How I Failed at Gifted Advocacy

My son is about to turn 13 and I have been failing at gifted advocacy for about 10 of those years.

“Wait, did you just say failing?”

Yes. Yes I did.

Since I only have a handful of years to continue failing him, I thought I’d share with you all the ways I went wrong.

I didn’t start early enough.

B taught himself to read at 2.5. By the time he was in preschool he was pretty much reading chapter books independently. For some reason I didn’t want to mention this to his teachers in fear of “showing off” or something.  I guess I thought they would figure it out on their own. Once I realized they didn’t (which was over a year later), I did mention something and he was placed in a grade up reading group.

 

I empowered my son to speak up when he wasn’t satisfied with his education.

I didn’t want to become “one of those parents” who thinks their kids need to be pushed into MORE so when B had a complaint about school we role played how he could approach his teachers with the problem.

This sounds like a good idea right?

It failed. EVERY. TIME.

I’m not going to get into details of how my son was treated when he tried to advocate for himself but I’m here to tell you that it’s not a good idea.  If I could do it over again, I would BE THAT PARENT over and over again.

 

I used too much WD 40.

It’s hard to believe that I wasn’t the squeakiest wheel but I’m here to tell you that I wasn’t and in turn missed out on opportunities that were given to the squeakiest.

I’ve since thrown all the cans away.

 

I didn’t get actionable items in writing.

I can’t tell you how many hours we had meetings with well-intended educators, to collaborate on paths we can take to support B in his educational journey. These educators have come up with excellent ideas worth executing. We were so on board we would leave these meetings feeling GREAT.

::a month passes by::

Nothing happens. Not. One. Thing.

With nothing in writing I had nothing to follow up on except words in air.

 

I assumed being involved would allow me to have all the knowledge I would need.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am 80% more informed about our local education programs than the average person but that 20% I don’t know sometimes has the information I need.

This may all make me sound angry and bitter but I am not. Our educational journey has not always been a smooth road but it’s been our road.

Our number one success in advocacy is listening TO our child. What does he say about school, what works for him, what does he want. What are his goals?

When we combine listening to our child with efforts to advocate for him, we aren’t failing. We are parents.

I might be homeschooling. OMG.

Let’s pause and take a good look at that title for a moment.

Ok. Ok. Breath, me.

Having a child who doesn’t fit conventional schooling has always had me think about homeschooling.  It’s easy to over analyze early education years into regrets.  It’s not that he didn’t learn in those years but right at the point in which his brain process was wide with creative thoughts, I sent him to a place that supports thoughts within boundaries.

With a few exceptions, we had a handful of pretty good years until this year.

Along with the rest of the country, our district is adjusting curriculum to meet common core standards. I am actually in support of the standards, so this is not me against common core.  What this is about is how my district has changed curriculum and how those changes have been implemented.

Within the 1st month of school my son started complaining about language arts. To make sure it wasn’t just teenage crazy going on, I had him write me a paper with his thoughts on it.  Next, I went to a presentation on how the new language arts curriculum was being implemented. I sat with an open mind but the thing that struck me overall was the BOXED in feeling of it. I can’t explain exactly what I was picking up on but I asked a question about “the creative child” and was assured that this new curriculum was a great fit for all children.

Every day he came home with a criticism of the curriculum. He would pick it apart and would talk to me in exhaustion on how this should be that way, or x, or y, or z or omygoshigetitkid.

My son is also gifted in persistent point making.

So we talked with the teacher at parent teacher conferences about his concerns.

Then we had a meeting with the school curriculum assistant and his teacher.

When neither of those seemed to work, we explored getting him into the district gifted program, but I refuse to play the game, and that’s a different tangent.

Illinois gets a lot of things wrong about education, but not homeschooling. I don’t know how that group has done it but Illinois is a really friendly homeschooling state. We can even part time homeschool subjects with them going to school for the rest.

So that’s where I’m at.  The school has been notified; I have looked into curriculums and have even found one that I think is perfect for him. That’s what this is about anyways.  Him, his needs, and not being blinded into believing that education is a one size fits all approach. Because it’s not.

 

11 things not to say to parents of gifted children.

My son has recently started Jr. high and is in this phase of crazy brain development. It happens periodically and when it does, I truly can not keep up. The stuff that he comes up with is nothing short of mind blowing.When he’s in this phase, it becomes apparent how different he can be from his peers. I know that adults have noticed as well because the following have been said to me and also happen to be the most common misconceptions about gifted children.

1) How did you make your kid so smart?

Um….first I gave birth. Second, I just provided an environment that was open to him exploring and learning on his own.

2) Your kid will be just fine no matter what.

 

3) Wow, for a kid who is so smart, he sure is emotional.

Trust me. I’m  aware.

 

4) I’m sure he’ll get a scholarship to college.

Maybe but there’s no guarantee to that.

 

5) I’m sure he can get into an Ivy League college.

Hahahaha.  Probably not. Also, I don’t even care.

 

6) Your child probably gets straight A’s.

He gets a lot of them but I really appreciate those other grades that make him pause and evaluate.

 

7) School must be so easy for him.

In some ways, I would agree but it doesn’t equal success and I’m not impressed with A’s when little effort has been put into them.

 

8) I’m trying to make my kid gifted too.

 

9) Your child doesn’t need different instruction.  We’re meeting his needs just     fine.

Based on what evidence?

 

10) How can your child be gifted if they can barely write their name?

It’s called asynchrony development.

 

11) Every child is gifted.  

No. They’re not.