Finding the Right Private School for a Gifted Child

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Parents of gifted children seek alternatives to public schools for one main reason: they want to give their child the best education possible. That is no different from what other parents want for their child. It can be difficult, however, to find the right school.

When the public school fails to meet the needs of a gifted child, parents can either homeschool or look for a private school. However, homeschooling is not the right choice, or even a possible choice, for every family looking for alternatives to public school.

Another option to consider is private school. Whether you've just learned that your child is gifted and are exploring education options, or you have a gifted child who is not thriving in their current school environment, you may consider private school in your search.

Here's what parents need to consider when choosing a private school for their gifted child.

Before Deciding on a Private School

The first question to ask about school you are considering for your child is, "What is the school's educational philosophy and what kind of curriculum does the school offer?"

A private school may not automatically be the best option for your gifted child. Whether public or private, ideally you want to find a school with a good program for gifted kids.

"Chain" Private Schools

These schools are chains only in the sense that they may follow a particular educational philosophy and can be found nearly everywhere. They are not otherwise related. That is, they don't share some educational corporate management.

Montessori and Waldorf schools are the two most common "chain" schools.

Montessori Schools. The educational philosophy of Maria Montessori is well suited to the needs of most gifted children. However, a school does not need to follow that philosophy in order to put the Montessori shingle over its door. You should check the school out to be sure it is a true Montessori school.

While Montessori schools weren't specifically designed for gifted kids, the educational philosophies are well suited to gifted children.

Waldorf Schools. Parents of gifted children appreciate the approach of Waldorf schools because of their emphasis on the arts and imagination. Waldorf schools tend to follow a similar methodology. Parents may want to look into chain schools.

Montessori and Waldorf schools are the two most common types of chain schools parents choose to meet their gifted chid's educational needs.

Not only do chain schools offer good programs for gifted schools, they're available almost everywhere.

Local Private Schools

Local private schools can also be options for gifted children, including parochial, university lab schools, and independently owned schools.

Some schools are specifically designed to provide education for gifted kids. The Sycamore School in Indianapolis, Indiana, is an example of a school that was created with gifted kids in mind.

However, these one-of-a-kind schools for gifted kids tend to be local and therefore aren't available for families who don't live near one.

Remember that a school is only as good as what it has to offer for your child. Even schools meant for gifted children aren't good for all gifted kids.

How to Know the School Is Good for Your Child

A school may have a reputation for academic excellence, but don't assume that means it will be a good place for your gifted child. Some schools, like some gifted programs, are designed for highly motivated high-achievers rather than for gifted children.

A school that is good for one gifted child is not necessarily the right school for another. Consider what your child needs. Do they need more or less structure? Are they most interested in math? Science? Writing?

If your child loves music but a school does not have a music program, it's not likely to be a good fit. If your child needs the opportunity to explore topics in-depth, but a school doesn't provide those opportunities, you might want to keep looking for a school that can meet this need.

You want a school where the teaching will match your child's learning style. If you're not sure how your child learns best, consider having them tested.

IQ, aptitude, and achievement tests can help reveal your child's academic needs so you can look for in a private school that meets these needs. If you opt to get your child tested, look for a tester who is familiar with gifted children.

Remember, you are looking for a school that is the best fit for your child. You want the school's philosophy to match what you think your child needs and a curriculum that will challenge them,

Evaluate the school before making any decisions. Make sure that you know and understand its educational philosophy and the curriculum offered.

By Carol Bainbridge
Carol Bainbridge has provided advice to parents of gifted children for decades, and was a member of the Indiana Association for the Gifted.