Mollie Grinnell, Parent and WATG Board
Why does a bright child, who from the age of two years old could not wait to go to school, drop out by the time she is seven years old? At the time, she verbalized the situation by saying, “I feel like a fourth grader stuck in a second grader’s body.” As she tells the story now, three years later at ten years old, her teachers assumed she did not know anything, gave her repetitive work, and covered the material with painfully little depth and at an agonizingly slow pace. When she asked for more challenging work, she was told to complete what she was given. She spent her days creating elaborate stories, waiting for recess and the end of the school day. After years of feeling this way, she finally had enough and refused to go to school. She was seven years old.
As parents, how could we argue? The struggle to get her to go to school was harder every year, every day. The work she was being given was years behind her ability, and being in school and not learning was destroying her love of learning and eroding her self- esteem. Our attempts to work with the classroom teachers, principal (who was also the GT Coordinator), and school psychologist failed to improve the situation. One morning, as our daughter lay in bed sobbing and refusing to go to school (again), we asked ourselves why we should force her to do so.
She was joyful when we told her we were going to homeschool. Today she will tell you that homeschooling allows her to work at her own pace and she doesn’t have the drudgery of repetitive (and often meaningless) work. She enjoys demonstrating when she has mastered a subject and is ready to move on. Homeschooling and participating in organizations for gifted youth has restored her self-esteem and her love of learning. Homeschooling is far from a perfect situation, but she no longer feels “like there is something wrong with me because school didn’t work,” and she knows that “schools just don’t know how to teach children like me.”
Being in a school setting where she is challenged with like-minded peers would be far better for our daughter (and us); however, given our current educational system, she—unlike most children—does not have that opportunity. Why? Because too many in our educational system take the position that gifted children will do okay on their own. Because of my daughter’s foray in school, I now understand how damaging doing nothing for our brightest students can be—it can extinguish the desire to learn, and result in a bright seven-year-old feeling that there is something wrong with her and giving up on school.