someone on the Board of Directors at the school about it. So this year even my child says she's being challenged, but now I'm worried about 4th grade. Will continue to speak out for my daughter. Regarding other people, I still am uncomfortable discussing this with people, but the ''book'' talks about that as well. As for friends, my daughter picks her own friends, some are academically oriented, some are not, some are into sports, (like she is) some are not, etc. I focus on helping her maintain friendships that are healthy, nice kids etc. Good luck! Betty

Is private school an option? You may want to check out Baywood Learning Center, a school for the gifted. I chose to homeschool my gifted kids ages 8 and 7. It works great. If you'd like to chat sometime contact me by email and I'll send you my phone number. susan

Yuor post is exactly why there is a sizable population of gifted kids who are homeschooled. School systems and parents of non- gifted children aften don't ''get it''. I can give you some resources if the idea sounds right but maybe a bit scary. gretchen

My kid has been performing above grade level in all areas, but especially in math every since K. By first grade he complained that school was boring, by second grade was saying that he hated school, by third grade was sometimes crying and begging not to be sent to school because it was so boring. For the most part he had very supportive and conscientious teachers who recognized his ''special needs'' but were not really able to do much to meet those needs in a class of 20 other kids. He did not want to skip grades, which was suggested numerous times. I honestly think the only thing that would have really helped him would have been to find him a more academic private school, but we could not really afford that and he was attached to his friends at his public school.

As a sort of compromise solution I was able to get him to go to math with a higher grade class for one year, but even that had its limits. He now misses one morning a week to be with a math enrichment teacher who can move him along as quickly as he wants to go. It is not a perfect solution, and does not address his frustration with the rest of the school week but at least now he gets really excited about and looks forward to his one morning per week.

We are hoping that middle school and high school will allow him to take more advanced classes, and until then are relying on sports, books and outside activities to soak up his energy and attention. --Waiting it out

I am writing this answer with my now 11 (almost 12) year old. She read at age 3, and by kindergarten (in the Oaklnd public school system, by the way) was reading books like Little House on the Prarie and Harry Potter by herself. She continued to be leaps and bounds ahead of other kids academically, and still is.

However, we really, really, think a gifted child takes his/her cues about attitudes about school from you. My daughter didn't come home and say, ''I'm bored.'' I think it's very easy to pass message on to your kid that reinforce their beliefs in their own superiority. Knowing how to read or being excellent in math, doesn't mean that the child has nothing to learn. We found in particular, that our daughter needed to gain social skills, as well as have more physical experiences, because she spent so much time sitting and reading.

The fact is, that learning phonics in kindergarten and first grade-- even though she was well past this-- allowed her to become a much more proficient (and prolific) writer. It also taught her to spell, which was very useful, since she had learned to read holistically on her own.

The other fact is... and I know you don't want to hear this either... is that lots of other kids have the same skills as your child. They really do. And they really learn to negotiate their own way through school, without their parents' guiding every step of the way. Give her this gift. Yes, continue enrichment outside of school, and for goodness sakes, talk with the teacher about trying to meet her individual needs within the classroom setting. Nobody-- NOBODY has ever held my daughter back academically. She still gets her tip-top test scores and still and achieves academically at the highest level.

She wants to say, ''If your child can read exceptionally well, give her/him more books. Many kids learn to read, just not to read enthusiastically. I got lots of books when I was young, and the library has been my almost favorite place on earth since. I just don't remember being all that bored in school. Now, I help out other students in math/reading when they don't get stuff. There's nothing boring about that.''

We aren't suggesting that you ignore her needs, but just that you understand that there's a whole world of skills to learn beyond reading and multiplication tables. Good luck. - we've been there

There are lots of options for additional entichment. One of my favorites is the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins.

If there is no testing, then it sounds like you may be the one making the assesment that she's gifted (through academic achievements) rather than someone else. If you're confident that she is missing out, then you might start noting the things that are leading you to this conclusion along with any other ideas about how the lack of further challenges may limit her.

I'm coming from the standpoint of having gone through this myself. When I was in 1st grade, the schools tested me and identified me as gifted, and put me in what was then known as GATE (gifted and talented education). After a year in that, (which helped) I skipped a grade and went from 2nd to 4th. The initial social impact was HARD, I was lonely and had a tough time relating to 4th graders. But academically, I was fine. Fortunatley, by 5th grade I made one friend (and that's really all you need at first). By 6th grade, things were pretty normal. I stayed in gifted classes throughout and got out of HS at 17.

It sounds like this type of identification process is missing in your school district so that's why, if you really feel your child is not reaching potential, you need to take it up yourself. Are there other high achievers in your daughters class? There must be. As a starting point, perhaps you could tap those parents and as a group request some supplemental, accelerated learning. The school may be more receptive listening to a group of parents. Then see what progress you note and take it from there.

If you do have you daughter skip a grade, be prepared for the downside while she catches up socially. Best of luck another parent

We had a similar experience with our son who is now in the fifth grade. He went to a public school until the end of the third grade when we realized how much time he spent in school but not being challenged. He started to resent having to go to school. For fourth and fifth grade we have homeschooled. It offered us great flexibility and allowed us to follow his interests at his pace. Next year he is going to a more challenging private middle school. By high school, I expect that the public high school (with its offerings of AP classes) will be a good place for him. I empathize completely with your feelings. Just remember that you know your child better that anyone. I think that a negative attitude toward learning can affect a child for years. Try to explore lots of options (homeschooling, enrichment, talking to teachers about more challenging work in the classroom specifically for your child, skipping a grade, private school) and do what is best for your family. ruth27

I don't know if my 1st grader is gifted, but sounds like her skills are exactly like your daughters. I can't be a fly on the wall at school to know what is going on in an average day, but they have plenty of non-academic activities going on to get variety into the day. I think at times when she is caught up and ahead she may be having ''free-time'' of reading which she loves because she is a voracious reader. We are in Lamorinda, and she has a reading differentiation program where 2-3 days a week about 8 1st graders go to reading lab for an hour for a more advanced instruction. In 3rd grade the kids are tested and if they achieve a particular score, then they are invited to attend the ''gifted'' classes/program for 4th/5th grade at one of the elementary schools. Basically, she is happy and we have extracurricular things that are challenging (language, piano), so we will see in 3rd grade what we might do if she is invited to the other program. I would only be worried if she is bored/angry/frustrated with her class. Anon

Hi, I recommend joining an online list called TAGFAM or GT-Families. Just google them and follow the instructions to join. They are great resources for helping families of gifted kids deal with all the difficulties inherent in dealing with schools, etc. for gifted kids. You can send all of your questions and ask about local resources. I have found both to be sooo helpful to me because I just don't run into many other gifted kids. My son is two and desperate to read/add/multiply, etc--no one in his playgroups has the slightest interest in these things, and talking about it to other parents makes them defensive, worried, etc. So we just kind of don't mention it most of the time, which is so isolating. However, there is no stopping him. He makes letters and numbers with everything and is going to conquer reading/math whether I want him to or not. Of course, he loves the normal toddler stuff too, but he just wants more. Good luck! Laurel

I am hoping you get a variety of responses to the question, as I have wondered just the same thing.

My son is similar age and I am so worried about his losing interest and curiosity about learning. He has tended to gravitate to the other ''smart'' kids in his class as well as to the ones with similar interests. He is young in the class (and skipped a grade) so it has been good for him to be challenged with older kids, but I worry about this too.

From what I hear, the Berkeley GATE program is underfunded and minimal, since the focus is on bringing kids below standard up. This is admirable, but seems like if the advanced kids had opportunities to move ahead this might also help bring test scores up. It would be great to have more after school enrichment programs for all kids, whether ''gifted'' or not. Kids are sponges and given the opportunity to learn about all kinds of things will. There are just so many more kids who need help getting up to grade level that the advanced kids who aren't trouble-makers don't get anything to help challenge them unless they have a teacher who can provide a bit extra.

One argument I've heard against GATE programs is that they tend to benefit wealthy white kids. I read something refuting that which made sense to me that basically said not having access to a GATE program can hurt kids without means more than well-off because their families are less likely to have the money for all the after school enrichment, camps etc that middle class+ can afford. Interesting food for thought.

I did see a notice here a few weeks ago about the formation of a k-12 gifted school in Oakland and I'll be curious to see how that evolves. Alas, no answers

Are there any charter schools with more inquiry-oriented, projects-based curriculum that are geared towards kids' interests and in critical thinking, etc in Oakland? Is home schooling or ''unschooling'' an option for you? I think gifted pull- out programs are crap anyway, so I wouldn't worry about the lack of availability. You probably want to look for a school that is less traditional, back-to-basics kind of place where your daughter is probably bored to tears, and look more for a progressive, reform-oriented charter or magnet school that is much more about student-led discussions, integrated projects, etc.

One quick way to do this is to google Oakland Charter Schools and find a list. Then separately google each school's name and find their website and check out their philosophies, curriculum, etc. See if you find something that makes sense for your daughter. I'm sure you will.

And don't worry about the other parents. People are often sensitive to the latest ''hyper-parenting'' approach to parenting and perhaps questions regarding a gifted child SOUNDS like those coming from that approach. If you are letting your daughter lead the way and she just has different needs, then just let the other parents be. You know your daughter best. Jenny

Hi. I relate to your post - my son has been very advanced in certain areas from an early age and people often think I must be ''pushing him,'' when in fact he pushes me! My only immediate response was to wonder whether you know that there's a school for highly gifted kids that's going to be opening in Oakland next year. It's called Baywood Learning Center: I have no idea what the cost is, and you didn't mention your financial situation, but it might be worth looking into to see what the options are. Best of luck. Tanya

My son is gifted, both mathematically and in reading/language, and we chose to enroll him in a Montessori School. There, the kids work at their own level and speed. It's been a perfect match for my son. Perhaps your daughter will thrive in that type of environment too. mom of smartie

I don't know exactly what you should do but I thought I would chime in on the issue of how difficult it is to navigate the world of education for Gifted Children. I completely agree that having an academically advanced child is not easier! It seems to me that we live in a society that through I think truly positive enlightenment seeks to find value in all abilities. And I wouldn't argue that for a second. But somehow being smart somehow implies that others are dumb? As a result I think we completely turn a blind eye to the fact that some kids are really truly very smart and that schools (particularly elementary schools) can not figure out a way to deal with them. I was shuffled into small longues, corners, hallways to do my ''separate work'' as a child. Eventually they skipped me -- a terrible solution for a kid who was pretty shy. Things didn't really sort themselves out until highschool -- when you can take higher level courses.

My advice would be to look into alternative schools for you daughter. Montessori allows a child to do their own work but still be in a context of a class with kids their own age. I've also heard that a charter school in Oakland for Gifted Children might open in a year or so. I'm going the private route with my child who has been reading for two years. My hope is that it will be easier to advocate for her but who knows. I do know that my own experience left me feeling taht my success in school was my greatest strength. It took me much turmoil to realize that life -- and happiness in life -- is more complex than academic skills. I think that there is great value in making sure you daughter isn't bored -- but make sure she isn't doing it just to get your praise. And that is probably the most difficult thing to navigate. anon

My sister always homeschooled her daughter. It worked really well, cause they had a homeschool group, so several different families rotated days in which to teach the children. I plan to do the same. I am very critical of pedigogies of public schools, not to mention their version of history. But beware, academic giftedness can hurt children. I used to skip grades and everyone always told me how smart and indepedant I was, when inside i was confused, and painfully lonely and needed people to play with and love me. Of course my parents were over achievers too who were always working and painting and not spending enough time with me. I couldn't connectwith the children in my grade cause they were older than me and older children dont play with younger children. And so now as an adult i have a really hard time connecting with people, though i get my scholarly papers in social theory published all the time. So yes, and a former ''gifted'' child, please remember your child is a child and has all the emotional needs of a child no matter how independant they are. Also, this is an awesome school if you have the money... soni

First of all, you need to be clear about your child's giftedness. There are levels of giftedness, be it one/two/three+ above grade level. There are many children who are just above grade level, which is not hard since California Standards are not esp. high. If, however, you are talking about a kinder who is reading Harry Potter, or a child who is doing h.s. algebra in 3rd grade, well, then you may have a HG (highly gifted) child and will need to make adjustments to meet her academic needs. If you have a moderately gifted child, ex an advanced learner who is one level above peers, then, from what my readings, it is possible to meet her needs within a classroom situation of mixed ability children. It's difficult to say without knowing more about your child. You can have your child assessed (IQ test, WISC IV), but I would not necessarily recommend it without considering the implications. It sounds like your child's class is currently a good social match, but you want her to have more of a challenge. Do a google on the chatline for parents of gifted, Hoagies, and get some ideas. There is also a new school in East Bay for highly gifted kids. Talk to your child's teacher for ideas/suggestions. It is true, this is not a topic that other parents (of non-gifted children) are all that keen to discuss. Anon.

HOME SCHOOL. After struggling TOO long and too hard to get the public school system to even come close to adequately educating my children, I gave up. Financially it was tough -- work more to pay for private school, or work less to home school. It has now been three years of home schooling my two elementary school kids, and I am quite pleased, as are they. The biggest issue is time, but what parent does not have a hectic life? There are many ways to home school and many ways to make it work in your life. Check out for ideas and talk to the ever growing community of local home schoolers. BTW, we are part of the small fraction of home schoolers who are enrolled in a California Public School, Hickman Charter School:

Your daughter is only 7. Just let her be a kid & keep providing a stimulating environment at home. She'll be fine without being in a gifted class as teachers are used to teaching to different ability levels. In K-3 they learn skills, but starting in 4th grade they have to apply those skills (ie. doing reports). Some of those bright students, who were developmentally ahead, don't continue to excel. Both my kids were tested & labeled 'gifted'. My D read at a 12th grade level in 4th grade. My S tested at a 'genius' level (above the highly-gifted level). A teacher said he was the brightest kid she had ever taught in 25 years. After testing, they were put into a 1-hour/ week gifted class (a waste of time). In 4/5th grade, they had the option of being segregated into a special gifted class. We chose not to put them in it as it would have meant pulling them out of their current school & moving them from their friends. I don't regret my decision whatsoever. More importantly, I have not seen that the pull-out class made any academic difference in any of the kids that chose to do it. By middle school my kids were tested for math & tracked accordingly (both put in faster math). Throughout high school my D took as many AP's (advanced placement) as she was allowed. (My S is a freshman' AP's start next year). My D is a graduating senior & is headed off to a highly selective college after graduating at the top of her class. She has far outperformed most of her peers that were put in the gifted class in 4/5th grades. Their results, as measured by their academic performance & college admittance, have been mixed. Some were in AP classes with her & have also managed to get admitted to top colleges. But a surprisingly large number are headed off to 'average' schools or even community college.

While my D is very bright & has had tremendous academic success, the primary difference between my D & most kids is not her intellect, it's her self- discipline & drive. She has always pushed herself to do her best even when it's uninteresting or difficult. School cannot make everything stimulating & fun. There is so much in school that isn't very interesting but is absolutely essential information to learn (ie. punctuation, basic spelling, grammer). For your D to excel, she needs to learn to apply herself even when it's boring. She needs to learn self-discipline & to push herself to be her best, always. That's what will pay off for her. Don't focus on what the school is offering or not offering.

Finding good friends can be challenging for any kid. Both my kids have been able to find plenty of friends their age that are their equals. Your D will too. anonymous

I was a ''gifted'' child who quickly ended up 3 grades ahead of my age. This was a social disaster for me, particularly in middle school, and I was desperately miserable for years in school (including a private school for gifted kids). I very much wish that I had stayed at grade level. I strongly agree with the poster who suggested that there are many more skills to be learned in school than just academic. I believe that gifted kids need to learn social skills, and how to help and cope with others, even more than kids whose skills are more subtle. Most gifted kids have a relentless urge to learn, and they will get what they need through self-directed learning or through extracurricular activities they choose. I think it's more important to teach your child that there is much more to having a rich and happy life than being gifted, and you can provide that education by keeping him or her in the ''mainstream.'' Always Wished I Was Normal

One more thought on the subject: I have taught high school in two of the most affluent suburbs in the Bay Area for the past 20 years. I have had lots and lots of students who have gone on to every Ivy League school, to Cal and Stanford, to MIT, Cal Tech, West Point... you name it. And from my perspective, it's important to say this: I have yet to have a student who had nothing left to learn. I have, unfortunately seen many students who were raised to believe that no one else had anything worth teaching them...not teachers, not other students. And I have seen many kids who were raised to believe that no one else could possibly be their intellectual match. Have you ever heard of an athlete being uncoachable? The equivalent exists in the academic realm.

I can't tell you how many parents tell me their child is ''gifted'', as a way to excuse the kid's lack of effort or motivation if some designation given in the third grade had any real bearing on someone's ability to learn and grow... I've also had tons of wonderful kids go through my doors, excited to learn and engaged in the world of ideas every day, kids who soak up everything, who learn from the mundane as well as the inspired, and often ''learn'' lessons teachers had no idea they were teaching.

These are just my observations... I don't know what the messages are that you are sending your child, but above all, remember that ultimately you want to raise a thoughtful, interesting, kind person who can function effectively in the world, right? Don't lose sight of that goal.

I also say this from the perspective of a parent of two gifted children ( who are now in middle school in this affluent suburb and have always functioned grade levels ahead). Yes, I do think they are extraordinary. I should think that; after all, I'm their mother. But I also understand that I need to allow them the opportunity to NOT be extraordinary, but just be anonymous ( ''normal?'' one of the crowd?), from time to time. Keep the big picture in mind.... - Just my two cents

My son is now at Berkeley Montessori. He's 9 and in 4th grade next year. His future teachers already have plans for him. They know he already has the period table memorized....My 'gifted' son, like your daughter, is happy when he is learning. When he was 5/6 my son repeated kindergarten because of his age (born in January). I was told to let him be a child, let him grow socially and then had one of the worst years school-wise because he was starved for intellectual stimulation and adult/older child conversation. He decided school was not for learning and was angry. We've also spent a lot of time supporting his needs with extracurricular activities. Like your daughter, my son can be happy with other children his age, *if* he gets other social time with people who're interested in things he's interested in. Mentors are really valuable.

This is what I've learned to look for to keep my child's whole being happy:

*Classrooms where the children are engaged. In an attempt to make my son's extracurricular life simpler, I observed classes at another school and was surprised at the difference. Kids were not fully engaged -- it was a nice school and the kids were nice, but I could see my son being bored and restless.

*Teachers who understand that a child who is a 'fluent reader' may also be equally competent at comprehending the material they're reading.

*Teachers who understand the emotional need such a child has for complex and challenging material *and* are willing to help that child find the information they need to satisfy their brain.

*Teachers who do not press boring, previously absorbed material on to such children. My son never finishes his language work. We know his spelling/reading/verbal levels are somewhere between 7th & 12th grade, so it's not pushed on him. If he were to self-motivate in that area, he could whiz though and move on, but he chooses not to, and since it's not a place he has challenges, the teachers are relaxed about it. He can help someone else with his extra time.

*Teachers who look to place children where they have someone they can bond with (similar interests). My son's teacher asked me who I thought would be a good friend for next year (as he changes classrooms), and we were delighted to find we were thinking of the same child. It's amazing, and what's best is they're learning appreciation for the children who are not bright in the same way. In short, teachers who understand every child has gifts and challenges and help each child learn where they need concentrate their efforts and how to utilize their strengths. I really love the fact that at BMS the administration and faculty are happily implementing this strategy. We've found our solution. Happy Berkeley Montessori Parent

There is a new school for gifted children opening this fall in the Oakland Hills. The website is You might want to look at their website if you have not already. Lauram

I was a gifted child. It is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, I reasoned and understood things with a greater level of awareness. I conversed easily with adults. The downside is many adults would forget that despite my capacity, I was emotionally still a child, and even still had childish desires and questions. Socially and physically, I was very awkward and made fun of (by peers). I just couldn't fit in, and I knew within myself that I was very different than everyone else.

Yes, you should try to balance the level of challenge for your child with her emotional needs. I think she should definitely remain with her peers. If you can find a more challenging curriculum within your budget, go for it. If you must stick with the current school, then do exactly what you're doing - allow her the experience with school (which builds other important parts of her personality as well) and then be her 2nd teacher at home. Discover what really interests her (for me it was music and drama), and give her opportunities to explore those things as well.

Yes, in a group setting, she won't be challenged and without your heavy involvement, she will learn to be very lazy with study skills, which will catch up to her later when subjects become challenging. It's amazing how many gifted children get poor marks as they age - they naturally learn to rely on their gift and don't adequately build academic skills.

You don't need to fill her every minute - in fact, she may thrive on some downtime to allow her to process all her thoughts. Perhaps you will require additional homework of her. Or work with her teachers, requesting plenty of extra credit or bonus things to work on. Be her advocate, and be willing to do most of the work finding her appropriate learning opportunities.

One thing that was fun for me (in elementary school) was mentoring struggling students. They set aside time for me to help others during one class period per day and I enjoyed it. anon

I really feel for you -- it is so hard to be raising a child who is different, and you will not find much sympathy from most other parents. In trying to decide what to do, you must first realize that all gifted children are not alike. If your child is classified as ''moderately gifted,'' you will probably be okay with supplementation at home; your child will probably do well in school and be happy. If your child is ''highly'' or ''profoundly'' gifted, he or she is likely to be extremely unhappy if kept in lock-step with kids the same age. Many children like this are homeschooled, because they were simply too miserable in school or were starting to act out. Search for ''gifted'' and ''homeschooling'' and you will find resources. If you must keep your child in school, and if you are lucky enough to find a caring school district, whole-grade acceleration has been shown to be successful in many cases. This is supported by a great deal of research (see the Templeton National Report on Acceleration, Probably the best school in the East Bay for gifted children is the Academy ( For further information, Hoagies' Gifted ( and the Davidson Institute for Talent Development ( are excellent resources. Good luck!

re: What do parents of Gifted Kids Do? Apologies for the late response. I just wanted to add a few thoughts. My first grader is similarly far advanced in reading and math compared to many kids his age. He has always been advanced socially too - extremely verbal and outgoing. However, he is not advanced in every area, and he thrives on the challenges presented in his Berkeley public school each day.

It is true that every child needs a challenge, but there are lots of realms for challenges beyond basic academics. His teachers have been great at appreciating his strengths and trying to build on those, but more important, looking at the areas where he needs work and encouraging him to focus there. For my son it is things like: taking turns, listening to others and valuing what they say, keeping his temper, fine motor control, etc. where he needs work. I also value what he learns at public school by making friends with kids from different backgrounds. These things he needs work on are important life skills, and my guess is most children have areas (that may not be strictly academic) where they can challenge themselves in a school setting. He's already great at academics - for him to be well rounded other areas need more attention.

Another thought: homeschooling vs traditional schooling doesn't have to be all or nothing. Our son went to preschool 3 days a week before starting public school, and I realized that without intending to, the two days he was home with us were really ''homeschooling''(in a preschool-appropriate sense), and that is part of why some of his academics are so advanced. He had lots of time to read, to explore, to talk about what interested him. When he started school we decided that if/when the academics of the classroom fail to stimulate him, we'll try to have after school time be for ''homeschooling'' again - supplementing in areas of interest. Right now he's still finding plenty to sink his teeth into in the regular program and aftercare, but when that time comes I think he'll get the best of both worlds again: parental attention and individualized study after school, and all those social areas that are so important at school. - hoping for a kid who knows more than math/reading!

I am the parent who asked ''What Do Parents of Gifted Kids Do?'' I really want to thank everyone for their thoughtful responses. I listened, really listened to what everyone had to say. I also know that when I wrote the message I was feeling very frustrated because my child was very unhappy with school. As I thought about what had been written, I remembered my daughter's year in kindergarten. April of my daughter's kindergarten year she had the same type of feelings, motivation dropped, not learning as much as she had learned earlier in the year in the same amount of time and overall ready for the school year to be over.

My daughter has had a great time in first grade. She has learned a great deal and an equal amount of learning had NOTHING to do with reading, math, writing, social studies, etc. It had to do with social skills and different cultures, values held by her and others, how to use chop sticks, write in Chinese, speak Arabic, Spanish and German. She learned how to work as a team, help children in her class, write a five paragraph essay. Now she's looking forward to the summer, where she takes time off from all the structured learning to play with the neighborhood kids in the sprinkler (something she wrote an essay about), learn to play basketball and just hang out with other kids, older and younger.

BPN is a great forum for discussion, for getting real advice from real people even when you have temporarily blown things way out of proportion. Is my daughter gifted? Yes, I believe so. Has she been tested? No she has not. Does she enjoy school? Yes, most of the time, at least until April of every year. And yes, I need to supplement outside school and learning is about the bigger picture. Last summer it was riding a two wheel bike and using it for independence, learning to use Heelys and getting her ears pierced. Who knows about this summer?

Thank you to those who wrote, I feel fortunate to have access to a great Oakland public school and a teacher who teaches the required curriculum plus two levels up and a level down and who understands that seat-work for first grade doesn't work well, and real life assignments do. Grateful Mom

Reading Kindergartner not Challenged

My daughter just started kindergarten at a public school. I don't really feel her academic needs are being met. She reads at a second or third grade level. While the teacher acknowledges that she reads and is exceptionally bright, he has not indicated any interest in meeting her academic needs (which I understand is difficult when you have 32 kids in a class). In class, she has become teacher's pet -- he tells the other kids how smart she is, how good she is compared to the other kids. This bothers me because drawing attention to her brightness does nothing to strengthen her relation to her peers. My daughter has a strong sense of self-esteem and she already knows she's bright. I don't want other kids to resent her or feel bad about themselves. I want her to be academically challenged.

I get the sense from the teacher and principal that the needs of an academically advanced student are a non-issue -- i.e., nothing to worry about. While the school district was recently sued for their noncompliance and non-responsive attitude towards Special Needs students (the district is now bending over backwards to meet the needs of these students and their parents), I see little support at the district level for advanced students. The GATE program doesn't start until the third grade. What do I do until then, supplement, supplement, supplement and put up with decided indifference from the school? I would appreciate hearing from someone who's been there.

If she's reading at a second or third grade level -- shouldn't she start working on her writing skills? The worksheets she brings home are too easy for her. What can I do at home to teach her to write, if the school won't help?

I read with great interest the post from the parent who was wondering what to do with a reading kindergartner, because I'm in the same boat (K daughter in public school reading at 3rd grade level), and was just this evening trying to work out how to ask a similar question after my daughter complained about how boring it is reciting the alphabet and zoo phonics. (Not that I hadn't been concerned before this--I'd love for her to build on her skills if she's interested--but I kept trying to tell myself that kindergarten is mostly about developing social skills. However, it's a major issue to me now--the last thing in the world that I want to happen is for her to turn off from school at such a young age.)

The first poster said much of what I would have said. Let me just add that it would also be good to hear from parents with children in private or public schools, about what good activities they've seen kindergarten teachers do in class with kids that are reading. (Or how they've approached the issue.) I'd love to be able to bring some suggestions to my child's teacher, who I believe might be receptive to trying new things, especially since I think that my daughter's not the only one in her class that is reading.

You need to come up with a plan that balances your child's individual needs with the fact that the teacher does need to spread his time among 32 children. If you have not spent time in the classroom, volunteer so that you can see the schedule and routine. This will help you go to the teacher with specific suggestions on ways in which your daughter's needs can be accommodated. Since you are uncomfortable with the teacher treating your daughter as a teacher's pet and making too big a fuss over how bright she is, you'll want to look for ways she might do advanced work without missing out on the social involvement with others. Perhaps you can suggest she be able to read on her own when she has completed assignments, and help by offering to have her bring appropriate level books to school. If the class is doing writing practice that is too simple for her, you may want to ask whether it is permissible for her to do more advanced writing on her own.

Please keep in mind that a great deal of kindergarten is social and your daughter needs to be a part of this as much as any other student. Learning good study habits -- listening, following directions, working with others -- is important as well. If she's given too much alternate work she'll miss these experiences.

As an advanced student, if she's going to make the most of her school time, she's going to need to need to learn how to go on to something constructive, such as independent reading or writing, when she has finished the assignment as well as to get the most she can out of the assignments, rather than doing the minimum and then looking to the teacher to provide her with additional material.

I'm not sure what you're basing your assessment that she is reading at second or third grade level on, but please keep in mind that good reading skills are much more complex than just being able to say the words out loud. Comprehension is a big part of good reading. If the teacher is reading aloud a lot, and letting the children discuss the story, this benefits children at a variety of reading levels.

Most kindergartens are only half day, so there should still be plenty of time in the day for you to allow her to do reading and writing at her own level afterward. You needn't give her workbooks or specific assignments, just let her read books at appropriate levels and write on topics of her choice. Keep the editing and commenting on her writing supportive.

GATE can start before third grade, although many schools chose not to test much earlier. It's often difficult to tell who is truly an advanced student at kindergarten and first grade. Some students may read before their peers, perhaps because they were exposed to printed material at a young age, but not turn out to be GATE students. You may want to inquire about having her tested earlier, but late first grade or sometime in second grade may be a more appropriate time to raise this issue.

If you are expecting the public schools to meet the academic needs of a child so far above average, you are asking for disappointment. You can probably get the teacher to stop treating her in a way that will make her unpopular with other kids, but the system isn't really designed to do much more for you. The good news is that reading is an area in which you can supplement her work easily and joyfully -- make friends with your local library and read, read, read. You can work with the teacher to support her needs in other areas, like math, writing, and the creative part of kindergarten - the social part of kindergarten is very important too, worth all the hassles. You should certainly quash his use of her as an example -- other kids aren't stupid and they won't like it at all. If you are bold you might work with the school to get her a tutor (usually a high school or college student) a couple of times a week, to work with her independently on her special needs (I enjoy thinking of academic challenge as a special need).

It is always good to help in the classroom, even if you have to juggle to do it. Its good for you and your daughter, and for the whole class. Also, it gives the teacher the impression (hopefully true) that you are concerned about the success of the whole group, not just your kid. This is a much better position from which to negotiate, and you will learn so much about the whole bunch. My younger child is now in 4th grade, and I know every kid in his grade. Its a friendly situation and a huge and positive part of his (our) education.

We've been there. Our daughter also read before attending kindergarten. We considered home schooling, but decided that the social contact was too important. She stuck out completely at the local elementary school, and was never challenged at school. We supported her at home by getting her a library card and taking her to the library weekly to pick out books to read, and by reading to her from higher level chapter books (stuff like little house on the prarie) in the evening; limiting television consumption to a couple of shows on the weekend and an occational movie; providing educational game software to play with on the computer; and all of the art supplies that she desired. In second grade her teacher held academic contests between the 10 girls and the 23 boys in the class. The boys complained that they were unfair because the girls had our daughter. In third grade she tested into the Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) program, but the new principal didn't believe in the program and so dismantled most of what had been an excellent one. (Your milage may vary.) Her third grade teacher strongly recommended that we try to place her in a particular private school in Oakland. We didn't know to start the application process early enough, so she ended up having to wait until she entered the fifth grade. She's still an excellent student, but much happier among a group of very talented peers.

I realize that this type of school isn't affordable by most, but there are a very limited number of need-based scholarships available for extremely talented students. The enrollment process gets underway in December and testing is in January. The school is a k-12.

The best advice on what to do with bright and advanced children was given to me by my daughter's first grade teacher - she said that their plan was not to use the extra time and attention they have to push them ahead in the curriculum (which is a sort of minimal track for everyone) but to BROADEN their education - giving them a chance to try things slower kids don't have time for. In my daughter's class they had a science corner, with stuff to sort and find out about (and that they could add to), games about feelings, construction toys, tessellated puzzles, drawing and painting, tracings, dot to dots etc etc etc. They also used parent volunteers to work with children one at a time to get a clearer picture of where they were up to and give them encouragement and challenges. I agree with you that having her be the teacher's pet is obnoxious, and probably someone else in the class is being made the teacher's wild animal and constantly put down in contrast. (My daughter still has some of the same issues now she's in grade 7, but her current teacher gives them lots of fascinating projects and she burns up some of her extra energy on exploring those way beyond the requirements).

To the parent whose daughter read before kindergarten and is wondering how she can be challenged without becoming the teacher's pet, here's some perspective from someone who WAS that kind of child.

I started reading at age 3, apparently on my own. My mother couldn't see waiting until I was 5 for kindergarten, so she sent me to private school at age 4. (After that I attended public schools.) Consequently I was always the youngest child in my year, which never mattered until high school, when I was the last of my peers to get a driver's license.

I would say that my experience was very much dependent on the quality of the teacher and on my own ability to learn how to get along with my peers. My parents watched to see whether I was happy and challenged by school, and when I wasn't, they tried to intervene. We lived in a rural district where private schools were non-existent and changing within the public system was not an option. We were stuck with whatever teacher I got. Usually I was with the other kids for all subjects except reading/writing/spelling. Until high school I invariably had essentially an independent study for reading, in which the teacher assigned me books to read in addition to the regular stuff. The additional load was no problem, because I devoured books.

Most of my teachers were sympathetic--they liked having a bright student in class, and tried to challenge me. Most were fair to the other students and good at not constantly singling me out for praise in class, and I learned (eventually) that I didn't have to put my hand up for every single answer. This was a maturity issue that I had to work out for myself, and some teachers were more helpful than others.

I only had one bad teacher in the lot, and she set me back quite a bit. We had just moved to a new school district when I entered 4th grade with this teacher. The first day in class, she misspelled a word on the board and I raised my hand to point it out. From that day on it was war. She completely isolated me from my classmates and (I suspect) from participating in class where I could potentially embarrass her again. (Mind you, I did not perceive this at the time!) In the guise of challenging me, she gave me special independent projects to do, most of which were time-wasting busy work. One I remember with special horror was a project to do a map of the school in metric units. This required going from classroom to classroom with a trundle wheel (a sort of meter-long measuring wheel) and measuring the interior of every class, as all the kids stared at me. She also did petty things like awarding prizes for the best score on spelling tests, but making me ineligible for the prize, because she said I would always win. That year I turned from an outgoing, happy child to a shy, unhappy, school-hating child. I also had stress-related stomach problems that almost resulted in my being operated on for appendicitis. (The doctor couldn't understand, in 1978, why an 8-year-old would have ulcers.)

When I started bringing home C's in reading, my mother knew something was wrong. Unfortunately, she was almost powerless to change things in the classroom. The teacher was acting punitively but disguising it as being in either my best interest or the best interest of the class. At about the same time, the teacher became ill and had to leave the school, and we had a totally ineffective substitute after that. Fourth grade for me was an absolute black hole. Luckily, in 5th grade I had a wonderful teacher who turned it all around.

My advice to you is to monitor your child's classroom VIA your daughter's reaction to it. If the teacher assigns her extra work or more broadening work (as one poster to this list defined it), great--but help her figure out if this is really worthwhile educationally or just busywork to keep her from twiddling her thumbs in class. If she's truly gifted, she'll be dealing with these issues the rest of her life. Likewise, her relationship with her peers is something she'll have to put a lot of effort into. Teachers can help or hurt--make sure she's taught by a helper. But I wouldn't encourage you to shun any kind of activity that sets your daughter apart and simply hope to make up the gap at home. If you do, and the place where she spends 6-7 hours a day becomes a complete bore, what message will that send her about school? That it's simply a hoop to jump through? That nobody cares that she's special? Talk to the teachers to find ways that she can be challenged, and talk to your daughter about how to not be a know-it-all or a teacher's pet, and together you can find the best solution.

My older son was only a beginning reader, but a mathematical whiz, in kindergarten. We decided not to push for enrichment then, or even in first and second grade, unless he disengaged. Our reasons: (1)Kindergarten, even in these days of heightened California standards, is primarily a social experience. We felt it was more important for our son to learn to be part of the group and follow instructions than to do algebra; (2)Bright children naturally extend material to their own level. Our son could (and did) substitute his own work for the school work. (For example, when the kids practiced counting by playing store and counting out 16 pennies of their 20 to pay for their purchases, he turned it into a subtraction problem and just kept 4 cents and paid the rest.) It takes a willing teacher to make this happen, but fortunately, we had one. (3)There is a benefit to the class in having a kid who has advanced ideas, and a benefit to the kid to share them (if the situation is well-handled by the teacher). When we started math enrichment in third grade, our son was isolated from the other kids and everyone lost that shared benefit. (4)We felt that we, as parents, were better equipped than the teacher to give him enrichment if he needed it. After all, we only had 2 kids; she had 17. So we engaged his math passions at home. (5)Kids need to be challenged but also need to be accepted. We feared that our son's intelligence already isolated him from the other kids; separating him in the learning environment would exacerbate the problem. (6)Advancing kids in one area carries with it the risk of branding that kid (in his/her own mind and that of others) as the reader or the mathemetician. No one should be pigeonholed at age 5. (7)Kindergarten is a year of tremendous change. By the end of the year, there often are other kids for whom reading or math have clicked. Then the curriculum can take off with a group, rather than one lonely kid. Now in fourth grade, my son still loves and excels in math, but he has developed a passion for baseball and scary books too. While he is teased a bit for having a computer in his head, he is not branded as a one-dimensional geek. And we're glad.

Smart 4th grader becoming isolated academically?

Groan. I'm finding myself where I never wanted to be: rethinking the decision to put my child in public school. My daughter is 10, in 4th grade, and has attended Oxford School in Berkeley since kindergarten. She likes her school, has a broad group of friends there and in her after school program, and is generally a well-behaved, well-adjusted, loving, and happy child.

My problem is that I am beginning to see her intellectual abilities and interests diverge to a fairly alarming extent from what's offered by the curriculum available to her. She has always been acknowledged by teachers, other kids, principal to be one of the two or three brightest and most academically oriented of the children in her grade and that's been fine. But the gap seems to be growing. She reads and writes at a high school level and has worked herself through an introductory algebra text aimed at middle school kids. I and the mother of one of the other smart kids in her class have worked with their teacher to assign more challenging homework and projects, etc., but I see that she's still becoming isolated and a bit lonely -- everyone else is at a different level and she has only one other kid (unfortunately, at this age, a boy) to really share her intellectual interests with. She's in GATE, but my sense is that her school's implementation of the GATE program is designed to democratize the program rather than really stimulate children like mine -- a decision I totally support from a political perspective, but it doesn't help me with my problem. GATE provides some additional curriculum, but not enough. My biggest concern is that now, as she is approaching pre-teenness and becoming more concerned with peer approval, she seems to be shrinking back and worrying about not fitting in or being too smart. I feel like I have some responsibility to create conditions where she can flourish intellectually and wonder if I'm doing that now. question is: have other parents faced this problem and how have they responded? I find myself fantasizing about some classroom where many of the other children are on the same level and she's encouraged to be as smart and creative as she wants to be; I imagine such classrooms to exist in private schools but don't know whether in fact they do. What do people think about leaving such children in environments where there's a risk they may be discouraged from achieving? What do people think about having children change schools at the 5th grade level? What schools do they recommend for such children? Are there supplementary programs or activities that I could get her involved in? I am *strongly* disinclined to have her skip a grade for all of the reasons raised in the what age kindergarten? debate: socially and emotionally I think she's *at* grade level, but not ahead, and I have no big interest in shaving a year off her childhood by having her start middle school, high school, and eventually college a year early. But I'd be open to hearing other opinions. Finally, I should add that in preliminary discussions about this, she's been upset about the prospect of changing schools. I take this opinion seriously, but in the end I still think it's her father's and my responsibility to make the decision, even if it's one that makes her unhappy in the short term.

Any thoughts any of you have about this would be most appreciated.

From: Helen

In response to Gifted Child - I personally think the transition would be easier between 5th & 6th grade, and would look at private middle schools and talk to them about their ability to let a child go as far and fast as they can intellectually. Middle schools tend to start in 6th grade, and maybe you could get your daughter involved in an activity or two with kids from that school once you have been accepted at one. The middle school at Windrush seems academically challenging and allows for a great deal of individualism, but my kids are only in 3rd and K, so I don't have first hand experience. They are very aware and concerned about how girls can fall off intellectually at this age, and have support groups for kids and parents. Middle school seems to be the most dangerous in terms of female self esteem and if your daughter is already feeling that being too smart is hurting her socially, I agree that you must get her in an environment where that can be overcome. Good luck!

Since my children are not yet school age, all I can tell you about is my own experience as a gifted child going through the Berkeley schools (albeit quite a few years ago now...). I, too, began to feel alienated from my peer group around the 4th grade. There was some discussion in my family of moving me to a private school, which I strongly objected to; these discussions faded away, and I stayed in public school. I became less and less interested in achieving. By the time I reached Berkeley High School, where I think I could have received the support I needed and found a compatible peer group, I had become so accustomed to bad study habits and working below my ability that I wasted the opportunity. I can't tell you how much I now regret the path I chose (I'd like to go back and finish college, but am not ambitious enough to juggle a full-time job, 2 kids and school!). School friends come and go, but an education is for a lifetime. Of course some of this is my own fault, and I can't say for sure that moving to a private school would have helped, but I've always thought so. Having said that, my sister (who was definitely more gifted than I) also attended Berkeley schools and did wonderfully. She had plenty of friends who were working at her level. I'm sure there are lots of success stories out there! So much depends on the teachers you are able to get, and on the child herself. It sounds like your daughter is reacting in the same way I did. So I guess my advice is to evaluate all of your options, see how much more time you can commit to keeping the schools/teachers in line (and what the prospects are for her 5th and 6th grade teachers), check out after-school programs (there weren't any in my day), and look seriously at private schools. If your decision is to move her, then do it as soon as possible (don't wait until, say, jr high). I know several Berkeley kids who attended private school for 4th-8th (or so) then moved on to Berkeley High and have reaped the benefits of both... Good luck to you, and her!

My heart really went out to the mother in this situation... Our society still does not support gifted children. They are often outcast, and the special programs they need either don't exist or are seen as politically unnecessary. Skipping grades isn't the answer because then the child will be the smartest kid, still bored, in the next grade up!

I know a child who was the brightest in her class, even after being skipped. She was very unhappy and lonely at her school, where achievement was looked down upon. She wanted desperately to go somewhere else, but her parents couldn't afford to send her to private school. Eventually, when she got into high school, she started taking college courses. She finally was intellectually stimulated and also for the first time began meeting friends she could relate to (although they were many years older).

I think continuing to go to public school was a waste for this child, because she learned nothing AND was unhappy. However, if your child likes her school, why not get her special tutoring? Find out which subjects she enjoys and have a tutor set up a special curriculum for her after school. Maybe get together with other parents of bright children of various ages. Set it up as a fun thing, not additional homework. She might enjoy working through high school math or reading literature or studying a foreign language. Talk to her teachers. Make sure they let her know that she is special and shouldn't waste her talent, and that they encourage her to excel. Also, let her know that different is good! Good luck! Cecilia

My heart went out to you after reading your dilemma about sending your daughter to a different school where she could better develop her intellectual gifts. When I was a child I had the same problem. I attended Catholic school until fifth grade, when I had to go to public school because my parents moved to a new state, and they could no longer afford the tuition. My parents, like you, objected to allowing me to skip grades because they thought it would hinder my social development. At Catholic school I attended reading and math classes in the higher grades but then returned to my own grade for the rest of the day. When I started at my new school in the fifth grade, I was so terrified of appearing different, or nerdy, that I hid my abilities as much as possible. As I grew older and entered junior high, my Number 1 priority in life was to be popular. My grades were still good, but not nearly what they could have been had I had the opportunity to learn in a more supportive environment. By high school my grades went into a tailspin in my quest for teenage beauty, popularity, boyfriends, etc. At this point I really thought that I wasn't as smart as the other kids who were getting all A's and taking advanced placement classes. I shocked everybody, including myself, when I scored 1400 on the SAT's (by this time I was cutting classes on a regular basis and had a 2.something GPA).

By the time I got to college, I was convinced that everyone there (especially the guys) were smarter than I was. I dropped out of electrical engineering in favor of a literature major because I thought that I wasn't smart enough for engineering. I realize now that from age eleven to 22 I sabotaged my intellectual potential and my future in order to be accepted by my peers. What a ridiculous thing to do! I dont know if this helps at all, but I hope that you find a place that gives all the support and encouragement your daughter needs to grow as much as she can. Alain


I'd think about getting your daughter some enrichment extra-curricularly so that she won't feel isolated at school. Individual tutors after school, correspondence courses, programs at museums or camps, classes at community colleges, or even participation in an organization, might be fun and stimulating. She could pick up a new language, join a chess league, learn chemistry, write for a local newspaper (or radio -- do you know about Youth Radio based in Berkeley? EXCELLENT). There are lots of possibilities for her to grow and shine without being conspicuously Smart at school. I am imagining that she might consider being transferred from one school to another as a *punishment* for being smart, which would be quite the opposite of what you intended. Joyce

The experience you are having with your child reminds me somewhat of my own experience in the Berkeley Public Schools. I attended Emerson for grades 1-3 and Malcolm X for grades 4-5. I was well ahead of my classes from early on and was reading at the high school or college level by the time I was in 4th grade or so. I spent much time by myself in the library doing advanced/busy work because they didn't know what to do with me in the classroom. Unlike your daughter, I was unhappy at school starting in 4th grade, largely because of racial and other social tensions at Malcolm at that time (1970). My parents had planned to send me to private school in 7th grade but I told them I had to go in 6th or I would refuse to continue going to school. They heeded my concerns and placed me at Head-Royce in 6th grade where I stayed for seven years until I graduated

My experience at HRS was very positive and I was significantly more challenged than I had been by 5th grade at Malcolm. I had very close relationships with my teachers who were a dedicated bunch. I did still graduate as the valedictorian of my class at Heads and was consistently at the top of my class throughout my 7 years there. The advantage was that there were some other students who were at a similar level and the teachers had plenty of time and attention to focus on me and other top students so I wasn't waiting around while other students tried to catch up. The down side was that the school was quite small (42 kids in my graduating class) and by the time I was in 10th grade, I had a desire to go back to Berkeley High to expand my horizons. I ended up not returning because they were in the process of undoing the gifted/tracking program they had at the time called Model School A. Unfortunately, this is the pattern in Berkeley where they introduce gifted programs to attract people back from private schools and then gut them when they decide they are unequal/racist/classist or whatever. A few years later they set one up again and then it lasts for a few years and they gut it. The recent changes they've made to the GATE program appear to fit with that pattern.

Now that I have my own children, one of whom is in 1st grade while the other is still in pre-school, I have opted to try the public schools and then switch them to private if and when that becomes necessary. The public schools don't seem much different academically than they did 25 years ago, although the class size reduction is an improvement, but there do seem to be fewer social tensions. Head-Royce has gotten bigger (75/upper school grade) which I see as an advantage. My daughter is at Malcolm X (that decision took some soul searching for me after my bad experience) and I think there is a reasonable chance we will move her out of public school around 6th grade, or possibly earlier, unless she's having a great experience. However, I would consider sending her back to BHS for high school if that's her preference and my safety/quality concerns are satisfied.

As for your situation, you have already missed the application deadline for what I would call the more academic private schools, Head-Royce and Bentley, and it is quite difficult to get a slot for 5th grade anyway because they don't expand the class size until 6th grade. I would suggest trying to find some supplementary activities for her for this coming year (do you know about the ATDP 3 week summer program run by UC's School of Educ?), leave her with her friends for her last year of elementary school, and then move her in 6th grade to a private school environment. I do think she has a better chance of being challenged and maintaining a positive attitude toward learning in that environment (although there are diverse influences at those schools as well). There may still be some schools you could get her into for this coming year but to do that for just one year if they aren't schools that go through middle school would be pretty disruptive especially if she doesn't want to.

High School Not Challenging

  We've had that problem all through school.  He's now a Jr. in  HS getting  C's and D's because school's not important to him.  So I'd do some things  differently before he got into a downward spiral:  1.  Don't expect that it will work out later.  It never does.  2.  There were only a few teachers/courses that challenged him and he still  speaks fondly of them.  3.  He ended up being bored in class, then not doing homework, then cutting  off options.  He'd let the deadlines for the exams for the honors classes  slip by, then complain about being bored in the regular class.  At first, I  didn't even know they had to apply, then take an exam for an honors class,  so I couldn't nag him.  So another year would slip by.  Now he feels he's  wasting his time in school.    3a.  I'd have jumped when he started getting B's as a freshman, then C's  as a sophmore, now D's.  4.  He did apply for  private high schools and I should have made sure he  got in and accepted admission.  I had a preference for the public HS.  Now  I think the competition and general higher level of the other students  would have been valuable.  So if I had to do it again, I would give up on  public school and move to a challenging private school.  Between middle and  high school is the best chance to do this.  5.  In HS there is an option of Independent Study.  It's often used by  actresses, artists, etc. who have other things to do in their lives, but  can also be used to set up a challenging school situation.  It can often  also be used in conjunction with some regular or AP or Honors HS classes so  the student also has a social and athletic life.  It's good for a very  self-directed student.  6.  Supplemental after-school or summer activities are fine, but won't  replace school since she'll need to spend her 6 hours/day in school.  And  school provides the grades for further education.  Her school and most of  her courses have to challenge her so she doesn't feel she's wasting her time.  I hope you get other suggestions also.   I didn't  handle our situation  well and can only really say that you have a valid concern and it won't  just work out.  I have another child who does very well in middle school, and I've never  heard her say she's not challenged.  She needs to work to get her homework  done and pull her A's.  So we'll not have the same problem with her and the  system will work for her.  Good luck. Anonymous