Self-paced Acceleration



Clearly, changes are needed in how we educate our children. Those who are identified as high-ability learners or gifted or profoundly gifted or ‘whatever’ other appellation appeals to your sense of political correctness … must be included within the framework of today’s education reform.

Is it time to re-invent the wheel? I don’t think so. I think it’s time to take a trip down memory lane myself. Back to the days of the one-room school house romanticized in American folklore as a simpler time when the lone ‘teacher on the prairie’ was tasked to educate children as a group composed of many different ages.

Today, the schoolhouse may have changed, but teaching children according to their ability rather than by chronological age is an idea whose time is re-emerging as a real viable option. It’s not as radical as it may seem on face and it is gaining support in education circles. Nascent steps in this direction are already being taken with the introduction of dual-enrollment of high school students in college classes, early graduation paired with early entrance to universities, and even the elimination of grade levels in several school districts; most notably a pilot program in the Kansas City (MO) school district at the elementary level.

So what does this mean for parents of gifted children? I recently read the new book from Corin Barsily Goodwin and Mika Gustavson, Making the Choice: When Typical School doesn’t fit your Atypical Child. Although it is a part of the Perspectives in Gifted Homeschooling Series, I highly recommend it for all parents, not just homeschoolers. It is especially informative concerning 2E kids and provides a wealth of information on many educational options.

What piqued my interest in this book was why so many parents are seeking alternatives and why homeschooling is so appealing for gifted children. Ding … ding … ding! Could it be that these children progress at their own pace? Could it be that these parents were never given this option in their traditional school districts? Could it be that these students have a track-record of success? A word of caution … I am not referring to homeschoolers who make this choice based on religious reasons. I’m talking about gifted children who are languishing in classrooms that require them to ‘stay with the program’ … ‘think inside the box’ … ‘be quiet in the hall’ … and never ever challenge the all important status quo.

About now, many of you are probably thinking … this is a nice topic for a blog … but totally unrealistic. Not so fast! Is this just the pipe dream of an eccentric blogger? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Consider this – schools are strapped for money. These days nothing is off the table when it comes to slashing education budgets. Pay to play and pay to expect anything beyond the basic curriculum is the mantra of many taxpayers.

But what if we move academically gifted students through the school system at an accelerated rate? Students no longer become bored who are able to self-pace through the curriculum, teachers are free to devote more time to students who need more attention, and school districts save money by getting these students through in a shorter amount of time.

Yes, I know … the devil is in the details. It takes time to make radical changes and the powers that be do not like to be challenged. The crux of the matter is this. Parents must be willing to advocate for change that may never be implemented in time for their own children. They must begin to advocate at the very first signs that their child’s needs are not being met by the system. Is this too much to ask? Think ~ grandchildren if you need inspiration. Or perhaps you’ll be fortunate enough to partner with parents who have already started the ball rolling. Whatever it takes … do it now!

It’s a lot to think about, but thinking is a good thing. I do it often and take great pleasure in the results. It’s especially rewarding to think with others … crowd-sourcing a solution to a problem. I look forward to your comments.



Comments

  1. I wish! I am currently homeschooling my 5 year old.... in 3rd grade. I wish *someone* would do it besides me! I feel woefully inadequate but I know that even that is better than her being forced to suffer through years of what she already knows.

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  2. Another thoughtful and thought provoking post lisa.... always a good read, and from an advocate of acceleration, when done right, I also salute you.. keep up the good fight ;-D

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  3. Thanks for stating the obvious and making people think. My kids LOVE school and LOVE to learn. But every few years they both ask (separately) if they can homeschool so they can really learn. Seems that they know that school is NOT there to let them learn and they know that mom and dad spend so much time trying to advocate for them, volunteer huge amounts of time so they can have a great experience...but no appropriate teaching/learning gets done.

    People keep thinking we are asking for acceleration. NO. That is the wrong word. The kids accel themselves. We are just asking for "appropriate placement" but get shot down at every turn. Even when we "score a win" one year (as we did with my older son's 9th grade year), the next year someone wants to "put him back with his age cohort" even though he succeeded academically and socially in the accelerated curriculum and really needs MORE acceleration.

    This is definitely an idea whose day has come. Sorry that we keep having to leave the system to allow our kids to learn.

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  4. My son just started Kindergarten and a local very small constructivism school. The problem I see that my son is already bored out of his mind. He brought home a workbook they have been doing for 3 weeks (ON THE LETTER C). But, my son is happy not learning anything in school because he loves to pretend play and write stories so much that he just does this. Told me he writes stories in head instead of paying attention. I haven't told the school he is gifted. See he is adopted and I only know because with all my other adoptive kids I had testing done to show 'holes'. My first son, adopted at age 9, had never been to school because his birthfamily was homeless and never sent him. He didn't know any letters, etc.. When they told me my current son tested profoundly gifted at age 3 (he is adopted from US foster system but only spoke Russian at time of testing with interpreter) I dismissed it. He is very extroverted and social and seems to spend all his time bossing the neighbor kids around in his pretend play. The only complaint I have from school is that he is "too assertive": an older kid in 4th grade attempted to take a ball off him and another kindergartener and my son berated and chased after the boy (no name calling), but once my boy until another older child intervened to give him the ball back at which point the first boy burst into tears. My son was so put out to have to apologize and admit he could have found a better solution that he refused to do anything rest of day and that is why got a note home. Anyway, my son doesn't seem to 'rise to the challenge' of not being taught at his level but instead sees it as an opportunity to do more elaborate pretend play.

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  5. First anonymous ... my kids loved school, too! I think homeschooling is a good option for many, but as mine got older they took solace in becoming involved in their passions ... my daughter sought out band and the most challenging classes offered at her hs, while my son pursued athletics and positions of leadership on the teams with which he played.
    Second anonymous ... since your son is so young and has already been identified as profoundly gifted, I hope you will learn more about PG kids and find other parents of gifted students in your son's school. This is the perfect time to start advocating for his needs. He may be happy to accommodate himself now, but as he grows older; he will want more challenges. Best wishes (& some luck) to you both!

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  6. I just recently found your blog - thank you, I love it.

    In one post, the comment was "People keep thinking we are asking for acceleration. NO. That is the wrong word. The kids accel themselves. We are just asking for appropriate placement."

    Thank you for saying that! You hit the nail on the head - appropriate placement. We are lucky to have found a school that tries to challenge my son academically (we had four horrible years before we found this school) but also works with him as a whole person and supports growth in all areas.

    Home schooling was an option that we constantly toyed with and I felt overwhelmed. Recently I read an article about the actor who played Blosom - does anyone remember her? Her real name is Mayim Bialik, has a PhD in neuroscience and she home schools her children. She is in California and the network in place for home schooled children sounds very impressive. It was a short article but it made me realize that when you home school you are not doing it alone. There are organizations, groups and professionals (from various disciplines; ie science, music, math, language, etc.) that can provide support and enrichment of the material being studied.

    I never fully understood about the possibilities within home schooling. While we seem to have found the right fit for our son, for the moment anyway, I don't think I will be so apprehensive in the future if we have review that option again. The community for parents of gifted children is growing and we are willing to help each other out along the way making home schooling a more viable option each day.

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