“It’s elementary, my dear Watson” … an oft quoted line of Sherlock Holmes is quite appropriate when talking about gifted children and the importance of the early years spent in elementary or primary school. It is here that the foundation of their lives is built. If a parent or school waits until a child is older to consider identification and appropriate educational placement, it can be an opportunity lost forever.
Young gifted children need to be challenged during the beginning years of school. For too many of these kids, it is easier to take the path of least resistance rather than the road less travelled. Elementary school is a ‘breeze’ for many gifted children. They know the curriculum inside and out even before they open a book. In the first few years it is like a game for them. Always knowing the answers, their little hands are the first ones up when the teacher asks a question. After multiple wrong answers are given, the teacher finally calls on them. With beaming faces, they give the correct answer and receive appropriate praise from the teacher. Although parents may see this as an ego boost, in reality it is setting a bad precedent. Without proper guidance these children may become boastful and alienate classmates or become bored and mischievous. The latter often resulting in numerous trips to the principal’s office or phone calls home.
There are some ways to break this cycle, but it involves parents and teachers working together as a team. Yes, I realize that this can be a problem when one of the parties does not want to engage in the process. As a parent, however, if you want everyone invested in your child’s best interest you must be willing to attempt to build strong relationships based on mutual respect. This requires a great deal of diplomacy and work on the part of the parent. When you are working with educators you need to act professionally, keep your emotions intact, prove that you know what you’re talking about through written documentation and use of appropriate educational language, and know the law in regard to gifted education in your school’s jurisdiction. Basically, you need to know how the system works, who the decision makers are, and what you hope to achieve for your child’s education; not an easy task for a young parent.
Building a strong support system for an elementary level child should be the ultimate goal of every parent. Model the behavior you wish your child to display. Remember that education is so much more than what you learn from a book. Learning how to work well with others to achieve your goals is one of the most important lessons in life we can teach our children. In fact … it’s elementary my dear parent!