Homeschool supplemental programs?

Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 9:17am
Triciasmom's picture
Joined: 08/03/2000 - 09:00

Okay, first off, I have to confess that I am in a very rotten mood, so if I seem a little disorganized....

Patricia is 6 and would be in first grade. Thus far, I have kept her out of school and informally homeschooled her. A few weeks ago, a publicly-funded homeschool support program became available through a local school district. I enrolled my daughter, and she has been attending three classes.

But here is where the problem enters. There is no allergy policy yet. I had not envisioned a situation that would cause a problem. However, one of the days we have two classes straddling the lunch hour. There is a common room, and that is where everyone is between classes.

To my utter horror, half the kids at the table pulled out pb&j sandwiches. I bit my tongue, and my friend (her mom is allergic to peanuts) talked to a lot of the parents after I left. All but one of them agreed that peanuts could/should be restricted if not completely banned.

Well, today, that one mom decided that she was not going to let me set up the most isolated table as peanut-free. I didn't even have a chance to ask her if she would be willing to move to a different table, and she was telling me that I could just go sit at a different table... that was in the middle of all the other tables. I tried to explain that I wanted a table that was far away from all the others. She would not even listen.

Anyway, my friend intervened again, and the woman grudgingly moved... and was quite rude about the whole thing. Needless to say, I am ready to quit the program.

Patricia isn't learning anything there anyway. The reading class is a joke... the teacher reads to the kids and they do crafts. The math class is even worse. I had enrolled her for the social aspect. And already she has had to endure a kid chasing her around the room with M&Ms.

Anyway, I just wanted to get all this off my chest. I don't know what to do. She really enjoys the classes. I really can't stand to be around the other parents... most of them either have special needs kids or are militantly fundamentalist about something or other.

I am convinced now that my daughter will never get a fair education... whether it be because of her allergies or her giftedness, race or gender. Life really sucks.

Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 9:27am
Momcat's picture
Joined: 03/15/2005 - 09:00

I know you're mad and depressed about this. Maybe this program is not right for you. But what is your vision for your daughter's education? What do you want for her? Maybe there is a way to work toward that goal.

Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 9:32am
Triciasmom's picture
Joined: 08/03/2000 - 09:00

I was mostly looking for playmates for my daughter, a chance for her to experience the classroom and be around kids who are more, uh, normal. She doesn't need to be in school. She taught herself to read when she was three. She does 3-4 grade level math, reads at a high school level. I was hoping to find other parents with highly gifted children.
I do have her in art classes and gymnastics classes. But yeah, I think this program is just not a good fit.

Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 11:18am
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

I am sorry that you are having such rotten experiences.
I learned a while ago (through something I read...) that with highly to profoundly gifted children, it is frequently unrealistic to expect them to find true peers in any setting of children. We have found this to be true.
My daughter participates in art and sports in order to interact with [i]chronological[/i] peers, and we spend time at the library, etc, and with older kids at enrichment style activities (or even with like-minded adults) to find [i]intellectual[/i] peers. Having pen pals has helped a lot in this respect, as it has proven depressing to my daughter that her "friends" get mad if she wants to talk to them about the latest Harry Potter book or how inspiring she finds the James Herriot stories. Chronological peers are not enough-- and if you try to go that route, it makes them (especially girls) feel pressured to "dumb down" to fit in better. That makes them feel bad about something they should find a joy!
Anyway... we've had the same troubles with programs that include the lunch hour. We try to avoid this at all costs, but let the instructor know that there may be issues if we can't.
I would like to recommend a couple of very helpful books for you (and indirectly, your lovely bright little girl!):
Creative Homeschooling for Gifted Kids by Lisa Rivero (I think the new title is less, er, 'elitist' but it is still a good book)
Gifted Children by Ellen Winner
The Well-Trained Mind, 2nd edition, by Susan Wise Bauer (and her daughter, whose last name escapes me at the moment...)
Anyway, we have concluded that being PA and having another exceptionality makes fitting in to a regular school environment nearly impossible. Particularly if that second exceptionality makes your child "specially advantaged" in any way. [img][/img] Too easy to treat them like little adults. Scary when they are PA.
This is the number one reason why we will not participate in ANYTHING controlled by someone else unless we have a 504 plan in place. You'd certainly qualify for 504 protection, if this progam is publicly funded.
Maybe if your daughter is enjoying the experience, that is enough... sometimes it has to be for us, too. We've had to accept that the fact that our DD sometimes takes away a "different" set of experiences is really okay. It is just part and parcel of who she is and how she processes things. Different ways of seeing the elephant, you know?
[This message has been edited by Corvallis Mom (edited February 28, 2006).]

Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 1:51pm
Marizona's picture
Joined: 01/16/2002 - 09:00

My son is in a public school only for gifted kids and my daughter is in a class only for highly gifted (test scores/IQ greater than 99.9% of the population). Have you considered this? They are each with their intellectual peers. It has been wonderful for both of them. Or is it that the public school does not want to accomodate the pa? I homeschooled my daughter for a short time, but she really wanted to be around other kids. A class just for highly gifted was the perfect solution. Triciasmom, I am not sure what city you are in, but Corvallis Mom you are probably in Corvallis? I had the impression that Corvallis was very education oriented, so I would be surprised if they do not have separate schools/classes just for gifted/highly gifted.

Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 2:38pm
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

It is, but when you have a population of 55,000 people of whom 20% or so of the adults possess advanced degrees (about a third in science or engineering), well... this is a population which is exceptionally sensitive to "elitism." When it doesn't include their own children, naturally. [img][/img]
(Corvallis, where everyone is 'above average' in the words of Garrison Keillor)
The other problem we face in Oregon is that the school revenues were gutted about fifteen years ago and the public schools (which used to be among the very finest ANYWHERE) are now beginning to literally fall apart at the threadbare seams.
TAG programs are always the first to go, and Corvallis has been no exception, sad to say. There is a core group of parents here that provide enrichment opportunities, but I always feel a bit guilty participating because space is so limited and they clearly feel this is "for the kids who are stuck with regular classroom work which doesn't fit them...." I can't really disagree with that sentiment.
I am more hopeful that distance education will eventually be better positioned to fill this gaping hole statewide. We still have several very fine universities, and they also offer enrichment to TAG kids. BUT this doesn't really begin until about 3rd grade. And if you are homeschooling a highly gifted kid, then you have to prove it.
This is the catch-22 we found ourselves in, and is one reason why we've chosen the cyberschooling route since they have no problem giving our daughter an appropriate academic placement (3rd grade) and are also placing her with the TAG teacher, who will presumably understand when she finishes a semester's worth of work in a subject in less than a month.
This way, doors will be opened to her to participate in summer enrichment activities through the universities even though she is chronologically several years younger than "entry age." She is thrilled with the idea of not being "locked out" of appropriately challenging things just by virtue of her age. This has been a problem for us even here, where kids who read fluently by age 5 are not that rare. (*sigh* But kids who read at a college level by that age still are... and in this environment, other parents are openly hostile if your kid is "too gifted.") We've learned to just cruise along under the radar, check out whatever she wants to read whether it is in the juvenile section or not, and teach our daughter algebraic thinking and physics at home. [img][/img]
(Sorry to hijack your thread... but I definitely feel your pain... what's the point in participating in "enrichment" if all it teaches my daughter is how nasty the behavior of other people is?) Her allergy has already introduced her to that concept pretty thoroughly, but thanks for playing.
I have to say that I feel pretty strongly that gifted girls are very ill-served by "regular" classroom environments. We have never regretted our decision not to send our daughter to kindergarten 18 months ago. We kept her out of preK because of PA, but we kept homeschooling because of her giftedness. DH and I were both savaged by elementary school teachers who loathed/totally misunderstood gifted children. Not a good experience, but it makes us much better advocates.

Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 3:06pm
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

Tricia's Mom,
Have you considered trying to reach out directly to other TAG families? There is usually some way to do so... perhaps the SD knows of open enrichment activities intended for TAG children that you could participate in instead? YOu can also check out SENG's website or Hoagie's Gifted Education webpage. Lots of good links there.
I think that the bipolar HSers are a definite west coast phenomenon.... the militants lined up on one side of the room, growling at the freewheeling unschooling crowd on the other... with the special needs parents in between, wanting to be anywhere else in the world. Right? Lions and tigers and bears-- Oh my. LOL!
I also wanted to point out that there is a perfectly good reason why it is hard to meet other people like you when you are a gifted child. Statistically speaking, you could take any 1000 children and put them in a room and find ONE other child who is highly gifted. And they may have totally incompatible asynchrony as compared to my child. Or maybe they just don't "click." [img][/img]
This means that most small elementary schools only have one or maybe two highly gifted children, and they won't always be friends.
So I really think to find peers, you have to find a larger group of likely peers to choose from. Most children are homeschooled because their parents have some beef with how the school system does things... which makes us, being fairly neutral on the subject, quite remarkable!
Good luck. If it were me, I would probably pressure the program's director to do something about the food situation, as this is clearly rather dangerous for your daughter. But I would keep going if your daughter is enjoying it. Perhaps she enjoys people-watching. My daughter likes any fresh audience for her conversational skills. So I don't think it is necessarily a waste even though she isn't getting anything academic out of it. Maybe she's getting something [i]different[/i] and that is okay too.
{{hugs}} for you both. Pretty clear you have had a few of "those days" with this situation.

Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 10:57pm
Naturemom's picture
Joined: 09/30/2004 - 09:00

Hi Triciasmom,
I'm sorry you are dealing with such a difficult person. Really, it is only one bad apple, if the rest are willing to work with you. I would approach the supervisor of the program to see if there is a way to keep your daughter safe - they can set the rules, and you shouldn't have to deal directly with her. If it is a school environment, even if it is a special program, they do need to keep your child safe, so that you can continue attending, if you think that it is a good match for your daughter. You may want to look for a program with mixed age children, where yours is one of the youngest. That has worked well for us in the past. Also, it may be advantageous to organize a class or camp yourself, hire an instuctor, and invite like-minded children to participate.
We homeschool both ds11 and ds9 and deal with similar situations - with both the food allergies and giftedness. On one hand, we are fortunate because when a situation or class is not a good fit, academically or socially, we can find another situation without having a lot of red tape or having to deal with teachers, principals, or school boards. Sometimes, I feel that I too quickly bow out of situations instead of persisting to try to create the situation that we need. We try to pick activities where food is not an issue. And, if it is a situation where we really want to participate and there is to be food, then we need to go through things similar to others who have their children in schools.
Recently, my ds attended a class at a science center that ended up being wonderful (both academically and with his food allergies), but originally, we had been told that ds was too young (missed the age by 3 weeks for a 9-14 year old group) - this group ended up working perfectly for him, as he completely understood all the material. We had been given information about how they deal with food allergies that was not acceptable to us. I contacted the supervisor and after a bit of back and forth, he was allowed to participate. So, I guess, pick your battles. If it is something beneficial, "go for it"; if not, don't feel badly to drop it any find something with a better fit for your daughter.
We love those books. I do feel that there are more gifted individuals "out there" than the statistics show. Many are not served well in their school situations, so temporarily lost. Other do homeschool, but they might not be found in the typical homeschool situations, so just harder to find.
Keep looking!
Good luck to all. I wish we were closer geographically.

Posted on: Mon, 02/27/2006 - 11:58pm
Marizona's picture
Joined: 01/16/2002 - 09:00

Sorry, Corvallis Mom, I did not follow. 20% of your population has advanced degrees, but those people don`t want their kids in separate schools or classes for gifted or highly gifted? I don`t follow. Usually it is the parents of the gifted and highly gifted kids that want their kids in separate classes or schools so that they will be challenged, and it is the parents of the kids who are not gifted who object. Or is it a money thing? (not enough money in the school system to do it?) As far as the testing, it is supposed to be done by the school district. It has been great for my daughter. She is around other girls at her intellectual level, and yet they still know how to be kids. Her highly gifted class has more girls than boys. I am glad she does not have to "dumb down" to be socially accepted. It took me until university to be in that situation.

Posted on: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 1:06am
Triciasmom's picture
Joined: 08/03/2000 - 09:00

Thanks everyone.
The program administrator sent out an email this morning that effectively bans all peanut products from the program completely until March 15. At that point, he hopes to have a food allergy policy in place.
Corvallis mom, you are totally right about the chronological v. academic peers. The friend that suggested this program to me has a dual masters degree in specialized and gifted education, and she also has a son who is just a little younger than Patricia and also gifted. We joined the program to give the kids a chance to experience the whole 'kid' thing.
When I asked Patricia if she was really actually learning anything, she snorted and grinned. She learned how to wrap her friend with a roll of toilet paper, as they were exploring the Magic Treehouse book about mummies. *sigh* Do they actually do any reading in this 'reading comprehension' class? No... 'cause normal K-3 kids apparently don't know how to read.
I am in Bellingham, and so there is a University here. But I struggle with the balance of providing adequate challenge for Patricia and still allowing her to have a childhood.
I don't know what the public schools offer for 'gifted' ed, but nothing about the public schools here impresses me.
I've never had Patricia evaluated to see just how big that brain of hers is. All I know is that I often forget that she is only 6. She reads Dickens and Lewis Carroll, loves poetry and anything that manipulates language (puns, clever riddles). She easily assimilates anything I give her, whether it be 3rd grade math or books on dinosaurs or great works of literature.
How many of us are there here... parents of highly gifted AND PA kids? Any correlation between giftedness and a tendency toward severe allergies?

Posted on: Tue, 02/28/2006 - 3:07am
Corvallis Mom's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

I don't know, but WOW. What a question. It does seem like an awfully high percentage of people here have kids who read at really high levels at amazingly young ages... so I think anecdotally it is possible. Then again, maybe we are just self-selected on this site. I don't know.
As far as being supportive of TAG, Corvallis [i]is[/i] .... but the problem is that [i]everyone[/i] in town feels a healthy sense of entitlement to be [i]in[/i] such programs... and there has to be a cut-off somewhere. Fundamentally, it isn't really about money, but in practice it can turn out to be. When you can't fit half the student population into the TAG program, you're going to anger about a third of the highest income people in town. And [i]then[/i] you do what has been done here... you "differentiate all learning environments to support different learning styles." After all, a good learning environment for gifted children is a good fit for most children. At least in EdSpeak. It turns out that because a lot of parents push for inclusion of their bright but not exactly "gifted" kids, TAG ends up being watered down for the kids who really need it. I personally think this line of thinking is a load of cr*p. Kids who are highly gifted are as different from "bright" kids as average children are from those who are moderately retarded. But in a town like this (and Bellingham may be pretty similar given that the demographics are also similar) having TAG children is a status symbol. TAG now really only exists at the higher grades.
But heaven help you if your child really [i]is[/i] in the top .1% because there is really open hostility from other "TAG" parents...maybe they are afraid that if programs see too many of the real deal their bright kids won't be included. I don't know. So there is NO wiggle room on age requirements for anything here. Never. Which is weird, because in Eugene or Portland, we don't face those problems. Just here.
This is terribly sad for my daughter. She totally gets that, but we also have found that the most effective strategy for us is to go for a multi-age group that will allow her in as a [i]third grader[/i], not according to chronological age (6). Better still if it includes TAG kids. But she usually needs to be among the youngest participants to get anything out of it academically. So her best fit is with a group of 3rd to 5th grade TAG students. We just have difficulty finding groups that will let her in at 6 years old, even though she can easily operate within that environment. She says she plans to go to college when she's 12. (Her handwriting is gonna need a lot of work... unless she's going right to med school! [img][/img] ) Her dad and I have both emphasized to her that once she's in college, her age will not matter to those around her. This makes it easier to bear when older kids dismiss her as being "just a little kid," without giving her a chance.
She also already sees the potential in a cyberschool where she can interact with classmates without them [i]knowing[/i] a priori how old she is. So if they both like James Herriot and want to be large animal veterinarians, it doesn't matter that she's 6 and her friend might be 11.
Your daughter sounds a lot like mine, actually. I have seen that snort and grin response too. [img][/img] We just keep going and let her enjoy "social time." (shrug) The only situations I try to avoid are those where I know she'll be shut out of something that she would [i]really[/i] want to do and forced into the group with the "little kids." That makes her mad, mad, mad.
edited to fix italics. I hope.
[This message has been edited by Corvallis Mom (edited February 28, 2006).]


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