Raising Gifted Children: Dropping Out of School

Maybe we parents of gifted children should not be so surprised when our high ability children drop out of school. After all, many of us have memories of their earliest days of formal education, those days when we packed our bright, eager learners off to school only to have them return unhappy at best, miserable and depressed at worst.

I remember passing off my copy of Genius Denied, a book that rocked my world back in the day, to another preschool mom. She returned in to me in a daze a week later, "Incredible. How did you think to give this to me?" She asked. My son never played with the girls in class, so I didn't have much insight on her child; I did have a hunch though.

It was only after the mom returned the book that I learned of her daughter's morning stomachaches, how the girl dreaded preschool and complained each day on the way to class. (The girl always seemed happy enough when I saw her in class, but that's how many gifted girls roll. Little pleasers.)

Around that time, I heard a lecture by Joan Franklin Smutny, author of several books on gifted education. She mentioned that many highly gifted children drop out of college their freshman year disillusioned by rote classes that seem like an extension of high school rather than the pursuit of knowledge.

As a senior in high school, I recall practically drooling over the college course catalog. So many interesting classes; I couldn't wait to take them. Except as a zoology major, my schedule was largely predetermined and I couldn't fit them into my plan. Ultimately, I switched my major rather than drop out of school, but there was a guy a year or two ahead of me who decided to drop out of UT. Maybe you've heard of him? Michael Dell. Yes, that Dell. He seems to have done okay for himself.

Nobody's dropping out of anything right now at Chez Moldofsky, but when a blog sistah posted about her son not going to college, it got some other friends talking, including mom I adore, Darryle, who told me in a much earlier conversation about her supersmart daughter who took a nontraditional route. (Summary here, but click on her links for the back story). All this chatter reminded me of other stories of budding geniuses who also passed on the expected, traditional route.

It's nice to know mothers with older children who forged their own path and seem to have found their way. I should mention that the sense that those children (now adults) have found their own way typically came after many years of hand wringing and, I'm certain, a pool of tears (on behalf of the mothers, at least).

Along these lines, I'm declaring Secrets of Buccaneer-Scholar the best book of 2009. Well, I should call it the best book I haven't read in 2009; I'm not finished yet. But I love the premise, which is found in the subtitle: How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of Success.

Self-made man, author James Marcus Bach (son of Richard Bach) offers his philosophy on the dust jacket."A Buccaneer-Scholar is anyone whose love of learning is not muzzles or shackled by any institution or authority; whose mind is driven to find is own place in the world." (Yes, I've made it a bit beyond the dust jacket. And yes, Bach's kids are homeschooled.)

It will be easy (albeit expensive) for my boys to take the traditional path. But it's reassuring (falsely so, I hear my cynically husband saying) to know that as long as they love to learn and have the capacity to do so, they will wind up where they are supposed to be.

More musings on parenting gifted children.
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