First day of school

And I am so relieved. My older son started at a new school today. You may recall that I hated his teacher last year–not as a person, just as a teacher–and thought the school wasn't set up to deal with kids who were already reading. It's a long story about why he was going to our neighborhood school, but the short version is that we had been planning to move to another city in another state, and I'd done all the school search stuff there. He'd gotten into my dream public school (K-8, with siblings automatically accepted). Then I had my gut-wrenching epiphany and asked for a divorce, and that plan fell apart.

So I hadn't done any leg work in Manhattan, including taking the G&T ("gifted and talented") test. Rumors were that our local school was good, so we went there. I don't really believe in pulling kids out for special G&T programs, in the abstract. I feel like teachers ought to be teaching to all the kids, and it's possible to structure things so that you can give kids at each level what they need. But the problem with that theory is that if everyone else has pulled their kid out into a G&T program, then your kid is going to be the one coming home complaining of boredom every single day. And, compounded by a teacher like we had who just shouldn't be in the classroom, it was even worse.

So we did the G&T test. And then had a wacky adventure with the NYC DOE that caused this crying in the conference room episode. And then we got assigned to his current school, in the G&T classroom for his grade. The school is a solid 25 minute walk away, unless some miracle occurs and he gets assigned to a bus route. But, but, but–his teacher! She's young and idealistic and not jaded by the whole thing yet. She's going to come in with her A game, instead of just phoning it in to accumulate years until her pension. And she looks like she isn't going to be tipped over by precocious, mischievous boys.

I walked out of his classroom and burst into tears. Not because I was particularly sad about school, but because I'm so relieved.

The next couple of posts are going to be more about you as parents and school and the social scene, but if you want to talk about anything specific to your kid or teacher or any of that, please post here. Homeschoolers, feel free to express your frustrations and happinesses, too.

0 thoughts on “First day of school”

  1. Congrats! That’s such a good feeling. I also always feel like crying in relief when I know it will be a good fit, good experience, workable, success seems likely, any of that.And we haven’t even had a bad year to set the low bar.
    Do you have anything for ‘the frets’ – because I’m fretful about school (especially the twins starting in separate classes this year, starting tomorrow), though I have absolutely NO GOOD REASON for it. Just that vague sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop… (everything going well in 5th grade, and in 1st grade… I know I start relaxing after about the two or three week point, but… sigh.)

  2. Do you think maybe this connects to anything that you felt yourself about starting school when you were a kid? I feel like a lot of times these vague fears connect to things that happened to me when I was a kid, so even though they’re not related directly to the situation at hand, they’re the shadow. Especially that feeling of “something’s going to happen.”Hmmmm….maybe that’s why I’m so OK with this year for the older son–I never went to first grade. Which means next year could be a big freak-out year for me. Going directly from K to 2 was rough.

  3. Congratulations.My second child is shy, which is OK with him, OK with us, but seems to be not OK with his teacher.
    I am trying to withhold judgment, but I’m wearing a can of whupass in a holster for easy access. We’ll see how this first week goes.

  4. E moved to the next step up at daycare and I’m so glad he’s in a room where more kids are talking, and hopeful that his communication skills will improve.I’m not looking forward to how to navigate the troubles I think we’ll have when he finally enters school, school. I have 3 more years to fret about that though.
    I’m so glad you are happy, Moxie.

  5. My son’s going back to his Montessori that he did fine at last year (thanks to everyone’s support about the whole M/daycare thing), and I still felt a bit weird this morning. I think hedra nailed it that it can be leftover child-angst.For the whole teacher/G&T/etc. thing – I did not do well as a gifted kid in a regular classroom. Ever. Even with pretty good teachers. It was a huge relief to go to a gifted high school.
    I don’t know if G&T is code for “upper middle class” in your area (the Ontario equivalent kind of is in mine) or if it’s truly G&T but if it is, it can be a real advantage to have teachers who are trained in – and happy with – dealing with asynchronous development.

  6. Does it count if the transition to daycare is killing me? B is 20 months and has been in daycare before, but was out for the summer since his daddy and I work academic jobs. New daycare + new ability to communicate distress + having mama and daddy to himself the whole summer = disaster so far. Hearing him say “stay home!” in the mornings and “no thank you mama work” is breaking my heart. As is handing him off wailing to his teachers, who are wonderful and warm and attentive to his emotional needs, but still…ouch.

  7. I am going to approach this from a slightly different angle. I am a former teacher. Despite being a third-generation teacher (that is, a person with a lot of support) and a generally-educated human being, teaching was HARD. There is just too much to deal with, too many people to please. I think I was one of those idealistic young teachers, but the system chewed me up and spit me out, like a LOT of idealistic young teachers. I worry that by the time my son gets to school, there will be very few good teachers left. And homeschooling is just not a possibility in our house.

  8. So what’s the deal with the G&T designation? Is this proving to be beneficial? I wasn’t (technically) in tracked classes until high school, so I’m curious how it works to have our newest students segregated so early by test scores. Obviously, every system has benefits and detriments. As my kid is a week shy of 9 months, I’m not too concerned…yet…but I can see that it’s going to be a focus of a bit of anxiety for her and her (likely to become fragmented) peer group.

  9. i was in one of the first g&t classes in nyc back in the early 80’s- i imagine the program has changed quite a bit since then, but i would echo shandra in that it made a huge difference in how i viewed school- in K and 1st i was so bored i turned into quite a behavioral problem- there just wasn’t much for me to do! unfortunately i didn’t have young idealistic teachers in grammar school- in fact the opposite, old, mostly waiting to retire teachers who i imagine had good track records up to that point but didn’t necessarily have the experience to teaching to a bunch of kids who were emotionally/developmentally at their age level but happened to be advanced intellectually. it was still better than the alternative. i’ll bet a lot has changed since then and i’m so happy elp is in a class with a teacher that you love!we are checking out the last possible nursery school today- please god let this be alright! i am so nervous for so many reasons. i need to believe that this is the right thing for her!

  10. I’m with Shandra–miserable experience as a gifted kid in 1st & 2nd grade w/no G&T program (no K–in those days they bumped you up right away if you were reading and doing subtraction). Moving to a gifted school–private, on scholarship as there was no public program–changed my childhood and my life. Congrats and good luck to El C and you!For us, Montessori is year round, Mouse is staying where she was–the big stress is the school finding process now starts for next fall. We have to make the K decision this year and I’m probably more worried than usual just because of my horrible first experiences.

  11. Good luck to everyone!Moxie – I’m glad to hear he has such an enthusiastic teacher.
    We are back to looking at Montessori pre-schools for when the toddler turns two in March. What a pain it is going to these tours they only conduct during working hours when I have meetings! But she’s worth it, so we will go.

  12. I’m kind of surprised at all the people who equate age with jadedness. I’d much rather my children get experienced teachers, although my older child has a newly minted teacher and I am assuming she must be good if our school hired her. (This is me, basking in white-affluence privilege.)Do you (collective you, not Moxie you) prefer youthful enthusiasm over experience and accumulated knowledge in other professions, too, or is there something different about teaching for you? In my perfect world, I receive my professional services from people between 30 and maybe 55 — I suspect the upper limit will rise as I age, because it’s not as though I will ever wear out/down, right?

  13. Re: G&T is such a complicated system. The ideal would be for teachers to differentiate instruction so that all students are challenged appropriately and so that pull-out programs (be it G&T or remediation) don’t turn into the social stratification that Shandra mentions. On the flip side, many of my former students (when I taught public school) refused to go to their pull-out G&T class because it meant *MORE* work — not better work in terms of quality, depth, challenging, etc.In my current world, S started his new 3-6 Montessori class last week. Was there one day and then had respiratory issues (either croup or asthma) and just went back today. The teachers in this class have a stellar reputation, but I’m worried about him being in the classroom with much older children (he’s one of the youngest). Who will protect him on the playground if mama bear isn’t there?
    But — I’m glad he’s out of the toddler room at the school where the teacher (who is a hypochondriac) would attend a weekend, brown-bag seminar of some sort (e.g., sensory integration) and then diagnose a student on Monday. She’s a mess.

  14. G&T – is that just a NY thing or across the whole US? I haven’t heard of it but it’s been a long time since I’ve been in school and my kids are not yet in preschool… just curious.

  15. I’m excited and a tiny bit anxious about the new year. My two year old is in a new room at daycare starting today, where the kids will be served a school lunch (previously everyone arrived with their own packed lunch). For the first time J will be singled out as an Allergic Child… The center is theoretically nut-free, but we can’t risk outsourcing his food to whatever service provides the institutional meals. Not loving the idea of his being Different (although relieved that I’ll still have control over his nutrition, at least for a couple more years).I’m considering trying to “match” the school menu — although honestly, mirroring the meatloaf/chicken nuggets/pizza bagels routine isn’t really sounding good to me.

  16. @MO, where I taught (California) we called it GATE, for Gifted and Talented Education. G&T is a drink!@Slim, you bring up an interesting point about age preferences for teachers. When I first started teaching I was 23, and nobody wanted their kids in my class because I was a brand-new teacher. But then at the same time, my mom was on her 30th year of teaching, and parents didn’t want her because she was older. I guess maybe mid-30s with 10-ish years of experience is the most preferable to parents.

  17. @Slim, I think teaching can be so frustrating, and there are so many factors–that have nothing to do with the kids–that just suck out teacher’s souls. Especially in the US now with all the NCLB bullshit that limits what teachers can actually do in the classroom and adds all kinds of non-teaching tasks to their workloads. And the tenure system in public schools (at least in NYC) protects all teachers, even the bad ones, so they can’t be fired. It’s complicated and sucky and really the last way we want to be treating the people who are supposed to be teaching our kids.

  18. @Moxie, yeah, it probably is my stuff. Shy extrovert as a kid – first couple of weeks of school were HELL. NEED to be in the thick of things, totally unable to be. Add in easily wounded and a year younger than everyone else (you and me both, it sounds like) with age-typical social skills, and the social picture gets ugly fast. No G&T options where we were, either.Toss in some pretty random experiences with teachers – especially the active alcoholic ones, and that one who preferred public humiliation as her disciplinary method… except she only used it on me, that I could tell… – and it always took me that long to figure out if it was going to be an okay year/class.
    My kids seem to figure it out on the first day (even though B is also a shy extrovert, he’s only transitional shy, not please-don’t-look-at-me-I-want-to-die shy – and he came home with 2 friends on day one, 3 on day 2, and 4 on day 3… so. Yeah, not me.).
    Thanks. Now creeping sense of dread has transformed magically into an urge to burst into tears… but at least it’s all on my side of the line.
    Sigh. But really, thanks.

  19. can anyone recommend a good book/resource for us to (besides protecting the gift) to prep the pnut (and us) for her being in nursery school? i’m thinking along the lines of how she should handle being in this new situation, taking care of herself, etc. thanks!

  20. I was tested and put in the “gifted” program in fourth grade after transferring from a Montessori school for K-3. I’m not so sure I was “gifted” as much as I just had a much better foundation than my public school classmates. For the few weeks or so I was in the general population fourth grade class I was one of the few who could read – my regular class teacher was sad to see me go, he had given me a special project to work on about marine life (strange the things you remember). 95% of the kids in the gifted classes were white and at least solidly middle class. Not the case with the gen-ed classes.Now my nephew is in the gifted program in Maryland and he really is an above average – academically speaking – child. He reads and tests way above his grade level. They’ve talked about skipping him ahead a grade but aren’t sure that developmentally it would be the best thing for him. His parents tell me they love the public school system there. They’ve just moved there from here (Florida) and it is like night and day – the quality of the public schools.
    Bean is a ways away from school but I would love to have him start in a Montessori school.

  21. We don’t have gifted students in my town. Must be something in the water.Yeah, the child was frequently bored. I have misgivings about not having sent her to a school where kids learn whatever they want whenever they want (Sudbury Valley Model – in fact, The Sudbury Valley School.) I think these schools can be a disaster for some kids, but they would have been so right for her. Oh well, you don’t get do-overs, and she’s happy and pretty well educated and looking forward to college….

  22. I have no idea how the G&T stuff works in the public schools here. We’re in a Charter, which means they get to do it their way.Which is that at (I think) grade 4, they group by tested ability for the full class (that is, the class is clumped by tested levels), and at grade 5 they group by tested ability by subject (they’re going classroom to classroom at that point), and will move students between groups mid-year if it seems appropriate. They prefer to do it for whole years, but if someone is bored or struggling, they will bump them appropriately. And re-bump them each year to where they will be challenged but not swamped at that time (working on the assumption that mental development isn’t always linear but may have leaps and plateaus in any area of study).
    I like it, personally. Plus they do the advanced levels by increasing pace and adding depth rather than just adding work-per-day. Same amount of homework per night, everyone, at every level in the same grade. Just some classes discuss more of the fine points, and others spend the same amount of time developing a solid understanding of the main points. The fact that the levels weave back and forth by subject area starting at 5th grade makes it less something people get ‘stuck’ on socially, too. Everyone’s somewhere, and that somewhere can and often does change over time.
    They have their issues (it is NOT a perfect school), but I like the way they just assume that anyone can move anywhere in the levels at any stage. I still love Montessori, but I think this also solves the problem of boredom or overwhelm without making it seem bad to be in any given spot.

  23. We’re in our fourth week at school (started Aug. 7) and I am still not sure how I feel about it. Kindergarten, public neighborhood school, very mixed racially & economically, with changes in demographics very current (a year or two ago it was much more heavily minority and poor). We have a first-year teacher who I have an “eh” feeling about (aside from feeling almost old enough to be her freakin’ mother, which is my issue – birthday this week!). I do worry about the very young teachers because I remember myself at 22 – hardly emotionally/socially prepared to teach 20 5-year olds who come in with such completely diverse life experiences and existing academic knowledge!Casper is happy enough at school, but I don’t feel she’s being challenged or getting much encouragement to find her own path to learning and learning enthusiasm. She seems to spend a lot of time coloring in xeroxed sheets about letters. She knows her letters (but can’t read, and seems not very interested in learning to read), but since she loves coloring, she’s happy. I am torn between knowing she is bright and wanting her to be stimulated and challenged, and reminding myself that when I was in K, coloring was the point – there was no emphasis on academics at all in K 30 years ago.
    I wish they had a webcam in the classrooms so I could see what was really going on (just-5 = unreliable narrator). I never wanted a webcam in the day care center, but school feels different to me!

  24. I am doing surprisingly OK with my daughter starting 2nd grade. She was excited to go in. And if we are recalling our our school anxieties…she didn’t seem anxious. Maybe eager, a tad bit nervous. But not a bundle of nerves ready to burst into tears. I hope she comes home as happy. I know nothing about her teacher…I met her for about 1 minute. She was not exceptionally friendly–last year (but that was 1st grade) the teacher welcomed all the parents in and gave a 2 minute speech. This year, we were shooed outside after dropping off supplies. It takes everything not to let my anxieties flare up.The (large urban) school district I attended had magnet schools for G&T. The elementary program starts in 3rd grade…your 1-2 grade teacher has to recommend you, although there is rampant rumor that parents influence that more and more. My mom turned down a slot for me…too far away.
    We lived in the nearby city when my daughter was starting kindergarten. We did the (free public) Montessori program for her, starting at age 3. She’s a late August birthday, so she was very young. We moved last summer to a far-out suburb for job reasons. It is so weird to have my 4.5 year old son not really in school yet. He’s in a private preschool. It is very nice. It is very part time. I wonder if he’ll be behind, if he’ll like the relaxed pace, if he’ll be as bored as he has been for much of summer. He is driving me crazy at home…god, I wish we had K4. (And I could pay for more private school, but I don’t want private school and I don’t want to pay for it beyond the taxes I already pay.)
    Next Monday, when preschool finally begins its 3x week schedule, that may be a harder day.

  25. Can I just say, bravo. I’m one of the ones who could read already, and was generally quick at picking things up but there was no gifted program available… school almost killed my passion for learning, and I was bored out of my skull. Yay for children being appropriately challenged!

  26. I find it really hard to separate myself from the bourgeois hysteria surrounding our whole education system (she won’t get into a good college if she doesn’t get on the right track at 5 years old…).On one hand, I understand that it is important for each child to get what he or she needs to keep moving forward and, in a basic sense, learning. I deeply hope that academic labels on both sides of the curve are not social status codes where the G & T kids are “future leaders of America” and the remedial kids are doomed from 5 years old as “never going anywhere.” Of course, as strongly as I feel that way, I want MY kid to be surrounded, as the years go by, with other kids who are going to college….
    On the other hand, the labelling process seems very objective and squishy to me. Almost every parent I know thinks their kid is gifted in at least 2 subjects…which simply can’t be true if G & T programs are really addressing the top 5 or 10 percent who (arguably) won’t learn well in a regular classroom. And what about placement- are the assessments really accurate? Finally, what about the idea that tracking kids so young is creating labelling issues and competitive pressure for kids who are at a very early stage of forming their self-esteem?

  27. I have a co-worker who worked as a special ed. teacher (yikes!) in Florida. When I’ve brought up gifted programs she just rolls her eyes. In Florida, that’s code for “white”, apparently.I’m not sure what the deal is here (Minneapolis) with gifted programs. I don’t recall seeing mention of any that resemble what I think is being discussed here. Frankly, the whole topic makes me feel kind of sad, somehow, but I can’t really put my finger on why.
    In other news, Eldest’s pre-school teacher is at this very moment in our lving room, talking with her and DH. They do home visits which I guess is good, as she’ll see our home environment and, I think, get a good sense of Eldest and our worldview and such. I’m just fretting in general about her starting this Thursday. She’s shy, you know, and I just worry about the world stomping her down. We’ll take it one day at a time. If it’s not working, we’ll figure something out.

  28. @Shannon — the same thing happened to me. I was idealistic when I started teaching (10 years ago) but also clueless — there is so much about the out-of-classroom BS you just don’t get in college. It’s total OJT for all that administration / parents / NCLB / standardized testing stuff. I learned quickly that’s almost all BS, but it will sink you faster than the in-classroom stuff will. I often said if teaching was just closing my door and teaching the kids in front of me, I never would have burned out — I loved kids & curriculum! It’s “everything else” that kills the idealism.@Moxie, I have to take issue with your feeling that teachers “ought” to be teaching to all levels in one class. Federal and state governments agree with you, but in practice this shortchanges everybody. That’s mostly because legally the less-able students (learning or emotional disorders, etc) are entitled to more time and resources that the teachers are legally bound to provide, so the more-able students (gifted without IEPs) get shortchanged because they do not have such stringent laws (IDEA, for example) on their side, so an overwhelmed teacher with no help has to serve the more-needy learners or risk her job / certification. She will not be fired or decertified for disregarding G&T enrichment since there’s no mandate for it.
    The fix for this, IME, is insisting upon an IEP for your G&T student. The IEP is a binding legal document, so if you can formulate one to prescribe enrichment for your child, at least you have heavy recourse if someone’s not following it.
    @Flea — when a parent would come to me with a far-out story from their child about what happened in my classroom, my reply (sometimes to the parent, sometimes only in my head) was: If you believe only about half of what your child says about what happens at school, I’ll believe about half of what she says happens at home!
    Parents passing judgement on a teacher as a person, as a professional and as someome who knows what the heck is going on, without specifically and deliberately sussing out the whole story, is just about the worst situation you could put a teacher in. Though it may seem otherwise, IME there are VERY FEW teachers who do not genuinely care about each kid in their classes, who do not want to do the very best job possible and who are not being pulled in a million different and contradictory directions. OTOH, I completely agree that the union system protects bad teachers and is unnecessary in this day and age. That said, compassion for the teacher’s humanity and respect for experience and training will go a long way on making sure they don’t cringe when they see an email from you!
    I hope the next few days on this topic do not degenerate into rants about “Teachers I Have Hated” or “Teachers Who Had It In For My Child,” because that kind of rhetoric isn’t helpful to anybody. The teacher you or your child hated might be the one who absolutely saved someone else. I’ve been on both sides and neither is ever entirely accurate — no teacher is the devil, nor a saint. Teaching is an often thankless job undertaken by flawed, fallible people. As are we all.

  29. @michelle “Almost every parent I know thinks their kid is gifted in at least 2 subjects…which simply can’t be true if G & T programs are really addressing the top 5 or 10 percent”Sure it can be true. I am assuming the subset of the population you know is not a random selection from the whole population.

  30. @MrsHaley, I know a lot of teachers, and they seem to all speak from the same place you do. :)And that one teacher who used humiliation on me – I wonder if I was that truly awful student for her, or if I ‘broke’ her somehow (it did seem like something in her snapped when it came to me). She could not motivate me to save her life. I was entirely self-driven (hmm, wonder where my kids get it from?). I didn’t want her praise, cared nothing about grades or stickers or prizes from the prize jar, had no real friends so couldn’t be peer motivated, was smart enough to always pass my tests anyway (it was just homework I refused to participate on), didn’t care if she praised me or not… and even the public humiliation didn’t work. Something went out of her, when it came to me. Maybe it was just personality clash, plus culture clash (California transplant to the midwest)… Or just that I was an odd duck and not an easy one to figure out at the best of times. Certainly the same traits in my kids drive me batty some days, and they’re *my* kids! They’re also all much more socially adept than I was, which probably helps.
    I feel bad for me in her class, but I also feel bad for her. She didn’t return to the school the next year, either, so I don’t have any sense of her development as a teacher. Those two alcoholic teachers I had both got sober – one even tracked down all her former students in the school to apologize for having been less than the teacher we deserved. The other just transformed three years later into a fabulous, amazing, dynamic, engaged teacher (for my little brother’s experience). I’d like to think that it had *something* to do with me telling him that we all knew he was standing in the hall drinking during class, and that everyone cheated on exams while he was napping at his desk – we weren’t fooled, we knew he was asleep and not checking homework… he certainly looked shocked enough that I don’t think anyone else had bothered to tell him. Kind of went white on me when I said it, as I stood there waiting for him to hand me back my ‘class-drop’ slip with his signature… I wasn’t interested in ignoring the flagrant cheating, nor was I willing to participate, so I made a quiet exit mid-year. A bit scary to say to him (he blustered and denied, and I just stood there waiting for my slip back… one of those moments I wish I’d even KNOWN I was playing right, but really, I was just tired of him and didn’t care what he said)… anyway, well worth it if it salvaged the experience for other students, and especially for my little brother. And more worth it still if it salvaged his own life, since he was the one who had to live it.
    Teachers have it tough. Being normal and human and fallible and having their own lives and personal issues and history, and then having X number of kids who are likewise humans with history and personality and strengths and weaknesses… unique intersection for each student-teacher pair, just like it is for each parent-child pair. Sometimes it is going to suck for someone. I prefer it to not be my child, but I also would rather it not be the teacher, too (hence staying in touch with the teachers to see if there’s any way I can take off any of the pressure… harder in middle-school, by the way – there are so MANY of them!).

  31. @michelle, I think there’s a world of difference between trying to get your kid into the best preschool >> best elementary school >> best middle and high school >> best college in the world to set them up for guaranteed success and happiness, and wanting your kid to like school and not have their soul crushed at an early age.Maybe those of us who had the latter happen are especially sensitive to it. I just know I couldn’t watch what was happening to my son–how he’d been so excited about school but then started with the stomach aches and dreading it–and not try to make it better. 6 is too young to have to go someplace for 6 hours a day that makes you feel bad about yourself.

  32. @MrsHaley: I totally agree with your point about far-out stories and I think teachers often get the short end of the stick. OTOH…come on! It is an important job, teachers ought to be paid double what they are, AND they also ought to be able to do their job. And that is where the “I know a teacher who gave out a spelling test with three errors in the test” stories come out…because people feel entitled to have public teachers who can do their basic job if they are going to be paid with from our taxes. I does no good to say “we’re all fallible” when you have the rare bad luck of getting a total moron for your child’s teacher that year.@enu…you are right that I do not know a true random subset of the population. So what? What subset of the parent population do YOU think guarantees that 100% of the kids will be truly gifted? I can’t come up with one that isn’t absurd (Nobel prize winners or something), and I think your comment smacks of Social Darwinism.

  33. We moved to Paris from San Francisco this summer and while it’s not quite “back to school,” my two year old daughter started at her creche (essentially daycare for the under 3 set) today. It’s French speaking–her French is limited to Bonjour, Au revoir and Tour Eiffel. It’s the equivalent of a “co-op” back home, and I’m set to volunteer there 4 hours/week. My French is almost as limited. After hanging out there for about an hour today, I felt like brain was about to explode. I have a new found respect for non-native English speakers and a lot of anxiety about having to explain anything remotely subtle about my daughter, the other kids, or really anything. And please, don’t let there be any phone calls involved.

  34. when i was in the g&t class 20 some-odd years ago it pulled kids from all over the district- definitely *not* all white (out of 30 kids i’d say 1/3 white, 1/3 asian, other 1/3 hispanic and black) but that is also reflective of the district we lived in. thinking back it was probably mostly working and middle class- upper class folks in nyc send their kids to private school and i honestly can’t say that i would have known if some of the kids were in lower than working class.i do know that nyc has changed their policy from when i was a kid (your parent or teacher thinks you’re bright, sends you for the placement exam, you’re in or not)- now *every child* going into kindergarten gets evaluated- for, i imagine, the reasons that many of you are mentioning- too many kids slipping through the cracks missing the opportunity for a specialized classroom experience.

  35. I think–I could be wrong–but I think Michelle was just getting at the idea that of course we all think our children are gifted. And the truth is that some are, some aren’t. And in our society today (at least among a certain class/education strata) there is this almost overwhleming desire to have our children singled out as being special, advanced, talented… But what happens in a society or in a school, or in a gifted program, when we are all clamoring to have our children be acknowledged as gifted? I mean, what parent is willing to step back and say, You know what, I guess my kid is average.I hope I’m not contributing to anything bad here. I read Michelle’s original message and thought she was expressing a very interesting point, and a good one for discussion. And she pointed out her own contrary feelings–her concern with identifying kids too early one way or the other, while at the same time having a desire to have her own children be grouped with college-bound kids. Her post really spoke to me, really addressed something I struggle with.

  36. Moxie-Gosh! I certainly wouldn’t want your son’s soul crushed. I’m just thinking about some of the problems I see with the system here, and a good deal of it is parents (like me). Also, our County doesn’t allow teacher’s aids which, in my mind, makes it harder for there to be different levels of learning going on at once to ensure that slightly advanced kids can get instruction at their level in a regular class.

  37. @professor mama – at my son’s Montessori the older kids are actually very protective of the younger ones. It might be the 4 year olds that suffer a little, but not the 3s. πŸ™‚ Depends on the school though.@michelle – I have perspective on both sides of the fence. For me the labeling happened without the G&T testing – it was called being a nerd/walking dictionary, and the teachers’ solutions were either to have me be a “junior teacher” which did nothing for my class social standing, or sent me to the library where at least I wasn’t on anyone’s radar. Oh and a disastrous term in grade 3 going to the grade 8 math class next school over.
    Incidentally I am not a gifted adult. ☺
    But in my two years of being a 20-something ed assistant in the very same elementary school, now with gifted! I did see a lot of sorting by socioeconomic class and also the confusion between “teacher pleaser” and “really smart kid throwing books in the corner.” So not a complete fan of how gifted programmes have evolved. Except that my private gifted high school, which was entrance by blind exam only, literally saved my life.
    @MrsHaley – I kind of agree with you, until I don’t. The school I taught in generally had good human beings, yes. But some of them used really cruel methods – humiliation, shunning, elaborate points systems – to maintain control of their classrooms. I remember a number of discussions in the staff lounge that targeted kids who were ‘different’ and where teachers openly mocked certain families. The young teachers got drawn into it.
    I truly believe teachers need more training and support and money. And, in the end, accountability.

  38. @Flea- I have strong memories of doing lots of worksheets in 2nd and 3rd grade, and rushing through them so that I could read at my desk (which was the early elementary “enrichment plan” when I was in school). The teachers weren’t bad, but they weren’t great, and I know their educational approach wasn’t something my mother (a first grade teacher) agreed with. My district had a gifted program that started in 4th grade, where the kids were bussed to a special classroom one day/week. I tested into that, and it was good. We did special projects and I remember it as fun.Anyway, what I’m trying to say is- don’t automatically worry too much about the worksheets/boredom if it doesn’t seem to be bothering your kid. I was bored pretty much all through elementary school, except for that one day/week at the gifted program. And it didn’t destroy my love of learning or make me hate school. In fact, I went on to get a PhD, which some people would argue means I liked school too much! I don’t really know what my parents did to keep me engaged. I suspect it was just to take me to the library and get me lots of books at whatever level I was reading at (Dad was a librarian, so we spent a lot of time at the library).
    I certainly do not judge anyone who decides to pull their kid into a special class/school/whatever. I think the parents will know if that is what their kid needs. However, I have to say that in retrospect, I’m really happy with how my parents handled things for me. There were benefits from the mediocre, but really diverse, public schools I went to. I don’t just mean the benefits of diversity (which I think are real), but also the benefits of learning that not everyone thinks like you, and that sometimes you have to do some grunt work and you should do it with good grace. I recognized these benefits a little later than I recognized the downsides, but they were there. I consistently get praised for “willingness to do whatever is needed to finish a project” on my performance reviews- and I think I learned that back in elementary school, when I had to work through the same boring worksheets as everyone else.
    Ugh, long rambling post and a crazy day at work today, so no time to really improve it. Also- Pumpkin is a ways off from school. Who knows if I’ll be able to practice what I preach!

  39. Yay…..first day of school back in the classroom. I forgot how much FUN it is. Sadly, today was the day my Dr. decided to call me with the results of my bloodtest – apparently despite a stellar nucofold test, my blood test says I have 1 in 12 chance of having a downs baby, and am now scheduled for an amnio. Anyone out there want to make me feel better? I know the nucofold test is much more accurate…….but it’s still hard to hear. We know we wouldn’t do anything different regardless of the outcome, but…….not exactly news you want to be processing while in front of 32 bright and shining faces. Sorry for the hijack.

  40. Back to say that my assessment of the diversity of the gifted program in my neighborhood elementary school was from a child’s perspective. I noticed that most of the kids looked like me and most seemed to have much the same stuff I had. Don’t know really how many have or have nots were mixed in together.In hindsight the poster who said “gifted” in Florida meant “white” probably isn’t far off. Granted my experience is 20 – odd years out but I do remember being bused to a sixth grade school where our “gifted” classes has a separate wing made up of mostly white students and white teachers – and the rest of the school not so much.
    My dad and his wife are both public school teachers and they emphatically say that it is the administrative crap that wears them down. If they could just teach and deal with the kids they would LOVE their job and never foresee quitting. As it is – they are close to both being burned out. That is sad.

  41. Oh, Julie, I’m really sorry you had such intense news to process on your first day back. Keep us posted.@Cloud–I loved what you wrote! Yes, yes, yes! I worry about Eldest being bored, but maybe even if she is, things will be ok. Thanks for taking the time to write what you did. What a great community this is, and of such value to me.
    @Shandra–you mean to say being called Junior Assistant doesn’t make you popular???

  42. @Michelle “you are right that I do not know a true random subset of the population. So what? What subset of the parent population do YOU think guarantees that 100% of the kids will be truly gifted? I can’t come up with one that isn’t absurd (Nobel prize winners or something), and I think your comment smacks of Social Darwinism.”You didn’t say 100%, you said “almost every.” Most of the parents I’ve met have attended either Ivy League or similar schools. I’d be surprised if most of their kids did not meet the usual guidelines for G&T. I’m not sure, as I mentioned, we don’t have such a program in my town. What do you mean by truly gifted? Is that like Mr. Darcy’s “accomplished?”

  43. @ shandra- good point about the atmosphere of the school influencing how the teachers handle things- like so many other careers it is often allowed to happen by the ones in charge- in a school’s case, the principal and administration/dept. heads- and this is usually what leads to young ones burning out and leaving or losing their idealism, settling into the accepted environment of mediocrity and just cranking it out til retirement.and i think mrshaley has an excellent point that when you’re in school you really don’t have a clue about all the extra stuff and political bs that you need to navigate as a teacher- that to come out of the ivory tower of academia and theory and best-case-scenarios can be especially crushing to so many teachers i’ve known once they’ve gotten into a classroom and gone through the year. teaching is a vocation that demands mentoring for your first three years, IMHO, as well as more practical, insider knowledge during school (vs. practicum which preps you for the classroom but not all the other stuff)- unfortunately most ed profs haven’t taught primary and secondary school in years, or don’t have time in their curriculum to go through that side of it.
    rudyinparis- i happen to think my kid is pretty average, actually, so much so that when folks will comment on her knowledge of some of her letters (i would hope so by three!) i find myself downplaying it (see previous parens) b/c it makes me nervous that i won’t be ok with her if she is who she is. i want to love her for *her own* strengths and talents, no matter where they may be, and not try and live vicariously through her, projecting who i was on her. i suppose i’m afraid of labeling her as something that may become a self-fulfilling prophecy for her, rather than allowing her to follow her own path.
    @michelle- i think you raise a good point about how many kids in a g&t class are there b/c they should be (and the ones who should be there who aren’t)- and how many kids truly are g&t- is it nature? nurture? i’m inclined to think that it’s a good combination of the both- innately intelligent children who are lucky enough to have a parental figure who is nurturing and encouraging that intellect. to use myself as an example (cause who doesn’t like to talk about themselves?)- i showed ability to recognize letters/words between 2 and 3, and at 4 my mom had me work with a phonics teacher to teach me how to read- once i got the hang of it there was no stopping it, and i could read at a much higher grade level my whole life- a combination of natural ability and nurturing it.
    i will say that the competition between the kids in my class was a good thing- it helped me personally to do my best, where in a regular class i could totally do the bare minimum and *still* do better than most of the other kids (like in my gen ed classes in college)- it taught me to be self-motivated and really push myself to my ability- rather than just settle for good enough. but i can absolutely see how that could go terribly wrong, of course.
    @shandra- i too feel as though my ‘giftedness’ peaked in high school- then i went away to college and watched the rest of me catch up til my mid-twenties. which is why i guess i’m not too worried about the labeling of future leader of america, although to be fair i imagine most of my classmates did pretty well through school, and are doing well now.

  44. julie- (((((((HUGS))))))) to you as you get through this- whatever the outcome is we’re all here for you to help you in any way you need us.

  45. @hedra, me too girl! I could sort of ride under the radar in the 1st/2nd grade classroom I entered at 4 years, 10 mos…but once I got stuck in a standard 2nd grade classroom with an uninspired (and doubtless overburdened) teacher, things got really obvious and unpleasant.People often ask me whether it was a problem to skip a grade, and it’s funny–I wasn’t supersocial, but I always assumed that had more to do with being a nerd than with age. Here’s the other thing: for kids with an academic bent, it’s just as hard to socialize with people who can’t discuss their same academic interests as with people who are at a different social development level. If you are super-amped about Euclidean proofs after taking your first geometry elective at 9 (that was me), you want somebody to talk to about that, as well as to climb structures with. If you are very lucky, as I was with the special school, you’ll have another couple 9 or 10 year olds in the geometry elective. A lot of kids don’t have that, but they still need contact with the people who are studying the same stuff, as much as they need to study it themselves.
    There’s a difference of degree too–kids who are one grade-level “ahead” in reading might well not need a pull-out, kids who are 6 grade-levels “ahead” almost certainly do. Inbetween, there’s a lot of fuzz, and that’s where the parental striving and the ease with which other disadvantages can mask academic abilities, combine to make things really confusing.

  46. @ pnuts mama–you are so right–and it is so much about “loving the child you have” and striving really hard to SEE that child clearly. FWIW, I also think Eldest is bright, sure, but not gifted. And on this topic I always think “I just want her to be happy. I want her to feel good about herself.” My sister was truly gifted–off the charts–and had a horrible, lonely childhood. Certainly that informs a lot of my views. I could go on and on about this topic, but have certainly commented enough today!And good luck finding the right nursery school for your little Pnut.

  47. Well….as a product of the Florida public schools and someone sending her kids there….I’m disappointed in the characterizations of Florida schools. I’m not saying whether it’s true or justified at all, just my intital gut reaction – We have something like 67 counties, each with its own school district. Maybe not all of them are on par with Maryland (or Alabama or NYC or where ever else). But they’re not all crummy either.Ultimately though, it’s an interesting discussion about stratification, socio-economic backgrounds, publicly funded pre-k programs to bring kids up to speed before kindergarten, equal access to testing for gifted students, gifted programs that meet the requirements of the consumers (as with any special ed program), teacher burnout (and related issues with NCLB, respect, paying a living wage, etc), mixed in with the idea that we all love our kids and want the best possible future for them.
    I hope the new school is a good match for you and your son!

  48. My God, I have some freakish compulsion to keep commenting today…But just had to clarify that my sister had a horrible childhood experience in school, not at home, obviously, where she was loved and cherished by my parents and me. But I think her experience of school was pretty much entirely unpleasant. (Until she reached higher ed.)

  49. @Julie~ We had very similar test results — I feel you, sister. Since then, I’ve done a lot of pre-emptive reading on DS and have found/discovered/decided it’s quite simply not the worst that could happen. I’m due in 3 weeks and since we didn’t do the amnio, we don’t know for sure … but we’re prepared. You will be, too. Once you’ve processed a little more (maybe after the amnio results) Google “Welcome to Holland.” It will make you cry. But in a good way. Please keep us posted. You are in my heart.

  50. I am starting as a new teacher tomorrow. It’s a part-time job, which is fine considering how much work I will have to do outside school hours!The kidlet starts in a new room at day care after being home all summer (we call it play school, since they have a curriculum). He’ll be one of the youngest in his class this time, since he just turned 3. This will be a true test of all the potty-training work we did this summer.
    I am a bit freaked out about starting my new job. I am trying to remind myself that the kids won’t know I’m so new (this is a second career so I don’t look like the typical recent college grad), and that I am the expert, even though I sometimes doubt my abilities.

  51. Oh, oh, Cathy, the original comment about Florida came from me, via a coworker who worked in Special Ed. there–and I really didn’t mean to discredit all of the Florida educational system… the point I was trying to make was about how gifted programs (in any area) can possibly contribute to class/race stratification. Mea culpa.@Mrs.Haley, I agree the “Welcome to Holland” essay is beautiful. Good luck to you, too.

  52. @Julie, I don’t have a lot of detail to offer you, but at least you can put any post-amnio loss worries aside – last research out showed no greater risk of loss after amnio with current techniques than without amnio (previous data was based on techniques from the 80’s-90’s, things have improved since then). Fingers crosssed for you, all around.@rudyinparis and pnuts mama, I tend to think of calling one’s child ‘gifted’ as part of the skill vs talent issue, where we try to emphasize skill, because kids just plain function better on the whole when the emphasis is on effort instead of innate stuff. And it still falls out of my mouth at times… sigh. That said, when G was very little (just over 6 months?), it became apparent that he had some kind of musical gift in the sense of advanced development. I (being new to all this) went and read a lot of gifted websites (hoagies-gifted was a favorite), and the bottom line was not ACHIEVE but BE HAPPY. Why don’t you see all those gifted kids out there running the world? Because they’re happier doing what makes them happy – some will be doing that stuff, some will not be. I rapidly got sick of teachers and staff cooing ‘oh, I cannot WAIT to see what he does when he grows up!’ … um, he’s not required to become a superstar, thanks. And actually – he’s where he should be, not rockets but strong, academically gifted, and without a bit of real passion for music at the moment – likes it, enjoys listening, has a great ear, does well in band, and totally NOT in any need of special classes. I’m much happier with him being classified into the ‘smart but not scary smart’ level. Good enough, no pressure to be spectacular. I want him to be happy, that’s the priority. And frankly it is rather a relief to not have to worry about whether a good school will serve him well enough for him to thrive. He doesn’t need a special program, and that’s okay with me.
    I have a couple siblings who are off-the-charts gifted (I’m the stupid and talentless one of my sibs, by the way…), and they’ve all eventually found happiness of some sort or other. But there were quite some rough roads in there along the way, even with parents who cared more about joy than grades. The contrast between when they were not happy and when they are is huge, and provides a nice big underline to the ‘it isn’t about the IQ or talent, it’s about who they are as human beings’ approach.

  53. Interesting dialogue today…I just wanted to chime in that I had some AMAZING teachers in HS. Really took an interest in the kids – I was on the AP track so maybe it went both ways (the teachers knew we were interested in learning and so they were interested in teaching?).
    I also think there is a lot to the nurturing vs nature concept. I’m guessing my boys will be perceived as being smart because we’ve read to them from day one and it is a regular part of our day (and as a result they love it and so we do it more, and so forth). Sadly, the family that doesn’t have access to books or the time to read (or the parent’s education is lacking so they can’t read to their kids) – the kids in that family will automatically be at a disadvantage regardless of the child’s natural IQ/intelligence. If that child were to be blessed with an awesome teacher, I’m guessing he/she would probably bypass my kids but unfortunately it doesn’t always work out that way.
    Not sure where math aptitude comes in – maybe that is truly just an intelligence thing and you either get it or you don’t? Again, I think certain teachers can really coax more out of some students than others but the natural aptitude needs to be there.
    I think I’m rambling at this point.
    @Julie/@MrsHaley – keeping my fingers crossed for you both.

  54. @Julie: Good luck and hang in there, and do your best to focus on the 92% chance that there’s no downs. Keep us posted!My baby just turned 1, so no school worries so far. Though I’m already cognizant of the fact that he’ll be among the youngest in his grade and likely to be small for his age anyway. I’ll definitely be paying close attention to his social readiness to start 1st grade in another 5 years.
    I have strong feelings regarding G&T classes…or at least math & reading separated into levels. I was very advanced academically as a child. I was bored to tears in the classes (science, social studies, English) that weren’t separated into levels. I loved math and reading, which were. I wonder sometimes what would have become of me if my school hadn’t had those classes– I wonder if I’d have given up, become a troublemaker….it wouldn’t have been positive. My blood boils when I hear now that the more advanced students should be placed in class with the least advanced students to help them achieve more– that levels should be ditched. If that had been done to me, I’d have just checked out if not become a true problem. There has to be a better way. I don’t like the idea of holding the most advanced students back to the level of the least.
    I was in GT classes all through school. In elementary, we were pulled out of class– just a few of us– to go to a special class. I don’t know if that was the best way to do it really though, because I know it made me feel special, so it probably made the other kids feel not-special. But I really gained a lot from the program.
    Once our boy is school age, it’ll be a priority for me to find a school/program where he can be challenged according to his abilities, whatever they turn out to be. (Mostly I just want him to be happy though– don’t we all? If I had to choose brilliant or blissful, I’d take blissful!)

  55. @julie: i too had the same stats as you with the bloodtest *after* a normal ultrasound. everything turned out fine. when i asked why my numbers showed what they did (from the blood test), the geneticist said that the numbers were just what was normal for my baby. and then somehow the “normal” numbers for the baby get skewed when age is factored in (i was almost 40). i think the false/positive rates for the triple screen are something like 25%. but those few days waiting for the amnio results were the longest of my life ….

  56. @enu-Your experience differs from mine, to say the least. Then again, only a couple of our friends are Ivy Leaguers but I will say that their kids (so far) seem to act like everyone else’s.
    What I mean by “truly gifted” in the context of this discussion is a child who has already mastered so much of the class curriculum that she or he is simply not learning in a “regular” class for children of her age.
    So, no, if I understand your Jane Austen reference right (ummmm…maybe you are talking about a different Mr. Darcy), I’m not saying that children need to be SO accomplished to be considered G & T that it would be practically unobtainable. That completely misses the point. I’m just saying it is a little ridiculous that G & T should be a badge of privledge in my local school system and I question how much the “teacher pleasing” and other nonsense that @Shandra mentioned occurs. That’s it. I’m not passing judgment on Moxie’s kid who, I hope and imagine, will thrive in his new class. I’m not saying there should be NO G&T. I just think the switch to blind testing, etc., might not be a bad idea.

  57. @ julie one more time: if you decide to do the amnio, ask the doctor about her/his complication rate. i decided to drive 2 hours one way to a doctor who had the lowest post-amnio complication rate in our state; all he did was perform amnios everyday, all day, so his complication rate was extremely low. that’s the only way we would have done it.

  58. @michelle I do so agree with you that if there are to be gt classes, the selection should be blind. Absolutely. I grew up the “victim” of a system where that was not the case – there were victims on boths sides of the equation, the haves and the have nots. The extremely biased system of selecting students for “special” tracks created a horrendous level of animosity between the classes.But, yeah, most of my kids’ peers prolly would qualify as gifted. Many are truly freaky smart. And having to spend her whole school day doing stuff she already knew gave the little one a real unhappy feeling about school. So maybe a G&T program would have been a good thing. Oh well….

  59. @michelle, so you’re saying in your area the G&T is political? That there are other ways to get your kid in? That truly bites. In NYC it’s two ridiculous tests that probably have no correlation to anything, but it’s all test scores that determine it. Get above a certain cutoff and you can choose from a certain batch of schools. Get above a level lower than that and you can choose from a smaller subset of schools. You choose, they decide who gets what, and you get what you get and you don’t get upset.Also, as pnuts mama says, the rich and privileged all send their kids to private schools, so this whole G&T stuff is really only for those of us peons in the middle and lower class, anyway.
    (Although should we talk about the fact that kids whose parents are less literate and/or don’t speak English aren’t necessarily going to know about the tests or understand what they’re about? Or that the communications from the NYC DOE are pretty incomprehensible so it’s highly probable that kids who test well still don’t get into the G&T system simply because their parents have no idea what the mailings say? Or that there are far fewer G&T programs to start with in areas with lower average income levels? But at least in Manhattan it’s better than nothing.)

  60. What gifted means: For sure not every child is in the top fifth (or tenth) percentile. But because the gifted label is often a free pass into a more interesting and challenging classroom, gifted seems like it is often used as a proxy for “bored by what is expected at grade level.” And I think that’s probably true of many kids.My son is only four, so I’m really only guessing here, but I imagine a gifted program is just more interesting for children–fewer worksheets, more opportunity to pursue what they find interesting in greater detail, more reading actual books and fewer textbooks, less rote, more possibility for love of learning.
    I’m uncomfortable with the label for many of the reasons already discussed, and thinking globally I wish we had smaller classrooms, better and more flexible curricula, and teachers who get the support they need. But, for my own kid, if we don’t homeschool, of course I will pursue the local gifted program if it seems like he’s bored with what the mainstream classroom offers.

  61. Moxie – that’s what I see as an issue to having a more diverse gifted class. My husband, born in Vietam, to a woman with a 4th grade education ended up testing gifted in high school.If his mother had read to him when he was little, would he have qualified sooner? Or if she had spoken up and requested that he get tested? My husband’s little sister is no slouch either – what if their mom could have been a better advocate? Would she have ended up in a gifted program?
    The first thing I think of to level the socio-economic playing field is publicly funded pre-k (although I can see the limitations of this – Florida’s is 5 days x 3 hours per day, which is mighty inconvenient if you’re working full time and your daycare situation (grandma? a nanny? an in-home daycare?) doesn’t lend itself to attending the program)
    Then, once I started reading the thread, and considered the concept of blind testing (whoda thunk?) – what would keep a public school from testing everyone and placing them appropriately? I bet it comes down to funding. It always seems like it does – I’m sure it’s much cheaper to (a)test less and (b)keep everyone in the same class until their mother asks for them to be tested for gifted. Jaded and cynical maybe?

  62. @julie, @MrsHaley- Thinking of you.Holy crap! I always figured, but now I know- there are a lot of smart mama’s on this site! (Ummm…..I’m not one of them but that’s OK :). )I did very well in school (K-BACH DEG) but never tested super high in anything but English and did do some AP classes in high school but by then I was way more interested in the social scene (at which I was advanced haha) than academics. Just don’t talk to me about math – that’s my big anxiety for my kids. I have SEVERE math anxiety. (3.9 Cum/4 yrs of college and I almost didn’t graduate because I couldn’t pass a remedial math course.) I refuse to do what my mom did to me (“Oh honey, I was terrible at math- it’s in your genes to suck at it.”)so I’m gonna play it cool and hopefully they’ll develop the skills they need and then some- but I won’t tell them it’s OK to suck and give up. I will get them the help they need!! (Wow, I’m not sure where that all came from- sorry for the totally off topic rant).
    This has been an interesting topic to follow today. Rowan starts preschool next week and so help me God I just want to shove her back in my uterus. Until I don’t, and I want to maybe slow the car down to 5mph before tossing her to her teachers for 2.5 hours. Ahhh, the delicate balance of motherhood…

  63. @Moxie-Yes, I haven’t applied for my kids, but my understanding from the County website and two neighborhood Moms is that gifted placement in Elementary School is an application-type process which involves what I consider to be some degree of “nonsense”.

  64. @r+k+mama- oh, that is exactly me right now! i *need* her to be in some sort of activity where i am not, for her and my own sanity, but then i just want her to curl up and be my wee baby again. yeesh.@moxie- i’m hoping since this is the first real year of this new g&t testing all the kids system that many of the bugs are worked out before elP and pnut have to go through it. i really do.
    @rudyinparis- you’re making me laugh a lot today. love it.
    i was also thinking that when you’re labeled g&t it’s important for your parents and teachers to impress upon you the value that to those whom much is given, much is expected- so you don’t get the swelled head, as my aunt used to say. off to change a poopy diaper now, which will deflate a swelled head like nobody’s business!

  65. @Michelle, OK, then that completely bites and makes your first comment make total sense. It is like a popularity contest that doesn’t serve anyone, especially the kids. Sigh. And makes you want to opt out just on principle.@Cathy, yeah. Everything you said. Especially the publicly funded preK, which is only geared to kids with a caregiver at home who can pick up.

  66. @r+k mama- I’m the product of two non math and science types, and I ended up with a PhD in a mix of bio and physical sciences. My sister is in a fairly quantitative field, too. So it is possible. No one in the family really knows how that happened, but I suspect the “credit” goes to our teachers.Speaking of which- I didn’t mean my earlier comment to imply that I only had so-so teachers in my public schools. I had some great ones, too. But the schools were still pretty mediocre in terms of curriculum, even with the gifted/advanced placement options on offer. I had a tough time the first year of college (I went to a school with a rep for academic rigor) when a lot of my peers from the east coast prep schools had clearly already learned everything in the intro math and science classes in high school, while it was all new to me. But you know what- I learned how to study that first year, and by third year I was doing as well or better than the prep school kids, some of whom were struggling because… they hadn’t learned how to study at the college level. I came away thinking that it all worked out.
    On the testing into gifted programs- where I went to school in AZ, eons ago, placement was by tests. My 3rd grade teacher (one of the ones with all the worksheets) advocated for me to be placed in the program despite a test score just below the cutoff. She said I just didn’t test well and belonged in the program. Who knows what was true? I know I loved the program, and that I later got better at testing (I credit music for that, but that is another long post). So there is a reason some places don’t just rely on tests.

  67. Would anyone out there care to share their perspective on homeschooling?Something we’re considering, but are aware of the many caveats.

  68. Kids still aren’t school aged and we are stalling on preschool. We are toying with private school over public but not sure if we will be able to (or will want to) afford it when the time comes. My general (uneducated) feeling is that public schools are becoming more and more geared to testing and teaching to pass the tests that general teaching has lost out (this is definitely not a criticism of teachers as most of my friends are teachers and most complain about the amount of tests and how that takes over their lesson plans and that those tests are how they are judged as teachers) but that you wouldn’t get that so much at the private schools – they can just teach with the goal of learning not testing. Does that make any sense? Any comments from either “side”?

  69. I don’t think I have ever commented so much!@mo — the two differences between private & public that I think are most significant (but not necessarily good or bad) are: #1, private school teachers are usually not required to have a certain level/type of education, to be state-certified or to participate in professional development. Some private schools DO require their employees to meet stringent standards, but some don’t. That may be good news or bad news to a parent — it depends on your perspective.
    #2 — Private schools are not required to offer special services like special ed or emotional support (or even G&T enrichment!). So if the student has or is identified later as needing those types of special services, they may not be available. Of course, some private schools do.
    @hush — I do a lot of “freelance” work with the homeschooling community in this area and two things I’ve noticed come at either end of the educational continuum. #1 — Many people decide to try homeschooling when their children are young because “How hard can it be?” and “Kindergarten is just about writing letters and learning to count, right?” Soooo far from the truth. It is not easy in the least. Homeschooling a very young child should be taken as seriously as educating an 18-year-old. Their education deserves equal respect, diligence and attention.
    #2 — I have met many homeschoolers whose families are abysmally uninformed about postsecondary requirements/choices and have limited their student’s options by virtue of their ignorance about college admissions, ASVAB testing and the like. Homeschooling high schoolers requires being the equivalent of your child’s teacher AND guidance counselor.
    I think I have said enough for today!

  70. Bean heading to preschool tomorrow and while I’m relieved & thrilled, I’ve just become so so sad about my little one growing up!I was pushed hard to go to college from a very young age, & went through 12 years of school with pretty much the same classmates in Maine 30ish years ago (senior class ~100.) There were about 12 of us who were serious college-track (didn’t have AP at that time.) We all took 4 years of Latin, & were the only ones to take chemistry. I have no clue how the selection process worked but most of them were in the G & T program, and did these funky projects like making a landing pad so an egg wouldn’t break when tossed. I wasn’t chosen and while noone really talked about it, we knew who was G & T, it was divisive & painful for me.
    I’ve always wondered why I wasn’t chosen. My mom was asked to complete the paperwork for my sister to participate in the same program, and never heard anything back after she turned it in. I did well in high school, but wasn’t very creative. Good at memorizing, well-liked by teachers and getting the grades, played sports moderately well. My younger sister was very creative, and was ostracized for her differences (dressing punky, into artsy stuff & music) which culminated in her feeling suicidal & dropping out of high school her senior year. She was a very gifted artist, but I fear she was always compared to me academically. She pretty much gave up the art as far as I can tell.
    In 8th grade I was one of 6 kids who was in an advanced English class & we sat in the corner of the rudimentary English class and did very cool projects (e.g. mapping out the chronology of The Princess Bride (novel) on adding machine tape.) it always felt odd to be in this special group set apart yet within the other.
    Not sure what my point is, other than I’ve got a chip on my shoulder about the whole G&T thing; and I’m sometimes concerned about what Bean’s experience in school will be & how much will come back up for me & muddy how I shepherd him through. I’m also concerned about the state of our public schools. I don’t want to take him out, I want to help them change. I realize the intense load on the teachers, and here it’s all End of Grade testing.
    There’s also an issue in the town here, school #1 Bean would track into geographically has high free-lunch rate, low test scores, while year round school#2, 2 blocks away connected to historic district is flourishing, has low free lunch rate. Talk of equalizing 2 schools had parent group up in arms at school 2. it smacks of racism & classism. and people have talked about parents at school 1 not being involved, and I think, well it’s hard to be ‘involved’ if you’re trying to keep body & soul together working a zillion jobs or a single mom or what have you. yet…. I worry about my kid going to school #1 & feel hypocritical.
    @Julie & MrsHaley, thinking of you, and re: PP switching those numbers to percentage, think of that. when “they” talk “1 in xyz” it sounds so much scarier than if you make it a percentage and look at the large chance that things will be fine, and prepare as you feel moved to for the things that have been brought to your attention as a concern. (from someone who delivered first at age 41 and felt terrorized by the whole genetic counseling thing.) please do keep us posted.

  71. @MrsHaley – thanks! Kiddo won’t start K for another 5 years, so this is all lightyears away for us. Just wondering about the idea of homeschooling for a few years at the elementary level as a possible haven from some of the emotional abuse kids sometimes have to deal with at school, as well as a solution to the boredom some superextraspecial* kids have to experience.*Note: mama always said all god’s children are special….

  72. @hush, a good place to start is to buy/borrow ‘What Your Kindergartener Should Know’ – it’s a curriculum book that was initially developed for homeschoolers, then was adapted into a school curriculum (actually, the full set of grades were). This is the Core Knowledge curriculum – and the old snipes about it being white/northern-european have been addressed fairly reasonably. Yes, they start out heavy on greek/roman/egyptian history and philosophy, but they also cover everywhere else in more depth as it goes. It’s a good starting place for figuring out if you can do this, and the curriculum is advanced enough that it covers all the standardized testing ground and then some.This is the curriculum that our charter uses, it is federally approved as a public school curriculum, and it is fun, interesting, and engaging (and likely you’ll learn a lot, too). There are plenty of jumping off places for further exploration, but you’ll cover all the ground with this one as a base. This was the curriculum my SIL/BIL started out with when they started homeschooling, and that convinced me that you could get a great education at home, too.
    I’m being whomped majorly by the 5th grade content – much of it is stuff I learned at some point, but some is either entirely new to me or stuff I didn’t expect to encounter yet… But up to now, it looks like it would be fun to teach, learn, explore, and discover.
    Also, check into your state homeschooling associations. They should have a lot of resources available, information, guidance, etc. PA has a great program, which also allows kids to participate (at least in some places) in extracurricular activities (sports and the like) at their local public school even if they are not attending public school. There are a few hoops to jump through, but not too many.
    Having watched my SIL/BIL’s kids go through homeschooling, jump to public for part of HS (some, individually chosen), and two proceed to college without a hitch (one enlisted, the other two are still in middle school and HS), and to find their biggest issue with public school was that most of the kids weren’t interested or engaged in their education … it isn’t our chosen path, but it can definitely be a good one. (Actually, when BIL and I were chatting about G’s school when he started there, BIL said, ‘wow, if he could eat whenever he wanted and bring his cat, it would be almost like homeschooling!’ Heh.)
    Anyway, checking out the curricula available may help you scope out your issues, any resistance, any help/resources, areas of stress or panic (one of my issues, there, LOL!), etc. And that should help you decide what to do. I do think you can do it, it just does have to be taken seriously. As I’m sure you would anyway. πŸ™‚

  73. Thank you everyone for your kind words. Mrs. Haley, I’ll be thinking of you too. Please keep me posted. I also appreciate comment by professor mama who mentioned her elevated levels that were “normal” for her baby and body. With my first, I also had elevated levels, though not as high (but I was also 34 at the time and not 37 like I am now). So I think it’s possible that’s just how I cook ’em.This is an amazing group of friends I feel lucky to have in my corner. I wish I could comment more on the G &T conversation, as I have a lot to say about that and education in general….but all my energy was sucked into starting my own classroom yesterday and focusing on my kids, and then getting whomped on the head with blood results. Since this topic has come up in the past, I’m confident it will come up again. What a smart, amazing group of people this is. I think it’s really scary that there are so many different means of classifying G&T kids in the various states, and just goes to show that while educators are able to intervene in remediation cases, they often just don’t know what to do with the students on the other end of the spectrum. Having taught many G&T kids over the years (and gotten really creative in how to challenge them while at the same time meet the needs of the other 25 students in my class), it can be an intense and exhausting process, where it’s easy to beat yourself up and feel like you’re not meeting ANYONE’S needs. One of my most gifted students’ mother told me once “Boredom is a gift to my son’s genius”, meaning, it’s good for him to learn how to navigate in a world full of people who are not like him, that he has to be responsible for taking control of his education and challenging himself sometimes, that it’s not someone else’s responsibility to jump everytime he says, “I’m bored”, and to find creative ways to outlet his intelligence. And also that sometimes the most creative, inventive ideas are born from being “bored”. Stimulation 100% of the time is not healthy for anyone. A healthy balance is needed, and cooperation and collaboration on the part of the student, teacher, and parents is needed. Often more so for the gifted kids than the kids who are working below grade level.
    Wow. That was much more than I intended to say so early in the morning when probably everyone is finished with this post anyways. But again, I want to say “thank you” to you all.

  74. @michelle, the stink of politics in the G&T program isn’t a new concept to me, though it isn’t a major issue locally, just a bit farther away it very much IS a major issue, with limitations on who can do the testing, and where, and when, that are restrictive for working parents (even professionals). Add in the stories I’ve heard about some schools resisting implementing IEPs for certain students unless threatened with lawsuits… it gets ugly. But at least once they’re fully IN, they’re in, and things ease up. It’s just GETTING in that seems to be ungodly and stinks of favoritism and an ‘in crowd’…Sigh.
    @mo, you may be best off looking at each school individually. The trade-offs are so varied that it gets hard to lump all public and all private together as sets. Within public there are charters (which may be better or worse than the public OR private), and within private there are wide variations, and within each subgroup there are cultural and academic and social and family-involvement requirements/issues/traps that need to be sussed out as well. The school that is perfect may be any of the above. The schools that are next-best and definitely good enough may be one of each, or all in one category.
    Issues we’ve encountered with private vs public (including niece who is in public non-charter):
    1) Private has a lot of ethnic diversity in our area – whites are a minority – but almost zero diversity in economic strata. This is often limited by the tuition and scholarship issue. If they have no scholarships, expect that to play a role in the population.
    2) Straight public is limited by how the district is managed (and in our state, how the state budget is set). Schools around us are told how much they can spend of their budget for each area of effort, including salaries, curriculum, supplies, etc., etc. Micromanaged out of being able to make effective choices for their populations, essentially. Add in serious budget cuts on an ongoing basis, and a tendency to move principals and vprincipals and other administration around EACH YEAR (including mid-years)… The political scene plays a big role in public schools, though at least a lot of it is visible to the outside. Public also varies wildly in quality, and not just by test scores. Also rates of violence (our state lists the incidents by school), education level of teachers (also listed by school), etc. Easier to research this information for public (including charter) schools.
    3) Charters have their own political issues, either within their board/admin staff or between them and the public district. This can be much more hidden than typical public schools. Their curricula vary wildly from one to the next, quality of teaching and administration varies also, and rate of draw and from which groups varies on top of that.
    Then there’s the whole services issue – the state funded speech therapy could not be done at the private school, ‘they don’t go there’ (even though the school allowed it). We had to take B to another school to get his speech therapy. ugh. The PT/OT folks did fine getting to M for her therapy, though. Under 3 yrs old, they’d go anywhere, over 3, they only go to home or public schools. Whee.
    So far, so good for everyone, even though things are imperfect at each place.
    Not sure if that helped at all…

  75. @hedra – thank you so much for all of the great homeschooling info; I’m going to check out that book for sure & also look into montessori options.@julie & mrsHaley – echoing the caring chorus here, sending many positive thoughts your way. Please keep us posted.

  76. Just my two cents- (I happen to be a young, idealistic 8th year, 2nd grade teacher who teaches in a full inclusion school)- sometimes parents think gifted instruction should be WIDER rather than DEEPER. In other words, gifted instruction is not different instruction, just more focused, deep instruction in whatever areas your child excels at. It is about not only what your child brings to the table in terms of ABILITY, but in EFFORT (which also has a lot to do with readiness)- so even if your child has been labeled “gifted” by a test (which is pretty silly if you thnk about it, a test is going to show aptitude, not potential- think about all of the stunningly talented, funny, quirky, brilliant kids you know who just can’t come through the “testing”)- your child needs to be ready, willing, and able to take things deeper. High school gifted programs- even middle school- are more apt to be impressive not because of the delivery but because of acceptance and other learned skills. So, don’t be too hard on a teacher. A good teacher treats all of her students like they are gifted- and they are- and instead focuses on strenghths, interests, and task commitment to make sure the children stay with it, in it, and thinking as far outside of each box as they can reach. Every interaction, every lesson then has the potential to meet that child exactly where they are, and to bring them along as far as they can go. Does this make sense? So while a good result on a gifted test confirms what most people believe about their child and is a great ego boost, sometimes the alignment of a strong program for all students and a child who has more readiness than “natural smarts” is most successful. As a parent myself, I would worry less then about the gifted program in a preschool or elementary school, and more about the teacher’s ability to differentiate instruction for each child. A good teacher does what a good parent does- scaffolds care and steers the child in the right direction, and then releases them slowly and enthusiastically down the slide to meet them at the other end, ready for more questions. =)

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