Monday, July 28, 2008

Fun with Math and Science

AJ had a great time at Camp Gifted. We were really impressed by the end-of-session documents that were sent home. AJ's projects and lab notebook were fantastic, of course. So was the DVD that the physics teacher made of the kids' egg drop and Rube Goldberg projects. But we also really appreciated that each teacher sent home a summary of the course and list of websites and books and things to do if we wanted to do more of the kinds of things they did in class. I thought some of these references would be appreciated by readers here. The two science classes were targeted toward gifted children entering 2-3 grades. The math class had a broader age range of 2-6th grades.


• Search youtube for "Rube Goldberg" (this one is AJ's and my favorite)

• Arlene Erlbach, The Kids' Invention Book
• Laura S. Jeffrey, American Inventors of the 20th Century

Places to Visit
• Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
• American Science and Surplus, 5316 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60630 (773-763-0313)


Math just sent home one recommendation, which is for kids' sudoku puzzles:

I would add to that the essential,


Experiment books
• Tamara Perchyonok, Chemistry and Fun for Kids of All Ages
• Robert W. Wood, 39 Easy Chemistry Experiments (Science for KIds)
• Judi Hechtman and Karen P. Hall, Explore and Discover Kid Chemistry
• Janice VanCleave, Janice VanCleave's Chemistry for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments that Really Work


PBS Kids Kitchen Chemistry
Bill Nye Home Demos
Build your own Volcano at Discovery Kids
Experiencing Chemistry at OMSI: How to Make Flubber
Chem4Kids Website
ChemShorts for Kids: Links to a variety of experiments

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Books for Gifted Boys

Walker’s list of good books for gifted boys from ages 6-12

The “duh” titles (as in, you must read these—many are available as audiobooks):

The Harry Potter books, Rowling
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Tolkein
Narnia books, Lewis
The Dark is Rising series, Cooper
The Black Cauldron series, Alexander
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, Adams
The Swallows and Amazons series, Ransome
Five Children and It and The Enchanted Castle, Nesbit
Half Magic, Eager
A Wrinkle in Time, L’Engle
D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths

12-year-old Walker’s current top ten titles:

1. The Lightning Thief series (Percy Jackson), Riordan
2. Ender’s Game, Card
3. The Artemis Fowl series, Colfer
4. Half-Moon Investigations, Colfer
5. The Thief Lord, Funke
6. Evil Genius, Jinks
7. The Bartimaeus Trilogy, Stroud
8. Maximum Ride series, Patterson
9. Gregor the Overlander series, Collins
10. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles, Edwards

Other good books for gifted boys ages 6-12
by author, usually with a suggested title to lead you to the others:

Anderson, Feed
Balliett, Chasing Vermeer
Birdsall, The Penderwicks (younger readers)
Bloor, Tangerine
Brinley, The Mad Scientists’ Club (younger readers)
Byng, Molly Moon series (younger readers)
Chabon, Summerland
Cleary, Ramona, Henry Huggins (younger readers)
Cooper, The Boggart (younger readers, start with this one)
Dahl, Matilda, George’s Marvelous Medicine
De Larrabeiti, The Borrible Trilogy
Dickson, The Dragon and the … series
Doctorow, Little Brother
Dunkle, The Sky Inside
Enright, The Saturdays (younger readers)
Estes, Ginger Pye, The Moffats (younger readers)
Farmer, Sea of Trolls
Gannet, My Father’s Dragon (younger readers)
George, My Side of the Mountain
Haddix, Among the Hidden series (younger readers)
Howe, Howliday Inn, Bunnicula (younger readers)
Ibbotson, The Secret of Platform 13 (younger readers)
Jones, Charmed Life (the Chrestomanci series)
Konigsberg, The View from Saturday, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. B. E. F.
Lee, The Mysterious Benedict Society
Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea
Mieville, UnLunDun
Philbrick, The Last Book in the Universe
Pinkwater, Once Upon a Blue Moose, The Hoboken Chicken Emergency
Sachar, Wayside School series (younger readers)
Selden, A Cricket in Times Square (younger readers)
Snicket, A Series of Unfortunate Events
Ursu, The Shadow Thieves
Westerfeld, Uglies, Pretties, Specials

Monday, July 21, 2008

Out of the frying pan

Amazingly, school starts in just over a month. AJ is ready. He printed out his school supply list yesterday and we went to buy his supplies. AJ loves school supplies, but he especially loves them in a huge pile waiting for the start of school. He was disappointed that the school has specified notebooks and folders without pictures on them this year, but he was won over by the fact that he gets his very own ruler and, finally, scissors with pointy ends.

One of the items on the list was flash cards of addition and subtraction facts. AJ looked skeptical. "We don't need those, do we, Mommy?" And I hesitated, because I want AJ to understand that there are some things he will need to do with the rest of the class even if they are easy for him. I want him to have respect for his teacher and the rules he or she will set in the classroom. At the same time, I want to teach him to stand up for himself and what he needs to do in a way that isn't just bragging. It's a hard line to walk with a seven-year-old. Seven-year-olds are not inherently tuned into nuance. But the cards were not inexpensive and frankly, AJ can add faster and more accurately in his head than I can. He already knows these facts by heart. So I really didn't see the point.

"I'm not sure, AJ. It says here, though, that these are for use at home. So maybe we'll check with your teacher after we know who it is. And it doesn't hurt to practice even the things you already know sometimes, to make sure you're paying attention."

This might actually be an argument to pick up the flash cards. When things are easy for AJ, he rushes and sometimes misses key details, like whether it's an addition or a subtraction problem.

But the flashcards are now another thing to add to my list of things to talk to the school about. And the question at the store reminded me that I needed to write up something for the school so that we can have that meeting we've been planning with us, the gifted teacher, the new classroom teacher, and maybe his fabulous last year's teacher and possibly the principal.

Last week, I heard from the mother of one of AJ's friends and my partner in gifted advocacy, that the class lists had been drawn up. She's a former teacher so she has some inside contacts. She only knew where her son had ended up and that, since they've decided to loop his class, AJ probably won't be in the same class, although that is not definite. The school won't announce the lists until the week before school, a policy I'm pretty sure has arisen because of parents badgering the school for classroom changes. But if they know the class lists, I may be able to arrange an earlier meeting than we'd thought. It's at least worth an email to the principal to see.

I didn't really have a plan when I sat down to write, but I ended up with a five-page draft of a document that summarized AJ's interests and abilities and his participation in extra-curricular gifted programs this summer. I included a summary of test scores and will attach copies of documentation, and I outlined the curriculum modifications that were used last year. The second half of the document I laid out as the opening to a discussion on establishing concrete educational goals for him this year, along with some of the things I've been thinking about. I was careful to say that while these were things that were on my mind, that any actual plan would need to be a collaboration between us, the teacher and the gifted teacher. Although I was extremely diplomatic, I'm not sure that everyone would receive it well. My intention is to help bring the new classroom teacher up to speed, not to take over, and also to begin the conversation that needs to happen in order to establish individual educational goals for AJ this year. But the fact is, that some people might be threatened by my proposal of involvement. I don't want to come across as if I'm telling the teacher what to do, but as a concerned parent who wants to help. I'm going to sit on this for a few days and see what will happen. In the mean time, I will draft an email to the school's principal to start the ball rolling. Wish us luck.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Please pardon our appearance. We are in the process of trying to improve the appearance of this site and adding some links to the sidebar. If have any opinions of what we're doing or if there's anything you'd like to see us add here, please let us know.

Thank you,

The Management

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

There should have been coffee

Yesterday, it was my turn to take AJ to camp. After I walked him to his class, I stopped by the information desk to look at some of the literature they had displayed. One of the people behind the table said, "Oh, the parent meeting is in 216." I hadn't heard about the parent meeting. I'd been planning on asking if there was some place I could hole up with my laptop for a couple of hours. But since it sounded like I was supposed to go to a parent meeting, I found my way to room 216.

It was not what I was expecting. I had assumed they were going to talk to us about some of the other programs that the place that runs the camp has to offer. Instead, it turned out to be a sort of airing of issues of gifted education. And I was really surprised by some of the things I heard.

All of us had come to the camp because we were looking for some additional challenges for our children. All of us were very active in our schools (some public, some religious or private; none for gifted kids only. I was the only person dealing with no gifted program at all). There were cub scout leaders and school board members and PTO presidents. The thing that surprised me was that with all that experience in the schools, no one seemed to have done much to advocate for their kids in their schools, to try to get different programs, to questions policies in place. They mentioned being afraid they would look like one of those parents just trying to push their kid too far (been there. done that. got over it.). Or they didn't want to bother the teachers. Some, like the woman who said her school didn't want her son working ahead in the math curriculum because they didn't know what they'd do with him when they finished it, were frustrated, but they didn't know what to do about it. In talking with them and telling them about my experiences this year with AJ, I realized just how much I have learned. The reason it was so shocking to hear some of these things was that it was exactly where I was about a year ago.

In the end, I came home feeling like I'd taken over the meeting. I was asked a lot of questions and I talked a lot. I felt like a bit of a blowhard. But I do feel that working with your school is something every parent needs to learn how to do. Every kid deserves it. And we all need to get past what other people may think of us. Because if we're embarrassed and hold back, the only people who suffer are our kids.

Beyond the discussion of school advocacy, there were some other things I found interesting. We talked for a while about the way our kids tend to obsess on different subjects, drag you into it, and then often give up on it when they've gotten all they needed and decide to move on to something else. This is challenging for parents. Adults are more interested in achievement and commitment. But we need to get over that too. There's a time to push, and there's a time to let your kid explore. AJ was almost afraid to tell us when he'd decided that space was no longer his most favorite thing. He's still interested. He still likes it, but it's not the same as it was for a couple of years when he could hardly be induced to talk about anything else. Now it's Pokemon. In a few months, it will probably be something else.

We also talked about how we're collectively on the fence about grade skipping. I stand my my previous statement that it may be a good option for some kids, but not for every kid. And I still think it can cause nearly as many problems as it can solve. But it depends very much on the student and on the school and teachers involved.

We also all have trouble getting our kids to eat breakfast. I found this a funny coincidence, but it also made sense. These kids wake up in the morning with their brains running in overdrive. Although getting AJ to sit still for any meal is hard -- he's always begging for a book or a game or to watch TV because the boredom of mealtime is too much for him and apparently talking to his parents is not good enough -- breakfast is definitely the worst. This may seem like an unimportant detail, but it drove home a point, which is that gifted children don't just learn more quickly, they learn differently. I think this is a point I did not drive home enough in my post responding to Miss Self-Important's post on gifted children as victims a few days ago. It's not just about finding advanced work: It's about finding appropriate work and methods. This includes identifying gifted children not only by their test scores, but also by observation in the classroom. Plenty of gifted kids do poorly on tests or in their grades because they are bored and therefore inattentive or because they think it's stupid and don't bother. Giftedness often manifests itself as a behavior problem in the classroom. Appropriate work can make for a better learning environment for everyone.

Although the meeting was not particularly productive, it was interesting and it gave me a lot to think about.I

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mad Hot Science

Today was AJ's first day of Gifted Camp, a camp founded and directed by a well-known educator and advocate of gifted children and operating under the aegis of a university. [I'm bypassing links and using altered names in my discussions of the camp and classes for security reasons] This is our first experience with classes designed specifically for gifted children and we weren't exactly sure what to expect.

Our interactions prior to the first day gave me the impression of a lack of organization, probably due to not enough staff people. There were many glitches, including unreturned phone calls, a mailing with no mention of the address of the school where the camp is taking place, and promises of paperwork that did not arrive. However, none of it was particularly major -- the address was easy enough to find, the paperwork was not important. And this has not had much effect on our impression of the place.

When my husband Mr. Spy dropped AJ off at camp this morning, the school was full of lost and confused parents wandering around the school trying to figure out where they were supposed to go. AJ barely made it to his first class on time.

But after that, it's been all good. AJ loved his classes and his teachers and his fellow students. He is taking three 50 minute classes and gets to change rooms in between them, just like a big kid. They are doing exciting, hands on things. In his first class, devoted to mechanical physics, they experimented with pulleys and ropes to try to pick up a heavy cement block. In his second class, they experimented with common kitchen items to see which would dissolve most quickly in water and which would not dissolve at all. His third class, he said, was his favorite. They are working in teams to solve a math mystery, working with number patterns and codes and math problems over the next two weeks to earn jigsaw puzzle pieces that will fit together and tell them the solution. When he got home, he was totally switched on, excited about all of it.

But I'm still struggling with a couple of issues, which are, in a way, related.

Issue 1:

Afterwards, AJ and I went up to the pool to rest our brains in the sun. AJ was talking excitedly about going to camp in the morning. Of course, the other parents asked me which camp he was attending, and I hestitated. Do I tell them he's going to Gifted Camp? It sounds like bragging. But if I don't, what do I say? I'm a lousy liar, so I just told them the truth, but in such a small town, I wonder about the wisdom of it.

Issue 2:

Yes, AJ needs more academic challenges in his life. He gets grouchy when he's bored, even if he's the one who's not taking the initiative. He doesn't always know what to ask for. And I'm happy to be able to offer him more challenges. But really, what they're doing, at least on the science side of things, is something that could be happening in school. Why don't we start scientific experimentation in preschool? Maybe they do in some places, but not in the ones I can afford. Rising second graders don't need to be gifted to have fun with pulleys or to understand some of the physics behind it. Maybe they won't all get it the first time around, but why not let them try?

These both get back to my difficulty with the label "gifted." I don't doubt that there's genetics behind it. But really, how much of giftedness has to do with opportunity? With parental involvement? With good teachers well paid? And if we're helping out our gifted kids, is there something we can do to help everyone else as well? I'm still not sure I know the answer to this.

Later at the pool, I was sitting next to the mother of a girl in AJ's grade. She and I have had many discussions about the wisdom of our school's decision to isolate the ESL kids in their own classes, rather than figure out how to integrate Spanish and English speakers in one classroom. We both feel that this segregation is egregious and will have far-reaching consequences for those kids in the future. Today, she announced she was running for the school board. She has had it and she wants to do something about it. I told her I'd vote for her. I considered whether I would run and decided I wasn't really interested in being involved in that way, at least not at the moment. Because advocating AJ's needs takes up too much of my time already. Am I being selfish? Most definitely. But is there more I can do from my own angle? Perhaps. I'll have to give it some thought.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gifted Child as Victim

Miss Self-Important has an interesting post up today about the tendency to cast gifted students as victims. She writes about this in the context of a couple of other posts on public education in which (and please correct me if I'm mischaracterizing you, Miss S-I), she asserts that the point of public education has more to do with societal normalization than with learning per se. Those of you who've been reading me here and at spynotes will know that these are points on which I generally concur.

The casting of gifted students as victims is one of the reasons I started this blog in the first place, although I realize that by blogging about this topic at all, I've already probably played into the system that causes it. But in looking for information about ways to get my kid working in school at his own level, I got frustrated at the forcing of gifted students (and sometimes their parents and teachers) into the role of the victim. What I was looking for is a more practical approach.

I agree with what Miss Self-Important says about public schools. They are mostly about communicating social order and expectations and that is not necessarily a bad thing. But that doesn't mean that my kid should have to sit through curriculum that is several grade levels below what he should be working on. Just because the system seems geared towards accomplishing some specific goals doesn't mean other goals can't be accomplished as well.

When we were making decisions about AJ's schooling, we looked at public vs. private vs. private gifted only vs. homeschooling. The decision of where to send him turned out to be a lot more about socialization than about education. I am well qualified to educate him at home, at least for a while and the resources for homeschoolers in our area are abundant. But it turned out that it's important to me for AJ to not only be with other kids, but to be with other kids from a variety of backgrounds and experiences (or as much variety as our suburban district allows, which is significantly less than an urban district is likely to offer). And I had a very strong gut reaction against schools for the gifted that was only partially based on their exorbitant tuition prices. It took me a while to sort through that one, but it's similarly based: I want AJ to meet a variety of people, to not be in a hothouse environment. Of lesser importance was the fact that it's likely we won't be here terribly long and I want his school experience to be transferable to other areas.

So public school was the clear winner for us. As we got involved, I realized that there were other reasons we landed there. It is important to me to be part of our community and getting into the schools is one important way to do that. After more than four years living here, I didn't know most of my neighbors until AJ left his preschool and joined the public school for kindergarten. Also, the school is not too big and not too small and has teachers and administrators who want to make it the best it can be. They are not necessarily the best and brightest teachers and administrators (although I'd put AJ's teacher this past year in that category), but they are motivated and they listen. There are plenty of opportunities to help make a difference and plenty of opportunities to enact change as needed, as long as you're willing to put yourself on the front lines.

I have struggled with the gifted label for AJ which is, like any label, confining. AJ demonstrates the kind of skills that make him easy to identify as an advanced learner, namely they are the kind of skills that are easily measurable on standard tests. He read very early and was tested in his school this year as reading six grade levels above the norm. This measure was obtained on a test that everyone took, not on a special test for gifted students. (On those tests, he turns up about 3 grades ahead. This itself is interesting and suspicious, but the testing topic is one to leave for another day. ) His school doesn't take math standardized tests until the end of third grade, so they have not measured those skills, but the results are likely to be similar there too for different reasons. The tests do not measure lots of other things about AJ. They don't measure his ability to comprehend complicated strategies that I see when he trounces me in chess and Stratego and when he makes play decisions on the football field. They don't measure his artistic skills which are, at best, totally average. They don't measure his aural abilities, which would probably show he has a well-developed musical ear. This in turn would fail to show how he has not taken well to instrument lessons. He's certainly no musical prodigy. School testing doesn't measure his freakish ability to identify style, whether visual or musical, which enables him to identify musical and artistic works he's never seen before with astounding (at least to me) accuracy. It's harder for me to come up with things he does not do well, because I am his mother and I'm hopelessly biased. But basically, my point is that by gifted we mean "academically gifted." And I think we should call it such, because it is those kids who are caught in the No Child Left Behind bind that casts them as victims of their higher levels of skill. I am not a fan of the movement to identify multiple planes of giftedness in schools, not because I don't agree with it, but because I think it's beside the point when you're dealing with most schools, which are all about academic skills. In an academic setting, it comes across as one more "everybody is special" maneuver. If you want to include the multiple planes, then they need to be included across the board in the curriculum, and I don't see public schools interested in doing that. Whether or not they should is also a topic best left for another day. But public schools run on test scores and the kids that are gifted in a way that makes them get higher test scores are the only ones we're talking about here.

I totally agree that if a public school's job is to prepare students for good citizenship, then the public schools should be teaching to the basics and trying to bring those falling behind up to speed. There is no obligation in such a system to deal with those performing above and beyond. But as a parent, I know that is just plain wrong. As a parent, it is my job to question the system when it isn't working for my child. After all, I help pay for the system. It is my obligation to help make it do what I think it needs to be doing. My reasons for lobbying hard for resources at my school are entirely selfish. I want my kid to do well and to get what I think he needs. I don't think my kid should have to spend 7 hours a day sitting in a classroom "learning" something he's known how to do for years. If I didn't have a kid in this position, I probably wouldn't be involved in our school in this particular way.

But just because my motivation is primarily selfish doesn't mean my actions don't have a broader reach (much as the school's primary function as a citizenizer doesn't mean the school isn't having other functions as well). And as an educator, my motives are more altruistic. As an educator, I am more interested in helping the school figure out how to better address individual needs in general, not just for gifted kids or kids with learning disabilities. It's something I think about a lot in my own teaching, although by the time I get them, in classrooms at an elite university, they've largely been sorted out into groups of similar skills. Any necessary individuation usually revolves around whether or not the student's first language is English and whether he or she has a learning disability of some sort. And in the music classroom, I also run into students who are so visually oriented that they struggle with learning something aurally. I try to adapt materials and methods for them too. But compared to the spectrum of skills and abilities in a public school classroom, I've got it easy.

So back to the gifted child as victim. This is a rhetorical ploy. In the current system, the kids who get help are victims. Therefore, to get help, we think we have to be victims. This is the logic behind the victimization, flawed as it may be. But before you decry the flaws, let me point out that it is the public school system that is aligning gifted students with disabled students, not just the parents. This happens because in many if not most public school systems, the only way to get individualized curriculum is to be disabled. Disabled is defined loosely as being outside the norm. It was recommended to us to get an IEP (Individualized Education Plan), which is required for LD students. And really, in terms of the way the classroom works, gifted students ARE disabled -- they don't fit the plan. But not, of course, in terms of test scores or achievement.

Also, as any teacher who has dealt with gifted kids in a mainstream classroom (at least at the elementary level) will probably tell you, it's not just about speed of learning but about the way they learn. There are a whole other host of tendencies that gifted kids have that make it harder for them to function in a traditional classroom setting and some of them are disruptive. This comes into play with the giftedness-as-pathology stance as well, but it also suggests that different methodologies are required for these kids in much the same way that kids who are more visually oriented need different techniques than those who are more aurally oriented.

And here's the other reason it happens: if there is no intervention for gifted students, a lot of the time their test scores end up suffering too. They shut down or refuse to perform. It's in a school's best interest -- and certainly in a student's best interest -- to prevent this from happening rather than to try to clean it up after it has happened.

My problem with the victim stance is that it defines the student by his or her lack of agency. In some cases, I'm sure, it is harder to act than others. But being gifted doesn't mean there are no options. Gifted students need advocates and action. If they are victims, it is because someone is allowing it to happen. And, in fact, ANY kid would benefit from this. The more someone's paying attention, the less they get lost in the shuffle.

Miss Self-Important, though, questions whether it's really that bad for gifted students to be bored. In the general scheme of things, it's probably not that bad and I definitely think kids need a certain amount of boredom to figure out how to make things interesting for themselves. But when your kid is forced to read "Hop on Pop" in school when he's reading The Lightning Thief or Harry Potter at home, that just doesn't make any sense. It's not mere boredom. Memorizing times tables is boring. Reading multiple grade levels below your ability is excruciating. And yes, I do think that gifted students need to be held to a different standard, especially in the early grades, because it's in the early grades that they are most learning how to act in school. Here's an example. For the first several grading periods this year, AJ was getting low scores in something called "reading fluidity," which has to do with the way they read out loud. At home, AJ is reading incredibly fluidly and with great expression and has been since he was 3 or 4. He loves to read out loud. But it turned out that in school, he was reading very slowly and with a lot of breaks between words. This is because he was trying to sound like the way the other kids in his class read. He didn't get that they read that way because they didn't know the words. He processed it as "the way you read in school." No, it's not the worst thing in the world to try to fit in, but what he got out of this was that he needed to regress. I don't think this is the message anyone wanted him to get. Another example: in the beginning of the year, he was given the option of alternative math work at his level and he usually chose not to take it because he wanted to do what everyone else was doing and because he felt like he was being punished with extra work. By giving him an out, by not holding him to his own standards, he felt embarrassed about what he could do and he pretended not to know the things he knows. At home, however, he would complain bitterly about how boring the math was and how much he hated it. Again, there is a social adaptation skill that is learned here, but from an educational standpoint, letting it go at that doesn't make any sense. At our request, an alternate program was instituted without asking for his choice and AJ was happier and more relaxed and his attitude towards school and particularly towards math was much improved.

And here's another reason I think such individuation is necessary (and I reiterate, although I don't argue it much here, that I think individuation is beneficial for ALL students, not just for the gifted or learning disabled. The practicality of such widespread individuation, however, is questionable.) I may be a Yuppie parent, at least by origin, I do not think a child needs to be intellectually stimulated at all times. Quite the opposite -- I think a kid needs free time to figure out what to do with him/herself. But this belief does not extend to school. In school, I think he should expect to be intellectually stimulated, at least some of the time (he should also expect some things will not interest him and some rote learning will be required) because purportedly (if not in practice), that is what school is for. You may disagree with me, but that is what schools say they are for (even if they may be operating on other principles, even if it's impractical) and if AJ is to learn to be a good citizen, he needs to get through the educational system. While elementary school may not be intellectually stimulating, it is likely that somewhere down the educational line, something will be. And it shouldn't come as a total shock.

Miss Self-Important also brings up the touchy issue of grade skipping. I'm on the fence about this one and I don't think it's a decision that can be made globally. AJ could probably do just fine in 5th grade intellectually in the fall. But he would be the only seven-year-old in a school of fifth and sixth graders. He's not ready for that socially -- he's too much of a joiner and I'm pretty sure he'd be unhappy. He's still seven and I don't think hanging out with tweens is going to do him any favors at this point. If I thought a single grade jump would help him significantly, I'd lobby for it. But one grade isn't going to help him much and it would likely be social suicide. I know plenty of people who feel otherwise. I have no real objection to grade skipping in principal, but more people would need to be doing it for AJ to feel comfortable. I do, however, think it's a little odd that many schools have a hard and fast policy against grade skipping. Just because it's not right for my kid doesn't mean it's not right for somebody.

And finally, Miss Self-Important questions the value of gifted programs. I think there's too much variability to have an opinion on this. Some work, some don't. I was involved in gifted programs from kindergarten through eighth grade in multiple school districts, all of which were what they call "pull-out" programs, where I was pulled out of my classroom once or twice a week for a special class. Some of them were good, some not so much. I always loved getting out of my class -- change is good. And the activities were more creative and fun. But I didn't really understand why they were for gifted kids only -- most of the activities seemed to me suitable for anyone. Why couldn't we just do this kind of thing in our regular classes? I'm still not sure I know the answer. We haven't hit the gifted program with AJ yet, but our school district does things a little differently. In 3rd and 4th grade, they cluster kids in their classrooms as well as offer them pull-out programs, some individual, some as a group. In 5th and 6th grade, at which point the kids of that age in the district are consolidated at a single school, they have their own class. In 7th and 8th grade, when they start changing classes, they are tracked within their classes (this sounds like a logistical nightmare and I can't believe they actually do it this way, but this is what I've been told). And in high school, as in most places, they are on their own.

To sum up this long ramble, I guess I basically agree with Miss Self-Important that victimhood is not a position I recommend and that boredom is not necessarily so bad. But I temper these opinions with their practical implications. There is a limit to how much boredom a student should have to take. In the working world, I may be plenty bored with the job I accept, but I have choices about what jobs to take. Kids don't have any choice -- they have to go to school somewhere and they have to spend a lot of time doing it. I see no reason why gifted kids should have to suffer a system that does not acknowledge their existence when they don't have any alternatives.