Few people know when they become parents for the first time that they are also entering the world of gifted parenting. Even though they may have been labeled gifted themselves, they soon come to the realization that "they aren't in Kansas anymore".
The first inklings of giftedness can be observed very early as developmental milestones are reached well in advance of what the parenting guides tell you. Or, you may not even realize that your child is gifted until a teacher approaches you with a request to evaluate. Either way, the news should be welcomed with a desire to learn everyting you can to become your child's advocate and supporter.
Today, resources abound on the Internet, in bookstores, and hopefully from your local school district. Avail yourself of all these resources, but then trust your intuition. You know your child best. Work at keeping the lines of communication open throughout the many phases of their development between you and your child. National groups such as the National Association for Gifted Children, the Council for Exceptional Children, Davidson Institute for Talent Development (for profoundly gifted) all provide a wealth of information on their websites.
Networking with other parents is a good way to learn about gifted education in your school system. The types of programs offered can greatly impact your child's education and vary widely from school to school. You will soon realize that as the parent of a gifted child, you will become their chief advocate. If parents in your school have organized into a formal group, it would be advisable to join it. There is strength in numbers.
In the U.S., there are several different approaches to gifted education. I will explain just a few of the options. Schools can use a "pull out" program where students leave the regular classroom to go to a resource room with a teacher who focuses primarily on gifted education. This model is generally used in elementary schools. It may mean that your child spends an entire day, a few hours, or a specified length of time in the resource room for enrichment and/or acceleration. Another option that many schools rely solely on is the practice of inclusion. This is becomming more prevalent due to budgetary restraints. Students receive differentiated instruction within the regular classroom either from the regular education teacher or a gifted educator. A relatively new program called RTI (Response to Intervention) which is used across the spectrum to assist struggling students is beginning to be used as an intervention method for gifted students. A simple adaptation to the overall program allows schools to add a gifted category to the interventions offered. Once your child enters middle school and high school, most parents see a stark difference in what a school district offers as gifted education. Based on the myth that gifted students always rise to the top and don't need any special help, secondary schools begin to tell parents that AP and IB classes constitute the district's gifted education. However, by this time in your child's life you know that this is simply not true.
Trying to find the best opportunities for your child is often a heart-wrenching process. Hard choices must be made. Do you stay where you are and accept what is offered, stay and try to improve the situation within your local school, move to another school district, look for an accessible charter school that offers gifted education, or homeschool your child? You must decide what is right for your child and your family.
There is one final alternative that I would like to offer if you must stay in a less than ideal setting. Do not rely on the school as your child's sole source of education. Take an active role in teaching your child or find others who can teach them in their areas of interest.
Parenting in itself can be a long and winding road. Gifted parenting adds many challenges along the way. In the end, you will find that it was all worth it!