The standard schooling options for gifted children in Northern Colorado — public schools, private schools, homeschooling, and online schools — have been discussed before in this column. What is a family to do when none of these options is working for their child, though?
For a child who learns in a very divergent manner, homeschooling is often the best of the aforementioned options. Some families cannot make homeschooling work, however, for a variety of reasons. Online schooling may be the next of these possibilities to be considered. Online schools do address the concern some potential homeschoolers have about being solely responsible for their child’s education and teens may be able to stay home alone at times while “attending” an online school, allowing a parent to continue working.
The reality of choosing one of the many Colorado based online schooling options is that the curriculum does not differ in any substantive way from that which your child would be receiving in public school. The main difference is that he will likely receive more individualized attention from you as his primary educator and he may have more flexibility to move through the material more quickly.
For a child who needs something significantly different — either in terms of how the material is presented or because he needs acceleration of multiple grades — parents may need to start thinking outside of the box. Boarding school, early entrance to college, or distance education through a program designed specifically for gifted children may be among the options to consider.
Boarding Schools for Gifted Children
The Davidson Academy of Nevada has existed since 2006 as a free public school for profoundly gifted children. Enrolling a child at the Davidson Academy has required relocation of the entire family to Nevada in years past. This Davidson Academy is now offering a residential option where students are matched with a host family much like a foreign exchange program.
Other more traditional boarding school options for gifted children include the Indiana Academy for Science, Mathematics, and Humanities and The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. There are currently no residential schools for the gifted in Colorado, unfortunately.
Early College Entrance
Some colleges and universities have formal early entrance programs where teens as young as age 13 routinely skip all or part of high school and instead attend college. As with the boarding school option, none of these official early entrance programs exists in Colorado at this point. Choosing this option entails relocating an entire family or, again, sending a younger teen to a residential program in another state.
The positive aspect of these programs is that they deal with young people who are away from home all of the time and many of them have built in transition programs to aid their new students with all that is involved in becoming a successful college student. Information about some of the early entrance programs throughout the United States can be found at the bottom of this webpage.
Online Programs Specifically for Gifted Youth
Similarly to the prior two options mentioned, online schools designed specifically for the gifted are more prevalent for students who are functioning at a middle school level or above in all subjects. Options for younger students are usually limited to enrichment classes or classes in certain subjects rather than an entire curriculum for all subjects. For those older children, some available options include Stanford’s Online High School and The University of Missouri High School’s Gifted Program.
For parents of younger gifted students, some of these options may seem drastic. Even as the parent of a soon-to-be 8th grader, the idea of sending a child away to a school in another state, for instance, is scary and not something we are considering at this point.
Some of the best advice I’ve received when making significant changes to my children’s educational courses has been to do what is right for the child right now. None of us has a crystal ball to see how our decisions will work out in the long run. We can do what best meets our children’s needs today, though, and some of these more radical options may be the right thing for some children at some point.