How do I find the right school for my gifted son or daughter?

It makes sense and it is totally true that there is no one "right" school or "one size fits all" school for all gifted children. There is so much variation among gifted children in terms of strengths and challenges that it is mind-boggling. While one gifted child might love math and science, and really look forward to studying physics, another might be seriously involved in language and stories—maybe he or she is already making up their own tales.

Parents need to know their child's interests and motivations; then they will be able to find the right school that will challenge their child. For example, if your child likes to read and is a bookworm type of gifted kid, a very traditionally structured school may work out well. However, if your child literally jumps into everything under the sun and is always on the go, they will need a more nontraditional progressive school with lots of action. The discovery child will need a more exploratory curriculum. An artistic child will thrive in a creative and creating classroom.

Parents need to figure out how to grow their child's inner spirit if they want a child who is not afraid to be themselves. If you have questions about selecting the right school for your child you can contact me for suggestions at (310) 443-4182.

Remember to be positive about meeting your child's needs. Now that schools face budget cuts it is a good time to make inroads at your child's school and help the teacher by bringing new ideas and strategies to the classroom. Teachers and administrators most likely can’t afford to turn away your help—take advantage of their likely desperation. Get together with other like-minded parents and make the school you choose for your child the “best” school.

Finding the right school for your twice-exceptional or gifted child

The type of curriculum that is the most productive choice for twice exceptional and gifted children is known as the “constructivist” approach. Constructivism is a theory that suggests that children learn best when they use their own knowledge and memories to connect to and interact with the subject matter they are learning.

Constructivist curriculum is highly individualized. The interactions between students are valued as an important part of the classroom learning. The student’s developmental level is taken into consideration in the selection of curriculum and instruction.

Because of the personalized, individual, developmental approach of constructivist curriculum, it will serve the asynchronous needs – the learning highs and lows – of the twice exceptional child most effectively. Finding a school with a constructivist curriculum can be difficult. Often, parents must seek private religious and nonreligious schools.

Preliminary Evaluation of a School Under Consideration
Make site observations, with interviews, and contact other parents and other students attending the school whenever possible.

In the chart below, the new, constructivist views of learning are compared to the old, traditional views of learning. This chart can help you decide which view of learning best characterizes the school you are considering.

Old view of learning:
Language is taught by modeling proper academic speech. Teacher affirms or corrects the child’s response.

New view of learning:
Language is taught through social conversation. A young child’s speech is elaborated upon (e.g., the child says – “big dog,” and the teacher elaborates – “Yes, the big dog is jumping”).

Old view of learning:
The focus is on what to learn – the facts, information.

New view of learning:
The focus is on how to learn – how to ask questions and how to act in variety of settings.

Personalized Learning
Old view of learning:
Children adhere to answering questions and completing assignments given in texts and workbooks without personal elaboration.

New view of learning:
Children add to lessons with their own stories related to the topics at hand.

Old view of learning:
Teacher believes individuals differ because of innate ability.

New view of learning:
Individual differences are attributed to children’s prior experiences.

Errors in Performance
Old view of learning:
Errors are marked wrong and feedback is given to the child on how to correct them.
The learning task is broken down by the teacher into simple steps for the parts that make up the task.

New view of learning:
Errors are seen as learning opportunities.
Errors reflect the child’s perception, which teachers try to understand.
The learning task is messy, requiring the child to “figure” out how to achieve good performance.

Old view of learning:
Children learn to attend to the teacher, follow instructions, and engage in guided concepts.

New view of learning:
There are multiple opportunities for children to participate in group discussions, practice and application of newly taught whole class lessons, paired activities, games and social activities.

Old view of learning:
Each child does own work. Children compare their levels of performance.

New view of learning:
Children help each other, each one contributing to a common goal.

Old view of learning:
The teacher judges and scores the child’s work.
Standard rubrics are used in assigning grades.

New view of learning:
Children judge their own work, prepare alternative solutions, and seek evidence for facts presented.

Old view of learning:
Both standardized tests and teacher-made tests show what child has learned.

New view of learning:
Children have many ways to show what they know – drawing, acting, writing, building, etc.

Parent/Teacher Conference
Old view of learning:
Teacher controls the conference, and is apprehensive about parents who know too much about education and schooling.
Child is exempted from parent-teacher conference.

New view of learning:
Teacher listens to parents’ concerns.
Teacher acts upon home-centered information as way to support both parent and child.
Child participates in the conference.

If the school you are visiting takes a nontraditional approach, your special needs child will have an increased chance of receiving an education that will meet his or her academic, social, and emotional needs.