Some children are several grade levels ahead of their classmates and score high on standardized tests. Academically talented students may become bored in the classroom. Except for an occasional "enrichment time," they often receive little stimulation from the curriculum and few opportunities for intellectual challenges.
"Generally, we don't feel our son Kyser is challenged at school," says Posy Lough, a home-business mom. "So our aim is to surround him with opportunities at home. We love learning and thankfully he does too. We encourage him to be more diligent with schoolwork and find resources, books and activities to enrich and challenge him."
Parents working with the school and the teacher can help meet a bright child's needs. "If your superachiever is bored, ask the teacher to enrich the curriculum or offer special projects," says principal Rick von Kleist. "Let the teacher know you'll be glad to do part of the legwork needed for these projects."
Parents can challenge their gifted students in a number of ways at home. Parents and children can work on special projects together, go to museums, keep an observation log, investigate animals at the zoo (many zoos have learning programs for kids with a special interest in animals), or participate in space programs at local planetariums or children's museums.
The Junior Great Books Program offers another avenue of enrichment within the school. The program includes a series of 12 readings per year from the second through 12th grades as well as training for parents, teachers and program leaders. Parent volunteers can conduct book discussions during lunch or after school. Rather than focusing on fact questions, discussions should utilize higher level thinking skills. The children test generalizations, share ideas, and develop socially and emotionally.greatbooks.org
Parents can also enrich academic opportunities with some creativity and fund-raising. One parent I know saw the lack of hands-on science materials, lab equipment and resources for a quality science program at her child's school. After presenting the needs to the parent organization, she got funds designated from the annual spring carnival for science and volunteered to research the best resources for their money. By the next fall, the students had new materials and were off to a year of discovery in science learning.
If music, foreign language or art programs are lacking, parents can join forces to find qualified volunteers from the community or among the parents themselves to teach these courses. The more parents are involved in planning, curricular decision and all phases of enrichment at school, the better the education will be.