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WSJ’s “Burden of Raising a Gifted Kid” April 4, 2011

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, Fargo, gifted, homeschooling, older son, younger son.
Tags: , , , ,

I came across the article The Burden of Raising a Gifted Kid last week, and two thoughts crossed my mind.  One was, “Absolutely!” The second, a bit more complicated, was how I, like some of the commenters, get frustrated that so many of these stories always focus on prodigies.

But first things first.

Right now, I’m personally frustrated with the whole time/financial burden that seems to come with my kids’ being ahead of the curve.  To show why this is frustrating, I’ll look at each kid individually.  First, the older one is in a school where they simply don’t believe in acceleration.  He’s not allowed to take AP classes until he’s a junior, period.  While he’s taking some classes at the local public school, these are more related to the arts.  There’s no way he’ll stay interested in the classes he would take at the school, and if he’s not interested, he won’t learn. (And he certainly won’t remember to turn in homework!)  Our solution is a combination of classes through homeschooling and other resources.  The materials that seem to work the best for him usually run on the order of $100-$200/class.  Granted, this is cheaper than a college class, but it’s not exactly cheap.  Some of his classes are done on the computer, which run about twice this.  And he’s planning to take some classes at Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth – running between $800 and $1300 each. And he probably will start college either junior or senior year of high school…so that’ll be even worse.

The younger one isn’t much better.  He’s in private school ($$$!) and he’s taking classes through Stanford’s EPGY program  - running around $500 every 3 mos. per class.

None of this includes the ‘normal’ kid expenses – various clubs and activities and lessons that they are also involved in, like scouts or swimming lessons.

I realize that this is a whining rant, but it frustrates me that there is a simple, inexpensive option that the public schools won’t provide: acceleration.  I guess it’s even more frustrating to realize that if I were willing to move back to the Minneapolis area, we would have several options not only for acceleration but for specialized programs for the kids…at no cost to us.  The two years that I lived down there were admittedly stressful, but I think that’s the only time that I’ve not had to worry about my kids’ education because I knew it was being taken care of. It involved a ‘normal’ commitment of time and finances. (Which is good when you’re on a grad student salary!)

I guess, in reality, this is a trade-off based on where I live.  I like living here, but the schools are only great if you have normal kids.

This brings up the problem I had with the article: gifted kids are really prodigies.  

But inside the private lives of families of truly gifted kids – the less-than-1% whose extraordinary talents are so obvious that parents themselves are surprised — the juggle can get pretty crazy, as I report in today’s “Work & Family” column.

I realize that was not the intent, but it’s frustrating as the parent of gifted kids who are not prodigies to deal with this stereotyped notion of giftedness.  Realistically, a lot of people have come to believe that ‘gifted’ either means a child is some sort of super-driven, highly successful and accomplished adolescents…or you’re just some parent who is really pushing an average-to-bright kid to do more than they are able. (Of course, even if you point out that they are already achieving at a very high level, this just means you’re uppity.)

While I have no desire to try to keep up with a profoundly gifted kid (the ones who are prodigies usually fall into that range), keeping up with my two is already a struggle because of the lack of educational support.  Really, I’m having to do it myself or shell out lots of money to someone else, prodigy or not. If my kids were prodigies, I feel like at least it’d be easier for someone to recognize that you can’t just put them in a normal classroom and expect them to suffer through the boredom. Even being in the top 1% doesn’t mean that their gifts and needs are obvious, especially to classroom teachers.

Overall, however, I think the article was good at making the point that it is not the parents pushing this: the parents are doing what they can to provide for the kids needs. But some of us are incredibly frustrated in the meantime.


1. FrauTech - April 5, 2011

I wonder how much is a result of the whole “no child left behind” stuff. It wasn’t that long ago I was in school and there weren’t any requirements on when you could or couldn’t take AP. You had to have the pre-reqs done, but if you did there were no restrictions. And there were potentially two AP classes one could take as a sophomore, plus they allowed self study on several other classes the school didn’t formally teach. I feel like the more federal requirements we add to schools, or hoops teachers have to jump through, the more they have to restrict those sorts of things.

2. Ray's Homeschool - April 5, 2011

Our homeschooling venture isn’t nearly as expensive as yours, but my oldest is also only 8 years old. Definitely not a prodigy, but she still has much different needs than the “average” student. We started out about a year ago in 1st grade for homeschool and she has advanced to 6th grade in some subjects. The cost of all those books, and the time spent planning all those lessons really adds up!

3. GEARS - April 5, 2011

The article did have an interesting perspective from the parents side of things. I hope everything works out with you and your kids.

Any way to help raise funds through the family? If not, there’s the miracle of the interwebs. Add advertising and maybe that’ll help. Plus, I’m sure there’s a few people out there willing to make donations.

4. Miss MSE - April 6, 2011

I’m regularly amazed by the disparity of education across the United States. I grew up near a large city, though my district was technically considered rural. Mr. ME grew up in da UP (eh). My teachers and schools were able to accommodate a fairly substantial degree of acceleration for my sister and I, with deliberate tracking for everyone in math from 3rd grade onwards. Mr. ME, on the other hand, had very limited options, and quite frankly hated school a lot more than I ever did.

Even my “regular” classes seem to have been much more comprehensive and interesting than his. Part of this is due to the resources available in our respective districts. The difference in teaching creativity, however, I at least partly blame on standardized testing. In my home state, my class was the first to be subjected to the state test at every grade, whereas the MEAP was started in the 1970′s.

I’m amazed by the AP rule: at my high school, AP US History was considered a sophomore class, and anyone with the background was allowed into BC Calc.


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