I have two boys.
The oldest, as are many first-born, is an over-achiever and thrives on praise and task completion. The youngest … well, let’s just say he’s got the gift of gab and aspires to be a professional circus clown when he grows up. Focus isn’t his strong suit.
As my oldest has progressed through his elementary school years, my husband and I have often struggled with the fact that he’s not being challenged as much as he could be in school.
He’s pretty smart (in my motherly opinion), but he hasn’t been identified as ‘gifted’ even though some of his classmates are in a special group where they do fun and exciting things.
We’ve never pushed for that label – “gifted.” We don’t put value on that and truly just want him to learn at a pace that’s comfortable to him.
But we also know that he’s not working to the best of his ability because the opportunities just haven’t been offered to him from a school perspective. He’s smart, but maybe not noticeably smart enough.
On whom does this responsibility lie to offer extra support -- school district or parent?
We work with him after school to provide our own challenges -– making him do one or two more pages of math problems or conducting a science experiment with his dad who is also a middle school science teacher.
Several years ago we heard he was taking tests in the hall with a small group of other "smart" children. According to him, it was because they finished so much sooner than the rest of the class. We had to wonder if this was OK in the scheme of things.
Why was he being singled out for being smart in that instance, but not being offered more challenges in other parts of his school day?
Frankly, I was a little upset. Why should my son have to sit in the hall to take a test just because he understands the concepts?
I understand the workload a teacher carries. My husband teaches to all levels of learning abilities. But when he discovers students who are hungry for learning and want more, he gives them more. When he finds a student who is struggling, he thinks of new ways to work with them until they understand.
Our youngest son seems to fall to the opposite end of the spectrum. He appears to have a good handle on the concepts he should know as he enters kindergarten, but he struggles with his emotions and focus.
His preschool teacher suggested that a full-day kindergarten class would benefit him. But after applying for this limited all-day offering, we were told he wasn’t accepted.
His "need" isn’t great enough to be considered. The other children being accepted to that class have bigger needs.
I’m nervous that he, too, will fall into the grey area of not having enough specialness to get the extra help he might actually need.
For our older son, it has been an issue of boredom. For our youngest, I’m concerned he will struggle academically and emotionally because he’s not needy enough to have that special support.
This is all speculation at this time, but after watching my oldest glide through elementary school with no one stepping up to say, “Hey! This kid has some brains. Maybe we can do some extra projects with him,” I have to wonder what's to come for our little guy.
And then I realize how many other children fall into the gray area. Does yours?