Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Stickiness of the G-Word and the (2e) School Dance

The Stickiness of the G-Word and the (2e) School Dance

I don't know if you've ever dealt with the stickiness of the g-word and the (2e) school dance, but I have recently and it reminded me why it can be so awkward, difficult, and uncomfortable with a 2e child.  It's that moment when you tend to avert your eyes and want to disappear.

What am I exactly talking about here?  When I meet other parents at a playground or elsewhere, the discussion usually involves identifying our children and their current educational status: what school (public or private) they attend (or un/homeschool in our case).  Within minutes, there's often a discussion on the school, teachers, curriculum, and so on and how the child's current educational status is panning out.  I usually am on the receiving end of such discussions since I un/homeschool now and, as a result, have considerable flexibility and leeway with my son's education.

Usually, most parents (at least where I live) avoid using the G-word.  In fact, Massachusetts is one of two states that does not recognize giftedness.  There is no state mandate.  There is zero state funding for giftedness.  So the G-word is automatically a sticky word since the state doesn't acknowledge it and therefore doesn't set any definition, standards, or guidelines on it.

Only a handful of public schools in Massachusetts acknowledge the G-word.  Brookline Public Schools, for instance, concedes that there are gifted children, but they do not formally identify students as "gifted and talented" for placement in a separate program as it's considered part of the regular Brookline curriculum.  In Framingham, there is a classroom integration and pull-out enrichment program, but it very likely doesn't address all levels of giftedness or twice exceptional (2e) students well.  More significantly, however, in order for a child to enter such program, they usually have to qualify for one.

Though other states acknowledge the G-Word, they usually make their own definition, standards, and guidelines for students to meet.  On this point, Scott Barry Kaufman wrote an excellent article on who is currently identified as gifted in United States (

Standardized tests and IQ, unfortunately, remain supreme in identifying giftedness.  When we were living in New York City, the gifted and talented test included the OLSAT and Bracken Readiness tests.
Truth be told, before we moved (back) to MA and we were living in New York City, my son took the gifted and talented test at age 4 and did not qualify for the program.  He was a special needs student then in an integrated pre-kindergarten student at a publicly funded school.  The gifted and talented test was free and, at that point, I was heading to arbitration with the NYC Board of Education concerning my son's future educational placement for kindergarten.  I had a hunch (ok, really more than a hunch) that he was a special needs child who was gifted or twice exceptional (2e) and it was going to be a serious challenge to find an appropriate school for him.  We'd looked at special needs schools, such as Churchill, Gillen Brewer, and others but it looked bleak and this was partly why we moved back to Massachusetts: for our son's education, though we didn't bargain on it involving the G-word at the time.

When we moved back to Massachusetts from New York City shortly after the gifted and talented test, my son was a special needs student in a pre-kindergarten program in a public school and was not identified as a gifted or as being twice exceptional.  As a special needs student, our son was tested at grade level on cognitive tests by the public school.  The public school wanted to keep our son in the special needs for another year of pre-kindergarten because as I mentioned most children with late birthdays are redshirted and because he was exhibiting ADHD-like and PDD-like symptoms.  But we had signs at home that our son needed a gifted education.

 In Massachusetts, private schools have largely shoulder the gifted population; Hoagies' Gifted page is a great resource to find such schools (  With my son, we were very fortunate that my parents paid for him to attend two of the schools listed here.  But we were less fortunate that neither school could accommodate my son and herein lies more stickiness with the G-word.

We actually did not know how gifted our son was until we had placed him in the first private gifted school listed on Hoagies' Gifted page for the remainder of pre-kindergarten.  Many parents don't know how gifted their child is until they are put in such an environmental setting (private gifted school or equivalent) and presented with a 'gifted education.'  You just don't always know how a child, especially a young child, is going to respond or react.  Five-year-olds can be unpredictable!  Needless to say, we were quite surprised when the first private gifted school informed us that they could not longer accommodate our son because he accelerated too quickly.  Great.

What's not widely acknowledge within the gifted world, or general population at large, is that there is no effective one-size-fits-all mode of education.  First, only a miniscule scattering of schools across the country can address the needs of extreme giftedness or twice exceptional kids like my son (  And second, (private or public) schools, by their nature, are designed to met a hypothetical average based on a neurotypical developing child for each grade and subject.  My son was at a loss on both counts.

Schools are not based on outliers.  On a large scale, such as with the public school system, it's inefficient and perhaps impossible to create curricula tailored to meet the individual needs of each student.  On a small scale, it's perhaps possible to create curricula but then there are other variables that are often forgotten in the mix which a gifted or twice exceptional parent has to contend with: what the curricula actually entails, the way the curricula is presented (ie. linear and sequential?), the special needs, the other students, and on and on.  So many of these variables are not in a parent or child's control.  Public or private schools may work great if your child matches the school's curriculum or is willing to tolerate it, but it's less than satisfactory if your child comes home from school with stomachaches, headaches, depression, or other complaints of psychosomatic symptoms each day.

Worse, our current educational system and focus on standardized tests does little to nothing to foster passion, creativity, or what interests children as Scott Barry Kaufman and others have said (  And yet, what children learn best is what interests them, what they want and need to know at a particular point and time.  Gifted, twice exceptional or not.  But that's not how most schools operate.  Though public and private curricula varies, there's still usually a developmental sequence of skills that's adhered -- addition and subtraction precede multiplication and division, for instance.  There's still usually a teacher who leads or directs the instruction of educational material on what they students should learn.  And while many private gifted schools are willing to accelerate a child ahead a couple of grades or more, they're less willing to accelerate a child five grades or more across every subject or even delve far and wide in a particular 'esoteric' subject as a child may like.

What's a gifted or 2e parent to do?  Well, if you live in MA, you might try the public or private schools before un/homeschooling or you might just cut the chase.

Here it is!  The long-awaited logo for the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop for May 2014!

cid:CB0A429C-BF57-4632-92E5-EA77310A681AThis blog is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page inaugural Blog Hop on The “G” Word (“Gifted”).  To read more blogs in this hop, visit this Blog Hop at

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