Academically precocious kids

I was wondering what thoughts you might have concerning what to do - if anything - for “gifted” kids.

My 13 year old is in 7th grade. Based on some standardized tests, he was identified by some “talent search” that said programs were available, but he had to take the ACT or SAT to see what he qualified for. We didn’t really know that we needed any extra programs for him, but in the spirit of keeping our options open, we signed him up for the test. We didn’t want to put any pressure on him or make this an unpleasant experience, so he didn’t do any prep other than looking through some samle questions the night before the test.

He just got his grades back, and tho they aren’t off the charts, they are well above the average for college bound high schoolers.

Tho I will be getting more info in a couple of weeks, it looks as tho most of the programs are advanced classes offered either on weekends or during summer. Some of the classes look really fun, and I’m sure he’d learn a lot. But my question is, should I feel as tho I ought to encourage/require my kid to pursue any of these programs?

He seems pretty happy with his current courseload. He is in an advanced math class, and gets mostly A’s with a couple of B’s. He had been in various pull-out programs, both for gifted services as well as therapy for a physical disability, but he prefers being in regular classes where he socializes with his peers, and learns the basics at a pace and in an order that makes sense to him.

He speedskates and is pretty fit, and seems to be enjoying scouting - especially the camping. Also, he plays trumpet - including bugling for his scout troop.

I think he really loves his free time. He reads voraciously, mainly fantasy and military history. And he just started up being a dungeon master for a group of his friends.

So I’m pretty much thinking there really isn’t any need to go looking for additional things for him to do. It’s not as tho he just lies around eating junk food and playing video games (altho he IS a kid, and certainly does his share of both of those.) I just don’t see any real reason to push him to go thru things faster than he is. If he keeps up as he is, he will get into honors classes at the local high school. In HS, I want him to have time to experience the various extracurriculars that might interest him. And then, if he does well enough in HS, he will be able to get into a decent college of his choice.

So basically my question is, if my kid seems to be pretty happy, he isn’t bored, and he is doing well in a variety of activities, why should I even consider looking for additional “gifted” programs for him?

In the event I may have phrased anything imperfectly, I would greatly appreciate it if folk would ask me to clarify anything.

He sounds great just the way he is. Should his grades drop, it might just indicate that he isn’t being challenged, a common problem with gifted kids.

If some extra classes look fun, suggest them but don’t push. If he wants to take them, great!

It sounds like you are doing it exactly the right way so far.

He sounds a lot like my older daughter - who is also 13 and in 7th grade.

I’d agree that if he has enough on his plate now, there’s no reason to add extra classes or activities unless they’re something he really, really wants to do. I’ve found myself in the somewhat happy position of having to limit the number of my daughter’s activities, since she often thinks a lot of things sound like fun but doesn’t stop to consider the time involved. I also think that it’s important for kids to have enough unstructured free time to think and daydream and just plain goof off. It’s kind of like when they were toddlers - play is the work they need to do. It can get really tough to protect that free time, though, even if you don’t mean to overschedule your kids. I swore that I’d never have my kids rushing from activity to activity, but somehow with Destination Imagination (something the kids desperately wanted to do), piano lessons, the Wednesday night church youth program, and confirmation classes, we’ve ended up with her doing something after school four days a week and on Sunday afternoons, too.

What does your son think of this? If it were my daughter, I suspect she’d be tempted by the thought of summer activities, but she wouldn’t want to give up her Saturdays. I certainly wouldn’t require her to do any of it, but I might encourage a summer program, as long as it didn’t interfere with other activities. In the end, a 13-year-old who’s doing as well as your son is already should have the privilege of choosing whether or not to add something on.

Just based on my experience, if your son really is happy with what he’s doing now, there’s probably not much point in hunting down extra stuff unless he wants you to do so.

I was involved with a talent search back in 7th grade and even went to one of the summer programs because it sounded like fun. It was fun, but in the long run, a bit pointless. My middle school was a fairly good one with a rather large number of gifted students, so it was almost exactly like being at school except on a college campus in the summer. I didn’t even find any more “intellectual peers” than I already had, a big draw for a lot of students who attend such programs.

If your son wants the opportunities and you’re able to offer them, then I would go for it. I was really glad that my parents were able to get some of the things for me that they did. But otherwise, I wouldn’t be too overly pushy and concerned. I’ve known a few individuals who burned out young because of that sort of thing. Extreme circumstances, of course, but it’s not pretty.

I also have a gifted 13 year old daughter, and a few other such children lying about the house. We have signed ours up for an occasional course for gifted children at a local college. They had fun. (In the paleontology class, we got to go fossil hunting.) I would show him the list of courses, and see if he is interested.

My daughter is older - a HS junior - and in the process of burning out this year. Most of her classes are Honors or AP, plus she has a job, plus she does volunteer work, plus she wants a life. To that end, she’s just quit her job till summer. She recognized that she was stressed and dropped the least important thing on her schedule.

So, coming from that perspective, I’d say unless your son really, really wants to participate in one or more of the activities, don’t sweat it. And if he does take something on and finds he’s overloaded, that’s good too - he’s learned his limits and how to make choices. That of itself is a valuable education. It doesn’t sound as if he’s slacking off and since he’s a bright kid, he’s probably more than capable of making decisions about these programs. Good for him.

And good for you for not pushing him too hard. Kids need time be kids.

My own personal experience - just make sure he is challenged. If he is happy and challenged at what is is doing, that’s great. If he isn’t challenged, he won’t know how to handle the challenges when they arise - and it might be wise to find a way to challenge him.

(That’s me. Too bright for my high school, never adequately challenged, had a hard time in college because I certainly wasn’t too bright for college - but I’d never had to work at anything in my life before.)

If he’s happy, then show him his options and let him make the decision whether it would add to his life to do something extra.

If he’s doing OK socially , then you don’t have to do these things to find peers.

The challenge issue is a big one though. IMO there needs to be something which is stretching a kid’s mind and where they need to work. Whether or not the talent search is going to be that place is another question altogether though.

if it’s something like CTY course, i went to a 3 week residential one in Dublin when i was 16, and had the time of my life.

basically like summer camp, but with people you can have conversations about non-Euclidian mathematics, as well as pillow fights.

i did a course on education.
our field trip was to the cinema to watch a Barney movie…which we then tore to shreds in the class discussion.

my friend did a law course and one of their projects was to write their own will, another friend did english and saw GBS’s St Joan as her field trip.

the younger he is, the less likely he is to be stretched in classes at school, and at 13 he shouldn’t be burned out.

the course i went to was totally non-competitive. no tests, no grades, just “good job, well done” kind of comments, and constructive criticism.
it’s more about learning for learning’s sake, so i wouldn’t worry about stressing him out too much.

oh, and yes i would classify most of the people attending as freaks and geeks, but NICE freaks and geeks. certainly interesting people to talk to.

I’m a sixteen-year-old identified gifted kid. I went to a magnet school for middle school. It was so much work that I had no free time, and I just don’t think that’s healthy for a kid. I would suggest staying away from the weekend classes, as I think kids just need that time to relax. If, however, your son really really really wants to take the classes, allow him to do so. Also, if he shows interest in the summer classes, push him in that direction.

2 out of my 3 children went to the Johns Hopkins 3 week summer program. (The other is 19 and hasn’t even taken SATs yet - go figure)
My daughter is pretty bright and well-rounded - sounds like your son. She took a 3 week math course in the summer at Johns Hopkins. It was interesting, fun, but the next summer she chose to go to a more outdoors canoeing capture-the-flag type summer camp. For her it was enjoyable, but not a transforming experience.
My son is scary smart. For him, the gifted program was a transforming experience. It has been one of the high points of his teens - he found a peer group he could relate to, and enjoy. All of a sudden he didn’t feel like such an oddball. As one person put it, at CTY ‘It’s OK to be smart’ He scored in the top 1% in the country on the SATs when he was in 7th grade. The summer programs have great for him. merely OK for his sister.
Hope that is useful.

I took the PLUS test (Think PSATs) through JHU’s Talent Search in fifth grade, and then the SATs in 7th grade (through JHU). Participated in the summer program every year that I could (summers after 5th - 9th grade). Two years of their Younger Students program, and 3 years of CTY. It was, by far, the best program ever for me, especially after the first summer.

My middle school had no sort of talented and gifted program, no honors courses, no seperation of abilities (honors, advanced, etc) level courses. This was bad. This also led to me (for the second time in my life…) being almost labelled by the school as ADD, because I was bored in class. Those three weeks each summer not only provided a sort of intellectual haven for me where “Oh, you worked ahead? Okay, great,” (to an extent) insteand of “No! Don’t turn the page before I say so!”

Granted, you should by no means force your son into this, because you NEED to want to be there in order to enjoy it. In a case like mine, it was also a wonderful place for social development, because I wasn’t alienated for being a ‘nerd’ - it actually provided social competition, which I wasn’t used to. If your son expresses interest in this program, I wouldn’t hesitate to send him. True, some of the classes aren’t really useful in the traditional sense. But from my personal experience with CTY, I can’t speak highly enough of it.

i took the sats in 7th grade as part of the cty talent search. i did well enough to qualify for the summer program thing, but i ended up not going. i just wasn’t all that interested, plus it cost money my family really didn’t have at the time. my older brother went, though, and took a course in psychology, which he loved. it really depends on whether your son wants to do it or not. because if he’s willing, he should go for it, and if not, it won’t be a learning experience but a punishment.

I think you’re wise in letting your son be your guide here. He’s socializing and he’s taking advanced classes. I think if he really wanted (or needed) extra enrichment, he’d let you know. I will say that I, like Dangerosa always found school so easy that I rarely studied, rarely bothered to do homework (the teachers let me slide because they knew I was bright). When I hit college I lacked the study skills I needed to keep up. You might want to make sure he at least as those skills.

They bugle with trumpets? Not bugles?

BTW - I think you should get your kids a horse. All kids need horses. At least I did. :wink:


Oh do I remember THAT attitude- “don’t turn the page before I tell you!” Only I remember it from the second grade. I had a split 2nd grade at my school for part of the year- the gifted kids got their own class, so everything was accelerated. But then, we went back with the regular class.

I had just finished a reading book, so I showed it to my teacher, who looked at me and basically told me I didn’t read it. Stunned, I assured her that I had and described some of the stories. What got her panties in a bunch is that is was the 5-6 grade reading book. I was told that I couldn’t read any more books except what the class was reading, and that was that.

I think that’s when I decided that public school was bullshit.

PS- I still remember some of the stories from that 5-6 grade reading book. It was Open Highways, a series of grade-level texts used in CA in the 1970’s. It rocked.

Figure out what the other kids who your son will be in highschool classes with, and make him do that.


I had the option of going into advanced classes in middle school, and refused on the basis of wanting to stay around familiar people and places. By the time I got to highschool and decided to do the advanced classes (based on wanting to not be around unintelligent people if I could help it, not wanting to be bored, looking good for college, etc…), all the kids who were in them had already been together for at least a few years. They were very cliqueish and wouldn’t let me in.

Highschool is not the time to have no friends. And the friends I had in middle school I never saw because I was in all the advanced classes, while the people in those classes, like I said, were cliqueish. I basically didn’t make any friends until the very end of my senior year.

I made my own choice. Now I regret it.
Don’t let that happen to him.

Ok, so maybe don’t MAKE him do anything, but make sure he realizes the long-term consequences of any choice he makes now. I certainly didn’t, and it’s something I’ll be regretting and feeling the effects of for a long time.

It’s a real shame that so many schools slashed their gifted and talented programs more than a decade ago. There’s nothing stranger than a play about a murder written by a dozen gifted 13-year-olds :slight_smile: (ok, so they never let us put it on, but it was still fun to write) so it’s nice to hear that your area still has them; they killed ours to help $ problems when I was going into the 8th grade :frowning:

My parents were like you seem to be, and let me decide what wanted to do at your son’s age. I occasionally took mini-classes taught by professors- “Kids college” - which I found fun if sort of silly. They encouraged me to indulge in my love of writing, reading and art. The fact that I was reading about six years ahead of grade level from about second grade on was made having to do the school work I found simple easier to bear by my parents williness to let me read things I found more interesting. They censored me a bit (for example Go Ask Alice was not deemed appropriate for a 10 year old, nor was I allowed to read “the weekly world news” at six since my grandmother told me the stories were true) but didn’t keep me from most “grown up” books, many of which my dad also read so we could discuss them. Likewise they read my stories and offered praise which encouraged me to keep writing in my free time.

However, they didn’t push me. That makes me glad, since all of the smart kids who were pushed into skipping grades had more trouble after high school than those who were allowed to graduate at a normal pace; two of my good friends graduated a year early: one dropped out of college completely after a year; the other took an extra year to finish since she had to take a break because she was so overwhelmed as a freshman. YMMV, of course.

Just want to say ditto about being encouraging about the CTY program, if that’s what this is for (I think it’s actually IAAY now, or something like that). I went for four summers in a row. Please e-mail me if you have any questions about it; I’d love to talk with you about the program.

We pulled my daughter out of a gifted program after only 6 weeks. She found the peer pressure excruciating - there’s a lot of competition in many of the programs. My experience here is that many of the parents of these kids were a big part of the problem. The kids get so used to being told how special they are, and they get put into specialized classes, and they have a hard time interacting with “normal” kids.

Your son sounds well-socialized and well-rounded, and from what you post, he’s getting at least some challenge in his classwork. If you’re implementing this with scouting, park district classes, trips to the library and the like, I’d bet he’s getting enough academically AND socially, and at this age both are important. So it sounds to me like you’re doing everything right :slight_smile:

FWIW, my daughter is also a 13-year-old seventh grader, and she’s been back in a mainstream class now since the second quarter of fourth grade. She’s in advanced English and math classes, takes piano, voice lessons and tae-kwon-do, is in chorus and the drama club, and spends the rest of her time reading, futzing around on the computer, and just being a kid. She was in Scouts until her leader passed away, but we still revisit the handbook for rainy-day type activities. Pulling her out of the gifted program was the best move we ever made. Of course, YMMV.

I feel very lucky that I live in a state that categorizes"gifted" as “special education,” with all the rights that classification carries. Because my children are officially in need of special education, the school system is legally obliged to provide “an appropriate education for the child’s level of academic ability,” which means that the public schools must provide enrichment, just as they must provide remedial education for children with difficulties.

I have this kind of situation, too. My older daughter is the scary-smart one, and her younger sister is “merely” middle-level gifted. If she’d been the first child in the family, she would have gotten a lot more attention, but even though we’ve tried not to let it happen, her older sister casts a very, very long shadow. Do you have any trouble dealing with the academic differences between your children?