One of the most important and common questions that I hear asked by parents of gifted children is “What educational options do I have for my child(ren)?” This page will present a brief summary of some of the most common options available today. This page is not meant to discuss the many challenges and issues that go along with educating a child at each of these types of schools.
Traditional Public School:
One option is to send a gifted child to public school either in the school district where the family resides or in a school of choice. If public school is the path chosen, other considerations should be looked at including if the school offers (or even has funding for) gifted programs. Many types of options exist and some are very inexpensive for the school to implement and others are more costly. Types of programs to inquire about include accelerated learning through whole grade skipping, single subject acceleration, cluster grouping, curriculum compacting, independent studies, pull-out classes, gifted seminars, mentorships, honors course, AP courses, online gifted programs such as Northwestern’s gifted learning links or Stanford’s EPGY Open Enrollment Program which some schools have memberships to offer to their students and many others.
Virtual Public School:
Technology has made it possible to attend public accredited schools online. Schools like K12 and Connections Academy offer online courses for kindergarten through high school students. These institutions are publically funded and provide an alternative approach to public learning. The parent acts as a learning coach for the child and a teacher is assigned. These programs (if you qualify financially) sometimes offer free (borrowed) computers, printers, subsidization of internet connectivity costs, learning materials, etc. Accelerated learning opportunities are more cost efficient and easier to implement given the technology available then they are in a traditional public school so both K12 and Connections Academy tout themselves as being good options for gifted and or 2E children.
Charter schools are partly funded with tax dollars and partly funded privately. They still must follow the basic state curriculum standards, but are not subject to the scrutiny of school boards and government authorities. This allows them more flexibility in some ways for providing gifted children educational options that may be limited due to bureaucratic issues at a public school. Some charter schools specialize in specific educational areas of interest and some are specifically set up for gifted or high risk children.
Magnet schools are highly competitive and highly selective public schools. While known for their student’s successes and overall high test scores, there is a rigorous application and testing process for admittance. These schools are known for their special programs, technologically advanced facilities, high academic standards and student success rates.
Montessori schools are tuition based and take a child-specific approach to education. The Montessori Method preaches that teachers and peers should respect individual differences and focuses on the specific need of each child with the belief that a child will achieve a high level of academic achievement through the natural outcome of experience in a supportive environment. Because Montessori school provides individual and specific education based on each child’s needs, it is often considered for gifted children and children with special needs.
These schools are nonprofit schools governed by an elected board of trustees. Funding comes from tuition payments, endowments and charitable contributions. Some are affiliated with a religious institution, but they are not allowed to receive financial assistance from the institution. Not all independent schools are recognized state or regional bodies. Some parents feel that since tuition is paid at these independent private schools, they have a greater ability to advocate for their gifted child.
Gifted schools are in fact designed for gifted students. Most are tuition based and have high standards of criteria that must be met for admittance. Some gifted schools offer a more board academic curriculum in a more thought-provoking way then a public school approach and others are more area-specific and select specific students who show giftedness in a specialized area such as the arts.
These are religious based institutions of which the majority are private and they are tuition based. The major difference with the curriculum includes mandatory daily religious education classes or prayer services.
Virtual Private School:
There are an increasing number of schools popping up online. Some such as K12 and Connections Academy offer both a private virtual school requiring tuition payments and also a public free option in some states. Others include Michigan Virtual High School which touts itself as a great choice for gifted and special needs students.
Other Virtual Schools are offering a curriculum designed for gifted children. These are tuition based and require standardized test scores as proof of giftedness and a few allow for more diverse methods as proof of giftedness such as a portfolio of previous work showing above grade level performance. Some of the most popular ones include Stanford University’s EPGY Program, Duke’s TIP, The Davidson Institute’s Talent Development Program, John Hopkin’s Center for Talented Youth, and Northwestern’s Gifted Learning Links. The general programs through these institutes offer a diversity of core classes. There is also an option to be admitted through a registered school group to take advantage of a group discount as well as significantly reduced tuition, although the available classes and support change with this option. Mensa has a school group for the Stanford EPGY program.
Learning at home through the many resources available today is quickly becoming a popular option for many families; especially those with gifted and 2E children. One-on-one instruction that can be tailored to the child can easily be accomplished through homeschooling.
There are pre-packaged curricula covering all of the major subjects in one set. This is great for parents who want to homeschool, but don’t have time to plan their own curriculum. There are individual subject curricula available for purchase for homeschooling families dealing with asynchronous learners. There are countless online sites with free curricula and homeschool ideas. There are virtual sites offering both full curriculum and single subject instruction (some are free and some cost). There is Khan Academy which is completely free and offers video instruction on an incredible number of topics. Students who are homeschooled have the legal right in Michigan to enroll as a part time student in the local public school and attend all non-core classes including foreign language, arts, etc. and also participate in all clubs and social activities that the school offers. Private music lessons, art lessons, and more help supplement a homeschooler’s activities.
Oakland County is one of the largest homeschooling communities in the country making it easy to find support groups for the parents and social activities for the students.
Homeschool co-operatives and co-operative pre-schools are becoming very popular today. eHUB and Homeschool Connections offer classes for homeschooled students as well as support groups for the parents and many field trips and social events for kids. Yearbook photos and proms are not just for students attending a public school anymore! Homeschoolers now have the option to become members of the National Honors Society too: http://www.crosswalk.com/family/homeschool/the-homeschool-student-and-national-honor-societies-1246328.html
Parents often start small groups of other homeschooling parents/children to begin small co-ops where weekly get-togethers are planned which include lessons, field trips, factory tours, and social time.
This term, which has gotten its fair share of bad press, refers to parents who choose to not send their child to school and to not provide any formal instruction for learning. The concept is to allow the child to learn on their own through life experience. One caution here is that in Michigan, it is the law that every homeschooler must be taught the basic core subjects!
Most local nature centers and recreation centers offer courses for a small fee. Local libraries offer free classes. And be sure to read up on the many great Michigan museums offering classes. Also, don’t forget to see which museums take the library museum pass which gives you free admission!
Also, check out Field Trip Resource Center for more great opportunities. The Earthworks (ages 8 – 11) & Exchange City (ages 9 – 17) programs based in Taylor, MI provide unique enrichment experiences for children.
Accelerated After School Program K-3 Language and Math
A Canton teacher and mom of gifted kids is offering an accelerated after school K-3 Language and Math program during the school year. Please see the following link (a tri-fold flyer) for details! Accelerated Language and Math Program
Mentorships and Internships
Mentorships and Internships are a great way to get hands-on learning while building real-life experience and resume materials. Don’t forget to also check with your local libraries, nature centers, hospitals, and schools for opportunities. Sometimes, mom or dad’s work will allow internships and mentorships for children too. Here a few places to start looking: Groove Job, Michigan Internships, Job Search USA, Mentor Michigan, MentorNet and Julieslist.
There is perhaps no better way to learn about social-economics, sharing, caring and giving then to volunteer. Volunteering has benefits unique to gifted children. Some opportunities include Retirement and Nursing Care Homes, Hospitals, Children’s Hospitals, Library Programs, Special Olympics, Food Banks, Leading Dogs for Blind Training Program, and Homeless Shelters.
Also check out the options at these great sites and get your gifted child started today: Michigan Community Service Commission, United Way for SE Michigan, Volunteer Center of Michigan, HUD Offerings, The Nature Conservatory, and Michigan Humane Society
***Please note the school lists previously published here have been moved to their own separate menu items under “Links and Resources”.