Every child is unique, and if a child is gifted, he is much less likely to fit well into a typical institutional school placement based upon age. Perhaps it will be a good fit for math, or for history, or language arts, but rarely will the average age/grade level be at an appropriate challenge level for every subject. Kids who are not challenged, or who are placed in classrooms where the work is beyond their ability level will become frustrated, complacent, bored, or otherwise disengaged from learning.
The good news is that students today have options. Schools for the gifted are few and far between, but savvy teachers and administrators at “regular” schools can implement strategies to keep gifted learners happy. Some schools have gifted programs which provide enrichment activities. These programs can be valuable, but do not replace the need for advanced material in core subjects.
Acceleration is an option for almost any school, and has the considerable advantage of not requiring special training or staffing. Full grade acceleration is still relatively uncommon, but may be a wise choice for the child who is “globally” gifted, or advanced by a year or more in every subject. More common is the practice of subject acceleration, which allows the student to attend classes for an upper grade for one or more subjects, but not all.
Teachers also have the ability to present gifted students with challenging work within the standard age/grade classroom. The best model here is one that follows the traditional curriculum, but modifies assignments for gifted learners. If classmates are writing book reports on The Magic Treehouse or American Girl books, a student gifted in reading and language arts may write a report on Little Women or Redwall. Math students who are gifted may enjoy learning to multiply and divide fractions when their peers are coloring pie charts and identifying terms such as numerator and denominator.
Homeschooling is another option for gifted students. Home education allows each child to have a customized educational experience, and is particularly popular among families with children who are extremely advanced. Similarly, early college can often meet the needs of kids who are highly to profoundly gifted.
Whatever situation you choose for your gifted child, remember that needs change as children grow. What worked perfectly last year may not be right for your daughter or son this year. It is not unusual for a gifted child to suddenly “leap” forward in understanding, interest, and production. Pay attention to signs of boredom, stress, or unhappiness. If the child is unhappy, it is time to reevaluate and decide if she needs a change.