The Right School for your Gifted Child
It's a challenge finding the right learning environment for a child who masters ideas and concepts quickly but behaves like any other child his age.
The best learning occurs when the right match takes place between what a child has already learned and a the demand of the new material presented to him. The better this match is thought through and constructed, the more and more quickly a child will learn. So, it's very important to choose a program or school for your gifted child. But it's a challenge finding the right learning environment for a child who masters ideas and concepts quickly but behaves like any child his age.
The Mind Grows Faster than the Body
A gifted child may master the cognitive content of a preschool or kindergarten programs quite early. They are ready, even eager to learn concepts ordinarily taught to older children. But coursework designed for older children usually require the child to sit still, pay attention and deal with books and worksheets while carrying out teacher-directed activities. No matter how gifted a young child is, he needs to have active involvement with his learning materials. What's more, a young gifted child may not have the writing skills required to manage coursework intended for older children.
A Desire for Acceptance and Normalcy
It's common for a gifted child to hide his abilities in order to fit in more closely with classmates in a regular program, so teachers may not catch on to what the child is capable of. Parents need to let teachers know if their child has fluent reading ability at the pre-school level. Don't wait until the end of the year only to complain that the teacher has wasted a year of your child's education, or that the teacher should have been able to see what your child can do. Children will go to great lengths to fit in. What is pleasing to a parent may not be pleasing to peers, so he'll spend a lot of his creativity masking his gifts. The teacher is not necessarily to blame for not catching on. It's your responsibility to be sure your child has what he needs, especially if he needs something not always found in the conventional classroom. You need to work with your child's teachers to develop adequate educational options for nurturing your child's gifts.
It may require a very individualized program. Children with learning gifts often develop those gifts at uneven rates. A child may be reading fluently by age 3, but then not progress any further until age 5 when he suddenly jumps to the fourth grade level. This makes it hard to detect his gift. It might even make him appear deficient. It can certainly lead parents to question the program he's enrolled in. It's important to identify his learning rate and encourage him to progress accordingly. His learning may take a leap because his interest is piqued. Or it may arise from some special opportunity. So, it's important to construct a program that takes his interests into consideration and provides regular and varied opportunities for social, physical and cognitive leaps. Fortunately, in the informal atmosphere of an early childhood classroom, there are lots of ways to go about it and an informed, creative teacher can blend your child's needs with those of other students.
Consider the Learning Environment
Be sure your child's teacher provides appropriately advanced content that takes into account his individual social and physical skills. Lessons can be presented in short units or as activities and games. Many concepts are best taught through through inquiry-oriented dialogue and experimentation with hands-on materials. If at all possible, the ideal learning environment will present your child with true peers at an early age. Parents of gifted children frequently find that, while their child can get along with other children in the neighborhood, a deeper friendship is more likely to develop with a child who is more his equal developmentally. It can be hard because your child may make a best friend who lives clear across town. Be open and supportive and help arrange visits for the children. That relationship is crucial to your child's feelings of acceptance and normalcy.
When looking for an appropriate program for their gifted pre-school child, be aware of his learning needs. Many conventional educators are not trained to recognize the gifts and needs of special students. Find a program with the following basic traits:
- Academic open-mindedness
- Flexibility and willingness to work with individual students
- The ability to provide opportunities for advanced activities
- The chance to learn and play the company of intellectual peers.
You need to educate yourself about your child's needs so you can maximize his possibilities. A gifted child in the right environment will explore life to amazing ends. Participate in his education and be his advocate. His future depends on it.
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