I have seen several news articles on gifted students who skip high school and go straight to college. Honestly, I can totally understand how that is possible. What do you do with a kid who finishes high school material before they are a teenager? For some gifted children, it truly is a waste of their time and talent to be in a traditional high school. Especially when many schools do not do single subject acceleration and do not do differentiation. These students need more than what most traditional schools offer.
Here are just a few of some of the stories I have seen lately (I know there are more out there):
- http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/study-gifted-children-benefit-from-bypassing-school-for-university-20141227-12cnf0.html is from Australia and gives examples of a student bypassing high school for college.
- http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/15-year-old-jacob-barnett-one-of-the-world-s-most-promising-physicists-1.1479602 is about a boy who was attending American universities around age 8 and the full-time at 15 in Canada.
- http://www.training.com.au/ed/gifted-student-conundrum/ is another article out of Australia explaining the results of an upcoming study to be fully released this year. In summary, gifted students should be allowed to accelerate into university. They need the stimulation. Looking forward to reading the full report of their study.
Now, I am not saying that we are going to enroll DS in college this year. Trust me, he is not ready! However, I have to admit we have had the conversation more than once about what do we do when he is 10 or 11 or 12 and he needs more. As parents we really would love for him to enter college later rather than earlier, but that is only out of fear (safety & age difference). Currently DS is only 8 but he is in 6th grade through high school material pending the subject. He seems to be working at a 2 grade level per year rate, even faster in some subjects. He is working on pre-algebra. I don’t feel comfortable teaching math beyond algebra. I know he can handle more challenging science. He already is asking to take certification courses (pool inspector, pool technician, and there was another relating to fire alarms or fire protection). However, all of these have age restrictions of 18. There is a place that teaches a homeschooling group on plumbing and electrician skills that my son really wants to take. However, they have a minimum age of 14 due to insurance. DS has job offers from several companies (one electrical parts store & two pool stores) as soon as he turns 14. The owner of two of the stores told us we need to call the places that run the certification courses to see if our son can just audit the class without the exam. That same owner and a manager of a different company told us what books we should get our son. In addition, my son has written companies and has been given access to the webinars of one. Thus, we know we are going to be facing unique challenges and at ages we could have never predicted when he was born.
Thanks to the several gifted groups I belong to, I’m learning from others who have been at this point and others who actually did early enrollment at the local community colleges. One of the instructors at the local community college told us directly to come find him when our son is 10 as that is their minimum age. I would be required to sit in the class due to his age; if that is what it takes to meet my son’s needs, we’ll do it. We also know of a local family who got their son in at age 9 into a different local community college. There is another family who got their daughter at a big university (TX A&M) at 14. In our homeschool group, we have met parents who pursued community college at 14 with their kids. Again, DS might not be ready at 10. Point is acceleration is really needed for some kids. And here in the US, more colleges and universities need to be open to the possibility. In addition, we need to know what our options are. We will face the decision of early enrollment when it comes. I know we have a couple years for sure, but you just never know.
Thanks to what I have learned from other parents of gifted children who have been at this point I can say there are way more resources and options out there than I first thought. I learned that Harvard has online degrees with no age restriction, but they do require you take 3 courses before they will accept you full time (http://www.extension.harvard.edu/degrees-programs/undergraduate-degree). Homeschool students can earn college credit via CLEP, AP, or DSST exams. There are even special programs out there for homeschooling students AP courses or homeschooling specifically for the CLEP or DSST. Home School College USA outlines high school classes for homeschooling that could earn college credits through either CLEP or DSST exams (http://www.homeschoolcollegeusa.com/). There is even a list of 30 online colleges (http://www.thebestschools.org/rankings/30-best-online-colleges-2014/). I’m not saying my son will get into Harvard. I am just fascinated about how many colleges have online programs and more flexibility on age.
Another option are MOOCs. MOOCs are massive open online courses. These are very interesting as many are free or you can pay more for a certificate of completion. MOOCs are gaining in popularity and go a step further than Kahn academy. MOOCs also are online from your home and do not require your child to physically be on a college campus. Here are some of the more known sites for MOOCs:
- MOOC (an extension of EdX
- iTunes U Courses
- Stanford University Engineering Everywhere (Alex started their introduction to robotics class)
- Berkeley’s Webcasts
- MIT Open Courseware (Alex took one of their Scratch classes last year)
- Duke University’s iTunes U courses
- Harvard’s EdX courses
- UCLA’s free courses
- Open Yale
- Carnegie Melon University Open Learning
We are homeschooling so acceleration is easier to implement. For those in the public school it is often harder due to resistance by teachers or policies that prevent/limit single subject acceleration. However, there is no reason to not use any of the MOOCs for enrichment. For those still in a traditional school setting consider looking into the following:
- http://www.tagpdx.org/accelera.htm is a background paper for Portland schools on acceleration.
- The NAGC and SENG have position statements on acceleration
- Hoagie’s has an extensive list of readings (books, articles, & websites) on the issue of acceleration of gifted learners ( http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/acceleration.htm ).
- The Iowa Acceleration Scale (IAS) is an assessment tool any family and school can use to help with deciding acceleration options for their child in a traditional school setting.
I know we are on a path we could have never predicted. It is just refreshing to know we have lots of options even if it is a scary thought of knowing our son could be an early college entrance candidate in the future. Who knows where this path he is leading us on will end up? We just are enjoying the adventure!