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Monday, November 21, 2005


Doing Nothing is still a Choice

Apologies for the lack of posts last week! I'm thrilled to say that I was busy, not sick!

On Friday I attended a conference on acceleration of gifted students by Miraca Gross. It was fascinating to see, when Miraca polled the crowd, how few gifted students ever get the chance to leave their age peers when their intellectual and emotional development is much closer to that of older children. Only about a third of the local educators present knew of an accelerated child at their school - ever. This meant all types of acceleration, from a radical, multi-grade skip to sending a kid to take math lessons in the next grade every day.

Why should children be placed based on their chronological age alone? If schools are set up to help children learn, shouldn't kids be allowed to learn at their own pace? Although Miraca was preaching to the converted, it was evident that these dedicated teachers had a lot of work to do convincing administrators, other teachers, and even parents when trying to provide an adequate education under the current system. Miraca quite correctly pointed out that every child has a right to develop their brain through education, and to hold someone back is not a neutral choice. It is actually damaging to that child's brain and self concept, and it is an infringement of that child's rights. Unfortunately, as I saw, simple ignorance, misunderstanding, administrative convenience, or even fear, can stop a gifted child in their tracks. For more on this, see this article by Miraca, and A Nation Deceived, where you can find lots of research to back up any attempt to appropriately accelerate a gifted child. If you are a gifted adult, have the box of tissues standing by!

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My youngest son was accelerated after a bit of parent exerted pressure and a principal who was actually willing to fully discuss and evaluate a situation. The school had adamently refused to accelerate my oldest son, based on the theory that he would feel awkward if he was the only boy in grade 9 without pubic hair. This is not a joke. The SERC actually said this to us. (They didn't need to worry. He started shaving in Grade 6.)

By the time the second child was begging to be moved ahead in school(and the teacher refused, although my son was doing 7 of 8 subjects at the next or higher grade level), we had learned a thing or two about how the IPRC process worked and requested a meeting. We prepared a presentation laying out the pros and cons of acceleration. The principal agreed and he was moved ahead the same day.

What a fantastic move it was! He couldn't have been happier. The next year, he moved into a congregated gifted program (something the school had sworn would never happen because acceleration was deemed to be enough). Both my sons have been very happy with congregated gifted.

My only regret is that I didn't know enough about the system to insist on an IPRC review for my older son. It might have prevented years of boredom.
With all the technology available now, hopefully there will be more options available in the future for all kids. For example, staying with a peer group, but doing independant computer based modules at your own pace.
I'm curious as to how you've found my site, but thank you for the comment.

My mom didn't want to advance me up in the grade levels, for fear that I would be outcasted by kids who were at the same learning level as I was. She kept me in standard school until she finally allowed me to join gifted in 4th grade.

When the gifted program ended in 8th grade, I began online schooling every summer. This kept me stimulated because I couldn't bare to sit at home and do nothing but get dirty. I had a yearning to learn.

I really appreciate the commment. Hope to hear again from you soon. When I get home from work, I'll be reading that article.
All this obsession with peer group is fascinating. Who is to say that the next one or two grades up isn't your appropriate peer group. My son's transition was seemless and he made more friends once he was accelerated. He says he had more in common with those kids, than ones how own age. He has always been fully accepted. I think the hold back problem has more to do with teachers and parents unable to deal with their own fears than the kids themselves.
You made a great point!! Yes, doing nothing is still a choice!! In Japan, where I'm from, few schools or teachers made effort for gifted students. Fortunately though, when I was in the 5-6 grade, I got a great teacher, who gave each "advance students" (that's how he describes) unique tasks. Obviously, within Japanese collectivistic context, his way of teaching is truly against the cultural norm and not many teachers were happy about his way. However, I am really thankful to his because if I had not met him, I might have lost my interest in learning. Oh, we need more teachers like him, and more schools who accept teaching approach like his.
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