Thursday afternoon we enrolled our middle child in a cyber school. I never thought I would make a decision like that. Don't get me wrong, I love my children and enjoy spending time with them. However, I was enjoying the upcoming freedom I was seeing with my youngest heading off to Kindergarten. Things never go quite the way you think they will.
The trouble began when our son started K-4. We knew he was probably going to test as gifted even before he started school. Our little boy said things to us that we recorded in the baby book... "My sandals make the sound of a bird's wings cutting the air", age 3. "Look Mom! There's an unusually large fleet of pirates in our back yard!", also age 3. He wasn't one of those kids doing phenomenal math problems at age 2 or reading at age 3. He was just a really deep thinker who picked things up as soon as we taught him, or even before we did.
In school, they recognized this and told us he could be tested when he started Kindergarten. By half way through the K-4 year he started telling me he didn't like school. When I asked why, he would say, "We do the same things everyday." I told him not to worry, Kindergarten would be better. I couldn't have been more wrong.
At the start of K, we requested testing. By January we were told, "Congratulations! Your son is gifted. He can participate in the pull out program 2 days a week, 45 minutes a day." Basically, they would give him the reward of extra work. By now, I had been doing a lot of research online about gifted children. I was concerned about underachieving. I asked about the possibility of having him skip first grade since all of his scores seemed to show he was already working at least one grade level ahead in every subject. The answer? "We don't do that here." So, we pressed on. We requested that they test him further to explore grade skipping, even if they didn't "do that here". Eventually, after filing Due Process, we were granted the grade skip. We told our son, "Don't worry, things will improve next year." Wrong again.
The summer between K and second grade he read "The Hobbit". He was six. I remember one conversation in the car about war and dictators. It was a very deep, intelligent conversation. He was 5. I knew public school was never going to meet his needs. But, the desire to have that free time pushed me to keep trying to make it fit. He spent his second grade year improving his writing skills, but really picking up little else in education. When I asked him what he learned in math so far that year (around January) he told me, "curtains come in pairs". I emailed his teacher regularly asking for something to change. I went to parent teacher conferences and made suggestions for things that might allow our child to have a more appropriate education. None of these things amounted to much. Usually I was told something along the lines of, "your child is benefiting from the work he is being given". My child was chewing his shirts to bits while bored out of his mind in class! So, I made the decision. We would stick it out to the end of year (per child's request to stay with friends) and start with PACyber in the Fall of his 3rd grade year.
I spent time through the Spring talking with our son about his future in cyber school. When I told him he could spend an hour each afternoon reading, I thought he was going to cry with joy. We started planning the kinds of things we would like to do. We looked over some of the curriculum that the school would offer him. He has never been more excited about school than he is now. HE can't wait to start, and neither can I.
This blog is going to be dedicated to following our progress as we move into uncharted territory. I have talked to many parents of gifted kids who are so frustrated with their children's schools, but don't know if they are ready for the challenge of cyber school. I'm planning on letting everyone see the good, bad and ugly of the day to day cyber schooling of a gifted child. This year I will be working with only one of our children. For the Fall of 2009, I will also start my youngest in first grade. For this year, he will attend a private K. I wanted to dedicate this year to getting our 7 year old back into the habit of learning in school.
If you are considering the possibility of cyber school, please follow us on our adventure. Even if you are not, follow us to learn how our public schools, in most cases, are failing the children they are designed to teach.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began,
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with weary feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
--JRR Tolkien, The Hobbit