Monday, March 9, 2015

When schools cannot meet gifted children's needs

First, do no harm.

That is the principle physicians, therapists, and yes, teachers, strive to honor. But what happens when school actually causes harm? What can parents do to protect their child's emotional well-being and preserve their intellectual spark and curiosity?

This is the dilemma reflected in Celi Trepanier's new book, Educating your gifted child: How one public school teacher embraced homeschooling, which details the heartbreaking, enlightening, and ultimately inspiring journey she and her children traveled in pursuit of a learning environment that would not only enliven their education, but rescue them from harm.

But wait...What if you have no interest in homeschooling?

This book is still a valuable resource for parents who continue to choose traditional schools for their children. Highly readable, engaging, and informative, Trepanier not only offers advice about how to implement homeschooling, but provides validation, support and research-based findings regarding the struggles gifted children (and their parents) face in traditional school settings.

Gifted children often suffer due to misunderstanding and myths.

Trepanier highlights some of these harmful myths, including beliefs that gifted children are all high achievers who maintain good grades, have been "hot-housed" by pushy parents, come from upper or upper-middle class homes, and can fend for themselves in the regular classroom. She goes on to point out the absurdity of expecting gifted children to, literally, entertain and teach themselves while teachers tend to the rest of the class.

A book grounded in personal experience as well as research 

Trepanier speaks from experience. Once an enthusiastic and successful elementary teacher herself, she is well aware of how little training teachers actually receive about giftedness.  Her enthusiasm for traditional education waned once she had gifted children of her own, and witnessed the ignorance and roadblocks firsthand. She describes, for example, how one of her children was not only prevented from participation in an advanced class, but was actually bullied by the teacher:
The teacher told my son that he had not yet earned the "privilege" of being in her class, adding, "I know your mom think's you are gifted, but you will have to prove to me how smart you are." (p.14)
Trepanier highlights pressure on schools and teachers, such as the No Child Left Behind initiative and the emphasis on testing to reach proficiency levels. These demands leave even well-meaning teachers with little choice other than to "teach to the middle" and help those struggling students meet basic grade-level standards. There is little time left to attend to gifted students' needs. As a result of these initiatives, Trepanier cites research demonstrating that gifted children's test scores have actually dropped. For a variety of reasons, traditional schools are often unable to meet the needs of gifted students. As she states:
Gifted children require a differentiated education that meets their specific learning needs as much as children well below the norm. Gifted children are not merely smarter, as in simply being above average; they are so much above the norm, that the development of their brains - the way they think, perceive, feel, envision, rationalize and learn - is considerably different from children in the normal range of intelligence...Sadly, our current traditional school systems have failed to address this need, and our gifted children continually fail to show adequate yearly progress and fail to reach their educational potential. (p.41)
Educating your Gifted Child offers helpful guidance for navigating the path to homeschooling, an alternative more parents are starting to consider. But again, its information and advice is valuable for all parents of gifted children. The book details the uncertainty and punch-to-the-gut feeling parents experience when they realize that their gifted child is not receiving the educational services he or she deserves. It incorporates the same engaging and down-to-earth style that is part of Trepanier's popular blog, Crushing Tall Poppies, and is both powerful and a pleasure to read. Give it a try!

Trepanier, C. (2015). Educating your gifted child: How one public school teacher embraced homeschooling. Olympia, WA: GHF Press.


  1. What a great review, Gail. I plan to read this and recommend it to clients.

    1. Thanks, Paula. It's a really good book, in Celi's typically easy-to-read style. Definitely would recommend it.

  2. Thank you so much, Gail. I'm proud of what I have written, but if my book can help other families avoid the pitfalls that my family painfully fell into with our gifted children, then I consider my book a success. I'm so happy that you liked my book!

    1. Thanks, Celi. I really enjoyed your book and wish you much success with it!

  3. Wow! Sounds like our story. I'll have to read it.