Friday, June 27, 2014

Parenting blogs and resources you enjoy?

It's summer and I seem to have more time available to read. Partly that's because I'm taking some vacation time, and partly that's because I don't feel like working as much when I can sit on the porch reading!

I'd like to add some new parenting blogs, websites, and maybe magazines to the mix. What have you found interesting and useful? What do you read daily, or at least weekly? What useful ideas have you gotten from these resources? They don't have to be focused on gifted kids, though they can be.

Please share your favorites in the comments so others can check them out too.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It's all in the details

I have no particular fondness for pull-out gifted programs. They're of limited duration -- an hour a week, or 45 minutes twice a week. They are often the result of a district's desire to do something to meet a state requirement of serving gifted students without actually devoting many resources to it. One teacher can wind up covering a vast number of students, often at vast numbers of schools, which is cheaper than having a teacher teaching a self-contained class.

But at least pull-out programs are visibly there. Something is happening. It's a step above the idea of simply attempting to differentiate in the regular classroom and hoping that happens. Indeed, an interesting question could be this: If your individual education plan for gifted kids is to serve them in the regular classroom, do you actually have a gifted program?

I was pondering this while reading a story about a controversy in the Norwalk City Schools (in Ohio). An article in the Norwalk Reflector noted that -- contrary to rumors! -- the district was not ending its gifted program (known as ABLE). It was changing how it was delivered. According to an official, "This means students will not be pulled from the classroom, but serviced in the classroom with a differentiated curriculum that will provide additional assignments and projects with alternatives based on a student's individual needs. Students will continue to have W.E.P.s (written education plans) and assessments of their progress provided to parents."

In other words, we'll try to individualize work in the classroom. Which is hopefully what teachers are doing for all kids anyway.

Some parents were calling this a subterfuge. If you scroll down to the first comment on the article, you see this assertion: "Despite what the school board may be saying, the reality is that, after the levy was passed, they made a last-minute decision to eliminate a teaching position. One fourth grade teacher was leaving, and rather than replace that teacher, they chose to reassign the gifted intervention specialist to fill that position. That is an undeniable fact. They ARE ending the ABLE program. They may try to cover the situation up by saying that gifted education will be 'delivered differently', but who is going to oversee their curriculums and make sure that the needs of these children are met when the school will not be employing anyone to do so?"

The truth is, differentiating in a classroom is incredibly hard. It's hard even for excellent teachers with tons of experience. Even if you do manage to provide some challenge, you don't hit the other half of what gifted kids need, which is the chance to learn in an environment with their intellectual peers.

Gifted education is never going to be the top priority for many districts. Many of us have wondered if creating state mandates or even national mandates for identifying and serving gifted kids will push districts to offer better programming. But the problem is that when districts don't want to do something, they can come up with a way not to. Officially, this district in Ohio still has a gifted program. It is identifying and serving gifted kids. That it probably won't happen in practice -- that it is set up to fail to give kids what they need -- is just a detail.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Challenge -- it's a good thing

Long time Gifted Exchange readers know I write about time management for lots of places. As I've looked at the data and research, I've been fascinated to see that, for all adults claim to be overworked, most people aren't. The average number of hours worked per year has fallen by about 200 hours since 1950 (for Americans). Some of sociologist John Robinson's studies, looking at "extreme" work weeks, have found that people claiming 75-hour workweeks are often overestimating by 25 hours or so.

So I'm always a bit skeptical of stories about how American school children are overworked, or under too much pressure, too. Most children don't have that much homework, and most aren't in that many activities either. Looking back on much of my own school career, I know I could have worked much harder than I did, and I would have been a lot happier if I'd had to.

So I enjoyed reading Jay Mathews column on how "Kids Can Learn the Rewards of Pressure." After writing about the usual worry of extra-curriculars crowding out academics, Mathews heard from a number of parents pointing out that, guess what? Kids can handle a lot. Indeed, kids who learn the time management skills and discipline required to balance school work with extra-curricular activities sometimes do better in school. There's less time to get in trouble, and they have to be more organized.

As with adults, I think it's important to look at total numbers. A week has 168 hours. If children are in school or on the bus around 35 hours per week, and have 10 hours of homework per week (more than most), and sleep 10 hours per night (which my kids barely do!) that leaves 53 hours for other things. That's enough time to devote a few hours to a handful of activities as well. And since activities can sometimes stretch the brain and challenge kids in ways that school doesn't, it's nice to have this mix.

What activities do your kids devote time to? Does it help or hurt their school work?