Do You Ever Really Know?
As parents of gifted children, we are often sought out by other parents at events. They want to know what we’ve done with our children to make them do so well. I even think that some of them wish they were in our shoes. In some ways, I could see that. I do enjoy hearing my children’s names called for awards. However, they don’t see the other side of the coin. It may shock some, but being the parent of a gifted child can be just as challenging as being the parent of a child that struggles.
Someone just read that line and doesn’t believe. Someone else may have gotten offended. But let me explain the comment. Whether the child has below average grades or exceptionally high grades, they are both considered “Special Education”. This determination only means that the child should know just fall with the normal flow of the educational process because they need something a little different. It’s not either good or bad. It’s just a fact. With that being said, it’s important for the parents of the “special education” children to consider what the next step should be in their child’s education.
Our older son received his SAT scores this week and we applied for his dream school. This sounds normal, right? But our son is not a teenager who’s about to graduate from high school and is looking into colleges. He’s 12 years old and wants to attend a residential high school the focuses on math and science. Not too many 12-year-olds take the SAT but he did and he did well. We’ve always known that he was exceptional and his performance and preparation for the test proved it. The problem has never been determining whether he was “smart” or not, it’s always been about how to approach it.
The first time we face this was before he even started school. His birthday falls 11 days after our state’s cutoff for kindergarten admission. This presented a dilemma. Do we adhere to the deadline and wait for the year or do we acknowledge that he can already do the work and petition for the deadline to be waived. We were faced with it again when we received a phone call from his principal at the beginning of his third grade year telling us that he was too advanced for the second grade. Her recommendation was for him to be promoted. She thought that he should bypass the third and fourth grades to enter into the fifth grade. Boy, did that give us a lot to consider. Now that we’ve applied for the residential high school, we’re faced with another dilemma. If he’s accepted, do we allow him to skip his freshman year and enter as a sophomore (they don’t have a freshman class at the school) or do we defer his enrollment to allow him to have a freshman year at the local high school?
Facing all of these dilemmas made us have to answer a few questions. Although they’ve happened at different stages, the questions are very similar:
- Can he handle the work?
- How would the transition be for him socially?
- Is he mature enough for the drastic change?
- How would this impact him in 3, 5, 10, 15 years?
- What would make him happy?
- What are the biggest benefits for moving forward?
- What are the biggest benefits of letting him stay where he is?
- What are the biggest risks of moving forward?
- What are the biggest risks of him staying where he is?
- How would this impact our family structure?
We’ve spent countless nights sitting up and pondering all of these questions and more. A lot of sleep has been lost trying to make sure that we make the “right” decision. We’re always going to do what we think is best for our children, but will ever really know if it was the correct decision? The reality is that we don’t know how any of the decisions we make will affect them. We just have to keep our finger on the pulses of their lives to watch for red flags. Nothing is impossible to fix. We just have to be open to discussion and all options. In addition to that, we have to be open to using our resources and asking for help and guidance. We’ve been fortunate to have very supportive teachers and district staff members who are always willing to talk to us and provide counsel.
For now, we’re waiting to see if we need to make the newest decision. Like the rest of them, they are good problems. But they are problems nonetheless. The decisions can not be made lightly or hastily. When it comes to our children, they deserve nothing but the best and that includes our efforts.