Sunday, April 20, 2008

It may not be perfect...

Our educational system has often generated mediocrity except for gifted athletes. From kindergarten, children are bombarded with pressures that urge them to modify their behavior and intellectual development toward the average of the group. Gifted children throughout our society may be trapped in an intellectual wasteland - a world that can be cruel to the gifted (Garfield, 1980).

-Webb, Meckstroth, and Tolan. "Guiding the Gifted Child: A Practical Source for Parents and Teachers."

I get very tired reading screeds against homeschooling because almost always, the person who is opposed to homeschooling ignores two very important things about public schools: (1) all except the most progressive public schools cannot or will not meet the educational needs of advanced children, and (2) the "socialization" that is present in public schools can be very harmful to the emotional well-being of gifted children.

If you bring up these points, the response to (1) is that gifted children will get along fine. They ignore the fact that gifted children will very often spend 50% of their time in school waiting for the other kids to catch up. They learn not to be challenged. The notion that children should always be with their same-age peers overrides the notion that these children have advanced intellectual needs and can feel like they're starving while waiting for something challenging.

The response to (2) is usually something that it is the gifted child who is "screwed up" and needs to learn to get along with other kids. It is completely ignored that school is the only place in the world where someone is forced to sit in a classroom with people of their same age but who may otherwise have nothing in common. It is also ignored that such a system is very intolerant of differences.

The emotional repercussions of such a system are horrible. Gifted children, at the very least, never learn how to put forth effort. When they finally do encounter a challenge (usually in college), they may have to deal with a lot of frustration. Some of this frustration can actually cause them to quit college. Never having been challenged can make them feel like they are stupid and can't cut it.

At the other end, you could have anger. In the book, "Misdiagnosis and Dual Diagnosis of Gifted Children," they discuss the prevalence of gifted students among students who have been the perpetrators of school shootings. These children are teased and harassed to the point of wanting to take other people's lives. Fortunately those that get this angry are relatively rare, but the consequences are, quite literally, deadly if the anger becomes too much.

What is most frustrating is that the people opposed to homeschooling do not provide alternatives for children with these needs. (They also ignore that some of these issues affect even non-gifted children.) They just say that the public school isn't perfect but it is certainly better than homeschooling. I wonder if they would feel any differently if it were their children going through these kinds of problems.

Carnival of Homeschooling


Rebeccat said...

People often look at being gifted as a ticket to some sort of golden life. However, there are many potential pitfalls and challenges which come with being gifted. A big thing for me to come to understand is that the experience of being gifted is fundamentally different. It's not, as the schools often look at it simply a matter of learning more quickly and easily. There is an unusual intensity and range of interests which come with being gifted. These kids are often just incomprehensible to the average kid, not because the gifted child is doing anything wrong, but just because they are so different. Without recognizing this fundamental difference, a kid who is gifted can come to think that challenges they experience in socializing with their peers are the result of some problem with themselves. Homeschooling can give a lot of gifted kids the chance to avoid this confusion and figure out how to navigate the world in a healthier way, IMO.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I think it would be interesting to get a handle on how many homeschooled kids are either gifted or twice-exceptional. I suspect there are a lot of them.

It is very difficult to get gifted/2X needs met in the public schools, particularly now that expectations have been lowered to meet the least common denominator in strictly age-graded classes.

I am also amazed at how many screeds against homeschooling begin from a point of complete ignorance about homeschooling and about who chooses it and why.

Thanks for the post!

Crimson Wife said...

There is a huge misperception out there that only affluent white or Asian kids are gifted. So you've got all these well-meaning liberals opposed to GATE because they believe it promotes social inequality. What they fail to realize is that the gifted kids hurt most by the lack of GATE in the government-run schools are the ones from low-to-moderate income families. Affluent ones can afford the pricey tuition for private GATE schools (our local one charges $23k per child per year) or the foregone 2nd income for homeschooling.

Anonymous said...

This is a point my dh and I made to our dd recently in explaining to her why we had chosen to homeschool; dh and I were both gifted students and both learned in school that we could come out on top with very minimal effort. I almost never did the assigned reading except in literature, if it was a book I found interesting. I found I could pass tests easily, even in my honors classes, just on the info I gleaned from the lectures. I was interested and participated and took notes in class -- but the grading system rewarded my laziness and procrastination rather than giving me incentive to plan ahead, do the outside reading, and stick to a difficult task.

Anonymous said...

Your idea about the gifted kid him/herself being screwed up -- I was reminded of your blog post this morning when I was reading the article on the 19-year-old college professor, and one of the commenters made a remark to the effect that she was going to be missing out on invaluable peer interactions, and wasn't it sad, and so on.

It's so frustrating when the integration of intelligence and personality isn't acknowledged at all or understood at all, as if this "gifted" thing were somehow separate from the child's personality as a whole rather than being integral to it.

Arrgh. Interesting post!