Below is part two of Angelique Fowler's three-part blog series around her experiences with gifted education in the South.
Few Americans realize that no strong federal mandate exists for the expected education of gifted students, and far too often, parents like me are simply considered “whiners” when we protest for a quality education for our own children. What does this say about what we value as a nation? Are gifted children somehow less deserving of an education than other students? Are their minds somehow less valuable as a national resource? We see no problem in fully funding strong athletic programs to groom world class athletes, but what about grooming world class scientists, writers, musicians and mathematicians? According to the National Association for Gifted Children, it is believed that up to 25 percent of high school dropouts are gifted students with the number one reason for dropout being stated as “boredom.” For the parents of a gifted child, this means a constant quest to work to keep active, little minds engaged. Unfortunately, gifted education in general, and the needs of gifted students specifically, receive even less attention in the South.
Our youngest child was primarily homeschooled until reaching “school age.” This was done in part to ensure that our child received what I deemed to be a proper early childhood foundation, and in part to guard against the realities of what I knew today’s schools had become. Having done my homework prior to pregnancy, I entered into gestation with a clear idea of what I wanted to accomplish when it came to our child’s development. My spouse and I tag-teamed on stay-at-home responsibilities for the first five years. This enabled us to ensure that our child received healthy quality time with each of us while also receiving a strong academic foundation. Homeschooling enabled us to gain a sense of the type of learner our child was and primed us in the art of learning to seek out resources specific to our child’s learning needs. My initial intent was to continue to homeschool indefinitely. Yet, when our child reached the state recognized “school age,” (more about my thoughts on this in a later blog), my spouse, normally quiet on these issues, felt it necessary to give mainstream schooling a try to ensure appropriate developmental balance.
Public school parenting has been nothing short of frustrating for us. Despite having skipped Kindergarten and being placed into our local system’s gifted education program, many of our child’s academic needs continue to remain unmet. Highly social and extremely outgoing, our child makes friends easily, conversing with both children and adults with a natural confidence. Our primary area of frustration remains the lack of challenge and rigor that the circumscribed grade-level curriculum provides. While many of our child’s classroom peers are still learning to master basic phonics, our child must wait until arriving home to enjoy favorites like "Anne of Green Gables" and "Alice in Wonderland". While peers struggle to learn place value, a mathematical concept that our child mastered at the age of three, our child must come home to practice algebraic concepts for fun.
Repeated appeals to our local school system to increase the level of rigor and challenge for our child remain flaccid in response. Ongoing administrative refusal to even entertain the idea of subject or further grade skipping remains. I find this quite ironic, considering the fact that subject deceleration and grade retention are commonplace public school practices. Our persistence in advocating for our gifted child’s educational needs appear downright baffling to the public school powers that be.
Why not try private schools, you may be asking? In the rural community in which I reside, K-12 private school offerings are no better. Heavily religious and often lacking racial, ethnic, or economic diversity, the prospect of sending our child to this setting is equally disturbing to us. We see no sense in paying money for a culturally homogenized indoctrination experience. What about homeschooling again, you may say? We’ve previously resided in homeschooling-friendly states where parents were free to choose the curriculum needs which best suited their child. Unfortunately, we no longer reside in such an open-minded state. The homeschooling laws of our state require homeschoolers to be aligned with preselected religious institutions, many of whom require the purchase of or alignment with a pre-set curriculum. Even the thought of such an alliance makes my spouse and me cringe. The idea of forcing a particular religious viewpoint on our child is simply unacceptable to us, especially when presented under the guise of “education.” We simply don’t trust others to keep an open, unbiased mind on teaching religion to our child without proselytizing in some way, and we would rather present the subject ourselves, on our terms.
So, where does this leave us? We’ll discuss that in our next installment.