“We don’t recommend skipping to third grade for your son, but it’s okay because there is one other boy in his second grade class with the same IQ. They can challenge each other!” ~My first clue we should have been homeschooling
One of the biggest challenges for gifted children and their parents is the ability to find true peers: other kids their age who also match on an emotional/social and academic level. Young gifted children are considered socially immature if they prefer to hang out with the teachers at lunchtime to participating in the burpfest on the playground. Conversely, a third-grader’s academic ability to participate in an 8th grade English class can be a bad mismatch for their ability to deal with the adult content in “edgy” YA books. And gifted people have the usual issues finding people to connect with. Despite what my son's principal believed. just because there was another child who matched mine in age, gender and IQ, that didn't mean they had anything in common!
Add to this the pressures of high school, where everyone feels like an outsider, and it’s no wonder gifted children struggle and drop out in large numbers: nearly 54,000 every year. Even homeschoolers can feel stigmatized by other homeschoolers for wanting to “label” their kids or for encouraging early dual-enrollment or early college. The restlessness of adolescence can cause strained relationships at home as well as at school and the gifted teen can begin to feel rejected by peers anywhere they go.
So here’s my version of the “It gets better” movement. Ready?
It gets better!
Feeling alone, and as if no one understands you and you don’t fit into the social rules goes away when you are in an environment with a high concentration of other bright and gifted students. Dating and developing friendships relies on allowing yourself to be vulnerable, which is much easier when you’re surrounded with people who love the same things you love, and who understand having an overwhelming visceral reaction to Aristotle or Tolstoy or Fermat’s Last Theorem.
Finding such a paradise doesn’t necessarily require a $65,000 Ivy League tuition. Gifted students, particularly those who have many areas in which they’re gifted, often do better in liberal arts programs where they are expected to try on ideas from many different disciplines. But that doesn’t mean that the overwhelmingly STEM-oriented kid won’t do well at an engineering school or a large research university. I suggest that students investigate smaller private liberal arts colleges with outstanding undergraduate teaching, like the Colleges That Change Lives, or perhaps an honors college at a public flagship or large private research university. Honors colleges concentrate your true peers by offering smaller class sizes, dedicated dorms and additional learning and/or research opportunities.
Sound fun? Investigate universities with honors colleges. You can find a list of universities with honors college programs on Wikipedia or US News.
Lessa Scherrer is an college admissions consultant who has worked with college-bound students for many years. She is a member of NACAC and WACAC and also teaches ACT Prep, speed-reading, college study skills and college-level writing.
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