While on a field trip with my daughter, I noticed I had a voicemail on my cell phone. As I began listening, I was told that it was the guidance counselor of her middle school. My daughter is now in 6th grade and so far this year I thought everything was going very well. I felt a bit of a panic because I was worried something was wrong, but as the message continued, I found it was actually positive. The counselor wanted to meet with my husband and me to discuss how well my daughter was doing in math and talk about advancing and challenging her.
My initial feeling was, “wow, someone has finally noticed her gift!” and I couldn’t wait to call my husband to relay the message. We set up a meeting to meet with all of her core subject teachers the very next day.
At the meeting, my daughter’s whole team of 6th grade teachers and the guidance counselor presented her grades to us and various things about her. Then the math teacher spoke and told us that my daughter was doing exceptionally well in her Pre-algebra class and that she was allowing to her to read a book after she was done, since it was taking the teacher so much more time to bring the rest of the class up to speed. She said with our approval she would like to give my daughter the Pre-algebra final exam and pending her scores, we would have the option to move her to Algebra 1. I asked if she would miss some foundations concepts that are covered in Pre-algebra. Her teacher was very confident that she was capable, and thought it would prevent her from being bored, and would give her one-on-one help to get her caught up in the new class. At first, I thought this was such an honor and I felt so proud of my daughter. It is wonderful to do well and be recognized. But then I started to consider the social ramifications. Did I really want my 11-year-old with the 7th and 8th graders? Did I want to change my daughter’s schedule after being in school for 2 months? This was going to take a lot of thought.
So the next thing I did was research the curriculum. I found that in her middle school they only offer up to Algebra 2, so I was curious where she would be placed in 8th grade. I contacted the school and they informed me that in 8th grade, she would have to be bused to the high school for Geometry. After considering the social issues of being an 8th grader going to high school, my gut feeling was immediately “no.” I can always trust that “gut” feeling! I couldn’t believe that all the flattery of moving her up had really gone to my head! I know the teachers meant well, but had they considered the social aspect, I wondered. What was really best for my daughter? Why the rush to move her up? (Right now, I’m glad that she’s not struggling with schoolwork. Would advancing her change that?) And, how does she feel about all of this?? I talked to her about it and gave her my list of pros and cons. She told me she was comfortable with her schedule and teachers, and she didn’t want to move up. With the track that my daughter is on, by her senior year she will be in A.P. Calculus 2….isn’t that enough? But later I talked more with my husband and he still thought advancing her may be a good idea. He thought she could take college courses while in high school. So I said to him, “Picture an already established classroom of 7th and 8th graders. Now, in walks your 6th grade daughter. How do both react?” He got my point.
So for those of you out there thinking about advancing your ‘gifted’ child, really think it through. Is it really the best decision? Just because a child can handle the work doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for them. It may completely change the way they feel and perceive themselves. Kids want to fit in. I certainly didn’t want to cause any emotional problems with this decision. I want to care for the whole child, not just the brains. What is our hurry in advancing? Are the benefits worth the risks? I don’t believe they are.
P.S. I want to report that my daughter has remained in Pre-algebra and she’s doing great! I am happy with our decision.