Saturday, October 1, 2016

Acceleration- Skipping to Succeed

The age old question in education is what to do with our over-achieving children who become bored in class.  Are they the child that is disruptive because they have finished their work early? Are they the daydreamers or the absent-minded professors?  What can you do for them? There has been a constant stream of contradictory research as to what is best for these absorbers of knowledge. Our gifted journey started off as most do, a quest for knowledge.  We saw issues regarding our son and the school recommended testing.  What I had prepared for was a diagnosis of dysgraphia or sensory integration disorder. My background was teaching and I knew I could handle those diagnoses. Those diagnoses were confirmed but what I didn't anticipate was a diagnosis of profoundly gifted.  I felt like the wind was knocked out of me.  My first instinct was to question the results.  After all, this is a kid who makes armpit noises.  But as I listened to the psychologist, I began to wrap my head around the results.  Most people would be happy to hear that their child is gifted but knowing how school systems can fail these kids, I had a lot of anxiety of what could potentially happen. Would he do well in school? Sure.  Would he test well? Absolutely.  But would he succeed? Would he ever understand what it meant to work hard? Face adversity? Learn from mistakes? I knew I had to advocate for him and put him in a place where he could thrive but also learn the importance of hard work. We tried homeschooling but I couldn't keep up with his thirst for knowledge.  I knew I needed to find something more for him.  After reading A Nation Deceived, I quickly realized what the solution was.  I needed to find a school that would allow for his acceleration.  He needed to be with kids who love to learn. He needed to be with kids who were like him and would appreciate his intellect. Luckily, we have a local school whose hallmark is acceleration.  Students at this school can accelerate one to two years starting in the 7th grade. We jumped at the opportunity to see if this was the answer we were looking for.  Research is great but does it work in the real world?

I remember on the day that he shadowed, he came bouncing out saying that he had found his people. What an amazing feeling to see your once unhappy, hated-to-go-to-school kid want to be in a place where he felt he belonged.  This sense of belonging is something I have heard from many a parent who made the leap with their child.  It makes you wonder, how many kids are like my son? How many could benefit from acceleration? Why don't we, as educators and parents, advocate for this? My son completed 8th-12th grade at Covington Latin School and he blossomed from a quiet, shy, awkward kid to one that participated in a ton of activities, played in a rock band, and traveled abroad. No one can believe the transformation he made in those 5 years.  What confidence he gained from being with like minded students who he fed off their intelligence.  He no longer had to hide who he was, what he was.  He was able to flourish.  He was challenged.  He definitely learned how to study. He definitely learned how to overcome adversity and ask for help.  He is now a college freshman and finds it to be a piece of cake because he learned the skills necessary to be successful. Was accelerating worth it? Absolutely!

Blog contribution from a former parent of Covington Latin School. 

For more information on acceleration and other topics regarding gifted education, go to Hoagie's Education Page.