Parenting a Strong Student

At the end of the last school year my eldest son’s teacher reached out to my wife and I with news any parent would welcome:

“I think you should have your son tested,” she said. “He might be gifted.”

Every parent thinks their kids are special but while my wife and I did realize that he possesses a capacity to learn and retain large amounts of knowledge, we didn’t fantasize that he was potentially going to be classified as gifted. He excels at reading, vocabulary and reading comprehension. His math skills are strong but lag behind his exceptional reading skills.

As parents, we are thrilled with the designation. It will open doors for him and, hopefully, put him on a path towards greater academic success. It also gives us an unvarnished view of his potential abilities, which will enable us to push him, find appropriate resources and plan for potential pitfalls.

We know the next few years will be filled with exciting opportunities for our son and we want to give him every chance to succeed and achieve as much as he possibly can. There are some challenges as well, both from a school standpoint and a social one. As dedicated parents, we’re trying to navigate those possible problem areas while remaining focused on his educational well-being. Here are the things we’re focused on:

Make sure he’s challenged. Our son is in 2nd grade, so the workload is easy for him. But we don’t want to take it easy on him. We know that his brain is capable of acquiring large amounts of information and he has a sponge-like quality of remembering and recalling facts and information that we can scarcely believe he can recall. Our goal is to make sure not only that he’s challenged in school but that he’s challenged at home. We try to indulge his interests — space, science, animals — and also make sure that he is always reading. If we can do our part as parents to complement what he’s learning at school, we hope that he gains a lifelong thirst for knowledge and one day independently strives to learn all that he can.

Available resources. Our school district told us that because of his classification he’ll have the opportunity to take advantage of classes, clubs and programs that will be available to gifted children. We absolutely intend to investigate those resources as they may unlock some study area for him that will enable him to become more well-rounded and learned.

Manage his deficiencies. Our son is smart so he doesn’t struggle with homework. When he does, however, it’s an issue. He complains and often wants to give up quickly. We’ve come to the realization that not everything will come easily to him and because he’s used to doing tasks and assignments quickly, he may struggle when something eludes his immediate grasp. We wonder, when an assignment is hard, how hard will he work? It’s one of the areas that we’re monitoring and we try to use different techniques to calm him and help him manage his own expectations. It’s also about building a work ethic in him that will match his intellectual skills to give him a strong foundation for accomplishment in the future.

Where he’ll go to school. By the beginning of next school year my wife and I have a decision to make. There is a program for gifted kids in our school district and the school where it’s located is not too far from where we live. We hear good things about it and it would ensconce him in a program filled only with gifted children and with a rigorous academic schedule focused around his needs. While we plan to investigate the program — which is located at a middle school — our gut instinct tells us to keep him at our neighborhood school. This is our thinking — he’s in a school with his friends and his brother, he’s doing well in school and to move him might be challenging to him from a social perspective. We believe in the teachers at his current school and feel strongly that they have his best interests at heart. Who knows? We may change our minds but for now keeping him where he is remains our expectation.

This is a good issue to have. We have instilled a desire for learning and a love of books in both of our kids and while we cannot take credit for our son’s abilities, we can take credit for creating an environment conducive to academic success. We’ll give both of our kids all of the room to achieve to their level while gently pushing them to be all they can be.

(Photo credit: Foter.com)

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The Beginning
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