My gifted kids dilemna

There is a program for gifted children in my kids’ school district called GATE (gifted and talented education). I had all 4 of my children take the test for GATE, and I got the results today and I’m puzzled about what to do.

There are 2 levels of GATE. One is ‘pull out’ GATE in which the kids go to normal classes but are pulled out for a few hours a week to work on complex and expanded projects. The higher level is full time GATE in which the kids go to a special school for only GATE kids.

Two of my children didn’t qualify for GATE. One qualified for pull out GATE. And one qualified for full time GATE.

On the one hand, full time GATE seems like a great opportunity and I don’t want to deny it to my bright son. On the other hand, he would have to switch schools (he likes the one he attends now), would be away from his siblings, and would have to take a bus for an hour each way to the other side of town where the GATE school is. Is it worth it?

And for my daughter who was invited to pull out GATE, how do I explain to the other kids why she is in this program and they aren’t? Do I just flat out say that she is brighter than they are and this is a special program that only the really smart kids get to do?

How old are each of the kids?

Are they at a level where you could ask them as a group what they want to do? (IE: high school/middle school)?

They are in Kindergarten (no GATE), 2nd grade (pull out GATE), 4th grade (full time GATE) and 6th (no GATE)

I was in a similar position as a kid - I qualified for the local “gifted kids” school, and I was also in my school’s gifted program (called Discovery). I BEGGED my parents to send me to the separate school, but it was on the other side of town and my parents decided that it wasn’t worth it. I think they also had this idea that attending that kind of school would turn me into some kind of spoiled brat with an inflated opinion of myself.

I think they made the right decision. I was happy enough at my school and the Discovery program kept me from becoming bored or unsatisfied with my studies.

My little brother, who went to the same school, wasn’t in the Discovery program and he didn’t really care (he was younger than me so maybe he didn’t really understand what it was all about). He was never as much into his studies as I was and my parents encouraged him to develop his other interests (art).

I was in pull-out GATE (I don’t think there was a GATE school in my time). As far as I know, my two-years-younger sister never even knew that I was in this program and she wasn’t. My parents didn’t tell her and since we were in separate grades, she never saw me leaving class.

As for a full-time GATE school, it sounds like it might be more trouble than it’s worth. Is it an option for him to just participate in pull-out GATE? I enjoyed my time in GATE. It was really low-pressure-- no grades or criticisms from the teacher. We just read and discussed interesting books, did art projects, and performed plays. I think in the case of elementary school education, it’s easy to find ways to challenge the gifted kids without having to put them in a special school. In addition to GATE, I had some great teachers who would assign me extra credit projects like researching another culture or reading Greek mythology. You, as a parent, can always point your gifted children in the direction of topics they might like to learn more about. I think it’s only when the kids start reaching high school age that the material they are learning can surpass their parents’ knowledge and they start needing more specialized teaching.

I was in a version of what you call pull-out GATE starting in elementary school due to a new Louisiana state law created for that. I was the only student that qualified for the first two years so I had a dedicated part-time teacher with the easiest job in the world.

You don’t have to explain much to any of your other kids about why she is qualified for it and they aren’t. They already know it anyway. My younger brothers are very bright but no one expected them to qualify and they didn’t. I was always the academically smart one and they have other interests and talents. I don’t mean to dismiss the issue entirely because it is big but the worst thing you can do is to make a big deal about it. All you have to do is say something brief if you need to that is positive such as “Lucy is really talented at X, Y, and Z and the school is going to help her learn even better. You are too but they will pick you later to teach you to do best at what you are great at and want to do.”

In full-disclosure, I wish that is what would have happened with me. My brothers became bitter and I get some weird but flattering comments about it on Facebook from former classmates to this day nearly three decades later. They had their own talents and are doing much better than me at the moment overall but intellectual jealousy is a strange beast so you have to handle it carefully. I have no idea who the star wide receivers were on the high school football team but many people certainly remembered that I was the one that got pulled out of regular class regularly and sent on special field-trips even though I thought some of them barely knew me.

Dedicated gifted schools are obviously a step beyond that as well. They certainly give a good education but I have never met anyone that went to one that gave it a very positive rating. It sounds like it focuses too much on academics rather than social skills which is what kids really need the most at that age. Any truly gifted child can get into a great college and do whatever they want from there anyway without grooming from elementary school.

I was in a pull-out situation (called “Enrichment” in our school district). It was a lot of fun, but I don’t think I would have liked a full-time program devoted to gifted kids. How are you supposed to learn to relate to/get along with “typical” people if you’re kept apart from them? After schooling is done most of us have work with diverse groups of people, so you do need that skill…

My biggest problem academically was that I was never really challenged in school, and never got into the habit of actually working at studying. From whatever grade it was that we were first assigned real text books until my last year in high school, I was generally able to read the books at the first of the year, and then put them away until it was time to return them. I MIGHT skim a chapter, if it was especially assigned, but that was mostly to reassure myself that I remembered it accurately. And I usually did the homework assignments. Not always.

I really wish that I had been in some program that really challenged me. I went to a gifted and talented summer school two or three times, and I really enjoyed having to actually work at learning. We were given assignments and projects that WEREN’T dumbed down for the lowest common denominator.

Let your kids try the toughest class they’re eligible for. Let them fly.

I agree with Pyper. The pull-out version is a completely different animal than the whole school version, and often works out better. My experience with the schools is that they just amp up the difficulty levels in the classes. The pullout programs rather give the “gifted” child something more interesting to do. This is far more helpful in the long run. as gifted kids who are not sufficiently challenged often wind up getting in trouble. Being further along in a subject really isn’t going to help out much, as, eventually, you will have to deal with a “normal” class, even if it takes until college.

In my school district, we had both the pull-out classes and the full time GATE classes but they weren’t different levels and parents had the choice of either if their kids made it into the program. I was in the pull-out GATE for most years since my parents liked the school and valued the fact that I would be with my friends. We ended up doing more readings and played real life simulations like the stock market game.

The school I was at ended up having enough kids one year to do a combined 4/5th grade GATE class. I don’t remember it as being all that different from my other classes except for participation in a few more extracurricular academics such as Math Olympiad (which was widened to the whole school the next year) and a greater emphasis on hands on or group projects.

Academically, I think being in a class full of people that are just as smart as you can be humbling and a great motivator. In the end though, it really depends on the personality of the kid. Some kids thrive in an environment where they don’t feel weird about being smart while others just want to stay with their old friends. By the time college came around though, most of the pull-out class GATE kids and full time GATE kids were in the same place academically and socially.

As for the sibling issue - it was never that big a deal and I don’t recall my parents ever discussing it with us. For all the times my sister and I squabbled as a kid, I don’t recall it ever being brought up for good or bad. After all, she was my older sister and she knew damn well that she was smarter than me and she didn’t need a special program to prove it. :stuck_out_tongue:

We moved a lot. At most of the schools I went to pull-out gifted programs, and at one I was in a separate full-time gifted program. The pull-outs were hit or miss. I did love the completely separate full-day program. It was wonderful being among other reasonably bright and motivated kids. It was fun to move through the curriculum a bit faster and go into greater depth on subjects.

From my own experience, I’d recommend giving the programs a try. If they don’t work for your kids, they can drop them. The kids really lead separate lives at school, and they know they are all different, so I wouldn’t be worried about them doing different things academically.

My fourth grader started at a gifted center in third grade. He likes it, has great friends, and is less bored than he was before, when he was only in a pull-out program. I would definitely ask your child if he/she wants to go to the center, particularly since it’s so far. For a few months, until we moved closer, my then third grader was riding the bus for more than 45 minutes each way to his center, and I was not thrilled. It’s a long day. But ask. It may feel worth it to your child. If not, he/she can always stay at the base school and participate in the pull-out program.

My kindergartener goes to a different school, the base school, since they don’t offer the gifted center until third grade, and they don’t test for it until second grade. I think she’d like to be at the same school as her brother, but they’d never see each other anyway, so she’s fine with things.

I’d put the younger one in the pull-out program, and see how he/she likes it. My oldest kid (now grown) was put into one, though, and he hated it, so I pulled him out. He said it was just more busy work. He always disliked school, though, other than one or two subjects.

Some things I’d think about:

Is your son bored at school, or is he skating through? (IME it can be damaging to never have to try and to always be the smartest kid in the class–can easily lead to crashing and burning in college when you suddenly have to work and everyone else is at least as smart as you.)

Is he happy socially, does he lack friends who get the way he thinks? Does he tend to think that he’s a cut above the other kids because he’s quicker at academics?

Would it be easier or better to give him challenging work at home to supplement? Is the curriculum at his current school adequate, or is the math program kind of pathetic by any standard? What exactly is the curriculum at the other school and how does it compare? (Our local GATE program does not accelerate in math, for example, which is a wee bit frustrating for our math-genius friend. She works ahead at home.)

IME the GATE kids are different from the other classes. They are more clearly kind of oddbally in various ways. Some kids are quite relieved to get into a class where the other kids think like them, others I think don’t care much. So it’s very much a question of your son’s personality. There’s tons of great stuff you can do at home, if that’s what you prefer.

IN fifth and sixth grade I was in the equivalent of full-time GATE. It changed my life to be in a class that actually challenged me academically. It was often traumatic, because up tot that point I didn’t realize school was a place where you were supposed to work, and I had a teacher that wasn’t intimidated by having a smart kid and who didn’t put up with my work-dodge strategies. If your kid is anything like me, I cannot recommend it highly enough. I needed that class, just as surely as other kids need a full-time class for autism.

Go see. There is really no way to decide until you’ve observed the programs in question, as it all comes down to how they are implemented. Spend a day observing the GATE school, and drop in 2-3 other times to see what the mood is. Spend a day observing the pull-out program. You know your kids: see if the programs seem like good fits.

Our son was identified as “Gifted” with the testing in Grade 4, (our school board only has gifted programs for Grades 5 and up) but it wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Our son definitely wanted to go to the full time class (yes, a separate school, an hour away by bus) in Grade 5. A large part of our letting him go was social. He was so different from his peers in what he thought was interesting that he was considered weird and was a huge bully target.

The gifted kids are put together by Grade in four or five schools, depending on the numbers (they try to accommodate all kids at or above the 98th percentile). The gifted class has “core” where all of the areas of study with gifted curriculum are taught by the resource teacher, and then they have rotary with other students for the classes that don’t, so they did get a lot of time with kids of all learning abilities. However, the fact that he gets to interact with a whole class full of kids that think like he does and therefore he is **not ** “that weird kid” has made him a much more confident guy. He is now in Grade 8 at a school much closer to us (still 1/2 hour by taxi with 4 of the other gifted kids) and tries out for all sorts of things. He had the star part in the Christmas musical (a funnier Santa you will never see than one who is 6 foot 1 and 120 pounds!).

As for the sibling issue, as stated in posts above kids just know that some of them are different, siblings included. You may learn that the ones who aren’t academically gifted may be athletically gifted or musically gifted. Or not.

My daughter is probably at the 97th percentile, so she doesn’t get to go. There is no sibling rivalry over it. We all learn to play the hand we’re dealt.

Missed the editing window!

For my second edit (did not sleep well!) I wanted to mention that the gifted kids in our board do have more challenging and interesting work, it’s not just at a higher grade level. For example, in Grade 5 the board’s curriculum has all the kids learn about different civilizations in history. The gifted kids do that, but then they have time to take the information they have absorbed and create their own civilization. They also, as they move up the grades, have a lot more freedom in how they go about getting it done, as long as it gets done.

I wish I had better cognitive abilities this morning, I’m sure I could be saying all of this better…

Kids generally know if their siblings are much better than them at whatever without anyone having to explain it. It just is.

Send him to the school that will actually challenge him. Left in a regular school, he like as not become bored, listless, and lazy because he doesn’t have to put forth any effort towards achieving anything. He’ll learn to scoff at homework because he aces all those ridiculously easy tests merely by reading the text once(or maybe twice, and probably well before the lesson plan even reached that point), ignore the teachers, screw around in class, and generally make a nuisance of himself because he is so bored. And because he scoffs at homework, he will grow less and less likely to actually do it, his gradepoint average will suffer, and all the lectures you give him will not impress upon him the importance of doing it because if it were important, why is he acing the tests? Then he’ll hit the real world or some difficult college program where one can no longer be lazy, and will take years to unlearn all his bad habits that he has spent years learning.

Trust me.

He will still get plenty of socialization in that other school, and not the type he’d get from the jockos. It will be a point of contention if the school is a lot farther away, but I imagine that will also help with the siblings that aren’t going… ‘Why does smarty pants go to a special school?’ ‘He has to get up an hour earlier. Do you really want to wake up at 6am?’ :slight_smile:

One thing to keep in mind is that the “gifted” label is a little like “remedial” education. Gifted kids don’t necessarily learn the same way. They often have special challenges. My gifted fourth grader is struggling with organization and turning in her homework - not unusual for a class of kids that has more than its share of the “absent minded professor” types. They often have their own set of social challenges as well.

So I’d treat this the same way I’d treat it if they told you your kid needed remedial reading classes. Consider what they say. Look at the whole story. Make your decisions based on that. Some kids REALLY NEED pull out or full time classes. Others are better off without them. And let your attitude be “kids are different, some of them need special help. You siblings need special help because their brains don’t work in the same way.”

I have one in G&T and the other never got tested due to a mix up with the teachers. He’s a straight A student who doesn’t want to get tested and is doing fine in a regular classroom. He’s a gifted musician, and excellent artist and a talented athlete as well. On top of it all he is charismatic and popular. I suspect that tested, he’d get in. The other is my daughter - the “absent minded professor” - struggling to turn in her homework, sloppy on tests, struggling. Not athletic, not musical, socially struggling. But gifted - definitely gifted. Able to grasp abstract concepts beyond her years. Has problems with basic math functions and blows the standardized tests out of the water.

And me. Both my husband and I had this issue with not having to do homework and therefore not learning good strategies for when it became necessary.