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. Homeschooling, though, is not right or even possible for every family looking for alternatives to the public school. That leaves private schools.

If you have just found out your young child is gifted and want to ensure that your child gets an appropriate education or if you've known your child is gifted and need to remove him from the public school environment because he is not being sufficiently challenged, you may be considering a private school. But how do you choose the right one?

Before Deciding on a Private School

The first question you should ask yourself about any school you are considering for your child is this one: What is the school's educational philosophy and what kind of curriculum does the school offer? Just because a school is private it's not necessarily a good school for your gifted child. You want a private school with a good program for gifted kids.

Montessori and Waldorf schools are the two most common types of schools that parents of gifted kids look to as a solution to their child's educational needs. These schools are "chain schools," which are available almost everywhere. But other schools offer good programming for gifted kids, too. However, these are one-of-a-kind schools and therefore aren't available for parents who don't live near the school. They are local schools. The Sycamore School in Indianapolis, Indiana, is an example of such a school.

The Sycamore School was created specifically for gifted kids, but other schools, like the Montessori schools, weren't designed with gifted kids in mind but may be based on educational philosophies that are well suited to gifted children.

Don't assume that because a school has a reputation for academic excellence it will be a good place for your gifted child. Some schools, like some gifted programs, are designed more for highly motivated high-achievers than for gifted children. Evaluate the school before making any decisions. Make sure you know the educational philosophy of the school as well as the kind of curriculum it has to offer.

"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.

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.

Local Private Schools

Local private schools can also offer good educational options for gifted children. These include parochial, university lab schools, and independently owned schools.

Robert Kennedy has an excellent private school map that will allow you to click on your state and find a list of private schools. Some of them are private schools for gifted children, but not all of them are. In any case, you always want to 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

Keep in mind that a school that is good for one child is not necessarily the right school for another child. Consider what your child needs. Does she need more or less structure? What is your child interested in? Music? Science? Art? Math? Writing?

If your child loves music but the school has no music program or a small one, it might not be the best fit. If your child needs the opportunity to explore topics in-depth, but the school doesn't provide those opportunities, it might not be the best fit.

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 you want a curriculum that will challenge your child. And you want a school where the teaching will match your child's learning style. This may be a good time to have your child tested. IQ tests, such as the WISC, and achievement tests, such as the WIAT, can reveal a great deal about your child's academic needs that can help you understand what to look for in a private school for your child. If you opt to get your child tested, be sure to look for a tester who is familiar with gifted children.

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