Dear Teacher: My son was reading fluently (self-taught) by the age of 4 1/2. He devoured, and understood, science books meant for a much higher age level. When he eventually entered grade school, he was expected to sit quietly while being bored out of his mind with the material being presented. To him, the endless worksheets were just busy work in which he had no interest.
We encountered teachers who thought that if he were truly above the material, he should willingly zip through it, so they could pile on more meaningless busy work.
It has been extremely difficult making educators understand that the brightest kids are not necessarily "academic superstars" - they will often choose to tune out, feeling no need to prove themselves on material they're not interested in. There has been much research and books written on this topic, but it seems to get little attention in the public school system.
Schools have entire systems in place to support special-education students, and rightfully so.
Each student is given an education plan tailored to him/her as an individual so that he/she reaches full potential. Gifted students, meanwhile, are expected to muddle along in a system that doesn't meet their needs.
My son is now in fourth grade. For the first time, there is a gifted class available to him. Even though it is only for one subject (math), it gives him at least one time a day when he is truly engaged in learning. No daydreaming, no humming, no spacing out. - A Load off My Mind
Answer: The good news is that more and more schools are now developing programs for the highly gifted, especially with help from online resources. The bad news is that most aren't. Plus, teachers are drowning in their efforts to meet federally mandated Individual Educational Programs for those with learning problems. Parents should badger educators for more attention to the needs of the gifted.
Readers: It's New Year's resolution time again.
Too often people go overboard in trying to change too much with their resolutions. Sometimes a simple resolution or two can pay unexpected dividends.
This year our resolution suggestion centers on building your children's academic skills through supporting their interests.
One of the biggest assets children can have is an overwhelming interest in something accompanied by a desire to learn more and more about it.
Children who are mad about baseball can improve their math skills through learning how the all-so-important statistics are figured, read more to learn about recent games and have a great deal of information to use in reports. They can also study the science involved in throwing different pitches. It's the same story for those who are absorbed in hobbies from stamp collecting to photography.
Resolve to support your children's interests.
1. Give them books, magazines and articles to read about their interest.
2. Help them get more involved in their interest by finding classes (music, art, photography, golf) for them to take or going to places (baseball games, museums, plays) where they can see their interest firsthand.
3. Respect their interest and speak glowingly about it to others.
- Send questions and comments to Dear Teacher, in care of OV Parent Magazine, 1 N. Illinois St., No. 2004, Indianapolis, IN 46204, or log on to www.dearteacher.com, or email DearTeacher@DearTeacher.com.