The Big Decision

As you may or may not know, Sissy has had a pretty rough year in kindergarten.  She has always been academically gifted, hitting her milestones early, learning to read proficiently by the age of 4, and a pretty solid understanding of numbers and addition before the age of 5.  She is also incredibly imaginative and artistic.  The downside to giftedness is that it is often accompanied by extreme anxiety, and she has unfortunately also developed this as well.  I posted a few weeks ago that she was experiencing panic attacks in school and had begun vomiting at times when she was feeling overwhelmed and that she had even started to vomit at times of relative calm.  Her pediatrician expressed concern that this type of reaction could lead to an eating disorder at a young age as a way to exert control over her life and emotions and she suggested that we have her evaluated by the school psychologist.  We followed this suggestion and for the past few weeks Sissy has been observed in various settings, has had a SST review (an analysis of the need for special services), weekly meetings with the school counselor, and finally a sit down with the psychologist.  Earlier this week I sat down with the school principals, the counselor, the psychologist, and Sissy’s teacher to go over their observations and recommendations.  And the overall findings are:

Sissy is too academically advanced to function properly in her class.

Her teacher has been wonderful this year in creating a truly differentiated curriculum for her, but she can only do so much with 18 other kindergarteners to contend with.  In addition, part of Sissy’s anxiety comes from a self-imposed need for perfection and a desire to please those in authority, so she has actually digressed in many areas because she tries to mimic the work of her “peers” when the teacher compliments their work.  She doesn’t understand that “great” for them at a kindergarten level isn’t the same as “great” for her at a more advanced level.  So she gets worked up and overwhelmed and…vomits.  In her mouth.  And then doesn’t tell anyone about it until she gets into the car to go home where she will erupt into a sobbing mess, often for several hours.  She is making social connections in class, but is having trouble relating to her “peers” because they are not yet in the same place as she is intellectually.  She does much better with older children and adults who can relate to her in a more mature way.

All this to say that public school just doesn’t seem to be the place for Sissy.  She has qualified for the GT program, but it only for one hour each week and there is only one other kindergartener that qualified.  And we could try to skip her ahead a grade level, but even that would not really put her into the right academic group in several areas.  She is a self-motivated learner and the public school system is built on a mass-feed mentality where it is difficult to allow for students to pursue learning in their own unique ways.  So we are about 99.8% sure that for at least the remainder of elementary school that Sissy will be attending school in our own home.  That way we can create a curriculum that is suited especially to her and allow her to learn in the ways that are best for her unique gifts and temperament.  She will socialize through group activities, some local non-religious home school leagues, and through our church community.  We will utilize the amazing educational resources that technology provides (and that the public schools are unwilling and/or unable to commit to) to help her expand her learning in meaningful ways and also to make connections with other students and experts.  We will begin with an independent academic evaluation to assess her grade-level proficiency in the various academic areas and will then build our curriculum from there, using a mix of rote and project-based learning (PBL) as dictated by her learning style.  We will document and portfolio her work and will have her assessed annually to measure her progress.

I say we are 99.8% sure because this is a huge decision and commitment and we are taking the rest of this school year and summer to pull together resources, network, and evaluate ALL the pros and cons, and until we finish that we are not going to make the final decision.  But based on several months of discussion and research, this seems like the best option for her.  So, keep us in your thoughts as we start on this journey, and we would appreciate any help or feedback that you would like to share!

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