When parents reject public schools, gifted education suffers the loss of talented students in the classroom community and the voices of powerful advocates.
Ideally, parents and public schools should be a team. The parents should support the schools’ efforts to educate all of the children in the community, and the schools should support the parents’ efforts to ensure that their children get a relevant, meaningful education. When something goes wrong – either the parents can’t meet the schools’ standards, such as attendance, or the schools can’t meet the parents’ standards, such as individualization, some parents leave public schools behind for homeschooling.
Revealing Parent Comments From the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum
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The Gifted Homeschoolers Forum Facebook group offers news and resources for anyone working with gifted kids. It also offers insight into the mindset of people who decide to homeschool their gifted children. Comments highlight the holes the parents sometimes find in public education.
On a discussion about how a federal audit found flaws in special education, one forum member wrote, “How can we get them to do this kind of audit in my state? The IDEA statute is pretty good, but enforcement (other than parents) is nonexistent as far as I can tell.” One theme throughout the site is that disappointment in public schools propels the desire to homeschool.
One example of this mindset is found in the reaction to a video about myths in gifted education, presented by Maryland Public Schools, which is known for a strong commitment to gifted education. It is a surprise that the video prompted the comment, “This is exactly why we homeschool. If the schools were able to meet our needs, we’d enroll in a heartbeat.” Of course, it could be argued that Maryland Public Schools is working to meet the needs of students by educating everyone about the myths of gifted education.
Why Gifted Education Needs Homeschool Parents to Become Public School Parents
From the public education standpoint, the posters on the Facebook forum are the voices gifted education needs to become and remain a priority. One commenter, Susan Goodkin, writes that “proper differentiation – which includes subject and whole-grade acceleration, as well as ability-grouping – can go a long way towards meeting gifted kids’ needs without requiring a lot of money.” Accompanying her comment is an article discussing gifted education in California. The concerned readers of Goodkin’s articles are the dream parents of gifted education teachers, if only they would share those ideas and concerns to school board members who are facing budget cuts.
If parents of homeschool kids kept their kids in public schools, gifted education would have a stronger base of much-needed advocates. One person commented on the positives of flexibility, and that schools should have “the ability to combine groups of students according to ability and interest rather than age and geography. Helping students find peers is not just a social benefit, it’s an intellectual one that ‘studies show’ can make a big difference.” Gifted education teachers say this routinely, but increased parent support would make the argument more compelling.
The Effect of Homeschooling Gifted Kids Instead of Sending Them to Public Schools
When parents take their children out of public schools, they may not realize that they are taking away the magical collaboration that is so essential to learning. Homeschool parents may not realize what their children would have added to the classroom. They are taking away the peers that their public school counterparts are seeking, and they are taking away the ideas their kids would have brought to class discussions. There is no way for the community to regain what is lost when gifted kids leave.
Public schools need the voices of these insightful parents. Gifted education needs the support of these dedicated parents, who research gifted education, who study best practices, who analyze what is happening and what works. Most importantly, gifted education students need their homeschool peers in the classroom, because they are going to be architects of future community schools. Gifted education needs less separation and more unity. If every parent on the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum would consistently share their ideas, concerns, and passion with their local school boards, they might find that the public schools would become their schools of choice.