When should a gifted child start kindergarten?

Jokingly, my friends and I will say that all our children are gifted.  In fact, in all the conversations I've had with parents about when to start a child in kindergarten, absolutely no one has said that their child isn't smart enough to start - it's inevitably about social or athletic concerns. It's sort of assumed that the intellectual development of the child won't really be impacted either way.

The President of the Montana Association of Gifted and Talented Education's post on Teacher Magazine's EdWeek suggests that for gifted children, perhaps we should be considering EARLY start - or, as in the case of fall children/boys kids, ON TIME.  She cites 50 years of research (summarized and available at the Acceleration Institute which is focused on Gifted and Talented education) on the benefits of acceleration (skipping grades).  Certainly something to consider for the parents of bright children considering holding their children back for non-academic reasons.

Whatever you believe about skipping grades, its virtually undisputed that schools should challenge every student and encourage students to go beyond their comfort zone of abilities. How to do this without creating pressurized schools is a challenge. Personally, I like the project based learning models that I see at our school and others as a way for each child to learn according to their learning style and push beyond their comfort zone. 

Students in Science Class

An example - the fourth grade at my school started their year learning the scientific method and immediately applying to an experiment testing different brands of paper towels. They 

A quick review of the scientific method:

  1. Observe something
  2. Form a hypothesis that states the explanation of the observation
  3. Predict what would happen if the hypothesis is true or false.
  4. Create an experiment to test the predictions.
  5. Analyze the results and determine if the hypothesis is on track.

So the fourth grade observed that different paper towel brands are different and ran experiments on absorbency and strength over the course of a week.  Then the kicker...when the experiment was done and the data collected, each child had a week to create an advertisement for the brand they chose - a poster ("print" in my world), jingle or video. Their ads were to be "big, bold and beautiful", make and defend scientific claims and engage the audience. The criteria for excellence was written and distributed to students (and their parents).  The result was every child strove for public excellence and expressed themselves and their abilities - whether or not they are gifted in science.  Or writing. Or art.  And when they presented their ads, the classroom erupted with support and feedback - from the students and staff. 

There are possibilities to challenge every child every day. What is unacceptable is letting students disengage from learning because they are either bored, lost or something else. It seems to me that finding a school that will engage and challenge your child appropriately is crucial - whether they are truly gifted or not.