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Expert advice on finding the best school for your gifted child

Expert advice on finding the best school for your gifted child

It is quite common for parents to seek out advice on gifted education. Parents want to know everything they can--from which school is doing the best job and who really cares about gifted children--to who will provide the best education for my child and meet his/her specific needs?

One of the main questions asked is, “Which school in my area is the best school for gifted kids?” Many parents believe there is only one right answer to this question—and that the experts can alleviate their concerns and virtually guarantee a successful school experience for their gifted child. But this is not the case. While there is not just one answer, there are several steps that parents can follow to help find answers to their questions and work towards creating a positive school experience for their gifted child.


Do

Do understand why there is more than one correct answer

There is not one right answer to the question, “What is the best school for my gifted child?” There are several reasons for this, which include:

  • Every child is unique
  • Everyone values education in different ways. This is actually a complex mosaic of contrasting values, ranging from concerns about a rigorous curriculum that stresses academic excellence to a burning desire for a warm, supportive climate that ensures all children feel good about themselves.
  • Every school/school system is different. In some educational settings--where a high priority has been placed on providing the most appropriate education for gifted children--things are constantly changing. Variations between schools within an excellent school system and within each of the individual schools themselves makes it extremely difficult to predict the quality of each educational situation.

Do consider your child’s unique needs

Ask yourself as many questions as you can about your child and the kind of educational situation you think would be to his/her advantage. For instance:

  • What is my child really like? Think about personality factors, learning style and degree of giftedness
  • What are my child's interests? What passions do I already see developing that he or she needs opportunities to pursue? What do I really want my child to be able to learn in school?
  • What kind of learning environment seems to work best for my child?
  • How does he or she deal with challenges? How important is support from adults versus freedom to pursue learning independently?

Do your homework

Be sure to do your homework. Learn as much as you can about gifted children, gifted education and about what the experts think are important factors to consider when choosing an educational setting.

Do prepare questions for schools

Start formulating questions that you want to ask about the schools or school systems you are considering for your child. Write them down, along with a list of the places you want to investigate. For example, you might want to ask:

  • What can you tell me about your school/school system?
  • Do you have a gifted program? What is it like?
  • How are gifted students identified?
  • What do you usually do to respond to their needs?
  • How do you feel about grouping gifted students together?
  • Would you describe your program as being more geared toward academic achievement or to some other goal, such as helping students become responsible citizens, developing critical/creative thinking abilities or enhancing self-esteem?


Don't

Do not wait to meet with individuals in charge

Find out who is in charge and who is responsible for seeing that gifted students are provided with an appropriate education. Most likely, this is the program coordinator for gifted kids. However, it might also be the principal, superintendent, director of curriculum and/or instruction or some other designated administrator.

Make an appointment with this individual, so you can begin to get the answers to your questions.

Do not forget that you are your child’s best advocate

Always consider yourself an advocate for your child. You have valuable information that can help the school be more effective in creating the best learning environment for your child. Without this information, they may be fumbling in the dark.

Do not overlook the need to be involved

Once a school has been selected, parents must get involved. Be there and be aware of what is going on and ways that you can be a productive partner in your child's education.

Yes, the experts can definitely help you, but only by being a guide on your journey to finding the best school for your child.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

Raising a gifted child is a very challenging experience. While most parents anxiously attempt to find the perfect educational setting for their gifted child, this is not a simple endeavor. Not only is every child unique, but everyone values education in different ways and every school/school system is dissimilar. The bottom line is that nobody can guarantee a successful school experience; however, parents can take definitive steps to help create a positive school experience for their gifted child.


More expert advice about Raising Gifted Kids

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Dr. Ellen D. Fiedler, Ph.D.Educational Consultant / Professor Emerita

Dr. Ellen D. Fiedler, Professor Emerita from the Master in Arts in Gifted Education (M.A.G.E.) program at Northeastern Illinois University, is currently a private educational consultant. She regularly provides professional development for school...

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