“My daughter is extremely gifted,” a mother informed me. (I wish I had a dollar for every time I hear that one!) I waited for her to go on. “No really. She tests as ‘profoundly gifted.'” That’s wonderful. What are your plans? “Well, she needs to be challenged, because every class she sits in, she is terribly bored. She is going to be 11 soon, and I want her to take an upper-level high school English class. I don’t think she is ready for Advanced Placement (AP) yet.”
Probably not. In fact, I urged the mom to think about the kind of advanced discussions, topics, and types of literature that are read at the upper high school level. Did she really want her daughter exposed to the level of maturity required of students in 11th and 12th grades? Mom hadn’t thought much about that. She just knew her little one needed challenging. Let’s go ahead and challenge your gifted child, but in a way that she can handle it at her age and maturity.
This is reality schooling. While your little sweet one may be extremely advanced, you need to think “big picture.” Is your child ready for the maturity of the other kids in the room? Is she able to hold her own in the discussions, manage the logical, higher-level-thinking going on around her? Maybe for a while. But can she maintain it, realistically?
A well-designed humanities class develops more than just “objective” academic knowledge. A student assimilates a body of knowledge and learns to analyze, to form ideas, to articulate. There is more to “readiness” for a class than academic ability. It also includes emotional and spiritual readiness. Choosing one or two subjects in which to move ahead, at the expense of other academic areas, doesn’t provide a broad intellectual base. What you get in the end is an unprepared student who is frustrated.
If you are tempted to move your gifted child way ahead in an area, first make sure he has a strong foundation in all academics, appropriate for his age. Some families (ours included) move their incredibly gifted children faster than they should, which often results in a child who is challenged but frustrated. Frustrated because a) he is not mature enough to handle the material, b) he is not mature enough to handle the ages of the children around him, c) he cannot manage the advanced workload because he has not built a base of necessary work ethics/habits from which he can draw, or d) he ends up feeling inferior in many other ways not pertaining to academics. Or all of the above.
Some parents tell me that their children have earned enough “credits” to graduate at 15. Then what?
Think about it for a bit. The “then-what” means either college, working in the family business or an apprenticeship with a family friend to develop skills, or some other time-filler. Yes, today’s idea of the age of maturity is not the same as it was in Puritan times. So why did he hurry up to graduate? To go to college early?
Let’s talk about going to college early. You homeschool your child so that he can grow up in a protected environment with loving family members, supervised by you and nurtured to maturity. So at 16 he is ready to go sit in class with a bunch of adults who think a rite of passage in college is sex, drugs, and alcohol? “No, you have it wrong. My son will live at home.” Yes, and during the day he makes friends with a bunch of adults who think a rite of passage in college is sex, drugs, and alcohol. You really want that for your young teen?
Remember, please, that high school is not all about credits. It’s about preparedness for life. It’s about discipleship. It’s about maturing. I’ve seen some parents hoard high school credits like money, eagerly aiming their child to graduation by pushing them forward and cutting corners willy-nilly. “I can give him two credits here because he read a history book and wrote essays!”
Realism dictates that we take a hard look at ourselves and at our families. Look realistically at where your gifted little love-bug is academically. Feed his mind with books and curriculum that will challenge him at an age-appropriate level while at the same time developing him in all his other areas–physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Refuse the temptation to make your child grow up before he is ready just because he shows some giftedness. Certainly give him Calculus at age 12 if he can handle it, but oversee him with his tutor–don’t shove him into a room full of 17-year-olds and expect him to do well with it. And maybe you also cannot expect him to move at the same speed of those 17-year-olds. So teach him at his own skill level and pace.
Gifted–maybe. Well-rounded in all things–doubtful. I urge you to look at your whole child rather than at just his one area of giftedness.
See related blogs: Educating with excellence, reading well, writing well, rising above the mediocre.
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