Is a Gifted Learning Program Worth it?

The start of a new school year is almost upon us and unlike last year,  both my sons will be attending the regular public school.

My eldest son was given the distinctive honor of being identified as “gifted” during standardized testing in the third grade.  We weren’t all that surprised.

Along with other parents from the region, we attended a meeting to find out our options when it comes to educating our brilliant youngsters. Most parents, like us, chose to enrol our kids in the full time gifted program and a different school.

It meant my son had to be on the bus by 7:45 in the morning. It meant more homework and certainly more interesting and challenging schoolwork. It meant a lot more computer time (which he loved).

However, what it lacked was pancake days. And school trips to the local park. Or the ice rink. No concerts at any time through the year. We were not once invited to a monthly character award assembly.  It would appear the gifted learner program was all about turning 9 year olds into brainiacs, with no consideration about what makes a good school memory.

I didn’t want him there. It pained me that his little brother was constantly bringing home sheets for bbq fundraisers, pajama day, superhero day and family arts night. My younger son danced in a Santa hat with the other grade ones for the holiday concert. He received a character award for being a good friend to others.

He walked with his class to the local skating rink three blocks from the school on a snowy January afternoon. On the way back, his teacher treated them at the local Tim Horton’s. “22 hot chocolates please!”

My older son, listened intently to these stories, without complaint or any bitterness. About April, when the school year was starting to wind down, he casually stated he thought the gifted program was too challenging for him.


He was getting straight A’s and breezed through his homework. I felt like a parental failure that he didn’t want to tell me the real reason. So I pried a little. Only a little, as that’s all it took for him to state outright that he missed all the fun stuff at his old school.

That was all it took for me too, because in my mind, life needs a good balance. Work hard but also play hard. Besides, nobody ever goes to a job interview and states that they are gifted. They always talk about their social skills, hobbies and varied interests. And of-course, people skills.

People skills are not learned by being surrounded by others on the same level as you. They are learned by dealing with people of varying degrees. Some kids are great readers, some struggle with each syllable. And in the real world, out there in the job market, a person must deal with them all.

The gifted program is great, but it’s not what I want for my children. Emotional intelligence is often more important that academics. While it does give parents a degree of bragging rights, there is more to a child’s education than the subjects they study. It is in those crowded hallways and noisy playgrounds that students learn the lessons that will carry into adulthood.

So this year, it’s back to the regular school for 5th grade. My son will always be smart, he doesn’t need a special program for that. But he does need the sense of school spirit and comradery that can only be found in a classic elementary school education. After all, you’ll never seen worms on the sidewalk if you never get to play in the rain.

Image is mine. Copyright 2015 doubledawn.