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    #248979 - 06/28/21 02:33 PM Help with school decision! What would you do?
    nmc3586 Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 06/24/21
    Posts: 3
    I would love some feedback from folks about which school to pick for my son. He is a rising 6th grader, social, equally interested in math/engineering and art/music. Does best when working at his own pace and allowed to advance quickly thru material. Otherwise, school feels like a huge drag for him. For that reason, loves homeschool but would miss the social aspect of school too much so that is not really an option.

    The public school system where we live is severely underfunded and so pretty poor quality. Most middle schools have few electives if any. We have three choices for middle school and I would love to hear the perspectives of folks in this group about which one would help my kid thrive:

    1- First option would be to pay tuition to attend the “best” public school in the state. They have a STEM certification in middle school. Tons of electives. And a TAG program. The downside: we don’t live in district so he wouldn’t have friends nearby. Also, the community of rich and white, and we wouldn’t necessarily fit in (or want to embrace that culture). We’d have to commute 30 min each way.

    2- Second option is a public magnet/lottery school that is known for its alternative, inquiry-based approach, amazing community building, great teachers and so very positive social/emotional. Downside of this school is that the curriculum is not accelerated or advanced, and so gifted kids don’t have that option.

    3- Third option would be a low-cost private school that is also project-based learning with extremely small class size, so lots of individual connection and attention, but with a rigid founder-led administration that is not open to parent feedback. Acceleration might be possible, with lots of advocacy and tiptoeing around teachers.

    What would you do??? Would love opinions from folks that have been thru middle school— what is best for profoundly gifted kids?

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    #248981 - 06/29/21 12:35 PM Re: Help with school decision! What would you do? [Re: nmc3586]
    aeh Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/26/14
    Posts: 3990
    Welcome!

    First, whatever decision you end up making, as long as your child knows that you are making decisions with his best interests in mind, for the health and happiness of his whole person, all other priorities will pale in comparison.

    Second, no one knows him like you do, so after you've listened to and thought about what you and other people and information sources suggest, trust yourself, and ignore the judgementalism of other people.

    Third, remember that no decision is truly set in stone. If it doesn't work out, try something different.

    On to your specific questions.

    We sent one through a tiny private for middle school, but it was a school with a lot of flexibility and multi-grade/age classrooms, with culture and values that aligned with ours, and an administration that welcomed our input on a wide variety of topics, and even spontaneously whole-grade accelerated our child (without telling us first--but that's a story for another day!), in addition to the single subject acceleration we requested. Two successive SSAs were teacher-initiated, the latter of which actually involved hiring someone to teach a single course to an extremely tiny class (just this side of tutoring).

    Otherwise, it's been homeschooling for middle school. FWIW, the extreme extrovert is the one who was in b&m school, but was pulled out to homeschooling near the end of middle school, when even the very accommodating (K-8) school ran out of resources to meet DC's needs. That was not what DC wanted at the time, but in retrospect can appreciate was the correct decision on balance. So consider that there may be other ways to meet your DC's social needs, in the form of homeschool meetups, extracurriculars (possibly even through your local public school--in many states, that is an option), community service or faith-based organizations, etc. IOW, homeschool might not be off the table.

    For us, I think the school climate/culture and attitudes of the admin and faculty toward children in general, and advanced learners specifically, were the most important factors. We actually left an enrollment deposit behind at an earlier school (which offered a fair amount of routine SSA and more dual enrollment opportunities than most schools of its size) after seeing some pretty negative teacher-student dynamics in action during a preview visit. Our thinking was that a certain amount of afterschooling supplementation in areas of particular interest could patch some of the lack in academic rigor, but no amount of persuasion or advocacy can truly change the educational philosophy of rigid leadership. To say nothing of the cost of actually damaging cultural practices. And if you're not paying (even low-cost) private tuition, those resources might be available for supplementing through high-quality afterschooling, at providers like Art of Problem Solving or Stanford online.
    _________________________
    ...pronounced like the long vowel and first letter of the alphabet...

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    #248982 - 06/29/21 03:37 PM Re: Help with school decision! What would you do? [Re: nmc3586]
    nmc3586 Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 06/24/21
    Posts: 3
    Thank you so much! This is great advice, especially "Our thinking was that a certain amount of afterschooling supplementation in areas of particular interest could patch some of the lack in academic rigor, but no amount of persuasion or advocacy can truly change the educational philosophy of rigid leadership." This is what our gut is telling us about why the private school option #3 might not be the best.

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    #248983 - 06/29/21 07:17 PM Re: Help with school decision! What would you do? [Re: nmc3586]
    aquinas Offline
    Member

    Registered: 11/02/12
    Posts: 2513
    I would echo aeh’s sentiments that so much of what constitutes “fit” is dependent on the relationship between student and teacher(s). My DS9 is in a similar position to yours, and my decisions have been almost entirely guided based on his being enrolled with his core teacher. As we will hit an inflection point after the 2021/2 academic year, teacher flexibility and openness to individualize are top of mind in my calculus. (In my vernacular, flexibility involves more than superficial, assignment-level adjustments. For example, telescoping three years of math in one.)

    A few questions:

    Fit— Has your son attended any class visits? What has his reaction been to the student cohort and the teacher(s) with whom he would study? What did your class observations indicate? How has each school discussed individualizing your son’s instruction?

    Pragmatics—What is/isn’t feasible for your family in terms of ability to homeschool in full or in part? What options exist for high school programs? Are any of these middle school pathways necessary to reach your target high school options?

    _________________________
    What is to give light must endure burning.

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    #248985 - 06/30/21 08:15 PM Re: Help with school decision! What would you do? [Re: nmc3586]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4959
    Welcome, nmc3586!

    Originally Posted By: nmc3586
    What would you do???
    You've received great replies already. I'll just add a few thoughts. I would begin by read up on choosing a school, school fit, and advocacy.
    Some posts to consider:
    - Roundup on Advocacy (includes working with schools, meeting prep, school fit)
    - Article about poor school fit
    - What Should Everyone Know about Gifted Education? This thread includes discussion of gifted "myths."

    Originally Posted By: nmc3586
    what is best for profoundly gifted kids?
    What is best for pupils is having their educational needs met. All children need appropriately challenging curriculum and intellectual peers. Typical children may have these needs met in a typical classroom with a typical mix of children. For gifted children, special planning and effort may be required to provide appropriately challenging curriculum and intellectual peers. That said, the profoundly gifted are not a monolith. Even the same IQ score can look different on different children, as each may have their own unique combination of strengths and relative weaknesses. For each child, validation and affirmation may be found in different circumstances.

    You do not provide background on your child's elementary school experiences and learning environments, which may be helpful for making decisions for middle school.

    Your post appears to contain a number of artificially limiting statements/assumptions or pairings of ideas, which may not serve you well in managing expectations, but may instead obfuscate the identification of the least-worst option. Like gifted myths, they may negatively impact the ability to make a successful placement, and evaluate the fit.

    homeschool
    - "would miss the social aspect of school too much"
    Many homeschool students are very social and gregarious and enjoy the company of neighborhood friends, and those in special interest and activity groups in the community, such as participation in art/music, as well as above-level math summer camps, etc.

    local school district
    - "severely underfunded so pretty poor quality"
    Correlation does not imply causation, other factors are often at play. For example, read about Jay Mathews and his discovery of high-performing pupils at disadvantaged James A. Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, where 85% of families had incomes low enough to qualify for federal lunch subsidies... yet the school produced 27 percent of all Mexican-American students in the country who had passed the three-hour-plus AP Calculus AB exam.
    - "few electives if any"
    Although there may be few electives, if art/music are offered, this may be a match, and your child may find company among pupils who share those interests.
    - you do not mention whether there is any gifted support, cluster grouping by readiness and ability, acceleration, etc.

    "best" public school in the state
    - "pay tuition to attend"
    I am not familiar with the concept of paying to attend a public taxpayer-funded government school. Would you explain a bit, to help me understand?
    - "we don’t live in district so he wouldn’t have friends nearby"
    If your child has friends nearby now, those friendships may be expected to continue. There is a difference between friends and classmates. While there may be a 1/2-hour commute to this school, there may be other pupils from your neighborhood attending this school. Additionally, for any pupils who live within the district, classmates who form friendships may live at opposite ends of the attendance area and may therefore be a similar distance apart (1/2-hour).
    - "rich and white, and we wouldn’t necessarily fit in (or want to embrace that culture)"
    Rich and white is not a culture, rather wealth and skin color are two demographic labels. One can easily "fit in" with those having similar interests and pursuits, regardless of demographics.

    public magnet/lottery school
    - "the curriculum is not accelerated or advanced"
    This option may require extensive homeschooling outside of the school day. Additionally, if attendance is by lottery, one needs to have a backup plan in place as there would be a possibility of not winning the attendance lottery.

    low-cost private school
    - "rigid founder-led administration that is not open to parent feedback" appears to not mesh with "lots of advocacy"
    - "Acceleration might be possible"
    One would typically want to know the acceleration policy proactively, before enrolling. This would include knowing the test instruments, cut scores, and proposed placement for one's pupil.

    Originally Posted By: nmc3586
    What would you do???
    Having considered each of these points, I would have a family discussion, including all stakeholders in identifying the least-worst option. If your child helps in evaluating the PROs and CONs of each option and contributes toward decision-making, he will be more likely to make the best of the learning environment he has helped to choose.

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    #248986 - 07/01/21 03:00 PM Re: Help with school decision! What would you do? [Re: nmc3586]
    Eagle Mum Offline
    Member

    Registered: 02/24/20
    Posts: 175
    Loc: Australia
    The three school options are very similar to the choices that we faced over here - selective, local public and private.

    Our local school, which is similar to your option 2, also didn’t have an accelerated program when my eldest enrolled, but at 12-18 months younger than her peers, she fortunately did not suffer any boredom. She was, however, at a disadvantage compared to students at selective schools as it meant she carried a much heavier load of subjects in her final year of school. When she matched her school’s highest mark (achieved by her father) in the HSC exams which serve as the competitive university entrance set of exams, I was able to convince the school executive that had they allowed her to work ahead in one or two subjects, as selective school students routinely do, she might have had a chance at a state rank, so they provided this opportunity to my son, who matches the description of your son.

    Whilst his teachers don’t actually prepare any advanced lessons for my son, they implemented online maths programs so that he could work through the maths syllabus at his own pace - he completed four years of the curriculum in six months using the first program and the other two years in eleven months with the second program, allowing him to sit his first HSC exam three years ahead of his age peers. In science classes, he usually reads well ahead and often ends up co-teaching the rest of the class (which has helped teachers who’ve been assigned to teach outside their areas of subject expertise).

    Would it be possible for you to negotiate something similar with the lead staff at the school described as option 2?

    I will admit that, now in senior high, my son’s role in his class has started to affect the social dynamics amongst age peers, but he is generous and willing to help anyone and whilst he is self assured, he is also humble and affable, so whilst he has a handful of rivals and detractors, he is generally well liked by both teachers and students. I think it’s been a good environment to learn skills which will help him negotiate the future workforce market place.

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    #248987 - 07/01/21 03:40 PM Re: Help with school decision! What would you do? [Re: nmc3586]
    aeh Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/26/14
    Posts: 3990
    indigo, I'm guessing nmc's "best" public allows out-of-district students to tuition in on a space-available basis, possibly co-funded by the sending district. I knew a district that allowed this. It kept the district (which was high-performing, but had relatively few school-age children, due to a demographic that leaned retirement age) from having to reduce staff or close schools due to low enrollment, and it was cheaper than paying for private school education for the out-of-district families. It was especially popular (and apparently mutually beneficial) at the secondary level, as many of the in-district families departed for private preparatory schools at that point.

    And while I would also be reluctant to paint all "rich and white" as the same culturally, the essential point that there may be uncomfortable school climate/cultural/values differences remains. That would be a discussion best had within OP's family, and with more direct knowledge of the cultures in question. Perhaps a visit to the school, or conversations with families already enrolled in the school, might help the OP.
    _________________________
    ...pronounced like the long vowel and first letter of the alphabet...

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    #248988 - 07/02/21 07:17 PM Re: Help with school decision! What would you do? [Re: aeh]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4959
    Thank you, aeh, very interesting (as usual).
    smile
    Originally Posted By: aeh
    And while I would also be reluctant to paint all "rich and white" as the same culturally, the essential point that there may be uncomfortable school climate/cultural/values differences remains. That would be a discussion best had within OP's family, and with more direct knowledge of the cultures in question. Perhaps a visit to the school, or conversations with families already enrolled in the school, might help the OP.
    Excellent point about the place to have that conversation. I'll just add that many people find the various works of author and educator Ruby K. Payne Ph.D. valuable, as people from all walks of life mix, mingle, and interact in our society.

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    #248991 - 07/05/21 09:23 AM Re: Help with school decision! What would you do? [Re: nmc3586]
    ChasingTwo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 06/07/16
    Posts: 78
    Having tried a number of schools ourselves, I would just like to remind you that no schooling situation will be perfect, so it comes down to your priorities as a family. Your child is old enough to both be able to contribute their goals as a student and also to use their history as a student so far to help determine best fit environment. It would also be really helpful to visit the schools and get a feel for the environment and culture of each. If your child is overall a relatively compliant student, then it may be most important to find the social scene and activities that would be most attractive to them. OTOH, if your child is more unruly (like mine), they may need the rigor and recognition of the “best” public school in order to give them incentive to submit to the trifles of mass education. It is such an individual decision. Best of luck to you.

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    #249005 - 07/07/21 11:07 PM Re: Help with school decision! What would you do? [Re: nmc3586]
    nmc3586 Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 06/24/21
    Posts: 3
    Thank you all for this great advice! I think there is a bit of a lag from when I reply to when it gets posted on this site, so I'm responding to multiple posts here...

    I should mention that he is already enrolled in #3- the private option. He started about 6 months ago because the traditional elementary public experience was so uninspiring and making him pretty depressed. The teacher refused to make any accommodations to accelerate until he put his name in the exact right place on the paper- no joke!

    He is loving the private school, but mostly due to social reasons. Its a small class of 15ish kids, and they are really tight knit. He likes the teacher. She seems to be an inspiring teacher and have really cool teaching methods, but they also spent almost 3 months learning to calculate the circumference of a circle (with very little else the whole day). IMO this is a waste of time. I have tried advocating about a few things to the admin, and I've been shut down and/or completely ignored (no response to emails). I feel this is unreasonable since we are paying for it. I requested a meeting to learn more about the middle school acceleration options and curriculum and have had no response. I feel like this may be a red flag, but my son is now enamored with this community.

    On the option #2-- a couple of replies above are helping me to clarify that this would not be a good fit. There would be no academic rigor or true peers. I am not sure that I have the capacity (time OR skills) to do intense after-schooling to supplement. And I'm sure that would be a constant fight with my kid.

    On the "best" public school option-- aeh, your guess is correct. We can pay tuition to attend the public school. It is less than even the low cost private.

    My son did NOT thrive in his public elementary school in that he was often bored and thus anxious/grumpy most of the time, yet he is very compliant, so did the work and did not make issues in class. However, the teachers and admin refused to make any additional accommodations at that school (at least not until his name was on the top left side and not top right-- for which he was graded down 20 points per math quiz), and would not budge from the "deeper not faster" philosophy (which in my research about giftedness I have learned is actually not supported by academic research). This makes me think the "best" public school could still be a good fit, even though it is a traditional school... they offer way more support for gifted kids than the prior elem. school.

    While I do agree with all of the posters that suggested that I involve my child in the decision... I also know that if I ask him, he will choose to stay put, but that his decision will be based on his current crush and video gaming buddies, and not the academic part! Any ideas about how to navigate that -- how to involve him without letting him make a decision based on irrelevant/fleeting preteen impulses... would be appreciated!

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    #249066 - 08/03/21 04:52 PM Re: Help with school decision! What would you do? [Re: nmc3586]
    aeh Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/26/14
    Posts: 3990
    One component of all of our schooling decisions, especially at major decision points, has been discussion with our children of exit conditions. Having heard what a particular child was most concerned about with regard to our schooling proposal, we've tried to develop plans to address that concern, and also allowed an escape hatch -- going (back) to another schooling model -- if all of us working together were unable to meet their primary concern. The plan usually involves an agreed-on (or multiple) check-in point(s), as well as frequent, ongoing communication to monitor progress in-between check-ins.

    As parents, we assume ultimate responsibility for the decision, but spend plenty of time listening thoughtfully and sympathetically to child perspectives. Some of our decisions have been with reluctant assent by children, but open communication and mutual willingness to try a variety of adjustments first have resulted in the escape hatches going unused so far.
    _________________________
    ...pronounced like the long vowel and first letter of the alphabet...

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    #249067 - 08/03/21 07:59 PM Re: Help with school decision! What would you do? [Re: nmc3586]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4959
    nmc3586 - the lag will typically end after the new member's 5th post, so my advice would be to make two more posts, even if quite brief.
    smile

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    #249068 - 08/03/21 08:05 PM Re: Help with school decision! What would you do? [Re: aeh]
    indigo Offline
    Member

    Registered: 04/27/13
    Posts: 4959
    Originally Posted By: aeh
    ... the escape hatches going unused so far.
    Excellent!
    smile
    Those "escape hatches" and/or options are so important.
    I'm glad you mentioned them.
    Everyone needs a "Plan B."
    "School refusal" can become an issue when there is a poor fit... with the assigned academics, teacher(s), and/or other pupils.

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