Education can be such a funny little world. For example, we have all this research (you can read more here, here, and here) suggesting that retention is not all it’s cracked up to be. This is not new information and yet our schools retain kids all the time. At the same time, we have all this research suggesting that acceleration is not only beneficial for intellectually gifted children but is also cost effective and yet if the word acceleration is mentioned you are met with immediate backlash.
Last year, I thought about acceleration all the time. Leo was in a half-day kindergarten program and it wasn’t working. I’ve mentioned before that I wish more people understood the asynchronous development aspect of giftedness. Last year, I had a child who was chronologically six-years-old, but he was- and continues to be- many ages at once. In kindergarten, Leo’s reading was at a 6th-grade level, math was at a mid-3rd-grade level, and his writing was at a mid-2nd-grade level. At our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad meeting, I asked how this asynchrony would be addressed in the coming year. I suggested acceleration and was met with immediate disdain. In fact, a few folks flinched.
“He’d be in over his head.”
“He’s a boy. It’s different for boys. They’re so young.”
“He already has such a hard time sitting still and focusing.”
“You wouldn’t want to do that to him.”
Do you know what I wouldn’t want to do to him, folks? I wouldn’t want to place him in a classroom Monday-Friday for an entire year where the teacher would be going over material that he had mastered in preschool. Yes, he already had a difficult time sitting still and focusing, but how on Earth would putting him in that classroom situation help with those issues? After one year of a half-day program, I had seen his love of learning dulled. To place a child this energetic, a child this curious, a child this passionate about learning, in a classroom all day and have him learn next to nothing? That would be torture, folks.
I wouldn’t want to do that to him.
So, I suggested partial acceleration, thinking that perhaps it was less scary for those at our terrible, horrible, no good, very bad meeting. I added that, when I was in elementary school, I was subject accelerated for reading and writing. The Catholic school that I went to did it in such a creative and flawless way that I only realized I was subject accelerated recently, upon reflection. I thought that perhaps this anecdote, coming from an educator, would help, but once again I was met with contempt.
The school countered that the incoming first-grade class was an especially bright bunch and that Leo was in the “perfect cohort” – this, despite the fact that only moments before they had stated they had never seen scores so high. When I asked how they would meet his unique needs, I kept hearing, “Differentiate! We’ll differentiate!” When I asked what this would look like, no one could elaborate.
Finally, I asked, “How are you going to meet the needs of a kid who is reading on a 6th-grade level and doing math at a mid-third grade level in a K-3 building?”
And do you want to know what the psychologist told me? These are real words, folks. I will never forget them because it was in that moment that I knew, with full certainty, that we would be homeschooling. The psychologist actually said to me, “We’ll just have someone walk down from the upper elementary with a book.”
With a book?!
Who? What? I mean… just… WHAT?! I had been on the fence, wavering back and forth, before the meeting. Homeschooling a profoundly gifted kid, at that point in time, felt completely overwhelming to me. But, someone with a book felt much, much worse.
I am now thankful for those words. Those words made me both angry and determined. In that moment I knew that, while I had no idea how I was going to do this, I would without a doubt do it better than someone with a book.
It has almost been one year since that meeting and things feel lighter here. I am consistently amazed by what a difference a year can make. And, while I continue to be an advocate for acceleration, it’s no longer on our family’s radar.
When I first learned of this blog hop topic I thought to myself, “Acceleration? How am I going to address that?”
Acceleration is a non-issue for our family. The beauty of homeschooling is that you are able to meet your child exactly where he or she is at, and you address his or her unique needs. You don’t worry about grade level. There are no exams. Leo is allowed to read what he wants. He’s read The Hobbit, The Neverending Story, and Wonder this year- all of these books came from my bookshelf. We use multiple sources for math, but all of them are on either a third or a fourth-grade level, and he’s working on fourth and fifth-grade language arts. He is obsessed with science and conducts far more experiments in any given week than he would in a typical first-grade setting. He takes art classes, piano lessons, he’s dabbling in both Spanish and Latin, he’s learning to code, he maintains his own blog, he does gymnastics in the winter and soccer when the weather is nice, and he participates in both service and nature study. And we have oodles of free time, folks. We play, we read, we play tons of board games, and we hike. There’s absolutely no way he’d be involved in all this if he were in school 8:00 am until close to 4:00 pm, and I’d bet the farm that he wouldn’t be happy or well-behaved in that setting.
Put simply, I meet him where he is at and go from there, without worrying about grade levels. His unique, asynchronous needs are being met and he’s happy. How amazing would it be if we could do this for all the kids? Can you imagine that next generation, folks??
So… tell me, how do you feel about acceleration? Have you any experience with it? Are the unique needs of your children being met? Share your stories here. And, for those of you who are where I was last year, please read A Nation Deceived. It’s available for free online here. I also have a great board on Pinterest chock-full of pins related to giftedness:
This post was part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page March 2015 Blog Hop on acceleration. Please click here to keep hopping!
How do we justify an educational system that ignores competence and achievement, and utilizes chronological age as the primary, or only, factor in student placement?
~Miraca Gross, Professor of Gifted Education
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool and GeekMom. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram
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