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Any advice?

November 19, 2010

I know that several of my readers work or have worked in the education field and/or have raised teenagers, so I’d like to ask your advice…

My daughter Julie has always been academically advanced. She started doing fractions in kindergarten and had read all of the Harry Potter books before she turned 9. You get the picture.

She’s in grade 8 now and is completely bored with school. To the point of tears. To the point where her lack of motivation for school is spilling into other areas of her life. To the point where I’m starting to worry about depression.

Throughout her education, we’ve often asked the teachers for advice about what we/they can do for her and whether there are advanced programs available for her. We’ve never really gotten any concrete advice or any programs offered. (We have another meeting with her teachers tonight.)

I’m worried. She is capable of so much, and yet she’s stuck in an education system that isn’t challenging her. (She rants about how the students who have trouble in school get extra attention and extra resources, and the advanced students just get told to read a book when they’re done their work.) And I feel like we haven’t done enough for her either.

Any advice? I know that private school might be an option (Michele, I’m sure you’ll say U of W), but financially that just doesn’t seem viable for us right now. The area that she is particularly bored with is math – she could have done grade 8 work in grade 5.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. November 19, 2010 1:36 pm

    One thing is that she only has to endure another half year or so before she moves on. High School may work better for her. Teachers are pretty swamped just keeping up and can’t always come up with clever alternatives (although I would think that it wouldn’t be that hard). Maybe you could come up with your own plan and then consult with the teacher suggesting some alternative activities that she could immerse herself in when she’s totally bored. She could work independently on things she could report to the class. If they’re studying the geography of Canada for example, she could compare an contrast life in three villages in different parts of the country. This kind of thing is much more do-able now with the internet. This all pre-supposes that the teacher is amenable, but if you come up with a concrete proposal s/he might be. At least I can’t see why not.

  2. November 19, 2010 3:27 pm

    I have the same daughter (have a son who was the same way as well), in a slightly older version. Honestly, the school systems are woefully ill equipped to handle such children because they have so many students working on so many different levels. I really was pretty adamant that she not be allowed to “skip grades” because I have always felt that the social learning was as important as the intellectual… so, I met with the teachers and her school administration several times and we worked out a plan where she advanced to other classes in the areas she was particularly adept in. In the third grade she attended the fifth grade math class, etc. We were very lucky that both of my children had (for the most part) AMAZING teachers who worked very hard to give them ability appropriate work rather than grade appropriate work. This worked relatively well over the years because by the time she had reached high school there were so many more offerings at so many different levels.

    Another option may be to talk to your local university to see if they have any enrichment programs she can take as an addendum to her regular school. I did a great deal of enrichment with both of mine along the way as well and got them involved in community events that allowed them to use their specific talents … you’d be surprised how much math it takes to stage a play or create sets, so not only did she get to use her math in a more “every day” situation, but she expanded her interests as well.

    There are definitely trying times along the way. It takes a great deal of energy and effort to get them involved, find the enrichment that is out there, or make it yourself… and it really does take the whole village, so be sure to keep asking, ask your friends, ask teachers, talk to the Universities, check what options are available locally… you will find lots of possibilities, and isn’t that what a good life is all about… possibilities.

    Much luck!

    • Victoria Finkenstadt permalink
      December 6, 2010 11:27 am

      The community college has plenty of offerings for advanced students of any age.

      Parents may also be able to start an “advancement” group in their school that provides additional education opportunities for students through the school.

  3. November 19, 2010 6:41 pm

    I am interested to hear what the input to this question will be. Oddly enough, there are resources for children on the opposite end of the spectrum to your daughter. Is it because there are more of them or because it gets more press? It sounds like the dangers are similar. Boredom = trouble. Great topic to open up to discussion.

  4. November 19, 2010 8:14 pm

    online schooling? it’s not homeschooling, it’s school from home. Work at your own pace, free up your time.

    • Victoria Finkenstadt permalink
      December 6, 2010 11:28 am

      MIT has open source courses for free online.

  5. November 19, 2010 8:51 pm

    If working through the school ‘system’ still doesn’t get you anywhere, try on-line schooling.

    Or, even unschooling. We did that with our oldest.

    If she is self motivated and works well independently with minimal supervision she might LOVE it.

    Pay no attention to those who say she would suffer socially. She won’t.

  6. Anna M. permalink
    November 19, 2010 10:14 pm

    One of the things that I found helped was sharing the knowledge. Does her school have a tutoring/mentoring program that she could tap into. It seems that the act of teaching helps the student doing the tutoring to become re-engaged with the topics.

  7. Linds permalink
    November 24, 2010 10:47 pm

    Do whatever you possibly can to keep her challenged. Even if it means transferring to a school outside your district that offers IB courses (Kelvin) or a school where you can work at your own pace (Argyle). Even if it means self directed learning through Manitoba Education instead of going to a “regular” high school.
    I was very similar to your daughter. I was constantly bored at school, never challenged and most things came quite easy. This was also after being advanced a grade. Wow, that sounds quite pretentious.
    When you’re not challenged and subjects come easy for you, you stop trying. This then becomes a problem when you get to post secondary school because all of a sudden you have to try but you have not experienced that before and it can be quite overwhelming and your performance suffers.
    If I could do it again, and now that the school districts have opened up so you don’t have to pay the $1000 to go to a different district, I would have gone to Argyle. There I would have been able to work at my own pace and not have to wait for the other students.

  8. December 5, 2010 8:39 am

    Heather, just saw this post and am wondering how things have gone for your daughter since you wrote this…

    I have no idea if unschooling is something you’d consider, but from a been-there-done-that standpoint I can tell you it is life changing! There are so many opportunities for learning and real-life growth in the community NOW –

    for example: my son spent huge amounts of time helping (and learning) at our local Peace Center during what would have been his high school years. As a direct result of contacts made through his peace interests, he was recruited to an internship in D.C., where he is now. One of my daughters was able to study and work with a phenomenal artist (in ways she would not have been able to fit in to a set school schedule).

    Even if the idea of unschooling gives you hives (grin), Grace Llewelyn’s The Teenage Liberation Handbook might give you and your daughter ideas that could be incorporated into her regular schooling (possibly her school might let her take some off-schoolgrounds time to pursue them??).

    I wonder what organizations in your community could use a young math wiz – accepting help from her, while helping her along with her advanced skills??? hmmm….

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