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How far should parents go to accommodate their gifted child?

How far have you gone?
How far have you gone?
Author's personal photo

In New York City, over 1000 children qualify for about 300 seats in the five accelerated citywide Kindergarten programs distributed throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Seats are distributed by lottery, with siblings of current students given priority. The rest of the children are offered places in neighborhood Gifted & Talented programs though, in the end, there still aren't enough to go around for everyone who made the cut. (Interestingly, while NYC's current mayor doesn't like the idea of admission to specialized high-schools being determined by a single test, he has no problem with the same process being applied to Kindergarten, although there, arguably, an enriched curriculum will actually do underserved students more good. It's tough to catch up in high-school if you haven't been doing advanced work up to that point; easier in Kindergarten.)

Nonetheless, even children who snag a coveted Kindergarten spot still face the reality that the NYC Department of Education assumes all students identified as gifted are gifted in the exact same way and in the exact same subject areas. Curriculum is not differentiated beyond breaking into slightly smaller groups. Children who scored off the charts in verbal abilities flounder in classes alongside budding math prodigies - and vice-versa.

Furthermore, gifted children often have a tendency to develop obsessive interests in obscure topics, most of which are not covered in school and, if they are touched upon, only in the broadest of terms.

As one NYC mom writes at about her rising 5th grade son:

At school, he’s the only one so passionately into (computer) programming. For some exercises, the teacher, rather than placing him in small work groups, has my son go around the class and help others, instead. It would be so great for him to spend time with like-minded peers who don't deem him weird for “thinking like a computer.”

A sample morning greeting, “The problem with this C++ tutorial is that it doesn't teach you how to write:
if ( 5>6){
var x = “greater” ;
var x = “less than”;
elif (5=6){
var x = “equal to”;

The mother goes on to confess that her son has the chance to attend an international conference for coders under the age of 18 in England. But that, for a variety of reasons, even though the conference requires everyone under 13 to come with a parent or guardian, she doesn't want to go with him.

This begs the question, just how far is a parent required to go in order to accommodate their gifted child's interests?

She adds:

In those halcyon days when I knew everything about parenting (i.e. before I had children), I worked as a television researcher for figure skating. Because figure skating is a sport where potential Olympic contenders have to start intensive instruction at a relatively young age, a good percentage of the athletes I worked with were forced to move away from home in order to work with a championship coach at an elite training center. Some did it while of high school-age, while others were as young as 12 or even 10. Most ended up either living in dormitories or with local host families.

As a childless parenting expert, I knew exactly what I would have done in their mothers’ places. If I ever had a kid who I sincerely believed would benefit from living away from home, whether in the name of athletics or academics or what have you, then, without a doubt, I would relocate with them. (Which is exactly what 1994 Olympic Champion Tara Lipinski’s mother did, leaving her husband behind in their home in Texas, while she and Tara lived in Delaware and Detroit.)

Read the entire piece at:

Because NYC G&T citywide programs are so spread out geographically, some parents spend hours on the subway, chauffeuring their kids back and forth. Others move, leaving the borough and even the city, if they believe their child's talents can be better accommodated somewhere else.

On the other hand, there's a lot to be said for doing nothing at all, as another post asserts:

I want my kids to be bored.

Remember how I just made it sound like I am oh, so above all those other people who over-schedule their kids in the name of giving said kids a leg up in the rat race to come?

I lied.

I want my kids to be bored because research has shown it’s the best way to encourage creativity, innovation, and self-reliance.

Kids who are constantly provided with entertainment never learn to entertain themselves. Kids who are placed on a tight schedule have no need to make–and keep–their own. Kids who are always listening to others’ views have little time to think for themselves.

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What do you think? How much do parents owe their children? How much should they give, and how much is too much? And do the kids truly benefit?

Tell us in the Comments below!

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