Friday, March 09, 2007

The best schools for gifted kids

From time to time, parents struggling with the question of what to do with their gifted kids ask if there is a "best school" for such children. Some of these parents have flexible jobs, or the resources to live wherever they want, so it's a wide-open question. And unfortunately, not an easy one. That's because some schools for gifted kids cater to a certain range of giftedness, and some cater to certain temperaments. A very free-spirited child might prefer a Montessori or Waldorf type approach, whereas a more regimented child might prefer a structured curriculum that's heavy on grammar, logic, the liberal arts, etc. Some children have other profound gifts that need to be taken into consideration -- such as a budding musical career -- and some have learning disabilities that require their own modifications. A school that works wonderfully for one child might be awful for another.

That said, Hoagies' Gifted Education Pages has a list of schools organized by state (and some online ones) for people looking for a place to start the search. You can find the list here. Peruse the schools' websites, then send off for more information. Interview parents and graduates of these schools. Visit the schools. While it's unlikely any child will find a perfect match, choosing the right school can make learning far more enjoyable.

If people have been through this process and have helpful advice for other parents, I'd appreciate your posting your experiences and recommendations.


Anonymous said...

My city is an embarrassment of riches in a lot of ways, and schools for gifted kids--if you have the resources--are some of its riches. Trouble is, no one school is the "perfect" school. You look at tuition expense vs. class size vs. distance to home vs. teaching style vs. values taught. Sometimes it makes me want to move to a community with fewer choices, because the very fact that we have access to so many choices leads us to want to make some kind of "perfect" choice.

The Waldorf school has the richest curriculum but we don't totally jive with the spiritual underpinnings, plus this particular school doesn't have a well-articulated strategy for a highly gifted student--they believe that if you fertilize the mind and spirit at the appropriate age level, the student will grow how he is meant to grow. I want to believe that because it seems like such a gentle, positive idea, but can I trust that? If it isn't going well, it'll be hard to switch to a more traditional program. The expensive schools ($15-20K per year, and I have two kids) are the opposite: they can talk articulately about serving gifted kids, but are subtly elitist and for all their ability to lead the kids to demonstrate intellectual hoop-jumping, do not offer a deep, wise worldview. The public school has a model offering--a whole school for highly gifted kids. But their definition of highly gifted kids is strictly high-achieving/accelerated, and their class sizes are large--almost double those of private schools.

Where does my free-thinking, quirky, ultra-sensitive, highly-gifted kid fit in? And what about my gifted-although-not-as-quirky younger child? If she can get into the expensive school, how do I not send both kids there even though double tuition makes me woozy and I bet she would do just fine in the public school?

I just keep thinking there has to be a great school for my kids and my family in this town. Looking for schooling has certainly been a personal education in my own values and assumptions, and in the needs (and even flexibility) of my children.

Thank you for the post today.

Anonymous said...

Oh Dear Embarrassment of riches,
We need to talk!
(come on over to so we can.)
This isn't a 4 paragraph discussion!

The short answer is -
Try the highly gifted public school for both of them and see what happens. You don't have to keep them both there.

Deal with your own perfectionism as a seperate issue. Almost all of us have it, and there are some good books/ websites, etc.

And I am so jealous, I could spit. ((wink))


Anonymous said...

We considered a private school for the gifted every year for 4 years.
We kept going back to the public school because they provided something the private school couldn't--intensive instruction in Spanish with 20 native speakers. (My son did not speak any Spanish when starting this program.)

When the Spanish program ended after third grade, we switched to a private school for the gifted, since the public school gifted program was so minimal that it might as well not have existed.

bella said...

Hello, I am new to this blog and have been struggling with how to help my 9 year old gifted child? He is in an excellent private school but does not have any of his needs met, so not so excellent for him. I have fought with the school for several years now and both my son and I are exhausted. He has resigned himself to going along with the curriculum and student body and is now obsessed with sports rather than learning. The bad news is there are really no other options that I can find in our area. So my question is: if someone were to move ANYWHERE, where would you go to find a school for a sensitive, musically talented, structure oriented, gifted child?? HELP!!
thank you

Davidson Institute Staff said...

Hi Bella,

As Laura mentioned, there is a running list of Schools for the Gifted Child on Hoagies’ website, where you can search for schools by state and hopefully locate a few that might be a good fit for your child. You can also search the Davidson Gifted Database for school listings and relevant articles such as “Choosing the right school for your gifted child” and “Educational Options for Gifted Learners.” If you are looking for more specific school suggestions and feedback, you may want to try browsing –or posting to— the Gifted Issues Discussion Forum.

One resource that may be really great for your son is The Gifted Kids’ Survival Guide, which discusses several topics of interest to gifted kids, including what to do when school “bores you out of your brain.” 

If you are interested in more individualized consulting services, check out the Davidson Young Scholars program, a nationwide distance program that offers free support services for profoundly gifted students in educational advocacy, talent and interest development, and peer connections.

Best of luck!

GinaB said...

Hello. I finally had my 5.5 yo tested and she is gifted acc to her IQ score. I don't want to take her out of public school b/c she is slow to make friends and tends to be a bully target - she finished K and had found a few nice girls to befriend. Is there a way to find out the top extracurricular/weekend programs – preferably for Long Island/New York? Thanks in advance.

Justin D said...

There is a new school for gifted and talented children called My Spectrum School. They offer programs developed by a Columbia doctor, based on the latest research in gifted and talented education. I've heard several parents in the community talking about how much their children are learning and how much they love it there.

Hope this helps.


Justin D said...

There is a new school for gifted and talented children called My Spectrum School. They offer programs developed by a Columbia doctor, based on the latest research in gifted and talented education. I've heard several parents in the community talking about how much their children are learning and how much they love it there.

Hope this helps.