When my daughter was identified as gifted in first grade at the public school, I didn't read too much into it. I was sure the school would take care of her education. After all, they identified her as gifted and were willing to send her to a gifted and talented program two hours a week with other gifted kids. However, she complained about how boring school was, and how it was not fair that she could not participate in classroom games because she knew the answers, and the teacher wanted other students to answer. She was unhappy to be made an assistant teacher in these classroom games so she could ask questions instead of offering answers. She was told to help other students, and felt it was unfair that she had to waste her time helping teachers, teaching other students but not learning anything herself.
I remember telling her that helping teachers and teaching other students itself was learning something, and it would help her in the future, but she was still angry at the school and teachers for not giving her an opportunity to learn.
But that was nothing compared to the disconnect she felt with other kids at school as she entered middle school. She felt so different from girls who talked about boys, clothes, shopping, the latest gossip, and where and with whom to sit in the lunchroom. Although she attended a magnet program for math and science at the local high school, and a gifted program at the middle school, she just felt like an alien. She spent three to four hours every evening at gymnastics training, but even there she stood out when she spoke. The kids at the gym would ask her what she meant or the meaning of the word she used. She had to learn to speak at the level kids could understand.
In 2005, I finally decided to apply to the Young Scholars (YS) program after reading Genius Denied, a book co-authored by the Davidsons with Laura Vanderkam. I knew my daughter had a high enough IQ score for YS but she wasn't like the kids described in Genius Denied. She wasn't one of those kids who started to read without being taught or started playing a musical instrument without much training.
Of course, the YS application itself was pretty daunting. It was long and full of questions that I couldn't recall the answers to. I did the best I could and hoped for the best. When she was accepted, my son asked me why he wasn't a YS. "Am I not as smart?" he asked, so I had to spend more time filling out a YS form for my son. Although my son's IQ was slightly higher than my daughter, he was not unhappy at school like my daughter was. I was pretty sure he would become a YS since his IQ score was higher than my daughter, but it was still tough to wait for the acceptance notice for my son. I keep telling myself that both would be YS, but did not know what I would do if he did not get in. How would he feel if his sister was a YS but he wasn't? Luckily I didn't have to deal with that issue as my son was accepted as well.
In 2005, we attended the YS Summit at San Diego and met many other YS kids from all over the United States. My daughter who did not make friends easily was almost immediately surrounded by kids like herself and was able to talk freely without having to think about whether they would understand what she was saying. My daughter had a great time and met many kids with whom she still talks. I also met many parents who had the same challenges as I had. I was able to talk with them about the challenges of raising profoundly gifted kids and gain insights from their experience about many issues I was going through.
Through the YS program, my kids were able to meet other kids like themselves online and then meet them face-to-face at the annual Summit. One of the best things about the YS program was for my daughter to have an online group to review her writing and receive feedback as she is an aspiring writer.
Through these annual Summits, we learned of The Davidson Academy and decided to move to Reno, so that my kids could have the peer group they lacked at their schools in our state. Moving to Reno for our kids' education was not an easy choice, but we felt it was the right move for our kids.
Our kids have been in The Davidson Academy since its inception three years ago, and my daughter was in the first graduating class of The Davidson Academy in 2009. She will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) this fall.
Programs mentioned in this story:Young ScholarsDavidson Academy of Nevada
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