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Searching for Gifted Utopia

Gifted Education and Support

What would the perfect school look like to you? Do you picture a public school with resourceful teachers and administrators? Do you picture a private school with rigorous academics? When you look around your community, it may appear as if there are no ideal options available to your student. Especially with current concerns over school safety and pandemic precautious, you may be scrutinizing your options for this school year more than ever.

You are not alone. Many families in our Young Scholars program ask about where the best school for profoundly gifted students is. But there isn’t one school that works for everyone. When we have this conversation with families, certain myths do surface again and again:

Myth 1: Private schools are the answer. Private schools can offer different educational models than public schools, and this is one reason why there are Young Scholars in private schools across the country. However, unlike public schools, private schools don’t have a mandate to support every young person— including gifted individuals and students with learning differences. For this reason, some families have found private schools less flexible and less willing to accommodate their unique student.

Myth 2: Gifted schools are the answer. Gifted schools can provide a community of students that may be close to true peers for a profoundly gifted individual. However, because these schools set their own definition of giftedness—perhaps equating giftedness with high-achievement or putting a cap on accommodations (i.e., students can, at maximum, work 2 grades above level)—it can turn into a complicated situation, especially if your student doesn’t fit their mold of what they think a gifted student should be.

Myth 3: Public schools don’t work. We do have students in the Young Scholars program who are thriving in a public school setting. Sometimes there are programs that can offer students more flexibility than you’d expect—dual enrollment in college classes, grade acceleration, or access to advanced classes at an earlier point. Advocating at public schools can be exhausting, but there are many families that have made it work. And sometimes there are public charters that offer alternatives to the local public school.

Myth 4: If I only lived in X, there would be more school options for my student. Many families state that they’re willing to move anywhere for the perfect school. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to recommend a specific area. We’ve found that schools are continuously evolving and what works well for one student does not necessarily work well for another (and what works today for one individual doesn’t always work tomorrow). The fact is that most families in all parts of the country struggle to find a good fit school for their child (even in metropolitan areas like San Francisco).

Myth 5: Homeschooling wouldn’t work for our family. For many homeschooling gifted students, this was not their first choice. Homeschooling isn’t an easy option; it requires a big shift for the entire family. However, many of our families have found creative solutions to make it work—including having two working parents, supporting twice-exceptionality, or homeschooling part-time. It’s not always perfect, but many families enjoy the flexibility and control homeschooling affords them.

Many of the families we have worked with through our Davidson programs cycle through several educational options in an effort to find the best fit for their student. Sometimes families will have to make a schooling decision that is the least-worst educational option, or sometimes families find a good fit in a setting they didn’t think would work.

Essentially, we’ve found that the two most important characteristics of a school or any learning environment are open-mindedness and flexibility when it comes to meeting your student’s needs. Once a family has found a school with such an attitude, our experience is that the school setting becomes a little bit closer to being a relatively good fit. The path forward may be unclear for your family at this time, but remember our gifted students are adaptable, resilient, and have a love for learning that comes in many shapes and sizes.

Check out the following list for additional resources on finding educational options for your student

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Please note, the Davidson Institute is a non-profit serving families with highly gifted children. We will not post comments that are considered soliciting, mention illicit topics, or share highly personal information.

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